The Irony of ADD

My husband and I have been together for 10 years, married for 7 next month, with two small children and a puppy (because I'm crazy and thought I needed more work on my plate).  My husband was diagnosed with ADD about two years ago.  He has suffered with it undiagnosed for his whole life.  When we found out it was ADD it was the biggest relief to know that there was a reason for our conflicts and his struggles and there might actually be hope.  Two years later, he has tried multiple medications and combinations of medications.  We've tried counseling but have not been able to find a counselor who specializes in ADD, who can see us when we are available (we work alternative schedules) and who we can reasonably afford for the frequency we need to see them.  I know that counseling would help, but we just haven't been able to get it.  In the meantime, I'm doing everything to juggle all our lives.  I've been the person to make the doctor's appointment, call in and pick up the prescriptions, read all the books, contacted the various counselors to try to set up appointments.  I've had to leave work countless times when he was too overwhelmed to manage the kids.  I know he wants to work on this.  He loves me and he wants us to be happy, but the cruelest irony of ADD is that you're asking people who cannot focus or stick with something to focus and stick with working on their issues.  How does that work?  We can talk all night about a plan for making things better, but by the morning he's forgotten, or his enthusiasm for the plan is gone and he's on to something else.  I am so utterly exhausted, emotionally and physically drained, and I basically feel like I've been ripped off.  I never expected marriage to be easy, but I didn't expect this.  And I envy other relationships where the husband is mentally present, at least some of the time.  When I hear about a friend's husband doing a job for her around the house, without a fight, without him losing his patience and breaking things, or acting like a spoiled child because he doesn't want to do, I am unbelievably jealous and feel an even deeper feeling of sinking hopelessness.  I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I recently bought Melissa's book and have been reading it.  I find it fascinating, and I find it enlightening to read how he feels and what he experiences with his ADD, but I also get the very clear message that unless he is willing to make a strong, consistent effort at following the steps and finding strategies that work for him to manage his symptoms, thing will not improve.  I can't even get him to read the darn book because he's too distracted!!  IRONIC?  Yes!  "Hey hon, I need you to read this book to save our marriage", "Ok, I will when I get the chance."  I know what that means.  It means it's never going to happen.  I feel like garbage.  I feel like a horrible, awful, mean person that looks nothing like who I was 7 years ago.  I hate that my children have only ever know this version of me.  I don't know how to change it.  In my mind stopping the nagging means that I have to keep my mouth shut, which is just as unproductive as the nagging!  I feel stuck.  I know I'm willing, I know that he's willing, but he's not able.  And that's the irony of ADD. 

Last night, at the height of an argument he said to me, "I have a problem, I'm not well!  Would you treat someone who has cancer this way?"  And all I could think to say was, "Why do you think when someone who has cancer passes away that people always think that although it's sad, it's a blessing for the family too, not to have to struggle with caring for a dying person anymore.  Because it's just as hard on the families, and your ADD is just as hard on me as it is on you."

I'm road blocked.  I'm miserable.  He just emailed me to tell me how much he loves me and how sorry he is, but I feel numb, because as nice as that is to hear, it's not enough to make things better.

It sounds like you could not

It sounds like you could not be more sympathetic to his situation.  Your husband is lucky to have you.  I wish I were as lucky in my own marriage.

Melissa's book is wonderful.  May I suggest two others which compliment them wonderfully?  I'm almost finished The Dance of Anger, by Harriet Lerner, which Melissa both references and highly recommends in The ADHD Effect on Marriage.  One section which reminds me of your story (and mine) is a section on overfunctioning/underfunctioning couples.  It suggests that the more you compensate, the more he will remind you of his weaknesses, which will lead you to compensate more and him to depend on you more.  My situation is slightly different as I am being treated with meds and by a behavioral psychologist who specializes in ADHD.  I'm a teacher and like to read ANYTHING about this topic which will help me, my son, and my students.  My husband will not let go of the reins and loves (by his own admission to feel sorry for himself).   This book is going to help me channel my anger in a better direction.   If you're on this site, you know you're pissed.  You won't regret this book.  It's absolutely fascinating and illuminating.  I feel empowered already and I just started reading it on Sunday.  I've already applied some of her suggestions.  It's a classic for a reason.  It will help you control what you can control; and then let go...  My marriage, impulse control issues and my family of origin's ineffective ways of dealing with anger have been a real challenge for me and now I know what to do about it. 

The other book is Understand Your Brain, Get More Done, by Ari Tuckman.  It was the editor's choice in ADDitude magazine.  LOVE IT.  I have always wanted something this concrete.  Easy read.  It's a workbook for people with ADHD to examine their habits and patterns.  It even addresses emotional impulse control, which your husband could clearly use.

Weird Question:  Do you think if you put these books in the bathroom he might read them?

