The Care and Feeding of a Non-ADD Spouse

I spend a lot of time helping non-ADD spouses understand how to interpret their ADD husband’s actions (or, more frequently, inactions – a word I use without judgment.)  I think it’s time to write a piece for the ADD male about what non-ADD women want.  Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “What Women Want”?  This is what I think you would hear if you were Mel Gibson and could hear your wife’s thoughts.

Thoughts and actions are not equally satisfying:  You may be thinking about me a lot, but when you are off in your own world, or distracted by something else, I have no way of knowing that.  To me, it feels as if you almost never think of me.  It makes me sad.  In the future, can you take a few seconds and show me through actions, not thoughts, that you are thinking of me?  A short kiss, an “I love you” or some other action will mean a lot to me.

I really don’t like being a nag, but can’t figure out a more effective way to get your attention:  People with ADD are content to be off in their own world.  That’s okay most of the time, but if I had wanted to be completely ignored, I wouldn’t have gotten married.  Over the years, I’ve learned that the easiest (notice, I’m not saying “best”) way to get your attention is to be in your face and nag you or express anger.  I bet you don’t like this, and I sure don’t!  Help me stop this pattern by setting up a cue that we agree upon.  When I really need you’re attention, I’ll use this cue…and you’ll agree to stop what you are involved with, and pay attention.  I promise not to abuse this – and we’ll get along so much better!

I love you a lot, but wonder if you love me:  People without ADD need positive, physical reinforcement.  I want to think that you love me, but when you get distracted by just about everything but me, it’s hard to keep thinking I’m one of your priorities.  Why should a car, or a computer, or a game be more important than me?  As hard as I try to not take this personally, sometimes I just can’t.  I need some time, every week, when you are focused on just me – nothing else.  Your effort to do this will tell me that you do love me, and will make me feel so much better and happier!  Let’s take some time right now and schedule some time together.

I want to show you my love, but my anger is getting in the way:  I love you.  A lot.  I envision a future where you’ve addressed some of your ADD symptoms – and I’ve addressed my bad responses to them – so that we can have fun and enjoy each other again.  But we need to work together on this, not fight each other because there’s too much anger and frustration on both sides right now.  Can we work together?  Please?

I’m working really hard at this relationship, but sometimes despair because it doesn’t feel to me like you are, too:  I’m not asking that we meet in the exact middle.  But sometimes I despair that we’ll never meet at all!  I need attention, and one form of attention is having you take my needs seriously enough to show an effort in my direction.  This gets back to the “thoughts and actions” are not the same as ideas notion.  I want to be happy around you (and you want me to be happy around you – it’s so much easier that way!) but it’s hard to keep always trying without seeing any reciprocal action.  Can we agree on one thing that you’ll work on for me and make a plan for how that will happen?  Then I’ll feel happier, which will make me be happier, which will benefit us both.

We both have our strengths and weaknesses:  You probably think that all I ever do is tell you what you’re doing wrong and that this somehow means that I think I’m perfect. I apologize for nagging you, and I don’t think I’m perfect (the nagging is proof I’m not!)  Let’s acknowledge that we are both people, inherently not perfect, and make a plan to get around those things one or both of us isn’t so strong at.  Solutions might include changing who does what, or hiring outside help.

I’m sorry that I’m angry:  I hate feeling angry all the time.  It’s starting to really make me dislike myself, in fact.  I understand why I feel angry – our relationship isn’t going in the direction I thought it would.  You’re probably angry about this, too.  I badly want to work through my anger – and to have you admit, and work through – yours.  This will take some behavior changes on both sides…and perhaps some professional help, but let’s make it a mutual goal to work through it – for our (non-angry and potentially wonderful) future.  A good first step will be for me to learn how to accept my past anger, forgive myself, and move on.  Would you consider doing this, too?

I want to have fun!  What happened to the days when we loved spending time together?  Our life is too serious and angry right now.  Let’s schedule some fun stuff together (and get a sitter if we need to).  The crazier, and the further away from our everyday lives, the better!

I want you to want me:  We’re having some problems right now, which may affect our sex life, but I really long for the days when sex was fun, and exciting, and I felt loved and safe with you.  I want you to want me sexually, and when we get rid of some of the anger, and I feel more confident that you can show me you love me, can we smooth things out sexually?  I really want that.  Maybe we can start with smaller signs of affection?  Or maybe just go have some great sex…right now!


Thank you!

Melissa, "Care and Feeding of a Non-ADD Spouse" is a terrific post! It validates all of my feelings about my husband with ADHD. Thank you! I'm going to print this out and show it to my husband—and also to my mother-in-law, because my father-in-law has ADHD too.

this is some great

this is some great reading...i can't wait til my husband comes home so i can let him read it...

Melissa, these buckets

Melissa, these buckets pretty much describe my marriage. I have ADD, and my wife does not. She's frustrated with my inattention, my inability to start some things, as well as my inability to finish things all the way through. I live in my own little world sometimes, and it's a world of tasks, not one of relationships.

Great post

My non-ADD partner could have written that, almost word for word, about me. At one point or another, she has said the exact things to me, some of them often.

non -ADD partner

I just got on this sight.I have no idea which way to go.I was diagnosed 8 months ago, so this is all very new to me.My wife has made many of the same comments as all of the wifes posting here.Any help would be soooo greatly appreciated.(ADD and Non-ADD comments are all welcome)

What non-ADD women want

Your comments are so accurate. I'd like to share these with my husband, but I think he's become so defensive about his ADD that he wouldn't take it in. Our relationship is becoming harder and harder, because I'm taking on more and more responsibility for our lives and our business. I'm exhausted and frustrated all of the time. I'll save this until I think he's ready to read it.
Mylank's picture

What non-ADD women want

Dear Tired, I'm curious about how your husband reacted to the post, if you gave it to him. Your comment "Our relationship is becoming harder and harder, because I'm taking on more and more responsibility for our lives" describes my marriage exactly. I too am exhausted and frustrated, as well as disappointed and angry, most of the time. My husband isn't defensive about his ADD but anything I say to him he takes as a criticism and so I keep my mouth shut until I feel like I'm going to bust and then we have a huge fight. I worry about showing him this or other things I've found on this site because he might take it as a criticism instead of as me trying to change my behaviors to better help him. I'm curious how your husband responded.


The part of this that resonates with me is the anger. I hate being angry and resentful all the time. I worry that it's making me old before my time or compromising my health, and I know it affects my children and my husband, too. But I feel like the only adult in the house. My husband adds work and stress and messes for me, rather than being a helpmate. I think the only way I'll ever feel the same about him is if he gets some real help for his ADHD, but he won't even fully acknowledge it. The only advice that will ever matter for ADHD sufferers is this: Get help. Address your problem. A lot of the things that aren't working out for you right now (including your relationships) will fall into place if you get some real, professional treatment for your ADHD. I don't want attention or flowers or more time with you, because none of those things matter if our life is still in disarray because of your disability.

Ok, I agree with you Celarbo....

I read the post on what we non-adders really want....and it's not more sex or attention or time with someone we don't have a positive image about. That's the LAST thing I want. I want stability and consistancy....the ability to trust what he says will actually happen. Follow through, I want to believe in him again. I want the cyclical mistakes to stop and when he tells me he gets it or understands that 2 weeks later we don't end up at square one fighting the same battles again. I want the burdens of my doing everything to be lifted, for him to take up his cross and not make me always have to "follow up" after him like he's my 12 yr old. I want the security of knowing that he has our best interest at heart, I don't want to have to worry that he's making stupid decisions again. I don't always want to brace for the worst because I've learned from experience that's what I'll get, I want to let my guard down to be a lovable wife....


I WANT A GROWN MAN....not a little boy. I want my husband that I once loved and respected back!

Can I have a slice of that please!?!??!?!

Ok, I agree with you Celarbo...

You couldn't of said it better for me. This is exactly what I feel. I see not future for retirement for us. He can't seem to stay out of debt.

reply to skjaerb

I'm right there with you!!!  Our future doesn't look real bright for retirement either.  My husband can't seem to stay out of debt.  Can always come up with something that he just has to have.  Although I must say that this problem has gotten a little better.  At the time of his diagnosis of ADHD, plus hitting the "BIG 50" and going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis, I hit him between the eyes with our financial crisis, also.  It wasn't pretty but I think some reality finally sunk in.  We've made great progress in paying down the debt but still have a ways to go.  At least now, he "is" trying to save some money for our rainy days.  

In reply to Cinimonstyk

Oh my lord, you just said exactly what I have been thinking.  It's definitely not more sex or attention.  It's stability and consistancy.   Yes, yes, yes.  I have been saying that to myself and to others,  "I want a grown man..... not a little boy."  Why don't they get it??? My husband just gets mad and starts saying "I have issues with you too."  It's like he doesn't want this all to be his fault.  He can't be a man and step up to the plate and not yell in front of the kids.  He can't even do that. 

Thank you cinimonstyk

i can't tell you how comforting it feels to know I'm not alone.  I feel like non ADD spouses suffer from closet abuse.  We are abused!  I'm so tired,exhausted from the stress of my husbands cyclical mistakes.  He refuses to create new habits that will Change the outcomes.  I can't depend, rely or feel safe with him.  His decisions to fight every positive change hurt me for years.  Now I'm just turned off.  How can I want to make love with someone I don't admire?  This article is unrealistic.  Thank you for addressing the real concerns of non ADD spouses in your post!!!!!!!!  Thank you!  I'm not alone, this is real!  It's happening to others, my husband always makes me feel crazy or  ridiculous.  Even when he causes huge financial stress and I'm the one that pays the bills.  This is real, we're not alone.

BritGirl's picture

Hello Celarbo & Cinimonstyk

I've just found this article and comments a few years later...well seven years later! I live in England and Adult AD/HD is just beginning to be really recognised. My 47 year old husband was diagnosed 4 months ago following a 'breakdown' a year ago. He has been prescribed medication which he takes but there are very few specialist psychologists or counsellors to see on NHS or privately...we're currently waiting to see a professional in London. He/we did see CBT counsellors but they just didn't get AD/HD and frankly were quite patronising or thought I as a) a woman b) a neurotypical adult should effectively find better ways to be responsible for everything in our relationship.  One of the key issues for us is that I am effectively responsible for everything in our relationship and whilst I'm pretty damn good at it, I don't want to be - it comes at the expense of having a marriage, a personal life of my own, exhaustion from holding back the chaos and in bad days utter despair and disillusionment of my own self. I have returned to full time work as my husband was unable to work during breakdown/through and this has further isolated me from friends as I've literally no time to socialise or even chat on phone. We have a 10 month old baby boy, our miracle after 15 years of infertility (I'm 45) and my husband is a great Dad; fun and also a happy nappy changer...I just have to remember to text him to feed our baby (before he gets to howling!) 

I'm hoping that even though your comments are from several years ago you're still active on the site and perhaps can share some of your experiences with me and any advice... x


I'll also join in a more current thread and am going to check out Gina Pera's site too.

how about add women and non-add men?

What do we do? I can't seem to find help. It's not only men that have ADD. I think it's even worse when it's the woman who has the ADD. I have intense inattentive ADD with the occasional impulsiveness. HELP!

