Getting my non-ADHD Spouse to Buy In

I am 40 years old.  I "self-diagnosed" my ADD about 2 years ago after my son (then age 10) was diagnosed (Inattentive Type Only, no H).  As a Mom, I dove into research to help him and discovered that this condition is very hereditary.  Then after about a year, the pieces started coming together and I realized that I have it too (same type).  I sought out a licensed counselor at my church who is familiar with ADD and asked my family doctor to allow me to try meds.  My son's improvements with meds are DRAMATIC, but me--not so much.  So I thought they weren't working.  But over time, I have come back to them and tried different types and I have realized that they DO work, but the effect is much more subtle for me.  My self-esteem is terribly low. I always thought it was due to an overly critical mother (who now I think also has ADD!), but I am learning that some of it is from years of undiagnosed ADD and so many failures.  It was so incongruent to me how I always KNEW I was smart--I had evidence of it, but yet I could never figure out why did I so often act so dumb or with no common sense!?  I finally concluded that I must be lazy, selfish and undisciplined with no willpower.  Then I found ADD.  It took over a year in counseling for me to finally believe that I was not a bad person and that I do have strengths.  When my counselor first asked me what my strengths and gifts are, I literally did not think I had ANY.  Only weaknesses and failures.

My marriage of 18 years started out GREAT after dating for 4 years. We had some major issues with sex right after the honeymoon (I lost interest COMPLETELY and started freaking out about the whole experience for no reason that either of us could ever figure out), but other than that, our life was truly wonderful.  And the sex got better over time.  Enter kids. The first two were only 17 months apart and I was trying to work FROM HOME part-time.  It was horrible.  I think I probably had clinical depression during that time, but did not realize it until I was finally pulling out of it.  I quit working as soon as we could manage it and that relieved some stress, but unfortunately my home-making skills did not improve much at all. Then we had our third child. I actually managed the kids pretty well, but that was about it.  I barely ever cooked dinner, and the housekeeping and laundry, etc. was a disaster.  I still have these same struggles now even though my kids are all in school all day (ages 9, 12, 13).  I just cannot seem to make myself do something that is so never-ending and when the mess and clutter just doesn't bother me all that much.  And it's like I have no ability to think ahead to dinner until it's time to eat, which of course does not leave time for meal planning or grocery shopping!

Before my "diagnosis," my husband was my hero.  He is very successful and smart.  He is a planner and is organized.  He sees the big picture of everything.  He doesn't make messes--he puts his clothes and dishes...and EVERYTHING away.  His motto that my kids can now quote, is that a job/project is not finished "until the tools are put away."  He is super-logical (a lawyer!) and very even-tempered.  He never raises his voice.  This was a perfect mate for someone like me who was the antithesis of all these traits...for awhile.  But the years of him having to TRY (unsuccessfully) to motivate me, correct me and instruct me have taken their toll on us both and have led to him being controlling and unhappy while I feel unloved and like a child.

Since diagnosis, I have come a long way in accepting myself and my differences.  I no longer attribute moral failure to my weaknesses.  But as a result, my "hero" has lost some of his status.  I have been trying for 18 years to please him by doing things HIS WAY.  And now I am learning and realizing that his way will NEVER work for me.  That there is a better way for me.  But now I am afraid to try or experiment with new methods because I am so afraid to fail.  Afraid to not succeed, yes, but also afraid of disappointing him...again.  Even when I do try something that works, I am afraid for him to know it or get too excited because I know me.  I am inconsistent.  That is my trademark.  Anything I do successfully only lasts 2 weeks at the most.  And then I will fail again.  And then the only thing I have accomplished is to prove to him that I am CAPABLE of success, so that WHEN I inevitably fail, it is even worse because he knows (and I do too) I could do it "if I wanted to" or "if I could exercise some self-discipline."  So sometimes it is easier not to try to change.  And I have started to notice and discover HIS weaknesses and for the first time I am trying to learn how to love someone who is less than perfect.  This is new and scary for me and I don't know how to deal with it.  Should I even point out his flaws to him or try to help him?  Or is that just doing to him what I hate and resent when he does it to me?  But I don't know how to just accept them either.  I feel stupid for saying this, knowing how many years and how many of my flaws and failures he has had to live with!

