New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Couples With One ADHD Partner


My husband is the worst he has ever been. He is 34 and we have been married for 2 years. We just bought a house, and he thinks it was a mistake because now we don’t have cash to start a business for him. He says its now or never, and since we can’t do it now, that his dream is dead. He thinks working for others makes him the equivilent to a prostitue. He is angry and bitter, and the only way he gets out his aggression is picking fights with me. What is the best way to break the cycle of fights? I try to reason with him but he doesn’t hear anything I say, and I know that’s the ADD part of his brain. So I simply say “stop it” and change the subject. Is this a good tactic or not?


You just described my marriage to a T.  My husband also finds it degrading and “impossible” to work for others, and he tries again and again to make me the go-between for him with almost any work related issues.  Reasoning has done no good, logic has done no good, and fighting with him does no good.  I have begged him to seek pyschological help and he says that it won’t do him any good as long as he has his current job.  As much as it hurts I am considering divorse - not that I am advocating that for you.

Posted by dontyell on Apr 11, 2014 at 9:45pm

I’m so sorry to hear that! I wouldn’t wish this kind of torture on my worst enemy. I have made a counseling apointment as a couple in a little over a week, but I haven’t discussed it with my husband yet. As I’m sure you now, timing is everything, and since he is so angry all the time I just hope I can find a minute of calm to bring it up to him. Have you tried making an appointment for the both of you and asking him just to check it out with you? That’s how the therapist suggested I ask my husband.

I totally understand how you feel. I don’t to consider divorce, but its hard to tell how long to hold on while your husband has already seemingly checked out of the marriage. May I ask how long you have been together and how long it has been like this for you?

Posted by Jessica R on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:17pm

We went to one couples counseling session.  He seemed fine about the idea of going when he was afraird I was about to leave him.  However, the day of our appointment he was outraged that he had to go, and when we were done he was even angrier than before.  I never asked him to go back.  I hope your expierence is better than mine.  Have you given the counselor the heads up about his ADD and anger issues?
We have been together for almost 22 years.  He has always had some issues with his temper.  It got really bad about 13 years ago when our first child was born. At that time his Dr. diagnosed it as depression and put him on Zoloft which helped for awhile.  Then it wasn’t enough so the Dr. upped his dose and that helped for awhile.  It is hard to say if he has gotten worse over the last 2-3 years or if I have just grown tired of it and am less willing to put up with the behaviors.  I hate that our children see the way he behaves and I hate even more the fact that our oldest is begining to act more like him everyday.  Our oldest has been diagnosed with ADD and I worry for him seeing what has become of his dad.

Posted by dontyell on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:35pm

O jeeze, I hope so too. I did tell the therapist about the ADD it so he would know going into it. We didn’t touch on the anger issues in the short conversation we had. The thing I’m most nervous about is the very real possibility that my husband will refuse medication. He was put on medicine for ADD when he was a boy and he hated how it made him feel. He reacted so badly that now that he is an adult I can hardly get him to take a Tylenol when he has a headache.

If he doesn’t get over this episode on his own and refuses any type of treatment, I don’t know what I would do. I want a life for myself, but I will not have children with him in his current state nor will I feel badly for working my butt off to get us into our own house.

Hopefully your son can realize that he doesn’t want that for his life and will be more receptive to treatment. Good luck to you and your family!

Posted by Jessica R on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:49pm

Uh, you can’t reason with the unreasonable.  What he is saying about his dream being dead is unreasonable.  Generally people who are in the middle of a fight are unreasonable - this is why fights are not useful for working things out.

That ADHD brain gets caught up in its fight or flight so easily so you cannot expect reason from him when he is either state.  You are going to have to become a keen observer of when he is in “good brain” - those times when he is neither in fight nor flight, not stressed, not tense, not anxious.  These are the only times you should be trying to reason with him.  Then you might bring up that tons of people are starting businesses later in life (  That is not to say that he has to wait until he is 60 but to say that 38 is not the end of life. 

