When is it time for the ADD partner to call it quits?

My wife and I have been married for almost 20 years. Four years ago I was diagnosed ADHD after a marriage counselor suggested I be evaluated. (I had suspected I was ADHD for about 5 years before that.) I have a college degree and have been relatively successful in my career but definitely have been coping with ADHD symptoms for all my life. We have a teenage son who is talented and athletic. From the outside, our family looks great.

My wife is extremely bitter that she married a man with undiagnosed ADHD. She has taken on all the family financial tracking, is very neat, organized, and ambitious, and I am a man whom she sees as irresponsible and untrustworthy. We have been fighting more or less continuously for 15 years about behavior generated by my ADHD symptoms. My diagnosis, which provided me great relief, has led my wife to great disappointment. I have been sleeping on our couch for almost 3 years.

I have been taking medication since my diagnosis and have gone to counseling to resolve long-standing depression. I have participated in ADD support groups and have changed my daily behavior so that I keep my appointments, never lose my keys, and have methods to overcome my forgetfulness and distractibility.

I realize that I have been in denial about ADHD, hoping that I could make it go away. But lately, in the past few months, I have found myself accepting my condition and am gradually losing my sense of shame about it. My wife, though, sees me as another child to take care of.

I am flummoxed, though, and am at a crossroads in my marriage. For years, my wife has screamed, yelled, and threatened me in efforts to get me to change and she has been despairing  at my inability to totally contain my distractibility, forgetfulness, and impulsiveness.  During really intense arguments, my wife has hit me with her fists on 2 occasions and screamed insults at me for all the neighborhood to hear. I have actually learned to be calm in the midst of our arguments and in the past 2 years have gotten much better at containing my temper, so I have  learned to ease some of the conflict.

This past weekend, however, my wife became very upset with me because I could not recall the specifics of a meeting that we had with our financial advisor.  She feels betrayed that she married someone with a condition that will never get better and that she is in for nothing but frustration for the rest of her life.  She then said she wished I were dead because that would make things better for everyone.


After the argument, we cooled off,  made some amends and actually spent some enjoyable time together the next day. But I can't get her comment out of my mind. I know it's no picnic to be married to someone with ADHD and I feel a huge load of regret for the pain I have caused her. I am accepting, coping with, and treating my condition. But no one has ever told me they wished me dead. I have been obsessing about it and now I am seriously thinking about ending the marriage.

We have been at the brink of divorce before but have always managed to find a solution to stay together, mostly because we love our son dearly and want his life to be as stable as possible. We have also done some marriage counseling. There are a lot of posts on this site about the non-ADHD partner getting so fed up they need to split. But what about the ADHD partner who is fed up? My psychiatrist early on advised me a while ago that I might be experiencing a form of abuse but I have shrugged it off until now. My wife has told me several times that she herself feels abused by me because of my ADHD.

So, to put a point on my post, I think because of my ADHD I am having a hard time evaluating whether I have actually been hurt and I don't know what to do. I want to preserve my family but I am finding that living in my family is an increasingly horrible experience.


That's sad

Just had to say that I applaud all the effort you have put into getting better. Sounds like your wife has some major anger & rage issues. Does she currently see a counselor about the resentment she feels? I know you want to preserve your family, but do you really want your son to think all the anger and you sleeping on the couch is normal? Kids are a lot smarter than you think. I would not want my son to see think that is how a normal family acts. I really don't know what to say. I would think that your wife would want to heal her wounds. Do you think she continues to act this way because she is intentionally trying to drive you away?

re: not sure

you sound very tried and troubled. I would say as one who went through so much anger with my adhd/depression /alcoholic ets...husband that your wife has a lot of resentment and a uncontrolable amount of anger, One thing I learned was that as I had a breakdown  the more anger you experience and the more abuse that you encounter the less resistance you have  to control your anger. So a person with abuse or anger has a more difficult time trying to not let the rage come out . I  would definetly suggest theraphy but for your wife she needs to come to terms about her resentment. She also needs to have forgiveness. Know this that you are doing many things right. For your wife to tell you your better off gone well those are desperate words from a desperate cry for help. We are all gifts whatever package we come in. I remember as my husband told me he had lied about bouncing our checking account so he could buy some pot . I called him stupid and idiot and I really hurt him. I didn't mean those crushing words but I couldn't handle the things he was doing and that it was affecting myself and our 4 children.A seperation might be helpful and a time for healing. Don't be in denial. Your wife sounds like she is really hurting as well. I wish you both a bright future and a healthy marriage.

 May I suggest you go look in the mirror and tell yourself that you were created in the image of the most high! Now thats priceless................................  

re:not sure

Let me tell you how well you have doen to understand and work with your ADD. I know how much of a struggle it all can be. Your wife clearly has issues of her own and wanted to fullfill her dreams thru you. Your life is your own and no one elses. Your son very much needs you as does your wife no maater what she says. She has not come to terms with her life yet and is just lashing out.

Just think your son may have some ADHD problems as often it is heraditary. He will need your help for a long time to come even if he is not ADHD. The most precious gift you can bestow is to live and help others even if they tell you otherwise. I cannot see how your wife will do better without you. All of you will be worse off for the breakup.

Please hang in there and learn to manage like you did with ADD. In time your wife will come to terms with her life with or without you. For now she clearly needs your help even if is to act as a focus for her resentment. Look upon her behaviour as an illness like your ADHD. Give her the help, time & space to get better. In the meantime carry on your life by learning to manage it without anyones help as much as you can. That way you will be there for your family when they need you while allowing them to follow their own path.

When is it Time to Call it Quits?

I don't think that deciding when to call it quits has anything to do with whether or not you have ADD, though I appreciate your willingness to reach out in this forum for help.  In my opinion, a person should call it quits when they know that they have done all they can possibly do AND when they feel that the negative of staying in a relationship far outweighs the positive.

