7 Dangerous Myths About Anger and ADHD

Anger and ADHD go together frequently, and as may be expected, this anger and resentment can consume both partners.  Advice such as “Let it go” can be interpreted as “Let him walk all over you” – this is not what I am suggesting for you. 

I believe strongly that each person must find a method that works for them in order to release the pain and dark feelings that can make you ill. It may be counterintuitive, but letting go of your anger – essentially forgiving yourself and your spouse for your past – is a gift to yourself that frees you to move forward. “Letting go” is not ceding control, it’s taking control. It enables an independent spirit, allowing you to be in greater control of your life. 

7 Dangerous Myths About Anger 

If you find it difficult to envision how you might overcome anger, it could be that you are falling victim to some destructive myths about anger and ADHD.

Myth 1 – I can’t help it – my spouse drives me to It

Sure you can! Hand over the responsibility of “fixing” ADHD to the partner who has it, while at the same time reclaiming your own happiness. In addition, work diligently at training yourself to express anger in positive and constructive ways. By not “fixing” the ADHD partner or symptoms, you acknowledge that managing ADHD is the responsibility of your partner, and you can (and should) offer the “gift” of support, but accept responsibility only for you and your needs. Although you may fear that your partner will fail, it is in both of your best interests to avoid the feeling that you “must” take on certain things, as this will circle back to resentment and anger.

Myth 2 – My anger will force my partner to change

No it won’t! Managing ADHD symptoms is done best in a supportive environment that is based in love, commitment and time. An angry environment will force your partner to become defensive and angry in return, thus creating a poisonous environment that is the opposite of what an ADHD person needs in order to be successful. Not only will your anger not force a change, it will virtually assure that it doesn’t occur.

Myth 3 – My partner deserves it

Anger is a sign that things are out of balance and that changes must be addressed. Verbal abuse, yelling, screaming, belittling, shutting down or shutting out are forms of punishment and bullying. No one “deserves” to be punished by a spouse.

Myth 4 – Getting it all out will make me feel better

While short bursts of anger may be a good thing as it can release bad feelings and perhaps start a dialog, pervasive anger only worsens the relationship because the structural foundation and ability to work on the symptoms remains unchanged.

Myth 5 - It's not my ADHD...my partner's anger is the issue in our relationship

The anger that non-ADHD partners experience does create problems in the relationship, but a couple's problems are never just the fault of one partner.  Over time, repetitive ADHD symptoms and 'under-functioning' encourage non-ADHD partners to 'over-function' and, often to experience chronic anger.  In order to fix the issue, BOTH partners need to own their issues, and work to contribute themselves better to the relationship.  That means managing ADHD fully, and elminiating anger in both partners.

Myth 6 – If I feel hopeless, I should disconnect

Exhaustion from a draining relationship is common, yet disconnection isn’t the solution. “I need to protect myself” is a phrase I hear, but it is important to recognize that the pain will not go away by disconnecting - and disconnection never makes a good marriage. Don’t disconnect; seek help.

Myth 7 – If I deny my ADHD, the problems will go away

ADHD won’t “go away”, but it needs to be effectively managed with treatment, preferably with a multi-pronged approach.  Read more on optimizing your ADHD treatment in my free Optimizing Treatment for Adult ADHD e-book (see the home page).

Comments

Re: anger and responses

This is a great post about anger, and I agree with what you've written here. It's good for all of us to be aware of our own responses to ADHD symptoms. I think where some of us frequently get caught, is when our spouses refuse to get a workable treatment for their symptoms. There is either partial treatment such as meds, but not much else, and it still leaves the door iopen for the ADHD to still run unchecked.

     It becomes harder I think, for the non spouse, in this scenario, example: like our house becoming a "junk" house, which has lost value because of the unkempt yard and many unfinished projects in every room. (large projects) I can't physically do the things that must be done (when I used to be able to) and I am too embarrassed to have people over any more. We are resembling a "hoarders" house at this point, which makes me very, very uncomfortable. Plus,the junk attacks bugs, spiders etc. Its just not healthy, let alone unslightly. A neater house IS more relaxing and comfortable for most people I think, not just a preference. 

