ADD and Marriage: Keeping from Going Backwards

I had a quick lesson yesterday in just how easy it is to fall back into old patterns when you are working to overcome anger and resentment.  But my day was also a reminder about what it takes to keep those emotions under control, so I thought I would share it with you.

In a nutshell, our phone company notified us several months ago that they were going to change our service and we needed to either change with them or choose another carrier.  My husband, being the household techie, wanted to take care of it.  My only stipulations were that I wanted no interruption in the service (it is both for home and work) and that I wanted good, reliable quality.

We’ve had many calls over the last few months reminding us of the change.  To be fair, my husband was working on getting the job done, but was dissatisfied with our various options.  He said he had it under control, but by yesterday afternoon my main number (the one that everyone calls for both work and personal reasons) had a recording on it “This number has been disconnected.”  The fastest anyone can do anything about it now is six days. 

It’s a pretty sure bet that if the phone concerned had been his work and personal phone that things would never have gotten to this point – not in a million years would he let his business or personal phone service expire and end up with a disconnect recording on it!  Which is why the whole episode took me straight back to the “bad old days” – those days when I seethed with anger much of the time, and felt as if I could never rely on my husband to take care of anyone but himself.  I felt as I used to – the last person being thought of, and not particularly carefully, at that.

I was astounded at how quickly those feelings I thought I had overcome returned!  That anger seemed to explode inside!  However, I have learned a few things in the past year, and so was able to minimize the damage that his thoughtlessness could have wreaked.  Here’s what I did:

First, I called him and said very calmly (or pretty calmly, at least) “I haven’t been mad at you for a long time.  But I am furious with you right now.  My absolute top priority was to not have my phone service interrupted.  How are we going to take care of this?”

He’s smart enough to know that I don’t blow smoke anymore.  So his response was “I understand.  I’ll call the company right now and see what they say.”  He then called to arrange the next available appointment to fix the problem (six days away), as well as pursued whether or not a recording could be put on the phone to forward people to my cell (it can’t).  He also made the gracious gesture of arranging his schedule so that he would be home when the service trucks arrived, so as to not add insult to injury.

But I was still mad – no phone service is no phone service, and all those bad feelings were still churning around in there – so I knew it was time for me to take charge of my anger and diffuse it.  Here’s what helped:

• He hadn’t apologized yet, which was making me even more mad, so I just asked him for an apology.  He gave it (somewhat grudgingly, because he was quite nonplussed at the return of the angry me, too), and I accepted it as graciously as I could at the time.
• I actively sought ways to put the error into perspective in my mind.  No one died (I reminded myself that I used to fantasize that his lack of attention would get one or both of my kids killed in a car with him – and that no phone service was a lot better than something like that).  And, I reviewed the good things that had been happening between us of late, and tried to fix those in my mind.
• I made, and implemented, a plan to cover at least some of my bases.  I emailed family and people I worked with to tell them to call my cell phone for the period, and called those people in the neighborhood who might try my son.  I made a point of just saying “our phone is out of service until Tuesday” rather than disparage George by alluding to his complicity in the issue
• I told him that I was mad and asked him for permission to let me vent a little bit to him.  He figured he deserved that, at least, and so I got a chance to verbalize to him why I was so mad.  But since I had asked him first, he was able to remain calm about it – even joke a bit – which ended up making me feel better.  I made a point of not taking the conversation anywhere past the specific “now” issue – no phone service.  In other words, I did not throw the past at him or make personal remarks, because we have previously agreed to let the past rest in the past.
• When I was feeling mostly, but not completely, better, I suggested that perhaps a bit of intimate time together might warm up our somewhat chilly demeanors.  I will admit that the invitation was not the warmest I’ve ever issued, but he recognized the olive branch (or olive whip, as he later joked) for what it was.
• Finally, I accepted that those feelings from the past are part of me, and forgave myself for experiencing them again.  I am, after all, only human.  But being “only human” also means choosing what responses one chooses to pursue.

I’m not proud about the fact that those negative feelings were so easy to access.  On the other hand, I am happy to see that both my husband and I were able to work through them quickly (within 24  hours) and as a team.  The bullets above show how effective creating and sticking with certain communication rules can be in maintaining your equilibrium.  It was particularly helpful for me to not trash my husband to others, or to allow myself to dig up the past again.

