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ADHD Marriage: 

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My Wife is Taking Meds but not Advice - PLEASE HELP

My wife and I have beend 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 ADDitute mag, which is how I found you this morning. Aside from taking her meds daily she has been unwilling/unable to to follow ANY of the instructions or adivce 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 can using all the training I have had to inspire, suppport, 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.
livingwithadd's picture

Maybe your wife just hasn't

Maybe your wife just hasn't found the right match(es) in the professionals she has tried working with. Quite often it takes several tries to find the right fit. This is frustrating for the average person and for somebody with ADHD it's even harder to deal with! Even thouhg it may appear she's "not trying" more than likely she probably has tried but just feels frustrated and defeated. Tara McGillicuddy


Hi, I am a physician and have lived with a bipolar/adhd man for 23 years. Trust me when I say she CAN"T change and never will. You can spend 23 years being used up and exhausted (I have two children with adhd) or you can get out now. I am divorcing and I can say I haven't been this happy since before I met my husband. I really don't think some people with adhd are capable of changing while others can do wonderfully. I do think it has to do with poor self esteem and maybe the way they were raised. I just hope you don't wait until you're as exhaused and burned out as I was to get free!!!

I feel like I am in the same

I feel like I am in the same boat. Also background in behavioural health. Husband was diagnosed about 6 years ago. Takes meds but that is about it. Doesn't exercise, etc. I am very frustrated with the whole situation. Feel like he needs to do more thanjust pop a pill and think that is the solution. Also doesn't want me to tell anyone that he had ADD so I am unable to really talk about it to anyone. Also hate it because his unorganization is rubbing off on our kids. I can't be responsible for picking up after him and the three ot them. It is setting a terrible example of how you treat those you live with, but he doesn't see that, or can't control it. Although am starting to doubt that at this point.

Hurray for your marriage/partner blog!

Dr. Hallowell & Melissa Orlov, Thank you so much for initiating your marriage / partner blog. My husband and I somehow feel better just knowing that we are not alone in this situation. The empathy, perspectives and comments about what works for other couples is extremely beneficial to us in our relationship. Thank you to all those contributing. Sharon in Westfield.

i am so glad to read your

i am so glad to read your posts. even though he doesn't have any real interest in being properly diagnosed, i am beyond certain my husband would be given an ADHD diagnosis from a professional. since i've realized this about him, i've been able to forgive him easier and just accept that this is the way he is. sometimes i feel like i am a bad person though....crazy even...for wanting him to be different....improve in some way. reciprocate in some way. i understand that a marriage isn't 50-50 effort....sometimes it is 0-100 and all the degrees in between. but i feel like i'm carrying the 100 way, way, way too often and i never get a break. other than the holidays i take by myself. talking about these feelings gets no response. i, like many others it seems, am physically, emotionally and psychologically spent after working 12 hour days, cleaning the house (we both have clients coming into our home so it has to be respectable), managing our finances and all other affairs, and helping him in other areas (including his work) if i have anything left to give. we don't even have kids yet...and i'm scared. i do love him. i do accept him. i do implement strategies that help. but while i'm doing all this empathizing, i feel like it is a one way street heading straight for resentment. right now, when i start to feel that way, i just take a step back and say that such and such is his responsibility and i have to do something else. but other than that, i don't know what to do. anyone else got some ideas?


Hi fellow sufferer. I would encourage you to think VERY strongly about whether to have children with this man. I did and both my children have adhd and if you think you're tired and stressed now, just imagine it times 3! I have been married to my adhd husband for 23 years and knew at least 7 years ago that I should have ended the marriage. In the last 3 years, my sympathy has turned to apathy if not outright distaste for him in every way. I am finally getting a divorce. My daughter who is 18 acts a lot like her father and I am sooooo glad to have her off to college. In fact I told her to get a job at a summer camp because it's so pleasant not having her father or her in my house anymore, that I don't want her back for more than the occasional visit!!!!! If you feel like I did that your marriage will eventually end in divorce, don't have children and get the divorce earlier than later. I have to give my husband most of my retirement acct in the divorce so I can keep the house and he gets 50% of everything even though he earned about 30% of it. The longer you stay in the marriage the more you lose. Also if you have children they will be your 100% responsibility, don't expect much out of him! Sorry this is so dismal but I'd really like to help others live a happier life than I have for at least the last 12 years. I'm soooooo much happier now that I made the decision to divorce that I hate to see any "normal" people suffer for as many years as I did. I sincerely mean it when I wish you GOOD LUCK!!!

i think that you've got MANY

i think that you've got MANY valid points here. we've been married for 6 years now, and talk about wanting a family. we're 34, and the reason i have put it off is exactly for the reason you said. i know i will be doing it on my own, and i need to know that i am ready to take it on...take both of them on. at least i don't think i've deluded myself. on the bright side, he has his little revelations from time to time. he is willing to take on little projects or duties (even if they're short lived) like making supper once a week since i work 12-13 hour days during the week. i get better at taking a step back, refusing to do it all myself and demanding that he tries to meet me half way. my parents think i'm crazy for even considering kids, but they've also acknowleged that over the last 6 years, they notice some improvement in my husband as well. thank goodness. but i guess there is a reason when the parents of a woman in her mid-30s is reminded that she is always welcome to come home if she needs a place to live... ...maybe i do have a little denial.