    That is just one example of areas that don't get addressed when the ADHD spouse doesn't see their condition as being "all that bad", to where the same issues keep coming up over and over. Doesn't somewhere the non spouse still end up doing the majority of the " grunt" work when this takes place? How can this be addressed to where both people can feel a measure of peace and satisfaction? 

     I was never one that "nagged" my husband to do things, and didn't call him names,etc.or fight to GET him to do things. But, still we turned out exactly the same as if I HAD done this. This still sort of boggles my mind.

     We need counseling VERY bad, and again, it's something he's not willing to put the money out for.

"Not only will your anger not

"Not only will your anger not force a change, it will virtually assure that it doesn’t occur." 

The problem I have with this statement is that while it might be true, it suggests that change will occur in the absence of anger.  That was not my experience.  My former husband had no interest in dealing with his ADHD.  If I expressed my distress about the situation, he would point out that my distress was keeping him from changing, but when I was supportive, quiet, silent, or anything else, he didn't change, either.  What he most wanted was to not change and to have me happily and graciously overfunction.

I am....

When a person says I am "something", (as a calm statement of fact) that usually means to me that they have accepted what ever it is, as fact....Usually those people in my opinion don't see where change is possible in themselves...

If I hear a person say I am "something" that they view as unacceptable, or they view as a negative, that they are working on, or being aware of and doing the work to change....It's usually obvious in their attitude and words.....

I think much of what we deal with as spouses to messy hoarder types, seems to be this basic principle....I am...

I ask my wife today if she was done w/ the peanut butter as I tightened the top and stuck it back in the pantry...Her reply was, "I was just fixing to put it away"....So on the other side of the sink was the Tupperware cereal container that she had gotten out at breakfast time (5 or 6 hours earlier)...As I stepped to it, and put it away also, I said what about the cereal?  She watched me as I quickly put them away....Then as she stood their eating her sandwich before she left, she calmly said....I've been looking back, And, I have been surprised how messy I really am....Looking back is something I asked her to do, a while back, before she leaves a room she has been doing things in, esp....the bathroom & kitchen....It all transpired quiet calmly...She usually don't recognize my suggestions, at least verbally...So I was pleasantly surprised when she said she was trying to make a habit to look back to see if she had left a mess for others (ME :):)....

C

Hand over the responsibility

Hand over the responsibility of “fixing” ADHD to the partner who has it, while at the same time reclaiming your own happiness.

Melissa--I really need you to explain this further.  How does the non-ADHD person "hand over" the responsibility of anything to an ADHD person when one of the characteristics of ADHD is avoidance of responsibility?  Many many of us post here about the things we need our ADHD spouses to do and the myriad of reasons why those things virtually never get done.  We need the ADHD person to not leave messes all over the house, we need them to finish what they start, we need them to not spend money foolishly, we need them to not lie, we need them to communicate clearly, we need them to listen better/more.  If the ADHD person cannot or does not or will not at least take steps to make those things happen, how does the non person "reclaim their happiness"?  It's hard to be happy in the middle of a house of half done projects.  It's hard to be happy when you start conversations with your ADHD spouse and they interrupt with whatever thought has just passed through their brain and never return to the thing you started talking about (this happens ALL THE TIME in my house).  It's hard to reclaim your happiness when you're broke because the ADHD person spent money foolishly.  It's hard to reclaim happiness when you have asked your ADHD DH multiple times to not do a certain thing and they do it and when you ask yet again that they not do whatever it is, you get one of three responses--defensiveness, anger that you are nagging them or a blank baffled look because they have no recollection that you ever asked them even once forget multiple times.  

