ADHD and Marriage: “I’m Worn Out”, Round Two

ADHD Marriage: 

Note:  This entry includes ideas for conversation-starting exercises to improve your understanding of yourself and your spouse.

There are some comments posted here that just make my heart ache.  This is one of them:
“My wife and I have been together for 9 years. As a professional in the behavioral health field, I recognized her ADHD right away. We talked about it but she didn't feel that it was that impactful in our life. In our fourth year I had grown tired of dealing with the daily symptoms of her ADHD without her acknowledgement and put my foot down that if she wanted our relationship to continue I needed her to get evaluated for ADHD and seek treatment if my presumptions were correct. She called that night for an appointment and has been on medication for the last 5 years. During that time she has met with life coaches, ADD counselors and psychologists. She even subscribed to the ADDitude mag, which is how I found you this morning. Aside from taking her meds daily she has been unwilling/unable to follow ANY of the instructions or advice given to her by these professionals. Now here we are in our 9th year together and I am as frustrated as ever. I have been as supportive and I am using all the training I have had to inspire, support, reward, encourage her. In the end I am feeling used up. Each time we have a "sit down" talk about this, she ends up crying and apologizing agreeing to start making small changes and I feel bad for making her cry but at the same time unswayed by her yet again unfulfilled promises. I don't know what to do at this point. I feel like I have tried everything and if she is unwilliing to try then there is nothing left for us. I am committed to my wife but, I don't want the rest of my life to be in a marriage with someone who won't even TRY to make things better. Please help.”

If you have read much of this blog, you have probably figured out that I am in the “try, try again” camp of finding marital bliss.  HOWEVER, there comes a time when you are simply too discouraged and used up to continue the effort.  It is one of the great truths of human nature that no matter how much you may wish to do so, you cannot change another person.  Only that person can change herself.

That said, it sounds as if your wife has, in fact, tried to make some of those changes.  She has found a medication she takes regularly (you don’t say whether or not it relieves some of her major symptoms, only that she’s taking it).  She has hired a string of professionals for help and looked for additional information.  These are not indications that she isn’t trying.  So the question becomes why is it hard for her to follow the instructions/suggestions she is receiving.  The first question I would ask is this - is she doing these things because she wants your relationship to improve, or simply to appease you when you confront her?

Before you call it quits for good, perhaps you can ask yourself some questions:

  1. Is the medication she is taking effective?  My personal definition of effective is that it relieves symptoms to the degree that she can start to follow through on accomplishing some of the things most important to her.  Is this the case?  If the medication does, in fact, “work” but she still isn’t doing the things that YOU think are important, then perhaps the two of you are in misalignment in your priorities.  There is some hint of this in your description of why she started taking meds in the first place.
  2. Though it sounds as if you have been very supportive, are you playing a role that might impede her progress?  For example, is she so afraid of disappointing you (or your reaction if she disappoints you) that she would rather not try than try and fail?  Or does she feel that your comments about her ADHD imply that you don’t really love her?  If so, is there a way to diminish this negative impact?  (Tip – look for signs of your own anger, frustration or belittling entering your relationship – these have ways of making people resistant to real change.)  You know from your own profession that difficult relationships often rest in the behaviors of both partners.
  3. How does she feel about her own progress?  Does she say that she wants change because she herself wants it, or only because you ask for it?  Does she see change?  What sort?  What has helped her most?  How might she get more of that?

Finally, for a brief moment at least, you might turn the conversation away from ADHD.  This may sound counterintuitive coming from someone who focuses on how ADHD affects relationships, but sometimes one gets really caught up in the “unfairness” of being affected by someone else’s ADHD and loses the forest for the trees.  One of the turning points for me when my own marriage was so troubled was the realization that I could make my own life happier – with or without my husband’s help - and that happier, not “fixing my husband’s behavior", should be my own goal.  The net result was that I started focusing on ME first, US second and him relatively little.  As I did so we both found that our relationship improved.  He had resented my interference in his life and felt that my comments were an indication that I didn't respect him.

So, consider trying this.  Sit down one quiet evening and create a list of the ten things or feelings that would make you happiest (stay away from “winning the lottery” and try to find things like “being unafraid of trying new things” and other items that are part of you).  If there was a particularly happy period sometime in your life, what did it look like?  What were the components?  Who were you?  What were the personality traits you had then that you cherish the most?  Find the ten most important, then give them ratings by allocating points to them.  Assume you have 100 points, and allocate those points to each item in order of priority – the more points, the stronger you feel about something.  Look at the results and reflect a bit…what have you learned?  What can YOU do, today, to start being happier?

If your wife is up for it, this is a good exercise to do as a couple as well (and if you’re really a glutton for punishment ask if she might like to do it just for herself first…the conversation this exercise can start can be really illuminating!)  What would make you really, really happy as a couple?  Who would you like to (jointly) be?  How would you like to feel?  How would you rate the items in your list?  Just having this discussion could be eye opening, but taking it to heart can provide you with a meaningful roadmap for setting priorities.  Maybe who takes out the trash will become less important, while making time for a special weekend together will become more so.  (Hint for this couples exercise – do it at a time when you have a number of hours and, perhaps, a hot cup of tea to keep you settled…!)

