After reading a lot of the postings and after much thinking, I see selfishness and selfcenteredness of ADD afflicted persons as a core reason of the suffering of their spouses.  It is the core reason of my own pain.

I have been wondering, what of the both is more probable:
1. Selfishness is hardwired in the brain as a part of ADD.
2. Selfishness is an independent trait, and it determines, if someone burdens the detrimental effects of his ADD upon others or takes the burden of sparing others upon himself.
Maybe selfishness of the ADD persons drives us devastated posters here, not just ADD?   Maybe a non-selfish ADD person would be much easier to live with?

I am so puzzled, what is behind my SO's selfishness.  I mean, how in his own mind he justifies his selfish acts.   

Here is one incident, when I felt very hurt because of very selfish behaviour:

At one time, I had 4 weeks to spend with him, and we had a lot of conflicts, misunderstandings and disagreements from the previous months of being apart to work on.  I also had it made very clear that the objective of that period was to work on the relationship and to do a lot of talking, and in my perception, he had agreed to this.  
When I arrived, he told me that he has taken on a task, that would bring him no money, but a lot of honor, praise, admiration and attention (That he did not tell me...)All this was obviously more rewarding, more important than to improve the relationship.  He had accepted a deadline for the task during the time of my stay.  I felt very hurt, it was so disrespectful, selfish and inconsiderate.  
But it got worse.  I got a sick from an infection, and the computer broke down, which he needed for his task.  He has no debts, he usually can manage his money, but we are both fairly poor, and we cannot afford extra expenses without renouncing other things.  In spite of this, he wanted to have a working computer immediately.  I know how to repair a computer, but I was weak and sick in bed.  
He threatened to drive to the next shop and just buy one.   To avoid this, I yielded to the pressure and in spite of having a fever went with him to a shop to get parts and help him to get his computer working again.  
He still considers his priorities on that occation as ok, even though he has verbally  apologized, as he does many times for such incidents, when I get upset badly.  But then he makes excuses that are good enough only for himself.  He forgives himself, and wants to be forgiven and leave bygone events behind.  But I refuse to forgive without a change in the attitude, that had caused the hurting behaviour, because he will continue to hurt me for the same reason.  I could forgive him based on the insight and acknowledgement, that he owed it to me to postpone the deadline or refuse that task in favour of giving priority to the work on the relationship.   

I am not puzzled, that he takes on such a task on impulse, that is typically ADD.  But with what going on in his mind can he defend this as being right, how can he consider himselt entitled to such selfish priorities?

Sometimes I suspect, that he just lacks the value of fair exchange in his value system, that he does not feel a bad person, and neither shame nor guilt for being selfish.  I even suspect, that his concept of commitment is limited to not cheating, and sharing a household, but that he does not take upon himself any more ethical obligations like a fair balance between his and my needs, which I can agree upon to be really fair, and the responsability for all consequences of his behaviour upon me, no matter if they were intented or accidental.   

Sometimes I suspect, that he automatically considers it the most natural thing in the world to give priority to his needs and whims, and that it even never occurs to him to justify any of this to himself. As if he feels entitled to selfishness, without consciously defining it as selfish, but more as his natural right.   Following his impulses seems perfectly ok to him.   
(I even had a weird and farfetched thought, how ADD could be explained:  Animals are driven by impulses from instincts.  Humans have the mental capacity to check the external and internal (=justification by own values) consequences of their acts before getting started.  When someone acts on impulse without thinking, then it seems as if he behaves on the same level as an animal.  People, who think before acting are a step ahead in evolution, and that maybe in modern society's gene pool are still some leftovers from bygone times.  Humans and chimpanzees are said to share nearly 99% of genes.  Maybe many, many years ago, normal average people were driven by impulses and selfishness like ADDs today, and today's non-ADDs had yet to develop.  I do not believe in weird speculations, even my own, so please nobody take offense.)

Sometimes I suspect, that he just has a distorted perception of the consequences of his behaviour upon me or keeps himself in willfull ignorance of any painful consequences at all.   He might honestly believe to participate in a fair deal, an even tit-for-tat, while to me his behaviour is hurting and selfish.   

Anyhow, I have come to the conclusion, that I cannot marry him, as long as he is comfortably selfish.   So I printed out a note for him today:

Your intelligence is sufficient to learn to spare me suffering.

It is your decision, which attitude to have:
1. Do you want to be a selfish or a caring person?
2. What value do I have for you, am I a utility or someone deserving care?

Your decision determines your behaviour.
Your decision determines our future.

Has any ADD husband/SO ever made a conscious pledge to stop being selfish?  Did it have any positive effect?

arwen's picture

some more selfish than others

Crossroads, let me first say that I believe that *everybody* is selfish (with, perhaps, the rare exceptions like Mother Theresa).  I know I am.  It's human nature.  The purely unselfish person wouldn't survive.  So, maybe what we are really dealing with in your question is the *degree* of selfishness.

I've seen some really selfish folks with ADD.  I've seen some people with ADD who are very unselfish in some ways, and incredibly selfish in others.  I've seen some people with ADD who are neither especially selfish or unselfish.  And I've seen the same spectrum in people who don't have ADD.

So, I definitely don't think selfishness is hardwired into the ADD brain, any more than it is in yours or mine.  All that said, it's been my observation that in general, most folks with ADD tend to be somewhat more selfish than the norm in the general population.  But I think when you really understand ADD, this is very understandable.  The ADDer typically does not socialize or communicate as well as normal, because of the problems inherent in their disability.  This makes them less connected to others around them.  They tend to be less observant, less perceptive of the world around them because their minds are hyperfocusing on whatever attracts their attention.  So, they tend to live in a much more limited universe than the average person does, and because of that, it is much easier to retain the immature emotion we experience as children, that we ourselves are the center of the universe.  Selfishness is a very naturally outgrowth of this self-centered mindset.  Unless a parent works very hard at eradicating this perception while the ADD child is growing up, the self-centeredness will persist into adulthood.  This self-centeredness is not necessarily obvious to a parent while the child is growing up, if the child generally conforms to "house rules" (as most children will, both with and without ADD, at least until the teen years).  So, unfortunately, too often the parent does not realize there is a problem along these lines, and it remains uncorrected.

Regarding your "weird speculations"  -- I have to admit I have my own!  Although the scientific community seems to be split these days on whether Neaderthals became extinct or cross-bred with Homo Sapiens, the most recent analyses of Neanderthal DNA sequences, undertaken in producing the Neantherthal genome, indicate that Neanderthals did probably contribute to a very small degree to the modern human genome -- and I've hypothesized for the last five or six years that ADD/ADHD is a part of that small contribution.  If you look at the archaeological and anthropological research, there seem to be intriguing connections between what we know of Neanderthal activities and ADD behaviors.  Further research is being done, as I write, on those alleles in the modern human genome that appear to have arisen during the period of time whether Neanderthals and modern humans co-existed in southern Europe, to determine whether they appear in the Neanderthal genome -- and that includes the alleles for ADD/ADHD, autism and Asperger's syndrome.  I'm very interested to know the outcome of this research in relation to ADD/ADHD!  [Please note, if it proves to be true, it would *NOT* mean that people with ADD/ADHD aren't as smart as those without -- the Neanderthal was a pretty successful branch of the human family, known to be clever with tools, and possessing certain characteristics that modern humans did not originally have, and that appear to have been advantageous -- the most recent research indicates that the reason Neanderthals "died out" is not that they weren't capable, but that they didn't breed as quickly as modern humans.]

Wow, Arwen, your reply surprises and pleases me

Even to mention my apparently weird idea, I felt daring, because I was worried to get bashed by creationists or would at least hurt the feelings of some.   I prefer to avoid antagonism over such matters.  
It really is amazing, how we independently came up with the same speculation! 
I am superficially familiar with the debate about the extinction or genetic mixing of Neanderthals and modern humans, and I am interested in that subject. (Near Dusseldorf in Germany, where they found the first Neanderthal bones, is a fascinating museum.  I once had the chance to visit it.) 
"indicate that Neanderthals did probably contribute to a very small degree to the modern human genome -- and I've hypothesized for the last five or six years that ADD/ADHD is a part of that small contribution."  My speculation was based on the same indication.  You seem to know more about it then I do, my speculation was new yesterday. 
"the most recent research indicates that the reason Neanderthals "died out" is not that they weren't capable, but that they didn't breed as quickly as modern humans." 
I remember some other hypothesis, this one is new to me.  Do you have a link to any source? 
"archaeological and anthropological research, there seem to be intriguing connections between what we know of Neanderthal activities and ADD behaviors"
"Further research is being done... and that includes the alleles for ADD/ADHD, autism and Asperger's syndrome."

I have never heard of any such research, do you have any link, or the researchers' names to help finding material on google?

Sometimes it is helpfull to interrupt my brooding over my own misery by looking at matters from a more scientific view. 

Edit: I just found some interesting articles on the Neanderthal issue, so I do not need any links.


Selfish Neanderthals?

"Crossroads, let me first say that I believe that *everybody* is selfish (with, perhaps, the rare exceptions like Mother Theresa)."

From one perspective, I agree, from the other I disagree.   

With selfish I mean a behaviour, that puts the selfinterest and benefits for oneself above that of another person, not the preservation of oneself when negociating a fair deal of giving and receiving, which would be neutral and not selfish.  

Looking at individuals, seemingly altruistic behaviour, yielding benefits not to the self but to others, usually gets a mental, emotional, invisible reward.  Feeling to be a good person, or in the case of Mother Theresa, the firm religeous belief in some strong reward after death.  

But I have read about some research, where individual animals have been found to be altruistic in favour of the better survival of their own genes in competition with the genes of unrelated individuals.  In the situation of scarcity of resources, one animal would help raise the offspring of a sibling, who shares 50% of the genes, not having any of their own, so one set of offspring can survive, while the offspring of both would have perished.   
Considering as an example an imagined nun in India, who is from a poor family and has one brother.  By sparing her parents to sell their little business for the high dowry needed to get her married, she enables her brother to learn a trade, work in the business and to raise children, contributing to the survival of 50% of her genes.    There is a great probability for more and healthier offspring by her brother then by her accepting the plight of an Indian bride under the rule of a hostile mother-in-law, and her brother too poor to marry.   

Encouraged by Arwen to speculate a bit more, if not only ADD in general, but ADD selfishness specifically could be linked maybe to some Neanderthal genes still virulent in some people today?   

Due to the instinctive distintion between in-group and out-group in animals and in humans, there is an exchange of help and resources to enhance survival with the members of the ingroup, while the outgroup is entirely the target of selfishness.   
The evolution of the simplicity or complexity of the differences between in-group and out-group could have been also an evolution of how the altruism in favour of the genes worked inside the in-group?  
As I have understood, animal altruism was restricted to direct care for the sibling's offspring.  
Maybe during evolution, this form of altruism was extended to the entire in-group?  Not only the care of the sibling's offspring was done altruistically, but altruistic behaviour was extended to include those, from whom the offspring then would benefit for their survival?    
Maybe for neanderthal, the recipients of altruism were more related to genetic relatives, for anybody else, including spouses, there was selfishness?   

