How to act after a big fight?

Hi, this is my second post. My husband has ADHD, we found out a couple of weeks after we married. He was tested but still refuses to accept it. He's not taking meds which makes it very hard to reason with him. My question is how do I act after a big fight? I'm asking because it seems like every approach I tried has failed. Before I knew he had ADHD I didn't understand his behaviour at all. So after yet another fight I gave him the silent treatment. That just made him angrier even if he was the one who did something wrong. I rarely burst into tears and when I do it's not guaranteed that it will melt him down either. Depends on his mood. He basically wants me to take the first step since in his mind i'm always the one that starts the fight (wrong tone of voice, daring to express criticism,...). It can start off by me saying something about him not doing or doing something and he takes it as far as treathening to divorce me or leave me, that he never should've married me, that he's tired of me,....Which takes a simple disagreement to a whole other level where it's not about the thing he forgot anymore but about him insulting me.
But of course since I started to conversation I'm responsible for whatever comes next. Ever since we met all he wanted was to have a baby with me. I hesitated at first cause we had already rushed into living together and marriage. After a year and a half, not planned, I get pregnant. He was estatic when I told him. Crying, laughing, screaming, rolling down on the floor, was crazy to watch but he was happy and that was his way of showing it. First days were heaven. Soon the adhd began to kick in again and he fell back in his old ways. I really thought he would've treated me like a queen at least while carrying the child (first child for him) that he so desperately wanted but no...kept insulting me and screaming at me. Afte the first month i started losing blood, doc said I was at risk of losing the baby.
I told him that but even that didn't stop him. His ex girlfriend had an abortion when she was pregnant with his child and he never forgave her. Matter of fact that's the reason they split up. So I tell him I might lose him if I stress myself too much, he answers "I lost one I can lose two" I was baffled. I couldn't believe that even that didn't stop him. I left the house cause I was terrified to see that even his unborn child didn't have an effect on him. Couple of days later I lost the baby. He cried when he heard the news but I just felt nothing but resentment. I didn't believe his tears but I never let it show. I'm losing track of what the post was about in the first place. It's just that there are so many bad memories, so many painful fights, things he said and done. I know I need to let that go, forgive, but it's hard. I was I could say a magic word that would erase my past with him and start again with a clean and pure heart but that's impossible.
I'm not a stubborn person but I feel I give him too much power by being the first one who asks to talk after a fight. Can someone give me some advice as to what is the best approach?

I must say I'm very thankful to have found this site. We're Italians living in Belgium and here there hasn't been much study done about adult adhd. It was even hard to find a doc that would/could diagnose him.

Anyway...thank you for "listening" I'm looking forward to your advice because this is the only place I can talk about this.

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....the story of my life

==> wow! it's as if i just read my entire life (online)...except you're the one living it ---- in belgium! i would love to read what melissa would recommend/ suggest or comment, as i am still searching for the "right way" to react myself ---- with the full understanding that there is no "right or wrong" answer to an argument between husband and wife. ==>i wish those scenes were in a movie wherein i could pause that moment, rewind it, then edit it out and leave it on the editing floor to be thrown away and found decades later and released for everyone to see (no, it was not my intention to mimic the 'star wars' saga!). what i have done is take myself out of it and re-evaluate. however, i would appreciate suggestions for "in the moment" reactions as i can't seem to "freeze" the frame and control my emotions. ==>DH has read somewhere about "stonewalling" and i must admit that i have been guilty of giving him the silent treatment, but not to the extent that stonewalling does negatively in a marriage---but so far, it's been my ONLY saving grace (that, and locking myself in the only room in our home that has a lock!) as i try to avoid escalating the argument even further. ==>peace.

