I am struggling in my marriage

Hi, I am wrecked, exhausted, overworked and beyond coping with organising my husband's life, picking up the unfinished pieces and dealing with debts, bills, children's needs and running my own business and the house. I think my husband may be ADHD.. just from reading about the symptoms and the effect on our marriage and my own life. I am a fixer, a strong and very capable organiser,.. so I've managed well to deal with 14 years with his maverick ways, multiple projects, debts, denials of consequences of actions, lack of coherent plans, unfinished business, disorganised paperwork/files etc. etc.. we are in marriage counselling at the moment.. I am saddened by the fact that I need to get away from my husband for my own wellbeing.. we have two wonderful kids that we both adore (13 and 10).. but I fear what will become of me if I stay. My husband says i will ruin his life, the children's lives if I leave. I don't think this.. but I am scared of the consequences on the children.. We have little money at the moment, largely due to his failed businesses and lack of work for almost 5 years (he is working at the moment). I felt a big obligation to fix him - I think I did try to 'save' him when we met but i was young and didn't realise he had such big problems.. I'd like some advice from women who have divorced men with ADHD... please. I am afraid of the mess just continuing after we separate: him falling apart, potentially creating even more problems for myself and maybe the children too.. i am the glue that has kept things going. I don't want to play his saviour, his therapist, his mother any more. I think life would be easier if I could see a way through this to keep my marriage together.. but at the moment I dread my future with him and think I can't go on. Please help.

So sorry

I am very sorry to hear your pain. I'm still married so can't give separation advice but I wish you the best as you navigate through. It would help if your counselor understood ADHD and he got some treatment. Otherwise it's likely to remain the same. Good luck.

I'm So Exhausted's picture

ADHD Daddies and their kids

Hello Ener,

I am still married.

I understand your pain and frustration.

Our children are 21 and almost 24.  I guess I sort of put up with things . . . in an effort to protect or maybe paint-a-pretty-picture of my children's Daddy for them.  They love him!  He is fun.  He was kind, loving and encouraging to them.  LOL. He was one of them!  My marriage turned into the typical textbook parent/child relationship.  I have been trying for more than a few years now to find out if we can have a husband wife relationship.

Now that our children are both adults, they see some the chaos caused by their Dad's negative ADHD behaviors- and why I struggle.  My son has ADHD too, so while he 'understands' his Dad, he also knows from his own experiences in school that there are better ways to cope and live with ADHD.  Denial is not a good answer.

Our daughter is Daddy's Little Girl!  Several years ago when I started to be firm in my decisions and chose to no longer sway or yield to my spouse's  anger, our daughter was very angry - almost hostile -  towards me.  "Mom, if you just wouldn't say anything, everything would be OK."  It took more than 18 months of reassuring her that I had done her a big disservice by modeling that a wife should just buckle/yield/bend to a husband's anger.

Thankfully my persistence has paid off - and she gets where I am coming from.   I think that my husband's issues and my issues should be between him and I - and the children should not get pulled in the middle.  It makes me angry that he still cries on my daughter's shoulder, and will often tell me that she is "on his side."  I just choose to ignore it.  It is a shame he does that to her.

Luckily, both of our children love each of us. 

I sadly know that many of our arguments  were hard on our children.  While there was no name calling or swearing - they still heard our raised voices.  Conflict resolution is still unresolved.

I hope you can glean some alternatives/ideas/suggestions from those of us who post here.  Hopefully you can find the answers to make the decisions that are the best for your situation.  


I do not like who she has become..

