Does it always come down to sex???

I thought maybe we'd had a breakthrough tonight. My under-treated ADHD husband really seemed open to talking to me about our marital troubles. He was teary eyed and said how he was sad about our relationship and how he thought maybe I'd be better off if he were hit by a car (I energetically told him that would make me very unhappy). When I asked him some more questions about what he was sad about in particular he said it was because we weren't having sex. I asked him if he was sad because of the actual lack of sex or because of what it meant more broadly about how we felt about each other. He said both. I told him that it also made me sad, but we could have sex anytime he wanted but that he can't expect me to really enjoy it when I have so much anger and resentment built up. He said that there was no point in having sex then, because he needed me to enjoy it so he can enjoy it.

I started to feel really angry inside. Here I had been feeling all forgiving and loving toward him because he seemed genuinely upset about the state of our floundering relationship. But when I dug into it he really was just annoyed that I wasn't able to have wild, passionate sex with him. And that just made me feel angry that he is only worried about our marriage because of the physical aspects. I felt like a fool for assuming that he has been crying and upset because he was coming to the realization (he's started reading Melissa's book --after much pleading on my part) that his refusal to effectively address his ADHD symptoms was driving us into complete dysfunction. I am so angry from 5 years of acting like his servant and managing almost every aspect of our lives (I know that I'm at fault for not setting appropriate boundaries), but I thought that I was getting through to him at last.

But, nope. It seems like all that can upset him is the fact that he isn't getting the sex he wants.

I don't mean to discount his needs and the way that he prefers to give and receive love. But really, our sex life is at the bottom of the things that are driving me out of the marriage. I'm sorry, but I don't think it is possible for any woman to have uninhibited, passionate sex without feeling safe, respected, and valued by her partner. The female sexual response just doesn't work that way. Believe me, I wish I were more like a man in that way.

So, not wanting to just silently be angry, I told him what I was feeling. I told him that I was frustrated that his main concern for our marriage was that he wasn't getting the pleasure he felt he deserved in bed. Well, as you might expect, it didn't go over well with him. He said that my problem was that I discounted his needs (a valid point, I told him). Anyway, long story short,  we escalated the conversation to full scale efforts to hurt each other. And I think we both succeeded.

I'm no saint. In fact I feel like the world's biggest jerk most of the time. I hate who I've become. But I'm not going to pretend to have awesome sex in order to placate my husband who doesn't seem interested in even starting to pitch in like an adult in our marriage. I'm not trying to withhold sex in an attempt to manipulate him. I'm just not going to have sex with someone when I am furious and resentful at them. But why does THAT become the core of our problems?

Seeking any insight or advice. I'm tough enough to handle the truth if you think I'm being irrational or unfair.

You were kind of harsh with

You were kind of harsh with him. By expecting him to be OK with having sex without you enjoying it, you basically degraded it down to nothing more than a quick f--k. Some guys may be OK with that, but apparently your husband is not.

I think you are focusing on the wrong thing here. He's not worried about his pleasure (obviously since he said there was no point in having sex if you both couldn't enjoy it). He may not be able to voice his concern appropriately, but I think he's worried about the fact that you can't enjoy it anymore. Heck, he might not even fully understand the concept but it's definitely at play. I think he understands that he's contributed to issues in the marriage and a result, you're not happy. He may not be able to admit it but I imagine he was probably feels (and internalizes) the guilt very keenly. I know my husband does/did.

For most men, the ultimate barometer of where they stand is what's going on in the sack. You said yourself that not only was he concerned about the lack of sex but also what a lack of sex says about your relationship. So he is definitely way more concerned with things beyond his own pleasure. I understand where he is coming from on that one. My hubby and I haven't had "real" sex is nearly two years. Even when I was super angry with him, I had an itch that needed to be scratched and thought I would go nuts because he wasn't interested. So I don't necessarily agree with your estimation of the female sex response. I soon learned that my husband wasn't interested because I was so angry. He didn't want to have sex with someone like that, which I can understand. Also we have some other issues at play as well (largely me being a b*tch about emotional issues following anytime we were together). We are just now starting to get interested in each other that way again.

You really need to work on getting over your anger and resentment. I know, I know...easier said than done. Believe me, I understand. There was a time in my marriage that I was so angry and resentful towards my husband that I could barely be in the same room with him. It occurred to me the other day that I actually have fun with him again, even when we're just in the car doing errands. He makes me laugh which was something I didn't allow myself to do when I was so angry with him.

Have you guys been to any counseling? It really helps. My husband and I have been seeing a counselor for a year now and the progress is pretty amazing. That isn't to say that we don't have setbacks, but when it clicks with my husband, it clicks. He's fairly undertreated too, so I know where you are coming from. He only takes his meds sporadically, preferring instead to learn tricks to master the ADHD. He's marginally effective. He did stop smoking recently and as a result, he has been taking his meds more often.

I know it's hard, but you really need to try to step out of your old responses and just be encouraging. Instead of picking a fight over sex, think about what he can do to make it easier for you. Remind that doing X and X helps you feel closer to him, and when you feel closer, it's easier for you to think about sex. He may follow through on your suggestions or he may not. It depends on what kind of person he is and how much the ADHD affects him. I know that's the scariest thing for us; the whole, "if I tell him how I really feel or what I need and he doesn't follow through, what does that say about our relationship?" Been there so many times. I've eventually come to the knowledge that what he does is no reflection on how he views me. Does it make it easier on me? Yes and no. But at the end of the day, someone has to break the cycle, and it really has to be me.

Good luck and hang in there.

Have you considered that he's

Have you considered that he's trying to communicate some of the things he's picking up from Melissa's book, but has difficulty expressing himself all the way through? He may not be going about it the right way but it seems he's trying? You are in charge of setting it right if he says "oh what's the use". You have to counter with "it's very important and we both have patience with one another, I have a specific need for you to (touch/hold/whisper/specifics) before/during sex". 

I think the hardest thing for me is being honed in and clear on what the ADHD spouse needs to hear to digest/process it correctly, not all the other things having to do with the more vague (to them) feelings, emotions, reciprocal empathy, etc.

Trust me when I know both parties are either struggling and/or resentful so it dissolves into a pile of hotheaded remarks, like it does for me and my dh. I'm currently working on this myself. It seems I have to lead him by the hand most of the time, like most men he's very willing to go along with sex! Sometimes just the sex act will probably do wonders for release of pent up anger and frustration...

to Streetfighter

I don't think you were harsh.  This is a place where you can go to vent it out if you need to.  You are entitled to your feelings and thoughts. They are YOUR truths.  They are important and you should feel free to get them out here.  I, similar to you, don't think that sex is a release you do to a person because you have an "itch" (to those people I say, "Scratch your own itch if that is all it is to you- don't make me a thing that you need to entertain you while you scratch yourself").  Sex, to me, is an agreement of the union of two people who trust and want to be together on an intimate level.  Please keep stating your own truths and don't worry what others think.  It is a way for us all to see what we are all dealing with in all its different faces.  Venting here is a way for US ALL to process our overwhelming thoughts and feelings.  There are plenty of us who have felt like you are feeling.  Why do you call yourself "streetfighter"? 

Jenna, the OP said she wanted

Jenna, the OP said she wanted to know the truth if she was being unfair. I told her the truth. She was being harsh on him. That's because I could see the glimmer of his trying through her words. She may have had to nag him into reading Melissa's book, but he is trying. That's a small victory. There are too many women on here that are victims; they either let their near sociopathic husbands run roughshod over them or they have no desire to fix their relationships. Time and disappointment has taken their tolls and I'm sorry for them, but there are people on here who want to give helpful advice and notwithstanding that, they want to give hope. You have said yourself that you think your husband has more issues than just the ADHD. Keep that in mind when you are interacting with folks.

Streetfighter's husband could have a "simple" case of ADHD that with more awareness and therapy, could be less of a detriment to her marriage. She does have a right to vent and never did I take the OP to task for venting. I'm a big proponent of venting--to an extent. This forum is to vent but it is also to get support and advice. Not to discourage with war stories and to warn all and sundry about the evils of being married to someone with ADHD. THIS IS UNHELPFUL. There are some spouses out there who are seeking help, and who are trying, and the nons need to be reminded of that. I know I need to be reminded on a daily basis that my husband is trying. We NEED more positivity on this board, but I'm going to call it like I see it. Sometimes people are a detriment to the very thing they are trying to achieve and feeding their anger doesn't help them one bit.

As for my comments about sex being an "itch"...it can take many forms, and I think I know better than many that it's technically not just an "itch". I waited 26 years to have sex because I wanted it to be with my husband and no one else. That's right--I was the Holy Grail...a virgin. I was all about sex being an emotional connection. So much so, that I thought I was not very "sexual". My husband was the first guy I ever dated to whom I was sexually attracted. And lucky me, I won the jackpot in that regard. But yet, sex will always be about an emotional connection with me. However, sometimes my sexual desire overrides my desire to connect intimately. So sure there were times that I was deep down still angry with him, but still wished and hoped that he would just give it to me, and when he didn't, I had to help myself out. And believe me, it's was a very poor substitution...a temporary alleviation that left me feeling unfulfilled in the end. I'm looking forward to us continuing to connect in non-sexual ways so when we do have sex next, we will both be satisfied.

misinterpretation, I think...

<<I told him that it also made me sad, but we could have sex anytime he wanted but that he can't expect me to really enjoy it when I have so much anger and resentment built up.>>

I agree with the post above saying that you've misunderstood his response to this statement.  ADDers are very self-conscious once our spouses 'figure out' there is something wrong with us and we are treated like we're dumb, worthless, lazy etc...  I know for myself, sex is difficult because I ALWAYS feel worthless in DH's eyes because I am constantly not good enough.  I feel vulnerable and embarrassed as it is.  Why make it worse by taking off my clothes?  DH has lost interest.  i thnk the last time was Mothers Day.  And that only happened because I asked.  It was actually very nice, but he had no interest since.

For me, it's all about money, or lack of it.  I now have 7 part time jobs that I juggle while STILL staying home with DD#2 who is 3.  "What?" you ask... "Shouldn't she be in preschool?"  why yes.  that would be great.  if there were somewhere in this city that we could afford to send her even a couple days a week. but... I do not earn enough money. Everyone I talk to says to me, "oh, you're doing so much!  I just can't believe all the things you're able to do!"  well... I'm not doing enough.  Because the money just isn't there.  So I feel worthless and DH is constantly worried about money and we are roommates with kids.

