Getting Past Relationship Ambivalence in ADD Marriages

Stay or leave?  That is a question that many exhausted spouses ask as they struggle through the rollercoaster of feelings in their ADD-affected relationship.  At the suggestion of one of the readers of this site I have just finished reading a very interesting book about how to resolve this ambivalence and I think it could be an excellent resource for many here.

The working theory of the book is that resolving relationship ambivalence is not like balancing a scale – putting the negatives on one side and the positives on the other measured until one “outweighs” the other.  Rather, feelings about relationships are complex in a way that calls for “diagnosis” – testing your relationship against various “symptoms” of health.  If you reflect upon your symptoms and find that your relationship is very sick then the “treatment” is to get out of it.  If you find it is “well” enough to work on it, you stay.  This is the same process used by doctors to determine what illnesses you might have.

The book, “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay in or Get Out of Your Relationship” was written by Mira Kirshenbaum, who is a psychotherapist.  She provides 36 symptoms against which you measure your relationship’s health, as well as insight into the kinds of responses people she has seen have had and how to evaluate your responses to a specific symptom.

Remembering just how miserable I was at one point in my ADD relationship, I will admit to some trepidation upon opening the pages of this book.  How could a relationship with that much profound unhappiness make it through 36 “tests”?!  To my surprise, I think it would have passed the tests, though it’s unclear how I would have answered the questions in the section on “Your partner’s problems”.  This is the area of the book which is most complicated by ADD, it seems.  Diagnostic question #16, for example, asks
“Is there something your partner does that makes your relationship too bad to stay in and that he acknowledges but that, for all intents and purposes, he’s unwilling to do anything about?”  The key to this question is “unwilling”, but readers working with ADD need to be very careful to pair this diagnostic question with some insight provided a few pages later about whether or not your partner really knows you care about this thing that isn’t getting changed.

In our case, even though I had said to my husband “I’m miserable” and “these things need to change” and even “maybe we should get divorced”, he still didn’t internalize how important his taking charge of his ADD symptoms were to the survival of our relationship.  Kirschenbaum suggests a simple question to pierce this phenomenon of denial.  She suggests you ask him “On a scale of 1 to 10 how important do you think this is to me?”  If he doesn’t say “10” you know he doesn’t really know how important the specific issue is.  This would have worked for us – my husband would not have said “10” (more like 7 or something, I’m guessing) and that helped explain why he felt okay about continuing to stonewall and put me off.  Once he really understood my issues with specific behaviors were a “10” for me (and us), then he did make the specific changes needed.  Would my evaluation 5 years ago have been able to see through our accumulated anger to “correctly” respond to this diagnostic question?  I don’t know.  Probably.  From my own limited experience, I would suggest that if you find that the only area of the book that suggests you should leave your relationship is section 10, and none of the others do, then I would urge taking a bit more time to explore the potential benefits of improved ADD treatment before de-camping.

Should those experiencing the rollercoaster emotions of relationships affected by ADD read this book?  I would say yes.  Kirschenbaum’s words will give you a great deal to think about, and her treatment of the subject is very well thought out and balanced.

Ambivalence about your relationship can be depressing.  It can also paralyze you from addressing the underlying issues.  "If I don't really know if I care about this relationship, why should I bother working on it?" you might ask.  This book can help you move away from your paralysis.  If you find that you don’t find specific reasons to leave the relationship, you can stop expending lots of energy wondering and worrying about whether you should leave the relationship, and start expending that same energy towards making the changes you need to get where you want to be.  If you find that you do have a reason to leave, you will have given the subject as thorough a vetting as I’ve seen anywhere.

ADD does complicate a few of the issues explored in this book, and I welcome any questions or thoughts from blog and forum readers who read it.  I won’t be able to solve your problems for you (this book is a personal journey) but may be able to give you additional ideas specific to how ADD might be playing a role in your feelings.




