If You Know About ADHD Before You Are Married

I recently read posting from a woman who has recently discovered her fiance has ADHD.  In a somewhat unexpected way, the post brings forward some real issues for those who are considering marriage to an ADHD person, so I thought it worthwhile to post it, and some thoughts on this topic, as a blog entry:

"Recently my husband-to-be has "come out of the closet" about his ADHD. I embraced his feelings of realization that he had a problem, and I dug into it and talked about it for days with him in hopes that seeking professional help would help us out. The last few months have been rough, especially before marriage!

Reading this passage (in the forum) had made me put a new perspective on things. I do not want my hubby to feel like I know he's broken, I want him to feel whole even though we both know he's broken. It would probably be best if he feels like I still think of him as a whole, and I'll support him no matter even if he goes through therapy for his ADHD."

My thoughts on this posting:

Danger alert here!  Go back and read what you wrote!  "I want him to feel whole even though we both know he's broken"...This is a recipe for disaster!

He is NOT broken!  He has a different way of thinking about things and going through life - a way that will make him hard to live with at times.  But a way that still deserves respect!

Do not kid yourself into thinking that if you verbally suport him, but secretly think he is broken, that you'll end up with a healthy relationship.  What you'll end up with is a large amount of resentment someday and wonder why you both didn't see it coming.

You fell in love with your fiance in part because of his ADHD - I'll guarantee it.  Probably you like his spirit and energy and creativity.  BUT, those things aren't going to load the dishwasher or change a baby.  SO, you need to decide before you get married what the power of the positive is, and whether or not you and he can create a positive environment for him to manage most of his ADHD symptoms (all, if you are really lucky, but DON'T count on this)!  You must decide that YOU (note I am not talking about him right now!):

  • love him for who he is - ADHD and all
  • are able to forgive him when he stumbles or does things differently, which he will (just like non-ADHD men, but perhaps more frequently)
    can see the positive in difficult situations
  • want to be his best supporter and friend
  • don't want to change him from who he is right now (it's okay to hope he ages well, but this is a bonus, not an expectation)
  • can respect him, even with a label of "ADD"
  • can accept that there is a good chance that some of your children will have ADHD and you'll be dealing with that, too

Here is another way to look at it.  Imagine that you discovered you were depressed, as many people are.  Would you want your spouse to think of you as "broken"?  Would you want him to put pressure on you to change in a certain way, or would you prefer that he support you on your own terms to find what might make your life better?

My suggestion is that you both consider some counselling about marriage, preferably with someone who understands ADHD.  You need to explore your expectations about marriage to make sure that you really are ready to support each other through thick or thin.  Marriage to a person with ADHD is not for the faint of heart - it takes lots of careful thought and communication skills, it takes patience and generosity, and above all it takes flexibility.  The rewards are many, but please make sure you are ready for the challenge.

More thoughts that I didn't post in the forum:

Relationship research shows that couples are easily able to read their spouse's body language.  So even if you say you are verbally supporting a spouse, if you "secretly" believe that he's broken, he'll "hear" that loud and clear.  Because the feeling is unspoken, though, he'll have difficulty responding to it, which means that you'll end up with some really big "taboo" issues and bad feelings.

And, if she thinks that he's broken (and she's not), then it will be all too easy for this couple to fall into the parent/child syndrome, where she "takes over" for him, and they both resent this.


knowing about adhd before marriage

I just read the post from the woman who learned that her fiance has adhd. I too found out about my (now) husband's adhd before we got married and, as a psychologist who frequently works with people with adhd, felt that I was well-informed and would be able to handle the challenges that this could pose in our relationship. I have since learned that, however competent and confident I may be in working with my patients with adhd, it is entirely different in a marital relationship; the challenges that we have faced have been very difficult at times and when they occur I am much more deeply affected with my husband than I ever am with my clients (this sounds obvious now....). For example, my husband has a tendency to be very impulsive with money which has led to many serious financial problems for us as a couple. While this is easy to be "understanding" about from afar, it has evoked all kinds of issues around safety and reliability for me in our marriage. As we now expect our first child, money has become an even bigger issue of contention between us that we have yet to resolve in a satisfactory way. I say all this not to discourage this woman from marrying her fiance, but more to hopefully help her be conscious of some of the gravity of the issues that she could face and to go into that decision concsiously.

Before Marriage

Thanks for sharing this.  It reflects well on you that you can understand that experiencing is different from "advising" (much harder to experience) and it sounds as if this experience will make you more realistic and empathetic in your practice.  You should assume that it isn't just relationships that are that hard "in real life" but also just having ADHD is that much harder than you think.

The issues aroung safety and reliability are very real for almost anyone in an ADHD relationship - whether it's financial safety or emotional safety (as in putting yourself in a situation where you might feel unloved because your ADHD spouse is distracted from you).  If you can resolve your financial fears before your child is born, that may relieve some of the pressure that comes with the birth of a first child (until you've done this, you have no idea just how hard those first few months are....)

My suggestion - think of your financial issues as a business problem and search for a business solution.  I say this, because financial insecurity is one of those things that seeps into every aspect of your relationship.  You don't trust his financial judgement, this bleeds into how you feel about his ability to safeguard your children (to come) and take care of you in other ways.  Better to resolve things now, perhaps with an unconventional solution than to take the emotional and relationship risks that this continued insecurity might cost you.

You have a right to ensure your own financial security, regardless of your husband's financial incompetency.  From your reference to "impulsive" it sounds as if he spends too much money, not that he has taken out the fifth mortgage on your house.  So, if it makes sense, get separate bank accounts, and request that he pay his half of all the expenses.  While this isn't very romantic, and may not be what you had been expecting you would need to do after marriage, it will hopefully do two things - help him understand that there is a limit to what he has available to spend (ie he can't spend yours) and help him see that you really mean it on the finances.

