I am the non-ADD spouse (husband)

I am the non-ADD spouse (husband).  I’m in my early thirties and have been married to my wife for nearly 3 years. Prior to meeting her I had no real exposure to ADD/ADHD. She was diagnosed as a child and was medicated throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Also, she was medicated throughout the year that we dated and into our engagement. For the most part, she functions pretty well, but does a lot better when medicated. My mother-in-law is bipolar (doesn’t admit it) and has really bad bipolar cycling roughly twice a year. My father-in-law is a workaholic and exhibits extensive amounts of unhealthy codependent behavior. Her siblings along with her parents all feed on drama, share in unhealthy codependent behavior and embrace the victim role. My family background has some depression and I suffer from anxiety which I manage with medication, exercise and self-study on the topic. Although my family is not perfect, it is comes no where near the dysfunction of her family.

I have experienced the amazing feeling of dating someone with ADD where you are their entire world and all the focus is on you. Consequently, I have also experienced confusion and frustration as our relationship shifted into married life and that focus was shifted elsewhere. She stopped taking her medication and we didn’t communicate very well throughout the initial stages of our marriage. She was hiding her insecurities and ADD while I was mad and hurt by what I perceived was passive aggressiveness. I found this website and read through some articles which seemed to enlighten me a great deal as to how someone with ADD functions and what they deal with. Even though I did my best to learn about and discuss openly what she deals with she still would hold back. The only real positive and open discussion we have had was when I made her watch the documentary called ADD & Loving It?!. For once, her anxiety and apprehension about discussing her ADD dissipated, albeit very briefly. Even though I have learned a little bit better what she is dealing with I still find myself feeling neglected, frustrated when she doesn’t follow through with important things, angry that she is so hard to read outwardly and hurt when I feel that I am carrying more than my fair share of responsibilities. When we do discuss things, she exhibits only fight or flight behavior which results in her always being the victim (a behavior used by everyone in her family).

My wife is headstrong, stubborn and doesn’t like to be pushed into doing anything outside her comfort zone. Instead of making an effort to fight through the normal setbacks and disappointments of life, she has slipped into a depression she won’t acknowledge. She has difficulty establishing true bonds of friendship due to mistrust and issues she learned in the home. We no longer are social or double date with friends and she has become reclusive with the few friends she does have.

We recently got pregnant which was followed by a disappointing miscarriage. I mistakenly went ahead with her desire to get pregnant even though I knew the timing wasn’t right. I was not being honest with her or myself. The miscarriage has been difficult for us both but I knew the timing wasn’t right because we have a lot I think we need to work through before we bring a child into our lives. I realize there is a lot more going on here than just the ADD, but I am just so desperate for insight and help. As time has gone by, I have adapted and realigned many of my expectations for our marriage and future. Following the miscarriage, I have taken a lot of time for self-reflection and can see clearer that I need help personally. I think I have become codependent and have allowed her ADD to dictate far too much. As I have seen her unhappy, I have taken it upon myself to try to make her happy but have failed and I have beat myself up over this and I think that is why I have allowed much of this to occur. I have realized that I have been lulled into accepting the status quo in terms of our relationship and have pretended that it is okay, even though I am suffering a great deal privately. I have ordered Melissa Orlov’s book The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps so hopefully there is some insight waiting for me there. I admit that I was naïve by telling myself that some of the “small issues” would go away or get better with marriage or by having children. After re-reading what I have written, I am amazed and blown away… Who have I become??? This is not the life or marriage I had hoped for. I really need to get help. I am hoping there are others out there who can give some insight and perspective, in addition to some ideas on how to not be codependent with an ADD spouse. Where is the line between pushing them and letting them figure things out on there own? How do you decide when it is time to look at getting a divorce and move on with your life? I feel that I am left with no other option but to give her an ultimatum of going to counseling individually and as a couple, even though I know she will fight it. I know that I need to get healthy and am willing to do it even if she doesn’t agree to go.

