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Hey Paul, what you’re saying reminds me of my wife. She has ADHD (I do too). What I would call the “incongruent response” is something she seems to be afflicted with. It’s more nuanced than simply saying things to a person that are abjectly inappropriate; more like what you seem to be saying – that her interactions can sometimes make others feel awkward, annoyed or offended. She tells me her intention with what she said was something different than how I interpreted it, and fairly often this leads to frustration. I believe she was probably picked on as a child and has trouble making friends for this reason. When I’ve been with her with friends, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as she is with me, but from some of her work interactions she’s spoken to me about, I strongly suspect she is offputting.
Your response is natural and mostly automatic for you. This fact seems to make behavior change challenging. It vaguely reminds me of something on the autism spectrum (not that it actually IS autism). My wife implored me to let her know when this is happening, otherwise she won’t have a frame of reference to go from on the path to change. It took me a long time to really put my finger on what it was about the way she responded/things she said that bothered me, which made the behavior offputting AND somewhat confounding – which increased the negative feelings. My wife is extremely sensitive and empathetic (one reason I’m attracted); unfortunately, it’s all too possible she has had an “unfair” experience resulting from this social disconnect.
Good luck. I’m sure this has caused every bit as much frustration as you expressed. For what it’s worth (and it may not be much), she has so called “Combined ADHD” while mine would be “Inattentive”. For me, inappropriateness was not so much a problem; being in outer space and missing what was going on in the first place was the issue, particularly when I was younger and less aware of the social implications. Perhaps there is therapy for this issue. At the very least it should be something that can be modestly improved.
Question: do you find yourself talking too loudly, evidenced by others telling you to keep you voice down and expressing implicitly or explicitly their awkwardness regarding it?
I really understand how this could be a lifetime handicap without an easy solution.