If he isn't paying his half of the bills because he runs out of money (and my guess is that he will think that paying half is fair - even though he won't like this conversation, assuming he's employed), then set up a special "bills" account that you are in charge of.  He deposits the amount of the expected bills one month in advance (based on an average or good guess or some such).  Or, if he admits that he has a spending problem, ask him if he would mind having his pay direct deposited into your account, and you take out what he will owe for bills and transfer the rest into his account within a very short time (24 hours?).  Or, there may be some other creative solution that the two of you can come up with.  Make sure that the two of you work on both defining the problem, and solving it, together.  You'll be more likely to reach your goals if you do.  Figure out the logistics of how this might work based on when your bills come in, and when you both get paid.  If I were doing this in my household, for example, I would take a small amount out of the mid-month paycheck, and then use the end of the month paycheck to pay the bills (with probably very little left over).

To make all work over the long haul, you would also need to have a specific monthly budget in place for saving (ie. take out bills plus $100 or whatever to put into your savings account).

Note that I've seen many people on this site whose hubbies have taken out loans against joint property (usually homes) without the knowledge of their spouse.  If you are having a conversation about finances, you may want to cover this possibility in advance and let him know your opinion about it (if you have one, which I presume you would).

If your husband earns more than you do (and isn't spending what you earn), and your issues revolve around how he is spending the money he earns (as in he is not spending it the way you would like him to spend it) try viewing the problem as an issue not only of impulsivity, but also conflicting priorities.  In this case, you might still want to make sure that you are both paying your expenses equally, and create a savings plan to which you both contribute in some fair proportion (if he makes 25% more than you, consider having him contribute 25% more a month than you do).  Agree in advance what that savings account will, won't and can't be used for (for example children's education and a new car in 10 years).  A good plan, that you both work hard to stick to, will hopefully make you feel more at ease.

Good luck with the birth of your first child!  It's an exciting time, but also difficult.  Being a psychologist you are fully aware of it, I'm sure, but don't be surprised when you are emotionally all over the place, as well as completely exhausted.  (These are the reasons to figure out the finances before birth...because you and your husband won't get back to "normal" for a while...some would say about 18 years!)

Thanks again for your comment.

Melissa Orlov

Phew. Here I was, on this

Phew. Here I was, on this forum a few months ago, full of positivity as well as what I thought was realism, getting ready to marry my sweetheart, confident we could ride the ADD waves and live happily ever after. And here I am now, reading this thread, and agreeing with so much of it, and much as I thought I had the answers I can only say now..... I don't. I like what you say Melissa about it being time to get tougher with Lili's husband, and that's where I am at with mine also. Joy and goodness to you all....

I also have a huge problem

I also have a huge problem with the way my partner spends. Firstly we are not married, but want to be. Unfortunately he still lives at home with mother and seems to always be in debt from impulsive spending. Im studying (psychology) so only receive government benefits of $100 a week (I also live at home), yet even with him having a full time job I seem to be pretty much supporting him (ie paying for all the petrol he uses which is a lot seeings as he is a postal delivery driver! and food when we we go out etc). I cant say no to giving him money as then he has no petrol and cant go to work! but most of my money goes on him and it is just unfair!!!! I havent bought a piece of clothing or shoes in over 5 years and I have to get given old makeup and old socks etc from freinds! As half of his impulsive spending is on random presents for me (which I love but could do without) he feels he gives me more money than I give him! While I love the presents I would like to not have to give him petrol money once hes run out and buy something i actually need! I've told him this so many times, and one month he gave me $500 to put away for petrol when he runs out of money, but he forgets and next month same old thing. It is worse because he is paid monthly. It would be good if I could get him to put half of it away for the second half of the month, but he has to pay his mother back and the credit card for the previous month so cant! and now he just bought a $3000 plasma tv on credit! How am I ever supposed to think this man could support me when I cant see him ever being able to move out of his mothers house, and he doesnt even seem to want to? He wants to get married and talks about it all the time, but I cant see it happening if he cant get his finances in order. I love him, and am good at math so really wouldnt mind handling the finances if we were married. But I cant see him giving me control of the money to do it. He is the most defensive person I have ever met it is so hard to bring anything up (I have though, but then he forgets the next day). There are even several part time jobs that I could take while studying, but last time I did that he managed to 'need' that money for something so I dont even want any moere money than I have. Ive taken to petending I have no money when I do and feeling awful about lying, but I cant say no when he needs it for work! help!!!!

Boy do I sympathize with

Boy do I sympathize with you. My ADHD hubby is awful with money too. It just flows through his fingers, no thought to the future. In the 13 years we have been married, he has bought a car without my knowledge, loaned our credit card to a friend who then spent $400 and made no effort to pay it back, and overdrawn our account more times than I can count. His paycheck is automatically deposited into my account now and I give him a monthly allowance. If he burns through it before the month is out, too bad. He has occassionally had to work side jobs to make more money because I will not give it too him. Those were tense weeks!!!!!! But guess what? Since I have been doing our finances (several years now) we have no more credit cards and we are completely debt free. I will not risk that. We are finally in a position to afford some nice things for our family and I will not risk that with stupid impulse purchases. He has his own account for the money I give him. A few times he has overdrawn that and does not have it linked to a savings account to cover the overdraft. I honestly don't know how he solved it. I do know it did not affect our finances. His lack of self awareness in this area always stuns me--how can you possibly think buying a car without your wife knowing is a GOOD idea???? I only found out when the lawyer came looking for him because he made no payments for six months. I can tell you he worked a lot of side jobs to pay it back, because again, his poor judgement is not going to impact our family finances. All I can say is set up really firm boundaries and stick to them. Be as business like and impersonal as you can. Say, these are the rules/goals we set up and I will make sure we stick to them. good luck dana


