ADD Husband Asks for Help Turning Marriage Around

You know you have ADD.  Your marriage is disintegrating and you think the ADD might have something to do with it, but you can’t figure out what to do improve things.  What do you do?  This post is very long, but worth the 10 minutes you’ll need to take to get through it as it gets at the very heart of what goes wrong in many ADD relationships.  I think every couple struggling with ADD can learn important coping skills from my response to this man’s question.
The man who posted the comment that inspired this post is completely typical of the high achieving ADD man.  In spite of his business success, his story shows these classic patterns of a downwardly spiraling ADD relationship at home:

  • He adores his wife, but she no longer knows this
  • They are now in a parent/child relationship
  • He is trying to address his ADD, but not aggressively enough
  • Both he and his wife are working completely solo at this point, rather than supporting each other, so any victories are lost in their struggles
  • She’s very, very angry, and her anger is coloring all of their interactions
  • They are both desperate (he shows it in his plea for help, she shows it in her punishing him and her retreat from him)
  • She is contemplating divorce, he is scared she’ll leave and becoming paralyzed – fearing that he won’t “guess right” in how he chooses to respond

Here’s the post:

“I suffer with ADHD hyperactivity and impulsivity.  As a kid, I was diagnosed with ADHD with the same issues when I was in kindergarten.  I took Ritalin up until I started high school and my parents took me off of it b/c I became involved in sports.  I graduated from high school and went on to college and graduated.  I am 42 now and am successful in my career.

About 5 months ago, my wife and I started to have some marriage difficulties which really brought a lot of my ADHD symptoms to the surface.  I read both of Dr. Hallowell's books and, unknowingly, I have managed to survive and be fairly successful by applying the tips to successfully manage my ADHD symptoms without medication for all of these years.  Nonetheless, I am an adult sufferer of ADHD and this has caused A LOT of damage to my marriage.

My wife is the love of my life.  Nonetheless, about 5 months ago she felt that she was becoming lost in our marriage and she lost herself and her identity.  In the process, she built up a lot of anger and resentment towards me.  In all of this, the communication between the two of us broke down and she put up huge walls around herself to protect herself b/c I over-reacted by not being the sole focus of her life.  I don't want to be her sole focus but I also do not want to be no focus, either.

Over the past five months she has taken off her wedding rings.  Moved me into our daughter's bedroom.  Has told me on a few occasions that she wants a divorce.  Has given me the "I need space" lecture many times to figure things out.

Three months ago, I went to the psychiatrist and he started me back again on fast acting Ritalin.  During the day, I seem to focus pretty well.  The meds work for about 4 hours and then wear off.  I take 10 mg 3x's /day.  Around 8 o clock, I start to lose focus and we get into our arguments around bedtime.  I think part of it is I want to let her know that I am trying and I love her. Also, I am pissed b/c I want back in my bed with my wife.  My daughter's bed is too short and I can't get a good night’s sleep.  We fight or argue around 10 o clock and the next day I get up and say...why did I do that?  Is there a rebound or withdrawal effect  b/c the meds are wearing off?

The problem is I set out to try and give her the space that she needs but I continually blow up every attempt that I make to try and do this.  I can go for about 3-5 days but then I do something stupid.  I don't want to go another 5 months let alone five days like this.

All I want is for my wife and I to be happy.  She realizes that I have ADD but she says that that shouldn't be an excuse for my behavior.  I love her and the kids and she says for me to show her rather than tell her. If anyone has experienced this or can provide help or insight...I am willing to listen.

I don't want to lose my wife and family.  But because I have blown things up so much...she thinks my word isn't very good right now.”

Though the picture he paints is bleak, there are a number of ideas embedded right in the post that point the way to making things immediately better for this couple.
First, and most importantly, this man’s ADD is not being adequately treated.  Yes, he has pills, but they wear off at an important point of day (resulting in repeated friction with his spouse) AND he needs to include behavioral therapy as well as the medications to succeed.  Research shows, over and over again, that people with ADD are most successful when they learn new ways to communicate and do specific tasks in addition to taking medication.  And, yes, one of the side effects of Ritalin can be a “coming down” period as it wears off during which you are very cranky.  So some of his behavior at night is likely linked directly to his medical regimen.  So, this man should:

  • Find a medicine regimen that wears off right when he is going to bed, not at 8:00, which leaves him too vulnerable to the impulsivity that is hurting his wife, himself and his relationship.  Long acting meds in the morning might help change his timetable, or taking his afternoon or evening med at a different time (such as dinner).  The goal is NO side effects – right now the “coming down” side effect is wreaking havoc with his life…so he and his doctor should keep trying!  (Another approach – exercise in the evening.  Hard aerobic exercise focuses the brain for several hours and might provide the link he needs until bedtime.  The treatment doesn’t have to be medicinal, it just has to work!)
  • Insist that his psychiatrist partner with him to find just the right configuration of meds AND help him with changing his behaviors.  He mentions that he has trouble separating from his wife in ways that satisfy them both.  He needs to work with someone to figure out what patterns WILL work for them both, then practice them.  This is called behavior therapy – when you specifically work to change behavior patterns.  Once he gets going, he’ll find that changing some behaviors is more important than changing others.  His wife and psychiatrist can help him identify what to work on.  If the psychiatrist is the wrong person for this counseling for some reason, then get a therapist.  The point is this – the coping strategies that this man has in place right now aren’t enough.  He needs to identify areas of continued need, and then address them.  His wife says as much when she says she wants action, not words.
  • Enlist his wife’s help.  She is furious right now, in part because she thinks he is all words and no action.  But if he changes his meds (and tells her why he is doing so, and that his new goal is no side effects and symptom relief throughout the entire day and evening) then she can help him monitor his success.  Not to do so would be a form of spousal sabotage because ADD people are notoriously bad self-evaluators.  And she is the one closest to seeing those behaviors that need to be changed.  She may be mad, but if she’s worth her salt (and not just being mean to hurt him), when he starts to take action she’ll be willing to help him keep it up.

