Hi all

Having been married for 20 years, 2 teenage kids my husband has recently been diagnosed with ADHD.  This put a lifetime of experiences with him into perspective. And it has put a light on my loneliness.  Reading lots of the posts here I identify and empathize with so many experiences.  

Have had counseling and have considered my options including leaving.  I love him but I hate how he hurts me.  He has all the classic symptoms described here by many other people in posts.   The kids are aware and mostly I have protected them and taken the brunt of his moods etc.  I am at the point where I am exhausted and hurt.  He is getting counseling and taking medication and I guess we are trying to examine what is left to rebuild.  It is hard to talk to him as he gets very defensive and reactionary although it is improving.

What I want to know is how I can support and look after myself and fill the holes in heart.  

Any advice would be greatly appreciated .....

I think the first step is to

I think the first step is to control what you can most easily control. Start taking care of yourself and your teens. Most anything not in that category needs to be dropped, so that your husband can feel the reality of standing on his own. Most of us seem to need this, because the ADHD will lead us along in delusion until serious consequences act as a wake-up call. Once that point is reached then there is a window of time where we might seek out counseling and use other methods to address the problem. The hope then is that those actions are enough to keep the ADHD under our thumb, or at least mitigate the symptoms enough to have a sustainable life. So if you are propping him up to a large degree, I would stop. Also if leaving is a serious consideration I would make sure that he is absolutely crystal clear that this is a likely outcome. In my situation it took this possibility to get me to really make a concrete effort to get better. With teenage children, I would expect stepping back from the parent-child dynamic like this to be somewhat less complicated.

Before you can heal it is important to at least stop more trauma. It sounded like you are both individually in counseling, so you would probably benefit from couples therapy. If he is defensive the dialog there is much more likely to be productive. The conclusions you come to in therapy together can then be the building blocks for discussion and action at home.

I've come to think of ADHD as similar in dynamic to an auto-immune disease. It attacks those very skills and abilities that would be best used to defeat it. Difficult to totally conquer even when the person is actively trying. Damn near impossible if they are unwilling to work on it.

Good luck to you and your family.

Are you suggesting hitting bottom?

I have been in a relationship with a man who is undiagnosed but most certainly a longtime ADHD sufferer.  I feel so badly.  It is really hard to experience and now that I've stepped back so very hard to watch.  I felt so much hurt and confusion that I decided to put some physical and emotional distance between us so I could get some perspective.  I'm long distance so I just stopped going to visit him and often did not take his calls.  I also didn't tell him much about what I've been up to.  Partly to see if he noticed - which he didn't.  In hind sight it just feels like more evidence he's ADHD.  He hasn't asked to see me in 5 months.  I think if I told him this, he wouldn't believe he hasn't asked or he'd give me an ' "of course" I want to see you' response.  Like when I've said, "do you ever miss me or think about me?" and he says "Of course I do". 

So, are you suggesting that the Non-ADHD partner focus on themselves and let the ADHD partner fend for themselves so that maybe the ADHD partner hits bottom?  I am generally a supporter of the idea that people won't change their destructive or unproductive ways until they hit rock bottom - been here with friends who were constantly making bad job choices, couldn't give up alcohol, overate, etc. etc.  And I have hoped, over the last 2 years of noticing the ADHD behaviors in my man, that this might be possible with my ADHD guy.  But just like with the other people with other personal challenges, the bottom never seems to come along.  It always seems right around the corner with him and then he'll pull out of it or change his view and any introspect he might have achieved is lost again.  It seems like the world of the ADHD has no bottom because they are so very scatter-brained and don't relate cause and effect.  So, I'm not sure it's possible for an ADHDer to hit bottom like, say and alcoholic does, and then seek help.

I guess I should just keep focused on myself and let him figure things out for himself.  He has blamed me as being a distraction from a new business/renovation project he's had underway for 5+ years - I'm to blame for distracting him for the past 2 summers.  On it's face that's illogical, right?  The project lingered for 3 years before we ever started seeing each other.  And so it goes this spring/summer season so far - virtually no progress on the new business/renovation project.  I will not distract him from that.  He will see by the end of this summer or the fall that I am not the "reason" it isn't done.  Yet, he has now taken on more tasks for family members that are anything but his forte'.  We all know ADHD people have a hard time with organization.  He can't sort out his own bills (personal and business), from junk mail, newspapers and store receipts - that's how bad it is.  And he's taken on getting his elderly (Alzheimer's present) father's paperwork in order so that his father's 2012 (on extension) taxes can be completed.  This is like the blind leading the blind, almost literally.  I won't say or do anything but suggest he get the bookkeeper involved.  [And I'm a CPA - imagine my restraint!] This task alone, his father's papers, will consume such enormous amounts of his time and I doubt he will get it done in time for the taxes to be filed by the extension deadline in Oct.  I think I have to sit back and not go visit him, not distract or detract from the new business/renovation project and let him do whatever he decides with his father's papers/taxes.  If these things don't bring him to some sort of "bottom" and reckoning, I don't know what will.  And even as I write this, I doubt it will. 

