Executive Function and ADHD

There has been a lot of talk recently about executive function issues and ADHD. What are "executive functions" and how are they related to ADHD?

Executive functions help you exhibit control over your actions so that you can get to a specific goal you wish to achieve. That can be something lofty and long-term, such as "graduate from college" or something small and immediate like "make my lunch." There are five areas of executive functioning that are impacted when you have ADHD. Some find extreme weakness in one area, such as planning, and less in another, such as verbal working memory.


Non-verbal working memory is the name given to the way our mind uses visual maps or images to help us be oriented and remember things so we may reach our goals. Visualizing something helps us break it down it into steps so we can imagine the future (as a series of steps) and so we can learn from our past.  Non-verbal working memory also allows us to see ourselves across time. Some with ADHD have trouble creating these images and hanging onto them, making following a sequence difficult or seeing themselves in time difficult.

Verbal working memory. This is the "little voice in your head" that gives you direction - convincing you that it's okay to put something off, telling you to turn right or reminding you that you'll get in trouble if you don't do your homework. We often use this voice to problem solve - "if I do X, will Y happen?" for example. It also plays a role in reading comprehension. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help some with ADHD specifically because it helps people learn to actively use their verbal working memory to better reach their goals.

Response inhibition. Your ability to "put on the brakes" is an important part of self-mastery that allows us to think before we act. Those who find impulsivity is one of their primary ADHD symptoms suffer in this area. In addition, response inhibition allows us to delay gratification and resist distraction. Many find that medication can help calm the mind enough to provide better response inhibition.

Emotional and motivational control. Spurts of anger, difficulty keeping oneself from over-reacting and keeping oneself headed towards a long-term goal are all part of executive functioning. When you think of "motivational control" think of "reward" that inspires you to keep going until you get what you want. People with ADHD have a brain chemistry (low dopamine, serotonin and endorphins) that typically does not clearly indicate "reward" in the attention centers of the brain. This leads to having trouble "keeping your eye on the prize" or completing tasks that only reward after a long time (doing well in college so you can get a better job).

Planning and problem solving. Many projects include multiple steps, and sorting out what those steps are and what order they should be in is particularly difficult for many with ADHD. While many people with ADHD consider themselves creative problem solvers because they think outside the box, this is different from organizing a project or problem. Sometimes one of the issue with planning is the weak non-verbal working memory, which makes it hard to "see" or imagine how a complex series of steps will line up.

Lingering executive functioning issues.  Unfortunately, some patients with ADHD find that they still have difficult with executive functioning even after they've gotten some relief from ADHD symptoms with medication and habit changes.  Since executive functioning issues often impact planning and parsing things out, this can create increased tension in a relationship.  There are a few places, such as the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, that are now offering executive functioning training - a specific type of therapy and learning that gets at EF issues.  It's not widespread yet, unfortunately, but the good news is that it exists and will, hopefully, grow.  Right now, at least knowing which executive function issues plague you the most can help therapists focus on helping you devise a treatment plan suited to your specific needs.


fehrri's picture

Executive Function

Your post about Executive Function is really interesting.  However, for someone with ADD and Executive Function issues it is hard to comprehend written as it is.  We often tend to forget this issue when dealing with areas that require reading comprehension. My husband couldn't make heads or tails of this - which I am assuming is a reading issue.  Is there a way to simplify it?

executive function

non-verbal functioning, verbal working memory, response inhibition, emotional and motivational control, planning and problem solving, and lingering executive functioning aka malfunctioning systems are issues that are all prevalent in living with ADD/ADHD. Thank you for describing and confirming what happens for ADDers.

My situation is complicated with other conditions where symptoms if not harnessed through techniques or skills to re-focus, re-wire- and re-train responses become an intense state of fight or flight. As far as the relationship aspect of having the disorder, or living/loving someone with the disorder, what seems to not be understood by those who do not suffer from the condition is the absolute concrete issues that exist as you have described.

When I have been in relationships with those who not only do not understand the disorder, but literally claim it to be non existent and or a mere excuse, simply makes my symptoms worse. Empathy is not something I expect nor even seek anymore from people in my life. Having to consistently explain, justify, or be pulled in directions to meet "others" unrealistic views of what can and cannot be achieved by me or my child with ADHD. I become hyper vigilant, ultra sensitive, and thus non responsive.

The conclusion for me is simple: relationships cause me too much stress, hinder my overall well being, and instead devalues my progress as an individual living, growing and learning how to accept my functioning and or lack of functioning at any given time. No longer will I try harder for anyone other than for myself, my children and in ways that enhance, encourage and build up the structures of "being". Addressing issues, complications, and health related problems surrounding the neurotransmitters, biochemical changes with or without medications, and the reality that our brains are wired differently is just something I am tired of having to do. Communicating has become a negative aspect regarding relationships, marriage is completely off the table, and I am happy with that.

Accepting who I am who my children are and focusing on the positive is where I am keeping my thoughts, otherwise all that has been obtained, through all forms of therapies, medications, and or re-established manners of living would be destroyed. That is not what I want or need, nor is it something that is beneficial for my near adult children. Accept who you are, learn what works and get rid of what does not. Either way, with or without medications, the body can heal itself, the brain can be re-wired, and within that remains belief and hope for an authentic lifestyle free from those who just do not "get it."

Simplified version: either people/husbands/wives/families/friends, embrace the disorder with an educated view of what it is, what it does, and how it affects the sufferer, without trying to fix it while learning how to work with it, or-not. Why have to constantly justify, or wrestle with emotions of not being good enough, or able to do certain things and instead focus on the positive and the wonderful abilities that often come with the condition? This is to me what it means to have ADD/ADHD---overcoming the inability with a counteraction of being able despite all of the external nonsense and opinions surrounding limitations.

This all seems lovely, but

This all seems lovely, but seems to discount that for many the behaviors related to ADHD are destructive and hurtful to those who love them. Not all ADHDers are a disaster with money, but many are. Not all ADHDers are inattentive to the point that they spouse feels like they don't even exsist, but many are. Not all ADHDers are incapable of maintaining employment, but many are. Mis-reading body language, mis-interpreting entire sentences, and being hyper-sensitive (defensive) are very common problems with communication in a marriage with an ADHD spouse. No amount of 'acceptance' makes many of these things "OK" or "acceptable".  Are you saying that someone with ADHD never needs to change any of these things?

Acceptance from the spouse is vital...but therapies to learn 'different' ways of doing things for the ADHDer is vital as well.

But, the loveliness includes:

Agreeing with the vitality of utilization of various modalities in therapeutic settings, therapies, and most of all the "learning of Different" ways of doing things, however, when an ADD/ADHDer has, or is doing just that, and either a spouse, partner or others still expect that "change" or "capability vs incapability" to suddenly appear is simply not being recognizant of Acceptability of the ADD/ADHDer.

It can take many years for self mastery of obtaining and maintaining the skills needed to change behaviors, responses or symptoms. These things just do not disappear or go away, in some cases without an understanding, or well read partner on what ADD/ADHD is or what its symptoms are. etc, there is no amount of "communication" that would abate, nor eliminate a very real condition.

Many people with these conditions are very successful at life, in marriage, in high performing jobs, doing very exceptional things, thinking outside of the box, creative, and full of energy otherwise not available to non add sufferers. Each individual is different, although the commonality of DSM diagnoses are similar in ADD or ADHD, each individual is intricately different, and each persons capacity to re-learn, or re-establish or learn "skills" is an individualized and personal effort that continues throughout their lifetime.

As far as the misreading, misinterpretation, or even misperceptions of either the sufferer or the non sufferer, that indeed would indicate that a better communication, with all persons involved seems to be where counseling or education on the condition would be helpful. Therapy and medication, alone or combined, can assist in reaching the personal goal of managing symptoms, but without solid "support" or understanding from others involved, that too is not "OK' nor is it necessarily "acceptable".

There is no excuse for a condition when not dealt with, but when dealt with and the apex of treatment or able self mastery has been reached, then where does the problems or non-attainable common ground begin and end? In any relationship there is a degree of acceptance for who the other party is. ADD and ADHD have no cure, only treatments, therapies, and an individual's willingness to learn how to "be" without being reminded of who they "are not".

Aren't both views true?

Aren't both views true? Acceptance of oneself (for the person w adhd) with full acknowledgement of who you are (both positives and negatives). Non adhd partners need to be educated and more accepting of some of the limitations of adhd and try to work around them. At the same time also recognition of how difficult it Is on the nonadhd partners so that those w Adhd ALSO need to be sensitive to that and work to make their partners happy even if they dont always see/agree w what the issues are? BALANCE and mutual respect are the gold trophies... Not who is right versus who is wrong. I am SOOO tired of having to defend myself to my spouse (who has adhd) about how I feel is valid and I guess so is he...but we are trying despite having had some serious obstacles in behavior (his). Still,I feel we need to reach a place of real discussion to find that balance.... Maybe in counseling...

I get you motormom

This is why I am happy that I am with somebody with ADHD. Not only do we not fault each other the ADHD, we support each other in positive change and growth. We have become each other's coaches and collaborate on finding ways to improve things. And though we are both classed as severe, we have between us, an excellent job, a university education, a large house with recent renovations on a corner lot, one child in a gifted program, 1 in advanced placement, 2 late model cars, a vacation home and an excellent credit level. While I don't think that all ADHD sufferers are angels(few in fact) I believe the same can be said for people without ADHD.

In fact, I think that it is highly detrimental to possible successes of an individual with ADHD to be involved with somebody negative.

The thing WE ALL WANT IS

The thing WE ALL WANT IS VALIDATION. That in itself would go very far whether you are someone with ADHD or not. The challenges and perks of having Adhd, both of which I have seen in my husband would be so much easier to deal with and rejoice in (as the situation calls for) if I could be included in this relationship and acknowledged!! That is the most difficult aspect for me. I am INVISIBLE sometimes and my feelings do not seem to be heard or validated under what I now know is the often steady stream of "chatter" coming from different directions. I love my husband dearly as do our kids-- so being largely not connected with on a frequent basis is not acceptable. Fortunately, we are still trying to understand this dynamic and have not given up. Through this struggle, there is love and commitment- set amongst a newly establishing framework of boundary setting and discussion. And yeah, it is an excruciatingly slow process.

The key point that is being

The key point that is being missed is that many of the partners here (non's) are not living with an ADHDer who is accountable and involved in coaching and being conducive to support and getting help. Many deny that it has any bearing what-so-ever on the marriage/relationship and refuse to do anything. We can all disagree until the cows come home that the non-ADHDers anger and lack of support (due to years of undiagnosed ADHD...causing confusing, frustration, hurt, etc) makes for a bad environment for a person with ADHD, but it wouldn't resolve anything.

MANY people don't know what they're even dealing with until 10, 15, 30 years into the marriage. I have a whole new perspective and sense of compassion for my husband since he got the ADHD diagnosis...but he is one of the few that has been willing to GET HELP and to work with me, in counseling to iron out our communication issues. It is much easier to support someone who says "damn, this ADHD has really caused a lot of pain for all of us, I want to work on changing that" as opposed to someone who says "it's all your fault and I'm not changing a damn thing!"

You guys paint a pretty picture. Maybe it is because you've known all of your lives you had the ADHD, maybe not. Either way, it isn't exactly the 'norm' for many here who are dealing with ADHD.

It is much easier to support

It is much easier to support someone who says "damn, this ADHD has really caused a lot of pain for all of us, I want to work on changing that" as opposed to someone who says "it's all your fault and I'm not changing a damn thing!" I guess this is what I mean as one version of validation. Recognition that this disorder exists (good and bad)...
fuzzylogic72's picture

In total accord.

