Looking for advice, preferably from someone who has happily gotten through...


Hello everyone-

I've been following this forum off and on for a few months, and it's been very helpful--at least to know I'm not alone and that so many others have had such remarkably similar experiences.
It's a bit daunting to try to summarize your relationship in a few paragraphs--I don't know how you all do it! Will try to keep as brief as possible. I'm the non-ADD spouse, my husband has ADD. We've been together about 7 years, married just over 4. No kids, 2 dogs :) He has the best heart of anyone I've ever met; I do love him, and I have no doubts about how much he loves me (he tells me all the time…but doesn’t exactly show me). But love has never been the problem.

He was diagnosed with ADD when he was a child (but stopped taking meds before high school, for some reason), and I knew this about him before we got married. I also found out early in our dating that he had some drug addiction issues in his past, but it seemed like he had them under control. About 2 years ago, we started seeing a marriage counselor--I suggested it b/c I was frustrated over our communication (lack of, but also his defensiveness and tit-for-tat approach), his financial irresponsibility, and what I considered to be an unequal division of household duties. We saw the first counselor regularly for a few months (during this time DH did go on meds, but did not try any behavioral strategies), but DH decided he didn't want to go anymore b/c we were "teaming up on him" during sessions b/c she was female (I still see her to work on my own issues). So I found a male counselor, who we went to for couples therapy and DH went to for individual sessions (but we’re no longer going b/c it was too much to fit into DH’s schedule). It seemed like we made some progress, but only temporarily--to his credit, DH does TRY to do things I've asked of him, but the trouble is that he's inconsistent about his effort. For example, if I say that I'm feeling overwhelmed b/c I take care of the dogs by myself and ask him to feed them at night, he'll feed them...for 3 days, then forget. But when I say "I need your help in feeding the dogs," he says "I do feed them" and will point to the 3 days he did, even if this a month later and he hasn't helped at all in that month. This is the tit-for-tat stuff that drives me crazy. It carries into every facet--I say I need something, and he only remembers the few times he's done that thing, not the hundreds of times he hasn't. Or I say “I just need more help around the house” and he lists everything he does. But I could go on, and that would not be keeping it brief...

He says he’s ready for kids. I say not until I feel confident that he has addressed his drinking and spending. Drinking: we had an incident last summer that made it clear his drinking was a problem, he went to AA, said he would keep going, 2 meetings later decided he didn’t need it b/c he “wasn’t as bad as those people at the meeting.” Instead, he tries to limit himself when he drinks, but it doesn’t always work—he’s gotten drunk a few times in the past couple months, all when I haven’t been around, which makes me feel like he’s not serious about it. He says “what’s the big deal? Nothing bad happened.” Spending: has gotten us into debt a few times over the years; we’re trying to pay down our last card now, but he’ll spend his bonus check on an atv or a new gun (this kills me b/c I’m naturally a saver).

All of this (and plenty of other stuff, like not finishing projects, not following up, forgetting promises...) has caused me to feel a lot of resentment, which I’m trying to move past. But I can’t move on if we’re still dealing with the same things that brought on the resentment in the first place. I am hopeful, though, that we can make it through this and come out on the other side much happier and stronger. When it comes down to it, I think that if I met him now, I would still fall in love with him. 

I would love to hear from someone who has been here and thinks it’s possible to make it work. But I am also a realist, so all advice and opinions are welcome. Thanks for reading, and let me know if any other details/specifics would help paint a clear picture.

No easy answer

Dear veg-girl,  I'm not always sure I should reply to certain postings because I have ADHD and have never lived with someone with ADHD.  But, I'm taking a chance and will try to give you a little insight from the other side.  First, I can see your husband is a good guy by the way you talk about him.  I know you love him and he loves you.  I truly understand that because my husband and I have that same love that others may not understand.  I never believed this before.  I honestly felt that my husband just stayed with me because we have been married for so long and have children together (and had 2 dogs before the children!)  But over the last three months since I've been on medication and seeing an ADHD specialist,  I have realized that he loves me more than I could have ever dreamed.  I've also realized the damage that I have caused to our marriage by not addressing my issues.  It has been our experience that marriage counseling only touched the surface of our issues.  At the time we were going, I believed that our lack of communication was the deep rooted issue we had to overcome.  I have only recently realized that my whole reality wasn't quite real and that I wasn't who I thought I was.  I kind of "woke up" and understood that the deep rooted issue was my perception of our life.  

