Are All With ADHD the Same?

There is some conversation going on right now in the forums questioning whether it is appropriate to make generalizations about people with ADHD.  One person suggests this is insulting or hurtful to group those with ADHD together.  Another poster asks:  ‘if "they" (people with ADHD) are all so completely different, why do we keep hearing the same behaviors (forgetting, interrupting, not handling money well, etc.) coming up over and over?’  I would like to respond to this question in the blog, rather than in the forums.

The reason that many people with ADHD forget, interrupt, get distracted, etc. is because those are the symptoms that classify them as being ADHD.  If they didn't have those symptoms they wouldn't be "named" ADHD.  But you need only have some of the symptoms on the symptom list to be classified as ADHD.  So this means that ADHD really does come in all sorts of combinations.  I run into people who have "overwhelm" as the most important part of their ADHD, others who have any (but usually not all) of these symptoms, as well:  distraction, hyperactivity, need for stimulation, defensiveness, lack of brakes, inability to read cues, anxiety, depression, etc.  I also have clients who have these characteristics (that are rarely, if ever, discussed on this site...) empathetic, sad, creative, brilliant, confused, loving, proud, willing to try against all odds, successful... you simply cannot generalize in a way that covers every person with ADHD.  We are all individuals - ADHD or not - and deserve to be treated as such.

But the symptoms – in whatever combination you or your partner has them in - are real. At times it seems overwhelming that a partner with ADHD can't seem to make the changes a hopeful (or frustrated) non-ADHD partner wants them to make.  Some with ADHD really can't get out of their own way (just as some people without ADHD can't make the changes that their ADHD partner so needs). Some don’t see a need to.  But for many more it's a matter of time, and fully reassessing who they are.  This is really hard, and may not be done in the time frame that a non-ADHD partner needs.  But that doesn't mean that they can't change - only that they haven't yet.  How to respond to that idea, and whether or not to become hopeful or finally give up, is one of the really big questions that every struggling couple faces.  (Note - it's my experience that some ADHD partners also ask this question, but often find themselves thinking that they can't give up on their angry, frustrated or otherwise unhappy non-ADHD partner because they feel they themselves have messed up and don't really deserve any better.  So your partner may not express it, but may sometimes wonder about giving up, as well.)

Where do I want this all to go?  It sure would be great if things magically, and instantly, got better for everyone at this site.  But since that isn't going to happen, I guess I simply want to reiterate that while your personal experience seems all-consuming, that still only makes it true for you, not (in its entirety) for everyone else.  As a group, you have similar experiences because you have common characteristics by definition (either you are an ADHD person or are in a serious relationship with a person with ADHD) and the good news is that this commonality means there is a wealth of information you can share with each other and learn from.  My strong preference continues to be people use this site to share their personal experiences, share what they've tried, what's worked and what hasn't.  In my perfect world, you would all think of yourselves as a learning community with a common goal - to make your lives better and easier.


sapphyre's picture

Thank you Melissa

The blogs are the more balanced part of the site, the forums are a bit more chaotic.

Thanks for this very good post!

I think the key thing that is

I think the key thing that is often forgotten that causes this issue to pop up every few months is that if ALL of us take the time to understand where EVERYONE is coming from then we can have more compassion for that person and not automatically assume that the generalizations (sometimes perceived, sometimes my honest opinion) are some deep seeded horrible way of thinking about ALL people with ADHD.

We are all living our own lives...good, bad, and ugly...with someone who has ADHD. I think it would be very dangerous (and often is a death sentence to the marriage) to operate under the assumption that ADHD doesn't cause some very hurtful and frustrating behaviors. Another thing I REALLY wish many would keep in mind (especially those who are offended by negative comments) is that many of us were married for MANY years with NO explaination of why our husbands lie, procrastinate, over spend, never help around the house, don't keep a steady job, hyperfocus on everything but their wives, etc. I thought my husband was the most selfish person I had ever met in my entire life. I could not process how his words and his actions were so completely opposite ends of the spectrum. We were 13+ years into the marriage and had been through HELL and back before we even got the diagnosis. To be honest, I never DREAMED there was a diagnosis and an explanation for his behaviors. After 13, 20, 35 years people tend to become to enmeshed in the horrible parent/child - it's all his fault/it's all her fault - I only do X because you nag too much/I only nag too much because you do X patterns that the result is what you see here. I think we can all appreciate how hard it is for someone with ADHD to learn they have it after spending much of their adult lives not knowing. I think we can also appreciate how hard it is for them to change their entire way of thinking and operating so that they are more successful at work, relationships, and live in general. BUT we also need to appreciate how hard it is for the non-ADHD spouse to just say "oh, damn, that was ADHD all along? Well, let's forget about everything and just move forward". AND MOST IMPORTANTLY what needs to be known and never forgotten is that I would venture the majority of members here have spouses (male and female) who DENY that ADHD is causing problems for their marriages and sometimes, just to make matters worse, blame is deflected COMPLETELY on the non-ADHD spouse. I'm sorry if no one else agrees, but these people have a right to be upset. For many reasons they choose to keep keep stay married and hope someday their miracle will come. Anyone refusing to acknowledge their ADHD and how it impacts their lives is just plain selfish and cruel. I am not of the mindset that the ADHD causes this refusal, although I know it might contribute, I just think that is a downright selfish person at heart.

