ADHD Marriages: Lowering Expectations vs. Improving Them

I often hear the comment that non-ADHD spouses need to lower their expectations in order to be happy in their relationships.  I would disagree.  I think that all spouses need to improve their expectations.  Let me explain my thinking, and how this might work in the real world.

Marriages are most successful when the partners adjust to living with each other – accommodating each other, and shifting their expectations in ways that recognize that they are no longer single.  The act of saying “til death do us part” sometimes makes the stakes in these negotiations seem very high.

In ADHD marriages, I think the gap between what you expected and what you are faced with seems even larger than in non-ADHD marriages.  This is because the ADHD spouse is relatively worse at doing household chores, managing the schedules and routines that sharing a life together requires, and often also worse at the financial security side of marriage (difficulty holding a job is not uncommon, nor is difficulty managing finances).  Instead of the normal “whoa!  This isn’t what I expected!” that many feel after having been together for a while, a person married to someone with ADHD gets a bigger shock. “Holy cow!  This person doesn’t seem to be able to DO many of the basic things that make a household function!!!”

Typically, the way a non-ADHD spouse will deal with this is to first take on the extra work, then later tire of the burden this places upon her (or him, but let me continue with a “her” example for now) and starts to feel and act resentful.  Finally, after begging for improvement, she decides that one practical way to deal with the situation is to “lower her standards”.

Insomuch as lowering her standards means letting things flow off her a bit better then I think this is healthy (though I will argue that “lowering” is still the wrong word to choose).  But an even better path is to “improve” her expectations.  To do this, she needs to determine what expectations she holds that are really part of a core value system.  She can pare away or change expectations that are peripheral to who she is and actually feel good about the process of doing so while defending those expectations that are core to who she is.

Let me give you some examples.  I have done a lot of paring and now have a total of 4 core relationship values.  They are:

  1. Receiving/giving love by connecting physically and personally
  2. Practicing mutual respect
  3. Supporting each other’s personal goals
  4. Supporting our family (primarily emotionally, but some financial)

But wait, you say!  You only have FOUR expectations for your marriage?!  And the answer is, globally, yes.  I used to have a whole lot more expectations than that…but I found that many of my expectations were extraneous to what was really, really important.  By pruning and focusing, I improved my expectations.  Does anyone reading that list think I have lowered them?

There are certain actions that communicate these core relationship values more clearly than others.  My spouse, if he is smart (and efficient) will work with me to learn how I best receive these messages.  So, for example, though this might not be true for everyone, good ways to connect with me personally (value #1) are:

  • Sharing time together at reasonable intervals
  • Good sex at reasonable intervals
  • Holding hands / cuddling, particularly at night
  • Positive verbal comments
  • Having some fun times
  • Some sort of responsiveness to my requests (“can’t do that now” and “would you do that instead?” are fine responses, silence isn’t)

He doesn't have to do all of these things.  But if he doesn't do any of them, then he will have trouble communicating to me that he is trying to connect with me.

Let me tell you some of the expectations I used to have of my husband I don’t any more.  I expected he would:

  • share equally in housework
  • show his interest in the kids and in exactly the same fashion that I did
  • do things when I asked
  • do what I asked
  • financially support us (I am financially stable…don’t need his support)
  • do things similarly to how I do them
  • share my priorities
  • communicate with me in the same kinds of ways that women do (talking things out)
  • would like to help out in ways similar to my father (role model)
  • would be as social as I am, including setting up dates
  • would be well organized in areas that I care about

Notice that there are a lot of “I” things in this list.  In retrospect, my expectations were actually about me, not him or us.  They were things that I expected would happen my way.  Why?  Because, that’s how I was used to getting things done or that was the way I saw my parents do them.

I would posit, in my new position as a happier spouse, that my expectations often ignored his right to be autonomous – to be him.  Happily, or unhappily, “him” includes things that were totally foreign to me.  Things like not being good at cleaning up or chores.  Not doing the things my dad used to do, like mow the lawn or help shovel the drive.  Not having an interest in sitting down and talking about his feelings in a deep and interesting way (like my girlfriends).  Not following through on scheduling dates for us.  I could expect those things all I want, but they weren’t “him”.

So back to my core relationship list.  The things that separate my core list from my “old expectations” list is that the core relationship list is those things that are critically important to making “him” and “me” into an “us”.  They respect the fact that the two of us are, and always will be, different – that we are autonomous, but choose to share together.  They understand that I am good at some things (and TERRIBLE at others) and that he has a strength/weakness profile that is just as skewed (though towards different things).  I have learned to accept (and even appreciate) that he is a man, and not prone to deep conversations about his feelings.  My previous expectation about that just weren’t very realistic.

Let me tell you how this works in real life.  Now, if he doesn’t show any inclination to plan a date, I accept this without negative feelings and set one up myself.  If he chooses to live amongst piles of books and boxes that would drive me crazy, I encourage him to find an area of the house in which he can do this (his office and the basement seem to be enough to satisfy him) and I make sure that our bills don't get lost in his junk.  If he doesn’t want to shovel or clean, I hire a service to do it.  Those are all things on my “non-core” list.  But if he stops paying attention to me, I take him aside at a good time, and have a serious conversation about how we can attend to the problem.

Have I lowered my standards?  No, I think that by differentiating between truly important and not so important, I have improved them.

But what if we didn’t agree that we both wanted to respect my most important core values and expectations?  Then I would start wondering whether or not we made a very good couple.  Because there are some things that you simply should never give up.

Let me reassure you, though, that even though we were literally at war at one point over whether or not we met each other’s expectations, we didn’t end up having that problem.  Once I stopped “expecting” that my husband should be a certain way (MY way under my rules) in other words once I started accepting him as him, and focusing on core issues of connection – our lives suddenly simplified.  A lot.  It turns out that at least some of our wars had been over my expectations.  Once I showed him that I was willing to love him for him, he became much more motivated to help “us” become a stronger “us”.  He no longer needed to prove his autonomy (since I was now respecting it) and, therefore, was able to take steps towards fulfilling my needs without worrying about whether or not he would lose himself in the process.  He didn’t think about this consciously, it just happened.  And, as it happened, fulfilling my needs for connection included addressing some of his ADHD symptoms.

I think often about the man who recently complained on this site about the fact that his wife leaves her clothes in the dryer rather than take them out and put them away.  In the morning she goes to the dryer to get dressed.  He’s a neat person, and this indifference to protocol drives him nuts.  He expects that she will maintain the house in a certain way – a way that he feels justified pushing because 99% of adults put their clean clothes away.  But does it really matter?  She’s not going to work nude, and she’s not wearing dirty, stinky clothes  – she finds her clean clothes, just not where he “expects”.  Does it matter if she conforms to his idea of how she ought to do it?

Now that you’ve read my thoughts about expectations, I think you can guess my answer to that question.


Thank you for this

Thank you for this informative post. My fiance and I have been fighting a lot about things like this lately. He feels neglected and unloved because I do not try to change for him. In reality, it is very hard for me to change. I fall off the bandwagon of change with ease (probably like most ADHD folks). "Every day" becomes once a week and then once a month and falls off the radar. I try to make him understand, but he really can't understand how hard it is for me, and how terrible it makes me feel for failing at yet another task, which I already believe is intergral to our relationship.

