It's not just the ADHD

 J.D.: "Well, if you don't mind me sayin so, he sounds like a real asshole."

THELMA: "It's okay. He is an asshole. Most of the time I just let it slide."                


So, the time has come. After a long, painful, dysfunctional relationship with my spouse of 12 years, I realized clearly and calmly that a) his ADHD has significantly affected his life and our relationship and he will not treat it or accept responsibility for it, even though he is going to lose his family b) he has something else going on besides ADHD, including anger management issues, a defensiveness that is almost pathological, he is a master of manipulation, has a violent temper, exhibits emotional and verbally abusive behavior, and has what appears to be a narcissistic personality disorder c) I am so very deeply miserable down to my soul that I have lost myself and I am not the mother or person I could be if I were not with him, and I have been hiding this from EVERYONE except on these boards and d) I am not interested in living like this or wasting one more moment of my life. When I say abusive behavior, I mean saying such gems as tearing up a gift I had just hand made for him, and when angry, telling me "I hope you die of breast cancer" and in a rage, threatening to come to my workplace and embarrass me, and making fun of and criticizing some hobby I had taken up with my friends, telling me that I was selfish and that he didn't understand me wanting to go to the movies by myself, leaving mean, nasty messages on my voicemail, calling me names (bad ones), swearing at me at a rest stop in front of people (including our children). I recently took a quiz, "Are you in an abusive relationship?" and scored 14 out of 20 affirmative. It is not just ADHD. He is an asshole. 

Seriously, though, I write this for all of us co-dependent folks out there. I just couldn't accept it--always coming back for an outcome that would be different, agonizing in fresh pain when the same thing would happen, over and over again. And then one morning, I just woke up. The only thing I regret is that I am a smart person who is pretty successful in all other areas of my life and that I put up with this ridiculous crap and acted like a kleenex, for waaay too long. I seemed to get the brunt of it: although he has always had a persecution complex with others, he is usually nice as pie and charming to most people but horrible to me (which is a sign, I have learned, of an abusive person). My kids, fortunately, are pretty great and I continue to hope that they haven't been too adversely affected by this, as I have them in counseling and feel like I have been like a single parent for years, anyway. I like my job and am good at it. And I am happy that I am walking into an attorney's office tomorrow at 1 p.m., and filing for the fastest, easiest, most final way I can amputate this person from my life. I will be poor, but I will be free. I feel like a 10,000 pound weight has been lifted off my back. 

I spent so much time trying to understand ADHD, and feeling so wounded and alone when he wouldn't try to understand me or himself any better so that we may work on our relationship, and wondering what had happened after that initial first two years. That he wouldn't "see" what his behavior was like. He kept telling me that if I would "just be nice," everything would be fine. I spent YEARS like this. 

Best of luck to everyone and thank you for all of your thoughtful words, time, and advice. I will continue to visit the site to see how everyone is doing and to remind myself of the way I was allowing myself to live. This is not a condemnation at all of those with ADHD--I am so impressed by anyone who has acknowledged that they have any kind of issue that is affecting their life, and takes steps to address it. I just didn't happen to be married to someone who was equipped to do so. Peace out. 

I think you made the right decision

It sounds like you are married to both of my husbands at once. My first husband was abusive and controlling. I finally concluded he was not going to change so I left him and finished raising my kids alone.

When I had been alone for 3 years after my younger daughter grew up, I married a sweet loving man who seemed to want nothing but to love me and spend time with me. But once we got married and the hyperfocus wore off, he became someone I don't recognize. Didn't work, didn't do any household maintenance, watched TV every hour he was awake. I finally had enough and I left him.

I can tell you you are doing the right thing. Abuse, even if caused by a condition he can't help, like ADHD, is never acceptable. You may be poor but you will be happier. Your kids will be happier too.

So you go, girl!

you go, too

You, too! I think it takes courage to be the one to leave sometimes. Best to you. 

Good for you!

Well done, now don't back out! 

My first marriage was emotionally abusive and I will tell you, I could not believe how much of a weight came off me when I moved out.  

Good luck and hang in there!


Thank you! I am not going to back out. Met with the attorney today. If I can just get through the next month or two, I am golden. I wish you the best as well. 