If this man takes better control of his treatment, he will be moving out of the realm of “excuse” and into the realm of taking charge in a positive way.  His wife will see this, even though she may not immediately respond.  She is likely at the point where she won’t believe he can keep up his changes…she’s seen too many times when his good intentions just petered out and she ended up feeling disappointed again.  Those walls he says she has erected are there as a protection against the hurt of repeated disappointment.  So, it’s in his best interests to keep up weekly (or twice a week) appointments with a therapist, and pursue getting the treatment just right…then keeping it that way (sometimes you have to adjust things).  It's in his best interests in any event, and over time she’ll trust that these changes are here to stay.

His wife also needs help.  She is feeling completely depressed, angry and embattled at this point.  She resents that he can’t help himself better, and she is looking for every possible way to punish him into doing more.  He wants to be closer to her, so she insists that she needs space.  (I’m guessing what she really needs isn’t space, what she really needs is a husband she loves again – then she wouldn’t require the space.  But asking for space is both the ultimate punishment for him, and a way of pulling herself out of the current pain.)  She has even stopped wearing her wedding rings to make sure he understands that he is in the doghouse and on his own.

This couple has moved into the classic parent/child dynamic.  The wife is the mother who is “completely in charge”, kicking him out of his own bed, threatening to leave him, and setting down lots of rules.  But the irony here is that she wouldn’t treat her KIDS this way – she would consider it inhumane.  (“Sorry – you keep wetting your bed – you’re going to need to sleep out in the yard tonight!” would be inconceivable to her, I’m sure.  So would “Son, you’re not good enough for me.  I think I’ll desert you and let you find a new mom.  But before I leave for good I’m going to make sure you know I CAN leave by putting a sign on your wall to tell you I’m thinking about it.”)  Unlike her normal parenting style, she’s turned into a caricature of a parent to her husband – something she probably realizes deep inside and hates.

Which I can completely relate to, as it happened to me, too.  I finally grew tired of my husband repeatedly disappointing me (and in my case being so distracted that I was alone all the time) and started to badger and punish him in the thought that he would get it right if I only pushed him hard enough.  He was a smart adult…given enough “motivation”, I suspected he really could change.  THIS is the hugely destructive parent/child pattern that so many couples struggling with ADD fall into.  It’s destructive because it diminishes the ADD partner, but even worse, it takes away the humanity of the person in the “pseudo-mom” role.  Her husband, in his post, refers to this without realizing it when he says “about 5 months ago she felt that she was becoming lost in our marriage and she lost herself and her identity”.  In other words, she started to really dislike herself and the way she was becoming, and she placed the blame for this upon him and his ADD.  I’ve been there, and it’s a terrible place to be.  You start to hate who you’ve become (as well as your spouse), and you can’t seem to pull yourself out of it because of this terrible dynamic you’ve gotten into with your spouse.  You want things to change but he isn’t changing because he isn’t fully addressing the ADD symptoms at the heart of your issues.  If he doesn’t get better treatment, then he doesn’t change – at least not permanently.  But a miserable spouse makes the wrong conclusion - that he CAN’T change unless she forces him to, so she goes after him to MAKE him change.  This tactic might work with someone who lacks motivation, but has the skills.  But it doesn’t work when the underlying issue is ADD symptoms that need treatment.  This man is plenty motivated…but doesn’t know HOW to change.  It’s like telling someone who needs glasses to try harder to see, without providing them with glasses.  (Doesn’t feel like it when you are blinded by your anger, but trust me on this one…when the anger goes away and the symptoms are treated FULLY, the behaviors should also go away…provided the ADD person isn’t completely paralyzed by that time by his wife’s anger.)

The worst part of all is that the spouse ends up being angry at both herself and her spouse. She’s mad at herself for behaving so badly at the same time she hates him for being so weak and putting her in this position in the first place.  This is when divorce starts to look appealing.  This man’s wife has walled herself off from him because she couldn’t stand it the impact he seemed to be having on her – “In the process, she built up a lot of anger and resentment towards me.  In all of this, the communication between the two of us broke down and she put up huge walls around herself to protect herself”.

What is terrible about this set up is that it is so hard to break out of this pattern.  To be successful, both partners need to be involved.  The husband needs to take charge of himself and his life more effectively (which she will respect when he does).  Letting ADD get in the way every night at 8pm is not effective treatment.  He needs to push himself to fulfill his half of the marital bargain by pushing until he gets the best treatment possible – both physically, and behaviorally.  She was interested at one time and I suspect that there are many reasons that she might want to continue to be his partner – if they can get out of this current pattern.

At the same time, it is in everyone’s best interest if the wife comes to understand her anger and starts to take control of her life in a way that actually moves her towards a positive outcome.  He will respect this behavior, as well as be grateful for it.  This new direction would be a different direction than the one that she is currently taking, which is only making her life worse (forget about anyone else right now – her actions are making her life much worse than it needs to be).

Let me explain.  Right now her path reinforces the negatives in their relationship.  She remains the bad parent, ignoring some of her husband’s basic needs as a human being (for example, the need for autonomy and the need for connection) as well as her own basic needs for those same things.  The role of parent to her husband will ALWAYS infuriate her because it’s not a natural partnership role (nor romantic), thus “parent mode” is always destructive.  She needs to find a different role in order to move forward in a positive way.  I would suggest that role should be “best person she can be”.  This is the role that I took, and I found it incredibly freeing.  It made ME responsible for me, and allowed me to focus on being good, forgiving, thoughtful, and self-centered enough (in a good way) to set boundaries that I felt good about.