Well said Simora; your comments always capture the perspective of an adhder, and you do it so succinctly, without a hint of pessimism or resentment. It is very difficult to deal with these symptoms and characteristics, and it's a daily challenge to become, and remain motivated enough to keep trying, especially in an environment of defensive pseudo-acceptance. It's safe to say that all adhders are somewhere on a continuum of self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-esteem, and personal growth; no one could contest that. It would be horrible and exhausting to have to deal with, let alone maintain a relationship with someone on the far left (or bottom) of that continuum and I have huge respect for any individual, adhd or not who is dedicated to try live with and support such a person; especially the ones who don't accept or acknowledge their condition, and at least try to move up and forward. The ones who have been working diligently and consistently to work their way up that continuum  of positive growth and change have done so through blood sweat and tears (lots of tears); it is an immense effort which often goes largely unrecognized, or barely appreciated. So when people who have no idea of how difficult the journey of self improvement in the face of adhd is, talk to/about us as if we are all pretty much the same-- that is SO discouraging, belittling, and insulting. Am I hyper-sensetive when that happens? Absolutely; and I believe anyone who is pigeonholed in that manner has every right to be; if any non adhder experienced that, they would be a little "hyper-sensetive" too. So it's not always the adhder that is the cause of all calamity; anyone who judges, blames, or criticizes their partner based on mutually painful symptoms of a disability that the accuser can never truly understand, then it's clear that the adhders are not the only "hurtful", "uncaring", "difficult", "cruel" "inconsiderate" (ad infinitum) people undermining and weakening the foundation of their relationship.

It would be great if there was a forum where the nons can come to describe a situation that may have recently (or continuously) frustrated, hurt, confused, or infuriated them. The people in these situations, the ones who are truly committed and still have any love, respect, patience and faith left; the partners who are also willing to acknowledge their part in the fragile and unfortunate state of their relationship could have a place where everyone (adhd and nonadhd alike) is supportive, positive and encouraging. I think that kind of forum would be great for helping the non adhd person really get closer to a real  understanding of the inner workings/thought processes/motivations of the adhd brain when in conflict situations. Anytime the non person was hurt, frustrated or confused about a specific event, they can come to the forum and describe what happened (from THEIR perspective). The adhders who have spent years trying to develop empathy, and also looking within themselves with honesty (which I think most adhders on this site are; as the avoidant/unaware ones would see the whole thing as a threat, and see nothing in it but ganging-up so wouldn't be on here long, if at all) ..where was I before the brackets... oh yeah; so the person looking for clarity and trying to understand their partners behaviour, or the dynamic of the relationship could come here, and the super-star adhders (such as myself) could give them the most likely "translation" of what the adhder was probably thinking; what was driving their reactions/words/behaviours. Almost like a translator. The mixed couple (adhd/non) truly do speak different languages, and each person is having to constantly translate the words and behaviours of their partner, which sets the stage for miscommunication, inaccurate assumptions and potential conflict.

I really think it could be helpful if we could try to help you out with that; some of us really do care about others, and would be happy to try and help. The translation could go both ways too; we can tell you what was said/done, how we perceived (translated) it, and what the motivation/intention behind our behaviour was at the time.

I dunno; just an idea to kick around. Oh yeah, I was kidding about being a super-star; but I do think I have learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout my little quest, and any good that I could do with the lessons learned from all the good/bad/ugly experiences on the way would be my pleasure.

Yours in the Process,


Go-Go MotorMom!!

Absolutely superb input, and well written.  I can relate, a lot, because I'm at the point where you may have been before you made the decision to just be you - for you (and your kids).  

I recently tried to get my wife interested in reading the book by Melissa and Ned on ADHD and marriage (good read, BTW).  No luck.  Reading a bit before sleeping - too late.

I've come to the conclusion that, as I recently said to my wife, "the tire is flat (our marriage), and I'm done trying to pump it up, getting you to have some compassion and empathy to understand my disorder.  At this point I no longer call you a friend, never mind a wife, because you have broken your vows of marriage and have emotionally abandoned me".  No yelling, just calm and clear words.

Now, I plan on being a room mate with her until I can afford to move out and go my own way.  She's not the kind of person I can count on, other than to help pay the bills.  Too bad, because to the rest of the world she's like a Joan of Arc , because of her high energy and outgoing personality (but I know different, and will keep it that way).  The other too bad is for me, because the illusion of having a marriage was comforting, now I'm just lonely, because we don't talk, touch, or communicate except for paying the bills.  She just retreats, and doesn't even try to read the book or understand.

Finally, if you ever start a blog, or forum, please remember to alert me.  I could handle reading more of your thoughts.  Oh, there are something like 9 million of us out in the US alone, so I'm not taking down my antennas completely, but instead will "interview" prospective companions for their qualifications.... sorry, not ADHD enough, next...  Not for awhile though - need to do some work on me.


fehrri's picture


I am the non ADD spouse who wants desperately to be able to communicate with my spouse. However, now, with the ADD symptoms better controlled, the executive function issues have become HUGE and so communication is falling apart. My spouse can't seem to break things down into steps.  He gets to the first one and that is it - anything beyond that never computes. It is as though compound or conditional sentences can not be used. It all seems to be getting worse and I am just short of frantic. My original post was to comment that for my spouse, the description of executive function issues seems too involved for him.  Melissa's book about ADD and marriage talks about 'learning conversations' which can be helpful but they can't be used every time you talk. This issue is not just about accepting someone as they are, it is about functioning on a daily basis. I am at a loss - want to help but it seems the only way to help is to not talk.

I get what you mean, but

I get what you mean, but ultmately it doesnt help to shut down communication long term. Better is to do communicates in short spurts, w different communication methods: texts, emails, post-its, notes, whiteboard... Anything that lets your partner have the chance to read (at his leisure) and process what you are saying. And formulate (hopefully a response in kind) so it could be two way--though I generally get a 30-50% response rate on the other side..Depending on how much stress is going on at the time.


One thing that non ADHD partners may want to consider is the possibility of processing issues and how that may impact communications. When I got assessed, I was told that I had a phd level intellect but some severe sequencing issues and a processing speed delay. I could never figure out why it took me a while to figure things out fully once I learned them. The good news is once I get stuff, finally understand what I am hearing, learning etc the information is mine. I can score an A on an exam but only if I start to study the day we get the material. I need a week to internalize it. Also, please familiarize yourself with the concept of overwhelm. With many of us , too much info is a bad thing. It can cause your ADHDer to SHUT DOWN. I put that in caps because that is what that message sounds like in our brains, mine at least. Small bits with time in between for absorption seems the best formula.

Yes, in fact it is often a

Yes, in fact it is often a visible process that when certain points in a conversation occur sometimes I can see him close up and I will admit to even voicing "shut down!" under my breath as I see it happen. I want to reiterate what I see and hear; adhd is NOT NOT NOT about being stupid. Or a moron. My husband w adhd can do quite amazing out of the box thinking when he is "on". My kid, whom I suspect has it too, can be brilliant and absorb lots of info fast because he just found out his test is tomorrow...(while other kids had weeks to study). Its the support functions of thinking that can be so much a pain- at least from what I can understand. To be organized to KNOW the test is tomorrow, or some other deadline. Plus so much is motivationally driven- if it is interesting, it is way easier to retain facts. Unfortunately, it can make it seem to those non-adhd loved ones (like myself) that some of the most aggravating behavior is truly just intentional and thoughtlless.... But I get it (now): that generalization is an oversimplification of what is happening.

I am very curious

How they determined that you have cognitive PhD level abilities. I understand the processing and sequencing but how do they determine by a Sanford Binet(however you spell it) testing system? Were you an adult when you got diagnosed or a child? There are so many unanswered questions, and i am glad I stumbled upon this website last week it has given me a sense that there are many adults who battle my same demons, i just unfortunately do not know them personally but since cyberspace is the future im glad i found this forum to hear everyone's stories. Life has many pro's and Cons regardless of having ADHD, its not the deck your given its how you play the cards so they say. Ive changed alot since my diagnosis not all good but ive had to hit rock bottom to dig myself out and try and climb up the mountain. while I do not have a spouse i live with my mom who doesnt get the gist of my ADHD but does allow me to live in her house which I think would have been the hardest thing for me if not given my lack of money management skills, ive lost all my money and live paycheck to paycheck but my debts are astronomical, that is something I have learned not to take for granted.

I am not sure if it was indeed a Binet

or only that. All I can tell you is that my assessment was 10 hours long and there were several things that they had run out of material to test me on. My assessor is a very reputable specialist in the field and had written her dissertation on adult ADHD before it was even called that. I was diagnosed just over 3.5 years ago. The diagnosis was an eye opener even though I suspected it after both my children were diagnosed.

Dr. Thomas Brown is particularly interested in ADHDs with high IQs and I am getting the feeling that there are quite a lot of us out there. He has a website and many of his papers and lecture are accessible through that. I am currently researching the limbic system and amygdala and the connection to the prefrontal lobe and in so doing have discovered the practice of mindfulness;yes it is a formal technique. I believe that it has a great deal of potential for ADHD and will make an attempt to take up the practice although before I do so, I would like to set up measurable parameters to substantiate my belief. It is said to effect symptoms across the ADHD spectrum.

have you come across anything

have you come across anything involving CNV's? (Copy note variables) i was on Epocarates and they sent me daily updates and this one one of them but I could not find out much if you could let me know

not on my radar

i don't generally do paid membership sites. Are you thinking about in terms of measurements. I was thinking a simple data log form. I just need to design it for the variables I want to track. I only have family members as subjects so it won't be scientific. It would still be useful to see if we can notice changes.

the cnv's are apparently a

the cnv's are apparently a genetic mutation on the chromosome. That's all I know- it   was linked with ADHD that's why I got the email.  I would LOVE to find out my intellectual capacity and if I have the cognitive abilities to get a Phd. Since the day I got diagnosed I have been obsessed with reading every piece of literature and finding out everything I could. I always knew I was off, and putting a name to the face of destruction helped me alot. This woman Sari Holden wrote two books andI  was reading one today (I own both) but just cant read from cover to cover so i scroll through them and read excerpts. What I learned today- when you get to a crisis it can either be a prolific  and groundbreaking and the catalyst that moves you forward or it can be deteriorating, and it can hold you back. I figured out today I was stronger than I was yesterday but still a long ways to go before im where I want to be. Its like every behavior I choose i have to step back and say would this be an accepted behavior in every day life and if I dont believe it would be I have to work even harder to figure out a way to make it acceptable. This forum has been extremely therapeutic. I know I have the capacity to piss people off but in doing so I learn what is accepted and what is unacceptable. I never mean to intentionally hurt anyone but I do believe in learning from my mistakes and I know i make tons...


thats copy number variant

And it is not particularly a genetic marker per se. It is rather an indication of the possibility of heritability of a neuropsychiatric  phenotype. basically, the presence of CNV indicates the heritable nature of conditions like ADHD et al. This is important because it demonstrates simultaneously a physiological manifestation which is quantifiable and an argument against environmental causality as a sole source for the condition. This is important because many skeptics point to poor parenting as a reason for ADHD.

