Suggestions wanted on a very odd outcome of a highly anticipated dinner date

Let me have some input please.  We have been working with surviving the chaos caused by my spouse's ADHD traits for a long while, so I will admit it is difficult for me to get out of the mothering mode into the partnership mode.  Facts from my paradigm:

Spouse is leaving for out of town for 4 days, 3 nights.

Asks if I want to go out for dinner, specifically mentioning 'to spent time with me' before he left.

I responded yes.  I am going out shopping in the AM with my friends, not sure what time I'll be home, but it will be 2-3ish. 

No specific leaving time was set for the dinner date - which is best as time management is not his strong point.

I got home at 3.

5pm. - turned on TV to  pass the time while I waited for him to get home.

6 pm  - I guess he is going to be late as usual.

7pm - I am thinking this is a little late to be going out for dinner.  Not a new experience for him to get wrapped up in work, or be late.  After 20+ years of marriage it is a pattern. 

I hear a vehicle coming up the driveway.  It was not my spouse, but my son -mid-twenties -  who works with my spouse.  I asked if he had been working with his Dad.  No.  He was with his friends all day. I told him I was waiting for Dad to go out to dinner. He texts his Dad - Aren't you supposed to be taking mom out to dinner?

I get a call from my spouse.  He is livid.  He is angry.  He is mad as a hornet.

Somehow, I missed my spouse ask me to text him when I got home.  It was not one of those situations where, when he mentioned it, I realized I had forgotten.  I do not recall him mentioning it - at all.  By 3 pm, he decided I was being mean and punishing him by choosing to stay out with my friends over going to dinner with him.  Rejecting him. He worked himself into a horrible angry depression.  

It was my fault for not calling him.  It was moot point that I did not hear his request for a text when I got home. 

For me, I really thought nothing of his being late - as it is normal.  He is known not to show up - to be late - to forget - doesn't understand how his family would get upset that he had to finish a job.   

There was no understanding from him that it was poor communication that should get the blame.

Nope.  I am punishing him.  Sigh.  He cried.  He cried the next morning.  He left for his trip carrying with him his opinion I rejected him and I am punishing him.  Sigh. sigh. sigh.  Also tossed at me a bit of a guilt-inducing slam, "Don't you realize how much temptation there is for men at these conventions?"

I do not feel guilty.  I feel sad.



outta sight, outta mind

Seems to me like he wanted to start an argument with you before he went out of town so he can be self righteous and have "reason" for what he might want to do "out of town" if the "opportunity" comes along.  DH was a traveling salesman when we were younger.  He has been there, done that.

DH once said to me, "You better take care of me (sexually) before I go out of town because you know what they say, "Absence makes the heart wander."   He said it like a joke.  ha ha.  So, would it have been my fault if he "hooked up" while out of town? That is what he wanted me to think.

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Needing an argument

I did not anticipate an argument before he left on a trip - it was new territory.   It was always about him - and his trip - and getting his stuff ready - and his fun.  It does seem to me that there is always an argument right as I was leaving for a weekend away.  I purposely choose not to engage in any arguments before I leave. 

I also feel there seems to be - unconscious as they may be - efforts on his end to sabotage any good time.  I do my best to disengage - and fail sometimes when he badgers, badgers, badgers for an argument.  I grow weary. 

I have been trying to see our situation in a whole new light.  This has been my new mantra -a quote from ~Ned Hallowell~   "ADD (attention deficit disorder) is a misleading name for an intriguing kind of mind. ADD is not so much a disorder but rather a collection of traits and tendencies – some positive, some negative – that define a way of being in the world. If the negative aspects become disabling, then this way of being in the world can become a disorder. But once people learn to manage the negative, disorderly aspects, they can take full advantage of the many talents and gifts embedded in this sparkling kind of mind."

I have a glimmer of hope as I watch our 23 year old son - who was diagnosed with adhd in 4th grade - growing up accepting and embracing and taking full advantage of the creative traits, and asking for help with the difficult/chaotic traits.

I do realize my 55 year old spouse has lived with these traits for 52 years without understanding them.  Now he does.  Now I see how I spiraled in the mothering type of nagging spouse.  I can only do my part to unspiral.  Our issues were always about me being unkind and unreasonable and not like all the other spouses in the world.  I am always receiving - as he calls them - a litmus test to compare me to others. The other side - oh no,  we may never compare him to others.  Now anytime we have a disagreement- it is all about me punishing him.  Sheesh.  It was wrong to mother.  It is wrong not to mother. 