Thumbs up

Lynninny, let me wish you all the best for the time that is ahead of you. I've been a guest in this forum for years, first searching for advice, strategies, tools and help on how to improve my relationship with my ADHD-partner through 15 years, then in the same way that you intend to use this place - to remind myself of the way that I was allowing myself to live. It is now 2 1/2 years since we split up, after a long process of pushing through a diagnosis, arranging medication, counseling for both him and me, countless behavioral changes from my side etc. As in your case, I finally had to realize that something more than ADHD was involved, although it took years of careful nudging from my therapist (and countless ugly incidents with my ex-partner) until I was able to see that - so I definitely feel I also belong to 'us co-dependent folks out here'. Anyway, although it's been a long hard slog at times, I now feel pretty much at home in my own life, with control over my finances, great friends and family, and things I love to do. Life has become much easier in the sense that now there is never any question about where responsibility lies - if life isn't as I want it, I'm the one who needs to take action, if I want things done, I'm the one who needs to do them. That's not always pleasant either, and I get very frustrated with my own limitations at times, but feels a lot more healthy than the crazy dynamics in my relationship. But back to the point, which is something like: Hold on these calm and clear realizations you've listed above even when the guilt feelings and the lonely nights and the mountains of practical problems come, hold on to them even when working yourself out of your marriage seems to take ages and the fallout drags on for years, because that's the only way forward now that you've started to see clearly, so there's no point in getting stuck in doubts.

thank you

Thank you so much for your words. They mean a lot. I feel strong and resolute, but also scared and sad. I really appreciate hearing your story. 

barneyarff's picture

It's really hard to own up to

It's really hard to own up to your part of the bargain, especially when we live in a society where married women are "supposed" to do all the things that codependacy does, or at least it's in the same spectrum.  Once again, I have felt so caught in the fable about the two people and the donkey- it just didn't matter what I did, someone out there thought I was doing it wrong.

When you think you are dealing with a normal person, the helping is what society pushes you to do and you do it.  But then, you find out you are married to an ADDer and probably everything you've been doing has helped with the problem.  What just makes me so so angry is when the experts start pointing hairy fingers at me and screech "THIS IS ALL YOUR DOING< YOU MANIPULITIVE B"     And I want to scream.  WAIT!!!!!!  I thought being helpful was what I was supposed to do.  It's the shaming by the experts and the ADDers that has caused me most of my grief.    I have to listen about how an ADDer feels like he can't move a muscle without being shamed well!  walk a mile in my shoes.  At least the ADDers get a similar message from everyone.  I get damned no matter what.

Sorry, yes I understand about how being codependant is it's own set of problems and I,too am working through that.  Just letting things drop has been pretty easy the last couple of years.  But even after 2 years the ADDers in this house whine that I'm not doing all the things I used to.  Gawd, no one can whine like the 2 ADDers in this house.   I'm sick to death of whining.

MagicSandwich's picture

Yep. Damned if you do. Damned

Yep. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't, and damned if you try to find a third option. This is why I don't put a lot of trust into the whole co-dependency theory. It's unscientific and invalid.  I believe that many therapists take the easy way out by choosing to pathologize the significant other with the label "co-dependent" rather than straight-out deal with the ADHD partner's antics. 

I understand

Hi barneyarf and MagicSandwich,

I understand what you are saying. I am searching (and will be for a while) for an explanation for why I, a woman with a lot going for her, would put up with a spouse who has clearly, no bones about it, treated me in an abusive way for years. It was absolutely much more than ADHD and all people with ADHD are definitely not angry and abusive. The term co-dependent, to me, describes someone who becomes overly dependent on another person's behavior and responses, for affirmation, particularly when the other person is abusive or has a significant issue like alcoholism, etc. I know in my own life there was definitely an underlying belief that if I kept trying, he would change, or that if he loved me enough, he would not yell at me any more, etc. That if I took charge he would have an easier time of it and appreciate me. What I needed to do was worry more about myself and less about him. I am sure that is not the case with everyone in an ADHD relationship at all. 

Fortunately, my therapist and attorney were both pretty great this week. The lawyer looked right at me and she said, "I have been doing this for a long time. Soon, you will be looking back and wondering why you put up with this for so long." 

"I already do," I said.

"You did it because you have kids, and you wanted your marriage to work out, and you kept hoping that there was hope for him and you," she said. 

Pretty good answer. Because those things are not crazy, or co-dependent, or pathetic. They are just human. 

And now, after some info was held up for three days as I wait for him to get in touch with someone to get some legal info (ugh) and he moves like molasses, I just hope I can keep cool, boy, real cool, while this all goes down. Thanks, everyone. 

Good luck to you!


Thanks for your comments and support before (you were one of the first to reply on my first posting on this site!) and it registered....believe me.

BTW, I always get the "if you could just be nice" too...his favorite thing to say...LOL.  I haven't gotten to where you are yet...and I do stress "yet", nor am I married and do not even consider it with a personality like this at this point.....but I have gotten to a point where I am stable in my head and won't allow myself to "fall" back into loving/caring like I's sad....and I feel bad for him that I don't care like I used to, it's what I have to do to protect my heart and my emotions. 

I wish you the best tomorrow...and in life....I am sure you will thrive in a world where you wake up every day and actually get a chance to build on the good/positive experiences that happened the day before instead of always losing the momentum b/c you get bogged down trying to fix the problems of yesterday....a place I have seen I am frequenting almost every day.  You will be ok, I know it :)

Right back at you

Best wishes, right back at you, for you to thrive as well.