I feel single within a marriage

I have been married for 9 months to a wonderful, handsome, energetic man who was diagnosed with ADD about 4 years ago. I assumed I was totally prepared emotionally, psychologically, and financially for what waited us. I am 41 years old. He is 43. It's my first marriage and his second. We have no children, but do have a loving 8 month old yellow labrador retriever whom we both adore. My concern is that my husband is never home! He works 12-14 hour days and travels at least 3-4 times a month, sometimes for up to a week at a time. He does not financially support me. I have been in my field (Counseling) for 20 years, and am financially sound. He, on the other hand, has been employed by his particular employer for 3 years, and cannot say no to any assignment. He reminds me of me at 25 years of age. I, on the other hand, am desperate to start the second phase of the life I dreamed about: One with a husband and a puppy and a home. I was single and lonely for so very long...Because of hard work, luck &good financial planning early, I am in a position to make all of those dreams come true. I just don't feel that I have a partner in this and am extremely worried that we won't make it. My husband wants a wife, a home, a dog, (maybe even kids!), but is hardly present. Again, he does not support me. I, in fact, am buying us a home. To be fair, he will be contibuting to the mortage payments, but I am the one with the majority of financial assests.Currently, he does not pay my mortgage. The idea was that he get himself together financially, which he has indeed done. Can anyone relate to this? We are not kids. I am pretty worried, and honestly unhappy in my marriage, although I love him dearly.

Underemployed Spouse

Electra 125, Our situations are different, but similar. My husband is underemployed and seems quite comfortable to let me carry most of the financial responsibility. I make 3 times what he makes. I knew this when we married almost seven years ago, but what I didn't know was that he had ADD. In fact, he said that now that he was about to marry, he needed to put more emphasis on his career goals. We sat down together and mapped out a plan for him to achieve his goals. The first bump in the road of that journey, he abandoned his plan and hasn't taken his career or the need to make a decent living since. Of course, the bump came after we married. Well, I'm now growing extremely weary of carrying the family. I can't get him motivated to even look for a better job. He's 2 or 3 classes away from a degree in computer information systems, which should be very marketable, but he won't finish. I encourage, nag, and give ultimatums and nothing works. I recently had a serious illness and all I could think about while I was in the hospital is that I would loose my house if I couldn’t work because his monthly salary doesn’t even cover the mortgage payment. I love my husband, but I’m tired, tired, tired, of pulling the full load. I’m now finding it hard to respect him because he seems so content to let me carry him. As far as his ADD goes, he takes medication for it, but will not work with a counselor or coach. This is another bone of contention. We tried marriage counseling, but he wouldn’t do anything the counselor said (like work with someone who specialized in ADD). I keep holding on hoping that something will get through to him, but nothing does. I’m so frustrated that my choices seem to be accept him “as is” or divorce him. It all seem so unfair.

Carrying the Financial Load

Cindy, I can relate to your situation entirely. I too am the sole bread-winner and my husband struggles to find focus on what to do next. Following a work injury in Feb 2000 that took him out of that hard labor category forever, he went to school and got an MBA, piddled around with a couple internship (i.e., work-for-free) situations, and now cannot get a job, partly due to (I believe) age discrimination. His desire (and gift) is to write books, but keeping him focused on that is like herding cats. And the time it takes to see an income from that is so far away it's difficult for me to be excited about it. Some days he forgets to eat so he has a blood-sugar crash, becomes distraught and I have to help him think through what to do next (eat a peach, dude!). I work full-time but don't bring home enough to cover the bills so we are sinking financially. I go through a cycle of depression, then apathy, then a glimmer of hope that he's REALLY going to get going on something, only to repeat the cycle. Apathy abounds right now. We've been through at least 7 counselors, and none of them "get him." He's too smart for them and when they don't coach him the way he wants them to, he says they're ineffective. He fully acknowledges his ADD brain and is on Effexor, which has helped loads with the rage/volatility, but not much help for the focus. Not sure there's a med out there that will force a person to self-regulate.

divorce them?