Very hard to watch.  I try to stay busy with other things and people. 

But is this along the lines of what you mean by letting the ADHD partner "stand on his own"????

If rock bottom has a silver lining, it wasn't the bottom.

Hitting bottom isn't my suggestion, and actually hitting that floor is not desirable if at all possible to avoid. What I would say is do nothing to block his view of the ground rushing at him as he falls. I have hit bottom before in my life, but not in this relationship or in this phase of life. It is not something that can be said to have a silver lining. I started coming here and working on my symptoms because my wife totally convinced me of the reality of that rock floor, and of the speed at which I was plummeting towards it. For me it really was being finally and truly convinced of the potential for ruin. If there is anything ambiguous about your intentions, if anyone could say that the full scope of consequences hadn't been fully declared, then I think you should declare it. It may be that the ADHD spouse cannot or will not hear this, and in that case maybe impact can't be avoided. I know we had plenty of fights where she danced around leaving and I always rationalized it as venting anger in the moment. It was genuinely confusing because she is inclined to rage and say things she truly does not mean, and in our fights I often feel like I have to interpret which statements are bark, and which are bite. I became convinced that leaving was coming, so I got enough fear to reach out to a support structure. Having established the habit of trolling these forums keeps the dedication to betterment alive in my thoughts. Otherwise, even with therapy or coaching, it would be too easy to put away and lose focus.

As Melissa and others here constantly repeat, one cannot change their spouse. All that can be done is making your own life and attitudes whatever you can make of them, and presenting reality/your needs in crystal clear terms. That precise display of the facts gives the ADHD spouse the best information to make a decision going forward. They'll see the approaching rock, or not.

Rock Bottom Blindness

I started coming here and working on my symptoms because my wife totally convinced me of the reality of that rock floor, and of the speed at which I was plummeting towards it. For me it really was being finally and truly convinced of the potential for ruin.

I think this is key. Being very clear to an ADDer of the very real consequence of NOT doing what needs to be done.  The BOTTOM must be described and FELT and real.   My taking care that we didn't reach rock bottom over the years made him complacent. How to make the bottom real?  Let him feel the consequences.  Don't make things too nice for him..... I had been making things nice for over 30 years.  I was afraid of rock bottom, he knew I would not let us go there no matter what he did. Now I am not nice anymore even in my own thoughts and feelings and I don't like myself because things were not made nice for me and rock bottom was always a real threat in my mind.  Some ADDers do not take care of their things.  Some ADDers don't take care of their marriage or their spouse. They assume that if there is no squeaky wheel, things will just happen magically and things are fine. A "La. De. Da. I'll think about it tomorrow. Frankly, Dear, I don't give a damn." sort of thinking. This is not love or attention....this is INATTENTION....Attention Deficit.  Motivation Deficit. Caring Deficit.  Loving Deficit. 

La, da, da...

I see the "things will be fine" attitude all the time.  But I've learned it's really things will be "good enough".  I think he's so conditioned that life will only, at best, be mediocre for him, because of all the life stuff he doesn't do or doesn't do timely, that he's good with that mediocre existence.  Something as simple as renting a movie, insisting on renting it actually and watching it even though we start viewing it at 10 PM on a school night, and then only watching the first hour of it.  When I ask why not watch the rest of it, or why start it in the first place, or why don't we watch the rest of it tomorrow night, he says:  "that's enough for me".  Really, watch the first hour of a movie? Never finish it?  Refuse to watch an hour drama on TV but it's ok to watch a movie half-a_ _ed.  This stuff drives me bat crazy.  I see no logic at all.  And why fight such an illogical position on something so trivial as a movie vs. 1 hour of TV vs. anything else we could do for an hour.  I don't miss that craziness.  It's constant debates over illogical positions on stupid stuff.  Can we use the air conditioning in the car?  No, is the answer I get (as if it's a given) and then I of course ask why because it seems so silly and selfish of him and intentionally hurtful toward me (as in She wants it so I will say NO and show her who is boss here).  And then the debating ensues about when and where AC is allowed to be used, road speeds, who is in the car, temperatures, geography ( as in are we in the southern US vs. northern US in the summer), and then how high maintenance I am that I don't want to sit in a hot car sweating so he can feel he's saving the environment when in fact he doesn't want to use AC because he thinks he's saving a few pennies on gas.  Can you imagine?  I could write a check for the gas that he an his entire extended family will use in their lifetimes and we're debating the merits of AC use essentially from a pocket book perspective under cover of "the environment".  Bat crazy.  I laugh whenever I'm in someone's car and they ask me if I'm comfortable or how's the temp, or they adjust the AC.  It's not me.  Asking a person if they are comfortable in your vehicle is painfully normal.  Ok, done ranting. 