Read Barkley for authority on the science, or better yet google lectures by him. He has one of the longest running longitudinal studies on ADHD and he is currently contributing to the update of the DSM. that would be Russel Barkley. the videos are better because it can get quite dry. it is worth doing as he is incredibly well informed and more objective than most.

fehrri's picture


The trouble is that if I am not right there and it gets misinterpreted, then all is lost and he is off to some other land.  I tried an email last night and the response I got this morning was so completely far off and and out that it made no sense.  I believe something triggered something else and he became distracted and that was it.  It was all completely misunderstood.  Now what?  If I am not talking to him directly I can't remind him (nicely) that what ever he is on was not the issue we were talking about - trying to corral him back to the center.

verbal cues

We often have to cue each other to get back on topic, as we both have ADHD and tend to digress. We chose and easy word like AND.  My husband has verbal and written expression issues and sometimes tells me "I have to think about that before I know the right way to answer you" I wrote him an email about a topic I was scared to discuss with him and I all I needed from him is that he read  it and would answer in due time. Touching a partner or child on the shoulder or hand while conversing is another great technique to refocus the conversation as long as those techniques are agreed upon by both speakers in advance. Asking if he is ok with what you said or does he need clarification is positive,  not DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Let him know that if he needs to think about things before he responds as long as communication is open. If you are not physically close at that moment say things like I appreciate your take on that or that is interesting but what about x, I really need to deal with that topic today for my own well being. Can you manage further discussion? It would be a great help to me.

I hope this is helpful

Exec function help

I suggest you call Rebecca Shafir at the Hallowell Center in Sudbury and talk with her about this issue.  She is an expert on dealing with executive function issues and should be able to give you some good direction.  978-287-0810


I am the ADHD spouse and I find that I can not have serious or meaningful conversations in the evening. My memory recall just doesn't seem to work. My mind seems to get tired, overwhelmed or even confused, like I am walking around in the fog and can't see where I am supposed to be going, and I cannot follow the thread of the conversation. I am sure it has some correlation with when my medication wears off. I have gotten to the point of telling my husband and my kids that they need to talk to me about issues we need to resolve before my meds wear off or the next morning after my meds have started working. I can have conversations in the evenings about things that are trivial but not ones that require more depth of thought.

So how do we communicate?

My husband takes his meds last thing before he leaves in the morning and they have worn off and he's exhausted by the time he gets home. When am I to be allowed to discuss anything substantive with him? Only on the weekends?

On a related note, when can I ask him to do ANY work to maintain our home, again, only on the weekends? He's told me he thinks he should only have to do housework on the weekends. But dishes and laundry need to be done every day and that means I have to do it. It's like I'm only married 2 days a week.

Sueann, when you get an

Sueann, when you get an answer to your questions above please share them. I feel very much in the same boat (and it is SINKING FAST.)

This morning ....

before he took his meds, he called me "mom" when he wanted to ask me a question. He needs meds to even remember my name. :(  (We've been married almost 6 years. He lived with his mom all his life before that.)

I am sad for him, but also sad to be married to a person who doesn't know my name.

Better communication through medication :)

As the ADHD spouse, I am dealing with that frustration myself (the frustration of being me).  Every week day around 5:30, I feel like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight.  This is when  my meds wear off.  I take a 2nd shorter acting dose, but it is too short to last the rest of the night, so I hesitate to take it earlier, because it would wear off shortly after my kids go to bed.   I also have to do laundry, make lunches, and the like when they go to bed, so I have to pick my poison:  a mental fog descends upon me as I'm trying to make dinner, my husband gets impatient with my inefficiency and I get cranky because I'm doing my best OR I can take it early and am more focused, efficient, and patient for a while... until I have to correct papers and do all my chores.   Then I'm up later because it takes me even longer to accomplish simple things which affects my mental alertness the following day.  I am going to see my psychiatrist next week to discuss changing my meds to 2 doses that will actually cover me for the entire time I am awake.   I'm in the process of researching which meds together could accomplish this so I'll be prepared when I see him.  I don't know if it's possible, but I have to try.

Can you talk to your husband about possibly adding a 2nd dose in the evenings?  It sounds like the best time for this discussion would definitely be the weekend during the day.   I wouldn't even attempt it before then.  I am far more reasonable when my meds are in effect.  Even if he experiences the same issues as me, I guarantee it will be better than now.  It sounds like his meds do make a difference while they're in his system.  I hope he has a good doctor who is open and flexible like mine and who will allow experimentation until things are better.  

If he's not willing to discuss it, it may be (partly)  that he is not entirely aware when his medication is wearing off and might be attributing his exhaustion entirely to work .  I can much more easily notice when my medication is kicking in than when it is tapering off as I have physical symptoms with the former (sort of like a cup of coffee).  I only recently started documenting when my meds are wearing off by writing down when my ADHD symptoms start amplifying.  I was surprised to discover certain recurring patterns.  For example, I noticed that I would snap at my husband or kids more quickly, have trouble deciding how most efficiently proceed with dinner, and was much slower moving and less aware of time (which leads to fights with my husband as he feels the stress of having to manage time for everyone).  For the longest time, I had thought that that was due to the stress of having ADHD and trying to stay afloat as well as the life stress of being a Mom who also works full-time.  However, I also started noticing on weekends when I took my medication later, evenings went far more smoothly.  I used to think that that was due to having less stress and more free time on those days, but then I realized that on ANY day when I was able to get up later and therefore took my meds later, I would have a similar evening.

I have no idea what kind of hours your husband has, but it seems preposterous to wait until the weekend to contribute to the housework.  Some things can wait, but others (a sink full of dirty dishes) cannot.  Does he attempt to compensate for the weekdays on the weekend?  Does he simply figure his weekend contribution is adequate? 

That being said, I have had too many work weeks where the house goes to pot because I literally had not figured out how to manage my time and how to prioritize.  Sometimes I can get so caught up in one task that others pile up.  Learning to tackle a little bit of everything at a time and having two small children has not been easy after a long day at work.  In fact, this is the most difficult thing for me.  However, I do want to set a good example for my kids, have a relatively clean house, and I continue to try by continually evaluating my systems and progress.  It's getting better, but I honestly don't know how you non-ADHD people do it so naturally.  I am jealous!

Good luck!

fehrri's picture


This is a huge problem for us as well.  I have come to the conclusion that there is no right time to have a serious conversation about anything. Either the meds haven't kicked in or are gone and everyone else but me (the non ADD spouse), has gotten the benefit of them. If you can't talk at the beginning of the day or the end of the day there is little left if you have any sort of life. It becomes impossible to connect in any meaningful way. I then get frustrated and we move into a parent child dynamic just so I can get some sort of attention and have a say.  It is not at all effective or sustainable.

How true!

I concluded years ago that his meds were to help him in the "outside world." They help him work, and since he's hyperfocused on work, they don't benefit the marriage at all. I guess I shouldn't say that because, medicated, he's at least willing to work.

If you'd have asked me 4 years ago if I'd be happy if he just went back to work and stopped expecting me to support him, I'd have said yes. I just didn't realize in how many other areas the ADD affects our marriage. He doesn't see it; as far as he's concerned if he works that's all the marriage needs.

So Efarmgirl can I ask? Has the payoff

So can I ask? Has the payoff of taking meds been worth it? What real benefit are you getting by taking these meds versus trying other non med alternatives without the crashing effects you mention w meds? I am honestly curious- do you find it worth it, even if it shuts down a big part of communication w your loved ones (or does it not)? I am struggling to understand and would appreciate any enlightening.. Thank you!

the payoff

Since I really cannot function without the meds, I would say it is worth it. The crashing effect isn't pleasant but as it was how I felt all the time without the meds. I do have some short acting ritalin that I can take if my meds wear off too early. Without my meds, I cannot get myself to get anything done even if I want to. My husband has always said that when I am motivated, I can do anything. It has frustrated him to see me not getting things done. It frustrates me too. It really isn't like I haven't wanted to do these things. I just can't. I am not making a decision to do it or not do it... my mind can't even get that far. I know this is hard to understand. When I take my meds, I can do things without even thinking about it... for example laundry or cleaning the toilets. I just get up and do it without really thinking about it. What I am trying to do right now is learn as much as I can about ADHD to both help myself as well as my kids who have it and to educate my husband. My ADHD was not diagnosed until a couple years ago (right after we found out our kids had it) so I am not as far as I would like to be with figuring out how to successfully manage it. The meds only help to a point. I have also had to restructure the way I do things too to become more successful.  With multiple family members with ADHD, we are constantly trying to find what works for each of us. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for my kids.

I just got Melissa's book at the end of last week so am just starting to figure out the communication part. I have shared some of what I learned with my husband who can totally relate to the non-ADHD spouse perspective. My husband works 60+ hours a week most weeks so I really only have the weekends to see him. We try to make a point of doing something together each weekend where we can talk even if it is just during the car rides to our kids' select soccer games which are typically an hour away for the away games and 20 minutes for the home games. Sometimes in the early evening, I will go up to my room to try to get away from noise so my mind can have a chance to calm down so that I can have conversations with the family. I have noticed that an increase in the level of stress in my life increases the issues I have with my ADHD. The amount of sleep I get also affects it. I need closer to 8 hours but typically get only 6 or 7.  I've tried exercising and relaxation techniques and while they help, they don't help enough for me to function. I am to a point in my life where I have accepted that ADHD impacts my whole life. I am not flawed, just different so I need to figure out how to function. (Took me a long time to accept that ADHD is not a flaw.) I know things need to change and what I've done for the past 20 years hasn't worked so am ready to try anything to improve my life and the lives of my family. I am frustrated with my inability to communicate. In a conversation, a lot of things seem connected or related to me. I need to remember to give the short version. (I apologize for this lengthy response... it all seems important and connected in my mind.) My husband just doesn't see how it all connects. He tries to be patient and listen before he asks his questions. I cannot often understand my husband's point of view without asking some questions to clarify in my mind what it is he is saying. My husband can think on a higher/more in depth level than I can so I end up asking questions now instead of just assuming I understand what he is saying. When I don't ask questions, a lot of miscommunication occurs.

I am a person with lists. I have a lot of lists. I have a 1 1/2 inch planner that tracks all appointments for the family as well as the papers that need to be dealt with immediately. That planner goes with me everywhere. At times I will even schedule a time just for my husband to be able to talk about things he wants to talk about. If it isn't written down, it won't be remembered. So sometimes I will even write down the things I want to tell my husband if I think I won't remember it later. I went to a therapist a couple times a year ago but all she could tell me to do was decrease the level of stress in my life... since that won't happen until my 3 teenagers all move out I am forced to come up with other ideas. (I am open to going back to a therapist but our insurance changed this year and I am overwhelmed with finding the good docs we need.) I keep trying to de-clutter/simplify my house as well as my life. I have finally gotten to the point where I try advice. It was really hard to accept that I am not able to come up with the solution to a situation on my own. (I was really insecure and felt like others can do it so why can't I? This was extremely stressful.) Getting out of my comfort zone has been painful for me. It has been easier to not change and fail than to try something that seems hard because it makes me feel very vulnerable. The more I step out of my comfort zone, the easier it gets. My husband got me a Garmin Nuvi for Christmas. That one thing has opened up my world and gives me confidence and reduces my stress level. I know it is a simple thing and probably isn't that big a deal to most people but I am a soccer mom and drive literally all over the state for soccer games with my kids. So for the 4 1/2 hour drive to the soccer field last Sunday, all I had to do was type in the address of the soccer complex and drive. Halfway there I needed gas (and coffee since it was way too early for me to even think about that when we left) and was able to find the gas station I wanted. Before I had it, I would have to figure out where along the route I would need to stop for gas and print mapquest directions for everything and then keep track of them. That added to my stress and clutter issues which would impact my ability to communicate because my mind is already occupied.

