Is it really all our fault?

I've been reading posts here and I've found myself wondering whether there is any other neurological disorder that's so acceptable to criticize as ADD/ADHD. I am considering leaving my husband after a year of marriage due to the ongoing decay of my sense of self-worth fostered by our relationship. His attitudes are very similar to those expressed in the book "The ADHD Effect on Marriage," in that his words and actions suggest that the negative characteristics related to my ADD (forgetfulness, time management issues, procrastination), are the result of a character flaw and make me a very inadequate wife.  I've read some of the posts here and it seems that there's a lot of agreement about this. In some posts I find passing nods to ownership over some part of the issues in marriages between people with ADD/ADHD and without it, but I feel that the ownership is taken very lightly. Statements such as, "I know I'm very critical of my partner..." or, "My partner feels as if I constantly criticize and make negative statements toward him/her," followed by the word "but," suggest that criticizing and verbally attacking a partner is understandable given how poorly the partner lives up to expectations.  Yes, I have been known to drive off with the coffee still on the roof of my car. Yes, I tend to run about ten minutes late, although I am trying to correct this. Yes, when the front door lock started to malfunction it took me a month to consistently remember to first push the door in again, then pull it out, to check to see if it engaged. I have been opening and closing doors for 39 years in one way, and I don't easily learn new behaviors once a routine has set in. Yes I am sloppier than my partner and I have been known to put his keys in my pocket (just like I do with my own) after he gives them to me rather than putting them on his desk as he would prefer. I am also kind, non-judgmental about just about anything but his criticism of me, a high earner, creative, and extremely affectionate. I believe in harmony and try to go along to get along. I left a corporate  job with high prestige and salary to pursues a career in a helping profession because I wanted to do good in the world. I pay my own student loans and half of all bills and I never ask my husband for help. Nonetheless, we are in constant conflict. I once counted: he criticized me 17 times in one day. The recommended number of positive to negative interactions to maintain a healthy relationship is something like 5 positives for every 1 negative.  We're obviously nowhere close to that. My husband is not an abusive or cruel person. He's a tremendously organized, somewhat low-empathy person who values efficiency over most other qualities.  We may be an extreme, but I wonder if most people who post about their ADD/ADHD's spouse's bad qualities are so different. Do you give your spouse positive feedback to counteract the attacks you  make on his or her character? Do you have any respect for his or her good qualities? Have you wondered if maybe there's no love in your marriage not only because your spouse is disorganized, forgetful, sloppy, etc., but because no one can love someone who treats them like they're worthless? John Gottman, the most respected

I consider it an attack on my

I consider it an attack on my self-worth for my ADHD husband to refuse to get paid by his employer, thus imposing on me responsibility for all financial obligations in our family.  I can't love my husband, because his actions that concern me and our daughters convey that we are worthless.

Takes two

It takes two to tango, as they say, and of course no relationship-in-peril is the "fault" or "responsibility" of one person.  It's never that simple.

To answer you question, yes, I do believe I tried to be supportive and positive and patient with my fact he used to be grateful for my support and love.  But there were a lot of ups and downs and a lot I had to be patient and understanding about and when I started to get "too negative" because my needs weren't being met or I was scared for our future, his walls and defenses went up and right now, since he has cut me out of his life completely rather than try to look into ADHD and its effects on us, I sometimes think he must have completely erased all the times I was there for him and supported him from his memory.  Judging by his actions of "running away" on our relationship, it would probably be easier for his brain to remember only the negatives about me. 

I believe him to be a good man.  I believe in "Us".  But I can't do it alone when he has disappeared...

One ADHD mans perspective

I don't know the whole story and don't pretend to.

I can tell that from my own "relationship-in-peril" and as the one with ADHD. There comes a lot of self doubt and hopelessness. I assume that you already know that if you were trying to be supportive and patient as you stated in your post. I know that in my situation my wife has been trying for years but is at the end of her rope and I'm not making it any to easy for her right now. But that's my problem not yours. After our last fight I stayed up the rest of the night thinking and came to the disturbing conclusion that somewhere in my mind I must believe I not going to be able change and it would be better to push my wife away than to fail at yet another thing. Yet at the same time I want to save our marriage more than anything else. So maybe your BF is trying to save you from what he sees as imminent failure or he is in denial as I was for a long time.