HOWEVER, he HAS begun to take up some tasks around the house.  Up until now, I did everything.  But I recently decided to stand up for myself and explain that I cannot simultaneously be in another city and be at home cooking dinner and then cleaning up afterwards.  I asked - very politely and very cautiously - if he would be willing to cook dinner for the kids when I'm working and kindly clean the kitchen afterwards so that I don't have to start cleaning when I arrive home at 10pm.  It took several weeks of asking, but he's agreed.  He even cooked dinner one night last week when he didn't have to and I was able to get some preparation done for my class, which eliminated the panic attack that usually happens a few hours before I had to leave the next day.

Anyway - I've tried to schedule a 'learning conversation' for the last 3 months and it hasn't happened.  But I guess if there are small changes happening I should be grateful for 'little victories'

BUT - of course, back to the sex.... I have no idea what he's thinking, if anything.... The general belief is that men are always willing to have sex even if they're mad.  But DH seems to have no interest whatsoever, so I just feel kind of ugly and worthless still.  I'm guessing it's still the money issue....

Thoughts?

Pbartender's picture

Misconception...

"The general belief is that men are always willing to have sex even if they're mad."

This one of those huge generalized misconceptions about men.  Men CAN have sex even if they're mad, but doesn't mean we want to or that we necessarily enjoy it.  When it comes to physical intimacy, most men want to feel wanted by their partner, attracted to and by their partner, and emotionally connected to their partner as much as any woman does.  We don't need to have sex with you, we WANT to have sex with you and we want you to WANT to have sex with us.

Most of us don't want it to be viewed as an obligation, or a chore, or a necessary task just to satisfy some instinctual physical craving.  For most of us, we want to CHOOSE to share the closest, most intimate, physical contact with you and no one else, and we want you to make that choice in return.

If it just came down to sex, we would not have married you in the first place, and would have instead placed an ad on Craigslist.

I had some very similar conversations about sex with my wife, Streetfighter.  She would often have sex with me when I showed interested, even if she wasn't in the mood, just to "get me off her back".  I responded to her with much the same answer as what your husband gave to you...  She never quite understood that I wanted her to be happy and I want her to be interested and attracted to me, that I wanted her to feel attractive and wanted by me, and that I would happily do whatever was necessary to help her feel that way.  She never quite understood that I would rather NOT have sex with her, than try to make love to her when she was so obviously not interested in having sex with me...  Even though she consented to sex, her negative attitude toward it completely killed any desire I might have had and very often made me feel like I was raping her.

I can't tell you how rotten that made me feel.

 

Pb.

Pbartender's picture

Blergh...  Forget to make the

Blergh...  Forgot to make the point I was trying to make.  That's ADHD for you.

So, Streetfighter, my point is, that I understand what your husband is trying to get at, and it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you can't have "have wild, passionate sex with him" right now.  It has to do with the emotional implications that that represents...  He isn't enjoying sex, because he knows you aren't enjoying it, because you are mad or upset or just emotionally distant or whatever, which means he's doing something wrong, and he knows that he's doing somethign wrong, but he might not be sure exactly what.

In his way, through sex, he is recognizing that you are unhappy -- your attitude toward sex has let him know something's not right -- and he's telling you that he knows you are unhappy, and he's expressing a desire to help make it better.

In a round about way, he's showing empathy for your feelings.  Try not to get mad at him.  Work with what he's giving you, and use it to help fix the other thigns that are wrong with your relationship, and the sex life will fix itself.

 

Pb.

"I am furious and resentful" is not a reason to withhold sex

"I am furious and resentful" is a valid reason to end a relationship.  It is not, NOT, a valid reason to withhold sex in a relationship.

When someone makes it a point to explain "I'm not withholding sex to manipulate him", they are usually doing exactly that.

OP's rationalization is that she's "not going to have sex with someone when [she is ] furious and resentful at them."  This translates to "I am going to punish him.  He FORCED me to be angry, so I am going to stop doing something even though I am fully aware a relationship will never be healthy without it. I have every right to treat him this way."

What if her husband gave the ultimatum:  "I'm angry and resentful.  I'm just not going to bother to call or come home some nights.  I shouldn't have to pretend to want to be around a woman who isn't interested in me."

Some days we don't feel like smiling, even though we know we should.  Some days we don't want to go to the gym, even though we know we should.  Some days we don't want to sit and listen to our partner's non-stop yammering, even though we should.  But self-aware grown-ups know they control their moods and not vice-versa.  They force a smile, because it's hard to stay in a bad mood if you're smiling.  They focus on the fitness goals that happen by sitting on the couch getting fat.  They concentrate on listening to the yammering because that's what a loving person does.

The act of sex is in no way as unpleasant as doing the dishes, or folding laundry.  If it is, then there's an entirely different issue to address.   There is a long list of reasons why any couple should have sex.  There are even more reasons why it is important to a couple on the mend, important to a spouse feeling neglected, and important to an ADHD managing his biochemistry.  So why is it that every other important act in a relationship is expected to be done, but she gets to pass the edict that "There Shall be No Sex Until I Say So."

 

 

Withholding? Bull****

There is no such thing as "withholding" sex. Men have loads of testosterone that makes them want sex -- maybe with the neighbor, maybe with a wife, maybe with a computer, etc. In other words, they (usually) have to fight the urge to have sex. Remove the source of the testosterone, and the urge for sex goes away. Women, in general, DO NOT have this strong of an urge. Most women have sex first from their brains -- they react to nice things they see, hear, feel. They react to security. They react to compassion. They react to trust. They react to someone who seems to want them. If they are a little skewed, they may want it out of fear or something odd. But women have very LOW levels of testosterone. One way or another, they generate desire from their brains mostly.

Men can feel great about being an aggressor, an overcomer, a controller, etc. when they have sex. They are taught this is great and powerful. Women, on the other hand, are physically penetrated, overcome, and left with a reminder of what just took place deep inside of them, which frankly, can make them feel like they either received a gift or that they are just a waste receptacle. The emotional reaction to this INVASION (good or bad) is profound for many, if not most, women. They can either be left with the feeling that they have been loved and cherished, or they can be left with a feeling of degradation and humiliation. Men don't usually worry too much about the emotional -- And I'm not saying they don't deal with it at all -- just not on the scale or for the same reasons that a women deals with it.

Women seldom want sex with a man who lies, cheats, berates them, ignores them, yells at them, is demanding, or otherwise misuses them. THIS IS NORMAL BEHAVIOR FOR WOMEN, NOT WITHHOLDING. Get over your feeling of entitlement to sex and start learning how to give rather than demand. You have to give to receive.

You lost 100% of your credibility with the first sentence.

 

If you're stand is that there is no such thing as "withholding" sex, then there is really no rational discussion left.  When a woman barters for something she wants by using sex as a carrot, or lack of sex as the stick,  that is "withholding" sex.  From one of your own earlier posts, lynnie70, you advised someone to change their husband by,  "For example, no sex or even sleeping together unless the bedroom is clean and he is clean"  THAT is withholding sex!

Either way, (personal attack) that men don't have emotional reactions to sex.  That is my point.  Sex is a bonding act and a safe harbor in a stormy relationship.  Or put another way:  A choice to not maintain intimacy in the relationship, is just as damaging as any argument.

You seem to be projecting a whole lot on me about an entitlement to sex and not giving, and inserting far too many straw men into the argument.  OP did not mention lies, cheats, berates, ignoring, yelling, demanding, or other misuses.  This appears to be a Pyschologist's fallacy. If you perceive that you were treated a certain way, don't assume it happened in someone else's situation.  And on this board, don't assume it happened in someone else's situation even if they claim it did!.

In any situation, if a person wants to salvage a relationship, then they need to start acting like the relationship matters to them.  Intimacy is a huge part of a healthy relationship.  If the person chooses to use all these excuses I see over and over and over and over as justification why they don't have to act like the relationship is important, then just end the damn thing and quit tormenting each other.

Are you serious ???  so being

Are you serious ???  so being furious at someone is grounds for ending the relationship but its still ok to have sex with them ?  What angry sex ? Just what every woman wants.   If ending a relationship were that easy believe me a lot of people on this site would have walked out of their marriage years ago.

"The act of sex is in no way as unpleasant as doing the dishes, or folding laundry."   I'm sorry but at this point in my marriage, sex is in fact more unpleasant than these chores...its just another chore and a VERY personal one.  I would love to have sex with my H, we used to have very passionate sex every day, and i miss that part of my relationship, now we haven't in over a year.... after years of struggle it would be easier for me to have sex with a stranger than my H.  Its Not about sex, I am not with holding it, and he isn't even trying or asking.  How can you have sex with someone when you don't even talk, you are angry, frustrated, exhausted, the thought of it now makes my cringe. Sex is an emotional act, not just a physical one, and when there is no love, compassion, support,...sorry there is no interest in sex.

Angry Sex.

 

The point is that you CHOOSE to be angry.  That is your decision.  If you decide to remain angry, then leave the relationship.  If you stay in the relationship, choose not to be angry anymore.    You say there is no love, compassion, or support...then get out and stop tormenting him.  If you choose to stay then act like a grown up and treat the relationship with the respect it deserves.

Ending a relationship is not hard.  Someone packs a bag and leaves.  Any complications beyond that are choices.

 Don't compare yourself to a lot of people on this site, most of those who use all the excuses you used have some degree of a Cluster B personality disorder.  It's an unfortunate side effect of adult ADHD. We tend to attract Cluster B personalities and then have to listen to them blame all their behavior on us.

Not so simple

I really did "pack a bag and leave", so I'm not saying it can't be done. But it was grossly unfair to me. I lost basically everything I own. I lost my beloved animals. One ran away and the other two I had to leave with him. I am faced with starting over at 59 years old-new job, finding a place to love with the damaged credit he left me with, and losing most of my possessions. All this because he won't treat his ADD and depression appropriately and try to live like an adult, with a job and responsibilities to maintain the home he lives in.

What is a Cluster B personality disorder? How would a spouse having that justify any of the behavior of the ADD person who won't work, won't clean the house, won't even answer the phone?