Could modern humans look back and attempt a neutral balance over a history of the interactions, more instances of selfish vs. altruistic episodes and thus calculate a neutral balance, taking in account the experience of receiving altruistic behaviour before?  Could neanderthals have just focussed on the actual situation, previous receiving of altruistic behaviour being not present in their mind, when deciding to engage in the selfish behaviour?


Those are speculations, but I am still puzzled about what goes on in a selfish ADD's mind?

When an ADD afflicted person behaves in a way, that the majority of outsiders can agree to be inacceptably selfish (beyond what forms part of a fair balance of giving and receiving in a relationship), how does he subjectively perceive, explain, evaluate, justify his selfish behaviour?   
Does he consider himself entitled to a better deal, to advantages and privileges?   Does he perceive his behaviour not as selfish?   
Does the ethical question of justifying behaviour or not by evaluating selfishness never occur to him?

I would love to have answers to these questions

Those are speculations, but I am still puzzled about what goes on in a selfish ADD's mind?

When an ADD afflicted person behaves in a way, that the majority of outsiders can agree to be inacceptably selfish (beyond what forms part of a fair balance of giving and receiving in a relationship), how does he subjectively perceive, explain, evaluate, justify his selfish behaviour?   
Does he consider himself entitled to a better deal, to advantages and privileges?   Does he perceive his behaviour not as selfish?   
Does the ethical question of justifying behaviour or not by evaluating selfishness never occur to him?

When I first met my ex-boyfriend 4 of his friends said he was selfish and lazy (wouldn't work). they really do like everything about him except for these two areas which are major problmes.  I noticed that he tended to lean on any generosity people extended him.   He makes no demands on others, he just assumes that he can freeload.  Two of them exercise good boundaries and feel his taking far outweighs what he gives their relationship. The third person doesn't exercise good boundaries and I told him to be direct. The fourth couple have just decided to ask him to move after living with them for 10 months. 

it seems that when people are direct with good boundaries, the boyfriend respected them and did as they wished.  so I am not certain he is being deliberately selfish.  I think it may be more a lack of understanding about unspoken social rules of give and take.  Last year I picked up the restaurant tab after my host had picked up an earlier one, and the boyfriend was genuinely puzzled why I would pay when I was a single mom on a limited income and the host was making six figures.  He truly didn't seem to understand why I didn't freeload. 

I would love to hear how we can know if it is selfishness or not.


arwen's picture

boundaries and selfishness

Brenda, I think you have made a key point about boundaries and selfishness.

My husband and I used to have a lot of conflict about both.  My husband did not appear to understand the concept of "private property".  He *knew* certain objects were my private property -- I'd *tell* him so, and to leave them alone -- yet if it suited his purposes, he'd use them, move them, take them.  I just could *not* understand this behavior, and it made me really angry.

After many years and a ton of thinking and discussion with him about this, I finally concluded that the problem was one that seemed very strange but seemed the only one that explained what he did.  The problem was that, in his mind and emotions,  I was an extension of him.  In his mind, he and I were effectively the same person.  As a result, he never had to ask me about my thoughts or feelings or opinions -- since I was the same person he was, and he knew his own thoughts, feelings, and opinions, he therefore knew mine.  "Our" equalled "Mine" in his mind.  He never had to ask me if it was OK to use my stuff, because everything he had and everything I had were all ours/his.  He couldn't emotionally conceive of me as a separate, different person.  Intellectually, of course, he knew we were actually physically independent, but in every other way, he could not perceive any boundaries between us.  This applied to anybody who had a relationship with him.  The only boundary he could perceive was between him and people he hadn't met -- the boundary of unconnectedness.

Thus, to him, he wasn't being selfish.  How can it be selfish to expect others  to take care of things for you, when "they" are "you" -- it's just "you" taking care of "you", that's not selfish!  How can it be selfish for you to use their stuff, when it's all yours, because "they" are "you" so "their" stuff is "your" stuff.  It's really quite logical, from this unrealistic perspective.  When I'd tell my husband he seemed selfish, he would find this a shocking statement.  He definitely didn't have an arrogant feeling of entitlement.

I've often observed in my husband that in any given situation, he has difficulty seeing the "gray" that often exists between two extremes.  He has tremendous trouble with the entire concept of neutrality.  To him, you either trust or distrust -- there are no nuances, no gray areas.  If I tell him that something isn't working out, he thinks that the only alternative is whatever is the opposite -- he can't imagine any middle ground.  (I think he operates this way because it's easier to only contemplate two extremes, otherwise there is a real risk that he will get lost in his thinking.)  I think the same kind of thing happened regarding boundaries and selfishness.  It was really hard for him to grasp the idea that there is a middle group between himself and people he doesn't know, i.e. people he knows that are nonetheless different and separate from him.  I think my husband finally came to understand this idea because of our separation several years ago.  The separation illuminated that boundary that up till then had not been apparent to him.

I feel that I haven't explained this idea very well -- probably because even though I have seen that my husband operated this way, it's still such a distortion from reality that I have trouble connecting it to anything that makes sense --  but I hope you can get a feel for what I'm trying to say.  I can't say whether this is the norm for selfish people with ADD, because this is one discussion area I haven't gotten into with anyone else with ADD.  (My son doesn't have this selfishness problem, I worked hard to raise him to understand and relate to the real world more realistically, so I can't ask him!)  And I don't think this is something that can be deduced from observation.  But if nothing else, it is a possible explanation.

re: boundaries and selfishness

"He never had to ask me if it was OK to use my stuff, because everything he had and everything I had were all ours/his."

You explained it wonderfully Arwen. I was thinking about this very subject this morning as my boyfriend began day 2 of having no razor blades of his own left to use -- he hasn't bought new ones yet, instead he is using mine.  If he runs out of milk he will water down my coffee cream (which I alone use normally) until it is gone.  If he forgets to hang up his towel to dry and doesn't want to use a soggy towel, he uses mine (leaving me with a soggy towel).  If I get annoyed about it he will say that we are supposed to take care of each other and that I can use anything of his any time I want, so what's the problem?  The problem is I look after my own needs so as not to impose on him (or others), but he doesn't see this "taking care of each other" only seems to go in one direction, from me to him.

Internal and External Bounderies

Arwen and Still trying:

You have very interesting thoughts about bounderies.  It is a very important matter, how much two partners feel as two connected individuals or as two halfs of the unit couple.  But I doubt, that this has anything to do with ADD, or even with selfishness.  I rather think, that it might be a personal disposition, or upbringing and culture or even the general closeness, that leads to differences in the concept.

My ADD SO and my non-ADD self have not many issues like Still Trying's examples.  All gender neutral household items, milk or towels, are at the disposition of the couple.   If I can share the bed with someone, I can share the towel too.  So there are two towels in the bathroom, who takes a shower first, grabs one, and the other has the second dry one available, else there are enough clean and dry ones in a cabinet.   The only things I like to keep off mutually, are personal papers and the computer installation, so we each have an personal harddrive in a removable rack.  And of course none of us alone has a right to through things out or give them away without consent.  

But we do have a big issue about the bounderies of the couple's privacy against strangers and outsiders.  He violates this boundery very often, he does not protect our privacy with what is indispensable discreation. 
His most outstanding ADD symptom is loquacious hyperverbality and the related communication difficulties.
He talks endlessly to about every ear available about subjects, that interest him.  He seems not to notice, if people are listening, if people are annoyed or interested.   He even continues, when he is asked to stop talking.  He wants any kind of attention, and if he cannot get admiration with what he says, he prefers to disturb and to evoke anger and annoyance over having no audience.   When he talks, he jumps from one subject to the next, without giving me a chance to reply.  When I talk, he interrupts me after the first sentence, and completes, what he assumes that I would say next.  Unfortunately, most of the time he is far from what I really meant.  
When it is about the relationship, and he mentions several topics, that each needs a comment from me, and he interrupts me already before I have even finished my thoughts on one topic, this has the consequence, that I just can never get my side, my point of view into his brain.
Also he has no restraint, no inhibition, no own boundaries against strangers.  He talks to anybody anywhere.  He impulsively tells people things, that I do consider as private.  He tells his life story to anybody on a bus stop.   He does not walk into a shop asking for band aid, without explaining to the shop keeper, where and how he has cut his finger.  Sometimes this is very embarrassing.
There are heavy conflicts about this.  When we sit in a bus, people in the rows in front and behind us being able to hear us, I would not mind short conversations about shopping or household matters, but any personal discussions it not meant for others.  He has no problem talking about anything without him even being aware of people listening.   So when we start off talking in the bus about dinner, next thing he makes some unfriendly remark about some other passenger, and the next thing he talks about experiences with people, who looked like the passenger.   He does not even notice that he has moved from neutral to private conversation.   That is, when the very painfull scene starts.  I whisper very discreetly in his ear, that he should be aware that we can be overheard.   If only he would be quiet at that moment, my life would be less miserable.   Instead he does the contrary, he protests, that he was not talking about anything problematic, or he protests, that nobody had heard, he just starts a rant about why he did not accept to stop talking.   All of this of course loud enough that the people around in the bus get aware, that I was humiliated by his disrespectful behaviour.   That then makes me implore him with more and more urgently to be quiet, but he usually does not stop before I had whispered at least ten times to be quiet.  At that moment, everybody around had witnessed, how he had made a fool of both of us.  These moments are very painful.
When we go somewhere, no matter if it is a train station or a café or a park, I aim for places, where we are at enough distance from other people, so that we can talk freely.   He, by impulse, always heads for places near other people, but then he cannot keep silence, and we are back to some more embarrassment.  

I do not need internal boundaries, but I wished so much that he would respect the external ones. 

arwen's picture

boundary issues more common for ADDers

Obviously, everyone has boundary problems at one time or other in our lives.  When we are very young, we all have to learn we are separate from our mothers (hence the common infant phenomenon of "separation anxiety").  As we get older, we either learn to observe boundaries or we get into trouble with our peers and elders.  Most of us learn from these experiences, and remember so we can avoid trouble in the future.

But the typical ADDer has trouble with memory and learning, so the boundary lessons don't necessarily "take".  It's quite true that upbringing plays a role -- parents and teachers can make sure the lessons *are* learned through careful reinforcement.  But absent the recognition that the extra care is necessary, the boundary lessons often may not be integrated into the young ADDer's mind, and can persist into adulthood.

I've noticed that in general, very few tikes who are later diagnosed with ADD exhibit any separation anxiety as infants, whereas in the general population of normal children, the phenomenon is much more common.  This indicates to me that non-ADD children have a better appreciation for separateness at a relatively young age.  There are many other manifestations that suggest this conclusion as youngsters are growing up.  So, I have to conclude that the *tendency* to have boundary problems, and the likelihood of them persisting into adulthood if specific corrective action is not taken (or some traumatic event does not provide the lesson), actually is an intrinsic characteristic of ADD.