It takes us a long time to learn sometimes, but HE IS ABLE...  I've made a lot of slow but steady progress, and I'm pretty symptomatic (by "pretty,"  I mean "really, really.".  It has been so difficult and I certainly struggle daily, but I won't give up.  I keep finding new ways to deal with things and I don't care care what people think anymore.  I AM ADHD AND 'OUT OF THE CLOSET!'  The people on this site have helped me immeasurably, both the ADHDers and the non-ADHDers on this site.  I am grateful to be here, no matter the outcome of my marriage.  I can't change my husband. 

Welcome to the site!



I know exactly how you feel.

I know exactly how you feel. While hubby and I don't have kids, I felt this way at the very low of our marriage. All I heard from him was that he was going to change, that he loved me, that he didn't want a divorce, and yet there was very little action on his part. I finally got to the point where I had the presence to "pull the plug" and he freaked out. It motivated him into seeing my therapist for marriage counseling. Nine months later, we are SO much better but we'll never be like other couples. It bothers me too when I see friends on Facebook talking about how their husbands got them flowers for no reason or that they washed the dishes or cooked dinner. I will probably never have that...or will rarely have it. He has washed the dishes or cleaned up messes or what have you. Of course, I came back from a three day trip recently and he proudly told me that he "cleaned up." Wow. If that was clean, I'd hate to see dirty. OK, I have seen dirty. His apartment was a pig sty when we were dating. But yet, I chose not to say anything because I know that it would have hurt him and probably would have made him not want to even try next time around.

Getting over the "why do I have to do things differently than my friends" is part of the hurdle in all this. I recently read on another forum that we can control some of the things that upset us the most. Can you afford someone to come in and clean your house once or twice a month? How about a babysitter to fill in when your husband is overwhelmed or when you need a break? Or someone to mow the lawn? Yeah, the initial thought is why should I have to do this because of him? But then I thought, "What does it matter if it helps the stress level?"

In any case, hang in there. While it might not seem like much, his willingness to apologize and reassure you of his love is pretty big. There are some real sad stories on here where ADD spouses border of sociopathic in their disregard of their spouses and children. I don't know if you are religious but try to find someone who can counsel you. We see our counselor on Sunday afternoons because that's the only time we can get together with the crazy schedules going on. If you can't get in together, then find some time to see one for yourself. It will help in a big way. Best of luck to you.


Thanks for the feedback

Thanks for the feedback ladies.  I know that what I need most of all right now is support.  No matter what happens, knowing that others are going through the same thing is so helpful.  I stumbled upon this site only about two weeks ago, and I downloaded the free audio chapters of Melissa's book right away.  I listened to the downloads at work in my office and could not stop crying.  It was such a mixed emotion!  On the one hand, such blissful relief to know that a) I'm not alone, and b) that I'm not just some horrible witch, but that what I'm experiencing is just what other non-ADHD spouses do!  It doesn't mean the feelings I have and/or the way I react to them is right, but it is, in one way or another, justified and understandable, and fixable!  On the other hand, I also felt some extreme despair to know that so many families and marriages to suffer from the effects of this disease.  And, just as you said, it's heartbreaking to know that no matter how much we may be able to work with and improve the symptoms of ADHD, our marriages will never be without its influence. 

Yesterday, I read the article about driving, and how common an issue it is among couples with an ADHD spouse.  Boy, is it ever an issue in our house!  Thankfully, my husband doesn't particularly enjoy driving, because he usually prefers to be occupied with some hobby in the passenger seat, and he knows I hate how he drives, so when we're together, there's never a dispute about who's taking the wheel.  But, when he must drive, and for whatever reason I need to be in the passenger seat, it's a nightmare, and I try not to think about him driving around with the kids in the car when I'm at work.  Anyway, a woman had responded to Melissa's suggestion that if you can't stand the way your ADHD partner drives, that you should consider taking over that task to reduce frustrations.  This woman's response was so reminiscent of what I often think and feel, which is even greater frustration and resentment that the solutions to dealing with ADHD partner issues, is for the non-ADHD partner to take over those tasks that overwhelm or cause conflict when the ADHD spouse does them.  I so often feel like it's a choice between putting up with things like chores, just not being done, OR doing them myself.  Or, if he does do chores, I have to just accept that he'll probably do a crummy job, and that I'm not allowed to criticize it, but instead have to praise it?!  You're story about coming home and your husband had cleaned the house and was so proud of himself, is also so familiar!  On the rare, and I mean very rare, occasion that my husband takes the initiative to clean something on his own, he expects so much praise and excitement from me, and of course I'm grateful, VERY DEEP DOWN, but more often than not I'm just frustrated that I do ten times the chores every single day, and I don't get any praise!  More than that, I might come home to a "clean" kitchen, but in the 2 hours it's taken him to do it, the rest of the house looks like a bomb went off, and it's all I can see!

