Is this ADHD or just us?

I've been reading these forums for about 2 years now, and have finally registered to post.  My DH hasn't been officially diagnosed, but the therapist we saw when I had PND agreed that he almost certainly has ADD.  In fact she laughed when he asked, and said oh yes.  I'm seeing a pattern in our interactions which I don't seem to be able to break (and which leaves me baffled) and I'm hoping someone here can help me work out if this is ADD or just our relationship.

As an example, this evening he was playing with our daughter - they are doing pirates at nursery - and he said to her 'you can't go on the pirate ship, girls aren't allowed on pirate ships'.  I said, of course they can - as basically he was telling her she couldn't play the game she wanted, and also it is very important to me that our daughter doesn't get told at home that she can't do things because she's a girl, she gets enough of that from her peers!

At that point he went off in a tirade at me, asking me if I'd phone the police if I saw someone shot in a movie, said that he'd been playing with her all evening but now this meant it all counted for nothing, and that he wasn't going to play with her - she could just watch CBeebies where nothing controversial ever happened.  I should have married a kids TV presenter if that's what I wanted.

Is this kind of reaction common?  Does one not-completely-positive reaction from me totally cancel out everything else?  This is happening more and more often and we can't seem to get beyond it.  Either I agree with everything he says and does, or he sees me as being totally critical and himself as a total failure.

Help please someone.  It's 4.30 in the morning and I'm out of ideas.  There's plenty else wrong with our relationship (and we're on a waiting list for therapy in 4-6 months) but this is doing my head in.

I think it could be a little

I think it could be a little of both.  It is hard to say with just a small snapshot of your life.  I think the ADHD part of what you described could be the fact that your DH probably felt like he had gone out of his way to not act out and focus on something better, like playing with the kids.  Then was criticized and not praised for it.  This happens to plenty of Dads without ADHD, too.

Perhaps your DH felt like you made an assumption about what he was trying to do and say.  Did he really tell your daughter that she couldn't play pirates?  Maybe he was trying to protect her in their fantasy, because pirates were very nasty to women back in the day after all.  It seems clear to me that your DH lashed out at you because he felt like he was being attacked.  Here is another approach to the situation that may come across less hostile:

"Honey will you please tell me what you mean when you say that she can't go on the pirate ship?"  Plus, it is very hurtful as a Dad to be criticized like that in front of the kids.  A sidebar conversation would probably be better.  Is your husband open to being coached when he is being defensive?  I know that with my condition, it helps when someone I know is standing for my success stops me for a second and lets me know that I need to settle down. 

Your husband's tirades are probably a total blind spot to him.  I am sure that you guys love each other enough to find a way to gently let him know that he is stepping out of bounds without feeling attacked or marginalized.  He could probably help you with your blind spots and do the same thing for you.  The key is for both of you to remember that you have positive intentions when it comes to things such as your children. 

I think in the example you cited, your husband felt hurt that his intention to foster relationships with your daughter was thrown out the window because of a disagreement that could have been discussed later.  That hurts with ADHD or without.  I hope that helps.  Here is something else you can try.  Go to your husband in a calm and cool way, and let him know that it hurts that your conversation about the pirate ship had a negative outcome. 

Let him know that you each had a negative impact on the situation.  Come to an agreement on what you each did to contribute to the breakdown and what you can do to avoid it next time.  As long as you each know that the conversation is in the spirit of fostering better outcomes, then the defensiveness on both sides goes out the window.  As spouses, it is so easy to feel like these conversations are about personal attacks instead of growing as a family.


Thanks for the reply.  I know

Thanks for the reply.  I know I can come across as hostile, and have been working very hard to tone it down.

My exact words were: "Hey, that's not on, of course girls can be pirates!"  I really didn't think I was criticising him - just flagging up that he was putting an end to the game they were both enjoying, and I didn't think that was what he intended to do.  If it comes across to you as critical, then clearly I have some work to do!  I do know that if I ask him to explain his thinking, he just shuts down on me so although your suggestion is one I'd love to try - it looks great - I am very wary of doing so.


Could you please tell me what you mean by coaching? It's not a term I'm familiar with other than in sport/public speaking....


Frankly, I think the cause of the argument is a bit of a red herring.  Anything other than total, wholehearted approval of what DH is doing is met with much the same response, which is why I was wondering if it could be ADHD related.

We've tried to talk it over a few times over the past week.  It seems that unless he can end a play session with her with both her and me completely happy, he feels he has a)wasted his time and b)failed completely.  I am baffled by this.  

We are on a (6-month) waiting list for counselling, but DH sees this as another admission of failure and I'm not at all sure he will go with me when the time comes.  I don't know how to get him to see that counselling is trying to find a better way, rather than accepting you have no chance of success ever.