Ultimately, this is your life, and you have only one.  Remember that you married this woman even as she was showing signs of her ADD and you loved her in spite of it.  Try to get past your resentment for the uneven character of your relationship and see if any of the questions and ideas I’ve posed above help you move to a level where you are happier.  But at some point you must look at your life and figure out what you want to do with it and who you want to be.


Overwhelming procrastination

I would like to know how to focus on my own happiness when the piles around me are so overwhelming that I am embarrassed to have anybody to my house. Piles outside, piles inside, piles everywhere! Counseling was a great idea, but we had to give it up because on one income we could not afford it.

Get rid of 2/3 of what you

Get rid of 2/3 of what you own; it's owning you and it's not worth it. Don't bring anything new into the house until the other things there are put away or, better yet, gone.

Sleep issues eroding relationship

I met and fell in love with my guy two years ago and it was a hard, hard fall. He is a truly good person, cares deeply, has a brilliant mind and has struggled with ADHD all of his life. He's been on medication for a long time. I am learning -- we are finding our way -- through conflicts/contrasts in organization, time utilization, etc... but there is one area that is pivotal to me for the success of our relationship and he is determined that I am simply "wrong" or "inflexible" or "too rigid." We are both 51. We knew each other casually in high school and were serendipitously reconnected by a mutual acquaintance 30-some years later, when both of us had been living in different cities for most of that time. The power of our connection was instantaneous, overwhelming, delightful, a huge surprise for each of us. We'd both been living as singles, not dating, for at least a decade (even longer for me). To fall in love as we did in midlife seemed a truly wondrous gift. Most of our relationship was long distance for more than a year, with a few visits during, until last March, when he moved across country to live with me and my teenage daughter for five months. Most of that time was unexpectedly (for me) marked by severe depression for him, and a whole lot of sleeping. He sought (at my insistence and with my help, organizationally and financially) and obtained some help and the depression is well under control with meds and lots of work on his part. Still, at the end of those five months --- during which my house was on the market, finally sold, and we made a move (locally), I was exhausted. When I accepted a job outside the home for the first time in 15 years (I'd been self-employed), I knew the sleep situation had to change. I asked him to move out and not return until he could commit to a better sleep schedule --- i.e., going to bed before midnight and getting up in the morning. I emphasized that if he were to return, it was THE ONE ISSUE that I would not negotiate on. Not having any friends or family in my town, he moved back across country, 1300 miles away. Throughout his 4-5 month absence, he assured me he was working on this and things were "very different." Yet he returned several weeks ago, fully preparing to "move in and stay" and things have rapidly gone to hell because of "the sleep thing." He stays up all night or most of the night, goes to bed when he feels like it and gets up when he feels like it, which is rarely before noon. He has no job and I'm the breadwinner. I go to bed alone most nights, wake up alone, and when it's the weekend feel I spend most of it alone because he's sleeping and when he gets up, it's two to three hours for coffee and paper.... and the cycle repeats. I've learned the importance of good sleep and schedule personally over the past few years. When I was approaching menopause I began having sleep disturbances and suffered thru for two years. *(Prior, I'd never had trouble with sleep EVER in my life!) It was manageable because I was self-employed at home at the time and could work around my fatigue. Having gone back to work in an organization this year, I quickly found setting and keeping a schedule for me was key. I can't function well on any level if I'm not well rested. I have to be in bed by 10 or 11 so I can get up by 6 a.m. My job is creative and intellectual, I work with lots of media outlets and community leaders and I must be sharp and productive. It's anything but a desk job. My problem is that even though I keep to my schedule, I don't sleep well because even though my partner is "quiet" he is up and doing things and I feel the energy working through the house. So my sleep is more like dozing. When he does finally come to bed, it awakens me, and also disrupts. Sometimes he wants to be intimate when he gets in bed and frankly, it, too, feels disruptive if it's during the work week. (Our sex life has otherwise been more rich and loving than anything I'd ever experienced my entire adult life. Unlike some ADD folks, my man is extremely caring and attentive.) But then when I have to get up on time, am groggy, not rested, and he is blissfully sleeping away.... I'm resentful. Exhausted, resentful, and losing hope. He'll "try" for a night or two... and when he does that, I am SO happy, it's such a joy to fall asleep with him next to or holding me, and to see him in the light of morning get up. But then it's as if he thinks "okay, I did it, now I can do what I really want" and goes back to his old ways. And, as is typical, the more I push, the more he resists. He thinks I need to be more flexible about the whole thing. It's hard for me to find a way to that because I'm exhausted and lonely when he continues the up all night sleep all day pattern. Further, though I know his "intention" is to find work, I doubt that he ever will. This schedule very neatly keeps him out of the world and in a comfort zone that seems self-perpetuating but non-productive. The future looks bleak to me.... one of fatigue, complete responsibility for financial, and a lot of loneliness. Once he is up during the day, he does things around the house --- of his choosing. Vacuuming, fixing something on the car, occasionally cleaning up the kitchen, etc. He is trying to be, as he says, "helpful," so