I joined this forum today because I finally got to a point where I couldn't wait for my weekly therapist appointment, and my ADHD husband has asked me not to share that he has it to my friends and family. I'm at a loss now and hoping to turn to this group for shared experience. I apologize that this is a novel -- I don't know how to be succinct in painting the full picture.
My husband was diagnosed with ADHD a year ago, as a result of my going to therapy for more than a year to sort out my anxiety and marital stress around housework (driven by undiagnosed ADHD and all the associated ways of thinking in him, and the dynamic created between us). Finally one day my therapist asked if I thought he had ADHD. I went home and googled it, and immediately told my husband. He felt horrible, accused, dejected, but also seen and heard for the first time ever. He now understood so much about his childhood, his frustration with his parents, how hard college felt when he is actually gifted. He got a diagnosis and got on Adderall within a couple of months.
But that's where the progress stopped. I immediately began reading books, doing research. I'm sure he did too. I learned all about the three-legged stool -- medication not enough, need exercise, sleep, good diet, behavioral coaching, and therapy in his case -- years of feeling incapable, ineffective, unlike everyone else created depression patterns he will freely admit to in the right conditions. Last summer, we did begin reading the ADHD Effect on Marriage together, section by section. We got to step 2 or so, but at least had some very productive conversations when we prioritized it weekly. But the entire time, he maintained that if he took time and energy to focus on on home life, it'd be at the direct expense of his career. And he was clear that he was, for the first time, in a high-growth role with a very short window to accelerate and get promoted, or be boxed out. The implication (and overt assertion) is that my expectations of our home life -- high standards for time with the kids, home maintenance, cleaning, family meals, and our social life -- were the great detractors that made him feel like his work wasn't a priority and he had to shortchange it. Working through the book fell off when work stuff hit and then a big family trip. I also found him a phone-based ADHD coach, and he only made it to two calls and didn't implement the action plans, so no progress there. He continues to be sensitive that everything comes back to his ADHD and he feels that undermines his valid feelings and experiences.
The truth is, over the course of years, I've walked back nearly all expectations of him to "clear the road" for him to finally feel a clear path to advance in his career. Years ago, before kids, I began going to social events alone, and later organizing weekend play dates without him. I rarely make social plans for weekends that require him. I do meal prep for the week with the kids on Saturdays so he can get ahead on work. Well, some weeks he sleeps in or doesn't get out the door and I'm not allowed to ask for an accounting of that time because it puts pressure on him. But at the very least, I have made the time available for him, or he knows that if he gets up and leaves I'm on it with the kids, yet he'll say he didn't feel like he had the support to actually leave to work because when he gets back I have expectations of things he needs to do. I've dropped all expectations on dishes too, though he will sometimes insist on doing them. I've stopped falling on my sword to get him to commit to taking out the trash, or bringing in the mail which would pile up til it wouldn't close and collect rain. One fine day I started silently taking it out myself, not resentfully but rationally, and also usurped the mail key. He genuinely enjoys our kids and races home to see them, but I only ask him to do bedtime on the weekends or if I really, really need a break. He'll still say his home life is demanding because the kids take a long time to fall asleep. They do, but I'm the one in with them -- he's usually on the couch on his phone (he tells me, evaluating his company website -- but it's nearly always reddit when I walk by).
The "household" expectations are an illusion now, and any pressure is self-inflicted. For example, last week he hadn't handled shoveling the snow and we had people coming to stay in another unit in our building. He woke up already late for work and asked if I could call our handyman to do it as I'm pregnant and was off with the kids that day. I said it's no big deal, I'll do it, it just takes 20 minutes. To which he said he'd take the morning off work to do it instead -- really not a good use of his time, and a totally unnecessary grand gesture, which I wonder if he thinks will compensate for other things? He similarly rushed home early from work when the visitors got locked out, when I was already on my way home and would reach at the same time. Those are not practical choices and are not imposed by me, but do have real consequences at work.