I dont understand why anyone who is able to earn their own living would stay with a spouse who neglects her or a spouse she deeply resents or a spouse who is to her an irresponsible inferior. I'm the one with ADD in this house. I went undiagnosed for 30 years and have paid a heavy price emotionally, physically and spiritually. My husband is so much like you. I'm quite sure that even though he pretends to believe in ADD, he actually thiinks im a lazy, stupid, crazy moocher. I so hope that I can get strong enough to leave this emotionally abusive man. Oh and btw I tried Effexor. That is some nasty stuff. Gave me terrible diarrhea and a rash. Anti- depressants in general turned out to be terrible for me. Worked initially but then made me increasingly sleepy, muffled my emotions and increased my appetitie to the point where I was always hungry. For me: Concerta ftw.

Divorce them

Amy K Divorce is such a common thing these days, but is it an answer.. Does it fix the problems for the person with adhd? I stay with my husband because I said for better or worse. You are right at times we do feel our spouse is lazy, I don't really think my spouse is stupid. Effexor is nasty it gave me terrible headaches and I felt crazy while on it. Anyway is response to why we stay, we stay because we love them no matter what and try our best to accept them as they are. We want the best life possible with our partner even though daily living is rocky. My partner did not wake up and decide to join the adhd members only club. If he did I just might leave him for that, it wasn't a choice he made.

My man is never home - not what I signed up for

My untreated / defiant ADHD/ PH / poss ODD man (age 55) has slowly discovered he could time-debt all his time so that he's just never home except to eat, shower, sleep, and leave again.  Oh and maybe sex.  He tries to get me to do all the chores - big NO here.

He resists doing anything with me date-wise.  He's even battled me every year (for 4 years!) about going out to celebrate my birthday, since he'd rather go out and play music in a band (one of 10   ~ yes,10! ~ that he's in!)  And THAT band is the worst of all the ones he's in.  I mean really, I'm not better than a lame cover band on my own birthday?  (St. Patrick's Day.)

Now, after being engaged for 4 years, he suddenly announced he "never wanted to get married."

So I told him to move out.  Oh, he didn't want to do that, since he had such a good thing going here.  But he finally found a divorced friend who needed a roommate.  He'll be out this weekend, along with his cat (who I never wanted anyway, since she bullied MY cat.)

What's the difference?  He's barely been home at all the past 6 months.  Time to meet someone else (while I still have myself somewhat intact!) ;)

Divorce is Easy, Isn't It?

Divorce would be the easy way out, wouldn't it? It's ALWAYS more difficult to stay put and work it out than it is to run, regardless of what the marriage troubles are. But I too said "for better, for worse" and let me say I'm certainly no paradise to be around all the time either. I'm quite the opposite of an ADHD sufferer - I'm a very organized, linear-thinking nerd of sorts who likes things neat and tidy (so let's label me OCD). I would be devastated if my husband decided to divorce me because my brain works differently than his. I've pledged that divorce is not an option (barring abuse or infidelity) - and I don't consider ADHD behaviors as intentionally abusive. That doesn't mean I don't have days I want to stay away from home as long as possible before I enter the fray. And my husband supports me when I need a bit of a break. We have two beautiful children, and our 14-yo son exhibits impulsive chattering and fidgeting that may be ADHD, but I consider more as typical teenager blather than as classic ADHD symptoms, although my husband wants to confirm a diagnosis. Do I "divorce" my son too because he's annoying sometimes? Or should we just jack him up on medication to make him be quiet? Your terminology of "responsibly inferior" is really quite offensive. You have absolutely no knowledge of the responsibilities assumed in our household. I do not "pretend" to believe in ADD" and therefore am not "so much like" your husband. I am just another spouse trying to navigate the muddy waters of marriage with an ADHD husband, and I try to have grace along the way. It is difficult, discouraging at times, and I lose hope. But I won't quit. I'm sorry you have suffered emotional abuse by your husband who may not understand your plight. I would encourage you to seek healing together so that perhaps your marriage could be renewed.

