ADHD Spouse Refuses to Take Responsibility for Fights

I am a 25yo woman married to a man with ADD (he calls it ADD because he does not have the hyperactivity component). He was diagnosed as a child but did not start taking medication until college. We have been married for almost 2 years and our marriage is overall very happy. However, there is an issue in our relationship that has really taken a toll on both of us. Since I am new to this site, I am not sure if this problem has to do with ADD. So, I am wondering how much can be attributed to ADD and how much is my fault.

The first issue is that our fights always follow the same pattern - a pattern that is very toxic for both of us and hurtful for me. First, I get upset about something that he has said or done. I tell him, as calmly as I can, that what he did bothered me. I'm sure I sometimes have anger in my voice, but I don't think I usually raise my voice at this stage. Then, he usually says that he can't see anything wrong with what he's done. One of his catch phrases is "Who cares?" Of course, I respond that I care. This continues for a little bit and the argument gets more heated. I have trouble backing off because I want him to understand why I'm upset, and I also hate leaving fights unresolved. In the end, he always explodes. He starts screaming at me in a really scary bellowing tone. He screams, "You wanted a fight, and now you've got one! You're never satisfied until I start screaming!" Inevitably, I start to cry and plead with him, trying to convince him that the last thing I wanted was a fight. He sometimes starts "smashing" things. For example, twice he has smashed his laptop shut, breaking the screen. He always screams at me to leave him alone, but (and this is probably my fault) I hate to leave fights unresolved, so I tell him that we need to talk it out calmly. He usually begins sulking and often tries to go to sleep, even if it's early in the evening. I absolutely hate the way he shuts down and goes to sleep like nothing is wrong! Meanwhile, I can't fall asleep for hours because I am so upset. If the fight is particularly big, his sulking can last for days. 

The worst part about all of this is that whenever he explodes, I always end up apologizing for everything and pleading with him not to be mad at me. He refuses to take any responsibility for exploding. He claims that he never, ever gets angry unless it is in response to something I've done. He claims that he never initiates fights; instead, I always initiate fights and he defends himself until he can't anymore, and then he explodes. Therefore, I always end up taking the blame for everything, and he seems satisfied with this outcome and "forgives" me.

A recent example involved a rotisserie chicken. While I was headed home from work, he called me and said he was at the grocery store. I said I wanted to cook chicken breasts for dinner and asked him to pick some up. Instead, he came home with a rotisserie chicken. I said, "You should have called me on your way home so I would have had the veggies ready." He didn't see why. I explained that if the veggies were ready, we could eat while the chicken was still hot. He said, "Who cares if the chicken is cold?" Well, I explained that I do! Then he said, "Well, I thought you were cooking chicken breast." Huh? He explained that he had also bought raw chicken breasts for me to cook. I couldn't understand why he would buy a rotisserie chicken and also expect me to cook chicken breasts! Then, while I started cooking, he started eating the rotisserie chicken. I got frustrated and asked him, "Which do you want - the rotisserie chicken or the chicken breast?" He insisted that he didn't care. I got angry at him for sending me mixed signals. I said that I just wanted to cook whatever he wanted and he should just be clear with me about what his plan is. Then, after some bickering, he exploded.

I have tried talking to my husband about these fight dynamics. He insists that he goes through life completely happy - it's true that he has an unusually high level of happiness - until I find a reason to be mad at him. He thinks that I have a psychological need to fight, and therefore I pick fights for no reason whenever that need arises. 

However, he has also claimed that fights are my fault when that connection is not close in time. For example, one subject that he has been hyperfocused on for years is diet and nutrition. Recently, I told him that I was trying to clean up my diet but I was finding it really hard to give up sugar. He started yelling at me right away, saying, "Of course, that's because you're **** addicted to sugar!" I pleaded with him to calm down, and he said, "What? It's okay for you to scream at me whenever you have low blood sugar, but when I scream in response, it's not okay?" (Everything had been perfectly fine with us for the past few days.) I pointed out, again, that he shouldn't yell at me when I haven't done anything. He claimed that he was only yelling at me in "response" to the way I treat him when I get cranky from low blood sugar. (While it's certainly true that I can get cranky when I'm hungry, the timing of his response seemed random to me.) Therefore, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells with him. This is especially true because I often try to show an interest in diet since he's so focused on it, but sometimes this can backfire, as in the above example.

Do you think that our pattern of fighting has something to do with ADD? If so, do you have any quick tips on how we can both work on this dynamic? I realize that some (much?) of this is my fault, but I just feel like the arguments get out of my control so quickly. I also wish that my husband would try to understand why I am upset or would accept at least some of the blame when we fight. Best of all, I wish that we could find a way to fight that avoids the explosions altogether. Thank you very much. 

