January 7, 2019 at 6:02 pm #106359keliemmParticipant
There are two issues here.
One, I need help getting my ADHD family members to allow me the downtime I need, in particular my husband.
Two, my husband’s anger is a MAJOR problem.
A little background, I believe I am living with a husband and stepson who have ADHD with co-occurring conditions. Though neither have been diagnosed, husband is self-declared and stepson is currently in the evaluation process with his pediatrician and therapist for ADHD with ODD and Executive Function Deficit. I also have a biological child who has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and has begun the evaluation process for ADHD, and we have three other children as well (5 total). With the mix of personalities, schedules, and needs going on in our home, the downtime time I’m requesting seems impossible and communication with respect and love often fails.
Regarding issue one, though I’ve verbalized the need for what I call defrag time when I get home (think of a computer sorting out its cache after beginning to show signs of processing delay and errors), I find that reasonable accommodations can not be made beyond waiting 10 minutes to ask me about my day or to asking me to help with homework, dinner, the baby, “mom, watch me do this,” you name it. 30 minutes or an hour to myself seems impossible, be it after work or on the weekend, and I actually don’t feel justified in taking that time to myself knowing my husband feels overwhelmed much easier than I do and thinking I need to relieve him as soon as possible from the work it takes to be a home maker or else he’s gonna blow. I know how his days are going because I’ve done what he’s doing. We switched recently for financial reasons, and he expresses on a regular basis how he feels overwhelmed. Our routine since the switch is that I take the baby as soon as I get home, we decide which one of us is making dinner (usually husband since I have baby but sometimes I do both) and we work together to get through the evening routine and quality time with the munchkins. Each of the kids gets down time as they definitely should, and husband gets time to his self outside away from family before dinner and after (prior to kids to bed) and then hours to his self after kids go to bed. After the baby is asleep is when I do “homework” – budget/bill paying, house cleaning, laundry, etc. I realized recently that even though I get up with baby throughout the night – haven’t slept through the night for about 18 months now, husband sleeps in later than me every weekday, and sleeps in for hours on weekends and when I have days off! I understand that I accommodate my family members in an attempt to assist them with emotional regulation because they need it or else… HOWEVER, I am in danger of burnout and blow up/melt down! I’m increasingly resentful toward husband and feeling less patience and willingness as time goes on toward catering to his needs, though I do not forget that he processes things differently than me, and that it’s beneficial for all of us if he’s not overwhelmed.
That brings me to issue two, husband’s anger. Communication with him is a huge problem. I think relationships are built on communication. We ought to feel supported by one another, safe to convey insecurities and fears, and do problem-solving together, right? It seems that he and I cannot, and I wonder if there’s a better way for me to converse so that he actually listens without interruption, distraction, or belittling me. When I begin by saying I have a problem with x,y, or z, rather than inquiring, validating, or relating, husband replies with something he has a problem with and the conversation repeated gets refocused on what bones he has to pick with me. I do my best to redirect and stay focused but feel he deserves validation too so we usually end up in some sort of cyclical argument rarely about the original topic and often angry. My husband is larger than any of us, the kids have expressed fear of his anger, I have expressed fear of his anger (he’s a yeller, fist pounder, and door slammer) and he USED to apologize frequently for “being an a**hole” but it’s been a couple years now since he’s been accountable for his actions in a timely manner, if at all. What usually happens now is that he explodes, the rest of us move on, and I attempt to go back to that topic after a few days if I haven’t resolved it on my own by then or decided it isn’t worth the trouble. Unfortunately, the dynamics between husband and I are affecting the kids negatively. My 16 year old (the one with anxiety) has moved out to live with his dad. My stepson (currently being evaluated for ADHD, ODD, and EFD) has picked up several of his father’s habits regarding anger and disrespect for all of us, though he’s only 10 he has also been violent. My other son and stepson seem have healthy coping skills and have expressed that they are happy with their lives, but it isn’t right for them to have to witness all of the hurting going on. And I’m very concerned for our baby. He already thinks yelling is normal. He’s only just turned 1 but I am not at all interested in him picking up unhealthy habits or for any of our children to think it’s alright to treat others or be treated with such disrespect and disregard. I do not feel that ADHD (or ODD or EFD or anxiety) is an excuse to be abusive. I feel totally disrespected, have lost much respect and attraction for husband, and feel like we’re in a downward spiral.
