Avoiding the ADD spouse's anger

I do not have ADD and my husband does. He has known he has ADD for over 10 years and, although he has tried meds in the past, he is not currently taking any. We are in couples counseling (our counselor does not specialize in ADD) but he refuses to go to individual counseling.

I grew up in a home where we literally NEVER fought loudly. Most of the time, issues were just pushed under the rug. My husband grew up in a family where yelling was a regular occurrence. The commonality in our households was that nothing ever got resolved in either. My husband and I have been married for just under 2 years and have a 5 month old daughter (which has added to our stress and fighting 100-fold).

I find myself doing SO much to avoid his angry outbursts!! He is a foot taller than me and over 100 pounds heavier. I have told him before that his anger scares me and his response is, "I don't know what you're talking about. You haven't even seem me get really angry." I feel like he's yelling when he raises his voice and he says he's not. He has never been physically aggressive with me but I have seen him smash a bottle on the ground in anger (years ago). He blamed my fear over that incident on me and told me I just need to love him for who he is or I could leave. When we argue, my anxiety goes through the roof and I am paralyzed from having a constructive conversation. Ironically, I am a marriage and family therapist, and have done A LOT of work on myself and my family issues. I prefer to have a calm, rational discussion about issues that arise between us. I want to figure out solutions to our issues and not just keep arguing and hurting each other. I'm completely fine if he needs to take some time to cool down before we do that. It doesn't have to happen in the heat of the moment. Somehow though, I think he thrives/needs to have that shouting battle before he can calm down. He often will yell at ME for not getting MORE outwardly upset about a situation. Sometimes I reach my breaking point and I do yell but I hate feeling so out of control and it even seems to create some sort of twisted power shift towards him when he finally provokes me enough that I will yell back. It's like he "won" or something.

One thing I can't stand about his anger is that he will be in a bad mood and sometimes get deeply depressed for the ENTIRE day from something I consider to be trivial (I realize this is just my opinion and obviously whatever it is upsets him greatly).

Some examples:

- If HE forgets where he put something, I will rush to find it for him (I have a great visual memory and usually remember where I last saw his wallet, computer, etc) because otherwise, he will get angry, raise his voice and stomp around the house. If he doesn't find what he's looking for, he just gets more and more upset and my anxiety goes way up.

- If I ask him to do something, he often takes it personally. For example, he borrowed my new, expensive digital camera to take some pictures of a job site and he wanted to take it without the case. He got angry when I wanted him to take it in the case, especially because I would have had to look around a bit to find the case and he was in a hurry. So, I conceded and simply said, "Please be careful with it". Wow, did he get upset when I said this. He raised his voice and said, "What do you think I am...an idiot?!! Do you think I don't know how to handle a camera?!!" I told him that I neither thought he was an idiot, nor did I think he couldn't handle a camera, but it was too late. He was SO angry about things he HEARD that I DID NOT say! I feel as if I'm constantly trying to stroke his fragile ego when he hears things that I DON'T say. His mom communicates in hidden messages (always saying what she doesn't mean and expecting people to "hear" and respond to her hidden message). I am an extremely straightforward person and will almost always say what I mean. I am NOT like his mom in that way at all but he is up against over 30 years of learning that nothing is communicated directly.

- If we are running late (usually because of him), I feel like I have to walk on egg shells. I try not to tell him to hurry or even appear as if I'm frustrated about being late. The tiniest little change in my mood or the "wrong" comment will set him off on an angry tirade. The worst part is that if he is driving and we are late, he is, in my opinion, a dangerous driver. I have never been a fan of his driving (he waits until the last minute to cut over 3 lanes and take our exit, speeds, etc) but when he is angry, it's truly scary. He thinks I'm overreacting and tells me he is in control and I shouldn't worry. I try to tell him that it's not just him I'm worried about but the other drivers on the road as well (as if my blaming others will somehow fool him into driving safely). If I tell him I would like to drive, he REALLY gets angry (at me) and thinks I'm calling him incompetent. Somehow, I'm the irrational and mean one for not trusting him. We were late for his sisters wedding a couple of years ago, he was driving and his brother was tagging along with us. He was driving his typically reckless way and his brother asked him to slow down. Woah! He instantly started yelling and eventually slammed on the brakes and made his brother get out of the car and was going to leave him behind with no way to get the the wedding (which was 40 or so miles away). I did my usual ego stroking and apologizing for his brother (which just makes me disgusted with myself) and my husband eventually turned around and picked up his brother again. The driving got slightly better but he was still speeding way faster than I would have liked.

I could continue to write examples but I probably don't need to. I realize that a lot of this is my issue. I know his behavior is not my issue but the way I respond to the anxiety I feel, is my issue. I think it is no conincidence that he married someone who wants to keep the peace at any cost, which allows him to continue behaving in whatever tyrannical way he choses.

