How Can I Be Heard?

My husband has ADHD. He is currently being treated (and has been for a couple of years). We have been married for 12 years. For several years now (ever since we had children), I have felt VERY alone and unsupported in the marriage. I work full-time, but feel that I do most if not all of the childcare and housework. Whenever I ask him for help, I feel like he agrees to be more helpful and support me in any way that he can, but I am always frustrated by what seems like a real lack of effort and follow through. He is works very hard, but seems distracted and withdrawn most of the time. He is often consumed by work or projects that interest him (like finding or fixing recreational gear and equipment).  I feel that the only way he helps me around the house or with the kids is if I give him specific "orders" and then pressure him to follow through or check in on him often, which puts me in the role of oppressive supervisor and constant nag. I hate it! However, if I simply ask for help or share that I feel overwhelmed and unsupported, he tells me that I'm being difficult or completely exaggerating things, being overcritical, or being totally unfair to him and he withdraws. He has told me that he thinks I have emotional issues because of the way I feel about the marriage (ie, that the fact that I feel alone and resent him is because I have psychological problems). He feels like I emotionally blackmail him to get what I want. In fear of driving him away or upsetting him, I end up doing the work myself and resenting him for not being more of a partner. I believe that he wants to help, but I feel so alone and don't know how to get him more involved in the home and family. Perhaps he doesn't want to help and I need to accept that? Does he just want to be left alone? Am I really alone in my marriage? Anyone else experience this?  

Redsoft's picture

I am not married yet, but

I am not married yet, but have been with my partner four and a half years. Minus children, I have dealt with everything you've mentioned. Although your husband has been going to therapy, it sounds like his ADHD is not even close to being controlled. Same thing happened with us - he has been going since early high school and we are in our mid-twenties; not until less than a year ago did we discover that this wasn't just how things were going to be and that this wasn't just as good as it gets.
We read the 'ADHD and Marriage' book (see home page of this site) and Gina Pera's 'Is It You, Me, or ADD?' and both changed our lives. I was lucky to have a partner that wanted to read together - I read both aloud to him since he has trouble setting personal time aside and focusing on reading longer things, books in general. They provided such relief. I found such great personal solice in Pera's recognition and explanation of the non-ADHD position that I was brought to tears multiple times, and I am ::not:: a crier. 'ADHD and Marriage provided great tools. Both go into detail regarding how both parties in the relationship feel without putting down anyone. I no longer felt crazy, controlling, or off-base (as he made me feel for so long), and he finally understood how is actions effected me personally and deeply by the explanations. I also learned more about how his mental process works, and am better equiped to handle times he is not at his best with more grace. I can't highly suggest enough that you get your hands on these books as soon as possible. Both are on Amazon - personally, Pera's wasn't at any library in my area, and it's a popular big city.
If your husband is too timid or defensive to read with you, try going to a therapy session with him. Those with ADHD generally consistently and grossly underestimate how "fine" things really are (see: not remotely fine), and thus do not get the most out of treatment. After reading the books, both of us were able to see that was happening, and I have started to go with him every few sessions. Even one well-constructed sentence from you could be what his therapist needs to better treatment for him. If your husband refuses this idea and things worsen, if it were me, I would make a private call or email and send your thoughts to his therapist. They probably don't know how frustrating things are at home. Just don't accuse your husband of not speaking up in therapy or suggest that he is oblivious to what's happening. He's not doing it on purpose.
Is he taking medication? If not, this is huge. Medication can be lifesaving for ADHD. If he is, and bettered therapy still doesn't do the trick, it's possible he needs a dose change and, again, the therapist has been under the impression all is peachy at home.
To me, based on my experiences, he isn't in a place to hear you yet because he hasn't strapped on his "listening ears" to have even the choice to ignore you. He might not even have a set of them yet! My fiance simply did not realize the unacceptable nature of his comments and the extent of his defensiveness and low self-esteem and how much pain and hurt they were really causing me too.
Be compassionate in asking him to read with you, or suggestig to go to therapy together. Place the focus on you. "I really want to learn more about this." Even if you started with him under the impression it's only for you, that gets his foot through the door. Again, even if he won't read those books with God, get them!! You may not have ADHD but you have plenty of feelings and deserve to be happy in your marriage and everyday life. Perhaps even just seeing the change in your mood will make him curious, or make him wonder what could keep you so buried in those books. Maybe after learning more, the manner in which you approach him will make him think more introspectively too.
You're his wife, not mother or roomate - don't let yourself be pushed into that position. I know it's hard. I have to remind myself every day. Be active in his therapy, because it effects you too, your marriage, your children. You might have to take a stand, but don't rush into that without tools or knowledge. Try the books, and try getting involved in therapy (because it's obviously not working either).


Compassion has a beginning and an end, and only you can answer how far you are willing to bear the burden of this relationship.  Where kids are involved, yeah, I think it is healthier if their co-parent stays in their life to some extent.  But that doesn't mean that you need to live with him.  You do love him, but is that enough to make you stay when you have seen what this dynamic is?  People with ADHD need to be held accountable, just like everybody else does. You are in a vulnerable positions because you have kids together and because you have deep feelings for this man.  If the practical considerations outweigh the advantages of leaving, then stay.  You may find a way to be with him, or you may decide to withdraw from the relationship.  Staying in a one-sided relationship is bound to have an impact on the kids, but is that out-weighed by practical concerns?  And are you in a position to address these practical concerns?  

No answers, here, but concern and support.