He lashes out at me when he's upset with other people

My husband has ADD, and takes everything SO PERSONALLY.  Including things, that non-ADD people would simply brush off.  They put him in a tailspin.  He keeps me up all night stressing, and eventually starts lashing out at me when I've done nothing but support and love him.  He says the most hurtful things to me.  So now, every time I hear that he's had a problem with his dad, or something at work, I know I have to brace myself because he's going to turn his angry reactions on me.

Example:  There is a carpool to his work, that everyone has to pay dues to be in.  Since he stays up all night on the computer (usually Facebook or music related), he can never get himself out of bed in the morning to get to the carpool (literally takes it once or twice a month, though he wanted to do more, just can't get himself up).  This costs us $70 per month, and doesn't save us any gas (his commute is an hour each way).  So, the carpool was aware of a woman struggling financially who needed his spot, so they decided to give his spot to her since he never rides.  Makes sense to me.  To him, it was ULTIMATE BETRAYAL.  He was in angst, and every wrong anyone has ever done to him starts spinning in his head and making him miserable.  He kept me up all night talking about it, and I supported and loved him through it the best I could.  Then, as ALWAYS, he starts sending me nasty grams via email about random things that have nothing to do with what he's upset about, and he starts threatening to leave me over them.  He doesn't even care that I'm stressed with plenty of things too.

Does anyone else have an ADD spouse who does this?  Is it normal for ADD?  He knows he has ADD but refuses to treat it, saying that when he did take medication for it, that it "cured his only flaw", and he didn't want to be egotistical about basically being flawless.  He's riddled with flaws.  I work fulltime, take care of our three kids, and he does NOTHING around the house, finances, with kids.  He only takes, never gives, and adds to my workload instead of easing it.  Makes it really difficult then when he lashes out when someone else upsets him.  Divorce is not an option. 

Just want to see if anyone else experiences this with ADD spouse.

I hope I am understanding you

I hope I am understanding you correctly. I think in general this is a man vs. woman issue. In my marriage I am the 'fixer'. This does not work well for men...much less ADDers. At least 3 times a week my husband will call from work and our conversation will include the frustration of the day with one of his co-workers. I CONSTANTLY have to remind myself to shut up and just listen. I was reminded of this today while listening to an e-book I have (I know Melissa has recommended it here) called The Dance of Anger. Men don't come to us with their issues (especially work related) wanting solutions. When we start offering up our solutions this can be, and usually is, taken in one of many negative ways (that we think they're too stupid to handle their own problems, that we're trying to control them, etc) and typically it ends up causing a fight. Often  our conversations end with him feeling that I just totally do not get his point and him being more frustrated than he was before we spoke. I am slowly learning to just offer "I'm sorry you're having a bad day" and just keep my mouth shut and listen. More often than not I feel he's blowing something that would be a minor frustration to most WAY out of proportion, but I am learning to stop expressing that opinion as well.

First, it isn't fair for him to expect you to stay up with him all night dealing with an issue, especially when it seems it inevitably blows up in your face. What I would do..and this is just me...I would find him in a more rational state of mind and I would just tell him that you want to be there for him, but that you feel more often than not that you just end up being his emotional punching bag. I would remove myself from the situation..maybe listen to him vent for 20 minutes or so and then say "I'm really sorry this is happening to you, I hope you can figure something out. I know you will." and i would walk away. I truly feel this is some sort of deflection. He wants/needs you initially...once he's used you to bounce his frustrations and ideas off of the entire night then he turns around and takes them out on you. Stop making yourself available for it.

He was pissed about losing his spot on the carpool, initially wanted you there so he'd have someone 'in his court' but then turns on you and well. This happens to me, in my marriage, when my husband knows he's wrong, but would rather die than to admit it...and somehow his anger and frustration always ended up being pointed in my direction. Since he's come to terms with having ADD and acknowledges it's ugly side, this is a lot better. 