I would also like to praise you and the other partners/spouses who have supported your loved ones in spite of our destructive ways. I just wish I would have realized what my ADHD was doing to my marriage years ago.


Jeff....yes I think it's a

Jeff....yes I think it's a little of both...denila and maybe trying to "save me" in a sense.  I know how much this man loves (loved???) me, but he was always steadfast in his refusal to change anything.  He has been abandoned his whole life (by his family and then 2 wives) and has never left anyone, so it hurts me a LOT that he just abandoned me.  But I had been telling him (or trying to...I think some of it was getting through) for a couple months that I was at the end of my rope and considering leaving even though I didn't want to.  So, a big part of me feels like he couldn't bear to deal with being "left" again (even though I never said I was and only wanted to work on things) so he didn't even give me a chance to see if I would actually end just cutting me off it may have been easier for him to take. IDK.  I'm the type who needs closure and answers on things, so this is obviously tough for me...


I hope you and your wife can start to work together on things and be supportive and understanding. 

I appreciate your comments. 

I appreciate your comments.  It's always good to hear from a person that has AD/HD.  I have been married for 11 years, have two children.  My husband just got diagnosed May of 2013.  I've been reading as much as I can and I am reading through the ADHD Effect on Marriage.  It has been very helpful to me, not only to understand more of what my husband is going through but also how my actions have contributed.  I think the posts you might be reading are not necessarily us complaining about character flaws as much as just a way for us to vent about the things that are most annoying and most hurtful about our spouses.  We are looking for ways to deal with those actions too.  And most of us say that the spouse with ADHD is not in treatment or is not being treated completely.  Which is  a huge problem.  I just  read last night in the book "The impact of ADHS sympotms is new to the non-ADHD spouse (the ADHD spouse has been aware of them even if not diagnosed-my words here), which means he or she associates these difficult new experiences with you as a person, since they started when you entered his or her life."  This is so much how I feel that I will show this to my husband one day when I think he will respond to it.  It's hard not to feel unloved when he forgets everything that involves me or the kids, but can remember his own things.  But your post is right too, I don't respect or love my husband.  He never follows through with anything, forgets everything, doesn't listen to the point that I have stopped talking to him b/c there is no point.  I wonder if I ever did love him and maybe his hyper-focus was so central to the beginning of our relationship once that ended there was nothing of substance left.  But, I am also not ready to give up.  I really do feel bad that I am not more empathetic of what he is going through.  It's very hard for me to imagine how is brain works.  I'm trying to be understanding and even a little more forgiving.  But I always come to this road block- unless he is willing to go to therapy and work on changing some of his behaviors, nothing will change. 

As far as ADHD being the only condition that it is acceptable to criticize, I don't that's true either.  It's not OK to criticize but it is hard to separate the person from their symptoms, especially when there's anger, financial irresponsibility, hurtful words blurted out, etc.   My husband  lies, and forgets, and is angry and says hurtful things.  These are all facts (even if he doesn't see it).  And it hurts, and when you are hurt every single day by the person who is supposed to love you, it's tough to see why you fell in love with him in the first place or to respect him. You said your husband criticized you 17 times in one day.  My husband (the ADD one) does that to me  and the kids in one day.  I'm sure my husband feels I criticize him a lot too, but he doesn't say it and will not talk to me about it.  I would love to have an open conversation with him (as hard as it would be for both of us to hear what the other has done that is hurtful), but he won't do that.  You seem pretty self aware of your ADHD affects you, I wish my husband was. 

I felt exactly like you... I

I felt exactly like you... I have adhd and am the wife... And my husband nit picked the sh#t out of me. Read some of my earlier posts. But my husband was verbally abusive and belittling at times... My therapist told me adhd women tend to pick controlling spouses subconsciously to keep them in line or something....

anyway- turns out my partners has adhd too (inattentive) which explains why I kept reading these posts and identifying more with the non-adhd spouse....

I am not sure what to tell you. Being picked apart constantly hurts. I know it first hand. Would your husband be open to couples therapy? Mine isn't by the way- but I wish he was!

hang in there! Maybe it's because I have adhd but I don't care about any of the little things you mentioned... But being treated with respect and left alone to do things my way (when time is not an issue and I am harming no one) do matter to me. Hugs to you!

by the way- I love that book by Gottman. 

