From 0 to 60....

Why is it that every minor conflict has to go from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds? 

Tonight, I came home exhausted after shopping and doing all our errands to find my ADHD partner on the couch watching movies right where I left him.  This is after I spent the hours from 7AM-2PM tip toeing around our apartment because he was asleep on the couch (I couldn't even make myself something to eat for fear of the wrath I would surely incur for waking him).  All I wanted to do was sit on the couch for a second and maybe watch a little TV.  It was a no-go considering my partner refused to unstretch his legs so I could sit at the end of the couch.  This turned into an immediate full-scale yelling match (with him doing most of the screaming) culminating in him calling his dad to come "remove me from the premises" (his parents are our landlords).  I think his dad has learned to pretty much ignore him at this point, but still.  This is beyond ridiculous.

feel you

Hi there, clf,

I feel you. I am one of those who went through such a tough time that my STBX and I are separated, pending divorce. So it is through this lens I write you. My STBX had absolutely no fuse, and it got worse over time. Many things like the ridiculous threat of "removing you from the premises" happened. Afterward, I would think, this is nuts--how do we get to that place so fast!?! (Note, my STBX turned into someone who became violent and verbally abusive, so it was far beyond just arguing at the end, so take my comments from that perspective). I am sorry--fighting with your partner is no fun. 

A few things. First, don't go there. Seriously. Just don't get into it with him. I know, believe me, I know it is hard because a) you think that if you try to explain your reasonable point of view more and more loudly, he will finally hear you b) you want to stand up for or defend yourself and he is being unreasonable -- he should move his freaking feet over! and c) you are pissed. Understandable. But. This does not help. And fighting all the time is bad for you. 

You need to break the pattern. It does not help anyone to fight this way and you and he feel like crap afterward, right? And it is so not fun feeling like you are walking on eggshells. Number one thing I wish I had learned earlier: you can't talk to him when he is like this. Just wait. Even though you want to, you can't. It is a pattern and the more times it happens, the more ingrained it gets. My non-medical theory is that there is something with some ADHD brains that makes them quick, quick, quick to anger. Some think that they thrive on conflict because it is stimulating for them. Some think there may be a correlation with anger management issues. I think these were all true and my STBX's was rooted in some deep hurt and defensiveness as well. Never mind that he was being an ass about moving his feet over (this one actually happened with us, too!) but there was something in my tone in the way I asked him to (there probably was) and that was it! Also, he KNOWS that he has been lying on the couch all day and you think he is a slug, and he feels bad about it. My STBX would often escape like this and would be as irritable as a hibernating bear if I disturbed him. 

Can you find a counselor? It really helps to arm yourself with strategies. It would be even better if the two of you could find a relationship counselor. Maybe you can make him understand in a safe way that you are walking on eggshells and how much it sucks to have him get mad at you. Maybe you can find ways to talk to him that don't set off anything (I know that if a tiny trickle of anger or annoyance or anxiety would creep into my voice, we were done, and if I had addressed my own feelings before I approached him, it would have helped). Ask yourself what your goal is. Best of luck to you. 

Control

Whether they are consciously aware of it or not, my take is that extreme anger/rage that escalates rapidly has more to do with control than anger. The loudest person wins when they overwhelm the other. My X will start yelling on the phone he even knows what I'm going to say.

Yes, control

I think it is also all about control.  For over 30 years DH would fight loud and dirty and call names and turn things around on me.  Many people have told me I have a quiet voice...even when i try to project my voice, I still am pretty low-key.  So why has dh called me a bitch a nag when I ask him to talk to me about something? He would tell me to talk to him in a loving voice and that there was something wrong in my "delivery" and that I should request with a "please and and thank you".   He is the one whose naturally loud voice volume goes up and then historically I had backed away because we were going to a place I didn't want my children to hear from their father toward me.  So I usually just took it and thought I was strong enough to just bear it and try to understand him.  Now in our 60's I realize that was wrong of me.  This past year I have been mirroring his voice, stance and ton when he goes to that place....literally every conversation now I realize.  When I do, he starts criticizing my tone.  When I say I will continue to mimic his voice each time he goes there, he hates it and will not accept that is what I am doing.  It helps me to accept and realize this is how he has been to me all our lives.  I have not challenged him.  He has "gotten away with" everything all these years and feels somewhat "victorious". Our talking is more like a chess game with a winner and loser than two people working together and sharing ideas.  I feel stupid and manipulated by him.    "He who cares the least wins" in these conversations.  I have been a loser a lot.  It is hard to be vulnerable intimately with someone who is invulnerable and constantly trying to "one up" you.

