Eye Rolling and Other Contemptuous Behavior

I decided to make this its own topic since I found a response by Aspen in a response to a post by Hoping4More about the unacceptability of eye rolling, sighing, huffing, and storming as a response to a disagreement.

My husband and I have been making some progress -- usually two steps forward and one back, but progress -- with the help of Melissa on a number of fronts.  Most of our areas of conflict are pretty typical of a couple with small children, but exacerbated by ADD symptoms: how to discipline children, division of childcare/housework, spending time together v. alone, etc.  I find that generally, our disagreements on these points are probably, with the ADD awareness and Melissa's suggestions and strategies, not that bad and we have been able to come up with mutually-agreeable solutions on many of them. 

HOWEVER, I find that getting to the point where we can finally have a discussion to talk about solutions involves such a crisis, escalation, and production that I am absolutely worn down by the time we get there.  One major factor I can pin this down on is that ANY TIME I have a point of disagreement, and no matter how nicely or calmly or politely I bring it up, I am met with huffing, sighing, eye-rolling, shaking of the head and a number of other verbal and nonverbal communications that signal, to me, that my views are unwelcome, not deserving of dignity and respect, and worthless.

As you can imagine, having this as a starting point makes it considerably harder to come to a place of partnership where we are working things out together.  It's like moving one step back before you even get started. 

I have tried to explain to my husband the destructive effects of this behavior on our communication and our relationship, but he does not want to take responsibility for it -- even though he does eventually take responsibility in some of the substantive areas (e.g., agreeing to do a chore, etc.).  He has told me that these reactions are a part of his ADD and involuntary, like when he is engrossed in something and he has to change his attention to something else.  He said that in such cases, his exasperation is not personal, it's just his own frustration with having to cut himself off from what he's doing.

Fine.  I am trying to ignore this behavior when it happens when I ask him to do a chore or help me out, etc.  This explanation doesn't seem to fit, however, when we're in the middle of a conversation and I'm trying to tell him that something is bothering me, or to give him my opinion on a discipline issue.  In that context, it just seems arrogant and dismissive.

I read a book by John Gottman called "The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work."  He claims to be able to tell within five minutes of watching a couple fight whether they will ultimately get divorced.  The key predictors, he says, are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  Contempt, Gottman says, is the worst, because it signifies an utter lack of respect for your partner.  The eye-rolling routine is really tearing me down, and I can't deal with it any more.  I feel like even if we are able too negotiate compromises on the other substantive issues, I will not ever be able to feel truly valued and close to my husband if this is how we continue to fight.

I know that ideally, I would ignore this and continue to behave calmly, but this is a real trigger for me and it may end up being a dealbreaker in this marriage.  Does anyone have any thoughts or advice?

I'm Listening, Too!

Hey Ren,

You know I don't have an answer for you, or even a suggestion of something to try.  I really hope someone else does, though.  I'll definitely be watching and reading any posts here.

I do know that when I point it out in the moment, when I say to my wife, something like - "You just rolled you eyes, and that makes me think you think what I just said is ridiculous" or "You just rolled your eyes and it feels like you are dismissing me" - or something to that effect, she usually denies that is what she was feeling/thinking.  That it wasn't what she meant to convey.  And I haven't been successful in getting her to express what she IS feeling at the time when she does roll her eyes.  Which is also kind of frustrating.  I'm not sure she even realizes she is doing it.  But I'm planning on continuing to point it out, thinking maybe if she realizes how often she does it, and how badly it makes me feel, she'll figure out some way not to do it.

eye rolling disrepectful dialog, accusations

I've been there.  Very frequently when we try to have a serious conversation about money, chores, other responsibilities or to address a conflict; my ADHD spouse will make broad, sweeping,  hurtful generalizations, cut me off, regularly roll the eyes, huff and puff, stomp around, change the subject when it is no longer convenient and when the accusation lacks any merit, twists any logic there was and blames myself or others vs. some personal responsibility.  Its  like dealing with an adolescent or another person I don't know.  When I express how I feel it is dismissed and I am told how I feel.  My spouse gets out of control and attacks my character.  Lots of profanity.  Rarely is there ever an apology and I am sick and tired of what is an increasing amount of verbal abuse.  There is never any reconciliation unless I initiate it.  Going to any form of counseling seems futile and a waste of time and money if my spouse can't even recognize this sort of response is totally inappropriate.    Are these sort of responses normal for those with ADHD?  I am increasingly having more anxiety and even fear when around my spouse making myself more and more lonely and withdrawn.  What should I do?

"It's like dealing with an adolescent or another person I don't

That describes how I feel most days.  My husband deals with me in these same ways and I too am tired of it.  Seeing a counselor could help, sometimes it takes another persons insight to help a person accept you feelings as valid.  I would like to say my marriage benefited from it but unfortunately my husband has yet to really accept responsibility in his life and continues to blame others for his behaviors.  I too am dismissed and I have zero merit with him. But that is because then he would have to accept responsibility for his behavior and he doesn't want to do that.

eye rolling, disrespectful comments, etc.

I can only tell you my experience with this, Bear.  I took a very hard approach with my husband very early in our marriage...like, the second month, I think it was. We have never fought too much, probably because I ignore his tantrums and irrationalities allot and just let 90% of it roll off a duck's back. But where I draw the line is true verbal abuse. If he ever calls me any number of bad names, swear words, "You f-ing whatever" he knows I'm outta here. That's a deal breaker for me. I sat him down the first time we got in a big fight and he verbally abused me...about 2 months into the marriage, and I told him straight, "If you EVER talk to me like that again, I'm packing my bags and I'm outta here." And guess what....12 years later, he has never spoken to me like that again. Now, are all the problems over? No way. My biggest difficulty right now is him 'abusing' me by forcing me to listen to his tantrums and f-a-thons. What I mean is that he'll get frustrated over some inanimate object that won't behave itself, i.e. the garden hose won't roll up properly or perhaps he accidentally spills some food on the floor. He will immediately start a raging f-a-thon that I unwittingly have to hear. Or he'll do it in the car while venting about the stupid behavior of another driver. My ears get filled up with negativity I don't want in my life. We have a counselling appointment today and I'm going to talk about that stuff because being subjected to those tantrums erodes my respect and frankly my sex drive. My husband has been off any meds for about 6 months and we've decided going med-free is not working...so I'm hoping that going back on meds will help the irritability and lack of ability to handle frustration. It's a journey, friend. Hang in there.

good decision


you made a significant decision when you told him that you would not tolerate verbal abuse.  During my first month of marriage, my ex-husband pushed me hard enough to make me lose my balance and fall onto the bed.  I did exactly what you did, I told him he might do it once (shame on him), but if he did it twice (shame on me for staying after a second time).  I clearly told him that I was on my way back home if he ever laid another hand on me.  He never touched me again and the marriage lasted 34 years.  he knew I was totally rational and would do EXACTLY what I said I would do.

I hope everyone can understand it is okay to have a non-negotiable boundary like Whatnext.  I would only caution that if the person is extremely likely to be violent, then get some professional advice about protecting yourself.


Update on Counseling appointment

Thank you for that support brendab. Now that we've gotten the direct verbal abuse stopped in my marriage, I just wanted to offer an update on what happened in our counseling appointment today when I read a little essay I wrote about what I'll call "indirect" verbal abuse. I called it: "Three Things I Really Need You to Stop Doing."

I need you to:

1) Stop cursing and loudly mumbling ugly complaints in front of me when someone phones and you need to take the call. I did not make the phone ring, so why must I listen to your vile and obscene grumbling about why people are calling you at this inconvenient time?

2) Stop making excuses for inappropriate behavior, saying, "Ya, but they (did this or that)" when I try and get you to stop your under-the-breath but actually quite audible raging when something doesn't go your way in public. Example: an unintentionally thoughtless passenger on a very tight commuter plane the other day put his seat back, effectively crushing my poor husband's 6'4" frame into the already unmercifully tight seat. My husband went kinda nuts.  There I am, whispering through my teeth, "Shut-Up! Be quiet! Stop your raging!" and all I get is, "Ya but he....blah blah blah." Like a little kid. I don't want to hear those excuses anymore. 

3) Stop abusing me by having a f*ck-a-thon in places where I can't get away from you, such as the car for example. You're welcome to go outside and rage, but please not in front of me.  I did not grow up in a household where there were f-a-thons...so this kind of raging feels like nails on a chalkboard to me and makes me feel greatly disrespected and unloved because you KNOW I don't like it.

When the therapist asked me, "WhatNext, what are you afraid of?" I tearfully replied, "My biggest fear is that after 12 years of listening to this that I am going to actually leave because I'm so tired of it. I'm so scared I'm going to do that." My husband was a bit gob-smacked and said this was the first time he ever really GOT IT that I need this to stop in front of me; that it makes me look at him as though he is a spoiled child, not a MAN, and it makes me disrespect him. I think he actually "got it."  He actually seemed rather crushed that he'd been doing this to me all these years...and he seemed to feel sorry for me. I hope he means it because I really don't want to throw in the towel. I love the man.

Bear, Yes-that's been my experience....