Thank you for your reply. I am struck by your last line:  I do fear what will happen if we separate but I sense that I will not like the person I will become if I don't: always managing my husband's life, disappointed and angry too at how 'duped' I feel not having a marriage of 2 adults... overworked to the bone managing all the stuff. My husband falls apart when I tell him I'm leaving him .. he weeps and weeps and I feel so dreadful that I do feel I give his feelings precedence over my own feelings of dread at staying with him.. so I try to talk myself out of if. Plus, I do love him..and our family times are often loving, good, special although less so now. I have adored him and he is a very loving dad.. with faults of course.. fun and committed to taking the children to fixtures etc. plus he dotes on our son who he sees as just like him when he himself was a boy but without the problems he had (personal family issues/trauma he had to deal with). I do worry about this doteage and try to point it out etc.. at every point there is a 'management' issue - really - from helping him negotiate his work relationships to writing letters for him to picking up the bills he has lost/forgotten to pay..to trying to help him see that his doting on our boy isn't good for him etc.. I am scared of what will happen to him if I leave him.. but I think I am more scared of what will happen to me; I am grateful for your last comment and its honesty - many thanks. 

I'm leaving because I am

I'm leaving because I am scared of what IS happening to me, and I don't want a lifetime of this. I'm staying awhile longer to get us both on better footing financially. I just don't have it in me to embrace the kind of marriage this has turned out to be. My husband is a nice guy, but I want an equal partner or nothing. 

Good luck to you!!!

What treatment have you tried?

Reading what you wrote, it is all too familiar.  I am still optimistic though.  Even though the evidence is stacked up that I'll continue to be let down by my husband, there is also plenty of evidence that he can contribute in ways that are valuable as well.  Reading Melissa Orlav's book is helping me a lot.  I have hope that medication will help my husband.  Me implementing systems that won't allow him to let me down as much should help as well.  We just have to figure out what those are.  What have you tried - beyond counseling?  I'm still struggling to figure out what the concrete changes and devices are that we can implement.  Talking will only get us so far.  


I am pushing to leave my husband. We move out of rented accommodation in 10 days time and I plan to move into new rented on my own with the kids. He said he will kill himself. I asked him more about this.. to see if he means it and he said he won't but he doesn't know what he will do.. he has said 'you don't know what will happen' and 'it will be disastrous.. disastrous for the children, you .. me' I am frightened. He goes about the da as if this isn't going on. as if we are still 'fine' and when I address issues he falls to pieces and then ignores it. He isn't doing anything practical around putting anything in place. I am shocked at what I've got myself into and how trapped I am by his emotional instability. 



As someone who left my spouse with ADHD (and other issues) last year, what can I tell you that would help? Some marriages and situations are fixable. Others, like mine, were so unhealthy, it would have been the bad choice to stay rather than to leave.  

I am concerned that your spouse is threatening to harm himself. I realize that the fear of emotional pain could drive anyone to possibly feel this way, but to make your actions responsible for his is not a healthy or fair thing to do. Mine did similar things--accused me of being disloyal, threatened to not pay bills in both our names, that we would all go bankrupt, that he would be completely alone and unable to take care of himself... this stuff is scary. I can't imagine ever saying that to anyone, ever, and realized how far gone he was when it happened. 

The best day, when a weight rolled off my chest and I could breathe again, when I recognized myself again in the mirror, was when I said, "screw that." Seriously. I realized that he is responsible for himself and I do not have any control over what he does. I have to take care of myself and my children. And that if any of the things he said actually came true, I would survive it--I could live with being broke, but I could not live with him any more. I did love him, I tried very hard, I put up with a great deal of abusive behavior, as the "strong woman married to the brilliant, tortured, difficult man," and then, I couldn't do it. I did not recognize myself and the stress was unbelievable. I gave him one last chance to go to a doctor and was calm and clear: if he didn't, I would take the children and leave, period. It wasn't a threat: I just told him that I could not go on this way. I could not let him take me down with him. He said no, and it wasn't fun or easy, but it wasn't nearly as hard as you would think. I just got a few friends together, and moved. I thought I would have to explain a lot to my children, but do you know what? They are pretty smart and already knew much of what was going on. And in my case, they are better for it. 

So, I know. I know this is awful and scary for you and I am so sorry. Whatever you decide, your spouse sounds like he might be depressed and in a bad place and need some counseling. Would he go? Could you look at physical separation as a chance for him to consider what you need to repair things? If you are worried about leaving because he will not be able to handle it, and this is what is keeping you there, then it is not fair for you to stay. If you need space, then you need it--maybe a separation that does not have to be called permanent would help everyone get some perspective. 