I keep chugging along, hoping for a break through.     

I am glad your son grew up

I am glad your son grew up knowing how to understand adhd as my daughter is doing right now.  It is nice to know that they grow up and deal with life in their own awesome, creative ways.  I hope you get a break through!  I am hoping too.  I am a very accepting person but I feel entirely empty.

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Running on empty

<<I am a very accepting person but I feel entirely empty.>>

I understand.  Me, too.  Me, too. . . . . . .

My husband does this too. 

My husband does this too.  It's not ok.  But it happens anyway.  All you can do is say that you didn't hear him and are sorry that he chose to go out with friends rather than text you to see what's going on. All you can do is control what you can control.  Try to respond versus react.  It is so very unfair.  It's also behavior that isn't controlled by meds as far an I can tell.  Seems to me that when my husband's stress levels are high, or he just hasn't got enough sleep, he is more likely to react irrationally to anything.  It could be that the stress of going out of town left him susceptible.  ADHD people do not travel well.

I'm struggling with similar things.  The question of will it ever get better on a consistent basis.  Disengagement is a slippery slope.  Makes it harder to tune into the core of the relationship.  And answer the why bother question.   Try to remind yourself why you like the guy.  He will probably come back from the trip ignoring that the fight ever happened.  Everything I read is that in order for a relationship to succeed you have to let the anger and hurt go, unless the action was a deal breaker.  Remember that it wasn't personal.  You did not do anything wrong.  His behavior was a symptom of a brain condition.  He can manage the condition but not eradicate it.

Good luck.

I am so sorry!  I have been

I am so sorry!  I have been through similar miscommunications that are mostly my fault and no apologies.  It is so sad.  You are not alone.

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A member of the "You are not alone " Club

Hello KayMarie.  I am just so amazed at how many of our stories follow the same pattern. 

The exterior shell of our relationship - the one that looked so polished, so wonderful, so great - is now not able to contain all the frustration underneath.  My friends and family can see into some of the cracks.  They are wondering about the angry man they gets glimpses of - they wonder where the happy, wonderful, fun-loving guy has gone. 

I had tried to explain a bit of what our home life really looked like - but they all thought I was crazy. 

Truth is sometimes crazier than fiction.

I'm confused

You asked for suggestions, but I have a question... let's assume he's telling the truth and did ask you to text him when you got home and you didn't hear the request.... Why did he not contact you after 2-3'ish came and went -- he chose instead to make assumptions and feel sorry for himself.   Why did you wait from 2-3ish until 7, make all those assumptions about he's always late and take no action to firm up the plans?   Are you sure both of you in your own ways aren't purposely trying to create these failures because they confirm the positions/roles each of you has adopted over time?  Are you really, really sure?  If this questions makes you feel ticked off, rather than objectively curious, then I encourage you to keep asking it.  Seriously.  If you've read Melissa's book, this story is classic symptom/response/response. 

You said  No specific leaving time was set for the dinner date - which is best as time management is not his strong point  After 38 years of being married to my ADHD guy, i have to disagree.  very specific plans are much more effective.... precisely because time management is not his strong point.  If I'm bad at financial management is creating a budget a bad idea? 

So back to the suggestion you asked for.  Again, he's not here, you are, so it does me no good to offer him suggestions.  1.  A reply of this day would have had the two of you agreeing to a time for your date, optimally with a little joy and anticipation.  If agreeing to the time for the date is not possible, then agreeing to how/when you would connect later to finalize the time.  Then if either or both of you had to adjust the plan, no assuming about the other's motives in the vacuum of no information, instead a little more adult "partnership' communication about some flexible new plans.  From the outside it sounds like you both sat around waiting for the other to do something, Again, i hope you are not a martyr like I am.  Waste of a life.  Best wishes.  Sorry if I was too harsh.  I just really really want you to be as honest with yourself as you can.  Only when we are honest with ourselves as spouses of people with ADHD can we either learn how to live with and love them, or decide we can't.  living in the in between for 38 years is something i just can't recommend.


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I am not sure of anything

Hello Gardener,

I did sit with joy and anticipation.  Believing this time would be a new start.  

Ah yes, that ol' symptom-response-response.  I would say I was working on breaking that cycle by not having an angry response to the symptom.     I am attempting to remove myself from the parent position by choosing to allow him to find clocks/timers/watches alarms to be his time-monitor.  I have built up some tough walls of protection to guard from being hurt by being forgotten.  My post was written post-crisis as a 'time line', rather than as a "victim to the circumstance." 