If any of the ADHDers can advise - is this "good enough" attitude your normal, kind of like the best you can hope for?  So when you achieve mediocrity, exist in non-crisis mode, you think you've really scored?  Do you come to accept that hitting it out of the park, real achievement, is so far beyond your grasp that you don't even try after a while - ever?

This post is avoidance.

I'm using posting here as a distraction from some work that I really don't want to get started, so I'll be brief-ish.

The "things will be fine" attitude is very close to home. I've always operated with the assumption that everything is going to work out in the end. Somehow. Most of the time in young life this is absolutely true. You shuck and jive, work with intense dedication to the moment and pull through on the other end. Especially if you are smart and talented, you can live this way. It works as long as everyone involved is on board with being spontaneous, and as long as logistics aren't time-critical. When you get married and have kids, this attitude breaks down completely. I think our kids can tolerate a lot more spontaneity, but I agree with my wife that it isn't the best thing for them. I think this is why a lot of us run into trouble not so much when getting married, but when having kids. You cannot fly-by-night through most of child-rearing. For most industries beyond the entry-level you cannot wing it and pull big wins. Mine has a culture of being especially friendly to that kind of work attitude, so it is a good fit for me.

The movie thing is funny. I would never watch half a movie, if I'm going to do something I'm going all in. I will sometimes suggest we watch a movie in bed after the kids go to sleep with absolutely no thought of what time it is or how late it will be at the finish. My wife will point out the time, and that's the end of that. I guess I don't usually argue against common sense, I just have no awareness of those constraints before they are mentioned. I've always had this drive to do everything well, so good enough is not really something I relate to. I either do something, and do it well, or I don't do anything. Sometimes what I think of as doing it well is inefficient or not the way my wife wanted it though.

Having said that, I completely relate to the notion of existing in non-crisis mode. The idea is that life is relatively pleasant, and rocking the boat or messing with any undercurrents risks upsetting that fragile truce. I'm successful in the working world, but have never been particularly ambitious for this reason. If we come up against new monetary constraints my wife will typically start stressing about "being poor." This leads to arguments, and eventually the pressure is enough to go out and seek a better job. Usually she has to specifically drive me to update my resume. I recently got a new job and realized that it was four or five times the rate of my career-entry job five years ago, and I think to myself that I should be more ambitious, because I actually am pretty damn successful at this stuff. I've been this way since forever. Either I master something quickly and excel beyond all others, or I disengage from it entirely.

I guess I do figure that the state of things is good enough, and perhaps partly because I have a hard time convincing myself things could be better. Since coming here I have wanted to start conversations with her, and saying those first words in the midst of peaceful silence is very very hard. Choosing to initiate what may very easily become conflict is difficult. I managed to start a conversation about intimacy a few weeks ago instead of just staying up with my thoughts, but she shot it down in a few seconds and went to bed. I don't have much of a leg to stand on there, but I suppose it's good that I am even feeling the troubled urge to engage.

I doubt there are many of us who feel like avoiding disaster is scoring. For me going there is just going to a place where I am not forced to think about uncomfortable issues. I'd love to hit it out of the park more often, and am fairly confident in my ability to do that, if only it would occur to me to try. My battle is all about getting more plugged-in so I can be more spontaneously considerate.

