PASSION, RAGE & ADHD

LOVING A SPOUSE WITH RAGE & ADHD: A Deeper Dive into the Misery & Ecstasy

Adult ADHD isn’t the unusual diagnosis it used to be. 

Compared to 40 years ago ADD/ADHD isn’t unknown anymore – not by a longshot.

At this point, not only is everyone familiar with the terms “ÄDD and ADHD”, almost as many people are acquainted with Adderall, Vyvanse and the OG of the group Ritalin.

Almost everyone has personal experience with ADD and/or ADD as well. 

If you don’t have someone in your immediate family with it, then odds are you have a close friend who has the honor of being associated with the words “Attention” and “Disorder” – or possibly those personality traits are the reason why you no longer have that former close friend as a close friend (it can be draining at times).

The point is, no one is as far removed from these particularly gifted and mind numbingly frustrating at times personalities as they were before the world became as enlightened as it is today.

That could be making things a little worse.

It’s one of those examples of a little information or partial knowledge being a bad thing.

Today, enough people have heard, learned, and experienced ADHD in some form or fashion with enough people that they believe they understand enough to know how to handle or prepare for a social situation without the need to understand more that they do.

In other words, most people would likely summarize the conditions with something like:

Yes, I understand that (fill in the blank here with that special person in your life who fits the attention lacking mold) struggles with time, money, clutter, emotions, follow through, and sensitivity – I get it. BUUUUTTTTTT I have to be honest… (this part they don’t say out loud, they only scream with their inside voice and hint at it with their outside tiny comments and internal resentments)…it feels like if they can do all the impressive things they can do in a few areas that shows the exceptional ability to focus and get details just right then I have to think if they were ”properly motivated” then they would be taking more responsibility and getting more done.

If I’m being honest, I think everyone has some ADHD or ADD, including myself, but being an adult means you learn to overcome it and stop making excuses. 

Medication probably helps everyone – but tough love and being a determined adult will help more than anything.

But people have learned to say those things only to themselves or with the spouse of someone else with the same issues in quiet agony sharing moments.

For the most part people try to remain positive and supportive, even in the midst of the repressed twitch inducing moments of dating/married life.

Speaking of marriage and cohabitation, more and more people have a better idea of the challenges related to being married, seriously committed to, or just hopelessly in love with someone possessing the relentless and unique emotional needs and unmissable gifts they inject into your life, which include:

• BEING EXPRESSIVE – The sheer transparency and raw intimacy that comes from someone baring their soul to the the degree many ADHDers are capable of can be very endearing and hard to walk away from, since it’s unlikely to be found in your next relationship.

• GIFTEDNESS – Closely tied to how beautifully they can channel that expression through song, painting, sculpture, poetry, letter writing, speech, humor and or any other medium you can imagine. Chances are they’re not only the fastest texters you know when you want to share a moment with – they’re most likely one of the funniest and most perceptive.

• DEEP SINCERITY – A funny thing happens in the life of anyone with ADHD who is also old enough to have a serious relationship. After spending days, years, and even decades living life as someone known for being late, being inaccurate, being absent minded, being late again after swearing they won’t be late again, being angrier than most people understand, and being oblivious many of the times when it comes to how much hurt they can cause people they love until they see it in their face or hear it in their voice – they learn to be sorry. They learn to be humble and sincere and even more importantly – they really do care. Sadly, that’s becoming more and more rare.

• ENCOURAGERS – Since they normally know the pain of failure and understand the agony of internal self loathing that comes from disappointing so many mothers, teachers, and friends who wonder how many promises can be broken by well intentioned hearts – the ADHD individual can often be the loudest, proudest, and most powerful source of encouragement you’ll ever have in your life. Even better – they likely possess the insight required to base those energizing words of power into your soul based on truths they clearly see in you, which you’ve often hoped were seen more clearly by far more people who never seem to notice or mention it to you NEARLY as often. ADHDers notice – and they thoroughly get a thrill from pointing out the best things about you – in a way that can become very addicting.

• EXPRESSIVE THOUGHTFUL ROMANTIC PARTNERS – Depending on the version and type of person with the ADHD tag, you can usually count on being intimate or frisky with someone very aware and attuned with making the person they’re with feel very wanted. I’ll leave it at that. But romance is an area where you can normally trust you actually do have their full attention.

On the other hand…or to put it more accurately…on the other side of the “Unmissable Gifts” coin, you have the related list known as “Maddening Curses”. 

