My husband is the ADHD partner.
My dad and brother were both ADHD so I went into the marriage already knowing a little about it, and on top of that I've listened to my husband's descriptions and done hours upon hours of my own dedicated research. However--there are some aspects of being in a marriage with an ADHD partner that no amount of research can prepare you for.
I was warned from the beginning that he is a rambler. He said from day one that he will talk for a seemingly endless amount of time, and seemingly saying the same thing over and over, but that it's just what he needs to do to be able to get out what he's really trying to say, and that he would be able to listen afterward. I told him I could understand that. That was at the beginning when he devoted almost as much time listening to me as I did listening to him, so I had no problem with it.
But as time has gone on, he's gotten absolutely horrible about listening to me. I can't tell you how many times I've listened patiently to him talk for 15 or 20 minutes, and then just a sentence or two into a response been told he couldn't handle talking any more. It is even worse if there's any tension in the conversation, like if it's an argument or even just something we disagree on, like certain political topics. He also gets worse about it when he is tired (he is military and works an insane amount, sometimes going 2 days on only a few hours of sleep). Not feeling like I have the floor for anything resembling an equal amount of time makes it harder and harder for me to hear him through, and it got to where I started getting really bad about interrupting. I've gotten to where I basically expect that I won't have a chance to really say my part. Me interrupting him a lot has in turn made him less likely to want to hear me through, and the whole thing has spiraled in on itself to where we're in a place now where neither of us feels listened to and after a fight we both feel like the other person overpowered the conversation.
He knows he has ADHD and knows that his struggles can be a burden on those close to him as well as himself. I myself have OCD and PTSD as well as a somewhat more general anxiety disorder, and I too realize that my struggles can be a burden on those around me. However, we handle this knowledge very differently from each other. Because I realize my things can be a burden, I do my best to take it on myself and not put the weight on others whenever possible. I also put a lot of effort into not putting blame on him when he triggers my anxiety or OCD and instead say I know this is hard, and I know it's not rational, but I'm feeling x or y because of my OCD or whatever and here is my need. He does that some of the time, but a lot of the time he just gets irritated or mad and thinks it's ME, not his ADHD, that is causing him to have the reaction. And the worst part is, he seems to think he's always right. I've told him this before and he told me that wasn't true because if he reflects on his behavior and decides it was wrong of him, he will apologize of his own accord. Which is true, and I love that about him, but that is only when HE decides he was wrong. If I tell him he hurt my feelings and that the behavior wasn't okay, he won't give me the time of day. Most of the time he won't even hear me through to explain it all the way, and even when he does he usually responds defensively and even tells me I'm imagining things and I need to get help.
It's not like I've never imagined things--I have PTSD, after all, and that kind of automatically means you sometimes perceive harmless things as threats--but I feel like he doesn't even respect my point of view, like he almost treats me like a child or like I'm crazy. I know my issues, I've acknowledged them and continue to do so regularly, and I've even sought therapy. When he tells me I've hurt him, I eventually always apologize. But he doesn't do the same. If I tell him he's hurt me he often dismisses it because I hurt him too, like he thinks his pains are more important, or he'll get even more upset and think I'm making him the bad guy when really he's innocent. I'm serious, he'll get mad at ME for telling him he hurt my feelings, like I don't have a right to feel a certain way even if I AM overreacting. If he said he understood how I was feeling but he really didn't think that was how it happened, that would be one thing, but he doesn't, he acts like I've done something wrong for even feeling the way I do, and especially for saying so.
Another thing that really makes me feel deeply disrespected is that when I have a PTSD attack during an argument and can feel that I'm about to descend into a panic, my therapist told me to ask for a timeout, 20 minutes to myself to calm down and breathe and regroup, and then to come back to talk about it when I am calm. My husband does not respect this. When he demands space, even if he's mean about it, I give it to him. I am consistent about that, there have only been a few times when I kept going after he asked for space in a fight and usually that was when he'd say 10 things I'd done wrong and THEN say "but I need space, I can't talk more about it right now" without ever giving me a chance to defend myself against the accusations. The mature thing to do would still be to give him his space and address my issues later, but it wasn't fair of him to set it up that way either, and basically the rest of the time I will walk away when he says he needs space. But he doesn't do it for me. I'm not one to make sweeping generalizations and say "always" or "never," but it's pretty darn close to "never" on this one, even objectively. He just keeps talking or insisting that he NEEDS me to listen right that moment, and sometimes he'll even follow me into another room and kind of loom over me as he keeps talking, even when I'm begging him to give me even 5 minutes to calm down. I've told him over and over that I take that time for him as much as for me, because when I get an attack like that I feel cornered and panicked and I lose control--I've screamed and screamed at him and sworn and told him he didn't care about me or never listened to me or whatever before, so many times, before I started getting help. Now I'm more often able to tell when I start shaking or my heart rate goes up and if I can get away and calm down soon enough I won't go into a panic. But it doesn't work at all if he won't let me go, if he just blatantly ignores my request, because that just makes me feel even more cornered. No matter how many times I've addressed this the behavior doesn't change. And he doesn't even seem to care. He has never really acknowledged that this is a problem nor has he ever seemed to take it seriously. This behavior actually frightens me and I have no idea why he does it.
