Our research about how ADHD affects marriage also illuminates the specific ways in which non-ADD spouses are frustrated in their relationships. The responders in this section are, once again, non-ADD spouses who have officially diagnosed ADD partners. The themes these people write about are incredibly common. If you are an ADD spouse and you hear your non-ADD spouse comment on these traits you should assume that they are being truthful – these REALLY ARE problems in your relationship – not a figment of your spouse’s imagination. The question asked here? What do you find most frustrating about your relationship?
The Biggies, according to our panel:
Non-ADD spouses don’t like having to do all the “heavy lifting” in the relationship (chores and emotional). They often feel like they need to parent their partner, which they universally hate.
- "I absolutely hate that I am the one to recognize problems within the family and to initiate conversations or change."
- "A huge portion of the responsibility seems to fall to me. When it comes to things like cleaning, paying bills, getting the dogs to the vet, getting the cars serviced, or just generally meeting our committments, I spend a lot of time either doing those things or reminding my husband until I'm ready to scream."
- "Being a parent to my husband."
- "My husband's inability to take care of things he agrees to be responsible for."
- "I am most frustrated when I am busy trying to get things done at home and my husband comes home at the end of the day and sits in front of the TV. We both work, but the majority of the housework falls on me. It isn't that he isn't willing to help out, he just literally doesn't "see" what needs to be done."
- "The most frustrating part of marriage for me is that I have to do absolutely everything! It got so bad with my ADHD husband that I was doing his expense reports and billing for his work so that I could make sure we had money to pay the bills. I do all of the laundry, shopping, cleaning, bills, child care arrangements, teacher conferences, educational stuff for the kids....You name it, I do it. I even know how to use the snow blower and lawn mower."
- "I get very tired of being the one who has to constantly "police" situations or put out life's little fires."
- "NO attention to detail, losing things, not being prepared, needing frequent reminders, forgetting conversations shortly after we have had them. It is like having another child!!"
Non-ADD spouse loses trust in their spouse because they don’t follow through on those things they promise to do. They feel as if the only way to get the ADD spouse to complete a task is to nag, nag, nag – and that ADD “forces” that nagging.
- "I cant rely on him, so I can't trust him."
- "I realized early on in my marriage that I would have to be the "adult" in the family when it came to paying bills, making sure my kids had what they needed for school, making sure the kids were picked up when they were supposed to, etc. But I am only one person and I have three kids and work full time. Therefore, I have to depend on my husband to help out with some of these things. It is frustrating to me that when he does take on responsibility for some of these tasks, I still have to play "mother" until the task is complete. Absent constant reminders and nagging by me, the task at hand does not get done. It is extremely frustrating to have to nag and remind him to do things in order to make sure the task is done. It is not unusual for me to have to call him several times to remind him that he is supposed to be picking up a child. Then, even with the reminders, I am in a state of angst until I get confirmation that he has indeed picked up the child. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten calls from one of my children asking why they haven't been picked up even after I have called him and reminded him to do so."
- "The most frustrating thing is having a husband who is not in touch with his own feelings and never brings them up in conversation. Because I bring them up and he won't acknowledge them, then it must be MY problem and I must be a nag. I'm tired of shouldering the emotional responsibility and distance. How can I feel appreciated when no one will admit the very challenges I've spent 36 years trying to overcome don't even exist????"
Things never seem to get completed – they stagnate.
- "The most fustrating aspect of our marriage stems from my husband's stagnation with his disability. I would love to see him take a more positive approach and utilize the resources available to him to work on making change in his behavior."
- "My husband putters more than anybody I know - but very seldom accomplishes anything."
- "Going in circles. Repeating the same fights, even the same words, as if it was a scene in a play that you can't get out of. Like the movie Ground Hog Day. I just feel we repeat so many things."
- "We have projects all over the house that are not finished. My house is constantly in a state of unfinished jobs."