Help is out there

Hi. My husband and I probably both have ADD. I'm the one who acknowledges the problem and searches for solutions. My searching has led to vast improvements in our lives. First and foremost you should find a good counselor. Mine has helped me to realize I have anxiety/other issues as well. The small communication changes she has suggested have already altered the tone of my relationship with my husband and children. The literature she has had me read has helped me change my whole perspective, and I'm actually remembering/becoming the happier person I used to be. Medication is necessary for me as well - I take an antidepressant and Concerta, a medication for ADD (I have the inattentive kind too and need the boost to get going daily). I also take an anti-anxiety medication that I use as a sleep aid (insomnia related to perimenopause). Lastly, there are a ton of resources out there (online, books, etc.). Google ADD and you'll find some. Some of my favorites are blogs/sites/books by Jen Koretsky, Terri Matlen, Patricia Quinn/Kathleen Nadeau, Rick Fowler, Kirk Martin, and especially this website!. An incredible book I'm reading right now is The Disorganized Mind by Nancy Ratey - literally a self-coaching book for people with ADD. Educate yourself, get the outside help you need, rely on the vast support network out there , and most importantly, love yourself.

both spouses with attentional issues

Great information in your post. Thank you. You say that you and your spouse both have ADD and you are the one who acknowledges it. I just posted something about this in the "Other" forum. I'm curious. Does your husband acknowledge his stuff? Does this (i.e., his attentional issues and/or lack of acknowledgment of them) cause any problems? Like you, my family deals with anxiety and depression along with the attentional issues. Sorry to pile on, but a sub-issue here is how do families with attentionally challenged parents every provide the appropriate help to their kids? ochnocon

Hope for ADD Families

Sorry it has taken me forever to reply. My husband will not overtly acknowledge that he has ADD. He is anti psychological help in general. At home, his issues tend to be impulsivity, short fuse, etc. I know/have learned how to diffuse his angry outbursts. He probably has other issues at work as well - disorganization, procrastination, hyperfocusing, etc. - but structures/people are in place to help him succeed . Before seeing my therapist, reading about ADD from a man's perspective, etc. I just internalized his comments, became resentful, depressed, etc. My therapist has helped me become more assertive, able to communicate my needs more clearly, etc. We are much happier because of it. He really is an incredibly loving husband and father, and he really does want me to be happy. Just talking to someone and being heard can do wonders to boost your self-esteem. My therapist is also helping me establish rules/structure with my children (even though they aren't present, we discuss these issues, and I report back to her). Some helpful resources regarding ADD and families are -, ADD Moms website, ADDitude magazine/website, books/website by Kathleen Nadeau and Patricia Quinn, etc. I think Jen Koretsky put it aptly in her Odd One Out book - wives/moms have to put on their oxygen masks first - they have to help themselves before they can help others. I'm finding out this is a journey. I'm helping myself, my relationship with my husband, and our family structure/routines initially. Eventually I'll address which of my kids' issues need the most attention - ADD, anxiety, etc. I'm fortunate that right now they are doing okay in school, have some friends, etc. I'll be better able to advocate for treatment/medication for my kids if necessary (with regards to my husband) because he has witnessed the positive changes in me and our relationship. Hope some of this helps. I have found deep breathing exercises and reading positive/inspirational/zen quotations to be extremely calming.

Or women and non-ADD women for that matter...

This post was painful for me to read because it summed up a lot of the issues that destroyed my own marriage with my wife - after six years together, and getting legally married not long after it became possible for us in Canada, where we live, she told me she wanted to end it two months ago, and I moved out earlier this month. I don't think anything in this column is particularly gender specific. ADD men with non-ADD women, ADD women with non-ADD men, or ADD/non-ADD same-sex couples could probably all benefit from reading it. Apart from perhaps those who are reading it a little too late, like me. :-(

i agree that we all could

i agree that we all could benefit from reading this. The wording is gender specific - but it also applies to all - i think at least.


As a quiet suggestion- it would be nice to occasionally see more gender netural - or non specific (gender) terms on this site.


I am sorry to hear your relationship didn't work out- its been some time since your post - best of luck


(from another member on this site - whos is canadian - and in a female same-sex relationship where both partners are ADHD :)

how about add women and non-add men?

I have about the same diagnosis as you. My impulsiveness is no where as bad as it was in my 20's and 30's. Now that I have my diagnosis and am on meds, I am so much better. I'm not sure my husband feels that way. Hard to know, I don't get alot of feedback from him. The 'communication' in our marriage is slim to nil when it comes to 'us'. Oh we speak, but not about my issues. I know he still feels like he does more than his fair share of duties, but he really doesn't. We don't share household duties, it's all on my shoulders. I've tried to ask for help over the years, only to get barked at, that I don't have it very bad. So I don't ask anymore. Can't even get help from our 20 year old daughter. She has enough trouble keeping her own things in order. I'm positive she has add also. She accelled in school, where I didn't at all. You aren't alone, would love to share thoughts and stories with you, please reply.

2nd Marriage, Blended Family

I read an awsume book called The Smart Step family by Ron Deal. It has some great advice for blended families, which he actually calls crock pot families because it can take a lot longer than a blender to make them work. He doesn't however address the compounded effects that ADHD can throw into the mix and that is where I really need some guidance. My two son's from my first marriage have ADHD they are also 13 and 14. Tough ages to say the least. The main issue I am having is the relationship between my current husband and my chidlren especially the 14 year old. My husband has a lot of ADD symptoms although not diagnosed. Many experts have suggested that I should be the one to initiate the discipline but my husband has a very hard time with that. I was raised by two very flexible, high tolerant parents and he was raised with two very strict, harsh parents. We as a couple thus also struggle greatly with coming together and agreeing on discipline. He is very black and white and always wants to take away all of their privileges when they disobey. I however, tend to have shades of gray. When they have meltdowns I tend to look at the whole picture, what was going on in their day, was it stressful etc. I also look at medication schedules becasue they have extreem rebound at times. He feels that I should have much higher expectations for them at this point and that I am way to permissive. Between his ADD issues and my childrens I feel like I am always surrounded with disfunction. I am a great communicator and spend countless hours each day processing with my husband and my children. My husband and I get along great in every other way except in the area of parenting but this obviously is a big issue and it has created a huge amount of strain on our mariage. I also work with people with disabilities so I struggle with never getting a break and I am constently exhausted. Any tips to help our situation would be greatly appreciated !

Blended FAmilies

Has your husband read any of Dr. Hallowell's books?  If not, this would be the time to start, I think.  He would be ahead if he could differentiate between "garden variety growing up disobediance" and "I didn't get that done because I was distracted and have ADHD disobedience".

I started out as a pretty tough disciplinarian, but have mellowed over the years as I have learned more about ADHD and the needs of kids who have it.  They need patience (this is trying sometimes, as you know!) and love, and a "safe" place.  But that said, they also do need consequences because some day they will be out in the world and the world has consequences.  Better that they figure out how to deal while still in your protective cocoon before they are out of the you may find that you may need to determine where to draw some tough lines, too.

Here's a story that might illustrate.  My daughter used to be late for the bus pretty much every day.  She tried multiple alarms, I tried yelling at her.  I tried begging her.  But many mornings I found myself jumping in the car to drive her to school.  Finally, when she was in 9th grade, her doctor pointed out that this was a terrible way for everyone to start the day - way too stressful for us both - and suggested that I stop giving her a backup plan.  She suggested that if Kat missed the bus she should have to ride her bike the 4 miles to school.

This was hard for me to contemplate, but it was harder to think about stressing out every morning, so we tried it, with a modification...if she missed the bus she would have to get herself to a different stop about 4 blocks away where the bus arrived 15 minutes later.  If she missed that, it was the bike.

After having to walk to the other stop several times in the middle of winter she started paying attention to her alarms, and managed (if I made her breakfast to go) usually to get to her own stop (right next to our house).  It was hard for me to watch her struggle, but in the end she learned some valuable skills.  And, I admit, I did drive her a couple of times (but only a couple) in the winter when she missed both busses because I knew she was trying really hard and for the most part successful.

Moral of the story - a good crock pot is one in which all the flavors blend together.  See what you can do to make sure you're not enabling your kids, and see if your husband is willing to learn a bit more about ADHD.  Who knows, maybe as he learns he'll benefit, himself.

Melissa Orlov

the care and feeding of a non-add spouse

my goodness - i came upon this site and article at just the right time. i have known my husband for nearly 20 years and what a 20 years it has been. i fell in love with a "renaissance man" - a highly creative guy with a very soft heart but sadly a bottomless pit of anger, (nay rage), frustrations, procrastinations - you all know the story! we've been apart several times, mostly instigated by him running away when i ask him to face himself (he has also had addiction issues). but here we are, still hanging on for another round, even though this particular time around he hasn't physically left, he has withdrawn romance and sex for several months. i now see that it's his way of establishing boundaries and, like most things that capture his interest, he does it with an intensity and determination that i know not to bother trying to challenge. it was about five months ago that i was given the lifeline i have needed forever - a radio show had a guy around my husband's age discuss his adult add; my husband fit the description to a tee. it will be a month from today that he is set to have a brain scan and then will begin some form of medical treatment, but he has already shown that he owns this "issue" once and for all. now i have focus on getting the support and strength i need to learn how to help him/us better. (BTW the one book that seems to have opened his soul (along with a floodgate of repressed feelings of low self esteem) is " You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (Paperback) - my husband cried deeply over this book and for about a month, intensely grieved his lost self and his life up until now. at the moment he is going through the process of starting a business - great on one hand because he is doing what he is gifted at yet inordinately challenging as he learns to organize himself for success. for my part i am having to learn to truly trust him as he sets out for the first time in his life to live authentically and in accordance with his gifts. we are both growing together and if not romantically involved right now, are still able to connect on a deep level and support each other despite the other disconnect. to all spouses involved with a loved one with add, i wish you love and hope and faith that your lives will get better. words cannot express how grateful i am to have had this breakthrough. there is hope and a true path forward - finally. a light at the end of the tunnel and it's NOT a train!!!


I wish I could say I knew what a relationship was like. Family relationship is next to nil and I haven't had a steady boyfriend in about 20 years. I've come to realize (though I don't want to accept) I will never have a child, I will never have a husband, i will never have someone who loves me enough to take the good and the bad, My immediate family can't/won't do that. I will never have someone to lean on when I cannot hold myself up. I've gone out of my way to do that, to be there (showing the good) for those who I thought were friends, but when I've turned to them, hoping the favor will be returned, it doesn't happen. I'm trying to learn to accept that I am now and will most likely will be on my own - alone for the rest of my "life" How did any of ya'll even get as far as a marriage? I can't begin to fathom how to have a relationship now. A big, thick brick wall seems to be the only thing to keep me from being hurt and disappointed. Yuck.

no relationship

You don't mention whether or not you've sought out the assistance of a professional counsellor for your grief and, perhaps, to explore why you aren't able to connect.  If you haven't done so, I would suggest it.  ADHD shouldn't prevent you from having relationships, but perhaps a poor family situation has made connection more difficult for you?

Connection is really, really important to your mental and physical health.  Since you seem to wish to be connected, I think continuing to pursue what isn't working for you is worthwhile.  If you haven't tried a counsellor, please do!

