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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Cry for help! My upcoming wedding is at risk of being canceled

I am an American ADD adult living in Brazil, and I have no one to turn to, so I´m hoping someone can help me sort this out.  I am to get married to a Brazilian in less than two months, and we have been flight incessantly lately to the point where we are considering canceling the wedding. 

My fiance and I have had quite a few little problems that I am sure are attributable to my ADD (not thinking to take the trash out, leaving my key in the lock, etc.), but now the problems run much deeper.  She claims that recently I am being defensive and aggressive and refuse to accept when I am wrong.  I disagree, but I am now questioning if maybe it´s part of the disorder and is preventing me from seeing the truth.  She swears it is me.

For example, last night while watching a TV program she commented about the character who was making dinner for his new romantic partner, pointing out how I should be.  My version of what happened next is that I flippantly responded that it was apples-to-oranges comparison (first date dinner vs. living together).  Her version is that I became extremely defensive, raised my voice to an angry tone and took her joke as an attack.  She admits that she then escalated the situation from there but swears that I started the big argument with my “aggressive and defensive” comments.

I see it completely differently, but I wonder if I really don´t see my actions accurately.  Could ADD result in me being irritable and rude with someone without realizing it?  I really think I made a matter-of-fact flippant response, but she swears it was much more angry than I portray it.  She also says I often provoke her to get angry and then play the victim because “my prefrontal cortex needs stimulation” (which is something she read in an article about adult ADD). 

With such divergent views on such basic issues, we are having trouble relating to each other or having even one calm evening at home without incident.  We are now wondering if we should call off the wedding, rather than have a lifetime of unhappiness.  I have friends flying long distances for our wedding, and I feel completely stuck between a rock and a hard place.

What do I do?  Has anyone else experienced this kind of situation?  Any advice or even empathy if you have experienced this would be very much appreciated.


I’m sorry to hear this to some extents it rings true as maybe partially due to ADHD. I do sometimes think there is a disconnect between way person with ADHD perceives something and way person takes it. For example, my partner says he will do something and doesn’t - for him, the fact it wasn’t done doesn’t mean anything as he still means to do it. For me, fact it isn’t done means one more responsibility has been flung back at me and he is creating a situation designed to make me feel uncomfortable at home and create a situation where I am the bad one for raising it. He doesn’t mean to but that is the outcome. Then he gets so used to being told off that he reacts badly to whatever I say so I feel I can’t say anything and don’t belong in relationship. The other person is on edge as everything feels confrontational and so everything becomes that way. You need to take a step out of things - I tried to do that with other half by trying to do something nice every month but he only engages if its for him and ruins it if its for me. So not sure where to go but that’s due to the hyperfocus on what he wants to do and his inability to hide boredom. I’m sure you’re not meaning to do this but ignoring the small things creates bad environment and goes on from there. I know my partner, while loving me, finds me irritating to deal with as I ask things of him whereas otherwise he can do what stimulates him and he shows this. But to be in a relationship, you both need to work at it. Calling off the marriage and letting down people flying a long way is least of your worries - if you love her, get help before you let this disconnect fester. Also consider whether you are pushing the responsibilities for house onto her too much by ignoring things. Our car has just been stolen (thankfully found) because my partner yelled at me for being silly for asking him not to leave key by door and I got too tired of being bullied to argue about it. Yes I should have got up and removed it but why is what I say not worthy of respect? He would say it was because what I said was stupid, i’d say it was because he doesn’t value my views if they don’t agree with his.

Posted by hilaauk on Aug 22, 2014 at 4:31pm

First applause for being willing to look at yourself. most people won’t.
Next, the meaning of all communication is the response you get. in this context this translates to you didn’t intend to sound defensive but she heard defensive. might be she is trigger happy as you have been defensive often or that you don’t know you are being defensive in truth. no matter as the way to respond is the same. to stop and say I didn’t mean to sound defensive, didn’t feel defensive and note that she gave you critical sensory based information, you raised the volume and your tone changed to sound defensive. ask her if you can say the same thing again in a normal volume and with a chuckle to your tone. and then find out if that changed the way she perceived it. still possible that your words alone were enough.

hmm, was Robinhood men in tights that had a scene with the king getting bad news in cheerful voice but still blew up because the news was still bad?

