Do People Choose Specific Types of Spouses?

I was diagnosed ADHD fairly recently (two years ago in my late 30s). I find that much of the conflict in my own marriage arised from my wife's suspicion that my behavior is poor character rather than physiological. This is of course partly true in this sense: my character developed the way it developed because I had ADHD and was not diagnosed until my character had been formed and reinforced for years. I was ADHD when we married. There was no bait and switch because I have always had difficulties with organization and planning and executing tasks. I am from any "normal" standard quite accomplished despite this fact, although I am not too much help around the house. I add to chaos even when I am trying to fight it. My wife, who is skeptical about 1) the existence of ADHD; 2) my own diagnosis; and 3) my own sincerity in my efforts to improve, thinks that having been diagnosed and prescribed medications I should now have all the good qualities she liked about me and none of the qualities she does not like. Would that this were true -- maybe -- but it is not true.

I am beginning to suspect that just as people who marry alchoholics frequently have their own dysfunctions, so too do people who chose to marry someone with the behaviors associated with ADHD. My wife used to find my befuddled character charming and to like my spontaneous wit and creativity. Now she has to live with the attending down-side. She seems to be more conscious of my failings than her own -- indeed, my failings are somewhat convenient in that they make her own failings and failures seem less bad to her own self-image.

I am curious to hear other people's experience. I wonder if "comorbid" dysfunction is common and whether it has certain characteristics.

How is this for an ADHD

How is this for an ADHD moment -- I just read this post and completely identified. I started to reply and then remembered that *I* posted the message in the first place!

Laughing out ourselves

I got a big smile on my face and started to laugh. I can so see myself doing the same thing. I glad that I can laugh at myself and other peoples humor. You made my day!!!! Clacius

adhd and marriage

I am a 35 y/o woman and working on my second marriage. I love to hear other adhd people's stories and this one doesn't disappoint. We are a breed apart and I don't apologize for myself anymore. Until the past couple of years, I beat myself up on a regular basis and was really disgusted quite often with my inability to just be satisfied with the mundane and be accomplished in one productive field. I have recently realized how rediculous and painful all that wasted emotion and regret was. I am in my junior year in business school at a great university because it took me this long to get a hold on myself enough to move this great task to fruition. I will graduate with almost 40 credits more than I need due to indecision over the years. I am a voracious reader and am reading 4 books right now because I have a problem reading one novel in a straight foward linear fashion, so I take breaks from each periodically. My husband is often entertained by my wit, humor and excessive knowledge of worthless info on everything from vikings to dog breeds to palmistry and beyond. Anyone up for trivial pusuit? He is also frustrated by my lack of a career at this age and rightfully so. He's very sweet, but it's there. I am working hard to remedy this because I too want a specific direction for eight hours or more a day to tread. I know now beyond a shadow of a doubt that my adhd is a beautiful gift because there's no one like me for miles. I live faster and more deeply than anyone else I know except my two beautiful adhd children. Take heart. She just doesn't know what it feels like to fly. If she did, she wouldn't get mad at you for doing it. We'll get there, we just take a lot of side trips.

People choose specific spouse

I have been Married almost 18 years. I am Add and also LD. My Husband has never been Diagonised by a Dr but he is Adhd. Even though we booth have ADHD. We are totally diffrent types. all though he encouraged me to see a doctor about medication. It has made a big diffrence in my life. He can tell a diffrence in me being able to do things on my own with out having to depend so much on him. The medication does not change who you are in your heart or who you are as a person. I was so wishing that it would change how I felt about myself. I am 41 years old and realize that I must change my own feeling about myself that medication does not do that. My husband knows that he is adhd but is not intrested in taking medication Even though he encourage me to. HA HA. He would be so much better off as a person. that would help our marraige and children. My huband always veiws himself as being right all the time. He wonders why I do not follow his ways. As you can see He has a hard time excepting my faults also. He thinks that I can change to his way of thinking. Also he thinks this way about my son who is 11 years old He is ADD also. He loves his job . I know he loves us. My huband always seems to point out flaws in me and not at himself may be your wife could be ADHD. Maybe you are more senstive to your short commings. I think ADHD people find it easy to blame others. Just remember that You can change the way you feel when you start to feel those negitave thoughts. . Remember the feelings of when you first fell in love. Remember to laugh at each other and with each other.

This post touched on the

This post touched on the ADHD tendency of blaming others. Wow! This behavior can be a huge relationship and self-esteem buster. Melissa -- and forum community! -- wondering if you had any further thoughts?? Why is it that some of us struggling with ADHD find it so easy to blame others???? I have just started to see this very unpleasant trait in myself. I'm wondering why I do this and subsequently, how to crush it, before it crushes others, namely my wonderful husband and children. But also my work mates, my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, cousin, my friends..... Any thoughts, insights, tips would most be appreciated!

Wanting to blame others

It is human nature, I think, to want to blame others, not necessarily an ADHD trait.  This is particularly true when things get hard, which they often do for people with ADHD.

Blame is a very destructive element of any marriage because it only goes in the negative - nothing is ever gained by blame.  You ask how to control your tendency to want to blame I did it was decide that I could continue to blame my husband for what was happening to us and ultimately destroy our marriage, or I could come to terms with the fact that I needed to take responsibility for my own happiness and stop blaming him!  Blame is just a way to get out of doing the hard work...roll up your sleeves, though, and get to it!

You need to understand, deep down in your heart, just how destructive blame is, then decide to exorcise it from your relationships.  Start with your husband and kids first.  Put a sticky note on your mirror that reminds you every morning - NO BLAMING!  That way the concept will be the first thing you see in the day.  Talk to your hubby about what you are trying to do "I know that I tend to blame you for things that I shouldn't.  This is a bad habit that I am working to quit, and would like your help.  When you hear me blaming you for something, would you bring it to my attention in as nice a way as possible so I have the opportunity to apologize to you right then?"  Then do just that.  If you find yourself blaming someone, apologize immediately.  Make it a full apology, with no "clarification clauses".  "I'm really sorry I blamed you for that.  I shouldn't have done that" not "I'm sorry I blamed you for that, but you really were being a jerk!"