...post continued

I wasn't quite done with my above post. Thought I could save it and come back later but apparently "save" means you are posting it and I didn't see an edit option.

All I wanted to add is that I can see that my responses to him are not helpful to either of us. I want to behave differently such as driving a different car instead of letting him drive but when I start to stand up for myself and force him to be responsible for his behaviors, it really takes a lot out of me. I get REALLY tired of being anxious and of having a consistently angry husband, that I eventually go back to my old, appeasing ways, because sometimes the "peace" is easier to tolerate than the constant tension. The problem with that is that I'm sacrificing my own self worth in the process. I am starting to hate the person I am becoming in response to this man. It is not his "fault". It's how I have ended up reacting to him and I'm the only one who can change that. If I am somehow able to "lovingly detach", as Melissa suggests, I wonder how long I will have to put up with day after day of anger and blaming before something changes. The other factors that convolute this issue are:

1. I'm afraid he will take his anger out on our daughter. I've already seen him yank the dog's chain so hard he yelped when my husband and I were in an argument. He also scolds our daughter for crying and this is more likely when we are fighting.

2. He recently brings up getting a divorce at least once a week. It is hard to try to make relationship changes when I'm afraid his response will be to leave. Our counselor has told us to never mention the "d" word but he gets so depressed sometimes that he says we should just end the relationship. What about our daughter??? I couldn't bear not getting custody of her if we were to break up. This just makes my anxiety get even higher. Maybe I'm the one who needs the meds.

Thanks for listening. I'm so thankful to have found this site. Thanks to all of you who have been brave enough to share your stories. It helps tremendously!!

To Elaine

I understand what you are going through 100%.

Take your baby and get the hell out of there.  He is out of control.  He has no respect for you.  He is an abusive tyrant.  That kind of behavior only escalates.

Protect your baby and yourself.  Leave.



Your husband has some issues

Your husband has some issues that I don't think are related to ADHD and sounds almost narcissistic to me.

I agree that you probably have no option but to leave.  My ex is a narcissist, treated me like crap when we were married, called me names, gave me the slient treatment, lots of terrible stuff.  I also felt like I was 'walking on eggs shells'.  I didn't have the strength or self-esteem at the time to leave for myself and only managed to after a psychologist told me that if I didn't and my daughter (only 1.5 years at the time) continued to see how my ex treated me, she would most likely seek out a man who treated her like that when she got older.  That gave me the strength to leave.  BUT make a plan.  Document everything your ex says to you- document the details of it as best as you can to use later if needed.  If possible even tape record him when he is yelling at you.

Consult with several lawyers BEFORE making a more or even before letting your husband know you may leave.  Ask about custody/access.  I am not sure where you live but from what I know mom's almost always get full custody with the other parent getting visiting rights.  You will need documented proof of his anger and yelling to show the courts you do not feel he is a fit parent.  If you have other people who can testify to that, even better.

Figure out exactly where you will live, how you will make it financially, etc. BEFORE leaving.  Until you can leave, try and stay out of his way.

Best of luck to you.

My ex does see our daughter, who is now 7 years old.  He didn't as much when we first split but now he does.  She seems happy enough there and as the ex has a girlfriend, the g/f is ALWAYS there when my daughter is there which makes me feel better.  As a narcissist, my ex is also a show off in front of others so having the g/f there I am sure means he is being nicer to our daughter.

Good luck to you.  I have never, ever for a second ever regretted leaving my ex.     