Do things my way

"I have adhd but I don't care about any of the little things you mentioned... But being treated with respect and left alone to do things my way (when time is not an issue and I am harming no one) do matter to me."

I think there is a core issue (need, attitude, personality, whatever it is) here that explains some things to me.  Dh does not care (is not able to care, remember, take on) about working things out, having conversations, planning with, sharing life.  He wants to be left alone to do things his way.  (So he can use his coping skills to "get by" - exist in the world). 

This is exactly what is difficult with our marriage.  There is a lack of teamwork.  In his mind, there seems to be only one thing going on....his own well-being and ego. While he is coping with his overwhelm mind and his inabilities, I am left alone to take care of business, family and well-being and I am alone in life. He may feel alone in life too...I don't know...because he will not discuss anything he seems secretive and lets me to wonder "How can he get along in life so solitude?  Does he have others who he communicates with to be sociable? I don't know how he spends his day or what he does or with whom."

In a good marriage, there is the husband, the wife and there is a third entitity.....the marriage/family.  I had loved the marriage and the spouse and was willing to do ANYTHING to make it thrive for the good of the family members involved.  Dh wanted to be left alone to do things his way and didn't/couldn't see or take on the responsibilities for the well-being of the marriage and parent and spouse responsibilities.  He WANTS respect from us because he exists.  He wants respect from the people who he has ignored and betrayed. He wants everyone to leave him alone.  He tells me the most important thing to him is his sense of humor, really.  He uses his sense of humor (which I don't find funny anymore) and aggressive style of speaking to get out of being responsible.  This IS HIS WAY.  It doesn't work in a team or in a marriage.

I get that you mean "leave alone" as in not try to change a person.  But when one spouse feels betrayed and alone, trying to stuff that and put on a funny, happy, contented face is not healthy for that person or for the marriage.

Why marry if you want to be left alone and do things your way? Marriage is learning, growing and sharing together as a team.

Jenna- I understand where you

Jenna- I understand where you are coming from- but you have to realize that not every person with ADHD is like your husband. I have a husband who lectures me about how to cut a banana... This is a guy who belittles me when I suggest bringing cheese to a dinner party ('cheese! Who brings cheese? We should bring wine or flowers- but cheese? Jesus Christ! What is wrong with you!'). I also get critiques on how many pillows I sleep with, the route I take to work. He gets mad if I use the full oven instead of the toaster oven. He throws out my stuff without asking because he seems them unnecessary and then yells at me if I protest. The man does not respect me as an individual. And that is wrong.

not all people with ADHD are abusive or neglectful or unreliable. And not all non-ADHD spouses are patient and measured and reasonable. I can share my truth here- as much as anyone. So can the poster of this message. Don't take it personally. Can we not vent as well? I can see your situation is tough. And I empathize. But please let other people explore their own situations without jumping in and making hurtful comments which automatically deny our truths. 

I think marriage is about growing in the same general direction- but not being totally enmeshed. I don't have to relinquish my SELF to be in a marriage. If I prefer to cut a banana that I am going to eat lengthwise- I am not going to be berated into changing. Things like that. You have a partner who let's you take care of everything- imagine having one who wanted to bully you into doing every little thing his way- and I do mean everything. I am a grown woman  and I like who I am. I can change the things that affect others- but I have to have autonomy to be my self. 

Yes, by all means EVERYONE

Yes, by all means EVERYONE gets to vent on a forum like this.  It is a forum with some frustration and trying to understand and be heard.  Thanks for responding.  What I get to learn:  Sometimes there is just a "difference" in expectations between married people.  You and I both FEEL BELITTLED on both sides of this spectrum of expectations.  One partner feels "Why can't he accept me as I am and let me alone and respect how I want to be?"  One partner feels "Why can't he cooperate, and motivate himself and be willing to share our lives together?"  Both sides feel manipulated by the other spouse - one by ignoring and one by coercion. I suppose there are all sorts of levels of differences between spouses.  My frustration is that I have relinquished my SELF in my marriage to be a partner with someone who just wants to be left alone and do things his own way.  

Without conversation and agreement in a team environment (marriage) there are either:

1. Two islands going it alone doing their own thing (both a little lonely and very independent of each other) Dare I say there would be the possibility of some dalliance with people outside of the marriage to fill the gab of the universal need to belong?


