How Do I Get Him To Listen?

Melissa Orlov did a great post on the ADHD and Marriage blog.

Often when women say “We need to talk” we men hear “You need to do what I want.”

She talked about

One of the most frequent questions that comes up is one of frustration – “how do I get my ADD spouse to listen to me about our problems?”  The short answer is that you can’t if he doesn’t want to, but let me elaborate, as this is clearly at the heart of many struggling marriages…

“The reality is that you CANNOT engage someone who doesn’t wish to be engaged…and no one – ADD or not – wants to engage in difficult discussions in which they anticipate they are going to be roundly brought to task for bad behavior.  The question shouldn’t be “how do I get my ADD spouse to listen to me?”  The question needs be to “how do I entice participation?”  This means coming fully to grips with the idea that you are not in control – at least not of him.

Excellent point, I think that a lot of human problems come from the delusion we have that we can control other people.

I wonder whether, when people ask the question “how do I get my husband to work on our problems?” they aren’t really asking “how do I get my husband to sit down and start doing what I want him to do?”  The answer is you don’t if he doesn’t want to.  And he won’t want to if he feels as if you are going to beat him up.  You can argue that “being married” means you have an “obligation”.  Maybe on the surface this is true.  But my own experience is that talking to a man who doesn’t wish to be there talking to you is not only a waste of time, it is counterproductive in every possible way.  Put enough counter-productive time together and first thing you find is that the romance is gone…second thing you find is that it’s gone somewhere else.

This is not to say that no man will ever sit down and talk to you.  Quite the contrary – a husband worth his salt will do so when you request it – simply because you request it – and sometimes will also initiate the conversation when needed.  What I’m saying is that he does it because he chooses to do it.  Because he thinks that he has something to gain from sitting down with you.  Because he feels warmly enough about how you are going to interact that he thinks that the discussion is going to be productive.  Sometimes because he thinks that not sitting down with you is going to be so counterproductive that it’s not worth resisting.

Amen. While men need to learn more about women, women also need to learn more about men. Sometimes when women say, “we need to talk” it really means you need to listen to my lecture/nagging and do what I want because I’m feel I’m right and you’re wrong.

If a man started a conversation with his wife with the attitude, “you need to listen to me and obey me”, how effective a communication strategy do you think that would be?

The bottom line is this – a husband who will never, ever, engage with you to work on your relationship is not a great husband.  But usually by the time you are reading this blog his lack of engagement is as much a reflection of how the two of you are interacting as anything else.  (I assume you used to interact satisfactorily or you wouldn’t have gotten married.)  It’s neither fair nor realistic to expect him to engage when your agenda is to “fix things”, and specifically, “fix him”.  That’s not a conversation.  That’s forcing him to be a certain way – your way.

She really makes a good point here and this line is really important to understand.

As long as he feels you are trying to coerce him, he’s not going to make the effort to change.  In fact, if he’s like my husband, he’ll start to work against what you want (subtly) just to prove that he’s independent.

ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a common ADHD co-existing condition. I think that most ADHD children and adults have a bit of ODD, at least the part about not liking to be bossed around, even if it’s not full blown condition. Generally most people don’t like being told what to do, arguably men like it even less than women, but men with Attention Deficit Disorder like it even less than most, so demanding that we do this or that generally is a pretty counterproductive strategy.

Read the full post, especially the comments.

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