This type of behavior seems to be typical for someone with ADHD (at least for my dh). My dh displays the same exact behavior whenever we engage in ANY 'adult conversation' that may have an element of conflict. The 'conflict' can be something as simple as disagreeing about a scene in a movie to something more serious such as child rearing or finances. He has TAUGHT ME (through conditioning) to not engage him in a conversation about ANY SUBJECT that involves conflict! It's just too painful and emotionally draining to communicate with him with him on an authentic level.  Our conversations and life have become superficial and lack any real emotional connection.  Until we separated, I was living a very sad existence.  Now that we've separated, he's VERY CAREFUL about how he communicates with me because I can pick up and leave and go to my place. It's AMAZING how things changed when I took a stand and REFUSED to take his disrespect anymore. He wants to move back home, but I'm in no hurry. My girls and I are enjoying the peace that has entered our lives. My fear is that although I love him dearly, I no longer want to LIVE WITH HIM?

I'm feel like I'm riding an emotional roller coaster....


this is something

that I deal with as well. If I call him on it, he denies it like, I'll ask him "why are you so angry?" and he'll say "I'm not!" right away. Or he'll go to the other extreme and blame his behavior on me saying that I made him angry because I'm causing trouble or just being hateful.  Why would he think I'm acting ugly when I'm not, and then not even recognize his own angry outbursts? It seems that he will do anything to be right or get his own way or win no matter how much it hurts me and then say it only hurts me because I'm being too sensitive.

It can't be healthy for non ADDers to be constantly in this kind of situation. I know it has worn me down and I believe even caused high blood pressure because of all the stress. To help things stay calm I avoid him as much as possible and work around all the circumstances he creates though, there's always something he's not pleased with. This is not an ideal solution but there is less bickering when I "deal with it" as he likes to tell me to. I should of beaten him over the head to try to get through to him about issues that were important to me but, there was too little information and I had no one to help. Why did I think it would be good to let him have his way? Unfortunately, It seems I've given in and up on him. Did anyone win?

If your children are young, and your husband is willing, it would be ideal to improve your relationship especially with the help available these days. I hope he can apply himself and you can find effective ways to deal with it. Good luck!

dealing with non-verbals

How about this?

A: I noticed that just now, you rolled your eyes upward when I started to talk about ---.  When you do that, it makes me feel like you're not taking me seriously.

B: I AM taking you seriously!  I don't know what you're talking about.

A: Well, I'm glad to hear that.  You're facial expressions had given me the opposite impression, so I'm glad to hear that I read you incorrectly. 

B: OK.

A: Could you do me a favor?  That way of rolling your eyes really makes me feel disrespected, although I understand that this is not your intention.  Could you please stop doing that, so that it will be easier for me to stay on the subject we're talking about, and not get derailed into my own emotions?

B: But I told you that I wasn't feeling disrespectful of you.

A: I know that, but others have used that kind of expression to connote disrespect in my past, and it triggers really strong feelings in me.  That's not your fault, but it would be helpful if you could change this simply so that I don't have to struggle with all the emotions it triggers.  Can you do that for me?

If A accuses B of being disrespectful, then B simply denies it.  This leads nowhere, since A cannot read B's mind to prove otherwise.  If instead, as above, A openly accepts that B is telling the truth, and A admits that the feelings of being disrespected arise from A's history rather than B's behavior, A still has grounds to ask for B to change the eye rolling.  It just changes from "you should stop being disrespectful" to "would you please help make this easier for me?".  It's a lot easier for B to change if that puts them in the role of the kind person helping their spouse, rather than in the role of the bad actor who needs to straighten themselves out.

I personally don't find this easy to do in the heat of an argument, because I'm really sensitive to dismissive behavior, but when I can keep my wits about me and respond as above, it generally works out better.  Maybe it will work for you, too.


Hi Eric.  I've been meaning to write to your response, sorry it has taken me so long.

I think your suggested dialogue would be great for anyone except my husband.  For us, after line #1, he would respond with something like, "I don't need to take this crap.  I'm leaving."  And he would walk out of the room, leaving me thoroughly dismissed and infuriated and completely over the edge, and then I would follow him and say something very provocative to get him to respond, etc. etc..  But I'm sure it would be extremely effective for many other people, and possibly even other ADD people.

Unfortunately, I'm also learning that the "Can you do X to make it easier for me?" will not work for us because even if he says "Yes," I don't think he will follow through the next time because he has very poor impulse control when he is annoyed and frustrated.  Then if I point out the next time that he did not follow through, he feels bad about himself, and thus defensive, because he has "failed," and I'm mad because we are back to square 1.

The problem here is that I need to manage my OWN response to his triggers, and this is one that seriously gets under my skin and I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to not get to Defcon 5 when he does it.  This is why I so admire Sherri's response, because she has found away to just ignore it.  It is really true that if I can find it within myself not to react in the moment, usually I can get over it and it does not seem like a big deal later.  It's just that the feelings of being disrespected and dismissed and devalued are so overwhelming in the moment I often can't create the space after the trigger to consciously choose how to react.  I guess it just takes practice.

byron katie

It's just that the feelings of being disrespected and dismissed and devalued are so overwhelming in the moment I often can't create the space after the trigger to consciously choose how to react. I guess it just takes practice.

Hi Ren,

You are so on target with the difficulty of changing direction during that split second after the trigger.  Just recognizing that there is a trigger is huge.  If it happens again, maybe you can tell yourself "here we go again" and refuse to get on the roller coaster ride with the emotions ripping you one way and then the other.  Byron Katie has some videos online discussing this issue.  She says to ask yourself a few questions when your emotions get triggered.

Are the thoughts I am having true?  How can I know they are true?  How do I like the way it makes me feel when I automatically think my negativity is true?  How would I feel if I decided my negative reaction was false?  How would that make me feel? And finally, just choose to reject the lies the emotions are telling you.

I considered that by reacting emotionally, I was saying that I valued his opinion of me more than my own.  It was like I was desperate to change the way he talked to me because again his opinion of me mattered more than what I knew to be true--I was worth respect and I was valuable.  If he didn't see that, then it was his problem not mine.  I decided that I would use my emotions as a thermometer, change the direction of my thoughts and strengthen my emotional boundaries.  I decided that I would not buy into the lies I was telling myself.  This is hard but so worth it.




I think Eric's proposed conversation is wonderful and ideal, but the problem is - at least with my ADDer - that the conversation would never go that smoothly.  He'd have checked out after the first "ok" or tossed out other responses like Ren listed.

What is frustrating for me is that I have to be a b***h to be heard.  I prefer to communicate in the manner that Eric demonstrated; however, it seems the only way I have ever made progress with my ADDer is the times where I've reached my limit and just threw off the gloves.  I don't like that.  That is not who I am, and it really angers me that he can push me over that limit.  I am generally a pretty even-keeled kind of person.

I don't get the eye rolling

I don't get the eye rolling so much as the huff or the immediate 'attitude' when I ask him to do something .. or maybe bring up a subject he's not wanting to discuss. I am still working on 'not taking it personally' but it's very difficult, I admit. He used to be REALLY bad about just flat out telling me "I don't want to talk about that" and ultimately picking almost every topic we ever discussed. Although I cannot remember exactly how I got him to stop doing this, I remember it took a lot of "when you do that it makes me feel like you think that nothing I want to discuss is important to you"s to get through to him. He does seem to genuinely care that I feel important to him, so he did stop doing this. However, I do still get the attitude and huffs...and if I even give any attention to them, I will leave it at something simple like "please don't roll your eyes at me, I don't do that to you when you ask me to do something for you" and I walk away. In my situation, the more I try and push the "you did something wrong" issue on him, the less willing to listen he is. I make my point and drop it. For YEARS AND YEARS I refused to drop it until he heard me...and the more I insisted he hear me, the less he listened and the more frustrated I got and things spiraled out of control. He has ears. If I say "that was unnecessary" and let that be the end of it, 95% of the time he'll apologize shortly afterwards. When I get the attitude for asking him to do something, I ignore it. It hurts, it pisses me off sometimes, but he does what I ask and 10 minutes later acts as if nothing ever happened. Fine by me. I get done what I need, he gets to pitch his tantrum to himself (because I don't even acknowledge it anymore), and it is never a fight because I don't take it personally. If I brought the 'attitude' to his attention, he would swear up and down I was mistaken, he didn't have one, so why bother. He knows he does, but just seems unable to stop it from happening when I ask him to do something that wasn't on his agenda.

You Are My Hero

Seriously.  I really wish I could consistently behave the way you've learned to.  I, too, feel like I have to make him "see" that what he's doing is wrong and inappropriate.  I also realize that I feel devalued, because when he rolls his eyes when I ask him to help me or relieve me with the kids, I feel like he lacks gratitude for everything I'm doing.  But it just backfires, because we always end up in a fight and I never get him to acknowledge anything.

But, I'm getting better.  Yesterday my kids were home from school (son hasn't started and daughter was sent home with a fever.)  We have an au pair, and she was watching them.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband stayed home from work, spent half the day sleeping, the other half in the basement on the computer.

