Can He Forgive My Rage? Should He?

"In the past year, I've had at least 8 ADD-fueled, physical outbursts at my husband. Some were influenced by alcohol, others were simple fights that just got out of hand, sending me into emotional and physical rages. My husband initially found it in his heart to forgive me, but now he's built up a wall of resentment. I'm on ADHD medication now and can control my outbursts, but I'm concerned that if I do have another one it could end my marriage. How do I help my husband move past the resentment?"
The Experts | posted by Melissa Orlov

This question was posted to ADDConnect's ADD Adults group. Below, ADD expert Melissa Orlov offers her advice for ADD adults with anger-management problems.

First, you do not mention when you started your ADHD medication, nor do you say whether you had rages before a year ago.

If you did not have rages before a year ago and if you started the medication about that time, I would suggest you talk with your doctor about whether the rages are a medication side effect.

If that's not a factor, then I have the following suggestions for you:

Stop drinking, completely, for a minimum of a year. As you describe it, alcohol is contributing to your fights. Getting rid of it will only be a good thing in this case and give you some breathing room to fix other things.

Hitting your husband is simply not okay. Nor is it a symptom of ADHD. Your continuation of this practice – you report at least 8 outbursts of violence in a year – means you are not taking your own part in this seriously. The fights may be difficult, but most people don't resort to violence to resolve fights. It isn't the fight that is getting out of hand, it's YOU. Seek the help of a professional therapist who understands both ADHD and domestic abuse (which is what you are doing). Join an anger-management support group.

Don't rely just on attention-deficit medications to help you manage your anger. If they do happen to diminish your anger, and sometimes they do, great. But you may well need therapy to get at why these rages are so intense for you and, more importantly, why you feel it's okay to physically abuse your partner.

Expect that your husband's defenses will stay up for quite a while – as they should. If the roles were reversed, you would think it unreasonable if he simply said, "Now I'm on meds, so stop being defensive!" You would want proof, over a significant period of time, that there would be no more abuse because specific steps had been taken to prevent it.

By your own admission, the steps you have taken so far include only getting on meds and hoping that it works. That's not enough. Get therapy. Join a support group. Teach yourself to walk away from difficult conversations WAY before you get to a violent point. Practice walking away. The only way to win back his trust is to ensure that you will never, ever again hit him and then have that be the new "status quo" for long enough that he believes you’ll be able to continue to live by that new rule. There is no short cut.

Apologize to him. Your actions are not justifiable in any way, no matter how hard the fight is. He deserves to hear your unqualified apology, more than once.

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