Communication Issues

My husband and I will be having our 5 year wedding anniversary later this month.  He has ADHD and was diagnosed as a very young child.  He also had a difficult family life growing up.  His parents separated when he was a teenager and I don't think he has ever dealt with his feelings about this.


My husband is a good person, but lately it seems to be difficult for him to show his good points.  For awhile, I do not feel like we have been communicating.  He spends much of his time using his computer, playing video games, or watching tv.  We mostly interact when I initiate it, and he often sleeps on the sofa because he has fallen asleep while using the computer, playing video games, or watching tv.  I have been complicit in his keeping up the situation where he doesn't have to participate in our relationship.


Recently, when the therapist suggested that many women would be angry with the amount of time he spends on video games, I had a difficult and startling realization that things are not as happy as I had lead myself to believe.  I have OCD, and have sometimes had difficult anxiety, however, I now have my anxiety very much under control.  When I try to discuss these communication issues with my husband, he gets angry and blames them on my anxiety or on me being in a bad mood.  He also doesn't pick up after himself and neglects the household chores that are supposed to be his.  I have been letting his things pile up and not picking them up like I usually do, but it is hard for me to live in such a messy environment, and sometimes I have to pick things up so I do not feel so scattered.


We have 2 dogs and 2 cats (they are our children) and I worry that if I leave him the job f feeding them that it will not get done.  One day I was gone all day and when I came home the cats had no food and water, and the bowls had not been refilled at all that day.  So I take on the job of feeding the animals because although my husband will do it, it is usually only after I remind him, and if I don't say anything and I don't do it, it often will not get done.


My husband is also very sensitive to criticism and seems to need a lot of praise.  When I have attempted to discuss things in our relationship that bother me, he either completely shuts down and we cannot talk about it for several days, or gets very angry and raises his voice, often leaving the house, and a couple of times not coming back until the next day.  I have come to the conclusion that he doesn't seem interested to know what I am thinking and feeling unless my thoughts and feelings are positive and don't suggest that he has any flaws.


Additionally, my husband has difficulty with my success.  I finished my Master's degree in the summer with a 4.0 grade point average, and he got angry with me when I was talking about it.  He told me that he could have had straight A's when he was doing graduate coursework, but that he didn't because we were fighting a lot at that time.  I got extremely angry and told him that he had a problem if he could not accept my grades, and that his grades were his responsibitlity and not mine.  (There were also sometimes during his graduate coursework when he did not finish assignments on time, but I don't think he remembers that).


Recently, after reading The Dance of Anger and several other books by Harriet Lerner, I have resolved to change my role in our "dance."  The other night, after he said something very sharply to me in a way that I felt was rude, he asked me if I was in a bad mood.  I told him no, and explained (with loving kindness and no blaming) that the way he had said something to me had bothered me.  He began raising his voice and left the room, saying that he would give me time to get over my bad mood.  A few minutes later, I found him and calmly said that I was not in a bad mood, I was simply not happy with the way he had spoken, and just wanted to discuss it.  At this point he began screaming at me about how I nitpick and I always find things wrong with him.  I told him that he was going to have to stop screaming at me before I talked to him, because I can't allow myself to be screamed at if I want to feel like I have self respect.  He continued screaming and I told him that if he was going to continue screaming he would need to ind a place to stay until he could talk to me calmly.  He banged around, getting a suitcase, and packed his things.  He hung around for awhile, because our tradition when he gets like this is for me to beg him to stay.  But this time I just told him that I really did not want him to leave, and that I would prefer for him to calm down so we could have a discussion, however, if he felt he needed to leave he should do what he needed to do.


He refused to acknowledge anything I said after that point, and went to a hotel, later texting me to tell me where he was, a text to which I did not respond.  The next day, when I came home from work, he was at home acting like nothing had happened.  I had seen my therapist that day, and said what I had planned, which was "I'm glad you're back." 