From your description, your wife is trying to punish you for her disappointments and feelings.  The description you give of how you are dealing with your ADD, your acceptance of it, your taking responsibility for it would be the DREAM of many of the non-ADD spouses here.  Your wife's punishment of you demonstrates to me that she is in trouble.  Which brings up an interesting question.  She stayed with you (albeit abusively, it sounds) when you were in trouble...what do you "owe" her?  A tough question, particularly in light of your situation - it sounds as if you got your ADD house in order in spite of your wife, rather than with her help.  Nonetheless, if you look into the empathetic part of your soul, is there something in there which tells you that this woman is in extreme distress and deserves your help?  If so, how to help her is a topic that you might wish to explore - perhaps with the help of people here, or with the help of a counselor.  Remember, though, that ultimately she is responsible for her change, not you.  You can only take care of yourself (and you should keep doing so - don't entertain any ideas, if you do, about letting go of some of the gains you've made with your ADD because it doesn't matter...it DOES matter - to you and your son, if not to your wife right now.)

I am hoping that your comment that you are "gradually losing my sense of shame about my ADD" does not translate into "I've decided to stop working so hard to keep my ADD symptoms under control".  There is no reason to feel ashamed about your ADD - it is one aspect about you, is all.  On the other hand, taking care of your symptoms makes life go more smoothly....so don't give up your gains!

I've always wondered about the "sleeping on the sofa" thing...WHY should one spouse decide that they are uncomfortable with the other spouse and get the right to kick that spouse out, rather than decide to remove themself from the room?  What is she?  Queen?  You have also been willing to accept verbal abuse from your wife, rather than demand the respect that you deserve for your efforts.  Now that you are truly coming to terms with your ADD, perhaps it's time to also stand up for yourself a bit more.  As weird as this sounds, I expect she'll respect you for it.  If not, at least YOU'LL respect you for it.  If you are still seeing a therapist, you might do some role playing with him/her about how you can stand up for yourself in a calm (NOT angry) manner, and ask for the respect you deserve.  Your wife needs to understand that her marriage is at a critical juncture now - she either gets her act together (and you seem willing to give her some time to do this) OR her marriage ends.  You've held up your end of the bargain...now it's time for her to take responsibility for herself.  I would note here - you have already started on the journey of sticking up for yourself - hence considering divorce now...so this isn't a stretch...just a way of confronting her and putting the need for change where it belongs...with her.

Before you embark upon this journey, I suggest you read "The Dance of Anger"...not because you are angry (though I bet you are) but because the author talks about a specific set of behaviors that you will set off if you decide to make this change.  When you change your approach your wife is likely to make "counter-moves" to offset you...reading this book will prepare you for this.  In addition, if you leave it out or share a few select passages with her, maybe she'll read it too (which would help you both).

My husband got to this same point as you...his solution was to express his newfound independence by having an affair.  It was a wake up call for me, though I DO NOT recommend you take this path (take the high road instead!)  I encourage you to listen to your heart...and to make sure you do things thoughtfully...don't let any ADD impulsivity get the best of you.

Keep us posted, if you will.

Thank you for your perspectives, Melissa

I think your responses are very astute, Melissa. Thanks for helping me think things through.

A few elaborations...

Regarding shame...

To me "losing my sense of shame" means not trying to cover up that fact that I have ADHD and owning that I have the ADHD behaviors in abundance. For example, I used to get very defensive when I would forget something and would try to cover it up. Now, I try a humbler approach and say "I'm sorry, my attention wandered a little bit. Could you repeat that?" Or "I have a lousy short term memory. Do you mind if I take notes or tape record our conversation?" (It's not that I go around announcing I have ADHD. It's like I'm more willing to cop to my behavior and let the other person know that I acknowledge it.) I am less self-downing about the fact that I have ADHD and try to be gentler when I notice that ADHD has gotten me into another uncomfortable position.

Shame also came from having to take medications. I have been trying several methods over the past few years to get away from medications because always felt like I was sneaking something illegal or was depending on a crutch to get me through. (My wife referred to them as "magic pills" and was resentful that I got to take one instead of working hard for everything like she did.)  Now I just don't think about it and simply take the pill the same way I regularly clean and put in my contact lenses.

My wife once said to me she would feel ashamed if she had acted flaky the way I did and she thought shame was an appropriate emotion. Particularly difficult for me has been overcoming shame about being treated for depression. I was denied life insurance because of my treatment and this has been a bitter point that my wife brings up regularly.

Regarding sleeping on the couch...

Sleeping on the couch started with me trying to be considerate because I was snoring so much, so I would move out of the bedroom whenever I would wake my wife. This got to be more of a habit when I found myself sleeping better and not being waked up by my wife's own problems sleeping. I also felt safer because my wife had the practice of waking me up in the middle of the night to lecture me about something I had done. So moving out of the bedroom was not unilaterally decreed by my wife--it was more of a mutual decision. Moving back into the bedroom, however, has not been permitted by my wife, so she is the one deciding to keep the situation as it is.

On seeing a therapist...

I saw a counselor early on about dealing with issues generated by my ADHD. My wife demanded that I give her full reports on the content of the counseling sessions and would often dispute what I said as being false or misleading. She would also tell me that she disagreed with the therapist's advice. After awhile, I stopped reporting to my wife about my sessions because, I reasoned, I felt like I had the right to talk to someone confidentially. This caused great conflict in our marriage. Eventually, I agreed to stop seeing the counselor because my wife said it was not working and costing too much money. Although I stopped seeing a counselor, I still see a psychiatrist every 3 to 6 months for medication management check-ins. My wife has said several times that she thinks I lie to my psychiatrist and that I minimize the problems that I have or present my problems in a light that favors the best interpretation of my actions.