I feel single within a marriage

I can relate to your situation a litte too well. I have been married for 8 months to a wonderful, charming, handsome man who was diagnosed 8 years ago. I thought I was fully prepared to look ADHD straight in the face. My husband is never home. He works 10 plus hours to daily including weekends. This does not help us a great deal financially because his spending is out of control. I am somewhat financially sound (or use to be). Like you, I was single and lonely for a long time, thus I worked all the time. My partner does appear at times to be concerned about the decisions he makes, but does nothing to change. My partner does not support me, AGAIN like you I bought our house, yet he does contribute to paying for it.(sometimes) I love my husband dearly. I TOTALLY relate to how you feel. The key is communication, you MUST tell him how you are feeling. I hope for your sake he will change. I have tried to communicate to the best of my ability with my husband at times it has helped. Most of the time I feel rather alone and taken advantage of financially. You SHOULD be happy. You are dealing with A-LOT. I wish you the best.

you're describing what my married life would have looked like...

... If I'd married my untreated DHD ex-fiance. 



Age 55 & former stimulant abuser, then alcohol.  Then dry, now: "social drinking" again. 

(Here comes his next slide down the slippery slope.)

He's literally home only from 1 or 2am til maybe 8:30 am.  Then off to his day job.

(I work at home, and sometime outside the home part-time; I also write)

He comes home in the mid-afternoon to nap, eat & shower.

Then gone again to practice or play with one of 10 bands, or run sound at a club.

Weekends?  Just more bands or sound gigs.

Sayonara to all that.

Feeling single within marriage

Thanks for the responses. I do feel a bit better knowing that I am not alone out there and that others can relate. Still, I wish this dynamic were not the case for any of us.

Feeling single within a marriage

I wish the same. I think we have to take a deep look into the relationship and decide what are we willing to put up with, and for how long. I know that sounds bad but as the non adhd partner we endure alot. Our partner has to be willing to make small changes and we have to be willing to accept they won't make HUGE changes overnight. Give them credit every chance you get. We know how hard it is to deal with our spouse, imagine being them.

Ask yourself ...

... how many years of this you can take.

... because it's not likely to change.


Just be thankful that you at least know what it is - but you can't control it, and it demoralizes you, especially if they're untreated.


To clarify, my husband has much pride and is not a moocher. Nor is he lazy and stupid. He is quite intelligent and very hard-working at his job. As a result of his first marriage ending, he fell into a deep depression. It was at that point that he squandered what was his life savings and proceeded to spend the next 6 years or so not caring about his financial or physical health. His story upon meeting him truly broke my heart. The more I read about ADD, the more I saw that perhaps his self-destructiveness at that time was due not only to depression, but to a poor sense of self. When we married nine months ago, I was fully aware of these issues. He had no savings, hardly any in retirement, and was in credit card debt (around $7,000). In an attempt to assist him make up for lost time (he is 43 and I am 41), I suggested that he live with me so that he could get his financial house in order. I did request $300 a month, which I received sporadically. I did not need the money, but felt that it was important that he contribute financially. To date, he has cleared his credit card debt, has $20K in his retirement, and contributed 1/3 to our wedding. He has a job that pays very well and continues to make headway. Where our issues lie is not in his earnestness. I simply am much further along financially and feel like I want to focus on family (my husband and puppy) and home a bit more now. In the househunting process, I decided to sell the condo I've lived in for 8 years (my husband has lived here for about a year and a half) so that we could buy a house with a yard. While he wants all of the things I want, his main priority is his job. He works long hours for less money than I earn, and his absences do take a toll on the relationship. I do not mean to sound crass about the money issue, but it does play I role. Again, as a result of choices made by both of us way before we met , we find ourselves in this financially disparate postition today. It is not laziness, stupidity, etc. on his part. I just find myself overwhelmed sometimes. That's all.

lonely marriage

I feel and understand your pain. I have been marrried for almost 20 yrs. and 2 kids, my husband has supported us forever, and he works 15-20 hrs a wk. and travels frequently for work. He has ADHD,Gen.Anxiety, and could be Borderline. We have struggle for yrs. and have attempted to leave. I wish there was a magic wand to cure this strange case, but unfortunatly, i believe we just have to understand it and accept the ADHD person you love and married and have your own affairs. I realize that sound selfish but, they can be so disconnected and self-absorbed as well. Bless You

Single in a Marriage

I find this a very interesting thread for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the unspoken gender expectations that seem to be underlying it.  That said, let me see if I can contribute some ideas to think about, though first I would like to say that it's great that you think your husband is a wonderful, energetic man.  That's a good place to start.