One thing that has irked me is that I have been going to counseling and taking meds and trying to get some help.  But he has yet to even read one book about Adult ADD (even though I have several) or try to learn anything about it other than what I have told him.  And my descriptions and explanations have been sketchy because I do not fully understand it myself either.  At first I think he did not believe in it--that it was just an excuse for me.  But now I think he agrees that my brain works differently (how can he deny it?!  Haha).  But I still don't think he has any idea what it's really like for me.  That I am trying SO HARD and I want to please him SO MUCH, but I always fail.  And I am so SCARED to fail that I am paralyzed.

I have just finished reading "The ADHD Effect on Marriage" and I have begged him to read it.  I am hoping a light bulb will go off in his head somewhere and he can find some empathy for me.  I certainly have a LOT more empathy for him now, after reading the book.  I can only imagine how hard it has been for him all these years.  And now I see (hope) that he is not really as controlling as it seems.  That and "parenting" me are his way of coping and he doesn't know what else to do.  I don't know what else to do either!  At least he's doing SOMETHING.  But now I have a vision from the book of us working TOGETHER as a TEAM on new strategies to address my symptoms.  If we could create that "safe environment" where I can experiment, where I can try and have the freedom to fail, it would be life-changing for both of us!  I have not really TREATED my symptoms other than meds and some counseling that has helped me work through some of my feelings.  The counseling has helped me accept myself, but it has not provided practical suggestions for addressing symptoms.  I have read books and tried a few things here and there, but now I am ready to get aggressive about treating my ADD.  I want things to be better!  For me.  For him.  For my kids.  But I also feel that if we don't work together, it will not be nearly as successful a process.

I have a wonderful husband who has been so patient with me.  He has never threatened to leave and I feel very secure in his commitment, if not in his love.  But I think we can move forward together to create a new loving relationship IF I can get him to buy in.  Your book and others talk a lot about the non-ADHD spouse trying to convince the ADHD spouse to get out of denial and get help.  Our situation seems to be backwards.  I KNOW I NEED HELP!  But I am not getting the support I need from him to be able to succeed with it.  I am praying that your book will be the catalyst that will open his eyes.

Same Boat!

I know exactly how you feel! Anxiety attacks, which I had never really had, sent me to the doctor who diagnosed my ADD at age 43. I had NO Idea as I was not the Hyperactive type. It's been almost two years for me, but after the first eureka month or so nothing is discussed about it. I have read books and posted all over this website to help myself and my family. My wife accepted the diagnosis, but I don't think she thinks much about it. She has not, to my knowledge, read anything about ADD and I have shown her this website with hopes that she could see she was not alone in her experiences and get a glimpse at how it has affected my life.

I don't think she is going to ever read about ADD, so I decided all I can do is work on myself and my family will and has benefited from my efforts. I have responded well the Adderall and I never miss a dose. I never want to be like I used to be, in that darkness or fog. The only real change my wife talks about is my weight loss, which is a matter of contention... We used to emotionally eat together, and now I don't self-medicate with food and have dropped to very healthy weight. The ADD is not gone, but things are improving and I know it. I guess it will take a while for this to become the the Normal after so many years of ADDme.

Keep working on yourself and the results will speak for themselves.