I don't have to do those things. While I'm appreciative (what a treat they are, sometimes!) they don't make up for what seems like eroding intimacy and good feelings between us. I honestly believe I could live with his disorganization, the messes, dust, whatever IF HE WOULD JUST GO TO BED WITH ME AT NIGHT AND GET UP IN THE MORNING! Even within an hour or two of each other would be significant and meaningful to me. We have talked and talked and talked about this and on the one hand, he says he "doesn't like it (the up all night) either," and he wants it to be different, I don't entirely believe him. My perspective is that if you want something, truly want it, badly enough, you will do whatever it takes. Last spring, when he was being treated for depression and seeing a psychiatrist, the doc strongly encouraged a better sleep regimen and also provided a sleep aid to help that along. He did nothing with it. He'll say one thing, but his actions say something else. I cannot change him; he has to want the change. His latest tack on this is that I need to change and be more "flexible" with it. I want to be fair, considerate, and compassionate, but this seems manipulative and indicative of an attitude that deep down is "victim"-like --- i.e., "I can't help it." My love has had a complex, jarring and painful time of it during the past 15 years, including the death of two siblings (both of whom he was extremely close to), a divorce that is still not "over" (she yanks him into court 3 to 5 times a year, for nearly a DECADE now), the loss of a healthy relationship with his children (which he has fought for tirelessly), the loss of employment (he once had a 20-year highly successful, very lucrative career), a bout of drug addiction and treatment (he has been clean for more than a decade, and doesn't drink alcohol ever, for 20 years)--- all of which over time spiraled him into depression and also a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder as well. That he is doing as well as he is, is remarkable testament to his strength and determination. I admire him greatly for working hard, in starts and stops, to get through these things. Many of them were not disclosed to me for a long time. His remaining family is distant, geographically and emotionally, unsupportive and have pretty much abandoned him with labels of lazy, demands to "just get a job," etc. This is not just his "take" on things; I've witnessed some of it. When I fell in love with this man, I vowed to myself that I would be the one person who would not abandon him, who would be there, thick and thin, and believe in him. Now I am struggling to hold onto that. And feel guilty as hell for it. I read one of the doctors mention of realizing she had to determine her own happiness and not rely on her ADD spouse for that. It resonated within me deeply as I've been realizing the same thing. That said, while I am capable of doing my own thing and keeping my own schedule (I've been a rather independent spirit most of my life and can be totally happy on my own), it makes me terribly sad not to have much intersection with my partner. What's the point? It begins to feel like the proverbial roommate arrangement, and I'm footing the bill. I am so very, very torn and yet do not feel I can continue this. It's worn me down to a shell of who I used to be. I'm now relying on Lunesta occasionally and am taking very occasionally some anti-anxiety meds as well, but they seem like bandaids and I'm nervous about dependency. And even when I've told him I'm taking a Lunesta (which is effective only if you truly have the whole time to let it work), he will awaken me in the middle of the night when he comes to bed and wants "to talk." It's that self-focus thing of his, which intellectually I understand, but emotionally see as, quite simply, selfish. Further, when I resist the middle of the night talks or desire for sexual intimacy, he then turns that into I'm "rejecting him" or am "repulsed by him" --- neither of which is true at all. All the whining aside.... obviously I need to vent... I am simultaneously ready to completely end this relationship (it's exhausting and seems like he's making all the withdrawals while I'm making all the deposits) and heartbroken at the prospect of losing a love that is truly of the rare variety. We connect intellectually, have great respect for each other otherwise, share strong values, etc. He has a huge heart, tremendous patience (most of the time), would and has done almost anything and everything for others in need. Except, of course, this one thing I've articulated is so important to me. He has seen the Hallowell books (I bought him one to keep when we're apart, and there's a second version here at my house), he's bright enough to know that there are ways to address ADD tendencies, and yet he dismisses them. Somehow, it all comes back to being some deficiency in me (my language) that is responsible. I feel as if my life has gotten stuck in this strange place for two years. I want to live well, exercise my talents, joy, give back to the world, grow, have new experiences, and all of it as often as possible with my partner. That probability seems to be shrinking by the minute. I want to do what is right for me but also want to honor and fight for this relationship. I'm not a saint and don't have all the answers and I'm far from perfect. I tend to be impatient, and perhaps over-intellectualize, be overly emotional, or simply detach. I'm aware of my shortcomings and most of the time work hard to not give in to them. I have made mistakes. I work to learn from them. But when do I concede to failure? When do I know that it's reasonable to let it go and move on? How do I know it's still worth fighting for? Because he's not employed, he has no resources to simply "get an apartment" across town. If we end this, he'll likely move back to the midwest, move in with a severely alcoholic brother, and remain as I sometimes think of it, "in the dark." The prospect makes me very sad for him and sad for me --- to lose or give up what seems to otherwise have tremendous potential. We DO love each other, of that there is no doubt. We are both very unhappy, confused, stressed to the limit, and could use some guidance. Any thoughts and ideas are welcome. Thanks so much.