It's important to understand that many ADD behaviors are the result of difficulties in learning social norms and skills when the ADD child is growing up, because of the abnormal synaptic activity in the brain.  If these difficulties are addressed they can be either resolved or reduced.  But if the child is not diagnosed, and the difficulties are not addressed, until well into adulthood (as was the case for many of the folks here on this forum), it is very difficult for the adult to understand the possibility (let alone the advantage) of functioning in a different way, or to view the world in any other way than what they have always known, because the abnormal synaptic activity is still getting in the way of memory and learning.  It seems to me, from everything that I've observed, that the boundary issues my husband has experienced and discussed with me are much more common in the ADD population than the non-ADD.

Humiliated by his disrespectful behavior

I could have written those exact words, "I was humiliated by his disrespectful behaviour. That then makes me implore him with more and more urgently to be quiet, but he usually does not stop before I had whispered at least ten times to be quiet.  At that moment, everybody around had witnessed how he had made a fool of both of us. These moments are very painful."

Those moments are indeed painful. My husband also has " loquacious hyperverbality" and talks to anyone, anywhere, at any time, about his entire life history. He is not capable of observing cues that indicate the listener is bored, shocked, embarrassed ... it's as if he is talking to a generic audience rather than a real person. He has cornered people for 45 minutes of monolog before they were able to escape. I have begged him to watch me for cues, but he forgets. Once, before a thanksgiving dinner, I told him that I would put my hand on his arm if he was talking too much. Later, when he was talking too much and too loudly and interrupting everyone into complete silence, I put my hand on his arm. His response? To tell everybody exactly why I was putting my hand on his arm and loudly to continue talking about how I was trying to control him ...

I walked out to the car. I waited there for two hours before driving home alone. When he made his way back home, he was surprised and bewildered by my "over-reaction." He said nobody else at the thanksgiving dinner thought anything about it, and they all enjoyed hearing what he had to say. Well, they were too polite to tell him what they really thought (and I found out later). Besides, he wouldn't have let them say anything without interrupting.

Lately, I've been walking away, walking out, driving myself home a lot.

arwen's picture

"natural consequence" of hyperverbality

Calleigh, I can understand your frustation and distress.  My husband used to display this hyperverbal behavior, although not to quite the same degree as yours.  My husband has also shown other similar inappropriate behaviors in public (e.g. chronic interrupting).  So I know how you feel!  I tried talking to my husband about it, but he just couldn't see it was a problem (like your husband, he thought everybody was interested in his discourse, and didn't mind his interrupting).  The reason he gave for this was that *I* was the only one complaining -- it didn't occur to him that people would refrain from criticism out of politeness (since he himself would never think to do such a thing!).

Eventually I got to a point where I asked myself, "Why should *I* feel embarrassed about his behavior?  *His* behavior is not a reflection on *me*.  The person who *ought* to feel embarrased is *him*"  But even though it stopped embarrassing me, I realized that the rest of the people subjected to this did not really deserve it, yet would remain too polite to speak up. I felt that since I was the only one who understood the problem, I had an obligation to attempt a resolution.  I also realized that, like with many people who have ADD, subtlety is lost on my husband.  So I decided to create a "natural consequence" kind of situation the next time, which happened to occur at a family dinner party (there were perhaps a dozen people present).  After my husband had gone on at some length on some infinitely tedious topic, and I could tell at least several others were growing bored or irritated, I forcefully interrupted my husband at a convenient point, and said "Excuse me, honey, I know it's rude of me to interrupt, and I apologize, but you've been going on about this for the last 20 minutes -- I'm sure other folks have things they'd like to talk about that we'd like to hear, you should give others a chance to talk, too -- [then appealing to the rest of the table] if anybody would like to hear more about <whatever>, maybe you could discuss it individually after the meal?"  There were a few nods around the table. My husband started to protest that he was almost done (meaning at least another 10 minutes) -- I grinned engagingly arround the table and said to the group "OK, how about a show of hands?  Who would like to move onto something else?"  Thus encouraged (and having seen that I had tried to be tactful unsuccessfully), about half the table raised hands or spoke favorably to this suggestion, and one of the others, who apparently agreed with my intentions, launched right in to another topic.

By clearly identifying what was wrong with his behavior in a pleasant manner, but very publicly, and with the obvious agreement of a number of others, my husband was left in no doubt about what the issue was.  And by involving the whole group in the question, it was obvious that *I* was not trying to exert my individual personal control.  But of course, therefore, my husband understood that his behavior was being censured to some degree, and later he said  he felt humiliated and angry.  I pointed out to him that it was natural in any group that all members should exercise a degree of self-control and sharing, and that if he wanted to be accepted by the group, he needed to conform to the group's collective desires.  I didn't say it to him, but I was perfectly willing for him to decide not to join me at family dinners in the future -- if he wanted to act like a peevish child and stay away, I certainly didn't care.  When my husband complained that I had interrupted him in the same way I was always complaining about him doing, I pointed out that actually my interruption had been different, in that I had acknowledged my rudeness and apologized for it, whereas he never did!  but I agreed I had been rude, in order to make a point, and I was glad he could see how unpleasant it was, so he would realize how he made others feel when he did it, and would want to stop.  It left him speechless.  I then offered to help him with his problem in whatever way would seem helpful and appropriate to both of us.

By taking control of the situation and directing it towards a "natural consequence" (as opposed to the artificial consequence he had been seeing as a result of people's politeness), I had shown my husband that criticism of his behavior did exist, contrary to his perception.  These were very disconcerting discoveries for my husband, so I made sure to apologize to him again for what I had done, saying that I'd tried to get across to him before that there was a problem, but he hadn't seemed to notice the little cues that everybody was showing to indicate that they wanted him to finish up, and I just couldn't think of any other way to deal with it than what I'd done -- but that I would nonetheless feel compelled to do the same thing again if the situation arose in the future.  This served notice that future episodes would no longer be ignored, and that I was not willing to protect him from public criticism, while making it clear to him that I really did not like doing it.

I didn't know it at the time, but what my husband finally decided was that going forward he would look for cues from me that I was about to intercede again, and cut his discourse short on that basis.    And it worked pretty well.  This way, he didn't feel I was controlling him, but he also didn't have to spend so much effort trying to read everybody's cues that he couldn't maintain his train of thought.  After a while, I realized what was happening, and tried sending him my cues intentionally.  Eventually, he learned how to reframe what he was saying into shorter  treatments, and I no longer have to monitor the situation.

It's definitely not the solution I would have ideally chosen, and I never could feel good about it.  But in the end, I guess I see what I did as being analagous to punishing a child who doesn't understand that they are doing something unacceptable.  You try to explain, you try to reason, you progress to a time-out. But if none of that works, I think sometimes you have to resort to something you really don't want to do that will upset them enough to discourage the behavior.

Good luck!

walking away too

Arwen, I congratulate you to have done the right thing at the right time at that dinner party.

Calleigh, it is soothing to read, that you react the same way under the same circumstances.   I too have started to walk away from embarrassing situations, whenever possible.  In a bus, I am trapped, but when he embarrasses me in places like the platform of the station or in front of a stall in a market, I too walk away.   When I did this the first time, I was hoping he would follow so that we had a chance to continue the discussion in private.  He did not get it or he did not want to.   So walking away has just become a method of limited damage.   Walking away still creates a painful scene, but at least it prevents strangers from knowing, what we are disagreeing over.     
In his perception, I am just hyper-critical, and I should lighten up.   He seriously claims, that I start the scene and have to blame myself, when I walk away.  He denies, that he already had started to embarrass me so much, that I had to move away with no choice.

I just got another angry reaction.  I attempted to model some behaviour to him, that to me is obviously needed to communicate successfully.  He was reading the newspaper, and I wanted to tell him something of no urgency.  So I made a short remark to see, if he would put the newspaper down or not.  I consider this as a nonverbal message, if he wants to talk with me or if he prefers to read.   As he continued to read, I moved away and told him, that I will be come back later, when he has finished reading.   When I did after his finishing the newspaper, he was angry.  Why would I not say, what I had to say?   Obvious, he intented to listen and read the newspaper at the same time and seems to think that there is nothing wrong in doing this.  In my thinking, it is impolite and humiliating, to keep on reading while I have something to say, after he accepts to hear it.  He did not get it, so I had no chance to get to my second issue, that it is also impolite to disturb someone about unimportant matters, who is busy.   Because I also want him to learn to talk, when I signal my readiness by putting the paper down.

give or take always decent?

Brenda: I do not know the social background, and there might be a cultural difference in attitudes.  But while anybody with dignity should offer to pay, a person with a six figure income should have the decency to refuse a much poorer person's absolutely equal payment, which in proportion to the income is much more. 

better explanation

at the crossroads,

I didn't take the time to explain all details, but the other person who makes a lot more money than me had gone out of their way to host us by providing a place to stay and other meals.  When I got the chance to treat them to an expensive meal, I was grateful to do so as a way to let them know how much I aprreciated everything they had done.  They did offer to pay, but I insisted because I was taught to give to others so that they would not feel taken advantage of.  

Even though most people don't talk about it, there is a mental score keeping (whether a general recognition or specific recordkeeping)of how much the involved parties in a relationship give and take.  If things are lopsided for very long, it can cause resentment and an avoidance of further interactions.  But apparently people with ADD have a very hard time understanding this concept.  Perhaps because they were never taught or did not pick up on these little expectations by the modeling they saw.  I think Arwen is very wise to teach her son these little nuances so that he can avoid the kind of rejection by friends that my exboyfriend has had.  



I fully agree

that it is important to show, that one does not take advantage of others, and of course really not to attempt it.   I did not mean to doubt, that you did the right thing. 
I have been fairly poor through all my life, so whenever I received generosity that I could not financially reciprocate, instead I bought or even made little gifts, that were inexpensive but thoughtfull and meant to fit the person.   People with enough money sometimes do value some cute trinket from another country more than having money spent on them.


Are non-ADDs more disposed to docility than ADDs?

Are non-ADDs genetically more disposed to docility than ADDs with maybe some Neanderthal genes?   Could overpopulation have facilitated the evolution of a disposition for docility?   Could the Neanderthals, having lived in small groups, had a chance to live an individually selfregulated life, that would distort life in the modern crowded environment?  How much distractibility is part of human nature?

Generally I suspect, that the brain needs incoming information at its own individual speed to be able to successfully process it.   Not only for ADD afflicted people, but for most everybody else too.   
In truth, I always disliked lectures in real life and all abstract and theoretical stuff on radio or tv, even when I was seriously interested in the subject.   When a lecture is proceeding too slow, or when it partially covers known matters, I get bored and easily gets distracted and then I miss the point when to refocus the attention.   When it is interesting, and I want to take notes or just ponder over a thought for a moment, again I risk to loose the thread of thought.  Many times, I felt that I did not get as much from it as I had wished.   That does not make me ADD.  
Reading printed material allows me to skip parts, to stop reading and and to think, to reread parts, and it is therefore much easier to digest.  Recording devices for all audio-visual material are between the most beneficial inventions of the past decades.  This enables me to proceed on recorded stuff the same way as with a book.  