Also, as hurtful as the comments might be to read, please also consider the flip side of the coin and how if we all weren't free to say "damnit, I'm really upset about this issue today" then the basic reason I come here would be gone. For support. To know I'm not alone. God, can you imagine how wonderful and life saving that can be for so many of us who have felt all alone in this for so many years??!! Do I think all ADHDers are like my husband? No. Not at all. I try and be careful to never say anything that could be taken as me saying all ADHDers are alike. If I make a generalization it is me saying "in my situation, this is what was going on and this might be what is going on with your husband". I am not always right, because ADHDers are not all alike, but again...when we know that someone can relate and we can see people at different points in their lives it helps so much. It can give someone in the pits of hell hope. It can give someone who isn't sure if they should proceed with their marriage a possible look at their future. It can give those who are married to someone in complete denial the courage to walk away. The support doesn't always have the ideal outcome, but it serves a great purpose.

Bottom line, don't take offense...just ask questions, try and understand WHY a person is hurting and try and help. I concede, there are some posts on here that are just flat out nothing but 'a woman scorned' and serve no real purpose.

I TRULY applaud anyone who acknowledges their ADHD and takes necessary steps to get help. I think these ADHDers have a much needed place here. It often seems though, as if they are the ones who are so offended by the frustrations and anger of the non-ADHD spouses...when if they would just take a step back and realize what their experience might offer those of us who are seeking help and support (and yes, those who are angry and bitter still!) I think that would be wonderful!

Simora, you recently posted about how depressing reading some of the posts here was to you. I can honestly say that I have that exact same experience, but obviously for different reasons. This isn't an experience that is unique to ADHDers, I do know that. But much of what you find depressing is far more depressing for those who are living it. Please just consider that. I hope you stay around and post with us for a long time because I think once the initial sting wears off, and you grow to realize that we don't hate everyone with ADHD (just the ADHD experiences we live with everyday) and I do feel you probably have a lot to offer as far as insight into the ADHD mind AND your experiences might help us grow in our ability to feel compassion towards our spouses and behaviors that we don't understand.


I find your posts balanced, fair and compassionate. You demonstrate wisdom even while venting about negative experiences. I do take issue with your statement that what I find depressing is far worse for others. Some of these posts make me feel like a Jew or Gypsy in WW2 Berlin. Other posts make me feel like crawling into a hole to die because of the defective, inferior,  animalistic creature I know most "normals" believe me to be.

I think that these hateful posts drive away the higher functioning, more accomplished of us. Who wants to read such criticism and hatred about themselves? I think I must be masochistic to come here day after day trying to convince people that we are human beings with feelings, and that it is close to hell to become aware of your lost potential in the case of some, to become aware of the havoc you have wreaked in the lives of people you love.

I have watched my teen daughter hate herself because of her issues with impulsivity. You don't know pain until you have sat with your little girl, holding her hands tight while calling an ambulance, praying that the kitchen knife she has just used to slash up her arms does not make it back to the original destination.

I don't blame you for thinking your pain far greater than mine, or that every "normal" must suffer more than their spouse. But my point is this; how can there be healing when there is still hate and mistrust?

Hate and Mistrust

Have you read George's last comment to an ADHDer ?

do you really think

I'm wallowing in self pity? Is that the post you are referring to?

Well said

Great insight, sad but true.

Response to Sherri's Post


I truly commend the consistent and respectful diplomacy you demonstrate toward everyone on this site, regardless of whether you post in response to a non-ADHD member or those with ADHD.  It is much appreciated and is a great example of how we all should treat each other.  We can all say what we need to say and remain kind, even while expressing anger.  Learning this skill will not only help us relate better to each other on this site, but to our spouses as well.  Everyone on this site has suffered because of ADHD in one way or another, and we need to help each other instead of letting it divide us.  I genuinely believe we all have a lot to learn from each other.  In spite of my annoyance regarding some of the comments I have read, I do not personalize it.  Instead, I think that the anger displayed by some posters on both "sides" is a reflection of the inner turmoil and DEPRESSION that they are undoubtedly experiencing, and I hope they get the help they need.