You, (Electra125) mention several key ideas that are important to a successful marriage:  financial stability, companionship, kids/dogs/family relationships and easing loneliness.  Maybe I can give you some new ways to think about these...

You are financially stable, but worried about the contribution your spouse is making or, to be more accurate, not making.  Yet you admit that he is working hard at a high paying job.  Hours seem to be the biggest problem - and perhaps a biological clock?  When he IS home, do you spend quality time together, or is he too tired to know you are there?  If it is the former, that's a good start.  If the latter, then that would compound your problem.  ADHD can play a role in feeling lonely in that people with ADHD can be easily distracted, so the non-ADHD spouse can feel ignored, even when an ADHD spouse is at home.  It is important in all ADHD/non-ADHD relationships to make sure you get QUALITY time together that is meaningful and spiritually sustaining to you both.  If that's not happening now, try to squeeze it into his busy schedule by "scheduling" time together - perhaps you pick him up at the airport when he returns from a trip and you take him out to dinner or something, for example.

Did he not have the job when you were dating?  What did the two of you do to spend time together then?  Did you say to yourself "we'll be together more when we are married" and ignore it?  I find it is not at all uncommon that people's expectations change subtly when they get married "okay, now that we're married that means we'll be together more" or "now that we're married, my husband will start to take out the trash (because that's what my father did) or now that we're married, my husband will be able to take care of me financially".  See what it was that you were doing right when you were dating to get around this issue then, and see if you can reinstate some of that into your relationship.  If you were having this problem when you were dating, but you ignored it, then you need to take responsibility for its existence, too (not just blame it on him).

Or, was your husband able to "temporarily" focus on you during your courtship and still do okay at work, but now feels that he needs to settle in?  This would be a case of ADHD "hyperfocusing", perhaps, that you will want to acknowledge as you think through this (people with ADHD generally don't recognize when they are hyperfocusing, and most often can't control it - it just happens)

Or, another possibility - now that you are married he feels more pressure to excel at work to meet your expectations...and therefore is taking on extra assignments so that he can move through the organization faster to please you...

You see, there are a number of different things that could be going on here with the work - things that deserve being discussed in detail between the two of you.  Make a date to talk, and make sure the conversation remains civil, etc.

You seem particularly sensitive to your financial independence and that, I think, is a good thing.  BUT, you also need to be aware that every relationship is about making a series of choices.  You clearly love this man, and he seems to be working hard to hold up his end of the bargain...even though not fully contributing.  It's unclear from your email whether or not you are able to support the two of you if he continues to earn as he is doing, or whether or not he needs to be earning MORE for the two of you to have the comfortable life you envision.  I strongly suggest you don't overinvest in a house at this point for a number of reasons - first, unless you have a pre-nup (or a post-nup for that matter) about your own purchase of the house, it will likely become joint property.  You are, in fact, giving some of your money to a man with which you are currently unhappy by buying a house.  Second, you seem to resent that you are buying the house (somewhere in there, at least) even though it is something that fulfills one of your dreams and this is also not a good sign.  (along the line of marriage being a series of choices, you do have the choice of staying where you were and living on less money for a while...so I'm wondering what the tipping point is for you that you think the house is more important than saving the money...even though buying the house is adding to your resentment...)

Marriage research suggests that the first year of marriage is very, very difficult for almost everyone.  Instead of being this wonderful joining of people who are meant to be together, it is an eye-opening journey into what it means to compromise with another person who may seem to share your goals but whose way of getting there is completely (and frustratingly) different.  You two need to talk in depth about your expectations and answer some questions:

