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People who only talk about themselves / never talk about emotions

(33 Posts)
tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 09:33:44

My relationship and family life is in crisis. Can anyone help me understand my DP?

DP is a lovely person, very caring in his actions. But his conversation is only ever about himself and never about emotions.

So if I say "This thing happened today" his response would be "oh yes, that thing happened to me before" followed up with the story about what happened to him. No opportunity for me to talk about the thing that happened to me. Every time.

If I say "I think we should do this" and he agrees, he says "yes I was thinking we should do that". Even something as simple as "let's have pasta for dinner" would get the answer "yes I was thinking that" instead of "yes, good idea". Every time.

We never talk about my feelings. Every time I try, he tries to end the conversation. If I push it, we end up talking about him. He's depressed and he says he feels suicidal.

He seems to not know how to have a conversation where the other person is the subject of the conversation. Ever.

But the thing is, I've googled this and a lot of the stuff online about this are about narc people. DP's not a narc. He's a lovely guy. He's the type of person who shows his kindness in actions. He will get up at 4pm to drive friends and neighbours to the airport without thinking twice. He pulls his weight in the house, he's does lots of little and big actions to show his love for me. But he can't connect using language. I feel so alone.

I think he's either terrified of feeling emotions and has shut his emotional side off so he doesn't have to feel it at all. He's had significant bereavements, perhaps it's a reaction to this.

Or maybe he's actually lacking the ability to empathise with others.

You wouldn't think it if you knew him socially, he's the life and soul of the party. Although he does tend to go on about himself, he's done lots of cool stuff and he's interesting, kind and fun in a social situation. I assumed there was another level of emotional depth he'd reveal over time. But it's like he's locked it away.

I'm concerned for his mental health, obviously he needs to see the doctor because he's been depressed for at least a year ago now and he's mentioned suicidal thoughts a few times now.

He's also unhappy as he's out of work right now and feels useless. This isn't helping the depression. He's shouty with the kids and that has to stop.

But I'd appreciate some help with any insight about this. Does anyone have experience of this?

What can I do? (Please no LTB - I'm after insight and help for my family).


tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 09:46:53

TL:DR - my DP only talks about himself, never about emotions, he's depressed, our relationship is withering away, I don't know how to deal with it.

Any advice would be appreciated.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 09:58:06


splendidisolation Tue 24-Oct-17 10:56:29

My first thought was I wonder of he has undiagnosed Aspergers.

Have a read of some of the symptoms - does it sound familiar?

oklookingahead Tue 24-Oct-17 11:04:08

Has dp ever talked about emotions and now changed, or has this always been in the case? I do think some people just aren't tuned into discussion about emotions - it's not that they don't want to or refuse to, so much as they just don't have that particular innate 'skill' (wrong word as it's not a 'learned thing', more a building block that's either there or isn't. Up to a point. Obviously that's an over generalisation).

A bit like the fact that I wouldn't be able to discuss complicated maths problems - though obviously that is much more common! and most people can and do talk about emotions, so it seems much more unusual when someone does not.

So sorry to hear your dp is depressed - can you persuade him to see a gp?

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 11:24:16

I've been looking into ASD for DS (we've seen the paediatrician who agrees therr's an issue and has referred him for assessment) so I've been looking into it. I'm aware It's hereditary but we have ASD on my side so haven't considered his.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was something neurological going on based on how deep this seems to go but I l

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 11:25:39

... (posted to soon!) ... but I would be very surprised is ASD as nothing else in his personality fits.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 11:27:52

DP has always been like this with me. Was he like this before bring bereaved? I don't know.

Thanks for the replies btw I really appreciate your thoughts and being able to talk this through.

oklookingahead Tue 24-Oct-17 12:46:23

Just reading your post again about the way your conversations go.

It sounds ridiculous but there are 'rules' about conversations - eg show an interest in what the other person is saying, ask a follow up question, don't immediately respond with 'when I...' Some people do it instinctively, others do not, but it can be taught. To an extent. Lots of work is being done on how to teach asd teenagers these skills, I think.