Her desire to punish him (which results from her anger and lack of other ideas/options for how to get him to change) hurts her at least as much as it hurts him.  The result of her punishment (putting him in a different room to sleep, for example) is to increase his anger.  Again, if she is looking for positive change, this isn’t a good solution.  Same with her pushing him away.  She may be doing this in part to protect herself and cling to some sense of her own identity as a non-mother wife, but relationships never thrive when the two parties are disconnected.  Furthermore, the more she pushes him away, the more insecure that he gets about whether she’ll actually be there for him – increasing the very neediness she is trying to dismiss.  No, she would be much more likely to get what she wants if she could be empathetic, tolerant and (even better) involved in cheering on his efforts to develop effective ways to deal with his ADD.  In other words, if she could be the good person she wants to be, employ some empathy about this trick box he is currently in, and set down rules for herself, not him, she would be far better off.

Right now it is actually her anger, not his ADD symptoms, that makes it so hard for them to repair their marriage.  It is a poison that hurts them, and their kids (who are most likely emotionally responding to the lack of stability in the household right now).  She needs to address it.  (If you doubt this, think back to when they were dating.  He had his ADD symptoms then and they did so well they decided to get married.  Yes, it’s a simplification because marriage adds other stressors, such as taking care of kids and finances, that didn’t exist before.  But her anger is a key new ingredient in how poorly they are doing.  Which is not to say he doesn’t need to do anything more about his ADD – he clearly does if he is going to be a successful partner.  But the repair of their relationship right now depends upon her overcoming and letting go of her anger.)

She can address her anger about her marriage in one of two ways.  She can give up and simply go for a divorce, thus ridding herself of day-to-day contact with him (the irritant).  However, this option isn’t optimal because they have kids and will still need to have some sort of future relationship which, ultimately means that she MUST address her anger if she doesn’t want long term misery.  So it’s in her best interests to make a pact with her husband that they will both take responsibility for their own actions while trying to support and communicate respectfully with the other.  She will benefit greatly if she takes charge of her anger in all possible outcomes (divorce, separation, staying married…she benefits in all of these outcomes if she has diffused her anger).  If she continues to allow it to fester she hurts herself and her children and, yes, even her husband (or ex-husband), again, in all possible outcomes.

Just as treating the husband’s ADD is completely his responsibility (one hopes he’ll get support from her, but it is 100% his responsibility) so treating her anger is 100% her responsibility.  She can’t pin it on him.  If she allows the anger to continue to exist in her then it’s her responsibility to deal with how to diffuse it (and there are many, many choices for how to do this).  She can choose to allow anger to be her response or she can choose not to let her anger take over.

My “prescription” for doing something about anger varies by person.  For me, the solution was to simply decide that my anger was too destructive to me to be a viable way of living anymore.  I simply stopped it dead and shifted gears.  (This realization was brought on by my discovery that my husband was having an affair and about to decamp from me and our kids – which was a very effective way of learning the true results of anger, though teaching me that being mean didn’t work wasn’t his intention when he went elsewhere…and I don’t recommend this way of learning to anyone!)  Another option for diffusing anger is to seek therapy.  A third is to learn how to forgive the other person (and yourself).  Or, perhaps some combination of all of these or some other option.

I actually think that this couple can succeed.  Unlike some, this man knows about his ADD, understands that it is affecting him and others around him (one of the singularly hardest things to understand), and adores his wife.  They have kids, giving them incentive to hang in there and try to work things out.  At this point, he needs to move into action (getting help from his psychiatrist, this blog, and any other resource he can muster – he doesn’t need to do this alone).  She needs to come to the understanding that her anger is equally as destructive as his ADD, maybe more so, and start to take her life, her personality, and their relationship back (a therapist who understands ADD can help her alot).  They haven’t been in this pattern for too long (I was in it for over 10 years before coming out of it – years and years of unneeded misery that I mourn) and so they have the opportunity to turn things around before they get into it even more deeply.

I hope they can both throw their biases and anger aside long enough to start to think like partners again.  The stakes are high, but the rewards even higher.

Oh, and as for that “sleeping in the daughter’s room” thing.  I would put that on the agenda as one of the first items to resolve.  It’s his room, too, and they are adults.  Rationally (and I know this isn’t rational, this is punishment) if she is uncomfortable with what's going on in the bedroom, then she should be leaving to sleep in another room, not forcing him to.  It’s time to talk a bit (during a time of day when he is adequately medicated and she is feeling somewhat calm) about what’s underneath her request.  If it’s simply to get him to pay attention, she’s achieved that…time to relent.  If are also underlying sexual issues (and I suspect there are…you don’t get to this stage of anger without thinking you don’t want to have anything to do with your hubby sexually) then they should make an agreement that he can sleep in his own bed (and she in her own bed, which at this point happens to be the same one) and that they won’t have sex – or even ask to have sex – between the hours of one half hour before bedtime to one half hour after bedtime.  This doesn’t mean they can’t have sex ever…it just “depoliticizes” and de-stresses the act of getting into the bed if you don’t have to wonder whether or not you are going to have to tell your spouse to back off.  (If they want to have sex, they can have it at a different time.)

When they get to a point where they can sleep in the same bed without discomfort, they might consider going one step further and agreeing to spend some time holding hands, cuddling or doing some other sort of non-sexual touching (in bed or during the day).  This helped my husband and me a lot as we were coming out of the period that this couple is currently in.  We chose to do this in bed - we set our alarms for 10 minutes early, then agreed that we would cuddle a bit and find something nice to say to each other to start the day out.  It wasn’t long before we actually MEANT those nice things we were saying to each other (familiarity breeds familiarity, not contempt in this case!) and it helped us start the day off on a nice note.  For this couple, which has had more trouble in the evening, perhaps night would be a good time to try this…but not until the “sleeping in the bed” thing has been de-stressed.

A final thought on sleeping elsewhere.  When your relationship is on the raocks, there are some times when things are too stressful to sleep in the same bed.  It’s important to have another “safe” place to go to if this happens to you.  The couple should agree ahead of time that either person, if they feel uncomfortable, can go elsewhere as a way to diffuse their discomfort and that they will talk during daylight hours about what the underlying issues are that need to be solved.  In the meantime, going elsewhere should be an option that means nothing other than “I’m having trouble sleeping here” and brings with it no hard feelings from either party, nor any retribution (you don’t lose your ability to sleep in your own bed the next night, for example, nor do you blame your spouse for your own uneasiness).  Choosing to sleep elsewhere should be anyone’s choice…without consequences (other than the need for an additional blanket, perhaps!) but it should not be the choice of one spouse to boot the other one out.  You’re uncomfortable…you move.  Then you work with your partner to find a creative way to address what made you uncomfortable in the first place.  The couple that can’t resolve this issue won’t stay married very long (and booting your spouse out is a form of not resolving it).

