Why does my spouse with ADD get mad at me when he doesn't follow through?

anger and unfinished projects

Are you sure he's really angry at you?  I have found that if my husband (ADHD) doesn't finish a project and I either finish it myself or have someone help me finish it, he does get angry, but he's angry at himself.  Often times it comes across like he's angry at me.  So I asked him about it and he explained that he's mad at himself because it was just one of a thousand things he hadn't finished.  

I'm So Exhausted's picture

I wish

I know he is mad at me - because he yells.  "How could you just take over?"  "Why do you have to be in charge of everything?"  "Why can't you just wait?"  "I said I would do it."  "You didn't even give me a chance."

Time blindness.  Maddening.

same here

singing same song in our house.... too

Controlling behavior

Your words, "controlling behavior" stood out to me and made me think about my relationship.  In the back of my mind, I have felt this way about many of my husbands actions but could not put my finger on it all nor could I articulate it. 

After a little research, I came up with this site.  Many of the behaviors are connected with ADD, but I have always felt an element of an attempt to control...especially when my husband tries to deflect his mistakes onto me with blame.  Does anyone else see these behaviors?


Wow - I'm glad my DH doesn't

Wow - I'm glad my DH doesn't get mad at me very much when I do stuff he doesn't get around to or when I hire someone to do it.   I have to say the hiring it out is probably more related to lack of skills (both of us) rather than him just not doing stuff.  If I know he can do something I will hold out a long time before I'll pay someone else to do the work though I will just do it myself if I can.  Over the years I have gotten better at giving him more time to get stuff done before I just do it or get someone to do it.  The only time he gets annoyed is more when he thinks I haven't given him a chance to get to it.   So in the past where I might have asked him to put something away for example and if it wasn't done within minutes or even a day I'd get annoyed and do it myself.  Now I'll leave stuff laying around for days or a week.  Sometimes he gets to it sometimes he doesn't.  When it starts to bug me enough I just do it myself.  I used to get bitter and angry about this kind of thing but then I realized that made me more miserable and unhappy than just going with the flow and doing it myself if needed.   I also realized I may be somewhat extreme on the perfectionist end of the spectrum which could be driving him nuts too.  It's just the two of us though and no kids so it's not as much of a burden for me to do some things he could be doing.  It's not like he does nothing to help - he does help.  I think he's actually gotten better since I suggested to him that ADD might be an explanation for some of his behaviors.  I've also adjusted my outlook knowing there may be a logical reason why he behaves the way he does - other than that he just doesn't care about me or my feelings.  He has not said anything but I think he might also be glad to know there might be some explanation for some things.  Overall I will just say the level of tension in the household has dropped since I started learning more about ADHD in adults and in marriage.

re: leave stuff laying around for days or a week

My husband's timeline is months to years.  I have waited 9 months now for him to replace the bulbs in the recessed lighting over our dining table.  I won't do it because I have learned in the past that if I take on any task, it will forever after be only my responsibility.  I continue to wait patiently for him to stain the deck- its been 4 years now.  There are numerous projects that require finishing.  He will not allow them to be hired out, because he can do them himself- and he can.  But he won't.  If I call a handyman, he verbally attacks me as if I have mortally wounded him.  I am not afraid of him, but I cannot listen to these attacks any longer.  They are tiresome.  He is gone to the hardware store right now to get bulbs for those cans I mentioned;  he has done so only because I mentioned yesterday that I am thinking of legally separating from him.  That apparently scared him into changing a light bulb.

Ooh - I hear ya on that

Ooh - I hear ya on that staining the deck thing. I suggested that would be a good thing for DH to do the last time he was laid off. He still never did it - until the next time he was laid off a couple years later. I guess it all comes down to whether the benefits of the ADHD spouse outweigh the drawbacks in terms of separating. That's true with any adverse marital situation though. Interestingly I have friends with non-ADHD husbands who never get things done either. They are equally frustrated with that behavior. Marriage is hard for a lot of people - ADHD or not.

Ambrosia re: the deck staining

Thank you for "feeling me" on the deck thing.  I'm pretty salty about it, so I purposefully try to avert my eyes from it so as not to aggravate my irritation.

 Interestingly, all of my friend's husbands and boyfriends seem to be able to get things done in a timely manner.  And they are all less handy than my husband.  But what they lack in ability, they make up with motivation and consistency.  