ADD and sleep/wake cycles

I have struggled all of my life with the sleep pattern that your partner has and I have tried all sorts of remedies countless times - not because I have a partner who wants me to do it - but because I know that my life would be easier. I've often thought that, if I could change one thing, it would be this - But it is intractable (and I am not someone who gives up or lets myself off the hook easily - I am, in fact, a high achieving person who regularly manages feats of perseverance that others wouldn't consider -yet I cannot change this) . People who don't have this type of ADD can't understand this, even when they do try. But asking someone who has this pattern of sleep/wakefulness to not return to a schedule that enables him to feel stable or reasonably alive would be akin to asking a suffocating person not to inhale when a breath of air comes his way. With great difficulty and at great cost, he can do it for a while but, eventually, the body/mind's instincts for self preservation will take over. It's a biological imperative - he's no more or less selfish than you. Whatever those who haven't experienced this may advise you, no amount of time adhering to a schedule can change it; I've tried over many years. (I've returned to sleeping in on the weekends because I then have at least 2 days a week when I have the possibility of feeling human, alive and well.) A regular early schedule for people with this pattern certainly won't improve depression - quite to the contrary; it can increase it dramatically and will undermine other practices that can contribute to health, such as trying to maintain a healthy weight or exercise program - the constant battle with fatigue will sabotage the latter and the lack of restful sleep (which I know, for me, is only available in the morning) will increase depression. and other health problems. The unfortunate truth is that no one with his sleep cycle can maintain equilibrium on your schedule (no more than you can on his - the fact that one is more common doesn't make the other less imperative); eventually, either the drive for equilibrium will bring him back to his own schedule, or, if he could manage to force himself to maintain yours, the lack of equilibrium would undoubtedly do him great damage in other ways. So, what to do? You're feeling as badly with his sleep patterns as he would feel without them. You can't maintain the life you want (and you deserve, as much as he does, to have a life that meets your needs) and he would most likely fall victim to depression, perhaps even addiction again, if he were to try to adhere to your schedule. Obviously you need to stop interfering with each other's ability to maintain the schedule needed for health. I do understand that your need for proper sleep is probably greater than his while you're the only one working but I imagine that this a sensitive point. Different apartments seemed the obvious answer but you say that's not possible. What about different sleeping (and farther away puttering) spaces within the same house? Or could he find night employment (he might consider the jobs beneath his ability but there are many available, particularly in the health field where aides and other staff are needed for 24 hour operation) so that you could sleep while he's out of the house and he could sleep while you work? (The extra income might also allow you to find a larger place to live,) You'd have each other and several hours of quality time together daily between the end of your job and the start of his. Neither of you would have the bed partner that you dream of, but it sounds as though you'd both still have much more than either of you had without each other. (And there would still be time for intimacy in the morning and on the weekends.) My only other suggestion is that he try Vyvanse, which allowed me to arise early, actually feeling awake, and feel tired enough to sleep at night for about a week.; perhaps he would have more luck with it. A higher dosage might keep the effect going (at the same lower dose it has actually begun to accentuate my natural pattern but I'm afraid that the effects of amphetamines on my 56 year old heart might not be worth it - perhaps even more true for him if former drugs were heart damaging - and, since those that are - like cocaine -are also the ones that affect dopamine, which needs to be regulated with ADD, I would guess they might have been). Which brings me back to a question for you - do you think that someone who has kicked drugs and alcohol wouldn't also kick this "sleep thing" if he could - he certainly doesn't have lack of resolve. What if he were to change his sleep schedule only to find that the problems it would cause would land him back with drug or other serious health problems? Would that be worth it? You need to decide what your priorities are and, if you don't want to compromise or live with the consequences, or live without him, you need to find a way to work beyond simply insisting it be your way - and so does he. You both need to negotiate a way to make it work for both of you or choose to live without someone special in your life again . Good luck. You seem like 2 very good people. (By the way, I don't think he's selfish - no more than you are for struggling for what you need; I think, like you, he's just trying to stay alive.) If you ever want to understand what it's like for someone with ADD in regard to sleep, feel free to ask and I'd be happy to explain - I've given it quite a bit of thought in the 50 some years since my parents first used to walk me around the house every time I would doze off during the day as a toddler in vain hope that I would be able to sleep at night. I have little more control over the inclination now than I did then but I do understand it quite a bit better now. Best wishes. Ann