One final thought.  It helped me a great deal to stop thinking about my relationship as a “marriage” and start thinking about it as a “relationship”.  This helped me put my husband back on equal footing as someone responsible for his own actions and worthy of support.  “Relationship” was how we thought when we were dating…”Marriage” felt bigger than just us two people, and carried some scary ideas with is, such as “forever”, that were too hard to contemplate when we were in trouble.  Somehow "forever" kept getting in the way by making the stakes too scary.  "Relationship" brings you back to "two equal people" who are trying to enjoy each other...which is where this couple needs to move to.

Sorry about the length of this post, but there was simply too much here to address…




Husband asking for help posting

I am a wife in a similar situation. We're both older, 68 and 71. The disappointments I've felt are many, over 8 years (second marriage for me, 5th for him) of abusive behavior from my husband (with ADHD) include lots of rage episodes from him where he calls me every nasty name he can think of, all in situations not created by me....and promises of all sorts, his constant egocentric behaviors. He won't accompany me to counseling, where he might get the help he so desperately needs....and I don't dare even mention ADHD, or his behaviors, to him. That would set him off on another rage. He brags about being able to "manage" himself without medication or help of any sort, and as a result of his self management, he has no close friends, people in groups he tries to join avoid him, and his family keeps their distance. I've wanted to help him by being supportive and understanding, but that's taking its toll on my peace and tranquility. I've decided to get a divorce, and have currently returned to work after 8 years so I will be able to support myself when that happens. I married him because I thought he was a kind, loving person. My point in writing is this. The posting I just read makes the wife out to be angry, defensive and withdrawn. I'm wondering if you or her husband really know how she's feeling. Have you asked her? I'm not angry, I'm myself as well as my ADHD husband. I've learned, at his hands, not to react defensively. That only makes his rages worse. I am withdrawn, at home around him. It's a protective mechanism I use admittedly. Just please ask the man's wife how she's feeling. Anger may not be her issue.

Anger may not be the issue

There is certainly a weakness in trying to help people who write a few paragraphs, no doubt.  I think I'm pretty good at reading between the lines, though I am also certain that I don't always get it right.  Sometimes the person who originally posted comes back to comment and correct me, sometimes I remain uncorrected.

In this case, I think it's quite possible that while anger isn't your issue (you say as much) it is the issue for the man's wife.  It's hard for me to imagine a scenario where a woman takes off her wedding rings, requires her husband sleep in another room and repeatedly tells him she wants space from him and is considering divorce that wouldn't involve anger.  The calmer words that you use, on the other hand, would indicate sadness, disappointment and a concrete plan to move forward (resignation, not anger).

Again, the woman didn't write the post, the husband did, and I would of course welcome the woman's point of view.  We get that sometimes on the forum (both spouses contributing), though admittedly not often.  But when we do get it, it provides real insight into the relationship.

Thanks for your critique!


I think the other poster makes a good point

I have to agree with the other poster, Melissa. I think it is entirely possible to ask your husband to sleep in another room and even to remove your wedding ring without anger. I am near that situation myself and I am not angry. I am any combination of hurt, sad, lonely, tired, disappointed, and frustrated, but the one thing I am not is angry.

My husband is currently sleeping in the other bedroom. I am considering divorce. I need space from my husband--not to punish him but, as the other writer wrote, to protect my own self (emotionally). When your partner isn't a partner, when the only thing he is consistent with is breaking promises, when he is alternately charming and distant, when you have tried counseling and he is in therapy and taking his meds but things are not improving, there is nothing to be angry about. His sleeping in the other room is NOT about punishment--it is about self-preservation.

I read a lot of your writing on this site and often you talk about the non-ADD spouse's anger as being a big part of the problem--you seem sort of fixated on it sometimes. But what about when it is not a significant part of the problem? What if the ADDer is a good person, and the spouse recognizes that, but also the ADDer is someone who just does not even begin to hold up his(her) part of the partnership? Isn't it better to lead "separate" lives within the house than to completely break up or, alternatively, try to make things better, again, when you've already tried "the usual" (counseling, meds, lists, etc.)?

Anger vs. Disappointment

Thanks for your insight and comment.  I give on the anger issue, and will let the original poster and/or his wife answer the question if/when he/she comes back, rather than continuing to guess about it.

Yes, it clearly is possible to not be angry in this situation, as you both have pointed out, so my biases show here.  I am willing (and, in this case, actually happy) to be corrected.

Have you decided that your life is good living separate lives in the same house?  It seems as if you have come to terms with your life not being as connected as you originally had hoped and have created something else that you like, which is excellent.  I don't subscribe to the idea that our spouses need to be the only people who can help us find fulfillment.  How did you get to where you are?  I would love to have you describe it for the readers of this site.  The more life "options" they get exposed to, and the more points of view, the better.

And, to be clear, I don't think learning to live with an ADD person is all about a quest for perfection.  No one is perfect.  We all make choices about who we will be, and who we will live with that are imperfect.  So there certainly comes a time when further counseling or meds or anything else has diminishing return.  But you have gotten to a different place than I did, and seem satisfied with it, so any insight you can provide would be excellent!





