Double ADHD and Ready to Leave?

I have been married for nearly 13 years.  Things were fine the first year, though my husband would say things like "if I decide we are going to move, we are going to move," and things that showed he felt he was in charge.  He has always been the breadwinner (and a good one), but is extremely tight and controlling with money.  He would frequently tell me what to do or reprimand me for being forgetful.  He often "parented" me-- I remember one time I had set my keys on the bench at church and he hid them in order to teach me a lesson.  He stood there talking to someone while I looked frantically for 15 minutes (I knew I had put them on the bench) all around the bench.  Then he finally pulled them out of his pocket and told me never to let that happen again.

Things became difficult after we had our first child and were living abroad.  I tried really hard to be a good mom, so I'd spend a couple of hours each day with our son and try to work in my chores around this time.  But I frequently came down with many bugs as well as generally being run down from nursing.  He would come home and confront me each day about all the little things he thought were wrong-- a lid off a jar, a cupboard open.  They were little nit-picky things and we would fight because I was so frustrated that he didn't see how hard I was working (I literally had no personal time in this period) at putting the most important things first.

I developed some pretty deep resentment for the way he never accepted responsibility for his actions (always turned it on me) and the ways he raged at me and disrespected me and parented me.  I tried to tell him the ways he hurt me but it never sunk in and it was always "my" fault.  Even though I have recently been diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD, as you will see, I have always been an even-keeled, patient person (though defensive, for sure).  But for years I pretty much hated him and wished I had never married him, it's just that at this point we had several children and I wanted to do what was right for them.  During our marriage I had done all of the childcare (I am the only person who does homework, reads to the kids, or puts them to bed, for years now), housework, cooking (he will cook on rare occasions), and those types of things.  He works very hard, but on his own projects and at his job.  If I ask for help he acts really resentful and I have learned it isn't worth it.

It got to the point after 9 years that I sought out a therapist.  On my initial visit I was told he probably had narcissistic personality disorder and that he is verbally and emotionally abusive. 

As it stands now, we have five children.  He has become emotionally abusive toward my oldest son now, too, bullying him and belittling him at every turn.  This is what is pushing me over the brink.  It is causing me major panic attacks and if I try to stand up to him he blows up.  He has constant anger under the surface and our home is a very awful place to be.  After searching more in depth about NPD and OCPD I was convinced my husband has one or both.

I finally saw a new counsellor who is an expert on ADHD (I saw him about the marriage, this was a lucky coincidence).  This led to me going down the path to research my own suspicions that I may have had ADHD my whole life.  He diagnosed me with the "inattentive" type, though I realize now I have built some great coping mechanisms over the years and have accomplished a lot.  There is a strong possibility my son has it too.  So I have sought help for both of us (Neurofeedback), but there has been major push-back from my husband.  He threatened not to come home the day he found out I had seen a therapist.  Even though he is constantly critical of me and my son, he sees no need to work on our relationship.  I am the one who is totally dying.

 Reading Melissa's book was very interesting, and I have been wondering something.  My husband has suggested in passing in the past that he felt he could have ADHD.  If he does (and now I see a strong link in the pattern between myself and Melissa's relationship, even though I feel I definitely pull my share of the load and don't have anger issues), could I be confusing the symptoms of ADHD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder or OCPD?

I can't do it anymore.  I've strongly considered leaving.  Help?

I'm really sorry you are going through this

Hello.  I am very sorry you are dealing with this.  ADHD and OCPD or NPD is a terrible match.  Your brain is not wired to meet the conditions for his brain.  I just read the symptoms for OCPD and NPD as I am not familiar with them and they certainly seem closer to what you've described for your husband versus ADHD.  ADHD people can be perfectionists but I think that's largely due to anxiety from being criticized a lot.  I doubt your husband is ADHD as he seems to have his executive functions in control, but it's hard to tell with limited information. 