Each example I listed above have happened at my house in the past week except the money one because my DH is no longer on our accounts because he USED to spend money like a drunken sailor and got us into trouble on more than one occasion.  Other than that, each thing up there has happened--I have been asking DH to deal with the fishtank in our house for the past 6 months--nothing.  I have been asking DH to clean up his part of the walk in closet that we share--nothing.  I have asked him to clean up the garage--nothing.  I very specifically asked him to back me up when I asked our 18 year old son to do some chores BEFORE he left the house on Saturday and YET...the child was nowhere near done with what I asked him to do when DH literally interrupted him while he was doing those chores to see if he wanted to go run some errands with him.  So I had to step in and say NO, he is not going until the chores are done and boom--once again I am the bad guy and DH is the fun dad.  When I asked DH about it later, this was his response--he thought I met the child couldn't go out with his friends or girlfriend, but he COULD go out to run errands.  Um...WHAT?  I mean come one--what a cop out.  DH wants what he wants-period.  He's got a passive aggressive streak a mile wide and pretty much figures out ways to say F-you and do whatever he damn pleases.  How would you suggest I reclaim my happiness in these circumstances?  We have been through three counselors over the years and nothing changed except I got a long list of more ways I could help him, nothing about HIS responsibilities as a grown up.  I am baffled by suggestions and tips for getting along that really are lists of how the non-ADHD person should just relax, let stuff go, have lower expectations, make time for themselves.  I am also baffled by the line "a couple's problems are never just the fault of one partner".  Really??  When one partner does not act like an adult, how is that shared responsibility?  When one partner overdraws the bank account yet again, how is that shared?  When one partner lies to avoid taking responsibility for pretty much anything in the relationship, how is that shared?  When you put systems in place to keep the fmaily organized and they don't get used and so problems result, how is that shared?  When the non-ADHD person has a calm, problem solving conversation with the ADHD person and they BOTH agree to do certain things and then the ADHD person does not do those things, how is that shared?

Please respond--I am very curious to hear your thoughts.

I'm curious too, Melissa!

So if H doesn't pay the car insurance (his responsibility) because the money was spent on his distractions and I get rear-ended and discover our insurance has lapsed, are we are supposed to have a discussion about it instead of a huge argument because his self esteem might take a hit? This would be a willful act, not a slip up.  How does one express anger in a positive way when after numerous discussions and agreements the destructive behavior continues?  My take on this whole dynamic is there is no solution for happiness unless the ADD spouse is willing to own their behavior and work at limiting their impulsivity.  When they cannot or will not work toward a common goal, we do not have a partnership.  If I have to limit my interactions with him because of his moods and inability to control his anger, we do not have a partnership.  If I have to protect myself from his irresponsibility by setting boundries and walls 10 feet high, we do not have a partnership.  If I have to attend most events alone because he will be bored and cannot act like an adult, we do not have a partnership. I feel that if he wanted a partnership he would do the work to have one. It is no mystery what needs to be done.  And, the notion of H's self-esteem being crushed because he spent his life screwing up is weak.  If you screw up you change things to avoid a repeated pattern.  You use tools available.  You ask for help.  You don't blame everyone else because you missed a deadline, you change things or set up a system to avoid it happening again.  So instead of dealing with a problem once, finding a solution and sticking to the solution, H "forgets" and will do whatever he wants or willfully disregards the agreement in an effort to teach me who's boss.  It is beyond frustrating to deal with issues over and over that I thought were resolved.  