For my wife's part, she saw a counselor before I was officially diagnosed. The take-away for her in that situation was that my wife's counselor was of the opinion that my wife is a very high-functioning, even gifted, individual and it would be understandable for her to be annoyed and frustrated by people less gifted than she. This has played out in our relationship to the point that my wife says she not only feels like my parent but she feels condescending to me because she is my intellectual superior and this aspect of our relationship causes her to feel bad about herself.

Thank-you for the advice to read the Lerner book. I read something by Lerner a long time ago (but of course, have forgotten which book. One of my faults is that I read too many self-help books.) I obtained the "Dance of Anger" audiobook and am going through it this week. I value your perspective that I should be aware of how my wife's anger might manifest in response to my changes.

Thanks again....




Sleep issues

You say you started sleeping on the couch because you snore so much. Have you even been evaluated for sleep apnea? I did that once I got married. My husband realized it right away. (I hadn't been sleeping with anyone for 15 years before that). We think, although there's no way to confirm it, that my loud snoring lead to sleep deprivation for my husband which exacerbated his ADD and depression.

re: Sleep Issues

Good point. Yes, I have been evaluated for sleep apnea and did the whole overnight oximetry thing but checked out normal. I kept pushing to find out what was going on and eventually found out I have a deviated septum, which caused me to investigate even further. After being puzzled about this for awhile, I recovered a long-suppressed memory of having my nose broken in a schoolyard fight when I was 7 and not having it treated ("Mom, my nose makes this funny clicking sound...") This led me to work out some anger issues I still had with my parents for not noticing their son had a broken nose....

My psychiatrist said that sleep apnea can mimic ADHD symptoms. I know that treatment for sleep apnea can be life changing--one of my coworkers was diagnosed with apnea and started using a CPAP machine. His work performance improved remarkably because he was finally able to get enough sleep at night!

Thank you for your insights...

I appreciate all the responses to my post. I'm trying very hard to give a balanced view but I realize that my perspective is necessarily limited. That is the core of my problem: Does ADHD skew my perceptions in such a way that I really am not able to see the issues for what they are?

There are three competing perspectives I am wrestling with:

1. I think my wife would say (and has said similar things in the past) that I am in such denial and in a haze of inattention that I do not see how incompetent, aggravating, and irresponsible I am.

2. I think I am not in denial so much and instead think that I am making improvement. (But am haunted by the doubt that my wife is right and that thinking I am not in denial is proof of my denial!)

3. My ADHD makes it difficult for me to see reality for what it is. One of the difficulties I have dealt with pretty much all my life is that I often don't know if my emotional response and subsequent reactions are warranted in a given situation. I have gotten really angry in a situation only to learn later  that I was erroneously basing my anger on a piece of information or a cue I misinterpreted. I've also gotten very happy and pleased with another person only to learn that I had also missed a cue that told me later that my trust and good feelings were misplaced. That's why I find myself constantly questioning whether I am truly seeing the situation for what it is.

I do understand that my wife is annoyed with most of her interactions with me and that there is objective evidence that I have let her down in the past, so I often catch myself thinking that her anger is justified and I deserve to be unhappy in order to atone for my mistakes. (Just for clarification, my irresponsibilities have taken the form of not keeping up with financial records to the point my wife took over, not cleaning the house, losing things like keys, eyeglasses, and a credit card. I haven't been unfaithful, abused alcohol or drugs, or physically injured anybody.)







Ataktos - Your situation is shockingly similar to mine. I haven't been married as long as you have, and we have two young children under the age of 5. I have been receiving the same kind of treatment from my wife that you have, and have reached the point of wondering whether or not to end our marriage. My wife chooses to sleep on the couch - initially because she couldn't sleep well while she was pregnant, but now says it's due to all the anger she has toward me. This anger revolves around a few points. First, I work for a nonprofit human services agency, and don't make enough money at one job to support our family. I also brought a lot of personal debt into our marriage (which I disclosed to her before we got married), so I agreed to work a second job after we got married. My wife was working as well, but now stays at home with the kids due to the medical issues they both have. Even with two jobs, I don't make enough money to pay all the bills, and my wife hates me because of it. Second, I have a Psychology degree. I was undiagnosed in college, and went through several majors until I settled on psych. My wife is angry that I didn't do any research into how low the income potential is in this field, and that I wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until a few years ago. Third, she's angry that my parents didn't pick up on the fact that I displayed ADHD symptoms when I was young. She's angry at them because they're very straight-laced, strict, distant, and can come across as cold-hearted. This I agree with, although it taught me self-reliance at a fairly early age. When we were planning my wedding, my mother made some comments that she shouldn't have, which made our wedding very awkward. She's angry that we've received no help from them with our children, both of whom have some challenging issues. Finally, she's angry about my diagnosis. She thinks I use it as an excuse whenever I screw things up. She expects anything and everything to be done her way, which sets the bar that much higher for me, and also squashes my ability to do day-to-day things in ways that work for me. Having to do things the way she wants them done gives me so many more opportunities to do things "wrong", and cause problems. I don't use ADHD as an excuse, I tell her over and over. It explains why I am the way I am, but does not excuse me from screwing up. She doesn't recognize that I get just as frustrated as she does. I've seen a therapist who I stopped seeing after he went on a misogynistic rant about why women are annoying, and telling me I needed to get out more. I stayed with the meds, but wasn't improving. I endured constant criticism at home that I was no better, and med increases didn't help. I'm in the middle of finding a new provider, but am having no luck. My wife's behavoir has gotten steadily worse. I feel she's being abusive toward me, and have been documenting incidents for several years. Just this week, I realized that I have TEN PAGES of things she's said and done over the past 3-5 years, and the frequency and intensity of her outbursts are increasing. I worry for my children, who I leave in her care 12-14 hours a day. She stopped taking care of herself, and is running herself into the ground. She blames me for it, and expects me to fix everything for her. She berates me and criticizes me, then complains that I don't act like I love her anymore. I give her ideas on how to improve things, but she dismisses them, thinks of ten reasons why they won't work, then accuses me of not caring about her. I'm at a loss for what to do. I tell her that I can't control her, and that I don't have a magic wand that I can wave to fix everything. I also tell her that I don't deserve the treatment I get from her. At this, she reminds me of how she makes meals, does laundry, and so forth for me. I've told her I would do all that for myself if it meant she'd be nice to me. She tells me if I don't like it, I can go find someone else. Speaking of that, she's accused me of cheating on her many times although I never have. I've had it, and want to pack up my kids and leave. I know that's not realistic for me to do, but I'm at a loss of how to deal with it anymore. I didn't mean to write a manifesto, or divert attention away from your original post. Maybe I just needed to vent, but I really wanted to let you know you're not the only one out there who's dealing with this stuff. Thanks for listening (um, thanks for reading, I guess!)