I believe you are right about

I believe you are right about the red herring.  It could have been something else and your DH could have reacted the other way.  I know for myself, I made conversations with my wife more hostile than they needed too, and most of the time I didn't recognize it.  It is only looking back after therapy that I recognize it.  If your husband is like me, he is riddled with self-loathing and hyper-sensitive to criticism.  It was very hard for me to recognize it was due to ADHD though, even after the diagnosis.

I spent 35 years not knowing why I was forgetting things, always late, and seemingly always letting people down, and not being included.  It is horrible!  Thank goodness for my diagnosis!  Until your DH can get help, I would do everything you can to remember that because of the self-hate that he is most likely feeling, that he is going to interpret criticism 100 times harsher than you intend to give.

I know this is difficult, and bless you for being willing to try.  My wife left me and hasn't given me a chance to change yet.  I also realize that your DH can't use this as a crutch forever, but treatment will help.  Medication won't, but therapy will.  As far as coaching, it is exactly like sports, and I am sorry for using terms and not explaining them well.  That was a shortcoming on my part.

The essence of coaching is looking to someone for guidance to achieve a certain result knowing that they have a full intent to help you improve.  As I look back over my failed marriage, and speak with my family and peers about theirs, it seems like a major issue is that spouses can easily get into a habit of criticizing without the intent of improvement.  It happens very easily, and it can happen to anyone. 

SIDEBAR - Please don't feel like I am taking sides of your relationship.  If your husband is like me, than he is probably deflecting criticism back to you and attacking you for revenge to feel better, and it can probably be very sarcastic and hurtful.  This isn't OK, and I definitely wouldn't excuse him.

Coaching is going up to someone and letting them know that you saw them do something that is holding them back from what they want to achieve.  It is criticism, but it isn't motivated by spite, fear, anger, etc.  Ask your husband if he is open to you approaching him when you see something with a negative impact that he may not be aware of.  I am sure he will agree, the percentage of the human population that are psychopaths and wake up in the morning try to be hurtful is relatively small.  ; )  Also ask him if he is willing to do the same thing for you.  This is helping each other identify blind spots in your behavior.

If you see something happening in real-time, such as the pirating incident, simply approach your husband later and say "Honey, I think you have had a negative impact on our daughter.  Can we talk about it when you are done?"  Then let him know what you think the impact was in private, and ask him if that is what he was intending to do.  Many times we do plenty of things that don't match our intentions.  Then your husband can take your feedback, correct the negative impact with your daughter, and not feel attacked. 

It will actually make your husband want to be with you more instead of the computer, newspaper, or whatever.  It got to the point in my marriage that I would work extra hours, eat out before going home, or go to bed early to avoid having to face criticism from my wife.  I got it in my head once so bad that she was so much against me, that I didn't want to have sex!  It was all due to my self-hate from the years of letting people down, etc.  I just didn't see it then.  My poor wife!

I truly hope that helps.  Your DH is going to learn so much about himself soon.  My recommendation to you is to try to gauge how he really feels about himself inside.  Try to do everything you can to be the opposite of the voice he has in his head right now.  I think with the pirate incident, he used the criticism for you to reinforce what he interprets as personal failings. 

That is why he immediately went to self-loathing about not trying to play with the kids and it seemed to be right out of nowhere.  He immediately attacked you about calling the police, etc. because he is trying to deflect as a coping method for the beating up that is going on inside.  I know it is hard, and it often doesn't make sense, but yes the ADHD is rearing its ugly head.  Hang in there!  He is just as confused as you are.

This makes me so sad

I admit I didn't read the entire post cos everytime I read about someone with ADD or ADHD talking about their own self-loathing cos they grew up being told shit like that makes me cry. My husband grew up beaten and abused and being told he was stupid and worthless and he is hands down the kindest most generous and compassionate man I know, and wicked smart, and deliriously funny. But man, you like his shirt? He wil give it to you. We have something extra? Its yours. Its inspiring. When I finally understood how bad he felt, so bad about himself, it was such a turning point in our relationship problems. And so heartbreaking. I am dedicated to learning all I can about ADD/ADHD because the more I learn, the more I learn I don't know shit. and now I'm going to finish reading your post =)

Three Stooges

Nice post.  I have made great strides in feeling better about my life and marriage since I identified the Three Stooges who have been living with us all along:  Deny, Distort and Deflect.  When my husband uses those tactics, I used to think I was crazy or stupid and yet couldn't understand why I didn't have those "problems" in my relationships with other people.  I can now identify them the minute they walk on stage, and, most of the time, not react to them.  These three stooges are not my ADD husband, they are his crappy coping mechanisms.  It doesn't always work, I still get hurt, angry or confused by their appearance when I don't spot them fast enough, but things are much better.