I think it's both...

I think it is about control but also about a lack of regulation.  What I think happens is that as children those with ADHD who are unable to regulate their anger notice that they often get their way and so it positively reinforces the behavior.  But I also know that my partner has embarrassed himself in public because of his outbursts and if it were able to regulate himself he wouldn't have done it. 

Thank you Lynninny for your thoughtful comments.  I'm sure I speak for everyone here when I say, though I'm sorry anyone of us has to experience what we do, that your having been "through the trenches" so to speak has given you a deep and knowledgeable perspective that we are all so grateful for.  I know exactly the wisdom behind what you're saying, not to "go there" with him.  I even know in the moment while it's happening, but sometimes I just can't help it.  But you're absolutely right, the outcome if I engage him this way is inevitable.  Perhaps there is a slight positive in the fact that ADHD partners can end up being so incredibly predictable, lol.  I wish we could afford a counselor, but I also sense that my partner would put up a big stink and refuse to go.  He refuses to admit or get help for his ADHD at all.  Were you and your STBX ever able to seek counseling? 

Lynnie, you are right.  The loudest person does win the argument and I will never be crazy enough to take it to the level he can. 

Jenna, I've been called a bitch and a nag more times than I can count merely for suggesting we find a way to compromise on an issue that's plaguing us.  I have also been accused of having a "tone" and "being mean" simply for bringing something up.  Normal, healthy couples recognize there is a conflict of needs and set about finding a solution that works for both parties.  People with ADHD do seem more interested in being right and one-upmanship than anything else.  I wish I had the courage to mimic my partner's behavior so he could see what it's like for me, but he would do something crazy like call the police.  He knows where my boundaries for crazy behavior are and he will always make sure he goes one step further than I am ever comfortable going.  But let me say, "you go girl!" for stepping up to your husband and his bullying behavior!  It must help you feel more empowered after all these years.  Those moments when you find a way to "change the game" if even a little bit are so enlightening and wonderful.

Unfortunately, to add insult to injury, my partner has recently been complaining to his mother about my "behavior" and her impression of me has become quite colored by this.  This has ruined any relationship her and I ever had.  For instance, yesterday I found a text from her on his phone (after he asked me to adjust a messaging setting for him)  stating that the reason I was acting the way I was about the couch was because since I had spent the holiday here alone ( to much relief and relaxation) I probably hadn't "gone anywhere" and was seeking to be entertained by him and that basically I was a high-maintenance "B".  Sorry lady.  All I wanted to do was sit the F down after having gone shopping and run errands for the BOTH of us while your son "entertained" himself on the couch ALL DAY.  He continues to knowingly allow his mom to hold incorrect negative opinions of me because it makes him feel better when she trash talks me.  This only further distances me from her and then he complains about how I never "go over there" to see her.  How much more oblivious could either of these people be??

I do not believe discussing

I do not believe discussing negatively about your spouse to your parents is acceptable. That he obviously is doing this with his mother about you is wrong.  As angry and resentful as I am about my H and our relationship, I have NEVER voiced my unhappiness with about my marriage with my parents. I'm sure they know I'm not happy, as I can't imagine i am that good at hiding it, they probably assume its the stress of the kids and holding a full time job, as well as usual stuff between H & W.  As much as I dislike my H and our situation I do not want my parents to think ill of him while we remain married.   I also do not think he has ever said anything to his family about me.  What he is doing is immature and purposely creating a wall between you and his mother.