It has been over three years now since I reached the end of a very frayed tether and stopped living with my husband. He drifted off into the irresponsible life of a teenager, fully financially supported by his family and occasionally dipping in and out of the children's lives. While I got on with the business of being the parent, making sure the children were ok, while feeling certain things within me breaking apart with the effort of 'bearing it'. I work freelance so it was terrifying financially as well, and in a hyperstressful field where I have to react quickly to new stuff and new people all the time. The fear of failure hangs over me, and I just bear it. I am 55 so being that flexible is even more exhausting. Luckily I don't really look 55 I think, although I may be deluding myself. 

What is really difficult for me to understand is the thick high walls of denial. He simply says exactly what he likes and gets away with it, because his family support him. He has now found a girlfriend - he told me I could have him back as long as I did not continue to ask for changes, or he would go off with her. I told him this was unacceptable, so he went off with her, and took the children to see her and started integrating her into his family. We are not divorced. 

And now it is Christmas, and putting on a brave face is vital. But I am exhausted, sad and troubled about my own ability to keep going and going, while I watch him relax and live the life he wants of no work, no responsibility, no consistent acknowledgement of his parenthood. One of the denials is that he has ADHD, but not a day goes by when he does not prove that he has - his impulsiveness led him to have a very serious accident. Both boys have now been diagnosed, separately (one is an adult) and both are successfully medicated. The youngest is 12, and the turnaround at school is near miraculous, with his teachers describing him as a revelation. And yet my husband cannot see the very same issues in himself which have led to this point in our lives. Even his younger sister now has a diagnosis, and has been tracking the traits up her family tree.

My feeling is that if he got help with his ADHD and still chose the life he lives, with all the hurt for me and my children, then I would accept it. It is knowing that ADHD wrecked my marriage (not the least my own increasingly angry reaction to being let down colliding with the menopause) and that the other party in this mess refuses even to accept the possibility, which is causing me so much pain now. I know people say I should 'move on' and 'be brave' and 'get counselling' but actually none of that helps. Only the knowledge that I brought us through (me and the children) and we have made some progress and they are ok (I hope). I am not ok and don't know how to change that. I feel used up and abandoned.

I can relate to this.  My

I can relate to this.  My husband had ADHD and he acknowledges it to the point of taking drugs (he'll take meds for anything!  he loves 'em) but has never really acknowledged the effect of ADHD on our lives.  He either denies or does not remember things. Most recently and painfully, he spent a long time on the phone with our older child, recently returned from a trip.  I was glad but also a little sad, because when he is away (he takes care of his aging parents), he never calls me and he rarely responds to my emails or sends any on his own, despite me saying many many times that I'd like more communication.  So, when I said last night to him that I was sad about this, he said, "You mean, you want me to talk to you?"  The magnitude of self-deception and denial is staggering.  I'm so tired.

Our own denial and weakness

Why do we continue to try so hard in the face of other people's disregard (When the ADDer denies and manipulates instead of working together).   Why do we hang on?   That is the question I keep asking myself. Is our life so empty that we have no other options for things to care about and give our hearts and thoughts to?  Are we still affected by the double standard of financial imbalance between men and women? (As one poster said, it is the women who hang on to the ADDer...the men leave an ADDer quicker.)  I am guessing all of the above.

It seems to be an aim of mine at this age to give young couples permission to face the facts and the futures with open eyes and give a voice to my past self. I was brought up in a way that did not give me permission to complain or demand but to work and serve.  I thought that was what a person of integrity did.  When I look around it seems to me that what I learned was how to be manipulated by others and give up my own wants and will so much that it is hard for me to even put to words in my mind to what is is that I want.

I am ashamed of my compromises and weakness.  Because I did not fight for my own beliefs.  I did not call a spade a spade.  I did not say, "Hold on here, this is not right with me and I will not tolerate it." OR , when dh would ignore my objections/suggestions, that I did not draw the lines and follow through with my own actions to save ourselves.  I was always saying, "Ok, if that would make you happy, I'll try it your way."  I believed in karma and that if you love, love will come back to you."  I was wrong.  I don't have the answers.  I am beginning to see just how many in my original family were manipulators and how I worked and compromised myself in the name of cooperation and family and love.  