Melissa Orlov


Melissa, I've been in & out of counseling & meds since I was 19, more in than out. Counseling began before I knew I had of ADD, but knew too well of crushing depression, authority & family problems. This has been over 1/2 my life. I tried to go back to school as an adult, as was accepted into an Ivy League school. It took me 1 1/2 years to flunk out. The worst (school work) followed the death of my boyfriend in '95 because I had no support system, except for the counseling dept @ school. In the past 4 years, since I haven't been able to hold a job, I've been involved w/ DBT, outpatient, 3 days a week for 4 months (max allowed). Individual counseling during this time has used emdr, with helped with the long term grief of my boyfriends death. I also enjoyed the soothing, focusing abilities of art therapy and taken a "writing your grief" mini-seminar. I have been declared disabled( by SSD) because of my depression, ADD and its on my lack of work abilities. I have begging for assistance in getting my life on track with ADD. The county MH clinic has not helped in this area. Instead they kept focusing on crisis. Much of the crisis' could have been avoided if I had received some direction in managing my life since diagnosed w/ ADD. I'm chasing my tail, and I'm getting awfully, awfully tired. Now since I'm on Medicare and receive SSD, my income is below the poverty level. Medicare will only pay 50% of MH Services, even though this is the health issue that led to my disabled status. This $ has to be paid out of my below poverty income, next to impossible. The MH clinic I feel has given me the "bum rush" because after several years of counseling they are supposed to "wrap up their cases" and take on new clients, per my counselor. Personally I think they know I will have difficulty paying, so I've been cut loose. I have a library of self help books and 4 or 5 specifically on ADD. I just can't seem read and follow thru on my own, or at least get it started. When my depression has been so bad (constant crying) because I feel so helpless w/ ADD, my MD suggested hospitalization. He's asked if I'm suicidal, and I've always let him know, "not yet" I don't want to be hospitalized for fear of unknown Dr.s drastically changing my meds and sending me into a downward spiral. Plus, what does a psy ward have to offer for ADD patients? They want to fix the depression, but I know I would not be so frustrated/ depressed if I could better understand ADD and get on track w/ some healthy ADD habits. The few good ADD habits I have, I've figured out on my own. Even the Psy Dr. at the MH clinic stated that she saw how motivated I am to do this work. This was discussed in '07 & '08, and appointments since then. Yet, she has not returned my calls & notes left @ her office. My weekly counselor went on med. leave 2 months ago and I have not been given another, though I've asked. I'm going to email copies of my reply to you to my MD and the administrator of the MH clinic.


Wow!  What a lot of effort you've already put in!  I'm going to forward your post to Dr. Hallowell and see if he has any suggestions.  Given that it is almost the holiday and I know he is out of town, it may be a bit before he replies, though.

Melissa Orlov

OMG this is exactly what I

OMG this is exactly what I was looking for! My partner has add and we've been together nearly a year. I'm understanding and research a lot about it as I have done four years of psych at uni. Knowing a lot about it and that a lot of the things he does that hurt me arent his fault helps deal with the upset after it has happened and not fight with him. But I need something like this for him to actually realize what sort of stuff hurts me and what is related to his add because I feel like I have to deal with it all. Like hes said too bad its how i am not my fault so deal with it. Only part different is the sex part. He wants it all the time and as I am on antidepressents I have lmost zero sex drive. Of course he takes this personally as if I dont want him as much as he wants me. Could you write some more like what you have written above? thanks!

"It's Not My Fault, So Deal With It"

Are you on antidepressants as a result of being in a relationship with someone who is so unfeeling as to tell you "just deal with it"?!

In all seriousness, if you read further in this site you'll find lots of my responses talk specifically about the need for the ADHD person to take responsibility not only for their ADHD symptoms but also for the effect that those symptoms have on their spouse/partner.

Here's one post I put up that you may want to read - it's all about how both partners need to be responsible.

Let me see if I can put this in a way that makes sense.  Your partner is right - having ADHD is not his fault.  But is he also wrong - not dealing with having ADHD is totally his fault.  No excuses for "deal with it" mentality in a "partnership" - that's not a partnership, that's a master and a slave.

So, as you progress through this relationship, start to stand up for yourself in a constructive way.  Open up the channels of communication better so that he can't just shut you down with a "deal with it".  Make sure that he hears you and starts responding to you.  If he can't do that, find someone who will really be a "partner" to you.

As for the sex, were you attracted to him before you started the anti-depressants?  If so, talk with your doctor about trying different anti-depressants.  There may be some that will not affect your libido so much.  It's at least worth a try, as this seems to be negatively impacting both of you.

Melissa Orlov


Dear Melissa, Thank you so much for writing this. I feel as though you have stepped into my brain and written down almost everything that I have been thinking (and saying) to my husband. We just recently, this week actually, have nailed down that my husband has inattentive ADD. We are seriously on the brink of divorce because of it. I should clarify that statement, I am on the brink of divorce, my husband is unhappy I am sure, but would probably just go on forever the way we have been.....purely because it takes effort to make the decision to get a divorce. I have been reading nonstop all week about adult ADD and tips/guidelines on how to work around this in a marriage. I find I am having a huge problem switching my thinking to that of "this is a handicap and needs to be treated as such". I do truly believe the diagnosis, but have so much anger and resentment that has built up over the past 6 years and I fear I will never be able to let it go. I did not ask to be married to someone with this disorder, I did not expect my life to take this turn. I know my husband loves me, but I feel resentment that I have to schedule time for him to remember to show me. We have a two year old daughter and I am positively terrified that this has been passed on to her. Do you have some concrete tips that can help me let go of my anger so we can begin to work on saving our marriage? I truly love my husband and I DO want to stay married to him. I am willing to do what it takes to make that happen, but I AM STILL SO ANGRY! Thank you again from the depths of my heart and sould for writing this article.

Glad You Found This Site

Dear Tamara, I, too, only found this site recently. Keep coming back. Melissa's words and experiences will give you great hope. Although I had read every book and article I could get my hands on, regarding adult ADD, it wasn't until I began reading other people's stories here, that I thought there might be a chance to save my marriage. In the last month, just from putting into place some of Melissa's suggestions, I have seen a change in my attitude and miraclously my husband's actions. Good luck ~ I am glad you found this site. Katherine

Soooooo angry too


I understand exactly what you are talking about,  I think about it all the time.  Can I let this anger go and how do I move forward?  I just wanted you to know that I am in the same situation  If I get any good tips I will let you know

Sooo Angry too

I have the exact intense feelings for my spouse that has poisoned my love for him.  While he loves me completely living with him can sometimes be hell.  Mood swings, hyper-focus, fun husband or sharp toned husband.  I never know.  I am new to this site as well and I can't tell you how much it means to not be alone.  I didn't sign up to be a nag or to be the house manager 24/7 but that is what has happened.  How can I move forward is always my big question when I'm hit by a brick wall every time I let my defenses down.  Its not a happy place for either of us but I can't seem to change in order for him to recognize the real wife is still right here, wanting to hold his hand and actually have sex.  But he can't see it anymore, how truly sad.

Sex and ADD

My husband has ADD and has recently read Dr. Hallowell's book. I was wondering if anyone else out there has had problems with their ADD partner completely losing interest in sex. A few months after the birth of our first child, my husbands desire to have sex completely left him. I was just wondering if anyone else has experienced this? We have not had sex in months.

Sex and ADD and Kids

If I had to guess, I would say that your issue isn't ADHD, but rather the fact that you now have your first child.  This is unbelievably common, and can be fixed.  You may want to consult your doctor about it for some tips.

A few things are going on here.  Most likely, your first priority has shifted from him to your child.  You aren't aware of the effect this may have, since this feels natural (if we weren't wired to do this, none of our squalling kids would survive to their first birthdays!)  All joking aside, your husband has been pushed aside as the one and only human priority in your life.  I'm guessing that the amount of time you are "intimately" involved with your child is significantly greater than the intimacy you are sharing with your husband right now.

Second, he has just watched you go through this huge, perhaps ungainly, physical change.  Many men find they don't think of their sex-kitten wife the same ever again after this (there are probably all sorts of psychological theories about this...)  He needs to ease back into understanding that you are still the same woman you were...only better.

Third, you may be more emotional than you were and, unless you are unique in the universe, you are certainly more tired than you were.  So is he, for that matter.  "Tired" and "sex" don't mesh very well.  For that matter, "tired" and "ADD" don't mesh very well, either.  Much easier to get distracted.

Fourth, he may have some concern about whether or not he might hurt you (though that may have vanished by now).

Get your doctor(s) involved, and take some time to put your baby SECOND, not first.  If you are not breast feeding, take a REALLY, REALLY fun, romantic trip for several days and leave the baby with a friend, family member or professional baby sitter.  Try to jump start your sex life (without pressure that will have him worrying about whether or not he might perform) or, at least, jump start your intimacy.  From there, sex will follow.

Melissa Orlov

He doesn't even think about it!!

My ADD partner has absolutely no desire to have sex, so it seems. I often wonder if he is so wrapped up in his daily workload, I sometimes think he just doesn't even think about sex. The sexiest women on the planet could be standing naked in front of him and he wouldn't even be phased. He claims that he has always been a very non-sexual person, and this is one of our most heated issues. I do think that there may be underlying issues and also the current frustrations in our relationship could be causing the lack of desire to be intimate. I also noticed that even with the low sexual desire, once he started his ADD medication, his desire literally disappeared all together. There could be many causes to losing interest. Is he on medication? Maybe the hustle and bustle of a new baby makes it difficult to make time to think about other things going on. Would there be any chance in trying to stimulate intimacy outside of the bedroom, i.e., kissing, hugging, holding hands, affection, snuggling? Maybe slowly building on the small moments of closeness could help bring things back on track?

I know this all too well

I'm new to this forum, but wanted to comment on this topic. Yes, I've experienced my adhd husband pretty much turning the sex spigot off shortly after we got married. We've been married 26 years, and the past 10 years we only have sex 3 to 4 times a year. It's AWFUL. It doesn't matter how many things I've done to try to make it exciting or fun or whatever. He AVOIDS it at all costs. I've always kept myself in pretty good shape, I've tried to be understanding and patient, but me not getting ANY of my sexual needs met has been very, very frustrating. I've run out of ways to explain things to him. A counselor asked me if I had done that, and I told her I had explained things in so many different ways, that I've run out of ways TO explain what I need, what I want, and even just plain what I would LIKE.

   His refusal to accomodate ANYthing sexually has become a real sore spot in our marriage. And, his REFUSAL to even discuss the subject is beyond comprehension. What do  you do in THOSE cases? He has told me that sex is a "natural" thing and shouldn't be planned" out, even though our counselor told him otherwise. This is one subject he simply refuses to deal with at all. It has made me feel very unloved, unwanted and rejected as a wife and as a woman. I've looked for help and yet havent been able to find it on this subject.


Refuses Sex

Your counselor is probably the best person to give you advice on this.  Sounds as if the sex issues are related to something else either with him, or with the two of you as a couple.  Or, possibly a result of either depression or a side effect of meds he might be taking?

In the meantime, though it's not a great long-term substitute, I'm hoping you are pleasuring yourself, at least.

re: wit's end

I am so happy that I found this post. I have been married to my husband for 20 yrs. He was diagnosed with ADHD 16 years ago. He has been on all of the medications over the years. He has decided to go off all of the medications now because he feels that they cause his blood pressure to be elevated. We are just begun therapy for 3rd time. Everything is my fault according to him. I have ruined his life according to him. I do not eat the right foods, get enough sleep, talk the right way, etc. I have read the books,tried various techniques, made the lists, etc but 70-80 of the time nothing gets done. I asked him to go to behavior therapy over the past 16 years as well as other physicians have recommended for help with the ADD. He refused saying meds work but therapy would not. When I asked him the other day why he had not gone, he blaimed me saying it was my fault. He said that I have never been offered support. He has serious memory issues-he picks up a word here and there and runs with it. He twists words, etc. states he never said anything. I am at the point of wanting to tape record conversations. He feels that if nothing on the lists ever gets done then that is ok and it is my problem. I do not pester him about it. I know it is the trigger point. HIs temper tantrums are out of control. When I went to therapy with him the other day (couples) of the 50 minute session, he spoke for 40 minutes of it about my lack of support, etc. I have seen someone as well who happens to treat people with ADD. He said they cannot help it but that does not relieve them of responsibility. My husband feels that he has no responsibility. I need some tips, advice anything at this point to help.