Perhaps you’ll be able to adapt this experience to your own life.


When I read your blog, it

When I read your blog, it was like I was reading about my life. My husband does so much better now with following through, but does have his ADD moments. How can I work through them with him if he won't accept he actually has ADD. As I wrote before to you, after our 16 year old was diagnosed in the 5th grade, all the things I took personally from his behavior, suddenly had clarity as to why he could be so neglectful of our relationship, our children, our family. I was able to let go of a lot of the anger at that point. But I would love to be able to work through bad moments with him, but we cannot get to the point together because he won't accept he has ADD. I long to have that kind of peace, how do we get it together without his acceptance.

Resisting ADD

I actually wrote on this topic because it is so common.  Go to this link to see the post. 

While it would be great if your husband would name his ADD, it isn't critical.  What is critical is that he be willing to address the issues and symptoms that you are facing in your marriage.  Neglect is neglect, and is never good for a relationship.  You can call it ADD, and he can call it...whatever he wants.  It will be lots easier for the two of you to work through it if he is willing to learn about ADD, of course, and I guess I would invite him to at least learn about ADD for the sake of his child.

Lots of folks think that Dr. Hallowell's books on ADD are non-threatening (because they are so positive) and eye-opening.  Perhaps he might read one and find himself in it? 

Melissa Orlov

You ASKED for his permission

You ASKED for his permission to vent at him, after he did a really really selfish thing like that? Despite all your pleas? Despite the agreement. Give me a freakin' break. This is sick! Yeah, Hallowell's books are "positive" alright--positive about keeping ADHD people in denial and their partners in perverted servitude-- and it looks like you've drunk the Kool-aid, Melissa. Because his version of "positive" others would call "gaslighting." What you're recommending is psychological masochism. Only a shrink who has ADHD and won't take medication would recommend anything like this.

Not Sick, but Smart

As a reality check, I asked my husband this morning "when I asked for your permission to vent my anger over the phone thing, what did you think?"  His response was "That you were serving me warning that I was about to get an earful."  The rest of that sentence - the unspoken part - was "and that it would come out best if I listened, rather than fought back."

I don't view "asking for permission to vent" as having anything to do with ADD - I view it as a way to get to a set of specific goals in the most efficient way possible.  Those goals include:

  • release my anger
  • get my husband to listen to me so he understands that what he did was not something to do again
  • preserve the positive aspects of our relationship in spite of the disagreement

Imagine again the scenario I painted about having no phone service.  As you can imagine, I was extremely angry about this, and by the end of the first day I was innocent bystander could probably have seen smoke coming out of my ears!  I have some options about how to deal with this situation.  I can:

  • nail him with the full force of my anger when he hits the threshold.  I've done this plenty of times before, and trust me it's not very effective.  He fights back (who wouldn't?) and things go downhill from there.
  • bite my tongue and say nothing.  I've also done this before.  It's also not effective because my anger seethes inside and builds, rather than releases.  At some point it comes out and in the meantime I'm mean as hell.  No one is happy.
  • go somewhere else to vent my anger, not involving him at all.  This serves my purpose of release, but doesn't help him understand my point of view about how I've been treated.  So it helps our relationship a little (by avoiding confrontation) but hurts it in the long run because he's more likely to do something "bad" to me again
  • find out a good time, and way, to interact about the problem.  That both releases my anger AND helps him better understand WHY I was angry...and this is what I did.  "Asking" permission to vent was my way of saying "is this a good time, or another?"  He knew that if he said "not now" my anger would likely build, and that when "now" finally came it would be worse.  He's not stupid...he chose now.

We all choose how to express our anger.  I tried your method - outright confrontation and insults - for many years.  Does it work for you?  It sure didn't work for me!  My marriage disintigrated under the weight of my anger until the time (years and years later) that I could get control of it.  Don't misunderstand me here - "getting control of it" doesn't mean glossing anything over, or somehow burying it, or otherwise denying it.  Just the opposite.  Getting control of your anger means accepting it, finding a positive (vs. negative) outlet for it, releasing it, and moving on.  It means trying to understand your partner, and not assuming his motivations are like your own.  In retrospect, I was prisoner of my own anger.  Working through it was at least as much to my own benefit as it was my husband's.