This is a wonderful post on lots of possible solutions to answer the difficult questions. This past weekend my husband and I attended the Weekend Experience for Couples hosted by Ned and Sue Hallowell in Boston. There isn't enough space here to describe what I learned (and I must own 35 books on the subject and read incessently about ADHD). It was an amazing process. They both brought different aspects to the discussion as well as wonderful resources for all of us.  They should be commended on a fantastic forum, and a terrific presentation! The experience was a 15 out of a possible 10. Twenty-five couples attended--many different walks of life and ages and parts of the country.Our children are grown, and a large proportion of the attendees were still in the child-rearing stages, so we perhaps had less daily "living" problems to deal with than they did. But one significant thought that we both left with was the issues brought up by many, and with strong feeling, were issues that could have been debated in any couples' forum and although tagged as ADHD issues, were simply couples' marriage issues. Because one of the partners had ADHD, they could be assimilated into the overall "problems" of an ADHD spouse, but sometimes listening to the spouse speak, I could often hear beyond the ADHD issues to broader issues confronting all couples. My only point in bringing this up is that it is easy to attribute marital problems to the ADHD trait as it can be a cover for honestly discussing issues that separate the couple that are not resolvable. I couldn't help but think during this process that some of these people just shouldn't be with one another, they really didn't even like each other. But sometimes saying that they can no longer live with the  ADHD "traits" of this or that, is a lot easier than saying they want out of a relationship that no longer works or they no longer care for their partner. By all of this, I do not mean to negate the problems that ADHD can bring to a relationship, I live with those myself, but to beware putting all the problems into that basket can sometimes be a way of softening the blow and attributing problems to this entitiy called ADHD rather than some real personal issues. Just some thoughts...

I like what you wrote.Thanks

I like what you wrote.Thanks for sharing. Marriage is hard in itself I know we know that .But  For me Adhd was  not soley why I'am  seperated from my husband not solely on his Adhd, no for me its the Alcohol,drugs, sustance abuse. Which I believe fried his brain. I do agree that Adhd is not the sole thing of a marriage gone bad. We are all human beings each with their own issues and when you put them together well lets say sometimes it can be explosive. But personaly from people who know of my situation,close friends have shared that it was mostly his fault. Does that make me better for saying that NO WAY!! I have seen mistakes that I have made from reading this forum, I definetaly have come to better understand Adhd  from what I have read here from people and their lives. But really I had to seperate because it was infecting my health and damaging my children. And in the end we did not like each other.On another thought You know I have 2 boys that visit my home to play with my boys. While  they can get lively, I really delight in them and enjoy them. One is like another son he is 14yrs old and is Very hyper and another who is 8 yrs old and can't even focus to listen to me sometimes if I'am talking to him. I pray for them because they are dear to my heart and I hope they will find the spouse along with my boyz(Youngest has Adhd/Odd) will find the right mate if they decide to marry.Sounds like it was a wonderful retreat. again thanks for posting

I'm not ambivalent, I am frozen

I have written about my frustrations and anger, my celibate marriage, my exhaustion. But, what is most pathetic is that I stay. My husband lies, lies of omission, lies of commission. He says he has gotten better, but today, while on the computer, I hit a 'favorites' website by accident and it was a porn site. Interestingly enough, it had been named something under a heading that would have been in line with my husband's hobby (little did I know). It turned out, there were 5 others all under these innocent headings. This is not the first time I have had to deal with his porn, but he says it is so rare. Perhaps, I wouldn't care so much if we had a sex life, but we don't. He makes no overtures in that direction, but gives it plenty of lip service. I get tired of being the initiator feeling undesirable, etc. The secrecy is another factor, the lies, the lies. I am just getting over finding out about 2 hidden credit accounts he had to the tune of $6,000 when we were trying to refinance the house a couple of months ago. His credit was too bad to refinance and again the lies. We were able to pay off the debt, but it doesn't fix the credit problem for awhile. So, lousy finance management, chronic lies, lack of impulse control, no sex life, secret porn life. Gee, and the real problem is me - do I think so little of myself that I will put up with this. I have read everything, studied, seminars, therapy (lots),. He's gone to these seminars too, does nothing with the information. He takes Adderall, has been seeing a therapist on this own for a few months ....the list is endless. I don't like him anymore and I don't think I love him. He is ridiculously defensive, arrogant, untrustworthy. And yet, I am still here. Possibly because, I have been married before and I don't want another failed marriage under my belt. Maybe I keep waiting for the great sex to return. I have adapted so much to his lateness, forgetfulness, disorganization, financial crap, no love making What is my problem?! I think I stay because I am paralyzed, and I like my house and washer and dryer. I need peace of mind, a husband I trust. I can't pretent that this didn't happen - and he will pretend that all is okay tomorrow, kiss me goodby in the morning and his life goes in the moment.....