Rather than taking the steps we've discussed (15 mins on our treadmill is better than waiting for a perfect opportunity to go to the gym, a small investment of time in therapy or coaching or sleep will pay dividends immediately in productivity), he takes more Adderall and runs himself into the ground. He stays up til 2am trying to get ahead at work, is exhausted the next day, and the cycle repeats. He's hardly able to work effectively, let alone prioritize what needs to get done, etc. I just got done today with my therapist laying this out and the implications on me -- his poor health, the trail of housework he leaves behind, his general grumpiness and down attitude which impacts the kids, and then overspending... not egregiously but irresponsibly, and then I do it too -- I try to purchase some convenience to mitigate the rest. And I shared the arguments he makes about our home life being too constraining. We agreed that for a couple weeks I'd literally ask nothing of him, say nothing regarding any type of housework or help with anything, and track it. Then ask in a couple weeks how he is feeling about work, if things are getting easier, if he's got more bandwidth, and help him see that perhaps home life isn't the constraint and if he would like to realize his career/financial goals it might be wise to really invest in himself in ways that can make him better AT work. The reason for this plan is that he has a stated goal of advancing his career but seems to make choices that make that impossible -- I was hoping to help him take a real step to working on the actual issue (his productivity at work) rather than a concocted set of constraints (home life).
Well, not 2 hours later he tells me that the promotion window he was racing against has closed -- two others got them, he didn't, and he's being moved to a much less impactful area with less scope. More "do what they say" vs. "set the vision." He is crushed, mad at himself for wasting the opportunity, still citing the lack of support at home for him and his career, and said multiple times how he hates himself (he says this often). I tried hard to say nothing, to listen, to lend support. He said the colleague who got promoted works longer hours. I said I don't know how you could possibly work more, you work late nights too. He said he is always working late to catch up, whereas the other guy works late to get ahead. I said, why do you think you are playing catch-up? And he saw where I was going --- the fact of the matter is he has ADHD at work too, not just at home. And there's no way it directly, as well as all the things it's done to his personality, assertiveness, confidence, etc., hasn't directly led to the other guy getting a promotion.
I feel for him, but my heart is screaming "I told you so." He said at that point he didn't feel it was a safe space to talk anymore because he knew I was thinking about his ADHD, and I said that's ok. You don't have to talk to me. But I'd like you to find a safe space, because you deserve that. What I really mean is I hope he gets a freaking therapist/counselor/coach already.
All this to ask: How do you provide normal spousal support in a situation like this, when it so obviously taps into the root causes you know are there and the actions that, for you, seem straightforward to take? I'm just at such a loss on how or who to be for him anymore, while also being someone for myself. Thanks for any thoughts anyone can share. Please be kind -- it took a lot for me to put this out to the universe.
Submitted by 1Melody1 on
Hi Kamakanti. I really sympathize with what you're going through and respect the courage it takes to share your story. My husband is very similar to yours. He does next to nothing around the house and wants to spend as little time with our daughter as possible. For anything he is currently interested in (work when applicable, hobbies), he can find endless time.
Honestly, it sounds like your husband is being understandably defensive. Mine is the same. It's a protective instinct that is really hard to break down and I think for many with ADHD, it is learned over time. They have been letting people down for a long time and have had to build up a pretty strong wall to handle the flack and disappointment they get back in return. Perhaps deep down he knows that he is ineffective both and home and work because of the ADHD, but to admit that would be to admit is full impact on his life and others. I don't know about your husband, but mine can't get there (that level of introspection) and I don't think he ever will. Much easier to deflect and blame others. I have been with my husband for more than 20 years and that has given me a long time to see how he performs both at home and work. I have to say that in both arenas, he underperforms due to ADHD. He approaches challenges in the strangest ways and can not prioritize. Things that take me minutes can easily take him days, weeks or months. For one, he procrastinates due to the ADHD (Whatever job it is often never gets started at all. It either goes undone, is done by me, or I hire someone in desperation.) Or he might start something, but gets bored quickly once the interesting parts are done and leaves it unfinished due to the ADHD.Or he might start something and try to see it through, but because his ADHD thinking is all over the place vs. linear, he does not perform effectively, leaves loose ends or fails and gives up on himself. Or he might start something, become hyperfocused on it, and spend hundreds of hours on something that should have taken just a few.