To Sandy

First, keep up the therapy, particularly if the person is familiar with ADD issues (if they aren't, then perhaps you need a therapist who is, since they seem to be playing a role here).  Therapists will let him talk for a while, but then a good therapist will start to get at the issues...he/she won't be fooled by your husband's claim that it's all your fault.  Every therapist KNOWS that it is NEVER just one person's fault...EVER!

Meds do work, but research shows over and over again that meds alone do not work nearly as well as medication and "behavior therapy".  That is, someone needs to help your husband understand how to move forward constructively with his life now that the meds take away some of the worst ADD symptoms that have been getting in the way.  (And, by the way, if he still has anger issues, then it sounds as if his treatment is not complete...)  Perhaps a coach can help, or a therapist, or a professional organizer....depending upon his specific issues.

So, is he currently off the meds right now?  Some meds do affect blood pressure, I believe (but I'm not a doc - I could be wrong) but there are others.  Ask him to explore his options with his doctor, since his ability to control  his ADD is critical to you and your relationship.  They ought to be able to figure something out.  Exercise and diet also play a role in blood pressure, so he may want to talk with his doc about that, too.

Your husband is just wrong when he says he has no responsibility for his ADD.  He has no responsibility for having ADD, but he does have a responsibility to work to control the symptoms that get in the way of the two of you having a healthy relationship.  Perhaps it's time to communicate that more clearly to him?  At the same time, ask your therapist what he/she notes in how the two of you interact.  You don't want to be contributing to his issues by enabling him/ mothering him/ nagging him, etc.

Let us know how it goes...and share what you learn, if you can, so others can get the benefit of your experiences.

Melissa Orlov

I need coping tips!!

My ADD Husband and I have been married almost four years, we have a wonderful child and are about to have another in two weeks. He has been on meds (vyvanse right now) for 5 years (give or take a few "med vacations" he has self-imposed every now and again). He also has mild tourettes and suffered from OCD (we think) when he was younger - it was never diagnosed. I was the one who researched and asked him see an ADD specialist. I have tried to get him to go to counseling, which he vehemently refuses. But I'm at least happy he is on medication. Even with the meds. though, he is so wrapped up in himself and work that I don't believe he thinks of me at all. He owns an expanding construction company - a very tough business - there have been so many ups and downs that accompany work issues (that also directly affects the way he treats me). He is very "Big Picture" oriented and frequently lets details slip through the cracks, but is finally putting together better staff support at work to help him sort out his strengths and weaknesses. He has been pretty successful and I am proud of him, as he has built the company from nothing! He shuns intimacy and emotion and never tries to understand what I am going through. That can really beat you down! He is hyper-critical of the way I do things and frequently looks for things to pick on me about. The problem is, he is such a hypocrite! IE: If he loses his sunglasses, he blames me for not paying attention to where he put them. And god forbid if I can't find my sunglasses - he acts like it's the end of the world and lectures me on how disorganized I am. There are so many things like this - he seems to seek out my imperfections (the very same imperfections he has). He tends to treat me like an enemy rather than a partner. I'm sick of getting picked on! Sometimes I tell him he should have married a robot. I am far from perfect, but he is looking for perfection that he lacks in me!!! His standards for me are much higher than those for himself - am I making any sense? What is really sad is that I think we could have a really beautiful marriage if we form a partnership... I think right now, I am very emotional, about to give birth and I'm feeling depressed at the way he's treating me at the moment. It's nothing new, but I am a little sick of being blamed for EVERYTHING these days. There is no consideration at all for the the household tasks and running around I do with our amazing 2 year old while 8 months pregnant. (BTW, he is wonderful with our daughter, but sometimes is extremely verbally abusive to me in front of her.) I just don't feel like I have any support form him emotionally. There is so much more I can say about the way her treats me, I just need to focus right now on things I can do to get better results from him. Can you help? I get really down on myself and wonder what I have done to deserve this treatment, then I remember his diagnosis. I have never really understood what I'm supposed to do in reaction to his actions - One thing is for sure, crying or yelling does not work - it only makes him angrier and more rude. There are so many issues - from his OBSESSION with getting organized - that NEVER comes to fruition to his lack of consideration for my feelings, I just need to find better ways to cope with his rude behavior when he gets like this. I am a very understanding wife and I want to be a partner instead of the enemy...

Coping with Rude Behavior

Right now, and into the immediate future, I would focus on yourself - having the baby, and getting through the emotional ups and downs that come with birth and hormone fluctuations.

After that, I think you are allowing him to treat you in a way that shouldn't be acceptable.  He may want to chew you out about why you didn't notice where he put his sunglasses, but let's face it, you aren't his slave.  His sunglasses are his responsibility.  If you happen to be able to help him locate them when he asks nicely for your assistance, that's great, but you are not his slave nor his wardrobe director.

You, and your children, deserve to be respected.  Your husband, too, deserves other words, once you get past your pregnancy, the next step is going to be standing up for yourself...nicely but firmly.  It's a little bit like kids - if you continue to let them whine and show them that that is the way to get things, they will.  This isn't because they are kids, it's because they are human...

Don't fall into the trap of being mean, or angry or depressed.  Conduct your business with the highest standards - the idea of "treat your neighbors as you would like to be treated yourself" also holds true in marriages.  Treat your spouse as  you would like him to treat you.

As for depression... if you continue to feel depressed, please go see a doctor about it and try some meds once you are no longer nursing.  Anti-depressants can make turning things around easier if you tolerate them.

So, you are responsible for you...and your kids...and being the good, thoughtful, strong person you can be.

Melissa Orlov

Thank You...I will keep trying.

Thank you so much for responding to me. I tried to conduct the "business" I have with my husband with the highest of standards this evening, but he's like the Karl Rove of husband-dom. - he turns everything around on me and tries to make me feel like it's my fault for our problems. So tonight I read "The Care and Feeding of a Non-Add Spouse" aloud to my husband. Most of it expresses exactly what I feel in a very non-threatening way. He said he wanted to hear it, but after I finished reading it, he actually said to me "What if I don't even have ADHD? Maybe my doctor diagnoses everyone who walks through the door with ADHD." - Which totally threw me for a loop. This man is classic ADHD, has been diagnosed and has been taking medication for ADHD for years. He always tries to turn the tables on me when I express my feelings to him. That's why his rude behavior has become a kind of standard in our household - I have pretty much stopped trying to tell him what bothers me, because I get no results. Or he tries to tell me it's something I'm doing. It's extremely frustrating!! Then I listed all the reasons why I believe he does have ADHD and he asked me to read "Care and Feeding" again. So (with trepidation because I was completely annoyed by this point), I read it again. When I was finished he asked "So what do you want me to do?" I said I wanted some attention to my feelings, some validation that he's thinking of me, has some regard for the fact that I'm having another baby, taking care of our daughter, etc. and he said that he would try to do those things. Then not even one minute later, he went into a tirade about the fact that I have not paid our bills yet this month. I can't pay the monthly bills because the check HE deposited into our account hasn't cleared yet. Then out of the blue he says I have to do a spreadsheet itemizing all the things we've spent money on in the past few months - then he will be a happier person. I tell him I need some emotional attention and he says I need to do a spreadsheet. He turned the whole discussion into a completely different issue, one that I have no control over, as I am a stay at home mother and he has been the monetary provider for the past few years. Then he stormed off and went to bed. I don't even feel like bringing any of this up again to him, because it's simply frustrating! I'm so emotionally starved in this relationship I could scream! I am trying to communicate and he is completely disconnected. I need therapy!!! This is mental torture!

I remember this phase...

I remember (oh, so clearly!) the phase when my husband's primary goal seemed to be to pick a fight with me. Didn't matter what I did, or how nicely I said something to him, he just HAD to fight with me. The form that this took, which drove me INSANE was that no matter what I would say, he would pick some tiny little (unimportant) fact out of my statement, and start arguing about the fact. Or, just as you have experienced, I would be talking about something emotional, and he would respond with something else (like the spreadsheet in your example). It absolutely enraged me that he would ignore the main ideas and concepts I was trying to communicate and focus on something trivial, just so we could fight. He's a very intelligent man, so I knew that what he was doing was something other than misunderstanding me. As I look back on it, I think that that was his way of responding to the fact that I was trying to control his life. He wouldn't have been able to verbalize this (nor would I have, at the time) and would have told you that the little nitpicky things that he wanted to argue about were IMPORTANT (bullshit!). The things weren't important at all, but what was important was that he was fighting. He felt trapped, and was lashing out, in the same way that a wild animal might fight and injure himself when put into a cage. What made this whole scenario worse was that I was feeling completely trapped at the time by his behavior. Everything he didn't do affected me to the negative. I was tired, angry, frustrated....all the things that you are now. You hit it on the head, actually, with these words "...He turned the whole discussion into a completely different issue, one that I have no control over..." Those are telling words...this is a fight over control, one that is happening at two levels - overtly (who will be in control over finances, time, child rearing etc) and one that is covert - (who is in charge of whom? Who will be dominant in the relationship? Whose needs will be met "more"? Who will take the blame for all of the bad stuff that is happening?) My husband posted recently and talked about the anger issue from his perspective (that of an ADDer) He said that the hardest thing for him was to understand that he even was angry, even when I was pointing it out to him over and over again. A.) He didn't believe it and B.) he had no idea what impact his anger had on me or on others until he worked for a wildy ADD boss whose anger got in the way of pretty much everything the company tried to do. My advice to you remains somewhat the same - the most important thing is to focus on you right now, to try to minimize your stress. If you are willing to engage a counsellor, particularly one who understands ADD, I think that might be helpful support for you. In addition, check your email for a note from me. Melissa Orlov

History Just Keeps on Repeating!! Need ideas...

Dear Melissa,

Thank you so much for your previous response (3 years ago). I am not sure exactly why I haven't been back to this site in so long.  I just can't believe that when I just looked back on my old post, it might as well be as if I wrote it yesterday. Some things have changed since then - we never have sex, he maxed out my credit cards, blew through our 401ks and children's college plans due to his failing business, and instead of crying in the corner because of the way he treats me, I have become very angry.  Everything is still my fault in his eyes.  He says that he is 'done' with this marriage. However, he finally agreed to go to counseling - his friends had a sort of "intervention" with him because of the way he treats me. They noticed it and told him to at least try for our children's sake. So he went. I even found a male marriage counselor at his request because he said a female counselor would 'unfairly' side with me.  The counselor actually did his dissertation on ADHD and reconfirmed that my husband has it. (From time to time my husband decides he doesn't have ADHD and decides to go off his meds). Husband didn't follow any of the counselor's advice and said it was a waste of time and money. So we have stopped going.

I am sad to say that I don't see how this marriage can work.  I feel like I'm living with a roommate/annoying brother/3rd child that berates me in front of our kids, pushes my buttons and basically blames me for all of our problems. I feel defeated.  I feel like there is no stability in my life. I feel like I put my life in the hands of someone who is unable and unwilling to care for me.  I know he loves our children, but I don't like the way he treats me in front of them (and especially NOT in front of them, as things get worse after they're in bed). I am angry at myself for letting this go on.

One thing I have done for myself is to go back to school to pursue a Master's Degree. It will take a few years to get back into the work force (making decent money).  I need to stay in this marriage until I am finished with school, but I need some sort of mental help to keep it together.  How can I keep my sanity?  I need to hold it together for my two amazing children (age 5 and 3).  I am not sure how to do this.

Any ideas?

Thank you in advance.