Most of all, getting your anger under control means being in a partnership of two equal parties.  Just the opposite of the "perverted servitude" and "psychological masochism" that you accuse me of.  Thoughtless venting of anger may feel good in the short term, but it suggests that I am somehow "better" than my spouse who is receiving the lashing.  That somehow it's okay for me to trample all over him, without any thought to how he feels.  I may not like that he let the phone service lapse, but I can't see ANY positive reason for then compounding the wrongs by creating one of my own (and enticing him into a fight with me, to boot!).  He deserves better than that, and I hope by treating him respectfully I communicate that I, too, deserve better in the future.  He would be happy to tell you that I was polite, but quite angry and worked up, when I did vent.  It wasn't all that pleasant for him.  But, since I had "warned" him up front, he accepted my anger (even apologized for his mistake) and stayed calm.

As for your insult about "a shrink who has ADHD and won't take medication", I would point out that I wrote this response, not Ned.  I am not a psychiatrist, and I don't have ADD.  But I do have a great marriage.

Melissa Orlov

So are blowing up or

So are blowing up or co-dependency the only options? At first when i saw this site there was a bit of hope starting. But after i read that i felt despairing like i was being crushed. I guess it feels like it doesn't matter what he does it is only about i react. so the unhappiness would be mine fault and not that of the thoughtless jerk who would for sure make sure he was taken care of. no matter what he does I have to sit there like a good little woman and take what ever because he has a problem. Like there is anyone that doesn't. And some how this would make me better then other people. Does this mean any problem i may have would get the same consideration? Or will i have to decide to sacrifice my hopes dreams and future since i married the guy in the first place? Wouldn't i then have to decide i deserve only that and that my purpose is only to take care of my child and help my husband through his problems until i die. Why is anger so bad when a woman has it. isn't anger what makes changes. thank god people get angry and take serious action against abuse,slavery etc. i don't think they took the time to figure out what would work best for the other person or what there feelings might be. The others are doing that for themselves. I have always struggled with how many concessions are too many having been raised by a non medicated manic depressive and an extreme co-dependent. I don't know for sure. I don't like sacrificing my self and being understanding all the time if i don't get some in return. I want to be respected by those i love, not hoping that some year all of the sudden if i work long and hard enough i just might get it. oh my god, is this really all there is to look forward to! It is hard enough to be responsible for myself, child, pets, apt now i have to be responsible for a "special needs" adult male for the rest of his life and pat myself on the back for being such a strong higher level than everyone else woman. how is this great

Blowing Up

I spend a lot of time on this blog giving people without ADHD advice about how to assess their own contribution to the demise of their relationship because they often don't see the role that their anger plays in making their relationship worse.  That said, I ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY DO NOT believe that it is the role of the non-ADD spouse to sit back and be crushed.

The ADD spouse has a responsibility to get those symptoms that are ruining the marriage under control.

Let me say it again.  The ADD spouse has a responsibility to get those symptoms that are ruining the marriage under control.

Generalized anger may be able to play a role in making that happen.  My experience has been, however, that judicially applied anger may help but that general, "I'm so frustrated you can't possibly do anything right" anger does not help at all.  All it does is shut the person with ADHD down, make them defensive, and make it hard for the partners to figure out what to focus on.  This is a message that I try to communicate often.  Perhaps that is why you misinterpret what I say as "it doesn't matter what he does, only how I react".  WRONG!!!!

I do not liken ADHD relationships to slavery.  Unlike slavery, the partners made the choice to marry in the first place, and further, a partner who doesn't like a relationship can leave at any time and has rights when doing so, so your analogy doesn't work for me.  No marriage should be about domination or extreme sacrifice by either partner.

I also don't think that being angry at someone earns their respect, as you intimate.  It is my observation that people who are chronically angry lose the respect of others.

You may pick up my unwillingness to tell people to get out of their marriages, though there are clearly people who write here with the hope that I will do just that and help them make that decision.  I tend not to say "get out now" for two reasons - I don't think that I can say this, not knowing the person or relationship at all (would be irresponsible of me) and I hope that the tools that people gain by reading what is here may give them new insights - something that can help them turn a corner with a therapist or spouse.