To de-clutter my life... I try to focus on what is really important. Large things are worth going to war for, small things are not. I have had to re-evaluate what I consider a large thing as I had too many battles I was trying to fight. I get irritated with having to pick up after the family every day but then remind myself that I have a family to pick up after so is it really so bad that I have to do the picking up? I also try to limit the amount of things I commit to doing or else I feel overwhelmed and can't do any of it. I am trying to be the "cup is half full" person instead of the "half empty" that I've been most of my life. I also try to let my family know what "new" thing I am trying so they can help me gage the successfulness of it. They also provide the encouragement that I need to keep trying. Words of encouragement mean more to me than I think they do to my non-ADHD spouse. The last 4 years have been some of the darkest of years for our family but I don't think I would be where I am in my ADHD journey if I had not had to go through them. I hope this helps.

we are not zombies

with out meds, just less task oriented and a little less focused. I take Vyvanse which is a longer lasting med, it generally gets me to 9 pm. If I have to do homework after that time, I will generally take a 5ml (very small dose) Dexedrine or coffee whichi s also a stimulant. It is also comforting to know that you don't have to be "on" when you are at home, with loved ones who don't judge you like the outside does.

That comment, i have to admit

That comment, i have to admit hurt Simora, though I know that was not your intention. The thing is with the recent try on meds, I never saw my husband when he was on, but only when he was crashing. Its hard to talk to someone who only has their eyes closed, can not respond to questions, or even acknowledge your conversation for weeks at a time. And yeah, that made me desperately (and annoyingly to him) lonely. What can I say? And the dexedrine for us, increased his irritability and aggression. No easy solution here. Rather I was hoping he'd consider other med or better nonmed alternatives at this point.


It is also sometimes hurtful to know that sometimes people see adhd's as inferior and damaged without meds. We all have to go through drug try ons etc. It is nice to have somebody patient and supportive while we are submitting our bodies to drugs that will make us acceptable.

Omg I do understand that,

Omg I do understand that, though my spouse might beg to differ. All the years when we both did not know about the adhd, a lot of "bad bad" stuff happened on both sides. I put him in the parent-child dynamic because he couldnt function in a way to get our lives together in an equal partnership-- what I now know could be more attainable with the proper information, cues, etc. Im not proud of that and have repeatedly apologized. But he is very angry at me, and at all the years when I apparently should have known even as he did not. He talks about feeling damaged, and says I think that about him. I DONT, and that hurts too because I love him. Unfortunately, he is at an unforgiving place...and blames me for pretty much everything in our past. I dont know the answer, wish I did. Ironically, I now wish he WAS off the meds so we could try this in a different way...

he has healing to do as do you

I said to my husband that it takes time to get over 40 years of being told your a looser, he said what about the 40 years you tell your self you're a looser. Find a relationship specialist to help you move forward, to communicate, to move past pain and love again. If you make it through this together, the shared journey will be a gift to both of you.

fehrri's picture

with and without meds

Before my husband was diagnosed and started meds he was extremely volatile.  I never knew when he was going loose his temper.  It was like living with a crazy man and I never felt safe. Meds are a must for us now because that is gone with the medication and I can at least breathe and feel safer. However, the communication issues at the beginning of the day and then end are a huge problem. I would love to be accepting and understanding, etc. and not pressure, but I too have needs and wants and I have spent 24 years in a marriage where those needs were always hidden for fear of his anger and his penchant for blaming me for everything that was wrong. I am now standing up more and feel better about myself but it is forcing my ADD husband to need to realize that he has to take some responsibility for his symptoms and who he is.  He is not happy or comfortable with that. Most of the time he blames me for whatever is wrong. He gets upset when I challenge him to connect or engage.  He just tunes everything around him out and retreats. I understand where it is coming from, but that doesn't mean that it is ok to just ignore his family whenever he wants to. Sometimes it is just easier to leave him out of things - because he will not participate anyway. This is why I started this thread from the executive function issue - it just seems as though there is something else going on (or not going on!) than just not being able to focus are getting distracted.  

my husband suffered

from intermittent explosive issues. We have discovered that it comes from the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively. He also suffered trauma, lost his dad to Kidney disease while still young and then his surrogate father, his older brother , fell through ice and drowned. As he got older and more sedentary, he became more angry, partly from habit,partly from the lower levels of positive(read happy) brain chemicals. John Rately talks a lot about exercize in ADHD and I have seen the difference in my kids when they are in an intensely physical environment. This bit I found about his thinking is just for info, I am not trying to endorse a particular way of thinking:                                          Dr. Ratey: There are many reasons for exercise in ADHD. Exercise almost immediately elevates dopamine and norepinephrine and keeps them up for a period of time so that it acts like a little bit of Ritalin or Adderall. It also helps to still the impulsivity and still the cravings for immediate gratification as it works to wake up the executive function of the frontal cortex, which in turn allows for delay, better choices, a bit more time to evaluate consequences.        I consulted with our joint ADHD doctor about my concerns, and he told me that not only was this anger related to frustration, it was also a problem solving deficit . This relates back to executive function. We are doing way better now, learning to work in tandem to co-parent our extremely difficult special needs children, one of whom is 14. It has been a long haul, but well worth it. I now have a partnership I never dreamed possible. We have been together 20 and most of those were exactly like yours. I wept uncontrollably the first time he apologized. He did regress, but then he did take ownership. It was important that I recognized that though he did not usually acknowledge his remorse, it was deeply internalized and in fact added to the problem. Somebody once said that if you cant love yourself, you cant love anyone else. Think about this, how deficient he must feel now, how, now that he is fully cognizant of the emotional toll his condition caused your marriage. things don't change over night. We are continually visiting new strategies to help  us function both on an individual and couple level carrying those new skills through to family life. I think this seems a bit muddled but I have condensed a lot into a short comment.  There is hope and light at the end of the tunnel... if you want it , and with ADHD, only with patience.                                                                                                  

Going to chime in with my 2

Going to chime in with my 2 cents....in reply to many of the posts above this..not just the one I specifically clicked to reply to...

Most of you know, I'm the non-ADHD wife..my husband has ADHD. We were married in 9/1997 and he was diagnosed in 6/2010. We had MANY years of undiagnosed ADHD, my anger, the parent/child dynamic, and the vicious cycle many are familiar with.

**Disclaimer- this is my opinion based on my experience** The complaint that it is impossible to get an ADHDer to engage in a conversation about anything meaningful, whether we want to admit it or not, is not within our ability to fix...nor is it within the ability of the ADHDer to fix. If you're in the middle of this screwed up dynamic, no matter what either of you says, it isn't going to be heard. In the case of you, lululove, he's stuck in the past and his refusal to 'forgive' is what is causing your communication issues. In my opinion it has to do with the BIG picture...how you look at each other as human beings. It isn't that they CAN'T discuss meaningful things, EVER...it is that they aren't motivated to engage with us because they view us as "mom", "the enemy", "trying to control", etc. I can't remember who is was that said "I can't get him to talk to me unless I start acting like his mom" (not in those words, but that was the point)....you're keeping things from progressing as much as his ADHD is by doing this. I LIVED that life for years..with the mindset that the only way I could get anything done or get my 'way' with him was to make threats, to resort to being ugly and hurtful. Truth of the matter is, I got NOTHING from him but more bad behavior and enough appeasement to get me off of his back for the time being. My honest belief is that this does NOT resolve itself (short of a miracle) unless you get professional help to break down these barriers.

I have been through many hurtful years and have cried a river of tears, cursed a string of curse words, begged until I was blue in the face, and suffered a lot of pain because of his uncontrolled ADHD. BUT when the TRUE change came for me was when I realized that I was insisting he treat me in a way that I was NOT treating him..NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!

I have no right to be mad at him every time he screws up. Imagine being read the riot act every time you spent a little more than you should have. Imagine being berated and made to feel like a child when you screw up the laundry. Imagine being made to feel like a complete failure as a wife because you don't manage to complete a task your husband asked you to complete. Imagine being made to feel ashamed because you don't have very affective organizational skills. Try...just sit and think back to all of the times when they did something that was disappointing, upsetting, or hurtful and how WRONGLY we reacted. Imagine if they reacted to our mistakes in the same way. My husband got ZERO slack. I was so angry and had such high expectations that every little thing he did wrong, I had to make him feel like the most selfish jerk in the world or I wasn't satisfied. If he wasn't going to give me what I wanted, MY WAY, then by God he was going to be hurt or sorry. Think about the way you've engaged with him throughout the years and ask yourself "would I have treated my sister/mother/best friend that way?" NO, he wouldn't have treated others the way he treated me either, but that's NOT MY POINT. (before you ask).

I have no right to expect things from him that he isn't able to give. We've been working on controlling his ADHD and replacing poor coping skills with better ones for 8 months...the progress is excruciatingly slow. He still has ADHD, but knowing now that he has it, it has given me a completely different perspective on how the day-to-day life goes for us. We do NOT have heavy conversations outside of counseling. We have to accept and understand that they've functioned this way all of their lives, it won't be easy to change. We also have to understand that when the majority of the conversations we do have with them ARE heavy...and 99% of the time they end up in a fight...is it any wonder why they don't want to engage in a conversation? One of the most eye opening things my husband said to me, that was so simple to him, was "just stop trying to fix us all of the time...just relax" and he was right. A big black cloud of "I need to fix this ADHD and our marriage RIGHT NOW" hung over my head every.single.day.of.my.life. We have communication issues..he's still fairly defensive (which indicates he hasn't been able to forgive my anger and controlling behaviors of the past)...so even the most innocent of comments can be taken wrong by him. If something heavy comes up outside of counseling, and it starts to go south, we WALK AWAY. This was 10000 times harder for me to do than him. I felt I had the right to be heard, to be validated, to be listened to and I beat home my point constantly. You have a right to be upset, hurt, or disappointed. You don't have a right to cuss them out when you are angry. You don't have a right to engage them in a disrespectful way when you're angry. You don't have a right to spend countless hours or days pointing out how hurtful their behaviors are. "It is really hurtful to me when you...." and then LET IT GO. Get over feeling like you need to hear immediate validation.

All of these things WILL cause your ADHDer to become overwhlemed and shut down. When the resentment is there and the anger has come between you and communication has broken down you need to ask yourself why and what is YOUR role in it all? The point to everything I'm saying is that A) it is just as hard for us to admit where we are responsible for the horrible communication, but WE ARE (most of the time) and B) changing how you treat them can have amazing ramifications in the marriage. We spend so much time rationalizing our behaviors when we should be taking accountability for them and treating them the way we want to be treated...even when they don't deserve it.

I know that there are times during the day that having a conversation with my husband is torture for him...so I just don't do it. My world isn't going to end if I can't bring every problem in the world to his attention during the first 2 hours he's home from work. If it has to wait for the weekend, so be it. If it can't wait, I try...if his mind is elsewhere or still reeling from work, fine. I deal the best I can. Honestly, this isn't a big problem for us, although we do have some communication issues we're working on in counseling. Before the diagnosis, and before I let go of my anger and started seeing him as a human being again, we had very poor communication and certain topics were completely off limits. (Some still are, we agree it is for the best).

