I am a 44yr old husband and father of a 3-1/2 yr old little angel. 8 days ago my wife announced that she was done.
Several times over the last several years my wife has asked me to read The ADHD Effect on Marriage, and each time she asked me to read it, I did not read it.
Each time she asked, she then left the book somewhere for me after trying to explain to me why she was unhappy in our marriage, and that it really mattered to her that I read the book. I didn't read it. I couldn't read it. I love my wife dearly and I didn't read it. I want my wife to be happy and I couldn't read it. I haven't read a book- any book- in forever, and she sometimes even makes fun of me because for years now I always bring the same book on trips (if I even bother anymore). I continue to reread the beginning of that book every time I pick it up. I didn't know anything about ADD before this week, but I am learning just as the insidious effects on marriage and the burdens on non-ADHD spouses, the book/reading obstacle is not just common but predictable. I always thought any talk about (or books about) ADD was so much psycho-babble mumbo-jumbo, and that I was "just fine" (see page 4 of the book). I should also say that I was regularly self medicating with morning caffeine and evening alcohol. I rarely drank two drinks back to back, rarely got buzzed at all, and rarely had fewer than two drinks in a given day. I considered myself a high functioning low level alcoholic, but honestly didn't perceive it as any sort of problem in need of attention.
We have been married nearly 8 yrs and together for 10. Our relationship took a pattern that appears pretty common with a fast attraction, spent a lot of time together right away, were married after 1-1/2 yrs, and had no knowledge of ADD early on in our lives together. During the 1st yr of our marriage, both of my parents passed away, as well as one of my wife's closest friends, so we had a difficult couple of years for sure, but we made it through. I have always believed that whatever dysfunction we shared as a couple was (understandably) born mostly from those times, and we just needed to try harder as partners and be patient- time heals all wounds, right? While I do not display every symptom I have read/heard about in the last week, our marriage has been plagued by some emotional distance between us, and neither of us understanding why I seem to be most comfortable in the evenings with the tv on in the background while I surf the internet on a laptop (it's called "passive attention", apparently it soothes the hyper-active nervous system, and I have the tv on now while I type this at 5AM, having had very little sleep this night). I also have been pretty much absent from housework, bills and organization, I am usually 5-10 min late, and I often seem to have multiple incomplete projects going at any time. While I make new friends easily I sometimes struggle to develop close friends (though I do have several), and I am perceived by many as socially overbearing. My wife experiences me as often critical and/or controlling with her, but my wife would agree that I have a big and generous heart and I am a wonderful, patient, and committed father.
We had spoken of working on our marriage a month or so before her announcement and we agreed to work on it for a year and then make some decisions if we could not make progress, and we had not spoken about it again before her declaration that she was "done". We had moved from CA to CO just over a year ago, and I have just recently taken a new job that I am good at and excited about, after spending most of our time in CO being both happy to be here but uncertain what I wanted to pursue (steady employment has not historically been a problem for me).
So last Friday she said she was done with our marriage and she explained herself to me on a walk. She confessed that she simply no longer finds me attractive, has perhaps been deceiving herself about that for some time, and even said that many of the qualities she was once attracted to about me are now obstacles for her. I heard her out and really tried to listen, and then I thought about it for a day, seeking out friends to talk to, etc., and decided that (at least for me) I feel like what we still share at our worst is greater than everything that separates us, and that my (vast) love for her and our love for our child are perhaps enough to build around, and to perhaps inspire her love for me to be rekindled. I immediately gave up both alcohol and caffeine (just 8 days now but without a problem and feeling great), and sought out a therapist friend, got a referral, and was in his office starting to try to understand myself on Monday (Friday announcement, Saturday decision to try to mend marriage & immediately went cold turkey, therapy started Monday). My therapist has been a Godsend, as has a book he suggested called "Scattered" (even though reading the first 40-50 pages took me at least 5-6 hrs), which has given me some significant insights into myself, my past, my present, my mind, and also many of my ADD effected behaviors inside and outside of our marriage (some of which I thought were "fine", some of which frustrated myself and others to no end, and some of which I honestly never even noticed). I was also fortunate to make a new friend who has ADHD and have a couple of very valuable conversations with him this last week, and I feel really lucky not to have missed yet another chance to possibly get sorted out.