I'm saying this because you're likely right... the ADHD is probably the culprit at work. He wants to blame it on your lack of support (let's be honest... what more can you DO??), but it is much more likely his ADHD impacting his performance, reputation and promotability.
You said: I'm just at such a loss on how or who to be for him anymore, while also being someone for myself.
I think this is the real issue... becoming that supportive of yourself. Maybe you can't BE anymore supportive of him. You sound like a rock star to me!! I think many ADHDers do pretty well when another person is supporting them full time - picking up after them, making sure the kids are perfectly cared for, giving them endless time for their interests. But do you want to keep doing that for YOU for the rest of your life? It's exhausting and unfair. It builds resentment. It shows our kids that that dynamic is okay. I have been where you are and I can tell you it's impossible to maintain. You probably already know that since you're seeing a therapist, but really... you can run yourself ragged (serious health conditions included) and he is unlikely to ever notice or appreciate it. In fact, he's more likely to continue to tell you that your support isn't enough. I don't think it's intentional and I don't think our spouses are trying to hurt us... they are just trying to get by and honestly can't objectively see the massive load their ADHD imposes on others.
If you're asking for new ways to be supportive... I think you're possibly asking how you can break through his denial in a supportive way so he can see what's really going on (with his ADHD). If you look through these forums, you will see that that's the eternal question for many of us. You have done what you can and actually gotten him pretty far along (facing the diagnosis, taking meds), but the rest is really on him. This is his condition. It is his responsibility to manage it. This is a role for a therapist or ADHD coach really... not a spouse. I know he'd have to GET there to the therapist's office, but it's not really our job to get them there either. It took me a long time to realize that my husband wasn't going to do anything he didn't want to do and nothing I could say or do would change that. Yes, I wanted a healthy marriage more than anything, but he wasn't going to play his part in making that happen no matter how much support I gave him. It is hard to accept that we can't change other people, especially when we can see the path and benefits so clearly.
So back to this... what more can you do for YOU? One night out a week at a club or group? Can you afford a babysitter once a week? Get a massage every month? Hire housecleaners? Take the kids out for dinner once a week instead of cooking? (All of the above, girl! :)) Do what it takes to bring your workload down to a healthier level. Honestly if you put the time you're currently putting in to supporting him into nurturing yourself instead, you will probably get a waaaay bigger payoff! And you deserve that love and support every bit as much as he does, right? When no one else is giving that to you, sometimes you have to give it to yourself. And to be blunt, his career is his responsibility. No one else's. You're doing more than your part.
There are a million excuses for not being better to ourselves and I have probably used them all. But eventually you will be soooooo glad you filled your own bucket so it could be fuller for yourself and your kids (and your husband, too).
Sorry this post was so long! I hope I didn't go off on too many tangents. All the best to you and I hope you find some peace and more joy in your life. :)
I appreciate your response so
Submitted by kamakanti on
I appreciate your response so much and can't even begin to express how it feels to have someone validate and understand what I'm grappling with. I'm overall struggling to determine the difference between supporting myself and giving up on him/us. It just seems like taking control of my happiness totally independent of him is like saying he isn't part of it, which feels sad. I don't have a clear picture of which parts of him are personality and which are ADHD, so I'm wondering what it'd look like to just try to appreciate the non-ADHD things in him. Like the story in the book about how the ADHD husband cheated and she realized that another woman found his traits charming and saw value in him. I get that, but just dating or having an affair isn't the same as trying to build a life together. It feels incredibly lonely to be the only one to have, and then be able to work toward, a vision for our family. I'm capable of doing it by myself, but it sucks. Not sure if that makes any sense.