My best to you. Let me know how it goes. 

Hi, thank you so much for

Hi, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am so grateful. I totally identify  with your description of 'being the strong woman married to the brilliant, tortured, difficult man.' My husband is extremely intelligent but damaged and has been unable to make his life progress.. he has created debt and broken businesses and been unable to realise his potential.. I've supported him 1000% - done all I can for him emotionally and financially .. I wanted it all to change and for him to succeed but I realise now it won't change.. not while he's with me anyhow. I loved reading when you said 'screw that'! Yes, I need to get there.. he is emotionally blackmailing me about harming himself.. Screw that! Thank you for your point re. never imagining saying those things to anyone and at that point realising how far gone he was. I think the same but you helped me see it.. there's no dignity in threatening harm and 'bad things to everyone' and 'I'll loose it.. loose it completely if you leave me this way' . It makes me feel as if I'm suffocating.. physically suffocating. I had a dream very recently, one night when I was away on business.. I dreamt that someone was holding down the covers and suffocating me with the intention to kill me. I woke up in such a fright.. wondering what the dream was about. It's a shock... a real shock for me to accept that it's about my marriage and my husband. I have tried to save him in every way. He's had a troubled background with no dad around and a separation issue with his real mother that's too complex to go into. The problem is.. no one would know what's going on.. not really. He's gregarious, full of energy and chat and I'm full of energy and a real 'doer', so it's all underneath the surface which means that if i just let it go of this wish to separate and ignore things - it could just go on.. until the next blow up over me being unable to cope with him or wanting to discuss leaving him. We used to have a great sex life and I have no desire to have sex with him anymore.. sex feels like a trap.. he 'adores' me to the point of obsession almost, so i am worried about how this next 10 days will go. I'm reaching out for help from family but I think, even with money in place to rent him a flat close by he will refuse. I fear it will get ugly. Thank you. I will let you know. Best wishes, E


Ener, I recognize many of the things you are writing about. I had wanted my spouse to leave, thinking since I am the primary caretaker he would want our children (and by default, me), to stay in our house. I had to say "screw that," to that, too, because when I told him I was separating, he did not have the wherewithal to find a place or leave. He told me it was too stressful and he needed more time. That wasn't going to work and once I let go of the idea, again, the freedom and relief was immense. I quietly went out and looked for an apartment for myself and the kids, signed a lease, and moved within a week. Consider the possibility -- what will you do if you need this to happen and he won't or can't move himself? 

I understand the suffocation dream. I had such anxiety I turned into a wraith, I lost so much weight, my skin looked awful, my clothes were falling off and people started asking me if I was sick or ok. I couldn't sleep or eat, and when I was visiting my mother over a holiday away from him and found myself over the toilet, dry heaving from stress, I realized that it was the prospect of going back to the same house with him. It is a real shock, isn't it, when you accept what the reality is, even if you love the person? That being married to him was doing that to me? Mine was similar to yours: troubled family, gregarious, smart, no one outside would know what was going on. In reality, he was damaged, and could not sustain his work or function under any stress or make any significant, regular contribution to caring for our house, family, or children. And his reactions to everything were so emotional and over the top...

I actually went to a therapist myself leading up to the experience and she really did a lot for me, helping me realize that a lot of this was his stuff that he was putting on me, and whether he meant to be manipulative or just wasn't healthy, it wasn't my responsibility in the end. Just keep telling yourself until you believe it--if you can think of what it would sound like for you to say those things to someone, it can help put it in perspective. It could help you feel better to tell him, "This is happening. I am worried about you. I wish you would see a doctor because you don't seem like yourself. I think you are depressed. You don't have to feel like this." (I tried this--he finally did start taking anti-depressants months later and is doing a little better, which is great, because we are co-parenting our children. Maybe I got through to him). Stay strong. 

Good for you for reaching out for help from your family. It was a relief the day I let my mother know what was really going on. I am sending you good vibes and hope that this works out for you. 