Ann, Thank you for such a

Ann, Thank you for such a thoughtful, detailed response. This has felt such a lonely journey; friends and family wonder why I "put up" with him. You've given me lots to think about. What I'm wondering is, what is your schedule and what kind of work do you do? I kind of got the impression that you "force" a schedule of being awake during the day during the week and try to sleep in on the weekends. That must be incredibly challenging. By the way, his addiction was to pain meds. Alcoholism was not a problem; he gave drinking up much earlier and without having had a problem (a decade before the drugs) I think merely in response to seeing so much of it in his family. I see a lot of past "resolve" in him, but not in the present. He has lots of "intention" but very little follow-through. The sleep differences are indeed the primary conflict, but there is conflict as well about him taking charge of his life and doing more than just "helping" around the house. He is so smart and so capable and so STUCK. That he had a once successful and lucrative career ... during "regular" daytime hours.... makes me wonder. I don't care WHAT he does, as long as he does something to be a part of the larger world, to stretch himself, to contribute to the world and to our life together. He seems to just be existing. Frankly, conversations have begun to repeat so much (they center on things way in the past) that I have started feeling bored. That's a hard thing to tell someone. (Which, by the way, I haven't, not wanting to hurt him.) There's no room here for separate sleeping or puttering. If he were to get a job, yes, maybe we'd be able to get a larger/different space that would accommodate that. But for now, I've no reason to believe he'll get a job. He talks about "looking for work," but won't get specific with any detail and has not applied anywhere that I'm aware of. He was also less than truthful about work and income. The reality is he has not had a job in about five years. Can you tell I'm tired every which way? Physically, emotionally, financially. He relies on me for so much and I don't feel a reciprocity. I can't count on him. I remain torn. I care enormously and yet I'm doubtful about a positive result... not sure I am willing to have our relationship's only intersection at the time of day when I am tired and/or winding down and he is revving up. When we first met again, we talked a lot about the things we like to do --- hiking, backpacking, adventures, road trips. He said he used to do these things a lot and wanted to more now. As it is, he never gets out the door before 3 or 4 p.m. His favorite time to get out is between 10 p.m. and midnight. I feel so badly for him, but for me, too. We both deserve lives that are fulfilling and to feel happy. He did not fully disclose the sleep pattern in the beginning; it has been an evolving truth, with intermittent changing explanations or promises. (Yes, a little anger there.) The same with working/not working. As I mentioned, he's had a lot of trauma, and a lot to work through yet. Having raised two children entirely on my own, at this point in life I'm wanting to have adult fun, but none of this is fun. How have you coped with relationships? I know this is all a little scattered, but that's how I am right now. Thanks so much for your thoughts and anything else you might add.

Sleep patterns

I had no idea others with ADD shared my exact sleep schedule, and I am 40 years old. I have been guilted by my husband for so long about this. The strain of trying to adapt my sleeping has taken its toll on my health to the point that I just don't care anymore. I have become a social phobic. I work from home and have isolated myself from the world and am so tired of trying to change to his 'normal' schedule. When i fail him and revert to my schedule, it feels so good and within 2-3 days I am able to be productive. What kills me is that he sees me all the sudden seem to come out of the fog. He watches how i seem to bloom into a person w/ cognitive abilities. I have no idea why he destroys it again and again with his relentless guilt trips till i change for him and fall back into the fog. I have no more fight in me and I am tormented by the person I have become. Everything in the article written by Ann should be heeded. Ann explained the consequences inherent to being deprived of ones natural sleep cycle. We all have to be selfish in life to a point, because if we cant take care of ourselves, then we sure cant take care of the ones we love. I lose the ability to care for the ones i love and cant even take care of myself on his schedule. That is what the man lost every time she guilted him back to her schedule. Of course he doesnt have a job, he doesn't have anything or anyone, and feels isolated. I have never ever written a reply to anything online. I am an editor, yet if i go back up and edit my own work, it will never get sent. And for some reason, i just need to send this. Hope to read more that open my eyes and remind me im not alone.

Sleep Patterns Ruining Your Relationship

First, let me say thank you for sharing all of this with us!  You are carrying a heavy burden, and yet you are able to also see a lot of positive in your relationship.  Good!

You should not give up on your need for sleep.  You are simply requesting what your body requires, and to stay healthy you need to keep it up.  Numbers of hours of sleep is not an area for compromise.

It sounds as if the sleep issue is big for you for the following reasons:  1) you need a certain number of hours to function; 2) your sleep patterns as a couple are interfering with your ability to be intimate and caring partners; 3) your partner's inability to move into more normal sleep patterns is interfering with his ability to hold down a job; 4) this is an area of growing tension and anger for you both.

You won't be able to continue in this pattern, and the sooner that you both (together) admit this, the faster you will come to a resolution.  And come to a resolution, you will.  Whether it ends up that you don't stay together, or whether he gets his act together, this will end up "resolved".

