I just connected the dots a couple weeks ago and realized that ADHD is most likely what I'm dealing in terms of my husband's behavior. I've been researching and reading everything I can find online about adult ADHD, and have read The ADHD Effect on Marriage, and Is it You, Me, or Adult ADHD. I'm having severe swings between hope and total despair. Lots of crying when I'm alone. I see that change CAN happen, but I'm desperately afraid it won't. My husband is the guy who believes that "ADHD" is just an excuse people use to drug their badly behaved or hyperactive kids because they're too lazy to be parents. I'll admit that up until recently, I didn't know much about it myself, tho I'm far more open-minded than he is. We've always joked that he has ADHD due his incredibly high energy levels and constant fidgeting, and his propensity to be forgetful and absent-minded, so the fact that symptoms I didn't even know had anything to do with ADHD have likely been the invisible destructive force behind almost 20 years of wedded chaos and instability is kind of ironic.
In our relationship, I'm the reasonable, steady, more introverted partner. I am not a nagger or a pusher, nor have I ever been. He is the life-of-the party, constantly moving, boisterous, opinionated partner that everyone loves. He runs his own successful business (which would probably be more successful if he was more organized and better with time management), and is a very loving and involved dad to our four teenage children. I think he's developed a lot of good coping strategies over the years because he used to have a terrible anger management problem, and was very verbally abusive for the first 6 years of our marriage. He was able to get a grip on the more overt aspects of his abusive behavior when I threatened to leave him, but he still has a tendency to subtly jab, poke, insult, accuse, blame, shame, and guilt in attempt to manipulate me into doing what he wants. He's started doing this more with the kids as they get older, as well, which they don't exactly understand and they get frustrated by, as well. The one plus is that I no longer feel that I'm crazy because I'm not the only one experiencing it, but I also try to deflect as much if it from them as possible, because I know how damaging that kind of "influencing" can be. He's swung from giving everyone a piece of his mind in our early years to letting people (outside of our immediate family) walk all over him now to avoid blowing up at them. Except me. If he doesn't read agreement on my face or I don't verbalize my agreement with him, or if I actually verbally disagree, he gets offended or upset or outright angry. I spend (waste) a lot of time clarifying that what I said was not meant to be offensive or hurtful, or having to defend why my patience has worn thin when I finally snap after he's being too pushy or rude. And it's mostly stupid little things that he'll say to me or infer about me, but it never ends. That said, he isn't like that all the time. He's generally a chatty, positive, jovial goofball, and that is all anyone outside our home knows him as. He plays and jokes with the kids all the time, so they have a very positive relationship with him for the most part. But then there's me, and I am the buzzkill.
I reached my breaking point early this year. On two separate occasions he blew up at me at the dinner table in front of our children when he was getting on their cases for something. Once because he perceived that I disagreed with him because I didn't immediately vocally back him up, and the other time because the child in question turned and looked at me during the conversation so he thought I MUST be secretly agreeing with them instead of him. I defended myself until I saw it was pointless, and both times I got up from the table and walked away while he continued to rant and rave at me, then to the kids about me after I'd left the room. He doesn't often escalate to that level anymore, but I still had to spell out to him 5 months later when he didn't understand WHY his behavior in both of those situations was problematic. He apologized to me and to the kids when we were all together. While I appreciated his apology, it really felt like it was too little too late. I haven't been able to force myself to have sex with him more than 3-4 times since the second incident. Each time I did I felt so angry and resentful about it that I decided that I probably need to not be doing that right now. He's not happy with me over this. Claims he's the only one who makes any effort in this relationship and that I just hold grudges forever and enjoy punishing him, but this kind of thing has been going on for 20+ years. We have had countless "discussions" (that spiraled into arguments) about his angry reactions, and his hurtful words. I have gotten so much pushback, denial, justification, and blame shifting back onto me that I am so over it.
Now that it seems like I have figured out the reasoning behind his rotten behaviors, I can understand how he doesn't see or understand the destruction he brings on me emotionally. If I'm honest with myself, there is a part of me that genuinely wouldn't care if we ever resolved anything because I have reached the point where I can't stand him. BUT, we have four kids still at home, and I can't afford to support myself in this economy, let alone myself AND four kids, and I would never leave them... especially with him without me here to buffer when he gets out of hand. I feel like I've lived all these years compensating or covering for him to make it look like we have this perfect family and perfect life, and while we are very blessed in many ways, I also feel like a massive fraud. But how do I convince him to actually look into ADHD with an open mind and possibly TRY to get some help? He does not have the interest or patience to research and/or read anything himself. Is it reasonable to give a partner with ADHD an ultimatum? How does that even work when you are too exhausted from years of basically emotionally parenting a spouse with ADHD to even do the work anymore on yourself?