My grave ADD husband of 20 years and I have moved back together after three months of living separately. The time apart has made our situation clearer. I have realized I do manage work, the household, the children's activities and Christmas preparations alone, even when sick with the flu for weeks. He has realized his capacity is even smaller than he thought. He cannot make any promises about his contribution to the family long or short term.
Now back together but in separate rooms to improve sleep and private space, I find there have been no fights for a month. What disturbs me is the amount of work I need to handle and the loneliness. Of course life is not fair. I do 90% and everything that needs creativity, social interactions and optimism, he does 10% but unreliably. That might be our "fair". I try to accept it. But how do I handle the physical stress? My work is very demanding, I do weekend and evening shifts with huge responsibilities. Come home after a Sunday night shift and find everything ajar at home. No bread in the house, son in acute need of something for school Monday morning. Laundry in heaps. Husband miserable because he can't get much done and blames himself.
I think I have accepted that our family life will always be defined by the ADD. I have for the most part given up my former dreams and ambitions. No matter how hard I work, I will never be able to compensate for the ADD. But I need to preserve as much of myself as possible, to at least offer the children security, hope and a cultural and spiritual home. I struggle with this. We have had to stop seeing most family and friends as the ADD has made joint gatherings so terrible for me I can't do them anymore. Now I feel so alone in creating this life for us.
This is an existential crisis, I think. As so many of you have described, the physical sensation of betrayal from a partner, however unintentional and blameless is hard to deal with.
I try to take care of myself in every possible way and do have the privilege of good personal friends for support. But still.
I have been there
Submitted by 1Melody1 on
I left a starkly similar situation when my daughter was 13.
I would suggest:
1. Hire for absolutely anything you can afford. Cleaning service, tutor for the kids if homework support is needed, maintenance, babysitting, etc. These are reliable solutions that also give you less to do.
2. Set the expectation that your husband optimize ADHD treatment so he can give his best 10% (maybe more if he's currently untreated). If you're giving everything, he should be too.
3. Get therapy for yourself. You are either going to need support giving up intimacy as well as dealing with resentment, burnout, loneliness, etc., ... OR someone who can help you see alternatives to accepting such a miserable life.
4. Only commit to things you know you can handle yourself (sounds like you may already be doing this). Basically never assume you'll have support so evaluate invitations/commitments as though you are single.
I can understand staying to preserve the family unit. I also tried to do this. However, ultimately it was so dysfunctional that my daughter was receiving the message that it was okay for Mom to work herself to a shell of a person while Dad does nothing. That was not a dynamic I wanted to normalize for her. When I imagine my grown daughter, I would be crushed if she ended up in a relationship like mine. I wouldn't want my marriage for her.
Also, as my daughter got older, she started feeling the effects of his untreated ADHD directly. My first post ever to this site 4.5 years ago details this. Basically my husband started not just breaking promises to me, but to her. He'd promise to play with her and then bail or get distracted within a few minutes. He could not get her to school on time, so she had to constantly get notes at the Principal's office. He would promise to help with homework and not follow through (when he did, he would go all off topic and make it harder for her instead of easier). He reacted impulsively to her with verbal unkindness just as he did with me. He interrupted her and tuned her out during conversation, making her feel unimportant, just like me. Man, it was one thing for ME to feel like a pile of nothing, but when SHE started feeling isolated, resentful and unloved, it was pretty clear that NOT living with him was healthier than living with him for her. I'm just saying that staying in misery is not necessarily the best way to ensure security for your kids (not to mention YOUR life could be happier and healthier, too... and guess what... YOU MATTER, you wonderful hero of a mom!!).
Not at ALL shaming you for staying because you have to do what's right for you and I have nothing but love and empathy for your situation. Your post shows you are in so much pain and are obviously such a strong woman to brace yourself and try to carry this uncarryable load for your family.
Submitted by Swedish coast on
Thank you so much for this, and all the knowledge you share. I try to do some of the things you've suggested.