All this advice might be fine for people who are not dependent on someone with ADD.  I wouldn't care if H paid his bills, or cleaned up his place, or had 10 storage units filled with his junk that he kept up the rent on or not.  The thing is Melissa, we are dependent and thought we had a partner who wanted the same things.  After all, H said he did say he wanted marriage and family.  Was I supposed to read between the lines and know he really only wanted a housekeeper, a secretary, and booty call?  H said he wanted kids, loved them he said... yet never got involved and became jealous when the babies demanded too much of my attention yet never stepped up to offer assistance or take over any mundane childcare task and become involved.  It is this lack of involvement, refusal really, in most thing that are boring and monotonous that crushed our relationship.  He showed me who he was when he sat and watched me work late into the evening helping with homework, cooking, cleaning up dinner, and preparing for the next day while he did his own thing.   If asked, he would half-ass the task and grumble instead of taking it on as part of the responsibility of adulthood. Anything to stay a 12 year old.  Rather than advising us not to mother them, the advise should be to THEM to lose the attitude and act like an ADULT.  

Deep down I think people with ADD want to be free birds to do whatever catches their fancy and not be tied down to responsibility, like surfers looking for that next perfect wave.   

 

dvance and adhd32

There is no way to force accountability without changing the way we live...We will never change the way they live.....

I have found two ways that works...Leave (complete disassociation legally) or manage our lives being fully responsible for everything pertaining to ourselves and nothing pertaining to our spouses....Boundaries that consist of separate everything....All our insurance's, all our finance's separate taxes, etc....This is the only way to not be angry about the abuse that our spouses are causing by irresponsible actions....The negative effects will not leave until YOU/ WE/ any of us who are in such a situation....If we aren't willing to quietly make the changes, then we are asking for it...

We must SEE irresponsibility in the same light as we SEE Physical abuse....Or we will never SEE our way clear to step up and set the appropriate boundaries....

Or I can just leave if it come to that....And I'm fine with that at this point....I want  the best for us both in our later years....And that might not be possible together....

I hear a lot of excuses and made when I share, orstate these facts...Stuff like that isn't a marriage! LOL....Well what do you think we have now?? LOL....You better concern yourselves about peaceful survival first.....

Blessings ladies....

C

Validation

I just discovered this sight and I feel so validated... And so hopeless. They apparently won't change or can't change, and in the meantime our non-add spouse life is ticking (mostly miserably) away.

Some can change

Welcome to the site, Squirrel.  I'm glad you're here.  Please understand that this s a place where people can vent and be listened to and believed.  People who are not suffering a lot or who are not dealing with the first stages of learning, confusion and getting a grip or a new way of doing their life are not he ones who post most often here.  I hope you counterbalance what younread here on the board with Melissa's report of partners who are not in such pain.  On this side of it, though, you'll find many goodhearted people who have been through a lot.   

Some people with ADHD can change the way they interact with their partner or spouse.  I'm living that, with a very good and goodhearted man.  It seems to come down often to will, not neurology.  It depends on who you're with.  Yes, yes, its hard.  And yes, time and life is passing.

There's a lot to read here.  Welcome.  I hope the site helps you

Chevron

Welcome Secret Squirrel

Change has to be something the person who needs to change must SEE (acceptance of it for themselves) and then do the work it takes...If you or I have a weaknesses, (I have plenty) or maybe bad habits....We must say to ourselves....Self, you need to change, so we discipline our lives in order to eliminate this **thing** from happening again (or at least greatly reduce the chances)...Maybe this thing is hitting the snooze and getting written up at work for being tardy...So we start a new little discipline in our life....And the problem goes away....But even something as simple as getting in the bed a little earlier, and waking up and starting our day w/o hitting snooze, takes us making up our mind, and disciplining our lives to that end....

It works the same for adhd minded people as it does for non's...They must see the need, and make up their minds just like you or I would have to do...What I've found out w/ my spouse who happens to hit the snooze at least 6 or 8 times every morning she works...She doesn't see the need....She has spent her life making excuses for why it's OK to hit snooze for 30 minutes, no matter who's sleep it ruins...

When a person makes excuses for their actions and their bad habits, their lives can be very intrusive....I think that is what most of us experience in our marriages...(based on many of these posts)

Add or not....You must see the need and do the work (discipline your self) in order to change....Many minds will always pursue what is easy for them....