Hi, I have been married for about a year and a half and although there are several issues I would like suggestions/answers to, I will start with the finances. My husband was in fact diagnosed with ADHD as a child and was on meds for a period of time but when I first met him he figured he grew out of it. After reading all these posts and this info. I realize now that there is no way he has grown out of it. I have been researching personality disorders, narcissism, all sorts of various psychological conditions that could be the issue but I truly believe now that it is ADHD. Anyways, not only does my husband have issues with money and has put us into debt, but he is currently going through immigration, so although I am a full citizen, he has no access to medication, counseling, and he has no SIN card to work so I pay for all expenses and pay for his debt. It is a tricky situation also because of the external circumstances; we got married 6 months after we met, we are barely in our 2nd year of marriage, his immigration is pending, I'm definitely overworked. He also has this "lazy" syndrome, which I now realize is probably to do with his lack of focus on finishing tasks that he's not interested in. What concerns me the most right now is #1 - how do I clean up the finances and regain complete control over them allowing him to earn his spending money, but without treating him like a child (he can't work, so he would need to do household chores or something along those lines)? #2 How do I gain the support I need in order to keep him on task and not be lenient #3 How do I ever trust him again? Since I'm on a roll, my other huge issue is his lying. From my understanding, he will impulsively buy something, and then when questioned he will lie about it. I don't have any idea how to break him of this habit and learn to trust him again; he also lies about everything now because I believe it has become his natural reaction. Thoughts about separation have definitely crossed my mind several times, especially since others looking in on our marriage don't understand it. There are times when I feel like he's selfish, non-empathetic, and using me for his own personal gain. But then there are times when he is calm and not angry or frustrated and he can communicate to me that he is truly trying his best and he doesn't know how to fix the problem, and those times I do believe that there is hope for us. Please help! Thanks, Sarah

Money Issues Before Marriage

Read Dana's entry and note how hard a line she has drawn in the sand.  Your partner needs the same kinds of lines - HE is responsible for his finances, not you.  Also, I would consider not accepting some of those gifts until he understands that gifts come only after he has financial stability.  Else he is simply giving you gifts with YOUR money!  YIKES!

Melissa Orlov

finances and ADD

vivi Hi, I am new to this forum but found it by searching for support for spouses of ADD. I have been both encouraged and overwhelmed by all the comments and valuable information and like others have not quite known where to jump in. Your content on financial matters is very pertinent to our situation as I will explain. 21 years ago I married a very intelligent, good looking, wealthy college professor whose organisation impressed me greatly. I now realise that multiple 'to do' lists can also mean an attempt to cope with constant distraction. I could go into detail but suffice to say that we have encountered all of the above as far as the symtoms of ADD are concerned and all of the above in terms of my response to it, major frustration, total dicouragement, a feeling of being trapped in something I could not fix, a roller coaster of emtional stuff. We didn't know what it was but have joked often about ADD and OCD and we hit a brick wall when we sought professional help from someone who didn't have a clue. Eight years ago after several different jobs ultimatley ended unhappily for him one way or another he took time off to restore a house. Little did we know then that it would be an ADD nightmare. Eight years later we have a house that we cannont live in and can't sell because every room is an unfinished project. After he bravely sat me down a little over a year ago and confessed that he had built up credit card debt that he could not repay we again sought professional help to find out what was going on and he was diagnosed finally with ADD and a little OCD thrown in. He is now on medication which made an instant difference to his life and thus ours (we have two kids, one who is old enough to understand this and I might say offer his advice and criticism, and one who is not quite). The last year has been a major struggle for both of us and has bought us to the brink of divorce. I sought counselling because I knew that if I could be what I needed to be in this situation, then it would give him the best chance to be what he needs to be to make things work for our family. I believe we have something worth protecting here and we can all only grow through this if we handle it correctly. Slowly the clouds are clearing as we learn about ADD and understand the why's of the last 21 years but it is a journey because I also have to unlearn behaviours and responses that have ultimately hurt him and added to his low self esteem. I also have to learn to take control of things that I have not taken responsibilty for, and therein is my part in our financial downfall, and in that be firm with him which does not come naturally to me. What I have learnt through conselling and in experience since then is when I do take a stand and be firm he responds positively. He has begun to take responsibily financially which has taken the form of reselling many things that he bought on e.bay! (why is ebay so often a trap for ADDers) and he is now beginning substitute teaching though I fear that the uncertainlty of that will be hard for him to deal with. I guess we will find out. Everything takes so long for him. You would not believe how long it took him to finally get set up on ebay to sell because he had such high expectations of how he wanted his site to work and kept changing his mind and starting again, and then the process to get set up for teaching was painful for me as a bystander. I think we all need an easy button because everything just has to be soooo hard. Right now I wait as patiently as I can for him to deal with the paperwork that will remove the load of this debt from our lives and enable us to start again. This process has taken over a year now. I now have my own bank account which has at least given me a sense of control though we are have been taking out cash advances every pay period and the money is pretty much spoken for within a few days of payday. I have disowned the house and told him that the mortgage is his responsibilty and I want nothing more to do with it. I have backed down on that a little agreeing to mow the lawn but I will not dig up the dandelions one by one!. My counsellor thought that was a really good picture of the compromises that need to be made in oferring support but not buying into the unreasonable. I look forward to being in a postion to say, 'you pay half' and actually having money to save and spend on the things that we have been denied for the last couple of years. I feel that he still has too much control over the money because he will still go to an auction and buy something on an impulse when the money is not there and then put us under more financial stress. He is improving in that though. I am not sure that I have said all that I want to here but it is a beginning. I have to finish because the other possible ADDer in the family (as yet undiagnosed and maybe it is all in my head) is bored for the 20th time today.