As far as interrupting the pattern that is a good thought and you should do as much as you can.  Because if you haven’t noticed yet ADHD brains get into ruts and they are very hard to break out of.  So first thing, don’t engage.  Meaning don’t fight back.  This is hard, particularly if you are reactive and get your feelings hurt.  But say to yourself as a mantra inside your head “This is not about me, this is not about me” even as he is blaming you.  Because he is expressing his fears and anxieties - albeit in a very destructive and passive aggressive way - but that is what he is doing.  So you have to stay calm.  No yelling or bristling or getting pouty at all.  Like total neutrality, or as close as you can get.

Second thing is acknowledge only.  You don’t get to add your opinion or point of view or thoughts or solutions.  As mentioned above this is no time for reason.  You only get acknowledge and listen.  So you get to say things like “I see you are upset” and “I can tell by the way you are stomping around the room throwing things that you are angry”.  Don’t argue when he screams “No I’m not!” because he likely will.  AND DON"T ASK QUESTIONS!  The one thing I have learned over and over in my 17 years experience with ADHD is when they are in that state of fight or flight don’t ask questions.  It is seen as a challenge and exacerbates the situation.  If you’ve just said to him “Seems like your mad right now” and he has screamed back “No I’m not!” then you say “Ah, well I must have misread it” and leave it at that.  You can listen but don’t add anything.  Everything you add - and he is looking believe me - he will notice from a shoulder shrug to a slight roll of the eyes to a sigh he will take as challenge.  Acknowledge his feelings and then just listen.  Eventually he will peter out.  Like steam from a teapot when you turn off the flame.  Turn off your flame and he will have no fuel to keep going.

It is hard not to engage and to keep calm and not to say anything as he goes stomping around the house but honestly it is like a child having a temper tantrum.  You don’t give in and don’t engage.  Just hold your very calm and pleasant ground and let him do what he must until he stomps out.  Good luck!

Posted by YellaRyan on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:00am

Thank you! I do do these things and have thought that I shouldn’t. Its hard because I am hurt. I need to work on getting support for myself so that I can stay strong and not give in. A million thanks for putting it so frankly.

Posted by Jessica R on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:09am

I like what Yella says about not engaging.  It’s so true anything you say or do even if you agree with what he is saying can get him more worked up.  I did that for many years, sitting quietly letting him fume until it was over.  The problem with that was/is I am not the only person in the world he is around.  This type of behavior has consequences in the outside world - loss of friends, loss of employment, legal issues.  We have been through it all. Keep strong, keep trying to get him to get professional help, but remember that you can’t make him do what he doesn’t want to and you have to look out for your self.

Posted by dontyell on Apr 12, 2014 at 1:29am

The not engaging tactic does work.  All it takes is disengaging mentally and emotionally, and going about your own business.  On one hand, I don’t get sucked into the drama; other the other hand, I feel like I no longer have a relationship of any kind other than financial convenience.  We more often than not live on opposite sides of the house due to hurt feelings generated from his verbal attacks which are mentally and emotionally abusive.  After a while, “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it because there is no follow through in changing behavior patterns.  In fact, he gets just as lost in the resulting depression when he sees the damage done as he is lost in the angry outbursts that cause the damage.  So, I guess I am just grieving right now and taking time to think through the life that I want and how to create that.  It feels like I am putting the marriage on the backburner, although maybe I am just getting to the point where I accept the fact that I have to take care of myself first and “the marriage” second since it is so insanely dysfunctional.  What a heartbreak and disappointment.

Posted by kag63 on Apr 13, 2014 at 8:51pm

kag63, your marriage and husband sound like mine.  Sorry to hear you’re in the same boat

Posted by rosered on Apr 14, 2014 at 12:17am

Kag63 & rosered:  that makes 3 in the boat.  I started grieving back in ‘09, do my best to not engage & not get sucked into the drama, but my heart still breaks just a little more every time I have to endure this repeated dysfunction.