I have learned to mange my life around much of her adhd.. Knowing what to expect helps....(like the iPhone alarms, I use ear plugs to dull it). There are many places where conflict can crop up...To me, if I can avoid conflict and arguments w/ her we are progressing....When we have long periods of kindness and peace between us, it really helps with trust and promotes a healthy attachment....

So just recognizing when my own inner emotions are starting to escalate about something that is going on between us, and deal with it, then the relationship is the winner...

The tricky part about that is when you have a spouse that lives her life thinking what ever she decides is good for her...Should be good for everyone....So when she approaches me with all these expectations she wants to dump on me....I have to recognize it, and be wise enough to not allow it to happen....The best way I've found to handle it (that gets the message across) is with a question....Like when she goes through this spill about what she thinks should happen or we should do.....Listen to her, and then when I can get a word in...Ask her, Are you wanting to know what I think about your plan? Sometimes a person who likes to control, or who is dumping expectations w/o thought, can be brought to awareness of it, with just a calm question.....

But the real trick is not responding to their pouting, even when your * no thank you* was nicely and calmly spoken...A person who is seeking to control and have their way...Really don't want a calm no...They want to press and control to get their way...So they will try to keep the conversation going in order to turn it into an argument...They may even pout and cut off intimacy, or some other attempt to punish you....We have to be strong enough to see it for what it is, and not be effected by the manipulation attempts...

C

Control

Hey C,

I have seen you often comment about “control” when speaking about persons with ADHD. Is the need to control an ADHD thing?

I have a difficult time sometimes with my husbands need to control situations, to be “in charge”. Especially in situations where there isn’t need for a leader (like hiking and camping with a group of reasonable and experienced adults). 

Today, the issue was with my vehicle. This may just be a female thing, but mechanics all love to talk to my husband about my car, even though I brought it in, told them what I thought the problem was, and then, you know, pay and pick up my car. I dropped my car off, called to talk to the mechanic about it mid afternoon, but of course, later, when they had a question, they called my husband about it. Who authorized the changes before speaking to me. If someone called me about his vehicle, I would just forward the call to him. For some reason, he doesn’t understand that I would like input on something that belongs to me, entirely me. Bought, paid for, will pay for. Even though, I have made this wish clearly in the past. 

This affects other areas of our life as well. When we bought a house together, we were both going to put 10000 dollars down. Instead, he authorized putting down 16000 and then just used the remaining 4000 for other things, and just calmly mentioned it a few days later. Red flag #855 I ignored. 

He can’t handle being in the passenger seat, regardless who is driving and is the worst back seat driver on history. I stopped driving when he is in the car because it is so unpleasant. 

I could give a thousand examples, about renovating the house, or changing plans with friends or about moving my stuff around or giving away something that belongs to me or packing for me, even though I have made it clear that I like to do my own packing, breaking agreements we made in counselling.... Some of the inability to stick to a plan is the ADHD, but is the control as well? I find it so bizarre and am yet to find a reasonable way to deal with it. I am “making a big deal out of nothing” if I mention it. Yet it is pervasive and wearing and in many ways I have just given up because it doesn’t matter how many time I mention it, the behaviour doesn’t change. Direct, one sentence “orders” are the only way to emphasize something that is extremely important to me. 

HI DO :)

Headed out the door, but, will come back to this soon....

C

Control

D.O. I think much of what is perceived as controlling attempts is usually sponsored by something else....In a marriage it is very difficult to hide distrust in our spouses decision making, or life choices. So when choices or behaviors are so different from each other...It's easy to label the different choices as controlling...The problem usually comes about when one of us tries to either force our will on the other, because we are convinced we are right...Or because of insecurities....An insecure person (spoiled) may try to get their worth from others...If they can have their way in a particular circumstance, then they feel valued, and good about themselves. When this is happening that person may not be aware, or concerned about their partner's feelings on the subject....Because their actions are being driven by selfishness, instead of thoughtfulness and love...A person can usually avoid this dynamic, if they don't fall to the temptation to defend themselves for doing what in their mind is the right thing...