The human innate attention span is much shorter than the duration of lectures, lessons at school, time between breaks at work, so all people are prone to get distracted.   Nobody bothers to adapt the organization of school and work to accomodate human nature, instead people are forced to adapt as much as they can.  If they have ADD, it is more than they can.  

I really wonder, how much conforming to the structured, organized, uniform lifestyle, that is a requirement of modern life, is only possible by repression of the true human nature?   When observing apes in the zoo, they eat a bit, groom another for a few minutes, ran around a while, swing a round, do some more grooming and so on, the only constant in their behaviour is the variability and unpredictability.  It seems that they follow any impulse to maintain homeostasis of fulfilled needs.   They do not spend an hour grooming, an hour running, an hour swinging (such behaviour would probably considered hospitalism by the zoo staff.)   
Maybe the Neanderthals were similar in their behavioural disposition?  Maybe the difference between them and modern humans is the lack or prevalence of the capacity for a docile submission to an unnatural lifestyle?
Whose advantage is it, when people are subdued to a corset of doing the same every day at the same time, compared with people, who are allowed or allowing themselves flexibility and selfregulation?   The corset wearing people are probably more productive and their boss might be pleased, but I guess that selfregulated people are probably happier and healthier.

If ADD people could learn to be reliable and responsible, whenever they have an impact upon other people, after that they should be allowed to have more influence upon the general lifestyle of society.   The capacity to be docile does not mean that the resulting submission is beneficial.

thanks for the link

It is a long thread and it will take a while to read it. 

Very interesting

This is a fascinating discussion.  I'm very interested in your speculations and have many of the same questions you posed.   The selfishness issue is one I've pondered for ages and still haven't resolved.   When I ask my ADHD husband for answers I get either a confused look from him or irritation and a nasty reply.  So...I'm no closer to any deep insight. 

Interestingly, my husband's family is of southern European, Italian descent and I know my husband's father had ADHD even if he was never diagnosed.  My husband mirrors his behavior....even down to the selfishness.  Also, my Italian-descent neighbor has a son with autism.  Has anyone ever done a study linking nationality to these conditions??

This is going to sound truly bizarre but is absolutely true.....I used to wonder if my husband has Neanderthals in his family tree....not because of behavior, but because their eyebrows were "ridged"....jutting a little.  In fact, I used to call my B-I-L "Neanderthal man"...(Not to his face of course!)  Maybe I was onto something and didn't know it.

I'd love to hear more about this topic.

I would not term my

I would not term my ex-husband, who was diagnosed with severe ADHD by two psychologists and one psychiatrist late in life, as being selfish although those who don't know him well probably would say he was selfish and rude.  In fact, I would say he was not selfish.  He would give a lot of his time to others who would take advantage of his generosity.  Most of the time those others were not me.  He would try to do thoughtful things for me on occasion, like bring home flowers from a roadside stand or run errands for me (he liked to spend money), but he would not do other things I really wanted him to do, like help around the house and participate in the marriage and be a companion to me.  He would spend about one day a month doing things around the house, including taking the garbage to the dump.  The rest of the time, it was up to me to make sure things were done around the house, from mowing the yard to paying the bills.  I spent most of my marriage alone at least during the day.  He would come home to sleep and spend a few hours with me in the evening before he became too intoxicated to effectively communicate without being mean. When he was in a good mood, he was a delight to be around.  When he was in his other mood, I would just avoid him.

I would term him more self-centered.  He would focus only upon him....his day, his needs, his wants. If I fit into that, then good. If not, he saw no problem with that, either.  If I tried to discuss things other than him or what he wanted to discuss, he would literally flip out.  I would often say that it wasn't always all about him.  He would just look at me with an odd look. He didn't really care about money, at least until near the end of our marriage when he suddenly hyperfocused on keeping all of our money to himself to spend however he wanted to spend it (including on other women), regardless of bills to pay or future retirement.

From the perspective of someone with ADD

Hi all,

Just thought I'd put in my two cents and bring to the table the perspective of someone with ADD. Now, I know that ADDers are not really the most self-aware people on the there's a good chance I may actually contribute less than most of you who have closely observed someone with ADD. But here goes:

1. Unbelievable as it may seem, we don't even notice all the things that you do for us (the "unfair balance"). I personally *hate* that I do this. I think I've learnt to appreciate what my mom does for me (I'm still quite young and am staying with my parents, fyi) by *consciously making an effort* to observe all the activities she carries out. But not all ADDers will take so much effort. It's much easier to just enjoy life, since "the work gets done anyway", even if not by the ADDer. ADDers won't notice anything wrong until the "work does not get done". They will *never* notice the imbalance in give & take of their own accord!

2. Selfish is a very harsh term. As Arwen points out, most ADDers end up hanging on to the childish notion that they are the center of the universe. Have you thought of how selfish you were as a child? Children, in my opinion, are quite selfish. I would attribute that to one key factor - they are still to build empathy! I don't think I need to mention here that we ADDers suck at empathy. I can tell you that your SOs/BFs love you more than anything else in the world. Speaking for myself, I'd give my life for the people I love. But we just can't place ourselves in your shoes!

I think the point on boundaries is a very interesting one, in particular the example of the four friends, two of who draw boundaries. In my opinion, if you don't draw boundaries, the ADDer will just feed off you like a parasite! And ADDers won't appreciate the imbalance in give & take because they aren't aware of it!'s pretty late in the night, so I'm not sure if my answer has been coherent enough. However, I'd like to sum up by saying that by and large, ADDers will be perceived as more selfish by the general population. And you could call it being "hard-wired" with the selfishness gene or whatever else you may like, but it's not the same as a non-ADDer being selfish, because frequently we are not aware of the fact that we act in a selfish manner...

Let me know if you need any clarification, or have any queries about how ADDers view things. I've been using this forum a lot to understand my own behaviour, and it's about time I start contributing. After all, there should be balance in give & take :D

thanks for confirming


I was dating a man who has classic inattentive ADD.  His friends do love him but keep him at a distance because they consider him a selfish freeloader.  They can only take short visits because he will make himself at home if they don't establish strong boundaries and stay for weeks at a time. 

I always knew that something about the selfishness his friends told me was incongruent with what I knew about narcissistic selfishness.  I always believed that he had this blind spot and can't comprehend why his "friendliness" is freeloading and offensive.  If he goes to see them, the ones with strong boundaries tell him it is time to go.  The others who have weak boundaries just get angry and refuse to interact anymore.  Others just can't figure out why he is using them for free room and board.

Please continue to contribute so that we can empathize more and build our boundaries, perhaps saving some of these very sad relationships.


Elisabeth's picture

I think some ADD behaviours

I think some ADD behaviours can be misconstrued as selfishness.  My fiance is certainly not selfish - he is probably the most generous and thoughtful person I know - but when he hyperfocuses on something which means he may forget to do something else, I can see how others could perceive that as being selfish.  But his family and friends all know him well enough to know that selfish is the last thing he is. My perception is that selfishness is not hardwired into an ADD brain at all - like one of the earlier posts said, we are all capable of being selfish with ADD or no ADD.  I think it is just that ADD has symptoms which can lead to selfish-like behaviours when that was not the intention at all.


I think this is a very interesting (and getting long!) forum topic.  I like some of the solutions about getting people to pay more attention that are provided.  However, I have to warn against what Ned Hallowell labels "the moral diagnosis".  Your SO clearly is not adequately treating his ADHD symptoms.  Until he does I would hold off on the labels of "selfish".  It's too easy to put the "lens" of selfish over your eyes and then end up interpreting everything through that lens.  For example, let me give you another potential reading of the computer incident:

He told you that the project would bring him a great deal of prestige, honor and attention.  These are all things that help people get jobs and help them provide for people they love.  Most men have a good deal of their self-image tied up in providing for those they love, in fact.  It could be that your SO wanted you (and others) to think more highly of him (particularly if he has lower self esteem due to ADHD) and so he put participating in the project as his absolute top priority.  When the computer broke down it was still his top priority and he asked you to help him reach his goals.  It irked you because you were sick at the time, but his request doesn't necessarily make him selfish - perhaps only highly focused on what he felt was a worthy goal (i.e. not him) and a way to impress you (and others).  It may not have been how you wanted to be impressed, but it is a potential motivation for his actions.

I am not a selfish person, I have asked my husband for a very, very similar type of favor for something far less important than a project that would bring me great honor.

You have provided him with these ultimatums - be selfish or be caring; and care for me or use me.  He needs tools to do what you wish him to do.  Without joining with him in an empathetic way, your most likely result will be that he will try and you will continue to perceive that he is selfish both because he hasn't fixed the underlying issue (untreated ADHD symptoms) and because you will continue to see him through a selfish lens.

Take a closer look at some of Arwen's posts below, particularly the one about the dinner conversation.  By joining with her husband to creatively illustrate what was going on she helped him see that he needed a new system (i.e. cues from her).  Cues work wonderfully, but only if both parties are interested in giving/receiving them.  But they are a good example of using the strengths of one person (non-ADD spouse who can read cues better) to bolster the strengths of the other (ADD spouse a good story teller but doesn't know when to stop).  Imagine what the outcome of that same scene would have been if she had said to herself "He's being so selfish!"  That would have been the end of that.  He wouldn't have changed and she would have just gotten madder and more convinced that her opinion of him as a selfish person was correct.

I'll confuse you even more here.  I don't KNOW for SURE that your husband isn't selfish.  The word itself is defined by social morays and the perspective of the "namer" to large degree (is it selfish to divorce a man who makes you miserable, for example, if you have kids who will be affected...or is it self-protection?)  But I will say that many perceive moral deficiencies in people with ADHD because they just can't conceive of the way that people with ADHD see the world around them (again - see the post below about lack of separation between spouses for an example of behavior that is "inconceivable".)  Teachers who see distracted ADHD kids label them "lazy".  Spouses whose partners have trouble staying focused long enough to pick up the bedroom assume the ADHD spouse "doesn't care".  Yet you can read quite a number of posts from ADHD people on this site who will tell you just the opposite - they care deeply - and often HATE the fact that they can't complete the tasks at hand as easily as their non-ADHD counterparts.  Do they deserve to be labeled as lazy or selfish because they have more trouble staying focused, or reading emotional cues, or paying attention?  Instead of putting demeaning labels on people we love, let's impress upon them our support for them as they try to address their underlying issues.  If your SO chooses not to address the ADHD symptoms, then you'll have to make up your mind about how you want to respond.

Your issues sound to me as issues of attention and communication, not selfishness.  These things can be worked through if the ADHD symptoms are treated properly.

A Lot to Think About


thanks for your comment.  I am thinkig a lot about the question, how selfish he is, and I have not reached any conclusion.