This post slipped by me til now.  Thanks for sharing what you went through to get to where you are now.  This is where I am now. Sick to my stomach and scared.  The threat of dh's possible depression/anxiety coming back from 35 years ago has kept us both victim. We started our marriage with him spending all our resources weekly because he was depressed a year after we married (after I confronted him with an affair) and he was too proud to claim it on his health insurance. From then on we both did what we could to appease HIM for that reason....not too much responsibility or demands on HIM because asking too much from him was too hard on his nerves. And he needed (so he said) things to make him happy - sports car, nights out, beer, tobacco, etc. - he took advantage of it. I have helped to spoil him but he is not my fault. He has issues of entitlement, depression, bad habits, and a lack of compassion.  Now the demands and responsibilities on me have taken their toll and I am angry at myself for giving him part of my soul with no gesture from him of giving in return - just taking.  Your freedom must feel like a better balance of love now that you can turn your focus to your children and others. I know it must be scary and difficult for you and your children.  I hope you are regaining some of your self back.  Please keep us updated and tell us of your journey.  You have been very helpful to me.

Whenever you operate contrary to the things you believe in, you are damaging your soul.

not that scared

Hi jennalemon, 

I have been following you for a long time and am sending good thoughts your way. I appreciate your words. Honestly, I have had a few moments of worry over finances and aside from that, the only stress I experience is sometimes dealing with my almost ex. But it is nothing, nothing, nothing like being with him! I go days, weeks and hardly speak to or think of him and it is awesome to breathe. I am happy on my own and have not regretted leaving at all. I know there are many relationships out there that can be rescued but mine definitely was not one of them. 

Hang in there, everyone. 

I feel the same way you do. 

I feel the same way you do.  My husband is a good person, but I am worried that I need more from a marriage than he will ever be able to give.  And I can't give anymore than I already am....

I'm leaving mine on the 4th

I'm leaving mine on the 4th and taking our son across country back to my home. I will be flat broke with only friends to help me. My husband is mostly concerned about how he'll make it alone with a 4 bedroom house paid for by the military. Selfish. I'll let ya'll know if he still manages to torture me from 1300 miles away and also how he does when he does arrive next year to assume shared custody of our son. 


I moved into my own apartment without my husband a week ago today. It has been hell to get here and now I'm here. I paid for, found and rented an apartment close by for him so he can be near the kids. It has been one of the most challenging, frightening and astonishing things I've every done. My husband is willful, spoilt and extremely persuasive and emotional, so while I am struggling right now with managing his frustrating behaviour  - living apart gives me some hope at least that I will get out of the marriage in one piece.  In the past 7 days he has emotionally blackmailed me over the children, badgered me to see them, which has meant he came over morning and night last week until I put my foot down and said that he can't come in and can see the kids out and at his place, he has argued with me in my new flat and hissed at me 'if you leave me, the children will hate you HATE YOU.' I am not as stuck because I get moments of relief from him but there are still lots of issues to sort out. He is demanding that I pay all his rent because this was my decision - I've agreed to pay half. He is still over spending wildly so that we will be in financial trouble and perhaps unable to pay for legal fees to divorce.. he is emotional blackmailing me. I agree that stumbling along, trying to find the right boundaries with the children since he has a one-bedroom flat, is hard. He has some income now since he is now holding down 2 different jobs, which is just amazing considering not really working for 5 years.. the children are the thing. He adores them.. they lovw spending time with him.. but I can see them, especially our youngest boy wanted to help dad to feel better. He said 'I'm worried about dad becasue he looks sad all the time'. They slept there last Saturday night for a night and it was fine. i ordered and arranged the delivery of the bunk beds because he wouldn't do it and if he did he would certainly over spend on beds. Me sorting it also meant that we could do this separation more easily  so he couldn't accuse me of not letting him have the children over at his flat etc.. It goes on and on.. but I've also tried to be friends with him this week.. it's been a real slippery slope of stumbling around.. I'm doing this for the children.. I'm trying to work it out. I see a lawyer tomorrow about starting Divorce proceedings. I long NOT to be married to him, to be free from his overwhelming problems ruling my life. I also identify with the sense of grief expressed in different posts on the forum: Grief at realising that this condition was there when I met and no-one cared to diagnose it: I'm angry with his so-called friends and caring family who didn't care enough to get him to seek help for his problems. This is a huge time for me.. i am desperate to leave him now after 15 years of this.. I realise that I tried to save him, help him, support him.. how ridiculous and sad for me that I did this. I am experiencing a sense of loss. BUT I am grateful for our bright and gorgeous children. I am sad but I am SO OVER trying to save this man and hopefully other men.. for this I am grateful! Imagine, I have no concept of having a relationship in my life with a man I didn't want to fix, save, help and empower somehow.. no doubt the trait of the daughter of an alcoholic violent father. I am worried about my future a bit.. being alone.. sure.. but I'd rather face this fear than remain with a man who I now know won't change much if at all in his ways..  

