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Man asks wife to 'stay focused' when she's telling stories, she says that's 'masking.'

Man asks wife to 'stay focused' when she's telling stories, she says that's 'masking.'


Communication is everything in a relationship. While everyone has different communication styles, it's crucial you find ways to meet in the middle so you can both feel heard. And while this is simple in concept, it's harder in reality.

In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a man asked if he was wrong for telling his wife to change her story telling style so he doesn't feel so talked over. He wrote:

"AITA? My wife says I'm asking her to 'mask?'"

I am 34m and my wife "Polly" is 32f. Like a lot of couples, we debrief after our workdays. Polly works in a high-touch, high-interaction job, so we usually say our hellos, make dinner, and then eat separately so she can wind down a bit. Then, afterward, we sit in the living room and shoot the s#$t. Polly has a mild neurodivergence that means she tells...let's call it "branching" stories.

She will get bogged down in sidestories and background stories and details that, frankly, add nothing to the core story about her workday. That's usually fine, but I've noticed it getting a bit worse, to the point that, by the time she's done, it's basically time to watch a show and go to bed.

I mean, I'm spending upwards of an hour just listening and adding "mmhmm" and "oh wow," because she says she gets even MORE distracted when I ask questions. I brought this up with Polly, and she said that I am asking her to mask her disorder, and that's just how her brain works.

I get that feeling, I really do, but I am starting to feel like I'm a side character here, because she takes up all the airtime that we set aside to debrief. Here's why I might be an AH: I said "well, we all change our communication styles based on context, right?" And she said that's different, and that masking is not code switching. I just want some time to talk about my day, too, but I don't want her to feel bad. AITA?

People had lots to say about this.

ZeldaT-ElitistArt wrote:


There's no reason why you guys can't take turns telling the day's stories. Also, you say she is untreated — well she needs to get treatment!

LowBalance4404 wrote:

My mom does this constantly. Is this a neurodiverse symptom? This may not work with your wife, but I tell my mother I'm losing the thread of her story so can she get back to the main path. Another thing I do is timebox her.

When I call her, I let her know I have 30 minutes to talk. Yes, she does 99.98% of the talking and that's fine, but at the 25-minute mark, I interrupt her and tell her I have only five minutes left. Oh! NTA.

TheGreenPangolin wrote:

No judgement- just wanted to share my perspective. I have autism and still being assessed for ADHD. Equal time to share in a relationship is important, so she should absolutely listen to you too. And there’s no reason not to ask questions or add your own bits- you don’t need to sit almost silently for an hour.

But if you asked me not to go on any tangents at all- you just made a fun chat into a difficult mental task. I now have to stay focused and on topic and that’s hard. Which is fine on a weekend or a day when I have extra energy or if I have a doctors appointment, but not after a long day around people. It’s not something I want to have to do with my boyfriend because it’s not relaxing at all.

You need to ask for time to share and a more equal conversation without requiring her to stay fully focused and on track at all times. Which might be what you asked for- depends how you worded it. But neurodivergent people often think in black and white- you saying stay on topic might be interpreted by her as much stricter than you intend it to be.

Swardyn wrote:

I call my husband on my commute home to debrief before I get home. Then I sit in the driveway in my car like a troll and decompress before I switch hats to mom and wife. Anyway you guys can do something like this? Can you ask to go first in the decompression ritual so you can have a chance to talk before she tells her winding tales?

Clearly, OP is NTA here - but in a lot of ways this is a NAH situation.

Sources: Reddit
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