Divorce is going to be final next month; looking for hope for reconciliation.


I have ADHD.  I was diagnosed very early, and it pretty much screwed any chance at a wholesome family dynamic; everything got twisted, and I know now that as a result, my emotional dependency needs were insufficiently met, which left me filled with shame, anger, pain, resentment, contempt, and more shame.  By the time I was 25 I had accumulated layers and layers of defense mechanisms built to ward off anyone trying to hassle me, and I spent my days playing video games, moving back home when life got too hard, and generally aiming for contentment and relief over genuine happiness in the firm belief that it was the absolute best I could hope for.

Then I met an amazing girl who I fell madly in love with, things went well, and we got married.  She didn't care that I was mostly unemployed, because she had a very good job, and I took care of her emotional well-being, which had been severely traumatized by a childhood spent in a pentecostal cult and a five-year stilted relationship with a controlling asshole.  

Our relationship thrived because we so completely filled in each others' gaps, or as Jackson Browne so beautifully put it, "We filled in the missing colors in each others' paint-by-number dreams."

There were ups and downs, but we were solid.  We made our friends sick by how in love we were.  

Then, in the spring of 2011, my wife became pregnant, and since my wife was the breadwinner, it fell to me to be the 'stay-at-home dad' (I hate that term, nobody ever talks about stay-at-home moms).  As the reality of the situation sank in, I started to panic.

I've never been functional enough to hold a job down more than six months.  I was barely able to keep the house from becoming a disaster area, so how could I take it on 'faith' that I would have it in me to care for a baby?!  It was time to fix my life (though, as it turned out, taking care of the baby was something that was seemingly built-in.  I never felt heavy about changing a diaper, but I still had trouble doing stuff for my wife.  That pissed her off to no end).  

I got a therapist and a psychiatrist, started taking meds again, and it started off well.  My therapist helped me work through a lot of the emotional baggage I was carrying around with me from my troubled childhood, and I improved my relationship with my parents, which was amazing.  Getting through that took about four months, give or take.

At this point, looking back, I have surmised that every day that brought the due date nearer brought my wife closer to what was (to her) an awful truth:  The best person to be the primary caregiver for her baby was her, but it wasn't going to be her, it was going to be her amiable stumblebum husband.  That's not how it should be!!  Sure, I was trying to get my act together, but what guarantee was there?  Slowly, a white-hot resentment began to form beneath her consciousness (her mother is the queen of denial, and my wife has inherited the unfortunate habit of pretending things are other than they are without really realizing it until a crisis is looming).  

I was, of course, COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS to this.  I'm sure there were warning signs that she was distancing herself, but I was digging deeper and deeper into my own head, trying to find some sense of clarity that would allow me to get past the stumbling blocks I had always struggled with, and this had the unfortunate side effect of shifting my focus away from 'us', and onto 'me'.  Months later, my wife's favorite line to stick me with was, "It's not all about YOU!"  Bleh.

Unfortunately, once my therapist had helped me deal with my emotional problems, and the focus shifted to helping me become functional, she wasn't effective.  At all.  As Dr. Russell Barkley said in a lecture on ADHD (paraphrased), "Conventional psychotherapy doesn't work!  Once they leave your office, whatever you told them to do is gone!"  I remained oblivious, going further and further down the rabbit hole of introspection, while my wife distanced herself emotionally.  We began to fight, and the weekly therapy went on for another year, with very little return for the investment.

After our son was born, the fighting worsened, and she began to lean on me, hard.  She made it clear that she believed that I was capable of being functional, I just didn't want to try, didn't want to do the 'hard work', didn't care enough, blah blah blah.  So our fights became about either her being pissed that her needs weren't being met, or me trying to convince her that she was wrong about what I was capable of, that personal growth on the scale of what I was attempting was difficult, and time consuming, blah blah blah.  And all the while, that knot of resentment and anger that she was denied the opportunity to care for her baby grew and grew.

For my part, looking back I realize that the only effect the therapy had was to help me shove my head firmly up my own ass.  Being severely ADHD, I had very little control over my reactions to her barbs, and my defense mechanisms were working overtime, but they were really working against me, because my defense mechanisms aren't interested in my thoughts or my desires.  They are only interested in deflecting blame, manipulating conversations, throwing up smokescreens, applying liberal amounts of repression and denial, and displacing my inner frustration onto external targets (of which there was exactly one).  For the year and a half that our marriage slowly ground to a halt, I think it's fair to say that I spent fourteen months of that time not knowing what the problem was, being ruled by my unconscious defenses, and trying to pull my head out of my ass.  I also think it's fair to say that the constant bickering and fighting was a constant distraction, more noise in my head, making it harder for me to focus on self-improvement.