Every time you find yourself blaming someone, go away and think about WHAT it was that you were blaming them for and WHY you were doing it.  You'll probably find that these are areas of difficulty for you that you need to work on.  If they are problems embedded in your relationships, consider asking your husband to explore them with you or, if that makes you uncomfortable, consider finding a counsellor.  The point is simply that you need to not only recognize that blame is your problem (which you do) but also that you need to proactively change. 

Once you've managed to get blaming your husband under control, then you'll be ready to take on others who will be trickier, like parents (I say harder because I imagine that it won't be as easy to get them to lovingly help you overcome this.)

Remember, as Ned Hallowell likes to say, ADHD can be a reason that things happen, but it should never be used as an excuse.  Don't let ADHD be the excuse that you use in your mind to continue the oh-so-destructive pattern of blaming others for your problems.

Hope this helps!  Check back in and let us know how it goes!




Melissa Orlov


Kind of nice thoughts you have but it's hard to do any of that when the adhd person is always blaming you for everything. I really understand what enabling is after being married to an adhd /bipolar man for 23 years. I thought I was helping and keeping him active in society,etc when all I was doing was "keeping" him at my own expense. I am a physician and so am a healer and a nurturer. I finally decided that I was the one needing the nurturing and am divorcing him so I may be happier for the rest of my life - and believe me I AM! I do hope you and Ned Hallowell can help people who are married with adhd or to adhd's but do remember sometimes the best answer is to give up! Suffering in a relationship is NOT the way we are meant to live even for someone else's good.

Merry Go Round of Denial

In response to the post about blaming. I have noticed that whenever my partner and I try to have any kind of conversation which even remotely borderlines conflict, he immediately gets defensive, accuses me of blaming him for everything and tells me once again that I am being critical and demeaning of him. Sometimes, that is the case. Sometimes the way the conversation goes, it leads to that out of my frustration because he has already gone to the place where he hears criticism or blaming. The trouble is, he does not believe that he is a part of that response. "If I would just stop criticizing him, everything would be fine." He takes everything as criticism, so there is no chance he hears anything else but that. I have tried many ways to rephrase statements or remind him that I am just expressing how I feel, and that it is not directed at him personally, but that still doesn't work either. As a result, we both just avoid conversations about anything. It's getting to be a pretty quiet household, full of underlying anger and resentment. He was diagnosed with ADD, Obsessive Compulsive and Clinical Depression over three years ago and it was suggested he try some medication. Since then, he has seen two other psychologists, one who suggested trying medication, the other whom he has worked with for over a year who thinks he can talk his way out of his problems. He continues to see her, on an off and on basis, with there being excuses as to why there are months in between and has suggested that she finds it very interesting that I am so "obssessed" with him trying some medication. We tried couples counseling with another counselor whom I had been working with individually but who as soon as I started expressing my feelings in our first session together, about some of his inappropriate behavior which included emailing and phone calling other women, removed him from the room to protect him from my anger in the session. I no longer see her. Does any of this make any sense to anyone else because it doesn't make any sense to me. I have had very positive experiences with counselors in the past at different times in my life and none of them have been like the ones I've experienced in this situation. I have regularly attended 12 step meetings for over 17 years, and in practicing the principles of a program trying to forgive and just keep the focus on myself, but it is very hard to do in this situation. I have left once for a period of two months and came back after getting information on ADD and in talking with my partner, feeling that together we would be working through this. I have been on this site before, while we were separated and also attended a very informative session on ADD while away. I brought all of that information to him and I thought we were on our way to working together to make things better. With that in mind, I moved back.But, if I don't take the initiative to do the work, it doesn't happen. It's been 2 months since I've been back and we're right back where we were. Perhaps I should have waited until he took steps to make changes before I came back to the situation as while I was away, he seemed open to working out a solution. On the other hand, it was during this time that he started contacting other women. I think I convinced myself that this behavior was just another part of his disease/diseases. He and I have completely separate lives in the way of finances, family responsibilities, etc. so I don't enable him as I have not put myself in a position of "risk" if he doesn't do his part. He is cooperative if I ask him to help around the house, if he remembers, and generally pleasant except that he sulks and is very passive aggressive in his approach to everything. He has lists on top of lists. Sometimes a few things get checked off, usually the ones he likes to do. I am at a point where I feel the only thing I can do if he refuses to accept he is part of the problem and work to get an accurate diagnosis and follow some treatment protocol is leave permanently. I don't want to continue living on this merry go round of denial. If he is not willing to accept that our problems are related to ADD, I guess I should accept that also. I think I deserve better than this.


I'm relatively new to the marriage bit (a yearish) but I am seeing most of the things you are referencing above. My wife is ADHD and ... anything in the way of critisism even if meant nicely or whatever (i'm still working on delivery) is taken as an attack and its all downhill from there. Nothing gets done in the house as you said and ... I am terrified that i'll be saying the same things that you are 10 years from now. The folks in the forum have been wonderful (those with ADHD and those w/o) and i'm trying everything they recommend. I'm hopeful that ... i'll experience the latter where my wife and I can work together and ... have a good relationship but i'm also scared that nothing will ever change.

The fact that this is

The fact that this is bothering you now should raise a red flag in your mind. I married a man with ADHD [we did not realize this at the time; diagnosed after marriage but all the symptoms were there in his childhood]. It will only get worse. Once children come, you will really feel the burden, and then it is too late to make a clean break. I never thought I would end up in a divorce, but that is what is coming. I wish someone had told me way back then what I am telling you now. Get out. Part ways. She may have some wonderful qualities, but they will quickly pale in comparison to the other issues that will affect your marriage. Just wait until you have kids. If you think communication is hard now, well, it will disappear. I would love to walk away and never look back at him, but we have two children together which means he is forever in my life, if only as the father of my children. Best wishes.

