ADHD and Asperger's

Both my husband and 10 year old son have been diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's within the last few months.  Both are on medication now and in counseling with a counselor who specializes in ADHD.  Both of them are handling their symptoms better and trying to improve their relationships.

However, I am miserable.  I have been married for 18 years and we have 2 children.  My husband and I started counseling 6 months after we got married (hyper-focused courtship explains A LOT!).  We have been in counseling on and off for the entire marriage.  My husband always went willingly to counseling and expressed his desire to change, but then would not do the things he said he would do.  I felt that I had done "everything" in our relationship and that he was not my partner, supporter, lover-he was just another kid!

Since their diagnosis, I have read a lot of books and done a lot of research about ADHD and Asperger's.  I feel hopeless and do not want to put any effort into my relationship with my husband.  I feel like "What good will it do?".  I AM helping my son and have the desire and patience to work with him on his struggles.  My son has shown a lot of improvement with the help of medicine, counseling, and social skills classes.

From my reading, I learned that ADHD is usually a co-morbid diagnosis with another issue.  In the case of my husband, this dual diagnosis means that we are struggling with which features are the ADHD and which are the Asperger's.  Is he acting that way because he can't understand my feelings or because he is distracted?  Which issues are treatable and which are just something I have to learn to live with?  If the ADHD improves, will the Asperger's stand in the way of a better relationship?

I feel overwhelmed and I do not know what to do.  It's easier to do nothing and totally withdraw from my husband-I'm not sure he's worth the effort.  I am tired of trying to make things better, I resent that I have to deal with his issues, I can't even remember why I love him!


Hi Melodie, I'm not sure this

Hi Melodie,

I'm not sure this will help you - but I, too have been married 18 years and my husband has been diagnosed since just this past February.  Nothing has changed.  Prior to his diagnosis - I did withdraw completely & did not remember why I loved him either.  I withdrew for 3 years and just taught myself to not expect anything & I would not be disappointed with the very little I felt he contributed in the first place - it wasn't hard, after 18 years - of living with an ADHD spouse -  to just live life as if he wasn't there.....he never considered my feelings on anything in the first place, so I just withdrew - I did set some personal boundaries - but instead of advising him of them - I just put them in place. - the problem was when I expected less, he gave even less... he actually seemed to enjoy that I expected less.

We did  not know he had ADHD either at the time, so when I told him 1 year ago - after working really hard on just getting strong myself - that I wanted a divorce, I was surprised when he protested & proclaimed his love for me.

I confronted him & told him that I have been burdened with a 3rd child - I did not get the life partner I though I was getting!  He said he knew there was something wrong with him - and I told him he had to find out what it was.

I have since begun to suspect that my husband may have is passive-agressive controller.

He loves to use his ADHD as the excuse too.  He claims he accepts his ADHD - but he is always just wanting to tell me his distorted version of what happened so I understand where he was coming from when he rides the ADHD rollercoaster.  

My husband is not hyper-focused on me now - he's hyper-focused on keeping me & he's now either doing nothing - as after all - when I try to support him and I encourage him, he is doing so much better - because, well if we aren't arguing that's an improvement & if I don't lose my temper - it's not a big enough problem for him to concern himself with - if we do have a talk which still always winds up becoming a dispute - & then once he says he understands me, then he begins running around starting every single thing he thinks he needs to do to deal with his ADHD - but never actually finishes what he starts and never does the work he needs to do to help himself.

I regret telling him I want a divorce.... once I found out he had ADHD - mild - not really being recommended to use medication - I thought..... wow - this ADHD explains a lot and if he has ADHD how can I divorce him?  After all, would I just divorce him because he has cancer and the caring for him is to hard on me?

My only thought - being very new to this situation myself - is don't be too hard on yourself..... you are prioritizing - you must look after your child - that is your responsibility.... but your husband  - he is responsible for himself - he is an adult after all. Of course you are being pushed to & beyond likely beyond your limits.

For now, I am just trying to learn what I do or have done  to enable my husband & identify my behavior and set the right boundaries so I don't feel all alone and powerless.

I often feel like I am responsible for everything!  I have just found that the more I try to do - the less it helps him.

This is my first post on this site so likely, I have a lot to learn and don't know as much as you do already.  I think we all battle with what can I live with & when is it just okay to give up.

I liked the book "Is it You, Me or Adult ADD - have you read it?  If so, what did you think?

One thing I didn't like is it seemed to put the responsibility on the spouse to make sure the ADHD partner is getting the right help... once you've hit that wall of "I've had enough" it's hard to hear you have to do more..... at least that's how I felt about it.