Simora, I did want to bring to your attention my situation...when my husband started meds (started with Concerta) he went from being a very sweet, loving man with some ADHD issues to being more in control of his ADHD but was now hositle and short fused. It took me forever to convince him this was happening and he stopped the meds. He admitted after stopping the meds that he knew what he was doing, but just didn't 'think the same way' when he was on them. He tried Vyvanse next and it was worse. He not only denied that he was hostile and angry, he went so far as to say it was just the medication giving him the courage to stand up for himself for once in his life. Stand up to what?? ME? What was I doing that made him feel the need to 'stand up to' me, other than cry myself to sleep over the loss of my sweet husband. I tried very hard to be patient, and it just got progressively worse...he snapped at me one night and told me I made him sick! :'-( Finally, he said he didn't see me trying to make the marriage better(VERY UNTRUE) and wasn't going to work on his outbursts because of this. Game over. I told our counselor I would be coming alone from now on and I was preparing to move forward without him. He FINALLY offered to stop the meds to see if it would help (same day he said he wasn't doing anything more to save the marriage) and within days he was back to himself. I can be very patient while he tries meds. I love him dearly and want him to find something to help with his issues (he needs meds to help with work issues..follow through, concentration, focus), but I face the struggle of being treated horribly and then him denying that the meds are the issue. HE said, before he ever took them, that he didn't want me to suffer because of them, knowing that he has a history of medications making him combative and angry, and when he got on them, all of that went out the window. It isn't always about us non's being patient, it is also about the ADHDer being aware of how the meds can bring other issues into the marriage. I can completely relate to Sueann's "crashing" husband...when he was on them, he was like a zombie from the time he got home from work until he finally went to bed at 11.

each is different

And if Meds don't work for your hubby, they don't work period. My daughter couldn't tolerate amphetamines so we tried her on stratera. It has a limited effect. There is a lot of work to do in terms of cognitive therapy. To my mind. you have arrived at a crucial point, acceptance. It is incredibly difficult for a non ADHD to fathom what this condition is like or what it feels like to constantly struggle to fit in the "normal" world. This empathy, not sympathy, is crucial for the success of the ADHD couple dynamic. Again, it is easier for us because we both have ADHD but still we are different and have to remind each other about acceptance and ownership of issues. What I meant by not zombies is that we don't loose mental faculties, we don't suddenly become stupid. But yes, as you point out , it is important to note that the strain of appearing "normal" can cause mental exhaustion. It is important to realize this and to realize that what has been broken is not fixed overnight. A diagnoses is not a cure and as the experts so aptly point out, you would never ask a diabetic to snap out of insulin dependency, why would you expect anybody to snap out of a neurological anomaly.

I applaud your tenacity and dedication and if anybody thinks that I am sitting on a bed of roses here I should clarify. 8 months into your journey Sherri is a relatively short time in the treatment of and adjustment to this diagnosis, not to mention possible co-morbidities. We have been at this years. I occasionally had to threaten to leave to shake him out of complacency. Once , he even told me to go see a therapist and get fixed. I had started a long voyage of chronic depression which of course, I could not fix on my own.

I totally understand your reticence regarding medication. If he is getting angry and aggressive, it may have to do with starting him on too high a dosage. These meds are not tied to weight , so a doc who give high dose scripts because a man is big, is out of line. Trials have to start small and work up. It took me almost a year to find both my med and dose level.

I am currently suffering serious depression characterized by psych-motor retardation. It is tied into guess what, norepinephrine/dopamine receptors which are a frontal lobe issue. I have been fighting tooth and nail against SSRI's as I believe that side effects are grossly underestimated and am currently experimenting with tryptophane and exercise and lots of omega 3 and anti oxidants (cant hurt). I am 5'9, 140lbs and my doc started me with 20m of vyvanse for 1 month. Less than a child's dose. Education is an important component of the condition. CHADD and Pete Quilly's sites are two I look at often. Better after meds of course as there is a lot of reading.

Cheers Sherri, what you are doing is difficult and at times unrewarding. Keep up the good work.


thank you!

What you wrote is incredibly brave. Throughout all this, I have found that I really have to continually remind myself that I am a nice person and one with incredible empathy and compassion.  Those are emotions that get muddied a bit when living with an ADHD spouse.  I realize that in the past I had been a nag (in other relationships), but never to this degree!  Nor have I ever experienced anger to this degree!  We should NEVER speak to our ADHD spouses with the disrespect that easily just flows .....and I do mean easily!  I wonder at times when he is in his NOW moments, WHY would he still love me??? I wouldn't!  I would want ME to go away and not talk!  I needed this reinforcement today.  Thank you for taking the time and love to write it so eloquently!

The anger was overwhelming

The anger was overwhelming for me. I was completely unaware of how my anger was affecting the marriage. I felt completely justified in being so angry because of the crappy hand I had been dealt by him and his behaviors. It never dawned on me that my anger was just masking a TON of hurt and disappointment. It took me a long time to realize that even if I had a right to be upset because of something he did, I didn't have the right to send him e-mails shredding him as a husband or stand and scream and yell at him for an hour. It never dawned on me "when I get mad at anyone else, but him, I don't handle it this way at all, why do I handle it this way with him?" I didn't even look at him as a human being, I looked at him as a selfish shell of a man. HOWEVER, I did the best I could with what I knew and what I was going through at the time. We both made a lot of mistakes...and we're both aware of them and want better for our marriage from here on out. I truly do feel that much of his desire to get control of his ADHD and the behaviors that are hurtful to me comes as a direct result of the way I treat him now. I still have a long way to go...WE still have a long way to go together...but I will never go back to that angry, controlling person no matter what path he chooses. I did insist we work together on our marriage, and when we found our current counselor finally got the ADHD diagnosis. It was bittersweet...we had some answers to many of the questions we'd both had...him for his entire life, but it also meant him accepting that it was part of the issues in our marriage (just finally doing this 6 months into counseling) and wanting to learn to replace the ways he's learned to survive with better, healthier ways.

I wanted to add, although my original 2 cents was about us non's accepting our fault, I don't in anyway mean to imply that our spouses don't need to be accountable and claim responsibility for their actions too. Sometimes true change can start by US making the first move to change, but they have to change as well..they have to 'get it' and be willing to treat their ADHD (meds, therapy, diet, etc) too. I couldn't have remained married to the man I was married to for all of those years. I'm very thankful he was receptive of the idea of a better life and marriage for us both and decided to work with me.

They still love us, after everything, because deep down they know that we're struggling too. The same reason we love them after all of the years...we know there is a good person in there trying to figure out the chaos and make sense of it all.

Thanks for that add Sherri

Thanks for that add Sherri because even as I get emotionally beat up, my doubts of what Im doing get the best of me. My gut says my husband is gone, our separation has become to comfortable arrangement now and blaming me releases him to do pretty much anything with a clear conscience. I feel hurt, betrayed, and just plain confused. Am hoping he still shows up for counseling though maybe its a moot point now. I dont know. Im trying to be strong for me and the kids but its so hard... And Im alone w no family. My sadness and probably desperate loneliness is so pathetically real .. Too real that I think no one in their right mind would want me anyway... But maybe the late night and the fact I havent heard from him in amost a week is adding to this sadness (of course). Dont know what to do w myself...

I don't have much time, have

I don't have much time, have to get ready for church, but I wanted to let you know that I am including you in my prayers this morning. I know the extreme loneliness...I've experienced it both while living with my husband and during our time of separation. The best you can do is try and find some peace for yourself and try and find things to do that you enjoy..and MAKE yourself do them. See if you can find a local support group. Take cooking classes, art classes, SOMETHING...anything. Take up walking...not only will it help clear your head, it will help you feel better emotionally...and possibly physically. I know it's easy for me to say this, but you truly need to take the focus off of hoping he'll come home or 'get it' or both...and put it on YOU. You've endured so much by now, and he's blaming you for everything and accepting no fault. I decided when my Daddy died that life was too short and that I'd rather be alone and lonely (for a while, this goes away eventually) than to be married and alone. It is the absolute worst feeling in the world. (((HUGS))) I hope you're feeling better this morning.

ADHD and Marriage (Executive Funtion)

Sherri, thank you for taking time to reply, especially since I'm rather "tardy" to respond to your original post in the first place.

I appreciate the prayers, very very much. And I appreciate the suggestions, and validation.


I will also pray for you!!


Thanks again,

Donna Y

Yes you are right Sherri. I

Yes you are right Sherri. I am struggling to reach for my own empowerment while at the same time avoiding the whole villainization idea of my husband. I feel for his pain and own personal struggles. They are so REAL. But at the same time, I will not allow rude and disrespectful behavior in this home, the plus to being separated at this time as we work to reconcile our vastly different ideas of whats been happening. And, as you have said Sherri, I have to prepare myself to walk away if he decides not to try (his choices versus mine). His refusal to see how he has to cue into his adhd (rude, irritable, and violent) behavior when he is stressed or really in "that zone" is so difficult, even w meds (better now on that issue, I think). Im hoping that therapy will help on that point. But he has to want to try to effect the change on his side instead of focusing on the "its all you" blame (while I continue to work on mine, including the "trying not to over react because of our past baggage" issues). On to our next counseling session!
fehrri's picture


lululove -  I suggest you read Melissa's book and sign up for one of her online seminars - it will be a GREAT help.  It will help with baggage, blame, responsibility - puts it all into perspective for both of you.

Thank you for validating me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reading your post made me cringe because of the years of anger and resentment I harbored...I'm the "non" (at least I haven't been diagnosed.) My husband was diagnosed at 35yrs old (he's now 53), our 19 year old son when he was around 5 or 6, our 23 year old daughter (just ADD for her, not ADHD like Dad and brother) when she was 8 or 9.  Bottom line is, our house is CHAOS but reading your post made me feel like we aren't the only ones out there! We've been married for 26 yearss

Last April my husband and I attended "Retrouvaille" a lifeline for hurting marriages. It is an intense weekend of re-discovery, learning to communicate again, etc.  Most of the couples have experienced unfaithful spouses, the death of a child, a major illness, job loss, home loss, alcohol or drug abuse....I  felt (and feel) extremely "guilty" because we didn't have any of that to deal with yet I have only recently (most likely from this blog) realized that the challenge of ADHD (must like Ms. Orlov's book - The Effect of ADHD on Marriage, which I haven't read yet but intend to, soon) and marriage is also an issue to be reckoned with. 


Thank you for sharing.

Resentment kills love

One of the most powerful things a counselor ever said to me was "Resentment kills love." So if you want to keep your relationship, you have to kill resentment. ADD is like diabetes. There's no point in resenting someone for having it. It's a condition to be managed. Meds are helpful but they only go so far. Here's another quote that I've found helpful: "Just because a blind man regains his sight, it doesn't mean he knows how to play the piano." In other words, there's a lot someone with ADD needs to learn even after beginning medication. Most of it has to do with executive functioning and it takes a lot of practice. In the meantime, as the partner of someone with ADD, I have found that the best way to avoid resentment is to focus on concrete, practical strategies aimed at getting things to work for the both of you. Believe me, I've been angry. But I've found that if I put the anger aside and work with my partner to identify practical solutions, the anger disappears and the love returns.

well spoken

Sharp and to the point. Also, "pills don't teach skills" and "Forget forty years of the world beating me up for my failure, what about the forty years of me beating myself up for failure"

The goal is to fix our marriages, not fix our spouses

To ADDSurvivor ..... I'm new to this site. I am an ADD wife of a non-ADD husband. In your post, you don't reveal which non-ADD role you are in the marriage (H or W), but your post of last year (3/28/11) is SPOT ON and probably one of the most insightful posts I have read on this site!  Is is very apparent to me that the  majority of people posting on this site are non-ADD women who are married to ADD-men.  My heart goes out to these women when I read about their frustrations and struggles.  But as your post very wisely suggests "wishing" the other person would change is never a solution (and that goes for both people in the relationship!)  As you know firsthand, wishing the other would change just inevitably leads to resentment. I know that reading that statement can be very disappointing because so many of us (both ADD's and Non's) don't feel like there is any hope unless the "other" person changes, but the reality is, assuming of course that the ADD person is not in denial,  I truly believe that success in a marriage affected by ADD is only possible if BOTH parties change.  And what is counter-intuitive is that change in the other person is best accomplished by making a change in ourselves. It sounds like you have decided to put your resentment on a shelf and you are taking a very healthy (and may I assume "successful?") approach to fixing your "marriage" not just "fixing" your husband.  BOTH parties must be willing.  