You Do Deserve Better

Perhaps you can turn his responses to you around a bit.  When he says you are "obsessed with his getting medication" you can reply that you are obsessed with having a happy relationship.  You think from what you have read and what other doctors have said that medication would help him better control his symptoms but that you have no specific concern about WHAT he does to control his symptoms so that the two of you are able to live only care THAT he controls them.

When he comes back at you with "you only want to blame me - what about you?" you would like to be in a position to be able to say "I have been giving a lot of thought to my own role in our relationship problems and do, indeed, think that I contribute.  I am working on changing my own behaviors in X, Y and Z ways".

It sounds as if you have set some boundaries already, as you have not fallen victim to the normal "picking up the pieces" pattern.  Nonetheless, take some time to see what else you can do to contribute to a positive future...then insist that he do the same.  Know that he won't be able to make the improvements that you hope for if he doesn't have a safe place in which to make them.  (Even then he may not make them.)

Having a diagnosis of anything doesn't give him the right to ruin your life.  Or, more accurately, just because he has a diagnosis doesn't mean that you have to put up with it.  Make sure you are doing the best you can towards him, though. (managing your frustration, anger, harsh words, etc.  There is some indication in what you write that you rise too easily to his bait.  This means you give him an avenue for passing the buck and blaming you, rather than taking the harder road of looking at his own role.)  Next time you are thinking about blowing up at him, remember that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and see if that inspires you to disengage from the argument before it escalates. 

Melissa Orlov

People chose a specific spouse

Clacius, I just read your post and it really hit home to me. i have also been married for 18 years and I have 3 children. I was just diagnosed with Add about 4 months ago. I suspect that my children have it in one form or another and I thought maybe my husband also. I think we are married to the same man! HAHA I would really like to talk about ways you manage or don't manage "Mr. always right'. The one thing I would like to tell you about my experience if I never get to share another thing is to figure out a way NOW to help your husband and your son to establish some common ground and have a nuturing Father/Son relationship. My son is 16 and his Father loves him but he has a very hard time excepting his flaws, they have no common ground and my son has developed a great deal of resentment for him. They are both very much alike in the being "right" and stubborness departments, so guess what happens when two people who are each always right and each have to get the last word in, try to have any conversation? Hope to hear from you! Liz

"I'm nothing like you.."

In my late teens and early twenties I wrapped in a serious relationship with boy/man with adhd (like myself). I believe we tend to gravitate towards those that share similarities with us, and he was the one that actually opened my eyes to my disorder. Before i met him, doctors believed i had a mood disorder, something like bipolar disorder but less severe. I was on mood stabalizers, which left me with little or no affect, and little interest in acedemics. My boyfriend and I used to quarrel constantly; I never realized that we were also similar in our negative qualities, causinng a lot of stubborness and ignorance. He would say to me, "Maybe it's YOU who has ADD!". And i would always reply, "I am nothing like you..". I also was not aware that men and women with ADHD behaviorally express it differently. While he was hyper and figeting, I was staring out the window and daydreaming. There's no way we could have the same problem! Wrong. We understood each other on a very deep level from our disorder without even understanding why. Unfortunetly, he was much more prone to self medicate and self destruct than I was. He opened me up to so many new things; without him I would never know about my adhd, and he also pushed me to go to college. However, even though he had pushed me to go to school, he was also the one luring me away from it. We'd sign up for classes then not show up to half of them. He was my enabler for laziness, and I was his for drinking. I could control my drinker where he could not. He did not seek treatment and I did, so he went to rehab and I went back to college. Even after all these years I am still attracted to that whimsical, free spirit that is adhd.