Oh ADD is certainly involved

Hello. Welcome to ADD fighting 201. Add does not back down from a fight, it is stimulating so he feels good fighting. Which is why he can sleep. When he is in one of these moods, let it go. Reschedule a discussion so you are both fresh. There is nothing wrong with giving it space, and you can schedule for his calm time. A lot of us have had the Saturday morning fights cuz spouse seems to jump on anything to get the brain going, even tho its hurtful to us. I'd say you could both benefit from counseling on how to resolve conflict, with an ADD familiar counselor. There's also some advice on ADD communication and validating statements, tho your husband has learning to do too. Remember that its his symptoms exploding and its not personal. Good luck.


Hey Mannie, from someone who has lived through this, first of all, I am sorry you are living with this, and be careful. I can tell you that yes, ADD can coexist with significant anger management problems, but not everyone with ADD has these issues. Second, yours was my life. For freaking 12 years. Trust me, this type of anger on his part and the stress of this type of fighting can really do a number on you. My therapist told me that I may have post traumatic stress disorder from it.

This is just my opinion. With ADD, there is something stimulating for him in fighting. Also, if he has ADD his brain works very differently than yours. My take is that somehow when you ask questions or have even the tiniest bit of fatigue, annoyance, disappointment, or anger in your voice or actions (in short, humanity!) it sets him off. It is painful and threatening for him. He reacts to being "criticized," or bothered, and wants you to stop right. that. second. And would do anything to make you back off. Seriously. Like smash a laptop. The problem with doing the rational thing, and trying to get him to understand in that moment so he will calm down or realize (which makes sense to me--been there, done that, got the t-shirt--) is that it won't work. It just throws gas on his fire and everything accelerates until he is smashing a computer. Which also, as I know your heart is telling you underneath, is absolutely not ok. Not necessary. And suggests a serious problem that needs to be addressed right now. 

Mine also, verbatim, told me that he was completely ok out in the world and only was made angry with me. How convenient! How nice for him that it is all your fault, and he gets to freak out at you and yell at you and then later, because you so desperately want it to be ok between you (and maybe deep down you hope he will see how unfair he is being if you do? I did it, too) you apologize and take all the blame. Of course he does not do this with other people. He'd be fired or no one would talk to him! It also means that he can control himself if he has to. 

Dear, I am a lady in her forties. A bit older than you when I married. Mine started out with a slight "temper," nothing terrible. I lived this way for years before I had to leave. With children. My advice is: get to a counselor. Now, not later. Try to get dh to go, but if he won't, go yourself. Tell her or him everything. And don't try to talk to your dh when he is like this. Ever. It will never, ever work. Just quietly turn your heel, say, "I am sorry I made you upset, honey," and walk out. Don't try to talk to him about anything unless it is a calm moment. And understand that once to has gotten to a certain point, you may not be able to resolve that issue with the chicken. And btw, ask yourself, what did you want there with the chicken, anyway? If you wanted him to wait for you, keep it simple. "Hey, wait for me, I want to eat with you, honey." But at that point you had asked him several questions. Were you suggesting that he did something irrational? Like buy cooked and uncooked chicken? I understand, but if you had been fighting earlier, it could have gotten his hackles up and then by the time you wanted him to wait, too late! In this instance, maybe you were kind of calling him illogical? (Maybe his ADD mind had a tough time choosing which chicken to get, and just remembered "chicken," and then felt you were asking why he did it or suggesting it didn't make sense. Or he was really hungry and wanted to eat a cooked chicken. Mine always had a tough time with the sitting at the table as a group and waiting to eat thing). Was it really a big deal? I think those who learn to thrive in ADD marriages learn about how their partner's minds work and I may have just said "Thank you for getting the chicken. Its already cooked, awesome. If you wait until I cook these veggies we can eat together." And then just saved the chicken breasts. 

And in a calm moment, tell him what you need or explain then. Don't hope it will get better or try to walk on eggshells your whole life or keep apologizing when he is acting like an a*s. I can tell you that mine started off relatively mild, then ended up smashing so many things that you wouldn't believe it, including an antique family photo. Glass everywhere. Holes in the walls. Threw stuff at me and called me awful names. Just saying that if unaddressed, it has the potential to accelerate. And by the way, any verbal abuse or violent behavior is not ok. Abusers tend to blame their victims. If this is going on, have a plan. I finally gave mine an ultimatum to go to anger management and marriage counseling, and he would not and I left. And after 12 years of this, I didn't love him at all any more and was relieved and can't believe I lived like that. 

So best to you. Take care. Remember that you do not deserve this and it is not ok. Stop apologizing. Find someone you can talk to and tell the truth (I shielded mine--I was embarrassed and in shock most of the time). Don't try to talk to him when he is angry, ever. And think about what you would tell your sister or best friend to do if she were in your situation. Take care. 

