i am new here...

found this site after another evening of sobbing on the couch. Been married 4 years, have 2 small kids. Always knew DH had a problem with organization, but never realized the extent of his dysfunction. Just a few pieces of the puzzle I have put together: horrible with finances (after a horrendous and flagrant failure on his part that cost us thousands, I now handle everything related to all our finances, but I can't even get him to give me a bill he has to submit, or give me the name of the dental insurance--we're on his new insurance, etc); reckless /distracted behavior (2 accidents this year, 2 speeding tix); loses things (today's incident, which set off tonight's fight was that he went somewhere with the baby, and left the 150$ stroller on the street and drove off and didn't even realize it,  now its gone); quick to flare (often claims he is not angry, but I frequently feel like he is jumping down my throat or badgering me, esp. if I tell him I am upset about something, he turns it on me, goes on the attack); job issues (very smart, charismatic, hired easily, but also fired easily--not even understanding or sensing that he is gong to be fired, which suggests a lack of social awareness); genetic issues (his father has depression and I believe a mental illness,  he has an older child (my stepson) with significant executive functioning issues and is significantly learning disabled, now my toddler son exhibits signs of ADD). I am sure I am not contributing to the dynamic because I nag, get upset, cry, yell, and feel resentful and withdraw. A year ago, after begging and pleading (after the 3rd firing in 2 years) he saw a psychiatrist, who put him on ritalin but also stressed cog behavior or ADD coach. DH takes the meds, say they help him at work, but he has never followed up with anything else, and our home life has changed little: while we both work F/T (me more than him--maybe 60 hours a week, often at night since I come home, make dinner, put kids to bed, clean and prep for the next day and then resume work).  I do all the finances, planning, cleaning, organization, school applications, mail, doctor's appts, etc, and on top of it I have to deal with his mess ups. Another factor at play is that he snores horribly and (after a year of me begging and yelling) he saw an ENT who gave him an RX do to a sleep study, but he has not done it yet--its been 16 months since his appt and the rx expired, of course).   We also dont sleep in the same bed anymore, which is terrible for our marriage. I told him that it made me feel unimportant and he said that he cared--but I likened it to me having a problem that kept me from having sex and refusing to see a doctor for it. How would that make him feel?


 I feel desperate but the thing that keeps me from leaving him is that I'm terrified of leaving my kids with him for an extended period of time. Today, in addition to coming home without the stroller, the baby was bleeding from a gash--she had fallen. Falls happen, of course, but give his electronic addiction (he frequently checks email while watching the kids) I have to wonder and I hate that I have that doubt.  He admitted to me tonight that he had problems keeping more than one thing in his mind at once, but said that I have to understand that about him and that its not fair for me to get angry about things like the stroller. What he doesn't understand is that its not the stroller, its his willingess to acknowledge that he has a problem, but refusal to do anything about it. He can see it in his son, although even there, he leaves the heavy lifting to his ex, or, now to me, to schedule, make sure homework is done, showers taken, meds taken, etc. It hurts me deeply that he'll surf the web for hours (he has 2 cell phones and thus endless electronic distraction) but will not take 45 min to see a counselor, or 5 minutes to look up the information I need for our finances, etc. He thinks that intention is all that matters--he does't intend to hurt me, so I have no right to being hurt. He doesn't intend to mess up, so I can't be angry, etc. 

I have always been an overachiever, capable person, but I am at my limit--exhausted and angry, and filled with resentment. I am worried that I won't be able to recover from these feelings, or put them aside enough to generate positive feelings. He thinks I am overreacting, and that my anger is 'my choice.' of course he's right, perhaps if I were superhuman i could choose not to be angry, but I feel at the same time that he is asking me to give up on any reasonable expectation that he can be a real partner in this marriage.  

where do I go from here? how do I deal with these feelings? I feel like I need Al-Anon for spouses of those with ADD. 

Rx for craziness

I could have written this 30 years ago.  Even the part about not wanting to let dh have weekend custody of the kids for fear of his inability to be responsible with them so I stayed married and endured. Such a catch 22. I stuck it out and did my best, not knowing what I was dealing with.  See my entries to see how it turned out for me. Would I do it again?  I don't know what I would do differently because I had no support financially or familiarly.  Find support.  Find good friends.  Find local resources.  Keep your money separate. Don't count on his promises. Keep your faith in yourself.  Keep your faith in life and love by having lively and lovely people in your life.  Gather your people to support you and appreciate them and let yourself count on them. Let them be your family.  Rely on your extended family to support you emotionally and physically for a while if you have to.  Fight your fights while you are young so you have a life to live to be proud of.  Don't put it off until one day your life with him and your resentment and suspicions define you. He sounds uncommitted to trying to make this work.  Love means commitment.