One thing you may want to

One thing you may want to look into, coming from the non ADHD Spouse.  First, let me tell you, I am one of those unusually strong positive people.  I am extremely forgiving and understanding.  The challenge your spouses may be having is potentially depression themselves?  I have hit a peak in the amount of challenges I can balance.  I lost my job.  The one big normal in my life.  That place I looked forward to going to for me.  I lost the relationships of my staff, the wonderful feeling of my daily successes.  It assisted me in keeping my inner self strong and happy.  They closed our entire site so I have been also supporting my staff through this challenging time for us all as well.  I have finally found MY limit to how much I can endure at one time.  I have battled small bouts of depression off and on through out our relationship as I do go through periods of feeling beat down, I lose all desire to do anything or with anyone outside of my workplace.  I literally go home and just go to bed and rarely get out until it is time to go to work.  Well, with not have that structure to go to each day has made me go into, what I feel is, deep depression.  He doesn't seem to understand what an emotional blow it is to lose a job you love like this.  Then to have your employees, who cared about you, struggle as well.  The big question is, "where is the information to help the non adhd help themselves, especially if they fall into depression and anxiety?"  The only info I can find is "how to help the ADHD person" or "How to understand the ADHD person."  Lots of wonderful information in relation to them but, honestly, where do we go for support and understanding?  I don't really want to jump on a thread and bash people with ADHD, I get their challenges fairly well and I understand it is hard for them.  How/where do I get help for myself.  I get he has too much difficulty putting himself in my shoes, understanding my feelings or showing empathy.  Where do we go for that moral support, that reassurance that we are going to be okay when we have doubts.  That place to get our strength back to be able to continue through each day? 

Nail on the head...

I think you described the position my wife feels she is in now... My wife has has issues with self esteem, trust, depression for a lot of her life. She was the one seeing a psychologist off an on for years, which has helped her through some issues. I was the easy going predictable person in her life that she never has to worry about. When the ADD was discovered the "Constant" was shattered and now there were things she had to worry about regarding me. Another person in a long list of people she has to help. To top it off, I get and easy diagnosis for my mental condition (I always get the easy way out for everything in her mind) and the drug that helps the condition has helped me not be an emotional eater and I am 100 pounds less than I was two years ago. This has triggered so much anger in her. She has to worry about me because I am at a healthy weight and she has it in her mind that I could not possibly be attracted to her. Like you state, who can help her with her issues? The ADDers have all this support and a pill that cures them in her eyes that has the "Dream Side-Affect" of weight loss and no loss in sex drive. All of her prescriptions have the opposite affects... I have asked her time and again about us seeing a couples therapist again, but she refuses. She says she needs to see the therapist, but won't make an appointment and now says she doesn't want to see a therapist. I think I know a little of what your going through, based on what I know about my wife. I don't know what to do for her.

I am sorry about you losing your job, and the loss of "Who you are" that goes with it. I was laid off last July and know the feeling well. I was lucky enough to have found a new job in less than a month after the lay off. VERY LUCKY. I hope some of the people on this site can help you with some support, like I have found here. I know that everyone has their own problems and conditions and need the help and support of others. ADD is my condition and people like yourself help me understand the other side of things.

Thanks for your post, and I hope things improve for you soon.