Thank you for responding

I wanted to thank both of you for your responses. Unfortunately, it just happened again. I've had an extremely stressful week at work. When I came home at 4 pm, he was still in his pajamas because he needs to detox from his medication every week or so. We went to the grocery store and when we got back, he asked me to put away the groceries since he did it last time. I asked him to do it and he asked me why that would be fair. I said, "Because I've been at work all week and you spent today on the couch!" (Wrong move, I know.) He kicked some groceries at me and started screaming extremely loudly, "Do I have to explain to you what a detox day is every freaking time?!?" Anyway, I took your advice and quietly left. I hope he's cooling off now.

The problem is that I knew the couch comment was wrong as soon as I said it. But, because he completely lost it immediately, I didn't have time to take it back! (And I would have - it was wrong.) He goes from 0 to 10 in under a second. The hardest part is that he ever gives me clues that I'm saying the wrong thing until it's too late. He doesn't warn me until I've already gone too far, and his warning comes in the form of a scary outburst.

So, we have a lot to work on, but I really appreciate your support and advice. Thank you.

barneyarff's picture

OK, I'm a little confused

OK, I'm a little confused here as to how to start a new topic.  Sorry about this.


So told DH a month ago that he had 1 month to find a counselor to help him with his ADD and find  a different person to help him with his parenting skills.   Or he could move out.   Of course he was mad and said I blindsided him (I hadn't.  I had tried to get him to counseling for years and years)   So he got to a counselor but said he could not "find" a parenting coach.  I had told him 2x where to find one.  So I emailed him back with the information again and told him I was confused about how he could not "find" any help in this area when I had given him the place to go get help.  On top of that he has lots of resources available (I named them) to get help.  I asked if ALL of those people refused to give him any suggestions.   A couple of hours later he emailed back saying he had contacted the place I had mentioned and they will call back next week.   So, I would guess that he didn't really try nor did he ever call until today.  IOW, he was lying and trying to get out of going to parenting class. 

so, now, he has barely made the deadline.  To be honest, even though he has been very nice lately (knowing I've had enough) I just can't imagine what he could do to get my interest back.  I mean, for almost 39 years, 39 years, I've tried to cope with his ADD.  I'm just tired.  So very tired of it all.     I feel like I've been waiting for the Prize I'm supposed to get for sticking with it.  the irony is there is no "Prize".  If I'm lucky and if we are both willing to work hard, we will get to have a fairly normal relationship.  39 years of messes, forgotten birthdays, spending sprees, etc and the best l I get is "normal"?   I can hear it now:  What do you want, a Medal?.   Well, yes.  Yes I do.  I want a medal, a big gold one and a clean house and a huge apology along with lots of lovely trips and spa treatments.  Then I want to be left alone.

Yes, I'm annoyed.

I can relate to this.  The

I can relate to this.  The details are different but my feelings are the same.  I've been married for 28 years.  My husband has seen therapist on and off for much of our marriage. He takes meds for depression, anxiety, and ADHD.  He was diagnosed with ADHD about five years ago.  He still barely knows how to make lists.  He never consults books or online resources about ADHD.  This week, I expressed to him in a firm but not loud or angry tone that I'm extremely frustrated that after all this time, he still doesn't talk to his (current) therapist about lifestyle issues such as managing time, not sleeping well, not looking for a job (he was fired four years ago), and so on.  My husband did a few things this week that showed progress (putting an alarm in his phone to make an appointment, for example).  And I don't care.  I think he's boring and immature.  I'm tired of doing everything.  

barneyarff's picture

I think my DH is boring and

I think my DH is boring and immature too.

You know, when we were dating and were first married, we loved the adventure of it all but he became afraid and has been reeling me in slowly.  Can't get a new house because of all his stuff.    Can't travel with him because it's such a cluster.....   Even the kids don't want to travel with him because he's late all the time and anxious, etc.

He whines about how unfair life is    He comes from a family of whiners.   When they get together, I should pull out my violin and play it.

Tonight, it's a beautiful evening.  guess what he is doing.  He rented a storage unit to put "all " of his stuff in (never got it all in there) and now is rearranging his stuff so he can put more stuff in the storage unit.  Eventually he will get rid of the stuff because he doesn't use it.   Why he didn't just get rid of it in the first place is beyond my scope of understanding.  Had he just thrown it all away instead of handling it (is it 3x now?) we could have taken a lovely walk together with the dog.  But no,  here I am.  if I'm not careful, I'll spend the night waiting for him.  (ever notice how much time is spent waiting for them).    so, I guess I'll make dinner and take the dog for a walk by myself or see if my neighbor wants to go.   The whole "relationship" is just ridiculous. 

I'm going to be gone for a month because of work.  At least I'll be in a nice CLEAN and NEAT hotel and I won't have to wait for anyone.