Dear Special K, Jennalemon

Dear Special K, Jennalemon speaks the stone truth.  My 14 year old son is now old enough to share what growing up in upheaval and unhappiness has cost him.  And all that time I thought I was swallowing my exhaustion and pain and need to be truly loved, so that I could figure out how to fix the unfixable and give my son the gift of growing up with his Dad around 24/7.  My 19 year old took the hardest hit because it took me so long to start to see what was wrong about this marriage, and I'm only just rebuilding my relationship with my oldest, now that I've separated from his Dad.  My ADHD husband and his chaos took all the air out of the room.  The saddest part is that one boy has ADHD with very low executive functioning, the other is Dyslexic with a recent ADHD diagnosis--a nd I know they would've been diagnosed and helped much much sooner, and more effectively, had I not spent so much of their childhoods distracted by dealing with their father's self-created crises (also posted on this site and so very similar to your life of money lost, firings, et. al.).  Your kids need you, you need you...and your post shows you already know what you need to do.  I am so sorry for all you've been through and for the fact that you must now find strength to do what you need to...  But J. is right about acting now, don't you think?   Where might you and your kids be in 5 years?  Can you imagine happiness?  Or even, just some peace?   Are you planning on getting any younger?   (PS  I was the second wife, too.  I didn't understand, until recently, how little my husband had learned from the failure of his marriage, how little responsibility he took for that failure, and what that boded for us.  I wonder if your experience is similar...)

take care of yourself

specialk, I am sorry you are hearing the "stone truth" from a few of us who did not have the best experience. I, too, could have written your post 6 or 7 years ago and I am now in the process of divorcing my spouse with ADHD and being a single parent to my almost pre-teen children. I do see that there are those in these boards whose marriages and experiences turned out much differently, and happily. Including Melissa's. If you read over many of the comments here, it may help you realize that you are not alone. 

I cannot stress enough that I think your "Al-Anon" idea is a great one. Get support. Find friends and family. See a therapist. Do it now, not when you are about to fall apart five years from now. One of the worst things I faced with my marriage to a spouse with ADHD was the isolation. I was loyal and I didn't want to complain to anyone, and I didn't know what I was dealing with until it was very late in the game. I actually started seeing a therapist for stress and it took a while before I could admit that it was my marriage that was giving me migraines and insomnia.  

My DH also suggested that I wanted to be angry, and yes, it was a choice. If there is anyone who understands why you would be so, it is me. The same thing was so hard for me to bear--it wasn't the ADHD, it was the refusal to address it that was a problem that ruined my relationship. Mine would always say, "You are always so mad! You don't like me for who I am!" No, I didn't like the things that untreated ADHD made him do or not do (mine also took medication but refused to do any therapy or coaching or reading--the medication helped him work but made him angrier). Melissa addresses the anger issue in her book--it did help me let go and I felt much better when I looked at the things I could control and those I could not. I am still working on it. It makes you feel better even if your spouse isn't doing the work yet. In the meantime, take care of yourself. If you spouse won't clean or can't take care of your children attentively, can you get outside help for now? Anything? I have seen what can happen if you try to keep going in your situation and after a while, it ain't pretty. No human can do that without something changing. Don't feel bad that you feel tired and mad. And then figure out what you can do to help yourself. Ask yourself what you can do if a) he decides to accept and work on this and b) if he doesn't.

Many spouses with ADHD on this site responded to a "wake up call," much like an alcoholic may finally accept that he has a problem and deal with it. Then the work starts. I wish you the best. Good for you for reaching out. Hang in there. 


Hello, welcome to the board.  I echo those who have already commented in that you really do need to take care of yourself first and that staying together for the sake of the kids is a myth in that they fare better being surrounded by healthy relationships.  Also, you can request supervised visitation to mitigate your safety concerns.

That being said, if your husband does respond to the wake up call, things can improve.  I would suggest a counselor for you, another for the both of you who is experienced with ADHD.  Melissa's seminar would probably help, or maybe a one day thing locally.  You can also rent the PBS DVDs and watch with your spouse for a less ADHD is evil approach so that he might feel less defensive about it; ADHD and Loving It, and ADHD and Mastering It.

My husband is making progress after quite a while in therapy and on medication.  Remember that it takes a long time to develop really bad habits and can take a long time to change them.  I believe it's Melissa's book too that emphasizes that the ADHD person must feel safe to try and fail different strategies and I think that's true.  But the key remains, that he has to be willing to take ownership of the negative symptoms of ADHD, as well as harnessing the positive aspects.

