Both partners in the ADHD relationship may find themselves often asking this question. And it seems like both partners feel like they have plenty of reasons to be angry. And if the anger goes unchecked on either or both parts, it can become insidious and very destructive to the relationship.
Often the Non-ADHD partner can end up feeling duped. During what is called the “Hyperfocus courtship,” the ADHD partner was totally romantic and attentive, making all kinds of promises for an amazing, dream-fulfilling future.
After a while, when things settle down, much of that attentiveness ends, and things can change dramatically. Suddenly the ADHD partner makes promises they can’t fulfill, forgets important dates, doesn’t respond to requests for help around the house, and overall just falls into patterns that don’t seem like those of the supportive person they were in the beginning. The Non-ADHD partner ends up feeling lonely and disappointed, and angry.
The ADHD partner often feels criticized and like they just can’t do anything good enough. When their relationship gets reduced to a Parent/Child dynamic, they end up feeling like their authority is totally undermined, particularly if they have kids. In addition, there may be medicinal issues, combined with heightened ADHD emotionality. All of these things can create an environment that leads to outbursts of anger, and feelings of resentment.
It’s important to remember that when we get angry, it is because we are making a judgment about a stimulating event, and it is not what the other person is doing or saying that is causing the anger. Or, there is really some other feeling that is masquerading as anger. It is our interpretation of what has occurred, and our feelings about the situation that leads to the angry response. In the moment, there is a need that is going unmet, that we need to get in touch with, that will help us move away from the anger.
If we can catch our thoughts in the moment before an angry statement or response, we can come into better contact with what the real feeling is underneath the anger. For example, there is hurt, or disappointment, or sadness that needs attending to. If we teach ourselves to connect with the real feeling, we can often circumvent the anger. We cannot do this all the time. Sometimes we’ve just been holding back from expressing ourselves for so long that the anger just comes tumbling out. Even on those occasions, we can step back after the anger comes out, and we can ask ourselves, “What was I really feeling?” Then we can better express our true feelings and re-visit the upsetting situation with our partners. Sharing our real feelings can go a long way in restoring the communication between us.