Lili and her comment about wife's anger

Melissa.... Is it possible for people who read and respond to postings on this website to connect with each other by email? Lili's comment on Tuesday, 11/04/2008 was encouraging to me, causing me want to share thoughts, in a supportive way, directly with her and others who are in situations similar to my own. In the 8 plus years I've been with my husband, I've often wished for a support group of women in marriages similar to my own. I've tried everything I can think of to help save our relationship and nothing's working. Perhaps a support group could help give me new hope through better understanding. Also, thank you for your response to mine on the anger issue. I'm just trying to be as thoughtful and understanding as I can be with my ADHD husband. I'm wanting to live a more balanced well-adjusted life...preferably with him. Thanks again....Sharla

Interaction among website participants


The best way to be supportive to members who comment (and the ones who will be coming to the site in the future) is to provide your comments right in the forums and in responses to the blog postings.  By participating in the community such as this, your insights will have a much broader reach that one-to-one communications.

The forums serve as a good place for support, as individuals can ask questions or describe their challenges and successes, and others can provide their insight or merely read and learn about others' experiences.

I a few very special cases, I have acted as an intermediary between members of this community.  I do not give anyone someone else's email without premission from both parties.  I can only contact individuals who leave comments as registered users (those who do not have "not verified" behind their names - for example, I could only respond to you via posting your comment and then replying to it in public, since you posted the comment as anonymous by not having been registered AND signed-in when posting the comment).

Lastly, I have the ability to create self-forming and self-administrating groups (ala Facebook) on the site (while still maintaining complete privacy - about which I am a fanatic), but Melissa and I feel that at this time, it is best for most discussions to be open to the public at large, so that the site can have the broadest positive impact on the largest numbers of people.  Your thoughts about this are welcome.


George ~ Please Reconsider

Dear George,
I have learned from and enjoyed most posts I have read on this website.  But one author spoke to me in a way that none of the others did.  We had so many commonalities relating to our ADD husbands that we were a natural fit.  We were two of the few long term marriages on your website.  We both experienced common problems regarding 30+ year marriages, as well as the added confusion that an ADD husband creates.

Not being aware of your policies, I posted a response to this person with a new e-mail address, that I created just to correspond with her.  My post was deleted due to your policies, but through the goodness of your heart, you realized that we both wanted the same thing ~ and that was to be able to correspond.  With both our permissions, you got us together.  I have never thanked you for what has turned out to be a friendship that we both treasure.  We are bonded in our commonality of an ADD husband, but it has gone beyond that.  She is my sounding board, confident and teacher. 

Please reconsider your policy.  I am aware that this will create an added burden on you, but if you give even one more set of people, the pleasure and knowledge that we have shared,  you will be doing a greater service than you know.

Katherine, friend of Colleen

Her response to seeing the post

First of all, thank you for taking the time to post a response.  I didn't expect such a thoughtful and thorough response from you.  I did read your post and it makes complete sense to me.  I go to see the psychiatrist tomorrow and hopefully we can get my meds tweaked. 

As far as anger vs. Self preservation there are both involved here.  She is angry about a number of things and she is also trying to protect herself emotionally from me to. I have done good and bad over the past 8 1/2 years.  Lately more bad than good due to her distancing from me.  On her part too much talk on my part and not enough action.  What she fails to realize, or I think she fails to, is it took two people to get to the point where we are at.  She allowed things to get to this point as did I.  She is following your advice to take her life and personality back.  Just not the relationship piece until i am "fixed." 

I printed out your response and showed it to her.   She made it to about page four before coming down and saying that I left a lot of things out in my original post.  In her defense, when I gave her your post...she was in bed.  It was around 9:30.  She said that she had a migraine and I told her this could wait.  She said no I will read it.  So I gave her the post. 

So here goes...When all of this began I caught her in a lie and suspected that she might be having an affair.  In the ensuing month and a half I watched her every move like a guard dog which made her feel uncomfortable in our house. She felt like a caged animal and wanted to escape all of the time.  Going out to escape our marriage and not really being the person I married or had grown accustomed to.  Because I was pursuing and pressuring her so much for what can I do to make things better, in essence, I was pushing her out of the house.  It seemed that she was gone more than she was home.  She did nothing to rassure me that she wasn't having an affair.  She half heartedly told me her bags weren't packed and she was staying though.  She did things like lock her cell phone, withhold information, etc... which appeared that she was or at least having an emotional affair.  So, I asked her friends, my friends, anyone if they knew what was going on with her.  In the process I crossed a lot of boundaries looking for answers.  Their reply was to give her space.  She said that for 8 years I have given you no reason for me to not trust her so why should I not trust her now.  My response is that she lied to me and hadn't done that before.  In the process we had stopped having sex and she said she wouldn't with me until we were BEST FRIENDS again.  My thought was no sex = she must be having an affair.  How can I be her friend, let alone her best friend, when she doesn't talk to me or want to do anything with me? 

I had just been diagnosed with the ADHD around three months ago.  We had been seeing a marriage counselor and I asked that she be truthful with me no matter what.  We went to a friend's house and I found out from one of our friends that she wasn't honest about something again.  That night we got into a fight because it appeared that she had checked out of our marriage.  I accused her of not wanting to be a mom anymore and a wife.  In Dr. Hallowell's book it says that ADHD people function best on schedules and routines.  She was goingout all of the time and we have three kids who are all ADHD and the middle one suffers from Asperger's too.  I thought a schedule would do the trick.  Especially in a house with 4 adders.  Man did I ever create a list.  Proudly, I showed her my handywork and boy did it backfire.  She accused me of being controlling and possessive and said that she didn't want to live like this anymore.  She said it is sad that every detail of our life needs to be scheduled.  What will happen when something doesn't go exactly as it should on the schedule?  You will freakout.  She took of her rings.  She said that she wouldn't put them back on until things changed.

In the process, she became uncomfortable sleeping in the same bed with me because she said that I kept her up every night talking to her about when was she going to start working on our marriage?  She didn't want to talk about it then nor does she now.  I have no idea what to do b/c I don't think she has an idea what she wants.  The marriage counselor gave her the idea of separate spaces and boy did she take to it.  Her plan was to move me out of the bedroom and move my daughter in.  So she did.  The counselor thought that it might alleviate some tension and make her more comfortable in our house.