abuse or ADD?

Can someone please tell me when anger symptoms of ADD are just that and when it is abuse?  After yet another (unexplainable) angry outburst from my husband consisting of him yelling, throwing things about the house and threatening to break (my) things...I am really at a loss.    When is it ADD and when is it abuse?  After years of this, I am embarrassed to say that I don't clearly know when that boundary has been crossed.   I am sad to admit that boundaries are so blurred now because of past excused bad behaviors that I don't know what is what!

Please, ....someone...

Abuse is abuse

Abuse is abuse, no matter the underlying cause.  The existance of ADHD doesn't excuse it.  It is simply a place to start to understand the situation, and a course of action for addressing the issue. 

abuse or ADD

I am going to offer you my opinion from the point of view of someone who has been diagnosed with ADD.  Abuse is abuse.  If someone is screaming and yelling at you, for no good reason, and it makes you feel bad, then it is abuse.  It doesn't matter what is causing it, whether it is ADHD or something else.  The problem with EXCUSING it, is that it may subconsciously reduce your husband's incentive to change his behavior.  The diagnosis of ADHD may EXPLAIN his behavior, but it doesn't EXCUSE it.  We must still be responsible for our actions; otherwise, we will never change. 


Thank you Marty.   I just want it on the record that I do not excuse my husband's behavior...its usually our counselor or he himself that excuses it.  "That's just the ADD impulsivity talking".  Sometimes I feel like "Am I nuts??" but then keep rolling on as best I can.  He doesn't just yell, its an often daily  rude, disrespectul and nasty way of speaking to me, he throws things and has broken some of my personal belongings, one in particular he threatens to break often (its a very sentimental object, not worth anything monetarily, but still valuable to me). 

He claims after every "heart to heart" conversation about this topic that he "will try to do better" but he never does.  How does someone have to try to be civil to their spouse?  I don't understand that.   Is THAT ADD?  Medications haven't helped.  I think maybe he has something more going on in addition to his ADD?

It could be.

"Is THAT ADD?"  It could be explained by it.  Lack of impulse control and speaking things that are later regretted is a common issue.  The intent to do better likely is sincere, but the ability to follow through is lacking.

It is very possible that there are other issues that are either totally unrelated to ADHD, or that are exacerbated by its presence (i.e. - unresolved anger exacerbated by the fact he has been handicapped in development of social skills and/or coping mechanisms).

Sounds like you need a different counselor - one that actually understands how to sort out what is ADHD and what is not.  Lack of counselor skills has been a major frustration to me (they are all willing to say they can help, but few have the real knowledge/skills to actually help).

Also, medication management is not a one shot, first try fixes it deal.  It may take many trials to find the right medicine and regimen to work.  He may be on medicine, but is it active during the time you are together, or has it worn off by the time you interact in the evening?

I don't know if he ever

I don't know if he ever regrets anything he says.  He never apologizes and when its brought up in a peaceful way- he says that he is like that because I make him mad-so don't make him mad.  Whatever the situation is, its because I make him mad.  Whether or not I am even there!!!!!  He blames me for the most ridiculous things!

I am working on finding a different counselor-not an easy thing to do.  He is on his 3rd med now.  This one seems to be the worst as far as his anger. 

Thank you for the input.   I appreciate it more than you know...especially from some of the men and women with ADD on this site.  I applaud your insight and self awareness.  Ah, if my husband could have a little of that-I would be happy!


It's more

 I agree  that its more than just adhd. He sounds a little like my son who has adhd and oppositional defiance disorder. My son gets mad at some of the littlest things and yells at me tells me he can't help it(he has gotten better). But I have taught him to say sorry always when he cools off. I would suggest a different therapist until you find one that is working for both of you. If the meds are making him more angry it might well be the meds aren't good for him. The book "6 types of Adhd" By Dr Amen talks about this in the book. I found it helpful. How was his childhood? I ask because some of the things that happened to my husband (whom I'am now seperated from) has made him aware of some of the things he does. Best to you  

Anger outbursts

You may want to try seeing a psychiatrist for the meds instead of a family doc (if that is who you are seeing). Psych meds are tricky and someone with more experience and training in their use and effects may be more effective. They may be able to give you a chart that will help determine which meds or med combos are most effective, determine if there is a time of day that you should be focusing on, diagnose other disturbances interfering, etc. Part of the problem with psych meds (including ADHD meds) is that the determination of their effectiveness is soooo subjective. Having some actual data may be helpful. If YOU keep this data on your own and perhaps if he would be willing to keep data (HIS OWN, that he doesn't have to show to you or anyone else he doesn't choose to share it with) he may begin to get a better idea of what sets him off and when. Could be that he doesn't sleep or even that he needs an additional med to help him control his angry outbursts (there are some, like Risperdal). There probably won't be alot of progress until you can get through the behaviour enough to get access to his rational self. Thoughts from my previous parapsychological life, L


It may be the ADD talking, but if so then the ADD isn't being treated well enough.  Anger is a symptom that needs to be better controlled than that.  Meditation might well help, if that's reasonable.

