Finding the Inspiration to Change and Thrive in ADHD Marriages

People often ask me the question – how did you find the inspiration to turn your marriage, and your life, around?  I think you know when “inspiration” hits – it’s like a light bulb going on.  Something very central to who you are and how you think changes dramatically enough so that you find hope, balance, and a sense of self that rings true and provides drive from the inside out.  Inspiration, whether it comes as an “aha moment” or as a steady set of choices about being a better person, can come from many sources, and I would like to suggest a few here.

Learning from other’s:  Today I sat in a presentation/discussion at my son’s middle school given by Dr. Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock 9.  Here is a man who risked his life as a teenager because he felt that segregation was not the way that people should live.  He says that his decision to go to a white high school was completely intentional, and that it took great effort and perseverance – every day – to get up and go to school knowing that the instant he got there he would be beaten up, sworn at, stabbed, poked and ridiculed.  The penalty for any sympathetic white person was a sound thrashing, too.

His message today is one of forgiveness, human imperfection, choices, and personal control.  You control your own life because you choose whether or not to respond to those who taunt and hurt you.  Their actions are a reflection on them – not on you.  You forgive those who are imperfect because, quite frankly, we are all imperfect.  We can choose to try to learn more and to try to be better people, or choose not to.  He tells students “strive to learn all that you can” and always choose not to interact with violence.  Even when you are abused by others, you should just leave violence behind.

He even mentioned marriage in his talk.  His point of view is that many people who get divorced are doing so because they are searching for some perfect person…yet there is no such thing.  No one is perfect.  His message about the strength of personal choice in shaping the world around you was an inspiration to both the adults and the kids, who gave him a standing ovation.

Reading:  There are a lot of ways to absorb inspirational ideas from books – and not just books on how to have a happy marriage.  I have always thought Dare to Forgive by Ned Hallowell is a great one because forgiveness and acceptance are so central to strong marriages.  But I have also been reading a book about education called Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox which is highly relevant and inspirational within the realm of making choices that strengthen people – and is particularly relevant for those with ADD.  She makes the case that people should do what they are good at – not try to remediate what they are bad at so that they can be well rounded.  Make your choices based on strengths.  By thinking of ourselves as a community that works together so that multiple individuals with specific talents team up, anything can happen.  (It’s a great recipe for a successful marriage!)  She is eloquent on the topic and, best of all, has a whole section at the back about how to identify your strengths.  A great resource for heading in a new, more productive direction.

Competition:  Inspiration to change can come from less lofty places, as well.  I admit to being hit upside the head by competition.  Finding out I had a rival for my husband’s attention inspired me to assess whether or not all the fights we had been having was really worthwhile (the answer was no).  I was challenged to improve my attitude and my behavior just so I could continue to respect myself.  After I once again respected myself, my husband started to respect me again, too.

Religion:  I have had a number of people tell me that they turned to their God to help them find the patience and inner reserves to make a change in a direction that helped their relationship.  This intensely personal approach generally centers on the concepts of forgiveness, acceptance and self-respect.  By living these ideals these people found ways to create change in their own lives that encouraged their spouses to interact with them in more constructive fashion.

Treatment:  There are cases when a person wants to make changes, but has difficulty finding the tools within themselves to do so because of untreated ADHD symptoms.  In these cases beginning some sort of monitored treatment plan helped them make enough progress to regain hope and inspiration.  It also provided a boost for their often exhausted partners.

Whatever your source of inspiration, the main idea is this:  What you have been doing in the past has not been working and you and your spouse are exhausted by your efforts.  Inspiration is about finding your inner reserves to make a leap into the unknown and, generally, towards being a more forgiving, accepting person.  Whether it is injustice that inspires, as it did Dr. Roberts, or a book about how every single person has strength that can be tapped into and developed, inspiration is what keeps you going when you have to get up to face another crisis.


An inspirational story to make marriages last.

MelissaOrlov, you have written quite an inspirational piece and hope many people are inspired by it. Here, I would like to share an inspirational story which, I strongly believe, can help marriages last if really put into action. The story is called "Duck and Chicken" and it was related by a religious figure. It goes like this: One day, a young couple was taking a stroll along a riverbank on a moonlit night. Suddenly, a loud sound "quack quack" rang out. The couple stopped for a while and the sound resonated again. "That's a chicken", said the young lady. "No, that's a duck", her husband answered back. They listen carefully and there goes another "quack, quack". "That's definitely a chicken," the lady insisted. Her husband got mad: "No, its D.U.C.K, duck, get it?." But his wife still insisted its a chicken and they got into an argument. Suddenly, her husband became quiet, lovingly held the hands of his lovely wife, looked her in the eyes and said: "You know what Honey, I think you are right, that's a chicken." The rationale of the story is this: The husband was correct to say that its a duck. But he was wise enough to know that his marriage should be paramount to everything else, and he was not going to have a silly "chicken and duck" argument undermine it. In reality, who cares whether its a duck or a chicken! Many things is life are only petty matters, if you really reflect on it. So the next time you get into a heated argument with your spouse, please think of the "chicken and duck" story. It may just save your marriage, or make it even stronger.
clancy's picture