5stargemz's picture

Burnt out

I’m very grateful for the “care and feeding" section. In 2005 when we first faced this, I was looking for a non-ADD spouse forum, book, website and couldn’t find a thing. I read a lot of the posts here and am happy to finally hear “my story”. We found out a few years ago that DH had ADHD, on the brink of me asking him to leave our home. I stopped then because we finally had an answer for why he was distracted and had difficulty finishing things, etc, etc. Once we found out I read all of the books and he read some too. We’ve been married 12 yrs now and have three school age children and we conflict a lot on their parenting as well. I had an understanding of what we were dealing with, so I chose to hang on. Fast forward three years, two counselors and countless arguments/discussions and things are the same, worse really, because now I don’t care. I’m not perfect but I really have done all of the things to cope. I “fight fair”, I accept him without being co-dependant, and I’ve learned to do without (a.k.a. give up 50% of what you want.). We make couple time-but I don’t care I’d just as soon be out with a girlfriend. He misses something I catch it or I don’t. I’m just burnt out. One of the things I read about was the anger. ADDer’s have trouble recognizing how their anger impacts those around them. I can’t get past how mean and nasty he is to the children and me but not to others. He’s kind and patient with everyone, but the people “dearest” to him. This doesn’t seem like he doesn’t realize, in fact it seems just the opposite: he’s a fake, trying to impress others. I have taken the approach of enjoying my life and kinda waiting for my kids to grow up some more before I separate or divorce. It’s just too much work, but at the same time I don’t want the kids to suffer (any more than they already are) with the added problem of a divorce -it would break their hearts. I guess I just needed to tell my story, and see if there are other outcomes when you just don’t care anymore. Thanks
sister-red's picture

wow, hit the nail on the head whydontcha~!

I have just emailed this blog to my hubby. weve recently had a bad blow up (which resulted in me hitting him for invading my space and them him locking me out of the house all night). were barely speaking right now. its pretty bad. i hope he reads this and i hope things get better.

No Sex Drive

First, thank God for this site and especially this article! I can completely identify with the anger and resentment issues! I've seen some people post that their ADD spouse has no sex drive, but what if it's the other way around?? I have almost no interest in sex these days. I feel like I am caring for a child. And feeling motherly (and resentful) does not do a whole lot for feeling amorous. We have been married now for 5 1/2 years and I cannot remember feeling more lonely.

No Sex Drive

It's very common that the non-ADD spouse loses interest in sex.  If feeling like a parent isn't enough (who wants to have sex with a child?!) then feeling as if he ignores you every moment of the day except when he wants sex will build up a well of resentment sure to ruin your romance.

Your feelings of loneliness are actually your worst issue, I think.  One can live without sex for a while (there's always masturbation) but isolation is awful, not to mention proven bad for your health.

There are a few things that you need to know, right now.  First, it is likely that your husband's lack of attention towards you (which is making you lonely) is not intended to hurt you.  Chances are good (unless your relationship is really, really in a bad place) that if you ask him today if he loves you his answer would be "yes" or "of course"!  His lack of attention is likely due to two things - his ADD symptom of distractability (which means he's often elsewhere mentally) and, probably by now, your responses to him, which are causing him to further distance himself from you.  I am going to suggest that you read some specific posts to help you start learning more about how all this works (wish I had my book ready...this is something I address in Section 1!) and see if it may help you a bit.  So, try these posts:

What Lack of Focus Means

The ADHD Marriage Balancing Act

The Care and Feeding of the Non-ADD Spouse

The last will help you see that you really aren't alone...

This is a start...there are many who are dealing with this issue at the site...if you explore you will find more.


ADD spouse response

I remember seeing another post after this that were the ADD spouses "I want you to know" responses, similar to this post. Can you send me this link or tell me where to find this?

I find myslef in tears

I find myslef in tears reading this blog. I'm so angry and frustrated with my husbands ADD that I can't even find the words to express how I feel anymore. Your words are the words I have been searching for. My husband has ADD and was diagnosed as a child but has not recieved treatment since elementary school. My 8 year old son also has ADHD and I'm starting to see symptoms in my 4 year old. I'm glad I found this forum. Now I know I'm not alone.

The Care and Feeding of an ADD Spouse


I totally related to your article The Care and Feeding of a Non-ADD Spouse.  I was hoping you had an article that related to the Care and Feeeding of an ADD Spouse.  I am interested in hearing the ADD Spouses perspective in hopes that it would give me some insight to my husband.

Hopeful 9009

Care and Feeding of ADHD Spouse

Melissa has already written on this topic.  It is a chapter of her book that she completed writing and is now busily editing.  It is scheduled to be published in the Fall.

thank you



This has been enlightening.  I have been with my husband for 14 years, married for 6.  It has been extremely difficult from the beginning.  I thought I could cope, especially with his non physical nature unless sex was cuddling, kissing, we've never held hands...never really sat on the sofa together to even watch a movie.  This has been very hard on me, and painful.  And I have withdrawn completely.  I've tried to talk about it, but this isn't something you can talk is part of my essential nature...and ADD is part of his.  he has recently been diagnosed.  He is trying to work out his meds. 

We have 2 children (4 and 15months), and I do absolutely EVERYTHING when it comes to them...When I ask for help or try to point it out, he just says...well you're the mother.  It is infuriating.  He says "I don't know how you survive on so little sleep"...but with no help (he does laundry, though I have to put it away and occasionally he cooks supper even though he gets home before I get home with the kids), I have to stay up late to finish everything for the household AND have a little time for myself (I knit and garden).  I work full time.  I am not a housewife.

He says I have a hair trigger...I see now that I am deeply angry about these 2 things in particular.  As others have stated, I don't have a partner -- I am totally burnt out, and feel smothered.    when I try to express how I am feeling, how I see things, i cry and he says it is a sign that I am emotionally does that create a safe place for me to express myself.  it is difficult to have empathy when when I feel so lonely and isolated.  I am working on the stuff I need to work on with my therapist...but I cannot take it all on me, the blame and the work. 

Been there, done that

Are you sure you're not married to my ex husband? He was exactly like this. He took me to a house that had no kitchen (stove, sink and refrigerator in an otherwise empty room, no counters or cupboards) and told me that was what he could afford and if I wanted a better kitchen I'd have to go back to work to pay the higher rent. My daughter was the same age as your younger child. My workday was half an hour longer than his. He wouldn't pick the child up from daycare or do anything. In the 3 months I worked there, he did one load of laundry and, I think, washed the dishes once. His argument was that I earned less, so in order to make our contributions equal I had to do all the housework too.

No affection? Check. Not even watching TV together? Check.

I don't think my ex has ADD (maybe, since one of our kids does). I think this is just male crap. I hated it, I eventually decided since I was doing all the work anyway I might as well leave him. He rejected counseling. He refused to go but let me make the appointments, then was "too busy" when the time came.

I don't know what the answer is. His behavior could be the result of ADHD or he could just be a jerk. I never found the answer for myself and spent a long time as a single mother.  I am glad you are getting help for yourself.

The Role of the Non-ADHD Spouse

I was diagnosed in January 2011 at age 55.  The diagnosis helps make sense of the issues that crop up in my relationship with my wife; and help me to be more aware of when the ADHD symptoms occur.  I am trying Vyvanse but it isn't helping yet, so maybe a higher dose will help.  Anyway, after reading some books and seeing my counselor, my wife now seems to be saying making things better is all up to me.  "It's my problem and why should she have to do all this reading and coping?"  There is much truth in that concept -- that I have to take responsibility for what *actions* I do (or don't do). 

But the tough-love aspect of her attitude seems harsh to me.  I *have* been trying to do better.  My wife says she won't do the nagging she once did, so that's a positive thing - but what role does the non-ADHD spouse have in optimally making things better.  Is it all on me?

It is not all on you

I appreciate your honesty.  My husband was just diagnosed this spring with ADD at age 51 and has resisted changing in any way. He continues to blame everyone around him and has taken no ownership of his actions. I have read numerous books on ADD.  From my perspective, your wife is part of the solution to make your marriage work and become stronger.  It would be of great benefit to her to read and learn as much as she can about ADD.  I continue to learn more daily.  I have come to understand my husband's behaviors, although having ADD does not excuse some of them.  In order to learn how to communicate effectively and understand each other needs, she has to share in the work and she needs to educate herself on ADD and she needs to look at her own behaviors.  You may suggest this site as a place to start.  It will give her a place to see she is not alone and it can be a great resource for answers to any of her questions.  I commend you on the work you have taken on. Keep it up!

That is a tough question in

That is a tough question in regards to your situation. It all depends in how long you have been together/married, how long BOTH of you have gone to counseling, how long both of you have tried and tried, and/or how she see's add/adhd... And probably MUCH more that i have missed. I have been married for under 15 years (I'm the non) and have been in counseling for 10 years to fix everything, to work on me, and to deal with him. We tried couples counseling and have done numberous "truce" times. I have tried and tried and forgiven things that i never should have been faced with. I could go on and on and on. He NOW finally sees that taking a pill and not doing the work for 10 tears has taken its toll on me. I say he has to do the work. Ive done my share, but it seems that i have to do more whether i like or not. Maybe your wife has felt all of the above and done all of the above, or maybe she hasnt. She may be fearful too, to look deep inside herself to see if she has contributed to this as well. She may not want to be a part of the solution yet? Maybe she wants to see what you are going to do differently before she can let her guard down. She may be fearful that it may not last? Or she may not believe in any of it. What is most important is that you do what is necessary to work on you and to start feeling better for you. She'll come around when you start feeling great and when you have more confidence and pride in yourself. I have noticed a big change in him and one minute i feel like i am softening and then 2 seconds later i am fuming all over again...? It's really hard for both people. Good luck, keep up the good work!

non add husband

not much out there for non add husband. I know you said just change it around for husbands but it different set of things when its your wife that has add. We have been married for over 20yrs. I have always known there was something different about how information got through to my wife. I have often discribed it as if she saw a fatal car accident she would first discribe the type of hub caps, then the color of the car, then the last piece of info would be that someone died. There are many things I could discribe about events that are crazy in our lives because her circuts just shut down with no warning. There is much crying and deniel. In the past I have responded to this poorly to say the least. I didnt know what was really going on and became very frustrated. I feel very guilty for some of my reactions. It has just been in the last year that we have agreed that she has ADD. When she scored a 91 on the online tests it was hard for her to deny. I have since discovered that at least 4 of my 5 child gave some form Of ADD. This is drives me kind of crazy. It seems that if your are not in a relationship with ann ADD person you just dont understand. The problem is most men just dont talk about and it is usually the man the has ADD. I have hired nannies and maids with some relief but there is still much frustration. I tell her I love her but I am frustrated by the ADD. She has trouble seing the difference. She has a big heart and often tries hard but little seems to change. I also think that it is more difficult at certain times of the month. We are trying a natural path and she is taking Attends. This seems to work well on my 10 yr old daughter. Her performance at school is taking a dramatic change for the better. Maybe its more difficult for adults. I am not use to not knowing how to solve a problem but I cant fix this. I seek suport and advice. I feel alone and often like the only adult in the family. Of course those feelings dont help did the problem. But I feel I need a place I can express them without causing my wife pain. Right now she is searching all over the house for a jacket She put away and has no idea where she put it. She is crying and I feel like a bad man for even asking. This is just one of many things that occur daily. In fact all her inlaws are ADD too. So I am going a little crazy.

Any hope?