For my wife's part, and this is cobbled together from things she said and things I keenly suspect, her contribution to the downfall of our marriage was thus:

1.  She was absolutely positively certain that I had been sandbagging for our entire marriage, that I could do so much more but didn't want to, and she would not be convinced otherwise, no matter how many times I carefully explained what I thought she already knew about ADHD.  She would say things like, "Why can't you be more considerate?" which made me want to tear my hair out in frustration.  All the emotional baggage from my family that I dumped in therapy I gained back during the last year of my marriage.  But no matter what I said, she could always stop me cold by saying something to the effect of, "you're all words and no action, it's actions that matter."  I had no actions, and my defenses were working overtime to drown her in words.  She was wrong, dead wrong, but my wife is one of those 'black or white, all or nothing' people, and she would not be moved.

2.  I think her certainty that I was sandbagging stemmed largely from the resentment and anger and hurt feelings she built up and repressed over me being the primary caregiver instead of her.  She had a clear picture of what life 'should' be like, and it was inordinately unfair and crass of me to force her into such a position.  I think in her mind it became not 'why can't you improve?', but rather 'you are my husband, so you SHOULD be functional, you SHOULD be supporting us financially, you SHOULD have a better handle on your ADHD than you do, therefore YOU AREN'T TRYING HARD ENOUGH, YOU DON'T WANT IT ENOUGH, blah blah blah.  If her go-to catchphrase was 'it's not all about YOU', mine became, "I don't know from 'should'.  I deal in what 'is'."  All those negative emotions mixed together and suppressed turned toxic, and poisoned her image of who I was.  That's what makes sense to me.

3.  My wife is an accountant, and so her ire was greatly increased at the thought of all the money she'd doled out for therapy with nothing to show for it.  After I realized what was going on and quit going to therapy, she was completely burned on therapy of any stripe, so even when I found a kind of therapy that I knew would be effective, she refused to throw good money after bad.  I didn't know what I was doing.  Let that be engraved upon my tombstone.

4.  It took me a VERY LONG TIME to come to terms with the 'maternal instinct'.  She would say some damn fool thing like, "be sure you use a different sponge to clean off the bottles than you do to clean off the regular dishes," which might make sense if I didn't also zap everything in the microwave for ten minutes in a steam bath, which would kill anything that might have been clinging to the sponge, so I protested.  She would not be moved, and repeated her instructions, which made me crazy because it didn't make a damn bit of sense, so we'd have a fight.  There were lots of little things like that, that anyone could plainly see were just asinine, but my wife would break down and cry and make me feel bad for her not getting to care for her baby during the day, so I'd grumblingly do it (forgetting when I knew she wouldn't know).  I know that my constant backbiting in the face of these NECESSARY things increased her resentment.  "Not only is this jackass responsible for my not being able to raise my own baby, but he's refusing to do it the right way (that being the way I would do it, of course)."

Just for the edification of any guy out there who doesn't yet have kids:  the 'maternal instinct' is a little red light buried deep inside the mother's nervous system, and when it detects a 'risk' to the baby, the red light goes on, and screams AAAAAAHHHH, YOUR BABY IS IN TERRIBLE DANGER!!!  After that red light goes on, guys, it will not go off again until the 'threat' is addressed, no matter how stupid or pointless it seems to you, and until that light goes off again, you will have no peace.  Your usual ADHD knee-jerk response of, "What?  I will not, that's stupid and pointless!" will get you nothing but an enraged mama bear leaning on your windpipe.

5.(I'll get into this towards the end, just letting you know there's a fifth item.)

So, where was I?  Oh yes.  As I said, I didn't figure out what the problem was until it was far too late.  The problem (on my end) was my defense mechanisms, which are sort of like the maternal instinct in that when they detect a possible source of anxiety, they act immediately, automatically, and unconsciously to get rid of the source of the anxiety (someone making you feel ashamed, trying to get you to do stuff when you just can't, someone repeatedly interrupting your focus, etc.).  By the time I was starting to become aware of when they were triggering, I was still helpless to stop myself from acting.  As someone put it on another forum, 'it was like watching the slow-motion car crash of my life'.  

I would promise myself that I wasn't going to talk to her anymore on a given night, and five minutes later, there was something I just couldn't live without saying to her.  And it was usually a load of bullshit, but it was coming out of my mouth, and only when I'd look back and think about what I'd said did I realize hey, that was manipulative.  I'd go back and say, "Hey, I'm sorry for that shit I just said, I didn't mean it," but my credibility was shot by that point, and taking back the words can't take back the emotions they engender.

So she left.  She did it matter-of-factly, and set her plans in motion as if she'd had them already prepared.  She was gone two weeks later, leaving me alone, in our apartment, with the majority of our stuff, bills paid through the end of the month, and a $30 a week allowance to help me get on my feet.  I sank into a black depression, and didn't rouse from it for two weeks, most likely because I couldn't afford my exhorbitantly-priced meds, and my wife steadfastly refused to pay for them.