I have been so immersed with this type of behavior with my husband, that it is only when I speak to a friend who says something like, "My husband finished the basement last month," that I realize- again- that my basement has been in process for 10 years.  If I mention it to my husband, he yells at me "You don't know how long these things can take.  Its a big job, and I have to go to work everyday."  Once, I pointed out to him after he yelled that my girlfriend's husband works more hours than him, but managed to finish their basement in 3 months.  He wouldn't speak to me for days.

Revelation, I am so sorry


I am so sorry for your frustration. I am engaged (not married) but sometimes feel the same thing with my ADD partner.

Interestingly, all of my friend's husbands and boyfriends seem to be able to get things done in a timely manner. And they are all less handy than my husband. But what they lack in ability, they make up with motivation and consistency.

In response to your above comment I did want to say, when we are frustrated, the grass often seems greener on the other side... Truth be told you really DON'T know what is going on in your friends' relationships and what strings those women had to pull to make it happen. Sometimes they could get that part right but be rude (privately) to their partners', cheat or all other manners of things.

I have recently learned (when it comes to relationships) people are really good at putting up fronts and allowing our friends to believe things are all good... When they are not.

In my area there are about 4 marriage around me that seemed so lovely and perfect... (Hard working husbands... many making $... made their wives laugh... all kind of things) only to find out that in several cases there has been infidelity - in some cases long term - the others' are just NOT happy. To look outside though it's like "why can't my relationship be like _____-" . We truly have no idea.

The best thing we can do is just set our OWN boundaries for what we want and can deal with and go from there... Comparing often does NOTHING but make us mad... and the irony is a lot of times we don't even have an accurate picture of whom we are comparing too....

I hope things get better...

Debbihelp re: comparing

Most of what you have said is true.  However-  I am not comparing my MARRIAGE to those others.  I am comparing MY BASEMENT.  I am aware that those marriages have problems of their own. I am sure in some of those cases, that "strings had to be pulled" to get projects completed.  My problem is that I have no "strings."  None at all.  I do not know the source of their husband's/boyfriend's motivation, whether it be anger, nagging, whatever.  But whatever it is, it worked in terms of project completion.  I am saying "Why can't my basement be like _____"  You could point out that my basement could be completed, but at the expense of goodwill in my marital relationship.  I could point out that there is a serious lack of goodwill already, AND basement remains uncompleted.  

I hope I did not offend you.

I hope I did not offend you. I do not know you. I could not accurately make an assessment of your comparing marriage.

My point, alone, was two fold :

One, as you addressed, you don't know what strings were pulled to get that done... It could be done but it with nagging, anger ect as well...

Two, that maybe you don't have strings (and the WHOLE situation is frustrating... I know FIRST hand!) but that what your friends may have is a cheater, a liar,  a man who only publicly respects them ect.

In comparison the above is worse... so ADD and it's affect suck!!! (Again I know first hand) but what we both may have that your friends may not... at least... is a man who truly loves us, and who doesn't/haven't cheated.

I got your point... Again I hope I didn't offend!

Debbihelp re: No, you did not offend me

That is difficult to do.  If you lived with my husband, you would understand why. LOL *sigh*  

And yes, some of these friend's DO have husbands who are liars and cheaters and do not respect them- I know, because we speak openly.  However- I would like it if my husband had more to recommend him than that he doesn't cheat on me.  We are at a point in our marriage that if he DID cheat on me, I might laugh and cheerfully give him away.

Please, do not worry about offending me.  We are here to speak openly.  If/when my posts seem "clipped" or "curt", it is because we have touched a sore spot.  Please, generously ignore my tone at those times.  That basement is a "no fly zone" in my home, in terms of speaking about it.  I only wish that with all that I have to endure with him, that I could endure it on a different level in the house. LOL



I do understand... Again, I

I do understand...

Again, I am not married but being in a relationship with someone who doesn't often complete tasks is very frustrating. I too experience at times the perceived attitude toward me (if he is angry at himself for not doing something). Most times, if I don't remind him... remind him... and remind him again it won't get done.

If I sit back patiently (as not to nag) and just say "okay I'll give him time to do ____" most times (not all) that results in an unfinished task. :( Sometimes it is no big deal but sometimes it is something that NEEDS to be done. In those cases, I just do it myself. I too am just not sure if I can deal with this for a lifetime...