I have never been a heavy drinker for several different reasons but can absolutely see why someone with ADHD would turn to alcohol and drugs to help them through the day.  It is very difficult for me to explain without making it sound like schizophrenia (because ADHD is no where near that) but my mind can be very loud sometimes...many things happening all at once and on top of it, it feels as if people are "throwing" tasks and ideas and feelings at me.  I can't sort them out fast enough and I become very defensive to protect myself...just as if someone was throwing a punch at me and I had to defend myself.  I know it is hard for my husband to understand because he thinks so clearly and he is able to make such concrete decisions. Anyway, getting back to the point, whenever I would drink, my mind would slow down I actually thought that I could function much better.  (Of course those around me knew different).  W don't know your husband, but, from what you write about, he is trying to medicate himself so he can feel as if he can function better.  His ADHD has distorted his perceptions and he doesn't realize that alcohol is not the medication of choice. I hear all your frustrations...no, I really hear them from my husband not just from reading what you have written.  I don't know how to help you with that but I know what we have done to try to ease the strong hold that ADHD has on our life.  

1. I truly believe you have to both be committed to your relationship.

2.  One of you has to do a lot of homework to really understand what ADHD is.  (usually it is the non-ADHD spouse,  since most of us ADHDers don't like to read much.) It is not just an attention problem or a memory problem or a defensiveness.  It is a serious disorder based not on a thought processes but a biological inability to produce certain chemicals in the brain and it can not be addressed just by counseling or lifestyle.  It has to first be addressed by the right medication.  People with diabetes aren't expected to think their way through things, right.  They take insulin because their bodies can't produce it.

3.  The ADHD spouse now has to be willing to listen and learn what ADHD is and be convinced that he/she has it and that it affects more than just him/herself.  I didn't address my ADHD when I thought it only affected me.  I only addressed it when I realized it affected my husband and my children and even my dogs (seriously).  

Unfortunately, number three seems to be the hardest step to get through.  This website really convinces me that this is the step that makes most people blog here.  But, as someone with ADHD, I believe this step has to absolutely occur before anything else can happen.  

4.  My experience has been that it is an uphill battle from here but one that can be fought and won with enough effort and the right guidance.  You really need to find a specialist in ADHD.  General practitioners can't or don't take the time to understand and work with you to find the right medications and dosages.  You need an advocate to help manage the health care world.  

My husband and I stay committed to each other but only because I've decided to be a part of the relationship and not just the recipient of it.  We probably were not ready to have kids either but were blessed by them.  Strangely enough, they are what has made me work so hard at being a better person and really caring about what people think of me.  

I'm sure you feel as if your husband has a lot of resentment towards you and you have absolutely no idea where it could have come from since you are the one that carries the relationship from day to day.  He probably does have resentment towards you and he probably does not know why so he will never admit to it.  But I'm glad you still believe that he loves you because I'm sure his love for you is very deep even if he can't show it.  

I have an advantage because I am a stay at home mom with time to see specialists and I'm able to structure my own day.  I'm not sure how you do it from week to week if you work full time.  I think that is why you need to find a specialist to help with structuring the "recovery".  It really is a restructuring of your whole life and an openness to others. 

Some people call themselves pessimists, others optimists, and others realists.  I'm really not sure that any of that matters when your dealing with ADHD or any real situation in life.  Just be you and offer what you can to your husband without loosing yourself.  You can only do so much and he has to do the rest.  

Take my opinion for what it is worth.  It is only based on only ONE experience in life.  

God Bless You Both.