....i have my pride too

I like how you said "my only saving grace" I feel you on that. After reading the posts on this site all day yesterday I decided it was time for a positive input on my part. I read Melissa's topics and it motivated me to do better myself. We had a big fight on Sunday so yesterday, the day after, we were not on speaking terms. Last night I decided to write him a letter so that I could explain my feelings in a non treathening way without being yelled at, ridiculed or interupted. I really weighed my words because I know the slightest thing might be taken as an offense. I tried to be understanding, i tried not to point a finger, i took responsibility for my input in the fights (reaction), .... I was so proud of myself because I let go of my pride, I reached out to end a fight and to create more understanding. I have always had pride issues but since I've known about his ADHD i'm a lot less stubborn. I just always feared that I would give the other person too much power if I lost ground to make up a fight. In that letter, at the end, i ask him to give our marriage a fair chance. I explain how painful it is to hear during every single fight ( that might as well have been about misplacing keys) that he's fed up with me, that he shouldn't have married me, that he will leave me etc. I just wanted him to see that those words stick in your head and plant seeds of doubt. Finally I asked him if his love for me was real or not...if he is still sure about his feelings for me. I know most of the hupla he says isn't personal but still it hurts to see that our love is something for him that he can turn on and of. Well now, 24 hours later, I haven't had any reaction yet. Last night I went to bed when I handed him the letter so that he could read it in peace. This morning when I left for work he was still sleeping and now he's at work. I feel stupid because he doesn't even bother to answer me or at least give me a " let's talk tonight" ...nope nada. He must feel so big and strong right now, i gave in when he messed up. This obviously is a power game to him, he has me where he wants me...waiting for his golden answer. I can't understand how you can let the person you're supposed to love feel bad all day because he is giving the impression that answering whether he loves me or not is a real brainstorm. I just wanted him to appreciate my reaching out and give me a hug when he came to bed. That would've been enough of a sign but no.... My old habits are kicking in again and i feel frustrated and dissapointed. I tried but failed. I'm willing to be understanding but not submissive, that's just not me.
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feather on your cap stella7

==>congratulations to you for the courage to write a letter. if there's anything i've learned in this ADHD marriage is that ADHD'ers need T I M E (and a whole lot of it), so give him time, perhaps he'll surprise you, much later on with his response. ==>DH and i often joke (half-truth though) about the time he takes to think things through----one time he talked to me about some issue which we discussed two months earlier, seriously! i may be accused of having too much of a great memory for details, but really, two months is a bit of a stretch, even for me!!! ==>DH and i have at times not spoken for a month (since to ADHD'ers, well not all i guess, but DH for one, TIME is ambiguous, so he probably didn't realize it had been that long), and when we did finally reconcile, it was beautiful! ==>in the past, when i felt that the cycle of the old routine was creeping in (i.e. cycle = he's depressed, he says something that hurts me, and we start an argument), i would countdown from 100 to 1, and before that i used to "breathe out" the bad vibes, (both have surpassed their usefulness!) i walk away and start humming "the pina colada song"....and it actually makes me S M I L E. ==>keep an eye (and an ear) out for his response to your letter, i have a "feeling" it WILL COME, soon.

For Stella in Belgium

Your story is so painful for me to hear...thank you for sharing it with us. Some of what your husband is doing may be ADD-related. What you write about his comments about your marriage being a mistake may be related to lack of impulse control, which is definitely an ADD trait, as well as what seems to be a desire to fight (and be stimulated...ADD people are often high stimulation people.)


My impression is that there is more than the normal amount of jockeying for position going on in your relationship...lots of comments about how you position yourself to the one you love, seemingly some manipulation on his part. Given when you hear them, the cruel words seem as if they are part of a "I have power over you" attitude (or, perhaps, I WANT to have power over you attitude.) Okay, I'm playing therapist here, and I'm not one. So, here's the best suggestions I can make at this point with the information you've provided.

