ADD, Anger and Memory Lost

I am the Non Add Spouse and I'm looking for some answers regarding memory lost when the ADD person is very angry. My partner gets extremely angry very quickly and is rude, condescending and mean some times. He knows (a few days later) that he crossed the line, but he cannot remember what happened. Is this a normal/predictable ADD effect? I have not found any info on this topic and wondering if any of you have experienced something similar. So think of your spouse being so rude to you, so angry, so mean... but he cannot remember what he did or said to you. This is pretty scary to me.

My spouse, who has ADHD,

My spouse, who has ADHD, rarely gets visibly or loudly angry, but he often forgets negative comments that he says to me, while retaining a very clear memory of everything negative that I say to him.  


I don't think that it is an excuse by any means, but my estranged ADHD spouse has a significant history of verbal abuse, and I have always believed that part of his persecution complex with being held responsible for it is that he does not remember much of what he says or does when extremely angry. Which I think is either a phenomenon I'd like to learn more about, or some pretty extreme denial. And as Rosered adds, mine interestingly has a photographic memory of every perceived slight from me. Watch out for yourself. Don't just endure the status quo--verbal abuse is not ok, and it should worry you. ADHD can coexist with anger problems, but that does not mean you should be ok with it. Read up on it. It can escalate to physical abuse. You can try, but if he won't get help, get out!

Again Ditto

Is this a coping strategy our DHs/Ex's have in place so that they do not have to FEEL or THINK anything uncomfortable within themselves about themselves?  A defense for their own mind's peace?  A way for them to compartmentalize their failures into a hidden box and change the memories around so that they do not have the responsibility of failure?  So that they can think of themselves as Okay?  That is my take on the selective memory component.  I guess we all pick and choose which memories to make a part of our makeup.  Some of us beat ourselves over the head with our mistakes and failures. Some of us discard any failures quickly and show only our "good" sides to ourselves.  The trick is to find balance and keep things REAL.  For both us  self-head-clobberes" and divas.  The sign of good partnerships is that both partners sense when someone is being "haughty" or self-demeaning and they bring it up to each other (not letting anyone wallow in self-pity or trample over others) and helps the balance.  Macho-ness or Diva-hood is not good in any relationship.  Nor is depressive verbal self-mutilation. So we each have the opportunity and responsibility within a relationship to "cut down" the egoist and "build up " the down-trodden in our marriage partners to keep things balanced and real.

Anger Flare-Ups and Total Denial it Ever Happened

My S/O who I've lived with for over four years has had long standing issues with his flare-ups.  He has two adult children, a son who lives with us and a daughter who lives with her mother.  For some time the daughter had no communication with him and so as I was falling madly in love with him I simply believed that the few flare-ups he had and directed at his son were simply due to isolated incidents.  I have no children of my own but knew instinctively that the behavior was wildly inappropriate - however I chose blinders over common sense and kept further entwining my life with his. 

Then his daughter came back into his life and the anger and yelling flare-ups increased ten fold.  His daughter had made random comments when he would flare up and I would turn to calm him that "used to be her job".  Again I chose blinders. I told myself that due to what his daughter had done to him to cause the rift that he just needed to work through his anger and that I would be there as a rock.  Love and relationships take work I told myself.  I would hear him yell and scream and say the meanest things to his kids and he would always justify it with "what they had done to him" in the past that made him react that way. Granted the two kids and especially the daughter had pulled pretty bad things on him the son always seemed to get the brunt of the screaming because the anger at the daughter was so bad and repressed that I believe he was too scared to ever address it openly.  The son would continue to act out in ways that would essentially create a vicious and dysfunctional circle of relations between father and son.

Finally the angry flare-ups started to turn to me.  Irrational and bizarre behavior that came our of nowhere was aimed at me for reasons that will never pass understanding.  I'm a strong individual and don't easily fall prey to standing for that sort of behavior.  By the time the recent post-Thanksgiving "Where the Hell is the Leftover Pumpkin Pie" flare-up happened I was already positioned to easily move back into my empty and ready home.  