The issue about about his task on the computer needs to be seen on the background of the entire situation.  If we would have been together all the time and for an unlimited time, I would have accepted him to do such a task without hesitation.   But we had been apart for 3 months, and during this time we had several conflicts and misunderstandings, that urgently needed to be sorted out.  I was very unhappy about those matters and had a big need to solve the issues to find harmony. 
I had the limited time to come for just 4 weeks, and there was no obstacle to do his task after I had gone.   Depriving me of the chance to improve the relationship in favour of his personal gain of appraisel was in my perception very selfish.

I did give him an ultimatum.  He is intelligent enough to grasp it:  If he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, he has to be motivated to avoid hurting me, to spare me pain.  If he does not know, how to do this, all he needs to do is ask me and listen to me.  There is no option any longer for him to have a good life, if I pay the price for it in misery.   He has to do his part to make it a good life for both of us, not just for himself.   If he could learn this without acknowledging his ADD, it would be ok.  Unfortunately, by refusing that insight, he thinks, that there is not more or not less wrong with me than with him, and that we need to find a compromise between what I want and what he wants.   That means, between me not suffering or suffering a lot from him, and that would still be more pain than I can bear.

ADD or Exuberance?

My SO just initiated to watch together a video by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison where she spoke about exuberance.   He insinuated, that he might just be exuberant, when I consider him ADD.  

I googled, but did not find a clear answer yet:  

Could it be, that exuberant people care for others and manifest caring behaviour, while ADD leads to selfish and inconsiderate behaviour?

Selfishness - for crossroads

I make it a habit not to "let someone have it"on this site, but the recent post by "normal mom" reminds me that sometimes abdication is not a good policy.

So, I have to say, more strongly, that I think that by focusing so much on the concept of "selfishness" that you are muddying the waters for the two of you.  Let go of this idea!  You put him so on the defensive with this attack on his person that you will get nowhere with him.

Put another way, imagine yourself in his position.  Pretend for a moment that you have issues that mean that you procrastinate, have difficulty remembering things, etc.  Things in your life are often out of order and you take a long time to complete things because your brain is wired differently and you haven't figured out yet that it needs to be controlled.  Now, imagine that someone you care deeply about is upset because the two of you didn't manage to discuss very hard topics within a set time frame...things were too sensitive, and every time something came up it became painful to discuss - you knew it would be a fight - so you avoided the conversation instead.  It may not have been the right response, but you hate confrontation so much that it really seemed the only way to make it through this period of time.

Then, after all that, the person calls you selfish.  Over and over again.

To make matters worse, you have a good opportunity to do something about which you are excited for your career and your SO insists that this is wrong - that doing this thing that you think will be good for you both long-term is...selfish!  You should be talking with her, instead, because she needs you to.  Right now, not later.  It can't possibly wait...

You would be angry that this person insisted that you were selfish rather than looking deeper at you.  You might be sad that she didn't celebrate your opportunities for honor.  You would probably start to feel that she was being unfair to you - certainly unsupportive of you...maybe even...selfish herself.  So you start to push back.

Back to you.  It may well be that your SO needs to come to terms with his ADHD.  But cries of "you're so selfish" aren't going to inspire him to seek help (though they may inspire him to break up with you).

ADHD is not about being selfish.  And it CERTAINLY has NOTHING to do with being neanderthal (another idea that needs to be dropped - it's insulting!)  ADHD has to do with being distracted, with uneven attention, difficulties with memory (some of which fall out of attention issues) and difficulty with planning.  PLEASE GET OVER this issue of selfishness and stop insulting your SO.  It's not helping anyone, yourself included.

You've been beating this man up mercilessly - it's a wonder that he has any interest in staying with you, in fact.  Getting all bent out of shape because he interupts you because he thinks he understands what you say is a mistake that EVERYONE makes once in a while (including you, I'm quite sure.)  Does that mean that he deserves to be belittled?  ("maybe it was his lack of experience with more complex mature thinking that put the possibility of a more profound, more facetted consideration beyond his imagination...")  Are you kidding?  Can you possibly look down your nose that much at him -  and still see yourself as a compassionate person or even a SO?  And as you complain about his interupting and not listening to you, you write "thus it was practically impossible to ever convince him of my own valid point of view and source of information..."  What about his "valid" point of view?  Has he ever been able to convince YOU?  If he disagrees, or assumes that he understands what you are saying, does that make his view invalid?  Not worth listening to?

He bought his flight tickets behind your back because he knew you wouldn't give him a break to be him and do what he wanted to do, think what he wants to think...  Again - his behavior suggests that he hates confrontation with you...and it also suggests that he's getting plenty of it.

I don't know if you want this relationship to succeed, but if you do it's time to do some self-assessment.  No one should live with the withering insults that you are sending in the direction of your SO.  Pick yourself up, set some loftier goals for yourself for your own behavior, and dig deep inside for some empathy.  You may find that his response surprises you - he may even be willing to consider an assessment to determine whether or not he actually has ADHD.

I have been learning things

First of all, as my post below indicates, he is gone, and my focus is no more on any attempt how to make it work but on convincing myself rationally, that it would have been a hopeless endeavour anyway and that it is better, that he is gone.

When I started to post here, I attributed the problems predominantly to ADD.   By now I have found out, that this is not the case.   He is very ADD, when it comes to impatience, impulses, outbursts of anger, communication.   But he is well organized and punctual and has no problems in this aspect of life.   For example, he does not procrastinate, his bags are packed already a week before departure.  

Thanks for your time and efforts to describe, what might have been his side.  It was just not him.   Unfortunately, I had to be very vague for the sake of discretion, so I could not give more evidence.  

But no matter your, Melissa, and other's contrary interpretation of what I have revealed here, he is very selfish.   I have many more evidence for that.   Since I got convinced, that ADD does not explain it, I looked at other problems.   Lately I have read a lot about narcissism (link removed).

It was a real eye-opener.  So much of his behaviour, that puzzled me, can be explained as serving him getting enough 'naricissistic supply'.   At this moment, I think that he is a narcissist maybe on the lower part of the bell curve in severity, and that his ADD symptoms enabled or improved his performance of successfully living as a narcissist.    

Right now, I am focussing on learning more about narcissism and I have stopped to attempt to relate his selfishness in any way to ADD.


I think that's a good idea - to look into narcissism, which would be closer to being "selfish".  ADHD is actually hard to diagnose - there are lots of other things that resemble it.  But some good ADHD researchers suggest that the number one symptom of adult ADHD that differentiates it from other disorders is distraction.  That's not a trait that you've mentioned in your now ex-SO, and his ability to plan ahead (packing), his punctuality, and his organizational abilities point away from distraction as a symptom, suggesting that he may not have ADHD.

Anyway, thank you for taking my rant in stride.  BTW, I have taken out the link you put in your post about narcissim.  I suggest that you look more deeply into the controverial background of the person you have been doing your research with.  It's not clear he's legit, in fact some say he's definitely not.

Selective Distraction?

To me, it seems possible, that selfishness and narcissism have a considerable impact upon the distraction of ADD.   It seems plausible to me, that my SO was driven by selfish impulses, impatience and a lot of distraction, whenever it was about other people, listening or caring, all of it ADD.   But as soon as his own wellbeing was at stake, his selfinterest was so strong, that he was able to focus on being organized and functional.   Narcissism overruled ADD distraction, but ADD distraction overruled any non-selfish care and consideration for others. 

just look deeper

I don't disagree that people should look into narcissism.  I'm just asking you to dig a bit deeper about your resource, is all.  Google his name and do some reading, as I just did.  As a general rule of thumb, I don't tend to leave links in this site that lead to questionaable commercial ventures (which his is) nor to resources that I know to be dicey (which his also is).


He is gone.  He could not take it, that I gave him an ultimatum with the chance to improve something.  He wanted to have the last word, the last blow.  That was obviously his last attempt to prove himself the man in the house. 
In reality, it was the last betrayal.  He bought the ticket a week ago, packed his things in the night and informed me 1 hour before he left.   In full ignorance, I still made desparate attempts, during the last week, to talk to him.

I feel very used.  I exhausted myself, I burned myself out in my attempt to support him to improve his table manners, his personal hygene, his communication skills, his understanding about being in a different country and culture, his coping with his past, learning values about commitment, responsibility and more.  His resistance was exasperating, he suffered from his lack of all those skills, but he could not accept to learn from me, I was the bad hypercritical person to him.  He wiped his nose on the sleeve, but I was the bad one, when I gave him feedback about it. 
He knows now, what a decent woman expects.   I have suffered for him, and the next woman in his life will profit from it, and he will too, because all that I have taught him will be no more an issue for conflict.   I feel as if a vampire has drained me of my blood to gain strength for himself.

I suffered for his personal growth and improvement, and when I finally wanted something for myself, a better life with less pain, he did not bother to give anything back. He selfishly left in his quest for a woman, who would let him be as he is.   It is a tragedy.  The two women, with whom he had lived before me, were both in some way 'morally challenged', lower class and not very educated.  Their behaviour was probably not any better than his.  If a woman like me would have been in his life before me, and would have done all the hard work on him, things would have have been much easier for me.   It is so much stress to teach a man of nearly 60, what he should have learned at the age of 20.

So, he is gone, and I am licking my wounds.

Immaturity and Selfishness

I am still puzzled, and that it is over does not stop my attempts to comprehend better, what went on in his mind. 

When a person manifests very selfish behaviour, could it be the selfishness of immaturity?  
A part of growing mature is learning values, attitudes, ethics and other non-observable matters by verbal exchange with wiser people.   But if someone has no capacity to take such information into his brain, he might have no real chance to ever become mature. 

Sometimes I made an attempt to explain my values and reasons and my information about an issue, that had resulted in both having a different grudge.  When I was partially done, but had not yet conveyed some important aspects, he interrupted me, because in his mind, he had heard enough to believe to have understood me.  Maybe it was his lack of experience with more complex mature thinking, that put the possibility of a more profound, more facetted consideration beyond his imagination.   He firmly believed to have understood my point of view, even though he was far off.   He interrupted me, he then diverted to a monologue of so many different topics, that my original topic was lost.   Then he memorized his wrong assumption of understanding me, and what he believed to be my point of view, and in his memory it was converted into appearing as his correct knowledge of my true attitude or view point.   When he then mentioned the same unresolved grudge again, and I restarted to explain better this time, he interrupted me even faster, because he did not even see any need to listen to me at all, believing to know already, what would come.  Thus it was practically impossible to ever convince him of my own valid point of view and source of information.
He just interrupted me due to lack of respect.  Would he instead be with someone, whom he respected more or did not dare to interrupt for fear of sanctions, it would not be much better.  Instead of interrupting, he would most probably just drift off into his own thoughts and stop listening.   He still would not get the true message told to him.

Maybe this reduced information input doomed him to linger in a state of immaturity, maybe this is also the case with other ADD-people?