I'm tired and this is how it is. Thank you for listening. E 


Ener, it is really brave to do what you did! I am so happy to hear that you have your own space and are taking care of yourself. I am sorry your spouse is still trying to manipulate and blackmail you. Mine was pretty emotional, angry, and manipulative at first, too, particularly over money and trying to get me to pay for things. (He actually called me crying quite a few times and suggested that he wasn't going to be able to pay for food). This is the "under attack" phase--you just have to put on a bulletproof vest and helmet and ride it out:-)

Stand your ground and don't let him get away with blackmailing you! I know it can get to the point that you would do almost anything for some peace. If you can disassociate a little bit it helps. Again, picture what it would be like for you or anyone else to say these things to someone, and you can see how out of bounds, unfair, and manipulative they really are. You know that your kids aren't going to hate you! That is his anger and fear talking, him trying to control you. You will get more and more moments of relief and after a while, believe me, you will go days, then weeks, without worrying about him the same way. 

I know it can be overwhelmingly sad when you think about the time you spent in a marriage that is over. It is a wonderful saving grace that you have your beautiful children and thinking about that helped me through some difficult moments. Your children will look to you as an example, and it will be so good for them to have one parent at least who behaves calmly and is generous and kind. You can't control your spouse's behavior, unfortunately, only how you respond to it. 

And hang in there. I never would have imagined it but after 6 months my STBX and I have recently reached what is at least a mostly civil and calm relationship. He finally realized that it was better for everyone, particularly our kids, for him to try to be positive and polite. (Probably also realized that I had been pretty nice to him and was helping him, and if I stopped he would be a pretty screwed, lol). 

Good for you for moving quickly and seeing a lawyer. He or she will be able to advise you and sort out financial matters so that you aren't damaged by his decisions or irresponsible spending (or at least keep you from being liable for anything he spends once the agreement is finalized). Have you opened all your own accounts and made sure he can't have access? It will also help you once a visitation schedule is set that spells out how, when and where your spouse can see the children so that he understands legally that he can't just "show up" at your flat any more. And that you won't have to pay for half of his apartment just because you left him (particularly if there is no medical reason why he is unable to work and support yourself).

My very best to you. Stay strong. You will ride this out. You know you are doing the right thing for yourself and your children. Being alone isn't fun all the time, but I have not had one. single. solitary. second. that I have regretted my decision. Hugs. 