I have been in a relationship with an ADHD guy for two years. He's sexy, smart, funny and kind. But I feel I rarely *see* him, he's not *there* - barely any conversation, hardly any sex, I have to beg him to show me affection - as someone here wrote, I have to schedule time for him to show me love - and I know he loves me, but it's not enough to know intellectually... I have been doubting myself for the better part of our relationship as I know I have abandonment issues. I thought, is it just me? We're just different, maybe I have to work harder on myself... And then I came upon sites for ADHD adults and realized my bf is a typical case.

My solution has been mostly to shut off to save myself (I'm already experiencing burn-out symptoms) after the tearful fight - begging - explaining phase. I am still often patient and kind, but there is this simmering hurt inside. 

I showed him one of these sites two days ago and he recognized himself. Now he's coping with the fact that on one hand, he has an explanation for many difficulties in his life, and on the other, that he's "mentally ill", and there is something *wrong* with him.

The truth is, our relationship is nearing the marriage and kids stage, and I would like to take the plunge, but I feel so unsafe in this relationship emotionally. I'm also 34 and desperate for children. Can I hope that if he gets treatment things ACTUALLY GET BETTER? In a lasting way? Or shall I prepare myself for separation for my own sake?

a little hope

The challenge is getting your spouse to see the problem without crushing their spirit. They dont realize the frustration they cause.Getting them to see it and not letting them feel its hopeless.. Let them know that being aware of how actions or non actions effectthe family while not being too hard on their ego is a major breakthrough. Its the beginning of sanity for both of you. You have to have an extreme determined love for your add spouse. Your ADD spouse has to be an amazing forgiver. Then you can forgive yourself for the harm you caused them. Then you can look beyond the ADD in your relationship and see each other on the other side.There will be good days and bad. In my case we both try hard, love deeply, and forgive each other continuously. We have got to the point of complete open humble honesty. To each other we are what we are. We have no masks, no cloaks between us. And although there are frustrating times we are madly in love with each other. This took time. I almost lost hope. And its hard to forgive yourself. But 21yrs later and five kids and running our own business together we have got through the storm. Yes to some degree all my kids have ADD too. But at least now my wife and I have built a path to help them in their lives. If anyone of them choose to marry they will go in with eyes open. That should cut the stormy years to at least half. I am glad we made it through all this. I will never leave her. We have been through to much together. I cant see how I could reach this closeness with anyone else. I know their will be some bumpy times to come but I know we'll make it work. I dont know if its possible to love her more but what an adventure we will have discovering how deep love can be. I want everyone to know that where there is love and forgiveness there is hope

Thank you

Thank you for that inspiring comment. This is really the best I can hope for if I stay with him, the man I love dearly.
My instincts have screamed at me SO loud several times in the part two years to get the hell out though. While I still have the chance to be truly happy and have non-ADHD children. That actually scares me the most right now. That staying with him would mean actively deciding to bring children who will likely have ADHD into the world. Do I want that? Would they want that? And a spouse whose parenting skills would make things worse, not better?
How can I be madly in love with this man and feel utterly unsafe with him emotionally at the same time?
Thanks to all posting here – I feel so validated right down to the cabinet doors and the no sex/bad sex and the anger and the loneliness... and that I haven’t just been imagining it all, and it’s not just me being needy/difficult, thank you, THANK YOU

I would never advocate a

I would never advocate a divorce because of an ADD spouse. I have high regard for marriage.But everyone has there own values. I respect their right to make their own choices. My post was trying to show reality but at tbe same time say its all worth the effort. Its like being aware that each of you speak a different language. You have to learn your spouse language and they have to learn yours. You have to stop judging which language is best and focus your energy on communication. With most ADD people they also possess unique talents. I have found them in my wife and every one of my children. I dont regret for a moment bring them into the world. I try to make sure that they realize they are unique. That they realize their special skills and also the special efforts they must make to connect with other to share their gifts. In a way should not all people realize the need to be willing to adapt their mind set to connect with others. So in fact then because of their unique mind set they should mature into better communicators. They problems are reaally only bad when an ADD person is unaware that they are unique. Once aware the childhood self esteem is not under constant attack. They understant that they are not lessor beings but that greater translation is needed for them to share their gifts with the world. I wish someone would have done all this for my wife as a child. It would have made things easier. But while its harder to learn as a adult my humble wife was willing to learn and forgive my lack of understanding. I too am greatful to have opened my mind to this special world. It forced me to love deeper

My Wifes efforts

I was just thinking of the changes we have made in our relationship since we first fully realized ADD was in our marriage. We decided to try more natural approaches to this problem. My wife started taking Attends. At first we really didnt notice anything change. It took about three months before she felt the effects. In talking with her she told me that although her brain was seeming to clear it took her another month to change her reaction to things. All of these changes were subtle. We didnt notice them until we were on the other side. For my part I have been really working on my reaction to events. I too had to stop my old reactions and replace them with positive reaction. Something I learned from this adhdmarriage website. Laterly I have told my wife how sorry I am for the way I reacted to her ADD. I thought that things could be changed through sheer force of will. My will. Wrong,wrong!! !Sometimes I think if I had understood what the problem was years ago we could had a happier marriage 15yrs ago. I regret those missed years.My wife is so forgiving. Now that we both are living in the land of sanity, both hers and mine, I feel the need to love her twice as much to make up for lost years. I keep telling myself to live in the present and to look foreward to the futrue. My wife does. She is so wonderful. Now I am the partner that needs to catch up. I love her so.
MagicSandwich's picture

Hi Mr. Hope Not sure I agree

Hi Mr. Hope

Not sure I agree that ADD-ers don't know the frustration they cause? Some do and some don't and some never will.  I don't think those type of "Leo Buscaglia " blanket statements apply en mass to a multifaceted disorder like ADHD. 

Also your statement that, "Your ADD spouse has to be an amazing forgiver. Then you can forgive yourself for the harm you caused them." as well as "And its hard to forgive yourself."  is well, weird.  Do you think that the non-add spouse has something to apologize for?  Why should the non-ADHD spouse struggle with self-forgiveness?  Maybe you have switched the pronouns around because you are in fact the ADD spouse in this scenario writing the words you wish you could hear from your non-ADHD spouse. 

It takes two

When we loose the ego the wonder of forgiveness becomes clear. The hardest person to forgive is always yourself. In a sense it is the last ego. Any pain even caused unwittingly is something to apologize for. In an ADD relationship the response of the non-ADD spouse can be just as detrimental to the relationship as the ADD itself. It takes two. We realized how we both caused each other pain and how how we both can respond differently to each other so that our love is not damaged. We both have asked each other for forgiveness and assured each other in order to forgive ourselves. I was tested for ADD at the same time my wife was just to be fair. The results were dramatically different. I have no evidence to support this but from your comments alone it seems you have something causing you to want to be noticed. Please be careful how strongly you state your opinions. You may harm those less strong. Dont harm what is happy. You dont have to agree because guess what your opinion, my opinion are not all that important. They are just thoughts, offerings of hope. I described how things worked out for my wife and me. It may be different for other couples. They may quantify their feelings and observations differently. It doesnt make them wrong. I would never want to hurt others by saying their honest feelings being expressed here were weird. Its from their hearts. It s just how they see it. We can all take lessons from multiple viewpoints. No one really has the final and correct words. I found that there was a piece of truth I took from many of the comments here. I did not have to agree with everything they said to benefits from a gem within. These are all voluntary expressions no one is getting paid for their words here. This is a group effort searching for what works. I came to this thread a few months ago in hopeless desperation. I read the weekly ADHD tips and the comments of others and these were a lot of help to me. I saw hope. Now my wife and I are closer than we have ever been. I am grateful that there is such a forum as this to help ADD couples. I want others to have hope where I had none. So I shared my story of success as others have. I wanted to give back to the place that helped my marriage. I look forward to so many years ahead with my dear wife. Please hear the music and sing with us. 

both genders

This is almost exactly what male non-ADD spouses want as well. This is my life!

I told my wife "I feel like we are two draft horses, hooked to the same wagon (our goals and dreams), but I am trying to pull forward, and you sometimes pull forward, sometimes veer off to the side , and sometimes yank your head out of the yolk and take off in the opposite direction."

ADD & Marriage

Hi - I am having problems with my wife, and much of what is being described above rings home.  I currently believe her to be cheating on me (with a woman), as I've come across some text messages that aren't appropriate for friends.  I'm aware this woman is a lesbian, and I also suspect that my wife has been lying to me about who she is out with (i.e. saying friends from work rather than this woman).  My wife does not admit it, but I just recently found out about this.  I ended up texting this person asking her who she is, and some details regarding her sexual communications I read.  

That being said, the root cause of this has been brewing over many years.  Our early relationship was founded on long distance, where we lived about an hour apart and when we did spend time together is was very discrete with 100% attention to each other.  Since we've moved in together and have jobs and lives and things, we've basically just drifted apart.  I have some issues myself in the area of stressful jobs with long hours, alcohol, and video game addiction and recently anxiety.  I don't technically have ADD or ADHD as far as I know, but I am highly motivated, exceptionally intelligent, and often do many things at once.  I am described by co-workers as unfocused (yet effective) and by some friends a hot-mess.  At the same time, I am exceptionally organized in my own way and capable of maintaining high paying professional jobs and completing exceptionally rigorous education (4.0, masters, etc).  So I never had a work performance problem, but I've kind of known something is off with me for years.  Recently, I have had trouble with motivation though - which is hard to explain.  Either way, I'm certain my wife isn't getting what she needs out of our relationship, but I'm not sure how to give her what she needs.  I somewhat get the feeling that what she wants, is for me to be available all the time, every day and her remedy is for me to not drink or play video games.  I inform her that if I were to not do that, I would do other activities.  I perpetually have the urge to do something, I cannot not do something.  I always have to be walking, reading, playing, something - or otherwise sedated or have worn myself out to the point of I can't do anymore.  I like to play video games because it makes this feeling go away; it makes me forget about the doing and the thinking all of the time.

I would also say I struggle socially, I think in part due to anxiety I really didn't understand for years.  For a long time I was not very good with casual conversation, and I think I still have issues transitioning from acquaintance to friend.  I find my wife often establishes friends with co-workers and others.  To me, those relationships never really extend from what they are - co-workers.  Perhaps it's a difference between her government job and my professional job - perhaps it's me.

I don't really know what to do with my wife.  We're going to talk later.  But, she's not the kind of person who is really accepting of "I have a condition, this is how I am".  She's just likely to blame me and get mad and that's it.  I do see a psychiatrist for my anxiety, I have thought about mentioning this to her - but didn't want to overwhelm her with saying I might have ADD/ADHD and anxiety.  I dealt with the major issue at hand which was not being able to sleep due to anxiety.

Which is why I am here, because I don't really know who to talk to about do I know for sure if I might have ADD/ADHD?  And if so, how do I even know if knowing that will help my marriage issues?

The care and feeding of a non-ADHD spouse...

Well written and clearly expressed. Reading this was like reviewing conversations my wife (a non-) and I (ADHD) have had in the past. As odd as it may seem, it feels good to have the circumstances of ADHD life validated - even the negative ones. By that I mean to say that on the one hand, I see that my wife's feelings are normal for a woman who must endure the negative aspects of having an ADHD husband; and simultaneously, I see that my bad behavioral cycles are not just some monstrous aspect unique to me. In essence, I suddenly feel a bit less "alone" in a way that brings hope for my continued improvement into view. Living with ADHD is a difficult balancing act... like being one of Cirque du Soleil's contortionist/acrobat acts. There's so much to pay attention to to try to keep your relationship in balance, and there's the rub - it requires the one talent in which we (ADHD-ers) are innately unskilled. We focus so hard on just getting basic things done, like functioning professionally, but this is the most important part. After all, why else are we driving ourselves so hard to function in life, if not for the one person we love more than life itself?