There are times of affection and intimacy in our relationship, and my husband is pursuing all possible treatment since he was diagnosed a year ago. He would do anything for the family - he just can't. So I find it is still better for us to keep the family together. What will happen next, I truly don't know.
So moved by your kindness.
Submitted by 1Melody1 on
That is a great news that treatment is being pursued. I hope you will be able to navigate the years to come and stay healthy. :)
I don't know how old your children are, but I will say that as my daughter aged and became more independent, things got a little easier. It helps when you can run out to get things done and leave your kids alone. It also helps when they can pitch in a little bit! Further, it's helpful when they're at an age where you can explain ADHD (if you decide to). My daughter believes her dad could do a lot better, but she understands now why he does some of the things he does (e.g. interrupts, shows up late, etc.).
Hugs, hugs, hugs.
Hi...I have some thoughts....
Submitted by c ur self on
My thoughts are that you see life clearly, and that you have good (attainable) goals set for what is possible in your current reality... (This is an existential crisis, I think. As so many of you have described, the physical sensation of betrayal from a partner, however unintentional and blameless is hard to deal with.) I like the way you phrased this, it's different...But it's a part of most posts I find here, and it's the reality of my relationship also (however we phrase it)...
I could list all the uncanny similarities in our relationships, but, it can't help, other than to give us confidence that we are talking to the right crowd..:)..(understanding)....My 11 month separation 10 years ago gave me time to pray & reflect w/o her presence...(Get my head in order)...It was a blessing...A few things I came out of that time with was...1) I had to accept her reality, what her day to day life had been, and will be going forward, w/o expectations to the contrary, especially that create negative emotions/anger in me...If I couldn't hold to this boundary, I was getting a divorce...Her living of life, could never be an excuse for me to not have a calm peaceful life...2) I also realized I had to keep my life small, (workable for me), because I can never trust her in many ways...I can love her, but never trust her...I could not be let down by her thrill seeking self-absorbed mind, and her disdain for what she considered mundane...(daily responsibilities in the home and marriage)...3) I also learned to plan certain things that I considered natural and spontaneous acts, because her mind can't switch gears (hyper focus) like mine...Intimacy is one of those...It's been like business meetings every 4 or 5 day... With her mind type, I only need her to show up naked and in good spirits!...Seems simple, but, most of us who have lived it for any length of time know that's not the case...4) I realized we had to have boundaries in many area's of life to make it peacefully...finances, travel, who drives IF we travel together. Pre planning and agreement sessions, for anything where we decided to vacation or get way together....Boundaries in any area of life where either of us, and the relationship can be negatively impacted...So most things :)
Our marriage doesn't mirror many "normal" marriages...But it's survival for us...So I am just thankful for peace between us...We are planning on going out tonight to celebrate valentine's day late...I am thankful for her, and I am thankful the Lord as taught me, how to live with her in a understanding manner...
I wish you great peace, strength, and God's wisdom in how you navigate day to day!
Thank you, c
Submitted by Swedish coast on
Thank you for your thoughts. It's comforting to be understood. I wish you all possible happiness.
I feel your pain. Your
Submitted by Alinain on
I feel your pain. Your situation reminds me of what it was like in my family life 10 years ago. I have an ADHD husband of 21 years and life was great until the kids came along. Family life became really difficult as our son was diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, then our daughter came along and she had ADHD too. This made family life really tough and the weight of it all fell on my shoulders.
I worked 100%, travelled regularly with work, while my husband worked part-time. I was also responsible for all the household chores, the children, childcare, and almost everything as well as having the job that paid the bills. I found the stress unmanageable and it led to two breakdowns, one accompanied by long-term depression.
This all sounds terribly depressing, and I don't mean to make you feel bad about your situation, in fact, I want to do the opposite. Make you feel better because things can and will get better.
That was ten years ago and since then our life has changed immeasurably. Fast forward to today, and now my husband works full time in a well-paid job (we now earn the same), does 50% of all of the household work, the childcare, and the emotional heavy lifting of family life. Occasionally, things slide back to me but we have open honest discussions and always find a way to balance things out again.
So, what happened you'll be wanting to know.