  • get some good birth control that you control. Don't put him in charge of your body or your life. Don't have a baby "for" this man until you know for sure that he is a person with whom you are interested in raising a family
  • in spite of his bad behavior, continue to be the best person you can be.  If this all falls apart (and it may, or may not) you want to be able to look back and LIKE how you behaved.  Don't let him drag you to a place that isn't you (i.e. to a nasty, bitter, mean person)
  • help him, gently, learn about ADD.  It may be harder there to find a good doctor who can help him, should he ever choose to take it seriously, but some education may help.  I know many, many men who say that reading Driven to Distraction or Delivered from Distraction was a real turning point for them, so I might try starting there.  Present the book to him as a request - something he can do because it's important to you and because you are asking - when he is in a good mood (okay, I'm not above suggesting you appeal to his "protective" male side...!)
  • Find an outlet for you personally.  This site can help, but a good therapist might be a good idea, too.  If at all possible, find someone who is familiar with ADD and understands it.  (Perhaps someone who is American trained????)
  • try to understand that he may harbor a great deal of shame, which is not at all uncommon for people who struggled with undiagnosed ADD throughout their lives.  If you ask yourself, how can I approach him without adding to his shame? perhaps you will be able to find easier paths for communication than the fights that you have been having (fighting is one way to deal with shame - push the blame onto someone else with great aggressiveness).  His shame doesn't make him a bad makes him a man who has had to deal with a lot of criticism and self doubt over the years...even if he tries to hide it.

There is more, but this is a start.  I hope you stay in touch.

Melissa Orlov


I have read your article and need someone to support me in my plight. I have a wonderful husband who is very laid back, and honest. But I feel that his loyalty is not with me, he shows it at work, with his boss, with family members. I am a very independant person, I earn more than mt husband, I run my own business and have 4 staff. I start work at 9.30am - 1.00pm. My husband is a driver, he works all hours, but also has days off when there is no work. I do all the running around, cooking ,feeding the dogs, housework, shopping, organising long dis. travel/weekend visits/outtings. Controlling the teenage girls, Supporting the older children and helping with young grandchildren, dealing with all phone enquiries, paying all bills, packing both our cloths when going away, Some DIY, Hospital/vet run, making various necessary appointments, Constantly reorganising our home to make it comfortable, Tidying up every day, washing and cleaning..sending birthday cards buying presents (for his family), I EVEN HAVE TO SUGGEST VISITING HIS MOTHER WHO LIVES ON HER OWN. (my mother and sisters live in Australia) .. My husband does not help with any of the above, he will do anything I ask him,BUT I HAVE TO ASK. That is where my problem is with him. He has fixed my car when it broke down. He seems to not notice what needs doing or where he could help me, he doesn,t support me or ask if I need help. He is desparetly engrossed in his computer, so are the 2 teenage girls, he helps the girls with computer, he does support them in this area. When I approach about these issues, he gets angry, does,nt talk to me, or he might leave the house and go to the pub, he may reply saying that I've been moody for a while, HE WOULD MAKE ME FEEL THE BAD PERSON WITH A PROBLEM AND HE IS THE VICTIM. I don,t know what else to do and what other way to apporach him, making him understand I need him to do something for ME.

husband not helping out

Another reader just wrote what her response to how to give up control over things that she cares about (in this case it has to do with kids).  Read the first two writers at this post (or were the first two when I wrote this).

It sounds to me as if you need to create better boundaries for yourself.  You are stuck in this place where you feel that your husband should be able to anticipate your needs and respond to them, rather than just react to your requests.  The good news is this - when you do request help, he gives it.  The bad news is this - anticipating what someone needs is not an ADD trait.  People with ADD live very solidly in the present (see my blog post on "now and not now") and you can either try to hold your husband to some standard that says that he has to learn a skill that will be very, very, very hard for him to learn, or you can accept that he has trouble in this department and make yourself more comfortable with asking him.

I used to have this same issue, so I empathize with your issue - I hated both doing all the work and having to ask for help all the time.  And unlike your situation, lots of time when I asked for help I still didn't get it because the thing I asked him to do wasn't of interest to him.  My solution was two-fold - 1.) stop doing all the work and 2.) come to terms with the fact that my husband has lots of great things, but anticipating what I wanted to have him do wasn't one of them.  Once I stopped doing all the work - and he had some specific jobs that were ALWAYS his own and that he had chosen out of a list of many (ie. no anticipation needed - they were always his) he actually was able to see without any anticipating what it was that he needed to do.  Sometimes he didn't do it on my schedule, but at least he owned it (if he forgets the dishes, I just let them pile up.  Eventually they even start to bother him and he takes care of them).  To help him remember the shift in duties, a sign might help.