This is an abusive relationship that is toxic for you and your kids.  I took a Psychology of Abuse class in 1991 and your husband's behavior is the textbook description for an abuser.  Unfortunately it will not change.  The probability of change if he is not willing to go to a counselor is zero.  It's really low even if he does go to a counselor, but better than zero.  Change can happen, but it is hard and right now it sounds like he's content with you and your kids being miserable.  That is not ok.

I really hate to say this, but it might be best for you to separate just to get the distance you need to really think clearly about the relationship.  And to give him time to go to therapy and learn to be a better husband and father.  And to protect your kids.  Discuss it with your counselor.  Threatening not to come home doesn't seem like much of a threat though in the moment I'm sure it was devastating.  And highly manipulative. 

Also I want to congratulate you on what you have accomplished with untreated ADHD.  It sounds to me like you have done just about as well as can be expected.  And probably better.  It is great that you've sought treatment and read the materials.  It takes tremendous strength.  There are probably things you can work on, but that does not make your husband's behavior ok.  No matter how often he tells you so. 

Please do what is best for you and your children. 

Shelley, Thank you so much


Thank you so much for your kind response.  I think as I've finally started to deal with this, including finally letting some family/friends in on my troubles (I don't know why I didn't do it sooner?  But now that I'm gaining a better understanding of ADD I can see that I have had some buried shame, not over anything big, but just an overall sense of internalizing all of the reprimands over the years with things like forgetfulness, which my husband's abusive behavior hasn't helped).  Because he has been in denial all these years I think I pushed down what I was feeling and even questioned myself that I was crazy.  Especially since there was never a witness to the way he treated me, since he is very charming in public (that said, my family has seen the tip of the iceberg and has often told me they don't like the way he treats me or my son).  It is interesting that since I asked him to get help a little over a month ago, he has gotten way worse in some regards, including clamping down on all the money and displaying really passive aggressive behaviors (after we visited my family one day, he wouldn't speak to me for over an hour, even if I asked him a question, and I hadn't even done anything!  So weird.).  Now that I have finally allowed myself to really see his behavior and how it has affected me and my little family, it has all come crashing down and I have been feeling an immense sense of the trauma, pain, sadness, and anger that I have been suppressing all this time.  I've been trying really hard to control a very high level of anxiety as I have contemplated leaving him, even just for a short time.  I have gone through the steps of copying down some financial information in case things get bad.  The good news is that because he has been so tight with money, if I take half in a divorce I could live off what I get for a few of years, and then I could still be there for my kids until my youngest is in school.  I do worry a bit about managing it all by myself, but reading Melissa's and Ned's books has shown me that I need to get help in areas that are weak for me.  And I have been pretty much single parenting them anyway, so that wouldn't really change.  My only big fear is that they would be alone with him and I couldn't protect them, but I have realized that I am failing miserably at protecting them now.

In some ways, the ADD diagnosis is such a relief.  It is so nice to know it isn't my fault, and there is help available.  Especially since my kids (I have strong suspicions that several of them have it too, now that I am more aware of the symptoms) are just getting to an age when it is becoming a problem for some of them.  If I can help them avoid some of the very hard things I went through, including the trauma of relationships like I'm in (I agree, now that I understand it better, ADD does not help equip me with what I need to deal with this situation).  And they are going to have to deal with their dad forever, whether we stay together or not, so maybe it will give them some better tools in interfacing with him as well.

Thanks again, what you wrote is just what I needed to hear.  You sound like a wonderful person.

llc's picture

oh, honey!

I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I am reading a wonderful book about the particular struggles women with ADHD have. One of the things they mention is t ADHD women often pick very controlling/abusive spouses to help them cope and take charge of their lives. And even more unfortunately, many women stay in abusive relationships because they fear being on their own or do not think they can run their lives by them self.


Please get out of this marriage. You deserve better! And your children deserve to see an example of strength from you by showing them behavior that your husband shows is not OK. They don't need to see abuse and pattern themselves after it. 


It will be scary but if thou have good support systems in place I think you can do it! You seem very sweet and I hope you get peace and every good thing life has to offer! Xo