I'm not sure there is a specific line between verbal abuse and anger (unlike the very bright line between physical abuse and not) but I define it as repetitive belittling and aggressive behavior towards another person.  Someone who gets angry once or twice isn't doing it enough to be abusive in my opinion.  Someone who is doing it every day, or every other day, or even weekly, and who causes you to change how you think about yourself or what you do, qualifies as abusive.

Impulsivity doesn't have to be a negative.  You often hear of someone who "completes someone else's sentences" because they just "have" to jump into a conversation.  That's impulsive, and perhaps irritating, but not abusive.  So impulsivity isn't all of what is going on here.  The anger is the issue - and it must be addressed for you to be able to become a healthy couple.  Demand that your counselor take it seriously - and take the need for your husband to treat you with respect - and if she/he won't, then find a new counselor.

There may well be something else going on besides the ADD - fully 80% of adults with ADD have other mental health issues as well.  SO, ask that he take his issue seriously, and talk with your (and his) doctor about possible approaches.


Thank you for your comments and to the others who responded as well.  One question though...Will meds for ADHD control the angry outbursts when the dosage is correct for him or should I ask about another med for 'anger managment' if you will,  specifically for him?  We have a dr appt this week and I am going with him in order to give a more accurate report of what is going on.



Steph - anger

You'll need to ask that question of your doctor.  I'm not a doctor, so don't know what all the options are.  My observation is that the ADD meds, plus an effort to get anger under control, are enough for some people (certainly was for my husband) but that it may take more for others.

Wife's Anger

It seems from your post that your wife's anger is actually a bigger issue for the two of you than your ADD.  You, at least, seem to be working to start managing your ADD.  Is she doing anything to start diminishing her anger?  An excellent example of how your wife's anger is directly impeding your progress as a couple is your saying that her expectations about how you should do things squashes your ability to do things in a way that works for you.  So she ends up mad AND without anything done.  Not what she'd trying to achieve, I bet!  (I recognize this syndrome from my own marriage...at the times when I was most demanding my husband would say (and rightly so) "Why should I even bother trying?  I'll never be good enough for you!"  It was true at the time, though not true in the overall (he's plenty good - I just didn't appreciate it the right way then).  The only solution for this, unfortunately, is that your wife needs to draw better boundaries around what is "hers" and what is "yours".  She can't control how you do things - and if she wants you to do things she needs to back off.  Getting her to do so in this mood will be a challenge, though.

It may help to separate her anxiety about money from her meanness about your ADD.  The anger about what type of degree you got and your job at a human services agency strikes me as odd.  Didn't she know what degree you were getting when you got married?  She had just as much opportunity at that time to research how much money you were going to make in your field and make a decision as to whether or not it was enough for her (if not, don't get married).  Remember, SHES's the one with the money issues.  You seem to be perfectly fine with your job.  Why is this news now, except that she's just mad at everything???!

Also, her anger at your parents would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad.  No one of your parents' generation knew anything about ADHD.  It didn't even come into the public consciousness until the mid 1990s.  So, unless you are very young, her anger is misplaced.  Another indicator of how out of control she feels.  And how much she wants to blame everyone around her for her hardships.

Understand that your wife's increasing need for control probably corresponds with her increased feelings of being out of control.  This is a terrible feeling for the non-ADD spouse...and gets worse the angrier and more frustrated she gets.  Your issues will only be solved if she starts to get herself out of this angry mode.  You can help her.  So, here are my specific suggestions:

  1. Don't accept her berating you anymore.  Stand up for yourself.  She is entitled to her opinions, and to expressing them, but YOU deserve to be treated with respect.  Therefore, next time she says something cutting or berating, such as "You are so incompetent!  Once again you can't carry your weight!" you can reply "I'm happy to talk with you about your specific complaint about my not shoveling the drive within your timeframe and figure out how to make it happen, but I'm not willing to be insulted by you.  Please treat me with the same respect with which you expect me to treat you - and everyone else in our family."  Every time she insults you, you need to tell her this isn't okay.  She'll probably respect you for it eventually, and you may be able to change the tone of your conversations - a good first step.
  2. Start to talk with her about the obvious inconsistency in her berating you, then expecting you to feel loving towards her.  Suggest that you would like to be loving towards her - but she needs to be more loving towards you in order to get the love that she desires.  Giving love begets love.
  3. Remind her that you don't want her to be your slave.  It's great that she does the dishes, laundry, etc but she isn't doing those things for you, she is doing them for HER and for the good of the family as a whole (presumably because she feels that it is fair that the spouse who stays at home).  If she is concerned about doing your laundry, tell her that you can start to do it.  As for dishes, you should make sure that you ARE doing your dishes whenever it makes sense (i.e. you aren't running out the door).  My suggestion?  Whoever doesn't cook gets to do the dishes.  So, if she's cooking, you should always be doing the dishes.  While you're at it, consider making the bed in the morning if you're the last one out of it in the morning, too.
  4. Documenting her abuses for a number of years sounds a bit passive/aggressive to me.  Are you intending to use it for a divorce/custody case?   Rather than that, stand up for yourself at the moment of the infraction.
  5. Come to terms with the fact that your ADD is most likely affecting her much more than you recognize.  I told my husband for years that his ADD affected me and he didn't see it because he was at his wit's end (because I was always so mad at him - just like your wife).  Trust his experience, and just believe it now.  Then the question is, what will you start to do about it?  Start with a conversation with your wife that you would like to take on one chore (for example, doing the dishes every single night) to relieve some of her pressure.  Position it as a gesture to show how much you love her, not as penance for all the things you've done wrong.
  6. Encourage her to see a therapist who understands ADD to help her work through her anger.  (Note - a therapist who doesn't understand ADD will spend most of the session reinforcing what a bad guy you are...so that won't be constructive!)
  7. Start to talk with her about your own frustrations.  When you say "she doesn't understand that I'm as frustrated as she is" that may give you a clue as to how you can start to become partners at solving your joint household issues rather than foes.  You'll never get anywhere working against each other, which is what's currently going on.