It all stems from his refusal to see his ADD and how it affects everyone around him....and you've got to remove yourself as his emotional punching bag. When I finally realized this, before my husband had it under better control, I would just say to him "when you want to talk to me like I am a human being, we'll talk...until then, I am NOT going to be your emotional punching bag" Until I learned to walk away, this was a real problem for me too.

you give such wise advice

when you want to talk to me like I am a human being, we'll talk...until then, I am NOT going to be your emotional punching bag"


It is so obvious that you really know what works in these relationships.  I totally get the emotional punching bag when they are frustrated.  My first disagreement with an ADDer felt like he was a bully.  He had procrastinated packing, got frustrated, and then wanted me to fix the problem.  he didn't ask once but multiple times.  I never felt any physical danger, just this repeated insistence that felt like bullying.  But I still had a choice and I did the wrong thing by caving and doing what he asked. I told him later that I felt bullied and he never did it again.  But we are not married and that might have been a very different situation. 

I really like how you do not react in a verbal attack, but rather you just make a statement and walk away--that gives you such control and helps you avoid escalation.  I think you have done a wonderful job of stepping outside the emotions and changing yourself, just fantastic insight.  Keep up the good work and thanks for giving us some wonderful examples of how to handle these situations.


Brenda, thank you so much for

Brenda, thank you so much for your vote of confidence, but trust me I spent countless years reacting in such a horrible way that it nearly destroyed me...and my family. This is just what works for me and I hope maybe some of the years of hell weren't all in vain and I can somehow help others...God knows I'm still a work in progress. My husband and I have both had enough...we've fought until we literally just would rather die than to fight anymore. Walking away from him sometimes is very hard...because you still get that feeling stuck in your head that you just KNOW you're right, they're wrong, and you want so badly to have them validate this. It isn't happening. What I keep reminding myself, when I feel like putting the gloves back on, is that it NEVER EVER EVER worked when I did. I feel far more validated by walking away from him than I ever did by fighting with him for days on end or fussing at him over the same old stuff day in and day out. In most cases, but not all, he will come to me later and in some way acknowledge that he heard what I was saying. If he gets short with me on the phone, because I just don't seem to understand his current plight, I will just nicely end the conversation. Usually within an hour or two he'll either text me or call and apologize or act like nothing happened. I'm OK with that, it was a stupid 'fight' anyway and nothing we need to hash out or resolve. This is really up to me, and I know that, to learn to open my ears and shut my mouth and just LISTEN. I know that's all he wants.

I understand the bullying thing too...everyone walked around on eggshells around my husband for far too long. If he would go to look for a pair of jeans and it would dawn on me that he didn't have any clean (yes, I keep up with this in my head for everyone in the house), I would secretly panic. I just knew the crappy attitude and tantrum were coming. Sometimes I would fight back, telling him he needed to wash his own clothes and others I would try my best to minimize the situation by saying nothing..and just taking his verbal lashings. It was about 50/50...half the time he would just say "it's OK honey, I'll just wear X"...but you never knew. He waits until the last minute to do everything...and then rushes and fusses and acts irritated with me that I didn't get all of his stuff ready for him..or don't know where it all is at the drop of a hat. My daughter does this too. I am currently 'training' her to get all of her things ready the night before school so we don't 'fight' every morning. Again, this is better since we've been getting along better and he seems to really 'get' that his not preparing isn't my fault...he's not looking to throw blame for everything.wrong.with.his.life my way anymore.