The only thing with which I respectfully disagree, Sherri, is your belief that ALL ADHD spouses who refuse to treat their ADHD are selfish.  I fully comprehend that my statement is inflammatory, so please allow me to explain.  On a personal level, I was not diagnosed with ADHD until my last year in college.  At that time, the diagnosis was just starting to become public knowledge and there was a lot of controversy surrounding it, such as whether or not it even existed.  I was diagnosed during a full educational battery of tests, but immediately dismissed it, thinking, "ADHD doesn't exist!  It's just a crutch for irresponsible people to make excuses for themselves as well as the diagnosis "du jour."  Fast-forward 6 years later, when I am in my 3rd year as a teacher.  It took me 3 YEARS to recognize that I shared so much in common with my ADHD students, and I finally got put on medication.  I'm no idiot, and yet it took that long to put it together; embarrassing, but I now understand why.  Before that, I easily recognized the common denominator between them, but since adults present differently, I didn't make the leap to include myself under the ADHD umbrella.  I have been on medication for a number of years now, and it is still only in the past year and a half that I have approached a more complete understanding that my symptoms have affected my relationship with my husband, and it is only in the past 4 months that I understand how and why, and the justification of the anger and pain of my spouse, thanks to Melissa's book.  Even following this epiphany, it continues to be a struggle to effectively address my symptoms, and believe me when I tell you, I am busting my a**.  In fact, I always have been, to the degree to which I could understand what was going on at the moment.  I never once had to be reminded to do my homework when I was a student.   I spent hours on it, and had no clue why I needed to get up every 10 minutes to walk around, why my mind was an active volcano of distracted thought even though I desperately wanted to concentrate on my schoolwork, or why the only way I could focus was after intense bursts of exercise.  I was completely unmedicated throughout my entire educational career and yet I was trying SO HARD to overcome difficulties I didn't really understand.  Even though I was addressing my issues to the best of my ability at that time, I look back and cannot believe A) how the hell I did it in total ignorance of what was going on and in the absence of medication and B) how little I understood myself as compared to now.  One of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD is "poor self-observer," which certainly explains why it took an intelligent person 3 years to realize that maybe, just MAYBE, she has ADHD and perhaps would benefit from treatment.  The other ADHD symptom which makes it very difficult to change (NOT IMPOSSIBLE, THOUGH, EVEN IF IT FEELS THAT WAY :)!)is "does not appear to learn from mistakes."  A few years ago, at a professional meeting at my school, we were given a survey on executive functioning  during a conference on the same topic .  I remember the presenter asking the audience, "For those of you who are organized, and who have great executive functioning, how long have you been this way?"  There was an immediate chorus of unrehearsed , "ALWAYS!"  Well, obviously, I don't fit into that mold.  I have ALWAYS struggled with executive functioning and have made the same stupid mistakes OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN, MUCH TO MY FRUSTRATION AND TO THAT OF MY HUSBAND..  The one area of executive functioning I scored high on was metacognition (thinking about thinking).  This makes sense, as throughout my life, I have tried to understand why I am so different than most , why despite my many achievements, I have known that I am underachieving for my intelligence (you are so astute for observing this, Dr. Hallowell!), and why I have had to try so much harder than other people to accomplish mundane tasks.  I have also tried very hard to overcome this, and I know from experience that "effort" doesn't count much with my husband, just results.  I am now getting results, but after a lifetime of struggle, a lifetime of not understanding why trying hard yielded such inconsistent results from a smart individual.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have cried in frustration over this.  I am not a lazy person.  I am a resilient, stubborn, tenacious, fighter.  I always have been, and I could not have survived without these qualities.  Remember that about your ADHDer.  He or she is likely stubborn as hell.  The reverse side of the same coin is that he or she could harness this stubbornness to  achieve his or her goals.  these I finally got on the honor roll in high school (once I started exercising vigorously and consistently) thanks to my extraordinary efforts (4 hours of sleep was not uncommon, though I don't recommend this to anyone!!!).  I have had the same job my entire career, and at no point, even before medication, was I in jeopardy of losing it due to my ADHD symptoms.  My entire life has been a game of whac-a-mole as concerns attempting to manage my ADHD symptoms.  That I kept losing this game (if I compare my results to those without ADHD) while working so frenetically while the non-ADHD people just instinctively "know" how to play has been demoralizing.  I finally learned from Melissa's book that my continual resolve to "try harder" was a losing proposition.  "Trying differently" to quote Melissa, has been the singularly most helpful suggestion I have received about my ADHD, because it allows me to solve my own issues in the way I do it best, by harnessing that creative outside-the-box thinking (who can think inside-the-box when you can't ******* find it???)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that many of us (NOT ALL, I don't want to make ANY type of generalizations about ANY group on this site) are trying so much harder than is perceived.  The results may not be what any of us want them to be, but that doesn't mean the effort isn't there.  Refusing to treat one's ADHD may be (in part) due to the fact that people like me don't necessarily perceive reality as it is.  We need lots and lots of data to convince us of the contrary.  I know that for me, "trying differently" has meant I have needed to change my strategy by reflecting on what doesn't work, why it doesn't work for someone like me, and devising some realistic strategies that acknowledge that I can't do things like other people and blindly hope for the same results.  Those of you without ADHD can play an effortless game of whac-a-mole with your one tiny mallet and a brain that tells you how to defeat this simple game.  Not me.  I need one extra-large mallet in each hand with motion-detecting lasers so I can take down the rest.  It's the only way I can play, and I accept that... finally!