I couldn't make myself find work.  I tried as hard as I could to best my old enemy, 'job hunting', but he wore me down with heaviness and the compulsion to find distraction, and I was stuck, with no marketable skills and a five-year gap on my resume.  The end of the month arrived, and there was no escaping the inevitable:  I moved back home.  There was no place else for me to go.  My folks were pissed (even now, they have a better relationship with my soon-to-be ex wife than they do with me), but what could they do?  The real bitch of the situation was that now I live 360 miles away from my little boy, who I cared for every day for a year and a half.  I see him three or four times a week on video chat, and he gets the odd weekend vacation at my place, but it's a damn far cry from how it used to be, and I know that has to be stressing him out, and probably hurting his development.

For a long time, I was so angry with her.  How dare she excise me from her life and consign me to this fate (she maintains that I could have found work and stayed near my son, if I had wanted to enough.  RAGERAGERAGE).  Ever seen 'Saved'?  "So everything that doesn't fit into some stupid idea of what life should be like you just try to ignore (denial) or fix (pressuring me to live up to her expectations) or get rid of?"  So now she has her perfect life, her perfect baby, and her perfect clean apartment, and everything in her life that was messy or inconvenient is just gone.  Must be nice to just give up on your marriage, and since you hold all the cards, you get to have it all your way!  I was so angry.

But now I have some clarity.  Since I've moved back home, I have worked hard to better myself and continue down the path of personal growth I set for myself initially, and its amazing what you can accomplish when no one is constantly telling you that you are 'capable of more than you give yourself credit for', whatever that is supposed to mean (it seems vaguely insulting to me).  I am much more functional now, and more importantly, I am slowly becoming the master of my unconscious mind.  Disarming my entrenched defense mechanisms is not pleasant, but I lean into the pain.  It's worth it to not constantly mouth off without thinking.  I don't leave messes around the house, I do housework and cook, and I am much better about keeping my commitments and my promises.  I've taken my grandmother to her hair appointment and picked her up on time seven weeks running (HUGE accomplishment for me- time was I would have been totally incapable of such a feat).  I am confident that I am now able to meet most of my wife's needs that I was not meeting before, due to constantly running back and forth from trying to fix myself to trying to fix my relationship (youc an't do both at once, it will make you crazy, don't try).

Which brings me to point number 5 from before.  This last piece of information I learned from a class I had to take called 'Helping Children Cope with Divorce'.  It concerns the nature of love.

Love is an extension of what psychologists call the 'Arousal-Relaxation Cycle'.  It goes like this:

"Husband dear, would you please fix dinner tonight, my dawgs are barking!"  (A NEED is expressed)
The husband hears his wife's need, and he immediately responds to the need (because he loves her, he will do his utmost to meet every need she expresses).  "I'd be happy to."  (The NEED provokes AROUSAL (not that kind))
The husband starts working in the kitchen, and a delicious smell wafts into the living room.  (The AROUSAL produces the motivation to see that the NEED is MET)
 The wife smiles to herself.  One less thing to worry about!  (Now that the NEED is MET, she who expressed the NEED experiences a sense of RELAXATION)

Any break in the cycle causes she who expressed the need to suffer anxiety.  If the husband doesn't hear her, or doesn't respond, then her NEED did not produce the desired AROUSAL, and the cycle is broken.  If the husband for some reason refuses to MEET the NEED, then the cycle is broken.

It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to see how ADHD can cause havoc with this simple process.  Let's look at the cycle again, this time with the husband having ADHD:

"Husband dear, would you please fix dinner tonight, my dawgs are barking!"  (A NEED is expressed)
The husband, while plainly within earshot, does not respond because he is concentrating on writing a letter to the housing authority and her plea doesn't penetrate his awareness.  (The NEED does not provoke AROUSAL, therefore she who expressed the need suffers anxiety)  How could he not have heard me?  Is he ignoring me?  Why would he ignore me?  The lazy bastard must not want to make dinner.
After calling his name several times, the wife finally manages to get her husband's attention by throwing a shoe at him.  She repeats her request, although now her tone is snippy.  "What is wrong with you?  I asked if you would go make dinner."  (AROUSAL is finally provoked after several failed attempts, each one causing the wife to feel more and more anxious)
The husband shoots back a knee-jerk reaction to her snippy tone that doesn't get filtered through his brain.  "What's wrong with me?  What's wrong with you?  Why did you hit me with a shoe, for chrissakes?  Just because you had a crappy day doesn't mean you get to take it out on me."  The husband didn't really mean to come across the way he did, but he might as well have thrown the shoe back at her.  The fact that she had asked him to cook dinner is gone from his mind, all he's focused on is how bitchy she's being, and how unfair that is.  They bicker for several more minutes, and finally the wife yells, "FINE!  I'll make dinner.  You just sit there and write your stupid letter, I don't care!"  The wife storms into the kitchen.  (The NEED is not MET, so instead of feeling relaxed, the wife is highly pissed, and her husband is confused about why they were arguing in the first place)