Don't Like Self

You are in a stage that was the start of the end of my marriage issues, believe it or not, though I suspect that your resolution will be different from mine.  That is the "I don't like the person I've become" stage.  The evidence:  your statement that "what is most pathetic is that I stay".  There is a good deal of self-loathing in your statement.  You know that you deserve better, you know that you are better (except for that one niggle - you've already had one failed marriage...are you concerned that you are unmarriageable?) and feel paralyzed.

Okay.  So here's what happened with me.  My husband shocked me out of my self-loathing and into action when I discovered he was having a very hot affair one day.  Suddenly, the reason to stay in paralyzed, self-loathing mode (that things might change if I stayed still enough) was gone.  I consulted Ned about my situation and he gave me some really good advice, which I will now pass along to you.  He said "Your kids are stable, resilient kids.  You are a wonderful person in extreme pain.  You should seek your own happiness.  Don't define ahead of time what that happiness looks like in its construct.  Don't try to "save your marriage" or "get out of your marriage".  Just pursue what brings you joy.  The rest of it will fall into place."

So that's what I did.  The first step was to look back into myself and remember who I had been when I was the happiest.  The second step was to start behaving like that person, and being that person again.  For me, I was happiest when I was optimistic, outgoing, even-keeled, not angry.  So I literally erased my anger (it hadn't gotten me anything, in any event), and started following my gut instincts.  These included just hanging out with some old time friends who happened to be around, seeking support from others who cared about me, and talking with my husband in a clear (and not angry) way about my own needs and boundaries.  I made no assumptions that we would continue to be married, in fact I assumed we wouldn't - that the siren song of infatuated sex would lure him elsewhere.  But somehow, by being true to my happier self I didn't resent that (I had been part of his leaving, I knew) I just dealt with it.

By not setting in my mind a pre-conceived view of the outcome I was surprised to find how naturally things developed.  My husband and I did decide to stay together, and we were able to fix all of the things that were broken in ourselves and our marriage.  But I'm convinced that only happened because I gave up on the marriage completely and focused on me, my needs, and who I wanted to be.

You have that opportunity right now.  Perhaps I can shock you into standing back and saying "wait!  I don't need to feel this way!  I can be true to myself and see where it leads me and FEEL GOOD ABOUT THAT."  Perhaps you'll decide that in these uncertain times being in your house and staying put is what you really need.  That's okay.  Perhaps you'll decide that you wish to start living your own life under the same roof, making yourself happy (unapologetically).  That's okay.  Perhaps you'll decide that the person you are demands that you no longer let this man bring you down.  That's okay, too.  My point is, find that place that feels like YOU, then make peace with the ramifications of those decisions.  Take charge of being who you want to be and living the life you want to live.  That may include giving your hubby an ultimatum - fix the lying or it's over.  Or it may not.  Only you know what's deep inside you.  But be proud of who you can be, and reach to fulfill your needs because I think you'll start to feel better about yourself and that in itself will be an accomplishment.

You say that you need peace of mind, a husband you can trust.  For the former, perhaps you can start pursuing some things that help people remain "peaceful", such as exercise or meditation or creating a special place in your home that is only yours where you can read or paint or do something else that calms you (listen to music?)  Every person needs these things and I'm convinced that those of use who are married to folks with ADD need them even more keenly.  You are largely in control of your peace of mind (and, yes, I'm aware of how difficult it is to sustain that when you're worried about lying...but I will tell you that you are more in control of it than you think you are.  Though I was in pain, I found more peace of mind while dealing with my husband's affair than I had in many of the previous years because I had come to accept many things in life as not mine to change...which takes a big burden off of you...and also I had started to behave in a way that was more true to myself, which I hadn't been doing for a long time.  This gives you great inner peace because you realize that ultimately, you have yourself.)