Trying to Change Lotus

Perhaps you and your fiance need to have a talk about the difference between "neglected and unloved" and "trying to change someone".  You are who you are, and he needs to love you for that.  On the other hand, any good relationship includes connection...and it is not only reasonable that he expect that you remain connected to him, but also that he demand it.  But connection and changing are two very different things.  If he misses you because you aren't connecting, then you can solve that problem.  If he thinks that the way that you can prove to him that you love him is to change, that's a whole different issue.  Don't fall for that!

But on the unloved side of things, assuming that he is feeling neglected, which is common in ADHD relationships...  If you think that you can have a healthy relationship with a man whom you ignore, you are wrong.  Eventually, he will grow tired of being lonely and it will be over.  This isn't an issue of failing at another task.  You MUST find a way to remain connected to him in a meaningful way.  No ADHD excuses!

There are many ways to do this, and he will also be able to tell you what is meaningful to him (why waste time trying to connect with him in ways that AREN'T meaningful to him??!!)  So try some of these:

  • set aside specific times to do special things together - just the two of you - make sure to put it on your calendar as unmovable
  • set aside specific times to have sex together
  • send yourself automatic reminders on your computer to do something crazy for him once in a while, just to show him you think of him
  • make sure that you are taking the treatment of ADHD seriously.  Treatment should become a routine, not optional
  • start assessing your mutual strengths and weaknesses so that you do things that come most easily to you, and he does things that come most easily to out how you will be together as partners...don't just assume it will "just happen"
  • set some rules about communication - insist that you both remain respectful and try to remain calm
  • make sure you BOTH know as much as possible about ADD
  • try to remain focused on your positives - what you can do, vs. what you can't

If you liked my post, you might see if the two of you can have some conversations about what your top priorities are (like my 4 core values)...if he's one of these guys who gets into conversations like that.

Remember, your fiance wants action, not excuses.  Yes, it's hard to make changes, but not impossible, particularly if you have his full support, rather than his criticism.  See if you can enlist him to stay positive, and to help you devise coping strategies that will get you both going back in the direction you wish to head.

Interest in the kids

I see your point about not sweating the small stuff, but NOT about his not having to show interest in the kids.  He doesn't have to take them to their Dr. appointments or deal with school issues (like my husband doesn't) but he should have an interest in their lives and what goes on.  At least ask them more than the general "How was school today?".  Also, how about when they are sick and, of course, the Non-ADHD spouse is taking care of them, up at night with them.  Can't they be expected to pick up some slack? Because that never happens.

It's the same with discipline.  I am always the bad guy, doling out the punishments because he's not even aware of what is going on.  We are constantly making sacrifices to allow life to flow smoothly with our ADHD spouses but I don't think they should be excused from being a proper parent.

Showing Interest in Kids

I'm not following your comment.  Emotionally supporting our kids is one of my four core values.  Every parent needs to support their kids.  Kids aren't small stuff. 

I don't know how old your kids are, but an easy way to connect is to read to kids at night.  Perhaps your husband can do some of that - a little cuddling and a good story go a long way...and in so doing, find some points of contact that better connect him to them and make him more aware of their needs.

Also, I found, when my kids were younger, that I actually unintentionally excluded my husband from bonding with the kids.  It was hard for him, and easier for me, and so I just stepped in.  But while that was expedient, it was too bad for him, because he did care about those special times with his kids, and missed some.  You may say that your husband doesn't care about the time with the kids (because if he did, he would notice and help out more) but that may be your anger speaking, combined with his distraction.

As for punishments - my husband and I had that bad guy/good guy thing going on for a while, too.  Some of the punishments I doled out, in retrospect, might have been for me as much as for them - I needed to keep things under control because I was so under pressure from having so much on my plate.  This may not be the case for you, but I did finally learn that for us, at least, my husband's more laisez-faire attitude was actually healthy.  We set a strict routine (study times, dinner together, etc) and set specific rules about honesty, respect for others, and responsibility, but everyone was happier when I eased up a bit and let my kids be kids.  A few overarching guidelines turned out to more effective than the "bad cop" routine (and my husband was a lot more interested in participating in that than in the bad cop routine, so I felt more supported, too.)  Again, this might not be your case, but perhaps at least SOME of the bad guy routine might not be necessary.

So...I agree.  No excuses for not being a "proper parent".  But have you asked him what he thinks "proper parent" includes?  You may find some of your issues come from a difference of opinion, not just ADHD.  Ours did.

showing interest in kids

I'm guessing that what Natalie is referring to is this part of your post:


"Let me tell you some of the expectations I used to have of my husband I don’t any more.  I expected he would:

  • share equally in housework
  • show interest in the kids and in the same ways that I did..."


It was a bit confusing to me, too.  It sounds here like you're saying that your husband no longer has to show interest in your kids.    And if I had to guess (I know I shouldn't be assuming, but I'd like to think I'm on the right track), you mean that you don't expect your husband to show interest in your kids in the same fashion that you do.  

It took me a while to get to that point, but I now see that my husband does not need to show interest in our kids in the same way that I do.  That doesn't mean he loves them any less or is interested in them any less.  It just means he loves them and is interested in them differently than I am.  After I got to that point, it sure made working with him on this parenting journey a whole lot easier!



You are right - I meant "fashion", and will change the post to reflect that so as not to confuse others.  I believe strongly that emotional support from both parents is critical to parenting success, as well as relationship success.  I had what sounds like a similar experience as you - once I stopped dictating to George that he had to connect in specific ways, he was more easily able to pick things that were mutually interesting to him and the kids and that made it better for all.  Plus, the kids get the benefit of learning a couple different "languages of love", if that makes sense.

Loving him for him

Hi Melissa, thanks for a great post. Can you tell me some of the ways you showed your husband that you love him for him? That struck a chord for me -- I think I recognized that I am often trying to prove my autonomy. Is it through the paring down of your expectations, removing those expectations that had to do with things being done your way, that showed him he could be him? Or was there more to it? Thanks again.