You sound in need of help from a therapist if you don't already have one, and perhaps from a physician for depression.  Your words about sacrificing yourself and getting nothing in return, not getting any respect and the general tone of what you write are all alarming.  Please consider seeking assistance from someone who can get to know your specific case and can help you find the person you want to be and make some decisions about your relationship.

Melissa Orlov

Blowing up.

It's nice to hear some one without ADHD being so careful in what was possibly a real "Blow UP". I am a nurse as well as doing some computer tech support. I understand that when your phones go , you sometimes feel lost and trapped. I however, have ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 1999, when I was 55. I had many years of wondering what was wrong with me. I am an alcoholic in recovery as well as an addict in recovery. Last drink was in January 1982, last drug in 1994. So I hasd been 5 years clean in 1999 when I felt I should be getting some of the rewards of the program and wasn't. I married my wife in 1980. while I was still a full blown addict and alky. She saw me get clean and sober. The behaviour was still somewhat the same except a lot more bewildered and a lot less arrogance and blame to others. I still didn't finish things, I interrupted conversations, like I hadn't been listening at all but worse I had almost no impulse control at all. It was like I stood back and watched myself do things I didn't really want to do. When my then 7 year old daughter was diagnosed I saw the similarity in behaviour and went to a psychologist and was diagnosed. I was on Adderall for a couple years and did well. I was totally surpised when I could sleep at night etc. No buzz I did well. I was not nearly so distractable and learned about control of my impulses. I still could not keep a job. Six monthes and I was asked to leave reasons were always vague. Then I discovered from a psychologist a Jefferson Hospital that I had PTSD from Vietnam in '68'. I was in a full year of combat, was wounded and lost 90% of my boat crew. My first psychologist said I may have indeed had PTSD, but they were treating me for ADHD. When I applied for PTSD they said I didn't have it. There is a lot more to it but they used my first psychologist, VA said they did not mention PTSD. The psychologist who did didn't know me as long (huh?). Social Security of Course awarded me total disability in record time for ADHD and PTSD. But not the VA. The point is I am now in deep debt , I can't even get a job in computers and my wife calls me loser, stupid, worthless , and the only reasonshe keeps me around is because I may get something for the VA. I don't bring in any money (except the $1926.00 a month for disability) because I don't go out and work for it. I have other physical problems which I try not to lean on and do my work. I am wits end. please give me some idea what to do! Forgive the length. I am an expainer. Ask any quedtions you want ! This thing is long and wordy bui theres more and I didn't want toke up too much of your valuable time. Thanks

For Neil

Neil - I am so sorry to say that I don't know enough about PTSD that I can offer any good comments on that and about your general situation.  (There's a reason I stick with ADHD and marriage questions because that's what I know about!)  I also don't have any insights about how to navigate the VA - though it seems strange that one arm of the government says you should be compensated for your disabilities, while another doesn't.

I worry about your wife's anger and how it is affecting you, though.  No one should be verbally abused, which is what repeated comments like "loser, stupid" etc from someone who is supposed to love you amounts to.

I guess I would try to chip away at some of your issues, such as the debt, and keep trying to improve your ADHD treatment.  Do you have a plan for getting out of debt yet?  If not, you should develop one (save X per month, consolidate with a lower credit card rate, etc).  If you can exercise regularly, some regular aerobic exercise will likely help you feel better physically and also help you psychologically (helps you stave off depression).

Keep in touch here - perhaps some of our readers will have other suggestions.