I wonder though if there is a

I wonder though if there is a difference between someone like yourself, who knew something was wrong, and although it took you 3 years to realize it, you did something about it and the ADHDers who are actively in unhappy marriages, hear the complaints of their spouses, but yet deflect blame. What would your opinion on those types of situatons, ADHDers be? I can fully appreciate your journey from diagnosis to treatment and all of the struggles in between...but do you feel that this is the case with many of the spouses here with ADHD that have literally walked away from their marriages in lieu of going to counseling, or even so much as admitting any fault in the marriage? Maybe this isn't ADHD and just simply a commonality to many failed marriages. I don't know, to me there just feels like a deeper level of denial or a deeper level of need to blame others or something..maybe another disorder along with the ADHD?

I will make more on this point in a minute, when responding to something Simora said, but I do believe with all of my heart and soul that the struggle ADHDers have is very real, very painful, and can be very overwhelming. I know this because I have seen it with my own eyes. My husband always seemed like a man with good intentions who just never could quite 'get there'. I said for many years that I knew he struggled with some kind of demons, and I KNEW in my heart of hearts that he wanted to be the person he promised over and over he would be. My heart goes out to him...and you...and anyone who struggles with the difficulties ADHD brings to your plates. Honestly. I GET IT. I do. (((HUGS)))

Different ... and Exactly the Same

Hi Sherri,

I'm not proud of this, but as industrious as I have always been in school and in work, but I was that person who deflected blame within ... and so was my husband.  I knew I was trying, didn't know a better way to meet his expectations or mine for that matter, and blamed him for being so critical without true understanding of how stressful and overwhelming his role was.  Unlike school where I was my own worst critic, but had the support of my parents, he tried being supportive, but like me, he had no idea what was going on.  Over time, we began to read like a page from Melissa's book.  I felt badly about myself, angry toward him and could only perceive the hurtful words he said but not the actions I had taken (or not taken) that led to his frustration.  He, for his part, began to justify his criticisms (because it was the only way "change" occurred) while feeling increasingly angry and bitter toward me.  I never considered divorce, but emotionally detached from him after years of criticism (this was about 3 years ago).   I now realize it took me about 11 years into school before I found a method that worked for me, and about 18 years into our relationship before I "got it."  Relationships are so much complicated than school.. at least for me.  Ugh.  My poor husband.  I am sad that I didn't know what I was doing, sad that I lacked the resources earlier in my relationship to help myself (Melissa's book), and wish I had been able to see past the angry words to try to understand his vantage point.

I don't know how to address your question about ADHDers who give up categorically.  There are people like me who take forever to see the forest for the trees and who stumble on the path, and there are those who make not trying a way of life.  It's probably too complicated to make a generic statement about those who choose to leave a marriage.  Clearly, I had my moment where I shut down because I didn't know an alternative.  My husband had refused to go to counseling several years ago when I had asked.  I know that my disengagement was a bad decision, but even now, I don't know how I would have solved it without Melissa's book, I really don't. 

I don't know if this answers your question.  I guess if I had all the answers I wouldn't be here (sigh).  I'm far from out of the woods.

Thanks for your support, Sherri.  I do appreciate it. 


My husband as been effected by ADHD all of his 51 plus yrs...yet told the council that I was weak because I'm the only person it has ever effected ? He is now taking the only non- stimulant drug and it has helped more than the other 3 stimulant drugs ever did "but" he only wants the pill reading counseling etc.. I'm at the end of my rope again....When he gets angry which is often he says things that cut to the bone  (personal attacks), but later maybe a day week or month...he tells me how good I have been for him etc. He also uses this time to explain to me that it is because I made him soooooooo mad that he said the things he said. We have been together almost two years..not sure I will make it. This is the longest relationship he has ever had. My question is "why" this behavior and what more can I the non- ADHDer do? As always thanks for reading, Prayers and Feedback needed.

You have said some very

You have said some very important things:  you have been together less than two years, which is his longest relationship in 51 years and he is blaming you because you're (supposedly) the only one to suffer from his actions. You're the only one to stay with him past the figurative honeymoon stage, so you are the unfortunate recipient of this nonsense. 

