Living Separately?

I have been married for 12 years to someone with ADD. I have been immensely frustrated and even verbally abusive at times. I don't like being that way. I've changed a lot, but the fact remains that my husband has a disorder and it is always going to be there. He has many great qualities, but honestly, so do a lot of other people, and they do not require such high-maintenance and nagging... I have suggested the idea that maybe we should continue to be married, but live in separate apartments. Perhaps in the same apartment building. This would suit me, because I would have my own living space and would not have to be responsible for the executive functions of his life. In turn, I think he would probably like me more, too, because he is free to do whatever he wants, he can leave things half-finished and there is noone there to be annoyed by it. But I'm not naive, and I see that this could potentially be the end of our marriage. But honestly, I'm not willing to go on in a marriage where my needs are not being met. I don't accept the usual answer to non-ADD spouses that I should just be more compassionate. I've tried that road (which is probably not evident from my writing), but now I am interested in being compassionate towards *myself* and not sacrificing any more of my life taking care of this. It's not my fault he has ADD. My question is, do you think living separately has any chance of working? Have you seen cases where this has been successful? Almost all of my issues have to do with living with him in the same household. Minor personality issues I can live with (and have a few myself). Thank you.

Living Separately

I don't have experience with people living separately and making a success of it, though that doesn't mean it can't happen.  However, if you take this route, you should have an in-depth conversation about what living separately means and, I think, a contract - perhaps drawn up with a lawyer.  You will need to address issues such as:

  • how are expenses and income divied up?
  • when, and with whom can you have sex?
  • who will be responsible for any costs associated with children (marriages, education, etc.)
  • If you have children and they are young enough to come home, who will they stay with?
  • can you just walk in to each other's apartment, or do you need to knock?
  • How will you handle holidays?
  • who has access to which bank accounts?

This is just the beginning of the list, and I think you have to be realistic and realize that one or both of you will likely want to consider being sexually active, or at least "close" to other people if you are living separately...(even if that seems unlikely right now).

If you want to pursue some of the issues around this further, consider looking into "controlled separation", which is really what you are talking about (at least from my perspective).  You can find more information on it in a book called "You Don't Have to Take It Anymore".

Melissa Orlov

Understanding the desire to live separately but stay together

I have been married for over 30 years to a severely ADD man - he currently is medicated and in treatment for both OCD and ADD - things are on a pretty even keel these days, but even though the OCD monster is at bay we deal daily with the remaining issues of a "No Where Man" I wish I could tell you a success story about living apart but staying together...I just don't know if that would work, and believe me, I've thought about it...a LOT. There are nights I cry myself to sleep because of the loneliness of being in a marriage with someone who, through absolutely no fault of his own, just isn't there. Compassion? Patience? Important words, but they fall so short of what is required, don't they? Glad you wrote

Right from when we were

Right from when we were getting to know each other my husband and I agreed that if we were ever to move forward together in relationship, whether married or not, we would not want to live in the same completely shared space, and we don't. Although we would like to live close to each other, like next door, or in a modified building with two separate untis, living together would be disaster as our domestic and household management habits are so different. We also both require our own space just to get on with our lives. In practise this means that when we are apart things go a lot better than when we spend extended time together, whether in one of our homes or on a trip. Being together for more than a few hours inevitably brings complications and - for me - loneliness. When we aren't together I get loving text messages at least, but when together there is very little genuine affection or attention coming from my darling at all. Joy to you all....
ohlookitstom's picture