ADHD and More

I have been married for 20 years and will be divorced by my wife at the end of May 2008. In December of 07 she was diagnosed with ADHD and Cyclothymia. From reading about this on the web I realize that she has had these issues for many years and it has covertly caused us many problems. I didn't understand that her issues were caused by her horrible childhood and blamed her for a lack of initiative or that she was less intelligent or motivated. In the last few years I believe I accepted her shortcomings and believed I would live with Chris for the rest of my life. I came to a place of peace with this and picked up my efforts to improve our life on my own through adding an addition to our family home and remodeling a rental home improving the value greatly. I had big plans to continue my work since my motivation seemed to be snowballing. My wife on the other hand has never even painted a room and has trouble keeping the laundry and house clean. Then the bad news hits, she wants a divorce and we start therapy in Feb 07. In April, she discloses that she has had an affair for 7 months. She gave it up and I forgive her and we go on a cruise in May and June is wonderful, the best Fathers day I've ever had, I love my children, Layla 14, Autumn 8 and Chase 6, I have some optimism that things are improving. The truth becomes evident later that Chris still believes that we will be divorced and starts planning her escape. Chris is a child of an alcoholic mother who drank during pregnancy and after, she was an unwanted pregnancy and was passed from caregiver to caregiver as a baby. During her teens she recovered from anorexia, heroin and LSD addictions which have been confirmed by her parents. She also gave up smoking when we got married which I am very proud of her about. Chris has tremendous strength in some ways which I admire. She has alcoholic tendencies and I fear she will become anorexic again but she always seems to keep it together. She is very outgoing, the life of the party the prototypical Gemini, attractive and fun. Me, a Cancer, many astrological websites fit me well, the family man, loyal, loving and a mate for life. Chris has always been a liar, I fooled myself into believing that she wouldn't lie or cheat me and found out I was wrong. Her lying seemed to get worse in her late 30's she told close friends and therapists that she had been raped when she was 7 which was not true. Also that she had breast cancer when she was younger and cured, I never heard about this. A B12 deficiency was also claimed. During our therapy Chris would state she wanted the marriage to work and that she was afraid of making a mistake. But she was unwilling to commit to the relationship saying she would not renew her vow of marriage and not provide a guarantee, that it was still possible it would not work. The other side of her never believed in us and therefore the self fulfilling prophecy has come to be. She believes that she can overcome her problems and grow through her therapy better on her own without me. Her family has a history of bi-polar disorders on her mothers side. Her fathers side seem more emotionally detached, her father was violent with his children when home but spent great amounts of time away from home on business. The story told by the family is that Carl was in the CIA, I'm not sure about this anymore either. Chris tells of going to China with the family and that Carl smuggled a sample of crude oil out, so that the Feds could sample the quality, this is probably another fantasy. To be honest I don't know where reality begins and fantasy ends for Chris. Money has never been a problem for us, my job as a realtor in the Denver market always provided. I am good at what I do and enjoyed the job. Lately my motivation has subsided, my family is gone and I am facing divorce. I don't believe it's fair, I am far from perfect but do not think I have contributed to the extent that my marriage should fail. I attended therapy with Chris from Feb through Dec 07 and fell apart after discovering another lie on the part of my wife. I attempted suicide and came very close to succeeding, diagnosed with major depression common in men facing this life's change. I am 50 and Chris is 40, our joint counselor said that Chris is having a mid-life crisis. This is obvious, anytime she has one gray hair she gets a $120 treatment, facials, laser, waxing all to improve her appearance, vanity or trying to attract lovers I am not sure. Her attitude towards money does not consider the future and I have seen a change in her values. She no longer wants to provide a family home for the children and would like to be rid of them custody wise to me 50% of the time. This boggles my mind since I considered her a wonderful mother and that she would never do this. Chris has never finished anything she has started and has always been challenged at making decisions. She has not worked except for a few months outside of the home and contributing to my job as an assistant, the last few years. Big mistake having her not work and then working for me. It set me up as her boss in a dominant role, our relationship has always had this dynamic. Since I'm 10 years older, we got married when Chris was barely 20 and I have always been a parent type figure making the majority of the decisions regarding our lives together. This seemed to provide Chris comfort at first but she has grown to resent it, greatly in fact. Her relationship with her parents has always been a love hate one and she lies to them constantly. She recently told her sister that if one of her family dies that she is not sure she would cry or mourn them. The only people she has unconditional love for is our 3 children. I realize from her own statements and through therapy that Chris does not love herself. She hates the person she is, self loathing and does not consider herself worthy of receiving love therefore she pushes those people away. I am the latest casualty and cannot do anything to prevent the divorce, Colorado is a no fault state and it's just the administration of the legal paperwork that finalizes the divorce. The 3 biggest problems in a marriage are money, sex and communication. With us, sex was the strongest part of our marriage, Chris always made a point of expressing this. Money was not a problem till now, the very end. Communication was it, she had an internal wall that I never could scale, she admits it. Joint counseling exposed it but I couldn't cross. Until it was too late, I didn't try, I accepted this and moved on, which was a mistake, at times I resented it and displayed negative emotions and feelings toward my wife of which I am truly sorry. Lack of understanding, ignorance is a huge contributor to dysfunction. Our counselor said our failure was a faulty commitment to each other. I agree, but believe that I can offer this type of commitment to my wife but she is not willing or capable. The counselor said that their are two types of people who cannot be helped by therapy, "liars and dead people", he told me this when I was alone with him. I think he was telling me Chris would never change and that I should realize this and make decisions for my own well being. During our last 2 years of marriage Chris became mean, nasty and very hurtful. Without going into specific detail of which there were many incidents she tried to push me away and make me want to leave, she was too weak to do it herself. I never left, through all the abuse and pain, I loved her and wanted us to last. She even went to a soul reader who she called a life coach that specializes in breaking up marriages. This flim flam person said that she could talk to spirits who told her that Chris should leave me and it was evident from the tapes I heard that Chris believed in this psychic ability. This con was basically telling her what she wanted to hear without repercussion, this should be illegal. I am in counseling and talking to many friends who have shown me a great deal of love. They comment that I must move on and realize that Chris will never get better in fact she will get worse and may become bi-polar as well and that I should not want this life. She will continue to lie and will probably continue to have affairs or how could I ever trust her? They say that there is life after divorce and that I am attractive, in good health and desirable by the opposite sex. That I will find a better woman who will love me and provide what this relationship has been lacking, an intimate relationship with more trust, common goals and sharing of responsibility. That I need to detach, move on and be there for my children. I am trying desperately to do this and writing this comment is helping too but I don't want to give up my past life, my dream, my family or my wife. I cannot help but think that she is sick, and I believe she is a better person than she is showing now, I want to honor my marriage in sickness and health but cannot do it alone. If Chris was willing I would reconcile and get us back into counseling and start attending church to gain the sense of family values that we lack. This is the love of my life, my soul mate of this I have no doubt and this is being ripped apart and tortures my soul. Can someone please help me, get a better understanding of this, send me a lifeline, I'm drowning. I have a friend who is reading Buddhist teachings that basically say that if you understand that life is pain, sorrow and full of problems then you can accept this, transcend these issues rising above them. Upon doing this acceptance happens and then you can manage it better and it will become easier. I am trying to do this and talking to friends for support, even a friendship that may provide companionship on a physical level. It just seems that this attempt to rise above it sooner than later is half hearted what I really want is my past back. I realize in my head that my friends are right, that I should move on she won't change, I will be better off. My heart loves my wife, I cherished the life I had with her and seeing my kids every night, tucking them in and being their protector. Things are now different and will always be so, how I long for reconciliation. I wanted to be that couple that was married for 50 years and visiting grandchildren with my spouse. People do change and sometimes it is not for the better, my wife was wonderful and then evolved through personal issues and self centered goals to question her life upon the big 40 birthday looming large this June. I will be divorced 20 days short of my 20th wedding anniversary. Divorce is worse than death, because it has no closure, some would disagree but I have found others in the same situation who have echoed this sentiment. Am I crazy, after writing this it seems I am stupid, or unwilling to let go, afraid of my future and unwilling to give up a dysfunctional past. Why would I want to stay with a liar, cheater, abuser and stealer? Any comments or help, relaying personal experiences of your own would be welcome information for me. I am looking for guidance, this is my message in a bottle, please answer my SOS. MTV


Michael....Even though we have never met, please accept a virtual hug from me.  Your pain soaks the page and my heart goes out to you.  Thank you for writing and sharing your story.