Thank you for sharingyour

Thank you for sharingyour post in planning before you get a divorce. I didn't know what to do. I can very much relate to the posts on this site. My husband has a volitile character. He is charming, handsome, has a fitness model body, fun to be around and an oveall good provider has a great career, and a good dad. Having said all of this on the other side, he is impulsive and gets very angry at the smallest things, controlling, He is critical of others - has something to say about everyone. He just told our son on our vacation last week that he is 95% reason why he and I fight. I am constantly defending our son from unreasonable and unwarrented statements he has for him. I get yelled and criticized that he should be able to talk to our son the way he wants to because he is the dad and I should let him parent and not question him in front of our sons. For me that was the last straw. No child should ever be blamed for parents disagreements or fights. I told my husband in the beginning of the year I wanted a divorce, but he begged for me to give him another chance. I relented. Things went very well up until a couple of months ago, when his old idiocyncracies started to surface again and his controlling and critical nature started to take over. Although he lets me do what I want for the most part, I do feel so controlled and it has become so stifling. When I do try to assert myself and take back my power, I get guilted for being too selfish. I have been conditioned to make sure any plans I make revolve around his schedule. I am responsible for both our sons, as my husband works out of town 4 days out of the week. I work full time, monetary I could be self sufficient although funds would be tight. It is better to have the 2 incomes. My fears are that I feel I will have to give up our beautiful house (we are talking about putting a pool in next summer) and our lifestyle. I live in a small town and people think we have the perfect marriage there will be so much talk if I do leave. I am frustrated and think about separating from him everyday. I feel so bad about the fact that I want to leave him, but I don't know how to do it. What if it is a mistake? But then I think, having peace and being accountable to my children and myself is better than living in obligation, and controlled. He has convinced me that I need therapy., that there is something wrong with me and the way I think. He thinks I am spoiled and only think of myself. I was actually surfing the net today, trying to figure out what is wrong with me. I came across the Dr. Phil site. I can relate to the post above this about the wife who had to stroke her husband's ego and have to be the reasoning when her husband rages about ridiculous things. I don't even think I am in love him anymore. I dont want sex with him anymore, because it's like my body is his and he demands sex. If I don't want to give it to him, he says that he is a young guy and he needs sex. I am not fair to him, and really makes me feel guilty, that I am not fulfilling my obligation as a wife. I have to have the house super clean all the time and have a typical scenerios of disagreements and fightings. They are the same thing over and over again. We have tried to work through these issues. But I just want to get back to me. I was easy going, fun, slender, beautiful, not critical of others and strong. Now I feel I am stressed, I don't laugh as much anymore, overweight, and just trying to keep this marriage intact so my kids won't be from a broken home. How do you hold someone responsible to their actions when they don't see that they are not doing anything wrong. I am the one who is overly sensitive. I don't know how much longer I can hold onto that illusion. I am 38 and I feel that if I leave, what do I have going for me? Old, divorced - not good.

It is HIS fault.


This is the first time I'm posting on any forum, so I hope this goes through properly. I will make this entry brief; however, if you would like more info, I'll be happy to share more with you. 

Your situation is more common than you might think. In your husband's case, in my opinion, it doesn't matter whether or not he is ADD. The question I would ask is "what type of a human being is he"? Again, in my opinion, and from my personal experience, you have, first and foremost, an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive husband. ADD may, or may not, have caused him much angst and frustration during the past decade; that is not an excuse, nor even an explanation, for his bad behavior towards you and others (pets included). 

Briefly, and they are in no particular order, these thoughts came to mind immediately upon reading your post:

Your husband's erratic driving and speeding when he's angry is considered to be "physical abuse".

Pulling the dog's chain is also considered "physical abuse".

I think you are being too hard on yourself. Your husband's bullying and intimidating behaviors "are his fault". I think it would be difficult for you to try to change your reaction to something you know deep down is unreasonable.

The things getting you upset about your husband's behavior would get most reasonable people upset.

It is very telling, to me anyway, that your husband refuses to go for individual counseling. If in fact, you are in an abusive relationship, individual counseling would be more helpful to you than joint marriage

Feeling anxiety in general is awful; feeling anxiety over anything relating to our children is pure torture. If I may ask, what makes you think you wouldn't get custody of your daughter? It took me years to finally realize that the words coming out of my ex-husband's mouth, were just words, nothing more. His angry tone somehow gave his words "power" and kept me "paralyzed" from beginning to even figure out what I had to do next. I'm the one with the ADD!

In my opinion, the posts prior to mine, while perhaps upsetting for you to read, are truly reflective of
what you have in front of you today. It's not an easy path you're on right now; however, I think you've found a lot

of people are willing to share their experiences with you.

Hope this helps.

P.S. I see the formatting isn't quite right in some places. I'm just going to leave it that way for now. Time to sleep!



HIS fault...

Thank you so much for your comments! It feels great to get some validation for what I have been feeling. I just posted an insanely long forum entry titled, "Is it my husband, or the ADD" which has the complete story, but I'm pleasantly surprised that even with a little glimpse into my life, you are able to understand what I'm going through and help me see what things are not my fault.

Someone asked why I think I may not get full custody of our daughter. I guess the answer is not so much that I think I won't get custody, but more that I have never had any experience with custodial issues or the court so I am not educated on what my chances would be for getting custody.

I am keeping track of fights, comments and unsafe situations in case I need them for court. I plan on consulting with some attorneys and trying to position myself in the best possible way before I even mention the idea of ending our relationship. I want to be smart about it.

On the other hand, I wonder (hold out hope) that perhaps a miracle could occur if I were to tell my husband how much his ADD, and other behaviors are negatively affecting our family, maybe he could make some changes. We haven't even talked about ADD in counseling because I had no idea until I found this site last week that so much of his behavior is related to that diagnosis. The one re-occuring theme in posts I read, however, is of the ADD spouse making changes that don't ever last. I don't want to waste time in a relationship that will never be healthy but I don't want to give up too soon, either.

This website has been a God-send.