An ADD spouse’s inability to slow down enough to pay attention to the non-ADD partner:
- "He doesn't seem to listen to me. He can't seem to relax, and he's ALWAYS on the go. I'd love to sit and hold hands once in awhile!!"
- "Lack of satisfaction on his part. It seems like nothing is ever good enough or exciting enough. He keeps wanting something more exciting than he's experiencing."
- "I have a fear that over the years I will become "boring" - aka, less "stimulating" - to my ADHD husband."
These comments may sound familiar, but they aren’t from YOUR spouse – just other people who live with ADD. What does this mean for you and your spouse? ADD does play a role in how you interact and, in fact, often plays a pretty predictable role. This is actually good news! If you accept that these patterns exist you can learn ways to change them to improve your lives together. So, pay attention to what your non-ADD spouse is telling you, as hard as it may be to hear those things. Try to overcome the “defensive” feelings you might have, and make a mutual pact to keep your conversations free of anger and accusations. The results can be wonderful. For an ADDer’s perspective on what the benefits are to “hearing” your non-ADD spouse’s comments (and another ADD man's perspective on the downsides of not hearing), go to this link.
If you’re interested in what our research says non-ADD spouses like about their ADD spouses, go to the previous post - "What I Like About You".
- MelissaOrlov's blog
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My non-ADD spouse is now my EX-spouse; some non-ADD partners...
Submitted by ADD.divorcee on
...are either unwilling, or perhaps, unable, to be supportive of their ADD spouse.
My ex-husband viewed my ADD behaviors and traits as an annoyance to HIM; he took every opportunity to criticize me, to make fun of me, and to generally make life so much more difficult for both of us. Everything that went wrong in HIS life, with his career, with his job losses, was somehow my fault. Trying to understand HIS logic about how my ADD caused him to lose yet another job, or why his boss was "incompetent", was a waste of effort and time (years actually).
It took me many years, with much professional support, in addition to learning all I could about Adult ADD, to realize that there were real reasons as to why I struggled with many daily and life activities. It took much longer for me to acknowledge that my ex-non-ADD spouse was unwilling to work together with me. He didn't want to "be bothered"; I was "annoying him", etc. He said awful things to, and about me, that I attributed to his work stresses. And, that was a major mistake, finally corrected, on my part.
It would be an understatement to say that the divorce process was anything but all-consuming and upsetting. I isolated myself in the process. I was always working on overload. However, I have to believe that there are far worse things in this life than being an ADD adult (my grandchildren aren't bothered by my ADD traits!); there are far worse things than being divorced; there are far worse things than not being able to afford an apartment temporarily, (I had to relocate to live with my mother); it's surely not what I had expected when I married (almost 40 years ago).
However, it was a decision I would make again.
If anyone has any thoughts or questions, I would be happy to share more of my experiences.
to ADD Divorcee
Submitted by optomistic on
ADD Divorcee, Sorry to hear your story." It took me many years, with much professional support, in addition to learning all I could about Adult ADD, to realize that there were real reasons as to why I struggled with many daily and life activities"
I can understand what you are going through. I have been married for 13 yrs and I'am getting a divorce from my husband who has ADHD/depression and is an alcoholic. Yes there are real reasons as I have suffered in the past as well. I got so angry that I ended up in the hospital with a breakdown. I have learned alot and I have found myself again and living in peace. I underdstand your circumstance. my house will be foreclosing in january however I have to find a place with 4 children and myself. But I know all things work out for good.anyway learning to start a new life can be a good thing and I hope that for you. its so hard when you live with someone who teares you down. And 40 yrs of it I'am sure has really effected you. Are you in a support group>? I go to a divorce/seperated group which has been beneficial. Do you see a counselor? Start doing things for you! especially have some fun. Laughing is such good medicine. I hate that I'am becoming a statistic but I have to do what is best for my kids and me.I started doing things I love that I quit doing because I think I felt that life wasn't was awful and I wasn't inspired. I have lived on eggshells when I was with him. He is still negative with me but the beauty of it is I just remember my bondaries with him and I 'am able to not let it effect me like it did. Please read about boundaries, Melissa wrote about on this site. Its so important to have them. I wish you peace in your new journey. God bless you!