The husband you can trust part is trickier - he has to make himself into this person, you can't do it for him.  Either he'll be able to do it or he won't. Sounds as if finding a counsellor is a move in the right direction, but make sure he understands the importance of this particular thing to you and to your marriage so that he has the opportunity to pursue it with professional help should he choose to do so.  And, make sure he understands that it is so important to you that if he doesn't start being more responsible that it will spell the end of the marriage so he understands the stakes (at least if that's how you feel about it...perhaps you don't).

You would be greatly helped by the book I mentionned at the original post of this area, too.

You sound resentful that his life goes on in the present, but that is one of the almost immutable characteristics of ADD.  That is simply how he will live his life.  It doesn't mean that he doesn't care about you, it simply is the way he relates to time.  Things that are important to you will go in and out of his "current vision", if that makes sense - he won't hold onto them for long periods in the same way that you do.  I have found that the good side of this is that those with ADD are quick to move on, which can be very useful when you are in "building a future" mode.


Melissa, What a great


What a great response!  I can really relate to these comments you make:


"Perhaps you'll decide that you wish to start living your own life under the same roof, making yourself happy (unapologetically).  That's okay. .....Take charge of being who you want to be and living the life you want to live.....Though I was in pain, I found more peace of mind while dealing with my husband's affair than I had in many of the previous years because I had come to accept many things in life as not mine to change...which takes a big burden off of you...and also I had started to behave in a way that was more true to myself, which I hadn't been doing for a long time."


I have felt a lot of self-loathing at staying in my marriage also.  And I also have carried a burden as this is a second marriage that I felt was/is failing.  I do not feel "unmarriagable" but frequently feel that I am incapable of being "tolerant" enough of other's difficulties or struggles in life - and maybe I am not capable of giving "unconditional love".  I have spent a lot of time trying to improve myself and learning to accept behaviors.

I have gotten to the point where I am learning to "live my own life under the same roof".  And while this causes some difficulties within me and with regards to my marriage, it has made a significant improvement to my own happiness and reduced my stress significantly.  Living my own life within my marriage is a continual process and journey I am in at the moment (and it's not easy!!).  I have not been able to "erase" my anger at all of the issues I confront with my husband and his ADD - though I can see that letting go of my anger in some moments has really helped.  There are many moments where I "give up on my marriage" and I find that these are the moments where I can "erase" my anger. 

What I get from your post is that it is okay to give up on my marriage - even if it is for a just a week or a day - using that release of not NEEDING his validation to pursue the person I know I can be.  That it isn't FOREVER when I give up in those times.  And those times where I do give up - however long they may be - are me "trying on" how it feels to be me again, the person I know I can be, the joy and contentment that I can bring to myself - outside of my husband.  They are also times when my husband can see who I can be - perhaps even the woman I used to be that he loved so much before (and still does I think/hope...not always feeling the love though!) and perhaps that renews something in him seeing that I can be and pursue who I need to be without his approval.  And I can do this while living under the same roof, while staying married.  Though not always sure for how long.

I think one of the most difficult things is to feel I have to make a choice to stay or go.  And that choice feels so permanent, with such enormous consequences, and that is so heavy and too difficult to decide - especially in moments of anger.  I'm truly impressed that you were so committed to your marriage - and impressed with your husband too - that you have stayed after what you call a very hot affair.  I think that would be a true deal-breaker for me.  But sometimes I wonder if it might not be better to have that big stab in the heart - that makes everything really clear - than to live with the "thousand cuts" that are a little more ambiguous for me. 