You made a good point in comparing ADD to diabetes, saying that there's no point in resenting someone for having it, it is just a condition that  has to be managed.  I agree with you, but I can just hear many non-ADD spouses saying, "Yes, but diabetes doesn't effect behavior the way ADD can!"  And they have a point. I think it's important to acknowledge that a diabetes diagnosis doesn't typically have years of emotional baggage and relational damage associated with it.  I agree with you that, with ADD, meds help, but they only go so far.  It's important to realize that meds don't magically re-write the past, undo deeply ingrained hurts and habits, or immediately erase all resentment.  So allow me to make a slightly different comparison which I hope might be more helpful to non-ADD spouses. 

 If you are a non-ADD spouse and you believe that ADD is a valid diagnosis and real physiological condition of the brain, please consider the following two analogies:  The first one very basic, the 2nd one a little "closer to home."  1) What if you had a child in elementary school who was struggling academically and you had no idea why. There's usually some understandable frustration around that -- parent is frustrated, student is frustrated, student feels shame, gives up, doesn't "try," doesn't know why everything seems easier for everyone else and not him, his self-esteem is understandably impacted, as is his whole identity, yet there are no observable explanations as to why he's struggling.  What if it wasn't until the 3rd grade when you discover that the child simply has very bad eyesight?  Glasses would "cure" the problem instantly and bring the child to "physiologically" to the same capabilities as his peers, right?  However, that doesn't mean that he would all of sudden "know" all of the academic content that he "missed" over the years when his "brain" was not properly receiving and processing what he was "seeing," nor would it mean that his self-esteem and overall identity would "instantly" change.  "Meds" to ADD-ers are like "glasses" to the visually-impaired.  It just "physiologically" brings our "capabilities" to "normal." (With meds our brains have the capability to suddenly "see" the way others have "always" seen).  But the reality is poeple who are undiagnosed until adulthood have years of "impact" to undo. New habits to form, new skills to acquire, etc.  The ADD-er has to be willing to make behavioral changes and their spouses have to be patient, as difficult as that may be, if the marriage is important to you. But if you had a child who just got glasses after struggling for years without them, would you be frustrated that he doesn't "suddenly" know his math and reading at the 3rd grade level as he "should?"  Probably not.  This is similar to the example in ADDSurvivor's post where she said, "Just because a blind man regains his sight, doesn't mean he can play the piano."  Well, sort of, but not exactly ---the key difference being the word "regains" (ADD-ers never had their "sight" to begin with) and 2, you don't have to "see" to play the piano (Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder), but if either of them (blind since birth) could suddenly see, would you expect them to be able to read instantly or act like a person who has been a "seeing" person all of their lives? 

2nd example)  What if you had a child whose behavior was troublesome, who was socially awkward, and no matter how hard you tried to get him to "behave" he just did as he pleased?  This child would likely cause you stress and frustration.  What if, after many years, you learned that your child has a form of Autism?  What if you learned that your child wasn't being defiant simply because he wanted to annoy you, but rather his annoying behavior was not intentional at all, in fact, like most children he desperately wanted to please you, but his brain doesn't have the ability to process social interaction the way "normal" people do.  I would imagine you'd have a different perspective.  This diagnosis wouldn't "erase" the frustration and stress you experienced over the years (it was REAL!).  What if his doctor said, the good news is, now that we know what the issue is, he can take meds that will significantly reduce the annoying behavior, but you must realize that your son's identity, habits, and self-perception are deeply ingrained from all the years that his condition went untreated--- those habits are not only as a result of his own behavior but also a result of the reactions of those people in his life (especially those closes to him).  So what would you, as a loving parent do with this diagnosis?  Are you going to resent your son for this?  Are you going to continue to "wish" he would just "be like you?"  Are you going "get rid of him" because this isn't the kind of child you had hoped for?  Probably not.  Are you going to say, "I accept that he has this problem, but I am NOT going to change the way I interact with him --- he's just hurt me too much!"  I doubt it.  If the relationship is important to you, then you will likely do your best to adjust your behavior, as your son does his best at changing his, and you will likely do so with a newfound tenderness and mercy because his "condition" affects how you both need to interact going forward if you want the best possible relationship.  Do you see the comparison?  If you believe that ADD is real, and your spouse believes that ADD is real, the best hope for your relationship is to treat it like the "condition" that it is, not as a character flaw, and make the commitment to adjust your behaviors --- BOTH of you.  And may you both be merciful toward each other.  Resentment kills love.  Mercy rekindles it. 

I hope this helps. 


Good points.  But what do you

Good points.  But what do you do when, comparing to your first analogy, the adult with ADHD refuses to "wear the glasses" (i.e., refuses to work on behavioral changes) or, comparing to your second analogy, the adult with ADHD can adjust his deep-seated behaviors for his parents and his children and his coworkers and neighbors but he still acts out with his spouse?  

I've made many changes to myself.  I'm happy with them.  My husband has made very few changes to himself.  I've discovered that our marriage is not worth saving.

The one other consideration

The one other consideration that must be added is that not all ADHDers 'see' after diagnosis and/or starting meds. A lot of frustration comes from the denial that their ADHD causes any issues in the marriage...and quite often it comes from the non-ADHD spouse 'waiting' on the ADHDer to change so that they can then let go of the anger. BOTH have to happen...and it is best when they both happen at the same time, but often one happening causes the other to happen. When neither happens, nothing changes.

I love your posts...welcome to the site. I'm the non-ADHD wife to my ADHD husband, for the record.

Fixing our marriages, not our spouses

To both Rosered and Sherri, 

Believe me, I know the amount of frustration ADD brings to a marriage.  Rosered, you said, "what do you do when your husband refuses to "wear the glasses" (make behavior changes)" ---- I must correct you.  Please re-read my post:  the analogy of "glasses" is "meds" and meds only, not behavior change.  Is your husband refusing to take meds?  My point in that analogy was simply to not expect miracles from meds alone.  However, what I need to do is clarify some assumptions I was making; my post is addressing the situations where 1) the ADD-spouse acknowledges the diagnosis (is not in denial of the diagnosis), 2) the ADD spouse is taking meds and found meds that make a difference, and 3) the ADD spouse is making efforts to change their behavior.  My point is, the behavior changes took a lifetime to develop, they are not going to change overnight. And the changes can't just be the spouse's behavior alone;  Even if the "bad" habits that the non-ADD spouse has developed are 100% the result of the spouse's ADD, they are still bad habits that THEY (the non-ADD spouse) must change.  It sounds to me like the non-ADD spouses aren't willing to change the way they respond UNTIL the ADD-spouse has done a complete 180 and is a new person.  Just like someone trying to lose weight:  they didn't gain 50 pounds overnight so they're not going to lose it overnight.  And if weight loss is going to be permanent, they have to undo a lifetime of bad habits and it is HUGELY helpful if the spouse  changes to healthy eating habits too (even if they're thin!)--they both benefit because their entire ENVIRONMENT is better.   However, from what you posted it sounds like your spouse is in denial of his ADD.  That's a whole different ballgame. 

Sherri,  if a kid with poor vision puts glasses on and still can't see, then his prescription needs adjusting.  Likewise, if a person with ADD is taking meds and not experiencing any benefit, then their prescription needs to be adjusted/changed. If no meds work, then why take them at all?  Again, assuming the ADD person is taking meds that are providing an improvement, but the willingness to change is not there, that's a whole different issue.  I hear both of you saying a lot about "denial" on the part of your spouse.  Neither of my analogies were meant for that scenario.  I apologize if I didn't make that clear.  

As you know,  I happen to be an ADD wife who has found meds that work, is making behavioral changes, have asked my husband to learn about ADD so that maybe he can start seeing my ADD as a "condition" and not as a character flaw.  I'm starting to see a glimmer of hope that he is willing to do so. And I'm hoping and praying that his willingness to do so will include willingness on his part to change the habits that he has developed (even if they were developed as a result of my ADD, which I don't think is the case 100%, but it's not worth fighting over).   My husband comments on every little thing I do. Is it mostly about ADD-related things--yes.  Was he not like this at all until he met me(?) I doubt it.  Did I (with my ADD) bring out that tendency in him to a greater degree?  I bet I did.  But I can tell you, as annoying as living with someone with ADD is (and I don't doubt it), it's equally annoying to live with someone who has a comment about every little thing.  If you are willing, put a taperecorder in your house and listen to a typical exchange between the two of you.  You'll soon see, that even if your "comments" are true, valid, right, justified, whatever.....you might be able to see from your spouse's perspective that while the comments might be all of those things, they can also be annoying, too.  

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for the warm welcome.  I appreciate it.  This is tough stuff we're all dealing with. 

Thank you for your response.

Thank you for your response.  My husband acknowledges his ADHD to some extent.  He takes meds (he LOVES taking meds) but he has been very resistant to making behavior changes.  I, on the other hand, have made many changes to my own behavior, both behaviors that probably developed in response to my husband's condition and behaviors that I was born with or developed as a child.  In the last few months, I have basically turned off my normal personality, because, who knows, the person I am might be causing my husband's ADHD responses.  And I've gotten nothing in return.  I commend you for bravely and wholeheartedly dealing with ADHD.  But many people with ADHD do not, and it's not because of their spouses.

Fixing our marriages, not our spouses - I hear you

Rosered, I hear you. 

I'm not sure if I'm doing this "posting" thing right----I'm keeping my "subject line" the same so that I can find it easily (?)  Anyway....I hear you.  You are absolutely right.  If your spouse is not even ATTEMPTING to make behavior changes, it has got to be frustrating as well as discouraging for you.  Because my personal dynamic is different (I'm the one with ADD, not my husband), many aspects are different. However, I would assume that your husband agrees that your marriage is not good.  So my guess is that, although he acknowledges his ADD, he is of the opinion that the marital problems are not ALL his fault and he's right.  There's no such thing. A relationship problem is never 100% one person's fault (although both parties would like to think so).  Your perspective is TOTALLY valid; but so is his.  You have had to "put up with" his behavior and believe it or not, he has had to "put up with yours."  While it may be true that his ADD characteristics are the biggest FACTOR, the formula is this:  HIS behavior + YOUR reactions to = the marital environment.  I can totally understand that it seems that the solution then would be so simple then:  just have him change his behavior and you will change your reaction, but that's never going to happen.  It hasn't worked so far, right?  My only suggestion is this.  Realize that your marriage has an enemy and in our cases that enemy is ADD.  Your husband is not the enemy.  While I believe that ADD marriages are particularly rough, the reality is MOST marriages are made up of opposites.  May I recommend that you read the book, "Love & War" by John Eldrige.   He explains that perhaps we need to consider that the fact that "opposites attract" is not a coincidence.  I don't know if you believe in God, but if you do, and believe that marriage is designed by God, his book suggest that we consider that maybe God designed marriage so that husband and wife would help each other become the person that God intended for us to be.  My husband and I have found that perspective to be very helpful.   My husband and I both have to admit:  I have to admit that the things about me that bug my husband are "true" and  he has to to admit that the things about him that bug me are also "true."  Even though we're both stubborn.  I don't doubt that the things about your husband that bug you are true.  Are the things about you that bug your husband true(?) or completely made up?   As long as you insist that your marriage problems are all his fault, he's never going to budge. 