Even though the wife probably isn't consciously thinking it, somewhere in her unconscious, a little voice is saying, "He doesn't really love me, or he would have agreed to make dinner the first time I asked."  That little voice doesn't know from logic or reason, all it knows is what feels true.  When your wife looks at you uncomprehendingly when you say something like, "Baby, I would do anything for you, but sometimes I just can't," that little voice is why she doesn't understand.  This underlines a point that has been written about a lot on this site:  If marriage between an ADHDer and a non-ADHDer is going to work, it's going to require effort on both parts-  the ADHDer has to make an effort to find ways to cope with his condition, and the non-ADHDer has to find a way to empathize with the plight of the ADHDer, so that when something like the scenario up above happens, they can understand what's going on and not get upset at the ADHDer for something that isn't his fault.  Above all else, both parties have to be on the same page.

So when I looked at the smoking ruin of my marriage in these terms, it is evident to me that neither of us maligned the other intentionally, we were victims of our defense mechanisms- mine tried to get me out of my responsibilities and hers buried her head in layers of denial, painting a picture of how life should be, and justifying her negative emotions stemming from the fact that life wasn't how it ought to be.  We were both unreasonable in our expectations, and neither of us would back down from our respective points of view.  Perception is reality, guys.  It sucks, but it's true.  She shut me out because she gave up hope that our relationship would ever recover, and it was bad for our son to be around such conflict, and she was right to do so, however much I cringe to say it.  She did the right thing.

So now I am not angry at her, because she didn't know what she was doing either.  I know she still loves me, I can see it in her eyes when she looks at me; I can feel it in my bones.  She can tell herself she doesn't love me anymore, but I have to believe that she's lying to herself- she tends to deny reality when she can't deal with it.  She was trapped in a corner and she had to escape, and I understand that, and I hold no grudges.  I was out of control.  Now I want to set the record straight and try to rebuild upon the foundation of our relationship, which has always been strong, even when times were bad we found ways to connect meaningfully.  I just have no idea how to go about it, and I'm terrified I'll screw up this scrap of a chance, if it even exists.

It's late, and I'm tired, so I'm just gonna send this out without much proofreading, so my apologies if some of it doesn't make any sense.  If anyone out there has come back from a similar predicament, or has any insight into how I should go about attempting reconciliation, please share it with me.  You have my unbounded gratitude in advance.  ~Fake

carathrace's picture

conscious competence

Hello, Competent, I'm going to call you by the first part of your name.  I can see that you are very intelligent, likable, and have a lot of insight into what ADHD is for you.  You seem able and willing to see how your marriage fell apart, and your part in it, which is very good.  Our counselor/ADHD coach tells us there are 4 stages in growth: 

1.  Unconscious Incompetence - your actions are not successful and you don't realize it

2.  Conscious Incompetence - you become aware of how unsuccessful your actions are, but don't know how to change

3.  Conscious Competence - you learn how to change and have to keep yourself focused on the new ways

4.  Unconscious Competence - you have practiced the new ways enough that new neural pathways have formed in your brain, and you become successful without having to focus on it 24/7

If I had to guess, I would say you're in the 2nd stage?  On the positive side, you've moved from Stage 1, which is good.  It seems to me that what you need now is a clear understanding of what steps to take and what coping strategies will help you take those steps.  This will move you to Stage 3, Conscious Competence, where you will no longer need to call yourself a competent fake.

How to get that clear understanding?  You already learned that traditional counseling is of limited value to an ADHD who's trying to cope with everyday life.  Can you get an ADHD coach?  I'm not clear as to where your income is coming from now, and do you have insurance?  There are ADHD coaches online, if there are none in your area.  You need someone who specializes in ADHD to help you map out a path and the behaviors you will take to walk that path.

I would say, and I'm not an expert, that your first goal would be to get a job and move out of your parents' house.  This may seem impossible now, but it's not impossible, step by step.  You asked how you should go about attempting reconciliation with your wife.  I think maybe that's way down the line.  It may be that when she sees you are accomplishing some goals, making progress with your ADHD symptoms, she may be open to discussion.  I think you are perceptive when you say that her tendency toward denial and her set ideas of the way things "should" be are obstacles for her to overcome in understanding how ADHD affects you and your relationship with her.  Also, the fact that she's an accountant tells me she's comfortable with stable balances; I haven't met too many accountants who can color outside the lines very well.  So now's not the time to attempt reconciliation, in my opinion.  Let her see some conscious competence.  And keep as much contact as you can with your little boy.