"Won't"

If he won't work, how was the house in his name resulting in you having to move?

If he won't clean the house, how does he have anything to cook on, or eat with, or wear?

If you own it, why did you lose it?

There is a very good chance that he was maintaining the house as much as he wanted to, and he had added stress just listening to someone complain about things.  Why does your version of how the house should be maintained trump his?

...and why for God's sake are you crucifying him for not answering the phone?  Is it against your religion to have voice mail?  There's not a single time management expert out there that will recommend answering a phone.  Let it go to voicemail, and deal with it at an appropriate time.  

 

"All this because he..."    <----There's your cluster B right there.  NO.  This is NOT "because he.."    It is because BOTH of you did not make the relationship work, and YOU chose to leave.   He didn't chase your pet away.  He didn't force you to find a new job. Your version of what an adult lives like is not more valid than his.  If you used phrases like "live like an adult" toward him, then without any other information whatsover I can say you had a hand in the relationship swirling down the toilet.  That is what I am referring to with cluster B traits all over this board.  In 3 lines of text you made it clear that you thought your view of things was better than his view, and it was all his fault when things turned to crap.

 

Nasty post

Are you a doctor? You seem to be setting yourself up as an expert in "cluster B" behavior. Or are you such an expert from your personal experience?

Your posts are very hypocritical in some instances. For example, you berate one person asking if they REALLY literally used a shovel to dig out of their messy house  -- but do you really think the above poster CRUCIFIED her husband for not answering the phone?

Calm down a little. Your answers are rather simplistic, one-sided, and unrealistic.

You also comment on my advice:

"For example, no sex or even sleeping together unless the bedroom is clean and he is clean"  THAT is withholding sex!

Or perhaps from another point of view, it is just setting a boundary -- I really am turned on by cleanliness when I have sex and turned off by bad breath, sweat, or dirty sheets. Sex has not been WITHHELD. It is just dependent on being an enjoyable experience for BOTH people. I would say the offensive partner is withholding cleanliness.

Ad hominem much?

 

I never claimed to be a doctor, just observant.  

The very basic response to you saying I was hypocritical is that in one instance someone emphasized "literally" and wanted readers to know it was not an exaggeration.  I did not intend anyone to believe that a cross and nails had been used.  Please learn the definition of hypocritical before slinging it at someone.

Your definitions of of withholding sex have argued it's definition into absurdity with no meaning.  The only possible scenario left where one would be withholding sex is if they were completely happy and horny and didn't act on it until something else happened.

You can attack me personally all you want, that doesn't make what I say any less valid.  

Have you considered that the

Have you considered that the ADHD in any relationship exacerbates any "cluster B" issues that might have been below the surface to become full blown? I don't agree that ADHD attracts Cluster B personalities, but rather, ADHD challenges creates an atmosphere conducive to turning an otherwise rational person to take on Cluster B-type behaviors. This otherwise rational person begins to become irrational.

It seems from this when the non-ADHD partner is calling for help or feeling hopeless, the ADHD partner will turn and say "well, it's all about you again." Thus, in effect, turning the table back to the ADHD's self importance by blaming the other person for feeling hopeless. Do you see the cycle? One person wants the other to have empathy for their situation but the one they want it from lacks the empathy to give it to them.

 

Cluster B

 

I think that ADHD probably exacerbates some cluster B issues a huge amount in a relationship.  For whatever reason it seems that ADHD is magnetic to cluster B.  Many of the coherent posts on this forum about a jerk ADHD spouse seem to be describing cluster B symptoms, not necessarily ADHD symptoms.  Others on this forum go to excessive detail to explain how they are not wrong, they are a victim, they deserve better, and it's all the other's fault.  

I'm no expert in the causes of cluster B personality disorders.  However, if I had to guess, any adult ADHD who was undiagnosed until later in life has a huge closet full of teachers, parents, peers and authority figures that told them they were lazy, irresponsible, spastic, disrespectful, and generally unlovable.  That seems to be a pretty good cooking pot for narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

It seems that ADHD attracts cluster B mates for two reasons.  First, the childhood environment described above draws them toward it.  If the old adage "We marry someone like our mother" is partially true, then that mother-figure for adult-diagnosed ADHD is an amalgam of esteem-sucking teachers and moms with hurtful words.  I believe many adult-diagnosed ADHD are stuck in the "approval-seeking mode" and what better person to fit into that lifestyle than a narcissistic personal disorder that is incapable of giving it.  Second, there is tendency of ADHD adults to hyperfocus at the beginnings of relationships.  When they go all in with the romance, the attention, the time, and the empathy that would scare off a lot of healthy brains, but not narcissistic personality disorders.  They're thinking "Oooh my god.  Finally, here's someone who understands the relationship should be all about making me feel good about myself."

By the way, lack of empathy is not inherent in ADHD. Do you have any references or citations on empathy and ADHD?  I'm curious if there is a statistical link in some forms of ADHD, or if lack of empathy comes from a comorbid condition.  Also, did it ever occur to you that in some instances when someone says "it's all about you again.", the real issue might actually be "it's all about you again." ? ("you" in the general sense of the quotes, not you personally! )

I probably should have worded

I probably should have worded that there is a lesser empathetic ability than non-ADHD individuals. There is not a complete lack of empathy, that would be a psychopath's realm. With my adhd dh, I have gotten replies along the lines of "what do I care" or "what's it to you/them?" or "I have every right to be feeling xyz". I just don't know anyone who is unable to sense that saying hello to people on the phone 1) shows them he's considerate, 2) shows he cares about their well being. I can understand if he doesn't "feel like it," but sucks up to the occasion, but more often than not he refuses as if it was normal and it's everyone else's problem. ADD-hole or ADHD? What I notice is, that dh has empathy that springs from him when he chooses (crying over death of a tv personality), but is incapable of showing it when it is ASKED or REQUIRED of him (death of a relative). 

I decided to look for some journal articles regarding empathy and ADHD. This is the closest I came - list of journal articles which may or may not be available online. These are articles dealing with emotional behavior and sustaining of attention of ADHD boys in the link below (not just empathy). There is another PDF dissertation on the empathic ability of the PARENTS on their ADHD children (linked here and fully available online and looks statistics driven) and how this affects the children's emotional abilities which I thought might be of interest as well.

http://www.airitilibrary.com/searchdetail.aspx?DocIDs=15609251-201103-20...

I don't think having ADHD

I don't think having ADHD automatically means someone will be less empathetic, then again most of us have also said that it seemed there is More than ADD going on with our spouses... 2 ADHD members of my family seem to be on the low end of the empathetic scale, and i don't think it has anything to do with understanding or not paying attention, they just don't seem to have a great deal of emapthy/compassion for others.  Yet 2 other members of my family have a great deal of empathy and compassion, even more than most people I know, it seems these four people are on total opposite ends of the scale.  Does this have anything to do with ADD or is it just different personalities..

Seeing the Gestalt and Empathy

People with ADHD can be very kind and empathic, and sometimes the total opposite.  Sometimes, it depends on how well we are paying attention or how our impulsivity and emotionality affects our ability to process a given situation.  I see this all the time in my profession.

My own personal observations as a teacher with ADHD who has an ADHD son and ADHD mother is that lack of empathy can sometimes come from lack of awareness of the big picture and how all of the pieces fit together.  For example, one of my ADHD students was upset with me because I took his phone away in class.  My school doesn't have a bring-your-own-device policy and it is generally against the rules.  We had an event, however, where I allowed ONE designated individual to use their phone as a source of music for the class.  He INTERPRETED this as a free-for-all and took out his phone and was playing games on it.  Now if I didn't have ADHD myself, I would have taken his impulsive actions and defensive, cranky response personally.  He reacts very viscerally to situations without seeing his role in it or how it impacts other people when his emotions are high and he is hyperfocused on something else.   I frequently have to talk to him after class in such a situation, and really, really break it down for him so he can see the big picture.  This works because he knows (as does his family) that I really do "get him" and am trying to help him (I understand this is more complicated in an adult relationship).  He could not see how he was being rude, how his universal application of what he interpreted was a new "rule" didn't work, and how while he was looking at the "fairness" of why his phone got taken away, the other student still had hers.  He reacts so quickly and is so hyperfocused on what he is doing and the emotions he feels at any given moment, and that frequently limits him to having tunnel vision.  He's a really good kid, though.  He is kinder and more empathic than most of my non-ADHD students, actually, when he's paying attention and not emotional.  He reminds me a lot of my own son.   When I calmly talked to him after class, I told him that I had designated a student to have her phone out.  I asked him if I told everyone they could have their phones out.  I asked him if he thought it was O.K. to be doing his own thing.  I asked him if he was polite to me in his response.  I asked him if he could see how his behavior and his response were neither appropriate nor respectful and how I would feel.  He answered thoughtfully and appropriately to all questions.  He just couldn't see it in the moment.  I got a heart-felt apology and a sincere, "Have a nice day" response.  He found his empathy; it was buried underneath his symptoms.  

Now, of course, let it be known that there are jerks in every walk of life, diagnosis or not.  Sometimes, people are simply lacking in empathy.  Even so, I do think that the outcome of poor processing and attention can be a lack of empathy.  I just wanted to share my own experience with ADHD and the Gestalt, and how this difficulty in seeing the big picture affects how we perceive ourselves and our role and that of others.

 

ADHDMomof2

Empathy

I get this a lot, it most of the time is fired at me like accusatorial bullets,  it does drive me insane but I have come to understand where it is coming from.  Actually the more I have considered it the more sense it makes,  it is not that we lack  the ability to empathize,  I know myself I feel things very intensely, too intensely a lot of the time.  It is just that I see the world entirely differently to Non ADHD people, that is the nature of it. 

If we look at empathy as Carl Rogers  defined it: "to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person" 

Then it is of course difficult for we ADHD people to do this in many of the circumstances described on this forum ,  but on the other hand it is just as hard for the Non ADHD fold to empathize with our world view.  This is precisely why you find an all pervasive sense amongst ADHD people from a very early age that feel as if they are "different".   It is also why there is often a sense of social isolation and of not being understood.  Every other post by a NoN  to my ADHD eyes at least is mostly completely lacking empathy for those with ADHD. Anger, resentment  and sadness yes, empathy no, this is not a criticism, just a logical outcome.  This does not mean that Non's are incapable of feeling empathy, any less than a person with ADHD.   