Some ideas:  first and foremost, see if you can find a sleep specialist who can help him change his sleep patterns.  Another idea:  have separate bedrooms, and schedule intimate time together.  This doesn't sound romantic, but it would be a lot better than resenting him every single night when he comes to bed!

Then there is the question of whether or not you are "rejecting him" when he comes to bed at strange hours and wants to wake you up to make love.  Perhaps this is happening?  You are tired of his waking you up, so you are starting to put your foot down about it, and since you are resentful about his continued bad sleep habits, your resentment leaks into the interaction you have.  He correctly interprets this the next time he goes to wake you up it is almost like a test - "will she love me no matter what, or will she reject me again?"  This is a pretty common pattern, and you should bring it out into the open, and talk about it.  Make an agreement - you have the right to reject him in the middle of the night simply because it is the middle of the night and you are desperate for sleep.  Under no circumstances do you want him to interpret it as anything other than that.  On his side of things, he needs to promise not to get his nose out of joint if you do reject his overatures when you are asleep.  Better yet, he shouldn't wake you up during certain hours but, rather, go take care of himself.  Then, the next day, he should tell you that he missed you, and spend some waking time making love to you.

I am not a therapist, but I wonder if there is something else going on here.  He says that his sleep patterns were very different when he wasn't with you.  If that is in fact true, are there reasons that he might be trying to force you to reject him?  Does he feel unworthy for some reason?  If so, you might consider couples therapy of some sort to work through this and come to some understanding.

Good luck with it, and let us know how it goes.  I hope you get this worked out, because it sounds as if you have something very special, and it would be a shame if sleep patterns brought it down!

Melissa Orlov

Melissa, Thanks SO much for

Melissa, Thanks SO much for some great perspective and many ideas. See my comment to "anonymous" (Ann) in this thread, too. I do think there is a lot of shame, and sense of unworthiness, due to many things, not the least of which is being different with the sleep thing. Ann offered some amazing perspective --- from one who truly knows what it's like to be this way. We are going to separate, which is heartbreaking. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I think he has a lot of work to do on his own and when here with me, he just kind of coasts. He stays stuck. As long as he has a roof, food, no financial obligations, a "different" sleep pattern... he can't seem to get in gear in any regard. (Again, see comments to Ann.) I don't want a housekeeper; I want a partner who brings more to the table. I am tired, frustrated, sad, and bored. I enable this/him. And to use the jargon, I think perhaps I have to get out of his way and let him fall on his face and/or pick himself up and do something with his life. As long as I have all the cushions in place for him, he won't. Two years is long enough to wait. Please don't misunderstand. I think this is the most awful part of loving someone... to stop enabling them to stay stuck in a bad place. (That's everything other than the sleep issue.) I think what Ann says may be true --- about the sleep pattern being "intractable." I just wish he'd been more truthful from the get-go. About it, work, and everything else. I can't "fix" him and don't want to --- but I wish for his sake he would work to make his life better. I was so amazed to discover I could have such wonderful feelings show up in midlife. And now I am just very, very sad. Thanks again. McS

Oh my gosh... I had tears

Oh my gosh... I had tears welling up the whole time I read this, because I can SO relate! My husband is a bit younger than I (he's 27, I'm 33) and when we first got together, I was so flattered that this hot young guy was into me... it took me a long time to realize that he basically just needed someone a little older and MUCH more responsible to take care of him, because he is completely incapable of taking care of himself. To be honest, if I had been able to look into a crystal ball before we got married and see what my future with him would hold, I don't know that I would have gone through with the wedding. My husband does hold down a job, with the help of medication, but as soon as he gets home from work and his meds wear off, look out! I go to bed at night feeling like I've been taking care of a toddler all day. His work schedule allows him to stay up late at night and go into work fairly late in the morning, which would be fine except that I work a typical 8-4:30 schedule, and am naturally an ealry-to-bed, early-to-rise person... he has almost no respect for my sleep schedule, and frequently has friends over late at night, playing musical instruments and just being loud and silly. But if I happen to wake him up in the morning, going about my getting ready for work routine, I get to start my day off with an angry tirade from him. Having said all that... I love him, and he has lots of good qualites, but I'm just so FRUSTRATED... McSnoozle, I totally feel your pain! I wish there was more I could offer you than just commiseration!

help! is this my future??

Hi mango...I'm really intrigued by your posting, loving a younger adhd man- my guy is 27 too!   I'm actually in my late thirties, recently divorced, and like you, I'm like....why is this hot young guy into me??  I do have a ton to offer, am beautiful and professional, but he can have anyone.  Most of the time he is lots of fun, and has been adamant that the age thing isn't a big deal and that I should get over it. I've fallen hard.  Now from your posting its clear that a lot of that might have something to do with a self care effort on his ADHD part? adapting to a difficult world by finding a caregiver?