One last thing I think is important to mention...when you decide to walk away from the battles, after years and years of the same old, same old things can get worse before they get better. They feel out of control when they cannot drag you into the middle of the pits of hell with them, so they start to fight harder and uglier. During our separation we fought so badly that I am ashamed to even think about it. The name calling, the insults, the disrespect...it still shocks me. So much brought me to this point...losing my father was the catalyst...but what my daughter went through was pretty much the lowest of the low spots in my life for me. We had two huge fights after he came back home...one of which got physical for the first time in our 13 year marriage. He broke my cell phone, I threw it at him, shoved him, tried to get his, we wrestled and ended up in the floor. Humiliating...and I am SO ashamed of myself. My daughter was mortified. She is a Momma's girl 130%...and she was so scared for me for so long...and I could not convince her that she had no need to be afraid for me. Anyway..my point is that I didn't get here easily...but even when I slip up I am still far better off than I was a year ago and God as my witness I will never go back. This site is a God send to me...it was like the cherry on top of the banana split, so to speak. Reading every single one of Melissa's 'favorite posts' and just reading everything I can in general to help keep my resolve to beat this ugly disorder strong has helped so much. It is very easy to 'forget' and I don't ever want to be 'that' person again.


I feel your pain...

I know what you are going through. I am on constant eggshell around my husband and I've had enough.  It got a little out of hand last night in front of the kids (10 and 2) and today I don't even want to go home if he is going to be there.  When you said the part about panicking if there were no clean jeans - I can totally relate.  I'm constantly trying to be one step ahead to keep the chaos down but then he still finds reasons to just snap out of the blue.  Of course it is always my fault because "I pushed him to it"....aghhh, sorry for the rant.  It was a very long night last night with no sleep and 2 scared kids. I just don't know what to do at this point.

sounds so familiar

My husband gets very upset when he doesn't have jeans or underwear or if he runs out of Milk.  Actually it is wild that he gets upset over anything that he wants right now.  If we have certain food he likes in the house and it has been here for 3 weeks and I finally start eating it and its gone.  I promise I would eat it that day he looked for it, weird how that happens, but he goes ranting and gets very upset.  As far as the laundry I'm tired of this man, who loves me, thinking I was put on this earth to serve him because I wasn't.  I am a very strong minded woman and I didn't watch my parents wait on one another like in the olden days so I don't choose to be that way either.  Over a long time of telling him its not my fault and you can do a load of laundry every now and then or you can stop at the store for milk if you can remember you are out: is starting to sink in his head after over 10 years of not giving in.  It has been a very long road but I think I'm getting there.  I get very mad if he says anything is my fault these days and he now says he is kidding but I let him know I don't think its funny so he is starting to stop that somewhat.  I've been putting my foot down and being very stern which could be bad but he knows he is at the end of his rope with me and he doesn't want to lose me.  We are starting to make progress so I hope you have luck one day to get through and have the conversations or the guts to be strong and say how you feel.  As far as taking things out on me when he has a bad day;  He has some ,but he will get home early and won't leave or say much of anything.  I wish I could take away his pain cause I know something isn't right but I don't want to be yelled at for wanting my husband to open up and talk.  Its not what he does even though one day I think his head will explode holding everything in like he does.  He says he doesn't want to burden me but the burden is not being able to help him, But I leave it alone and let him figure things out like I usually do.  It seems to work for him!


Thank you - I do try putting my foot down at times, but it usually backfires. He ends up getting even more upset. It is usually me shielding the kids from his outbursts and making sure everything is on the up and up as far as housework, kids, bills, etc.  But - he does EVERYTHING because he does the yardwork.  He expects constant praise for it, too.  The part that scares me though is that he has gotten a little bit physical with me lately (pulled my hair last night for example).  How far will it go?  I'm just scared and don't know what to do or how far to push the issue.  He won't talk about it because - well, it's all me of course!

Just discussed this very

Just discussed this very thing in counseling this week..me worrying about my husband and his problems (work related and/or the ones he dreams up in his head by making mountains out of molehills)..and our counselor flat out told me "he does not need to be fixed. It is not your job to fix all of his problems. Do not worry about him, feel sorry for him, or try and fix everything that he's dealing with that causes him stress. It cannot be done and it isn't something that needs to be done."