Being the Sun

Mr.  Moo,

 I guess I would like to be the Sun to my prospective.  Your post give pause for self-reflection. But I am ever the skeptic, wondering how my spouse might have engineered this thing to manipulate me.

 This has little to do with ADHD and much to do with how hard it is to trust someone in an intimate relationship.  I see that people with ADHD share the same basic insecurity.  Maybe I sometimes think that my friend has an advantage over me because of the cynicism/apathy that are a part of his coping mechanism.  Maybe my desire to "break through" that is narcissistic.




I.m a non-add spouse, been married 18 years.  Despair is the only word that describes how I feel.  He was diagnosed 2 months after we married -  I thought 'ok, we can do this.  Lot.s to learn we.ll work together'.   He is a very kind & sweet man, is good father, a really good guy.  Nothing could have ever prepared me for living this way.  I have read everything, tried to help, organize, plan, ignore, let natural consequences happen, been direct, been accommodating.  I tried to be encouraging & patient (not good at this at all)   I begged, asked, screamed for him to do something differently.  To get help [more than medication alone, not enough].  The 'help' we got dismissed his Add/inattention & basically said 'You just need to lighten up, he.s a good guy. got it pretty good'. I was always very open about the fact that at some point I wouldn.t keep living this way.  Then about 3.5 years ago - I. Gave. Up.   The pain I feel is not because I love him or want his companionship it is because of the rage I feel for being tricked/lied to/deceived because he said 'I know I have some things to work on, I understand, I.m going to start making changes, you wait & see'.  I foolishly believed him & that was sick.  No more.

Reverse situation

Melissa, Is there the same type responses for a male going through this same situation with a wife with ADD/ADHD? I honestly printed this topic out and handed it to her. I could not express myself any better. Unfortunately, she dismissed it... Not sure what to do next, it is getting to the point i want to leave. Her explination to our problems is to leave her alone...

Reverse is also true

I wrote this with these genders specified because I feel more in touch with "what women want"...being a woman and all that!  But it isn't hard to imagine men wanting exactly the same thing, and if this rang true for you then use these words.

Your wife is in denial.  Ask her to take my upcoming couples seminar with you (starts Oct. 1).  Seriously.  It's a big denial buster (not for everyone, but for most!)  It will also show you some of the things you can do better, too.  If she's reluctant (many ADHD partners are) tell her that I DON'T pick on people with ADHD in the course...I'm an equal-opportunity 'picker on-er' and that I will teach you both how you can be better with each other.  This course is about learning about ADHD partners and what they do AND about learning about non-ADHD partners and what they do, too.  If she still doesn't want to join in, I often suggest that you simply say something such as "this is really important to me, and it's only education. Would you try it, simply because I'm asking?"  Humility and a request often work.

Ask her as nicely as you can.  ADHD doesn't cause divorce...denial does.

awesome words

"ADHD doesnt cause divorce, denial does" I cant express enough how awesome those words are.From every angle you consider them they are the truest most fundamental words I have read that you said. They should become your tag line. They give hope and at the same time get right to the heart of the problem. We all have moments of brillants this was one of those moments for you. My tag line is a reminder to me that when I am on this forum I am here to find solutions to ADD concerns, not just to vent. To find ways to bring us together, not excuses to tear us apart.


thank you for reposting this, i missed it the first time.  dont know how my wife will react to it but sent it to her.  

i try to remember that she is trying to help and that she has good reason for her things:

1. i dont like clutter

2. why are you doing that?  why didnt you do something else instead?  why didnt you do it differently?

3. did you remember to ----?

Endless supply

Thank you for posting this.  I like clear and straight forward practical advise.

I have to admit I just want to pull my hair out (metaphorically) when I read so much about what the Non-ADHD spouse must do.

We are people too.  We have our own challenges.  We are not an endless supply of ideas, fixes, energy, words, stamina, understading...We simply are not.  Too many online sources just validate the idea that we just can not ever do enough.  Frankly, that is dangerously close to not being good enough.

I get it, the ADHD spouse has the condition, but it does not stay caged, does it? It becomes a family burden we carry together.  And too often, it is so needy an issue that those non-ADHDers find no time left for the care of our own struggles.  I often watch my ADHD husband getting helped and having his life profit as mine looses much that mattered to me.  And some that I desperately need: To feel safe, financially, from terrifying impulses, from the slides back into starting at what feels like zero, from loosing what is left of my youth untouched by the man with whom I was to share my own intimate self.  Feels like to love him well, I must let parts of me die that I should have a right to keep.  Feels like I have aged 20 years in 2.

So, I love this list, I do...and I intend to use it.   I do need to see more short and simple (or he will not read them) lists for the ADHD partner to help him see his love stands right there,... dare I say? yes, starving.

Simple steps he might be able to successfully take to reclaim romance, trust after all those lies to cover up impulse mistakes and the shame that follows, and fun.

I don't have the grace to live life as a nurse, half-seen, and watch the giggling girl, the woman in me die out.  I don't want to be a walking dead.



Yes, but how?

my husband tells me all of these and gets frustrated and depressed and I desperately wish that I didn't ignore him, was more aware of his feelings and could notice and show affection, not forget he had a rough day shortly after finding out, be able to empathize, but every time I hear these complaints we don't get anywhere because I cannot promise to change because I don't believe Its possible, the only thing that may help in my opinion may be medication, is there a way to change/train my brain to remember the priorities and be attentive??

Long-term marriage, spouse newly diagnosed

Hubby and I have been married 27 years. He's in his early 60s and was diagnosed with ADHD about a month ago. We were both stunned, but the descriptions fit to a "T" (especially the one in Hallowell's "Delivered From Distraction" chapter 41 from a wife's perspective of what it's like to live with an ADHD spouse took my breath away, it was spot on). He's very involved, interested, and active in his treatment (meds + counseling + books + cognitive behavioral therapy exercises + open and talks to me about his discoveries about himself).

I finally have hope for our future. (I've left three times for short periods in the last two years because I couldn't take it anymore.)

I've edited my post a number of times before posting it because I have so much to get off my chest, but most of it seems to already be posted here and there.

So I'll cut to the chase---I feel like my life is still on "hold" until hubby gets a handle on learning about himself. (It's like he's meeting himself for the first time in 63 years, and the introductions are going at a snail's pace.) He's not a bad man at all, we manage to somehow enjoy each other's company and find things to laugh about, and I loved him deeply at one time. He's merely undermined every single aspect and thread of our relationship here and there over time, especially with how we raise our kids. (I describe my life with him as "death by 10,000 paper cuts.")

What do I do with myself in the meantime? What concrete steps can I take to get to a better version of myself and cope with the occasional shell shocks of realization of aspects of things such as, I didn't think he had impulsivity issues, until I looked back in retrospect and realized that I have been inundated with his impulsivity torpedos on almost a daily basis for nearly our entire relationship, even before the birth of our first daughter when I was no longer shiny and new, and which explains why I mostly feel invisible and am almost constantly tense and on guard at home. (Not at work, just at home.)

How does one who has gone through 27 years with an undiagnosed ADHD spouse start to recover, *and* regain an emotional connection?

RT021172's picture

long term lonely

45 years married to a nonADHD, ultra giving, endlessly loving wife, the love of my life, may end in failure.

I was diagnosed with ADHD only last year after uncountable visits over the years all of which ended with "your wife is not the problem, it`s you. You need to....... Grow up, be a man, get a grip, etc, etc."

Years of having the same arguments over the same things.

I never had the right tools to sort out my ADHD. I now know why my wife feels desparation, unloved, neglected and ignored. Yea, I really DO understand! Her pain runs deep. We`ve started over so many times.

With my ADHD I feel I we could finally get it right.

I only hope now that we both understand the truth about my ADHD we can connect, but I fear it may only be a dream, left behind just like the 45 years of damage to a broken heart.


Our Adhd really doesn't matter RT....It's about commitment....

It's just where we place our priorities!....when I walked into the business I worked at for 39 years, I never questioned what it would take to stay employed, and in good standings....Same when I walk into the house I abide in, as my wife's husband...If my commitment to Love and do the work at home, without excuse, is on the same level that I pursued my Job for $...Then adhd or not, our marriage will be a great one, if she does the same.....

You can't pursue good times, $, hobbies with a vengeance, and then be satisfied w/ a cloud of excuses when it comes to the work at home....Our character only truly comes out, when no one is watching.....



I am the ADHD wife of a NONADD husband... our relationship is always on an up and down rollercoaster... I never "get it" and my sweet husband is always upset... I never mean to upset him or make him angry and I never seem to realize that we have a problem until he frustrated or angry to the piont of being emotionally wounded. My husband and I have the kind of love and passion for each other that most people only dream of in a life time, but I still get in the way of us... I hurts me so terribly when I upset him, but we always seem to be stuck on this impossible rollercoaster. He tries so hard for me and I do try so hard for him, but it seems like most of the time we can never stay on the same page, much less, in the same book. I want so badly to please him and make him happy.

Never Give Up

As a husband of a beautiful wife who has adhd I will tell you keep trying. Your efforts tell him you love him. I have to tell you when I see my wife trying so hard in spite of her adhd I love her more. Sure I get frustrated when the adhd manifests it self but knowing how she keeps going even though she struggles makes me love her more. When I do get angry she is so forgiving. For these reasons we can still continue to love each other. I dont know if this is right but I try to separate the adhd from the person. Im not mad at my wife. Im mad at the adhd. I love my Wife. My end goal is to love the adhd too. In some ways adhd is a special way of looking at life. Its a different prospective. She thrives in confusion and sometimes thats a gift. She can work in a disorganized setting and find just what she needs in a pile of junk. Her intuition about people is amazing. Her heart is so big. She gives so much. Inspite of all the screw ups for some reason it all works out for her. Its taken a few patience training years but I can now see we were ment for each other. I love her so.

Mr New Hope...

This is awesome...I almost teared up reading your post....It's so encouraging,...Thanks for sharing your feelings....


adhdlady...I'm the husband of an adhd wife.....

Your husband is a very fortunate man indeed for the fact you were able to even write this sweet post....I'm sorry he is being so negatively impacted...I"ve been a basket case at time over the 9 years of our marriage also...But, the more I learn to accept her realities, and move on with my own life w/o judging hers, or  placing expect on her to thing like I do, Or fall to those same expectations from her....We do better...And I do better, less frustration, less negative feelings and emotions....

You talked about the love and passion y'all share....That is so awesome!....I'm a romantic myself.....My wife isn't, she is more of a fun seeker LOL...The last time we made love she was elling me a story about something, sorry I can't remember what it was I'm 60, I was trying to concentrate..LOL..

Her and I have different idea's of fun....Just like right now...She headed off to Nashville after church Sunday w/ a co-worker to stay w/ a friend and watch the eclipse....(nothing wrong with it at all, but, I just had rather had a tooth pulled than to do that)...So I headed to the beach w/ my road bike to ride and hang out on the beach, and eat sea food...As a matter of fact I'm headed to dinner know and to a movie...(skipped lunch, and had a flat on my bike...been a wild day;)....

When she found out I was coming here....She said I might have went w/ you if I had known ( I never decided until she announced her plans, I get tired of setting home)....I said you never asked, and you usually never engage me like I matter, most of the time....You just announce your plans, then ask me I want to come along....I told her that not how it works:)....But, when we don't make a big deal out it....Acceptance.....We learn and grow....I hate arguments, and have decided if that just has to be our reality, I had rather live alone and peaceful....She is listening for the first time in nine years.....and to her credit she is starting to as you say "Get it"....And I am too!