Ahh.. the truce of life

I have heard "go with the flow" but I think what you said resonates more understanding of what that means:  " The idea is that life is relatively pleasant, and rocking the boat or messing with any undercurrents risks upsetting that fragile truce."  This goes to an extreme that I'm expected to "go with the flow" and let every brother, mother, father, etc. relative of his (undercurrents) decide where we (operatively -- I) go, when, for how long, and where, when, and IF we eat, etc.  I can't as a self made adult let everyone else in his world decide my life path for me.  And this is a daily expectation of his.  Oh, I can opt out and I can live whatever life I want, so he says - but the implication is that I do all my own life on my own time. He won't join me, won't miss me, won't change the undercurrents one bit.  He doesn't see how me letting his family decide my every move, as I go with their flow, puts me in a position of not having my own free life to do as I choose.  I've tried to explain how this won't work. Clearly it wouldn't if you had kids, as you say.  I've tried to explain how I can't live in this go with the flow (someone's besides mine), change plans at a moments notice, total fly-by-night (seat of your pants) way of life - because I have things I have to and WANT to do!  So, his resolution is "we're" not working and he'll go on with his life without me because he just wants peace and I'm upsetting his peace and all the existing undercurrents.  It's sad because he seems very lonely to me.  But then again he's surrounded by all his family going with their flow of things - that's what he wants, apparently.  Sad to watch someone be so complacent and basically be a spectator in life.  But I'm sure he thinks I'm not laid back enough.  I think you'd have to be comatose to put up with his crazy life style.  Whether he understands the ramifications - I go away and never come back and no one nearly as loving of him will ever come again - or not, isn't really clear.  But with his la da da attitude I suspect he doesn't get it.  He's in denial - it is his main coping mechanism.  I always say: "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". And in his case, I am tired of trying to get him to drink.

Thanks for your feedback.  You had a number of threads in your posts that resonate with my situation, including:  Doesn't like to think about anything uncomfortable.  I'm not sure how one has a relationship like this.  Very confident he can do _______ fill in the blank.  But he doesn't do any of the stuff he says he is good at, wants to do in the future, has done in the past, we will do next week, today, next weekend, next month......  I'm a doer.  So when he says "I will or I want to do _____" or "we should do _____" or "we can do _____" and it doesn't happen -- it feels like lie after lie after lie to me.  He has a hard time convincing himself things could be better.  Avoids starting any real communication, or asking me anything - even whether I will come see him.  And his business is one where you can procrastinate and put things off and then pull things off at the last minute - not big wins but winning enough that the bottom hasn't fallen out of the business yet "and it never will" to hear him say it.  He believes the fire drills in his business are just how it is.  I think it is chaos and leads to him making less money now and in the long run, being stressed out all the time, and spending more time at this business than would be necessary if it were run like a real business instead of a daily, weekly fire drill routine. 

Thanks again.

Perceiving it as lying is

Perceiving it as lying is similar to how my wife reacts. To her normal brain it just doesn't compute that someone could say all these things and then "conveniently" forget all of them. After a certain number of incidents the only rational conclusion is that you are being lied to or manipulated. I always insist that this is not the case, and I never have any kind of inner monologue that deliberately tried to mislead or manipulate her.

Just this evening I was giving the kids a bath, and noticed that the tub was getting a little dirty. I got the kids out, dried them off, brushed their teeth, put on PJs and set them loose in the upstairs that is gated off. I then filled the tub up the rest of the way to cover the jets, put in some bleach, and turned on the jets to circulate through the system and get everything agitated. I'm doing this and my wife comes in angry with me for leaving the kids running amok and her all alone with it. It was so perfectly timed to not have to deal with the kids, and this happens all the time. She can only conclude that it is intentionally done so that I don't have to put up with the responsibility of taking care of the kids. To me I saw dirty tub, and my mind was thinking about dirty tub, and that was the end of it. I guess I get keyed in to many of these chores right about that time, and so always seem to be avoiding parental responsibility. She always says I could wait until the kids go to sleep and then do it, and of course this is always true. I just don't think about it, and instead tackle the thing in front of my face.

I always feel like I'm pulling myself out of the fire in IT, but no one else seems to notice because I keep getting promoted. I think I need the pressure, and once there is enough built up I can go into overdrive and work at a scary level of speed and efficiency. I do the same thing with cleaning the house. I also don't stress, so that's not a drain.

Perceived lies

Oh, heavens, you're really explaining a lot.   And it is scary. I don't know how you and your wife have gotten to the understanding you have.  I honestly don't know how she does it.  Sorry.  But I'd do it if my guy would work with me.  And you two really seem to have a lot of stuff figured out.  I can't fathom my guy giving a couple kids a bath, etc. OR cleaning the tub.  And you have a point, maybe he doesn't stress when he pulls his work out of the fire at the last minute either.  It's like my world in the fun house mirror.  It's all distorted.  And vice versa from his perspective.  

LOL! The thing with the movie

I have an ADD daughter, grandson and soon-to-be ex-husband so I feel qualified to comment on this. I've seen both of them walk into the middle of a TV show or movie I'm watching, sit and watch it for a few minutes while waiting for a ride or something, then get up and leave and never want to go back.  The worst is when they change what I'm watching, come into the middle of something they picked, then leave, making sure I can't finish the show I was watching. To me, the point is to finish the story. Who done it? Will the boy and girl get back together? Will the aliens destroy the planet? I hate that feeling of not knowing how it ended.