Thank you for your post.  To me, the "giving up on my marriage" is a hopeful message as you write it in your post- because I'm not giving up on MYSELF.  It allows me to see some hope in the pursuit of my own needs.  Less anxiety about "giving up" on my marriage, and realizing that each time I give up a little, I'm also getting myself back.  And I don't have to decide to completely give up right now.  This DOES benefit my marriage.  If it turns out that my husband can't eventually grow also to a mutually beneficial place - then I will know I've done my best and have been true to myself.  That doesn't mean I won't be sad and in pain.  But it does mean that I will have done my best.  But so far, even though it's painful, I do see significant benefits to this approach in my marriage.  But it often feels like I "give up" almost everyday.  I'm glad to know it's actually helping me.  That "giving up" is not a reason to hate myself when I never actual leave.  Does that make sense?

Re: don't like who I've become

I don't like who I've become in this marriage of 26 years, (23 of them with my husband undiagnosed adhd). I found out he was having an affair at the same time I found out he had adhd. Talk about a double whammy. HE had a 3 year affair with a MUCH younger woman. He's no longer with her, but the damage of the affair on top of the adhd has been almost too much for me to handle.

Emotionally, sexually, physically, etc, NOT getting my needs met, and then he runs off and find someone "new' and exciting, regardless of how hard I worked on our marriage and on us. I was a happy go lucky, smiling, upbeat person who loved being with people, having friends and socializing, helping others and (many other things).

But, the years of this "over the top" mental frustration and trying to make sense out of nonsense has turned me into someone I don't like and someone I don't even KNOW any more. I don't see how my husband could like me, if I don't even like me any more. But, I'm even to the point of where I don't care. Either he likes me for who I am or he doesn't. (Even the ugly person that I feel like I am right now) That's it.

It's a long story, and there's so much to cover. But, yes, I know what you people are talking about. I don't like what's happened to me either. I'm NOT ME ANYMORE. I don't even know HOW to even START to get to a point where I can begin to like myself again. I have been beaten down so far, my heart broken and been rejected so many times by my husband sexually, emotionally, etc. that it's REALLY taken a toll on me. How do I get out of this? Is it possible?

don't like self

I will put a post up on this on Wednesday, 7/21 (22?!)


Just read your response. Thank you, thank you. I have been reading "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" - love her style of writing. I was very optimistic read the diagnostic questions, because I answered 'yes' to most of the questions, and 2 did not even apply. So, I was on a roll. I have gotten as far as Question 10 - about lying and trust, and the resounding answer to that is "no", which can be a deal breaker for most. I will continue reading, hope there are more 'yesses'. We are shopping for a counselor, tonight is number 2, who advertises as an ADD specialist. I copped a resentment last night watching my husband read a 'how to be a better manager' book, while I was reading "Too Good to Leave....." I know this sounds like self-pity, but when will I ever be THAT important to someone? I believed him when my husband said I was the most important thing in his life - what I have come to discover, is that I am important only to the degree that it does not inconvenient him or interfer with his desires. But again, thanks, Melissa.


I know this sounds like self-pity, but when will I ever be THAT important to someone? I believed him when my husband said I was the most important thing in his life - what I have come to discover, is that I am important only to the degree that it does not inconvenient him or interfer with his desires.

I totally get this! I am asking myself that very same thing just about every single day now.   I feel like I don't matter at all.


Here! here!

"What I have come to discover, is that I am important only to the degree that it does not inconvenient him or interfer with his desires." (quote from patnj)

I know this very well.


arwen's picture

Feeling unimportant -- been there too

Patnj, I have had the same feelings.  I can't count the times I've said to my ADD husband that I don't feel like he really loves me, and every time he protested he did, very much.

The thing was, his *idea* of love was completely different from mine.  My idea of love is that the partner's problems/issues/needs/etc. should be just as important to one as one's own.  In most relationships, we put ourselves first when push comes to shove, but love is exception-making and when you love someone you make them as important as yourself in your mind and heart.  To my husband, love was just something you felt, albeit very intensely -- but you didn't change anything about the way you behaved because of it.  Because I actually *am* the most important person to him, my husband made the effort to try to see love from my point of view (granted, after 20 years of fighting and then 9 months of separation where he learned what it was like for me to not be in his daily life).