Thank you for sharing your story with us (by the way - if that is your real name, you may want to edit your name to be a "handle", in case someone from work Googles you by name - just a thought).  Hope to hear more from you.

Original post to Wife's Anger

Please tell me which was the original post that Melissa answered by "Wife's Anger".  I am interested in reading it.

Thank you,

Thank you for your reply! The

Thank you for your reply! The name I use is not my real name; I'm confident that no one who knows me will see my posts here and make the connection. For those who are wondering, a Marshall stack is a very large, very loud guitar amplifier! :) My wife has done nothing to address her anger. I feel, based on my work experience, that she also has depression, but she refuses to get treatment. She feels all her problems are stress-related, with that stress being caused by me. Therefore, she thinks the key is for me to alleviate all her stress. Her words are, "I'm not going on psych meds". As far as my education and career are concerned, she knew what I did for a living, how much I made, and how much debt I had before we got married. I told her everything, and I actually made more money than she did. I'm perplexed at how she can harbor anger toward me for decisions I made long before I met her, but she justifies it by telling me that it's because of those decisions from almost 20 years ago (we've known each other maybe 8 years) that we're in the state we're in. She's tried to pressure me to apply for jobs that pay more, but that I'm not qualified for, or jobs I have no interest in. Her response is to call me selfish, and insist that if I loved my family I'd do what it takes to better myself. She says I need to open my mind and look outside my field. She's gone as far as telling me to quit both my jobs and apply for welfare so I can be home to help her around the clock. I agree with you completely about the lack of ADHD awareness 20-30 years ago. I'm predominantly inattentive type, so I sort of snuck through under the radar - I was the one staring into space or out the window, as opposed to the one jumping out of my chair and running around the room. I'm dying to help my wife, and if you can believe this, I've actually tried *all* of the seven things you've suggested. Here's what I've done, in the order you mentioned, as well as the results: 1. I've told her many times that I don't talk to her the way she talks to me, and that I want to be treated with the same respect I give her. I've also told her that I won't be a party to yelling and screaming, and will be happy to discuss our differences in a calm and rational manner. Her response is to accuse me of acting like a "big shot", and to say that I'm not going to dictate how she talk to me or anyone else. 2. The most recent time she told me I don't love her, my response was, "Who doesn't love who here?" Looking back, I probably could have said that differently, but I tried my best at the time to communicate how difficult it is to show affection to someone who says the things she says to me. Her response was to remind me of all the household tasks she does for me - making meals, doing laundry, etc. I've told her many times that I'll do those things myself if it will make her life easier, and help her be nice to me. 3. I have asked her many times to let me help her pay bills, organize paperwork around the house, do laundry, go grocery shopping, etc. I do almost all of the cooking and cleaning (dishes, vacuuming, scrubbing the toilet, etc.) when I am home on weekends. I also make sure the kids get naps and the dog gets fed. I work two jobs during the week, and make something for both of us to eat when I get home at night. I also walk the dog nightly, take care of our baby when he wakes up at night, take our daughter to dancing class every Saturday, vacuum, clean the house, cut the grass, snowblow in the winter, fix things that break, make the bed in the morning (She chooses to sleep on the couch), and wash dishes. I make sure everyone has had breakfast during weekdays, and I do the dishes if I have time before I leave for work. The best part about washing the dishes is that we have a dishwasher, but she refuses to use it. She thinks it's extra work to rinse the dishes off. I make sure both our kids have gotten their medicine, and that my daughter does her PT exercises in the morning and at night. She refuses to let me go shopping because there have been times where I have not paid close enough attention to the list, and bought one of something instead of two, or bought the wrong kind of milk. Her response is to take over everything because I *obviously* can't handle it. I've begged her to let me write down instructions on how she wants laundry done so it can be done her way, but she won't do it. 4. I don't feel that keeping a list is passive/aggressive. When I first noticed these problems, I started documenting just for the sake of hopefully identifying a pattern that I could address. It evolved to where she started threatening to get a divorce and take the kids, and I wanted to be able to defend myself in court. Now I'm definitely to the point of considering a divorce, and want to make sure I have as much evidence as I can. I have been standing up to her - more lately than in the past. However, she keeps finding ways of justifying her behavior, usually by telling me that all our problems are my fault, and she is the way she is because of me. Standing up to her seems to prolong an argument, and we've had arguments lasting 2-3 hours. I've been late to work, missed half a night's sleep, and spent an hour or more on the phone at work arguing with her. 5. I honestly think I do realize how much my ADHD affects her. She's overwhelmed because she has so much to deal with at home, and my forgetfulness and disorganization play a major part in it. I can understand how she's reluctant to let me wash clothes if there's reason to think I might put in too much bleach, put the dial on the wrong setting, or start a load and forget about it for 2 days. On the other hand, I also feel she has some trust and control issues that would be a problem in our marriage whether I had ADHD or not. I practically beg her to let me take over one thing, be it shopping, be it laundry, be it writing checks to pay bills. She always says no, tells me she has a system to do everything around our house, and it's easier for her to do it than explain it to me. She says she doesn't trust me, and that she doesn't trust anyone 100%. She's worn herself almost to exhaustion because she won't give up control of anything to me, but she expects me to fix the fact that she's exhausted. 6. I've discussed counseling/therapy with my wife many times. She refuses to go, and gives several reasons - I'll have to take time off from work, we have no one to watch the kids, I need to take her stress away because her problems are stress related, just one more medical professional to take our money, and so forth. She was open to marriage counseling if I could find someone who would either come to our house on a weekend, or had child care so we could bring our kids. I actually called several places, and could not find anyone who fit those requirements. I've gone so far as to "leave" ADHD material out where she can see it - Dr. Hallowell's book, brochures, etc. (I'll admit *that's* passive/aggressive!), but she either ignores them, or piles other junk on top of them...and then gets mad at me for leaving this stuff out... She's stated quite openly that she doesn't care about ADHD, doesn't want to hear anything about it, she thinks it's just an excuse to forget things, and recently went so far as to say, "(expletive) ADHD!" 7. Once again, I've tried. I've tried to encourage her to see things from my perspective - how it is to live like this. When I was diagnosed, the doctor told me I had gotten one of the highest inteeligence scores her office had ever seen. I tried to explain to my wife how difficult it is for me to reconcile how I can supposedly be so intelligent, yet so forgetful and disorganized. She turned that against me by asking if I'm so smart, how could I end up like this in a "dead-end" job, working a second job, making "women's wages", etc. We've been married seven years, the past year of which has really been the worst. I fear that things are coming to a head, and I really don't know what to do about it. The situation is compunded by the fact that we have two children who have faced developmental delays, and my son, who just turned 1, will be having a second round of kidney surgery in two weeks. Because of what I do at my day job, I'm aware of a lot of services out there in our area. I've made a lot of phone calls, and either our kids aren't disabled enough, or I make too much money for us to be eligible for help. My wife comes from a small family, and I've distanced myself from my family due to the problems they've caused for us, so we really don't have any natural supports available. I don't think I can "fix" my wife anymore than she can "fix" me, but I just don't know if staying married much longer is possible. I'd rather bring my children up with divorced parents than in a veritable Love Canal of dysfunction. I'm grateful for any unput that you or anyone else has to offer. I'm in the process of looking for a new psychiatrist/therapist for treatment, and hopefully I'll see the light at the end of the tunnel soon.