Yet, I don't want to give up on honesty, hard work, integrity and love. My naivete has done me no favors. How does one learn to fight and hold strong and give themselves permission to exert power for their own dignity? 

To add to this, how does one hold the dignity and health of all in the family while supporting and understanding someone who is not trying to be responsible and won't change?   I need to put in here that as we age, we have less energy to give to that work and the ADDer does not mellow into better but rather deteriates into less.   And when we look back on our marriage and family, we put it all together in our minds and see that there were more bad times than good (for and to us).

Good questions

I wish I knew the answers.  I am struggling myself right now with such mixed emotions with my relationship...which may be over since he has not spoken to me since a fight almost 3 weeks ago.  He is in denial of the possibility of ADHD, and has always denied and deflected and defended almost any issue I have raised regarding his behavior.  Part of my struggle is that while I am SO incredibly hurt that he could just walk away from our 3.5 year relationship without a word, I also know him well and I KNOW what a good man he is inside and I simultaneously hurt for HIM...all the pain he has endured from a lifetime of his symptoms...all he WILL endure if he doesn't start to accept it.  I know I can't save him or make him see anything...but it is so sad because I feel that if he did, things could be so different and so much better for all of us involved.  I am full of anger and frustration, but I am also someone who could be classified as "too nice" and I have a very empathetic heart sometimes.

Linsy's picture

Please take this in the spirit it is meant

Dear HBH

I can understand how you feel, but I look back and wish I had been more careful of myself and listened harder to my own misgivings at an early stage in the relationship. And that goes for the adults around me too, who did nothing to stop what was happening. I am very clear with my own children about relationships, looking after yourself, and making sure the other person is not draining you. There are men out there who do not have ADHD, who are kind and loving and giving, and would be mortified to hurt their partners in any way at all. Find a healthy loving man, and give him all you have to offer. The trouble with ADHD men is you can give them everything, and they either forget or are so distracted that they don't notice. It is not worth it. It is not a partnership. 

I have counselling after I left and it really helped me to see how my own character and actions had brought me to this point - a sense of misplaced duty kept me in a relationship that had died of its wounds many years before. 

Best of luck.


This really resonates

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and advice. These are questions I am trying to answer for myself at the moment. I've found myself scribbling on paper "Naive no more". I think I am still naive, but trying to work my way beyond that - without losing my empathetic spark. I've been with my husband since I was 20 years old, so don't really know an adult life without him. The reasons I hang on are the (perhaps naive) desire for whole family for my kids - if I stay a little longer will it come back? And also the financial dependency. I've worked part time and been home part time since my kids were born, though was just laid off this year. I'm starting my own business and am working to take steps to being able to support myself, but that dependence does muddy the waters. 

Linsy's picture

Money is a root of much unhappiness

Being brought up in an upper class English family where talking about money was considered vulgar, it took me many years to question why none was coming in from his side, or very very little, certainly not enough to support interest on debts he had built up in a failed business. I was solely responsible for everything from earning the money to filling the fridge and the petrol tank (always empty when I was finally home at weekends) to paying for childcare, even though he was at home. Responsibility included the emotional equilibrium of the household - if I was tired or ill or stressed he would get much much worse, bullying and aggressive. His mood swings which became almost constant sucked all the oxygen out of the house. I could feel it when I came home from work. Yes, naive and foolish and programmed by the patriarchy and all the other nonsense - even let down by feminism - but the independence will be the saving of me. Thank God that I was actually able to earn a living, although he did a lot to derail me by the constant shocks wrecking my nerves (which must have made me a bit uneasy to employ as so jumpy). At any time he could have done what I do, but he just could not 'hear' me - he is perfectly intelligent. Any attempt to help him or show him how to do things or even give him things to explore/use, would result in screaming rages and withdrawal into further inaction. And a frightening desire to control me and the children, without any desire to control himself particularly around cannabis and other distractions. So he tells me this week to 'let him go' - suddenly hope, which is a painful emotion, flew away. Once again he reveals a kind of hate for me and all I represent in the way of hard work, order, discipline, plans, organisation, promises kept, sacrifice (which believe me I don't find all that easy but force myself to fulfill). I felt that familiar lift shaft plunge into broken hearted misery, but then walking down the road with 12 year old, my heart suddenly lifted again, quickly, and I am left feeling rinsed clean, both my boys successfully medicated and doing brilliantly, and able I hope to move ahead with a quieter spirit. ADHD destroyed my marriage, and nearly destroyed me and my boys, but I didn't let it in the end. My sense of gratitude for what he did give me, himself when young and gorgeous (although the signs were all there, they did not cause such problems) good genes in all other ways, looks, brains, talent, etc in all three of my wonderful children. It is not over, and I am not going to mourn any more, there is everything to play for.