He is wired differently. He internalizes a LOT and he also vents about work and such a lot. The harder I try to help (offer advice, sympathy, support, suggestions, or give my opinion) the less he feels I understand him and the more frustrated we both get. My homework for the next two weeks is to just LISTEN to him and at the most ask "so how are you going to handle that" or "I'm sorry, that sucks" but that's it. She basically said that there is chaos in his head but that it is his chaos, what he's used to, and it doesn't warrant my 'help' or my pity...all he needs from me is grounding. She even went so far as to say that he just probably needed my physical presence more than anything (during stessful times at work) and the less we discussed things the better...if he wanted to discuss it, my job is simply to listen. Still trying this on for size..I will let you know how it works.


thank you

I'll try that, too, Sherri. Thanks.  I need all the help I can get right now.

Just want to clarify...her

Just want to clarify...her advice/homework is for my benefit. In other words, she feels I'm stressing far too much taking on all of his worries and she really feels it isn't necessary. I told her there was an issue at work that seemed so simple to me, he had the backing of his boss, and I would have handled it in one simple phone call and been done with it. It was far more complicated for him and he admitted he'd worried about it all night long the night before. When I expressed my sadness that he'd worried about something that seemed so small and simply solved to me, she told me I needed to stop doing that..stop worrying about how he handles things. I was basically feeling sorry for him when he wasn't really wanting that. I'm not sure if I am reading him wrong or if I'm reading him right but what seems like chaos and over reacting to me is just 'normal' and necessary for him...but either way, she wants me to stop worrying so much...so that was her point. I thought it sounded like I was saying something else.

good advise

Sherry, I think the homework she gave you is great!!  I haven't had counseling about the ADHD, yet, but it does work and it will make you more sane and usually the ADD person has to figure things out on their own just as us non ADDers like to.  I've learned the more I focus on me the better I feel then to worry what or how to help him.  I know it sounds selfish but it makes things better than it could be.  These forums have been helping me on my long journey to let me better understand how he and I can co-exist.  I hope in the near future I can convince him to get a Dr to medicate him and we start having better conversations because I do want a family and I don't want the extra stress.  It isn't worth it to me!  Good Luck with your assignment I hope you get results.

Anger, frustration, ADHD

Hi.  I just discovered this forum.  I feel like you are writing about my relationship with my husband.   My husband has ADHD and diabetes.  He also takes every little thing that happens at work like it is a personal insult to him.  He comes home every day from work venting about every little perceived slight and detailed accounts about the incompetent workers and bad decisions being made.  Every job he has ever had has been the same..... Incompetent bosses and colleagues.  

I am the family whipping post.  My husband lashes out for every injustice that he feels.  We are having extra stress right now with having my married daughter and her husband along with our college age daughter living with us.  Every frustration he feels with the kids such as them not helping around the house comes out at me.  I also have to contend with low blood sugar levels because he doesn't monitor when he is supposed to eat and will go a whole day without eating because he can't prioritize eating with any of his other tasks.  When his blood sugar gets low he picks something to rant and rave at me about saying really hurtful things and not really making total sense.  A few hours later or the next day he doesn't even remember what he said or doesn't understand why I am upset because he says he doesn't mean it.  I feel like I am in a constant crisis state.  Always trying to please and trying to anticipate what will set him off.  I can't stop myself from feeling angry for being personally attacked and feeling hurt afterward even though I know he doesn't mean most of what he says.  I feel like I am on a roller coaster.  I know mentally that I should just not pay attention when he gets angry and lashes out at me but emotionally I get so angry and hurt.  I know I don't deserve it.

i feel like I live with two different people.  My husband can be a very caring, appreciative and good guy but then he can quickly change into this irrational, angry, hurtful person.  I have told him I am getting a divorce so many times but I just don't go through with it.  

I just can't deal with the moodiness.  It is always all about him.  He doesn't look at how I am feeling.  When I try to talk with him about things I am dealing with, he listens a few minutes but then quickly turns the conversation back to himself.

I am trying to get my husband in to see a psychiatrist which he has agreed to.  The only problem is it took me months of nagging for him to complete the paperwork.  Now I am trying to get him to make the appointment.  Again another problem with not prioritizing every little task with actually making a phone call.  He procrastinates on everything and I have to be the nag constantly reminding him.  