To be clear, I have sought counseling from professionals and intervention from family members, neither of which were successful, and I do not feel like divorce is the answer though it’s where we’re headed. I left husband for a while during pregnancy with an ultimatum for him to make changes and get help and he made changes, some of which have been permanent. Though he did not seek professional help for his self, it was then that stepson began to get help and I had hoped husband would realize some things about his self as well. We have ups and downs like all families, but I am at my wit’s end for several reasons (not the least of which is protection for kids and self) and am seeking help here as one of a list of last resorts.
How do I successfully communicate with husband that I need – and deserve – important processing and self-care time as well as respect? Conveying to him what I have included in this post has not produced results. The response I get is usually guilt-laden and I find it easier to continue with supplying the family with relief than the anger and argument that regularly ensues regarding priorities and personal need. So it seems both issues are intertwined.
Any suggestions are welcome! Personal experiences or links to info, whatever you’ve got, and I appreciate you for reading through this and giving it some thought =)
January 9, 2019 at 12:07 am #106440alexiswilliamsincParticipant
Aloha. I will add this quickly so it might sound abrupt, but if I don’t leave something now, I will go another six months before I think about it again.
1) You’re a brave person and have taken on a lot of responsibility here. I want to acknowledge that first. You are obviously amazing.
2) Anger cannot be tolerated. I will revise this. Inappropriately expressed anger cannot be tolerated. In the moment it should be de-escalated as quickly as possible. When emotions are calmer, however, set a time to meet and talk through the issues with a set structure or agenda, as well as a clear set of consequences for the anger problems. These consequences should include emotional and social outcomes of the anger, some of which you have already mentioned here clearly (copy and paste!), but might be reinforced with your own emotions and fears about long-term effects, not only on your children although that’s enough, but also on you individually and together as a couple.
3) For someone with ADHD, buy-in is essential, so hubby needs to be reminded constantly – preferably through his own words – that he wants better communication as much as you do, that he wants harmony and synchrony as much as you do, that he chose you for this journey as much as you chose him, and that he knows what will make you happy and what will set you off if he really focuses on it. Each person should be able to share expectations and goals – or simply how you’re feeling and what you’re hoping for – before starting a conversation. During the meeting, each person should experience active understanding before moving on. “Help me understand…(explain back to partner what they just said)… is that close to what you expressed?” Agree together not allow the subject to change to a different problem before the person who has expressed the problem agrees that they feel understood. For all of this, I have to request time in advance, saying things like “would you like to have a team time? When is a good time for you this week?” It has taken a while and we’re not always consistent but my own partner and I always have a better week when we have team time. I use a Google doc for us to track what we discuss, but a notepad is just fine. Either way, we have to keep it simple, maybe a couple of questions that we can each respond to within half an hour. Then I make sure we stop on a relatively positive note and come back again later at our already agreed-upon time.
I have to use resources like Stephen Covey‘s seven habits of effective marriage, or feeling good together by David Burns. With the help of resources like these, my hubby knows that I expect a lot of us but that I also believe we are capable of improving when we struggle, and that I respect and love him.
I offer all of this with no guarantees and not at all to say that I know the answers to the struggles that we have. This is simply where I am right now and I respect your struggle. I hope the best for you.
January 13, 2019 at 10:26 pm #106606anaddwomanParticipant
Just a quick background about me: I have ADHD, anxiety, depression. My husband also has ADHD, as well as all 3 kids (youngest is deceased). She had severe anxiety and depression as well.
I hate to say it, but I think you’re fighting a losing battle here. In our house, all of us having ADHD helped because we all understood each other. In your house, it seems as though it is causing conflict.
I think that you and your children are in danger. You’ve already said as much. Your son has wisely moved out of the house for his own mental health, and your youngest is showing signs of taking on dad’s abusive behavior.