This list of course includes things such as:

• EXPRESSIVE = very ANGRY – Oh boy – yes they are, and not always in the best of ways. ADHD spouses or significant others are well known in many cases for having significant tempers. Sure, you love the soft words of romantic poetry that can flow from them off the top of the head. But when they blow that same top BUCKLE UP – because the confident charming flow can turn into burning lava from the human volcano standing in front of you in the middle of what can feel like a sudden very intense eruption.

• GIFTEDNESS = until THEY AREN’T – Being gifted is nice – but it seems less attractive when you start to realize the same mental-lock they have that allow them to enter hyper-focus with anything they find fascinating becomes a mental-lock-out when it comes to the more mundane yet endlessly simple tasks any adult human should be able to expect from anyone old enough to pick out their own shoes or operate a motor vehicle. But ask the person who wrote a lovesong or illustrated a portrait of you effortlessly to wipe the bathroom sink after brushing his teeth and suddenly it seems as though you’re hoping for the impossible.

• SINCERITY vs RESULTS – Sincerity can unfairly make it worse sometimes when it comes to some routinely disappointing things. After a while, being sincere when they make promises about how determined they are to do better, be better, remember better, listen better, and follow up on details better just don’t mean as much as it did in the beginning.

• ENCOURAGERS = EXPECTATIONS – The old saying “With great encouragement comes the expectation of great encouragement in place of voicing understandable frustrations without causing more emotional damage – after all it’s only human to voice legitimate annoyance after so many disappointments!”…Ok, so it’s not an actual ancient saying – but when it comes to being married to someone with ADHD, it should be.

The exact items on the lists you just read might vary slightly depending on what article or pamphlet you read, but again the point is the common strengths and weaknesses of being with someone with Adult ADHD is far from the unknown mystery it used to be.

Or at least it used to be…

THE MISERY – REJECTION SENSITIVE DYSPHORIA

Something new, a couple of “somethings” actually have been added to the “LOVING A SPOUSE WITH ADHD HANDBOOK”, and it’s the kind of thing that carries a massive impact when it comes to understanding why so many things seem to have such a massive impact on your ADHD loved one.

To put it simply, the same ability ADHD grants your spouse to tap into deep reservoirs of emotion to fuel those gifts you value so much are the same connections that can make any criticism or feelings of causing disappointment in you feel unbearable to them.

You read that right -”unbearable” is exactly the right word – and it’s one that more than a few people have embraced as the best description of how they feel when the torment of knowing they have caused torment yet again, to anyone of great importance in their lives.

In fact “dysphoria” actually comes from the Greek word which means “difficult to bear”.

WebMD list several situations and reactions associated with RSD :

  • Being easily embarrassed
  • Getting very angry or having an emotional outburst when they feel like someone has hurt or rejected them
  • Setting high standards for themselves they often can’t meet
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Problems with relationships
  • Feeling like a failure because they haven’t lived up to other people’s expectations
  • Sometimes thinking about hurting themselves

None of this should come as too much of a surprise when anyone already familiar with ADHD stops to consider the logic for very long. It also explains the hot temper and short fuse trait already identified and previously mentioned in this article.

After all, if letting someone down truly does create waves of self loathing, overwhelming regret, and self frustration to the point of rage than it makes sense that your spouse might not be able to understand why the very people they love most seem so willing to bring up their already admitted flaws or point out the dropped balls, missed deadlines, and failures to live up to what might seem like reasonable expectations.

To you – they are minimal goals which would seem more than fair targets for consistent achievement.

To them – they can be relentless reminders of all the ways they aren’t viewed as complete, trustworthy, competent, or even viewed as “trying hard enough” by the very people they are so desperately hoping knows them best.

Which makes it incredibly easy for a situation to develop that leads to unusual, even instant spikes of intense anger as a result of the misunderstanding of effort meeting expected results. 

But as you may have already noticed, everything relating to one extreme of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder seems to always have a counter-balance. Just as the weakness of being recklessly impulsive in one situation can be easily connected with uncommon courage in another, the same can be said when it comes to the unique wiring of any mind dealing with the reactions that come with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. 