  • what do you both want, financially?
  • do you both want children (should have been discussed before marriage, but your note is hard to read on this one)
  • how important is his job to your respect for him?  Would you respect him more if he were in an 8 hour a day job that earned little money?
  • what role does his job play in his self image?  Can he imagine himself doing something different for the sake of your union?
  • how long to both of you want to work?
  • do your expectations about your future put pressure on him that he feels are too much, or does he share them?
  • how much time do the two of you actually want to spend together (some couples don't like to be together all the time - one or both partners feel stifled by too much time together)
  • what would a "compromise" look like?  Would it be satisfying to both parties, or would you both end up being dissatisfied?
  • how comfortable would you both be with somewhat reversed gender roles (don't pick on me here about my bringing this up - I understand the concept of being equal partners...but have also been around long enough to know that this is rarely what actually happens, and when it does happen it's from careful planning) -i.e. you are the primary bread winner, and your husband is the support person in the relationship?  If you both were comfortable with that, would that further your relationship?
  • what's the career path for a successful person in his job?  Will he only be travelling for a short time until established and moved into a desk job, or will he travel forever?  Do the hours remain the same?
  • Are there comparable jobs that would also make him happy or that seem to make sense (DON'T quit one until you have the other one in hand, by the way, no matter how eager the two of you may become for a change!!!)

You've been single for a long time.  It's possible that you've built up a "dream inventory" of what marriage was going to be like that is now getting in your way.  That is, you expected perfect harmony right away.  Instead you got reality - a tough job that takes too much time, lonely weeks when a spouse is out, etc.

Also, you may find that your husband is bringing some baggage from marriage #1 that you're unaware of, as well.  Both of these would be very common, but you'll need to talk about them overtly to understand what is going on.  For example, my husband was concerned for many years that I would "just walk out on him", as his first wife had.  Though she had given him, and everyone else, lots of warning that she was unhappy, he hadn't "heard" her, and so it felt to him as if she had deserted him.  This fear that he had came up in strange ways in our marriage for quite a while (until, in fact, we had had terrible problems and I still didn't walk out...so now he believes me).  Sometimes these things are as little as phrases or ways of saying something that is unexpected.  Talk with him to find out.

I want to return to the idea that marriage is a series of choices once more.  Over the years, my husband and I have made many of these (sometimes very major) choices for each other, though always after lots of discussion.  For example, we moved from San Fran to Boston when I wanted to help take care of my ailing mother (less discussion on this one, actually, once we figured out he could stay in his same job while we did this).  I moved out to San Fran originally because he wanted to see what the West Coast would be like to live on.  He has chosen, quite consciously, to earn about 1/3 of what he is capable (based on previous jobs) so that we can have much more family time together and he can have the ability to telecommute in the summer from a different location for over two months every year.  Even though I liked my job a lot, I chose to start working part time when my kids were of a certain age because I felt it was the only way we could successfully hold our family (and me) together.

People make these types of decisions all the time (often an exchange of time for money) and perhaps there are some that will work for the two of you.  They often take time to work through, so don't be too frustrated if you don't find a great solution right away.  It would be a shame if a relationship which sounds as if it has many good things going for it, founders on the time needs of the specific job he currently holds or, conversely, founders on your need for his immediate time at home (vs. giving it a bit more time and being patient).

The answer to the question - what's most important, family time, money, or work - and how do we balance it all - is different for every couple.

Finally, I would suggest you investigate your own expectations for a husband and marriage (and I don't say this in a mean way, only that this is an important thing for every person - and in my opinion, particularly for every woman - to do).  You don't admit to wanting a child here, so it's hard for me to tell if that is playing a role in your eagerness to move forward.  Or if perhaps your loneliness for so many years makes you anxious that you'll be lonely again, and so you are having difficulty enjoying the few times that you have together and dreading what your future may look like in a way that exagerates what's happening now (which might be temporary...I can't tell from your note).

Not much of what you write about sounds ADHD driven, though perhaps some of your anxiety is related to ADHD behaviors or experiences that you don't relate here.  In any event, we are happy to listen and to give you ideas as you wish.  Let us know how you do!