  

...I have come to understand

...I have come to understand where it is coming from.  Actually the more I have considered it the more sense it makes,  it is not that we lack  the ability to empathize,  I know myself I feel things very intensely, too intensely a lot of the time.  It is just that I see the world entirely differently to Non ADHD people, that is the nature of it.

I understand this implicitly.  I remember a post written by Melissa Orlov where she mentioned emotional intensity and anger, and that those of us ADHDers who tend to have impulsivity anger also tend to be capable of all-around intensity, exhuberance in one moment, anger in the next.  I also feel things intensely.  That truly is part of the disorder that needs to be understood better.  Dr. Russell Barkley rightly states that the DSM V should include a component on emotional reactivity.  Dr. Ratey commented in his wife, Nancy Ratey's book, Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Get the Most of Your Time, Talent, and Tasks regarding the overly active limbic system which tends to respond quicker than the frontal lobe.  Hmmm... someone with ADHD is emotionally reactive, and this can take precedence over executive function???  Nah...that's crazy talk;)...

Every other post by a NoN  to my ADHD eyes at least is mostly completely lacking empathy for those with ADHD.

I'm not sure about this last comment, but this is just my perspective.  I have received so much KIND, GENEROUS advice from NON's here, from funnyfarm, to Sherri, to Aspen, to Gardener, and others.    The collective insight and empathy has been helpful.  Heck, even when people disagree with me, it's O.K.  I hope they are at least respectful about it, but can't control it if they are not.  At times, posters responses to me makes me think about whether my thinking is distorted, or perhaps I hadn't thought of something or considered the Gestalt.  Other times, I have an ADHD moment where I didn't fully clarify what I meant because I visualized something but didn't fully express it (happens less often in writing, but can happen when I am in a hurry).  I'm not saying there isn't any transference on this site; it happens, certainly, and on both "sides."  The thing I notice the most, though, on this site, is that when people are consistently respectful, this site is what it should be:  a place where we can anonymously pick each other's brains in order to gain maximum insight into ourselves and our partner, in order to better our relationship.  

I can't recall any specific posts (shocking, I know ;)), but I know I have been on the receiving end of some words, which for whatever reason, triggered an emotional response (internally).  My internal reaction truly may or may not have been warranted; it certainly isn't always easy to decipher tone from the written word.  I decided that regardless of the writer's intent, I would not be defensive, but clarify my perspective and also see what the other person meant.  I just think this is so much more helpful than insulting other people.  We are here, hopefully, for the sole purpose of helping our relationship.  As such, it is imperative to put the pride aside (and believe you me, not historically an easy task for me) and find out what people mean, rather than reacting to the sometimes angry words of people who are clearly hurting.  We can all learn a lot from each other.

Jon, please don't take this to be a rant against you; it was simply an opportunity of which I am taking full advantage.    I enjoy reading your posts, though I must admit to have skimmed ALL of the "Cluster B" info as I'm not really familiar with that.  It is really a commentary on how much others here have helped me and sustained me during the worst years of my life, and what I have found helps me make the most of my time here.

Thank you all for allowing me to get that off my chest.

ADHDMomof2

ADHDMomof2

"Every other post by a NoN  to my ADHD eyes at least is mostly completely lacking empathy for those with ADHD."

"I'm not sure about this last comment, but this is just my perspective."

Agreed,  I think I am guilty of overstating this for dramatic effect, ( A tendency I do have)  I guess the point I was making is that this lack of empathy is just as prevalent in NoN's as it is in we ADHD folk.    I likewise do try to not impulsively shoot from the hip, though I freely admit that I am likely not as successful at this as you may be, I can be have  a tendency to  hit things with a heavy hammer if I don't take a few deep breaths before a response.

I have also gained  a lot from this forum, and many NoN's have obviously gone out of their way to try and understand and to engage in very insightful discussion which to me has been extremely helpfull.

Jon 

 

 

It's all good, my DH says I

It's all good, my DH says I can be dramatic as well :).  Yes, lack of empathy and lack thereof can exist in any realm, ADHD or not, sometimes in the same person.  I hope I don't sound arrogant or pious; it is easier for me to be objective here and not get pulled in by my emotions.  However, a number of years teaching teenagers has forced me not to take things from those outside my family as personally.  If I hadn't (and trust me, it took a long time) grown a thicker skin, I would have quit.  Kids have a way of, uh...calling it how they see it, even if their perspective is skewed, and when you care enough about what you do, it can hurt.  

As far as me being "successful," I am only recently improving my ability to respond with less emotion and better listening with my DH.  This is after 11 years of medication, spending the past two years in therapy, reading everything I can about ADHD, and being on this blog.  It's not that I wasn't making ANY progress, but my own emotionality kept getting in the way of me listening better, verbal diarrhea, and temper.  For me, the key has been eliminating gluten, all artificial (additives, preservatives, dyes), and now casein from my diet (the casein thing is only a few days old, so the jury is still out on that one, but I think I am on to something).  I do want to share that, because there is a lot of conflicting information about whether this helps a lot.  I have read as much pro as con on this subject.  I decided that I had nothing to lose, as I had some of the risk factors (allergies/eczema).  At first, I didn't notice anything.  It took about a month before I happened to notice, "Hey, I'm relaxed for no reason!  I wonder if this is a fluke?" or "Wow.  I don't feel like I can't sit still!"  I'm just starting to notice a little bit of better decision-making, but it's too early to say that is the result of the foods I have eliminated from my diet.  This is the first time I have felt genuine hope for my marriage since I have begun posting here, not for a lack of help, but for me NOT KNOWING what the final leg of the treatment stool was...for ME.  My husband is starting to openly notice the difference in my behavior (though he doesn't think it has anything to do with my diet, nor has he read anything on this subject, but that's O.K.).  I know it does because I feel more relaxed and have been less reactive and THEREFORE able to listen, process, and make some necessary concessions, which he has appreciated.  Before, I kept trying and trying and trying, but COULD NOT move past my impulsivity in our interactions.  There are any number of things which are thought to exacerbate ADHD symptoms besides what I mentioned.  I am continuing to check for other sensitivities, and when you stick to whole foods, it is a lot easier to see what affects you.  Could be eggs, soy, citrus, fish, corn, or potatoes as well, from what I understand.  I did NOT believe this before I started it; I was simply desperate enough to try anything I hadn't before.  I STILL can't believe that A) you can go through life not having any idea you have a sensitivity, because it differs from an allergic reaction, and the primary symptoms (at least with gluten and casein) are neurological and B) the foods I gravitated toward the most (grains) were the sirens drawing me to the rocks.  I have also read it is frequently more than one food "group," eggs, gluten, and casein being the most notorious, according to neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Charles Parker, whose new book comes out on January 1st.  I am just offering this since you, like me, have had struggles in your marriage.  Of course, feel free to tune me out if you want!

O.K.  Need to go to sleep!

ADHDMomof2

Hey Jon.  I'm the Non...and

Hey Jon.  I'm the Non...and your comment "  Every other post by a NoN  to my ADHD eyes at least is mostly completely lacking empathy for those with ADHD. Anger, resentment  and sadness yes, empathy no, this is not a criticism, just a logical outcome. "  for me is on the money...no I am not someone who lacks empathy at all, however when it comes to my ADHD H you know I think I have gotten to the point of having no empathy toward him....I do hate that about this mess we are in honestly, in fact i think i have more empathy toward the posters on this site who I can tell are struggling and really trying, and yet I do not know a single person.   Its amazing how you can go from loving someone with every breath of your being to not caring about them at all, when i think about it as i reflected upon my life last night its quiet depressing. how did we get to this point ?

The B cluster narcissism and

The B cluster narcissism and ADHD attraction. I have given this some thought and this seems like the type of relationship mine has been built on. It has given me food for thought over the last few days. I have empathic ability yet I am aware I have narcissistic tendencies due to low self esteem. On the other hand, as you say, my dh has the "approval seeking mode" deeply embedded. He is stuck in this mode due to being misunderstood as being a "black sheep" by an abusive parent.

Now, I am not sure if it's completely the narcissist side of me to not be able to give him what he wants but I did not want to be in the mother role, ever, to my partner. I guess the "lack of awareness" (that ADHDMomof2 referred to) that I'm his wife and not a mother substitute that I equate for "lack of empathy". It may be the reason for those times i.e. when I suffered a moderately severe injury and he went into the "absent" mode when I really needed a partner. He's not aware of the pain or suffering, but he is aware of the time loss on the job or money wasted due to me being laid up in bed. So more lack of awareness, then lack of empathy?

Ours was a whirlwind romance and I was completely bowled over by his attentiveness (narcissist soaking it up?). I do agree although in hindsight, I might have stepped back from all the attention if I hadn't been utterly needy. We agreed to move with each other a month after his mother passed away (thereby filling the spot that was left empty by his mother).

So, anyway, it has been a bit of an eye opener.

Basking in the early

Basking in the early attention you get from someone hyperfocusing on you and enjoying it (especially if you have low self-esteem) is not narcissism, although it may be a bit embarrassing when you realize you fell for it. Read up on it some more. Narcissism is trying to make EVERYTHING about yourself. See if you (or your DH ) fit the criteria below before you beat yourself up:

True or false? Score one point for each true answer. (from Narcissism Support Resources, http://narcissism-support.blogspot.com/2009/01/narcissism-symptoms.html)

1. THIS PERSON HAS ACHIEVED MORE THAN MOST PEOPLE HIS OR HER AGE.

2. THIS PERSON IS FIRMLY CONVINCED THAT HE OR SHE IS BETTER, SMARTER, OR MORE TALENTED THAN OTHER PEOPLE.

3. THIS PERSON LOVES COMPETITION, BUT IS A POOR LOSER.

4. THIS PERSON HAS FANTASIES OF DOING SOMETHING GREAT OR BEING FAMOUS, AND OFTEN EXPECTS TO BE TREATED AS IF THESE FANTASIES HAD ALREADY COME TRUE.

5. THIS PERSON HAS VERY LITTLE INTEREST IN WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE THINKING OR FEELING, UNLESS HE OR SHE WANTS SOMETHING FROM THEM.