It is also worth noting that he is fed up with getting yelled at--which, like I said, is something I do when a panic sets in--and that's totally understandable. It is an issue I have that I have acknowledged and sought help for and am constantly analyzing and trying to address. But like with the needing space thing, I feel like he isn't helping me. He also won't listen to any of my issues with his behavior if I've yelled or sworn even for a second in the conversation. Sometimes he won't hear my side if I've even interrupted him once, accidentally! It's incredibly unfair. And he yells sometimes too, less than he used to, but when he DOES it's an absolute horror show. When I yell I accuse him of things like 'you aren't listening to me' or I'll tell him he's being an asshole, or I'll just yell out whatever point it was that I didn't feel like he was listening to. But when he yells, he often says things like "I want a divorce" and throws his wedding ring across the room, or he'll call me a horrible name like "Satan," or make threats like that he's going to just leave if I don't listen or that he wants to "take a break" if I insist on taking space or insist that I'm right about something. Today he even screamed at me that he hated me. Sometimes when he gets into a rage like that he will break things, like he threw a glass once, and he broke my corkboard over his head, and he broke my underwear drawer over his head and threw the underwear at me. I can't understand this because I would never say things like that. I've never screamed at him that I wanted a divorce just because we were fighting, no matter how ugly it got, no matter even if the idea ran through my head. That's just not okay, the same as screaming "I hate you" is just not okay. I was taught that you'd better mean things like that if you say them, otherwise they're manipulative and verbally and emotionally abusive. And if I even say something like "you don't even care about my feelings" when I'm mad, he'll be SO devastated and need so much comfort the next day, but he doesn't give me the same consideration when he does these really awful things. I'm lucky if I even get an apology most times. He seems to think his own pain, feelings, thoughts, emotions and viewpoint are actually more valid and important than mine, and I don't say that lightly. When he's in a positive mood he's an absolute doll, and SO caring and tender. He will go out of his way to validate me, do nice things for me, help me with my problems. But if anything goes even slightly wrong to him (and bear in mind that his mood can snap in an absolute instant, with even the tiniest of triggers or even imagined ones), the world is ending, there is no consoling him, no defending myself, and no acknowledgment that maybe, possibly, there is a chance my point of view was true (or even worth hearing).
I don't know what to do anymore, to be honest. I feel like we need to be in the presence of a marital counselor before I'm even able to explain all these feelings to him, because I am so scared (sure, even) that I won't be heard through or treated tenderly or respectfully, and I'm not even sure I could get through talking about all that without snapping and yelling again if he even slightly disrespected me during it. He screamed that he hated me and demanded that I get out today, after unsuccessfully trying to discuss an unresolved fight from the night before, so I left and went to a friend's house, and he is spending the night at one of his friends' house tonight. After that? I don't know. He said he wanted to take a break and he said I was "too much for him" so I don't know if he means it this time or if he was just saying mean things while he was mad, but I've gotten the impression he means it, and part of that is probably because saying that didn't work. It didn't make me just break down and give up on my point. I've gotten sick of the disrespect and I am standing up for myself. I think it pissed him off that I took him up on his word and actually left too. At some point we are going to have to talk and figure out what we're going to do, and I know I'm going to ask him to see a marital counselor with me. I know that I need to be blunt and honest about how I'm feeling, but I just don't feel okay to do that in the space that has been set up between us. I do not feel safe and comfortable to express myself when I have an issue with him, and he seems to think that is due 100% to my own trauma and not at all to his behavior.
This is probably the longest rant I've ever posted, and if anyone made it through, you are a saint. I don't even know what I'm looking for. Advice, for sure. Solidarity. Constructive criticism, if you have it. Success stories. I'm so hurt and confused and scared, and this is really hard for me, and I want to work through these problems with him but we can't do that if I'm the only one looking to correct my hurtful behaviors, and I'm so scared that he won't realize that is what's happening--and if he can't even acknowledge any of this, then I don't see how it can work out between us. I'm desperate and will take all the help I can get.
Blessings. Thank you.