- Hurting Husband

HH, you sound like you have

HH, you sound like you have reflected on a lot already. Getting Melissa's book is a great start, as well as others it references. You can also try ADHD Rollercoaster and Codependent No More. My first steps also included reading these and a lot of other stuff on ADHD. What I was able to apply had some good effects on my almost-two-decade marriage. Knowledge is your friend right now. That said, it takes two to make any relationship work, let alone one affected by ADHD. One of the very creulest symptoms of ADHD is that it often wont let the sufferer see their own folly and seek help. Everything is fine, in the minds of most sufferers; its the external factors, including you that are the problem. This is speaking from my experience of an undiagnosed spouse. To answer your pointed questions, everyone has the point at which holding onto the marrieage is outweighed by your health and well being. I take my marriage vows seruously and said I would stay in it until it was beyond detrimental to my well being. A friend who hadn't seen me in a few weeks called me out and said, "yeah, you're there." If you have good friends or family, lean on them and rely on them. Find someone who knows you both and can tell you when you are dead wrong or when you have had enough. I too felt like I had to give an ultimatum re: counseling, and it turned out that all I had to do was invite him and he felt like he "had to." But in the end of my plight It was absolutely confirmed that no matter what I did, nothing could make our situation better because he wasn't engaging the same problem. In my mind ADHD was the problem, in his mind I was the problem. Nothing I did could get us on the same page. I tried everything I could think of (in good character) could change the ADHD dynamic if he himself would not embrace the challenge. I changed how we interracted by eliminating the caretaking/parent-child relationship and he absolutely rebelled. He has decided to. Eave instead. Im not saying this has to be your fate, but until the ADHD is treated, odds are not good for a happy marriage. Im so sorry for your pain. It is a familiar ache to me too.

thank you so much for taking

thank you so much for taking the time to read and reply to my posting. i will look into those other books that you recommended. i agree that educating myself is the best way to proceed while relying on those who can give me support and the proper guidance and counsel. I am trying not to be too hard on myself for being codependent and for rationalizing. I really have tried to be a good husband & in the process I have lost a sense of who i am and an appreciation for life. i am intent on getting back to what makes me happy and getting healthy. I am relieved to know that there are others out there who understand what i am experiencing but also saddened because i feel for you.  

She has to want to get better

Hey HH

I am very much like your wife.  My biggest obstacle is 'getting out of my comfort zone."  I am fine with housework, taking care of the kids and doing jobs that don't cause too much stress or fear.  The problem is I need to go out and somehow make 3 times the money I make now (right now i'm only bringing in $1000 per month and it is sporadic, substitute work).  I am a full time stay at home mom and to work I either have to bring a toddler with me, or work in the evening when my husband can watch the kids or pay for a babysitter.  It's overwhelming when I seem to have no time to do any research into available positions or have time to tweak my resume/make sure there are no type-os. but I do it somehow - late at night or while my daughter naps. I do much better with medication, but it is EXTREMELY difficult for me to  go out of my comfort zone and apply for something that I know I may not be able to handle, but the salary is what we need.  I feel like a fraud and a liar going to an interview and saying that I am a 'self-starter, team player, organized and great at verbal and written communication.  I am NOT good at any of those things, but there are no jobs that ask for disorganized people with a mental disorder. 

<<I admit that I was naïve by telling myself that some of the “small issues” would go away or get better with marriage or by having children.>>

A wedding or a baby do not make ANY issues go away, big or small.  If anything the stress of a wedding, then living together can make things worse and the enormous responsibility of a child can certainly tear apart a relationship.  I put off having children until I was 35.  I did not know I had ADHD, but I knew it was a huge responsibility that I could not handle in my 20s/early 30s.  Indeed, it proved even MORE overwhelming that I had assumed and although I'm older and don't have the physical strength I would have in my 20s, i now have the patience and i'd like to say more maturity.  With the awareness of my disorder and medication I'm better equipped for it.  But.... it is still a struggle every day.