6. THIS PERSON IS A NAME DROPPER.

7. TO THIS PERSON IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO LIVE IN THE RIGHT PLACE AND ASSOCIATE WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

8. THIS PERSON TAKES ADVANTAGE OF OTHER PEOPLE TO ACHIEVE HIS OR HER OWN GOALS.

9. THIS PERSON USUALLY MANAGES TO BE IN A CATEGORY BY HIM OR HERSELF.

10. THIS PERSON OFTEN FEELS PUT UPON WHEN ASKED TO TAKE CARE OF HIS OR HER RESPONSIBILITIES TO FAMILY, FRIENDS, OR WORK GROUP.

11. THIS PERSON REGULARLY DISREGARDS RULES OR EXPECTS THEM TO BE CHANGED BECAUSE HE OR SHE IS IN SOME WAY SPECIAL.

12. THIS PERSON BECOMES IRRITATED WHEN OTHER PEOPLE DON'T AUTOMATICALLY DO WHAT HE OR SHE WANTS THEM TO DO, EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE A GOOD REASON FOR NOT COMPLYING.

13. THIS PERSON REVIEWS SPORTS, ART, AND LITERATURE BY TELLING YOU WHAT HE OR SHE WOULD HAVE DONE INSTEAD.

14. THIS PERSON THINKS MOST CRITICISMS OF HIM OR HER ARE MOTIVATED BY JEALOUSY.

15. THIS PERSON REGARDS ANYTHING SHORT OF WORSHIP TO BE REJECTION.

16. THIS PERSON SUFFERS FROM A CONGENITAL INABILITY TO RECOGNIZE HIS OR HER OWN MISTAKES. ON THE RARE OCCASIONS THAT THIS PERSON DOES RECOGNIZE A MISTAKE, EVEN THE SLIGHTEST ERROR CAN PRECIPITATE A MAJOR DEPRESSION.

17. THIS PERSON OFTEN EXPLAINS WHY PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER KNOWN THAN HE OR SHE IS NOT REALLY ALL THAT GREAT.

18. THIS PERSON OFTEN COMPLAINS OF BEING MISTREATED OR MISUNDERSTOOD.

19. PEOPLE EITHER LOVE OR HATE THIS PERSON.

20. DESPITE THIS PERSON'S OVERLY HIGH OPINION OF HIM OR HERSELF, HE OR SHE IS REALLY QUITE INTELLIGENT AND TALENTED.

Scoring: Five or more true answers qualifies the person as a Narcissistic Emotional Vampire, though not necessarily for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality. If the person scores higher than ten, and is not a member of the royal family, be careful that you aren't mistaken for one of the servants.

By ALBERT J. BERNSTEIN, Ph.D.

 

 

Thank you for that...love the

Thank you for that...love the comment at the end.  Also to note - I do not know about everyone else, but the initial attention I "received" from my partner wasn't anything over the top or 'all about me' attention..it was normal attention people in love usually give to each other, riding bikes, going on vacations, going out for dinner, having actual conversations about more than superficial things, we aren't talking about being lavished with gifts or jewels... whats painful is that even normal attention is now gone...I can't recall the last real conversation we had...its like being an old toy that has lost all its appeal to a big overgrown child.

Lynnie, i grew up under the

Lynnie, i grew up under the weight of a narcissist parent and there have been times i catch myself having thoughts that mirror the narcissist parent, but the ability to catch myself sets me apart from it. Not a narcissist, but tendencies towards it due to exposure and upbringing By a narcissist. I accept the fact that the narcissist upbringing will always be there in the background, but aware enough now to keep a foot on the side of reality.  The narcissist i was exposed to has 85-90% of those issues mentioned above. 

Back to the ADHD "approval seeking mode" as it relates to my dh. I wanted to observe what would happen if i did not give my dh the approval he seeks usually several times a day. As it is,we've been conditioned to praise him for every little thing he shows us, including condiments he picks up for free.  As i made my way into the kitchen, he says "the mats are clean now". As i came back in, again he mentioned how clean he got those mats. So i behaved as if they were just statements with no need for approval i.e. telling him he did a good job. A few minutes later i get a call upstairs on my cell phone. From him! He didn't get the approval he kept fishing for, so he had me answer his phone call. Again, another comment that required a "thank you" this time, and i just said "ok".... How can i stop this approval seeking mode that is on constantly?

Must have been hard to come

Must have been hard to come out of a household like that. It's good that you recognize the problem though. I am just now realizing how ADHD my father is/was and how it affected me. I'm convinced this is a major reason I got involved with my ADHD husbands (most with other more serious problems as well) -- I just saw it as normal behavior because that was what I was used to, and "this time" I thought I could fix it, I guess. Plus sometimes I also wonder if I have some of the ADHD behaviors at times of stress because that is what I was exposed to.

I'm not sure you can do anything about the constant approval seeking. Even non-ADHD men seem to be known for being babies when they are sick and for wanting lots of praise for every little thing they do. Stats show men still do very little housework, even when wives are working fulltime and they have kids. Add to the mix the fact that ADHDers have been told how lazy, bad, etc. they are for most of their childhoods, and I can see how a craving for approval has been created.

Maybe you could try going the other way? When he reminds you of something he did, smile broadly and just say "Thank you!" with as much enthusiasm as you can muster? Perhaps if the initial reaction fullfills his need for approval, he won't keep bugging you for more. Could that be the only way he can make conversation/a connection of sorts? But I don't know... this is a tough one and certainly can make you feel like you are giving gold stars to your children.

Generally the conversations

Generally the conversations he starts are of a more direct nature. Perhaps that is the way of most men, more left-brain dominance. DH was very helpful the last couple of days with minimal involvement from me and I was sincerely appreciative of his efforts with the household this week. It has been a very long time since I saw this level of commitment. I mentioned earlier that my dh's ADHD appears cyclical, all is well for a bit and then there's a period when he runs himself and everyone ragged with the racing thoughts. Does ADHD generally run in cycles for anyone else?

There was no healthy male role model via my father when I was growing up, but I did have other healthy male role models who I was exposed to, but none were not the primary father figure. So, it could all very well have been one extreme or the other to me growing up, and not experiencing much in-between. Since my son's primary adult male interaction is with his ADHD father, there are times when my son feels he lacks a father/father figure because dh not always available in the mental sense. Doing a father-son thing once a year is enough for my dh, but it's not for my son, and that's really tough on him (and it's usually to the movies where they don't talk to one another).

 

Approval Seeking Mode

 

I was a little vague describing the term "approval seeking mode" that I coined in the previous post.  My proofreading gets sketchy sometimes when I'm writing on my phone.  My perception, which is based on my own history as I see it, Gina Pera's book and blog, and the guys behind "ADD and Loving It", is that some people who were undiagnosed until well into adulthood may be conditioned to seek out their comfort zone of being belittled and told they are a constant disappointment.  Then the adult ADHD has their huge bag of coping mechanisms, tricks and lies that they have perfected since childhood. That old, familiar bag of tricks is much less scary than rolling over and showing our soft underbellies, especially if we've tried that before and had our honesty and full disclosure used as a weapon against us.  There is no malice, or even intent to deceive or be hurtful.  I'd guess that the more deeply the ADHD'r cares for this person, the larger the bag and more often used to try and appear worthy of being loved.  However, there's this gnawing anxiety coming from behind closed doors deep down in our brains.  Behind those closed doors that the ADHD'r might not even know exist is the knowledge that any approval, signs of love, or trust we receive is based on a fraud.

So no matter how wonderful that other person is toward us, we are constantly on the lookout for those "I'm disappointed in you" looks.  We are constantly skittish wondering if they discovered that our mother didn't really call and force us to be 30 minutes late for the date.  In reality, we looked at the clock and estimated we could shower, clean the car, pick up flowers, put gas in the car, stop to pick up deodorant that we forgot we needed,  grab a Big Mac in the drive-thru because we were too distracted to eat lunch....and breakfast, run back home to change shirts because that Big Mac special sauce just isn't going to come out, read a couple new emails since the computer's right there , and then recklessly speed to the date while screaming obscenities at every stoplight that turned red just to torment us.  That's  the "approval seeking mode" I don't think I describe very well.  It's an uncertainty.  When that uncertainty is combined with the ADHD tendency to classify all happenings in time as "Now" or "Some other time besides now", we need nonstop reassurance that things are okay.

Fast-forward a few years, and this mechanic of the "approval seeking mode" gets one hundred times worse if the ADHD'r has been screamed at for not doing something "correctly" (i.e. how the non-ADHD thinks it should have been done).  Now the ADHD'r can't trust his own judgment on whether he met all expectations, or whether he's going to get an earful for something he didn't do right.  

I guess I hadn't really thought about what happens if an adult ADHD is actually getting a steady flow of approval and assurance!  But I suppose it makes sense if you suddenly reduce the amount of approval, praise, or gratitude then big huge red flags go up while wondering all day long "What did I do wrong?"

 

My ADHD spouse definitely is

My ADHD spouse definitely is often in approval-seeking mode.  It's very frustrating.  I don't look to him for approval; I look within myself.  I don't and can't approve of every single thing my spouse does (just as he or anyone else can't approve of every single thing I do). It seems as though my spouse doesn't have a "self" and so he looks to me and others to create one for him.

Hyperfocus

to "copingSAH"

You know your post makes me shudder- I am the ADD husband here and my marriage is breaking up after 22 years. The posts here read like a litany of my own failings.

I do not think that getting too embedded in labels like cluster B and "narcissistic" does much good at all.

It is worth noting the dynamic that arises between husband and wife here. Yes I have been told that I was treating my wife as a mother substitute- but the real problem in my books was the way those roles became cemented in by habit until there seemed to be some sort of passive co-dependent truce between us.

Re the injury and him going into "absent mode"-- been there and done that too. Hyperfocus (locked on attention) is a huge problem for all of us ADDers. My other comment would be that my attention certainly becomes more disorganised and more likely to play up at times of high stress. My guess would be that it is not lack of empathy but simple overload causing temporary dysfunction. That does not make it easier for you to live with- but if we draw back from attributing blame (including by labelling ourselves as "narcissists) we can see more clearly what is going on.