I am on one level feeling super excited to learn more about my mind and myself. I went to therapy twice last week and it felt like forever between visits. It's been an emotional week for me as I attempt to come to grips with a lifetime of ADD based behaviors, responses, and coping mechanisms, some that I see really clearly now, and there are these 'a-ha moments' coming all the time (oh jeez- look at that, no wonder...). Off of alcohol, I am now waking up early without an alarm, making my wife's coffee, cleaning the kitchen, dealing with the morning routine of our 3 dogs, and cutting up a fruit plate for our daughter to deliver to my wife at her bedside before our 3 yr old makes her way in from her room. It feels great, and I feel awake for the first time in a long while. I am eager to improve, to understand, to explore, to grow, without question to make amends where I can, and to fulfill all that potential that my junior high school teachers always complained to my parents about being wasted.
My wife on the other hand is having none of it.
She hasn't dropped the L word once this week. She thinks I am putting on some kind of show for her. She realizes the genuine emotion I am moving through (pretty intense week) and she has agreed to stay with me just to support me in the immediate term, but insists we begin to "unwind" our finances and other concrete practical steps toward living separately and trying to parent amicably. We live in a town of only 100K people and she feels it will be no burden on our child for us to be apart (contrary to my devastating life experiences as a child in a broken family where everyone fought constantly with everyone). She wants to "share" the 3 dogs and expects that to work just fine. One big reason we moved to CO from CA was to be closer to her Dad in NY after her Mom passed away 2 yrs ago, leaving him as our daughter's last Grandparent. They are close but not as close as before her Mom passed away. She won't tell him about what's going on, and she refuses to let me call him, claiming he is "her" family and she's worried about him being worried about us (he can be anxious, as can my wife, but it's not debilitating). When I talk to her about the changes I am experiencing, both emotionaly and in my own understanding of myself and my patterns, she's OK with it, but only until I express my honest and genuinely hopeful feelings about what it can mean for us, at which point she might as well grind her teeth and claw at her own skin- she doesn't want to hear about it. She has one really good friend from CA that lives here and has made some nice new friends here too, but is not (or was not before this) very close with very many of them, and she thankfully has done a great job of reaching out and connecting with them for support, but it really troubles me that she has twice said something to the effect of "I told my friends we are separating so that's it, I'm holding firm, I'm done".
I am struggling to remain positive, trying to find a place where I can both tell her honestly that sadly I accept her decisions about her future, and want her to be happy, and want her to live fully, and be fulfilled individually, and I want her to have whatever she needs to do that, but that I also want very much to be a part of it, and that I want to turn things around and reward all of her patience, and that I would so very much appreciate the opportunity to spend the rest of my life in making all of this up to her... but she has apparently traded in her well-worn patience and compassion for her curiosity of what it would be like to be a 36 yr old single mom without me as a partner. I would not really say that I am "desperate" to save our marriage, but I do feel that walking away is a mistake, I feel that it's unfair to our child not try as hard as we can, and I feel that karmically it's my duty to try, for all of our sakes, because it's my ADD, it's my behaviors, and it's my responsibility. I also have enough love within me for her to try forever- or I believe I do. I all honesty, I also feel that it's unfair to me to just walk away so soon after we moved here (away from where I grew up, away fro the ocean, away from everyone and everything I knew and was familiar with and comfortable with) just a yr ago, in large part to be closer to her dad, and now I'll be stuck here (in a place I do enjoy but would not have chosen to be on my own) if I want to see my daughter regularly. I know in my heart that finally my eyes are open to my ADD and with that and my high level of interest and motivation, I can change, I will change, and I am already changing. I know that we can build a wonderful life together and provide a wonderful family life and childhood for our daughter, but we can't do that if my wife doesn't want to.
Any advice is appreciated.