A mind seeking control will prey on weakness...And to defend your right to make sound decisions is weakness.....

Control in this sense, is an allusion...But those who attempt it can cause havoc in a relationship...My thinking is, it's better to calmly seek to make wise decisions even if you are labeled controlling by your spouse...

Adhd can sponsor many things of this nature....Thrill seeking, risk taking to name a couple...Peer pressure isn't just for teenagers....In our desire for closeness and oneness if we fail to recognize our many differences and accept them, then we can continually find ourselves very uncomfortable in our marriages...

Yes, we should never seek to control, or fall to it....It's ok to state your feelings or position on a subject, but that must be about it in order to live in a peaceful mind....

Nice to hear from you:)

C

I have read this several times now.

And I keep taking away something new from it. It is interesting that you brought up lack of trust in our partners decision making process. It’s strange to flip the coin and try to think of his distrust in me as the motivation behind his reason for control. It actually hurt my brain. Which I think is a good sign.  To have the capacity to break up well worn pathways and tire yourself by trying something new. 

I am on a break between counselors right now. It is going to continue till the New Year. But this question of control came up after the recent car issue and I didn’t know what to think of it. 

I definitely see the need to control stemming from his history of CSA. And the distrust of my decision making abilities (although sometimes I think he just does that as an excuse to explain his actions). 

I guess that is the strangest part about marriage to my husband. We don’t play by the same rules or have the same base goals when it comes to marriage. I still can’t figure out half of what is going  on in our relationship because I don’t understand his underlying motivations sometimes. 

This response brought to mind his nickname from his fire service days “freight train”. Once he gets going, everything else be damned. 

I sometimes catch myself manipulating him by gently planting thoughts or ideas in his mind to steer or slightly turn that path.  Because direct confrontation never works. Or logic. Or appeals to compassion. Doesn’t make me feel good about myself but I am catching myself.  

Anyhow, thank you. Definitely gained some insight from your words. Some need for control comes from immaturity and insecurity. Some need for control stems from distrust in my own choices. Some is just because he can’t stop himself once he is on a specific path. 

Anyhow, I am going to focus on the lessons that I learned from this conversation and focus on my own need for control. I think that is where the value lies in this for me. 

I like your thinking and the work you are doing D.O.....

(I guess that is the strangest part about marriage to my husband. We don’t play by the same rules or have the same base goals when it comes to marriage. I still can’t figure out half of what is going  on in our relationship because I don’t understand his underlying motivations sometimes.) 

In my opinion, this statement of yours is one of the major encumbrance's to unity in any marriage....If two people who are thinking very differently, do not have a desire and convictions to come to agreements in  **what should be** and just continues to go their own path (independence, as if single) and justify it...Then that couple will always struggle to find unity and agreements....

I love what you said about making new path ways in our brains...It takes courage to confront ourselves and challenge ourselves...I'm proud of you!...I hope I can do the same...I think we will grow if we do that....I do not have to always be in agreement w/ my wife, ( or even understand her) to be at peace in my spirit, and to focus on a healthy love for her.

Many times my own insecurities have made our marriage way more complicated than than it should have been...My mistakes in the past to seek to manipulate or change/fix her, because of our differences, and my judgments for her life style :(, has caused us much conflict...When Mr. Organized rule keeper... marries... Miss, Messy Frivolity, somebody has got to be humbled...Tip:...It's not usually the ADHD messy hoarder...

Yep D.O. it takes a lot of work to Love past our difference's...(Especially when they or so different, and confront us daily) I"ve found out in my life there is only one way that can happen......

Also putting ourselves in other peoples shoes mean's we must forego selfish motivations....I guess that's' the acid test for us humans....

Have blessed day D.O....

C