The point about his lifelong experience dealing with disappointing others rings really true. Thank you for that. I am positive that experience has done a lot to shape his views of himself, his responses to others, and what he even tries to engage in in the first place. Again I have such a hard time separating these other things that develop from the personality he might have without it.
I think this sums it up, when you said: "I think many ADHDers do pretty well when another person is supporting them full time - picking up after them, making sure the kids are perfectly cared for, giving them endless time for their interests. But do you want to keep doing that for YOU for the rest of your life? It's exhausting and unfair. It builds resentment. It shows our kids that that dynamic is okay. I have been where you are and I can tell you it's impossible to maintain." But can you share any thoughts on what alternatives might be? Do you mean keep expecting him to do his part, which I don't think will ever happen? I've accepted that he's not going to do any more around the house than he is, and I know I need to outsource more once I can afford it again, and creatively reduce the burden on myself til then. I need to figure out how.
I can only think of lowering my standards, which is also unfair, and outsourcing further, which I can only do to a small degree for another year and a half when I'm back up to normal level of work after I have this next baby. He's not going to change, so then I have to, right? What does it mean to not support him full-time, while also keeping the house running in a way that feels good to me? Lowering my standards will make me feel as resentful as doing it all myself, I think. Maybe what it ultimately comes down to for me is that it's hard to let go of the life I envisioned for us, for myself, and for my kids when we got married. I had a huge career and I gave it up and scaled back to a part-time freelance job because I wanted to be with my kids. I didn't think our financial trajectory and everything else would end up feeling so precarious as a result of a choice so many families make.
I also feel sad that my boys are lacking an example in their dad on many important dimensions that are key to their own future success. I haven't considered this enough, but you raise a great point that this is not a healthy dynamic for them to observe. I need to think more about how to mitigate that. One more thing to add to my to do list!!!
It just seems like taking
Submitted by 1Melody1 on
It just seems like taking control of my happiness totally independent of him is like saying he isn't part of it, which feels sad.
I agree with this and am in the same boat here. Letting go of what I thought my marriage would be (and the idea of a truly healthy marriage altogether) has been very sad. If there were anymore I could reasonably do on my end to make that happen, I would do it. Unfortunately (for me at least), even a watered down version of a healthy marriage requires more participation and effort from him than he is willing to put in. Accepting this fact has been really hard for me. However, perhaps your husband would be more motivated to change than mine. :) "I'm capable of doing it by myself, but it sucks." Boy do I get that!
But can you share any thoughts on what alternatives might be? Do you mean keep expecting him to do his part, which I don't think will ever happen?
Sadly, I don't have a great solution, but some things that have helped me include:
-Dropping chores that can be 100% his responsibility and will not impact me much or at all if they go undone. For me, a great example of this is laundry. I still do mine, our daughter's and the household laundry, but his laundry is his problem. This means that he puts it in and forgets about it (it gets pretty smelly!) and that he's often scrambling for something to wear, etc. But I let this be his problem. Because he leaves dirty and clean clothes lying around in almost every room, it can impact me. When it does, I throw them in a hamper every few days and walk them up to his room (yes... we have separate bedrooms, which tells you a lot about where we're at! lol). But the room that is "all his" is also key to this working for me (this can be an office, too). I can rid the house of the mess in a minute or two vs. an hour or two and I am still making it his issue. And "his room" can be as messy as he likes because I can close that door. I have a similar strategy with the cans, wrappers, papers, plates, etc. that he leaves everywhere he goes. If they stick around, they go to his room. That way the main house can stay clean enough for dinner guests or my daughter's friends, but I'm not picking up after him anymore. Obviously this strategy only helps a small bit as most things, if left undone, impact the entire household.
-Definitely hiring where I can has been a godsend. You seem to be doing this already.