Hope this helps, I really do mean it as an encouragement because I think you have a lot going for you.

competentfake's picture

One of the more striking

One of the more striking ironies of my life is my screen name. It wasn't until just a few months ago that I realized fully how perfectly it describes me, yet I've been using it for years. Freud was right again. Call me Fake. A life coach is what would benefit me the most, I feel, but I am entirely at the financial mercy of my parents. This has been the most frustrating part of it all- by the time I learned enough to know what kind of help I needed, further professional help was emphatically denied (my folks have paid for a lot of therapy over the years too). I might try that tack again though, now that I've shown some real progress. I would say that from where I stand, there's a hell of a lot of intermediary steps between 'conscious incompetence' and 'conscious competence', and I can't see how anyone with adhd comparable to mine could hope to achieve 'unconscious competence' in very many areas of everyday life, if any. However, that is a very effective way of defining the central issue: competence. I reckon for most of us, learning to fake it was the only way to cope. You're absolutely right though; if we get back to where we were it'll be because I pay my own way. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't imagining it might be all sunshine and roses in the here and now.

conscious vs unconscious competence

I like the four stages of competence cited above, but would note that where the rubber hits the road in relationships is actually in the third one.  You might get to unconscious competence in some areas, but the key word is competence, not conscious or unconscious.  The key in a solid marriage isn't being perfect (none of us are, for sure!) it's being responsive, reliable, and loving.  And often reliable means something like being able to calmly have a conversation that says "I really don't think I can take than on right now" or "I really blew that, I'm sorry!  I'll try again tomorrow."  Mistakes are fine.  Where you got off the tracks was with your impulsivity and anger.  You don't say which meds you are taking (nor whether they might have added to your irritability - that is a side effect of some of them) but one class of meds that is particularly useful for helping curb impulsivity is the alpha agonists.  These can be taken together with stimulants (for focus, clarity) and some research suggests that the combo is one of the most effective there is.

To get your life back on track, I suggest the following:  talk with doctor about ways to address the impulsivity; get an ADHD coach; consider making a plan that allows you to be closer to your son (since you're unemployed, can't you consider finding a job near your wife???).  Write down specific goals with your coach, break them into smaller subsets, etc.  To finance the coach, talk with your parents.  If they won't pay for the coach outright, ask them to provide you a loan at a low interest rate (perhaps 1% - that's about all they can earn on cash right now) that you will work your hardest to pay back over time.  Keep track of what you owe them, and when you become employed start paying them back ASAP.  (If you end up not being able to pay them, they will be no worse off than if they had simply paid in the first place.)

As for your wife's empathy or lack thereof...it sounds as if she has had a lot on her plate.  Having a child is a huge issue for couples impacted by ADHD - the logistical part of having a child is HUGE and really brings to the forefront the weaknesses of the ADHD spouse on the planning/execution/logistics part of it.  In your case, it sounds as if it also brought some power struggles (over how to take care of the baby) to the forefront, as well.  You yourself admit to how worried you were about whether you would be able to care for your son.  It's not a surprise that your wife, then, shared that worry and became vigilant about it.  Once you've planted the seeds of doubt, it takes some time to overcome them...and my own experience is that being a new parent can be pretty scary - kids seem so vulnerable, and few of us have been trained to feel "competent" in this area...you learn as you go along (I remember how I cried when my mother left a week after my first child was born and I was on my own with this mysterious baby...and also how, 5 days after my second child was born and I thought I knew how to take care of a baby, how terrifying it was when I had to call 911 because he was choking and starting to turn blue...having a kid can be terrifying at times!)  And, yes, the mothering instinct does kick in...good thing, too! (this instinct is chemical and strong for most women.)

Also, you are right when you say that she can't/doesn't really understand what it is like to have ADHD.  Even I, who work all the time with people with ADHD, and who has been actively helping family members learn to manage their ADHD for well over a decade am still sometimes blown away by the implications of the disabling side of ADHD and how different it is to try to organize one's life when you have it.  It is a constant challenge that takes a huge amount of effort and energy to overcome, as well as some pretty astute thinking as to what you might do with your life that is a good "fit" with your skill set.  But you DO have a skillset.  As you work with your coach, try to figure out what it is you do best...do you need adrenaline to stay focused?  Consider a job that provides lots of it (EMT??)  Do you need to be moving around a lot?  Then think about jobs that allow that...you get the idea.  In the meantime, go easy on your wife.  While it's not good that she was dumping on you (just as it wasn't good that you were dumping on her) know that she probably doesn't have enough experience with ADHD to fully understand what you are going through...but her point is valid.  Your struggles added significantly to her burden, and how those struggles played out for her (attacks on her, etc.) combined with taking on much of the responsibility in the household overwhelmed her.  I'm guessing she 'escaped' for survival and perhaps this is tied to her past.  I'm also guessing that she, like so many other people - particularly women - thought when she married you that she might be able to help you 'change' without really realizing that this was in her head.  Only you can change yourself (and you CAN) but you need to get ADHD-centered help.  ADHD may be a reason you've had failures in the past...and it is certainly a reason why you don't do things the way she does...but it is NOT an excuse to continue to do the same things that have plagued you in the future.  The vast majority of people with ADHD can manage it well enough to get on with life productively...and I'm betting you're one of those people.


