Hope after Anger?

I have been married for 18 years (recent anniversary in June).  I got married to my high school sweetheart at age 20.  I have three children (17, 12, and 10).  My wife is the love of my life.  She is sweet, kind, beautiful and really a fantastic human being.  I lover her dearly.

I was diagnosed as having ADD after college while in post graduate school.  My family suggested I get evaluated because as they said, "its not normal to sit out on the balcony where you hear the constant noise of traffic, smoke cigarettes and drink coffee just so you can study".  They were right.  I began to take Ritalin soon after my evaluation by and ADD savvy psychiatrist.  The effects were immediate.  I had always been a great student, but now, in medical school, the amount of time needed to study and memorize information was overwhelming.  I needed the medication to study and learn good study habits.  Unfortunately, that is all I thought I needed it for.   Over the next few years (including a period of time in my residency where studying was really needed) I took the medicine again.  It had the same effect.  But my father (also a physician and now in retrospect likely an ADD suffer) had said to me while in school "if you are a surgeon and you forget to take your pill, what are you going to do?".  This had a profound effect on my thoughts about the medicine.  I really felt like something was wrong with me if I needed medicine to function.

Fast forward to one year ago.  My wife said to me, "if things don't change and we get some help in counseling, we going to get a divorce".  This was as a tremendous shock to me.  My wife had suffered periods of extreme depression (only while we were married, never before marriage) and really became sad when her own parents had divorced after 26 years of marriage.  This was several years ago and she began to take Zoloft which has helped her for these many years now.  I thought this was another of her "sad times".

We began to go to counseling.  Unfortunately for me, this was psychotherapy, the traditional type.  The psychiatrist focused on bringing up all of our feelings about the past.  Only after a few months and me telling him about my ADD, did he prescribe Vyvanse.  It has helped some, but I do not think the dose or effect is anywhere near optimal and he is very unfamiliar with the medicines or ADD.  The counseling has helped my wife.  It has helped her "find her voice".  It has surfaced the many years of hiding her pain from me.  She is very angry.  After a few glasses of wine, she is REAL ANGRY.  She described "walking on eggshells" and many other terms found throughout both books.  It has brought forth the pain and hurt of my past actions.  Controlling her ideas, always offering my solution first, before she had chance to think, interrupting her, making jokes at her expense, and generally being so high strung so as to make her nervous.  She describes my voice or facial expressions at times as "making her break into a sweat".  I had no idea how the last 18 years have been for her.  

Throughout this past 6 months of seeing a therapist, we have both been trying to overcome our differences (the whole time without either of us a real understanding of the role ADD has in our marriage).  She has asked the whole time for "space" while she gathers her thoughts and tries to figure things out.  I asked her if she looks at me and sees someone she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with or someone she hates and has extreme anger toward.  She says "both".  Each session she recounts more of the past hurt, and the anger has grown.  She still has real difficulty communicating her feelings, fearful of my reaction.  Fearful my reaction would be negative.  And she is right to have this fear.  I have always been difficult to confront, always feeling personally challenged, like many with ADD.  Unfortunately, my symptoms have not allowed me to give her the space she has asked for.  I have been constantly "checking the weather report" and stressing about how she feels.  Nothing in life has made my anxiety soar like the fear of losing my wife.  About 10 days ago, we agreed to spend time physically away from each other after a huge fight where I couldn't leave her alone and provoked her to hit me and scream at me.  We have agreed to split the time with our children (despite many others stories here, I am a good father by my wife's and many other's accounts) during the summer, and spend a couple of months apart.

It was only during this past 10 days by myself, when I realized my true role in her pain.  A friend who is married to a man with ADD recommended Melissa's book. I felt as though I was reading my autobiography and my wife's.  I am so sad and I am very ashamed.  The whole time I have been attributing my wife's feelings as a "mid life crises" and her "depression".  Only now, in reflection and thanks to the books, do I realize what I have done to her over the years.  Her feelings of wanting a change may have been brought on by a sort of "mid life evaluation", but it is because I have been an poop over the years that such an evaluation was needed. 

I have not spoken to her about this recent revelation.  I am sure that right now it would be seen as another of my "quick fix" ideas.  But what I have discovered here and in the books has been profound.  To anyone who can give me some hope about my chances at reconciliation with my wife and thoughts on how to progress, I would be grateful.   I have made an appointment with a CBT psychiatrist who is familiar with ADD.  Regardless of my marriage outcome, I know that changes need to be made for me to be a better father, brother, son and human being.  I love my wife and my children more than anything in the world.  I recognize how my behaviors have affected my marriage, and I am so ready to change things.