I had to work late, till 9pm.  I had made a casserole for dinner the night before so he didn't even have to cook or lift a finger (of course, I thought he would be working and not home in time to cook.)  Once I realized he was home, I asked him to do ONE thing -- to make a very simple marinara sauce so that I can make and assemble some stuffed shells for us to have for dinner tonight and tomorrow.  He agreed.  This was at 5pm, and remember, he had NOTHING else to do, since the au pair was taking care of the kids and I had already made dinner.

Came home at 9, he's in the basement.  Without taking off my work clothes, I put my son to bed (who had been left to watch TV), came down and did the dishes that were sitting in the sink, and then watched TV and went up to bed.  Then I remembered the sauce, and just had this sinking feeling that he hadn't made it.  Sure enough, checked in the fridge, no sauce.  I called down to the basement, "Can you tell me where you put the sauce?"  And he was like, "Oh, $#@^#%, I totally forgot.  I'll make it now."

I was so furious --  if I had known I would have made it myself instead of watching TV -- and really wanted to let him have it.  Instead, I just quietly walked upstairs and went to bed.  He came to bed later and apologized again (though I noticed this morning that he didn't make it last night, as he said he would).

Anyway, though I am still annoyed today, I have to say I feel SO much better that IN ADDITION to being annoyed, I am NOT stewing over a dumb, escalated fight which would have gone nowhere.  I'm not sure whether this is a great situation as it is, but it's better than it would have been if I had let myself vent.

Thanks, Sherri -- I read all your posts, you are an inspiration to me!

Doesn't yoiur way give permission for the bad behavior?

If he thinks you don't care whether he does the (few, simple) things you ask of him then what motivation does he have to do them?

The only way I got my husband to start applying for jobs (6 months) after he started ADD treatment was to make sure he knew I'd leave him if he didn't, and that our marriage counselor agreed. Obviously, that's shooting a fly with an elephant gun for ordinary thoughtlessness like this, and you can't bring out that threat every time, but if you don't tell him his behavior is unacceptable, doesn't that give him permission to do (or not do) it the next time?

I am not trying to pick on you, but I'm a student and get home at 9 or later 3 nights a week, so I have to make my expectations clear or we will have a disaster on our hands.

Threats Don't Work

Hi Sueann.  I totally understand where you're coming from, but consider that if you want lasting change, threats don't work.

I did a program called Marriage Fitness, which is very similar to Melissa's and Sherri's approach.  The idea is accepting that the ONLY person you can change in a relationship is yourself.  You can never change another person.

You can, as you said, use threats and ultimatums to get someone to do something.  But change made under threats and duress is often short-lived, and the person usually goes back to their old ways.  The only way a person will change FOR GOOD is if it is THEIR IDEA.  And, in order for it to be their idea, it cannot be your idea.  So what Sherri, and Melissa, and Mort Fertel (the MF guy) say is that you have to back off with the criticisms, threats, ultimatums, etc. and give the other person the space to actually decide, on their own, whether they want to change or not.

It is possible, as you said, that your spouse will decide not to change and continue to be neglectful or lazy, or whatever.  But at that point, YOU make the choice whether you want to accept the person, or leave.  If you back off and let them decide who they want to be, at least you know when you decide to leave that their neglectfulness or laziness is not a response to YOU -- it's how they choose to be, on their own.  And when you leave, you leave as a better, calmer, more centered person, which means that you are well-positioned to start another relationship off on the right foot (as opposed to leaving as a resentful, angry, and reactionary person if you continue on the path you're on).

Look, this is all easier said than done, but I fully understand and appreciate the philosophy behind Sherri and Melissa's approach, and they are living proof that lasting change can come if you start focusing on being the best wife, mother, and person you can be -- instead of focusing on how your spouse can change and improve.  I really want to live this philosophy, even though it is incredibly hard.

But I don't want him to change!

I want him to be the same guy I was dating. That guy drove 60 miles to pick me up and take me to work every morning and once cleaned my whole kitchen before cooking me Valentine's Day dinner from scratch. The man I'm married to now can't even keep his checkbook balanced and does nothing in the house except cook dinner-no laundry, no dishes, no cleaning, no bill paying, no taking his stuff to the dry cleaner, nothing, unless I'm standing right there.

I did get a promise from him this morning-if I ask him to do something and he doesn't intend to do it, he'll tell me. This came out of me asking him to take the dog out last night before he went to bed (and assuming he'd done it). Of course, the dog woke me up at 5 (hubby slept through it) and me not getting him out in time and him peeing on our hardwood floor.

I still think not calling them on bad behavior is enabling them.  I also think a person with ADD will never "chose" to do boring, non-stimulating tasks like laundry and changing the litter box unless there is a negative consequence to that choice. Since my husband does not care if the cats poop on the floor or there aren't any clean clothes, the negative consequences have to come from me. I really need him to do some things in the house. I'm  a full-time student and handicapped and I just can't do all that needs to be done for a household with two adults, a dog and 2 cats.

Negative Consequences

I too struggle with this.  If my wife is not bothered by the consequences of her actions, or non-actions, then what?  I am thinking that if something bothers me, but it doesn't bother her, I have a couple of choices:

1.  I can do it myself - sometimes a good option, but not always, as it is not good for our relationship if I assume responsibility for more than my share.

2.  I can figure out a way to not be bothered by it - perhaps by coming to realize in the grand scheme of things, it's not really that important.

3.  I can communicate to my wife that I AM bothered by it, and hope that it bothers her that *I* am bothered by it, and that serves as motivation to her to take action.  The trick here is to communicate it in a way that isn't nagging, criticizing, etc.  And to have her "join me" in trying to come up with a solution we both can live with.  That is still a struggle for me/us.  It's difficult for me to communicate things in a way that leads to collaboration.  I'm still working on it.  :-)

Some Possibilities

Hi Hoping.  I read recently that you always have five options in any given situation, so I thought I would help you come up with two more:

4.  You can try to create an environment where the particular conflict will not arise again.  For example, if you are fighting about her lack of follow-through in getting groceries, you could hire someone to do it (I did this for a long time, and now order groceries online).  Or, with the bathroom situation, what if you started using a separate bathroom, like one downstairs?  Your wife would probably not make the effort of looking for your stuff in an area that is not immediately close to hers, and then you're more likely to find your own things where you last left them.  Obviously, both of these solutions put the onus on you to change your own behavior, but maybe it's worth it if it causes you less stress.

5.  You can try to get to the root of what bothers you.  This is a tough one, and one that I have been mulling over for a while.  Are you upset because she does/does not do the actual task or action, or are you bothered that she is not bothered by not doing them?  My current thought on this is that I am less bothered that my husband doesn't do something, because it's usually something that, even though it might be inconvenient, would not be hard to do myself or is not life-critical.  Rather, I am bothered that he is not bothered by the consequences, for two reasons. 

One, it implies that he knows, at some level, that there are not really any consequences because I am the safety net that will end up doing it before it gets too critical.  This made (and makes) me feel very, very taken for granted.  One of the things that I am working on, as I note in another response on this post, is to reframe things that I do (even things that I would like or expect him to do) as things that I am doing for myself.  Then I feel less taken for granted, because I am doing the things to improve my own life.

Second, I realized that I wanted him to be bothered by the consequences because I wanted him to have the same standards I do.  I happen to think my standards are good, and reasonable, and so I sometimes still wish he had them.  This essentially means I want for my husband to be more like me.  But when I think deeply about this, I think I would be even more miserable if he were more like me in this respect.  For example, the fact that he doesn't have such high standards means that I don't have a husband who is all anal about when his laundry is done, and how it's folded, etc., which would probably lead to a bunch of fights.  And I'm grateful that my husband gives me free reign over the household budget, and doesn't question how I spend money for the family, etc.  If I were married to myself, he would be way too over-involved, and more fights.  He eats everything I cook, and is not picky like I am.  There really are a lot of ways that we are more compatible because he is more laid back, unfortunately it also means he can't be bothered with a lot of things that drive me crazy.

Just a few thoughts.

Realistically the negative

Realistically the negative consequences should come from within HIMSELF. You cannot inflict negative consequences on your husband and expect to ever have anything other than the mother/child dynamic. Just imagine how you would feel if for everything you did/or didn't do that he felt you shouldn't have/should have done that he inflicted negative consequences on you. We are not their mothers. I did this for years..but my negative consequences (putting up walls, refusing to give him the love and attention..and sex he needed/wanted) only ended up almost destroying our marriage...and NEVER changed anything. NOTHING. This is where the cycle is never ending. Marriage isn't about inflicting 'punishment' on one another, but loving one another ..regardless. How you go about getting help with chores, I honestly don't know, but putting yourself in a position of 'authority' over him is just setting everyone up for failure. I TRULY feel that a lot of things are left undone because the ENTIRE dynamic of the marriage is out of whack (mother/child instead of husband/wife) and it just fuels the "I don't want to be controlled" fire and nothing ever changes. If he doesn't do something and it upsets me then I will certainly tell him "I really wish you'd have done this for me" but I don't hate him, I don't belittle him, and I certainly don't feel it is my job to punish him..God knows it wasn't always that way. You cannot imagine the things I can get him to do now...and of course there are things he just simply does not do...but in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. The person he is, the provider he is, the friend he is to me, means more to me than him cleaning the litter boxes or doing dishes..hands down.

