Husband lies, spends, etc etc but now he's cheated. Do I stay or go?

Hi I really need an outsiders perspective on my situation.

I've been married to my ADHD husband for 9 yrs and we have 3 small children. I've always known he had ADD as a kid but when he finished school he stopped taking medication and thought he could cope. He convinced me (and himself) that he didn't really need it anymore.

He has always been hopeless with money, changed his plans constantly, made decisions without thinking, and lied when he thought he could get away with it. But the good times far outweighed the bad and we were happy. I am the yin to his yang and I paid the bills, kept things in check, took care of the children, constantly reminded him of events, etc. 

Until the last 6 months. Things somehow changed. I don't know exactly what started it but we both got more and more stressed, his lack of consideration for me or the kids led me to withdraw from him. He started going out more than usual, at odd hours. He wouldn't or couldn't take care if the important stuff in life. The easy tasks would get finished but anything unpleasant or hard just never got looked at. My resentment for this grew and grew. I decided that I would just start worrying about me, and my kids, and he could live his own life. But I couldn't stop caring so i just kept getting hurt. Over and over. 

Things finally came to a head and i rang him at 1am to see where he was and I told him not to bother coming home. I thought that if he came home then there was hope and we could talk, if he didn't then I'd made the right decision.

he disappeared for two days. Then he came home on the Wednesday afternoon begging forgiveness, promising change etc etc. So I agreed to try. He promised that our family was all he wanted and he'd do whatever he had to to make things right. We took our kids out to a Christmas party and when we got home he headed to bed early. I stayed up still fretting about everything. When I went into our room to go to bed at about midnight, his phone rang. Weird, I thought so I checked it and found all these texts and calls to another girl. All from that day. The day he's telling me all he wants is us, and then calling and texting her while we're out with our kids. Telling her she's the only one he wants and a lot of other hurtful things I don't want to think about.

i confronted him and he tried to lie. I took my kids and left.

its now a week later and he's been to see his doctor who said he needs ADHD medication again, and this might explain a lot of his behaviour. He's full of guilt and remorse and good intentions, but yesterday he asked if it was ok to call me in the evening. I agreed which took a lot for me to do because talking to him is still really painful, and guess what? No call.

Am I fighting a losing battle here? If I go back am I just letting him get away with it? I don't want my kids to pay the price for any of this either. I'm so lost. Any help, guidance, anything would be appreciated.

If you can, save your marriage


I am also in a ADHD relationship, so I can definitely relate to some of the things you are going through. In fact, I am currently seeking support groups for my husband to help him cope with his condition. I think if I were in this position, I would give him the opportunity to change things, but urge him to seek therapy. Since the two of you have three small children, making it work will ensure better psychological outcome for them. Have you thought about doing marriage counseling with a therapist who also specializes in ADHD? I think him going back on medication will help, but therapy in conjunction, will be more beneficial. Do you still love him? If the two of you still have love for each other, I think it is worth working out. I know with the trust being lost, not seeking help will make it very hard to regain that trust back. For the sake of your children, if you think the two of you can get help and resist from fighting in front of them, then it is worth saving your marriage. I'm not an expert, but my major is in Psychology with a minor in Human development and Family studies. I hope my opinion is somewhat helpful! 

Thankyou for your advice

Thankyou for your advice pc837. My gut says not to give up on him yet, because there is still love there. And I'm so committed and invested in our children and our family. But I'm really conflicted and everyone else in my life is telling me to leave. Once a cheater always a cheater is what I'm hearing a lot of.  None of my family thinks he will ever change. And that I shouldn't stay just for the kids. But I'm acutely aware of the affect this separation is having on them already, and our eldest is only 7 and getting very angry inside. My little girl is 3 and says "Daddy has gone to the place where Daddy's go to cry. It's the crying place." It breaks my heart.

I like the idea of a therapist who also knows about ADHD. I will definitely see if I can find someone in my area. Maybe I will try this for some time first before I make any long term decisions. In typical ADD fashion he's expecting me to move on before Christmas and we can all be together again. Anything that takes longer than a few days feels like eternity to him I'm sure.

Thank you for giving me an unbiased opinion. It's exactly what I was searching for. 