Before you read any further, I want to remind you that unlike Dr. Hallowell I am not a trained therapist.  I am, however, empathetic and fairly well versed in the ways of relationships - particularly ADHD affected relationships.  What I write here is from my in-depth study of relationships and from my own experience and you should take it as such.

You are right to reach out to people in your time of need.  Human connection is one of the best ways to deal with a tragedy like this one.  Please stay in touch with your friends, keep seeing your counsellor, and consider a divorce support group of some sort if you feel that you are not connected enough.

You clearly love being with your children - and they need you now more than ever.  Please don't do anything to yourself that might hurt them!  Consider it a blessing that your wife is so open to a 50/50 arrangement (or more, who knows?).  Accept her opinion that she is not feeling up to having them with her more often than half time right now and be grateful that she was willing to be honest about that.  You can provide the stability and thoughtfulness that all children need.

It is easy to see that you feel that your wife is the love of your life, but it doesn't sound as if this particular love of your life has treated you very well.  Some day, when you are not in the middle of everything, you may develop a different opinion (or not, who knows?)  You may long for a reconcilliation, but one thing for sure is that the past is the past, not the present.  Whether the reason is an affair, mental illness, or a mid-life crisis, she doesn't seem interested in continuing the relationship and, as unfair as it seems sometimes, it takes two to have one.  She has probably been stewing about this for a long time, even if you weren't fully aware of it.  Also, the reconcilliation that you long for is a fantasy that wouldn't really be what it would be like even if you did reconcile.  You imagine things going back to whenever they were best.  In reality, now that you are this far into a divorce, even if she agreed to try again there would be a good deal of embedded anger and other things that would not feel very good to you or to her.

You have another option.  Create a life for yourself that makes you happy - just in a different way.  It sounds as if that life would include tucking the kids in at night whenever you could, and protecting them (both of which you can still do).  What else would a good life include for you (NOT including your soon to be ex-wife)?  Would you like stability?  Would you like to be with a loving person who could appreciate your loyalty?  Would you like great sex?

I was faced with divorce at one point.  My relationship went in a different direction, but the turning point for me was advice that I got from Dr. Hallowell that I think is really very relevant for you.  He said, "Your life is at a really low point right now.  Get your mindset away from a specific solution - like staying married (or in your case reconciling) - and change your goal.  Make your goal "having a happy life" and see where it leads you.  You don't know where it will go, but you do know that wherever you get will be better than where you are now."

I took his advice and it was a real turning point for me.  Suddenly I had a new perspective and an ability to look to my future rather than be mired in regret about how I might have had a different past.  Rather than focusing on all of the bad stuff of the past I could ask myself "what do I want?  What can I affect?"  (The last is important when what you think you want is to reconcile with a person who doesn't want anything to do with you.)  In my case I was able to look to an earlier point in my life (my teenage years and early 20s to be exact) and remember that I had been a happy, confident, thoughtful person...a person whom I actually liked.  I decided that I wanted to be that person again, rather than the mean, angry and frustrated person I had become.  This change in perspective was extremely helpful for my recovery from my pain...and also very important for my happiness and, eventually, my hope for the future.

In a nutshell, I stopped thinking about "marriage" and started thinking "relationship".  Your relationship with your wife will continue...just your marriage won't.

You are doing the right things...reaching out for help from friends and professionals.  You will want to work through your pain with their help (don't do this alone!).  Cherish what you DO have rather than focusing on what you don't have kids you adore, loving friends, etc.  Don't dwell too much on acquaintances' experiences with spouses - there are as many ways to deal with divorce as there are people (look at Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, for goodness sake!)  Rather than be afraid of it, take a hand in shaping what you want your future, and your kids' future, to look like (I'm not advocating that you suddenly try to get full custody or something, just that you have a say in how your future will go.)

You will continue to have a relationship with your wife because you are connected through your children.  You, and your kids, will be much happier if you create a stable relationship with her in which you both maintain respect for each other, but move the relationship to the business-like relationship that it will most likely have to become.  Again, it may be hard to think of this at this point, but fights you have now with your wife don't serve much purpose and might put you in a bad position in the future (the saddest times are when one spouse badmouths the other one to the kids).  Think "businesslike" and "detached but friendly" and you will likely end up in a better place.  Who knows?  You may even find that you create a new relationship with her with whicht you are both at ease --- and find yourself at your child's basketball games together (like a divorced couple that I sat with at a game just last week, who then went to take their son and daughter out to dinner after the game and seemed to be having a lovely time).

You're moving into a new world - if you are like me you will heal fastest if you can switch gears from mourning the past to creating a future that has a healthy, but appropriate relationship with this woman you have loved so well.  Change your goal to creating a happy life for yourself.  You may not see an immediately obvious path for how to do this, but if you are the best, most caring person that you can be, it should become clearer.  You won't say this to her, but I think that by moving ahead like this you can still be proud that you are taking care of her, yourself, and your children in the best possible way by doing the right thing towards them (if that makes sense to you).

Very good luck to you.