You say that there are many rewards for being in a relationship with someone who has ADHD. Could you name some of them? I'm not being snide--I'm quite serious. I have to say that I am having a very difficult time seeing any rewards in it. So my husband can be spontaneous--but that is rarely a reward and much more often a negative like when he buys yet another shirt. He's creative, yes, but when he doesn't use that creativity, what is the point? I mean, he has a billion ideas and many of them are brilliant, but he doesn't DO anything with them (much less make money with it). And he can be sweet and kind, but when I haven't had sex for months and he says "I want to...I just forget or get distracted and by the time I get to bed you're already asleep" (and to be clear, he refuses to come to bed when I go to bed because he's not tired then), then the hand-holding just stops counting for much. I have been this man's cheerleader and supporter for almost 10 years. He has been un- or severely under-employed for 4 of those. I have been encouraging and helpful, and have never once called him names. But when you enter into a planned life commitment with someone it is expected that both sides will pull together. That just does not happen in this relationship and I know other spouses who feel the same. I never expected perfection or anything close. I knew there would be tough times but I thought there would be solutions. There aren't. Why? Because he'll only work them until he forgets to work them and then, like so many hobbies and plans, they get chucked into the corner and scorned. I think anyone who is considering a commitment with someone who has ADHD should think very long and hard about it. Yes, they are humans and absolutely deserve respect, yes they can be quite loving, but if you expect to have anything even sort of resembling a "normal" relationship together, you need to chuck that idea and reframe what it is really going to be like. You have to be willing and accept that you may be the primary breadwinner for the rest of your life. You have to accept that you may be the person taking care of finances, insurance, and all the other "grown up" boring stuff of life. You have to know that when he's hyper-focusing you can beg for sex and he just won't notice or that when he promises to do something (and absolutely means it!) there is still about a 50% chance he won't do it (both big and small stuff). But it is never his fault and you'll be the "jerk" if you get angry or hurt by any of this. After all, the ADHDer just can't help it. No matter how true that is, it still sucks.

Rewards of Being ADHD

I will name some of the things that I think are positive...but you could also do this yourself.  Create a grid with two columns.  In the left, think of the ADHD negative trait...then think of its "mirror trait" and put that in the right column.  Try to take your current despair out of your thinking as you do this exercise.

Before I get to some of the positives, let me say that your post suggests that your husband has not taken managing his ADHD seriously enough.  His ADHD symptoms of impulsivity etc are still front and center in your relationship.  Perhaps it's time for you to start getting tougher with him.  I don't mean by yelling at him - that will only produce one response - defensiveness (entirely unproductive).  Rather, sit him down, perhaps with a marriage counsellor who understands ADHD, and tell him that as much as you want to love him, his ADHD symptoms are getting in the way and you are now concerned about whether or not you will be able to continue to be married to him (if this is the case, of course).  It's time for him to work on controlling his ADHD with a doctor and whatever other professional help he might need (coach, therapist, books, etc.)  He CAN help it, with effort, and his denying his ability to change the direction of his life is making it unnecessarily hard on both of you.  (If he says it's only hard on you, point out that your unhappiness makes his relationship with you much more difficult than it needs to be.)

Your side of this deal?  You need to get some help to work through your own anger and disappointment, which comes through loud and clear in your post (and trust me, he can feel it, too).  I believe you when you say you have been a cheerleader, but you are at a point now where you don't believe anything can possibly change.  Somewhere, somehow, you need to find that hope.  (Or, as my husband said to me when I was in my angry and disappointed phase "why should I bother to try???!!!  I'm NEVER good enough for you!")

Okay, so here are some positives about these traits in our own family:

spontaneous - we get to do fun trips: he is able to be flexible and change directions quite quickly without effort (so we might be planning to go for a bike ride, but if our child comes up and asks to do something else, we can both change direction without getting upset about it - flexibility is a great trait to have when you have teens as we do now); he's able to appreciate spontaneity in me; situations we get ourselves into are often funny

creative - okay, I admit it, my husband is not at all creative, so I have no examples here!

tons of ideas that never come to fruition - if I didn't like the ideas in the first place, I'm often happy when they don't come to fruition; if I love the idea, I try to help him get it done somehow; he's open to lots of new ideas - so he brings me interesting articles and books about a very wide variety of things - which keeps my life from getting boring; his interests are quite varied - if I get tired of biking, we go sailing...or to a concert...or sit together and read a book...or hold hands and take a walk...or...

sweet and kind - we have quite a few pets because his kindness extends to them, too; if someone is in distress he'll normally respond;  his spirit is gentle (even though his execution sometimes is not).

The downsides of these same traits:

spontaneous - he loves EBay, and too much stuff arrives at our house...but I figure he earns money, too, so deserves to set some priorities about how to spend it; "spontaneous" turns into "disconnected" pretty quickly...I have to pull him back in sometimes...but we've worked out signals for me to do this without too much muss and fuss

tons of ideas - for sure, some stuff just never gets done.  But I'm not perfect in this department, either, and I've decided that I don't want to spend my life chained to a "to do" list.  Hand in hand with "tons of ideas" in our household comes "pack rat".  We've solved this as an issue in our house by confining his mess and junk to specific areas (his office, the basement, the garage - spaces that aren't really used all that often as common spaces).  I close the door and his stuff "disappears".

Perhaps you can find some positive things to think about next time a bad ADD trait hits you...but do consider drawing a firmer line for him, too.  You have a right to be happy.

Melissa Orlov

Thanks, but how?

