A lack of respect

Last night, my husband and I managed to have a deep discussion about the state of our relationship.  Mostly it was me saying that he has to find a way to not be irritable and sometimes downright mean to me all the time.  He also has to get back into therapy and find ways to control his temper and outbursts over even the smallest frustrations. 

While I was talking, it occurred to me:  my husband has NEVER had much respect for me.  The more we talked and I started to think back over the years, the more I thought about all of the things he has done and said to me.  A few examples: 

He'll ask me if I'm okay with him going to a friend's house when one of the kids is sick and I'm exhausted and I say it's not the best night for it, but he goes anyway.  He had a "friend" years ago who was mentally unstable and who had threatened me and he brought him to our home on several occasions when I wasn't there.  This person had called me horrible names and ruined some of my property.  He is still friends with another man who made sexual advances towards me and when I refused, he told everyone it was I who came onto him.  He also has a "friend" who just got out of jail for drug related offenses and he went to visit this person's girlfriend when the friend wasn't home.  I don't think this is something a married father should be doing.  Our first Christmas together he got angry that I didn't get him a "good enough" gift.  I had just lost my job at the time.  When I got angry or upset after any of these incidents, I am over-reacting.  I am judgemental.  I am crazy and irrational.  It's always me.   He talks to his mom like crap too.  I thought he was short with her because they had a strained relationship when he was growing up.  But then one day she said to me, "He can't even talk to his own mother with any respect, how did you think he was going to treat you?"  And I feel very stupid.  She is right, of course.  But everyone else, no matter how they treat him, is wonderful.  He has no problem being helpful and nice to any other random person.

These are just a few example of his poor treatment and utter lack of respect.  I am embarrassed to even write these things.  There are so many other examples.  I am a college educated woman from a good family, what the heck was/am I thinking being with someone like this?  As you can tell from the examples the "friends" he chooses to hang around are questionable at best.  I told him I think he likes to hang around people with a lot of life problems because then he is the one who has his act together, when normally it's the other way around.  He actually agreed with this.

After our long talk he admits he has not had respect for me.  He says he wants to fight for our relationship.  I worry that now that I am seeing things clearly, it is too late. 

I would like to know if anyone else has experienced such a total lack of respect from their ADHD partner.  Is is possible to move forward?  I want to stay together for the sake of our kids, but I am starting to feel dead inside.  The only person I tell any of this to is my dad.  He has tried to remain neutral, but even he is starting to say that it is emotional abuse and I deserve better.  Thoughts, opinions, similar experiences are greatly appreciated.

If it doesn't get better, it won't get better

What I mean by the cryptic subject line is -- if there is no talking, working on, making progress on these issues, then no, they will not get better in the future.  What does your husband mean when he says he want to fight for the relationship?  Are there specific changes he believes he can make?  Are those the changes you need to see?  Are there specific things he wants you to change?  Do you agree, and are they things you feel you can change?    My ADHD guy (undiagnosed and untreated) has always treated me with less respect (35+ years married) than strangers.  His "filter" for what is appropriate, kind, rude or thoughtless just doesn't work very well, unless he is "in public" then he has a specific persona he was adopted over the years that works very well with strangers or acquaintances.    We all have thoughts we'd like to say, but don't, because we know they arise from irritation, frustration, impatience, being tired or just not very loving in that moment.  So we don't say them. And for the most part, those mean thoughts don't reflect the totality of how we feel about someone, so we don't say them.   My ADHD guy doesn't see any conflict between saying that I'm lazy, I'm boring or I'm not as good looking as I used to be, and on the same day saying I'm the love of his life, I'm brilliant and I'm beautiful.  To him, they are all true, so he says them.  You will hear from many spouses of people with ADHD that our mates think we are too sensitive. They are just speaking the "truth" after all (their truth).  So I have to tell you, without treatment and coaching, I don't think this kind of thing goes away.   The only thing you can decide is whether you can live with it or not.  I can't any more.  I am not looking for another relationship.  Mainly I'm concerned that I would fall for any line of bullshit that comes my way, because I'm so starved to be treated with, as you say, respect. 

put yourself first

Moderator, please remove this. I double-replied and didn't mean to. Thank you! 

Momof2, I am so sorry you are going through this, and I wince in painful recognition. I, too, have been embarrassed to say out loud or admit some of the behavior my spouse has exhibited toward me over the years. I just asked myself the same question a few months ago, "What am I doing with someone like this?" (Up until then, I think the question was, "Why is he doing this? Can't he see what he is doing? Maybe if I try hard enough I can show him or convince him or fix it or not provoke these things.") Then I went through a shocked phase. Then a questioning and trying to talk about it phase: "Do you realize that when you got mad, you called me a b*tch? This was very hurtful!" Then a phase where I argued back: "No, talking to you about that is NOT the same as you calling me a name!" And then begging, begging him to stop and see a marriage counselor (answer: no) because I was so desperate for it to stop. Going to work with a puffy swollen face from crying and no sleep. And then the migraines and anxiety and walking on eggshells. And the long, last two years of feeling completely, as you say, dead inside, just to avoid acknowledging what it was doing to me or shutting down because it was just so painful. 