Life with ADD

Just a few comments I want to make. While reading Dr.Hallowell's CrazyBusy book, I had an aha! moment. I came to the chapter where his daughter asks when he's going to quit smoking and the realization he had about choosing to be there for his daughter in the future and quitting smoking at that moment. It was at that moment that I thought about being here for my husband. It wasn't about smoking but rather making intimate connections. yes, our relationship has been moving forward in a positive direction but i realized it was lacking a physical connection. I've been angry for so long that I lost trust. Cut to the chase, I just went and hugged him and felt his closeness again. Big deal, right. Well for me, someone who has trouble with intimacy, yes. I guess I was ready to take in the "life is too short" and let my guard down. Something else, Dr. Hallowell also has a chapter that discusses taking in too much information. I found some of the negative comments made by non-ADD spouses here upsetting because I was identifying with the ADD spouses. I started feeling depressed and not hopeful about life with ADD in a family of ADDers. I think this was a case of "taking in too much information." It's my responsibility what I read here. This is a site where we can come for support and feel safe expressing ourselves. Which brings me to my last comment. I try to be careful when I reply by keeping the messages coherent, short, etc. That takes a lot of mental energy to be that focused. It does keep me from rambling but I spend too much time on the computer editing my train of thought. I just needed to express that feeling. Thank you. .


Thanks for this nice note.  Keep hugging your husband!  It's amazing what simple touches and intimacy (hand holding, hugging, looking each other in the eye) can do for a relationship.

Melissa Orlov

The Weight of Failure, In the Moment

My husband was just asking me about this the other day. I go through cycles of trying really hard, and then throwing in the towel altogether. Because he finds inspiring others fulfilling, but hasn't ever been able to do so for me, he asked me the question, "What inspires you to get back on track when you've given up?" I had a hard time answering him intelligibly at first, but eventually came around to the things you mentioned here in the article. The question wouldn't have been so hard, had it not been for the fact that I knew he was REALLY asking how he can help me when I get burned out and depressed to the extent of a meltdown. I've told him time and time again that all I need is a shoulder to cry on, an open ear, and a "don't take it so seriously, it'll get better, you'll see" comment from time to time. But usually, he either completely ignores my emotional state altogether or starts talking about specific action steps I should take. When I'm overwhelmed (and sometimes that can last days), I can barely think about or see anything other than the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts racing through my head. Other times, I don't feel much at all, I just completely freeze up, paralyzed from doing every-day activities. When he ignores my distress or starts listing reasons why I've been unsuccessful or mentioning ways I could do things differently or better, I just want to start throwing things and screaming! Sometimes I have an emotional breakdown right after a fight, other times there's no one trigger, but almost 100% of the time he either falls asleep after asking me to explain what's wrong (because he says he can't help it, despite a good time of day), or raises his eye brows like "O.K." and goes about his business. If he does attempt to help, usually it doesn't involve empathy whatsoever, and does involve a mixed list of my shortcomings or ways I could do things better. I've tried to tell him that new ideas and fix-it/repair man attitude do little to comfort me. And that an attempt to inspire is a completely inappropriate response. When I am downtrodden or depressed, it is because I feel a genuine loss of something precious to me, often the belief in my own ability to change. That's like saying to a professional writer who may have just lost the use of his writing hand, "Hey, I've got an idea to cheer you up, let's do some writing!!!" It borders on complete insensitivity, even if it is out of ignorance. At this point, I appreciate his desire to inspire me, which he does in SO many ways, but really feel terrible, sometimes like I don't even have a friend when I'm going through a rough time. These scenarios most times result in a bad argument, resentment and non-closure between us that lasts for 1-3 hours!!! I know I've got ADHD, hyperactivity, and impulsivity and can be an absolute BEAR when I'm upset, but isn't there something he/I could do that wouldn't feel so empty and lonely? I told a friend the other day that when in extreme interpersonal distress, I've nearly convinced myself I won't be able to count on him. It makes me sad, considering he really is the best friend I have in so many other ways and seems to love me sincerely. He says he's given up on helping me, and that my little episodes overwhelm him too much. I don't want to overtax him or be too dependent on him, but want to know he cares about me enough to at least attempt to comfort me, rather than giving up.... HELP!

I am starting to understand

I am starting to understand how the everyday life is for people with ADHD. But what amazes me is that YOU seem to be the understanding person in the relationship. You worry about your marriage. You don't take it for granted. I applaud that, I would touch the sky if my husband would think that way. Unfortunately other than showing support I won't be able to do or say much because my situation is the exact opposite. Maybe you need to create some kind of code with him. If you're feeling down and depressed just say something like " can i steal five?" and go lay in his arms without talking, don't say a word(if possible of course). So that you can take a time out while feelings loved and safe and he knows you need him but you're not overtaxing him. I'm sorry it might sound silly. You never know though, it's worth to try Good luck

time to be comforted

I agree with Stella7 - you need a code to indicate to your husband that you need a small bit of "comfort time".  No solutions offered by him, just time to calm down and feel loved.  Since you've talked about it together, how about an overt "this is one of those times when you could best help me by holding me in your arms and comforting me without offering me any solutions.  Once I'm feeling a bit better, we can talk about your ideas"?