First, he got diagnosed, second, he got medicated, and third we signed up for every sort of therapy we could. He had his own therapist, I saw a therapist and we even went to family therapy.
We also invested a lot of time figuring out how to split these responsibilities, making sure that he is in charge of the things that he CAN do. This often means that I am stuck with tasks I would prefer not to do, but for me that's price of entry and the small price to pay for being married to such a loving and kind guy.
Of course, I don't know much about your situation but it's quite possible that the medication isn't working for your husband. With three-quarters of my family having ADHD we've been through every medication imaginable and sometimes it can take months or years to find the right combination for each individual and it needs to be regularly readjusted. So I can only suggest to keep trying and don't lose the faith, you will get there.
I also have a few more tips up my sleeve, I don't know if they're practical or even possible for you, but here they are just in case;
Protect yourself first and foremost - You've heard the phrase put your oxygen mask on 1st, well this is the secret and one I learned the hard way. It sounds like you have a close-knit group of friends lean on them, tell them you need them and make sure you have time to nourish yourself.
Look at anyone possible who can help. Is there an elderly neighbour who can help your kids with homework? Is there a teenage kid around the corner who can take on this task? Can you afford a cleaner? Can a family member come over once a year and look after your kids for a weekend so you can take a break on your own, or with your friends,
Can you give your husband tools to help manage his ADHD once he has his meds sorted? Or even better can you pay an ADHD coach to do this with him?
It used to kill me that I felt like I had an extra child to manage, as I really didn't want to be treating my husband like that. But if I left him to his own devices nothing happened. I found apps a revelation (so did he) if you Google ADHD apps you can help your husband set up apps to take him through all of the tasks that he has difficulty with.
My husband uses boomerang for his e-mail and routinely for his morning routine and his evening routine, he has alarms and to do lists and uses Google Calendar and Google notes religiously. but all of these apps will only work if he is in a good place, and it sounds to me that your husband is possibly not very happy with life either.
Could it also be that he's depressed? It's been a very hard time for all of you, perhaps his ADHD is hiding an underlying depression that could be treated?
Your situation sounds so, so tough and it also reminds me of where it was ten years ago, so I just wanted you to know that things do and can get better.
Wishing you all the best.
Thank you Alinain
Submitted by Swedish coast on
Thank you Alinain for your post, what you describe, the change with time and intelligent effort is truly amazing. I'm glad to hear it has all worked out so well!
Today I'm struggling with a friend issue. I have invited two families to dinner the coming Saturday. They are good friends of ours and the adults aware of our situation. I do need their warmth and company. But I can't face having guests together with my husband, as he is frequently overwhelmed in company and unable to excuse himself or do whatever he may need. I can't worry about his depression or manage his actions when I'm hosting dinner for twelve people. He has to stay away as long as he can't take care of himself and I've told him so. Now I feel mean, denying him the dinner. But what's the alternative? No social life ever for me or our children? He has been helpless for a decade and a half and I've become terrified of hosting things with him. This all makes me want to cry.
Not an either /or
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
You have set up the question as either your partner must stay away or else he must stay. Yet there is a third option which places the power to control his body with him, where it should be. That is to make it clear, in a compassionate way, that you will be busy preparing for a large dinner so won't have much time in that period to pay attention to him. However, he is invited to join all or part or none of the dinner as he feels like it in the moment.
The idea isn't to 'make this better' for him by solving his problem, but rather to let him be himself and leave if he needs to, or stay if he prefers. I'm hoping that if you take a non-judgmental stance, your friends will follow your lead and do the same (or largely so, at least).
If your partner becomes negatively disruptive (example - attacks a dinner guest verbally or physically) then a good option would be to say "May I speak with you for a moment?" and leave the room to discuss and calm down.
It can be very freeing to realize that you don't have to be in charge of your partner's behavior and good friends will love you none the less.
Submitted by Swedish coast on
Thank you Melissa, making him responsible for himself is indeed what I would want.