I miss my friend, my wife, and my lover.  I have no idea how to regain that.   If she said jump through this hoop I would.  If she said light myself on fire I would.  Whichever tunnel that appeared to be a light at I would go down.  She does do little things for me here and there and she responds for me to be happy with what she can give me now.  She knows and I know that I want more.  So she feels pressured.  She gives so much to our kids and her friends and I feel left out. 

Her response to reading most of your reply was...until you fix what is wrong with you we can't fix us.  I said maybe a little understanding and empathy from you might help.  Her reply was we have three kids with ADHD I can't be your savior all of the time.  You need to focus on you, not us, not the family...but you...that was what I told you five months ago!  Then she went to bed. 

To be continued... 

To Sad Hubby

Thanks for posting back.  I'm thinking about you...and the other responses to my post...but want to give you some time to talk with your therapist about all that is going on in your head.

Your wife is right about one thing, at least.  You must be responsible for dealing with your ADD.  She can't really help you with it, other than being supportive.  It sounds as if she has decided, for whatever reason, to withdraw her support right now...take that as a cue that you need OTHER support.  Fine!  Not insurmountable.  You did get along in life before your wife was there!  Perhaps you can talk with your therapist about trying to figure out the 1-3 MOST important things you need to work on, right now, to give you some specific focus...and WHY they are important for you.  Then you might take the list back to your wife (but NOT at night when she has a migraine) and see if she agrees that those are priorities that will also help her.  (If she says that she has other priorities, then there is something to be learned about figuring out how to mesh the two lists).  Rely on your therapist and people other than your wife for support right now, as hard as that may be, and respect her request for space, recognizing that by definition it must be temporary.  Eventually, you will both need to figure out how to get back together and meet in the middle.

As for the potential of an affair.  Let it go right now if you haven't done so already.  You won't be ready to deal with issues of emotional fidelity until you have figured out how to better address your ADD issues and your relationship is turning back in a more comfortable direction.  To try to deal with who is lying right now, or who isn't will only hurt you.  It is completely and totally in your best interests to drop it and stop trying to catch her in any lies.

'Nuf said now.  Let us know what happens.


DF's picture

To SadHubby cc: Melissa

Dude - let it go.  I'm familiar with some of your pain.  If she's not showing me affection, she must be showing someone else.  STOP!

I'm very non-confontational so I don't approach my wife and that's been a problem that has built up and I'm here too as the issue with hope of being the solution. 

You want her trust, stop nagging her.  You're out of the room most likely because it's the one place she can go now in the "entire" house that she can get away from you.  Stop trying to catch her in a lie.  Inquiring about things with her friends may backfire badly.  I'm no professional, but it seems logical to me that when YOU do that, you force them in an uncomfortable position that usually ends up with them siding with your wife.  When your wife finds out - bad news for you and you are the facilitator of your own demise.

Stop trying to catch her in a lie.  Stop.

Believe in her.  Give her credit that she's still there with you.  That has to account for something.  If she's spending more time away from you -> you're the problem.  Address you and just try to be understanding of her and that she's upset and/or annoyed.  Not everyday will be easy, but that one day out of three weeks will make it all worth it.

There was a period of time when my wife spent more time texting on her phone with gosh knows who than she did even speaking to me.  She wouldn't even look at me in casual conversation.  Short yes and no answers only.  She would text me so she didn't have to speak to me and she would hardly text me at all.  The absolute anxiety this gave me.  It doesn't help anyone.  Not her and not you.  STOP!

Your wife is right about trust.  She needs to breath and if she's given you no reason to not trust her in the past then BELIEVE that it should be no different now.  I'm learning a hard lesson and that's that 12 years of me isn't going to be forgiven in 2 weeks.  I'm taking each day as it comes.  It's hard, one step forward then two steps back.  Trust is hard to earn once you've lost it.  Do you trust so easily?  If you want her trust, trust her in return.

Not sure here, but maybe a first easy step to take is to not question her about her going out.  Period.  If she tells you she's heading out, just say okay.  Nothing - just "Okay".  Do not be up at midnight or whatever when she comes home.  This is extremely tough when you have anxiety, but understand that if you're up at midnight, she'll come home at 1AM and so on and so forth.  I've been there, I am there.  I worry for her safety not about infidelity. 

You want to see progress - earn your place back in your room with time.  I have hope because when my wife is asleep and her guard is down I see that she still cares.  At the height of her exhaustion with me she couldn't get farther away when she slept.  Her back was always to me and she slept so far on the edge I wished we slept together on a twin mattress just to be close.  I've been working hard on not pressuring her and being as supportive as I can.  It was hard for a long time and I'm still in rough waters, but when she sleeps, sometimes she sleeps facing me or within a foot of me.  It litterally warms my heart and makes my upcoming day so worth waking up for.  No matter how uncomfortable I may be, I don't move so as not to stir her.  Earn your place SadHubby.

It's not enough to change.  You have to prove to her that it's permanent.

Good Luck to you Sir -

Any advice please... I'm with

Any advice please... I'm with you! Anger is not my issue, just diappointment. I know my husband is an amazing man and very confident, but can easliy get hurt feelings or doubt himself just when I am asking a ? or for help around the house..whatever the case. He's said that people in his past always got down on him. Either way when we argue he is defensive very defensive, mean and does name calling. The things I have gone to him with in confidentiality he later throws in my face out of anger. I understand he has ADD or ADHD however, its no excuse to hurt me by his actions or words to only later act like it never happened. His family has just let it go when he gets so upset, but I speak my opinion.. I do not want to feel walked on or that I deserve no matter how mad a person is to be called names. I am not angry with him but frustrated that he isn't doing all he can to get in control or work on our marriage, its tiring. After the fact he is very loving and kind and says everything I feel or need to hear and means it.. However in arguments is so demeaning with his words and brings up things that have no matter to the subject and expects me to just forget about it. I am beginning to not trust his word, to not confie(sp) in him. I am a stay at home mom and when things get really heated, he puts me down for not working, says he pays the bills, its his house, his car... etc. I DO NOT want to feel controlled or belittled. I'm sick of waiting for the right time to talk which could be days on end.. ugh.. I am a teacher or was and have worked with kids with ADD and have a great deal of patience, however I'm sick of being the target and him not being an adult and dealing with his issues. We tried counseling only for him to walk out.. tried just marital classes and had fun, although later he went against things he seemed proud to say about me. I do not deserve to be belittled and torn down in an argument because of his anger issues and am not sure what to do. I've been patient, we've tried alternative strategies, communication, being open about our feelings when we are doing okay.. things go great for a few months, then POW back to square one.. any advice from anyone would be helpful on what to do.. I think he needs new meds and this has come up, but he's waiting months til his next visit. Is it possible to meet with his doctor.. I know the patient doctor confidentiality agreement, but maybe he would have some advice.. I just don't know what to do