I don't mean to come across as harsh or judgemental of you for wanting more from your marriage...we all have to decide what we can and cannot live with and we're all different, but I really feel you need to again focus on your role in the dynamics of things..and understand how your attitude is possibly contributing to his refusal to do chores and such. If you're missing the romantic, giving man you once knew...and I'm sure he's missing the woman you used to be before the anger and resentment. You're valid in your feelings, but can you see where he might be rebeling against them? and it making things worse?

I agree

Good comment, Sheri. I don't pretend to have all the answers or have it all together, but what you say here has also worked for me. The truth of the matter is that I do more around the house, plus all the organizing, life-strategizing, money management, etc. Hands down. That's just what it's going to be and I have to accept it or leave. Period. Generally speaking, my husband mostly does only the chores I ask him to do with occassional episodes of extra emptying the dishwasher or whatever, which I appreciate. But generally, I have accepted that I have to ask. He's not going to notice that something needs doing. That's just life and I have to get over it. What has worked for me is 1) timing my requests. When he's hyper-focused on something, that is not really the time. I need to wait until he's unglued himself and he is generally calm and then I will say, "Honey can I ask you to do something for me?" He will usually respond positively and do whatever it is I ask. If he's in a frenzy doing his own task and I ask then...there's going to be the huffing and puffing, bad attitude and probably a little cursing. The other thing I've noticed that serves as a bit of a balm in our marriage is that I routinely thank him for working hard. His work is very demanding and I know it, so I thank him for enduring it. I've noticed since I started doing this that he's actually started thanking ME for doing something he knows I HATE doing...which is ironing. I HATE IT! But he thanks me and it helps a little bit. I could get all bent out of shape for all the b-jillion things I do that he DOESN'T thank me for, but I chose to focus on the positives and remind myself that truthfully, I also don't thank him for every thing he does either. My biggest challenge is not mothering...since I'm the one who orchestrates 90% of the maintenance, planning and forward movement of any kind in our life. That puts me squarely into the leadership roll rather than us being co-equals, which is something I haven't figured out how to change after 12 years of marriage.  Any suggestions?

Not sure what you mean by

Not sure what you mean by "mothering". I do 90% of everything here too, but completely took myself out of the 'mothering' role unless it is something that is destructive to the family...like his spending money we don't have. I took his debit card several months ago. I don't have the energy or desire to nag anymore. This morning he left going out of town, I forgot to 'remind' him it was trash day, and as I went to take my kids to school I saw that he didn't take the trash around. First thing that went through my head was "does he not see that everyone else has their can out and KNOW that it's trash day??!" and then I thought "no, probably not" and just took it out myself and realized it wasn't worth a fight. I will 'remind' him next week, and hopefully he'll 'remember'. Hell, I forget half the time myself.

One thing I did want to add to was your saying that you 'thank him' and I have been meaning to post that here for quite some time. I think it is very important (for my husband anyway) to feel that his efforts are appreciated and acknowledged. The more I thank him, the more effort I see him making. He hadn't left work early not once this season to come see our daughter's volleyball games (they are at 4, he gets off at 5) but he had vacation one week and went to both games. I thanked him, told him how much it meant to us all to have him finally get to come to a game, that I enjoyed having him there, and low and behold he now comes whenever he can. I can tell that him knowing it it something I enjoy motivates him to make the effort..not to mention that our daughter enjoys him being there. He thanks me, without fail, for every meal I make.

Too often we cannot see past their faults and needs for improvement to see our own. I just refuse to live like that anymore. Again, as I've said many times, I feel blessed that he has done the same...and is working with me and not against me anymore. I love him and appreciate all that he does and refuse to fault him for what he doesn't. I won't stop trying, but I wont' hate him in the meantime either. :)

What I mean is...

That's encouraging to hear how you've made peace and allowed the love between you to be the greater force in your home, SheriW13.

I think what I mean by "mothering" is that because I lead and initiate nearly everything from the small "dailies" of life to our plans to eventually emigrate to another country and start our careers over (HELLO!) that I often feel like a care-taker instead of like an equal partner with my husband....sort of like a mother would look after everything for her child.  When I use the term "equal partner" I don't mean "equal" as in someone is more valuable as a human being than the other, but more in the sense that we are of "equal" capability, equal ambition, equal determination, equal capability of "taking charge of things." etc. My husband is a bit of a genius in his field of expertise, which is quite a scientific/brainy field, but outside that hyper-focus, he hasn't broadened his horizons too much, thus he has to be the follower behind me on most things, because I study, investigate stuff, do the homework, join the committees, etc. which are all necessary to make new and/or necessary things happen for our lives. I don't know if I'm making much sense here. I guess it's the concept of "taking care of each other" and sometimes feeling like I am doing all of the "taking care of." However,  as I write this I am getting some "ah-ha" clarity that I think I need to re-focus on how I see things and see that he does take care of me in other ways...by going to work and bringing home most of the bacon....and that I need to accept that because, THROUGH NO FAULT OF HIS OWN,  he is not really capable of being highly proficient in these other ways...JUST LIKE I AM NOT PROFICIENT IN THE SCIENTIFIC STUFF HE DOES. And just because he can't organize, strategize, plan, etc. that doesn't mean he's not doing some of the care-taking, too....not to mention that he really WANTS to take care of me. Man, if somebody does or says something to hurt me, his knickers are in twist, pronto! The attitude of the heart matters allot.

Look at Your Choices

Sueann, I don't think anyone is going to argue that you aren't justified in feeling the way you do -- I have felt that way, and still do.  But consider the following:

1.  Are YOU the same woman your husband originally dated?  I am guessing that there are things you did, and things you forgave, when you "put love first," as it is easy to do in the beginning of your relationship.  What if, just as an exercise -- say for one week, or one month -- you try, just try, to go back into dating mode, regardless of what he does or does not do.  You can call it the Week of Extreme Nice (that's from The Happiness Project.)  Maybe you used to surprise him with thoughtful gifts.  Maybe you got tickets to see a movie together.  I don't know; but certainly, if you can remember back, there are ways that you showed your spouse that he was special, and maybe you can focus on being that way again, if just to show yourself that you are still the same person you used to be.

2.  My intended approach is not to just "allow" bad behavior.  But it simply changes the way that I communicate my expectations.  With respect to the sauce, when I asked him to make it, I very nicely and matter-of-factly told him, "This will really help me get a had start on dinner, which is important to me because I am going to be home late a few nights this week."  Honestly, there's not much more I can do but let him know that a) something is important and b) that it will mean a lot to me if he does it.  If he doesn't choose to do it, then that is his choice on the kind of husband he wants to be to me. 

I will say that, when I found out he hadn't made the sauce after promising, he KNEW he had screwed up -- after all, I had made clear to him from the beginning why this was important.  And, to be honest, by not venting or pointing out that he had let me down, I think he felt MORE guilt and remorse than if I had pushed him into a defensive posture by arguing with him about it.  He ended up apologizing three times, giving me a kiss later and thanking me for cooking dinner, and then offering to stay home today to take care of our daughter, who is still sick.  How's that for change?

3.  The last thing, and what I think Sherri is getting at, and my therapist has also been working with me on, is that I often set myself up for anger and disappointment.  I do this by setting up (usually subconsciously) "tests" that I know he will not pass -- making him "promise" to do this or that, for example, knowing that he is pretty much incapable of remembering the promise.  This was OK before I knew he had ADD, but now, a part of me accepting him is also accepting that he is NOT going to remember to call me at 5pm to let me know whether or not he is leaving the office.  I have to tell you this has driven me almost to drink but I have finally accepted my therapist's advice that it is not serving ME well to create an expectation that will not be met 90% of the time.  I end up angry, worked up, ready to fight, etc., and I ruin MY day as a result.

So now, I don't expect him to call.  I have, again, let him know that it would help me greatly in planning the evening if I know approximately what time he will be home.  (I have also let him know that we will be eating at 7 whether he is home or not.)  However, to be honest, I have started approaching my evenings as though he will not be home in time for dinner, and just go on with my night.  This has reduced my stress so significantly, and again, it has made him *more* likely to call (sometimes when he's on the road or close to home, still not at 5pm) and also to be more willing to help when he is home late.  I wonder if you are setting yourself up for disappointment when you ask him to promise to let you know if he won't do something. 

4.  Set up other systems that allow you not to rely on him.  If it is too much for you to take care of two adults, a dog, and two cats -- have you considered giving away the pets to a shelter or to another home?  Otherwise, you are really making a choice to stay in a very hectic upkeep environment, and it may not be fair to pin that on your husband.  I know you love your pets, but maybe a way to reframe this is, do you love your husband more than your pets?  If you do, it may be that accepting your husband -- in a way that let's you be less angry and stay sane -- is to not have additional creatures to take care of. 