However, inviting him on his own terms is not possible. He is bound to upset me before guests arrive, since he is depressed and anxious. This has happened many times before. As hostess I need to be relaxed, playful, curious of my guests. He shatters my confidence. He makes me weak and discouraged. It's not that he acts inappropriately towards our friends. Nobody believes the misery of our home when they meet him. He is pleasant, polite, a good listener. Only I know how he dreads the arrival of guests, his tendency to lose himself in total passivity among people, his joyless outlook on life. He ruins the social event for me, he's done it already a week beforehand. So I can't do this with him, as a matter of fact it's a mystery how I'll manage it at all.
Submitted by sickandtired on
I totally understand how your husband stresses you out before an event. My ex boyfriend used to do this all of the time. I can totally relate to your description of his joyless outlook on life. Living with that will tend to bring you down to his level of joylessness. For almost 12 years I did everything I could to try to make my ex happy, but nothing worked. He would always find something to be angry and complain about. I tried to plan trips, get concert tickets, etc. and I learned early on that I could expect him to start a big argument the day before the event without fail. It's like he had to discharge his stress onto me, and that seemed to be the only way he could proceed. He would also be very irritable during the entire event, like doing something new or being around other people was so hard for him he has to discharge that stress, and like many have said on this forum, he got a dopamine hit by starting an argument and pushing me to be upset. Then and only then did he feel relief... when I was miserable. I realized that it is no way to live if only one person would be happy in the relationship. This sort of incompatibility, in addition to other behaviors of his led me to the decision to break up with him and make him move out. Walking on eggshells, being constantly stressed, living with his myriad of problems, living a joyless life, and losing friends because of his behavior was not a life I was willing to accept. I know folks who are married to or share children with a person like this have shared obligations that are not easily untangled, but you have to ask yourself if you seriously want to sacrifice the rest of your life and your happiness and your peace of mind for whatever he is giving you in the relationship. I was 60 when I ended it with him, and now I'm happier than I've ever been in my life because I am free of his ADHD, which is his responsibility to address... not mine. Just because you've been together 20 years is not a reason to keep on letting your joy be constantly squashed. Dr Phil says the only thing worse than a bad marriage of 20 years is a bad marriage of 20 years and one day. I know it's hard, and I'm sending you a hug. I am curious what benefits you are getting from being with him that are worth all of this long term stress.
A suggestion here
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
I hope you will take this in the spirit in which it is very much intended - gentle and caring. There is a boundaries issue here that is making you miserable, but which you are more in control of than I believe you realize. He is the one who feels dread and joylessness...and you are allowing it to infect you as you 'take on' his feelings. Yet...those feelings are his and you have a choice as to whether you take them on or let them bother you in any event. You don't mention significant irritability or disruption, only psychological misery.
When my ex used to get ready to pack for a trip he would leave the packing until the very last minute and then become completely irritable and stressed out. I learned to be in the opposite end of the house before he left for a trip and stopped interacting with him. While not convenient (wouldn't it have been nicer to be able to have happy conversations right before he left for the week?) it nonetheless got me out of the line of fire and that was enough. That irritability was his and his alone. There were other times, in social situations, where he was mean to me in front of friends (verbally abusive?)...I remember one incident where he was impatient with the fact I was disagreeing with him and declared to me and the group "nobody cares what you have to say so just stop talking!" The entire table stopped talking in shock. But the reality is that the worst impact was for him. None of those people wanted to have anything to do with him after that and we never got invited back as a couple. I continued to see them from time to time as an individual as was fitting to our relationship up until that point.
My point is this - your partner is who your partner is. And in this case, his misery is internal and invisible (unlike it was sometimes for me). If you don't take on his emotions, but rather allow them to rest with the person who owns those emotions (him) then he can be at the dinner party or not as he chooses. This is part of being an individual. If he wishes to be miserable and still subject himself to the internal torture and attend the party, even if it's not required, so be it. That is his choice to make. Just as it is your choice whether to feel miserable based on his feelings (but why do this?) or whether to distance yourself from his feelings, understanding that you can do nothing about them and they aren't yours to manage or take on in the first place. Is it saddening to bear witness to his emotional turmoil and pain? Of course! Perhaps rather than take on his emotions, consider grieving about how having a partner with these feelings makes you feel? Consider journaling about your insights and responses, feelings and what to do about them to differentiate yourself from him more effectively. You do not need to feel miserable just because he does. Nor do you need to feel embarrassed on his behalf (especially because you say no one else can see his turmoil).