I can tell you that the reason he is so inconstant with you is because he doesn't really remember the history of your fights (who said what first, sequencing, and sometimes even the fight itself).  Even on meds, if I didn't write down things in a journal, there is no way I could tell you one month later about all of our unpleasant exchanges and how I handled it with much accuracy.  I've learned a lot about myself in the past couple of months through journaling and I'm starting to realize that every time I used to see the psychiatrist for a med update, my response to "How are you doing?" was very much a present tense response, because I couldn't see the past two months history and whether I was really doing well (in my relationship, accomplishing my goals, etc...). 

Were you in counseling?  You said he does not want counseling.  Did he go once and quit?

As far as him blaming you his cruelty, that's a load of crap.  He is a grown man, and the words that come out of his mouth are still his responsibility.  Yes, impulsivity makes it SOOOOO much more difficult, but it sounds like he's being vicious, not apologizing, and justifying his behavior after the fact.  As I've said previously, we ADHDers are not great at self-observing or learning from our mistakes, but this sounds like a no-brainer.  Mean is mean.

Some questions for you:

Do you find he is different on the non-stim?  I was on it too and for the first few months thought it was great, but then noticed that over time (it's a long-term med, as I'm sure you know), it started having all of this awful side effects, including feeling like I had a dark cloud over my head all the time, and my affect and enjoyment of life were just not there (this would be gradual to develop, not a sudden marked difference like with a stimulant, so you might not initially connect the two).  Also, my resting pulse shot up from 60 to about 95 in a few months and increased my anxiety.  I was also paranoid...  and this is the scariest symptom EVER... I was having auditory hallucinations at night.  I am not a crazy person, so I was terrified by all of this.  All these symptoms went away once I stopped taking it (the heart rate was immediate, all else took a little longer to resolve).  Some people have a great response with this med, so I don't want you to think I am saying that this is the cause.  However, men exhibit depression with rage and bitterness.  I don't know if he is depressed, but if he is taking a medication that could exacerbate it, that might be part of the problem.  If your marriage is in crisis, he's depressed, and his meds are causing more problems, that might explain (though NOT JUSTIFY) some of his behavior.  Or I could be totally wrong and his meds might not be any part of the equation.

I don't know how you get an unwilling spouse to get more help, as at the end of day, everyone can only truly control his or herself.  I will say that Melissa's suggestion to take care of yourself and start being the person you used to be before REALLY helped me make the changes I've made and (I believe) helped my husband to begrudgingly agree to counseling (actually, he suggested it begrudgingly) and finally start reading Melissa's book and others for our son's ADHD.  The most important thing to remember is that you should never try to change to change someone else.  Easier said than done, but absolutely essential.  Anything else would make a person appear disingenuous. 

I am sorry you are experiencing this treatment.  It's hurtful, demoralizing, UNJUSTIFIABLE, and just plain sucky.

Re: Questions

Thanks for responding I value your insight.

Like I said before, the non-stimulant is much....better. The stimulants all (3) were a night mare. He has the combine type of ADHD , the stimulants made him less than able to live with. He was bouncing off the walls and his temper was hotter than a ten roof in late summer in AL.

As far has his ugly words they are really no difference...maybe less often if anything. I have read that most ADHDers have other health issues to deal with IE, by polar, depression, anxiety...etc. I know his mother and his grand mother is/was by-polar and his dad... has something that goes un-diagnosed. He has always had a touch of being paranoid, and yes I have notice some depression , but either seemed to increased, if anything maybe less.

He went to counseling 2 times and the second visit she ask him what he was there for...needless to say he said because I said ADHD was effecting us. She ask him to be on his new med's for a month and read 2 chapters in any ADHD book and come back and they would go from there...well that has never happened.That's when he said the things I wrote you in the first blog ( that he didn't need counseling), but I will say he ask her if everyone needed it and she said no...yaks..I wanted to put those words back in her mouth bc I knew in my heart what he would take from that.

When any dis-agreement starts it's bc lack of understanding of what is being said ex; The other night I ask him to watch a little less TV and spend time with the baby and I. I also said I had read that TV can be a way to take focus off of the family ..WOW..this is what was said back...your not controlling me..I will watch TV as much as I want etc. a total night mare. Later when he was yelling about what happen it was "his" version(He said I said he  could not watch TV). I thought he does this to keep from feeling bad about his re action, but now I'm not sure. I do know when he makes mistakes he will blame someone else. Not sure where this comes from....I know just enough about ADHD, depression, by-polar and anxiety only to be confused. I truly believe that he does need to start helping himself reading/counseling. I have done all I can for him, now I need to help myself get back to who I used to be, but it hurts and it's sad I feel like I'm leaving the love of my life in the ocean to drown alone. Thanks for reading, Prayers and feedback needed.