Maybe the problem is they have trouble restarting activities. I once asked my husband to hand me a pile of dishes he'd left on the floor, and he said he had to finish the article he was reading first or he'd have to re-read the whole article. If he took 30 seconds to hand me a pile of dishes, he would forget what he was reading. I'll bet your guy really couldn't remember what happened in the first hour of the movie, and knew you didn't want to watch the first hour again. Some ADDers have trouble focusing on one thing for as long as a movie.

It doesn't make it less frustrating but might help to understand it a bit.

The movie

Well, thanks.  I think.  He has this obsession with filling every minute of time with something.  Or so it seems.  Can't be at home without either a movie or the news.  No TV.  It is the strangest thing. Maybe he's afraid to be left only with conversation with me.  Too much pressure?  He hyper focuses on the news and a movie.  Unless its a movie like Iron Lady -- Slow moving and a bit complicated by flipping back and forth time  --- as far as I can recall from the first hour of that movie that I saw.....  You're laughing now, aren't you?   I can understand the not remembering the first half thing.  I see this linear thinking or focus a lot.  Even in a conversation I can easily confuse him and he gets confused if a movie doesn't move on a linear path through the story or involves too much plot analysis by the audience.  So our movie tastes couldn't be more different.  Sometimes we both like a movie, but he never understood the story line because it was too complicated.  Leim Niesen was in a spy movie that was pretty complicated.  He didn't get a lot of it, even though I tried to explain some while it went along, and ask him things like, was that the guy who.....?  He wasn't any help figuring things out.  But he liked the movie, go figure.  So, that's part of his handicap too.  I thought that was aptitude.  Boy, so much of his life is impacted by this ADD.


Bottom hovering

Thanks for replying.  I think I've got it.  I agree in the circumstances that hitting bottom is not desirable.  But I just don't see him pulling out of it.  But I do see a path forward for me.  Just live my life and allow changes in my future plans and goals to unfold while he wallows in his drama and refuses to join me.  It's his choice to make, as I've said numerous times....life is a choice.  He will either stay on his troubling exhausting path and probably hit bottom or hover near it forever.   Or he will lift his head up and choose to join me, reach out to me and get some help.  So sad.  So very hard to witness.  I wonder if anyone else can see his handicap.  He has friends who may get glimpses of his issues but I doubt anyone has ever taken the time and energy and caring to see what I have.  The guilt of leaving him with potentially no one in his life who really sees him and gets him, really troubles me.  But he lived like this for over 45 years before I came along.  I need to remember that but it's hard to hang my hat on this as a way to get over my guilt. 

I feel the same way.  After

I feel the same way.  After reading up on ADHD, I have had my eyes opened to my marriage.  In some ways, I am relieved that it isn't me that is losing my mind.  I realize that I have been lonely for most of my marriage, and I am lonely too.  I realize that many of my not so desireable behaviors stem from the lack of connection with my husband.  He says that he loves me, that I am his soulmate, but surely does not act that way.  Disconnected, sometimes short fuse.  He is looking for a program to get evaluated and possibly start treatment after diagnosis.  Of course, there is no appointment scheduled yet ;)

I have younger children than you do, and I also try to be the foundation of the family.  I am also exhausted and ANGRY.  I tried starting individual counseling yesterday, and she told me to "pray for him".  and "imagine yourself in his shoes".  I wanted to kick her teeth in.  I am at the point of asking for a separation, but the money situation probably won't allow that....

You certainly aren't alone....


I have found that pulling myself back a little and concentrating on me has helped.  As has refusing to clean up any messes that don't involve me or the kids.  I am not buying into what he is selling, and that helps too. 


Hang in there!



Uggh, counselors. I had one

Uggh, counselors. I had one tell me that my coping mechanism of writing my anger down instead of taking it out on my husband was a way of keeping score. He said I should tell my husband every time something bothers me or just swallow it and forgive. I didn't go back. My writing things down is incredibly healthy for me and for my husband. I'm able to get it out without further destroying his spirit. I feel better and he's none the wiser because most of my grievances are petty things that he does daily. If it's important, I have learned to write it on an index card and tape it on the wall where he'll see it. I'm glad I don't believe everything I'm told. I'm very hesitant to go to counselors. I've had two unhelpful ones already. 

Sorry to thread-jack, but I live for these forums;)