Finally realized that wife has ADHD; What do we do now?

My wife and I have been married 22 years and have two daughters, 15 and 10.  Over the last couple of years our youngest has been diagnosed with ADHD.  As she was growing up I'd often say "You are just like your mother."  Little did I know what the implications of that statement meant.  Over the years of our marriage my wife, and others, have joked that she was ADD/ADHD, that I needed to control her spending, etc..  Now that she has been diagnosed I realize how much of a toll it has taken on our marriage.  I've felt alone and like roommates for years but have chalked it up to just being married.  This website, and Melissa's recent book on ADHD in marriage, has made us both realize what the impact her ADHD has had on our marriage (what relationship), finances (debt because of impulsive spending), volunteer involvement (over committed to others), parenting decisions (couldn't say no to the girls or discipline them), chores (laundry always behind, house cluttered), etc.  It seemed liked we argued about everything.  I often thought much of this was the result of her parents' divorce when she was 11 (her mom dumped all of her adult problems on her).  Combined with all of this is that I have been clinically depressed twice (once 11 years ago because of my career - 1 in 3 lawyers are clinically depressed at any given time - and again about a year ago after going off of Effexor XR on my own - bad move).  What I have found out about myself is that being in this type of environment - especially with an ADHD child - is mentally and physically exhausting.  Frankly, I was at my wits' end and in survival mode.  I love my wife and daughters dearly and do not want to get divorced.  Our recognition of her problem has given me great hope.  In ways I feel like a load has been lifted off of me.  She has talked with her mom at length and she finally realizes that my wife is ADHD after she really started being honest with herself about her ex-husband's  (my wife's father) and former mother-in-law's behavior.  My wife is now trying to find the right medication but we both know that will not, by itself, be enough.  The bottom line for me is this:  Recognition is fine but where do we go now?

Good luck Larry

I can really, really sympathize with you Larry.  I hope you have a good outcome.

For me the "Aha!" moment when her constellation of symptoms and behaviors finally had a name and was treatable was a very hopeful one.

Medication has helped somewhat, but a lifetime of rotten habits are difficult to change, particularly when there is a family history that both reinforced them and suggested that they were normal.  

A long marital history of hurts, slights and angers just exacerbates the situation.

For me, finding out that my wife's problems are pathological, rather than just behavioral is in some ways, worse.  I can no longer hold out hope that reason and logic will convince her to see the light and change her behaviors.  Maybe organically she just can't help it, which makes me feel like a shit for contemplating leaving her.

For now, I have decided that as between me and my kids being unhappy, I choose me.

For now.  But they will not always be kids.  And since this is slowly killing me and holds little promise of ever changing, I cannot foreclose any possibilities.

Anyway, I feel for you brother.

To you both

I hear your sorrows in your words, so please don't think I am suggesting that you just put on a happy face and get on with it.  What I hope to do is spark a little hope for you and suggest that there is something you can do to help the situation.  I just went through the very tough time of accepting that my marriage isn't going to be what I had hoped for with ADHD being a factor. That residue of hurt/disappointment/anger is still dissipating in fact, so I hear where you are coming from. 

My husband is totally and completely against the idea of getting properly diagnonsed and treated.  To him it's all a bunch of "overdiagnosed BS and he can do just fine without the help of head shrink, thank you very much."  The fact that your spouse may be embracing the fact that she has ADHD and also accepting treatment is a wonderful step in the right direction from my perspective.  Since I have little hope of my guy pursuing knowledge and suggestions on how to live better with it, I took it on myself to learn and adapt our household to help.  Things such as easy organization and systems for doing the things he finds complicated.  I look at my self and my reactions over the last few years and evaluate whether my behaviors contributed to the chaos by my own selfishness, being inconsiderate, etc.  Sometimes I find I wasn't being unreasonable (for a non-ADD situation) but sometimes I find that my reactions and assumptions were wrong, wrong, wrong.  This is currently the focus of what I am trying to change now, so that the cycle of resentment and frustration is broken, because I'm the one that can cut it off.   I still pick up the slack when he forgets or can't handle too many things to do in a day, but I only do so if it is something that is harmful to us financially, health-wise, etc.  Changing the household environment has some very positive effects regarding the household chores, and I'm learning more as a read and research ADHD. 

To be clear, I very much want our marriage to work for a lot of reasons, and it has gotten much better from our lowest point. I also understand that it may not work, especially if my husband doesn't engage treatment.  That fact almost killed me I think; the crushed dream of what I thought my marriage would be was almost too much to bear.  For some time I was completely consumed by the doom and gloom of having ADHD be a part of our relationship.  I was fretting about it so much that I thought my mental health was at stake so I contemplated leaving him.  I think most of us could say we've contemplated leaving at some point, so don't feel guilty. 

I'm not sure how it happened, but I decided one day that I didn't have to be completely consumed and depressed about it all.  I decided my circumstances were not going to dictate how the rest of my life went.  I've started seeing my friends again and exercising and planning that vacation I've always wanted to take.  I'm making some career investments.  Those kinds of things don't have to be affected by the ADHD relationship.  As you said, Aiken, taking care of yourself and in your case your children needs to be a priority.  Now that I'm writing it, I think there was a moment of huge acceptance that was sort of a watershed moment.  Would I fall into the abyss of trying to fix everything or pining over what he isn't doing, or would I live the best life I could and work on what I could change (including myself)?  I had a choice to make and so do you.  

I know that this is the center of your world at this time and it's probably hard to accept encouragement right now.  I definitely get that there are things my suggestions don't resolve, but the point being there are things you and the kids can do to not live so chaotically, self-education about ADHD being the most important.  Do what you have to of course, but don't leave out some of the things that you WANT to do.  ADHD doesn't have to rule your lives--yours, your wives or your children's. 

nomorebadhead's picture

i know what you are going through

larry, I know what you are going through. this is the first post that reflects my situation. After the last 7 years of our 9 years of marraige has been spent in a downward spiral. slow at first and then quite remarkeably fast in the last few months. we have just linked my wife's  adhd and all of the problems we have been having. we just made this revealing discovery after finding this web-site. We had come very close to splitting up recently but I have known there is something working behind the scenes wrecking us. The problem is that I am on disability right now and my wife the ADHDer is a flight attendant. so before even introducing the disorder we already had an imbalance of duties. I have always just written off our fights as the result of her leaving every week to go fly while I stay home and take care of everything. we have two beautiful children 4 and 6 the older has very bad ADHD and we have been to a number of different doctors. Here's the problem her whole family thinks I am the bad guy now and this is a huge problem for me because they live close but they are in denial they suffer from the same problems we were going through, any advise??