Thanks for reading.

You have come to the right place...

I was diagnosed with ADD at the age of 43 and it was a shock to me. The things you are reading about ADD's affects on you loved ones made me feel awful. There is hope, but there is also a lot of work to do for you and your family. There are many people on both sides of ADD here on this website that are very helpful. I'd like to say more now, but inattentive ADD is one of my struggles, so I'm going to cut this short. Keep reading and I'm sure many will respond to your questions.

YYZ

First step is recognizing

First step is recognizing exactly what it is that you're doing that is causing such pain to your marriage. It seems you made a laundry list of them. CBT is a really good tool for ADHDers, so I would suggest getting your wife's input on what she would like for you to focus on...maybe a 'top 3' short list for now? Also, she needs to get her anger out on the table and be able to do so without repercussions from you...and once she's done that, then she needs to move forward. Many times these things require sort of a "clean slate" approach. If you're interjecting YOUR solution before giving her a chance to speak, she needs to learn to say "wait..I need a second to explain..I just need you to listen". Dealing with issues in the 'here and now' and her feeling comfortable saying to you "you're doing 'that' again" without you getting angry or defensive is a MUST. She needs to know that you own 100% of the hurt, disappointment, pain, frustration, and anger you've inflicted upon her and that you're dedicated to doing what it takes, for as long as it takes, to learn 'different' ways of living and being. When she trusts that your changes are real and your motives are genuine (not just hyperfocused on winning her back...and doing a bait and switch on her) then you'll hopefully see some of her walls melt.

Your hovering over her and 'weather checking' is your own selfish need...jog around the block, do a crossword, stick your head in a bucket of cold water...just do whatever it takes to give her some space..and show her that you trust her and respect her enough to give her what she needs right now. As long as she's continuing to go to counseling with you then you need to let that be enough for now. Maybe an area of personal growth she needs to see from you is that you're respecting her boundaries she's trying to set for herself. Maybe it would be a huge start to her learning to trust that you truly are interested in her being happy again.

Thanks for the input

Sherri, 

Update on things.  Thanks for your input.  Since my post I have been to a psychiatrist who has expertise in ADHD.  He trained under Russell Barkley.  He has already helped me.  Our discussion revealed that I was on the wrong type of medicine, that my previous therapist (while good at many things) was not what I needed, and he gave me hope for positive change.  He explained that my wife is in a state of mild PTSD and he thinks he can help her too in overcoming her current anger so that we can move forward together.  I am scheduled to see him in about two weeks to go over the medicine change.  

I am currently on vacation with my parents and my children.  My wife is at our home, and more space is being given.  I think this will help.  Despite my pressing desire to call her or text her about my better understanding, I am trying to wait until she approaches me for discussion.   That is what I previously could not do.  I thank you for the input on a "top 3" idea.  When we do finally talk after this period of space, and start to work on things again, I plan on implementing your suggestion.  I am trying to learn that "less is more".  It is very hard for an ADD sufferer to do this.  It has pushed my wife further away with my intrusion and lack of respect for her boundaries.  

I am trying to convince myself that she does still love me and care about me.  By not leaving me or asking me straight out for a divorce and by going to counseling, she has demonstrated she wants things to work out.  You are right, this should be enough.  I am telling myself this every day.

When I first read your post, I was put off.  The typical ADD response.  I carefully read it three or four more times and have gained a better understanding. Your insight is very helpful to me.  My wife likely feels very similar to how you feel and reading your response adds to my understanding of her feelings.  I am not just trying to "win her back".  I genuinely am geared to being a better person now.  I truly had no real idea of the pain my impulsivity and inconsistency had caused my family.  I recognize that my son has very similar traits.  My recent understanding has already made me a better father in how I can now relate to him.  I hope it will help me to be a great husband too.

Thanks, 

KPS

That's Ok, as long as you

That's Ok, as long as you 'get' where I am coming from in the end, you can be upset initially. Honest to goodness, I am just telling you from a non-ADHD wife's point of view what it takes to start to make things better. The only thing I wanted to add is that I am very glad that the new doc feels he can help your wife because it isn't all about you learning to do things differently, she has, as hard as it is to admit, contributed as well. The fact that, after re-reading, you let down the defenses and were able to see that it wasn't an attack but a clear, concise suggestion as to how you might start to rebuild your marriage is, to me, huge. You're 'getting it'. :)

Best of luck! Please keep us posted!!