Thank you

Not defined, thank you SO much for the thoughtful, honest, in-depth reply. If you don't mind my asking, what was it that made you wake up? Made you see that ADHD was affecting your family?

DH is on medication, but I don't think he's found an appropriate therapeutic dosage yet. He takes it during the week for work, but he doesn't take it on the weekends b/c he says it makes him feel jittery. So he often sleeps a lot on the weekends. I think, though, that this played a large role in why his drinking got so much worse--he was self-medicating. It's not an excuse, but it's an explanation. 

I do think he needs to find a specialist he really trusts, but I don't quite know how to bring up the topic. When we addressed ADHD with our previous counselors, it just wasn't enough, didn't go deep enough, and it left DH feeling very "at fault" a lot, which was never anyone's intention. Or he would agree to things in our sessions, then never even try to implement them in real life (like lists, reminders, charts...). I'm afraid that just mentioning finding another counselor will make him shut down. Any pearls of wisdom?

Thank you so much for your insight. 

No "a-ha" moment here

I read your response to Magic and just wanted you to know that an "a-ha" moment didn't happen for me so don't expect that from your spouse.  My husband always cautions me against the a-ha moments since with ADHD they disappear as quickly as they come.  My realization that I was affecting everyone around me came slowly...I kind of "pushed the snooze button" a lot until I couldn't ignore the alarm anymore.  Sadly, I didn't "wake-up" when I caught myself spanking my child out of anger or fighting with my parents (as an adult), or even physically and verbally abusing my husband.  Those people are much to close to me for me to separate myself from their situation.  I have to say that this website is what did it.  Reading blogs from people who live with spouses that have ADHD made me realize that my husband wasn't making things up or blaming me for things he caused.  The stories here were so similar to what my husband has been trying to tell me.  It made me trust him.  I had addressed my ADHD with medication and counseling previous to getting on this site.  It really helped me too but only when I let it.  Sometimes I would skip taking my medicine and that would lead to so many hurtful incidents that I really didn't think I caused.  All the problems I brought up at counseling like focus,  disorganization, self-esteem, marriage problems were just kind of "surface" issues with ADHD.  I never realized how deep it is ingrained in me and how it affects my perception of the world.  All those other things were just little signs that I had a much bigger problem.  

I still struggle from day to day and force myself to analyze my reactions before they occur.  It is also very difficult because right now, I have to consume myself with the fact that I have ADHD just so I remember to analyze everything.  I have to be careful not to talk about it all the time because, frankly, my husband is tired of it and doesn't really care anymore.  My extended family really does not "believe"  I have it or that it even exists.  Since it is hereditary, I have to be careful not to diagnose everyone in my family with it!  I know many of them do have it and that makes sorting out my reality quite difficult since it intertwines with many of their perceptions. The only thing that has truly made a difference on a moment to moment basis is setting the alarm for every four hours and taking my meds when it rings.  It is amazing how much remembering to take medicine can change some ones life. 

Hope he gets to that point soon for his sake and for yours,

Continuing to try to Not Be Defined by ADHD


MagicSandwich's picture

Reality Epiphany

Wow veg_girl

This sounds a lot like my ADHD father. One summer back in high school I got a good-paying job at a bookstore. Dad and I made a deal that he would help me with morning transportation because the bus didn’t run early enough to get me there on time. This was a great job. By September I would have had enough $ to buy my own car. I drew a “# of Weeks to my Wheels” infographic for the fridge showing my progress. I was sixteen. I was a good kid.

Anyway, just like you describe with the dogs – my dad was able to get me to work on time maybe 3 out of 6 days. Sometimes he would sleep in. Sometimes he would call at 8 am and ask sweetly when I needed to be at work – which was at 8 am. Sometimes he would pick me up at 7:45 and decide to make a pit stop which created a break in the routine that would cause him to forget the directions to the bookstore.  When I tried to plead my case, his answer was to insist that he “got me to work.”  If I dared point out that he “got me to work” 30 - 60 minutes late most of the time, I’d have to endure sitting in the passenger seat while he defensively ticked off a long laundry list of every special thing he had ever done for me. I get panicky and defeated remembering the sound of the engine rolling under his aggressive-yet-pitiful voice, “Who was that nice guy that taught you how to ride a bike when you were six? Huh?”