Since then I have been trying to give him the opportunity to initiate more contact or a discussion.  I am trying to let him begin things, however, am wondering if he will.  I feel very lonely and incredibly sad, because I am wondering if my husband wants to be married to me anymore.  Last night we went to a movie with our closest couple friends.  It was a long movie and a little while in I started to feel really hot and overwhelmed with the sadness of the situation.  I calmly decided I would need to go and I told my husband that I needed to leave because I was feeling very hot and ws having difficulty focusing.  I told him with a smile to enjoy the movie, gave him a kiss, and told him I loved him.  I came home and went to bed.


Later, I woke up and he came in the bedroom, home from the movie.  He said I was asleep when he came in, and I told him sleepily, that I was not trying to prove any sort of point by leaving the movie, but that I was feeling sad and unable to do anything about it.  I cannot remember the other things I said because I was half asleep, but this morning we are back to acting like nothing has happened.  Just wanted to see if anyone has any feedback.  I love my husband with all of my heart, and very much want to communicate with him openly, but I have no idea how that is going to happen.  I am assuming he is probably feeling pain, confusion, or other troubling emotions at this time also, and I wish we could support each other as we work out these issues.

Communication Issues

You are doing the right thing by stepping out of the dance that you had gotten into, but I also think that there are a few things that are ADD related that you may be missing.  Please do not take this as criticism, as it is anything but that - I admire your strength in being able to change your part of what is going on.

First, it seems to me that you are taking one part of the step out of the dance, but expecting him to change some issues to quickly in response.  For example, you are trying to let him initiate things - and hoping that he will - but worried that he won't.  And the fact is that ADD people both have trouble initiating things and also have trouble keeping from being distracted.  This means that the "measuring stick" that you are setting up for success here is in direct conflict with his ADD.  He might be dying to initiate things, but then get distracted from doing so.  Or he might just not be able to initiate anything at all.  Therefore, I think you would be better served not to expect him to initiate for a while, but to set something else up as "success".  How about "responding positively to my suggestions"?  That would be more realistic with an ADDer.

Second, don't ever equate lack of paying attention to you with not loving you.  It's a huge mistake.  Not paying attention to you with an ADD person almost always means they are too distracted to pay attention to you.  Has nothing to do with love.

Third, you have set a double standard about walking out on each other.  You may have needed to go home from the movies, but what you did was unusual both for you, and for most people.  That means that what you communicated is "I don't want to be here with you".  And, perhaps, that was true?  Because if it wasn't true, why would you be concerned that he was acting as if nothing had happened the next morning??  Did you want him to recognize your sadness and respond to it?  Forget about ADD - that's pretty far outside the boundaries of what most men will do - act upon their spouse's sadness if not forced to do so (sorry, men!)  And when he went to the hotel and came back and you responded only with "I'm glad you're back" you were setting the stage for it to be okay that things move forward without conflict.  That's good, by the way, because it's better to talk about it at a future time when you're not so close to the incident.  But don't expect him to then go look to do some soul searching with you or read your mind about how you really would have preferred to talk about it when you don't tell him that.  (I'm not suggesting that you make waves right now - just pointing out the inconsistencies.)

All in all, this walking out on each other (for whatever reason) seems to be a bad element of your relationship and one that needs to be talked about but NOT immediately before or after walking out on each other.  Perhaps on a nice walk around the neighborhood or in the woods? (ADD people seem to think clearly while they are walking because their bodies are engaged as well as their minds).

The text message was his way of telling you that he wanted you to know where he was and that he was thinking about you and already feeling sorry.  Again - the walking out thing is really getting in your way and needs to be diminished.  You do right be not responding to it (stepping out of the dance of anger) and I think it will mostly go away if it doesn't get your attention like it used to (by your begging him to stay - which only reinforced the walking out behavior).

I'm not a therapist or psychiatrist, but I wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about his academic insecurities.  They are what they are.  While it would be nice to have his accolades, not having them doesn't change your accomplishment.  And my guess is that once he's feeling more secure in your relationship (less worried that you will end up being superior and somehow taking it out on him because his ADD has led him to feel insecure) then he'll lighten up in this area.  Anyway, I would suggest that you let it go.  You don't need his praise on this - you know you did well.  Have some empathy with the academic struggles he's suffered (and that most ADD people suffer).  It's a tough road that most don't fully understand.