Another way I have started to reframe things -- particularly one where the consequences affect me more than him -- is to realize that I am doing them for ME.  For example, I like to have the bed made in the morning.  Yes, it would be nice if my husband liked this too and we took turns doing it.  But frankly, our bedroom could get hit with a tornado and he probably wouldn't care.  So I have decided that I straighten up our room and make the bed because it helps ME relax, and feel less stressed out.  I'm sure my husband gets some ancillary benefit, and I suppose you could say he's a freeloader in that respect, but I'm not going to sacrifice my peace of mind so I can punish him indirectly,  So I do it for myself.  Ditto with the dishes, laundry, and a lot of other organizational stuff.

Anyway, I think a lot of this is changing your perspective, which is REALLY hard.  I am successful on some days, and then get very resentful on others.  It helps for me to realize that I'm no picnic to live with, either, in a lot of ways, and that marriage is about give and take, and forgiveness of both of our faults.

Good stuff

This is really good stuff, Ren, I should print it out and frame it.  Or at least keep it somewhere as a point of reference.  In fact, I think I will :) Hope you don't mind.

I do the expectations thing way too much, I have fairly high standards and expect certain things of others (no more than I would expect of myself, and usually less, but that's not the point) without making sure that they are willing and capable to live up to those expectations.  This is a really helpful way of putting things.

I am the same woman he married

Just poorer, because I lost a significant amount of alimony when I married husband #2. He knew I was handicapped and could not do certain things. To now criticize me for not doing things I can't safely do is totally unfair.

And certainly I'm not consigning our pets to certain death because he doesn't want to take care of them. There are no no-kill shelters here and they are no longer cute puppy and kittens and would never be adopted at our overcrowded county shelter. I had 5 cats during most of the time we were dating, but I lived in the country and they could go out, so the litter box was not so much of a problem. I got the dog for him (with his consent, but it was my idea) because he missed having a dog. He's able bodied, I'm not, why shouldn't I expect him to walk the dog?

The problem is he changed. He lost his job 6 weeks after we were married, just after I'd been diagnosed with an expensive illness, and didn't seem to worry that I could no longer get medical care. I don't know who he is if he was willing to accept that I could die so he didn't have to get a job. I'm married to a stranger, not the loving and attentive man I feel in love with.

Threats do not work. I agree.

My husband was diagnosed with ADD as an adult after he moved in with me, it was clear to me something was wrong with him.  It amazed me that he could make it through the public school system in Fitchburg and no one picked up on his disorder.  He never embraced his diagnosis, never had any interest in educating himself about it. His comments:"there is no magic pill and I wish I never got diagnosed" says it all.  Ignorance is bliss. I said therapy or divorce.  He went to therapy but did not actively participate in his therapy.  Finally after some time of him seeing a psychiatrist I was called into the office with my husband.  The psychiatrist said he was no longer willing to treat my husband.  That he comes to the appointments because you make him, but he is not participating and I felt you should know why I am no longer willing to care for him.  My husband flipped out:"Your firing me, your firing me, you can't do that!!!!"  He said look I have people who want help that want to see me.  You don't want help, your coming here is just a waste of time and money for both of us.  I think it probably was the first time in his life that someone held him accountable for his behavior.  I left there reeling.  I said maybe it just wasn't a good fit.  We will find you someone else.  We finally ended up at Marriage Counseling at the Hallowell Center.  He never got another individual therapist until he was admitted to the hospital for depression and his D/C required follow up care.  The old saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" comes to mind.  I was always trying to get him help.  Providers have said "your efforts to help your husband have been heroic". Well that is all well and good, but they don't want help and they don't want to change and they don't see the problem.  I always was of the mind set that I am not going to allow his disorder to turn me into a screaming nagging wife.  But staying calm and reasonable comes at great personal expense to yourself.  He is now seeing someone at Hallowell and appears to be taking his meds.  Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  He has been in and out of therapy and on and off his meds for the past 10 years.  I hope he sticks with it and maybe his next relationship will not fail if he does, but it is more likely than not that he won't stick with it.  His first marriage did not last a year.  Our marriage failed after 6 years even though we were together for 10.  I saw in my husband that the disorder seems to get worse over time.  Their efforts to self medicate by creating stress within the household or in the car or when your out socially.  The constant computer chatter, or blackberry use. Then the infidelity which was more about e-mail contact with the woman than actually being with her or spending time with her.  He treated her as badly as he did me.  He did not up his game with the woman he was having an affair with.  I think that says it all.  He can't up his game.  He does not even know how.

We would be out socially and someone would be having a conversation with him and he would pull out the blackberry and look at it ignoring the person.  Time and time again people would tell him how rude he was being, but he would still do it.  His impulse control was so poor.  He couldn't stop himself, just like he can't stop tail gating or yelling at people like a crazy person or flirting with anyone he encounters.  Can't stop won't stop.  I have not seen my ex for a few months now.  I don't know if they found the perfect Rx recipe for him yet.  He does appear to be showing up weekly and does appear to be taking his meds but because I am not around him I don't know if he is different.  Again you have to want a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship.  I don't think my husband has ever known what that is. 

One threat I made worked to the benefit of both of us

For me, the big issue was him not working. I had 2 crappy, no-benefits jobs and I needed him to work and provide insurance for us. He was taking expensive ADD meds and I have severe hypertension.

We began working with a marriage counselor and she told him I'd be justified in leaving if he didn't at least apply for jobs--it just wasn't fair to me. So he applied just to prove "no one will hire me.' But they did, and he's been working 3 years now and he loves his job.

I'm not saying ultimatums are always the answer, but it can work. There a lot of spouses on here who actually left their spouses, that was the only way they could understand the consequences of their actions.

Not working, supporting (or

Not working, supporting (or at least helping support) the family would be a deal breaker for me. That is one issue we completely agree on. He should work and help take care of his family, especially if it means providing insurance for you and the children.

When my husband lost his second job in 6 months in 2008, I went back to work after being at home for 10+ years. He HATED me working, but I knew that if I didn't bite the bullet and do it, we'd lose everything. His main concern was me not working...he couldn't focus on the bigger picture of "we cannot meet the bills on your income alone". He had been a programmer, working from home, for several years...when the economy collapsed, the company went under. The next job, same thing..after 9 months they pulled the plug. Third job lasted barely 6 months before they decided they were folding as well. He went back to work locally..taking a 50% pay decrease. This was a big part of the stress that led to his almost complete breakdown...adding in his mother's illness and eventual death and our horrible marriage and it was a recipe for disaster. Point is, I was willing to do my part to help the family keep from going under...but at no point would I ever accept him not working as OK...nor would he. I'm very glad he gained employment..and that is one less thing you have to deal with.


One More Thing

Another component of the "Be the change you want to see" philosophy is that a person is *less* likely to want to lose you, if you back off and focus on yourself.

My husband and I (like Melissa and Sherri) hit rock bottom, and he wanted to leave me.  At that point, I can't say he would have been entirely crazy to want to leave an angry, critical, resentful wife.  No matter how justified *I* felt in feeling this way, the fact is that from HIS perspective, life was not that much fun.

By contrast, if I focus on being an AWESOME wife -- being forgiving, generous, loving, and considerate, regardless of his behavior, he will be insane to want to leave me.  In fact, this is how he came back in the door: I focused on myself, and on being all of these things, for myself.  The way I figured it, if he left, then I wanted to make sure I healed and was the best person for whoever else was going to come my way.  All of sudden, he took a second look -- because he realized that I was, in fact, a pretty good catch, and he was about to leave someone and potentially make another man down the road pret-ty happy.  Then he wanted to try again.  This time, it was HIS idea.  And he has been wanting to try and change ever since (though as you can see, he doesn't always succeed).

For me, the ADD diagnosis threw me off track because all of a sudden I could excuse some of his behavior, but I also felt an enormous flow of emotion over things that I realized had been very real.  So, it's been a little of a roller coaster, but I want to get back on the "me" track I was on.

It really sounds like you

It really sounds like you have the most critical part of the change process, and that is realizing that we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves. I was 100% convinced that everything was my husband's fault. I started counseling in 2008 convinced that the counselor would tell me that both my husband and my step daughter were evil and that I needed to RUN. Instead he immediately hit on my anger and never let up. That was the beginning of a very slow, painful process for me...but the catalyst to real change was my marriage hitting rock bottom, a lot of personal tragedy, and almost losing everything.

You are 100% right...when we take a step back and look at ourselves it is hard to imagine how anyone can live with the anger...I know I hated myself, how could my husband love me, much less be happy or agreeable towards me? He gives me far more of what I need from him now that he is accepted and loved, faults and all, and gets from me what he needs. (attention, understanding, kindness, compassion) When you find yourself again, the happy, unangry person we were before all of the ADD mess, the person they fell in love with, it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

I have another relationship that was another huge source of anger for me. This other person hasn't changed...at all..gotten worse, if anything..but I still changed MYSELF and do not react to her provocations anymore. I might still get angry, but it does not control my life anymore. I used to have an uncontrollable need to be right all the time, drive home my point, make sure that anyone who 'wronged' me knew it and admitted it. This did not work AT ALL for me, sadly it took me 5 years to figure out it wasn't working. So, I have managed to change myself not only in my marriage where we BOTH made changes for the better, but in other relationships where I am the only one who changed. I did it for me.