Melissa and everyone: I do appreciate the comments and thoughts. But there are some things that are assumed but untrue and I have one HUGE question. First, the question: Be firmer how? How does one draw a line? I read statements like this, but I must be missing something because I swear I've tried this to no avail. He breaks every promise, big and small (except, as far as I know, he hasn't cheated), those he initiated and those I've asked for. Of course he "feels just terrible about it" and promises to do better, but... That brings me to the assumptions. 1) he doesn't know how angry I am because I never am permitted to be angry with him and I never speak to him the way I wrote here--not even close (this was venting in a safe space). Generally, I am utterly positive with him, until I hit my breaking point. I let small stuff roll and put things away and take care of stuff, singing like a Disney character...until I hit the wall. Then, I do not scream or yell or throw things, I speak calmly and express my feelings the way we were taught by our marriage counsellor (yes, we tried that), but he just turns it into his "I'm such a loser" pity party that it gets nowhere and I end up feeling worse for opening my mouth. Give him 30 minutes and he'll be acting like everything is just hunky-dory, though! 2) He's not in denial about his condition--he's on meds and changes them when he feels like they aren't working as well (though honestly I can't tell any significant difference either way) and he's seeing a therapist. He says he's trying just as hard as he can all the time and he "knows how awful it must be to have to live with him" --his words, not mine. He wields his ADD and "failures" like a Scottish claymore. So, when I try gently to point out things he has promised to do (not saying "You loser--you promised to get a job!" but rather more like "Honey, didn't we have a deal that you would try to get any job after 6 months?") and he says "I'm trying--I decided I would apply to these 3 places only and I haven't heard anything yet" (in other words, he changes the deal), I'm toast. He claims he's doing all he can, but it's not even close. If I mention other things to try, he has every excuse why they won't work and I'm the bad guy. It's exhausting. How do I hold him to it? Without being the heartless cow? How does a spouse be firm? Specifically? Thanks!

Same issues as Lili...and

Same issues as Lili...and because I tend to get so enmeshed in my spouse's disorder, here's a minute but very specific "for instance". Laundry. When the kids were growing up and I was able to work only part time, I did it all. I now work full-time and my ADD spouse is significantly under-employed. I have streamlined and simplified our lives so that if need be I really CAN do it all...which is very freeing. Hopefully I am now allowing myself the space to retrain MY reactions. One laundry day he suggested taking over the sock basket. Just the sock basket. For two adults, I appreciated his gesture, not to mention that it qualified as initiative on his part...I recognize that change and new tasks come hard to the ADDer, that things often need to go in measureable baby steps. We both thought this would be doable for him and not spin his ADD beyond what he could handle, and I said "Cool!". Wrongo. For three weeks now I have watched him madly tear through the overflowing basket each day to find something that is close enough to pass as a match. He says that he just needs to set aside time some night, but so far hasn't coordinated the task. My old pattern would be to step in and relieve his obvious stress and frustration, not to mention my embarrassment that I'm married to someone who frequently wears unmatched socks to work...but I'm writing this as a reminder to myself not to do that and to let him figure it out. I truly don't understand why something like this has to become such a production. Why does he have to "set aside time some night" like it's a special occassion? Anyway, I'm committed not to harp on him, to let him deal with the frustration he experiences free from criticism (well, except here) or enablement. I guess the boundary is on me, not him, right? And if this IS an appropriate excercise in boundary setting, how do I transfer it to things that matter more than socks? Or is this even an appropriate task? Since his current lack of success is pretty evident, am I setting him up to fail? You know, if a man can't sort socks, then how can he provide wage earner work to an employer? Will witnessing him struggle with such a small mundane thing only add to the "I'm such a failure" column in his own mind? And if so, and if my natural reaction is to want to support him by "saving" him, does that mean I am allowing him to manipulate me into stepping in? Is he that tricky? Does any of this make sense? Am I guilty of over-analyzing? Colleen

How to be firm?

Dear Lili, How to be firmer with your husband? Can't say I have the answers here but I am testing the grounds right now. For me the first couple of steps came in realisation and understanding how the ADD affects my husband. I realised that I could give him simple reminders rather than nag and that he is not offended by that. He simply forgets. I've tried to be creative in the reminders though and have used many post-it notes to help the cause. If he promised to organise the cords around the computer and never got around to it, then I would stick a post-it quoting his words on it. It would be a simple reminder of the promise he made. I have given up asking him when he is going to do it, knowing that this is hard for him to actually pin-point. Instead I have suggested when it can be done in a kind way like: How about we deal with that after dinner. Note that I said "we" rather than "you". It is a strategy I have learned from him. A while ago I noticed he kept including me in all the chores which drove me nuts. Now I have understood that it gives him comfort and security if he feels I am involved, even if I am not practically involved. I have gotten firmer with him as well, but also here it came as a result of me realising new things about him and us. I realised that our discussions often goes in circles as his mind often jumps from one issue to another. In fact he often switches to a relating topic and in the moment I haven't noticed. In the end I have left the discussions with fewer answers than from the start. My firmness comes from actually making sure I come our of the conversation with the answers I was seeking. I do not allow him to switch topics. I do not allow him to deliver an endless stream of excuses for what he hasn't done. So, when I remind him that he hasn't dealt with the cord chaos around the computer and he then gives me a million reasons to why hasn't been able to do it then I just firmly tell him, that all his reasons may be right, but that we had a deal and he has not kept it and that at the end of the day it is a matter of owing up to one's obligations and promises. I tell him that he made a promise to me and that it is his responsibility to keep it. I make sure that it is clear that he cannot escape from this. I don't know if it sounds very harsh. I try to be gentle by giving understanding and support while I do it but making sure that he doesn't escape from his promise. I have learned that people with ADD have so many strategies and excuses for their behaviour and to me it has been very revealing to learn about them. Not only to know that they have them but to understand that there is a inherent fear underneath that people will discover that they are not "normal" or like everyone else. Although far from perfect, I try to listen and speak to that fear rather to the stream of excuses. Usually when my husband feels that I support him and listens to his fear, in this case the overwhelming task of organising, then he manages to deal with it. This can for instance be done through asking if there is anything we can do to make it easier for him to finish the task. He usually has lots of ideas on how to do this. It isn't easy and I think it is an approach that takes time to learn but the way I see it, it can be useful not only at home but in for instance the workplace as well. Sometimes I have met colleagues who approach me that way and I have felt so much more empowered to do the task. So rather than seeing it as an approach for my ADD husband I try to see it as a way of better interacting with people in general. Another way to be firm is also to stop tip-toeing. Not to explode but to sit down and make firm rules together. Negotiate your household chores (but bear in mind that the more extravagant sorting and organising tasks might be ten times more challenging for your husband than for you). Structure them, write them down, schedule them. All this makes it easier for your husband to keep track of what he needs to do and to actually do it. Good Luck! Janine