Melissa Orlov

Blow up dialogue

Melissa, First of all, thank you for your insightful posts and this website. Thank you also for using your words and responses so respectfully and with great consideration for the persons behind the blog posts. You are truly inspiring. I hope I can learn to control my anger and use it for positive changes (in appropriate ways I guess I mean). My husband has ADD (inattentive) and we've had the diagnosis and meds. for almost 2 years now. I too deal with some resentment and have felt so much like giving up sometimes, but he is a great father and a good person and I just keep hoping I'll find more hope. Life is hard with ADD, and I didn't "sign up for this" (like one disparing responder, I had no idea how the "quirks" could affect real life!), but I do sign up for it every day I choose to stay. There are relationship problems that still need help if I'm going to continue to stay (and I sincerely hope I can). We have been in marriage counseling for a year now, and it has helped some, but not as much as I wish. I have felt like I have had to fight so hard for so long to get the accurate diagnosis for my husband, and to just make life work, and I'm sometimes just out of fight. He, to his credit, has been willing to acknowledge his ADD and accepted the marriage therapy and does try to put it into practice. But we struggled with finances so much for so long and I've carried an enormous burden with the household responsibilities for literally years and years (finances, housekeeping, calendar organizing, car maintenance, house maintenance, just life! and we are currently discussing whether he can watch the kids alone, since he has literally put their lives in jeapardy more than once . . never intentionally, but still very seriously). I know I am not a slave to him or to his ADD, but I do struggle with how much responsibility to take on for the sake of our family's survival, sometimes at the expense of my own sense of well being. I would love some advice that is even more specific regarding the care and feeding of the non-ADD spouse. I have found a few things helpful (getting out to exercise every day and making sure I have time to myself once a week for a few hours . . we have toddlers, so this is hard to accomplish), being honest with myself and my spouse about my feelings and needs once I can identify them, and feeling appreciated for the extra things I do that would normally be "his job". I don't want to be his mother, but find myself in that role (and he tells me he appreciates my 'nagging' (I'm nice about reminders) because it's literally just off his radar completely). I don't want to be his mother; I want to be his wife. I'm hoping someday the 'in love' feelings will surface again for me. I'm hoping I can be on your journey and come to be able to help others with insights from what I've learned along the way. I find your blogs are in some ways *more* helpful than our ADHD psychologist, who *is* taking meds. :) Thank you for your perspective.

More on the Care and Feeding

I'm wondering, in your situation, whether or not you have the financial means to spring for either a coach for your husband (so you are taken out of the nagging loop) or for some regularly scheduled day care for your toddlers so you can get a break?  You are in a "Phase" right now - the "my life is up in the air, full of anxiety about my kids potential for harm, and full of unexpected things" phase that comes with having toddlers.  It seems as if this is a distinct phase in marriages - one which is very taxing for marriages, and particularly for mothers, who most often bear the majority of caring for (and watching) these youngsters.  It can be a really tough period - you just feel as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders.  However, this phase is not forever.  Some of your worries and conflicts (like whether or not you should leave the kids with your husband) will disappear with time as your children mature.  Not helpful now, but just some perspective.

Perhaps you can find a mature high school senior who is looking for some regular employment after school but who is less expensive than full time care...and who might be able to give you and your husband an occaisional weekend evening for a date, too.

You might also consider joining a babysitting co-op if there is one near you, or creating a loose consortium of friends who share responsibility for watching the brood say, once a week, for an occaisional time off and also for some friendship.

If you were starting fresh, what kinds of things would you do differently in the household tasks arena?  Perhaps a way to focus your efforts, and those of your husband, is to start clean on chore sharing (no pun intended!), now that he is aware of his ADD and also is trying to do things better.  I found that clearing the slate and moving away from our rote patterns of doing things was an effective tool for change for me...perhaps it would work for you, too.  (Letting go of the past and the resentments that come with it is hard, but healthy!)  So maybe sitting down and reassessing how you do things around the house, then redistributing the workload might help.  Perhaps your husband could do laundry, for example, while you take on car inspections...

If you have specifics that you want ideas on, write them here and I'll try to come up with some creative ideas or resources...and so can our other readers.

Melissa Orlov

Anger and Resentment - Not feeling like a wife

As I read the blog posts I find myself alternating between commiserating with others who are in my position and feeling anger over what seems to be the facts of my life.


I suspected my husband had ADD when I married him 8 years ago.  I was OK with it because he was working in a good job and seemed to be relatively stable, yet very fun loving and impulsive outside of the work environment.  We also had no children.  I didn't mind being primarily responsible for most of the day to day house work and financial stuff because I wasn't spread too thin.


Then, my husband quit his job to try other jobs, for which I was supportive because I wanted him to be happy.  I found myself surprised by a pregnancy that neither of us had prepared for or expected because I was told I was infertile.  We were in our late thirties and forties.


My husband shut down.  He quit hsi job and decided to go to school to get a masters which then turned into a PhD.  I worked like a crazy woman in my field, social work (which doesn't pay very well).


