A complete change - some for the better some for the worse, way worse!

Something strange has happened in my marriage and I need some advice / possible explanation/help understanding:  First some background -  My husband has ADHD, he was diagnosed with it when he was a child.  He does not take medication and flat out refuses to go to therapy.  We have been married 7 years, most of which have been very difficult.  When we were dating I was his focus, we would spend time together, he adored me, he would spoil me with extravagant gifts.  Once we were married and moved in together things began to unravel.  He didn’t help with the household chores, spent a tremendous amount of time watching college football and on college football forums.   When our first child was born it continued – he had very little involvement with the baby, and as he grew older things didn’t change – not a lot of fathering.  We had a second child, and much the same – very little assistance, little involvement as a father, intense interest in football and other TV.  I felt like a single Mom most of the time.  Leaving the boys with him for any amount of time was almost an impossibility as he said he couldn’t handle it. I was angry, resentful and would nag him constantly which further caused a break down in our marriage.

Fast forward to 2010.  I started researching and reading about ADHD and how it affects marriage.  My eyes were opened.  I began to understand my husband’s behavior.  I started to go to therapy and that helped me understand things further – why I was feeling the way I was feeling, why his actions were what they were and how I could help him feel more capable of being involved with the boys.  Our marriage improved.  

Now something strange has happened – beginning about 6 weeks ago he has become extremely helpful with household chores (I haven’t done the dishes in 6 weeks because they are always done before I get to them), he helps fold the laundry, gives the kids baths and I even go to yoga once a week for 2 hours. He is more engaged with the kids and isn’t spending time in his “man cave” in front of the TV.   It’s been a complete change.  But there has also been a downside to this….  His hyper focus has shifted to me.  I feel like I am under constant scrutiny, and if I don’t spend every waking free moment with him he gets incredibly upset.  I can’t read, can’t watch the TV shows I enjoy because it ends up in a fight (he claims I don’t want to spend time with him).   He says that he is scared of losing me and that is what has changed his behavior.  This fear is causing him some destructive thoughts – he says that he is so fearful that he constantly thinks about me leaving him, cheating on him, deceiving him and these thoughts are causing him to project these onto me which have fueled some awful fights – I think I have cried every day for the last 6 weeks due to our fights, things he has said, impulsive threats to leave. 

I feel like I am being tortured and I am living with a crazy person.  Please help me understand what’s going on here……  has anyone ever experienced this?

Since you're asking for

Since you're asking for opinions, please realize this is just mine. I am the wife of a man with ADHD. We've been married for 15 years. 

Something has happened...not only that changed his level of involvement with his family, but that has caused him to feel guilty (the deflection of his fears, causing fights, overwhelming fears all of the sudden of losing you). Something is not right and you know it. I have no idea what that something is, but my gut tells me it probably wasn't just some epiphany he had out of the clear blue. Was there a confrontation or some event that initiated his changes, that you know of? Based on my own personal history, my gut is telling me he has done something that he knows you're probably going to be very, very upset about. I certainly hope I am wrong. Can you think of anything going on around the time of his big change that might give you more pieces of the puzzle? Have you asked him? 

I agree with Sherri...

I do not want to worry you but when men hyper focus with you leaving or cheating when there hasn't been any change on you part, it's usually because they themselves have been unfaithful. 

arwen's picture

thanksgiving epiphany?

I haven't personally experienced this, but I have seen it in action occasionally.  I'm basically in agreement with Sherri's "take" on the situation.

I note, though, that six/seven weeks ago was the Thanksgiving holiday.  What did he do during the Thanksgiving holiday period?  Is there someone he spent time with during that holiday period who may have said something that sparked an epiphany?   Did you and he have any kind of argument or discussion at that time where you might have said something a little different than usual, that maybe connected with him a little differently as a result?  Sometimes things that you say or do that you think wouldn't make much difference in your spouse's point of view, actually make a considerable difference to someone with ADHD.

(This is not out of the realm of possibility, this is something I *have* experienced, although the subsequent behavior change has different than what you are seeing.  I can't count how many times over how many years I said to my spouse that a mature person takes responsibility for his actions and words, whether his mistakes were intentional or not -- that a real man owns up to his failings -- etc etc etc.  to little avail.  But when I had had it up to my eyeballs with this kind of exigence, and snapped "Be a man!  Get mad at yourself for your screw-ups, not at me!  You don't see me blaming you for what *I* do wrong!  I'm *twice* the man you are!" -- suddenly it put things in an entirely different light for him -- he hasn't blamed me for his problems since.  This was a huge, huge improvement that has had wide-reaching impacts on everything in our relationship.)

It's also not totally out of the question that the changes *you* have made, while beginning some time ago, have just really registered with your spouse, and he doesn't understand why you made them.  At one point, some years ago, I was aggressively trying to lose weight via daily treadmill sessions, working extra hours at the office in the hopes of promotion, and consequently spending less time with my husband, for quite a long period of time.  I'm pretty sure he eventually became convinced that these actions were the preliminary steps in preparing to divorce him.  His reaction was different from your husband's -- instead he became very edgy and unpleasant (which is not like my spouse *at all*) and hypersensitive about everything I said and did -- but like your situation, it became very much like living with a crazy person.  He couldn't relate to my feeling that since I had entered perimenopause, it might be my last really good opportunity in life to lose a lot of weight with relative ease, or my concern about our financial situation with two kids in college!  These things didn't bother him, so they couldn't be my motives either -- ergo, I was getting ready to leave him by trying to make myself more attractive and financially independent!  (I will grant that it occurred to me that if we ever *did* divorce, these changes would put me in a better place to cope with it -- but it sure wasn't my primary motive!).  Is it possible that your spouse may be incorrectly attributing different motives to your changes than what you intend?

My personal experience with what I call "guilt improvements" is that they don't last, unless your spouse is truly terrified you will leave (because, for example, you have left in the past).  To be honest, if guilt is behind your husband's behavioral changes, I'm kind of surprised it has lasted six weeks.  

I will consult my ADHD acquaintances who are not forum members, and see if they can provide any alternative or definitive assessment of your situation.  Hang in there!

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."  Albus Dumbledore