A couple of useful concepts here are:

1)Empathy is now being subdivided into intuitive empathy (subconscious reading of body language) and cognitive empathy (putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and understanding how they may feel. The latter is more of a skill and is probably a component of "emotional intelligence"- much of which is modeled from emotionally intelligent parents teachers and mentors. It would be my guess that many ADDers (and "cluster B types" such as borderline and histrionic) have very high intuitive empathy- but lack the skills to handle it. So- situations causing anxiety cause a rapid increase in the level of internal arousal- until the brain (or at least the frontal cortex) effectively goes at least partially "offline".

2) Look at "Non Violent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg. That is a good approach to opening up communication channels.

3) I really like the book "Getting The Love You Want" by Harville Hendrix. It has a companion workbook.

I wish my wife and I had had some counselling based on it 10 years ago.

I think it is vital that issues around ADHD, and conflict in marriage are dealt with properly, as the hostile atmosphere created does badly affect children. I am sure it increases the odds of any latent ADHD tendencies being expressed in the next generation.

As a broad comment- I am a health practitioner (don't want to go into details here)- and being diagnosed with ADHD was quite a shock for me. However- the diagnosis fits, and slowly the increased awareness is helping both myself and both of my children.

Chicken or Egg?

" ADHD challenges creates an atmosphere conducive to turning an otherwise rational person to take on Cluster B-type behaviors."

This is a little  bit of chicken and egg rationale.  An alternative way to look at it *may* be that when there is a a certain amount of histrionics,  then this may exacerbate ADHD behavior.  I would have thought though that Cluster-B type disorders amongst non ADHD partners would  be such a volatile combination as to cause such relationships to struggle to get off the ground to start with.

Imagine an ADHD person with a BPD partner, or a Narcissistic or Histrionic type.  Actually histrionics do seem to come up in here a little, though that could also just be wits end.... 

Type C on the other hand i.e. avoidant, dependent,  obsessive etc   that would seem a better at least initial fit.

It often seems that ADHD becomes such a 10000lb gorilla in the room that the negative contributions of the other party seem to vanish in the haze.  Call me a cynic but it just cannot be that every ADHD person has somehow hooked up with a ever suffering  saint.  I would say it is more complex, and to be frank, unfortunately sometimes the ADHD becomes an excuse not to examine ones own contribution to the dysfunctional relationship.  

The 10,000 lb gorilla

 

Amen.  I imagine I will continue to be labeled as hostile whenever I bring up the notion that a non-ADHD is behaving poorly, and unfortunately if that subject is brought up in a soft Socratic method those Cluster B mechanisms will just dismiss it with a tainted view of reality.  When I see someone with Cluster B characteristics blame ADHD for their behavior, that sums it all up without having to say another word.

I agree that, in theory, Cluster B and ADHD would be volatile partners.  There is always the trite response of "opposites attract".  However, I wonder if the missing piece is to look at the false personas that each put forward in the beginnings of relationships.  Narcissists don't start out as maniacal demons punishing you for every perceived attack on their ego.  They trade whatever behavior they think will get them the adoration they want.  ADHDer's tend not only to hyperfocus and act like "this person is my whole world", but are also experts at self-preservation and hiding anything that would otherwise be a red flag. 

No evidence of diagnosis of Cluster B behaviors

okay you're running with a "diagnosis " of personality disorders given by a non-professional who may have a chip on his shoulder.  As far as I know, there is no scientific evidence that ADHD folks attract partners with personality disorders.

House in both names

My husband refused to move out. Both of us signed the lease. Most landlords require all adults in a household to sign the lease. He insisted if I wanted to not be with him, I had to leave. I moved in with my daughter and her husband would not accept the dog or the cat into his house.

My reality is I'm handicapped. I have enormous difficulty with walking. Not a choice. I was born that way. If my perfectly able bodied spouse chooses to throw things on the floor instead of putting them away, I'm not safe. I will fall and not be able to get up again, and possibly injure myself. Not a mental illness and not my choice. So my terribly high and unreasonable standard is that I be able to walk through all rooms of my house. I guess that makes me mentally ill. He wears dirty clothes off the floor if there aren't clean ones, cooks in dirty pots, eats off of dirty plates. I once saw him eat (cold) a pot of leftover rice which had sat out all night. He got sicker than a dog, which of course gave him carte blanche to sit around and moan for a couple of days while I did all the housework.

I don't care about him not answering the phone per se, I just care that he communicate to me information that I need to know. Like, I've got a guy coming to pick up the broken down car (that's in my name) so when he calls you, please arrange to let him take the car. All of that can be done by voicemail or email, but he needs to respond to legitimate needs to wind down our life together. Him withholding mail from me is actually a federal crime.

I don't understand your hostility. It sounds like you are mad at your non-ADD spouse for not having ADD like you do, and having perfectly normal expectations about a shared life.

 

 

 

  It is unfortunate that so

 

It is unfortunate that so many on this forum see any threat to their right to cackle non-stop about how they were wronged as "hostile".

Your perception of hostile probably stems from the fact that you claim he "won't" do all these things.  Which is just as wrong as saying you "won't" just be careful when you walk.  In very few cases does an ADHD decide they "will not clean the house".  "WILL", as in free will and choice, is the operative word.

I'm still confused. How is he paying for a lease without you being there to pay for everything?

 

????

"It is unfortunate that so many on this forum see any threat to their right to cackle non-stop about how they were wronged as "hostile"."

(edited out as personal attack)

 

Hostile

 

I'd be interested in understanding  what you view as hostile.  I operate under the definition that "hostile" in this context is a personal attack.  By my count I see at least 7 personal attack you've tossed at me in this thread alone.  

(edited out - personal attack)

"I'm really surprised that

"I'm really surprised that anyone would stay with someone as opinionated and arrogant as you appear to be. Your poor wife."

Ouch! Lynne as someone who once told me they had lost sleep over a comment I made that was much less harsh that this, this is a pretty full on thing to say.   

MagicSandwich's picture

Nah, I think this Brick

Nah, I think this Brick person is just cherry-picking this blog hoping for a fight. 

I was thinking that too...

I was thinking that too... what I posted most recently is not exactly new, it's already within my prior posts, so who knows.

I think his mother is paying for everything

I think his mother pays for everything. I know she let him drive her car and he wrecked it. He won't communicate with me so I really don't know.

It isn't that I can be more careful. When I step on non-level surfaces, such as a pile of dirty clothes that block the doorway to the bathroom,  my knees tend to give out. He knew this when he married me, but I didn't know about the ADD. To be honest, neither did he. I fall about once a month on average and it takes me hours to get up again and hurts a lot.

With my husband, the problem was that he specifically did refuse to do anything to maintain our home. I'd ask him to do a specific household chore, non-judgementally, like "can you go run the dishwasher so we'll have clean dishes for dinner?" and he'd say no. I worked about 80 hours a week, from home, and I walk with pain and difficulty, so it just seemed logical that he would do this. But he'd say "no, if you want clean dishes you wash them. I 'm not going to do all the housework." I was earning a good living and he never even applied for jobs, so it just seemed logical to me that he would make the house he lived in for free livable and safe for the person who paid for everything.

I really love my husband, I wish he would have cared enough about me to make it safe for me to live in a my house.

 

  If the reality is you said

 

If the reality is you said "can you go run the dishwasher so we'll have clean dishes for dinner?"  and he said "no."  Then he's an asshole, which is completely separate from having ADHD.   It pinged my radar when you repeated the word "won't" when referring to your ADHD husband.  If he truly won't do something that's not ADHD.  Many people in an ADHD adult's life assume that it's a matter of motivation and drive, and that's simply flat out wrong.  

ADHD doesn't mean a lack of compassion or empathy. If he is truly not willing to care for your needs then there is dysfunction beyond ADHD.  I see this assumption often on this forum.  I'm beginning to wonder if some rural MD diagnosed ADHD when it's Asperger's or autism at play.

If a relationship has problems and one person has ADHD, that does not in any way logically mean the problems are because of the ADHD. Which is an underlying theme to almost anything I've said on this forum.

MagicSandwich's picture

This is a forum for helping

This is a forum for helping one another. So please take your own advice about what it means to lack empathy before you comment again. 

Thanks,

"This is a forum for helping

"This is a forum for helping one another."

This sentiment is a great one,   the view of ADHD folk need to be a part of this equation or you end up in an echo chamber, soothing but not productive in the long run I would have thought?

 

 

 

"Helping"

This forum is for helping people in ADHD marriages.  It is not, in anyway, for helping enable non-ADHDers blame everything on their ADHD partner and pat each other on the back for being martyrs who are stuck with horrible people making their life miserable.

I didn't give any advice about lacking empathy, so you probably didn't read things very closely.  However, my empathy lies with the silent ADHD partners who are being vilified.  Being empathetic is not the same as being an unctuous sycophant.  This grandiose belief that you are the forum police just reinforces my previous point that any threat to the collective cackling of "we are the suffering victims" non-ADHDs is viewed as hostile.

If I were truly cherry-picking to troll for a fight, as you suggested,  there are much more interesting forums to do that it.  I have subscribed to the feeds for a year and I recommended this site my recently-ex after I convinced her to read Melisa's book.  Instead of finding help and hope on this site, she found nothing but warnings that anyone who stays with an ADHD is doomed to a life of misery.  She found justification for her horrifically abusive behavior because it was all my fault.  Instead of fostering understanding, the posts she read convinced her that I must be an unfaithful lying bum because that's what ADHD partners are.  That is my motive for posting.  

For example, I challenged Sueann's previous post because of commonly seen non-ADHD jabs like "live like an adult" and "won't do...".  After 4 years on this forum, she's still using phrases that belittle and misjudge an ADHD.  More importantly, after 4 years she is still blaming ADHD for behavior that is caused by the guy being a jerkhole, not ADHD.  She is in a crap situation right now, and I feel horrible for her.  But my belief is that if there were truly an atmosphere of "helping one another", then ADHD wouldn't be blamed for things that are just plain unacceptable behavior.