Means a lot!

Going to try and respond to each comment one at a time since I am not very good at remembering sometimes...

First off, if someone had told me that my behavior was inspirational to them a year ago I would have laughed and said "you're really in trouble!" We have a very long way to go, but we have come a very long way too. I came here looking for information, support, and advice just like everyone else...and honestly had no idea just how far we had come until I saw stories of spouses who refuse to change, who refuse to admit responsibility for their own actions (both ADD and non-ADD), and who were refusing help. It feels very wrong to me to feel blessed in comparison with other people's unhappiness, but it was an eye opener for me as to just how far we have come. It also helped me to stop and think about the progress we've made and not focus so much on the progress we haven't made yet. It has been very helpful to me to be here, for many reasons. I would love to bottle up each step forward *I* make and give it to others because I KNOW how hard it is to move forward. As I've said before, it took rock bottom for us to get it together...and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

The one thing I will say that I feel a little differently about is that I rarely depend on my husband to do anything. I don't work outside of the home, but I did recently go back to school so I'm a part-time college student, two kids at home (one with special needs), and I do 95% of everything that is done around here. My daughter (youngest, 12) has some chores and helps out occasionally, but for the most part I just don't ask him to do anything....except things I cannot do (fix appliances, electrical stuff, etc). I also did all of this before ever even dreaming he had ADD because we agreed that I would stay at home and keep the kids and he would work. I wanted to be at home with my son (special needs) and he was 100% in support of that. I know if I asked, or insisted, we would fight constantly. I don't even have the desire to ask or the thought never crossed my mind to ask...it just wasn't part of our 'deal' (marriage) from the beginning so that is just how we avoid that entire 'battle'..not that we haven't had others.

On the rare occasion...like this past weekend...when I ask him to do something out of his 'comfort zone' I get attitude. It was our  daughter's birthday and I needed to run to town to get her cake ordered and pick up a few things. He was left at home with our son who isn't capable of preparing his meals himself. He texted and asked when we were coming home and if I wanted to go riding. I told him we were almost done and asked if he'd feed our son since it was time for him to eat. He would be full and happy to go riding with us. I immediately sensed attitude from him, even over texts..and one short phone call to ask where something was confirmed my suspicion. I grumbled a little to myself, and then just said "whatever, he needs to be fed and it isn't going to kill him". When I got home he had done what I asked and his attitude was completely gone. Do I wish it could be different and he were falling all over himself to help? Sure. Am I going to spend the rest of my life fighting with him because he gets his panties in a wad occasionally? No. In the past I would have said "just forget it, I will do it when I get home" and I would have been mad at him for days. No matter what the reason...ADD, lazy, flu, full moon...he is what he is...and he will grumble when I ask for his help...but I refuse to let it be an issue...and the more I refuse to let it be an issue the happier we all are.

He is great about helping pick up the kids or pick stuff up in town for me if I need him to...even if I have to remind him 10 times, he does it without much complaint...so I am grateful for that.

What If You Can't Help But Ask

Thanks, Sherri.  Again, you are a model for me, because you have achieved a happiness in the midst of ADD that I would like to have.

I am intrigued that you don't ask for anything, but you said it's a part of your "deal."  I'm in a bit of a different situation -- and I think from people like Suanne's responses, so are some others -- in that there are some things I have to ask for, because the sum total of things that need to be done is too much for one person.

Specifically, I work full-time in a fairly high-profile and demanding job and we have two preschool-age kids.  I have outsourced quite a bit by hiring an au pair who lives with us full-time and a housecleaner who comes once every other week.  Still, that leaves a staggering amount to do, just in terms of financial management, shopping/meal planning/cooking, scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements and packing, etc. etc. (I'm sure I don't need to tell you).  And the outsourcing requires time as well -- I still have to manage the au pair, pay the cleaning lady and keep supplies stocked, etc.  It's almost like I have the duties of a stay-at-home parent, while also working full-time,.

I am pretty efficient and self-sufficient, so I think with enough sleep-deprivation and adrenaline I could possibly manage to do everything myself.  But how does one keep the resentment at bay in such a case?  We don't have a deal where I take care of the home sphere and he brings home the bacon.  I make about as much as he does and he enjoys a higher standard of living as a result of my working.  I really want to avoid conflict, but at the same time he wants me to work, and he wanted children, so it feels like I ought to be able to expect some contribution, even if it's not exactly half.  And that's where I get frustrated with the huffiness, because I feel like he doesn't really appreciate the pretty nice life he enjoys with me taking care of most everything.  I have considered, and brought up, not working and staying at home (which I think would make me feel more OK with doing most of the housework), but which he doesn't seem too enthusiastic about and also I feel that I would be sacrificing a part of my life that is personally rewarding for me.

How do I reframe this to help myself?  And, also, what do you find about your marriage that is rewarding?  I kind of get to this point where I feel like, OK, I guess if I'm doing everything myself, and he's really content and happiest sitting in the basement in front of the computer, what is the point of being married?  Obviously, it's more than dividing labor, and maybe you have that part, but maybe the best gift I can give him is to set him free and let him have all the free time in the world, and in a situation where he will savor and be grateful for the (greatly reduced) time he has with his children.  For me, it would mean a guaranteed two weekends a month all to myself.

I hate to think in these terms, but sometimes I can't help but go there.  Did you have this experience?

Being invisible

I think the hardest thing is that my ADD spouse prefers sitting in front of a computer screen then interacting with me or anyone else in the household.  Your left feeling invisible. You efforts and contributions go unnoticed.  There are times when I thought about smashing his computer or tossing his blackberry in the ocean when we were on vacation and I was being completely ignored.  It does feel like your not married in a sense.  Your needs go unmet.  His needs are met by not contributing and being in their ADD computer world.  The fact that he prefers his virtual computer world to human interaction is quite sad.  I feel in many way the disorder is a death sentence for a marriage.  You have emotional needs that are not being met, you have physical desire that is not being met.  If my husband had to choose the computer or sex or the blackberry or sex the computer and the blackberry would win hands down.  Sex has never been a priority for him, more of an obligation. 

If you know what normal is, you see a friend with a husband that contributes to the household and contributes with the children and pays attention to his wife, you really see that you are getting short changed. 

Sorry it took me a day or two

Sorry it took me a day or two to reply, I wanted to think about this first. I feel like we must live all live in some sort of parallel world or something…when reading these stories it really is like reading your own life, lived out by someone else.
I honestly don’t know how different the dynamic would be for me if I had to work full time. I worked part time for about a year, and still had to do everything around the house. You mentioned that your husband doesn’t complain about laundry not being done or what foods you make and I wanted to add that my husband is like that as well. If I don’t cook for 3 days in a row, he never complains. On the occasion that he might run out of clean laundry, he might make mention of it, but never gets angry or is critical of me at all. He is, and always has been, far more accepting of me than I of him.
My marriage is rewarding because he is my best friend. We enjoy spending time together, we enjoy the same things, he is the first one I call when I have news, and I him. Even through all of the horrible years of fighting over my step-daughter and his impulse control issues he was still my best friend. I cannot imagine my life without him…and I know he feels the same. He would sacrifice anything for his family. Lastly, although he has fallen short far too many times, there have been very few times during our marriage where I did not sense he was trying to be a better person, trying to struggle with his demons, and I felt if I just hung in there long enough, we’d figure it out. It really is surreal to have gotten the ADD diagnosis after all of these years. I said MANY times that he struggled to be something better, but was just never able to do it…and I never could figure out why.
There have been periods of time during our marriage where he was completely into his computer when he was home…and it just somehow, over the course of several years, became less of a priority to him and it isn’t a problem for us anymore. Again, hearing you say “why bother being married” just brought back a flood of memories of me asking him the exact same thing. I started insisting that he spend time with the family on Saturdays and things snowballed, in a positive way, from there. Again, even through all of the horrible years, we barely missed many family days because it was something we both really looked forward to.
I am not sure exactly why you feel that you need to ‘set him free’, but again that is something that was routinely a part of every fight we’d have for many years. He seemed to have more desire to hang out with his friends and drink than he did to spend time with me or his family. (although we had family day, he still managed 2-3 nights a week out with his friends) I truly felt in my heart that he wanted to be single, but was too afraid to give up the security of the marriage and family he had. I mean I was completely convinced on MANY occasions that the best favor I could do for him was to just cut him loose, gather the courage to end the marriage, and just set him free..feeling for sure eventually he’d thank me. He emphatically disagreed, but there were those ‘actions’ speaking a whole lot louder than his words. What seems to have been missing for him, which he vocalized quite often in counseling, was my affection and attention. He craves/needs a lot of attention from me. I wasn’t giving him ANY because of his bad behavior. We went back and forth about which came first, but neither ever made the first move. Now that the walls are down, he’s getting what he needs, I’m getting what I need, this isn’t an issue anymore. I don’t feel like he’s in our marriage only for the convenience of it anymore. For now.
It really is about how the entire relationship is, as a whole. I care less and less about the small things each day..as things improve and we continue on the right track. In the same respect, he cares more and more about my feelings and my happiness and makes it very obvious that he’ll do anything to ensure that our marriage stays on the right track. I cannot fight with him over his not doing chores when I see so much progress on so many other more important levels, ya know?