Second, I let go of having to have everything done my way.  I don't like the fact that my husband can't deal with visiting his mother, who lives 1/2 a mile away in assisted living.  But she's his mom, not mine.  I help take care of her as I can, and have stop worrying about their relationship or feeling guilty that her family isn't with her more.  I wouldn't have liked it if he were telling me how to deal with my parents, so I don't feel I can dictate his behavior there.

Don't pack his clothes for him for a trip!  He's not a child!  If he forgets his underwear, figure he'll get to the store while you go to the pool and read a book (or maybe have dirty underwear)!  Don't take on buying presents for his family.  You're setting him up to fail.  What incentive does he have to take responsibility?  If he forgets a present for his family, it won't be the end of the world.  If they have a question about it, he can work it out with them.

You are only making yourself miserable!  Unless you are a saint, you have to resent doing all of this stuff...but you need to understand that you aren't doing it because he is asking you to do it, you are doing it because you feel it ought to be done.  But that means that YOU are responsible for your misery, not HIM.  You also communicate to him that he isn't adequate when you pick up all this stuff for him.  Do you really want to communicate both resentment at having to do this stuff and that he is inadequate?  Yes, he responds with anger about you approaching these issues because you are stepping all over his autonomy here - you are trying to force your priorities on him.  Better to let up, then when things have relaxed a bit between you, use his honesty and talk with him about the trouble YOU are having not trying to force your ideas and priorities on him.  Ask for his input, be honest about why you got drawn into this bad pattern, try to figure out how you got into this bad habit (expectations of what a "marriage" looks like, perhaps?)

Also, you think his loyalty is elsewhere, but I bet that if you asked him, he would tell you he loves you deeply.  You are personalizing his inability to anticipate (an ADD symptom) as he doesn't care about you.  And personalizing that he will spend time with family or at work as an indication that he likes them better.  But as you are doing all of this other stuff - working, and the long, long list of things you resent having to do - are you even AVAILABLE to spend fun, quality time with him???

Please don't think I'm jumping on you here, but you will benefit greatly from an immediate shift in priorities!  Forget about the stuff that "has" to be done, and start putting having fun with your guy first and foremost!  Don't buy one more card, schedule one more visit, pack one more bag - stop being his mother!  Start being his girlfriend again!  A good, easy to implement first step is agreeing to spend 10 minutes of each day (before you get up or before you go to bed) just cuddling together and telling each other your positive feelings and stories.  If you do this, I think you'll find quite quickly that you start to feel as if you are getting much more emotional support out of this relationship than you were.

Perhaps you are being too independent here.  Best of luck,



Your comments helped me. I will try the 10min approach-we used to do this 10 years ago and it was helpful. I have a similar situation, but I do realize I am more on edge when I personally have taken on extra duties. PTO stuff, charities, and volunteer work coupled with the day to day (kids, pets, bills, finances, investments..) responsibilities is too much. I do this to myself I know and I enjoy it j--ust not when it hits to overload. The balancing is usually where I do well and when I don't is when I'm more frustrated with husband and children-even though they haven't changed. Wearing the husband and wife hat like she does and I do is common with ADD spouses. My husband is an excellent provider and great father too and I try to focus on his good qualities most of the time. I take time for myself too, I sometimes block off a 1/2 day for me and finally after years...I feel good about it. Best to you, Cindi

Hiu, long time ago

are you still married..I read your post today from 2008??? its so much like me..I wanted to know if you are still married to him?