Posted by BC on Apr 14, 2014 at 3:50am

thanks to yellaRyan. i am having issues with my boyfriend and his “tantrums” and how i am to deal with him. I will use and try the advise. I posted on another thread. I too just go about my business and walk through the house when he is yelling and rambling on and on.  The disrespect still hurts. I keep my focus on things that keep me happy too.(Kag63)

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 14, 2014 at 10:25pm

I think it is reasonable to expect a spouse to learn some coping skills, even if they have ADD, so those of us who just want to have a conversation don’t always have to tip-toe around the next angry outburst.  That isn’t a way to live.  I am encouraging my husband to not just appologize, but to work on preventing the angy outbursts.  I just get tired of the constant anger and lack of connection.  It just feels sad.  I do get my feelings hurt and I don’t like the modeling these constant angry fits present to our daughter.  She should expect she can express an opinion different than my husband, and so should I, without getting ignored or yelled at.

Posted by Korks on Apr 15, 2014 at 9:59pm

I’m starting to get really depressed about this. Is there no returning to how we were? I miss my husband, my real husband who was so caring for 6 years, terribly. I’m sick of the moody, angry person I’ve been living with for the last 3 months.

Posted by Jessica R on Apr 15, 2014 at 10:10pm

An unmedicated ADHD personality is basically an emotional teenager with a driving need for immediate reward. They have no long term ability to plan and work toward a goal. Their enthusiasms change frequently and in relationships they become acclimated and look for stimulus to bring the emotional energy up - anger is one of those ways. It isn’t possible to have a adult partnership with someone stuck at this level of social development. Without medication they can’t begin to reason with their emotions and even when medicated they have to unlearn the unhelpful habits they have adopted and learn new ones. It takes time - meaning months to years - and accommodation on your part. If you can’t decide to spend your life doing this with no guarantee of success you must do what lets you lead the life you want for yourself. This is not an uncaring stance. It just is what it is. A partnership cannot be made by the actions of one alone.

Posted by A Karl on Apr 16, 2014 at 4:51am

Reading this post has brought back so many memories for me.  I was married for nine years, putting up with, defending and justifying my husband’s anger, verbal abuse, and self-piteous and depressive episodes.  In the earlier years of the marriage his, what I called, ‘moon-moods’ came and went in tri-monthly bursts.  By the time we were married eight years (and two kids later), his outbursts were occurring weekly – though by now they were also marred by constant drinking, which of course made his fighting and depression worse.  It even got to the point where he would follow me around the house or send me texts if I locked myself in another room or went out for ‘fresh air’.  What ultimately ended the marriage was when the verbal abuse started to turn physical.  What triggered these moods?  At first it was about his past and family (sibling and parents), then it was about his job, then about our kids (particularly the youngest one), then about another boss and finally about me (and all the affairs I was falsely accused of having).  Ultimately, the cause of his anger was external to him – it was always someone else’s fault.  And the morning after each ‘episode’, I’d get the whole “I’m sorry, forgive me, trust me, I promise…” act.  At about the five-year mark of marriage I tried to encourage him to get psychological help.  We went to one psychologist together, but he refused to go again because “psychologists can’t help me”. In the two years before the marriage ended, he went to see two other psychiatrists on his own.  However, when they diagnosed him with ADD (on about the second or third visit), he stopped going, denying he was ‘ill’ and accusing them of psychoanalysing him and being “money making drug pushers”.  .  It was at this point that our youngest son (aged four at the time) was also diagnosed with ADD (now also diagnosed with ODD and Tourette’s syndrome), which ironically my now ex-husband refuses to acknowledge and is fighting me over medicating him. 

After relaying my saga, can I please implore you to stay focussed on your own health, safety and sanity?  Please don’t let it go on so far as to lose yourself, your self-esteem, your values and your confidence.  It is one thing to support and stand by your man, but another to continue to put up with the anger and abuse – in any form.  It will gradually wear you down to the shell of the person you are; and once the anxiety and resentment kicks in, you lose yourself, and at that point you cannot help him anymore.

The suggestion from YellaRyan to not engage and not take it personally is great advice, if possible.  My additional suggestion would be to re-connect in a positive way: to do something together, have a common goal - perhaps do exercise or yoga together - something that builds a bond between you and relaxes you both at the same time.  (Of course, my ex even refused to do that!!)