You're my hero too!

I've been with my wife now for about 4yrs. and although we won't make it to the point that you have, I'm impressed, enlightened and encouraged that there are simple methods that a non-ADD spouse can use, as painful and self-sacrificing as it may feel, to thwart world war 3 evey time the trash needs to go down.  I've tried to do better about acting more maturely and reducing the verbal and non-verbal triggers that set my wife off, but to no avail.  We will be divorced by December...with 2 small children less than 2 years old. 

There are those that can shrug off a little (or alot) of bad behavior.  And there are those that just can't fight the urge to settle every disagreement verbally...needing to define right and wrong.  In the end, the point is often lost and the fight usually escalates to issues about the way the fight is being fought.  You have figured out how to disarm the situation early enough that most of the bad feelings are avoided, you get most of what you want and your husband doesn't have to feel attached and backed up against the wall over every little event...bravo.  I used to enjoy that level of patience and cool as a cucumber attitude...but that was before kids.   I've stopped addressing the relationship potential at this point. My wife has been enlightened about the realities of ADD and what it takes to move forward and she has decided that she doesn't have the patience she did when we first met...so can't justify staying in the marriage.   It seems like a much harder future we're facing than following your example...

Response to eye rolling

I found that when you try to communicate and all this negative energy washes over you time and time again and you remain calm and remain calm and remain calm eventually it has a negative impact on your own mental health.  The lack of resolution. Dealing with the same issues over and over and over again never getting resolution.  I spent 10 years with my ADD partner/husband and it was over in a blink on April 20th of this year.  Now that we are apart, I am dealing with the mental toll his disorder took on me.  I give you a lot of credit for hanging in there.  I relate to everything you say.

I found my ADD husband completely unable to co-parent.  If anything he undermined my parenting and undermined my authority usually doing or saying the opposite of what I was trying to achieve. 

Another behavior he would do is when we were out he would flirt with any woman we encountered. It was like he was having dinner with the waitress and not me and his daughter. Flirting with the sales clerk when my 13 yr old was getting make up for the first time. Flirting with every woman at the nail salon and making my daughter and I feel invisible.  He would get his toe nails painted black after having a peticure just to get attention.  It was like he had this insatiable need for attention and no one person was going to fill that need and certainly his family was not in the equation in filling that need.

My daughter is happy he is no longer in the home and our relationship has never been better.  All these behaviors take quite a toll on family life.  I wish you the best of luck and hope my comments help you.

Back to the Topic of Eye Rolling

I am posting again because the thread seems to have gone a little adrift from the original post.

I think there are a couple of issues.  One is getting our ADHD spouse to do (or not do) what we want/need them to do.  There are lots and lots of discussions on that all over this site.

The second is how to get our ADHD spouse to do what we want/need them to do without giving us attitude.  And the posts here express a range of opinions, from "I don't care if I get attitude, as long as the task gets done, so I just ignore the eye rolling" to "I absolutely hate it when I get an attitude (like eye rolling) and I just will NOT let it slide."

Someone said in a post here something about getting to the "deeper" issue.  (I think it was Ren?)  And for me, eye rolling is a sign of disrespect.  I find it really hard to ignore things like eye rolling because it does signify disrespect to me.  (There are other things my wife does that feel disrespectful to me also.)

I suppose I could "choose" to just ignore eye rolling by assuming that when my wife rolls her eyes it is NOT a sign of disrespect.  But the fact is, I think she IS disrespecting me when she rolls her eyes, and I can't just ignore that.

One option is for me to get upset, angry, etc. and angrily and forcefully "call her" on it.  Which is what I usually do.  And which I do not want to continue doing.

Another option is for me to calmly say something about it, or not say anything in the moment and calmly say something about it some other time.

Another option is for me to look at my own behavior in order to determine what I am doing that results in disrespectful behavior from my wife.  Granted, I don't think my wife should ever act in a disrespectful manner towards me.  But maybe I can change something I am doing that contributes to the situation, and that will result in her acting disrespectful less often.

I should add that as I am writing this, I am thinking that my wife is not the only one who acts in a disrespectful manner.  Because, quite frankly, I do things that "disrespect" my wife as well.  When I yell at her, when I nag her, when I criticize her - these are not actions that signify respect.

And the more I think about it - the more I realize that it is generally when I do those things, when I say or do something which results in my wife feeling disrespected (or criticized, or whatever) that she acts in a disrespectful manner to me, by rolling her eyes, or whatever.  In other words - her eye rolling is a response to MY response of nagging, lecturing, etc.  (I think I'm beginning to get it, Melissa!)

So, if I want my wife to stop rolling her eyes, I need to figure out how to stop doing the things that lead to her eye rolling.  And if I want her to stop doing some of the other things that make me feel disrespected, I need to look at how I contribute to those situations also.

In the meantime, I can still work on calmly letting her know that when she rolls her eyes, or snaps at me, or whatever, it makes me feel disrespected.  Because just as I work to change MY responses to HER, I hope she is working to change HER responses to me.

I used to feel exactly like

I used to feel exactly like you, that any little hint of displeasure he aimed at me was disrespectful. I mean I could turn EVERYTHING he did around and somehow make it seem like he was being disrespectful..and it TRULY felt disrespectful at the time. It came with the understanding of 'him being him' and me deciding that I had to something different and hope for him to react positively. I guess the main difference is that I don't see it as disrespectful anymore, I see it as his ADD coming out. He has no filter. He has no ability to think ahead even 3 minutes to the consequences of his actions, words, attitudes. If he did, I think 99% of his attitude and huffs would disappear. It is part of his ADD..he has a huge problem with impulse control. How many times does he ask me to do something for him and I think something to myself that might be best left unsaid...but I have that filter, I have the ability to think ahead...'if I do X, then he'll do Y, and  it'll result in Z..and it isn't worth it" I mean realistically, how often do we really WANT to do things someone asks us to do? Some of us just have the filter, and some don't. When I decided to accept his ADD diagnosis and change my entire attitude about him and his behaviors accordingly, I did just that. I can't pick and choose the behaviors I accept, I had to accept them all or my marriage would never last. Some of his behaviors are deal breakers, and for now those are under control, and God willing with counseling he'll be able to gain better control of his impulses.


His saving Grace, and the main reason I ignore the attitude is because the other 99% of the time he is very thoughtful and respectful...so therefore I don't take it personally because he shows me no reason to feel disrespected the rest of the time.

I read and think and

I read and think and wonder...WHY??  As one poster put it rather succinctly:

"I found that when you try to communicate and all this negative energy washes over you time and time again and you remain calm and remain calm and remain calm eventually it has a negative impact on your own mental health. The lack of resolution. Dealing with the same issues over and over and over again never getting resolution."   My feelings exactly.

It seems a theme keeps resonating from everyone who has "made peace" with doing everything themselves, ignoring every bad behavior, more than willingly working on their contribution to the matter (over and over and over again), pretending they have no needs, thoughts, opinions, feelings, desires, etc. etc. etc. while the spouse continues to believe they have absolutely no need or necessity to contribute in any way or make any efforts whatsoever to work on the marriage because someone else (the someone else who is completely to blame for everything, mind you) will "see the error of their ways and fix all of their despicable behavior, anger, and attitudes" so that said spouse is pleased and will temporarily refrain from bad behavior.  That is, until he gets out his "Santa scroll" of paper that unrolls down the street, which lists the next hundred things that I need to be "working on" which are causing his dissatisfaction and subsequent attacks/blame/ defensiveness/going to extremes/"poor me"/criticisms up the ying yang/you name it, which he heaps into his "resentment bucket" so that passive-aggressiveness, pouting, ignoring, avoiding, etc. can justifiably find its way out again to reward me (and sometimes, our children).  Because, if I've been truly working on not only my anger, but on not even 'ever so slightly' raising my voice, so as not to 'make him feel uncomfortable' with his perceived criticism, he will not only refuse to acknowledge my efforts, but will search and scan to find even one remote instance of a mis-step to discount me in order to prove what little significance my efforts have contributed to trying to improve our relationship.  Or, he'll simply 'poo-poo' that issue and state that "it wasn't really an issue in the first place, so working on it wasn't necessary, as he really wants to bring up the next issue on his list, for me to work on, which is the reason for all of our problems.

Meanwhile, I continue to pursue therapy, praying, positive thinking, yoga & tai chi, meds, support group, massive self-reflection to initiate more self-improvement, reading books and websites, etc. and still find it necessary to scrutinize every word that comes out of my mouth and/or expression that may or may not actually cross my face in order to prevent more bad behavior, lack of empathy, lack of responsibility, inattentiveness, etc. 