I'm glad to hear you feel

I'm glad to hear you feel it's worth giving a shot. Many people are so quick to divorce these days. There's been many days where I've wanted to walk out on my husband because I couldn't deal with him being so irresponsible. I've also been in a situation where I found emails and it was so hurtful, it took me up until now (four years) to finally regain that trust. One thing one of my professors told me was, when it comes to family, you have to divorce your family before you divorce your spouse. He said, marriage is not about happiness, it's about growing from one another and accepting each others differences. Since then, I've learned to accept my husband as he is, ADHD and all. I know he will not change, but he's committed to work on his flaws. When it comes to family, they think they know what is best, but they don't understand the negative impact it will have. With friends, many times they will either be single or in a unhappy marriage themselves telling you to leave. It's crazy because you think they would want what is best for you, but they are trying to break up a family. I also have a little one who is four, so I try to keep her in mind before I make any decisions on her future. My husband travels a lot so when he's not here, I realize how much harder life is when he is not around. Times like that make me realize things would be that way every day if we divorced. I found a therapist for my husband on Also, if ADHD is having an affect on your marriage try to do lots of research on it so that maybe the two of you can work on coping strategies. I put up post it notes for my husband, and reminders in his phone. It's a full-time job being a spouse of an ADHDer but I love the man! lol! I wish you the best Jo, keep your head up and don't give up! :-)




I really think my family and

I really think my family and friends are just trying to protect me from getting hurt again. And maybe give me a self esteem boost? By saying he's never been good enough for me etc. It's not helping though. It just feels like added pressure and judgment. But I'm beginning to realize that everyone has their opinion about cheating, but you don't know how you'd react until you're faced with it. 

I'm still staying with my parents because I can't face being in our house, but it think tomorrow I will have to take my children home and see how they adapt to Dad not being there....that will give me another ball to juggle, so to speak.

I'm still very confused, angry, hurt, betrayed, and a lot of things I can't grasp yet but thanks again for replying to me. I'm researching ADHD all the time which is another sign I'm not ready to let go of the hope that maybe.....

Do I stay or Do I go?

Dear Thefixer,
I don't usually post to ANY blog, but I am so saddened and sensitive to your story. I have been married 23 years to my husband with diagnosed ADHD who cannot take medications; they are banned substances in his line of work. We have five children whom I have predominately raised as a single mother - both as a result of his condition and his job, which takes him away from home more often than not.
Our marriage has been very difficult. I have always known the horrific impact his disorder has had on our family, but because I loved him and wanted my children to have their father in their lives, I struggled through. Honestly, it has been hell ... I thought.

True hell came in the form of his affair, with which I am still dealing. Last March, I too noticed a significant change in his behavior, but because of his supposed strict religious convictions, I discounted any possibility of an extra-marital affair (denial).

By April he had become more than cruel to me and told me a divorce was imminent - I was a horrible wife, a horrible person, and he no longer loved me. Knowing exactly how incapable he was of taking care of himself or meeting his own needs, I finally became convinced he was involved with another woman. It was a simple mathematical deduction: because he did not have the courage to leave into a void, or to navigate his life without support ... then, 2 + 2 = another woman to fill the void and offer the support required. Unfortunately, despite all the evidence and logical reasoning, I still found ways to rationalize and deny what was staring me in the face.

On July 3rd, my world officially shattered into a million little pieces when I confirmed/discovered with hard evidence the affair.  It is not easy to do in this day of VOIP services, invisible text, private email, etc. In his admission he convincingly led me to believe it was a benign relationship with a woman in San Diego where he occasionally traveled - an emotional affair only that had yielded him a mere six, one-on-one encounters with her in public, at work, no sex involved. I was told it was mostly an affair conducted over the phone. She consoled his soul and counseled him in his difficult times. I was also told on July 8 that the relationship had been formally ended - it was over.  Not only was this the story given to me, but also to our kids, our families, our church, and to the marriage counseling retreat we attended in late July. After we completed the marriage counseling retreat, which required all third party relationships be completely severed, we began attending the follow-up sessions every other weekend.
He continued to tell me the affair was over, but he wasn't sure he still loved me the same way and divorce was still a looming threat. Three weeks into our follow up marriage sessions I opened his computer to discover the secret email account he and his other woman had been using to communicate from the beginning ... over 400 emails with every detail of their lurid and hurtful affair complete with pictures and painfully graphic love letters that often discussed their justifications for the lying, deceit and pain they were knowingly causing me, my children, and our extended family. The emails were current as of the day I found them. The relationship had become terribly twisted and sick as they struggled to keep their fantasy going in light of my discovery and my fighting to save our marriage. EVERYTHING I had been told in the beginning of July and for the seven weeks that followed was a complete fabrication - intentional, harmful, blatant, despicable lies.