Asking him not to attend is diminishing to him and, furthermore, does nothing to get to the underlying roots of the issue, which are a combination of his feeling this way in the first place (his issue) and your taking on his feelings (your issue). Asking him to not attend tells him he is not okay in your eyes and you don't respect him or his feelings or choices. And yet...each person has a right to whatever they are feeling (you included) and to make decisions about those choices.
Here are some very concrete suggestions for the next dinner party:
If you want to know more about how to create better boundaries for yourself (which is what this is about) you might pick up a copy of Boundary Boss by Teri Cole.
My advice here might seem unreasonable, but please do consider this paradigm shift.
Submitted by Swedish coast on
Thank you Melissa. I've been thinking about your suggestion for the dinner situation. What I was doing wasn't making anyone happy. Even though it seemed impossible at first, I decided to invite my husband to join the dinner. He lightened up, gave no answer (as was expected), but the ball is now in his court. You were right. It gives a sense of freedom not to arrange for him, or take responsibility for him in this.
Boundaries are an enigmatic thing. In this so very helpful forum they are mentioned a lot, but I'm still trying to figure them out. Feelings have never been something I can choose to be infected with or not. I choose attitudes. But feelings... they are as hard to shrug as weather.
I'm so grateful for all the thoughtful support these last few difficult days.
Dinner actually worked out
Submitted by Swedish coast on
Just needed to update all who've been involved in my dinner thread. I did the dinner and required nothing of my husband. The dinner was nice and I enjoyed it. Not only did he not upset me, he acted the pleasant guest and lasted several hours.
So this is what I've learned: set realistic expectations. He is best categorized as a guest who might need to lie down between courses, not host. Passenger, not co-pilot. It's not ideal to say the least. But if I can accept this, I can have dinners and parties at home, and possibly even fly.
Warm thanks to you all.
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
So glad that the dinner worked out. And perhaps changing your expectations will provide some positive surprises in the future, too.
This is what helps the most.
Submitted by jennalemone on
This is exactly the specific help that I value most. We, as a culture, are so alone so much of the time, we don't hear other people demonstrating to us how to respond to poor behavior. We, as a particular group, are probably an empathic bunch, willing to sacrifice and compromise. Assaulting strong words don't come out of our mouths too easily. So, it is helpful to me when the scene is set and the script is written and I see it from a trusted source....like in this forum...that I can hold my own truths and fill my own needs. And I am not thought less of - but rather encouraged to - respond with strong voice and words. Thank you, Melissa. Concrete responses of verbal retort and mind-bending thought changes are what I need to have poured out on me like a freedom elixir. Thank you.
I don't have much advice,
Submitted by arfa on
I don't have much advice, since I actually logged in here today planning to write a post similar to yours.
What I'm trying to do is walk the line between honest acknowledgment of the difficulties of my situation and self-pity.
Like someone else mentioned, hire help if you can afford it. (Alternately: you mentioned having a good support system-- perhaps a friend would be willing to come over and help with some of the boring-but-necessary household chores?)
Also, it sounds like you may have already surrendered some of this, but keep reminding yourself that things don't need to be ideal. No one ought to judge you for a pile of dishes in the sink/dust on the furniture/wearing the same outfit 3 days in a row.
I think your phrase "I think this might be our 'fair'" is spot on. It often feels so unfair, but I have to remind myself that, like you said "fair" looks different in different couples.
My husband and I have a conversation that we call "LHCT"-- did you feel Loved, Honored, and Cherished Today? (Or, if we do it in the morning, we ask how we can love, honor, and cherish the other person that day.) It doesn't fix things tangibly, but the reminder that we still love each other (and seek the good of the other) makes the burden a bit lighter.