So much is written about the non-ADD partner's anger and resentment. But I've found very little about what to do when the ADD partner accumulates these emotions. And that is where I live. Is this part of anyone else's experience?
We're coming up on 19 years of marriage, My wife and I have been banging away at ADD-related issues just about forever. It's been about six years since I finally responded to her prodding, bit the bullet, got diagnosed, got a good ADD-focused therapist, and a psychiatrist, and started trying the various drugs to treat my symptoms. We've read just about all the core books on ADHD in relationships, as well as a few of the core save-your-marriage-books. Have consulted about a dozen different mental health professionals all told. Did Ms Orlov's couples seminar two years ago and it was worthwhile, but real breakthroughs continue to elude us. Early on I was hopeful that we were going to turn the downward spirals around and save our marriage, but it's been very persistently difficult and things really don't look very good these days. We are now quite dug in, each putting up walls to protect ourselves from the other, each pretty disappointed, each with painful emotional damage, struggling with emotional disengagement. The drugs definitely help some but they are no panacea. My wife reports that she does not feel particularly angry or lonely, but I am deeply steeped in those emotions almost constantly. I feel like I have worked the many behavioral exercises in good faith with a fair amount of dedication, but my wife commonly perceives that I am not. It's hard to walk the line between appropriately practicing accountability for behavior and inappropriately keeping score and tallying grudges. We're told it's best to work on the process and not focus too much on the specific results, but when the task is to improve reliability and consistency ("improve my batting average") then we pretty much have to keep score. It's hard to shake feelings that I now live like Sisyphus striving eternally to earn love and intimacy, which is conditional, based on performance, and always more or less out of reach.
My wife is much more of a detail-oriented planner than I am. We are many years into the corrosive effects of an inadvertent parent-child dynamic that annoys the $^&@!! out of us both. Setting priorities, managing time, and scheduling our lives remain hot button issues. Over the last decade I've slowly and steadily accumulated almost unbearable amounts of resentment, frustration, and anger. I never in my life thought of myself as an angry person before, but I sure am now. I now experience wildly disproportionate rushes of just about all the negative emotions there are when my wife whom I love says or does a wide variety of little things. Anger, resentment, frustration, sadness, loneliness very noticeably affect my breathing, and cause chronic muscle tension in my shoulders and neck. When it's especially bad my skin just crawls and I can experience tension headaches. This all must be bad for my long term health.
I resent my wife's dismissal of my feelings, interests, and desires. I bitterly resent and am deeply saddened by the loss of romance and all manner of intimacy. I feel belittled, unappreciated, and disrespected when I try to talk to her about some interesting thing that I have seen or thought of and her only response is to prompt me to get back to work on whatever task she has recently assigned to me. I feel anger about the implicit assumption that at any given moment my wife must know better than I do what is important, worthy of my time and attention, and worth doing. I feel anger about what I perceive as my wife's impatience. I resent her near constant expectation that I can do most all tasks faster than I am generally able. I resent the way she routinely assigns me tasks to accomplish while she's away. I could just about pay for all my spendy meds if I had a dime for every time she asked me pointedly, "What happened?" when some part of my day took longer than she expected. I understand that polite people apologize when they are late (my wife really stresses this), but it's hard to go through life constantly apologizing for being late without starting to feel like a loser. I routinely sleep very poorly because it's hard to get all these feelings out of my body. Ongoing sleep deficits make everything worse. In the last year I've developed a very noticeable involuntary tremor in my chest that is triggered by stress, especially when in bed with my wife. As the tension continues to accumulate I find that it takes very little to push me into emotional overflow. I find myself starting to do things like breaking dishes or shouting wild angry screams of frustration when I'm alone. I try very hard not to scare my family but sometimes I scare myself. So far I've been able to inhibit occasional momentary impulses to break big, expensive things. I don't think I'm a danger to myself or others, but I might just lose it and shout hurtful words at them some day. I worry about the effect of our strained marriage on our teenage daughter.
I empathize with my long suffering wife. I understand all the things Ms Orlov and others write about how many ways a marriage to an ADD person can create anger and frustration for the non-ADD spouse. But I have heard relatively little about how sucky the ADD partner can feel. I've been hanging in for many years but I feel like I'm just about at the end of my rope. Sometimes I marvel ruefully at how much amazingly negative emotion can be generated by two dedicated people of good will in a loving marriage. With despair, I observe most of John Gottman's "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" creeping into our marriage over the years (no open contempt yet, but I'm beginning to think pretty contemptuous thoughts). I try to imagine our future together and it looks blank- It's hard for me to even visualize it any more. Can we really still save our marriage, and if we can't then could I ever expect to have a better relationship with anyone else?
Ugh... That got longer and more explicit than I thought it would. I guess writing this down was a good thing. If you read this far then thanks for indulging me.