2. One person who guards his "self," withholding and ignoring when needed to retain his strength and ego, and the other one a frustrated, weary, angry person trying anxiously too hard for the impossibility of the emotional union and togetherness they need to feel connected and secure in the trust of another who holds half the cards.


3. Two people who communicate and agree on how to make decisions, who does what, what is expected of each, cooperation and caring.

Yes, I have done it wrong with dh, obviously....losing my SELF.  We were not matched well from the beginning.  I hear you saying that no matter what you do, it is not good enough so why try?  I feel like I loved and cared and tried to communicate but all I get are lies and empty promises and useless distractions.   It is frustrating, isn't it?

Jenna- I understand you are

Jenna- I understand you are completely disappointed and let down by your marriage and your husband. I have read it here daily for years. I understand. But this negatively colors your view of every situation you read about here and you frequently respond blasting someone in situations where it wasn't warranted.

The poster here feels upset because her husband is extremely critical and she is looking for understanding or support. I wrote back in support to her to tell her that I understand. My comment about wanting to do things my way, read in context, clearly was not a general proposition for wanting to do whatever I want at all times- but you pulled it out of context and spun it off into a big thing about how this is the crux of the problem with your husband and you concluded by asking why I would even want to be married if I want to do what I want to do instaed of working as a team or something to that effect. That was offensive to me. I do want to be married. I am a good partner. Saying i want my husband to leave me alone on small points does not indicate that I shouldn't be married or that I am not a good partner. 

Anyway- I don't want to be in a conflict with you. I know you are hurting and that things have been tough. I understand that words can be misconstrued on an online forum and I do hope I have misunderstood you on this point. But I wanted to explain my perspective on this because I don't feel that you understood where I was coming from. 

Finally- I just wanted to clarify that my husband is making big improvements and, although he used to be extremely critical, now that he is addressing the adhd, I am seeing a lot of positive change. So it's actually not as frustrating as it once was. And I think having the condition myself makes me that much more understanding. Thank goodness we weren't diagnosed at the same time... :)

Jenna- I truly hope you find your SELF again, either with your husband or without. You deserve happiness and it is never to ate to make change. I wish you peace and happiness in 2014.



To me marriage is about expectations. I expected one thing and got another, and now I am having a hard time reconciling it in my marriage. If your spouse expected one thing and that is not aligned to his current realities that can be frustrating - add/adhd or not. So, irregardless of who thinks it is whose fault it has to be dealt with in some way. Sounds like your husband wants you to be someone you are not, can not or do not want to be either. If this is the case either you or your husband are going to have to make some shift in expectations to realign and feel better. 

My husband is ADD and I am the non ADD spouse. I take care of the house, the kids, our social life, community commitments, finances, and I work full time. My husband does not stay employed for long, can not keep up with housework or self care no matter how much "free" time we give him, hardly ever follows through with anything expect things for himself. To me, I feel completely unloved, disrespected, and betrayed by his behaviors. Yep, he does those little things - forgets keys, drives away with kid's lunch boxes on car etc. In any other relationship I would not think twice about those types of lapses but living with someone where nearly everything is a lapse makes all those little things just part of the bigger thing  - a self focused, unproductive, disconnected person who sucks the living life out of me.  My expectation is that he would contribute financially, domestically, and romantically. What I got is someone who barely does any of that...who cares who is at fault. It is what it is. Now, what are we going to do? 

Sounds like you have to figure out what to do too. 