Have you seen a counselor or therapist? Someone like this may be able to help you discern what you would need from your spouse to be able to work on these issues. My psychologist told me to look up "emotional and verbal abuse" and read about it. She nudged me for a while as I was explaining or making excuses for my spouse's behavior (not saying you are!) It was a real eye opener for me, to say, AHA: He is emotionally and verbally abusive, and it is killing me, and why would I live with someone who treats me this way? If I had a friend who acted like this, I would have been done a long time ago, and if I had a friend who was married to someone like this, I would tell her to separate from him! It was pretty tough for me to say out loud that my spouse called me awful names when he was mad, but once I did, I realized that it was the truth and that it was just not ok, no matter what he has going on. And mine was also capable of being fairly polite, respectful, and charming to others, which is part of the definition of abuse: he can control it, it is not something that is beyond his control. For some reason he gave himself permission to treat me like this, and it got worse and worse over the years. Mine actually turned it around to make me the abusive one and him the victim--it just about took me under, and took me a very long time to step outside and see what he was doing. I am not perfect, but I am not the abusive one treating my spouse with a complete lack of respect. After I filed for a separation, my family began telling me how worried they have been about me over the years and how concerned they have been about the way he treated me. 

In the end, I went from wanting to stick it out for our kids, to wanting to protect our kids from this toxic relationship. Mine, unfortunately, did not have the wherewithal or desire or ability to work on it. I asked him to go to counseling for five years. Mine also always told me that I was too critical, or overreacted, or that it was my fault because I provoked him first each time. Mine has a pathological need to not be wrong, to not be blamed, to avoid talking about this, and to just wake up the next day and act like nothing happened. Until it happened again. I was worried about the step of separating, and my kids growing up in a split home, and the financial implications (we are in a house that he half renovated, spent all of our money on, and quit, and it currently has almost no kitchen and we are broke). But I realized that my children were growing up watching him as an example of how to be a man, and watching him treat me the way he did, and learning about relationships this way. I didn't want them to learn to call a woman a name if you were mad at her! In the beginning, I admit I was scared to think about doing it on my own and ending our marriage--but then I thought about how it would affect my little ones if I stayed. 

I send you best wishes and hope for the best resolution of this! I agree--if he says he wants to fight for it, and admits he has been disrespectful, maybe it is possible. What does this mean? Will he go to counseling or agree to a set of ground rules? Can he see, really see what he is doing? Or maybe you can set some ground rules for yourself, and agree to try up to a certain point, and then take a break from him if it doesn't improve? 

Best of luck!

It's nice to hear I'm not alone

It makes me feel a little better to know that I'm not the only person who has allowed myself to be treated this way.  Lately all I keep thinking is "what was I thinking?!" over and over again.  Why would I have ever even married a person who treated me this way.  And so maybe I should seek counseling, at the very least so I never repeat this mistake or behavior in my life.

My husband is on the highest dose of Concerta and it was helping a lot in the beginning, but now it's not enough.  He was going to a therapist, but he kept "forgetting" to show up for his appointments and then let it drop altogether.  He says that he will go back and he will call for an appointment this week.  Our insurance will only cover 10 sessions per year, so I am not confident it will help as much as it needs to.  Honestly, we have had the same conversation about the state of our relationship so many times and I have received so very many empty promises that I doubt much will come of this.  The only positive, if you can call it that, is that I am so numb that I don't care if he's mad or irritated with me anymore.  He's always mad or irritated, so who cares?  This actually scares him because I have always tolerated his poor behavior, and even worse, I have always tried to diffuse or fix the situation.  To make him happy again.  Now I just walk away or stare at him like "you have to be kidding me". 

Honestly, it would take a miracle for our relationship to be saved.  My kids are only 2 and 3 years old and a huge part of me feels like getting out while they are this young would be better.  I can't imagine living the rest of my life with someone who doesn't respect me, who I have no real partnership with.  I guess I can never regret having married him because then I wouldn't have my wonderful kids. 

I think that, too

My beautiful children really save me. I have moments where I think, I can't believe this, I just can't believe I married someone who treats me so badly and frankly, just seems to be non-functioning and completely devoid of empathy--who has absolutely no respect for me as a person. I wasted these years! But then I look at my kids, and I think that I have them and always will, and they are my reason for being. I love them so much. So, it is not all bad. 

I almost left when mine were toddlers, and part of what kept me there was my fear that I couldn't take care of them on my own or make it financially as a single mother with toddlers (and other things, including breaking up a marriage). But now, I really wish I had left earlier--this was going on back then and the last few years have been so painful and stressful, and I know they have been hard on my little guys. Going through a divorce with elementary schoolers is particularly awful! At least you know you have options.

Mine took very high doses of Adderall, and it did help him focus at work, but since he had no ability or desire to enter counseling or address his issues or our issues, it did not really affect our relationship. I think its effectiveness wore off over time, too. 

In the meantime, I did learn not to engage--it helped a lot. When the stuff would start, I would calmly say, "Let's wait to talk until you are not upset," or "The kids are here--let's not do this," and walk away. It was much better than trying to argue or get him to see my point of view, and definitely saved me some stress. I still have hardly scratched the surface in counseling regarding WHY I would seek out or marry or tolerate a partner like this, but it did help me define what I could and could not control and how to negotiate our separation. 

Best to you. I remember when mine were your children's age--they are so cute and wonderful but it is a busy time!