If you were in some business deal and your approach was not going over well with the other side, would you persist or change approach to one more likely to achieve your outcome?

while it would not be completely spontaneous and might affect things, if she could record you when you react in a way that bothers her, you’d be able to hear yourself and check to see if it came out of your mouth the way your inner ear heard it.

Funny right now, my non ADD sweetheart is in a cranky mood and won’t admit it. he gets into ‘work mode’ or has a headache, upset stomach and puts on a stern face, his actions become stiff and jerky, stomps a bit and his voice is gruff. all things I’ve learned mean give him space. just in case I did something to frustrate him, I usually ask and then stay away until his need for space changes and his demeanor changes. It would be easier on me if he simply said he was in a bad mood and needs to retreat to his cave. sometimes he doesn’t realize how harsh he can sound when business mode kicks in and old habits from being head of a tv news room pop up.

if you are willing, have her give you some agreed on sign that you are getting loud and angry. then consciously stop and change your physiology, are you tense? breathing fast and high in your chest? is your face and mouth tight or relaxed? at times people do read each other wrong but often what we send is not what we want to have understood.

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 22, 2014 at 6:26pm

Hi Tyler,
I admire the authentic and open way you are thinking about this problem.
You don’t mention any reason for marrying other than the business about friends coming down. Do you still like her? What would you folks do if there no friends attending, flying down or otherwise? The real question is do you want to spend every evening with her for a really long time.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Aug 24, 2014 at 9:13am

Yeah, that is part of ADHD. It is that inability to pick up on social cues and hyper- sensitivity. Did you notice that the first thing you say after she thinks you are defensive is a defensive statement?  And when someone puts themselves and their relationship with you on the line by pointing out something you no doubt don’t want to hear, then you answer with “no I’m not” that is exactly defensive.

My husband is the same way, and claims he had no control over his tone of voice. But you can’t blame ADHD, ADHD does not make you rude or flippant. Yes, you may speak without thinking, yes you may take things personally that aren’t or obsess over something and feel badly about yourself automatically, yes you may be quick to defend yourself - those things are attributable to your disorder. But content and intent cannot be the blame of ADHD. If you cannot control yourself from being mean, rude, insensitive or uncaring towards your fiancé NOW it will only intensify and get worse.

And may I just say that as a woman and a wife of a man with ADHD you will get absolutely no mileage from not believing your fiancé. You have to take what she says at face value, ask clarifying questions, tell her what you really meant, be honest about your feelings if she inadvertently triggers a bad reaction. These will help you to have a better relationship with her but not only that help you deal with your ADHD. Who else loves you enough to be honest? Who else is going to take the time and care to advocate for you and treatment for your cpndition? Who else is willing to endure an argument to make sure you are aware of your public persona(often something people with ADHD are not aware of and gets them into trouble-social cues again)?  Who else is willing to be with you despite all those little annoying traits that will never go away?  Why wouldn’t you believe her?

Posted by YellaRyan on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:51am

I want to thank each of the four of you for your thoughtful words.  It was definitely helpful, and gives me things to think about and discuss openly with her (and my psychiatrist that I am overdue to visit).

We do love each other, and things have since calmed down, but I am sure there will be other issues again so we need to confront this head on now.

I believe now that I must have really been defensive without realizing it.  She has her own issues of a bad temper that acts as fuel, but I am must recognize my role as the spark that triggers a fire and learn to be sensitive to this.

Life is meant to be a journey I suppose. Anyway, thanks again for your kind and honest words.

Posted by TylerR on Aug 26, 2014 at 4:35pm

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