I suspect that the reason for this difference is that when it comes to relationships, it may be very difficult for ADDers to understand cause and effect.  In general, my husband doesn't learn cause-and-effect connections unless the effect *immediately* follows the cause.  You know, like hammer your thumb, and your thumb really hurts, right away -- so you learn not to do that anymore.  Relationships tend not to have clear, obvious, and immediate cause-and-effect connections.  When a spouse does something thoughtless that hurts our feelings, we tend not to burst into tears and say "You really hurt my feelings by doing <whatever>!!"  (At least, not at first!)  Instead we tend to express ourselves by body language, facial expressions and subtle cues that the ADDer probablly isn't going to notice, because his attention is elsewhere.  Sometimes we don't even have the opportunity to react immediately -- if the ADD spouse does something thoughtless and hurtful that doesn't rebound into a problem for hours or days, the ability to understand the cause-and-effect relationship may be  even more difficult for them to perceive.

It may sound idiotic, but I've found that it actually makes a difference if I tell my husband about the myriad, often little,  things that I do because I love him and I'm being thoughtful of him.  I tell him that I took care of his empty soda cans in the recycling because I could see he was very busy with the work he brought home from the office, or if I offer him a beer when he comes home tired I tell him that I'll be glad to get it for him because I want my sweetheart to relax so he's not too tired to talk after dinner.  I'm not advocating waiting on a spouse hand and foot -- I'm saying that if I'm doing something thoughtful, that I would want to do regardless, I *point it out* (making sure I have his attention when I'm doing it)  -- not bragging, not hinting "what a good person I am!", just objectively labeling my actions and explaining the reasons.   When I *tell* him the cause-and-effect, he hears the connection, and eventually if he hears a whole lot of them, he realizes that he doesn't have anything of the same caliber in return.  It's kind of like giving somebody a Rolls Royce for Christmas when they have given you a Matchbox car -- even the least perceptive can see that something's out of whack.  It makes him think about it, and want to reciprocate.

I used to think that my husband ought to realize that I had needs and wants, and that he ought to try to figure it out on his own.  Now I understand that  the world is constantly seducing him (and the rest of us!) with this or that exciting or fascinating thing and because of his ADD, it's especially hard for him to shun these seductions .  Maybe I can't be as exciting or fascinating, but that doesn't mean I am not giving or helping him day in and day out, and if I don't act to interrupt all those exciting and fascinating enticements and get him to focus on what I'm doing, he'll never be aware of it.  Advertising *yourself*  may sound silly in a marital relationship, but I've found it helps my ADD spouse to be more aware of me and what I do, and that in turn helps him to want to show me that I am important to him as well.   Does it work out that way all the time?  Of course not -- but today he put away all the groceries he picked up on the way home from work and let me have the last beer because I was cooking lobster for dinner.  Five years ago I would have had heart failure from the shock -- today I was "just" very pleased and let him know how very nice I thought it was.

So, it may very well be that you *are* as important to your ADD spouse as you'd like to be, but he just isn't expressing anything to make you *feel* that important.  But there may be things you can do to prompt or draw out an expression of his feelings, and you may both feel better if you can!

I like this . . .

arwen,  this is an interesting theory . . . I really like this post.  I've seen inklings of this type of behavior/response in my marriage, so I think I will try more of it.  Thanks!

Stay or Go?

Just 9 days ago, I gave my husband of eight years the ultimate ultimatum. I asked him to get help and stop hurting me OR he can move out so we can separate if changing was going to be too hard for him. I have two children with him and I am a successful sales executive. I can't take one more day of the speeding tickets, the car accidents, his angry outbursts and his constant criticism of my looks and how much money I made this week in my sales job. I am so over HIM and I need to take care of myself! I cannot go on continuing like everything is ok. He knows that if he can get COMFORTABLE with me again, I will continue allowing him to treat me this way. No more!! I am DONE!!