I needed to come to a place where I was made happy not by doing things to keep myself out of 'trouble' with my spouse, but doing things for the sake of them being done.  I keep the house clean because *I* like a clean house, not because if I don't my husband will gripe.  I am sending my resume everywhere I can and doing whatever I can to improve my chances of getting hired because I WANT to make more money and stop being a drain on my family.

Your wife needs to want to change.  I think what helps me most is encouragement - but I don't demand my husband praise me for every little task I do, like washing the dishes or cooking dinner - these are things i have to do anyway.  But it helps me when he says things like, "Well, you didn't get that job, but the interview went well and you just need to keep trying.  That one went better than the last because you had the experience of the first one..." etc.  I know these things, but it helps to hear it instead of ,"Oh... you didnt' get this one either?  well... you gotta make some money soon..."

Hang in there!

Ellemenno, Thank-you for


Thank-you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. My heart truly does ache for you as you described the guilt and shame of doing your best to present yourself in the best possible light in the job interviews. Please don't sell yourself short... I am sure there are many things you do well. I am always in awe of all the things that people with ADD can accomplish because of the disorder. Many of the worlds best artists, architects, authors, composers and entertainers have or had ADD. I don't discount that they probably suffered in their personal lives but with medication and hopefully the right job I know you can succeed, contribute and overcome those feelings of insecurity. For anyone who has or knows someone who has ADD, we recognize that many of the simple things in life are a battle for you and facing them and pushing through your comfort zone is definitely an accomplishment. Although I am sure it isn't always easy to muster the strength get out of your comfort zone and do those things that are hard I know that you know that is the key. The personal desire to change, to fight through the insecurity etc...

I appreciate you pointing out that my wife needs to want to change. I really am not a griping husband. I really try to think about what I say and how I say it in regard to my wife's ADD and remind her that I recognize that things are hard and give her support as best I know how. Sadly, her guilt, insecurity and deeply rooted issues cause her to race to embrace the victim role with even the most simple questions or statements. It has resulted in me not wanting to talk or communicate because I am continually hit with such irrational hostility that I feel I have no other option but to withdraw because arguing until we are blue in the face only results in more hurt as things are said in anger and frustration and it ultimately doesn't progress us in any positive healing direction. I could give you a ton of examples but suffice to say that if I went home and told my wife that I liked her blue shirt, she would probably react by saying it is really red and that I am a jerk for not noticing it as a red shirt. Silly example but very true to life. That being said, I know I am dealing with more than just ADD at this point. I have my doubts that it will ever get better but I need to give it my best shot and invite to get counseling as a couple and individually. If she doesn't want to, then I have to move on with my life and get counseling on my own because I don't want to heal and find happiness.



oh man....

This woman could be my twin.

I dunno what her other issues are, but I do the same damn thing... well I DID do the same damn thing until I finally got medication and started VERY SLOWLY realizing what a horrible life my husband has been having because of my insecurity/guilt etc.  not to mention his never being able to trust that i'd remember to do something, say, turn off the stove before leaving the house or buckle the kids into their carseats.  He shut down a long time ago and just stopped saying ANYTHING to me that he figured might result in my going into victim mode.  I was so insecure that I would get overwhelmed trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I was afraid he'd 'attack' me for making something bad.  I realize now that pretty much NOTHING he's ever said to me has been an attack and that the constant fog around my brain and the resulting panic, insecurity and ignorance has crushed our marriage.  We had a discussion once about separation.  We realized we couldn't afford to actually physically separate because we've got two small children and I can't afford to get a place of my own and he can't afford to supply me with one.  So we came to the conclusion that the best way to do a separation would be for him to hire me as a full-time, live in nanny/house cleaner.  Then I pointed out that since we have had no physical contact since my last pregnancy pretty much, that this was the arrangement we were actually living.

