Don't let it get too late...

Hi all, 

I wrote an entry a couple of months ago about how excited I was about finally realizing the work I needed to do.  For background I was diagnosed with ADHD 7 years ago, after making it through the first 37 years of my life (and college, medical school, residency, 3 years of marriage, and the birth of our son), without the diagnosis.  Meds "turned the lights on" and made me feel different and objectively helped me a lot.  The problem is that I never addressed the behavioral, organizational, and executive functioning issues of ADHD until about 3 or 4 months ago, when my wife told me that after years of dealing with me and my ADHD symptoms, she had no feelings for me anymore.  

In the past three months I have returned to my psychiatrist and optimized my meds, I have started a rigorous exercise regimen, and most importantly, I have enlisted the help of an ADHD coach, who has helped me create systems to organize my life and helped me find strategies to manage my ADHD better.  The coaching has been great.  Tasks I used to dread, like sorting the mail and executing a list of errands, have become infinitely easier.  I do them faster and with less mental effort than ever before.  My change in meds, not to mention my new level of fitness that has come with diet and exercise, has also helped my ADHD immensely.  From a personal perspective, I am, dare I say, incredibly proud of myself for having done all of these things.  Now I'm working on the consistency part, making sure I sustain these changes permanently.  For the first time in my life, I finally have fully treated ADHD, and it feels great to be able to say that.  It's sad because it makes me think about what I could have accomplished if I had been optimally treated earlier, but I'm still happy with the real and profound changes I've made.  

Sadly, though, with respect to my marriage, these changes may have come too late.  My wife in the last few months has mentioned to me how she kept waiting for certain things to change and they never did, and over time these things wore at her emotionally.  I didn't waste large sums of money or engage in self-destructive behavior; I have been a good parent and a successful professional in a difficult job.  But the "consistent inconsistency" - the unreliability of completing mundane tasks like taking letters to the post office, sorting through mail, cleaning or cooking consistently, etc. - took its toll on her.  She felt unsafe, like she was in the midst of a "parent-child" dynamic that people on this blog know all too well.  Finally it came to a head 4 months ago when she told me she didn't have feelings for me anymore...

So now it's terrible.  I still love her, of course, and want to stay together.  She for her part wants to leave and considers us functionally separated.  She wants space; she wants to live apart for 6 months to a year.  She tells me there's a 90% chance things won't work out, and sadly I believe her.  Her rant is that she put up with all this stuff for years and it has got her to the point that she has nothing left.  My counter to that is that all of those things that drove her nuts was my under-treated ADHD, and now, even by her own assessment, I have resolved most if not all of the issues, like the organizational and functional stuff.  So therefore she should see that and feel better about me.  Well, to her, none of what I'm doing has any effect on how she feels about me - the emotional damage, the breakdown of trust, etc., is just too great in her mind.  

I guess I write this as, well, as catharsis for myself, but also as a warning to those guys out there (and it does seem to be mostly guys) with ADHD who think it's not a problem.  It's a problem - a big one.  In looking at and reading about others on this forum with ADHD, I realize my symptoms are relatively mild, but try telling that to my wife.  Now I can argue that two years ago, when we really started having problems, that she should have spoken up for what was bothering her (she's a psychologist, after all), and we should have entered counseling then instead of two months ago.  But the fact of the matter is that my ADHD until very recently was under-treated.  Now the damage that has been done to my life and marriage may be irreparable.  Yeah, I know we are just at the very beginning part of counseling, but it seems that my wife is so drained and so resolute about leaving that it'll be miraculous if she has a change of heart.  

These changes I've made in myself recently are real and genuine, and I'm happy about them, but ultimately, I'm sad - no, I'm devastated and heartbroken - that they have likely come too late.  Please don't let this happen to you!  If you have ADHD and are in a marriage that is struggling, it's a near sure bet that your ADHD, diagnosed or otherwise, is a huge problem.  Get information.  Get diagnosed.  Get treated, and fully - with meds and behavioral/organizational changes.  Don't wait as long as I did to fully take control of yourself - I might have been able to save things if I had found out sooner.  My hope may be all but gone, but I want to keep it alive for others.  Get the help you


Thank you for your honesty

Thank you for your honesty and courage in sharing this painful story. 