Melissa Orlov


Dear Melissa, Thank you for your kind words after being married for so long I have not had many experiences with people asking me if I want great sex in exactly this manner before. You better be careful or the adult content blockers will start intercepting this website. In all seriousness, I understand, but just like Pandora's box I have hope that my Chris the one I love and remember will have a similar epiphany to the one you have related. Maybe the power of the Internet will help her have a change in perspective too. I realize what fantasy is and appreciate the obstacles, cannot someone with ADHD reverse course and consider the good that they had or is focusing on negatives unavoidable. I do want a healthy and appropriate relationship with this woman but I will never stop loving the Chris I remember, it breaks my heart to see this new person before me, I do not recognize her anymore and there is my catalyst to move on. Having no choice will not mire me in despair, I will move on to create the positive environment you propose. But realize this that I am not a quitter, I do not give up easily and always hope for the best. Reconciliation is probably a dream but deep seated animosity I think I could overcome. The diagnosis came way to late for us and I didn't understand, my research on the web came after the split. My mind is beginning to understand and recognize the difficulty of this life with ADHD, it is making more sense to me. If given a second chance now or down the road my focus would be on empathy, understanding and a desire to help over the rough spots. I would never leave this woman, even if there was a serious issue ahead. But you are right it takes two to make one, I will stand here with my arms wide open and beacon her to come back to me. I pray she realizes now what she had and is giving up, how she is affecting the children, one at least that may have this same gene. Can we not help this child now by providing a better example? You know it's easy to give up, or give in to cold hard reality and believe me I am a realist. I have many moments of peace within myself and reflection on the past. I know I have not failed and find comfort in the fact that I tried to save my family to the final bell. The bell tolls at different times for different people, I will get over it in time. I am not afraid or ashamed of divorce, it happens to many people and we are no different than the norm. My wife has been taking medication for the various diagnosis for about 6 weeks now and from what I'm told they are just starting to take affect. Will they have any impact on her decision making process? Cannot she realize that these influences have a hold on her and impacted her decisions. Can she not be told that people who have ADHD have a higher than normal divorce rate than others who do not? That the lying is a symptom and an understanding family support group could help immensely rather than starting the cycle over with new players? Would you not encourage her to take a second look before it's too late? Your Blog is full of helpful advice to ADHD people promoting healthy choices to avoid where I find myself today. Is it really to late to turn back, impossible or is it better to cut the losses and move on? If you could fix this what would your advice be, a template for a comeback? I understand that you are not a miracle worker and the large woman is beginning to warm up for her solo but please should a new chapter start now or can I open Pandora's box? Rather than address your advice to me what would you say to Chris and others like her if you could? Your kindness and insight are a gift, you provide a wonderful and important service, I am in your debt. Thank you, Michael

Try Again?

Michael - I cannot tell you or Chris whether or not you should try again or keep trying - every couple is different and, furthermore, I don't know you (!)  As they say, if I could predict what will bring success (and even, in this case, even what success IS), I would be a very rich woman.

Here is my advice.  Be the best person you can be.  Show the empathy and kindness that you wish you had shown earlier.  Watch and see what medications do for her, if anything, to see if you can constructively help (but don't comment on her treatment - that's her area).  Take care of yourself and your children.  Continue to stay connected to friends and family who love you.  Also, make sure that you are the best, and most caring person you can be with any new relationship you have (i.e. make sure not to hurt someone new in your recovery process).

It is my thinking that your relationship with Chris will find its own balance...and who knows where that balance will be, only that it will represent the sum total of the positive or negative effort that the two of you have contributed to it.  One of the hardest things for non-ADD spouses is to come to the realization that they can't force their ADD spouses to make changes - not at all.  You have no power what-so-ever over Chris' behavior, only your own.  She will need to find whatever it is inside her to move on - and she will be the one to decide in which direction she will move.

It is possible that Chris will come to understand her ADD as well as her other issues (you described many) and decide to work on them in a way that would have made it easier for you two or that will make her interested in getting back together with you.  Or, she may not.  My point is that you shouldn't pin your hopes on the specific outcome of getting back together.  Rather, pin your hopes on an outcome that is as good for you as possible - your happiness. ( And remember that SHE is responsible for her own outcome - not you).

Sometimes, when you get to the turning point where you realize that what you did in the past just isn't who you want to be in the future, you make significant changes in who you are as a person.  As I wrote before, this happened to me.  I did come to accept that my husband and I might be divorced (he was already seeing someone else, so this was a very real possibility) and it was my acceptance of this fact, and my decision to change my focus from our marriage to being the good person I wanted to be that, in the end, gave him the hope he needed to try one more time (and leave the girlfriend - eventually...but that is another story - no one is perfect on the first try!).  My laser-like focus on our relationship - and all its attendant negatives - was in itself very, very hard on our relationship.  When I focused on being me it took a lot of pressure off of him!  (This was a surprise at the time and not the motivator of my behavior shift - I was just plain tired of being a hag.)  He could then step back and say "do I love this woman? (not our relationship) and are my deepest feelings worth taking the emotional risk that trying one more time might entail (i.e. I might return to being a hag and he would have lost the girlfriend to boot...)?"  Because I had decided - deep inside - to be a nicer, more empathetic person he could finally see some glimmer of hope.  He did, in fact, decide to try one more time...and the rest is very happy history.

I am not saying that you will have the same outcome that we did.  My husband does not have the same types of issues that your wife has been dealing with and, even though he hated our relationship, he always loved me to some degree.  I am saying that focusing on your own happiness and being a good person is a win/win/win.  It is a win for you because it gives you an attainable and very honorable goal.  It is a win for your children because you provide a good role model for them and stability in a very tough time.  It is a win for your wife because even though times are hard for her you are not contributing further to her hardship.

I'm not sure if that is helpful or not, but there it is.