Cause and Effect

I'm a 30 year old woman with ADHD and I have found that after fights/arguments no matter how big they are...30 minutes later I'm fine, not even mad anymore and ready to be "back to normal"--even if I'm not the person who initiated the argument...My non-ADD partner, however, is not--she STAYS upset, hurt, depressed, and withdraws sometimes for DAYS. These are MINOR arguments to me, and if I'm in the wrong, I appologize and take responsibility for my actions (usually an impulsive remark I've made or thoughtless action). I'm medicated but it doesn't curb all my symptoms 100%....She says the stress from arguing causes physical ailments, and she will get to get depressed and she can't snap out of it (she is on meds for depression). I don't understand why such a tiny argument (some so tiny I call them "discussions" and don't even realize we are "arguing") can wreak such major havock on her for such a long period of time....I mean couples argue, right? I thought that was a normal part of a relationship...our arguments aren't abusive or anything. One thing we HAVE started doing is that she has started telling me when I do or say things (without thinking) that push her buttons and so I stop immediately (before, I would kinda keep on and on because I didn't realise I was "instigating") . It has helped curb my conflict-seeking behaviors (which is another wonderful symptom I suffer from)...Now all arguments are incidental and not me trying to get a "rise" out of her as she would call it but she is STILL when we even disagree on something she still suffers from all the above mentioned symptoms for DAYS...I really don't understand if this is MY problem (because of my ADD makes me get over things quicker for some reason) or HERS. Does anyone (Especially the non-ADDers out there) have any feedback or suggestions??

I can understand how some of

I can understand how some of the hurt feelings might linger, but depression sounds like a different problem. Perhaps she should get checked out medically.

It's hard to say without her

It's hard to say without her telling you, specifically, what's really eating at her.  She has depression, which is bound to make her outlook bleaker than average plenty of times.  That's not going to make it any easier.

I can only tell you my own situation and maybe it can give you some concept nuggets to ask her about.

I was once an overly patient person.  I really did give others in my professional and social lives far too many chances after a slight.  I eventually had to learn how to curb my tendency to move past a hurt and look to the horizon all for the sake of not dwelling on the hurt of the moment.

Today, I am a bleak individual who has little faith in the future. Every set back I encounter - minor or major - is one more brick in the wall blocking my view.  The smallest frustrations with my now 2 year old son can set me into a tailspin.  I have spent months at a time on the ground, unwilling to get up, because I saw no point in it.

I wasn't like that 12 years ago when I first met my ADHD husband.  He was diagnosed only a few months ago.  Prior to that, I lived with a man I thought was just absurdly dedicated to frustrating or sabotaging every plan I ever had. Whenever it came to a plan for the future, he sabotaged it.  I would try to save money for our financial future, he'd spend it all. On two consecutive times I scrimped and sacrificed enough to save 20,000 dollars in only a handful of months. On two consecutive times, he spent it all in a matter of 2-3 months as soon as the number hit 20,000.  (BTW? He's NOT a debt spender. He stops when the cash hits 0.)

The third time I picked myself up and tried it again, he didn't even wait for the account to hit 20,000 before he cleaned it out. He started as soon as it 10,000.For years, I just didn't bother trying to save any more.

I tried to change my career and it involved schooling. He never paid attention to any of my school conversations. He always interrupted my enthusiastic stories to play his video game. He lost his job soon thereafter (not his fault - company went under) and spent several months unemployed.  After he became employed again, I spent the next two years trying to go back to school, only to find that we didn't have the money for that semester - because he'd spent it. And he'd talk me out of any further sacrifice I'd make towards it too.  He'd confess later that he couldn't bear the thought of my going back to school only for him to "blow it again", so he didn't want me to even try.

I tried go my own professional route when I was pregnant with our son. I took a part time job and saved up towards buying my own professional grade camera. Yeah, you guessed it. He spent that too.

Housework was non-existent, because he wouldn't do any and he would destroy any I did - practically as soon as I did it.  As soon as I cleared a surface of clutter, he'd see the open spot as an opportunity to spread out some game materials or things he "intended" to go through.  As soon as I would organize his closet in order to get laundry done, he'd destroy the order I just put in place. I do mean within an hour of my completion.