Is she still angry?

Does she still deny that ADHD is real and does she accept that you didn't decide to have it just to make her life spiral out of control? Does she really really get that?  Does she acknowledge that she has any part in the failure of the relationship?

If she now understands ADHD and her own part in everything - then why not just show her what you wrote above? It demonstrates how far you have come. 

But if she does not understand - I don't see that there is much you can do except play the long game and especially keep up access to your son and show her that you will not fail him.

Why is it so bad to be angry?

I keep hearing how I have to admit equal fault in the failure of my marriage. Why? If he drops a bookcase on my foot and I'm in pain for months, why am I just supposed to say, "that's ok"? If he loses yet another job, why am I just supposed to say "that's all right, I'm only working 2 jobs, I'll look for a third"? In this case, if I ask him to make dinner because I just got home from work and he's just sitting there, and he does hear me but he says "I'm watching something. You do it. I will only do half the housework" when I have 2 jobs and am disabled and he doesn't work, why am I just supposed to say "that's OK, I'll do it. You relax from your long hard day of watching NCIS reruns"? When someone treats you in unfair ways, and you don't get angry, isn't that just telling them their behavior is OK?

I'm reminded of the People's Court cases where someone owes someone money and they refuse to pay, or countersue, because of "harassment," which consists of making calls and sending emails to try to collect the debt. And if I remind him more than once, I'm nagging. So how do you get their attention in a positive way. My marriage failed because I couldn't come up with a way.

competentfake's picture

Sueann- just from this

Sueann- just from this little snapshot into your life, it seems to me that your husband is not actively working to better himself, but is instead sitting around watching tv. He is not to blame for the constant problems caused by his adhd, but he is RESPONSIBLE for working towards improving the methods with which he copes with and compensates for it. It's really easy for us to lapse back into 'unconscious incompetence', simply because that has been our default state for most of our lives. Lapses are forgivable, giving up is not. If your husband has given up on ever being more functional than he is, then the best thing you can do for him, in my opinion, would be to shake him out of his comfortable life so he is forced to reassess things, like I was recently forced to do. But do so as gently as you can. You cannot imagine what it is like to be in his shoes, to face the awful enormity that is 'competence' and be unable to fathom its depths, depths that seem so shallow to others.

It isn't always bad

Anger is a normal response to cruelty, inhumane treatment, neglect, torture ..., either to ourselves or to others.  Most people are hardwired for it.  So long as we don't go break the neighbor's windows, strangle the neighborhood cat, break the rules and go to jail, then we have the option of using anger to impel us to create change. Fine in theory, might be hard in practice as with so many things.

"I keep hearing how I have to admit equal fault in the failure of my marriage. Why?"

You don't.  You can & should consider the impact of your actions, but he has at least one mental disorder that is nobody's fault. What makes me angry when I contemplate some of your posts (have not read all, am relatively new) is that your husband seems quite severely mentally unwell and has not received adequate treatment for ADHD nor (and probably more seriously) what looks like depression.  Whether because he does not have enough money, the right job, the right zip code, the right insurance, it's really irrelevant.  But his life is spiralling down and yours horribly impacted because of his mental disorders, which possibly (even probably) have not been treated sufficiently. And since he is an adult he cannot be forced to get treatment, if it is available in his area. None of this is your fault.

"When someone treats you in unfair ways, and you don't get angry, isn't that just telling them their behavior is OK?"

Yes. And the fact that he has a mental disorder doesn't invalidate your response.

"And if I remind him more than once, I'm nagging."

Not necessarily, it depends on the situation and the people. I don't think I nagged my husband to get him to go to a psychiatrist, but I would not be silenced and fortunately for me & for him (he would say now but maybe not before), he got off his backside and to the psychiatrist on his own. Now he regrets not doing it decades ago. Your husband could not get that far, possibly because his brain chemistry could not or did not allow him (We haven't heard his side, but I wonder if he is really 'happy' as he is now or whether he is sinking further).

"So how do you get their attention in a positive way."

