You’re Scary!

ADHD & Marriage - Weekly Marriage Tip - October 19, 2011

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“When we’re scared, we’re scary, so at your most fearful, you probably frighten the people around you. They, in turn, react aggressively from their own fear, scaring you into anxious behavior, escalating the fear, etc.”

  • Martha Beck

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You're Scary!

Beck’s description is a classic “symptom/response/response” cycle like those I describe in my book, only the “symptom” in this case is fear.

Fear, for many, is the deep underlying emotion that provokes lots of aggressive behavior in relationships. Take these examples:

  • Fear that life will be an endless swamp of unfinished chores prompts a non-ADHD wife to relentlessly hound an ADHD husband about unfinished tasks

  • Fear that an ADHD diagnosis will trigger blame and punishment from her husband causes an ADHD wife to defensively resist seeking an evaluation

  • Fear of rejection or the more subtle “disappointment” leads one partner to resist having sex with the other

These examples are real – I see them (almost verbatim) very frequently. The only way to get out of these fear cycles is to acknowledge that fear is the root cause of the aggression and defensiveness, accept that, then try to calm those fears through concerted effort on both parties.

Step away from these fears by telling your partner about them, and talking together about how you might be able to break the cycle of symptom/response/response in which you are both participating.


For those in marriages impacted by ADHD
If you or your spouse has ADHD, please join our forum at to ask your questions and learn from others who share your issues.  In addition, you'll find in-depth essays to help you learn how to thrive in a marriage affected by ADHD.
Hope to hear from you there!
Melissa Orlov

© 2011 Melissa Orlov