Never mind baby-proofing. I was ill my whole pregnancy and our son arrived early. Nothing was baby-proofed. Now with a baby, I needed someone to care for him while I did the work of removing dangerous items from his space. My husband never showed up to care for him like he said he would.  It would take my breaking down into hysterics for him to finally show up, sometime around 5 PM or so on a weekend evening.  Then he'd fail to get out of bed or fail to take care of the baby the very next weekend.  It went on for 18 months.  I had to find a way of doing it while the baby napped and redoing it when my husband destroyed it with some sort of clutter he'd put in the place of the dangerous thing I'd eliminated.

I could go on with examples.  Our wedding, more savings depleted, my current attempts to return to school and his constant interruptions while I tried to study, my still on going struggle to make my space happy and safe for my son.

After 12 years of this, I was on the ground so battered that I'd told my husband that I thought about killing us both. I couldn't kill just myself, I told him, because that would mean he was left to care for our son.  And I was certain that if he had to care for our son, our son would be dead within the same year. So if I were to do anything of the sort, I'd have to take us both out.

And BTW? I HAVE a therapist.   I'm actually not clinically depressed.

That was when my husband finally went for therapy which led to the discovery of his ADHD.  It's been about 3 months of his trying to do better, and not really doing much better. At this point, every set back is a conviction to me that it's just still all the same. He will continue to sabotage and/or destroy every plan I make.

My husband feels just awful about what the past decade did to me and my dreams.  Since being diagnosed he's cried and beaten himself up emotionally.  But, unfortunately, at this time, I'm still on the ground, unable to truly see any clear path.  He's aware of why something as simple and as typical as a 2 year old's nap strike will crumble me now. (That was 2 hours that I had to work that are now gone, since I no longer rely on my husband to watch the baby on weekends, so I don't consider weekends available at all.)

I don't know how long you two have been together or if you were diagnosed at a certain point in your relationship.  If it is the case that your partner has lived far more years with your undiagnosed ADD than with your diagnosed and treated ADD, it could be that she has too hard a time seeing any future right now.  And that part could be scaring her.

Please don't take this as my assuming that your ADD manifested anywhere near as badly as my husband's did.  I couldn't know that.  But whatever the degree, added to your partner's known depression, it could have inadvertently created a worldview of hopelessness for her which she now fears terribly will return.

Lingering effects

As the non-ADHD spouse, it is the effect of constant discord or lingering issues that make sit hard to let go of something your adhd partner considers "minor." In my case, it is also infuriating that my adhd husband considers some things "Oh, my bad, blah blah" then forgets about it. For example, my husband is HORRIBLE to the point of neglect with paperwork and financial matters. I found a certified letter from the IRS stashed in his car. He went to the post office, retrieved the letter, opened it, stashed it, neglected to tell me about it and then didn't bother to figure out what needed to be done. (Incidentally, it was because he received a 1099 for some contract work. I found that document in a random box of paperwork, opened but not attended to - he did not give it to me for tax preparation and I had no idea the company issued him a 1099!).... NOW, in his mind, it was a minor glitch because he "forgot". I have a ton of extra work to do now, plus i feel like he lied to me. Now, I understand this scenario isn't the same as ruminating over a disagreement. However, he just doesn't understand how I could possibly still be angry, or even bring it up again..... to him it's past, no big deal, no consideration of the feeling of betrayal OR the extra work I have to do..... I don't know if this puts it in perspective for you or not. Maybe you should do a better job of acknowledging how it makes her feel or allowing her to verbalize more often and LISTEN? I'm not presuming to give you personal advice, it's just how it feels in my circumstances. I feel like I have to be guard all the time for "forgetfulness". Maybe she feels on edge, always wondering when instigation will occur. My husband made me feel very depressed over this one incident (one of many) and I had trouble sleeping and it kept running through my mind because I couldn't get my thoughts around the behavior.