I AM the spouse with ADD,

I AM the spouse with ADD, and I have to admit, reading your post bummed me out. You don't want a list of the positives, because you already seem to know them. As far as your spouse's 'negatives'... well we ALL have them to some degree. What needs to happen is your spouse needs to realize HE doesn't have to live the way he's living. He should read what you just wrote. If he loves you, he will get help. If he's already getting help, he will get MORE. I couldn't live the life you're living, but honestly... I can't believe he's happy with the way he's living either. It's truly hell at times to live inside an ADD head. You can NEVER know how this feels. The good moments are incredible... like accomplishing a task (as simple as doing the dishes), getting through a day of appointments unscathed, getting your morning routine finished BEFORE you are late to work. I could guarantee that the thought of regularly getting to bed, getting up, getting ready, doing a good job without messing up, and making it home in one mental piece is overwhelming to him. Then, the thought of doing it EVERYDAY, five days a week can be paralyzing to a person with ADD. It certainly doesn't mean it's OK to not hold a job, but it does mean he needs help to accomplish it. I am proud to say, I have held the same job for 16 years. I need the occasional 'mental health day', and give myself permission to take them from time to time (jammies all day long-- awesome!). It's been a long hard struggle, too. Sorry, rambling.... I empathize with your spouse greatly, because I feel his pain everyday. But I empathize with you, too. We are not easy to live with. Tell your hubby to get help for YOU if not for HIM. To him, the thought of actually sticking to the help he's being given may seem daunting... but if knows your marriage depends on it, maybe he'll take some responsibility for his behavior and not use ADD as an excuse. We do MUCH better with a harness!! Good luck!

Pro's and con's?

Dear Lili, I read your post with great recognition! You put words to so many things that I have felt the last couple of years. In particular I can relate to the lost intimacy and sex and the feeling that my husband is cheating on me with his computer. Sometimes he would even bring it to bed but I put an end to it. The bedroom is the area for rest, not for hi-tech devices. I can so much identify with your frustration over broken promises, projects that never end, time management that is of the charts, problems with money management and mood changes. It has nearly driven me to divorce a couple of times and probably will in the future again but it feels we are getting more on track now. First, how to deal with frustration. After reading up on ADHD and talking to my husband about it we have started finding new ways of dealing with frustrations. We haven't sat down and had a long discussion about a list of things I am not happy with but I have brought it up every now and then when the timing has been okay. (I have found it easier to talk about it when it appears because we often get lost talking about past events). Our little talks have made us understand each other much better. He now knows that our arguments tend to drag out because he changes subject and in my upsetness I don't notice that he does that. We are now trying to stay focused in our discussions, making them shorter and more productive. He has realised that he is bad at recognising when he makes me upset which usually results in him provoking me so much that I completely burst. It freaks us both out. I now know that he fails to see that I am getting angry and therefore cannot try to defuse it. I also know, that from his point of view, my sudden outbursts coming from a clear blue sky are extremely intimidating. Seeing the issues from each others point of view helps us to actually find new ways to deal. This site has been a great inspiration for me in order to understand how my husband thinks and maybe you yourself can find some clues here as to why he acts the way he does and how the two of you can work to solve it. After reading some posts from Melissa I realised that I had to change my own way of looking at things and how I approach them. I also started asking myself if my husband's "bad response" also was a result of a "bad response" from me. I started by giving myself a good look. So, my husband does not see nor acknowledge my distress and frustration. But do I acknowledge his? The answer was no and once I had defined that I realised that I have over the years completely missed many moments where he has been nervous, distressed and uncomfortable and instead I just got angry with him which just made him feel worse. It has been so incredibly counterproductive and lead to so many arguments. So, next step for me was to acknowledge what he found difficult. He responded extremely well to this and in fact have started becoming more aware about me as well. So, am I the cheerleader? Well, no not really. I had to ask myself if I was prepared to make minor changes in my life in exchange for a more peaceful life and a more harmonious and happy husband. I was! Our first step has been to deal with the practical issues. For instance, I realised after reading a post here from an ADD- woman who was terrified of her kitchen, that there may be good reasons why my husband found it difficult to put things back after using them and also never volunteered to cook. Together we reorganised the kitchen, adopting a better logic which suited him better. Things now end up where they are supposed to be and he has volunteered more in the kitchen. Laundry has been another stressful moment, in particular folding it and putting it back in the closet. Labelling the shelves in the closet has been a great help for him to stay organised. To me these little changes make no difference but to him it has meant so much. Now he has himself started identifying areas that makes him uncomfortable and he is coming up with ideas for how to deal with them. I on the other hand need to learn to actually accept his new ideas more openly. These little changes, even if they may seem simple, made me realised how much the distress my husband feels aggrevates the problems we have together. If you are constantly worried about other things, how can you be intimate or focus on finalising projects? Second, the positive sides of ADD Well, having described how we are slowly moving from chaos and despair to dealing I also want to mention some positive sides. My husband is very creative, but just as yours he has problems using it. I try to encourage it as much as I can but in the end it is his own responsibility. I try to remind him every now and then though that he is very creative and that he should make use of that. He is an amazing bank of ideas and when I get stuck in my own creativity I can get ideas and inspiration from him. He is briliant in leading me down new paths that I hadn't even considered and he does it in such a sweet and gentle way that I never feel criticised. He is a great organiser. He will organise trips or events for us or for friends and colleagues. He loves doing it and it has resulted in us going to places I would never have gone and getting out much more than I would have otherwise. I am really crap at doing things like that but love it once we are out and really enjoy that he has planned the whole thing and that I can just lean back and relax. (So, even if I have to take the main responsiblity in some areas, he takes it in others, which is important to keep in mind!) He is not afraid of things. He might get distressed about new situations but he never hesitate to take on a challenge. He just makes sure he is more prepared. In that he has been great inspiration and encouragement to me, in particular professionally. His fearlessness helps both of us not to stagnate or repress our own development. It also means that he is a 100% positive for any project I launch myself. I might even find that he supports it more than I do myself because I am held back by my fears. He is a great entertainer. We are both very social but I sometimes don't have the energy to be social. My husband however can entertain a whole room and keep them laughing and happy. It allows me to take the backseat whenever I feel I don't want to be in the spotlight. (I guess the downside is that when I do want the spotlight we have to fight for it...!) He forgets things. Just as Melissa said, thank God that he doesn't have my memory! If he comes up with ideas that I don't like, I have learned just not to remind him about it again and then it will hopefully disappear in his chaotic mind. It also means that he forgets that I was really nasty a couple of weeks ago. With my horse memory these things never go away... It means he takes life more lightly than I do which is a good balance to me who takes it a bit too seriously. He is sensitive. His sensitivity in combination with his fearlessness means that he doesn't have any problems talking about his emotions or sharing them with me. Many men I have met before him were like mussels, very reclusive and hard to really get emotionally involved with. My husband however is very open about how he feels both towards me and other people. I really appreciate that. Well, my list can probably be made longer but maybe it can work as an inspiration for you when coming up with your own list. Good Luck! Janine