A comment on several of the posted comments

I just came across this website .... my first question is .... have you or are any of you experiencing being with a husband who you defintely know is ADD (although he never got treatment, I am sure about it because both of our children have it and one has depression also) and he is going through a mid-life crisis as well? .... my husband has sadly chosen to separate from me and the kids (although he feels he is 'angry' and me only and therefore separated from me only.  I have known for quite some time that he has defintely inherited the depression and ADD that runs wide and deeply in his family.  Unfortunately, on top of that, he is now still in a mid-life crisis mode that has been going on for 2 years now.  He recently went and got separation papers behind my back and said he wanted to divorce me because "I" have made him feel like a failure. Long/short, unlike someone else's comment, I DID NOT relinquish him for punishment's sake to another room, he chose to sleep in the den, out of nowhere without discussion for 2+ years now.  He finally moved out 3 months ago.  He kept telling me he was leaving and then never did so I finally had enough (no anger, just civil and direct talk that now he had to do as he said he would do because I was no longer able to mentally, emotionally deal with the crisis).  Anyhow, I AM  a wife who has always had to overcompensate for his absolute symptoms of ADD, no I was never angry about it, and was just so over exhausted from it.  Til this day, although I very kindly sent him literature about ADD and other mental disorders, not to mention, although he has had to see and hear the disorder in both of our children, he STILL denies that they have it and that he does as well.  I have had several love-filled, well-intentioned conversations with him about getting help for his affliction to no avail.  I have always believed that there isn't any illness or affliction that would ever have me stop loving my husband.  I just got fed up with his denial.  That's it.  No arguements took place except when his "behavior" and denial just got so intense and yet he still felt that I was wrong in my thinking.  I let so many things go, covered up so many of his mistakes and his bad decisions.  I never hated or resented him for them.  However, at some point, he thoroughly convinced me that I was 'crazy' or a trouble maker for bringing certain things into the light.  I do not hate nor do I resent him for 'all' that has taken place but ACTUALLY still love him very much.  Unfortunately, he thinks by moving out that things are going to change for him.  I told him in a very civil, resonable way that just because he moved out that the problems that he feels exists BECAUSE of me, were not going to  go away.  He would, I hope, face his demons on his own and come to the understanding that his fear, insecurity or the stigma he's placed on his affliction IS what has truly destroyed our marriage (I say that reluctantly--those words are not mine, I feel that I do still have a marriage, I was not looking to separate or leave him) and not what he has convinced himself of or displaced, projected on to me.  I told him that if, and when he does come back home, I will still love and care for him because I love him no matter what.  I realize now that I do have some peace because I am not having to deal with his ADD everyday. I think that the crux of it all for me is that, such a simply thing--that is geting treatment, is such a gigantic thing for him.  I feel that if he does come back home, I will 'handle him differently'.  As for lowering my expectations ....  I never really wanted anything from him other than his getting help.  I got used to doing, re-ding, fixing, handling, overcompensating etc... for him a long time ago.  I just wanted to hear from him that "yes, I have ADD and that I will get help."  When, I didn't even get that and then he pulled the separation papers and moving out gig, well, that really did me in.  So, now I have gotten over the grief and just recently followed-up on my adamant decision to get my son evaluated for ADD.  I had wanted to get my son evaluated several times, but again, my husband some how convinced me that I was 'starting trouble'.  Guess what, I am correct just as I was that my daughter had ADD and depression, my son does have ADD. It's so sad that my husbands fear and insecurity has led him to break our home and our marriage and he is not able to see just how deep and wide the damage has been for me and our children.  He just seems to live in la-la land totally oblivious to anything.  Maybe, he does know  but like everything else he is in denial about it.  As my family doctor explained to me and what I already had a handle on, people with ADD or other 'secrets' usually are 'socially functionable' to a limit, because their fear of being totally found out is so severe to them that they usually are able to mask it to a certain degree.  But when they come home, all hell breaks loose and the partner (non-add person) usually is the one to suffer and the burden falls on.  It's because the ADD husband/wife even child, knows that they are unconditionally loved (hopefully) and so they just feel safer when they are home and  'let their hair down' so-to-speak.  I love my husband and to hate or not want to be with him would be like my not wanting to be with our children who are also afflicted.  It is just so hard to deal with his denial and that sadly, no one else when he was younger was willing to get him the help he needed and so it landed on me.  It's been like having three children to take care of instead of two. I would gladly take him back and still "handle, fix whatever" the mistakes he may make but I am not so sure I could do that until he gets help. Oh, he also told a few months back that "I was a disappointment to him and not the kind of woman he wanted to marry, and then added you know that you feel the same way about me."  I told him that that was totally disrepectful of him to make assumptions about how I feel about him and that he indeed was very wrong and that I love (d) him very much.  What he didn't take into consideration is that all the times that I did ignore, again, cover-up, overcompensate for his ADD and then when I, after his making the same mistakes consistently and my overlooking them for the 100th time, how could I not mention or bring them to light.  His response was that I kept an on-going lists of his faults.  That's just not true, I in fact, tried my best to find the right words, the right loving, kinds words to let him know what was going on.  Even that, the 'dancing around word-wise became exhausting because no matter what I said, he felt attacked and berated.  Insecurity is a great big symptom of his ADD. HE not me keeps a running list and cannot let go of all the unfortunate mistakes he makes and things that he starts and does not finish or just does not handle/do at all.  He is a disappointmen to himself and not me.  That's why I still love him, that is, because I know his having ADD and the consequences of having it and leaving it untreated and destroyed his self-esteem and caused him to believe that "I" and the source of his pain and displace anger.

I just wanted to add ....

That even with all that I am going through currently, I STILL  able to thrive past all this drama  that I am going through,  to the point that I DO see my husband as the smart, loving, creative, funny, good-loving husband/dad that I fell in love with. I will never see him as anything else.  It's my faith, my wisdom love for myself and our children that keeps me from ever hating or wanting to give up on him.  Leaving him is never and option, it's never a thought, having that said... however,

the taking care of "him" and the children just slowly but surely had me not saying I love you to him everyday (but do couples normally say I love you everyday?) --that's just who I am-- it stopped me from not being willing to overlook everything and doing all the things for him that I would normally do.   I was over-burdened and burnt out.  Mind you, I was NEVER disrespectful or hurtful towards him.  But I did I  stop learning to be co-dependent because I realized that was not going to help him but  instead cushion his not wanting to get help. It's amazing that all kinds of situations cause the co-dependent trap.  I know and believe that everyone is resonsible for thier own well-being and  health, mental or otherwise (adults that is) just as I am so myself.  And so, I did tell him that he had no right to expect me to be perfect and handle and deal with everything for him.  That would be teaching him inaccountability.  I do not teach that to our children and our children know, because of what I teach them, that we NEVER run or hide from our 'difficulties' and that we never feel ashamed or guilty.  And , we never leave the people who love us.  I teach them that I will always help them to get the help they need.  Our children one girl 19 and one boy 12 are very aware of and recognize the symptoms of ADD in thier dad.  They also know that I do still love thier Dad very much.  I never speak disrespectully about their dad to them but when he does or says something to them or acts out in a way that might cause problems for them or myself, I do discuss it with them.   I also teach our children for their sake and self-esteem that "their ADD is just a small part of their 'make-up' and it does not own them or make them who they are".  I teach them that they are bigger and stronger than the ADD/depression.  Just as I feel about my husband, I do tell them that people with ADD happen to be very smart, creative, interesting, loving, caring unique individuals who have a lot to offer in friendship, love, work and the world.  And, if they did not have ADD they still would have all the same wonderful attributes and talents.They are sad that their Dad is not willing to get help or admit his problem and that he is letting it own him and is keep him from being the wonderful person that he is and can be.   I have always been very open with our children and they know to and do come to me with any "life" issue they want to discuss.  In any case,  I do realize that he is angry for what he was/is no longer able to get me to 'cover' for him or be manipulated by him.  It's amazing how my husband chose me for all my good, strong, loving, caring compassionate ways and now he unfortunately sees me as the enemy because I currently can no longer deal with his helplessness. I do feel, although I am sad that my husband has left, that is some way it's a blessing, a season of change for better things to come, if nothing else, a season of peace and not the agnony of dealing with an adult with ADD who remains stuck and in denial.  Believe me, the children even in missing their DAD are a lot less stressed and emotionally and psychologically hurt by  having to witness their Dad being dismissive and hurtful towards their Mom.  He really did not see how confused and embarrassed (when friends stayed over) and uncomfortable the kids were when he was choosing to be 'not sleeping' in the same bed as mom, or ignoring her in front of other people, or excluding her from normal family activities.  They were very wounded by it all. He doesn't see that his anger is displaced and unfounded towards me.  He has so many other underlining issues/personality/emotional issues that go along with his ADD much too long and involved to discuss.  But this is the jist of it all.