I have just been praying a lot & trying not to feel like everything is my responsibility - but staying involved as I can handle with my husband - this may not be a route you are interested in - but it may help you to stop feeling like you are the only adult there.



For Jane Doe

If his ADHD is problematic enough to cause that much problem in your relationship, then to say that "he has mild ADHD - not even enough to take medication" doesn't make sense to me.  The way to handle treatment for ADHD is to go at it full bore.  Try all of the known methods of treatment - and medication is shown to be one of the singly most effective ways to start.  (I give an overview of good treatment in my book.)  Don't sit back while someone else determines whether or not your life is going to change dramatically!  If he has ADHD, he needs to take the treatment of it very seriously...  If he doesn't, not much changes for you.  It's not your understanding that he has ADHD that is going to make your life better (might make his better...) but rather the actions that he changes.  And THAT only happens when one treats the ADHD.  As I like to tell people - don't try harder, try differently.  Or translated for this particular situation, don't assume knowing about the ADHD makes it better.  Do what works for people with ADHD - TREAT IT!!!

My ADHD Spouse has & is going to try medication again

Hi Melissa:

Thank you for commenting on my post.

I want to be clear, my husband was diagnosed as "mild inattentive adhd" back in February of this year - by a psychologist & I asked that he see a psychiatrist.  He finally saw our family Dr. in June.  During the referral appointment with our family doctor, the family doctor suggested that my adhd spouse try a low dose of 10 mg of  Adderal - while he waited to see the psychiatrist - he had an adverse reaction to that medication - (personality change) and he became very very combative. (Way more than usual).

He saw the psychiatrist finally at the end of August & explained the reaction he had & he was advised to take Vyvanse.

As it turns out my adhd spouse's sister is a psychiatric nurse - she spoke to the psychiatrists she works with & asked for their opinion - they said stay away from the Vyvanse - (another stimulant if his reaction was so severe to the low dose of Aderal) and try either the Stratera or the Wellbutrin....maybe wellbutrin would be a good choice for him.....

My husband and I discussed this and thought (as suggested)  the Wellbutrin would be a good choice since it is an antidepressant & he has a major family history of high blood pressure & heart disease.

Well, when he got to the psychiatrist's office again just 2 weeks ago, to ask for the Wellbutrin he got mixed up &  he asked for the Stratera (I could not be at the appointment with him) another delay! ARG

Finally... he will see the psychiatrist for the 3rd time tomorrow - to request the Wellbutrin...He'll try again and see how he does...- my point is.... we are moving forward (although not nearly as quickly and I would like) & I have been so frustrated with my husband "dragging his feet"..... - I suspected he was in need of meds from within the first 6 weeks of his diagnosis -  I am all for the "full bore" approach but he was dragging his feet, just going to coaching & when I told him I saw no improvement he was hurt & got that "kicked dog" look in his eyes.  Once he finally agreed meds was an option he would try - it took a very long time to get him to the family Dr. & then we wait for the psychiatrist & it doesn't move as quickly as I would like.

I am looking forward to him eventually finding the right medication & dose & see my husband begin to focus.

My approach isn't just to be more understanding of his ADHD - but to stop enabling him so much..... I am not sitting back and letting others determine how my life will be......  we have been separated for 1 month.  Now that I have stopped trying to "do everything" for him.... he feels that things are just falling apart.... before the separation - he just refused to think that I was in the background "doing those cartwheels" to make everything run as smoothly as possible. 

He sees he is in need of treatment - & I see that he is willing to try - ( I know some people get diagnosed and don't do anything about it).... so I do give him credit for trying - but trying isn't doing...... I feel they put the cart before the horse - I have been expressing my concerns about his needing meds from within just weeks of his diagnosis and he just insisted he was getting better all the time.

Now that we are separated - the psychiatrist is telling my husband that he needs meds before the coaching will be successful.  I have been expressing this from the start of his diagnosis & my spouse did not agree with me... I still feel invisible sometimes - but I refuse to just "accept" this is who he is - if he was not seeking treatment.... I would not be supporting him at all - even though we are separated - I do hope to reconcile but not until I see he is taking charge of his treatment and taking it seriously.

He is seeing now that he needs the help of medication to make the most of his coaching.  

I really do see that he desperately wants to improve our marriage & he just can't seem to accomplish it...... now I see that he is suffering too, because I am not there "picking up the slack"

I want to reconcile with him - he does have good qualities too, he just has to stick with the treatment & I have to be patient - as hard as that is after 17 years of undiagnosed ADHD - in our marriage - I had no idea he had adhd - I had never heard of adult adhd until this past February......when he read about it & though maybe he had it..... and then went for evaluation & diagnosis.