After slowly assuming most of the responsibility for our household and finances and even my spouse, I  have been focusing on breaking away from the parent/child relationship that I had unwittingly made our marriage into by being, what I thought, was a loving helpful wife.   I had also assumed being the scapegoat for all our disagreements/conflicts/problems.  Yes, I was too demanding, too sensitive, too controlling, over-reacted, expected too much.  After years of working on my own shortcomings and  finding a spine, I am probably stuck in a firm-stance with my heels dug in - Stubborn Pollack :) 

We will be married 29 years this year.  I can't MAKE my spouse do anything.  But I can believe he can and will take responsibility for his own actions. 2 years ago I thought we should go our separate ways.  My spouse pleaded with me to stay.  I am willing - but need to know that there is an understanding that the ADHD traits can cause chaos - and while they are not purposely done - they do have an effect on our marriage that is unpleasant for me. 

I yearn for that time when I hear him acknowledge that the ADHD behaviors and traits cause some measure of unpredictability  - rather that the issue being a non-adhd wife who is being unreasonable and punishing. 

Until recently, he was never forced to have to compromise - he would pout and bellow until I cowered into the peace-as-all-cost position.  That too was a big mistake I made.  Ah, it also would be so nice to be able to have a partnership and communication.    

I am here.  We have done Melissa's couple seminars.  I really am stubborn and want to get the sense that he will move a bit into following the directions of professionals.  He didn't do the homework.  He did not read the book.  He has yet to follow through - though he insists he has.  If I call him on it, I am being unreasonable.   

From my end, it it very hard as he postures himself in a chair, stiff, arms crossed, daring anyone to direct anything at him.  He currently is content to sit in the 'my wife is punishing me' position. 

I made a mess of things from my end.  I will continue to look at what I can do to make a difference.      It's complicated. . . . . .  


MIssing part of the communication

It is not unusual in any situation that someone doesn't hear something that is said as a partner is going out the door.  In our household we have a rule - if you don't hear a specific response from the person you're talking to (i.e. "okay, I'll text you when I get home"), assume the person didn't hear you and say it again (nicely) - even if you are in the same room with them.  That doesn't get past "forgetting", of course, but it is amazing how much miscommunication is avoided.  I'm pretty certain given your description that in this situation, if you had this rule in place you would have had a nice night out because he would have made sure you heard his request.  (The other helpful rule - don't yell from another room.  If you want to talk to someone or get their attention, move your body into the room where they are!  If you're too lazy to do this, then the information must not be that important!)

The sad part about this is that you couldn't just apologize and then end up going to dinner.  There is more going on here than just this one interaction.  Would be interesting to know what it is.

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There really must be more going on here

I will suggest we add the 'confirmation to reques't idea to our communication. One of our family rules has always been you need to be in the same room as the other person you are talking to - unless there is an emergency, in which case you can yell your head off if necessary.  My spouse can't participate.  Don't know why.  He stands at the door and yells three rooms over.  When a fan is running, or the air conditioner, or the TV is on, and especially when their is a combination of noises, it is impossible to hear him.  I have asked/reminded him over and over.  Now I ignore him.  Seems rude - and my spouse gets angry. I am at a loss. 

I think there is something more going on here.  If it was just me, if these types of interactions only were between my spouse and I, it would be easy for me to say it is only this marriage that is broken.

However, it is not just me - it is his family, my family, friends - as long as there is no conflict and everyone agrees with my spouse  - it is good for him.  One bit of conflict, and the friendship/relationship is over.

It is sad to watch my spouse slowly morph into his Dad.  His Dad was angry at the world, intensely dislikes his wife (my spouse's mother,) was a hoarder, and spent most of his time in his basement, at his workbench, in his Dad's actual words: "biding his time until he died."    


More going on

My spouse has gone through this too.  I think it stemmed from some big hickups outside of his control that impacted his view of himself and made him especially sensitive to not being agreed with.  He used to get absolutely furious because I would not buy into his political opinion or buy gold.  He lost his career to a disability and going back to school made the ADHD appear, which then gave him the notion that his brain was broken, and lost about what to do, and not contributing financially.  Men, because of traditional social constructs, sometimes have real difficulties adjusting to these issues.  I think mine became really depressed, and combined with ADHD and anxiety issues, and not doing basic life skills like eating, sleeping, and exercising, made him into an angry, bitter, dysfunctional man.  Now I'm fortunate because he's become aware that's not acceptable and is willing to get medical and therapeutic help.  It does take time to form new habits, and the desire to do so.  Also keep in mind, his dad and mom taught him his relationship skills, he clearly could use different lessons on that.