It is as if his impeded information intake has immunized him against learning, developping, personal growth.   Buying a flight ticket behind my back instead of making leaving a common decision is betrayal, but when he did it the first time, it could have been explained by the combination of immature selfishness and lack of impulse control. 
Now he repeated the exact same kind of betrayal again.  Only since the first time, I exhausted myself in explaining to him, what commitment means to mature people, including the obligation to make vital decisions together and discuss the issue until reaching consensus.  I told it to him, and by closing my ears to his sidetracking interruptions, insisted to finish my point.  I wrote things down on paper so he could read it at his own speed.  I even recorded such texts for him as sound files. 
All my such efforts were wasted on him.   He repeated the same immature, selfish betrayal. 
Teaching maturity to an unwilling ADD-person seems futile.   I suspect, that he still has no grasp for the true ethical implications of commitment.

I wonder, how ever anything did enter his mind to have a positive effect towards personal growth.   He told me himself, that not too long ago, he was already in his fifties, he discovered the meaning of empathy and of putting himself in another person's shoes.   I was puzzled, how he had lived so long without even considering another perspective than his own.  Now I am puzzled, by what means that discovery ever could have reached his brain.
I still suspect, that his capacity for empathy is limited to his own immature experiences.   He probably has empathy for other people, who are hungry and cold or in fear of the same things that scare him.   But complex feelings, like the extreme pain due to abasement, humiliation, indignity, mortification, are probably very alien to him, beyond his imagination.   He could neither comprehend, how deep he hurt my pride and dignity, and he did not believe me anything, that was not visible.  For him, I was an imbalanced person with sh*it fits without a reason, who was hypercritical of behaviours, that were ok to him, but not ok by my standards, and who got as abusive as calling him things like a pig in outbursts under stress once in a while.  But he was blind to the devastating effects of his abusive actions like the betrayal of the slyly bought plain ticket.  
Also he seems so inperceptive to subtle hints and clues, that any polite and gentle doubt about what a sleeve is good for compared with a handkerchief is lost on him.  Only drastic words define drastic actions as drastic.  But when I used the drastic words, he blamed me to be abusive. 

He obviously is too immature to even grasp, that when he decided to leave me a year ago by slyly buying the flight ticket, our pain was not the same, even though he suffered deeply from the loss.  He still had the control, the power, the choice to decide selfishly for the best for himself.   I was made the powerless innocent victim, a decision forced upon me, without consideration of the impact of the decision upon me, without consulting me, what would be best for me, therefore I was very humiliated and mortified.

Sometimes I suspect, that he not only has no mature concept of commitment, but that he confounds it subconsciously with the relationship of himself as a child with his mother.  Therefore he takes it for granted to be entitled to the same benefits as a child is from his mother, having therefore very immature expectations towards me. 
A mother forgives a child the wrongs, that it does on the path of learning, of growing mature, onesidedly.   Between adults, forgiving needs to be earned by accepting liability and undo damage by making amends.  
He feels entitled to be forgiven by me like a child by his mother, and again, this is immature.  I am not his mother, and I refused that role.

I have met his family, and after experiencing decent table manners there, it is beyond my imagination, that his mother would not have made attempts to teach him manners and hygene by the same standards as prevail in his family. 
For unknown reasons, and I suspect his ADD, instead of growing into the standards of his family, he developped resistence and obstinacy against any feedback for improvement.   Unfortunately, when I, 40 years too late, attempted to help him getting more civilised, he reacted to me the same way, how he seems to have reacted in his refusal to get trained and educated during adolescence.   It is immature, that he still does not have the insight to be gratefull for feedback, and then take responsibility himself for improvement instead of the defiance to continue his repulsive behaviour.

Edit: Addition

He has deep resentments against his parents, he blames them severely for many things, that had gone wrong in his life.  I cannot judge, if it is realistic or his perception, they just not being able to cope better with an ADD-son.   I suspect that when he perceives conflicts between us about matters like table manners, and subconsciously sees himself as a child with his mother instead of a partner, that as a reaction, he has for me also the same anger and aggression as he holds for his parents.   First, he is angry at his mother for several unknown specific reasons, then he is angry at his mother all the time, including when she teaches him table manners.  In the end, he is angry at any person, who teaches him table manners, and when it happens to be me, that is very painful.  
It is very immature to make me the target of anger, that others have caused him long ago.

The selfish Neanderthal who never grew up...

@Crossroads: I'm sorry it went this way. All I can say is that God chooses the path that's best for you.

Btw you are right in that most ADDers have a lot of "growing up" to do. I think your point on ADDers assuming/wanting a mother's unconditional/one-sided forgiveness is very perceptive. In too many ways, ADDers are like children. Many of ADD's so-called benefits also could be viewed from that perspective - children are quite creative, and they have a lot of energy (again not usually focused). Of course there are always the few ADDers who manage to act mature, just like there are some children who are surprisingly mature.

I don't know how to say this...but your SO running away is not very different from the behaviour of a sulking child. As a child, I used to sulk and run away from home (not for too long though!) if I was reprimanded too strongly! This is what your SO's story reminded me of. If he is anything like what I was as a child, he'll probably regret his flight sooner rather than later! But he'd have painted himself into a corner...

I don't know if this is any help - but his flight does not mean he doesn't care about you. He most likely does. In any case, three cheers to you from my side for being a wonderful person, for caring so much about your SO and being so patient with him, and for still attempting to understand him even though he has caused you so much pain. Hats off to you :-)  And to all the partners of ADDers on this forum who care enough to do so much research...and who put in so much effort to understand their ADD partners


@Normal mom: Please don't take the Neanderthal discussion seriously. It's quite a wild theory in my opinion too (the Neanderthals were structurally very different from Homo Sapiens, and they actually are estimated to have had larger brains). And there is absolutely no evidence at all today to suggest that any cross breeding of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals took place.

In any case, I think the implication was that ADDers probably evolved from Neanderthals (as against they are Neanderthals), just as the Homo Sapeins Sapiens evolved from the Homo Sapiens. In fact, it's not even the brain they talk about in this forum, but just the trait passed on through some gene :P  Quite creative for non-ADDers :D


bandaid and chickensoup

every time, when I get clubbed over the head, someone nice comes around the next corner with bandaid and chicken soup.  Thanks Brighthorse.  

The more I have been around these forum and in contact with people, who have themselves ADD, the more I start to see, that the selfishness of my SO is not ADD, but probably narcissism, and that his ADD symptom just facilitated his success in getting 'narcissistic supply'. 

The mother gives narcissistic supply to a child, as long as the child is still in the narcissistic phase.   People, ADD or not, have a chance to grow out of this with maturity, naricissists never do so.

Narcissism and ADD

Hi Crossroads,

Regarding narcissism and ADD. It's defintely a possibitility however, I would be hesitant to equate ADD and narcissism as an absolute. I have read up on narcissism and the fundementals deep down are about low self esteem. I know it seems quite the opposite but it is about feeling inadequate. I'm not a psychologist and I suspected that my bf also had some other problems on top of dealing with ADD. Although we were no longer together, I had promised him that I would help him through the ADD assessment and support him as he went on this very difficult journey. The doctor told us that it could be a combination of a bunch of things, ADD, depression, anxiety, some kind of mood disorder etc. But here is the thing, regardless of what it is, my ex will want to need to change. That in and of itself is the most difficult part for him to overcome. Making change happen and sticking to it. For most people without ADD change is difficult but when you have something like ADD and the other possible aliments, it's an uphill battle. Some get up the mountain and some don't. The fundementals of tackling any problem is wanting to and you can't make someone see that will is required to overcome their challenges. they need to figure it out for themselves.

I know it's hard to take the focus off of the person who hurt you and you can become obsessed by their seemingly disregard for you. I hope you have a chance to focus on yourself, perhaps examine how you want to live, look at the positive things about yourself (your caring for another person) don't you deserve to be happy and embrace the things that you can bring to any relationship. We non-ADDers are very strong people, we want our loved ones to be happy but the one thing I find common in all of us is less focus on our own happiness. It's difficult and I'm still dealing with the loss I've endured. For all of the frustration I had with my ex (whom I still love dearly) I miss the silliness and fun he could bring into our life together. And when I made the decision to let him go I knew it was right for me and for him. I read my old journal entries and I can see that I made a decision based on my needs and not necessarily his problems.

I hope you will be able to refocus on yourself and find some peace in knowing you did your best to bring up your SO's challenges in a loving way. Honestly, it started to sound like things were getting abusive and so I think both of you will be better off at least for now. Should you decide to take him back, remember you need to have some boundries between the two of you. And hopefully at that point you'll be in a healthier state of mind too.


Dim Memory

Hi Tweetiebird,

I just noticed that I had omitted to react to your kind reply.  

It honors you, how much you still care to support your Ex, and it honors him, that he is motivated to find out about the origin of his troubles.   I do wish you luck and courage on this path.

I am still laboring to find closure by getting to the bottom of the problem.

At this moment, I think that it is a fatal combination of narcissism, ADD and Asperger's, and the cultural differences seriously aggravated my reactions.
Simply said, my SO left, because he obviously did not get his narcissistic needs out of me.  As long as this is, what motivates him, there is nothing to be done.   Would he even want to continue, it would be a hopeless case without a change of his commitment paradigm.

Narcissism always sounded as such a horrible thing to me, like something evil, so that while I considered to explain him with ADD and Asperger's, for a long time it did not occur to me to consider narcissism.  
When I wrote my last post on
I described a narcissist's addiction to getting narcissistic supply without knowing this.  I attempted to call it 'attention addiction', because at that moment, I had never heard of 'narcissistic supply' yet.  
It really seems to be a fatally successful combination for him.   He had enough tools to acquire his input of narcissistic supply from all the world but me.  
First of all, he had enough education and knowledge to be interesting and entertaining to people, who know him only superficially. 
Secondly, he was clever enough to find the kind of people, whom he could look down upon just enough to perceive their reactions as supply, but not too deep, so the supply was valuable.  
Thirdly, his ADD communication style of talking endlessly, interrupting others and lecturing without listening enabled him to usurp a lot of attention. 
Forthly some autistic traits made him completely oblivious, imperceptive and indifferent to what kind of attention he got, if it was admiring and interested, or annoyed, disturbed and non-verbally rejecting him as a fool or weird.    

I am not inferiour, I refuse to be an audience and I feel entitled to have my expressions of annoyance taken into consideration.   No wonder, that he did not get enough narcissistic supply out of me and had to run back to his previous sources.  

No matter what trouble someone has, the basis of a committed relationship requires the conscious acknowledgement of some common ground: 
1. I am an equal partner, who deserves respect and being with him is the implicit expression of my respect for him.   Feedback about his behaviour is not disrespect, but support.
2. I am a trustworthy person, I do not attempt to take advantage of him.
3. Commitment mutually includes obligations, responsibility, liability and not just getting benefits.   It is not a power struggle.
4. All conflicts need to be solved by communication until reaching an agreement.

When somebody bases a relationship on such a conscious paradigm, then any feedback of his behaviour being in contrast to it would cause him the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.  