You’re already supporting the family, and it sounds like doing much of the housework and childcare as well.
I know you hate to give up on this, but you need to think about the kids and yourself. Think about what they are learning in this environment.
You are obviously a strong person. You can do this.
Best wishes. I am subscribing to this thread, so I will be around if you need.
January 17, 2019 at 1:18 am #106908keliemmParticipant
To alexiswilliamsinc and anaddwoman,
Thank you very much for your caring responses. Responses from others like you help very much to validate my concerns and feelings, and I appreciate your time in doing so. Feedback can also point out my thinking errors and offer me different perspectives, and I appreciate those as well. Alexiswilliamsinc, it’s good to read that what I’m thinking is needed is not unrealistic – that means it might be accomplished!
I have taken awhile to get back to this because I experience such a wide array of feelings toward my husband that some days I think I am totally wrong in thinking he did anything on purpose, but also because we have very good times in between the bad and in those times I can forget why I feel so hurt and concerned. If you’re familiar with domestic violence cycles, this very similarly resembles the honeymoon phase and I’d be foolish to not wonder if this is domestic violence. It is my profession to be educated about abuse of all kinds and I recognize several red flags. Anaddwoman, I very much appreciate your concern – I am concerned as well, and it isn’t lost on me that my eldest son left our home due in large part to our family dynamics. It adds to my resentment unfortunately, because I’d rather approach this from a helpful perspective than make husband feel attacked in any way. Though I’m too involved to behave entirely therapeutically, I understand and empathize a lot more than he realizes, judging by the way he interacts with me in general and reacts to any criticism in the heated moments. I’ve tried to relate to the struggle he has expressed he is feeling with his anger, sharing ways to overcome emotional responses and make long term change (things I’ve learned from experience!). I understand that we are different people and I pay attention to not “preach” to him about change, especially considering he may be suffering from conditions he is not in control of. In the not-so-heated moments when I feel like we successfully communicate about our problems he says he appreciates the love I have for him and patience I feel with him, even jokingly thanks me for “putting up with him.” Indeed it’s those seemingly successful times that keep me believing in his efforts and there is almost always a period of time in which real change seems to be happening. But there is only so much that makes sense or is safe for me to “put up” with and I really feel my love for him being replaced by sadness, hurt feelings, resentment, fear, and lost hope. I did divorce my former spouse because the family dynamics became too unhealthy. Realizing the impact it was having on our children, we agreed that separation was the best for all of us and we have one of the most successful divorces of anyone I’ve ever know! That marriage lasted 10 years and I do not intend to let things go for that long this time around. If we cannot make changes within ourselves, we will make them in our environment. I haven’t given up entirely, but as this post is titled, I feel very close.
Despite this loss of hope and the piling up of hurt and resentment, I cannot stop thinking that if only we could address the underlying ADHD part of things that he is not in control of then we could have the relationship we want, the relationship I thought I was getting into years ago. I doubt very much this is what he planned for either. He can be a VERY considerate and tender person, very loving and affectionate with our kids, me, and the rest of our family and friends. In fact that is his reputation. I’m close with his ex wife and we have discussed things like this openly. She did not experience the anger I am experiencing. I can’t help but think I am contributing to it in some way, but I think more likely it is all of the changes since we got together. Our family size doubles for both of us, Brady Bunch style. And if a person is ill equipped to handle stress, change alone can be a real contender. Add to it new financial burdens, personality mixes/conflicts, adolescent issues (as opposed to having younger children in previous relationships), and you know the rest. Then we got pregnant. I felt prepared. He said he did too. Maybe he wasn’t being completely honest with his self or me.
Yes, alexiswilliamsinc, his buy-in is key to realistic change. That’s where I feel most at a loss. I need him to do some serious work on his self. Hell I need him to just face reality and embrace the possibility hat he may need professional help! Your suggestions seem helpful, and I may just ask him to read this thread. There was another blowup this morning before I left for work, and when I get home we will hopefully deal with that in a successful and loving way; maybe it will be a good segue into this conversation.
In the meantime, if anyone else has advice or opinion to offer, I am still receptive to suggestion.
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