I'm 60% sure he's been crazy about me, but its so hard to day i'm amazing, the next he can be really distant, especially past 9pm (is that just me who notices that?)   I'm getting worried and your posting is making me wonder if you are giving me a look into our life together should i let this go further. He seems addicted to an online game, still drinks A LOT with his friends (acting like a kid), regularly stays up until 3am, has given me hints that he cant control his spending, has said once or twice that he thinks his spouse will someday cheat on him because he can be inattentive....omg the warning signs are all here aren't they?

Not that things are really stable, as of late they've gotten pretty rocky though my gut tells me to stick with it.   I used to ask come you say you will call, and then you don't for a few days? Or why are you so hot and cold to me? He says its the ADHD and wants me to throw out the rules i know about men. He's so cute and tells me to pretend that he calls me all the time. Because of my work schedule, his distance has actually been a blessing but only to a point.

And lately he's just gotten frustrated and started to pull away... my insecurity is not very sexy. And he's incredibly sensitive to criticism and hates when i get upset.   But his inattentive behavior makes me insecure, SCREAMS at me that all is not as it should be. Men who are in love don't act like this! Or do they when they have ADHD??? Please help you can tell I really want to learn to adapt to this amazing person, I just don't know the language/skills to pull this together. Or maybe I need a kick in the pants that this is not a healthy situation and to let go now while its only my heart that will be broken.


RUN! Run as fast as you can and don't look back! He is giving you major signals that he is not good for you. Since you just got divorced, why do you want to put yourself through more pain? Run...just run. It only gets worse. Read the posts on here. Don't for one minute think that this can't be you

Run and DON'T look back!

Harbor girl I was in the same situation as you except im the male in a relationship with an ADHD Girl,She was incredibly fun and completely into me for a while.I knew she was "different" but I fell for her charm and beauty quickly.So what if she was a little quirky,so what if her temper came out of no where about something that didn't even happen,so what she said she'd call or make plans and cancel.Looking back over are relationship I don't think she followed thru with 5% of the things she said sh was going to do.Be it daily life or long term,The only thing I could count on with her was her being unreliable.Granted every Adhd'er has different levels of this disorder.the girl I fell for I now believe looking back had EVERY negative trait thjat can come with ADHD in the most severe form,But don't you dare discuss the possibility of her going on meds to try and help.She thrived on chaos and crisis.99% which was self induced,Trust me on this ...R U N !!!

re: RUN from dating an adhd guy

Wow... I'm hearing a pretty consistent message here - you don't get more unequivocal then 'RUN'. How painful. for all of us. Him, me, you, everyone on this blog. So damn sad. I've been crying off and on for a week because I've already sensed this is where this had to go. Reading these blogs, I see the only way to seriously address the adhd is either through medication or intensive behavior modification.  But they can't 'think' their way to becoming better partners can they? no matter how much they care.  But I can't NOT feel pain of his distracted behavior, or turn blindly from the pitfalls to come. I can't choose him over my own self preservation. So the crime is that what seems to make him special, exciting, fun, incredibly intuitive, also what makes him my own personal torture device. Ouch this stings. bad.

Harbor girl

Cry for a week vs cry for a lifetime.....your choice

Ditto...Consider yourself

Ditto...Consider yourself very lucky to have learned this before marriage and children. You've dodged a big bullet...

re: RUN

thanks guys. harsh to hear but i really appreciate the feedback, as I do the opportunity to blog. surprisingly therapeutic. Interesting how clear it all looks when you put it down in black and white. 

Worn Out

20 years of devotion to a wonderful and ADD diagnosed woman. I am tired and lonely, frustrated and .... under fire. Both teenage daughters are diagnosed. One boy crazy and the other failing in school. Mom watch's TV and surfs the web. Won't talk to me, talking "irritates her". Seems to them I am the problem. I have rules and structure - of all things, Is there somwhere I can go and get ADD? Maybe then I could be a part of my family and enjoy life with them.

To worn out!

Sounds as if you need a vacation!

You don't elaborate much, but your life sounds as if there is a good deal of disconnection right now.  Teens tend to be self-absorbed (or boy-crazed) and your wife is being distracted by the mind-numbing escape of electronics.  Perhaps she doesn't think her life is fun, either?

If your wife doesn't want to "talk" (presumably about things that are problems - like kids failing school) perhaps she would agree to "do"?  It seems to me that your first challenge here is to reconnect with her - both to alleviate your loneliness, and also to create a stronger unit that can better take on some of the challenges that you face as a family.  Consider "warming up your relationship" with some dates - walks in the woods, skiing, concerts, dinners...whatever it is that you enjoy doing together.  Tell her (in as romantic a way as possible) that you miss her and all of her wonderful qualities - and make sure that you aren't telling her this because you want her to do something (like stop watching TV) but because you genuinely want to be with her more.

Hopefully, your renewed attention will entice her to reconnect in a more meaningful way as a couple.

As for the failing child, my assumption is that you have tried the school's resource center to help.  Have you considered a different type of school - perhaps one that is more hands on?  We have a vocational school here in town, and many kids find that working with their hands is more inherently interesting than sitting in a boring lecture....