The technological age really seems to make ADHD worse for some, including mine.  Thom Hartmann believes that exposure to electronics exacerbates the condition.  Omega 3s are supposed to help, as well as a healthy diet, sleep and exercise.  Of course these help everyone on the planet in addition to the ADHD person.

Do you still see glimpses of the guy you fell for?  Does he still make you laugh?  Is he contributing positively in some way?  If the answer is yes, perhaps there's room for hope.  Best wishes.

barneyarff's picture

I feel like I need Al-Anon for spouses of those with ADD.

You and me, my dear.  You and me.   I too wish there was an Al-Anon for spouses of ADD.  I found out this year that my neighbor is dealing with the same thing I'm dealing with.  Had we put our heads together sooner, maybe we could have been more support to each other.  Now that we've talked she is good about telling me things their counselor has said.

However, they are getting divorced mostly because one ADD issue crossed the line.  She told him it would cross a line and he did it anyway.


Your post sounded like my life.   I had to deal with a snoring spouse for 2 or 3 years.  I asked him nicely to go to the sleep study.  I moved into another room.  I gave him information about the health effects of snoring like he did.  I tried doing nothing.   Frankly, he was relieved when I did nothing because then he had to do nothing.  Of course his health was getting worse as was our relationship.  I finally had a fit and he got the sleep study and now has a breathing machine.

I'm truly puzzled about this doing nothing bit.  It's like if I do nothing, then he gets to just keep doing what he is doing and doesn't have to change or see a doctor about anything.  How is that making his life or mine any better?   And I let him get away with so much because I'm not supposed to nag, I'm not supposed to parent, etc.  (What a complete crock!  I'm supposed to do or not do a  list of 100 things while the ADDer gets to whine and play!   I think this is just another instance where the wife-because it's usually the wife- gets told to behave so the husband can play.  And take drugs to be compliant if that's the only thing that will calm down an uppity woman.  It's not the 1950's anymore)

So,  here's what happened at my house this weekend.   I have given DH 1 month to get a counselor and attend a parenting class or he can move out.  He is mad at me for surprising him with this ultimation.  (He's known about his ADD for 10 years).   He has been angry about the stress I've put on him.   So, the last several years I have asked him to clean up his room and the garage so we can sell the house.  In a perfect world we would be able to still live together and have the house we want.  So this weekend he and his friend rented a truck and 2 storage sheds and moved 1/2 of the stuff from the garage.  Now we have a $200/month rental bill and still no garage ready to show.

He was mad at me for not appreciating his hard work.  I asked him how his hard work got us any closer to any of our goals.  Well, the garage was cleaner.  Yes, but we still have all the crap and it's costing us $200 a month.  He SWEARS he will deal with it quickly (like in 3 months) and he SWEARS he talked to people at work about this and this was the best way to get rid of crap in a garage.   Well, I bet those people at work don't have ADD.  Out of sight out of mind, you know.

Anyway, I'm not paying the bill so you know what will happen.   But, oh well.   And I would rather be the one how moves but then this house would never get sold.  Does staying here and insisting he move out sound like I'm codepent?  Some feedback would be nice.  Maybe I just need to cut the cord and let him stew in his own mess.  When he dies, I guess the kids can go through the mess.


What a mess, eh?  It is good that he worked hard at the problem even though it wasn't the ideal solution.  He now has the opportunity to succeed at getting the stuff out of storage.  Hopefully he will choose success.  I think it's great that you set a time limit with specific goals of a counselor and parenting class.  Was the garage part of the ultimatum?  I think the doing nothing phenomenon is the now and not now part of the disorder.  Losing sight of the goals and no immediate need to change.  It's probably more reasonable to ask for the ADHD partner to spend an hour Saturday cleaning the southwest corner of the garage rather than vaguely saying clean the garage.  (OK so that doesn't sound vague but there's so much wiggle room in practice.) 

Good luck, I do hope he chooses to get help.

barneyarff's picture

Hi Shelley   You are putting

Hi Shelley


You are putting a good spin on it.

Yes, it's good that he at least did something with the garage.  Of course, there have been several time specific goals about this issue.  He agreed to them and then made all kinds of excuses as to why it wasn't done.  The things about "clean the SW corner"   Here we go with parenting again.   I'm tired of being told I'm the bad person because I parent.   I don't want to parent.  It isn't my job.  We both agreed that we wanted to move.   The realtor told him that the garage and his room needed the clutter out of it.  He agreed.  So, why isn't it done?  I asked him last night if he really wants to move.  He said "Yes".  Why is it MY job to tell him to clean the SW part of the garage?  Remember, I'll get told I'm bossy.