I hope you husband will own his anger....just as you are owning you living of life....As long as we don't blame, and deal w/ our own stuff we have a great chance!



Dual Diagnosis and An Apology w/ Ackowledgement

This is an opportunity to say a couple of things I wasn't able to before.  Not knowing what is "wrong"....,.is a real problem.  Denial and / or  a "covert" agenda is a problem as well, no doubt,  But a secret agenda isn't necessarily someone intentionally acting with ill intent.....but it could be depending on the level of deception or what they are after?  It's really clear to me as I read these posts, that there appears to be one thing in common and that is at least a commitment and a willingness to stay the distance and work on the symptom of what causes any one of these trouble spots or challenges and to say no one is perfect here is an understatement.  I have been resistant to say things at time, and at times it's been very confusing to me since it's really muddies up the wasters......when you have ( two people ) with ADHD and they are "both" doing the same thing to each other or in part.....there is no "non" in the room?

But everyone here with ADHD....appears to have the same sentiments or thinking about this that really do coinsider together and are willing to at least admit where they go wrong or how they have hurt others in the past.  My to take on responsibility where there is none or to have someone just say so....and I automatically belief them and say "yes" first and 'no" second without questioning and being too trusting all the benefit of me in one respect only in that it does benefit me to be with someone on any level either healthy or not......having a partner or someone who's committed to you in the same way with a promise they intend to what one might expect, especially since they said those words.

What I can sincerely apologize for is still being somewhat naive or ignorant...and not seeing some things that I didn't recognize as a problem that is not going to change or be different or at least a "belief that it might" and hoping for the best and putting faith and trust forward as a best foot first as a show that you are serious and that your intentions are good or even honest.  I suppose you could say, that intentions aren't that difficult to spot once you see them over a long enough period of time.

It takes two.  Yes, absolutely..and a willingness to go the distance and a commitment to that singular goal.  A person may say what their intentions are and what  "my dream" for us is  ( mine )......but if that "dream" is all they can see and there is an "agenda unspoken" or for better....and will to go in one direction.....and that direction says "I want this....and I don't care what you want........not that I don't care about you necessarily, but what I want is more important......and I want this, and I'm not getting it.  What I don't want is what I'm getting........please fix this for I will not have these things I don't want.  I'm waiting.  I'm not seeing it yet.......Where's my dinner?  Where's what I want?  And beyond that.......where's my dinner?  This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful husband, this is not my beautiful life?  What are these "things" doing in my picture?  It's my party, and I can cry if I want to....because this is my party, and I can cry if I want to?"

In my therapists office today....we had a very long session and session that went over time to get him up to speed on all the events.....and D didn't show even though I sent her two clear invitations encouraging her to meet as all 3 of us in a safe conflict free enviroment.  This was the first conversation I've had with in a long time where I got to catch him up on a lot of things and connect them all together.  We covered a tremendous amount of ground and went over a lot of things personal to my personal story from the past to fill in my thoughts and some blanks that he had proposed a long time ago  ( years ) that was all coming back to me and what he said.  And I was able to answer these questions he posed to me easily and simply from what I have learned.

I have to say, I share you opinion to a certain degree about driving up to Nashville to see the eclipse and pulling teeth.  It was really awesome to see what I saw today, and I was in line with some folks from California at the store who came all the way here to see and drove another 45 mikes south to see the "full eclipse" and the "stars" in the sky?  I didn't see the stars from where I was, but it got dark enough and twighlight" or "dimmer switch effect...for about another 20 minutes so a total of about 1/2 hour or the really good stuff?  And I saw...."almost the stars" from my front porch right outside my front door just fine. I really did't miss anything and it was quite amazing.  But there is no way I would have traveled from California, just to do that or just to see that or even drive another 45 miles south in traffic and snarls of people lining the roads and road closures just to handle all thw traiffic.  No thanks, is what I say to that?  It simply isn't worth it for me to see more than I saw 99.2%  was pretty damn good if you ask me?

And in some ways that is analogous to what my T and I talked about today and I got him all caught up and my thoughts in all of this?  What his thoughts were just to condense this all down really boiled down to two things that had to relate to D and what he thought about all of this.  As e said it  "Self righteousness" a major factor for anyone but especially in the case of "us" and D.  A second talking point was in relationship to "I want, I don't want, and I don't care" which came out his office and while there D did blurt out....."Yes, that's right....I don't care" as incomplete or as a partial statement of any "goal" or "agenda" or "desire" any of us wants? 

As I recalled a man one time....who owned a gym I belonged to and he was the owner and the entire "place" all rolled into one.  He was the only empolyee, so he was the owner, employer, and wore all the hats.  Any way, I walked up to him at the front desk, since I needed something to work out with or had some problem I needed to be addressed..and I said two words out of my mouth he rudely interupted me and said..."hey, I'm eating here?????" is a short tempered irritated voice.  The problem was....he was open for bussiness.  He was the owner and he was sitting at the front desk.  During bussinss hours..   And saying the same thing as I said to my T after he retorted and rebuffed me as a customer and the fact that I needed something or I couldn't work out was ......"yes, I can see you're eating"...................................silence.....................................................It's the exact same scene from the movie Midnight Cowboy...where "Rizzo" Dustin Hoffman and John Voit are Jay Walking against the cross walk not paying attention  and car who had right of way, had to slam the brakes on to avoid hitting them since they should've have been in the cross walk when it says  "Don't Walk"..and he was doing it anyway.  And then when the driver yells at them for almost hitting them and having to slam the breaks on "just for their specialness's".........Dustin Hoffman yells back....."Hey,  I'm walking here.......I'm walking here........"     "Yes, I can see that...........clearly you are?"

As my T tied that word self righteous" to a victim I mentioned the drowning victim again...and you're th one who's out there to save them " and they lunge out cna grab you by one hand and pull you down".  Sorry,  I didn't mean to drown you, but I had to....or  I would have died otherwise?

His conclusion and advise basically said......."I see avoidant".....I see what you're saying as far as the "unsaid or unspoken agenda" whether intentional or not...and conflict avoidant on top of it.  I see "self righteousness"...and not being completely upfront and an aggressive or stubbornly stance in getting what "I want.....and I don't care what you want......if it stands in the way of what I want.....then I don't want this , or things  like this in my way which I told you, I don't care about that or what you's preventing me from getting what I want..........."hey, I'm eating here.......hey, I walking here......what are you doing???  It's certainly not what I want?  I don't want many times do I have to tell you?

I told my T in relationship to, or my response that I never gave to the guy that owned the gym....."Yes, I can see that?  I also don't see a sign that says....."when Herb is eating, he cannot be disturbed, and Herb eats when he damn well pleases, so his eating boundaries and time table will depend on Herb.  Herb's "off limit eating time....goes with him,. like a movable fence or territory "claim" that any time "Herb is eating or wants to eat.....then that's the way Herb gets it.  So no talking to or bugging Herb when he eating  even though his entire business is open and he's the only employee,  Herb does what he wants, when he wants, and no one tells Herb what to do in his own place or  complains about his movable "territory" or "boundary line" that goes with him everywhere and he takes that with him so it's always surrounding him at all times.......because Herb doesn't like that when you cross his boundary line......WTF's your problem? This is 'my place, ot's mine....mine, mine mine.. and if you don't like it, the door is right there, and don't let it hit you in the butt on the way out of it.  I don't care what you want......I want this...and I definitely don't like what you're doing right now!!!  How many times do I have to tell you?  What's your problem?  Can't you see I'm eating?

  "I'm eating here???????"( biting your head off, irritated with an  imperious, incredulous tone with self righteous indignant tone on top of it )  Or better....."Hey, I'm walking here, don't get in my way or try and stop me.....( see ) "

"Yes, I can see that.  Where are you going?" ..........................................................................................................................????


"Hello...anyone in there?"  .....waiting for a response but no other response is given or offered,  just more of the same and double if you dare try and "ask Herb again"?  That's it, that's all you're getting from Herb

And in respect to D........that's all your getting from her too.    Except in my case when my intuition got such a "pronounced "HIT"" and something that I recognized from my childhood and other times and I said to me T..,..."well, what do you think?"

He said,  "I think you ought to make sure you are protected and continue on the path you are on.  The one that your "hit" was telling you to do."

And as we discussed this much more and  talked about my therapy and what I was getting as just my feelings and intuition and really nothing more,  but my heart did sink even more to a point, but nothing more I could say or add to it?

I am sorry for being stubborn or resisting things said here before, or even if it sounded like I was making myself out to the hero and simply ignoring or neglecting to see the impact that my ADHD has on people and the hurt it has caused?  I really am sorry that it's been so difficult for me to see all of this......but when you have someone with the same disorder and disfunction.....doing a different version, of the same "kind of abuse and treatment" to you as you are doing to them.....but they won't admit it or even hear  of it....."period" to their part to play, the same as my part towards them....( one in the same, and admitting we both do this thing and it's really hurtful so lets do something to change this and stop doing this to each other.....but then, instead gets angry if you even mention it or even bring it up and there is no discussing their part or even having qa simple conversation about it ( I don't want to talk about it.., many times did I hear that? 500, 1,000??? maybe more )........there is no talking to the closed mind like this.....and there is no sense in beating your head against a brick wall when you are trying...and the other person is not, and they refuse to even discuss it with you?  It takes two people to have a relationship....not one sitting on the sidelines...and telling you , you aren't doing enough for me?  And holding a "dagger" over your head, and it you don't do what I want, then you know what will happen here?  Don't you?

Yes, that comment made by Mr New Hope and Adhdlady.....brought tears to my eyes, since it was so nice to hear someone who has the wiliness and the desire to try and improve and try and find out what they can do....and not to lesson the impact of being with or just  having ADHD, and what it  does to others.   And it does hurt, and it is really painful and I know this now more than ever before?  It's not the first time by any means,  I just know now, what I didn't know before.  I know "what it is" that hurts and I also know why?  Being on the receiving end of "Myself" like looking at myself in the mirror?

And all my T really gave me as his "boiled down two words" here aside from his advise to me?

"Self righteous".......and ......"Avoidant "( or conflict avoidant ) what he "see's".  and agreeing, I should watch myself, and take precautious measures.

My intuition.....cannot tell me what anyone is thinking, it can only guide me in the moment whether it be instinct or otherwise...and compare it to what it already "knows" and what it already recognizes...and pick the one of two choices......"yes" or "no" is very "black and white"....when you're in "threat mode"......"live"...or "die" he said it........"fight or flight" ( or freeze or to fawn ).....that's what that part of our brain tells us when it perceives a threat..and has nothing else to go off of?  Someone, who is always in "fight mode"...."will always be fighting"....and it doesn't really matter what you say.......until they stop fighting altogether.

"Hey, I'm walking here...see!!!"

"Yes......I can see that."  ( ya neva gonna get me coppa.....see.  mauh mauh  lol    **private joke, but I get the connection :)  I'm walking here


RT021172's picture


The reply to my post yesterday was what I needed.

Should one have to "work" to have the feeling of love for their spouse? Where the heart goes the mind follows.  I've been so into my own head that I thought we were OK,  I feel that my ADHD brain simply failed to recognize the truth and make a priority to put more actions, kindness, affection and selfless love into our relationship.

The real "going to work" for our living with my ADHD brain is to always be aware that my behaviors affect those closest to me. It's not just about me. 

Thanks again for the stating the truth.

It's time for me to go to work on self management and invest in our relationship.



Yep RT

Your post is the gospel for all of us, when it comes to appreciation of our spouse's and putting in the daily effort (energy) in our marriages....No matter what type mind we live with....