I also work full time and take dare of everything around the house.  He will do home repairs, cut the grass and fix cars but the day to day responsibilities are all on me.  He leaves things laying all over the house.  I am so burned out physically and emotionally.  Life with someone with untreated ADHD is so hard.  

Thank you for your post.  I thought I was all alone.  I wish I could give you words of wisdom to help.  I just haven't found them yet.  




carathrace's picture

full plate

Wow, Coral, you definitely have a lot on your plate -- 2 adult children + 1 spouse sharing your home, along with this husband whose ADHD symptoms are all out there.  No wonder you are burned out.  Good that he agrees to see a psychiatrist for the meds.  That's step one and I can tell you've had a time getting him to that point.  Hopefully down the line, he will become willing to see an ADHD coach or counselor for practical steps he can take to change his behavior.  Have you read Melissa's book yet?  It's a good one.

I am sorry you have become the whipping post.  That cannot stand.  Do you have, or can you get a counselor for yourself, preferably someone who understands what living with ADHD is like?  You need to get your voice back, and it doesn't have to be a nagging, angry voice either.  You matter, you have great value.  I hope you can find someone to hear you and encourage you.

a lot

Wow, Coral, that is a lot you are dealing with. It sounds like you are working hard to be loving and supportive to a lot of people. I would stick with the counseling for yourself if you can. And keep encouraging your spouse to see a psychiatrist, even if you have to follow through with everything, since this is a high priority for you. 

My ex with untreated ADHD also had some similar issues--I can't tell you how many times he would almost collapse dramatically in the floor because he had forgotten to eat all day. There was a lot of drama there, and quite a bit of lashing out, too. I couldn't take it any more after years of it--he always found a way to blame it on me and deflect it. Yelling and saying mean, emotionally-laden things to attack you is verbal abuse, and unchecked, it can cause stress, depression, even PTSD. No one should have to tolerate being the whipping boy. And it can be pretty hard to ignore--you are right, you don't deserve it. And if his reaction is that he didn't mean it or that he doesn't remember or that you are doing something wrong by "making a big deal out of it," it makes it twice as hurtful.

Can you try to talk to him during a calm moment, alone? Just let him know that you love him, that you want everything to be ok, that you are willing to do your part, but that his words and verbal lashings are unfair and hurtful and they have to stop? Maybe some anger management for him? My two cents: at some point, if he can't cut it out, you should separate. Mine got to the point that I didn't care if ADHD or issues to explain it, or didn't remember it--I just didn't want to be with someone who would treat his wife that way and not try to change himself. My turning point is that I realized that mine could conduct himself with other people and the outside world without acting like this, so somewhere he must have given himself permission to be abusive just to me. Which was not ok. Unfortunately, mine could not stop and would not get help for his issues. We are finalizing a divorce soon and I am absolutely convinced I did the right thing. 

The best of luck to you. Take care of yourself. I am so sorry you are having to put up with this stuff. Let us know how it goes. 

Family emotions

Thank you carathrace!  I guess I didn't mention that one of my daughter's has OCD and the other has ADHD.  I am the family manager for emotions and everything else.  It has been a long hard road with many, many bumps. If people actually knew all of the things that I have dealt with I don't think they would believe it.  I will check out Melissa's book, it sounds very helpful.  We try very hard to be a happy family but so many strong willed people make it very difficult at times.  Whatever the difficulty though, we keep on trying because there is a lot of love underneath it all.  

Thank you for the advice.  I have tried family counseling, marriage counseling, individual counseling.  My counselor said that I should separate from my husband.  We stopped marriage counseling because my husband couldn't commit to keep going and he disagreed with everything the counselor said.  I almost feel like I just don't count.  I watch other people with supportive, understanding husbands and wonder how different my life would be.  Right now I am trying to figure out my life.  I have tried to leave so many times and I just never go through with it.  I don't know what stops me.   I am really hoping the right medication will make a difference.