To stay or to go, that is the question! I say that if he is willing to get some serious help, I will stick around but if not, we need to separate until he can learn that I am not his whipping post that he can abuse because of his untreated ADHD! He controlled his ADHD before I met him by using cocaine and drinking heavily. He stopped drinking 2 years before we got married but now I realize that i am living with a "dry drunk". The abuse doesn't end and my self esteem is crap! I put on a good show but deep down, I am dying! Our finances are now racing out of control and each week I continue to pray that no checks will bounce (each week I am surprised that they haven't yet)! He runs up approximately $6,000 in credit card debit every 3 months and because I am in sales, I always seem to get a "deal" that pays off the debt and then he finds MORE crap that he can't live without (a new chair, a new table, a new bed, a new matress, a gun, etc..). Lately, the worst part is that I am buried in a mortgage payment that we CANNOT afford. Our payment is over $3,000 per month and that takes almost my whole monthly check.

We are going to see a counseler this week but I doubt she will be able to help us. This has gone too far!! Does anyone have any help or comments for me??


Divining the source

As an ADD spouse, I wanted to comment.

There are some negative traits highlighted that are directly related to ADD:  speeding tickets (not paying attention on the road); mismanaging/disorganized finances; high frustration level.

But there are some traits that I think have NOTHING to do with ADD:

One poster said her husband complained about her looks

Another spoke of drinking

I think we need to be careful not to lump other serious personality disorders (or just being a plain jerk) in with ADD.  Differential diagnosis-- you may have ADD traits or even ADD, but there may be other things that need to be diagnosed as well.


My ADHD spouse would drink a

My ADHD spouse would drink a lot of caffeine in the morning and a lot of beer in the evening. I thought it was just to get himself going and then slow himself down like others do. However, he did this to excess. It is now my understanding that actually he was self-medicating. Indeed, the caffeine would help him to think better and while it may speed up his body, it slowed down his mind so he could focus better. The beer helped slow him down in the evening, but there is no doubt he became reliant/addicted to it and drank to excess. And while he had no problem falling asleep (or passing out), he would toss and turn all night in his sleep and snore heavily. So maybe all ADHD people don't do this or maybe ADD (no hyperactivity) people don't do this, but I understand this behavior is quite common in ADHD people. I do agree we have to be careful not to attribute all bad behaviors to ADHD. Nor should we expect spouses to be perfect and blame ADHD if the spouses aren't perfect. It is reasonable to expect a spouse to be a participating and equal partner in a marriage, which is what most people are complaining about.

Divining the source

Thank you bskelley for your warning about deciphering which characteristics are common amongst ADD/ADHD folks and which are not. That seems to be my biggest difficulty as I learn more about this diagnosis. Is my husband really a big jerk or are most of his actions due to untreated ADD?? I plan on starting a forum to discuss this very thing because, with all of the different stories, it is hard to sort through the different behaviors. Good point!

ADD traits

Addiction and substance use is a complicated issue.  Smoking in teens with ADD, for example, is found to correlate with the innattention dimension of ADD, not with ADD in the overall.  People with ADD seem to have higher rates of drinking, but digging into the research further suggests that the bulk of people with ADD who have drinking problems also have conduct disorder problems, particularly if they had conduct issues in childhood.  (source:  Barkley's ADHD in Adults, p. 293) This correlates with studies that show that conduct disorders greatly increase the chances of substance abuse.

Complaining about looks...well, that could be related to impulsivity.  Folks with ADD can be blunt to the point of being hurtful.  But that impulsivity can be controlled with treatment, and the meanness might be coming from elsewhere completely.

Understanding what is and isn't ADD will be a topic I will try to address more fully soon.