To In Limbo

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  I love that you are able to separate your husband from his symptoms and able to love him and also love yourself and recognize that even though you love him he is responsible for himself.  Your story is an important one for our readers to hear because it reinforces that one person cannot fix a broken marriage by herself/himself - both need to participate.

It sounds as if you are doing just the right things with your kids, too, which is wonderful.  My daughter is much richer for her experiences with her ADHD and what she has learned about herself and human behavior.  I hope it is so with your children, too.

One thing I have learned is that no one knows what the future holds - yours sounds promising, and I hear a great deal of hope, optimism and wisdom in your words.  Again, thanks for sharing.



I have only skimmed this post but it seems kinda of like my situation in that what mellissa said you need 2 to fix the  relationship and it won't work with onyl 1 person trying to fix it. I don't know where my relationship is headed, but form the brief skim of this post it seems as though you have been dealing with an ahdh husband, as my wife has been. Pretty much one of the children is what she realted it too. THat was before my dianosis. now i have bseen it and with meds and counsoling, i have been able to funtion better and be more productive, not so like one of the kids. I also believe i have the codependecy thing also. Just thought i would throw it out there..

Please tell me how long you

Please tell me how long you have been married? How long were you married when you decided to make the changes that you speak of which seems tohave changed your marriage?

How Long We've Been Married

We got married in 1989, so will celebrate our 20th anniversary this May.  We knew each other for 1 1/2 years before that.  I found that my marriage was pretty much not what I had expected almost right away - once my husband stopped hyperfocusing on me our relationship felt pretty foreign.  After 6 months I was asking "Wow!  What happened?"  Already I felt more lonely than I had expected.  My response was to listen to my biological clock and start a family...

The worst part of our relationship was from 1997-2006.  There was a period in there of about 3 months when we literally couldn't speak to each other (about ANYTHING) without raising our voices.  At one point, my then 3rd grade daughter wrote an essay for school about how she had to get her hysterically angry mother down off the kitchen counter (a sad, but true story).  The rest of that period was "getting along" (sort of) interspersed with conversations about whether we ought to just get divorced, interspersed with somewhat normal times, always with a background of anger and bad feelings and frustration.  I was more vocal about my frustration than my husband, but we were both dealing with it in our own way...I became aggressive in trying to get him to "change" and he retreated as fast and as often as he could.  It was incredibly stressful, and we were both miserably angry and hurt by how our relationship had "turned out".

We decided to change it all during the summer of 2006, and most of our progress came pretty quickly after that, with a few issues that hung around a bit longer.

The good news for you is that we worked through all of this completely blind.  We didn't find out that ADD existed until 10 years into our marriage, and my husband wasn't diagnosed until several years after that...and we just sort of "figured out" what was going on.  You have the advantage of at least having this resource for learning about some of the pitfalls...though I will be the first person to tell you that this doesn't make creating the commitment and path to being a better couple much both still have to commit and make REAL changes to your behavior...and then it takes some time before you trust that those changes are real, and not just temporary (trusting the changes were real took us more than a year, even though the behaviors changed pretty quickly...for the most part).  BUT, you do have at least some proof that it CAN happen and that it is possible to go from the pits of despair to being happy again with the right type of perseverence.

Hope this helps.


Physical Contact

Ok, so is clumsiness a symptom of ADD? It is hard to connect with my husband physically because he is so clumsy and awkward that I end up getting hurt. He says I'm too sensitive. But, my daughter also complains that he hurts her when he hugs her, holds her hand etc. He seems to have a lack of body awareness. He is like living with a teen-age boy. Really, in behavior, relationally, and physically. Is this ADD? (He is diagnosed with Dyslexia, not ADD, but I see ADD; and maybe something else?) Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Sounds like it..

My boyfriend is ADD and everytime he holds my hand he squeezes it so tight it hurts. Also hugs me too tight, and leans on me uncomfortably when hugging me.  He is very akward at being phsycially intimate.

Lowering expectations vs improving

My partner and I have been living together for over a year now. He was diagnosed with ADD early in our relationship after I encouraged him to get eveluated. From then on, I tried to be a more undertsanding boyfriend. I encouraged him to go back to school and even suppported him financially on that. Recently though I noticed that he has become so dependent on me both financially and emotionally. He would frequently call in sick just to be with me and in a way that strains the finances. I would tutor him after work and encourage him to develop his own study habbits but to no avail. When I met him I didnt realize that he was also in such a financial mess. I get tired of covering for his missed payments and overdraft fees on top of the fact that he's doesnt work as much anymore. (He's a flight attendant by the way). Its frustrating that until now, he still cant develop his own study habbits and he obligates me to tutor him when I can't even review for my own medical boards while working full time. I feel that he's not exerting enough effort to make this relationship work with him finishing his degree and managing his finances. I feel that he has become too dependent on me that he may forget how to survive on his own. There are just never ending issuess with him. Hurtful words are being thrown at me although i know that they are just driven by emotions and that he doesnt really mean them. I know he's a good person. My family has learned to accpet me being gay through him and as what my mom would say, he brings joy in the family. But then again deep inside, I dont know If i should just desensitize myself from all the issues and just keep on hanging on thinking that despite the problems there were better times in this relationship...that its not like he's not trying. He wouldn't be seeing his pyschiatrist every month and he take his medications if he doesnt want to change, right? I will very much appreciate your inputs on how I can improve our partnership.

Partner too Dependent

Regardless of the ADD, your partner is becoming too dependent upon you.  Every relationship is a balance, and sometimes one partner is strong, sometimes another.  That's the nature of partnership.  However, in your case it's turning into more of a parent/child relationship.  This isn't sexy, and it isn't romantic, and it will ruin your relationship if you don't stop participating in it soon.