knowing about his add before marrying him

My advice after being with a severely ADHD partner for 18 years is this: IF he is not in denial about his ADHD and IF he is committed to working with you AND with professionals to get help in managing it and IF he does not have the worst case of it the counselor has ever seen.... you might be able to make it, you may find enough joy with him to offset the sorrows and hardships. As you can probably read between my lines, my spouse IS in denial and IS NOT committed to doing a single thing about it and YES the professional who diagnosed his ADHD said it was about the worst case she had ever seen (to his face she said this), and I am going out the door as soon as I can get out. We are in such financial instability right now because he is so underemployed and always has been (when he was working and able to hold on to a job for any period of time), that I can't actually go yet. As I read these blog entries, I am so envious of the marriages in which the ADD partner is trying to manage things. My spouse just says to me, I am what I am, take it or leave it.....

Then he doesn't deserve your

Then he doesn't deserve your love & concern Kate. Move on seeking meaningful joy in life and he "may" realize that later in his life; but then again, he may "never". Also, I highly suggest prayer to a higher being to guide you with such transition to a better and peaceful life.

you truely deserve a medal,i

you truely deserve a medal,i cant believe you have given him 18 years and all he can say is that,id definately leave it,im just 23 and my boyfriend who is 27,has servere adhd i noticed it almost instantly but didnt know what it was,he would just spend impulsively,always be the joker even at others expence,splash out cash on people just for ther aproval,and things like throwing a strop if his hair didnt go right or find somthing to wear?he would spend hours on the computer,always distracted,never want sex that often without me suggesting it,but dispite all of this he was loving and sensitive and couldnt put my finger on what was wrong!we then moved in together and my whole life turned upside down! the sex was none exsistant,im 23 and a sexual person but would just get told he wasnt and i had to deal with it!if we had a fight he would say really nasty things,that felt almost thought out,like he was trying to hurt me,or he would walk out,drive off,firstly we would just argue about sex and when he wanted to buy things that we already had but he wanted everything shiny and new,im not at all materialistic so it was hard and stressfull for me when we had no money to do things together,but he would get rid of a perfectly good toaster,coz he wanted a new better one!i never got taken for dinner or on day trips but he would waste money on pleasing friends! i was getting really upset and depressed so asked him to go to the doctors as could see things were not right,his reactions the things he said to me,how angry he got at me,i was scared! he was diognosed quickly,put on meds and saw specalists etc but then he had a reason whenever we had a row or didnt have sex or he spent mony,he had adhd and i looked the bad one,it was then all my fault,he never had the adhd before he met me,and i had caused it,when i know is just another nasty thing he didnt mean to say(because people with adhd can get away with saying nasty things because they dont it) it still hurt! my friends and family would beg me to get out,that im young and this isnt right for me,taking all his shit,but i loved him,love him,so thought he can get better,hes trying to get help,so i cant leave him,thought what would it do to him if i left,i thought you wouldnt leave your partner if they had a obvious sickness so how can i leave! then in july i lost my nan,i lost my 2nd mum and couldnt handle it,he was at first amazing,so helpful,he did everthing so my family had little to do,he was fantastic,a few weeks on i think he got tired of the attention not being on him, and he began to turn,to shout at me,be nasty when all i wanted was to grieve,and that did it,id been able to deal with his adhd up till now,but then it got too much!so i asked him to leave,i wont go further with my story,but it gets worse,he drank and did drugs while on his meds,ended up kissing someone else,so you think that would be the end of it for me my get out claws,but no,i now have him in a state threatening suicide that he cant live without me,and he didnt know what he was doing,its such a mess,and i do i blame the adhd,not him,i actually feel sorry for him,i can walk away hurt,and have a normal relationship,and he will never,hes now gone bankrupt,has no friends and dispite what hes done i love him,but im only 23 and see him and his adhd getting worse,and im scared,i dont know what to do! and as for your spouse,walk out kate,he will fall apart without you,goodluck to everyone living and loving someone with adhd xxx


Lilly - you need to walk away from this very destructive relationship.  This man is manipulating you in every possible way.  It is not your responsibility to "fix" this man - only he can do that.  Your friends are right.  Go, find a healthy relationship and get this man OUT of your life!

Fiance with ADD

I think my fiancy has ADD. He has all the symptoms and he once mentioned it to me, that he might have it. After doing some readings in this forum, i strongly relate to alot of the problems caused by it.