Yeah, I have my moments of being creative, and I've had a measure of success as a performer, but because of the insecurity/fear of going outside of my comfort zone it is very difficult for me to take action and get work.  I don't have the tenacity and the 'LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!" persistance that I notice in my colleagues and that's required for the business.  I stay in my comfort zone and wait for people (who I'm comfortable with!) to ask me to do stuff instead of actively going out to audition.  And sometimes I'll travel somewhere cool and perform for a thousand people and make decent money and stay in a great hotel and feel like a rock star and think  "well... I could do this... I could make this happen..."  But then I won't do it again for a year because... I just can't make myself 'get out there' and there really isn't much money in it 99% of the time.  I also have very bad stage fright.  Most of the time a very wonderful, talented woman takes over my body at the last second and does a show for me.  But sometimes I am up there onstage with just me.  And it's terrifying and I promise myself I'll never do it again.

I enjoy teaching a lot and am currently trying to get work.  but it's a painfully slow economy and my competition in this city is enormous.  So, i'm trying to get a 'normal' job that pays enough to break even (we're losing roughly $2000/month right now) and i'm finding my skills are obsolete (my last office job was in 2003, and I haven;t kept up with technology).

My husband wrote a book that'll be published next month.  One of his colleagues who published a book last year dedicated it to his wife.   It said 'for my wife, without whom this project would not have been possible."  my husband joked "can you imagine a dedication for you?  It would say, 'for my wife: without whom I could have finished this book a decade ago.'"  I know he was joking... but that really hurt.  I haven't seen the final product yet but I know he won't mention me: it is dedicated to his dad and late mother.  I had been under the impression that i was being supportive by following him all over the country every time he changed jobs but now I am aware of how much i've been dragging him down.

I'm hoping that the changes will over time heal our marriage.  I don't know if i'll ever be what my husband either thought I was when we married or hoped I could be, but i'm going to try to figure out my way in this world and figure out what is actually REAL and not my foggy brain. 

I wish I had some solid advice for you, HH.  I guess try to be encouraging and try to talk about it when she thinks you're attacking.  Be as calm as you can be and instead of using a tone with anger, use a tone of that shows you are genuinely confused that she thinks you're attacking.  I don't know why - but that always worked for me.  the second my husband used a frustrated or angry tone with me, I would get paralyzed with fear and shut down.  My brain would literally just freeze.  No thoughts. nothing. paralysis.  Deer in the headlights.  then I'd try to understand what was going on, but my brain chemistry would only produce fight or flight responses and soon my whole system would be flooded with adrenaline and i'd be a crazy irrational b!tch.

well... gotta get some sleep.  Hang in there HH!

About having children


I encourage you to take the time to fix the marriage with therapy before you make any other big life changes.  I wish I knew then what I know now before having children!  :)  Don't get me wrong---children are a blessing and a joy--but I would have negotiated things differently with my ADD-husband before the kids came.  At the time we started a family, we didn't know he had ADD.  We had a good balance managing our lives.  Then the kids came (1, 2, 3 & 4) and my husbands inability to "multi-task" became apparent.  Child-rearing requires a lot of time, management and organization.  I started doing more, and more, and more.  I now realize I made a lot of sacrifices to facilitate/enable/keep the peace with him and our family.  If I had to do it over again.... 



I'm that guy too...

I had no idea I had ADD until years after our two children were born. My DW and I both work stressful full-time jobs and have split the household and child duties. I never wanted to be that lazy guy not involved in raising my kids or making my wife do all the housework. It was logical to me. 1 House, 2 adults, 2 jobs, so split the duties. I'm sure it was/is never 50/50, but pretty close. I had ZERO experience with children, especially babies, but I jumped in with both feet. After child #2, WOW... I knew this was as much as I wanted/could deal with... I was pretty over-whelmed after our second DD. When the subject of a possible #3 came up, something inside me just knew it would be way too much.

I read somewhere with family:

1 + 1 <> 2

2 + 1 <> 3

3 + 1 Certainly <> 4

Now knowing I had 43 years of undiagnosed ADD, I feel that I did pretty well. The fear of the unknown and hatred of chaos certainly can have an affect on your ability to deal well with a large family. I wish I has known about my ADD back then, because I can handle things much better and in Real-Time these days.