Posted by Ade68 on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:27am

i never thought ADHD was like this until i met my boyfriend.  i thank all of your input, i dont feel like i am alone..  He projects his behaviors on me during his l ittle “episodes’  like its me who is out of control ,

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 17, 2014 at 2:53am

Yes, there’s nothing more “enjoyable” than being called a DramaQueen by a DramaKing.  That one just about makes me see red (and it happens so predictably, never stops—well hasn’t yet), but like all those types of things you have to learn to just ignore it because anything else just escalates the drama…

I’m so tired of dealing with that (yet somehow I can resist my urge/impulse to do that, he doesn’t have a monopoly on ADHD).  The more I read on here the more I think that men with ADHD are just way more difficult to deal with (and live with) across the board.  Not always but it sure seems like it. 

I wish someone would offer an ADHD Boot Camp for them.  If they come back not sufficiently re-socialized then we know we can just give up because re-training didn’t work for someone else (not just the wife).

Posted by BC on Apr 17, 2014 at 6:16am

Can we seriously make this happen? I feel like I’m just wasting my time. I would totally be on boad with a boot cam program!

Posted by Jessica R on Apr 17, 2014 at 4:09pm

Also wish there was a “like” button in this forum.
—> “Like” to ^ post by Jessica R..

Posted by BC on Apr 17, 2014 at 5:39pm

If the people in this group are still willing to have this discussion, I’d like to share another perspective on the topic.  How often do husbands come to us or remain with us as perfect creatures?  Beside ADD, how many are self-centered, mama’s boys, womanizers, boring, too talkative, bipolar, selfish, or have some other issue?  After they marry, will any become ill with cancer, diabetic, a felon, less exciting, or have some other issue.  My son has anger issues and he has ADD. We try to get him to do more exercise to work out all that energy.  The whole family could play basketball together—great work out!!  My mother has been married to my dad for over 60 years and he has ADD.  She always encouraged him to go skiing or swimming. It sound like you are also trying to learn as much as you can about the condition.  Have you considered a support group so you can talk with others about how to live with the issue in your family?  The most important thing I need to remember is that my husband will never be my girlfriend.  He’s not going to be that.  I get us to socialize with other couples with kids so he can hang with the guys and I can hang with the women if we need to.  II also like to use an annual planning notebook with my husband—a page for each subject and what each of us wants to accomplish under each subject (financial, family, home, career, vacation, children, social, charitable).  I go through it with my husband at the beginning of the year, then quarterly. We put initials next to who will work on the items we agree to do this year and a ‘due date’.  Setting goals together helps create a context for a productive dialogue that isn’t about fixing one of us.  I tell him he’s not allowed to bring up anything in anger—he needs to get things listed in the notebook so we can discuss it and prioritize it.  It has led to good discussion and we’ve accomplished a lot each year—but not everything gets prioritized to happen in a year.  For example,  if he wants his own business and has ADD, would you really want him to quit hs job before he took steps to show he could be successful?  Maybe he needs to put together a business plan first, including financial projections and review it with people in the business to get their input.  That will help him figure out if he even has enough motivation to move it forward so that he can make enough money to support the family.  It’s a journey, requiring lots of prayer, but that’s true for all of life.  The real joy comes when each of you feels good about your individual journey and what you are working on together.

Posted by lovinlife on May 16, 2014 at 8:52am

Thanks for this discussion. I’m 28 years old and have been married to my ADD husband for almost 6 years. I love him dearly. We have had major problems with him feeling alone, like I don’t care about him. I DO care, a lot. I feel like I always think of him in every decision I make, but apparently I don’t show it very well. Problem comes when I try to express how I feel during any discussion. The suggestions to not engage are great, but any thoughts on how I can NOT engage with him during these times and still make him feel loved and not alone? I feel like it’s such a catch-22. I’m seeing a counselor on a regular basis, he is not interested in seeing one. Still praying for clarity and patients on my part. Thanks for the support!

Posted by ames1206 on Jun 14, 2014 at 10:14am

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions