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  1. #1
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    Husband can't discern tones of voice

    Is anyone familiar with that kind of problem? My husband was severely abused as a child, and I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not, but his emotions are all but disconnected. When I am depressed, it doesn't compute with him. It's almost like we're talking two different languages that don't even have the same alphabet!

    But what I'm talking about here is his tendency not to realize when he is sharp-toned with somebody. This has caused him some minor problems on the job. He's a bus driver, and a lot of his passengers see him as grumpy and unpleasant when that's not his intention at all. I've ridden with him, and I can see why they think that of him. He can come off as abrupt. There is that Ralph Kramden grumpy bus driver stereotype, but that's not all there is. He honestly doesn't hear himself, and when someone is upset by his tone of voice or his brusqueness, all he sees is that they are being hypersensitive and/or trying to get him in trouble with his supervisors.

    He's also resistant to what he calls "that PC crap" when really it's just a matter of being respectful. We've been around the block about how there really is a difference between "having a mental illness" and "being a psycho." To him, a word is a word is a word. He doesn't understand how some words are acceptable while others are rude, or how a word can be OK in one context but not another. I believe the reason for this is, he can't hear the subtle difference in the tone of voice when the unacceptable words are said. He doesn't hear the contempt or the condescension. All he knows is, it's the same word it was fine to use yesterday, but now people are objecting when it's used today. It's like being color blind, except with tone of voice.

    Can anyone offer insight?

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    Does he go to therapy or see any other health professional to deal with the abuse?

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    In addition to Cat Dancer's query, I would ask if your husband had ever been evaluated for any form of disorder during childhood.

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    He refuses therapy, and his childhood was a lot like mine in the "there's nothing wrong with you, just straighten up and fly right" sense. No evaluations, and also in common with me, a denial of some academic opportunities because of "social skills not being developed."

    ETA, the way he sees it, since he's been able to make a living and support a family, he doesn't need therapy. I, on the other hand, have been made disabled by certain things I've gone through, and he can see me needing help. When we met, I was on disability benefits, but they ended when we got married because he earns too much money for me to continue qualifying. Now when I have a therapy session, he has to pay for it. By the way, we're Americans, and as such we'd have to go through that great big monstrous health care system to get him in therapy. Probably one reason he's unwilling.
    Last edited by LovebirdsFlying; January 4th, 2013 at 10:14 PM. Reason: to add more information

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    Do you think he would see just a regular doctor for a checkup and could discuss this with the doctor?

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    I could mention it. He does see a doctor for diabetes.

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    his childhood was a lot like mine in the "there's nothing wrong with you, just straighten up and fly right" sense.
    Do you feel your own attitudes have evolved to the point where you might investigate your own issues by seeking a medical evaluation?

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    Does he recognize tone of voice in other people?

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    You can suggest and encourage therapy but if he sees no problem with his tone and behavior there is not much you can do to make the changes. He has to want to make the changes.
    Last edited by Steve; January 5th, 2013 at 12:01 AM. Reason: removed duplicate text
    Change begins when you practice ordinary courage

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    Re: Husband can't discern tones of voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve View Post
    Do you feel your own attitudes have evolved to the point where you might investigate your own issues by seeking a medical evaluation?
    I'm under medical care with several diagnoses. That's one way I can recognize them in him. Somehow he thinks it's OK for me to need help, but it's not OK for him.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cat Dancer View Post
    Does he recognize tone of voice in other people?
    No. I tested him while we were watching a sitcom show, some time last year. The gag went, actor #1 delivered some bad news. Actor #2 responded, "I don't like the sound of that." Then actor #1 repeated his line, in a completely different tone of voice, to change the "sound" of it. I asked hubby if he could tell the difference in the two times actor #1 said the same thing. Hubby answered, "I can hear that he said it a little louder the second time. That's all."

    So that's what he hears, loud and soft. Not sharp or gentle, no variation in emotion.

    He can't understand when people get hurt about his tone if he wasn't even yelling. And what prompted me to bring this up, although we've known for some time that he has this problem, is that a couple of days ago it happened to me again. I said something to him from another room, and apparently interrupted him doing something. He barked "Just a minute!" at me in a tone that I took as very harsh, and he didn't understand why it hurt me. "I was only saying it loud because I was in the next room." That's the thing. It's true he said it just a little TOO loud, in that I would have heard him if he'd said it a few decibels quieter, but it wasn't the volume I was reacting to. It was the razor sharp edge to his voice, and that's what he just can't comprehend.

    It's the same thing if he uses one of those sometimes objectionable, sometimes OK, words. He'll defend his word choice, and completely miss that it wasn't the word. It was the sneer or the condescending attitude. And if I do try to tell him it wasn't what he said that bothered me, but his tone of voice, he will look mystified. "There was no tone of voice."
    Quote Originally Posted by rdw View Post
    You can suggest and encourage therapy but if he sees no problem with his tone and behavior there is not much you can do to make the changes. He has to want to make the changes.
    I suppose my question is as much, how can I handle it when he snaps at me and doesn't know he's doing it? I can't make him do what he doesn't want to do, obviously.

    ETA: I forgot to add, hubby says there is an advantage to not being able to pick up on other people's tone of voice, and that's the fact that he doesn't get his feelings hurt so easily. I suppose the disadvantage is, he can't tell when he's hurting or annoying somebody until it's a much larger issue than it needs to be, because he won't see the early warning signals and stop. He is aware of the problem, but it seems he is not bothered by it. I'm the one it bothers. I'd like to know if others are familiar with it.

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