marriage to adhd/bipolar

Hi, i am new to your blog. I have been married to a man with adhd/bipolar disorder for 23 years. After basically worrying, searching and caring for him for all those years I have decided I can't deal with it anymore and am obtaining a divorce. The hardest thing for me has been being blamed for everything. It always seemed like he felt I was the cause of all his problems which he is now finding out wasn't true. In fact he told me the other day he now has to work because no one is "keeping" him anymore. I must admit I feel like a fool to have allowed myself to be used all these years. It's also hard because my kids inherited at least the adhd from him and my daughter treats me in a similar way as he has. I hope a site like yours can help other "normal" people trying to live in a family colored by adhd. It may be hard for those of you with the disorder but it is equally if not more difficult for us who are "normal". We can sympathize but we can never truely understand you and we can't be blamed if we finally give up for our own mental health. By the way I am sooooooo much happier and relaxed now that he's out of the house and my daughter is off at college. I feel like I'm on vacation! So good luck to everyone in their struggles but don't wait 23 years to divorce if you know it's what is coming in the future.

Getting a Divorce

We're glad you joined our blog and it sounds as if divorce was the right way for you to go at this point - you have been miserable for many, many years.

It is important for people reading this blog to understand that we are not advocating that people stay married, no matter what.  Rather, we are advocating that people find happiness.  The awareness that ADD can affect your marriage is quite new, and we hope to be able to give people the tools they need to determine whether or not they can find happiness with their spouse.

From what you've posted in various places on the blog it seems that you realize that you should have done a better job setting boundaries in your relationship much earlier on.  No one should sacrifice their own long-term happiness and get stomped on by an unthinking spouse.  Notice I say "long-term" here.  I also think that marriage does suggest that you will try long enough to feel good that you've approached solving your issues from a number of different ways before you give up.  You've actually tried for so long that you don't feel good about your effort - it was too long!

It is not surprising that you feel as if you are on vacation - you've had a pretty rough time of it.  But as a doctor you will also probably recognize that even though you are no longer with your spouse you have some very real anger issues that you need to work on in order to move your life forward in an emotionally healthy way.  Your ongoing relationship with your daughter is a good opportunity to learn from your mistakes in the past.  Consider ways that you can set reasonable, and loving, boundaries for her behavior, without lashing out at her and hurting her in your anger.  (It's hard for me to imagine that the conversation in which you told her you didn't want her around the house because you don't like her wasn't hurtful...perhaps next time there is a way to say that you would like to be with her and repair your relationship, but that you have certain rules that she needs to learn to live by when she is with you?)

Finally, I would be wary of "normal" vs. ADD classifications.  What is "normal"?  How about people, like me, who become clinically depressed for a while because they are struggling very hard emotionally, but then overcome their depression?  Are we normal?  What about people who are so angry they lash out at their own chlidren?  Are they normal?  What about people who do unbelievably heroic acts at the spur of the moment - are they normal?  How about a person with ADD who has it completly under control?  Is that person normal?  My point is that life - and people - have a way of changing in unexpected ways.  Trying to classify yourself as normal and the rest of your family as not normal makes it seem as if you feel you are better than they are.  You aren't better, only different.

for marriage to adhd/bipolar

I'm sure we are all glad you have made an improvement in your life and we wish you well. However, I have never met a "normal" person. I'm sure you have some issues as well. Since you acknowledge that you can never truely understand us, perhaps you might see a possibility that while you might suffer "equally" its doubtful you suffer "more". How would you know. Its great to be able to find people to talk to about these issues, it can be very hard to feel alone. Unfortunately I'm beginning to feel that this blog is a convenient place for "non-adhd" people to come and vent. It is very discouraging. And since you "normal" people are in the majority I'm sure you have more opportunity for commiseration than we "non-normal" people do. I hope you get some counseling because your anger is going to ruin whatever relationship you might still have with your daughter. I hope that's important to you. Good Luck.


Lisa - I too took this person to task for the "normal" comment.  My bigger concern is your comment that this blog is for non-ADHD people to vent.  Not so!  In fact, we have quite a few 2-ADHD couples here, as well as some ADD people writing (one of the most moving posts, I thought, was from a man with ADHD who was commenting on how learning about ADHD and having humility has helped him improve his life - and how much he loves his wife.)

There are patterns in relationships affected by ADHD - and that is exactly why we are writing this blog - to help make people aware of what these patterns are.  Unfortunately, one of the most common is the non-ADHD wife who is completely at the end of her rope because her marriage is so horribly different from what she expected.  (Another part of this pattern - she has turned into a nag and is incredibly angry.)  There are many people in this pattern here because they are actively seeking help and assistance to try to get out of their misery.

But don't take their numbers - or their anger - to mean that they are the only ones here...

Melissa Orlov

Two parents without ADHD and a child with ADHD-Bad

I am just tired. Sad. Crying. Unmotivated. Burnt out. I am the mother of a 12 ear old daughter with ADHD. I and my husband do not have ADHD. Our daughter was adopted at birth. All there is fighting, yelling, horrible attitudes and negativity. I have tried. I have tried so I do not want to hear I can try this or that any more. There is no romance left in my marriage. This has taken it's toll. We have become this thing that just works its self around an ADHD child. My husband does not see my pain. He does not see my loneliness. We never go out and go anywhere as a couple anymore and frankly that killed it for me. There is no relief or place to regroup or get energized. He keeps saying we have no money (yes things are a bit tight) to do anything, but they are not that tight. I am not asking for help now, really I'm not. I have done all the right things to help my child, I am an educated person. I can't give anymore. I want to pack a bag and go where? I'm not sure. To my moms maybe. I dread thinking I could be asking for a divorce but I dread living like this more.