hero clarity

Thanks for posting your perspective; you have no idea how much insight you've given me in the time it took me to read it. I am the nonADHDer, and similar to your husband I have even, logical temperment. I've been aware of the likelihood that he has ADHD for about a year now, which at first was great. Meaning that our difficulties at least had an angle to approach, as opposed to what seemed like inexplicable chaotic responses. Unfortunately my husband wont go for proper diagnosis and thinks its all abunch of hooey. When you shared about how your husband was your hero, and felt fear of disapppointing your husband, much of my husband's hesitantcy and esteem issues make so much sense now. See I was his "pedestal wife." He loved me by putting me on a pedestal that said I was so smart, so strong, and could do anything I put my mind to. To him, I could do no wrong because if he felt hurt, it must have been because he gave me cause. I had no idea this was the case until the day came when the pedestal crumbled. Once I saw this perspective clearly, I realized this was how he loved his mother too, except she lives far enough away to maintain the pedestal status successfully. (Of course she doesn't know about all of that.) Your post has affirmed what goes on this dynamic which until now I could only conjecture was accurate. It may help you to know that my pedestal/hero status was a lot to live up to and very frustating because he was so sure I always had all the answers. I felt like if I wasn't the one to figure something out he would wait it out until I did. I didn't want to be anyone's hero; I signed up to be his partner, his teammate. I wanted support, not a groupie. At this moment I don't know if he can or is willing to learn a new way to love me. It is obvious you still love your husband in some way. I encourage you to try to find a way to learn to love him without hero status. For me, my husband's indecisiveness and hesitation is absolutely maddening. If I don't recognize the near panic and paralysis for what it is, it looks like he doesn't care or he's complacent. If I DO see him vascillating, I just want to scream "JUST PICK SOMETHING ALREADY!!!!" This is because these decisions are not something I am going to be disappointed in. More disappointing to me is the weakness of not being able to make a decision at all. I don't know how he arrived at the conclusion that selecting a bottle of wine would damage my opinion of him anyway. I don't know if that's how your husband feels; he sounds a lot more patient than me in this area. Maybe just something to consider and observe. I can certainly understand your frustration at your husband's unwillingness to educate himself on such an important matter. You are right when you say it takes a team to be most successful. I've read what seems like 100 books looking for something I could do to make things more bearable. It turns out I really can't do anything until he takes responsibility for himself and his well being. But at least I understand his motivations some now and have found a good deal more compassion for him. Since this thing is affecting OUR marriage it needs to be OUR problem, working TOGETHER to find solutions. I am trying to do my part by understanding it. I have to say that Im starting to lose some of that commitment, since my husband is not seeing it as a problem. I suspect your husband is relieved that your diagnosis is something that he doesn't have to fix. I suspect he doesn't have the energy just yet to dive in wholeheartedly. You said you "begged" him to read the book; I'll bet he's feeling the pressure to be the hero again. I know you need him to be there; encourage him gently to join you as a matter of teamwork. Tell him you don't want him to "fix" you, just glean some understanding about you. Since you are a reader you can find resources for helping you get done some of those tasks such as meal planning. For the record, I only recently started a regular meal planning system after 18 years of marriage; this is not a problem exclusive to ADHD. ;)

Thank you!

Thank you so much for this post.  I definitely think it has been very hard to be the hero.  In my eyes, he DID have all the answers.  He is successful and does not struggle with the things I do...therefore his way MUST be best!  That is what I thought for so many years.  And I added to it a tremendous amount of guilt and shame that he had to "put up with" or live with me and all my weaknesses.  This made his pedestal pretty high!  So I tried to do things his way and genuinely listen to his suggestions.  I did what so many of the ADHD books talk about (way before I knew I had it)--I TRIED HARDER over and over and over.  When I still failed, I felt even worse about myself, but his esteem increased even more because he COULD follow his own advice.  The problem was that I needed to be trying DIFFERENTLY.  Our brains are wired so differently that his methods will likely NEVER work for me.  There are concepts that I can adopt, but I still have to do it MY way.  For example, he tends to set an "end time" for certain tasks so that he will be able to get other things done.  Problem is, his end time can be several hours later.  When I obsess about any one thing for several HOURS, I get hyperfocused and literally CANNOT stop.  An earthquake or bomb probably would not stop me, much less the simple awareness of a clock!  So I can use the "end time" concept, but the length of time must be MUCH shorter for me.  For so many years I would complain that he was trying to make me be just like him.  I felt the internal discord this created because I knew I couldn't do it.  He has always said that he does not WANT me to be just like him in the first place.  And I believe him.  But neither one of us had any idea what else to try.  So he offered the only thing he knew: what works for him.  And so I would try it.  And fail.  Again.  I don't usually try the same suggestion again because I am so convinced I am the reason for the failure, when I guess sometimes it might just be that I needed more practice!  Because of this, to him it probably looked like I wasn't trying at all most of the time.  Which I'm sure is very frustrating.  If he could only see how much effort it took for me to try it once.  To try it again would be like putting lemon juice on an open wound.

I want to thank you for the perspective of him possibly thinking (fearing) that he may be responsible to "fix" me or that I expect him to have all those answers.  That's probably exactly what he thinks!  This time he really DOESN'T have all the answers (or maybe any?!), and if he dives into learning about it, he may feel that I might look to him to fix me or that somehow this will be yet another one of his responsibilities.  That is very helpful.  i will chew on that and see how to address it.