Linsy, just my perspective. I hear you out there. Boy, can it knock you into another galaxy to realize that your spouse and the father of your children is "making self-centered choices" while you have to carry everything and worry about everything, right? I've had plenty of devastating, "I can't believe he is doing that" moments. It's exhausting. Even though i am the one who left, it was my spouse who chose to abandon us years before, in every way but the physical one. His denial of the affect of his ADHD was insane, astounding, a force of nature. 

You say that if yours got help or a diagnosis and then chose these things, you would be ok--my advice is to stop that. It is putting you in a purgatory of your own making. It lets you shift your focus from his behavior to his ADHD as the culprit. Sure, ADHD is probably affecting his behavior, but as long as you pore over it and study it and try to understand WHY he is doing these things, it takes focus away from the THINGS that he is doing. He is putting his own needs in front of his children's--what kind of father does that? Your spouse is being a ridiculous, childish jerk--when you asked him to address his issues for the sake of the family, he threatened to run off with a girlfriend unless you stopped. He is not being a good guy. I think you should stop wanting him to be a different guy than he is. Stop trying to understand it and just accept it, maybe? 

I did the same thing with mine--kept thinking that if he just got help, or treated it, or saw a therapist...I begged him to for years. What helped me? I let myself out of purgatory (I did try hard for a long time, and it sounds like you did, too). I realized that my marriage was over, and that the man I knew no longer existed. I accepted the reality of the situation --I had already seen years of my life go by as I focused on wanting him to change. Then, one morning when I woke up once again in the wreckage of his decisions, with a destroyed house and precarious financial situation, I didn't want to lose any more years! Amazingly, I stopped feeling mad and hurt and I felt like a different person. I left, mentally and physically. And my life was SO. MUCH. BETTER. when I didn't have to use any energy to worry about him, clean up his messes, or take care of him and his myriad needs. I stopped caring that it was ADHD (or his childhood, or whatever) and stopped caring WHY he was doing it. I just didn't want any part of him doing it any longer, and I needed to protect my children from it. I cared less about being divorced than about having some integrity again. I was worried about being a single parent but it is so much easier than living with a 200-pound man-child with untreated ADHD in addition to my own children. I could focus on my kids again.

I am a few years younger than you, but old enough that the idea of carrying my household by myself can be terrifying at times. My advice? Share the burden, but don't even allow your ex to be on the list of those you can share it with. Let one or two close friends or family members in and forget about the "brave face" (been there, done that--my face was so brave that almost everyone who knew us was stunned when I left. It took so much energy!) Three years is a long time--it sounds like you are being a great mom, and doing so well with your children and their ADHD. Focus on yourself--I am going through early peri-menopause, myself, and it has had more of a physical and psychological affect on me that I thought possible. Good lord! The insomnia! Stress makes it worse! Use your time to find care for yourself. Make friends with people you want to be like. Keep remembering that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and believe that you will feel better. If you see a counselor, do so with the goal that you accept what he is and focus on yourself. Gifts come from the most unexpected places--I am now friends with another single mother at work and we take turns watching each other's children. Never would have happened a few years ago.

I think you should divorce his rear end. 

My best to you. 



Linsy's picture

So familiar

Thank you for this. Yes, you are right, I have to let go. When he tells me to forget all about him, and the next day sends loving texts, it is really either memory loss or manipulation, nothing else. He has just taken 12 year old out, after several conversations when I thought we had made a plan but he kept changing it. He has the girlfriend staying in his mother's house, where he lives when in London. She seems like a perfectly nice woman, but can't have asked any questions....