I love my husband, and I love our family, and I'm not ready to call it quits, but I also know that I'm losing a sense of myself and that being this miserable isn't good for anyone.  I'm always willing to keep trying, but only if he meets me half way.  I don't expect complete equality when it comes to the household responsibilities.  But I do expect that when I leave him even one simple task to do, that he might find some time during the day, when he's home Monday to Friday to get it done. 

Anyway, in yet another attempt to remind him of tasks, I've implemented a new system, as of yesterday.  I've asked him to stick with it just for the rest of the week to see if it will work.  As Melissa says, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I hope he'll stick with it.  He started a home business about six months ago, which I begrudgingly have to admit is very successful, although it consumes our lives now.  As a result, he has taken to carrying our smart phone with him like it's another limb, and the instant it goes off to alert him to a voicemail, email, or text he answers it like you wouldn't believe.  So, since our Google email is attached to phone, I used Google Calendar to schedule his days for him for the rest of the week, and I set them with alerts that will go off on the phone when he needs to do something.  I didn't want to overwhelm him, so all I put in the calendar so far were reminders to feed our new puppy every few hours, and take her out about 15 minutes after she eats to go to the bathroom.  I'm sure he'll hate me by the end of the day, but at least I know that the alarm will go off when it's time to feed the dog and take her out.  I also scheduled a half hour of chores in the morning.  Just a half hour, again, so as not to overwhelm him.  I also chose the four main chores/areas in the house the need the most regular attention and I asked him to pick just one of these each day for his half hour of cleaning.  I chose the kitchen, the bathrooms, the living room and laundry.  Then, I also made a super simple checklist for each of these tasks.  For the bathrooms, for instance, all he needs to do are four things to make the bathroom clean (enough) and to make me happy (that sounds terrible, but I hope you know what I mean by it).  1) Clear off the counters and wipe them down, 2) Wipe the mirror, 3) Empty the garbage, 4) pick up any dirty laundry off the floor.  That's it!  He could easily do this in half an hour, and it would make the bathroom clean and presentable.  I'm really, really hoping that he'll listen to the alerts and do these tasks this week.  Even though a part of me HATES that I even have to go to the trouble of setting up this systems and routines, I'm willing to do it, if there's a chance it will work!  Oh, and I just scheduled the days when HE needs to phone in his prescriptions as well, so he doesn't forget.  I can't tell you how many times he has run out of pills, and didn't tell me, or didn't think to phone in the prescription when he only had a few left.  When he misses a pill, then we're in for two day of withdrawals and his total incapacitation, not to mention unbearable grumpiness while his system gets back on track.  It is so frustrating.  I have always felt that he needs to be responsible for his own medications, if nothing else.  He's the one who takes the pills, so he should be able to see when he's running low and call for refills!  This doesn't usually happen, but I'm going to try to push this back on him.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on this new schedule venture to see if it works.  I'm highly skeptical, but we'll see. 

Thanks for the book suggestions ADHDMomof2!  I'll add them to my growing list ;).  As for your question about reading in the bathroom, I don't think he would, but I do know that he would listen to an audio book, because he does like to do that when driving himself to and from work every night, so I'm going to download Melissa's audio book for him to listen to.  He's agreed to that.  I'm hopeful that he might learn some things about my side of this struggle.  I think it's wonderful that you're educating yourself.  I think that's the best solution!  It's ironic because it seems that people with ADHD can have such incredible focus when it's something that interests them, and so with my husband the trick is to try to motivate him and interest him about something and then there's no stopping him.  Sadly, I've not yet been able to get him hooked on ADHD books and resources, that's just been me, but maybe the audio books will be the thing that makes the difference.  I thank you so much for your support and your advice.  I know as non-ADHD spouses we seem like a bunch of really pissed off, unsympathetic people, but for me anyway, I'm learning more and more about what this is like for you too, and I feel very sad for all of us that we need to struggle with this.

Dazedandconfused: you hang in there too!  I appreciate your suggestions as well!  I have considered things like hiring a cleaning service.  Again, the irony, because when I've told my husband about this, he gets embarrassed and says that he wouldn't be comfortable just sitting around while someone else cleans the house in front of him.  Um...hello?  Have we met?  That's me!  I feel like I was raised with pretty high standards for cleanliness and order, and I know that these standards were probably a little higher than normal to begin with, but I've had to make A LOT of concessions for what I'm comfortable with, and my house does not look like I would want a lot of the time, but as you say, you need to what you can to reduce the stress, and if that means that some nights I just can't do anything myself because I need downtime, then that's what I have to do.  I haven't totally written off the cleaning service yet, though.  Maybe actually having someone come in (other than me) and clean the house in front of him, would make the difference.  Maybe the shame would be motivating?