I have changed my reactions. 

I have changed my reactions.  I don't show anger.  I don't show sadness.  I rarely respond sarcastically.  I've decided that my talkativeness was part of the problem and so I've stopped talking to people in general.  Because, as you have so clearly and compellingly stated, I am as much a part of the problem as the ADHD is.  And you know what?  My husband has done squat.

I do know that ADHD is the enemy.  My husband says that making behavioral changes is too hard.  

Not showing anger or sadness

Not showing anger or sadness isn't the same as not feeling them. No one is saying we cannot feel angry...anger is as normal a human emotion as any other...but reacting with anger is where we get in trouble. When I think of "reacting" with anger I think of all of the horrible yelling matches we have had over the last 7 years or so...where one of us would get mad, the other would react with equal amounts of anger, both having a point to prove, and then things didn't stop until they were completely out of control. As long as that adrenaline was pumping, neither of us was backing down. A smart comment. Him spending money he promised he wouldn't. Me being 'too hard' on my SD. Me giving him attitude about his going out too much. Me fussing about his drinking. All it took was one little comment and within 2 minutes we could take it to an extreme level. He didn't care if I was sad. He got to where he didn't even care if I cried...it just seemed to piss him off even worse...or he would see that I was THAT upset and go in for the kill..saying the most horrible things ever. I retaliated with the same.

And then there is the underlying anger...the kind that shows in your words when you speak of them to your family, friends, and strangers on a message board like this one. You may think he doesn't 'feel' it, but it becomes as much a part of who you are and how you react with him as anything else. You think you're not 'yelling' so you're not 'showing' anger...and you might be very, very wrong. 

I think you might have changed how you outwardly react to him, but I don't know that you've changed how you inwardly feel towards the marriage as a whole. I don't say this to blame you, God knows I don't...but before you give up on his ever changing his behaviors, you really need to look at how you might be tricking everyone, yourself including, into thinking you've done the hard work when maybe all you've done is made yourself feel worse by learning to shove everything down inside and all that is doing is growing your resentment even more. 

If you cannot be yourself...if you feel the only solution is to shove your emotions down and change who you are...then you're missing the point. Find your joy...talk to whomever you want for as long as you want...remove yourself from the ADHD for a while...don't give it another thought, don't think about it, try to fix it, or keep track of what he is or isn't doing...just focus on YOU. Don't focus on what is "wrong" with you, but focus on becoming the person you'd like to be...and then you will see the difference between hiding your emotions versus feeling your emotions BUT being able to control them and not letting them control you. (((HUGS)))

I mostly agree with you.  But

I mostly agree with you.  But my husband has told me that my displays of emotion (which are rarely loud) cause him to "roll up in a ball" or cause his brain to shut down.  And apparently, even if I just talk about my emotions, these reactions occur.  So,yes, I have been given the message that me having emotions is too much for him to deal with.  

The person I'd like to be is myself, a person who has feelings.  My husband does not seem to want a wife who has any negative feelings, even if those negative feelings are not related to him or the marriage.  He has told me that he assumes that he is the cause of all my sadness; he has also told me that when he thinks he caused something bad, he feels so guilty that he cannot function normally.  So, the onus is on me to not convey any negative feelings, because if I do, I have caused him to not function normally.

It is like a vicious

It is like a vicious cycle...but the better he feels about himself, and his place in your marriage and your heart, the more he will be able to 'hear' your feelings and process them. He says he doesn't want you to show your feelings because it does make him feel bad about himself. I know..my husband was the same way..only he didn't say that he just got pissed and made me feel like I was the worst person in the world for having feelings. I don't know how you get there, but you need to focus on being able to express your feelings to him in a way that isn't threatening to him...but gives you the sense that he hears you.

Can you give an example of something you tried to share with him that resulted in this kind of shut down from him? 

As I've said before..I will say "that was rude" or "that hurt my feelings" and then I don't wait for or expect a reaction from him. It might take him 2 days to process it to the point that he doesn't feel threatened by it...but he rarely ever fails to acknowledge it in some way...eventually. Before, hell would freeze over before he would. 

What you're also going to have to take into consideration is that he has been programmed to feel like a complete heel for hurting you, to feel like he isn't loved by you when he hurts you, and he probably feels VERY INSECURE when it comes to dealing with the pain he's caused you. It will take some time for him to feel secure/comfortable enough to accept that he hurt you, but understand that it doesn't mean you think he's horrible or that you don't love him because of it. When you express your feelings and then LET IT GO and continue to show your love for him then he will start to think "hey, Ok...I did hurt her...and I didn't really mean to hurt her and I feel bad about that...but she isn't rejecting me because of it...hey, she's actually being nice to me.." and he'll be more compelled to make amends. 

I have lived your life...I have said before "I'm not allowed to have feelings about anything..." to my husband 1000 times. I KNOW this vicious cycle...and I know it can be broken. It TRULY is about you both wanting from the other what the other isn't willing to give. Him wanting/needing to feel you love him inspite of his mistakes and you feeling like he cares about your feelings. You don't have to point out your hurt feelings in a 30 minute rant...it causes his shut downs. In the same sense, he needs to be willing to reflect on his actions (when you point out.."hey, that was hurtful") and apologize. It sounds so simple, and it really is...but getting there is tough as hell. I started working on this in Sept of last year...it took until March for it to finally start clicking with him. 

Fixing our marriages, not our spouses


I'm so sorry.  I hear the depression in your words.  Again, because the genders are "reversed" in our situations the circumstances are not all the same.  I can relate to the wives because I am a "wife" but I can relate to the husbands because of my ADD.  I think this site does a bit of a disservice in referring to the ADD-er as the "ADD Spouse" instead of the "ADD husband" or "ADD wife" ---it makes a HUGE difference whether it is the wife or the husband.  Melissa pointed out that research shows that husbands of ADD-wives are more likely to leave their wife, than are wives of ADD-husbands likely to leave their husbands.  That supports my point!  Gender matters! Women (ADD or not) are willing to put up with a lot more crap than men are.  In fact, here's another quote I've heard pertaining to marital conflict in general (not just ADD) which I think is very accurate......
"When there are problems in the marriage, women see those problems when they "smell smoke," men don't see the problems until there's "fire."   It appears to me, on this site, that it is very often that men will only acknowledge their problem when women do something drastic, like leave.  The problem is, women don't leave until there's no turning back.  Even though I am the one with the ADD, I was extremely frustrated and resentful toward my husband and I regret that years ago I didn't "leave" (temporarily) because he claims he had no idea how much resentment I was feeling. I think if I had "left" he would've gotten the point.  But why didn't I?  Because I didn't want to cause a "scandal."  And we have children...I didn't want my household to fall apart. Well guess what, there's worse things than a temporary separation and often that's what it takes to "wake up" a husband.   From what I'm reading on this site, it sounds like in marriages with an ADD-husband, the wife does "everything" and the household would fall apart without her.  Well, there's a potential solution right there. I can't guarantee that it would work, but stop enabling the ADD husband.  Pack up and leave temporarily (before you are ready to leave permanently) and let him experience life without you for awhile.  Perhaps then he will see "Fire" and finally take steps to change.  I've seen in many times.  And I'm reading it on this site from those husbands who are taking responsibility.  They need a big wake-up call. 


Breaking the pattern

To scatterbrain--I'm the non-ADD partner (female) in my relationship. My partner is male with ADHD. We're not married. He was married twice before. I've never been married. But I was 50 when I met him, and given what I learned about ADD, I wasn't eager to get married (and neither was he, actually), even though we are committed. We've been together 12 years now, and (I'm not kidding) friends envy our relationship. But we had some very rocky years at the beginning. My partner and I were in counseling with a psychologist who has ADD, and we wouldn't have stayed together without this. I actually said to my partner, "I won't be able to continue with this relationship unless we see a counselor together." So I recommend counseling to ADD partners if your insurance covers it (mine did) or you can afford it. The more my partner and I talked about our personal histories and emotions in the safety of these sessions, the more compassionate we felt toward each other. After each session, we went out for pizza. We pulled out the notes we wrote during the session and decided what we would do differently based on them. With the help of the counselor, we stayed very concrete--how do we cope with our different personalities and needs without blame or criticism. This was very tough. But a turning point for me personally has to do with what scatterbrain mentions above. I had to realize that I wasn't setting boundaries. I didn't have the nerve to calmly say "no" or "I don't like this" or "I'm angry" because I feared his reaction, which was his own anger. I waited until I was angry myself, which was a kind of fuel for getting the words out. But I read something about women's tendencies to discount their needs and opinions. So I started saying to myself, "My opinions, desires, and needs are of equal weight to his." I would state my position early and without anger (this took a lot of practice), and then bit my tongue and stood firm when he reacted angrily. For example, he's a wedding photographer. One time, he had forgotten to get his tuxedo shirt cleaned and called me at the last minute to ask if I would, right then, bring it to the cleaners. I said no, I had something else I needed to do. He got angry (and yes, inside I felt guilty). He ended up wearing some other, not-as-nice shirt, and he never again asked me to go to the cleaners for him. He put "bring shirt to cleaners" on a checklist of preparations and did it himself after that. Eventually, lots of things changed. Sure, he would sometimes be late, forgetful, etc.,--that's just how it is. Sometimes I would say, "I'm upset that you .... " but I followed it with "Let's think of what we can do so this doesn't happen again." By the way, I think it's very helpful that as a woman with ADD you're participating in these discussions. It's illuminating to hear the perspective of the individual with ADD.

Since I have posted it all

Since I have posted it all before, I will just give a summary of his ADHD treatment history...and my history in dealing with/acknowledging my anger.

He was diagnosed in June of 2010. He started meds in Oct 2010. Concerta first...made him hostile and argumentative to the extreme. He switched to Vyvanse. Same thing. He refused to see it both times and only after stopping the Concerta did he admit that he was being a jerk...but then came the Vyvanse and all he was doing, in his mind, was 'finally standing up for himself for the first time in his life'. At that point, I was still fairly angry and dealing with a lot of old hurts...and new ones. Maybe it wasn't all him, who knows? Anyway, he stopped Vyvanse in Feb of 2011 because I was on the verge of leaving him...yes, he was THAT nasty. For all of his faults, being an irritable, hostile jerk wasn't one of them. He fell into a deep, dark place (see my other recent post about his substance abuse...and how it ties into this point in his treatment). FF to Feb of this year and he hit rock bottom (also included in my other post) and he is now finally seeing some decent results from medications, without all of the nasty side effects. He is FINALLY treating himself properly (not self medicating..maybe the other meds would have affected him differently had he not been doing so while taking them) and I am hopeful. He has been clean for almost 3 months and has been consistent with his treatment for almost as long. 

I spent a few months in counseling JUST FOR ME before finally coming to terms with my anger and how it was killing me...and hurting my marriage. In Sept of last year I embraced my codependency, stopped fighting with him, started focusing on ME and how I was contributing to the marriage...and let him deal with himself. It was terrifying...and the end result was he had to be stripped down to nothing before he did finally SEE what he needed to see. All of my worst fears were recognized...he lost his job, he started abusing alcohol in a way that still scares me when I think about it, and things got a WHOLE LOT worse before they got better. But, he got there on his own and he is fighting to regain his life on his own. I am proud of him. I, too, was stripped down to nothing...and saw what I needed to see too.