There is an equally surprising and polar opposite aspect that works in your favor as someone bonded to them for life (or any extended amount of time) – and it’s got an equally overly-dramatic, yet truthfully accurate name of it’s own…

RECOGNITION RESPONSIVE EUPHORIA (AKA the ESCTASY)

Recognition Responsive Euphoria is a condition that essentially takes the praise and positive words of others and transforms them into a kind of reverse-Kryptonite while simultaneously turning the ADHD subject into SUPER-SPOUSE… or IRON SPOUSE…or maybe Captain Amazin…you get the idea.

According to Attitudemag.com (respected ADHD online authority) just as the hyper-active mind is hyper-sensitive to words that communicate any sense of disappointment or correction, it is possibly even more sensitive to words of praise, encouragement, and bold proclamations regarding the noteworthy accomplishments and rare potential that come from being one of the impressive yet deeply flawed citizens of ADHD Nation.

Suddenly, everything makes more sense.

In the most powerful relationships – romantic, business, personal, and even familial – the dynamic of “opposites attract” can be clearly understood. 

It makes sense that the person most intriguing, most attractive, and by far the most impressive to you would be those who share common principles and outlooks about the meaning of life, but also possess the very gifts and natural strengths that you likely weren’t born with in equal measure.

We’re not talking a contrast of morals here – we’re talking about contrast in strengths.

In other words I don’t mean stupid is drawn to brilliant. It isn’t – anymore than genius is attracted to moronic. Both find the other annoying. Brilliant-systematic interacting with brilliant-creative on the other hand can not only create the ultimate in attraction, it can be stunningly more effective when they finally do become one in any meaningful way.

Kind is not attracted to cruel. But as a very basic example, a kind Yankee fan and a kind Red Sox fan might form a strong brotherhood with a combination of history and total championships.

In business, a tirelessly focused mind is a huge advantage – just like the person who came up with the idea that jumpstarted the business was vital to building something popular enough to grow into something substantial to begin with.

In marriage, it’s likely the effortless way your spouse made you laugh, cry with joy, feel not only loved, but adored and deeply cherished is the same way your strength of structure, disciplined mind for details, and natural gift for not only planning, but executing made you the equivalent of a superhero in their eyes.

Combining the power of limerence with previously unknown levels of attraction or sudden deep friendship could and are many times something close to a relationship supernova.

But in time, those same stark differences can lead to moments of such enormous irritation and exhaustion of patience that hollow sounding words, conclusions about character, questioning of commitments, and an inability for either person to crawl into a mind so drastically different from their own leaves things mortally wounded or broken beyond repair.

The non ADHD mind simply gets to a point where it seems impossible for them to continue to tolerate what begins to feel like blatant examples of not prioritizing simple but vital tasks – meanwhile the ADHD soul is flooded with shame, self loathing, AND a deep resentment fueled rage born from feeling deeply misjudged by the lover they know they’ve adored, encouraged, and stood by unconditionally in spite of the many flaws or mistakes they never felt compelled to point out. After all, they know better than anyone how much criticism can wound, so they ignore slights and uneven reactions from their lover until building tensions lead to explosions from an increasing urge for what will feel like a long-denied-urge-for-self-defense. Other times, those angry hurt-filled expressions are finally voiced due to some other more tragic situation. Namely divorce.

In the end, or just before the end, they will have felt as though they were redefined, re-evaluated, re-valued, and rejected by the one person they poured  themselves out for the most in a wasted attempt to prove their life-long worth. 

Many times, its discovered they had been harboring a hope that the person least willing or able to tolerate them because of their past and natural wiring is the person they were most desperately hoping could maintain the intense admiration and love that allowed them to be the very best version of themselves way back in the beginning – when they’re strengths were still new enough to be valued above their inadequacies.

Sadly, the beginning is the hardest part of the journey to hold onto when it comes to any intimate relationship with someone falling into the category of ADHD – and throwing in the 2 major aspects of “ADULTHOOD” and “MARRIAGE” only makes it all the more challenging.

On the other hand, They can also make so many other things much more powerful, colorful, exciting, and just mind-blowingly fun –  IF both people can grasp the principles at play throughout every step of the relationship and resist the urge to revise who the other person is – simply because they don’t seem able to hit minimal expectations in multiple areas of life, which were likely assumed wouldn’t be an actual hurdle for an individual so capable in other areas.

Probably not – but just to be safe, don’t ask yourself that question when you’re wiping down their side of the sink again tomorrow morning.

You know – the same areas which were much more boring when they weren’t in your life.

Compared to the average, less thrill-filled marriage is that really so much to ask?

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