Melissa Orlov

Single in Marriage Response

Thank you for your thoughtful and articulate comments, Melissa! A few paragraphs don't begin to fully paint the rich and complex picture of a relationship. There are so many of your questions that I really want to address yet I may need to do it in chunks. In answer to the biological clock, mine began skipping ticks at around 30 or so. I'm not quite sure why, but I really wanted children in my 20's and, as the years progressed, I felt more ambivalent about it. My husband and I see eye-to-eye on this issue and we have discussed it at length. At my urging, we had pre-marital counseling with his long-term counselor which I found ineffective. As a trained counselor, I am a tough client, however, his counselor called herself a cognitive-behavioral therapist and was not practicing that. We got nowhere. In fact, at one point she attempted to counsel us out of the relationship, which we both did not want. I would be delighted if my husband made less money and worked less. I am currently paying most of the bills as he continues to get his financial house in order. While I will be putting the major chunk of money down for our new home, we will contribute equally to the mortgage payments. I tried to get a pre-nup, yet his former divorce attorney (who he choose to represent him) rejected everything until it was one week before the wedding. We have both agreed to a post-nup and are in the process of it as I type. The idea is that I get back my initial investment if we ever divorce. Profits would be split 50/50. I love my husband dearly and have been extremely patient with his work schedule. Thing is, I make a bit more and work fewer hours. The extra time is spent focusing on our puppy, cleaning, organizing, planning, etc. He need not work as many hours and does not get extra compensation for it. He views his extra hours as a "badge of honor" although he knows that his time away has and still does effect the relationship he has with me. Sometimes he is gone for half the month for months at a time, and this has been going on for 2 1/2 years. I have likened life to a pie which consists of many ingredients with each being important like: time for oneself, family, friends, household, work, health, spirituality, etc. He scoffs at that and insists that a wife and a dog do not make a family! I disagree strongly. So, in a nutshell, I perceive him to be operating like a single guy putting in long hard hours to pay his dues in his field. Even when he is not travelling, he will take on extra work and get home between 8-10 p.m. We rarely have dinner together and when he does get home, he is often exhausted. We did do some fun things before getting married and we continue to have fun often enough. I just often feel like I am supporting his career and financial growth while my needs go unmet. It gets a bit old. I think the major kicker is that he squandered a lot of money after his divorce (70K) and he and we are still paying for this 7 years later. He spent money on "partying" and expensive things he couldn't afford as he relates it and was extremely depressed. I sometimes feel that I never self-indulged in that way even though my heart had been broken many times before I met him. I realize it was my choice to marry him as I do love him terribly and I did know about all of this before. Still, it gets hard when the ramifications of decisions he made years before he met me follow us to this day. (I'll write about the unpaid taxes, parking tickets, money owed for unfairly collected unemployment later...) Well enough for now until the next chunk of info. Thanks again for you comments.

What Marriage Means

The post nup sounds like a good idea, but can you get it signed before buying the house, since you didn't get the pre-nup before the marriage???

It's time for the two of you to have some serious discussions about what marriage means to you.  Perhaps a marriage counsellor can help you do this effectively and make the conversation productive.  You need to figure out if you have the same overall goals, or whether you have a complete mismatch in terms of what a "marriage partnership" means.  You should find this out now, before you find yourself in a position of completely resenting his behavior (more than you do now).  I sympathize with you - my own belief is that you marry in order to be together, and my husband and I have shaped our lives around this idea (changing jobs, etc).  But I know there are other people who like to not be together all the time and find distance keeps things fresh (think bi-coastal marriages, for example).

He also needs to hear, loud and clear, that you think that your needs are going unmet.  Again, a counsellor may well be able to help.

Be careful not to mix up things you knew about before your marriage with things that dissapoint you now.  For example, it sounds as if you knew about the $70,000 he spent.  If you had wanted to, you could have figured out how long it would take him to pay it back even before you got married.  If you could accept his spending it then as part of his recovery from his divorce, then it's probably best to accept it now (in other words, don't let your feelings about being alone now make things accepted in the past not okay now - that's moving the goal line on him).  That path opens up a lot of issues that will only make you feel worse and that he might, rightfully, resent coming up now.  If you mean that you have debt right now that is part of the $70,000, then perhaps putting together a plan to manage that debt will help.

I do not understand your comment about "a wife and a dog do not make a family!"  Was "not" a typo? 
I would be interested to hear what you mean.

Melissa Orlov