Our daughter is now almost five.  I have never been able to spend the time with her that I think she deserves.  She goes to daycare 5 days a week which I pay for our of my very meager paycheck - and that supports the three of us while my husband complets his PhD.  He has had repeated setbacks in finalizing but now there is hope in sight.  We are now at the point of cleaning out any retirement savings we ever had in order to live.  I do the cooking, cleaning, housework, enrichment activity planning for our daughter, shuttling her around, bathing, dressing, and drop off to school.  And hold down my fulltime job in a severaly dysfunctional work environment that I feel I must keep (frankly, I feel trapped) due to the economic conditions we are all living in right now.  At night, after I make dinner (if we want to eat healthfully I HAVE to cook), I get our daughter set up for bed and put her down. 


Almost every single night I have to remind my husband that bedtime is NOT the time to start laughing, joking, tickling or roughhousing.  I not only seem to have the bulk of the parenting and household duties but I get sabotaged along the way.


I want to be tolerant and accepting, I really do, but after 5+ years of living like this (from pregnancy to now - she turns 5 in October) I am at my emotional wits end.


My husband is a good man but I don't feel at all warm or loving to him anymore.  Just parental.  Or servant to master.  If I don't do the household tasks he gets on a rant about the house being dirty, or the dishes laying around.  I feel very much damned if I do or damned if I don't.


I am not enjoying life anymore.  My happiest times are when he has an evening class and I can play with my daughter and put her to bed after without any additional drama.  I often feel as though I'm a single parent of 2 kids.


If I could count on him to be consistently a parent figure I would.  Sometimes I convince myself to put my faith in him.  I am let down in that faith 90% of the time. 


After all of the day to day tasks are done I am often critized for watching tv or reading a book at night when I could use my time more productively.  If that doens't happen I am often editing his papers, assisting him in writing resumes or helping him look for jobs.


Thanks for letting me vent - now my question.  How, specifically, can I honor myself in this and does anyone have any specific suggestions for diminishing my resentment.  It's really impacting our life at home.  I can't change my husband nor do I want to, if I'm being honest with myself.  I do wish he would change of his own accord and be more "typical" in his parenting, employment, etc. but I am mostly OK with who he is.  I don't want to be his mom or manager but that's what I feel like most of the time. I have gained weight, seem to be emotionally flat often (I've tried depression meds, they don't help) and have NO desire for intimacy with him anymore.  Further, we can't even pay the bills we have because of the situation we've been in for so long so I can't do the things that I believe would help, like hiring someone to come clean the house or get an ADD coach.


Any specific steps that others have taken to move out of this anger situation would be very helpful to me.  I feel like a non-human these days (more of an automaton) and I crave feeling human - feeling deeply, passionately, and happily about this relationship.



Tough Bind

You are in a tough bind.  You recognize that you can't change your husband, but wish he would change himself.  It must be obvious to him how much pressure you are you talk with him about it in ways that aren't accusatory?  I know that getting a PhD is tough work, but does it mean that he can't cook and pick up some of the chores around the house to help out?  I sincerely doubt it, ADD or not.


Part of the balance of ADD is not enabling an ADD spouse to take advantage of you.  A delicate balance, this - understanding the very real issues that folks with ADD have, but also not giving your life over to ADD.  You need help and your hubby is the first guy to go to for it.  Since you have so much on your plate, perhaps you can work out a system where he relieves you of those duties that seem to make the most sense for him to be able to complete - there seem to be plenty to go around, and if he gets to pick what's on his plate he'll be more likely to do it.  Encourage him to set up whatever system he needs to to make sure his jobs get done in a timely fashion so that he doesn't add to your stress.  Also, he might consider a part-time, seasonal job to help with the expenses?  No shame in that - lots of people work while putting themselves through school.


Some of the trick to this conversation may be to approach it adult to adult, not adult to child.  You aren't telling him what to do, you are telling him what you need as his partner to survive, and asking for his help.


You are about to move into the time when it will be the most fun to be with your daughter (at least in my mind this is about ages 6 - 18).  Some of the pressure you feel about day care will go away when she is at school, but you still deserve to have a schedule that allows you to enjoy your life with her a bit.