My husband, like any good ADHD spouse who has difficulty self-assessing and self-regulating, had trouble giving up his fix ... the high he was getting from the dopamine drenching his brain (the “love is a drug” syndrome), the stimulation and excitement from the clandestine nature of the affair, the delusion that finally he had found a woman who understood him and made him feel "normal," unashamed of his condition; a woman who made him feel he was he was everything blessed and perfect … why would he or how could he expect to give that up? Sex aside, the affair felt soooo good and his marriage now felt sooo bad. He had to demonize me in his own mind every chance he could to help justify his selfish, licentious, depraved behavior.

As crazy as we had both become (my head literally spun every day) I knew their relationship, perceived as blissful nirvana, was nothing of the sorts.  Had I let him go, which I encouraged on several occasions, I’m fully confident his true SHREK would have emerged all too soon, as would have hers (she was a train wreck rounding the bend). These affairs are the epitome of delusional fantasy - not born out of any kind of lucid reality. Add to that the malfunctioning frontal lobe of ADHD and you have a nightmare the magnitude of which no monogamous relationship should ever have to experience ... a giant wrecking ball with a half conscious drunk at the controls.

The pain is completely disabling. The betrayal is literally hollowing. And it is all made exponentially worse when you consider the lengths to which the faithful, non-ADHD spouse has gone to support, care for, tolerate, treat, tend to, deal with, etc, on behalf of the ADHD spouse and against significant odds ... the violations of the affair and the abandonment is unfathomable - off the charts numbing to both the mind and heart.

It has been six and a half months since my original discovery of the supposed benign affair. The lying didn’t stop even after the discovery of the true nature and depth of the betrayal – nor did the affair.  All the wishing and wanting in the world will not change one simple fact … his affair was no different than any other affair and getting over and through them takes A VERY LONG TIME! I so wanted to believe that if I studied, learned, and understood enough about the dynamics of an affair, I could minimize the damage and shorten the healing process. Not so. All the knowledge in the world will not change the process. It is painful and it takes an enormous amount of hard work on the part of both spouses. It is grueling and at least as often as I garner the strength to keep moving forward, I loose balance and feel like giving up. Whether it is anger, or apathy, or hurt, or disgust, or shame, or simply fatigue … the painfully jarring roller coaster doesn’t end in the short term. It does, however, moderate somewhat. The highs and lows are not as steep, but it seems anything, at any time, can set in motion another bout of doubt that has to be dealt with. (triggers loom EVERYWHERE)

In fact, it is hard to know if the lying or the affair has stopped to this day. Both he and his other woman travel for their jobs and are gone from home overnight 15-20 days/month … that is a whole lot of time and space to carry on just about whatever one wants with little or no accountability or detection. Technology makes it so easy, so convenient, and so stealth.  Trust and faith are the only pillars upon which I can rest, and for obvious reasons, neither is currently very sound in my heart or mind.

Honestly, it didn’t have to be this difficult, but I find that my ADHD husband has spent a lifetime telling himself stories as a means of coping with the realities of his disorder, and unlearning that behavior takes nothing short of divine intervention. I have lived 23 years with broken promises, not meaning to do what he does, not doing what he means to do, avoiding truth if it even hints at perceived guilt or shame, lashing out at those around him for his own shortcomings and frustrations … expecting that to magically change overnight is unrealistic. I am thoroughly convinced that affairs are difficult to get through for “normal” couples, but for couples with the added disadvantage of untreated or *fully enabled ADHD, they are immensely more difficult.