I am really new to posting here, but I had some thoughts on this (and again it's long-sorry). My husband was only diagnosed 2 months ago and has not yet started any treatment involving medication and his therapist does not want to really get into CBT until he can focus, and that will likely require meds. We are waiting for his appointment with a prescriber (psychiatrist) which he delayed bc he was going through denial... He is now, thankfully, on board with treatment and is working to make things better for all of us, but it's still a struggle for all involved. That being said, my experience is only with a spouse with undiagnosed and more recently, untreated, ADHD. I knew something was wrong though, for years before the diagnosis. I could effectively communicate with a very large staff, both above and below me and with my children and friends but consistently struggled with my husband. In the last 6 months I urged my husband to see a professional, bc whatever he was battling was getting progressively worse and the more understanding, and patient I became the more he seemed to withdraw and lash out and I was done. I saw a professional too to make sure i was doing all i could. I still see the diagnosis as a blessing, not bc I want to change the person he is or lay blame to all of our problems to his actions or his condition, but because we had a starting point, finally, and it gave me the courage to keep hoping and pursuing the relationship we both deserved. Without it, I would likely be leaving him to it, to figure out his own demons while I work truly alone.  I had, years ago, given up the nagging and controlling except for things that directly affected me or my children and had separated off the things that would only impact him. This was for me, and after he pointed out that I was type A and neurotic in counseling, despite the reasoning, I could not deny it, so I addressed it. I let him be, I separated our finances so he had his money to do with what he wanted without input from me (I still took the money for bills and food and kid stuff). I really didn't care how he got from a to b as long as he got there within a deadline (that we both agreed to, but unfortunately rarely if ever met). I am advocate of removing excuses and it seemed that he was using my behavior as an excuse for the actions or in-actions that hurt me. Unfortunately, none of this helped and as he slipped further and further away he lashed out more and more. It almost seemed like he was trying to pull me down with him and it didn't start to get better until he admitted ADHD to himself and owned the diagnosis. I don't know if that was the ADHD or if it's just him, or the years of coping mechanisms he put into place. I will say it I HATE how the adhd makes him struggle and how he has had to cope to just get by, and how that impacts him, his family and me. I HATE the behaviors his untreated adhd causes just as I would HATE those things if it was caused by being bi-polar or depression or any other disorder. I also don't think it's all his fault. He was failed many many times by not just me, but others while he was growing up. I hate that! I failed him and I paid a very steep price, so I tried to change, because no matter what, I owed it to him and I had to do my part. Now it's up to him, and doing his part is not changing who he is (I actually love some of his quirks) but managing the things that impact us and make him struggle. Many adders on this board are years ahead of him the and I have to admit, I'm jealous, but it does give me hope for the future. 

No, it's not all my ADD

No, it's not all my ADD partner's fault.  Many come here mainly come here to vent, so people tend to read the negative more than the positive :) If couples are happy, they spend time with each other rather than on forums.

I come to my marriage with my own set of issues as well. It's basically two minds, two different thought processes. Yet neither one letting the other partner know enough how much they're appreciated because they both feel under-appreciated themselves. We're both trying to do the right thing in our marriage, we're never late in saying sorry. We always make up before the day is over, or at least the very next morning. We make a great team in public, and sometimes I wish that public persona translates well into the private arena too, but it's not that straightforward. The ADD as well as my Type A personality can turn on/off like a switch in private.

I think what we're possibly seeing here is a cumulative effect of the years being together and small things or small distractions and issues that add up, where the non-ADHD partner is not able to find ways of resolving the past and letting it go. Since my ADD dh has started on medication, I find I've been able to cope better in some areas of the relationship, but still not so well in other areas. I accept dh's behaviors but I find it hard to be micro-managed. He accepts my behaviors but he finds it hard to empathize. Mainly with the notion I've had mixed emotions coming to terms with what the ADD diagnosis has meant to us/me after 20 years of loving and confusion. When things are good, they are great. When things are bad, they are heartbreakingly confusing. I don't think it is possible to have one's partner really ever know your own turmoil. It's usually focused on the self.

It is a matter of really having to be selfless and less critical and "loving with detachment" (which your non-ADD partner has to do voluntarily and with practice). My ADD spouse has very definite ideas of how to mow the lawn and sometimes he takes almost 3 hours to mow 2/10ths of an acre. It used to make no sense to me but I let him do what he needs to do so that he feels he is doing a good job. I know that he has and will do a good job. I might not like he is not spending any time with the kids as he is arranging DVDs alphabetically all afternoon... but it makes him happy, so we let him do it. And then he can be happy with us when he is ready which may be another weekend, or at bedtime. What good is it for me to get mad? The kids are tired by that time anyway. I have to remind them that there are some good days spent and some good days ahead. They are not filled every weekend like their uncles and cousins, but we grab it when it comes, which is more than nothing.

Your dh needs to learn to accept that you do the locks a certain way. Unless you have a child or pet that keeps running away, or the neighborhood is unsafe, the doors should be checked at all times. If not, then I don't see a problem. If it helps him, he should check all the doors before bedtime. It does not take much but a few seconds to secure the locks and check for his keys himself. He should know he's doing it willingly and lovingly for the security of you and him, not just that it's another chore for him to clean up (which is the critical way).