Que sera sera...
Submitted by lillyjane on
After nearly ten years of marriage, I think I have finally reached the point where I could accept my husband's choice to divorce me. We are not divorced (yet), but he brings it up for serious discussion every couple of years. He brought it up again recently. I no longer am resentful, angry, defensive about this. It is what it is. I do not believe in divorce. I do not like divorce. I will not cooperate in the divorce process. But, he can divorce me anyway. Legally speaking, he doesn't need my consent or cooperation. So be it.
We have a lovely, sweet, wonderful daughter and we are a loving, happy family (except, of course, for the whole my-ADD-is-raising-his-blood-pressure-and-taking-years-off-his-life thing). I love my family. The only thing I want is to spend time together. Nothing makes me happier than when the three of us are together. Even if he did move out, this would still be true for me.
Nothing makes him happier than a clean, well-ordered home. He needs his surroundings to be neat and tidy, otherwise he is unable to relax. He wants a thin, happy, stylish wife who has no "issues", who goes mountain biking with him, who pays the bills and files the paperwork and makes the appointments and updates the calendar and drives within the speed limit and remembers everything on the list at the grocery store and remembers to cancel contracts that he committed us to and who gets our daughter to bed on time and to school on time after she's made her bed and had breakfast and her homework is ready to be turned in and she's had plenty of sleep and her clothes all match and have no stains or wrinkles.
I am proud that I am able to get out of bed in the morning. I am proud that I haven't been fired from my office job. I am proud that I earn enough to pay for both our cars and the house. Most days, I'm a little surprised to find myself standing on my own two feet.
He has his issues, to be sure, and I have mine, obviously. If the two are so incompatible as to damage his health, then he's right. He should leave. It will break my heart and tear me apart inside, but this is the way things are. I gambled on this man as a lifelong mate, and I lost. He probably feels the same way.
Whatever will be...
Submitted by JAM on
You both work, I'm assuming from your post, so why is he not cleaning the house, paying the bills, filing the paperwork, getting the groceries, making appointments, getting your daughter to bed on time, making certain her clothes are perfect??? Why is all that responsibility falling on you?
I'm doing all those things because my ADD husband simply cannot and he is very grateful that I do. He, on the other hand, handles the things he can do without complaint. Am I doing "more than my share"? Yes, but it's a choice I made to make our marriage work. I, too, need my surroundings to be neat and tidy, otherwise I am unable to relax. But because it is me, not my husband, that functions best in those surroundings, I do the work to keep them that way.
I am so sorry to hear of your impending divorce. I've been there so I know how much it hurts. But you will recover and you will be stronger and you will heal! God bless you in this very difficult time of your life.
Some Problems can be Solved
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
I tend to agree with JAM. You have a whole list of problems in your post, yet so many of them are solvable once the two of you decide to do so.
Your issues - at least as you describe them - are not insurmountable, and it seems as if it would be a shame if your family split apart because of them. What I hear between the lines is a control conflict - he's going to hold you to the "highest" standards of conduct so that you'll be "forced" to do things in a sort of non-ADD way. You are rebelling against his pressure and resent his ideas. A better understanding on his part of what ADHD is (and how to successfully live with it) would help. Acknowledgement from both of you that YOU don't have to be the person who does all of the family coordination (not an ADHD strong point) would also be helpful for you both. Perhaps in your fight for control over the years you've lost empathy for each other.
You don't mention whether or not you are treating your ADHD, or how. But it sounds as if the basics (loving being together most of the time, for example) are sound. Perhaps some counseling with a person who knows lots about ADHD would help? Sounds almost as if you need an arbitrator for your "knocking heads together" conflicts.