Hi Sherri, This is Ken.

Sorry. Premature post by way of hitting the <Enter> button inadvertently. Hey, what do you expect from a ADHD 5 Star Platinum Diamond Lifetime Member?

Will update when I remember.

I feel like a miracle has

I feel like a miracle has happened that I have found you all. I have lived a 12.5 yr marital he'll. I have felt so alone with noone to really go to in order to keep myself less a angry. I am mad, hurt and frustrated with all of the things my ADHD husband has put me/us through. The frustration with myself that I have not been able to just get out of this situation nor succeed at getting him to leave permanently or get help. He is now 61 and has finally gotten diagnosed and has made a psychiatric appointment with a Dr that specializes in Adult ADHD. Question is; is it too late for me and our marriage. How do I let go of the mistrust, anger and lack of faith that he will follow through
fuzzylogic72's picture

always a chance

What made him go to the specialist? Was there any kind of ultimatum or outside pressure, or do you think he would actually like a change?

He actually saw I was done

He actually saw I was done riding the roller coaster.  I called the police after one of his raged fits and they flagged him for a restraining order.  I left town and after my being gone two weeks I believe reality really hit.  See, I have never left.  It was always him storming out on a tantrum and then he always coming back.  So I broke his pattern and he actually got scared, I think?

He called me begging for help to get help.  I told him I was not going to fix it for him.  I told him we have good insurance that I pay for with my job and he needed to get on the phone and get himself someone to talk to.


I have read enough to realize that they do not intentionally mean to hurt us but the bottom lines is they do.  They have to also see our point; the years of humiliation and pain even unintentional and need to find some empathy for what the condition has caused the one they claim to love.


We are at baby steps and I have made it clear we/our marriage is very fragile

That's how I felt

That's how I felt when my husband started to get help.  Really, when he came out of denial finally, he was on some kind of high that allowed him to focus and become the wonderful person I knew him to be (Good and bad, but not driven solely by ADHD). This lasted for 2 1/2 months.  THen it slowly trickled into the same old same old. I tried to get him to see that he was returning to his old ways, but it happened so gradually for him that he didn't get it until yesterday (8 months after his out-of-denial moment).  He is seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist (meds and counseling) but things are still really bad most days.  I have only been married for 4 years, but have been with my husband for 8.  I did go see his counselor once and am going again tomorrow.  I am thinking that this will be a bumpy ride even with counseling.  Most days I think that it is too late for our marriage.  I hope that he heals himself, but I don't know if I will be able to let go of the pain that he has caused with him in my life.  He is not so sensitive to the fact that he caused so much pain and just wishes I would get over it and we could move forward (I wish I could too, but there is often this PTSD and situational depression that comes with being a non-ADHD spouse that takes some time to recover from).   I liken myself to a battlefield after war...there is a lot of recovering to do.  So when he starts to slip back into his old ways, I basically get the flight feeling (as in fight or flight) and start to have a panic attack that I have to then control.  Since I am also in the midst of this same uncertainty, I wish someone who has had experience with either success or eventual divorce would respond to both of our comments ;).  I think this time of partial hope and partial uncertainty while the ADHD spouse figures out if they will get real help (I mean actually do the work involved, not just taking meds and thinking that's all it takes), we suffer even more.  I am guessing that I won't be able to let go of the mistrust until he has been doing well for 1-2 years.  I am just not sure if I want to continue living that way or just cut my losses now. 

That's how I felt

Sounds like you and I are in similar places.  I am prepared for him slipping.  I have positioned myself openly to him to leave.  I have committed to myself to look out for me through this new adventure.  I have promised myself to take care of myself.  I am learning Yoga and loving it.  Right now we have separate bedrooms and places to hang out away from each other.  This is not just about him but me.  I too need to get better after 14yrs of basically being a co-dependent and enabler and mental punching bag.  Trying to always save the world has worn me down. Looking back I would have done things different but I also know I could not have had the knowledge I have gained through all of these years.  I hope for him, more than anything, that he follows through with his treatment.  I hope that for him because I know that amazing side to him.  That incredibly kind soul he has.  That person deserves to be happy.  Even if we do not make it as husband and wife, I will always love him and cherish that greatness about him.  I will always be his friend as I know he would me. 

I relate to almost every word

I relate to almost every word you just wrote...I wish you the best! Do you have the book CoDependent No More? Do you have any good CD books you could recommend?

DF's picture

Some possible similarities

I'm probably reading too much into this, but I can't help that since I'm flying blind in my own marriage.  I can only go with what I "think" my wife is feeling since she doesn't really tell me.  Granted, the very few times we do talk, my issues condem me to only really remembering 1 or 2 things she says.  That's probably why I'm here.  Most people here that have read my posts know that my diagnosis is new, but my struggle is a year long.  I really like the analogy of the battlefield.  I don't think I was that bad since I don't do a lot of what I read about spouses with ADD(HD).  Either way, I've lost my partner and I know the damage is deep, I just don't know how deep.