Let us know how you do!


Melissa Orlov


It's a one-sided relationship.

Arensie, I understand your frustration. I don't know if I am able to rise above my situation like Melissa has, although I have tried many, many ways to get through this. It becomes a one-sided relationship, with you or me doing all the trying, while husband wallows in his ADHD. The idea that I chose this life is erroneous, as Melissa suggested in her response to you. How many of us older wives even heard of Adult ADHD when we got married? I did not study psychology. All I heard about ADHD was that it was for kids, and that they outgrow it. My husband certainly was never diagnosed. The idiosyncracies that I saw in him before marriage I thought were just "quirks." Little did I know before marriage how much more there was to his "quirks" or how many more "quirks" there were in him. After he said, "I do," I was no longer his current project and he moved on to other interests. Meanwhile, there I was, wondering what on earth was going on. As the years have gone by, many things have happened that have led me to the understanding that my husband has severe ADHD as well as other problems. I did not choose this; it just happened to me. The question is, what do I do now? Over the years, I have brought him to one kind of marriage counseling after another. No change. He loves to sit with people and talk, but nothing changes after the meeting is over. I am extremely hurt by it all. And I still feel very alone. He will not change; he cannot change. In his never-ending-last-minute-emergency-drop/go-never-available-for-me life, I can hardly catch his attention. He is always too busy, and never can make time for me. I am just the big kill-joy wife who is always putting a damper on his fun because I am thinking of the practical things that need to be done while he is thinking of all the fun things he wants to do when he isn't at work. Yes, it gets old. No, I don't know what to do about it. My only answer is that God has been there for me when my husband hasn't. Aside from finding refuge and solice in the Lord, for me it has been a pretty impossible situation. I am sorry I can't be more encouraging. I have tried so many things, and personally, I am tired of repeatedly having my hopes dashed. This is just one of those things that is broken and you can't fix it, at least that is how I look at it. I have to work around it as best I can, and find fulfillment and meaning in life in other areas besides my marriage. I am realizing that as Americans, we are used to finding a solution for everything. But maybe there are some things in this life that don't have solutions. We grow through our struggles. I know I am not the same woman I was when I got married. I see life completely differently now that I have endured so many years of suffering. I can only conclude that if we are left in such difficult circumstances for so long, then there must be a higher purpose than we can understand right now. To sum up, if it all depends on me, then I guess I am just not a big enough person to do it. I can do a lot, and maybe I can do more than many other people, but I cannot do everything. Since I have chosen to stay in this marriage for various reasons, then the best I can do is find a way to get through it while I am in it. I try to learn from everything, although every day is a challenge. My husband is on some meds, which have really helped with his anxiety, but he only went to the doctor because I forced him to, even though he is very thankful now for the medication. However, since he is always late/busy/rushing/behind, he never has time to get to the doctor to really review how things are going or to see if there is something better for him. In addition, he is in denial of his problem and won't talk to me about it when I bring it up. He is embarrassed and thinks that no one notices what he goes through to get anything done, but the problem is that EVERYONE around him notices.

No Answers

I can identify with everything you are saying.  I too have sat through too many therapy sessions to count.  My husband is great at talking in therapy, all of the therapists love him and think he's a great and responsive husband.  Yet as soon as we leave the office, it's all over.  No technique ever takes hold and so no change ever takes place.  I understant that frustration and hopelessness feeling that comes with knowing that things will never change.  I too found ways to find fullfillment and happiness.  I bury myself in work,  and for a while I buried myself in earning a double masters.  I sometimes work 12 hours a day becuase it is a good form of escapism from an unfulfilling and frustrating marriage.  Sure, my boss thinks I'm the most dedicated employee in history...little does he know why I am really devoting all of this time to my job.  I think I could live with the unfulfilling part of the ADD marriage, it the painful part that I can't stomach, the part where everything crashes all around me.  I don't have the energy to pick myslef or the pieces of my marriage up off the floor even one more time, it is too painful.  I have also given up hope because I know my husband is incapable of sustaining change, and that's the part that hurts.  You know the prayer, "G-d give me the strength to accept the things I can not change..."?  Well,I pray for this every day.  Hasn't happaned yet.  Right now, I am burned out.  I am just plain tired of trying to fix things and keep this marriage together.  It's exhausting.  I have decided that I need to step back and allow myself to just be.  I keep telling myself that it is ok to feel burned out and feel like I don't have the energy for this anymore.  I am giving myself permission to take a step back and just focus on me for a while.  Maybe, I will regain perspective, or my desire to re-engage emotionally with my husband, but for now I just need the inner peace that comes with NOT dealing with an ADD spouse for a while. 