All my attempts to ever have a talk on this level were in vain, he denied any clear statements.   As I learned from his behaviour, implicitly he disrespected me, implicitly he did not trust me, and implicitly commitment meant a source for narcissistic supply.  
He avoided cognitive dissonance in his own way, by refusing to agree explicitly to a commitment paradigm that was not in accord with his implicit one, or rather, by avoiding to even think about a conscious different paradigm.  


Lately I have been reflecting so much about the times with him.   I am puzzled about something.   It seems that my memory is effected.   I have vivid memories about a lot of many shared activities, travelling, excursions, hikes and so on.   But my recollection of the weeks this spring, that preceeded my reaching the breaking point of acknowledging to myself, that I just could not spend the rest of my life with him without some drastic change, is so very dim.   I have some vague memory of him being extremely angry, agressive and full of rage for some days, maybe weeks.   He yelled at me at the top of his voice at 4 in the morning, it was so loud that probably the neighbours did hear it.   He did wake up at any time in the night and started angry rants at me, no matter if I was sleeping or not.    I try so hard to remember, what it was all about, what triggered his rages, how I reacted, which of our issues and conflicts were having us arguing about during those days.   In vain, most of my experiences of those days except that feeling of extreme pain seems to have gone into oblivion.   It would be so important to remember the details in my quest to comprehend, but I just cannot.   It seems to me that the stress and pain were so overwhelming, that I was not capable to store things into my memory.  
It could even fit the description of 'selective amnesia'.   Has anybody here ever experienced something similar?

Being in the audience

I'm not so sure that my husband is a narcissist, but it does seem that ADD can create the aura of narcissism (if that makes any sense at all). I'm dealing with a bit of personal emotional fall-out from this sort of thing right now. I recently had an amazing, wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in another part of the country. This was something that was a *big* deal, something that it is very difficult to get the opportunity to do, and something for which I will have one shot in my life. When I went to the event, I was one of a tiny handful of people whose spouses did not accompany them for moral support. Everyone else in the tiny handful had spouses with urgent business back home. Mine didn't. He had no excuse for not going, outside of simply not wanting to go (and he made up lame reasons to hide this so he wouldn't look like a jerk for saying "I don't want to go"). I can't begin to tell you how painful it was to see everyone there with their husbands and wives, all of whom understood the great import of this event and wouldn't have stayed home for the world.

My husband does not understand that it would have meant a great deal to me for him to have been there. It's as though the things he does for me fall into two categories: a) he perceives them as "hero" activities, or situations where he makes a big show of swooping in and saving the day (and then disappears until the next, big, dramatic crisis), and b) things he enjoys doing. Everything else doesn't rate his attention, and I would have to beg and plead and over-explain to try to get him to understand why certain things are important to certain people, why not doing certain things would be interpreted as uncaring or rude, etc. I don't think he sees any of this--and, in fact, *I* didn't see this in him until it was pointed out to me by several friends (!!!).

My husband does not understand the concept of having to "be there" for someone in a truly supportive role. By "truly supportive" I mean "he will not be seen as a hero and no one except me will pat him on the back for it." He's learned that neglecting certain things that other people understand as important (life milestones, professional achievements, etc.) will make people upset, but it's more of a cause-and-effect issue (i.e., if I don't recognize this as an important event, she will be upset), not an extension of empathy (i.e., I should recognize this because this is what I would want someone to do for me, or this is what spouses do for each other). So, I am left with two situations: Let him not do anything and see me get upset and--maybe--he will learn from this (which is HIGHLY painful and has been downright deleterious to my professional life and self-esteem), or beg, cajole, and plead with him to do something supportive (and then usually listen to him try to weasel out of it, or complain and freak out about how he's not getting *his* work done because he's taking out a day or two to be there for me). The latter is depressing and demoralizing. You shouldn't have to "beg" someone to celebrate your milestones (particularly if you always celebrate his unbidden!).

Really, I'm at the end of my rope with this. The situation this week hurt tremendously. I ended up being the object of pity by the others participating in the event. I returned home from this thinking "I'm done. No more. I want a spouse who understands the importance of certain things to other people." I'm tired of fighting this fight, and right now I just want to be divorced.

some more speculations

Hi Breadbaker,

what a horrible experience.   I can feel your disappointment.  My SO had only let me down, when I wanted his support, in minor issues, but I remember, how I felt in such situations: Utterly alone, in spite of having put myself into the role of half a couple.  
I can tell you my sympathy, but I do not know, what advice to give to you.   I do not feel at ease to give advice, before I have known a person and her history quite extensively.  

Lately I have been reading a lot of how narcissism and emotional immaturity can sometimes be triggered by some childhood trauma.    I have been wondering, if maybe the trouble, that a child with ADD/ADHD has quite often, because the parents are helpless, could lead to traumatic experiences.   Especially in the days, when our ADD-partners were children, and ADD was practically unknown.   So if children with ADD/ADHD had traumatic events during their childhood, maybe some of them reacted with some narcissistic traits, and that could be, why so many of us non-ADD partners here are sharing the same kind of pain, frustration and helpless reactions?
Maybe, and here I am of course only speculating, wise parents could help their ADD/ADHD children to become distracted but caring adults, while the parents, who could not cope, added so much damage to ADD, that the result were the selfish jerks, that some of us have been dealing with?  





I think you are right. I have thought the same. A disturbed attachment proces and not enough love and support for the adhd child cuold might lead to very selfish and narcissistic personality traits. Whereas very empathetic parents can help the child being more attentive to others and learn the joy of being a good friend/spouse, be giving to others, support others etc.

Best to all.

breadbaker, another thought:

Could it be, that your husband did not want to accompany you, because he would have been in your shadow, while you were the one getting attention and probably a huge amount of 'narcissistic supply?   A real narcissist could be extremely jealous.    

It's difficult to tell

It's difficult to tell. I could see it both ways, but I'm inclined to think it's more likely an obliviousness to what others would see easily, or a lack of empathy. There are other issues, unrelated to the above, that perhaps point more strongly towards narcissism, but I don't feel qualified to judge, since I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist. It's a tangled web, as we all know.

At this point, I'm mentally going beyond the stage where I'm trying to figure out what his problem is, and work on bettering my own life and moving on. I don't hold out much hope for the marriage. He's a good guy, but so stubborn and so emotionally closed off that there's nothing positive I can do that he won't find a way to negate (albeit largely unconsciously--but the result is the same). He's going to keep pushing me away in a million ways, all the while blaming me for what went wrong, and our not having a strong marriage. Plus, no matter what he says, it's clear that my happiness doesn't figure into the equation, and I cannot live with that.

He doesn't see how his ADD made sure that we never stood a chance. If this is how things truly are, I need to move on and find love and happiness elsewhere, and let him find out the hard way with someone else that the collapse of our marriage had little or nothing to do with me, and everything to do with his condition (the words of therapists and friends who observed the implosion--and I believe them now).

Maybe there should be a new forum category . . .

"Healing and Moving on from an ADD Spouse in Denial"

I know it would never fly--that's not what this site is about--but I'm sure there are a number of us who have the same self-esteem, life disappointment, painful and difficult emotional fallout issues, etc. from dealing with someone who "just won't see." Staying with someone and reworking your life to deal with them, as opposed to deciding to move on away from them and rework your life to suit *you* involve many similar issues, but many different ones as well.


Healing and moving on

I agree. I think knowing there is another option available if it just can't be worked out is empowering (and realistic). Sometimes the unknown is scarier than the reality of leaving. It might give more confidence to the non- spouse so they could work from a position of strength rather than fear. 

Would it be possible to have such a category?

Memory problems

Yes yes yes!!!!! The best book I have read that describes what this emotional abuse can do to a person is "Counseling Survivors of Domestic Abuse." Yes! This amnesia is a consequence of dissociating yourself from the situation so you can tolerate the abuse and still continue to function. They also describe a lack of ability to put what has happened into words ("...a common characteristic of dissociation is the non-verbalisation of feelings, a form of alexithymia in which the individual lacks words for emotions. Alexithymia is a defense against feelings that directs the individuals focus on things rather than people....This allows them to carry on as normal and perform daily tasks without any emotional expression or reactivity."). This makes counseling VERY DIFFICULT for you.

Please read what you are doing to yourself. If you are trying to make sense of something that doesn't make sense, it can affect your mental health severely.  ("... results in the freeze response or dissociation of bodily sensations and current reality. Dissociation is ... an emotion suppression technique when there is no escape ... It .. occurs in the presence of lack of control and unpredictability. Ultimately, dissociation leads to impaired self-preservation, with the individual lacking any sense of personal control and self worth. The individual becomes detached and all responses are shut down. ...Such defenses enable survivors to tolerate and accept extremely high levels of abuse well beyond normal acceptable levels... and adapt to the abusive relationship.... blocks all feelings, including anger at the abuse and abuser, which renders the abuse bearable.")

There is so much more -- this may not be the best excerpt, but there is so much in this book. It has a good chapter on what an abusive person is doing and why. Page 54 gives a long table of the effects of long term domestic abuse, and it is scary. I'm sorry to rain on people's hope, but 60% of ADHDer's have coexisting problems, many of them very severe and abusive. A professional needs to be helping them, not a well-meaning but completely unprepared and inexperienced spouse!


Hi Crossroads.

It might come a bit late my answer, but I think what you describe resembles symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. That is likely to happen when living in very emotional unsafe and confusing enviroment for a longer period of time. I hope you feel much better now. I have experienced some of the same symptoms. Best to you. 

ADD husband and his selfishness

My husband is very selfish and I am sure he has ADD, he doesn't feel he is selfish, or unfair , we have been marred for 22 years have 2 teenage  daughters,  always had problems because he is not affectionate towards me or the kids, doesn't pay attention to us or wants to spend time with us, but always has time for friends and other family members, I almost take care of  everything around the house, he does about 10% I do 90% I make 2 X his salary, and according to friends and family I have every quality that a man wish to have in his wife!!!!

my older daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD, 2 years ago and since then I have been studding about it and realized that my husband carries many of the signs that an ADD person has.

I have been discussing it with him and also my family doctor my husband is not wiling to get help, and he doesn't think anything is wrong with him, and I should go out more with my friends so he can go out with his friends, we are never sure that if he stays home or going out, as soon as a friend calls he is ready to go out, even if I don't approve of. the kids don't even care if he is in or out, since I am satisfying all their needs and very close to them, but I am not happy about this since kids need their fathers love and attention too.

I am really tired of this situation although I am very emotional and still love him but I can't risk my health since I am always unhappy and defiantly deserve a better husband, I don't know what I am going to do, I know that he never changes, its up to me  to stay in this marriage or go, he says he loves me and doesn't want divorce but is not willing to do anything to make our marriage work, I also believe that he is not capable of changing himself, this is how he has born , sometimes I really sorry for him......