Dear Brick M,   You are

Dear Brick M,   You are obviously angry and hurt about the recent separation from your wife...and understandable, you tried to get her to read melissa's book and come to this site hoping she may understand your struggle and try to improve the relationship..and it did not work.  I do not know your specific situation with your wife however I am sorry it did not work out.   However, you seem to be doing just what you are angry at us non-adders, generalizing everyones comments about their own spouses as if it were an attack on you.  Your very first post to me, when i was saying how much MY H and I have grown apart and no longer have sex...you told me to stop tormenting him, and to act like a grown up...it felt to me as if it just hit too close to home for you, so you sort of insulted me...maybe thats not the right word...but it was the first post to me that I felt that way.  Anyway I know there are some non-add people who are very angry and bitter with their situation and may generalize that All ADHD are no good, but more of us do not do that...and I often like to hear from the ADD people on this site to get their perspective, like PBartender, YYZ, ADHDmomof2 who are never insulting, and are actually quite humerous. This site does also seem to have more frustrated non-add people than ADD people so its a bit lopsided...from the other posts I would assume that is because those of us at our witts end have a spouse that either is not trying, or are in denial that the ADHD is effecting the relationship and therefore they are not the ones looking here for help...ok that is my situation and i am guessing others also.  I may vent on this site about MY husband, but in no way do I assume that all ADHD is created equal.  There are 5 people in my immediate family who have ADHD, they are all different...a couple of them are truly kind and wonderful, just incredibly unorganized...of course the only one i am angry with is my H, and i know its sort of unfair that i can love and fight for my children with schools and doctors and social situations, and everything that is so challenging for them, yet I have a very hard time accepting the same from him...yes its hypocritical, I know...I have tried to accept that he spends almost no time with his kids, is so easily prone to anger, is constantly losing things - important things, doesn't take his meds consitently, drinks too much, promises he will do something and doesn't follow thru (whether its can't or wont doesn't matter the end result is the same, a broken promise)...and so many other things...the things you just expect your spouse/partner to do in a marriage and for the family.   Anyway, when someone is talking about their specific situation with their partner and they aren't making a gross generalization about all ADHD people, please try not to take it personally....we aren't talking about you specifically. 

I've struggled with this issue for years

I know ADD is a mental illness or difference, and not the person's fault. I also know there are ADD people who behave in moral, supportive ways towards their spouses. I don't know where the line is, exactly. Let me use an example from my own life.

My husband lost his wallet. Surely, an ADD behavior and not a moral failing. However, I had been begging him for years to find a system for keeping track of keys and wallet and cell phone and he had rejected all suggestions I made as to how to do that. That would be fine but he didn't find a solution to the problem. So he lost his job because he lost his wallet and tried to borrow gas money from a colleague. (He could have called me and I'd have complained but I'd have bought him gas money.) Did the ADD cause him to lose the job or was it his poor judgment in losing his wallet and asking a colleague for money? How do you separate the two? Isn't that like separating the chocolate from the nougat in a candy bar?

His choice to do no housework isn't necessarily a moral failing. Ellenmeno's husband doesn't do any housework either, and, although she is frustrated with him, she's not on the point of leaving him.  But my values are working together, friendship and partnership, and I struggle daily with physical limitations that most people don't have. So to me, his choice that I have to do everything while he does nothing (let me give him credit; he did cook, but not when I was hungry, and he didn't do dishes or clean the kitchen) became an insult and a betrayal that I could not live with. Was that betrayal caused by ADD (hyperfocusing on the TV instead of job hunting or maintenance of the home) or laziness? Was it a moral failing or an illness? How can I separate the two?  Does it matter? I was being asked to live with a situation I could not live with and so I left.

And no, it wasn't easy to leave. I hate living with my daughter. I hate living in a two story house when I have so much difficulty with steps.  But they were kind enough to let me live with them, and I've found a job here. And I appreciate your saying you feel horrible for the situation I find myself in. I wish you, or I, or Melissa, or any of the 5 therapists we saw, could have made some suggestions that he would have taken that could have made it better so it didn't come to this.

  My view is that if

 

My view is that if something happened before I realized I had ADD (I still prefer to use ADD, not ADHD, I was never hyper and I'd prefer not to have to explain the nuances to lay people.) I feel remorse and accept it and move on.  If it happened after I realized I had ADD and had the knowledge to fix it, then it's my fault and cannot blame ADD.

"Tormenting him...??  Act

"Tormenting him...??  Act like a grown up."    Please do not pretend to know me, my husband or my relationship. In my 18 year relationship I AM the grown up.  Ending a relationship is not hard ???  Do you find throwing away a marriage and family simple ? Are you that selfish that its easy to do that ?  Its a two way street if he felt tormented or wanted to leave because we are no longer having sex he knows where the door is just as well as I do. If I were to consider how a divorce would affect me only I would have left a long time ago.  I agree sex is part of a healthy relationship, however many of us do not have healthy relationships and its not because we aren't having sex...we aren't having sex BECAUSE the relationship is unhealthy...after 18 years of so much that I am not going to even go into, i simply have no interest in sex.

"The only adult in the family"

Hi Funnyfarm,

while I do not wish to invalidate your decision to end your marriage (which sound like a difficult time to say the least),

I did want to pick up on your comment that "I AM the grown up". I have been on the receiving end of this one too, and not always fairly. My perspective is that we need to be vary careful about applying labels that perpetuate the situation/ problem. If this comment was ever made to any man, he would certainly experience severe shame, to say the least. My own experience is that that sort of experience really destroys my ability to attend to anything meaningfully. It seems that the non ADD/ non highly sensitive types do not react in this way. The reason I say this is that this sort of shaming technique is common in both schools and in the military. They must get enough positive results to make it worth their while.

However, when that comment was made to me, it cut me to the bone. I remember a comment by a very senior Tibetan Buddhist teacher to the effect that "If we think we are weak and stupid, then that is what we become".(Pity I can't remember his name too!)

This effect is really very comon- and shows up in other areas of life too. I remember learning to ski- and thinking "I must stay away from that tree"-- but my concern about the tree drew me to it as if toward a magnet.

By the end I bitterly resented my wife's assumption of superiority, and her almost unconscious way of invalidating me and making me feel small. With some distance- yes I can see she was hurt-- but we ended up in a situation where each of us was making the other worse.

So while your comment "I AM the grown up" may be functionally true- I respectfully suggest that it may turn into a self sustaining statement.

Incidentally, if your husband survives it- ending the relationship may be the best thing you could do for him. In many ways, forcing him to stand on his feet can be seen as an act of compassion.

I understand completely what

I understand completely what you are saying, and I have never said that to my husband.  While I feel like he does not act like an adult at times, my comment about being the adult was in response to a poster who told me to 'grow up and act like an adult'...'or just end the relationship'  which i found mean and insulting, and i can understand how that would feel if i ever said it to my H.  I have not decided to end my marriage, I do think about it very often though...I wonder if I will survive the relationship if we stay together.   Thank you for your comment and i will keep it in mind.

I wonder if I will survive it?

If you feel like that- think of the analogy about the crashing airplane. Put your own oxygen mask on first, as you can be of no use to anyone else unless you survive the experience. Now coming from an "ADHD husband" and someone who has been in exactly the same position as your husband- that is a significant statement.

I would like both my husband

I would like both my husband and me to act like mature adults.  I understand how shaming it is to be told or to feel that one is NOT acting like an adult.  So why does my ADHD husband gravitate toward situations in which he can act like an immature teenager or child?  In contrast, I gravitate toward independence and autonomy.

I understand that it must be

I understand that it must be hard on the ADD partner to feel as if their non-ADD partner treats them like a teenager, and how that must be demoralizing...on the other hand when they Behave like they are in fact in irresponsible teenager do they know how incredibly frustrating it is for the non-ADD partner.  its a vicious circle that i would like to break, and have tried, yet when the partner who acts immature continues to act that way what do you do....  It is irresponsible for a mid-fifties man to drink and drive, or drink drive with his children in the car, sorry i have not done that since i was 22...  or when he gets in a car accident almost every year, or impulisively buys things when the day before i may say we are very low on money please don't buy anything for a couple weeks,  or loses his keys, phone, wallet, glasses, etc... has an entire week of dirty clothes on the floor beside the bed instead of in the hamper and then gets irritable because he has no clean clothes, any many many other things that may be due to implusiveity, innattentiveness, the result is the behavior is irresponsible and reminds of an irresponsible teenager not a grown man.   Its is very frustrating for both partners...we both feel like hamsters running on a wheel

Cluster B Baloney

Are you a psychiatrist?  Can you diagnose people you've never met?  Even pros don't attempt to do that (they know better).  Please save the cluster B "diagnosis' for a different locale.

Ending a relationship IS hard.  It's not just about walking out the door.  It's about disentangling your emotions and lives.  It's about kids (if you have them) and families and connections and severing them.  It's about wondering if you could have been happy if you had made different choices.  And it all can be excruciatingly painful.  But I would rather have it be hard than to have such a lack of feelings for those I love that it would be "not hard" (your words) to end a relationship I had committed my life to.

Cluster B Baloney

 

Melissa, These forums, and blog comments, are absolutely soaking wet with amateur diagnoses, including many threads you have actively participated in.  There are two significant differences between most of those and this thread. First, the posts are not even diagnosing somebody who they have any first hand exposure to, they are diagnosing somebody's significant-other based on a single paragraph.  Second, most of those posts are made by and to non-ADHD partners.  

I stumbled upon all of these instances that appear to have your tacit approval as I was doing a simple internet search with the terms "ADHD" and the name of any cluster B disorder.  You are right there does not seem to be any study linking ADHD to cluster B partners.  There is also no study discounting a link between ADHD and cluster B partners.  You cannot prove a point by a lack of evidence, nor can you disprove by a lack of evidence.  However, those searches do show that many others are hypothesizing about the anecdotal evidence of such a link, not just one guy with a chip on his shoulder.  Additionally, many studies and professionals DO hypothesize about the similarities between those with ADHD and those with Cluster B disorders and whether this is a comorbid situation or simply a correlation of symptoms.  Whether you look at the list lynnie70 posted above or the list from Dr. Palatier below, there is obviously a correlation between signs of a cluster B personality and signs of ADHD relationships.  I feel it is absolutely naive to deny a possible interplay between ADHD relationships and personality disorders.

While it is your forum and your rules, if you want to discount someone with an ad hominem of "are you a psychiatrist" please explain your qualifications to post something like "The Basics of Non-Medicinal Treatment for ADHD" because all I seem to be able to find is that you graduated Harvard, without any information on what the degree was, or what the subject matter was.