What is realistic is my ability to deal with this the best way I can. For me that means:
1) Exploring honestly my part in the failure of our marriage – all the pent up anger and resentment so common to spouses with ADHD.
2) Exploring my marital expectations – realistic and unrealistic – accepting them and learning to draw clear boundaries for myself.
3) Finding true self-worth independent of my marital status and not related in any way to the other woman. (I did not discuss the immeasurable blow to my self-esteem when seeing the pictures and hearing/reading the stories of the other woman – the vivid graphics haunt me constantly. The only thing I seemed to be able to hold onto was the fact that she wasn’t particularly intelligent … of course, given the circumstance in which I found myself, I didn’t feel all that intelligent either, so that was of little consolation. I am not her, I will never be anything like her, and I am more than acceptable being me!)
4) Seek outside support and counsel to deal with the mountain of emotions that have been crushing me. *As an obvious co-dependent enabler to my husband’s ADHD, I have to learn new and healthy ways to function in this marriage.
5) Find a way to forgive. The saying “time heals all” helps, but I am sure this forgiveness has to be a conscious effort and choice … in good time. (when I figure out how to do that, I’ll get back with you … ha, ha)
6) Take care of myself and my children – eat, sleep, exercise, stay involved with friends and activities and responsibilities.

The question “do I stay or do I leave?” for me was something I knew I would not be able to answer right away. I knew I was a mess, (still am, but better) and a mess that took this long to play out will take a long time to clean up as well. Decisions made under duress are usually not the best. My motto was to take it slow, one step, one day, one morning or afternoon at a time. I will better be able to assess what is best when I am healthier in mind, body and spirit. The decision is a process, not an isolated action.

Also, I am an adamant proponent of outside marriage counseling – not a one-on-one therapist, but a tried and true program that has demonstrated significant successes. My husband and I attended Retrouvaille, a fabulous program that is offered all over the country and has years of success behind it with a community follow up for the long haul. (I found it using Google search) I cannot speak on Melissa Orlov’s program, but I briefed through it and it looks very good and very helpful.

Lastly, my marriage today is so incredibly better than it was a year ago at this time. It is wounded for sure, but I think both my husband and I agree that our future together looks brighter. We are more connected than we have ever been, we communicate much more effectively, and the bleeding/damage from both our dysfunctional ways appears to have been arrested.

That’s my story, and those are my suggestions based on what has worked for me. There is still much to be done for me to heal … and perhaps that also complicates matters. In order for our marriage to truly heal and be whole and healthy, my husband and I have to independently heal from our own issues – ADHD, co-dependency issues, intimacy issues, shame issues, anger issues, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yes, the sh**, it get’s really thick sometimes, but amazingly I have found that when addressing one issue, another one may also resolve very easily, like smooth dovetails.

Very lastly, the most important consideration throughout this entire nightmare was my children and the legacy my/our actions would have on their lives. Dysfunctional marriages, relationships, and homes have a reverberating effect generation after generation. My overarching priority right out of the gate was to finally end the generational dysfunction our issues were creating. Children learn what they live – my husband and I are living testaments to this fact, as are many in our generation. The only way to stop the insanity is to unearth it, expose it, and productively deal with it.  It can be ugly, and dirty, and painful, but I believe, in the end, it is the greatest gift we can give our children… a strong, sound, coherent foundation!

Best wishes always.

Thank you so much for sharing

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me! A lot of your words struck a chord.

I described it as "my world has been irrevocably shattered" which is very similar to your description.And you right too that the betrayal is hollowing. That's so very true. That's where I am now. I still can't grab onto any one feeling, there's so many all the time and they change from moment to moment. But that hollow feeling is there permanently. And when I realise it I hate him for it which brings around the anger again at was he's done to us. 

My husband said the affair is over, the other woman meant nothing to him and he loves me more than anything. Instead of being comforted by that I want to scream when he says it. How can that be true?!! If that were really true then he wouldn't have chosen another woman! So in my current state his remorse is doing little to help....

Thank you for the advice on dealing with this too. I will definitely start trying to work through these, but how do you think about how you contributed to the failure of your marriage without blaming yourself for the affair? I keep thinking what could I have done? What did I do wrong? He has told me it's nothing to do with me, he just spiralled out of control. But my mind won't believe that. 

I am going to try all these things though, and therapy is a big one I think. I just need to take my kids home and start to face everything. At the moment my parents are taking care of us and trying to shelter me from everything. (Whilst also asking me every day if I've made a decision, and organising where I'm going to live once they sell the house for me! ) Once away from here I hope I can work through this in my own way and try my best to heal without worrying that I'm not doing it 'right'. Info and advice from others who have actually been where I am is invaluable. 

And  I'm so happy your marriage is improving and growing stronger. You have given me some hope. Maybe there is a path out of this, it's just not clear at the moment.