An argument today demonstrated vividly for Hubby and me both that NVLD can affect marital harmony.
But this time we experienced a breakthrough that shined light on a problem we didn’t realize was there.
Basically, without getting into boring personal detail, Hubby made a comment that he thought would give me all sorts of information which he did not actually say out loud. In other words, “subtext.”
I totally missed the subtext because of, well, NVLD or some related disorder (such as Aspergers; I don’t have thousands of $$$$ to get formally diagnosed).
So I made a request which seemed perfectly normal and reasonable to me. He infused it with all sorts of offensive motivations on my part, because he assumed I caught the subtext.
Fight ensues. I feel like I’m living with a timebomb. He thinks I keep saying things and using tones which, well, I’m not at all. I’m not the kind of person who would.
Somehow during the course of discussion afterwards, he explained the subtext, and he learned that it went completely over my head. Also that I do much better with literal speech.
I may be a writer, may understand idioms I’m familiar with, but as a child, I took idioms more literally. Even now I’ll occasionally discover that some concept I take literally, is supposed to be metaphorical.
Education has made me familiar with the concept of metaphor, but unless you tell me a book has it, I’ll usually miss that there’s any metaphor in there at all. I read the book plainly without inferring; I don’t guess how it will end; I would never have seen the eyeglasses in Great Gatsby as a metaphor for God if the teacher had not said they were. I often have to back up movies and TV shows and play scenes again, because I have no idea how Sasha ended up dead in the kitchen, for example.
So now Hubby understands that he needs to speak more plainly, verbalize things he thinks can be inferred. And I wonder how many past arguments are based on me totally missing his subtext, and him thinking I understood it.
I’ve also noted that he keeps putting far more into what I mean by my tone, than what I actually do. Or being particular about the words I use. I’ve also noted that people keep taking me seriously when I’m making a joke.
I explained that misunderstanding of, and trouble using, tone are NVLD problems as well. And that I’m an introvert forced to speak on the fly, so I don’t have time to come up with the perfect words.
(Introverts have to think before they speak. This makes it almost impossible for me to think of the perfect words. And he discovered that I don’t see the difference between using one particular word or another, while he does.)
(This is why I prefer writing to discuss things with people. In person I say the wrong thing and sound awkward and can’t get my meaning across, especially when interrupted.)
I explained that it’s a lot easier to understand expressions on actors on TV, because I can back up the tape, and stare at them fully, unlike in real life, where if you stare they’ll think you’re creepazoid.
(Unless you’re German. Apparently Germans keep super-steady eye contact, unlike Americans, who flick our eyes every few seconds.)
It also doesn’t help to be uncomfortable with eye contact. Even after 22 years, I don’t even feel comfortable having prolonged eye contact with the hubby. Even when we were dating, the concept of “staring into each other’s eyes” made me uneasy.
And then I start wondering about past relationships and–I start wondering if it’s too much navel-gazing 20 years after those relationships ended, considering that I already explored those relationships in-depth here, and much of the necessary context is lost in the mist of memory. And, well, those guys also ended up annoying other people or treating other girls the same, so maybe my NVLD wasn’t the only reason for arguments.
But in this case, it sure didn’t help. Hopefully things will go more smoothly after this, more understanding on both sides.