 

Appendix

13 Signs Your Wife or Girlfriend is a Borderline or a Narcissist

1) Censoring your thoughts and feelings. You edit it yourself because you’re afraid of her reactions. Swallowing the lump in your throat and your hurt and anger is easier than dealing with another fight or hurt feelings. In fact, you may have stuffed your own emotions for so long that you no longer know what you think or feel.

 

2) Everything is your fault. You’re blamed for everything that goes wrong in the relationship and in general, even if it has no basis in reality.

3) Constant criticism. She criticizes nearly everything you do and nothing is ever good enough. No matter how hard you try, there’s no pleasing her or, if you do, it’s few and far between.

 

4) Control freak. She engages in manipulative behaviors, even lying, in an effort to control you.

5) Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde. One moment she’s kind and loving; the next she’s flipping out on you. She becomes so vicious, you wonder if she’s the same person. The first time it happens, you write it off. Now, it’s a regular pattern of behavior that induces feelings of depression, anxiety, helplessness and/or despair within you.

 

6) Your feelings don’t count. Your needs and feelings, if you’re brave enough to express them, are ignored, ridiculed, minimized and/or dismissed. You’re told that you’re too demanding, that there’s something wrong with you and that you need to be in therapy. You’re denied the right to your feelings.

7) Questioning your own sanity. You’ve begun to wonder if you’re crazy because she puts down your point of view and/or denies things she says or does. If you actually confide these things to a friend or family member, they don’t believe you because she usually behaves herself around other people.

 

8) Say what? “But I didn’t say that. I didn’t do that.” Sure you did. Well, you did in her highly distorted version of reality. Her accusations run the gamut from infidelity to cruelty to being un-supportive (even when you’re the one paying all the bills) to repressing her and holding her back. It’s usually baseless, which leaves you feeling defensive and misunderstood.

9) Isolating yourself from friends and family. You distance yourself from your loved ones and colleagues because of her erratic behavior, moodiness and instability. You make excuses for her inexcusable behaviors to others in an effort to convince yourself that it’s normal.

 

10) Walking on landmines. One misstep and you could set her off. Some people refer to this as “walking on eggshells,” but eggs emit only a dull crunch when you step on them. Setting off a landmine is a far more descriptive simile.

11) What goes up, must come down. She places you on a pedestal only to knock it out from under your feet. You’re the greatest thing since sliced bread one minute and the next minute, you’re the devil incarnate.

 

12) Un-level playing field. Borderlines and Narcissists make the rules; they break the rules and they change the rules at will. Just when you think you’ve figured out how to give her what she wants, she changes her expectations and demands without warning. This sets you up for failure in no-win situations, leaving you feeling helpless and trapped.

13) You’re a loser, but don’t leave me. “You’re a jerk. You’re a creep. You’re a bastard. I love you. Don’t leave me.” When you finally reach the point where you just can’t take it anymore, the tears, bargaining and threats begin. She insists she really does love you. She can’t live without you. She promises to change. She promises it will get better, but things never change and they never get better.

When that doesn’t work, she blames you and anything and anyone else she can think of, never once taking responsibility for her own behaviors. She may even resort to threats. She threatens that you’ll never see the kids again. Or she threatens to bad mouth you to your friends and family.

I read this list of things

I read this list of things and I have to say every one of them applies to my H, just replace 'she' with 'he'...except 13, he doesn't do that, then again neither do I.

whose body is it, anyway?

I have mixed feelings about this post.  I like that you are expressing your opinions on this topic, and I agree with some parts but not others.  Let me explain - first  I believe that every person is in charge of their own body and has the right to say whether or not they wish to have sex (or do anything else with their body, for that matter.)  One of the ways that you know a marriage is healthy, in my opinion, is when either partner can say that they aren't interested for whatever reason.  I take the "in charge of your own body" idea beyond sex.  It applies to everything and is a matter of respecting yourself.  No one is going to tell me when I "should" have sex, or when I must take a medication, or when I must run a mile.  I do these things because I choose to do them.  Sometimes I do them because a person or organization asks me to (ie. running a mile for gym class in high school because it was expected).  But my actions are my choice...always.  That includes whether or not I choose to smile when it is expected of me (sometimes I don't follow convention...and then I am responsible for the consequences of that.

That said, I also agree that sometimes people use sex as a form of power over a partner - either by witholding it or by insisting upon it.

In my own case, I know that there was a period of time when I resented that my husband didn't pay any attention to me AT ALL except when he wanted sex.  It felt like just one more thing I was expected to do for him with no recognition of who I was as a person.  Needless to say, our sex life wasn't great at that point in our marriage and there were many times when the whole situation made me mad and I didn't agree to join with him (though we did have some sex.)

As for your statement "why is it that every other important act in a relationship is expected to be done..." etc. I would propose a different read on what's expected:  I think I try to promote the idea that marriages are about actions and consequences as well as negotiating your differences.  Partners try to express who they are and what they need in a relationship (i.e. attention, feelings of trust, etc) and then the partners see if they can jointly get there.  It is ALWAYS the right of any person in a relationship to be unresponsive to a partner - but they are so at their own peril.  Marriage (at least my own) is about open and respectful negotiation.  Where many people fail is when they start to dictate - which happens all too easily when one partner has unmanaged ADHD.  One of the things I hope to accomplish with my book, classes, consulting is moving people AWAY from the concept that things "MUST" be done to understand that things "MAY" be done - and they have a role to play in respectfully requesting rather than dictating.  The act of requesting provides dignity to both partners - and is also reflective of the reality of the situation - we all, ultimately, get to do only what we ourselves decide to do.  You simply cannot demand anyone other than you yourself do something and expect that it will always happen.  I would like to gently suggest that you are dictating that all good partners MUST have sex with their partners.  There are some times in a relationship when that's not in either partner's best interests (to paraphrase someone else here - who wants to have sex with someone who's mad as a wet hen???  That won't be a good experience for either of them and might hurt the relationship more than help it!)  That said, if both partners are "neutral" about sex then I think it's always a good idea to have sex because it helps both people remember they are a couple.

Anyway - thanks for your contributions and opinions. 

MUST

 

Well, I certainly don't want to be labeled as advocating that partners MUST have sex!  A clarification may, or may not, put me in a deeper hole.

The post stems my belief in these two premises and the conclusion:

1) Every healthy relationship must include sex.  If it is a healthy relationship without sex, then you're living with your bowling partner.

2) If there is a lack of sex in a relationship, then both people always share in the responsibility; unless it is a Lifetime movie.

Conclusion: if the objective of two people in a dysfunctional relationship without sex is to have a healthy relationship, then both people must address their own contributions to the problem.  

In the scenario at hand, a person who cannot have sex because they are angry MUST either act to manage their anger and "respectfully negotiate" toward improving the sex life; or accept the relationship will stay dysfunctional or end.  This logical sequence holds true no matter what the other partner chooses to do.  The other partner MUST also address their own issues.  However, one person moving in a positive direction should not be intertwined with the other's effort any more than absolutely mandatory.  Put another way, "I won't do that, unless he does this." is dangerous.

Sex and streetfighter

When people start to really learn about ADHD and how it impacts their relationship it can be a bit overwhelming and confusing.  I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he was only crying because of the lack of sex.  It sounds as if sex is part of it (it's SAD when you don't have that connection anymore!) but also he may be struggling with feelings of guilt, and with grief.  Many people I work with say that when they really start realizing how ADHD has impacted their life (and relationship) they experience strong feelings of grief - wishing they had figured it all out earlier so that they (and their spouse) didn't have to go through all of this (hence comments like feeling they ought to be hit by a car...)  When you gear up and get angry about his expressions of sadness you hurt yourself.  Specifically, when you invalidate his feelings you make it easier for him to ignore his own role in your problems (and blame your anger instead).  This lessens the chance that he'll continue reflecting on his ADHD and start working on his symptoms more rigorously.

So my suggestion - next time he starts to talk with you about this, listen to what he has to say and try to not jump to conclusions about his motivation.  It would be normal to want to have sex...and it's okay for you to tell him that even though you care about him you're not ready for it at this point.

Thankyou

Melissa, that was a great post.

I have been through this situation myself, and found the sheer number of conflicting thoughts that arose in the crisis really overwhelmed me. The truth is that sex is often symbolic of a deeper connection, and when that is missing, it hits home.

Your comments about the impacts of ADHD are also insightful- at 50, I can't see a single part of my life or my family that has not been touched by it. Even my talents seem to flow directly from it. I think most ADDers feel the same, and yes, we do grieve, for ourselves, and for those we love.

Update from Streetfighter

I know I've been mysteriously absent from this conversation after my initial posting, so I wanted to give an update on what's happened the last few weeks with me and DH. After our fight, I awoke the next morning to an email from him explaining more of his thoughts and feelings on our relationship. He was very kind to me and said that he understands the strain his under-treated ADHD often puts on our relationship and the extra work I am often left with. He tried to explain how he is saddened by many things in our relationship, of which our sex life is just one.

We talked more with each other the next day, trying to clarify our feelings and both striving to "be heard" and to "hear" each other. I wouldn't say that all is well again and that things are better than ever, but we are definitely striving to work with each other instead of against one another. We're hoping to start counseling soon, as we both think it is important.

I truly appreciate all of the advice, feedback, and suggestions that everyone shared with me. I'm trying to get a clearer picture of myself and not make assumptions that my manner of dealing with things is appropriate or useful. I want so much to be a better person, and wife, than I am now. But it takes a conscious effort to step outside of my normal patterns and reactions to examine my self. Thank you again for your input and support as I do that.

A useful observation?

Streetfighter,

When your ADD partner is able to respond via email-- he is able to settle himself and truly express his feelings without getting entangled in the difficulty associated with your relationship.

This has happened to me so many times it is not funny- I can thin clearly and express myself well when given space-- BUT the relationship with my wife has become so negative that I am immediately searching every statement, every intonation, of hers for concealed hostility.

Whether or not you can actually live with him- I suspect his thoughts as penned out in email may be more sincere- especially if there is a significant delay between his last email and any previous interaction you may have had.

Well- that is how it works from my end- but I am told my positive responses are simply another example of me being manipulative and playing to the gallery. I do wish my wife knew how wrong that idea was.

Life really sucks sometimes- but then another moment occurs.