I am a spouse of a person with ADD.  It would be hard for me to close the book on the past, even if my husband were to get effective treatment for his behaviors (which he isn't currently doing, unlike you).  I feel as though I've been taken advantage of and hurt and left in unsafe circumstances repeatedly by my husband and I've vowed to not have that happen anymore.  So, if I were to say, OK, let's start over, on one level, I would feel noble and self-sacrificing and devoted but at the same time, I would feel as though I were intentionally exposing myself to danger and I would feel weak and stupid and foolish, like "Didn't I learn my lesson during the first 28 years of marriage?"

I feel sometimes like I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), because even when not in a dangerous situation (e.g., even when I'm not scrambling to find health insurance or hoping that my husband's financial shenanigans won't be found out or trying to keep my daughter from being expelled from school), I still sometimes am overly anxious and feel like something horrible is right around the corner. Maybe your wife feels like this, too.  I want to be  a good person, but I don't want to suffer like this for my husband.      



Thank you so much for your comments.  They are so insightful, and frankly, quite revealing to me.  I'm sure that this is exactly what my wife is going through.  Exactly.  She has just never worded it as eloquently as you just have.  Throughout this painful and frustrating process, I have tried very hard, with limited success, to really empathize with her instead of taking all of her criticisms and emotional hopelessness personally.  But yeah, it must have been awful to feel consistently unsafe (a word she used constantly), and to feel like "starting over" emotionally would be not a leap of faith but a leap off of a cliff...

i guess that's where it's so painful to think about this.  Being disappointed, hurt, and taken advantage of has been just a way of life for her for years, and she has never had a reason to believe it'd get better.  It's so telling the way you mention feeling like you'd be "weak and stupid and foolish" for placing largely unjustified faith in someone.   I have thought about what you're saying there, but I've never really heard- or felt- what it must have been like for her.  She told me not long ago she has been living for years "waiting for when my next mistake was going to be.".  Now at the time I just thought she was being a nasty, unappreciative you-know-what, but when hearing it from your point of view, it takes on a whole new meaning.   

It has only been three months since I have made these changes in earnest.  As most ADHDers can relate to, I have spent my whole life on a quest for relentless self-improvement - the whole cycle of great effort and intentions but little results to show for it.  But these changes feel permanent and sustainable; I don't feel like I have to be Superman every day in order to accomplish these basic things, which is what it felt like before.  You can only be Superman for so long before you get tapped out and revert to old-ADHD guy.   So at least if my wife does choose to "start over" and take a leap of faith, her faith will at least be founded on some substance.  I'm getting the right treatment, finally.  But how long would I have to sustain these changes before she could decide to place her faith in me again?  Those old pains and disappointments run so deep for her.  But sadly, when I hear you describe how you (and undoubtedly, my wife) have felt for years, I fear that it is just too late...   

Say to your wife what you

Say to your wife what you have said here.  The other day, I had a conversation with my husband and I think that he finally got some of the things that I've been trying to communicate to him for months.  It made such a difference in my outlook to know that he was actually being able to understand my point of view without the layer of guilt that usually leads him to figuratively cover his ears and curl up like a terrified bunny.  Perhaps you could set a period during which  your wife won't make any permanent decisions about the marriage.  At the end of the period, both of you can reevaluate the situation.

There are differences between my situation and  yours.  I think, if I'm remembering correctly, that you said that you're gainfully employed.  My husband brings in very little income.  He has twice been unemployed, to a tune of eight or nine years out of our marriage.  This has been huge for me.  Every person's definition of "feeling safe" is different.  For me, not having this financial back-up is terrifying. Also, my husband has not made perceptible behavioral changes.  He takes meds and that's about it.  I feel as though he has given up.  It seems to me that you have not given up.  I will never give up on myself or on my children but I've realized that I don't want to spend the rest of my life with a person who does, regularly, give up.

I don't know if I have hope for my husband but I have great hope for you.  Good luck.