Denial is what kills these marriages....denial of how we each affect each other's behaviors and feelings. It hurt like hell for me to finally realize that his accusations of me "trying to control him", him saying all I did was "bitch all the time", etc were actually TRUE. I tried to control what I felt was out of control...HIM. I was angry, frustrated, and bitter because that didn't go as I always hoped it would...ever. Truth was, I became someone he didn't much like just as much as he became someone I didn't much like.

We are best friends...we have our issues, both of us, but we are working through it as best we can. I don't make 'little comments', I am acutely aware of what I say and how I treat him...at least that is my goal. I love him because he is my husband and he is a good man with a condition that stinks. For so many years all I saw were a selfish, lying person who hurt me. Now that I look at him through a different lens, he is becoming someone I love more each day.


Fixing our marriages, not our spouses


Wow. I'm sorry you had to summarize all that to bring me up to speed, but I appreciate it.  You are a wise woman.  You have put up with a lot and it sounds like both you and your husband are finally focusing on what's "right" in each other and what's "wrong" in yourselves and I'm convinced that is the only path to success.  I also see that you made the very difficult decision to "let go" and let the chips fall where they may, (and they fell hard!) which is SO hard to do.  But as you have seen, people have to hit "rock bottom" before they can see themselves objectively and start to change.  That is TOUGH love.  That's what I meant in my post to Rosered.   I think we all "linger" in misery because we don't want to "pull the rug out" from under the situation because it's scary! But we need to ask ourselves, which is worse?:  the intense, very painful, but relatively short-lived world of "rock bottom" or prolonged misery that is perhaps less intense but never-ending?  I'm not implying that rock bottom is "short" but it is often a catalyst for positive change. No one stays in "rock bottom" forever.  Prolonged agony is worse because there's no hope.  But as the saying goes, for many of us we think that, "The Devil we know is better than the Devil we don't know."  And so we just linger in it.  

It sounds like you are on the right track and it's not an easy track.  What you are experiencing sounds very much like what people experience in "Celebrate Recovery."  Not sure if you or your husband are familiar with that program.  In any event, you will both want to see the movie, "HomeRun" when it comes out next August.  It will be "healing" for both of you.

God bless you! 



My husband's ADHD counselor

My husband's ADHD counselor is a part of Celebrate Recovery. He LOVES her. 

I want to add that a LOT of prayer...I mean a LOT of on.my.knees.asking.God.for.direction.and.strength prayer got me through as well. My husband isn't my enemy...the devil is my enemy...and we were waging spiritual warfare. I do believe it was all God's plan...looking back I can even see where the toughest, most painful times (not that they are over by any means) were all part of his plan to get us to 'see' what we needed to see and be where we needed to be. Go back and look at my posts in the months leading up to February. You can see it in my words..my worst fear was him losing his job. I lost sleep over it and I feel like I never had any security or stability in my life because of how much he hated his job and how little effort he put into it. It was meant to be...I will just leave it at that. 

almost there, I think

Sherri, I have been following you on here for a while, and I think you are a wise woman, too! I think I am coming out of the dark, and I want to thank you, because your words have made more sense to me than anything.

It is a process, and I have been through stages for years. Feeling trapped and bewildered. Check. Feeling furious and hurt. Check. Feeling like everything was out of control. Check. Feeling like a victim and a martyr and an abuse victim. Check. I have lost my youth and my happiness from this bad relationship. Check. Why does everyone else get to be happy and I don't? Why aren't we like those old couples I see holding hands? Check. Believing that my DH did not care about me, my feelings, that he was a selfish jerk who had no empathy whatsoever. Check. Enduring angry, verbally abusive behavior and then dying inside when I could not get him to "see" or "feel" how horrible his behavior was--I could have cut off my own arm in front of him (and probably wanted to, many times, lol) and it would not have caused him to show remorse. In fact, the more I tried to get him to "see" or to explain myself to him, the angrier and more withdrawn he got, and I could not process this--I have never met anyone who is like him in this way. I "chased him down" many times when we were fighting if he would leave the room (I think you mentioned that somewhere, and you are right, it is the WORST thing you can do to someone with ADHD, and my friends, it does not end well). And mourning. Check. The marriage that I didn't have, the way our family was so different than I wanted it to be, mourning the time I have spent being unhappy, mourning so much that the way I expected my DH to show love, he just does not do it that way. It has been a long, long time. 

And I have been in denial--"I have tried so hard!" (I have, but not the right way). I have been understanding and zen! (for a few days, and then the cycle starts and I cannot let go of something). I read the book, I did my part, and he won't! (I didn't really do my part, because I kept expecting him to do his at the SAME TIME and was mad that he wasn't). How can I be with someone who won't do the work!? I have processed my anger and he has not! (not true, I shoved it down deeper). He doesn't love me enough to do it! I was so self righteous when he would tell me that I am crazy, that I am so anxious and angry (and you know what--I am--not insane, but angry and anxious and acting insane!) I am writing this and I am shaking my head at the time I have wasted. 

Sherri, you are right. It has taken both of us hitting rock bottom (and I thought it was him that needed to!) I have been so very angry for so long that it is eating me up. Making me old. Giving me migraines and all sorts of physical problems. I had such a bad one yesterday that I could not see to drive--I was seeing red and just being alive hurt so bad. I have constant heartburn and now a kidney stone. Ruining my time with my children--I was so sad this morning waking them up--it must be awful for them, ruining my work, and ruining my sense of self. I see it. We just had a horrible argument in front of people at a rest stop on a trip, of all things. It was so embarrassing. I just wanted to get on the road so badly, and he was dawdling, and lingering, and bristling each time I tried to explain to him that I can't see well to drive in the dark. It was so late--we had gone 100 miles in 4 hours, and all I could think about was how alone, as USUAL, I was going to have to get the kids to bed so late and unload the car (he is sick) and get everyone up the next morning, and we didn't have any food and get us out the door, how he just didn't freaking CARE about anyone but himself. And I got really snappy. And he swore at me in front of people at the rest stop, and I have held onto that (I hate that so much, it is humiliating, and abusive, and I have told him how much I hate it, and unfortunately, as not ok as it is, it is the way he reacts when I nag him). He told me later that sometimes he just doesn't "get" things, that he honestly did not understand why I wanted to start driving earlier that afternoon, or that my eyesight at night was so bad (I said it three times, so I honestly thought he didn't give a flip). Can you believe it? He told me I need to find a different way to try to talk to him. That was actually some progress but I didn't give him any credit for that or listen to it--I was so PISSED that I kept holding on to the fact that he swore at me and wasn't acting remorseful!

And I have not slept, I have been miserable, we have had a fight for two days with that adrenaline going, and I have been throwing myself into a metaphorical wall until I have a bloody pulp of a psyche left, and guess what? 

Is the definition of insanity doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results? Because that is what I am doing!! I am being co-dependent! I have so much invested in the reactions and responses I get, and I take his behavior so personally--I have actually, in the past, gone home from work in the middle of the day to try to "reason" with him when we are fighting--when all I really am doing is looking for affirmation and a different reaction.  

And you know what else? It has made my DH sick. Literally. He now has a disease in which his immune system is nuts and it is degenerative and could be fatal. A big factor is stress. We have had the most dysfunctional relationship possible. And all I have been thinking is, "I just don't know if I can do it--if I can stay with and take care of him after all this, even though he is suffering and sick, because he STILL has ADHD and we still have these issues and he still doesn't "see" and I still can't "fix" him or this situation and he won't go to therapy with me. And I though the solution was that he was telling me that I wasn't allowed to have feelings or ever feel bad or hurt--I truly, truly did and that is what made me so sad and angry. 

Now I realize--it is ok to feel, and that is not what he has been saying. It is my reactions to my feelings that cause him a problem, not the feelings themselves. I don't have to freak out, or feel bad about myself, or try like hell to get him to "see." I am going to sincerely try this, for the first time. I am going to let go of being angry, and I am going to try to set clear boundaries and then enforce them calmly and with dignity. Maybe it is not too late, and maybe it will help, but even if it does not save my marriage or my DH does not change a whit, it will save ME. 

Many thanks, Sherri. 

Thank you for that...I am

Thank you for that...I am very glad that my story/journey can help someone else. I think there is a fine line for those of us who are co-dependent between taking the blame and holding ourselves accountable. For so long I outwardly blamed him, inwardly blamed myself, and carried the burden of doing/saying/thinking/reacting in the 'right' way so that it would all just stop. I can relate to every.single.word of your post. Check. Do not pursue. Awesome that you finally see how damaging this is. More to the point how COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY it is. Let them go. Let go yourself...just breathe. That which we want so badly...validation and resolution NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER comes from pursuit. It comes from changing our own attitudes and putting our focus on US. How in the hell did we become so dependent and needy for another person's validation that pursuing that validation was worth all we lost??? It IS insane. Yes, we love them. Yes, most people expect and desire the validation and love of the person they are married to...but the way we learn to go about it is like shooting ourselves in the foot to spite our face. I am SOOO very happy for you that you're coming to terms with it all. It won't happen overnight. It takes practice to get anything right and you'll find yourself engaging, chasing, reacting, etc...but with each issue comes an opportunity to stop yourself and say "no more". Repeat over and over "this does not work..this is only hurting things more..I love my marriage and I am hurting my marriage as much as he is...I am hurting myself...just let go". Eventually the adrenaline reaction will stop, the need for immediate validation and resolution will cease, and the anger will subside. The fighting will stop. You will feel better about yourself. You will say what you feel, without anger, and you will learn to wait for a response...and have faith that even if you don't get one, he is listening and learning. And, in the end, if you get it together and do your part and he doesn't improve then you know you did all you could. 

My husband still has ADHD. Where some issues have been laid to rest for now, others are still there...and new ones are coming up. I am still a recovering co-dependent. I have no idea what the future holds. Most days I feel like we will make it. A few days, here and there, I feel wrong to trust him and am fear that we will never truly be 'out of the woods' so to speak. I've seen his ADHD take hold of him and him deny it all the way down...to the black hole. That is why I choose to put all of my faith in God and just continue to focus on me and what I need to do to make our situation different. In the end, I will know I did all I could. Also, my expectations for him have changed...I no longer expect him to fail and stumble through life. I expect him to stand on his own, handle his own issues, keep up with his treatment, and focus on himself...and if he doesn't then the consequences are that we probably won't make it. I won't go back to living with a black cloud hanging over our home. 

fuzzylogic72's picture


Hi fehrri,

I just read this message, but I haven't read any previous ones on this thread from you because I was writing a torturously long post myself. So forgive me if I am missing any details that you might have already given earlier. My first thought on reading it was that there has to more to the clinical picture than adhd alone. Have you had thorough testing done for a broad spectrum of disorders which may include the symptoms you mentioned? Second and third opinions? If not, I would certainly do that. I was assessed as being on the extreme end of the scale with executive function, and have met many people at support meetings who were in better shape and a few who were worse (just through observation; but it becomes obvious when you know what to look for, but I have very rarely met anyone who had the intense disability that you describe; the only one I did was also assessed as autistic spectrum in addition to adhd. One thing that really confuses me is that you say the executive function issues have worsened, with the improvement in his adhd. I can't understand how that could be possible, but maybe i'm misinterpreting. That's what made me ask about the scope of his assessments.

In terms feeling the only way to help is not to talk; NO WAY!! Having recently come out of a relationship with a Borderline-Narcissist, I implore you never to resort to a life where you feel you do not have the right to speak freely, or that you words will either not be heard, or evoke a hostile reaction. Regardless of how long you have been together, the financial situation, or any other factor. binding you into that kind of life. No one deserves that. Try to be as patient and objective as possible (as futile as that sounds) until you are sure that you have exhausted all avenues.

I wish you the best...