I am on my own, or at least it feels like it.  It's very hard to feel so alone, but it has been the driving force behind my desire to be a better person.  Granted, I'm having to guess at the trial and error stuff since I don't get a whole lot of feedback from my wife - at all.  I sympathize with your situation, but since I've asked my wife for forgiveness in hopes that she can start to heal with me, I find myself wanting to change a few more things about me......

I do not like that your husband is slipping.  I do not know the details of your relationship or the depth of his cloudiness.  I still forget a lot of things, mundane tasks, but my relationship with my wife is first and foremost - my kids very close behind.  It has been a long time since I've heard my kids cry to my wife about having to be left at home alone with me because I'm mean. 

I'm not abusive or anything, I would always say 'no' to everything so I'm mean in their eyes.

I got tired of this so I set about fixing it.  My kids haven't said that in so long I can't remember the last time I heard it.  I wonder if my wife thinks about that.

Sorry - getting off track.  Now since I've asked my wife for forgiveness, and she's obviously not ready since she doesn't appear to be interested yet in being alone in a room with me, I feel liberated in a way.  I could take her avoidance of me as a very bad thing as I've been prone to do for almost a year now since her silence began.  But I choose differently now.  I've been telling myself for a long time that I don't believe my wife and I met by coincidence.  I'm not a very religious person and I'm not pushing faith on anyone, but I do believe that something brought my wife and I together and it was not by chance.

It's a very hard road to travel when it seems like the other spouse isn't giving 100%.  I know my wife contemplated leaving me, I just don't know if she still thinks about it.  My goal is to change my thought pattern, which is very hard.  So instead of thinking about when she may decide she's had enough, I'm going to try to focus more on the fact that she must be trying too since she hasn't pulled the divorce trigger yet. 

My wife distancing herself from me scared the crap out of me and made me take a long hard look at everything - everything.  Maybe that's what it might take sometimes, I can't really say.  But if you're already thinking about separation, you're already giving into defeat.  I have ADD and I shut down and it has been the hardest skill I've been trying to master in order to stop doing that.  Is it possible that living in seperate rooms is cause for your spouse to already reconcile with the fact that you are leaving him?  Is he strong enough to not want to shut down and internalize and maybe therefore make it harder for him to see progress in his efforts? 

Reply to DF

No my husband is not slipping right now.  I was saying I am prepared for that possibility.  I can not expect him to just get up one day and never have a slip.  I have allowed myself to be hurt and devastated by so many slips and and I now have learned enough to protect my heart and not take things so personal.  I have educated myself, which I wish your wife could too.  Leave some info laying around.  I honestly salute you for identifying this on your own.  I don't believe my husband would have ever done that.  There are a few really good books on Adult ADHD  I honestly recommend that you get them, read them too, and leave them in areas where she may possibly get curious enough to pick one of them up.  It is worth the try.  If it doesn't work at least you have great information to help you better understand yourself and others.  You will find many things that sound like you and things that are so far from anything like you.  I have learned there are a lot of similarities in people with ADHD but there is no two exactly alike, not 100%.  In my last post I mentioned a few books, get them, read them, share them.

DF's picture


I read one popular book my therapist mentioned that I've seen others here recommend..  I was kind of like ....whatever.  I know I have it.  I will read Melissa's book too here very soon.  I saw below this post that your husband is reading and seems very interested.  I think that's great. 

My situation is difficult for me.  My oldest son has ADD as well.  My wife has always been very meticulous about reading up on anything medical that our kids may have.  I'm not sure, but I think she's taking a backseat on this one.  I don't think she's ready to let go and begin healing.  She's re-learning who she is and it's making her happy.

I do not question what she does and I give her all the freedom she requires.  She is happy that my son's grades are improving dramaticly and maybe that's all she's concerned about right now.  I'm sure I've been a big burden on her for a lot of years and maybe if she's happy with her rediscovering of herself, she's not ready to trust that I will not bring her down again. 

My wife is like a lot of the ADD spouses here in that she's not interested in learning about it right now.  I've left a library book out for over a week once and that was no good.  I'd even mentioned this web site, counceling, whatever.  I don't bother any more.  The more you push someone, the more likely they will resist.  I just work hard to settle on making adjustments to me and my daily life.  I live day to day. 

It would be a lot easier if she didn't bottle so much inside.  I don't know if I'm doing something wrong unless she gets to a tipping point and tells me.  But then she feels bad about it because she says she feels like a B****.  I don't think so and I make sure I tell her, but she still says nothing.  I really want her to unload on me because I think it could help her.  I feel really good after the very few times we do talk, even if there's not much positive and it looks to me like she feels a bit more relaxed too.