Melissa Orlov

To Chris

Melissa, Thank you for your insight, my own perspective is quite clouded and I have never felt this way. This is the greatest tragedy of my life, I have been lucky so far no major obstacles or loss, till now. I feel lost, unsure of my life's direction. I try to overcome the anger because I don't want to be that person, sometimes it's difficult, I prefer love. I have devoured this website, all of the information, explanation, heart-felt and wrenching stories has caused me to be overcome with emotion. I have taken many positives from this website and will undoubtedly continue to visit through the years. I realize it's probably years because I recognize now that my wife has had this all throughout our 20 year marriage. Neither of us knew it, which is a cruelty of life, if I had this knowledge how different it would be! Chris knew of the problems of her family but was terrified to face it, I remember seeing her face and anguish when she was diagnosed just 2 months ago. She cried, "I don't want to be one of the crazy people in my family". It broke my heart, I will remember that moment the rest of my life, I just wanted to hold her. I have always been there for Chris, sometimes I resented having to take care of so much but I didn't understand. It will also take me years to overcome my life during 2007-2008, it runs deep. I also know that because of the genetics involved quite possibly my offspring will have this challenge too. The past generations didn't have this resource for knowledge. So here I am, stuck in the middle of this nightmare, soaking up this information about ADHD and ADD and not sure of what the precise differences are between the two acronyms? I haven't found them spelled out on this site, is one specific to adults? It obvious that this takes a huge toll on people who are aware of the problem, with such numbers I am disappointed our joint marriage counselor didn't suggest my wife get tested until we were 9 months into therapy and our marriage failed the next month. It was not discussed in detail when it was diagnosed and I had a false sense of security not realizing the consequences. It saddens me to see all the other people getting divorced who say this has taken center stage in their marriage. How many people and couples are out there who are oblivious like we were? It seems many of the non-ADHD people are the ones leaving their afflicted spouses, are there any statistics available? I love Chris whether she has ADHD or not, always will. I would like to publicly declare that the Chris I know who I fell in love with is a wonderful person. My opinion of her is one from my heart, I know she does and says things that she regrets but cannot help. She knows the difference between right and wrong but her judgement is sometimes clouded. She loves her children without bounds and animals too. In her heart she is a kind, gentle and fun loving person that anyone would want to be around. The Chris I know is vibrant, creative, full of wit and laughter. She has added a special chapter to my life and I have many, many fond memories. The end of this close relationship and moving to one more business like is a challenge that I can handle. I see Chris before me and even though I don't recognize or appreciate the change and new persona I physically see, I choose to look deeper. I know her soul is good, the person she wants to be is pure, loving and truthful. She is just like a innocent girl like my daughters who wants everything and everyone to be equal, respected and safe. I love my Chrissy, the girl that told our pre-canna priest that she would kill for me. I would do anything for this person, the most important figure and influence in my life. Now I'm being asked to let her go, and I will do just that, with regret and with love. Michael

Why I Write

Michael - you hit at the heart of why we created this website, and why I devote so much time to writing on it.  There are too many people who can/could save their relationship if they know early on what you discovered so late.

I hope that Chris realizes that ADHD does not mean she is crazy.  It is manageable, to be sure.  She has a huge advantage over the rest of her family simply because she knows what she is dealing with...and she has someone who seems to love her without reservation and who believes in her.

Don't worry about your you learn more and more about ADHD you'll know what to look for and can learn how to help them develop excellent strategies for managing their lives and thinking about ADHD if they have it.  My rule of thumb is to make sure that you communicate to them what a treasure ADHD can be - that it has both plusses and minuses, so that they don't think somehow that they are "broken".

ADD and ADHD, by the way, aren't different.  It used to be that ADHD was the variety that included hyperactivity and ADD was generally the unfocuses, but not hyperactive type (more common in girls).  Now, however, the medical community just calls it ADHD, with an innattentive subtype.  I use ADD simply as a shorthand.

Thanks for all the nice words about the information on the site...I hope that you continue to come back to the site and also contribute.