Separate space, seen from the other side

Hi, and I wish you all the patience in the world in dealing with your situation, and I hope for the best for you. It's my first time back here to this site for a while... I miss the insights. I'm 'the other side of the coin' with your situation. Although not married, I was with a wonderful gal for most of 9 years, and I was the one with the ADD, and I was the one being occasionally frustrating and being verbally abused, and pleaded with, and we both tried and we both needed our own space, and we split up a few times but found ourselves back together. It finally broke for good about three years ago and we both moved on and there's been no further interactions, even though our extended families are still loosely connected here and there... I know that we tried the 'separate' arrangements a few times. I found myself lonely and faltering more with any hopes of positive direction -- I'd become more dependent on her 'help' in keeping me going in the right direction, and although she didn't seem to 'accept' my diagnosis and tended to think of me as using it as an excuse or a reason (and, I understand that) she did try a lot of things to help me. Similarly, I'd tried to make a lot of little steps to get my own self in order, or to be less frustrating for my gal. I was on a slow but deliberate course, and it seems that I was going 'too slow' for her satisfaction. And, I had a lot of little setbacks, relapses of old ways that I was intent on 'not doing that again'. Some of these changes I wanted to do might just be 'unreasonable' to have happen, but it sure seemed like the right idea to me, at that time. I would suggest this, which might 'help' your situation. And, pardon me if I missed that you're already doing this or that... - you (the non-ADDer) should definitely participate in your spouse's treatment plan, such as, some interaction with their counselor or doctor if meds are involved; read and learn what you can to improve your understanding of the frustrations you WILL see in an effort to maybe lengthen your fuse or give a little bit (I know, it's asking a lot), and, definitely and OPENLY interact, remind them about the treatment plan. Especially important is to try to help your spouse if they are starting to slip off the program, or you see a pattern that's repeating or that they're falling into that causes you to be bothered -- head it off. In my case, it was more assumed that I was doing these negative things deliberately, or that I didn't care how it made her feel... that's not how it was at all, but I admit that I did indeed DO the wrong thing at times (and, I don't know why...) but I'd give my left nut to have done it differently, to stay on track. Consider it like an addiction or a compulsion that I need some outside help with, and guess what, help is right there waiting. I less-harsh reminder might have helped me stay on track. - Communicate, as in have a regularly scheduled meeting on the subject. This might be difficult for you as you might 'assume' that all's in order, and that 'well, he said he's do this, so I expect him to do it'... we tend to forget, or overlook, or get caught up in stuff that interferes with follow through. AND, he needs to break old habits or patterns that were learned to work. I'm not suggesting that 'you're gonna change him' because you won't... but you can help HIM change himself, which is what he's trying to do -- if he is indeed following a treatment program, counseling, etc., whatever it is. He WILL HAVE SETBACKS and it eats at him probably more than it does you... I know that's how it was for me, and still is for me. I'm still trying to find my way through this minefield. Work, Jobs, Bills, family, kids... all these subjects are NOT ALLOWED at this point. You need to talk about the ADD issue you're both dealing with. I look back and think that if I'd had a 'regularly scheduled meeting' or 'private time meeting' that I knew to expect every Thursday at 7:30 PM in which we'd discuss treatments, issues that came up in the past week, and had I gotten the 'reminders and reinforcements' of little pecking problems here and there, I'll make you a bet that my relationship would have flourished, because SHE'd see that I did indeed 'care' (I was told I didn't care...) and that I was indeed trying (yes, I know, I can be very trying.... but no, wait, I was indeed trying my damndest but I just couldn't do it). - Realize that your spouse, too, is disappointed with his setbacks and occasional bad performance. If you can help him with these happening less, it will benefit both of you. - I imagine that you do indeed need some private time for yourself, too, outside of the relationship -- other friendships or support groups NOT involving this subject matter, something to steer clear of this 'problem'. I'm not suggesting 'affairs' or anything like that, but maybe something like a social group, a hobby group, exercise or sports, church or other non-intimate relationship type arrangement (you don't want to get thinking about 'replacing him' -- you already have seeds of that going for you. Something to get your mind OFF of this subject matter in some way. I'll try to summarize the intent of this all... The ADD spouse will have these issues in their way of being until they've learned the compensation skills they need to exist, and you can help with that if you choose. You can help point out those 'really hot button items' for you, and I'm sure you know that your spouse cares for you and would do anything for you... but if he can't do it for you, it's not (necessarily) a deliberate action on their part. He needs you, you've 'got his back'. You 'complete' this person with that which you bring to the relationship. OK, it's not what Hollywood might lead us to believe, and not what you might have expected (we expect what we each learned to expect -- but we all started with a different set of teachers and influences, and there is no 'common' set of rules) so you both have some 'give and take'. This is true with ADD and Non-ADD relationships... and it's work... so don't let ADD be the 'excuse' or the reason to toss it away, or to dismiss your spouse. -- Living separetely didn't work for us, long-term. We did so on two major occasions before our final end... and that was preceded by many months of living separately under one roof, sharing meals and fake smalltalk and trying to remain civil, but it just lead to her planning her exodus. Rather than 'talk' to me any more about it... and I was clueless when I got the news that she bought a house and was moving in a week, too... she chose a 'secretive' path, and that was not faithful to our relationship. Yes, I understand her reasons, but it still was a choice, the way it all went. I wish you good luck.

Insight about Trying from an ADD person

Tom - I found this really a great post...and I want to take it and turn parts of it into a blog posting so that more will be able to share your insight.

Melissa Orlov

Tom, Thank you for

Tom, Thank you for your post! I have been married for 25 years to an ADD man and you have given me inspiration that I needed to readjust my own 'tired and frustrated' way of approaching him. Thank you for that. You were very articulate and I would love to hear anymore insights you may have. May you be able to find a special someone that can work with you through these insights of yours. God bless you.


Wow Tom... that is all I can say.  You said it all so well!!  Your perspective from the other side is so right on!!  I am the one with the ADD and my marriage failed as well.  But looking back it was all for the good!  I hope your post helps people because I can't say enough how important a SUPPORTIVE and UNDERSTANDING life partner is !! THe parat where you said that the ADD spouse will have issues until they learn the compensation skills they need to exist and that the non ADD spouse can help with that "IF THEY CHOSE" (that is the key phrase) is critical to the ADD persons success!!!  Because if they DONT chose to help but continue to criticize and condemn it will lead to unhappiness and ultimate failure!  Thank you so much for being so honest and pouring your heart out like this.  You are a wonderful person!! God Bless you!!


Thank you

Thank you for sharing this, Tom. I am currently going through this as the ADHD spouse and I feel exactly like you have written it. I only wish my wife felt the same way.

Love the Quote!!!