Especially because I too believe I have ADD... Well ADHD. In general, I think I function well but there are things:

Time (being on time consistently)

Organization (messes sheesh!!!!)

Remembering (if I don't do things RIGHT then... I likely to forget... important things not MOST times but if it is to pick up the dry cleaning... It may take me three days to remember).

In general, I am the type of person always looking on ways to get to my best. Hopefully, in January I will be starting treatment (to be honest I am HOPING for a mix of medication and therapy) and also will be continuing to let things go in my life that don't serve me well... Right now, unfortunately, my hunni is not off the list yet. I hope, I DO hope he is able to get off!!!

In general, I think a lot of ADD'ers just take on more than they can actually handle. They feel they can do 10 tasks at one time (and maybe they can) but a lot of times all 10 won't get done WELL. To the ADD'er though, the attitude is often 'well can't you just acknowledge I tried?". I think there has to come a balance where it IS acknowledged they (we) tried or have improved on other things but also the ADD'er has to learn that they (we) don't get brownie points for MEETING expectations.

Frustrating situation indeed!

Debbihelp re: unfinished tasks

Agree heartily.  I do think my ADD husband takes on too many tasks.  I accept that he has an issue with tasks completion.  It is not what drives me crazy.  I am driven crazy by the fact that he won't let ANYONE ELSE finish the task.  We have the money to pay others to finish what he started.  If he were to say, "I am so bored with this now.  Let's  just hire the rest of it out", I would laugh good-naturedly and call a contractor.  But he doesn't.  Instead, he becomes angry and insulting to me for even suggesting that we hire out the remainder of the job.  Tells me I don't appreciate him. Tells me I want to waste the family money.  Tells me I don't know what I'm talking about.  

A few years ago, I cheerfully paid out (in 2 months!) over $20,000 to contractors to do what he couldn't bring himself to start or finish.  I "went over his head" so to speak; just called the contractors on my own.  He acted angry, but later I could tell he was relieved to have those things off his list.  

In general, I think a lot of

In general, I think a lot of ADD'ers just take on more than they can actually handle. They feel they can do 10 tasks at one time (and maybe they can) but a lot of times all 10 won't get done WELL. To the ADD'er though, the attitude is often 'well can't you just acknowledge I tried?".

My husband just said the other day that now when he's at work (since starting medication) he can focus on 1 or 2 things and get them both done where before he focused on 10 different things never getting any of them done. I truly don't think this is intentional. They DO feel they can do it all at once...although the end results typically prove them wrong...it is just how they are wired. My husband doesn't have the "well at least I tried" attitude...he has the "I feel like a complete failure because I can't get anything done" attitude. Also, not getting things done adds a lot of stress to his life (feeling like he'll lose his job, constantly feeling overwhelmed) and I think that getting just one thing done each day has really helped his confidence and lowered his stress levels..just one week on the medication. Some of these things truly are out of their control..until they acknowledge he problem and get help to fix it..whether this is medication or behavioral therapy..or both.


Agree.  My husband does feel like a failure about it.  He has said as much at times.  But way after the fact.  In the heat of battle, I get only his anger and refusal to compromise.

waynebloss's picture


"They DO feel they can do it all at once" for me it is was not really that I "feel" like I can do 10 things at once, for me I had to be doing 10 things at once or I could not find that inner peace that I needed.  I do admit that a lot of the things I did were done half-ass and it could have been done better but without medication I HAD to do 10 things at once or my brain would not stop and I could not control it, it would actually hurt like a headache.  We do feel like a failure when we cannot do something good. How come everyone else can do something VERY good and I cannot?  In school teachers would tell me if you could put your energy into 1 or 2 things then you would be good, but you cannot do all of these things at once!  When I failed or turned something in half done I would get the look from everyone like I failed.  My wife used to tell me all the time that if I was not doing all of those things at once I was not happy, I would be angry and anxious, looking back, she was right. 

