My ADHD Husband Won't Discuss Our Relationship Problems

Filed Under: ADHD and Relationships, ADHD and Marriage

Q:

"When I want to discuss problems in our relationship, my ADHD husband either becomes close-mouthed or gets very angry, often storming out of the house. He isn’t responsive to my feelings unless I am praising him. Help!"

Melissa Orlov, a frequent ADDitude contributor with Dr. Ned Hallowell, writes about ADHD and marriage and offers relationship advice to adults with ADD.
A:

I suspect your husband is interested in your feelings, but finds it difficult to deal with problems for which he feels you blame him. Attention deficit adults often have difficulty responding to anger or criticism because of years of negative feedback from teachers, parents, friends, and loved ones. When you praise him, he feels that he is OK.

In addition, for some with ADHD, conflict causes the pre-frontal cortex to shut down. When this happens, they are unable to work through their thoughts or comprehend what you are trying to say. That may be why your husband walks out of the house.

Work on creating a structure for better communication, so that your conversations are less stressful. One option is to work with a marriage therapist who has a solid understanding of ADHD. Another is to try the “speaker/listener” system outlined in Fighting for Your Marriage (Jossey-Bass). One person speaks while the other listens. The speaker briefly states what she is thinking, and the listener interprets what he has heard. They go back and forth until a clear understanding is reached. Then the listener becomes the speaker, and the cycle is repeated. It’s an excellent method for ensuring calm communication -- and shouldn’t send him running for the door.

Melissa is co-author of a blog on ADHD and marriage at adhdmarriage.com, and coauthored Married to Distraction with Dr. Ned Hallowell and his wife, Sue. She is also the author of The ADHD Effect on Marriage.

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