This may sound dumb just because I'm young, but it's all real and the feelings i feel are real and WANT TO MAKE IT WORK. I'm currently dating my girlfriend, she's eighteen, I'm nineteen. She has ADD. I don't. We've been dating for 2 1/2 months..I feel like my feelings arent coming into account with her. Her only friends she likes hanging out with are guys, and even though she says she loves me, I dont "feel" it like she does, even though she says she always will and always care for me. I believe her about her caring for me, but LOVE me? Of coarse with ADD, she talks a lot about how she feels about people, makes comments on how people look, etc. It really bugs me because she says she doesnt judge anyone and doesnt care what people think of her, but she says she doesnt have any friends. Telling her that she has these guys as her friends, which when she wants to hang out with them i get frsutrated because to me if a girl really LOVES me..theres no point to want to hang out with other guys. Am i wrong? Ive told her numerous times I feel like we dont talk about anything important to us as a couple besides the problems we have..and those problems truly fall on the blunt fact of her ADD. Like I saw others post here, I feel like she couldnt love me because I don't even like the way I act with her. How can this be? I'm a very caring person, I know thats the sole reason that she says she LOVES me and because I listen to her and she says she LOVES the fact that I will listen even when she's talking about nothing..but I know she only feels that because she's so focused on what she's saying..and to say the the times she rambles on about absolutely nothing that really matters..and only is reflecting how she feels about things..for in CHURCH..she pointed out that a girl about the age of 10 had big feet. I had no idea what to say, besides the golden sole answer to her rambles..YEAH. I feel like it's me that has the problem and should be able to connect somehow some way, but there's no way I can because all I'm thinking is how pointless and meaningless it was. I hadn't had a girlfriend before her in about 5 years, and even since smoking pot I feel like I lost myself to be able to connect and flirt with girls. But with her, I could say anything cute and she instantly thinks it she giggles..but what I'm really looking for is for her to comment back, make a connection..some chemistry..but all she does is call me cute. I have been considered cute all my life, not sexy, not the tough guy jerk that girls usually look for. I'm not the smoothest or biggest talker, I say what I need to say if its important to make a point, I like to talk about what makes me laugh, and when I do actually get a time to start a conversation..all she has to say is yeah, nice, simple worded responses. I KNOW its because of her ADD, but if she really LOVES me..why cant she just connect with me, flirt, and continue the conversation, I wouldnt even care if she said what i said wasnt even funny..just to know what she thinks..but it never happens.. It's a daily struggle to convince myself that I can do this relationship,take control of conversations, connect with her in ways i want to..and some days i can start the conversations, but when I dont get the type of response I'm looking for with a girl who says she LOVES me and LOVES being with me and misses me all the time. We're only really good at talking about what our plans are for the day, why we're doing them, our problems, whats WRONG, and being all "lovey dovey". I feel like I'm losing my own self being with her, because I can't open up with her unless I've been drinking, get physical sexually, or when we start a fight.  I can go on forever if I wanted to because all I'm thinking is how she shouldn't be acting this way, how she shouldn't think the way she's thinking..(BECAUSE SHE SAYS SHE DOESNT CARE ABOUT ANYTHING PEOPLE THINK ABOUT HER) but the truth is people dont like her because of her ADD, cause she talks whats on her mind, but doesnt put it in a way to connect with people. (Lives in her moment)..Life is just so hard like this..and I think so much about how to handle the ADD, what will solve everything, and sometimes I do figure out solutions..usually by thinking of an inspiration quote to make myself feel better, and then later in the day when I see her..I'm alright to talk to her for the introduction phase, and then I dont know what to say. The sex life is there, but not anything like I want it. It's there when she wants it to be there, and all the times we have done it is nearly impossible for me to get turned on by her..because of the ADD and all the pointless things she says just turns me off. Dont get me wrong she's smokin hot and super cute, I just cant get the motivation to try to do it because I know I'll be turned down since she does things only when SHE wants to, or trying to make me feel better at the times I just feel like giving up, and I'm pretty sure she knows right now that sex is used as a tool to her to keep me I've said to her once before because That was the main reason that the night was ruined. All in all, I'm super stressed and drained from this..and I really wish I could just teach her how to talk to to change..but the most likely fact of it all is that she cant. What hurts me the most is when she says she doesnt care about the people who dont like her...but its not that they dont like her..its that theyre annoyed of the ADD. And if she says she doesnt care about who doesnt like her, she refuses to change..and these people arent just strangers..these are my good friends, but make fun of her because they think shes insanely annoying. So i can't hang with her and my freinds at the same time, because it will just make me super frustrated to see how they act infront of her and treat her. The only way I cant get frustrated is not being with her and other people. I feel like I'm the one doing something wrong..anyone me. Give me some advise..some ideas to make things easier for us to learn about eachother besides just going through boring ordinary questions that have no attraction, teasing, goofing around, etc that give almost virtually no way to connect. I want to learn to be more open, but I just dont know how its possible..