End of Marriage?

I will tell you first that the way that you've approached your marriage, the types of issues you've been trying to discuss, and the number of chores that you are doing around the house would be the ENVY of many, many a woman reading this site.  So my question is this - WHY is your wife so mad?!  Is there something that you aren't writing about?  Is she just so mad at life in general (two kids who need help, too little money?) and you are the scapegoat???

From my reading, you are actively trying to solve your marital problems and she is stepping into your way at every opportunity.

I guess I would stop ASKING her to start taking things over, and just start doing it.  Figure out what it is, and when she tells you that she doesn't want you to "do the dishes" (or whatever the chore is that you're taking over) tell her that you are worried about her obvious exhaustion, so you are going to start doing the dishes, the laundry, etc.  Pick something that you are competent at and feel you can do reliably.  Your goal should be to help her understand that letting you have some control isn't so scary after all.

Since finances are usually not a strong area for people with ADD, and since she is already hypercritical of the financial picture at your house, I would NOT take over anything to do with bill paying, etc.  Pick something that seems like a lot of work, and about which she complains.  If you're feeling like you might want to avoid an all out war (which this might start, I must warn you) you could tell her that it is your intention to take one (or two) specific chores off her hands so that she gets a break.  Which would she most like to get rid of?  Which does she like doing the least?  Then stick with them in whatever way makes sense.

It's never easier for someone to do something rather than explain it, unless by their not doing it they end up with a disaster.  Good examples of "disasters" would be late payment fees on bills, dishes breaking because too many are piled on the counter, rats infesting the garage because the garbage doesn't get to the dump on time....So, your job would be to make sure that whatever you pick as your jobs don't end up proving her right!

It may be that wresting control from her will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  But really, it doesn't seem as if you are going to get anywhere continuing as you are going.  She is in complete denial about her own role in your problems, and until she gets out of that denial there is almost nothing you can do as a couple to make things better.  And, no, one person cannot fix these issues - it always takes two.  From what you've written here (and, yes, I know there is always the other side that I'm not hearing) you are doing a good deal to try to work things out with her...so getting her help would be useful...

By the way - There are many things she can do to relieve her stress that don't involve medication.  Some include exercise (research shows regular aerobic exercise relieves depression better than Zoloft...and is also very good at relieving stress); meditation and deep breathing/yoga work.  Furthermore, counseling would likely help her a lot, and again this doesn't need to include meds.  So her unwillingness to take responsibility for trying to relieve her own stress is unfair to you AND her.  Also, if she took the steps and was able to see things in a less stressful light, it would make it much more likely that she would be able to behave in ways that would FURTHER reduce her stress - such as letting you take on part of her workload.

You should be aware that there are at least two non-ADD things going on here, too.  First, the period when you have very young kids is very stressful on all parents, but particularly on stay at home moms.  It is easy to feel worthless, underutilized, underappreciated and trapped by young kids (trust me, I know!).  Second, there's something called the 7 year itch for a reason.  It's a period of time in a marriage when stuff just sort of sinks in and people start to feel trapped by the institution itself.  May have something to do with there also often being young kids in the picture.  So recognize that while your wife may be pointing a finger at you, ADD is not all that's going on...plus the stress of having a one year old going in for surgery!  YIKES!

So, while you are telling her that you are now going to relieve her of some of the pressures she has around the house, whether she wants you to or not, because you love her and are worried about her...you might also remember to tell her that you understand that she's under a ton of stress for a whole variety of reasons.  She'll likely rail at you some more about you being the cause...and you can't change her railing, but she will also hear that you recognize the difficulties she is going through right now, even if she doesn't acknowledge it out loud.