hi- I have hD MUCH

hi- I have hD MUCH RESENTMENT AND ANGER TOWARDS MY SPOUSE WHO HAS ADD and an addiction to gambling as well. IWe both have good jobs and grossed 200 thousand last year and have nothing to show for it....we almost lost our house to foreclosure ,driving 2 cars with over 130 thousand miles because our credit is so bad duer to him saying he paid the bills and turning around abd just throwing them away. aLL THE LIES AND DECIET ITS hard to move our middle child who is in 1st grade , has been dxs with dyslexia and ? add. although he is not hyperactive. My hus is crazy about our children and is a great Dad but I overheard him asking my son if he was "stupid" while doing homework with him...again hard to move ahead because he has no patience with our son..when my son is just like his Dad!!!!It is tough sometimes to keep the past in the often moves into the future,,,Cathy

Father and Son

My heart goes out to your son - it must be awful to hear your father ask if you are stupid...but it reminds me of when my own husband used to get frustrated with our daughter because she couldn't add and subtract (turns out she has a severe learning disability around calculations...)  His words hurt, but they were an expression of his frustration.

I have always talked about things that are subtle with my kids.  My solution to my husbands comments were to 1.) ask that he not work with our daughter any more on math homework as it was clearly too frustrating for both of them; 2.) explain to Kat that I knew that she was trying very hard, and that her father's words were just his way of expressing his frustration - frustration that she probably shared, too (she did); 3.) pursue why she was having so much trouble by seeking a diagnosis (what you've already done)

You can keep this situation from getting worse by doing similar things.  In addition, it seems as if you have a continuing source of conflict in your house that needs to get addressed - the finances.  Try to reallocate your assigned household tasks - you should take over the financial side of things if your husband isn't keeping up (and definitely work to clear that credit report!).  Go to this page to get some ideas for financial management contributed by some of our readers.

Perhaps your husband can spend more time doing things with the kids at which he is good - driving them to sports events?  Getting them ready for bed at night?  Taking over some other chores?

Finally, if your husband is a great parent, then challenge him to be even better.  Build on his love for them to challenge him to educate himself about ADD, dyslexia and how you best support kids with learning disabilities.  He needs to understand that your child is trying - probably even more than you can guess - and that he needs his Dad's support, not his criticism.  Dr. Hallowell will have a great book on this topic out sometime around Christmas, but until then, Delivered from Distraction is a great way to learn about ADD.

Melissa Orlov

I'll take that bet!

What a wonderful story - particularly the ending which shows your deep commitment to each other! The situation mirrors so many my wife and I had over many years. But sadly, we never had a perspective like this because neither of us understood the world of my ADD and the anger eventually destroyed us. But I have to take exception to your "pretty sure bet" and offer a counter-wager. For me, ownership has never had a significant impact in getting something accomplished. Yours, mine, or theirs aren't labels taht translate into priorities or probability of completion. So I say your "bet" is likely "a push" and wager your husband will agree.

bet vs push

might be so!

Melissa Orlov

In admiration

Dear Melissa, I read your post with great admiration. I have so many times been through the same anger and frustration and been met by my husbands seeminly complete obliviousness. It nearly cost us our realtionship and is still putting quite some strains on it. When I first realised that my husband's ADD it was like the grey clouds had lifted. I cried a lot but was relieved. I was not insane for staying with him and he was not stupid nor ignorant. That is relieving to realise! When reading your post I was charged with optimism. You are giving me hope that there is a way to learn to deal with all this anger and frustration and that it doesn't necessarily mean that I have to ignore my own feelings in order to survive. It gives me hope that you can set up rules on how to act and deal with both yours and your husbands emotions. I can see that you have come a long way in this and you seem to be doing very well! Finally, thank you for this wonderful blog. It is giving me a lot of hope and encouragement!