Also, to be honest it is not that uncommon for people to show no interest at all in the other person! - quite often life and soul of the party types actually, they just don't seem to 'do' that sort of conversation in public gatherings - of course it may be different in private. If it isn't, then for those closest to them that may be very difficult.

Still, it sounds as though there are quite a few issues here - and the most urgent is that dp is depressed and having suicidal thoughts. If you booked the gp appointment would he go? That sounds like the first step, before you can really address anything else.

LemonShark Tue 24-Oct-17 13:05:55

Encourage him to get the depression seen to with meds and/or therapy and then see what kind of relationship is left at the end. Counselling may help him learn to be more open about his emotions. But I believe this is pretty much who he is and unlikely to change. You sound so unhappy with him and I would be too, you don't gel.

lirpaloof Tue 24-Oct-17 13:40:27

My DH is similar in that he will often hijack the conversation and make it about him. I do sometimes wonder if he thinks by comparing situations he is showing empathy, or agreeing with me, in his own misguided way. I believe he has suffered with depression in the past too but has never sought any help for it or got a professional diagnosis. He is prone to reflecting on difficult and painful times in his life which has maybe resulted in him becoming a bit more self focussed than others. Maybe this is the reason why he always turns the conversation back to him. I've never pulled him up on it but I do find it very frustrating and feel like he's never listening to me, only waiting for opportunities to talk about himself again.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 13:57:18

If you booked the gp appointment would he go?

Yes he would, but he's already done that.

He's been before, two or three times I think, twice when I booked an appointment. The first time he got a locum, didn't like the Doctor and didn't feel he could talk to him. The second time he got sleeping pills which he took but that was ages ago. He was also advised to self refer to a local NHS service who deal with people with "stress, anxiety and low mood" but I don't think he did that.

I've just looked at it and that's basically how you access counselling round here. I'll encourage him to self refer to that. They do "interpersonal counselling" among other things - has anyone got experience of that?

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 14:07:04

Oh, but I just looked at the self-referral thing says that i you are having "frequent thoughts" of suicide or self-harm then you should contact your GP or go to A&E if an emergency.

Is he having "frequent thoughts"? I don't know. Maybe this is the wrong thing for him?

LemonShark Tue 24-Oct-17 14:08:34

Interpersonal counselling helps you to deal with personal problems/life problems/situations you don't feel you're dealing with and that are contributing to your low mood or whatever. If he has depression it's more likely he'll be given CBT. When he self refers to the service he'll have an assessment and they'll decide what best suits him.

LemonShark Tue 24-Oct-17 14:10:15

No he's fine to go. That's just there for people who are suicidal so they know where to go while they're waiting for therapy. Many many people have suicidal thoughts it's part of depression and other health issues sometimes. It also covers their back in case someone dies on the waiting list, they've been signposted for support with suicidal thoughts. So he should definitely go.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 14:11:53

lirpaloof I've never really pulled him up on it either. I'm worried how he'll take it tbh.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 14:12:50

LemonShark that's useful thank you.

misscph1973 Tue 24-Oct-17 14:14:21

I think it's very common for men to completely avoid the subject of feelings. It's how culture/society brings up men - don't have feelings.

My DP is very much like this, he often says "I don't feel much". Also he is not very interested in what goes on in my head, he just can't keep the focus if I talk about things that concerns me. He can talk for hours about himself and his own stuff, though.

(disclaimer: We are splitting up, and this is a big part of the reason for me)

But I do very much think it's a cultural/societal thing. And it's quite sad. Hopefully the younger generations of men will be more used to dealing and having feelings.

Rudgie47 Tue 24-Oct-17 14:22:51

Have you asked him why he does this? You dont have to be having a go at him, you could say somehing along the lines of.I have noticed that you dont seem interested in other people and can only talk about yourself.Have you noticed this and why do you think this is?
To be honest I have know loads of people like this. The worst cuprit I know is the next door neighbour. If you said your Mum had just died, she would say that both her parents had just died too and the funeral was on the moon.
In my opinion its poor social skills and self absorbsion a lot of the time. Why dont you ask him to start listening every time someone speaks and everytime he changes the subject onto himself, say no we are talking about XYZ not you. Keep at it and he will learn, dont give him the opportunity to bang on about himself.