This is my first time at this

This is my first time at this website/blog and after reading the comments at least I don't feel alone. My husband of 24 years was just diagnosed with ADHD about a year ago. For pratically our whole marriage I wondered why I never got the responses or actions I was looking for when we talked or did something and now I know why. It started out in the very first few years with me asking him to go and get his hearing checked because he never seemed to hear anything I said. His ears were fine. We were married for 6 years before having kids and both worked, took care of our home, dogs, etc. Always busy doing something, but never really connecting mentally or emotionally. I arranged vacations to get him away from his work, but he never relaxed on vacation either. Always had/has to be doing something. After the kids came my life revolved around them and he helped, but if there was ever a decision to be made about anything that was my job..."go ask your mother". Now one is in college and one is a senior in high school and he has yet to help with any college searching, paperwork, etc. Can't handle the amount of work I guess. He's never been able to pay the monthly bills or gather tax information together either. The company he works for would've paid for him to finish college but he couldn't get himself to do that either, even with my encouragement. I am in the anger stage of this relationship now and I feel my anger is justified. I take offense to the fact that I have to adjust my emotions after all I've been through with him. I too have taken off my wedding rings but that was after he told his ex-wife in front of me that I had to have my rings cut off because I gained too much weight. I too have kicked him out of the bedroom but that's because the only time we ever had sex was in the middle of the night when he woke me up because it was convenient for him to have it then. He never came to bed at the same time I did because he was always too busy working at his desk in the house; not even during our "honeymoon" stage. As I look back I don't believe we've ever "made love", we've just had sex. Divorce is not an option because I have no where to go; no family and I'm 57 years old and quit my job to stay home with the kids. The economy hasn't helped at all and now my husband's job with GM may be gone, we have a house on Cape Cod that we couldn't afford when we bought it as a rental but my husband wanted to impress his ex-wife (real estate agent) and son so he bought it without us really talking about it when it came down to the wire. I have kept working part time since I left GM, but had to change jobs every time we moved (6 times) so my paycheck is really not substantial. Feeling very frustrated and angry.

Way to help?

Is there a way that we can, as a community here, help you in some specific way?


mradhd's picture

I Love my Wife - I don't want to lose her

First let me say that I am so thankful for this website. I am finally realizing what my true problem is. Unfortunately, my wife has left me for all of the exact same reasons that every other spouse of and ADHD adult has written about, asking for advice & help.  She says that she still loves me but will not come back anytime soon. She is getting her own apartment & it really hurts.

  My problem is that I GET IT. I understand why this is happening. I am a pretty smart guy & see many things & understand a whole lot more. I don't blame her for what she has done, yet I am feeling so hurt right now. I feel that it's just not fair. What chance does a person with this horribly paralysing ailment have? I just feel a whole heap of different emotions right now. I can't even explain what my brain is going through right now. I hate the fact that I realized what has been holding me down & it has a very similar look, taste and smell of it being too late.  I know it's really not, but what can I do to stop the hurt? My wife & I were, and I hope still are the loves of our lives. Everyone that knows us often asked us how we did it. You can just imagine how surprised they were when they found out that she left. She is the most caring, compassionate, loving, considerate & thoughtful person I know. I guess that's why she put up with my craziness for 15 years.  She is a nurse & I couldn't think of any other occupation that would fit her any better. She's perfect at it. The question remains, why give up now? Knowing what is causing me to be so out of touch at times, I would have hoped that she would just hold me & say, "Now we know what's wrong & we're going to make you better". I have been on Adderall for almost a year, but no other regimen was suggested to me. Don't get me wrong, I am remaining positive that now that I know what to work on, I will be the man that God wants me to be with the right treatment. I just wanted a fair shot. I know that I caused her much pain emotionally & financially. God only knows how many people we owe & how much money we are in debt.  But I never did any of it intentionally. I am human & I do make mistakes, as does everyone. I just wish that the vows of "for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part", was taken seriously.

I'm writing here because I don't know how to stop this roller coaster of emotions. I understand, yet it hurts. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it hurts. I know why she's doing this, BUT IT REALLY, REALLY HURTS.

I have so much more that I could write, but I just can't bear to think about it anymore.

Thanks for listening.


Thank you

I wish my husband would write something like this. I wish he would take meds and do behavorial changes and stop blaming me.

tracsport's picture

I love my wife too

I can see alot of the frustration, hurt, pain and emotional problems that I have caused my wife too....I have recently been diagnosed with ADHD and I am working with a counselor, be in 3 sessions, alot of what she has said, ties into wife and I are on a trial separation, and each day it hurts not seeing her.......not seeing our children, and all she keeps telling me is "why should I believe you now"...what makes this time different.........I dont have answers for her.....I hate being alone, without my partner, my wife, my lover...and yea the sex was really bad for the last few years....I know ADHD is not the 100% covering of the problem, but I dont want to lose my family, my everything......her leaving has kicked me in the butt to ask questions, listen and reach out for help.....I fear its to late...she thinks that the ADHD diagnosis and all is a crock of you know what.......I feel your pain of what you are saying....I am slowing starting to get it.....I am trying to show her I love her but she is 4 hours away.....right now with our kids ....I want her to understand what I am dealing with finally, and all she mentions is the negativity..>I know its only been 2 weeks apart, but man I miss heart aches each day.