-This is the big one... another poster on this site recommends "living small." (I think it is c ur self.) It's SUCH great advice. I do this by thinking of myself as a single mom. I try to make most decisions as I would if I were truly on my own (because essentially I am). I think it's a mindset thing... for years I couldn't understand why we were always scrambling and behind. Other couples could accomplish so much (and by so much I really just mean a clean house and relative harmony!) while we could not. Well, it sure makes sense now! Only one half of the couple was actually participating in my case. I am the one shopping, cooking, parenting, cleaning, painting the house, working full time, etc., but I still thought my life should look like most other married couple's lives. That's impossible when the other half is only working part time and sitting in a chair the rest of the time. Yet I still had these expectations (understandably) that I could and should be living a life built on two functioning adults. The truth is that I don't have a typical marriage where two people are pitching in equally. When I started to ask myself, "If I were on my own, could I do this? Would I commit to that? Would I expect XYZ of myself today?" That helped me a lot not to overcommit or try to do too much. If I were really a single mom living on my own with my daughter, I think I'd feel pretty incredible about how well I was holding it all together, actually!
I hope that helps a little. I'm so glad you posted here. Being part of this community has helped me so much to not feel alone (or crazy!).
Submitted by AdeleS6845 on
When you wrote: "my ADHD husband has asked me not to share that he has it to my friends and family." I was struck by that statement. I am glad you have a therapist to talk to. It can be isolating not being able to tell your family what is going on.
I agree what Melody1 said in her post. You need to do some things for yourself, so that you are healthy and to be there for yourself and your children.
Thank you! I'd love to hear
Submitted by kamakanti on
Thank you! I'd love to hear what things for myself means to others. I feel like I try to do different things, like regular massage for my chronic neck pain, dinners out with my girlfriends, got a babysitter that would help with laundry, and do have a cleaner every other week. My parents are involved in my family too, watching the kids one or two days a week and when my mom is over she'll always do extra things around the house. I feel like I check a lot of the boxes on self-care on paper (except for regular exercise), but it doesn't seem to add up to enough. Maybe I'm just expecting too much..
It is definitely isolating to
Submitted by kamakanti on
It is definitely isolating to not be able to talk to anyone. He told his sister, but I don't feel I can go on talking to her about it as we didn't have the closest relationship to begin with and she's dealing with her own health issues. A therapist is great and I appreciate the professional advice. But you can't call them like a friend, on any given day to talk things through. Some days I think about telling one friend, or my mom. Otherwise, none of my other normal marriage complaints make any sense without that context and I forego the normal marriage chit-chat with other ladies altogether. Of course without it, everyone thinks he's a saint and this perfect guy. Yes, he's really nice, he's amazing with the kids and super hands on with them. Especially on vacation when all my family sees him. And he's there for me on the big stuff. Always willing to drop everything to talk through my work challenges, and volunteered to fly out to see my brother when he was having some issues. It's hard to hold onto that big picture stuff though when day to day life is so challenging.
You may only be able to talk
Submitted by AdeleS6845 on
You may only be able to talk to his sister about it on a surface level, and I'm speaking from experience. My former mother-in-law said this to me: " I went through a similar thing with his Father. I decided I could either continue to take it, and be a doormat, or dish it right back. I decided to fight back". I could never discuss our situation with her. ( Because he is her son, she would never stand up for me or advocate for me in any way.) I believe now as I did then. Marriage is not always easy. It takes two to make it work, and sometimes it is WORK. I agree that marriage is work, but it should not be a struggle EVERY DAY. One person shouldn't have to "stuff it", and tolerate abusive behavior. I tend to be non confrontational, and constant arguing, albeit one-sided is emotionally exhausting.
Your post was hard for me to
Submitted by PoisonIvy on
Your post was hard for me to read only because what you write about your husband reminds me so much of my ex-husband (we've been divorced almost four years). I think 1Melody1 makes very good points and suggestions.
Thanks so much for commenting
Submitted by kamakanti on
Thanks so much for commenting. I will try to determine what filling my cup means for myself..