Regardless of whether or not she's interested in researching ADD(HD) and its affect on relationships, I'm still going to focus on retraining myself and learn to cope.  I will continue to come here and speak when my bottle fills up since it's very theraputic and it's free.  I really enjoy the anonymity and the people here are very helpful. 

I do think my wife is trying.  There are subtle things here and there.  But because of my condition, I'm predisposed to misinterpret her actions and words so I just patiently wait for something more obvious....... like a slap in the face obvious - but a good news slap, not bad.  I know there are factors in her life that need to change before she can address "us" and I'm working very very hard on staying on course to help with some of those things.  As I like to say - It's not enough for her to see change, she has to believe it's permanent.

One Kind of Happy Ending

Dear all,

I have been absent from this forum for a long time as I have not felt need to be here anymore. Almost 2 years ago I was desperate as my ADHD husband (of 15 yrs) left us (me and our 2 daughters). Lot of things have changed since those days and I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have been for years. It took me some time to get to this point, but it was worth it.

I struggled for years in a relationship that was not giving me what I needed, only taking all my energy and leaving me lonely. I feel for you all non ADHD spouses, although I know it is not easy to have ADHD, I also know it is not easy to live with one who has it. Especially if they deny the  facts and do not get any help as it was in our case. Think twice if you want to live like this for the rest of your lives. I understand that all of you non ADHD spouses do not have the means to leave and are not as lucky as I am. I earn good living and thanks to the fact that I took care of our money matters we still had some savings to split. I have no economical problems, I even think my situation is almost better now. guess why ;)?.

Good luck whatever you decide to do in the future!

Yeah I agree totally

You are definitely not alone, I agree with your points and am grateful that you articulated them so well. My wife is in denial but she is so depressed and suicidal that I can't expect anything at this time.

llc's picture

I agree that people should be

I agree that people should be able to vent and get support. However, as someone new here and only diagnosed 2 days ago, this site can be overwhelming and hurtful. Not all people are in a place to not take things personally....I wish I could. I also wis ththey would have an ADHD only and a loved one of a person with ADHD threads so that people may feel a bit safer....

I'd agree

My husband although he has ADHD is very brilliant. Whatever he is very into, he completely hyper focuses on it and learns everything he can about it. Most people he talks to, thinks he is full of it and generally look at him like he is crazy. Then they will ask someone else and find out he was right after all, and it really makes him feel bad at times because they doubted him. I've seen it myself first hand that people with ADHD aren't idiots and can be very smart and at times just amazing how their brains work. My husband also was self employed for 6 years. He was not organized very well but the work he did was fabulous and people always wanted him to do their jobs. Don't give up on these creative people. It's just takes a stronger person to make it work with them at times. I'd agree it isn't easy but I'd not trade my ADHD guy in for the most perfect guy in the world.

I have had co-dependency no

I have had co-dependency no more for years.  I keep it around to remind me to pick it up every now and then to remind myself.  I do not have any CD's as of yet.  I also recommend for everyone, "Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Russel A. Barkley.  I first bought it for myself in desperation and asked my husband to just read a couple of parts that I thought could hit home.  He has now laid claim to this book and reads a little each day.  It was this book that removed his denial completely.  It wasn't me "badgering" him but he seeing himself being described.  Seeing it for himself.  Wonderful book.  He carrys this book to the bathroom, to the basement, etc.....  I am ordering ADHD Effects on Marriage which is actually written by Melissa C. Orlov.  Unfortunately I can't get it at any of the Borders type book stores around here but am ordering it through Amazon.  The reviews are encouraging.  I would love to start a not for profit similar to ALANON specifically for Adult ADHD people and spouses and family.  That would be a wonderful organization as this is bigger than many people choose to admit.

Same land mines

I try, but seem to only last a month or so at maintain a suitable existence my partner can tolerate.  Always going to extremes instead of staying in the middle. Either I become to needy or just ignore my spouse. Every time I think I'm doing something to help, I end up making a larger mistake.  Constantly trying to please, just frustrates my spouse causing turmoil and arguments.  We currently are at a fragile status, where separation is near.  The feeling of anxiety when my spouse is around clouds my judgement and I still don't understand why.  My non-ADD spouse feels overwhelmed, especially since our son has the same complexity.  How do I understand their frustration when I feel I'm coping, but find out I'm Not.  BOOM !!!

It's just hard to understand

It's just hard to understand our spouses sometimes with ADHD. I try but sometimes it's really hard and when my spouse is focused on something he totally loses sight of his family. He thinks he is trying hard but we think different so what I think is helpful is not the same as his idea of being helpful in a lot of cases. Over time we start to resent our partner because we feel alone or fighting a losing battle. Which can easily wear on both spouses.