Thank you

Thank you for saying that you feel your anger is justified. Thank you for taking offense to the suggestion that you have to adjust your emotions. I am so angry. And all this advice about the responsibilities of the non add person is BS. Guess what? We are angry! And RIGHTLY so. All those unpaid bills! All the extra housework!!!! All the kids' homework!!!!! All the frustration - HIS Frustration because is too impatient to figure out how to actually do anything! And he takes it out on me! This is NOT my fault. I am rightly angry. Bottom line: he fixes it or we are no longer married. I want a grace period on my anger. I promise to be less angry as soon as he does something OTHER than FORGET!!!!!!! Yes, we have kids. So that means I am STUCK with this for the rest of my life!!!!! Whew! I do not think I really realized how angry I was until I started reading these posts. I am happy to not be alone. Thank you to every other person who is sticking up for themselves here.  To every one out there who had ADD or ADHD - I am sorry to offend. I am certain I would be a rather nice person under other circumstances. If you are looking at this and you are thinking your spouse might be reaching his/her limit. Read this several more times: accept the anger. Then take responsibility for yourself. That is the ONLY solution.

My experiences, mirrored

I bookmarked Dr. Hallowell's site a couple of years ago when I was first diagnosed with ADD.  I looked at it for the first time in a very long time last Wednesday and found this blog.

Reading through some of the entries, particularly this one, has been both fascinating and sad for me.  Fascinating in that some of them mirror my own experience so closely they could have been written about me (except that in many posts the ADD spouse is male and in my case I'm the female), sad because my husband gave up on me and the marriage a long time ago and I finally agreed to a divorce last year. 

While the divorce is not yet even filed, I'm pretty sure there's no hope for putting the marriage back together.  Perhaps if I'd known about the ADD years earlier, if this blog had existed when I was first diagnosed and if my husband had been receptive to the information here, things might have been different.  As it is, I'm trying my best to move forward and to make the changes I need to make for myself. 

If any of my experiences would be useful to you or any of the readers of the blog please let me know, I may or may not comment again.

For Findingmyway

We would be very interested in having you post about what it is like to be a woman with ADD struggling in her relationship...I personally would like to hear what you have learned upon reflection - what you are doing differently now, etc.  We have a number of people on the blog who either have wives with ADD (and are trying to work out what they can do to improve their marriages) or are women with ADD trying to figure out how to balance their lives.  Your perspective would be valued.


ADD & Marriage

This was a great post. I am a 41 year old male who is on the verge of divorce, and is trying to save what is good about our marriage. Unlike many of the posts, we both have ADD. This may have a a lot to do why we gravitated towards each other initially. My wife has always been supportive and is probably more understanding than some non-ADD spouses, however this makes the situation harder because my wife DOES appreciate and love me. I have been tested, through traditional therapy, and tried to 'fix' myself. The problem is what I call my 'Cycle of Damage' 1) We talk and discuss what is going on 2) I acknowledge and agree to follow steps 3) I start off good journaling and trying to pay close attention 4) I simultaneously try to start making drastic changes in my life to try and tackle the issues at hand (love, money, emotions), thinking and fooling myself that I can do this through non-ADD approaches (BIG MISTAKE). By this I mean I apply methods that are the same ones that non-ADD people use. Instead of thinking with ADD in mind, I keep pressing on to try and 'beat' the issues by making large plans with elaborate set up. This is my worst issue because my biggest issue is NOT working with my brain the way it is wired. 5) I build internal frustration and fear (rarely letting it out) because I set myself up for failure by choosing insurmountable odds. 6) I become physically and emotionally removed, then distant, angry, and defensive when my wife tries to reach out to me. 7) It seems that I am alienating her over and over again to the point of abject distress and hopelessness, and the very real threat of leaving me. She rightfully responds with sadness and anger because it appears I have placed my needs above her. 8) We have it out, I crash, and I realize how out of control I have been and feel ashamed and depressed over what I have done to the person who I love (and understands me) the most. With our most recent fight, my wife let it be none that she was planning to leave me as she could no longer go through the cycle of pain and disappointment. She journals regularly and we always wind up going back to it is great when it is good, but those are few and far between. We do love each other, and I have decided to work with and ADD Coach/Therapist and try and find a way to understand how to work with my ADD instead of fighting it. I have had to accept that although I thought that I had a handle on my ADD, I still do not fully understand how to accept my ADD and work with it. More importantly though, I am trying to fully understand and empathize the frustration and pain I have put my wife through so I do not lose sight of the impact it has had on her. I no longer want to go through life fighting my ADD especially when I have a partner who does understands it, but this is a struggle and I need to treat it as a lifelong endeavor. I do not know where we will be, but I can only hope that I can see myself for who I am work within a space that lets our relationship grow. I pray that my steps are not too late for us and they bring the best out of the love we do have (we do love each other). I hope this helps

re:ADD and marriage

CJ, I respect and admire your insightfulness on your ADD.  I wish my husband had a fraction of that depth!  I just don't think he understands that I really am suffering here trying to work with his ADD. I tell him how it effects me, he just doesn't seem to get the full effect of it.  Maybe when I am actually packing my things and ready to move into my own place he will get it??  Until then, its the same old "Cycle of Damage" as you so eloquently put it-good term by the way.  Says it all doesn't it?

Any advice for a non ADD spouse dealing with the impact of out of control ADD?  I say out of control because its not yet met a prescription that has worked or a plan that has helped at all.  What about this anger ?  Do you or your spouse exhibit that part?  Rage? Yelling?  Insults?  Threats?  That part of ADD I just don't understand at all

Best wishes for you though in the meantime... :-)


NOVA1986's picture


Have you ever search about Biofeedback or Neurofeedback? what about acupuncture? Anybody can share a testimony positive or negative about these two kind of therapy to treat ADD in adults?