Self absorbed not really SELFISHNESS


I highly doubt he is comfortably selfish, more likely oblivious to it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am very self-absorbed, and it has and does cause enormous pain to my family and ultimately to myself.    I sometimes think it a lack of empathy, but I don’t feel this is really the case, more that my grasp on consequences is non-existent. 
When I look at things objectively, my behaviours have been jaw dropping selfish, and I am horrified, if I could only turn back the clock. Some examples are; I have been grumpy/angry with my wife for being bed ridden with morning sickness, because in my own head I perceived it as some plot for her to never work again (i.e. “there is always some excuse as to why she won’t just knuckle down and get a full time job like I have to”). 

I have in a moment of frustration told her that her art (she is an artist) is crap even when it’ just that I’m too lacking to appreciate it (again probably for the same stupid reason, supportive huh?). I have been angry at her for not being affectionate enough (because everyone wants to jump their partners bones when they are moody, sulky, grumpy and angry at you right?).
I have put so much emotional pressure on her that she is buckling under the weight and feels as crap as I do (because that is clearly an effective strategy, worked in my last busted marriage as well, everyone wins!)
I have left her to do all the organising of our lives, most of the care of our children, most of the house work, while I worked unnecessarily long hours (putting more commitment into my job because it is stimulating, than I do my family)
When my third daughter was born with severe disabilities ( her first child),   I spent the first 2 weeks on the computer researching what we were dealing with instead of comforting her in obvious distress ( To be fair, this was me trying to come to terms with my own grief I think).

Prior to us having children I told her I could take or leave children and if it was up to me I wouldn’t have any more ( nothing like  sharing the wonder of having children with your life partner)
I told her that I didn’t really enjoy children until they were around one year old,   about the time they start to be fun to play with, otherwise they are just feeding, sleeping sh*()) machines. 
This is just a short and very incomplete list…

Through these actions I have bought our relationship to the edge of the abyss, and it is only now I have found the insight to reflect on all this.   It may be too late; my wife is an incredible person to have tolerated this much for this long!  
I have done an enormous amount of reading and research on ADHD to try and come to a understanding of what is going on, perhaps the best I have come across, and the one I would say gave me the biggest sense of “that is me” is a series of lectures by Dr. Russell Barkley, Ph.D at the Centre for ADD/ADHD Advocacy, Canada.  You can find these lectures on Vimeo.   Be warned they are very technical in nature and somewhat depressing, though also liberating in their insight into the condition.   Get some popcorn and watch them together.

As a sufferer of this I have heard all kinds of stuff, like  “it’s a gift” or  “hyperfocus is a good thing”  or “you can retrain yourself” or  the “hunters vs farmers”  or it’s a “social construct” and now the "Neanderthal theory"    These lectures lay waste to all these ideas.    This is a disability of executive function. One of the biggest insights contained is the lacking facility in the ADHD mind to comprehend time, I had always wondered why I had no sense of future, no dreams and no aspirations, (I have got by financially rather well on my general knowledge of things)

Well I now realise that in order to have these you need a developed and operational sense of time, planning, context and consequence and delayed gratification (work and wait for the payoff);   we don’t.  It’s here, now right at this particular moment, and that is all. I think this is where the selfishness comes from; it is a confused momentary practicality i.e. get desired result by whatever means, right now.  Yesterday and tomorrow simply don’t really exist, with is why we genuinely don’t understand when our partners are still angry with us for something we did last week, or when that thing that you have telling us for weeks suddenly arrives out of nowhere  and we run around like headless chook, stressing everyone out in the process.    

  If I could excise this condition from my brain in its entirety I would not hesitate for a second.   There is *nothing* I like about it and the suffering it causes those I love.   I think the only way forward here is by boundary setting and reward/gratification structures,   yes, we are like children, our executive functions are busted , just don’t let us catch a whiff of you treating us like that  or the we will dig in our heals and watch the world come down around our ears.

Remember we mostly are acutely in need of constant reassurance and validation.  We are fragile; our moment right now is our forever; a boring task means life is boring, a high thrill activity means life is a thrill (risk taking anyone?)   Pepper boring tasks with little rewards, or promises of rewards (sounds like puppy training, except we never learn to do it without the doggy treat).
However I really can only speak for myself and everyone else may well be entirely different. 
Good luck!


Thank you, Jon!!!!

Holy Crow!

I've been reading through these posts trying to think of a good response and.... there it was!  I didn't even have to type it! (bonus! as I am a selfish, lazy ADDer and I just want to go to sleep now....)

I am sick of the 'it's a gift' stuff... as you point out:  the depressing reality is that we have no concept of time, and without that... you're f*cked.  Every now and then I can force myself to see the glittering future of a non-ADD version of myself.  Some days everything goes right and I can act so 'normal' and get all my tasks accomplished.  When this happens, honestly, I'm so elated I feel like I must be getting away with something illegal.  ("Really?  that's all I have to do?  and ...nobody's angry at me?  I don't look like an idiot today???  and I can actually get paid??")

I'll check out those lectures on Vimeo, and I'm gonna copy/paste your post and email it to my husband.



Self-Absorbtion and Intent


I, too, have self-absorbed tendencies.  I don't want to be this way.  I am increasingly aware of it as I move forward with my treatment of medication and behavioral-cognitive therapy.  It disgusts me more and more as I see my issues more clearly.  For me, the time issue is a major part of it, and organization is the other.  I spend so much of it trying to figure out how to manage these issues.   My husband, on the other hand, figures out this type of thing so quickly that he has infinitely more time than me to devote to other executive functioning tasks I frankly struggle to do (like anticipate, which is part of thoughtfulness, right?).   I have been working steadily the entire summer to purge and organize my school papers (I'm a teacher) into a system that is more fully ADHD-friendly.  I have tried every variation of every system I have seen other teachers do, and none have worked for me.  But my new system doesn't have any of the flaws of the previous one.  I have been looking for a solution to this ongoing issue for about a dozen years.  When you work this hard and long for something so simple to others without the disorder, it becomes clearer (to me, at least) WHY we ADHDers have this tendency.  When you can't get out of your own way, you don't always realize that you're in other people's way, and even if you do, how do you manage your time to negotiate all of those tasks that "responsible adults" accomplish?   My non-ADHD colleagues don't struggle like this.  This task has been so all-consuming because I am SO DAMN BAD at it, and frankly there was so much to do.  Now, don't get me wrong, I do have the summer off.  I have also been spending time with my children, trying to maintain the cleanliness of the rest of the house (my office being the final frontier of doom).  My classroom was at an all-time low as I was so distraught about my relationship, I couldn't sleep, focus, etc...  I need all hands on deck to stay organized on a good day, and I was a repeating loop of fight with spouse, lack of sleep, worsened symptoms, difficulty focusing due to lack of sleep, fight again, truce, START to get organized... and repeat, ad nauseum.  The entire school year.  The paper situation got out of control.  I hate paper and it really doesn't care for me, either.

I have been making steady progress with my office/papers.  As the inherent lack of structure in the summer is difficult for me, this is a new accomplishment.     Part of this accomplishment is resisting my very strong hyperfocus which is currently aiming at school/office, and recognize that my husband feels demoralized when I focus on my shit and don't clean because I'm going to do it "later" when I'm done my tasks.  I might not think of this as selfish, because I don't plan out time like other people do and I don't "mean" to slack off.  Either I say with utmost sincerity that I will "do it later," which doesn't predictably happen as my sense of prospective time is horrifically bad.  Or my husband feels slighted and like he's an afterthought; and he is stressed because I don't attend to cleaning or other family-centered tasks in a timely matter, or without a reminder from him.  I might not even be aware enough to keep track of whether my promises are plausible.  It is not natural for me to anticipate and always think of the impact of my actions/inaction in a case like this.  In my mind, it's not like I punched him in the face, and I certainly didn't do it to be mean.   I didn't plan it that way, because I didn't fully plan!  But the fact is if I am affecting my husband and my family, it is selfish.  It isn't selfish in the way I am used to thinking of it; with malice and actual planning and intent.  But I am starting to realize that I still need to address it as seriously as if it were rooted in such character flaws.

For the first time in my life. I am actually learning how to juggle multiple things a little more effectively; the outside of the house, the inside, my kids, my chores, my own projects.  I put time limits on my activities to break up the tasks.  Sounds simple, right?  Perhaps even automatic?  HELL, NO.  If your frontal lobe is normal, perhaps. 

But I have blown off my friends this summer.  A big part of it is because I am so down about my marriage, and I just want to focus on the organization and my marriage.  I keep thinking if I just get my marriage and my things under control, I will be in a better position to be a more responsive friend.  Because I will have more time, even once school starts, because I can't focus in a disorganized room, and right now my office is disorganized like my classroom was.  So even now, as I am trying to make some unselfish decisions, in my eagerness to resolve my issues I have dropped other balls.  So now I'm selfish again...

Hoping it gets better with my hard work...  I won't give up.  I'm far too stubborn for that :D!

Thankyou for your insight!


Hi Jon,

I've been married to a man for nearly 14 years who can't leave the house until it's time to be where we are supposed to be - making us always late... Who can't plan ahead for anything, be it birthdays, the upcoming weekend... Everything is last minute - and with three kids that basically means we go nowhere and do nothing. I try to convince him to save up and plan for a new (second hand) car BEFORE the current one breaks down - but that's impossible. Getting him focused on tax time or insurance etc etc is a nightmare. I can see his eyes glaze over. It's not like I enjoy these things! But I have to plan ahead, because he is just incapable, it seems. From the small stuff like 'what to wear tomorrow' to the big stuff 'who should take care of the kids if we were incapable?' I just can't seem to keep him focused. But - he can interject over important stuff with his latest insight into his special interest. (He takes no interest in my interests of course.) I've read on this site about ADDers who get angry quickly etc. My hubby doesn't really do that much anymore - I guess he's mellowing as he's aging - or I'm getting better at managing him! lol 

I'm sorry Jon to read about what you say you've put your wife through... I hope you have told her how much you regret it? Because, as a wife in perhaps a similar situation, I've got to say - I don't always 'get it'. There are times that I just feel exasperated and exhausted. Being told 'thank you for all the effort you put in' - makes a big emotional difference and stops me feeling totally unappreciated. And you know - when my dear husband comes home from work and I ask him 'how was your day?' while I'm making dinner and he just about gets through telling me then walks away without ever asking me how mine was.... It's those kinds of things that actually hurt the most. And the fact that he's been lured away by a repeat of The Simpsons on the TV - not even to say Hi to the kids - doesn't help one bit. I'm not even more interesting than a REPEAT of The Simpsons. It really doesn't make me feel special! lol

Knowing what causes it, helps a bit. But it doesn't fix everything. I'm not perfect - I get tired, my emotional batteries run down and I lose the ability to feel generous and loving when I'm not getting anything much back. If I could get rid of the ADD - I totally would. And, that might remove some of his naughty sense of humour, his wit and sparkle... Which I would mourn. But - not being the LAST to my own birthday dinner - that would be seriously good too!