Thank you for sharing this very relevant quote!!  ((“The feeling of love comes and goes on a whim; you can't control it. But the action of love is something you can do, regardless of how you are feeling.” ~Russ Harris, ACT with Love)))

When you have a Spouse with ADD, the ACTIONS of the non-ADD Spouse speak VOLUMES about his/her true character and the amount of REAL Love there is between you.  It is 100% true that the FEELING love comes and goes...especially after years and years in a marriage.  The newness, the "honeymoon period" goes away...but with TRUE LOVE...DEEP LOVE... the "ACTION" OF LOVE should still be there.  For example, if your non non-ADD spouse is mad at you because you have forgotten to do something again (due to your ADD) the "ACTIONS" they show toward you really SHOW you if the LOVE is there or not.  Putting you down, criticizing you, belittling and demeaning you is NOT LOVE!!!!   Saying, yes I may be frustrated that you forgot something but I still LOVE you, I still desire you, I still appreciate and respect you and am willing to stay by your side, to help you work on this....THAT IS LOVE....and will lead you BOTH to a better life.  IF THE ACTIONS SHOWN TOWARD YOU AND YOUR CONDITION ARE NOT THAT OF LOVE.....FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL LOVE YOU FOR YOU!! 

I speak of this because I KNOW!!  My Ex put me down so much, my self esteem was so low.  I am now with a wonderful person who loves and supports me and has helped me to reach new heights, to accomplish new goals and LOVES ME FOR ME 100% despite my ADD!!  I wish that for everyone.  Yes, we have up and down moments....but the LOVE is always there and always sees us through right back to that LOVE!!!  I wish love and peace to everyone in this forum.  We are all in this together.  I find such comfort knowing I am not alone in this with all of you!!  Peace & Love!!  


I found some things really

I found some things really insightful in this thread. I'm the non-ADHD spouse and my Husband was just recently diagnosed with ADHD. I'm having a very difficult time accepting that he has ADHD especially cuz I really had no idea that he had it (not a single clue) when we first met and when we got married. I tend to get angry and criticize him quite a bit, but I don't feel like that is something I'm able to fully control. I have struggled with it, but he pushes my buttons. I truly don't know if I can stick by him to save this marriage and help with his treatment. The thought of me having to do more work than the average spouse is extremely overwhelming. I'm also not a patient person by any means. I feel like I'm completely the wrong person to be in this situation and have to deal with these ADHD symptoms. Most of the time I just feel like shutting down and withdrawing from him. I don't feel like I'm in love anymore, but I do feel like I still care. The thought of us separating makes me very sad so for the time being, I am deciding to hold on and keep trying. I'd really like to get that love I used to have for him back if it's possible. I still don't feel like I have a lot of hope for our marriage though. We are beginning to see a therapist together who understands ADHD and he is going on medication so I hope that makes a difference. I suffer from severe depression and anxiety so I do feel like I have too much on my plate right now. I just don't feel like I have the energy to work harder to improve things on most days. I am sensitive to most medications so I'd rather not go on medication myself. I feel like the difficulties brought on by my Husband's ADHD are just not what I need from a spouse at all, but before we got married we didn't really have as many problems as we do now. I often think that we need to live separately as well and it might benefit us to live in separate units of a duplex.

I'm So Exhausted's picture

Get's me thinking and wondering

Isn't this exactly the same for the NON-ADHD spouse?  If you have done your best, read all the books, worked with counselor after counselor after counselor, and long for appreciation of all the support, all the willingness to keep trying, all the respect you tried to show for him as a man,  all the acceptance you have towards things he struggles with, especially time blindness, yet no amount of love can get past his behavior that attempts to turn everything around and put the responsibility on you so he really does not have to look at his own behavior?  

Yes, my "want to keep trying" fuel tank is running on empty.  Yes, I am getting weary of trying to explain myself.  It is difficult even on these forums to explain 100% of a situation.  I share a frustration and, no, there really is not name calling, and foot stamping and hostility towards my spouse.  I really need something more than feeling "stuck" that our financial situation is so precarious, it would be disastrous for both of us if I backed out.  Yes, I love him.  No, I do not want to leave him high and dry by abandoning all my support.  

It is just not about me hanging in there a bit longer.  It feels a LOT like I am being used.  And what is coming back is still his behavior that comes across as anger, and his accusations that I am punishing him.  I really am not withholding affection.  

I just honestly and truthfully have none left to give.  And truthfully am weary of trying to understand him.    Those are very difficult to say out load and admit.

All the output of this gal's love tanks are so empty.

What good would I be to anyone if I spent every inch of myself so I collapsed?  

That would not happen.  I love myself too much to allow it.  I DO INDEED take gentle care of myself.  It IS TIME to fish or cut bait.




I know this is an old post...

Tom- I dont know if you are still around in the forums - but I wanted to thank you for this post.  It has been so very helpful to me!!!!  Its very hard as the non ADHD spouse to have insight or understanding... but this... I just want you to know that it has opened my eyes about some stuff and it has really given me some hope.

I hope that you are in a very happy place and in a position to control all your symptoms.

thankyou for sharing,