You can't change your partner's behavior in this relationship, but you can change your own.  It's likely that in response to your changing your own he will also change.  At first you may get more bad feelings from him (your independence may threaten his security).  That's okay.  Stick with it.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Stop tutoring him.  If he needs a tutor he can find one.  His school probably has an academic center or tutoring program he can hook into, or he can hire a tutor or get another friend to tutor him.  It just shouldn't be you.  Tell him nicely that you aren't his teacher and don't intend to be.
  • Don't mingle your finances.  You are protecting him from the down side of staying home by picking up his bills.  If he is your partner he can start acting like one.  He's not incapacitated, just needy.  If you do pay his bills once in a while, keep track of what he owes you.  You may never see the money (together or split) but at least he'll know you don't think he should get a free ride.  Consider setting up a regular "pay back" schedule on your loan to him to try to help him be more financially responsible.  (If this were me, I wouldn't push too hard in this area, because hounding him about finances could put additional strain on your relationship that you don't need.  But you will make the point that earning money and being responsible is important.)
  • Push back on the hurtful words.  You'll probably hear more of them as you start to act more independently, but he needs to know that you prefer a loving, caring relationship with an equal, not a hurtful one.  Stay calm in the face of his anger, and have some conversations to see if the two of you can get at the roots of what is bothering him (does he fear that you will leave him?  If so, talk about that and what's going on.  Does he fear that he'll be incompetent if he isn't with you?  If so, encourage his continued independence...perhaps giving him some ideas that help him get out more)
  • Share with him your own feelings.  It's not fair to "surprise" him.  ADD folks don't read emotional cues all that well, so it's best if you lovingly help him understand that what you love about the relationship is the partnership you used to have, not so much the needy one-sidedness it has become.
  • Become conscious of the fact that you are probably giving off signals of disapproval or distancing.  Make sure to reinforce your relationship by finding good things to say to and about your partner on a regular basis so that he won't feel so insecure.  He needs to understand that you do love him, and that being independent and loving him are not mutually exclusive.  He'll be much more likely to respond positively to your requests if he also feels more secure in your feelings about him.

My kids used to stay home from school, saying they were "sick", when in fact they were just sort of exhausted.  My approach was to let them do so (respect their authority to decide they weren't feeling well - it is their body, after all) but to make it so that it wasn't particularly a treat.  They couldn't watch TV or play computer games.  I paid no attention to them, and asked that they spend a good deal of time in bed in their rooms.  Needless to say, staying home lost its appeal rather quickly (much more fun to be with friends in school...)!  I suggest you try something similar next time your partner decides to skip work.  Tell him that you're sorry he's sick, but that you need to get work done, so you are going to the library (or wherever) and will see him at 6pm for dinner.  Then leave and don't come back until the appointed time.  Between that and losing some of his salary, I'm guessing you'll see fewer sick days pretty quickly.

Don't assume that he isn't "expending enough energy" to make this relationship work.  He's expending LOTS of energy, it just doesn't happen to be productive.  Assume that he loves you deeply, and is dealing with his own personal deamons, probably around issues of self-worth (frequently an issue for people who've suffered with ADD for a while).  Treat him like the adult he is, stick by your values, insist that you get the independence that YOU need (don't assume he needs it - you're not doing this for HIS good, only for yours) and see where things go.  Your goal, if I'm reading you correctly, is to have a partnership...not a parent/child relationship.  You'll only get this if you insist upon it and stick to it.  Your best shot is to do so firmly, but in a very loving way that demonstrates that you care about him deeply.

Hope this helps.

Partner too Dependent

Thank you for your advise Melissa. You actually laid out perfectly the things that we need to work on. I have been trying follow your suggestions religiously. At one point, I also encouraged him to use a planner for his finances but we would only be successful on the first month and then we fall off track again. Should I continue being firm on him when I see him worry about his finances? It hurts me to see him like this.

Too dependent

If he weren't with you, how would he get his finances under control?  Try to find ways that don't rely too heavily upon your "taking over" (unless you decide that this is the best situation.)  Perhaps a 2x a month financial temp half a day could help (someone to pay his bills and organize him financially, leaving him obvious "reminder" notes?)  Try to think creatively about your/his specific situation to see how you can encourage him to be independent AND successful.  (In this case, if he's up for the temp person, I might make the calls and set up the ongoing arrangement for him so it starts, then back out of it.  But only if he's for the idea in the first place - don't insist this is the right solution.)


The idea of having realistic

The idea of having realistic expectation or fine tuning them is all well and good if what we are discussing is laundry. I am burdened by the fear of my husband sabotaging his teaching career (being regularly late and not excelling in a field that demands increased creativity and skill) and also am resentful about redirecting his priorities when he goes off task. Money matters are anxiety producing particularly when we are not making enough and it would seem that that reality SHOULD be enough to maintain his commitment to success, but alas it is not. He has worked with coaches and therapists and it is somewhat successful when he is regularly monitored by someone else and encouraged through the process, however times are exceedingly tight and we cannot afford the expense of a coach and despite earnest searching we cannot (or have not yet found) find an area therapist within our network who has the skills to support my husband. I want to have clear and realistic expectations without having to assume ALL control/responsibility over our shared future. This does not seem too much to ask, but after reading so many posts and being educated about ADD, I am beginning to wonder. And honestly, that is not empowering to me, it is downright disappointing.

Coach may be a Necessity

I'm wondering if you can afford NOT to have a coach for your husband. It sounds as if having a coach for him is like a business being able to pay to have the lights on, or a restaurant being able to pay for food or dishwashers. If having a coach means the difference between his being able to reliably be able to bring home a paycheck and succeed personally vs. losing his job and going inexerably from failure to failure, then it may not be something that you can afford to take out of your budget. As far as what "should" motivate him, it may be more useful to recognize what "does" motivate him. For some of us, fear of failure is not motivating, but rather is paralyzing. When you've failed a lot, you don't fear failure. When it is at all likely, you learn to expect it. In that case, you at least unconsciously feel that effort won't change things. It is depressing, quite frankly. A coach really helps in recognizing and challenging these expectations. (Remember, when the negative expectations aren't challenged, they seem reasonable, just like suicide can seem reasonable to a person suffering from depression.) Coaching is unfortunately too much of a parent-like role for most spouses to take on, especially when we're not talking about coaching elite athletes who don't fear failing or disappointing their coaches. The hope of success is motivating. I have found that anxiety-production makes me less productive, not more. In fact, going to therapy and learning to identify and cope with anxiety has been one of the most useful tools I have in dealing with ADD. Consider whether there is any way whatsoever that you can rearrange your finances to bring a coach back in for your husband. Over the course of his career, assuming it becomes a long and successful career at one job, rather than a steadily declining career that careens from one job to the next, coaching is very likely to pay for itself many times over.

To Jenny

I agree completely.  A coach is not a dispensible item for your husband, and the money invested in a finding a good one should pay in returns.  Also, I find the words of "I'm wondering if you can afford NOT" to be very accurate in terms of how people with ADD are and are not motivated.  Your anxiety, I can guarantee you, is creating bigger problems for your husband (and you), and not motivating him.  Think of a coach as his "glasses" or as his "computer" or any other tool necessary for success and find one (let him find one, in fact, if he can).  You already know it works for him...

You say that your burden is your fear of your husband sabotaging his teaching career because he gets off track...then later you say that he is more successful when he has a coach and is regularly monitored (by someone other than you).  Do you see the disconnect here?  You say you cannot afford a coach but what you REALLY can't afford is his losing his job.  So either use the old coach or find one who can coach long distance (over the phone) who is both reliable and affordable.  And don't let fear be the thing that is guiding your decisions.  Even scientific research shows that people make very bad decisions when they are based on fear.

You also say that you don't wish to assume control or responsibility over your shared future...yet the thing that you suggest is the best known path for ensuring that your husband succeed is something that you are resisting.  In other words, not getting a coach increases the chances that you will need to take responsibility for the two of you financially.

You are going to get angry when I say this, perhaps, but I'm going to suggest that it is your hopes that your husband will CHANGE that is getting in your way.  You're looking for some miracle - for example that he'll be motivated the way that you are motivated, or that he'll think and act the way that you do.  STOP THAT!!!  Stop hoping he will change and take that realistic look you talk about (but aren't yet really taking).  He needs the coach, and you know the coach will help him.  Get the coach!!!  Needing a coach isn't awful - it's just different from you.  Lots and lots of really, really important executives had coaches for years...they were called "executive secretaries".  Nobody was embarassed for their need.  You shouldn't be, either.

Next, you need to figure out how you can stop being his monitor and caretaker.  It's not healthy for either of you if you start taking over what he's supposed to be doing (how will he ever do it, if you do it?)  You say that you want to "have clear and realistic expectations without having to assume ALL control/responsibility over our shared future".  The only way that you will assume ALL control is if you TAKE it.  Expect that he will have some control over your joint future, give him the freedom (dare I say "permission"?  that would sound too parent-like) to be himself.  He got himself to his position...and he's not a stupid man...just someone who is different from you.

Finally, look for signs of depression, which sleeping rather than working, might indicate.

As for being discouraged yourself, that is a problem for many who read this site.  They see the agony (because that is what people write about) but don't see the successes (because when they are successful they move on to something else, like enjoying life).  There are successes here (I know of them because some stay in touch with me personally).  Stay strong!



Hi Melissa, I wrote an

Hi Melissa, I wrote an article yesterday (under Frustraded)as well that was more in length about my husband and ADD. you can read more there. But to sum up what i said, my question originally was with medication. He's on Strattera but I don't think its doing enough and our doctor doesn't think he needs anything else. My husband has a problem with keeping jobs and is currently looking for 9 months now. He's interviewing but no bites. We were recently told he would have had a decent job if he would have just passed the reading comprehension test. That does NOT surprise me at all because his retention for new information is pretty bad. I have to reshow a lot of things to him....mainly anything academic. Plus he doesn't like to read anything which doesn't help. My thought is could this also be a learning disability alongside ADD? And how should we go about treating this in an adult? And if its not an LD, could another medication just be enough for him to be better at retaining information? In response to this article you wrote, I still feel like the only way I can live with my husband is to have no expectations and then I won't be disappointed, except in the fact that i married a guy that didn't meet the needs i wanted (i'm taking care of him!) and so I don't respect him. How do you respect someone with ADD? My marriage is disappointing and it leaves me worn out and depressed. How do you get past that? I'm trying to get him better medication and therapy but so far it hasn't helped and there are so many women on this site who don't see improvement even AFTER they've tried multiple medications and therapy? All I know is I need a husband who can hold a decent job and that is the dealbreaker for me! Please help! I'm so dissalusioned and disappointed!!

Job search

Has your husband registered through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation? It is sort of the unemployment office for people who have challenges that cause them difficulty finding or keeping jobs. It is notoriously difficult to get help for those with behavioral disorders but, they may have some information that could be helpful; and they may be able to give you some advice on where to go or what to try. Maybe you could write down the name, address and phone number for your husband and ask him to pursue some answers through them. Perhaps you could review material together or even brainstorm what he might want to ask them about before he even calls. Let me know if you get answers on the rest. I could use more help. I did get some friends (no counselors available here in the middle of nowhere) to step in and help with the accountability and 'how to be nice to your wife' and 'how not to spend every penny you or your spouse makes' angles of things. The last couple of weeks have been better. I fear for when those supports are taken down that I will be set up for a slam-dunk-splat again. Best of luck to you,

I just added a post about the same thing

I notice no one has really reply to mine and no has really answered yours. I also need my husband to hold down a job, any job. He can't be a stay at home dad, I would then have to hire a Nanny and a housekeeper, not to mention a cook. I do not make near the salary for one of the above much less all three.  When I have the kids all day, I come home to him playing on the computer and the house a disaster. I wish I had the luxury to live in oblivion.  He has to hold a job so our children's friends don't call him a loser to our children. Four years of therapy and drugs, tried all and he is still running in circles in the same unemployed place he was before.  Can we at least expect someone with ADD to hold down a job. Are there any jobs he could do. Why are there no therapist that can really help.  What happens to an ADD spouse who is kick out the house with no job, do they all of sudden get it together? I have asked my husband to pack up and leave in March. So today, I find him playing on the computer, I guess by June my children's father will be homeless. Why is being married to an ADD spouse a lose /lose situation. If they stay- it is chaos and unstability, if they leave- it is fear and uncertainty. I am sure I would receive no financial support if we divorce.

Husband without Job

Sorry it's taken me a while to get back - I've been out of town and very busy.

Reading comprehension problems MAY be a result of physical issues with the eye.  I recently took my daughter to a behavioral optometrist only to discover that she has eye tracking and focus issues.  Her symptoms include that she is a very slow reader, and that comprehension comes slowly.  She has to reread things to get them down.  She starts therapy for this tomorrow.  The therapy is about 12 weeks and, supposedly, at the end of this she will most likely be a better reader and have an easier time getting info she reads to stick in her brain.  It costs about $250 to get an exam for this, and you need to see a special person (behavioral optometrist rather than a regular optometrist) for one on the web and make sure that you see someone who is licensed.  Therapy is a good deal more expensive and not covered by insurance to the best of my knowledge.  Nonetheless, reading is such a critical skill that I wanted to pursue it.  I'll write more about the therapy if it actually ends up working for her.

As for meds, if you and your husband aren't seeing real improvement with Strattera, then you should be trying something else (meds won't get him a are looking for improvements in focus, anger management, ability to start and stop tasks etc).  Strattera works for some people, and not at all for others.  Have him ask his doc if there are specific reasons he's staying away from other meds (for example a heart condition).  If there aren't any, then it doesn't make sense not to experiment.  Worse case is that he goes back to the STrattera.

Do you have kids?  If not, given what you are describing, I would suggest you consider putting it off a while until you see if the two of you can get your feet solidly on the ground.  Many women have dreams about getting married to a wonderful prince who takes care of them forever (I did) and are shocked when life doesn't turn out that way.  Question is, will he pick himself up, or not?  And will you?  Sounds as if he is trying  to treat his ADD, but overcoming ADD symptoms is a long-term project.  Meds help, but it is the "retraining" himself that will help the most.  He needs to learn organization skills he hasn't yet learned, how to be a better communicator, how to hold a job etc.  These things take time and LOTS of effort that is particularly hard to make when he isn't getting much positive feedback (which he isn't.  He's unemployed, and his wife doesn't like being with him).  Try putting yourself in his shoes.  Assume he does WANT to succeed but has symptoms that interfere.  What kind of help would you want in that situation?  See if this approach can ease the stress between you a bit.

Do explore the possibility that something else that has not yet been diagnosed is going on.  Fully 80% of people with ADD also suffer from something else...given your doubts and description, it's quite possible he's in that group.  I'll try to get to your other post within a few days.

Husband without job

Thanks Melissa that would be great to let me know what you find with your daughter. Also, one more thing. I have a problem with my husband repeatly saying "what" in about every conversation we have! Some days it feels like i'm talking in another language to him. I"m tired of repeating myself! Do you know what all the "what's" might be about?? Does he have an aural disability or is it more ADD?

Saying "what"

Saying "what" might be an indication of distraction (didn't hear because he wasn't paying attention) or might be a hearing problem.  Consider having his hearing tested to see which.

No news yet on my daughter.

This ISN'T "lowering standards"?

"I expected he would:

  • share equally in housework
  • show his interest in the kids and in the same fashion that I did
  • do things when I asked
  • do what I asked
  • financially support us (I am financially stable…don’t need his support)
  • do things similarly to how I do them
  • share my priorities
  • communicate with me in the same kinds of ways that women do (talking things out)
  • would like to help out in ways similar to my father (role model)
  • would be as social as I am, including setting up dates
  • would be well organized in areas that I care about

Notice that there are a lot of “I” things in this list.  In retrospect, my expectations were actually about me, not him or us.  They were things that I expected would happen my way.  Why?  Because, that’s how I was used to getting things done or that was the way I saw my parents do them."


That list and the abandonment of these as "non-core values" blew my mind. I'm sorry Melissa, but that list above that involves a lot of "I" things contains a whopping degree of just RESPECT for you and your space.   OK, I can see the idea of not being as social as you are or not performing tasks in the same way you would.  And lord knows, in my particular case, my father was NO role model to copy.

But are you suggesting that I "improve" my expectations that my husband should participate equally in a house he shares with our son???? I'm not a clean freak. I don't whack out on fingerprints on glass, OK? But laundry done? Clean dishes? Healthy meals? Come on. This is what a parent does! At least it's what I do, but my husband can't be bothered doing the same. 

I should "improve" my expectations that he would share interest in our son in the same ways I do?? What in the world does that mean? Like, my way is to take our son to the doctor and see to his education and my husband's way of showing interest is to prop the baby up in a bouncy seat while he plays on his computer? I should "improve" my expectation to accept this as remotely resembling "the best he can do" as a parent? Bovine waste product.

I came to this blog just months past an emotional crisis of idealizing suicide over dealing with my husband's chronic neglect.  One of the reasons I never went further than that cathartic ideation was because I knew that without me around, my husband would drop out of life - and consequently caring for our son.  I feared that my leaving (in any way) would mean my son (toddler now) could easily be dead within the same year if left to my husband's care.

OK, so I'm not truly suicidal and my depression is back to being rage. I can say with emotional and intellectual certainty that there will be no voluntary departure from this place without my son. But I'm not immortal. If I died or became incapacitated unwillingly I should "improve" the expectation that my husband cannot be a basically responsible parent??? I should "improve" my expectation that he would support our son?  Are you KIDDING me???

In other words, I shouldn't have many expectations of his participation as a parent or husband at all.  Therefore, I'm lost as to why I need him present in our lives at all.  Because if that's the list of expectations I need to "improve", then I might as well kick him to the curb this afternoon. I already have a two year old who has been two just a week. I don't need another one around who has been two years old for 42 years and neither does the actual 2 year old.




AMEN!!! LOL!!! I almost lost

AMEN!!! LOL!!! I almost lost my lunch when I read this post! I PRAY no women (or men) come to this site and butcher their self-esteem any more than it already has been by feeling "selfish" (!!!!!!) that they can't 'make it work' with a highly neglectful ADHD spouse...anyone who would encourage people in this situation to blame THEMSELVES for not putting even MORE effort into being the 'single parent' in a 2-parent household is a sadist (as well as masochist) in need of some serious mental help. Its about RESPECT - who in their right mind should feel its their duty to "accept" someone who doesn't treat them with respect? I can understand this attitude towards a co-worker, but towards a friend or SPOUSE? And what kind of a message does this send to their children??

Okay - time for some clarification!

I, too, am in LOL mode at reading the above two posts - and mostly because I clearly haven't communicated what I wanted to communicate.  So I will clarify, so that you don't think that I'm batty.  Here's what I mean when I say the following things:

"Share equally in the housework" - my view now is that your lives together is bigger than houseork, so we split it differently.  That is he does technology repair, runs this website for me (time consumring and daily), dishes, laundry when I'm out of town.  Calls the kids at 2am when they have an emergency because they lost a wallet.  Does technology stuff count as "housework"?  Not in my book.  My point was that each person does what they are good at, and it likely won't be "even", but both should contribute.

"show interest in the kids in the same fashion as I do" - my point in this one was "same fashion".  He doesn't "mother" them, he doesn't "protect" them in the same way I do.  He doesn't hover which, when they were little, means they sometimes ran off with their friends while he was on duty.  He does spend lots of time with them working through electronics issues, helping them with their IPods, etc.  Does it mean he's a bad parent that we don't parent the same way?  No.

"do things when I asked".  Who made me the queen of the schedule?  It's a sign of respect in both directions that we now "talk out" what timing works for us both.  A big improvement.  If he didn't do things at all (vs. when I ask) then I would be adamant that he start.

"financially support us" - why should the guy have to do it all?  My husband has always contributed nicely to our finances, but is it fair to ask that he solely support us?

"do things similarly to how I do them" - again, why should he do things the same way as me?  I had expected that he would, being wrapped up in knowing that my way has always worked for me...but that doesn't mean that it works for him.  He does things VERY differently from me, and now that I've come to expect that, our marriage is much stronger.  And I will admit, it isn't always clear that his way is as efficient as mine.  But that doesn't invalidate his approach.

"share my priorities" - we share the big priorities - family, how people should be together, etc - but we don't share many of the little priorities, particularly around how we choose to attack similar problems.  He will always approach somethng with a logical bent, I will often approach from a more intuitive bent.  I will ask people first, he will prioritize research over people.  And research on the internet is de rigor.  Now that I've accepted that we react differently there is much less friction about how we interact.  That's a good thing.

"communicate with me in the same kinds of ways that women do (talking things out)"  I had big expectations that he would sit down with me and talk forever about emotional issues, or small daily issues.  He has very little patience for the mundane (though has trained himself to focus on it for a bit so that he can satisfy some of my needs to communicate about the little things in life) and has learned when it's a good time to talk with me about emotions.  We've found a great balance, but it isn't the one I expected at first.

"would be well organized in areas that I care about" - like the house.  Fact is, he's not.  While he's fastidious about his own appearance, his closet looks like a tornado hit it, his office is a huge tangle of wires and monitors and boxes, and I have ceded at least a third of my kitchen island to a computer, radio and LOTS of wires.  He hordes things, too.  (And, by the way, I admit to not being perfect, as well.)  Our house isn't messy, but on any day you will likely find dishes on the counter, music strewn throughout the living room, clothes on the floor of the bedrooms, and lots of stuff on the bath counters.  We aren't what I would consider "well organized".  On the other hand, we are happier than when I was certain that organization is next to Godliness.  We've, essentially, met in the middle - he has spaces that are just his (office, part of counter, basement, car, closet) that I say NOTHING about, and I keep the areas that matter most to me neat and let the other stuff go.  So in the end, I am responsible for staying organized where it matters to me because it matters to me, not to him.  That's quite a bit different from my original expectation - that we would both care equally and organize equally.  But it's not unfair.  There are areas that I don't care about at all that he does pay attention to, too.