Boy crazyness is...well, boy crazyness.  You can't stop that one, for sure, but you can make sure that your daughter has all of the information she needs to keep from getting an STD or pregnant whenever she hits that stage.  (And according to the national teen surveys, it's much earlier than you would think.)  Sounds as if you should also have a supportive and open drinking and driving policy at your house - as in "you're not supposed to be drinking, but if you do, we want you to call us anytime night or day to pick you up rather than drink and drive or get in the car with a drunk friend - no repercussions...we promise."

The higher-level reasoning areas in the brains of kids ADD mature much later than their peers.  They also have higher rates of car accidents than their peers.  This lesser ability to easily "control" questionable behavior and poor driving record means parents really have to have open conversations about how they can support their kids to help them avoid trouble, rather than try to regulate them out of it (which doesn't tend to work).

As for becoming ADD - well, you can't do that, but perhaps you can "go with the flow" a bit more, thus decreasing the tension in your household (and, more importantly, with your wife).  Try approaching your days with these questions:  "Is what I'm upset about REALLY important - more important than the health of my relationship with the people I love?" and "What can we do to connect and have fun today?"  These might help you enjoy your days more and struggle less.

Melissa Orlov

Worn Out responds

Thank You. Not only was my first "blog" itself therepudic - so was your response. In summary I am the non-ADD outsider in a family of four. 3 ADD diagnosis' to my simple type A over achiever. As my teenagers become young ladies their freedoms become so much greater, I find myself desperte for more structure - driving regulatins, curfew, not going to drive ins, not skipping what few chores they have at home, doing homework, not skipping school, use of foul language and other typical teenage issues. Structure and discipline are all I know to introduce and emphasize - all to the resistence of my ADD wife.

Worn Out - next round

I'm glad my response helped.  You really are at a crossroads, and I've been thinking about your issues quite a bit (like in the shower this morning!)

Your gut instinct - to try to get things under control - is the wrong direction in which to head.  Rather, you need to redirect your energies into providing the most loving relationships you can in your household.  In this way you will provide the best, most supportive, environment for all.  No one wants to be unreasonably controlled by someone else - least of all teens.  It's a sure path to rebellion.

Putting your desire to "help by controlling" aside can be hard (been there, done that) because it conflicts with the way that you are at your core.  BUT KEEP TRYING!  The gift that you will be giving your family will be everlasting.  For a sense of what your teenage daughters are going through, please read the article "I Have Always Felt Different" in the resources section of (under "teens and children").  It's a research study done primarily with college-age girls about their experiences as teenagers with ADD.  It also reinforces what I am saying - these teens say convincingly that the MOST IMPORTANT  thing their parents could give them was acceptance and love - NOT rules, regulations or curfews.

I am not advocating for a household with no rules.  Rather, a household in which the rules are discussed by all, and reasonable relative to the other girls your daughters hang out with.  In other words, don't punish them because it is harder for them to do their chores than it is for girls their age without ADD.

Driving regulations should be set with the goal of keeping them safe.  So rules about drinking and driving, about being in cars with lots of other teens who might distract them, and about answering cell phones while driving are all not only reasonable, but supported by accident statistics.  Offer them alternatives, such as picking them up if they have been drinking, or offering to drive to the movies when there is a really large crowd, that provide for their safety.  Don't arbitrarily tell them they can't drive just because you think they are being irresponsible.

Likewise, rather than simply requiring that they do their homework, help make it easier for them.  Help them create better study habits (some kids with ADD, for example, need music to study effectively while others don't).  Help them learn to take long-term projects and cut them into smaller, more managable assignments so they don't seem overwhelming, even going so far as to sit with them to help them develop their "chunked up" project plan.  Encourage them to exercise before doing homework so that they can focus better.

It is reasonable that a parent require that homework is taken care of before the partying begins, but that doesn't mean that your child must complete all homework Friday night in order to go out on Saturday.  Rather, she should have a reasonable plan for homework before the weekend begins - one that you both agree makes sense given her workload, and one to which she will commit.  Thus, if she knows that she has planned to do her 6 hours of homework on Sunday from noon to 6, it is then reasonable for you to say "no" when she requests to go to the mall all Sunday afternoon instead.  By agreeing to a homework game plan early in the weekend you take yourself out of the role of "bad guy" and instead share responsibility for the reasonable completion of homework.

The most precious thing you have is your loving relationship with your family.  You're not meant to be their policeperson or captor.  Rather, your role is loving dad.  That means respecting them enough to set the most important rules - preferably with their input - and also respecting their styles and choices enough to give them the leeway to be themselves - and love them even if their way isn't exactly your own.

Teens make lots of mistakes - that's a big part of growing up.  ADD teens often make even more mistakes...that comes with the territory and can be pretty scary.  Put safety - and unremitting love - first and your type-A instincts last.  It's hard when you're doing it, but the results will most likely be better than you expect.

Melissa Orlov