Last week I had an organizer in to help me with the kitchen.  It was great!!!  They are having a sale on garage organizing.  I told DH (And STRESSED it was for information purposes only).   He chose to do the storage unit thing instead.  Frankly, I think it's because then he can postpone making a decisions about what to get rid of.

And that isn't even what I put my foot down about.  I said to get counseling in 2 areas.  He has one appt made but not the other.  

I think he will do ANYTHING including clean the garage to avoid counseling.  And he will do ANYTHING to avoid throwing away a used bicycle spoke (or any other piece of junk)

All of his behavior feels to me as though he is avoiding fixing anything and dealing with painful stuff.  So, he will lose his family and his home because of it.  I guess he is OK with that.

One more month......  We'll see what he does



I do try to spin things positively because the ADHD brain is wired differently and generally the behavior isn't personal, even though it is maddening.  I'm sorry if someone told you that you were a bad person because you parent.  That certainly isn't the case.  Parenting our spouses arises from the need to get things done.  It just isn't effective at repairing relationships or for the ADHD person to learn effective ways of doing things.  I expect you are right about avoiding counseling.  He probably doesn't want a neutral third party blaming him for all the ills in his world.  Nobody volunteers for a flogging.  And this way he can displace blame onto you.  I think that's why the books all emphasize taking responsibility for our parts, in addition to the ADHD person taking responsibility for theirs, so that it is less scary and one sided for the ADHD person.  But the key there is that it has to be in conjunction with the ADHD person accepting responsibility and choosing to make improvements. 

And of course you shouldn't have to tell the spouse to clean any part of the garage, or the garage at all.  Since selling the house is also his goal he should be looking for ways to accomplish his goal and do it himself.  But that doesn't work well with the realities of the unmanaged ADHD brain.  Meds can help with focus but they don't instill strategies and processes for actually becoming more functional.  Hence coaching and counseling.  It took me nearly a decade to figure that out and I bemoan all the wasted time.

I tried to instill some motivation in DH by getting his renewed buy in on the project (ours is large and overwhelming), and then asking him what he thought the best path to getting it accomplished was.  This was after many other unsuccessful attempts.  This one worked for a very short while.  What worked best was to sit down with him and white board and fantasize about what our lives would look like one the project was done.  What did he want to do once we had walls and better finances.  That has given him something to actually look forward to.  And counseling is helping.  But it is a long hard road to functionality.  And choosing to take the exit rather than continue on is certainly a viable option for you as a spouse.

Hoarding is an anxiety issue I've recently learned.  And not getting rid of stuff allows them to hold onto the idea that it wasn't another mistake to acquire it.  We are spending oodles of money on storage and I am frustrated no end on how much is wasted every month.  There is light at the end of the tunnel which is all that keeps me on the road.

I do hope, for his sake and yours, that he chooses help.

Hoarding too

I've read that hoarding can also result because ADHDers have poor memories, and they keep all kinds of things to help them remember that they really have a past. Ex kept the oddest things that helped him remember good times as a child and good things about his parents. I suspect he also kept things that would remind him of something he would like to do (gardening, etc.)


being attracted to adhd types?

Hi, thanks for all your responses. I feel like reading this site (and ordered the book) I am learning a lot. DH and I are going to see a counselor, I am hoping we can find someone who understands the role of ADHD. Our conflicts are often communication centered, but its not just a question of learning a new communication style. I will say that it is not a question of not loving each other. I love my husband tremendously, but it is not enough, when you have a family, and real life. I am fortunate in that my husband is trustworthy on the 'big' issues (fidelity) and doens't have terrible financial issues (he just simply doesn't pay attention which can result in huge issues if I am not watching out). But the small and medium things can drive one absolutely insane, and for us, its also the terrible communication. I often feel as if he is yelling or barking orders, and he does't hear that and feels like he can't saying *anything.*. My working theory is that he's got so much 'stuff' and anxiety in his head that he needs to yello tu cut through all the noise.


at any rate, I was intereted in the hoarding thing. DH is messy, but not a huge hoarder (I surreptitiously dump stuff, too), but two of my previous relationships were with men who had issues with this--extreme organization issues, and of course I have a role here. I think that in some ways it is a combo of my having poor self-esteem and having a parent with serious organizational and emotional issues whom I felt responsible for--so I was drawn to men who 'needed' me in that way. I also needed to be needed--it was scary for me to date people who had their Sh*&t together, because then they wouldn't need me and would have no problem abandoning me, right?  SO, I guess that I have to understand also why I am drawn to this role (the manager, caretaker, organizer) and figure out how to balance that need (which I take on willinglly, at first) with the corresponding resentment of having to do it all (once it be becomes a burden and no longer feels like a partnership, but a parenting role for a child who unfortunately has access to a car, bank account etc!).