By July my dad had gotten into the habit of reciting his what-I-already-do-for-you list at me every morning - I remember not being allowed to leave the car until he had finished. By mid-August my manager at the bookstore was 100% fed up and fired me.

I think this was the summer when I really started to give up on my dad. His ADHD controlled and sabotaged everything in its path. Seriously - he lived so much of his life making power moves and playing mind games to convince himself that his reality trumped the reality of the current person he was disappointing.  In the wise words of not-defined-by-adhd, my dad never experienced a moment that his “whole reality wasn't quite real.”  Even after my mother left him. Even after his business failed. Even when his friends and associates abandoned him - the epiphany never came.

I would also like to know from people out there what it was that affected their wake up call.

My fear

Magic, yes, that's one of my biggest fears--that he'll never have that "a-ha" moment. And without that, I just don't think he'll ever be serious about or really committed to making any lasting changes. I think that when he tries to do things I ask of him, he sees only the action (like feeding the dogs)--he sees it as helping me out b/c I asked him to do something. He doesn't see the underlying need (that I need a partner I can depend on to share my life with, both responsibilities and joys). 

And ugh, I'm sorry to hear your story about your dad. It highlights another concern of mine regarding kids--it would just crush me to watch him disappoint our kids, and it would hurt even worse to watch them give up on him because of it. And I know I would carry that guilt b/c I'm choosing the father of my children, not them, but we would all have to live with the results.

Thank you for reading and responding. It helps so much to hear everyone's experiences and perspectives.

veg_girl, I wish I could give


I wish I could give you some answers.  I am living the same life.  I have been married for 18 years and have all the same issues with my husband that you have described.  We are in counseling (again) currently.  We went for a little while a few years ago and things greatly improved while we were going.  He does not remember this.  Anyway, we didn't go long enough for it to "take".  I really sometimes think my husband would just be happy if I was a robot who had no emotional needs whatsoever.  It is very frustrating.  I realize now how many of our problems stem from ADD, both his and my oldest son's.  It is also not easy at all to be the only female in this household of testosterone (two sons).  I hope you will find help through counseling and my advice is to continue to go.  My husband has yet to have an a-ha moment.  Sometimes I think he is just appeasing me by going to counseling, although I know he is just as miserable as I am with the lack of connection we have right now.  I have let many resentments build up over his lack of attention to me, unfinished household projects, etc.  Most often, if I try to tell him how I feel about anything to do with our marriage it ends up in an argument and him somehow turning it back on to me and making me feel like I have no right to expect what I do.  I think it is a way for him to escape emotional responsibility in our relationship.  I have yet to find a way to effectively communicate with him.  I stay frustrated to the point that it has begun to effect my health.  I am hoping that by continuing to see our counselor we can find some ways to improve our relationship.  We have not been going long enough yet for that to happen though.  We'll have a good day or two and then something will happen and it will be right back to square one.  I wish I could offer more hopeful advice.  I can only say that I completely empathize with you.  I could have written your opening post, other than the drug issue.  My husband's father was an alcoholic for years so he will not touch any alcohol and will rarely take medicine if he needs it.  Also, he is unwilling to date to even try to treat his ADD with medication.  This is another huge frustration to me as I think it would make his life easier to manage.  One thing my counselor is trying to help me with is setting boundaries and not letting his ADD affect me so much.  Easier said than done.  She also is trying to teach me not to expect him to not think like a non-ADD person.  That is not a reasonable expectation for me to have, no matter how frustrating it is.  I will also say that our problems increased greatly after our children were born (for many reasons).  So I greatly urge you to keep working on this if you do have to plan children with him.  It will only increase the stress of living in an ADD household.  Best of luck to you.