In some people's cases (not all), I don't know that you ever can without addressing brain chemistry.  No amount of talking or adjusting or working around can work - he cannot 'think' himself better and in the mean time you may as well talk to a brick wall.

"My marriage failed because I couldn't come up with a way."

No. From my reading of your posts it failed because he has a brain disorder and could not respond to you nor probably anyone else.

He's been better than he is now

He had lives with his mother until he married me. Mom encouraged this; she needed a second income to keep their house, but they could not afford to do repairs. He said he wanted to be an adult and work and be married. We talked about it a lot. But he has the ADD capacity for self-delusion.

He lost his job 6 weeks into our married life and went from job to no job to another job that he lost. He had 7 jobs in 2 years. I made him get treatment for his obvious depression and the therapist he saw diagnosed the ADD. I was told I had to wait a year with him not working before we could address the marital issues or his employment issues. I did that. Eventually, he got a job he loved as a peer specialist. But he gets too conditioned to an ADD med and it stops working, so you have to switch him every few months. Eventually he got into one of those places where the meds he was taking were inadequate and he lost his job. He has neither worked, tried to work nor done anything to maintain our house since. He was getting medication for depression, ADD and low testosterone but he stopped going to the doctor after I finally gave up and left after a year. No insurance, no money (his mother pays his bills) and he says he can't afford the co-pays if he applies for Medicaid. He was kind, loving and fun to be with. That person that I fell in love with is gone, and I am bereft. And I wonder if I could have made a difference. But I guess if he doesn't want to, I can't blame myself.

competentfake's picture


competentfake's picture

I believe I can say with

I believe I can say with total confidence that if a person, like my wife, who knows exactly what adhd is all about and yet persists in behaving as though they believe it to be nothing but a bullshit copout, that person has no empathy left for the adhd-er. Take my dad. For all his good qualities, he has very little capacity for empathy, and as a result, after years and years of hearing about how adhd affects my behavior, he still finds it hard to believe that I'm not an ungrateful, selfish, lazy bum. At least I don't believe that anymore, too.

  I feel a lot of sympathy


I feel a lot of sympathy for you and your wife, Compentent fake. But just one little thing popped into my head as I've read this thread. And that's that - we - the ones without ADHD - we're not perfect. And there are times when we feel like we're supposed to be more than 'normal', to be always understanding and making allowances. And the wheels seem to fall off once children arrive on the scene. Or the one without ADHD has some kind of health crisis. Or they find themselves not just doing most of the household chores but being the one responsible for supporting everyone financially too. And it really is just too much for anyone to do, no matter how much love they have for the ADHD partner.

Your wife probably doesn't understand how difficult it is to live with ADHD. How can she? How can any of us truly understand anyone elses' difficulties? But have you really deeply considered how difficult it really was for her? The example you cited about using a different sponge for the kitchen bench and the babies bottles... Well - I agree with your wife on that! Kitchen sponges grow nasty bacteria (and I speak here, not just as a mum, not just as a 'stay at home mum' in fact - but as a Science degree holder who studied Microbiology.) And really - your wife asked you to wash the babies bottles a certain way.... And you just didn't want to? Even deep down knowing that she was probably suffering from being separated from her baby son because she had to work? That likely caused her her own emotional turmoil, intense focus problems, difficulty concentrating at work etc etc. The sponge thing and moments like that were your wife expressing her natural maternal concern for her son - not an attack on you or your competence as a parent.  Speaking as a mum of 3... Leaving my babies for any length of time before they were 12 months old was very difficult for me. All of the time I was away - and I worked part time - the baby was in the back of my mind. It is a form of hyperfocus in itself, I believe.

competentfake's picture

Hi.  I'm sure that you are

Hi.  I'm sure that you are cognitively aware of the myriad of difficulties that someone with adhd faces on a daily basis, but can you empathize with what that is like?  Based upon your reply, I am guessing the answer is no, and I am not going to wrangle with you or anyone else that apparently lacks that empathy, because there isn't any point in trying to illuminate a closed mind.

I will say that I am not here to assuage the repressed anger and resentment of the wronged souls who trawl this forum, seeking whatever petty satisfaction that can be gleaned by calling us on all our bullshit.  I am not here for false sympathy, or to have the significance of my problems called into question by comparing them with others', and I sure as hell am not here for commiseration.

I am here to seek counsel from my peers, who know what it is like to be burdened with adhd or can empathize with the difficulties I face, but most of all, I am here as an extension of my commitment to personal growth.

Let me ask you and everyone else who chose to hijack my thread:  Why are you here?


Umm...No one "hijacked" your thread


Competentfake, do you realize that you just accused Adjusting to Reality of lacking empathy and then did not have the empathy yourself to consider her perspective?  At best, it's ironic. At worst, it's hypocritical.