Another Update on things

Sherri,

Since my last post, things have gotten a little better.  I have now been on the new medicine for about two weeks now.  The difference is vast.  In retrospect, now know that I was experiencing "rebound" on the Vyvanse.  It seems as though my paranoia and anxiety were always triggering late night fights when the medicine wore off (this was immediately worsened when I stopped drinking in the late evenings--as the alcohol was likely supplementing my stimulant).  I have not shared any of this with my wife.  I don't think she cares about excuses.  I just know that I can now work on things to improve myself. 

I have read another great book besides Melissa's book in the last two weeks - "You don't have to take it anymore" by Steve Stosny.  It is written for the non-add (or non-abusive) partner.  Both really helped me understand my life much better and helped understand my wife's feelings. 

I have begun to implement some cognitive behavior therapy changes to better deal with my anxiety/impulsivity and negative thoughts.  It has already helped me a great deal.  I can now look at my wife and children with so much more compassion and love and redirect the other negative feelings.  It feels very good to finally gain a little control.  I feel that I am on the path to being a much better person and hopefully a much better husband (if I get the chance). 

I don't think my wife has given up completely.  She has continued to read books and has agreed to see the cognitive behavioral psychiatrist I started seeing.  She is not ready for me to come home yet which I now understand.   I know that it will take a long time for her to trust that this is real.  She probably feels like she has seen this side of me before.  I know that it will be months after I return home until she begins to trust me again to not be impulsive and hurtful.  It will take more patience than I have ever shown.  I just now feel that if I treat every interaction with the ones I love with the underlying reminder of my true love and compassion for them, my failures should become fewer.  I am very hopeful for the future.   Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

KPS

 

What your wife might need from you...

To anyone who can give me some hope about my chances at reconciliation with my wife and thoughts on how to progress, I would be grateful.

I am willing to give you a suggestion.  I am a non-add wife of almost 10 years and while we have frustrations, I'd definitely call us a success story.  I've always been madly in love with my husband & we were able to deal with his ADD promptly once it was causing us problems. His ADD behaviors affected us in ways we didn't understand because we had no idea that he was ADD.  We never got to the point of a seperation because fairly quickly after problems started for us (they were only revealled after our marriage since he is inattentive ADD and those symptoms frequently aren't obvious to ppl who don't live with you), my husband was proactive in seeing he needed help.

 

One of the reasons he went searching for answers is because he could see that his inconsistency and inability to be counted on was REALLY hurting me.  I never imagined that this man I loved would or even could treat me in a way that seemed so disregarding of my feelings.  Finding out that it was caused by something he couldn't control without help made a TON of difference to us.

For wives who have suffered this way for years and years and had husbands who didn't/wouldn't/couldn't listen to THEM when they shared their pain, I can totally understand why the anger builds up to a fever pitch.  You read outside books (which I applaud) which are basically telling you the same things your wife has told you over and over for YEARS, but until you read it from someone else, you didn't listen to her.  You ascribed it to her problem (depression, mid life crisis) because it couldn't possibly be being caused by you in your mind.

If your wife feels like I have felt about this (and keep in mind my husband listened to me more than most) it is extremely infuriating and dismissive.  I know you didn't mean it like that just like my husband.  Yet I'd make suggestions that he might give lip service to or even seem to dismiss out of hand (course he says he wasn't doing this but that is what the action or inaction looked like), but if his coach made the same one, it is like this genius idea he'd never heard before????   So frustrating to be the one feeling like what they say goes out into a void, but someone else saying the same thing gets a real hearing & possibly even action.

 

Just trying to let you know what might be causing some of the anger.  I know when my husband sits down with me and discusses it (ON HIS OWN INITIATIVE) after something like this has happened, it makes a big difference to me.  Just hearing that his coach used an illustration that caused him to see it differently, or explained in a way that hit his brain just right, not only makes me feel much better about why he didn't get it when I said it, but gives me ideas for how to express myself next time so that I will get a better response from him.

 

This has worked too...I explain myself in a different way and he pays much more mind to what I am saying.  Win/Win for us...sometimes since, after all, he does still have ADD :)   But until you get to the point where you can discuss with her why what she said wasn't listened to, I fear that the anger may stay strong in her.  You have 20 years of disregarding behaviors to resolve.  I believe it can be done, but I really feel like the WHY is one of the most important up front questions for the non-ADD spouse.

 

Hope something in there helps!