I know it depends on him changing his behavior - and in order to do that he needs full treatment - unfortunately it seems that things had to get to the point where we were no longer living together before he really took it seriously - but I do take comfort in accepting that only he can do the work - I can't do this for him.

I can only support him - and I can only do that if I am healthy - I am taking care of myself first here - once I feel strong enough - if he has continued treatment & has shown some progress we will consider reconciling - I still love him very much and this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do!


So Melissa, what do you do

So Melissa, what do you do when he refuses to get treatment, or sometimes says, okay, I'll make an appointment, but is absolutely adamant about not trying medication? Is it possible for someone with the most severe case of ADHD I've ever encountered to change behavior without the aid of medication? I'm absolutely beyond devastation. I don't want to leave him, but I don't know what else to do at this point. 


completely heartbroken


This is a pretty common problem - often the person with the ADHD fears taking medication - either from spurious media reports (i.e. they don't have the real info about meds, only the crap the media tends to focus on) or because they fear meds will change their personality or they have past addiction issues and fear that meds will be addictive...or they fear that taking the meds is equivalent to admitting that the issues in the relationship are all their problem.  For whatever reason, finding out more accurate info about meds can often dispel the fears - at least enough to try them.  The good news is that trying them is not a long-term commitment - if you don't like them, you simply stop taking them and that's it.  Note that folks with high blood pressure can't take stimulants as a general rule, so must look towards the anti-depressants such as Wellbutrin or the med Strattera, both of which take a bit of time to build up in the then it's a few weeks before understanding if they might work for you.)  Of the two, I would try the anti-depressants first as they seem more likely to be helpful, but that choice is completely up to patient and doctor.

Fortunately or unfortunately, one of the best ways that I've observed to find out the "straight" info about meds is to listen to some recorded info about them.  The easiest might be my couples course - the first session talks about treatment (as this is always a question - gets it out of the way).  You can get it recorded or sign up for the next live session, which starts in January.  The benefit here is that the treatment info is embedded in the larger picture info about why the relationship is as it is and the role each of you plays, which takes some of the pressure off the ADHD spouse (and relieves anxiety/fear)...many couples say it has changed how they think about ADHD in their relationship for the (much) better.  Other options would be going to and listening to some of their recorded lectures about ADHD and treatment.  I also talk about treatment in my book (The ADHD Effect on Marriage) - providing a framework for what good treatment looks like.  Ned Hallowell talks about treatment in Delivered from get the idea.  Best approach is education.

You're in a tough spot.  With severe ADHD trying medications to see if they help is clearly called for, but you can't make him take them.  He has to "get there" on his own.  Stay focused on communicating your needs (rather than demanding a certain approach to satisfying those needs, such as taking meds - which will make him more defensive and resistant).  Stay patient but firm.

Thank you Melissa. He

Thank you Melissa. He actually agreed this morning to do the course with me in January. We've been reading your book on and off now for a year, but have yet to complete it. It is amazing and I told him I'd like for us to finish it before we start the online course which he also agreed to do,....but he has a huge tendency to change his mind over and over again. I have to always be so careful and creative in how I approach him with anything. I almost feel like somehow I am manipulating or playing some kind of game. I'm always thinking, praying "God, is this the right time or way to say this to him?". I have learned a lot by trial and error because he is so extremely defensive and will often misunderstand what I (or anyone else for that matter) am saying so he reacts and will go into a tantrum at the drop of a hat. I feel like I'm in a psychology and behavior management treatment facility at home. I used to work in residential treatment so I am used to this mindset of wondering which intervention to use, the timing, approach, empathy, etc. I go back and forth about whether my training is a blessing or a curse when it comes to my marriage which is a whole different dichotomy. I hate feeling like this all the time, and sure enough as I soon as I start to relax and let my guard down and feel like I can be vulnerable around him, he explodes into one of his tantrums. It's hard to know when it will happen or what will trigger it. I think if things don't change I'm going to have to get blood pressure medicine eventually. I hate living like this. Sometimes things are so great, but can change in a second and often does. It is exhausting to say the least. Thank you for having this forum site. It is the closest thing to a group session I can get to. It amazes me how much people do not realize what ADHD does to relationships. One of my best girlfriends has ADHD, but if I ever try to talk about what is happening in my marriage it is almost like she is in denial about the effect of ADHD. Like she is somehow defending herself. She is not treated or taking meds either.  There is another couple we are friends with where the wife has ADHD and the husband is non ADHD. They are seeking counseling and she is getting reassessed for her ADHD to get her meds corrected. My husband knows about this so hopefully he will be influenced by their actions. I hope.