You asked for advice ("If anyone ...has any insight into how I should go about attempting reconciliation, please share it with me") and she kindly ("I feel a lot of sympathy for you and your wife") offered some. You gave us a lot of details of how your brain operates. Adjusting to Reality tried to give you details of how a non-ADHD brain works.

You wrote, "If marriage between an ADHDer and a non-ADHDer is going to work, it's going to require effort on both parts-  the ADHDer has to make an effort to find ways to cope with his condition, and the non-ADHDer has to find a way to empathize with the plight of the ADHDer." I think the non-ADHDer also deserves empathy for his/her own plight.

I'm sorry you took my reply that way


Competentfake, I'm sorry you took my reply as some kind of slight or 'hijacking' of your thread. That was not at all my intention. I was trying to give you some insight into how your wife might feel, from my own personal experiences. I believe I do empathize with your situation, but as I pointed out in my first post on this thread - I know that I DON'T know what it's like to have ADHD. I do know what it is like to live with someone who does have it.  You titled this thread expressing hope for reconciliation with your wife, I was trying to help you see her point of view, which you need to try to understand if you want to resurrect your marriage. You'll probably see this as false sympathy too, but I do wish you luck.

Back on-topic, I think (maybe)

I was one of the people who let myself get involved in hijacking, sorry.

But I've been puzzled about a couple of things. You said:

"try to rebuild upon the foundation of our relationship, which has always been strong, even when times were bad we found ways to connect meaningfully"

and then

"if a person, like my wife, who knows exactly what adhd is all about and yet persists in behaving as though they believe it to be nothing but a bullshit copout, that person has no empathy left for the adhd-er"

What basis does the second statement give you for believing you could rebuild your relationship, as in the first quote you say you want to do?

If you said "for our son" then that could be a valid reason, but you haven't said that, and you don't seem to want to accept her lack of empathy. Your lack of sympathy for her lack of empathy doesn't offer much common ground on which to rebuild. So is reconciliation in any way realistic? (You seem very ambivalent about it and she seems to think that by running away she can control that which can't be controlled).

are you still here?

If you're still here, I'd like to know if you succeeded in your reconciliation, and if so how?  My Husband has ADD, but was diagnosed as an adult.  My threads are generally hijacked and taken over by several people who "know" each other and I'm lost because I don't know their histories and can't keep up.  I feel pretty hopeless because my Husband is moving out in a couple days and I WANT him to have your attitude, and he'll say that he wants to fix things, but he also knows that his tendency is to never admit that he was wrong about anything, and never back peddle.  So once he's gone, I fear it's over, and I've been completely unsuccessful in forming any sort of communication or friendship with him even for the sake of our children.  I'm frustrated beyond words, and my anger has escalated at times to levels I don't even recognize.  I wonder if it's possible, even to have a friendship.

Impressed but....

I am impressed that you have become so perceptive. I've spent 32 years in a relationship like yours. My kids are now grown. They are wonderful people although I never got to raise them much or spend enough time with them which was my lifelong dream. I was robbed. I spent all of my time when I wasn't at work with them and dedicated my life to those precious kids and did most of it by myself. I got through college by myself, raised the kids by myself, did my job by myself, helped my husband get through college, did most of his schoolwork, helped him with everything, was patient, kind, loving, etc. 

My children grew up. My spouse wasn't able to grow up still. I wanted a relationship with a grown up. He wasn't able to be one. I wasted my time helping him. As much as he tried and he was a well loved teacher, he could not grow up, or take responsibility for his actions. He couldn't really connect, listen or have a conversation. He only had about a 3 word limit of paying attention, unless the topic was one of "his" topics like talking about himself or his interests. 

Being married to someone like that is a lifelong prison. You are alone and responsible for this person who consumes all of your time with cleaning up his messy life. It is Cruel!!!

I thought we had come to a place where we could finally have time to enjoy our family and make the best of all I had achieved dragging him along with me. 

The sometimes impulsive and thoughtless behaviors continue even into middle-age. He had a relationship with a 17 year old student. He has been charged with a felony. He will probably go to prison.

I wasted my life. 32 years was a long time to figure it all out, but he couldn't.

Let her have a happy life. She dreams of something else. Make yourself the best person you can be and find someone who dreams of what you are now. Don't ask someone to give up their life to make YOU their life's work. It is cruel.

Learn to be a giver and contributor. Be loyal, trustworthy, and patient. Although you may not be capable right now of being a spouse, you can be a great father no matter the distance. Be the shining light to your child.

Contribute something to this world. Stop being a user, overcome whatever you can until you are the best person you can be. Don't compare. You'll know when you have given it your all. 

All I can say is I've lived it. I wish I'd gotten out after the first year. Don't end up like my husband. Learn from your mistakes. Progress, grow up! Don't waste your life!