Melissa Orlov

Another side: An ADD'r who left her marriage........and why

Michael, My name is Mary and I'm currently 45 years old diagnosed ADHD-combined type, Bi-Polar II (I believe is a misdiagnosis) and LD. I was diagnosed with ADHD-combined type at age 39 when my daughter was diagnosed at 7 years old. I also have an adult 25 year old son who was diagnosed ADD at age 8 years old. I read your story about your wife and marriage and can't help but cry for you and myself. You see, there are a lot of similarities with our stories except I didn't have a husband quite like yourself. I believe I may be able to offer a bit more insight and perhaps some words of wisdom and comfort by sharing my story with you. Please bare with me, it’s a little lengthy. Well, I too am a Gemini child. I was/am very inquisitive about everything and anything and very outgoing and personable by nature. In 1987 I was a single Mom with a five year old son. I met my husband when I was 27 years old and he was 37 years old. He is very intelligent and that’s what attracted me to him initially. He can hold an intelligent conversation! Anyway, He fell in love with me very fast. Reflecting back I have to honestly say I was not "In love" and never had been. I didn't know what real "Love" was. Ya see, I had never been shown what Love was growing up. Just like your wife’s horrible childhood, my story begins with a very difficult and painful childhood growing up also. My family gives definition to the word dysfunction. I was born into a middle class, PuertoRican/Italian strict catholic family and the 3rd child out of seven. I knew I was "different" from my brothers and sisters ever since I can remember. My parents worked very hard to raise a big family with my mother doing the majority of the parenting. My parents were very authoritative and we children were not permitted to question them on anything especially their parenting skills. However, being the innocent child I was, I did ask questions when things didn't make sense. I couldn’t help it. The favoritism shown by both my mother and my father towards my other siblings was very obvious growing up. I was not a favored child to either of them. I impulsively "reacted" and consistently voiced to my parents, that their methods were harsh, cruel and unfair in administering discipline and punishment. Boys will be boys and were held to a different standard than girls. However, as much as I tried, I wasn't like my sisters! My mother blamed me for everything that went wrong within the family. When I did something wrong, which seemed liked all the time, my parents beat me, slapped me, hit me with any object they could grab in the moment. My mother criticized me a lot as a child. The fighting and arguing only got worse into my teen years. I left my parents home at age 17. I don't remember very many happy memories as a child. I spent a lot of time in the woods by myself trying to figure out WHY my parents didn't love me. I thought a parent was suppose to love their child unconditionally. Why was I different? In your post you say….."from her own statements and through therapy that Chris does not love herself. She hates the person she is, self loathing and does not consider herself worthy of receiving love therefore she pushes those people away." That’s exactly what the core issue is and I can relate. Michael, I had NO IDENTITY and NO SELF-ESTEEM when I became an adult. I was not nurtured and given guidance as parents are suppose to do while rearing their children. I suspect the same happened to your wife. I remember many times trying to please my mother, to no avail. Even as an adult my mother treats me differently. I’ve spent most of my life trying to prove I’m “Worthy.” As loving, nurturing mothers we are to our own children, we do not understand nor comprehend WHY our own parents abused us so horribly for behavior we had NO control over. Personally speaking, all those negative words and visions of childhood abuse are deeply engrained in me that I can’t seem to move past no matter how much medication I take or how many years in counseling I’ve been in, but I’ll keep trying. A child loves his/her parents no matter what. If the parent keeps saying You’re a no good *%#*&$, then the child believes it must be true. I believed it because that’s what my mother said to me over and over, even though realistically speaking, it’s NOT true and was never true! Reflecting upon my own upbringing while reading your posts leads me to believe that Chris also grew up with NO identity nor self-esteem. Based on research and Sari Solden’s book, Some of we ADD'rs (the undiagnosed until mid-life) and we're not alone, who grew up with abusive parents, seek our identities through others or our mate as adults. Problem is that never works. I married my ex-husband hoping he could help me with forming my identity. No, I found out the hard way it doesn’t happen like that. Our identity and self-esteem have to begin within ourselves first. Begins with acceptance of ourselves just the way we are. That’s easier said than done. For me, conventional medicine (anti-depressants) and counseling hadn’t been working to destroy the negative tapes so I chose to try another way. I’m currently on a “Spiritual” path to help my inner child heal and it seems to be working!! Michael, God Bless You’ve been a wonderful husband and father!!! You’ve done all that you could for Chris, your marriage and your children. I’m so sorry for your pain. Melissa is right, you have to focus on yourself for yourself and for your children. Chris needs to heal her inner child and that’s going to take time. It’s one thing to accept the diagnosis, the diagnosis gives an explanation. However, it’s another thing to heal the hurt inner-child. That’s a very important and crucial step. I wish I had a husband like yourself. I left our marriage because I was deeply depressed and intuitively knew something was wrong. I needed answers. Why do I have a hard time keeping a job? I’m intelligent. Why can’t I keep up with the housework? Why couldn’t I be on time? Why do I lack motivation? What do I want to be when I grow up? Why can’t I sit still? Why is my husband and family not enough to make me happy? I had to find out what was wrong. Unfortunately, my ex-husband did not emotionally support me in finding out what was wrong. I was going to either sink or swim because I felt my sanity was on the line!! To make matters worse, my ex-husband did nothing to help our children cope with their ADD/ADHD symptoms. He always yelled at them and I always defended them. NOT using their ADHD as an excuse but as an explanation. He had No empathy, no understanding. I tried to get him to understand that if he learned about ADHD, he could guide his children and at the same time keep his own frustration and stress level down. I gave him books, articles, the web sites to check out. I tried to get him to go to ADHD seminars at Children’s Hospital with me. He refused to educate himself. Said he didn’t need any more information, he knew all there was to know about ADHD because he lived with 3 of us. Needless to say, my husband did not honor the part that says…..In sickness and Health. I have lost a lot in my life and felt that I failed. I almost took my own life years ago. I no longer look at my ADHD symptoms as character flaws. I have a complete understanding of my disorder(gosh I hate that word) and I continue to struggle daily with my symptoms. I know it’s going to be life-long and I’m coping much better. Honestly, acceptance has been one of my greatest challenges. Acceptance that I was born with this and acceptance by the public that this is a REAL disorder! I’ve been slow in healing, but I am moving forward one step at a time. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up or shall I say I can’t make up my mind! I’ve discovered I’m good at a lot of things… I see myself as worthy, loving and capable of being loved. I’m a wonderful funny, down-to-earth, intelligent woman with much to offer the world. YES, I DO like/love myself. I have many interests, strengths and have been blessed with inherent gifts in spite of my limitations. For the first time in my life, I no longer feel totally alone or misunderstood. I hope my post was helpful to you Michael. I wanted to give you a different perspective from another side. From an ADDer who left her marriage and can relate to your wife on a lot of levels.

Thank you

Thank you for taking the time to write this!

Melissa Orlov

Mary the other side

Thank you Mary for responding, Your story is similar I appreciate your perspective from another side. I'm curious if you ever regretted your decision to leave? Did you feel you needed to leave to accomplish or as you put it "what do I want to be when I grow up", that you needed space alone? The hardest thing for me right now is not knowing why? To this question there is no good answer only clues. Chris, came down with pneumonia last week and almost died, she has been hospitalized a week. Her family didn't call me to let me know or allow me to comfort my children, her orders I'm sure. I don't understand, I have been there for her always but the last thing she wanted is for me to be there now. Unfair, if she had died, is this the way to leave? She is recovering thank goodness, it hurts to be an outsider now, I still love her and to lose her permanently, wow. I can't find the words to describe my emotions. I can only think how we have been the biggest part of each others lives for 20 year, half her life, and how unimportant this legal proceeding is too what really matters in this life. Mary, I can honestly say, I am not perfect, but I am not abusive or intolerant of my wife or her condition. I have shown her respect, compassion and the most important thing in my opinion, love. But that same love is what she may be running away from. She doesn't want the crutch of our relationship, she wants to know what she is going to be when she grows up too. Why is it so difficult to accept love, I show love and lose the girl. I want love in return and from Chris I am left wanting. Chris is an enigma, the opposite perception and way of looking at life, what you see is not what you get. Chris refused to take her medication, Prednisone was prescribed and since it adds several pounds I believe she refused because of her self image of being fat. She has never been fat, but being anorexic that's how she sees herself. I have concerns about the welfare of my children with her, she is changing radically over the last 2 years. Do you know if this is common or can you relate a personal experience? Friends of mine have commented that this experience may cause her to reconsider or think about life and what she truly wants. Healing is slow and her pain goes deep, my pain is another hindrance to reconciliation which is probably a fantasy as Melissa stated. We would both need to want it very badly and I have been the only one to demonstrate this type of devotion to our marriage. I am losing hope and don't believe there is a happy ending for us, I don't think she is capable. She wants to hold on to the negatives rather than focus on the positives, is this ADHD related? I'm off to visit my children. My perspective is slowly improving do you think I should read Sari Soldens book? Michael