At what point do you finally say, "Enough of the denial and blame"?  I printed out Melissa Orlov's excellent article on getting men to see how ADHD affects the marriage, wrote a nice note on the back saying how much I love him and how it would mean a lot to me if he read this article, and quietly put it in his lunchbox.  I vowed to myself that I would say nothing more about the article or my request.  Several days later, he mentions that he hasn't had a chance to read it yet.  I replied that I noticed the article because it seemed to really show a lot of things from the man's point of view, and if he decided to read it (and he also had the right to choose not to), that I'd be interested in hearing what he thought of the article.  Nothing more was said.  I've kept my vow, but while I was writing this post, I decided to check inside his lunchbox (he's fast asleep) to see if it's still sitting in there.  Nope.  No article, no mention, nothing.

Since books like ADD & Romance by Jonathan Scott Halverstadt state that ADD is frequently misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, (both my Psychiatrist & Therapist felt it was NPD), it might be beneficial to get some books on the subject.  Well, I can certainly see why the two get confused, because pretty much every behavior or lack thereof was the exact same things we're all seeing from our ADD men.  Go figure.  The most important thing that was stressed in the book was that I needed to give up absolutely any hope whatsoever of ever seeing a morsel of empathy, reciprocity, mutual interest and respect, or ever trying to see anything from my perspective.  Ever.  It literally says, "Give up the fantasy."  The book also talked about setting boundaries, which I always thought I'd been doing, but now I'm following the book's examples.  When I do, sometimes we can get past whatever behavior is being displayed so as to return to the original subject at hand, sometimes we can't.  I recently told him that I'm really learning that I am the only one responsible for how I choose to react, regardless of what's going on.  He strongly disagreed, citing an example where, because I seemed to be (fill in the blank), that he had no other choice than to respond as he did.  (After all, I made him -- right?!)  I simply repeated my first statement, again solely mentioning my responsibility and being careful to not include him in any way.  He replied with, "Well, I know EXACTLY how to get you to react!  (Spoken with a great deal of smugness and self-satisfaction.)

Sigh.  I'm getting too tired to type any more.  It's all the same.  The view rarely changes.  If I'm paying lots of attention to him, he'll respond nicely as long as his fantasy of the perfect marriage seems to play out.  But as soon as my opinion or perspective (or the kids') does not completely match his own, he frustratingly states, "Well, I GUESS we're back to (name the bad month that first pops into his head).  REALLY???  Wow.  Just wow.  At what point might that desire or willingness to, as Melissa puts it, acknowledge the role that ADD plays into our problems and how I've been affected by them?  Help!

You can work on changing you

You can work on changing you until the cows come home, if he doesn't acknowledge his part in the problems then this WILL be your life..as long as you choose to stay with him. Getting things back on track doesn't solely involve one spouse. My husband stopped blaming me, took full responsibility for his part in our problems, and together we've changed OUR behaviors. One more thing you might want to consider...are you TRULY changing your attitude or just your behavior? I might vent a little about my husband to friends or family when I felt I was trying harder than he was at times, but my ATTITUDE about him had changed 100%. I realized he was not the horrible, selfish monster I thought. Once I started treating him like a human being, from a GENUINE place in my heart and mind, he really did start to WANT to make me happy and change his ways. In a nutshell, all he ever wanted was for me to love him unconditionally. The less I did this (reacted horribly to his ADD behaviors), the worse his behavior was, until we were off in the ditch and struggling to find reasons to stay married. I don't negate or minimize anyone's pain and frustration, but if you're putting forth the effort to make changes, they need to be made from the heart. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel you're trying to make superficial changes thinking it will bring about deep changes in him..and it won't work. Real changes, that will be life altering, don't come with the dialogue in your head (your entire 1st paragraph wreaks of the same old resentment and animosity). I don't mean to say this to offend you or to criticize you even, just don't want to see you set yourself up for yet another disappointment when you see no real changes in him and wonder why. If your changes (and attitude aren't genuine) then most likely you won't see any changes in him.

"The most important thing that was stressed in the book was that I needed to give up absolutely any hope whatsoever of ever seeing a morsel of empathy, reciprocity, mutual interest and respect, or ever trying to see anything from my perspective. Ever. It literally says, "Give up the fantasy."

Although I do think it is important to let go of the expectations of having the 'fairy tale' we thought we got with the hyperfocused courtship, I really do disagree with most of this statement, respectfully. Even during our worst times, I have never felt my husband was incapable of feeling empathy. I have seen this mentioned several times here, almost always quoting some book (maybe the same one you mention), and I REALLY wish this would have never been written. It is NOT true for me and several others here and it really caused me to have some setbacks and struggle to feel secure and believe in my marriage when I first read it because I felt "surely if it's in a book written by a pro then it's true" but it isn't...and I know that. I can understand why it might FEEL that way sometimes, but it really isn't that they are incapable. I think it is more 'unmotivated' as anything else. Just like I was 'unmotivated' for so many years to show him respect and empathy, he was 'unmotivated' to show me the same.

Also wanted to comment on

Also wanted to comment on this..didn't have time earlier...

It seems a theme keeps resonating from everyone who has "made peace" with doing everything themselves, ignoring every bad behavior, more than willingly working on their contribution to the matter (over and over and over again), pretending they have no needs, thoughts, opinions, feelings, desires, etc. etc. etc. while the spouse continues to believe they have absolutely no need or necessity to contribute in any way or make any efforts whatsoever to work on the marriage because someone else (the someone else who is completely to blame for everything, mind you) will "see the error of their ways and fix all of their despicable behavior, anger, and attitudes" so that said spouse is pleased and will temporarily refrain from bad behavior.

At no point did I, or anyone else here that has 'made peace' with our situations, say that we have given up all needs, thoughts, opinions, feelings, etc. Quite contrary to this statement, I am very free to express my opinions, thoughts, ideas, dreams, desires, etc without fear of being judged or blown off. My husband is extremely attentive to my needs and wants and goes out of his way to fulfill them. He calls throughout the day, I pick him up from work for lunch at least once a week, we lay in bed together almost every night cuddling and watching TV, we go for long rides and have great conversation, he picks up little things at the store that shows he was thinking of me (my favorite chocolate or drink) etc. He will call and simply say "I was thinking of you and wanted to let you know that I love you very much" often.

Do I ignore some of his bad behaviors? Sure. It simply isn't worth it for me to pick this man and his 'faults' to death for the rest of our lives. I hate that he throws his clothes all over the house and leaves them. I hate that he leaves my car on empty quite often and makes no effort to put gas in it for me. I hate that I have to remind him every Thursday that it is trash day or the trash can is left for me to take around. I hate a lot of other insignificant things....but his good qualities far outweigh the bad. Besides, God knows I'm not a piece of cake to live with either. He wouldn't stop spending money...as a last resort, after years of refusing to do so, I took away his debit card. Hasn't been an issue since. I didn't ignore the behaviors that are damaging to the entire family...and I never will.

Again, maybe I'm just 'lucky' in that he does express concern and does make as much effort as I do in the marriage. A year ago I would have said he's a mean, horrible, cruel, selfish man who doesn't care about anyone but himself. A year ago he would have said that I was cold hearted and my only way of communicating with him was to nag and cuss and bitch. It works both ways. I never let him think, nor would I ever let him think, that he had no need to change. Even when I was changing myself to be a better wife, more pleasant to be around, I never let him live under the false impression that he had no need to change. That wouldn't have been the truth and he knows it.

Reciprocity...insert deep sigh

Reciprocity---you've hit the nail on the head Sister! If only my husband could show a LITTLE reciprocity. I have just about given up on this fantasy, I just don't believe he's capable.

The guilty one

I am the non add spouse but am guilty of the eye rolling and bad non verbal body language.  Honestly, I didn't realize what I was doing outwardly and that others were able to pick up on these things - my reason for doing it was to release my anger, frustration without physically blowing up or imploding - it was my release.  However after our last counseling session and a good deal or on line research and thinking I realize that I want to change these non verbal communication habits - for me. I didn't realize how negatively they were affecting others - I just thought that I felt better, was controlling my temper/feelings. Now that I am aware of this I feel terrible! I would give anything to take back these terrible traits - but I can't. What I can do is move forward - modify/remove these behaviors and deal with my feelings/frustrations in a positive way for everyone.  This will take time.  I wish I could give you some advice on how to deal with this - but I know that until the person is ready to accept the wrong and then willing to change - it won't be possible. 

This is a separate problem from ADHD

I don't think that contemptuous behavior is a result of ADD/ADHD, per se, but more of a side effect of poor impulse control for those people who happen to use contempt. I do not have credentials to speak as an expert on ADHD, but I have done quite a bit of research on it for the past 20 years, and I am an expert on communication as a university professor. Many, many people with ADHD do NOT use contempt.


For those of you who are experiencing contempt from your spouses, take the suggestion of Ren, and read John Gottman's, "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work."  (I found this webpage while googling for ideas for examples of contempt scenarios to use in a marriage communication workshop I'm leading on this exact same book.) He has written several other books that are also helpful, but this one is the best starting point.


My husband doesn't have ADHD, but I have a grown son who has a super-deluxe case with a big huge capital H. (Doing pretty well now, over all.) My first husband (my son's father) also has ADD. NEITHER OF THEM use contempt much at all, and I don't think I've ever heard my son use it with anyone or about anyone. My first marriage ended for reasons that had nothing to do with ADD, although his addiction might have been an indirect result. This site would have been helpful to have had a resource at the time.