thank you

Hi and thank you for your post and supportive comments. The 'under attack' phase has been a useful image - and it has continued.  I have gone through hell from his pressure and bullying. We have so much to sort out re. the kids, money etc., He is struggling so badly - but he is keeping down his jobs which is an amazing and welcome relief - but he is crying on the phone and pleading one minute, then switching to bully me the next  - I feel so bad and exhausted. He had a traumatic childhood focused on a big abandonment issue that has dominated his life and our marriage and he's going into it big time now. I can't believe it: his computer is broken and he wants to come over use mine in the morning - I can't believe I'm actually writing this it's so insane - he is so dependent on me I feel sick and desperate and trapped even though we are living apart and I am divorcing him. I met him today in the car after he'd been to the park with our son - he was then driving on to friends while I took the kids to town on the train, we'd agreed for him to drive us close to town because the trains are down; Okay, I agreed to this for convenience.. he told me he didn't have a wallet, so instead of delaying getting to town by having him drive us all back to his flat, I went to the ATM and gave him money. When we met, I handed him tax forms that he should have printed off weeks ago but his accounts are in a total mess and I need them to be sorted for our daughter's school bursary application so I'm trying to help him - look at me! Still helping this crazy man. I'm telling myself it's early days... it's 3 weeks since we separated. It's been 3 weeks from hell with moments of light but lots of fear too.. I mean I'm leaving a screaming child! Will he ever grow up? The other day he flashed fury at me at the very thought of me seeing someone else at some point in the future and I got the chills just thinking about how he will torture me forever with his neediness of me, his disorganisation and his manipulation around the children and his rage if I ever am free to date someone in the future .. not that I'm ready now or God knows how long but still. PLEASE CAN ANYONE TELL ME - DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS SAFELY FREED THEMSELVES FROM AN ADD/ADHD HUSBAND? I'm starting the divorce proceedings next week.. he has begged and begged me not to. I am so hurt. I am hurt to see him do this. I am hurt to realise that I have been in such a troubled marriage for years.. I am hurt that I have lost my marriage too. I fell in love with him 15 years ago. he was beautiful and funny and energetic and a loving dad.. but he is  a disaster with money, organisation, keeping a job, listening and keeping focused, doing anything cooperatively, talking in ways that make sense.. spending within budget etc etc.. I just can't take living with him any more. I am sad, hurt and fearful as well as strong and courageous. I pray every day for God to give me strength and insight. This is such a scary time. I feel like I am cutting the umbilical cord knowing the baby might not survive but if I don't I will die. It's horrid and distressing beyond words. A small part of me hopes/wonders/believes that he is actually going to survive really well and he's just filling me with fear when in fact he'll sort himself out. Any comments/insights all most welcome. E x



Like you, my almost ex spouse has issues that are much more significant than merely ADHD. You can do this! It sounds to me like you are doing pretty well! 

Take everything one day at a time. The "under attack" phase lasted about two months for me, during which time I got it both barrels: anger, phone calls with uncontrollable weeping, threats, criticism in front of my children, threats to take me to court and make me pay for it, you name it. I fought back a few times, then realized that "zen" mode was much better for me and my children. Remember that your kids need one parent who is calm and centered and the example, because they sure aren't going to get it from your husband, lol.

You have made this decision and you know what? You choose whom you will marry or stay married to and you are allowed to leave and be happy. Your spouse sounds pretty manipulative and unstable. I don't blame you for divorcing him. I was with my spouse for about 15 years total, too. I know it sucks to realize how much time you spent and that it did not work out. Remind yourself that you went into it with the best of intentions and that you still have the rest of your life ahead of you and that the worst of this will PASS. 

At one point, I had to tell mine calmly that I was doing this. That I would always love him as a person but I could not be married to him and that was my decision. That I wanted us to be friendly and civil if we could for our children, that it was best for them if we were, and that if he could not be respectful and calm down then I would not be able to have anything to do with him other than communicating about our divorce or children. And I meant it. I hear you---I have done a few things for him just because it was easiest and to get it done (like your tax forms). Nothing wrong with that if it makes life easier for you or your children. 

Remember to look at this from the outside. You know how out of bounds his behavior is. Try to see a counselor or someone if you can. Practice saying, "I can't talk to you any more right now if you are going to yell," or whatever, and then hang up or walk away until he gets it. If you can, find a mediator, someone who is not an attorney but can serve as a go-between so the two of you can sort out your divorce and a parenting plan. You may have to go for a while without seeing or talking to him (unless you have to) or tell him that for a while you only want to communicate about your children and logistics until things settle down. You can tell him nicely--you are allowed to do this! Cut him out if you have to. It may be about self-preservation and he should not be allowed to torture you because he is having a hard time. It helped me to keep thinking about a friend going through this and what I would tell her if her estranged spouse behaved the way mine did. (I am happy to say he has gotten much, much better). 

I know this is SO hard. You can get through it. Hang in there. You will get through this. Best to you.