Finally, you are probably learning the benefits of setting some boundaries around what you need (the Lerner material is a form of setting boundaries).  Be careful how you suggest he start to take responsibility (particulalry given his insecurity) but you shouldn't be doing things you don't want to do simply because you can't figure out how to get what you want.  My husband used to have a real computer issue (and still does to a lesser degree today) and I am pretty straightforward about telling him that in order to understand that he loves me I need a certain amount of face time with him.  Then I make the dates (most of them) because to demand that he disconnect from the computer AND make the dates is unrealistic.  As long as I get enough quality time with him to have fun and know he loves me, I don't much care if I have to lead on making dates.  Sometimes he tells me that he's grateful I'm willing to take it on, most of the time it's just the way it is.  I think of it this way - my ADD husband will never be a non ADD husband, and to expect that he be so would be hurtful to him.  My job is to make sure that my life stays in balance enough that I am happy, and to share that happiness with him in whatever way I can.  He likes it...we have fun together...and now that I've stopped trying to change him he's much more willing to be open to my ideas and even criticism.

But I'll get off my "soapbox" and end with this - keep up the good work!  You're doing great, girl!


I was wondering if not "sharing" information and being sort of secretive (whether intentional or not) is an ADD symptom.  My husband rarely offers up information about big things going on, little mundane things or even just a simple "Guess who I ran into today?" kind of thing.  I am very often in the dark about major events, feel embarrassed that I don't know lots of things about his life or the lives of his friend/family when someone brings up the subject.  I very often find out that he's been somewhere or done something that he just didn't tell me about.  Is this that "I forgot" ADD thing or is my husband just a sneaky jerk?  He'll sit next to me while on the phone with someone for 30 minutes, hang up and not even mention who it was, what they talked about etc.  Not that I need to know every aspect of his life, but hey, I tell him who I was talking to, briefly what the conversation was about, just info on what happened in my day even when nothing other than the mundane happens.  Am I crazy?  I just feel like this lack of sharing is a majorly negative aspect of our relationship.  It adds to the loneliness and isolation that I already feel.  When I bring it up by saying that I love it when he shares about his day with me and why doesn't he do that more often, he says "I didn't think it was that important".  UM, dinner invitations, deaths, family layoffs are all important things!!!!  What the heck?  When the shoe is on the other foot though (rarely-very rarely) , he goes nuts. 

Any ideas on how to get him to share???


RE: Communication

THis is a HUGE problem for us too. My husband (ADD) does exactly the same thing. I think maybe part of it is from learning to conceal mistakes (as they grow up--they get tired of getting into trouble all the time). I think hiding stuff becomes sort of ingrained after a while. 

It's terrible, though. I know I feel very alone a lot and this behavior does not help. I try to gently ask him how he would feel if I didn't tell him about X or Y--and he seems to get it but the behavior has yet to change.


Thanks Lili.  That's another issue...him seeming to "get it" when we do talk things over and then not changing anything to correct it.  I am just so tired of being the only adult in this marriage.  I find myself slowly giving up more and more of myself to acccomodate him and his ADD that I don't know who I am and what boundaries are what.  And then there's all the yelling, throwing things, nasty snide and spiteful comments and actions.  So exhausting.  So very exhausting.


I can completely relate to

I can completely relate to your situation. My husband works from home and stays up late (usually sleeping on the sofa) because he says he cannot turn off his brain. He sleeps in late and then spends the rest of the workday playing catch-up. He is constantly multi-tasking: talking on the phone, checking email, chatting on-line, playing poker, online games and watching tv. I understand the feeling of wondering if/why he wants to be married to you. It can be frustrating and lonely sometimes. One recommendation I have is to read "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. My husband has ADD and we read this book aloud together while we were on vacation a few years back. This was a real turning point for us in terms of communication, but we were at a desperate spot in our relationship. It was a good move...we related to the issues faced by couples in the book and used Chapman's 5 languages formed our own method for expressing ourselves. Reading the book and taking the tests at the end helped us understanding how each of us gives and recieves love. On-going discussions help identify areas for improvement. This is something we both have to work at almost daily, but the key is that we are committed to doing so. I hope it will help your relationship as much as it has mine.