Your advice is good, and I need to 'move on'. But focus on my boys has really paid off, and on myself has soothed my shattered nerves. I am here on New Year's Day, determined to make a success of myself now. Reinvention at 55 is not easy, but why not? I send you affectionate thoughts and very good wishes, and to all us wives who have had to deal with this hell. Onward and upward. 


Linsy, congrats to you. Reinvention can be tough (I'm not a youngster myself) but it also can be a time for liberation and some good old fashioned self-care. I try to focus on the positive. I have so much more time now to do almost everything. It is so nice not to have someone criticizing everything I do (mine was a weird combination of a control freak who had an opinion about everything even though he did very little of anything himself). It is SO great not to have the disorganized, chaotic mess swirling around me in every square foot of my home. I no longer have to worry he is going to spend every cent we have or cause me emotional stress. My son told me that he was happy that now he didn't hear dad yelling and mom crying all the time. That really got me. 

I find my ex will emote or communicate things out of nowhere, too. I don't know if it is memory lapses, either, or just less filtering on his part. When you are ready, you will be able to tell yours that he is making you uncomfortable and that you are moving on and he should, too, so please stop with the loving texts! He has a girlfriend! Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. 

Happy New Year to you. I am sending you virtual hugs and support. Take great care of yourself. You can do this! 

Linsy's picture

More than three years ago

My beloved ma in law found a piece by Melissa Orlov in the New York Times, and urgently told me to read it as it resembled so much what I had finally confided in her about my marriage. She is very loving and when her husband began to lose his grip, she became much warmer and easier to get on with. Anyway, the revelation that it might be ADHD that was causing the problems looked like a ray of hope. Unfortunately, it did not help in fact made things worse because the denial became all the more fortified. 

What you wrote is a pretty exact description of what I don't have to deal with any more either - the endless hypocritical criticisms of everything I did, from what I earned to what I had bought at the shops. The chaos (although that is not entirely resolved due to the boys). The wild spending of my money, the stress of worrying what he was going to do next. The yelling.... 

Thank you and I hope you have an excellent 2014


Linsy's picture

Reading again

Hello again, how are you? Your experience is so close to mine, as are so many on this forum - your description of your husband could be mine. The world is full of these men stuck at the very worst bit of 14 years old and you are right, by his actions do I judge him. I care not for the cause. He has behaved like an utter cad as we say in the UK.

I am sitting in bed re-reading old posts. No one is harassing me. No one is yelling downstairs or having a fight about some petty thing. I use my own judgement about most things, trial and error gets me to most places, without advice and support but also without undermining and frankly mad decisions.

My bank account is just mine and under my control. I can do what I like today, and what I like is to get on with a bit of work, and housework, and no one will criticise me for any of my choices. I can make mistakes and resolve them without a man hovering and delighted that I too am a normal flawed human being who cannot possibly get everything right. Last night there was another 'loving message' for our wedding anniversary on my phone. I ignored it and felt fine. A man who was so infuriated at my attempts to keep things ordered that he tore my diary in half and smashed up my ironing board. A man who, in a rage at being challenged for shouting down the phone to some innocent party who was not doing exactly what he wanted, wrenched a necklace that my late mother had given me off my neck, and then lost it after promising to get it mended.

The stress symptoms are mostly under control as long as I don't see him or hear from him. His last tantrum, in my kitchen a few days ago, really felt like the end of any trailing bits of feeling. I just looked at him turning red and making stabbing gestures at his own chest, and accusing me of 'attacking him' (I had just said that I led a very modest life of responsibility and duty in the house which we once shared, but for which he did not pay).

What I said was taken as an attack on him, and yet I was talking about myself. No wild parties down here, no holidays at other's expense,no one 'keeping' me, no lonely bottles of wine of a solitary evening, no drugs except HRT, no lovers (unlike other middle aged friends who use no strings type sites for 'self esteem' which I find abhorrent), nothing but books, and children, and work, and the garden and my beloved friends. And an overwhelming need never to let my children down again, even if I am crawling across the floor dribbling with exhaustion.

All the best to you, and I do recommend HRT. I have to work fast and think clearly and sleep well to keep all the plates spinning, and I find it invaluable. But be careful to keep trying until you get it right, it can have side effects which are problematic like headaches but there are many different kinds, and the one I am on now is brilliant.