So, to FabTemp, yes I agree with you 100%, it is all about RESPECT and that is my number one value.  But what I have learned is that respect doesn't mean someone has to do things the way you expect them to.  It means that you both learn about each other and find a middle ground that is satisfying to you both.  If your partner isn't willing to participate at all, you have a problem.  (I will note here, since it seems as if might be relevant for your personal situation that in the years when I was very angry at my husband he didn't participate, or "work with me" if you will, on principle.  I was too prickly and he didn't feel like being tossed around by my anger.  Your anger is legitimate, but unhelpful if your goal is to improve your lot either through staying in your marriage or getting out of it.  You will benefit in many ways if you can get help learning how to become less angry.)  

I still stick to what I was trying to say (albeit inneffectively, it seems) that a marriage isn't all about "me" - it's about "me" and "you" and in ADD marriages "me and you" often don't fit together in ways that people grew up expecting.  So you need to find ground somewhere in the middle (or somewhere around there).  If you can't, then it won't work.  You can "kick him to the curb", as you say so demeaningly (you wouldn't even begin to claim you wanted to treat your dog that way!) but before you do that, please address your anger as best you can.  That way the separation or divorce proceedings that seem to be in your future will be more productive.  By that I mean one in which your child is best protected and you are least damaged.

And, in case I haven't made my point clear, your interpretation that I am suggesting that you shouldn't have any expectations of his participation at all is exactly the opposite of what I was trying to communicate.  You MUST have expectations if he is going to participate.  I'm asking you to evaluate the basis of your expectations and look for different ways to be together - like think of the work of a marriage more broadly than just housework.  Like parent, but let him parent in a way that's comfortable to him.  Do things his own way (unless it puts you or the kids in mortal danger) because it's his way, and no one said your way was the only way.

I'm hoping that this clarifies the intent of my original post, though recognize that they may not.

Re:sharing housework

Melissa this is a good post. I understand everything that you write here. My house sounds like yours. I,am getting a lot more organized though now that hes out of the house. My husband hoarded as well the basement was his, the garage and his side of the room.We always hoarded books they were everywhere like we are knowledge freaksLOL...My husband has always worked hard when he was doing well. He is in construction ,what a blessing he is working now. I know that he really was depressed when he lost his job bec economy. He told me when a man doesn't work they don't feel good about themselves, they don't have to have Adhd. But I wonder if some of the husbands I'am reading about here have such low self esteem along with the focus issue that they do things such as play video games, etc... it gets to be such a vicious cycle that they don't do anything except laziness and then if you nag(as I did at times) it becomes a wedge between the two of you. This is what I observed in my hubby. His self esteem was tied into so much of how he lives. He would try to get organized but it fell apart as he got distracted with life. We bought a house that I live in now for 11 yrs and it was a fixer up. I believed him when we movd in that he would get the house done in a short period of timeLOL. Well 11 yrs later theres still work to be done al;though he has done a lot. This house was so stressful on us. I have to put it up for sale as the bank will foreclose feb of 2010.I did alot of the cleaning work in the house and he would help at times. I understood what was important to him such as what was to me. Your right your way is not the only way., he always use to tell me though  that I think my way is the only way.but you know I did have to get out because he became hazardous to me and kids. I 'am learnong so much. I have more to write but will do so later. Thanks!!! 

lowering expectations and trying to find peace of mind

I am finding that I am "stuffing" my needs/wants, my very person-hood.  Really trying to find a point of having no expectations so that I am not in "pain" most of the time.  When everything is in such a tumble down---the taxes get done every 5-6 years and that is with chaos, the taxes not being done mean we can't refinance, I'm the only paying job and most of life's energy is going to pay mortgage and high interest, my ADD spouse is the only one who can do the taxes because he's been rather self employed and most of the information is in his head (and therefore in his hands).

I stopped gardening because he moved the plants to fix the fence but did not fix the leak in the sewer line.  He said he wanted to put in a watering system and dug down my only gardening space then left it that way, he did not approve of my garden plan anyway. Everything goes this direction: Stonewalled on every front.  If I try to venture out on my own I get yelled at. I feel very uncertain and fearful, lack confidence now.  If I ask him for help (or if we can work on something together or try a different approach) he answers with "Maybe" or "We'll see", both mean no/never.  I'm dying inside.  It is like finishing something, having a sense of accomplishment or the joy in doing something like simple gardening has to go thru a federal committee (so lets just forget it).

I have to kill what's inside me: the tender parts that want a real partner, a few flowers, an non-hoarder affected house, finances that serve us, comfort and confidence and security, friends that I can be open with without feeling guilty or disloyal.  I feel shame, guilt, frustration, remorse, sadness, grief, longing, envy, isolation, hopeless, thwarted life energy.

Is there a place in spirit that can transcend a painful life and find inner peace.  A peace that is not reliant on anything from the outside?  That's where I'm trying to go.  People do find it, like people who have been prisoners of war, or near-death survivors, etc.  Is it there for me too?

This is a great list Melissa.

This is a great list Melissa. But what if your husband is inatentive and incapable of giving emotionally?

Dead-ends & Catch-22's - not married

Hi Melissa,

What about ADHD'ers who refuse to even admit it, or get it checked out?  And we're not married (both age 55)?  (My *newly former* fiance'.)

Meanwhile, they nix some of the coping options, such as having a cleaning service come (controlling); They only grudgingly admit/take up some responsibility (such as chore responsibility, or to stop the impulsive rage habit) when facing a crisis, such as breaking up/ losing you.  Another honeymoon - then, they backpedal on committing, afraid to lose their freedom (after asking you to marry them) - but don't want to lose you, either.  (The proverbial, "wants their cake and eat it, too.")

Here are a few more fun features:  Indecisive on anything responsible, changes their minds / renegs on follow-through/agreements repeatedly (retreating to: "well it wasn't written in stone") BUT impulsively saying yes to every fun thing *they* want for *themselves*  - impulsive spending, chronic time-debting , exhaustion/crankiness from all that over-scheduling/ time-debting - the whole nine yards.  It got so he was practically only crashing here (not to mention the unpredictable, impulsive anger, which even he regrets), but he still expected a loving, supportive, available partner.

Even when he says "wow, that sounds just like us" after hearing an ADHD couples story, he still stubbornly refuses to admit his ADHD - or at least rule it out!

So I gave him his 30 days notice.  He leaves this week, but we're still very bonded.   I'm completely torn, but my boundary is that he has to get real help for his ADHD before we can continue at all.  He insists he wants me in his life - but he's so fickle, who knows?  He could say the complete opposite , 60 seconds later.  He "says" he's "still" my "life partner."  Whatever that means.

I don't see much hope here, even with realistic core expectations on my part.  The ADHD MUST be actively managed first, wouldn't you say?