LemonShark Tue 24-Oct-17 14:23:50

Any time. Happy to answer any more. I have a lot of experience with the topic/services smile

BartiDdu Tue 24-Oct-17 14:27:51

My DH does this and has just been diagnosed as autistic. His behaviour sounds very similar to your DH’s. He also suffers from depression and anxiety as a result of not being able to make complete sense of the world for a good couple of decades .

You may think that putting a label on someone won’t make much of a difference. In my DH’s case though, we both did a lot of reading about the subject and he says he feels like he’s been given the manual to life that has always been missing. His work are also putting provisions in place which mean that he isn’t constantly put in situations that stress him out.

There are some tests available online, which he may want to consider doing. Doing one obviously won’t give a diagnosis, but could help to identify if autism is likely to be an issue.

oklookingahead Tue 24-Oct-17 15:08:14

"I do sometimes wonder if he thinks by comparing situations he is showing empathy, or agreeing with me, in his own misguided way. "

Yes I think that is quite a common view in fact. Person asks themselves (probably not consciously) "how can show I sympathise, I know, I'll tell her about a similar thing that happened to me". It's quite a reasonable thought process really - though often misguided. So I think that happens very often, and in fact when someone does not do that, and asks questions and lets the first person talk instead, that is quite 'advanced' empathy!

Other people of course genuinely only are interested in conversation about themselves - or at least are at that particular moment - which is different.

OP I think definitely get your dp to try the mh services, that sounds like a good first step.

cheeseismydownfall Tue 24-Oct-17 15:18:47

My DH is similar in that he will often hijack the conversation and make it about him. I do sometimes wonder if he thinks by comparing situations he is showing empathy

This was me 10 years ago. I honestly had no idea how annoying I probably was, I was genuinely trying to express empathy. What opened my eyes was a good friend's telling me a story about another friend who did this and how frustrating it was. I realised she could have been describing me and I was quietly horrified. To this day I have no idea if my friends was very kindly and cleverly finding a way of pointing out my behaviour. But I made a conscious decision to change and although I can slip back in to it I would say I am much better now and my friendships have improved.

It sounds like your DH is struggling with more complex issues, but I thought I would share my experience in case it helps.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 16:07:42

It's encouraging to hear there's a possibility that this kind of thing can be learnt.

tallstork Tue 24-Oct-17 16:19:10

Have you asked him why he does this

No. The other aspect of his personality that's hard to deal with is that he's very defensive about anything that could be perceived as criticism.

I think this is because he has a self-image that he's one of the good guys (and he is). But he can't accopt he's done anything wrong without it being seen as a character flaw.

So, if I say "you did this thing" he says "no I didn't" or "there's nothing wrong with that". I say "yes, you did do this, and this is how it affects me / the DC." He continues to deny it. So, as that point I can either leave it or push it. I used to leave it every time and we never argued.

Then one day he did something that was over the line. It wasn't massive but I couldn't leave it. So I didn't back down. Finally he admitted he'd been in the wrong - but instead of a simple apology and/or saying he wouldn't do it again, which is what I wanted, he went totally off the deep end about what a terrible father and DP he was. Went on Facebook to tell his friends how awful he was! Total self-flagelaition. But, not at all useful to me, totally disproportionate and, actually, still all about him.

Since then (about 5 years ago) we've been arguing with increasing regularity. Either he can't admit he's wrong - or he thinks he's all wrong. But, we all fuck up - we're human! He can't seem to accept that, learn and move on. He either denies or beats himself up. I suspect this has a lot to do with the depression. I'm not sure which is cause and which is effect though.

I'm not sure how he'd take it if I criticised the way he talks. I worry it'd push him even deeper into depression. I suppose it's about finding a nice way to say it?

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