Your advice is valuable and I

Your advice is valuable and I will be sharing it with my ADHD husband. As the nonADHD spouse, I think I can offer you some advice. You mentioned that you are working on your organizational skills, and I applaud you; however I can tell you I never considered divorcing my husband because he failed to mail a bill. However, when he lied to cover up the fact that not only did he not mail it, but lost it as well, I questioned my choice in husbands. My husband is a complete slob and lives in chaos. That infuriates me, but that's not why I've thought about leaving him.

when was the last time you romanced your wife? Have you surprised her, gotten her a little something that reflects the fact that you "get" her? Are you guilty of not looking her in the eye when she wants to talk? When was the last time you took care of her needs ( other than when she was sick,etc.) Has she gotten a love letter recently? Consistently? I would bet your wife feels lonely. I bet she can't remember the last time you made her feel like a woman. She can hire a maid to do dishes and sort mail. She needs a friend and a lover who understands she has needs too.

Take a look at the things you are doing. They are awesome, but they are also all about you. The next thing you need to do is convince her that the rest of her life won't be exclusively about cleaning up your messes. She needs to know she matters. The parent-child dynamic kills romance. Playing mommy doesn't make a woman feel sexy and desirable. Treat her like the world revolves around her once in a while; trust me, she wants to have a man( hopefully, you) focus on her for once. Remember not being able to take your eyes off her? She needs that again. Go out of your way for her. Put her needs first sometimes.

it may take a while to rebuild her trust. She wants to know you are not going to stop once you"got her". 

if it were so

Wow.  Your comments are right on.  The problem is that your comments make the presumption that she still loves me and actually wants me to do those things for her.  I just wish that my wife was in a state of mind right now where she was actually receptive to my romantic gestures.  She really, really means it when she says she doesn't love me anymore and thinks there's a 90% chance we'll divorce.  She wants us to live apart for some time and live our lives like we were single people again.  I hate the idea, but her craving for space is so great that unfortunately romantic gestures at this point will make her feel cramped and suffocated.  Trust me; I have tried recently, and that's the response I got.  It's not even a resentment for doing it so late, like "Oh, now you're being romantic that things are on the ropes".  She really has no feelings for me anymore (at least right now) and truly doesn't want those gestures from me right now.  

I am actually a very romantic guy, one who has prided myself on continuing to send notes and flowers throughout our marriage.  That being said, I definitely didn't romance her the way I could have.  I can point to my 80 hour work weeks or the auditory processing issues of our young son as things that took away from my energy and desire for romance, but the fact is that I probably didn't do enough in that regard.  When she complained about me never being around, I took it as her lack of appreciation for my hard work instead of a call from her for romantic companionship.  She gets anxious and almost cold when she is stressed out, which didn't make me feel like reaching out to her with romantic intentions, but that didn't change the fact that she was indeed quite lonely.  Flowers were no substitute for that.  And when you talk about making her feel like a woman and taken care of, well, my ADHD got in the way of that.  For example, I'd make plans and ask her out on the date, but because of my track record of inconsistent reliability, she'd pick up the phone as soon as I was done asking and make the arrangements for the babysitter, etc.  Now I never actually dropped the ball when it came to arranging romantic evenings, but I had dropped it in so many other areas of our life that she probably felt like if she didn't call the babysitter, no one would.  

So yeah, if she should ever open her heart to me again, I'll make her feel like the queen of the earth, just like I did in the first few years of our marriage before job complexities and parenthood intervened.  Now that I've got my ADHD stuff under better control, this time she'll trust me to make arrangements for the babysitter.  This time I'll run my life and ours well enough that she will feel safe and able to relax, conditions much more conducive to romance.  This time, my optimally managed ADHD will make the complexities of life less overwhelming and more manageable.  That's more mental and emotional energy left over for love and romance.  

Let's just hope I get another chance to make it right.  It doesn't look good, but we're early in therapy, both of us are motivated, smart, and willing participants, and that's the best I can ask for right now.  Thanks for the input.  

My heart breaks for you. I

My heart breaks for you. I wish my husband were where you are right now. I'm afraid of getting to the point your wife is at. You know, life is hard, even without ADHD. It's easy when you are dating. We have three boys. All within 15 months of each other (a set of twins). It's hard to feel romantic when your up to your eyeballs in baby diapers, puke, and running on 4 hours of sleep. Throw in ADHD and its a wonder we didn't kill each other! Good luck.