The question is: How can i confront him and suggest that he gets professional help without hurting his feelings, even though he seeked professional help before and is open about this issue?

I need help around this issue.

Talking with Fiance about ADHD

The clue to your answer is held in the word "confront".  If he has sought help in the past, then there are issues that he is aware of...consider not "confronting" him, which suggests that the conversation will be adversarial, but rather talking with him about your relationship and your observations of how his behavior fits into your relationship.  Remember that you will be unable to change him - only he can change himself - but that you have the right to stand up for yourself and ask that you be treated in a certain way.  If he is treating you poorly it doesn't matter if the cause is ADHD, green hair, flat feet or anything else - he should make an effort to see how the two of you can meet in the middle.

You should have this conversation now - because if you can't have it before you are married it does not bode well for your ability to work things out after you are married.  Open communication (and respectful communication) is a must for you to succeed - ADHD or not.

My honest advice to anyone

My honest advice to anyone who is lucky enough to know in advance about an ADD diagnosis is to find some way to make peace with ending the relationship. This sounds so harsh! I'm 20 years along in a misreable marriage with two children who struggle everyday with common functioning because they've inherited their father's ADD. He can't even sympathize with his own children - he is just as impatient, distant, impulsively critical of the children as he is of me. I continue to soldier on to help the kids develop strategies for being successful as they become adults, but I fear for their marriages in the future. If I had known then what I know now, I would NEVER had married him. Regular life is hard enough. Give yourself a chance to tackle the usual level of challanges that life will inevitably hand you without ADD. Also, I have to live with our children's struggles and their future. THINK! If you had crystal ball,,,,,,

To Sad Mom

I can't say that I agree with your assessment - but if you had known about the ADHD before the marriage you could at least have had a chance to figure out how the two of you would have been able to deal with it (and whether or not you could deal with it).  Having ADHD doesn't doom you to having a bad relationship.  Not working together to figure out how you (and your family) will live with it effectively might do so, however.  As for fearing for your children's marriages - if you can make them aware of their ADHD issues, and not ashamed of them, and help them gain the tools they need to address fears, barriers, and problems that come up, then you have the greatest chance of preparing them for a healthy ADHD-affected marriage.  One in which they take responsibility for addressing their issues in an open and non-hurtful way.  Please try to make sure that they don't take away from your sadness that all ADHD marriages need to be sad - but rather that they need to be handled thoughtfully.

As for me, I cherish my ADHD spouse.  Things haven't always been smooth (but NO marriage is always smooth) but I have ended up with someone who is very special, and whose ability to think outside the norm, and think generously, has benefited me greatly.  And I treasure my ADD daughter, as well.  She doesn't do things at all as I do, and it has taken me considerably more effort to help her grow up than it has taken for my "easy" (non-ADD) child, BUT she is a real "gem" of a person whom I adore.  Will she have struggles in her life?  Sure, but I hope/think that I've given her the tools to work through them as they come up.  As a side benefit, I think that needing to help my daughter as much as I have has taught me a lot about patience and human nature than I would have learned otherwise.

Most important now, though, is that you sound as if you are in need of some additional support, as well as a tallk with your doctor about whether or not you might qualify to be treated for depression.  Please make sure that you have some good friends and family around to help you get through this period that can seem so overwhelming!  Once your kids are grown, things should calm down a bit.  If you would like, of course, we would love to hear from you here if that helps at all.  (Also, Dr. Hallowell is publishing a new book on parenting kids with ADHD called "SuperParenting" that will be released on Jan 1, 2009.  You can preorder it now at Amazon if you are interested).

Best wishes to you,


I dont know what to do now..

Well I was just searching up ADHD, and well by reading all of thees comments yours is the one that cought my attention the most. Im still young I am only 17, but I found out just a few days ago by my boyfriends mom that my boyfriend has ADHD. He never told me or mentioned anything to me about it (i think he never wanted for me to know about it). I always noticed something wierd from his reactions to certain things. Also by the way he has this compolsive dissorder for when he is to get some money, he'll run to go spend it to buy guns. (he loves guns, he likes collecting them). He has also talked to me about later in the future getting married and maybe starting a family. But now im having second thoughts about it. Dont get me wrong because, I love him. (Ive known him since we were in middle school, and had always stayed friends up untill a month ago. When he asked me out). He tells me he loves kids, but I have never seen how he really acts around kids. Me, to be honest I love kids too but I run out of patients with them quick. I can barely manage my little 4 year old nephew and my 1 year old nephew after several of hours, when I baby-sit them at times because, I start getting annoyed by their wants and needs. (and they are both normal kids). Now I can just imagine having kids with ADHD. I think I will be bouncing off the walls every single day once the kids start getting older. Now I dont know what to do/think. (please give me some advice, and illl be gladly to take it from you.)

Young Love

You need to hold off on getting married for a while - in fact I would posit at least 5 years.  Not because your boyfriend has ADD but because:

  1. He has been hiding his ADD from you.  You've known him for a long time, yet he hasn't shared this important aspect of who he is.  This means that your relationship is not yet strong enough for marriage (when you must be comfortable that you really know who you are married to.)
  2. You don't know him as well as you thought you did (see point number 1)  What else don't you know?  Why not take some time to figure it out.
  3. You are very, very young to get married.  Marriages that start at your age have a much higher incidence of divorce than those that start later
  4. What's the rush?  You don't want kids now, perhaps never. Even if you did, you have many years in which you'll be able to have kids.
  5. You are aware of his compulsion to spend whatever he earns as soon as he gets it.  How will you feel about that when he spends money on guns rather than, say food or education?  How about when he hides money from you (like he hid his ADD from you?)

Trust your second thoughts and take your time.  You have LOTS of it and marriage is a much bigger commitment than I think you may realize.  Also, get yourself onto your own path and find out who YOU are, outside of this relationship.  It will make you stronger, no matter what else happens.