I want to encourage you to be patient and understanding, because potential diagnosis is such a scary process for the person with ADD.  I suspected I might have it after our son was diagnosed and I learned that it is highly hereditary.  I actually kind of HOPED I might have it because it gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe all my screw-ups had a reason OTHER THAN me being a loser or a bad person!  But I was scared to find out for sure.  Because if it turned out that I DID NOT have it, then I had basically admitted openly that I really was a loser and a bad person WITH NO EXCUSE!  And then I knew I would feel obligated to try even harder to "be better," but I also knew that I could not try any harder than I already had.  So it was a perfect setup for CONFIRMING that I really was the failure that I feared I was.  I had read "Driven to Distraction" and started some counseling (I had tried to find someone familiar with ADD).  The book(s) often spell out dramatic success stories from starting meds.  So I decided to ask my doctor to let me try it, sort of as a way to diagnose it.  If they helped like they were "supposed to," then I must have it!  If not, then I don't.  Our son's medication effect WAS very dramatic.  

I was so scared about all of this that I never even TOLD my husband I was taking meds.  I did not want the pressure of him "watching me" and I also thought that if he DID see a big improvement, it would be more diagnostic if he did not know why.  But...the effect was NOT dramatic for me.  Apparently with a lot of adults, it's much more subtle than with children.  But you don't see that info as often in the literature, so I did not know that.  This sent me into DESPAIR because my "last hope" was gone.  I thought I must not have ADD, so then I KNEW and had to accept that I really was just lazy, irresponsible, selfish and maybe crazy, after all.  And when I finally fell apart emotionally, I told my husband about it.  Of course, he was terrified that I had not told him I was taking stimulant medication!  What if I had a medical emergency and he didn't know?!  But when he got over that, he was supportive and encouraged me to actually TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL (duh) rather than making these decisions by myself.  I did keep trying different meds and continued with the counseling, and now I have NO DOUBT at all that I have ADD, even though I never have had an official evaluation or diagnosis.  It's been about 2 years now and I am finally beginning to seek out REAL treatment for my symptoms.  I have been trying to do it on my own by reading books, relying on the medication and getting counseling (has helped with my FEELINGS, but not with my SYMPTOMS).  I am starting to understand that I need more help than that.  And I really need to remember what you said and NOT put my husband in the position of having to BE that help!  I want to try to find an ADD coach who can help me and our marriage too.  

But of course, that creates fear too.  Because WHAT IF I FAIL?  What if I try to implement the techniques and they don't work?!?!  Or worse...what if the coach insists that I have an official evaluation and they do not come to the same conclusion as I did and they think I don't even have ADD?  So now I have all of the original fears as well as the fear of what if treatment doesn't help?  You have no idea how CENTRAL and OVERWHELMING that fear can be for someone who is emotionally drained and crushed already.  It keeps you from STARTING things that WILL HELP YOU!  This may be where your husband is.  I don't even know what to tell you to do about that.  But at least maybe you can understand what he's feeling.  He may not even KNOW this himself or be able to verbalize it.  And if he has had you on the pedestal like I did, he is SO SCARED of disappointing you AGAIN, maybe permanently.  What he may be thinking is that if you suspect he has it but never know for sure, then you can still "blame" his failures on it, especially because it is untreated.  But if you know he DOESN'T have it, you will blame him ONLY.  OR if you know he DOES have it, you (and he) will expect things to improve as a result of that knowledge.  But he fears he will NOT be able to improve.  And so he fears ALL of the outcomes.  But the least scary of them is the one he already KNOWS...that you suspect it and can therefore attribute his problems to it.  The other outcomes involve a great deal of risk.  Take it from me--for someone who cannot make a decision on a bottle of wine (I can totally relate!), taking this kind of risk is almost impossible.  Even though I took the chance, I had to do it in secret so that I could still try to protect myself from the risks as much as possible.  If I found out but he didn't, things could continue as they already were.  

Hope this gives you some more perspective. Thanks for your insights as well!  I have SO MUCH MORE EMPATHY for him now after reading Melissa Orlov's book "The ADD Effect on Marriage."