Keep standing up for yourself.  Keep insisting that she treat you with respect (but don't say "I treat you this way, therefore you should treat me this way...(nah, nah, nah, nah, nah)"  That's too tit for tat.  Rather, say "I deserve to be treated with respect" and leave it at that.  Because you do.  If she responds that you can't tell her how to talk to you, you can respond "I'm not telling you how to talk to me.  I telling you that I deserve respect, and unless I get it I'm not going to engage in this conversation with you.  I'm not open to be being bullied, even by my wife." In other words, you aren't dictating her behavior, only telling her what your response to certain behaviors will be so she can make an informed decision about how to talk with you if she wants to hold a productive conversation.

Don't change jobs for this woman.  The issues with the job are hers, not yours.  You deserve the right to pick whatever job you enjoy.  She can then decide if she wants to join you in your journey as a social helper or not.

I hate the idea of a "Love Canal of dysfunction" in any family.  Your children are young.  You CAN support them in a way that keeps it from being toxic at home.  What they need most of all right now to see and feel hard evidence of your love.  Lots of hugs and kisses, good solid play time, and active interest in who they are and what they are doing.  They need to see smiles, have a regular schedule, etc.  You can provide those things whenever you are around no matter what your wife is up to.

Let us know how the taking on of some of the chores goes if you decide to take that route.


Thank you!

Thank you for your input!! I feel a little better after having read your responses, and I hope to incorporate your advice into how I deal with things. In fairness to my wife, living with me isn't easy. As our life has gotten more complicated, my symptoms seem to have gotten worse. I'm forgetful, tend to get involved in multiple things around the house simultaneously, and always end up forgetting one thing or another as a result. I make lists when I remember to do so, which isn't often. I get distracted or sidetracked while in the middle of doing a task, and sometimes forget to pick up where I left off. With my wife being so overwhlemed with child care, I can see how I come across as being undependable. I was on Adderall for over a year, and got no benefit from it, even as the dosage was increased. Welbutrin was added to it, which only made me irritable to boot. Irritable husband + angry wife = KABOOM! I'm off medication temporarily until I find a new provider, and I don't see any difference whatsoever. One thing I don't think I emphasized in my earlier posts is that I truly feel my wife has an abusive personality. I've done my homework in this area, and I feel some the behavior she displays, especially in her verbal tirades, reflects that. I think that even if I didn't have ADHD, this would still be a problem in our marriage, but maybe to a lesser degree. She grew up in an unhappy home, and had some traumatic experiences with the men in her life before she met me (infidelity, identity theft, etc.), and seems to have had a great deal of difficulty dealing with these things and moving forward. You're right that she is very mad at life in general - especially the specific things you mention. For whatever reason, she sees herself as a victim of someone else's (my) wrongdoing, and it's my job to fix everything as a result. She compares herself to her best friend, who is married to an aerospace engineer, has a large family, and doesn't appear to want for anything. I had an abusive and neglectful mother, and grew up fearing conflict and believing everything was my fault. Having undiagnosed ADHD didn't help. I don't hold it against my parents like my wife does (again, she ends up the victim because my parents didn't pick up on it), but I can't help but think "What if.." What if I had gotten diagnosed at a young age? I could have gotten better at math and become an architect or an engineer like I wanted to. I'd be making a decent living wage, be home more to help with our kids, and maybe she wouldn't be so angry. On the other hand, I know I can't change the past. I've accepted it, and am happy to live the life I've chosen....except for the angry wife thing. I want to thank you again for your ideas, and I'll be sure to let you know what happens down the road.

Angry Wife- Postpartum depression?

You say your wife got worse about a year ago. That must be around the time your 1-year-old was born. Would she be willing to consider being evaluated for postpartum depression? That's just hormones, it's not a weakness or a failing, and it can be treated.

According to doctors I saw after my husband was diagnosed, depression can manifest itself as anger. Her anger doesn't sound entirely rational. If she knew what you make and what your degree was when she married you, it is certainly not fair to blame you for it now. It's not the same as my marriage, where my husband lost his job 6 weeks after we were married for exhibiting behaviors caused by his (undiagnosed) ADD. I really felt blindsided, but your wife doesn't have the same excuse, if she knew what you do and what you make.

Anyway, contribution to the household wise, a lot of women would envy your wife, even if their husbands don't have ADD. I'm glad to see some guys try to solve the problems their ADD causes.


I thought something was up

I thought something was up while she was still in the hospital after our son was born. I mentioned postpartum depression to her, but she denied it. Things hadn't gotten any better a month or two later, and I knew she had a followup appointment scheduled with her OB, so I intended to call him on the sly to ask him to discuss it with her. She cancelled the appointment and never rescheduled. I brought up depression a few times, and she's refused to see a professional. She claims her problems are from stress caused by me, and the only solution is for me to fix everything to take away her stress. A therapist I once saw described depression as anger directed inward. I disagreed with him at the time, but now I agree with the caviat that that anger is expressed at whomever happens to be a convenient target. I certainly can have a short fuse, which I recognize as a symptom of ADHD. A few months ago, I got so fed up after the umpteenth argument that after she left run errands and I had put the kids to bed, I went out to the garage and kicked a hole in the wall. I wasn't proud of it, and still regret that I did it. Fortunately, that's never happened before or since, and I've never had such an outburst at either of my jobs. I don't feel I'm some kind of hero for what I do at home; I just want my wife to understand that I recognize her dilemma and want to help. Honestly, I don't know how I do it sometimes, especially with ADHD. The doctor that initially diagnosed me said that I must have been able to develop some sort of coping mechanism to get through life, but as my life gets more and more complicated with wife, kids, promotion at work, etc., it would be harder and harder to do. I worry that I'll get to the point where I'll lose one or both of my jobs, but I live in a city with a dying industrial economy, and know many non-ADHD people with the same worry these days. Thank you for your support, Sueann! I've been lurking in this forum for a long time, and I can't think you all enough for your helpful advice!