I get where you hubby is coming from and I think that is one of the main wrong doings that some men with ADD do EVERYTHING half-ass like their families, spouses, children and friends.  Now I can hyper-focus on one thing that I like sex, playing games, hunting, riding motorcycles but with everything else, I did it half-ass and look where it got me.  I am now learning to do only 1-3 things at once, which is hard to learn but I am getting it, so now I am doing better than I used to. So men with ADD can change, old dogs can learn new tricks but we have to WANT to learn new tricks for it to really work! 

I'm So Exhausted's picture

On the opposite side of comparision

I had learned years ago not to compare my life to anyone else's. 

I am happy if money makes someone else happy - I just want enough to pay my bills, and enjoy the life I have.

I am happy if someone else goes on a vacation every year - I just want to be happy where I am.

My ADD husband is the one who is always comparing himself to men who drink, gamble and cheat on their spouses.  He often shares his frustration that he doesn't do any of those - so why would I not be content?

While some parts of life are personal and private, I refuse to paint "the perfect couple" picture.   Marriage is not for the weak-hearted, and marriage to a man with ADD is certainly not either. 

I'm So Exhausted's picture

Or maybe a couple decades!?!?!?!?

My husband started making me a rocking cradle for the birth of our first child.  I guess he got the usual ADD 80% done - and then progress stopped.  After our second child was born, I thought he might finish it. 

Our first child is 21.  The cradle is in the barn - and the 2 unfinished rockers are on the freezer in our basement.

I'm So Exhausted re: decades?!?!?!

Yes, we are getting there.  It simply hasn't been long enough- but I am confident we will get to "decades".  Had I but known early on how things would be, instead of asking for a playroom when the kids were born, I would have asked him to build them a car.  We would then be only a few years away from something relevant and useful, rather than a playroom for adults. 

Meds, meds, meds

Adderall saved my life.  Get him on meds, they can help so much.  Adders, like myself, crave chaos to keep their minds busy.  We create chaos when there's peace, because calm is painful to us.  The meds, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay help with that and other things.  If he won't go on them, then you're kind of stuck with a decision.  We can have some amazing attributes, but we can also be a total drag too.  I know, I have hated myself many times for things I have done or tried not to do.  On meds, I have more control, without them, sorry, no chance. 


Tell him to get over himself on the damaged bs.  That kind of macho bs makes me embarassed to be a guy sometimes.  He should also realize the amount of people that are on meds for ADD.  For example, I was at my sons hockey game last week and I was working in the time clock area with my wife and 3 other adults.  My wife was the only one in there that wasn't being medicated for ADD.  Obviously, not a typical situation, but it goes to show that more people are on meds for ADD than you think and the stigma really isn't there as we all openly talk about it.

His life isn't working for him, and there is help.   Offer it and support him that's really all you can do.  Best of luck.

P.S.  Finding a good psychiatrist versus seeing a general practitioner also made a huge improvement in my life.  (Not sure who he saw, just sayin')

Frickenlonely...just had an aha moment

I love these..it is why I come here...a big part of it anyway.

For years I felt that when I would pull nearer to my husband, be kind and try and let down my walls he would be receptive at first and then within just days-a week he would pull away and pick fights. You read all the time about the 'rubber band' affect in marriages..so I just assumed this is what that was. I am now wondering if this wasn't his 'coping' mechanism. He lived in complete chaos his entire childhood...and first marriage...an hell, let's be honest, a big part of his current marriage. It all make sense. He was addicted to the chaos. Maybe hyperfocus could explain the reason I saw so much progress (after an initial 3-4 months of stumble after stumble after stumble) in the first 10 months we reconciled because the way you describe it...you just simply cannot change it. Do you think the motivation of losing the one you love, knowing that you've burned the very last bridge you'll ever get could be enough to break the cycle? Stop the need to create chaos in order to have peace? Is it possible to just get so sick of the chaos that you truly just want to learn to function another way so you find the courage to do so?

He is now on medication...and we feel really positive about it. He had come so far, seemed to crave peace and kindness more than chaos, before medication. We literally had the longest stretch in our marriage without fighting than we had in about 6 years...until he started concerta...so I feel for sure it would have continued had he not started it. I just saw huge changes in him, I made huge changes in myself, and I'm even more hopeful after reading this that they were 'real' and will be lasting...and adding the medication into the mix just gives me 10x more hope.

Thank you. Best of luck to you!

waynebloss's picture


Meds are a wonderful thing...now if my wife can actually see this as you do the world be a tad bit better!