I should mention here that I have been aware that my S/O has ADHD for a couple of years now and it was through an Internet article that linked to this site that I discovered why I had been feeling the things I had for some time with him.  It was a HUGE triumph to me to find this site.  It was like coming home.  I felt validated and I felt hope.  I felt like I had the ability to help him finally understand and improve his life. Several months after realizing with 99% certainty that my S/O suffered from ADHD I finally told him.  I waited for the timing and examples to be right.  He didn't ignore me, he didn't exactly accept it as gospel either but he was open to it.  That was two years ago and he tried to "change" on his own.  The flare-ups at his son didn't stop and of course I would rush to defend his son constantly and try to negotiate a peace between the two.  The workload was heavy but I owned it.  I realize now that I shouldn't have owned it the way I did. The flare-ups came to a long but  temporary suspension thought they did decrease in frequency however not in irrationality when I recorded with my cell phone recorder one of the arguments and then played it back over the surround sound.  My S/O was shocked to hear his voice and words in just the way that his son and I had claimed them to come out all along.  There was no denying it.  It helped in a way but of course my S/O still has yet to commit to getting help or even attempt a diagnosis.  After I nearly moved out a few days ago I confronted him over his appalling behavior and told him he would be alone soon if he didn't find a way to understand how his behavior affected myself and his son and those that love him (incidentally no one outside the immediate family would believe for a second that he's anything less than the "nicest guy" - but that's another posting).

To be perfectly fair and honest what has finally changed is me - though he has tried to be a better man.  When he flared up over the whereabouts of the pumpkin pie leftovers it was my reaction that caught me most off-guard.  I equate it to something like The Exorcist scene wherein my head turned around without my body following suit and I screamed, in a voice I still don't recognize very something that in a million years I would have never thought were even words I could form in my brain much less scream like a person possessed and in front of his 21 year old son.  I was shocked.  I have never yelled at anyone like that in my life nor am I proponent AT ALL of that sort of language.  I truly had become someone else. Perhaps the simple fact that sort of language had become common place in my life it finally took hold of me the way he had him.

Whether it was years of frustration over the ADHD issues that have plagued our relationship and the fact that he still refuses to admit to many behaviors that have chipped away at the foundation of what we "could have been", I know, finally that I cannot help him, only inform to a certain degree and then if he doesn't take over to get a diagnosis and find a better way then I will leave.  My two biggest fears are 1) If I leave he will never follow through and will live out his life making the same mistakes and not understanding why - remember I do actually love this man and 2) If I were to stay - I would change into something I cannot be; angry, frustrated, alone and finding ways to cope that are not in keeping with my character.  

I know that in the end, which there is a time limit on now of two months I will make the decision to leave if he doesn't follow through and I will have done so knowing that I gave 100% to the chance at love that I was given.  Relationships that include an ADHD partner are unique. There is love, there is affection and like any relationship there are problems however if a relationship of any kind begins to change the way to you see yourself and it's not in a more positive direction then it's one that can serve no one.  If however he can accept responsibility and put in the work to have healthy, consistent, supportive communications and relationship with myself and his children then the real work will just have begun for the both of us and I will happily learn with this man.



Anger and Poor Memory

Poor short term memory (called "working memory") is a part of executive function issues that a good portion of people with ADHD have.  I hear quite often things like "my partner doesn't remember even the most important conversations we've had!"    Research also shows that people with ADHD, on average, respond more emotionally to things than those without ADHD.  This can include very poor anger management.  When I see this with couples I work with it can come from a number of different places:

  1. poor impulse control - the person who suffers from this (an ADHD symptom) doesn't find time between the initial feelings of anger and verbalizing them to think about whether it's the right thing to express that anger - it just comes out.  This can sometimes be handled with medication and behavioral therapy that improves impulse control.  Martial arts training may also help some develop their ability to control.
  2. extreme defensiveness - the person feels put upon by the entire world...the anger is very close to the surface and erupts frequently.  This person typically does not understand ADHD very well, nor has he/she taken the steps needed to self-reflect upon their own role in their poor performance and life struggles over time. 
  3. low self-esteem - can be combined with #2.  Anger can be used as a way to be "big" and "threatening" and "get respect" by a person who has very low self-esteem and feels they may not get it another way.  The anger is a way of maintaining control.  Therapy and learning about ADHD in-depth can help with this.  The other thing that helps with this is actively treating the ADHD - so the person learns that they actually CAN accomplish what they wish once their ADHD is managed - they then gain self-esteem back.

Regardless of where the anger comes from, it is reasonable to insist that you should not have to live with it long-term.  Stand up for your right to be treated with respect, and lead by example.  Because it is a good resource for non-ADHD spouses who need to get their ADHD spouses thinking more carefully about ADHD, you may wish to consider taking my couples seminar.  I suggest the live version - an recalcitrant partner is more likely to stick with tuning in live each week than doing the recorded sessions.  Next live course starts Jan 7.