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Into the panic mode

I am watching my spouse spin into a panic mode.  A bit scary. 

In moments of clarity, when I can see between the lines, I can imagine us growing old together and happily walking off into the sunset.  That is the dream I grasp tightly.  But I am growing weary and sometimes believe I am the world's biggest fool. 

It has - on 2 different occasions with 2 different counselors - been suggested that my spouse may be filtering his life through two of the people who were very harsh and critical of him when he was a child.  One suggested that we use a physical cue - such as me pretending to brushing each "filter person" off my shoulders so my spouse could stop and consider if he was listening to me, or was he hearing old tapes of criticism.

It sounded practical to me - but after a few times, my spouse refused to use that method.  He said it was me telling him he was wrong.  Sigh.

Yes, my spouse wants to be 'fixed."  Even as various counselors try to encourage that he is not broken, ADHD just 'is' and he only needs to address his social habits and skills. 

Sometimes, it sure seems like he wants to sit on his pity pot.

Yesterday we had a discussion about how to make Sunday mornings run smoother.  We decided we would get up, drive together, attend Sunday School and then worship service together.  This morning, I got up after he had left for the day - and I found a note on my desk:  "I am choosing to opt out of church and/or Sunday lunch tomorrow." 

Sigh.  Sigh.  Sigh.  Not sure what happened between going to bed and this morning. 



Pity Pot

Gosh what a disappointing note to wake up to, and how passive aggressive.  I'm very sorry.  I think you made the point that he wants to be fixed, and that is probably the sticky point.  He needs to want to fix himself, there is no magic pill.  Yes stimulants can help a lot with focus, but they don't make the coping and habit changes necessary to thrive with ADHD.  That's one of the hardest issues to deal with, having ADHD isn't necessarily bad, and was part of what I was attracted to, the symptoms can be managed and people can exploit the good stuff, it's just how do you motivate the person to do it?  My husband was legitimately frustrated when I was focusing on it as a problem to be fixed rather than symptoms to be managed.  Or how does the person motivate himself to do it, more appropriately?  I tried reward systems, but that was treating like a child.  I tried brainstorming on what success looked like and that seemed to help.  Goals that he identifies with are helpful.  But it's so hard to keep the chin up and do the right things when you aren't getting rewarded for it either.  Good luck.  I hope that you can find some peace.

I'm so exhausted..Thanks so

I'm so exhausted..Thanks so much for your input.  I am so glad I found this website.  Yes I have tried to explain how things are in my home to family, friends and they seem to understand but not really.  It really is a hard situation to explain.  What is somewhat validating for me is that there are family and friends that have witnessed his rudeness and have told me about it.  Currently, what is hard for me is that I think I have turned a corner and although I understand how ADHD minds work in a lot of ways, I don't think I am ready to spend the rest of my life dealing with unpredictable emotions, outbursts, rudeness and non feelings.  I don't know if I can go back to my original feelings from the beginning.  Maybe just maybe if I read the book years ago it may have helped me understand about the outbursts and rudeness it may have helped.  I was always confused as to why we could not have a conversation about things.  Basically, I am a scared stay at home mom that hasn't worked a full time job in 16 years.  I am scared of how he reacts to lots of things.  He is often in the attack, get even mode so I can only imagine how things would be if I said I was leaving.  My kids are 16 and 13 and would be able to handle it but I can only say that I am scared.  I have been in the take care of everyone track for a long time am wondering if I can handle being out on my own.  Grateful for some online friends!!

Recognize the strength

I am so sorry you are going through this.  I recommend that you own and acknowledge the strength, fortitude and resilience that it took to deal with the situation as long as you have.  If you can do that, and clearly you could, then you are certainly capable of holding a full time job (which being a stay at home mom is), and managing life on your own (and kids).  This is not to dismiss your fears, you are entitled to them, it is a scary thing to do, starting over.  If you are physically scared of telling your spouse, do it in public or with someone you love and trust there, not your kids.  Try to prepare the money stuff first.  Maybe talk to a divorce lawyer to get a realistic sense and advice.  If you can take care of everyone you can take care of yourself when you feel it's time.  Best wishes with whatever decisions you make.