Looking for Help to be a Better Husband

I found this forum last night in desperation after a huge fight my wife and I had. I really should have posted then, because with time my resolve to reach out like this wanes. It was very late though, and I had to weigh unhealthy behaviors. The reason I am posting here is that our marriage is in a very bad place, and I'm too messed up to even know how to move in a positive direction. There is so much detail to give, so instead of writing everything and never submitting, this may come in installments. I have seen the posts and responses here and there is so much overlap to our situation that I hope for some positive suggestions. I am going to try to force myself to be as honest as I can, and fight my urge to save face. This instinct is part of the problem as you will see.

We are in our late twenties and have three children. We met online platonically but became romantic almost by accident a few days into a summer visit to her house. We married in December of 2008, but had moved in together earlier in 2007. Our oldest son (R) was born that same December(Before marriage), our daughter (E) was born in June of 2010, and our youngest son (T) in February 2012. We have been busy, we married young, early, and without regard for the usual sequence of things(We planned all conceptions). Regardless of mental illness I expect the old folks would have given very slim odds on this marriage's success.

She is a former first grade teacher, and I am in IT, a datacenter engineer. Shortly before moving in with my wife I was in the last stages of failing out of college. I went for an Anthropology degree despite technical ability because my girlfriend all through college chose it. When I moved in with my wife I got a job at a temp agency doing technical troubleshooting for the employee-facing call center of a major corporation. Something about work never seemed to be tainted by my issues, and I worked my way up within the company. After a few weeks I moved to a desktop support team and was hired by the company, after another year I moved to a desktop environment infrastructure team, after two years I moved to a Unix/Linux datacenter engineering team, and I just three weeks ago left the company and effectively doubled my salary accepting a contract-to-hire Linux developer position. What I do now is very high level IT work, with the only major technical step up being systems architectural design and solutioning of best practices for the large enterprise. Did I just start bragging for no reason? I suppose so; I'm vain and contrarian. For instance I derive immature satisfaction from succeeding in spite of attempts to sabotage things. The reason I started going off about the job is that I can hold one, and am held in high regard by my managers. Something about that world is concrete and effortless, and not just the technical stuff. I can lead discussion confidently on conference calls and conference rooms. I don't naturally go there, but I believe I can be charming and very political when necessary. As I said I'm very good at painting a rosy picture and rolling with an image. These images are not inherently false. I have to admit that without the healthy structure of family life it would probably fall apart into ruin. My wife is the source of that structure. As our relationship has withered, I am less attentive to work, but can get the work done, and play the part to maintain that reputation. I work 100% from home and only go into the corporate office every once in a while, so we are all together all the time.

She left teaching a few months after R was born, and has been home with the kids since then. She's become a family photographer, gotten big into digital scrapbooking, finds amazing deals for resale, got us into cloth diapering, saves us hundreds couponing, and in general never stops working on something. She homeschools the children thus far, and probably will continue in that direction. The oldest two have both been diagnosed with autism, and our life is filled with speech sessions, ABA therapy, and doctor visits. She does all of this almost entirely by herself. T is too young (13 months) to be diagnosed, but has a 1 in 3 chance of being on the spectrum. R and E are very high functioning to the point where with dedicated therapy and work they could test as not autistic and lead normal lives. Work with R has been ongoing since he was diagnosed in Oct 2011. E's autism is seemingly milder and she has been in speech sessions. As I said, even without mental illness, there is no shortage of marital challenges.

In April 2012 we moved across the country to the house I grew up in. My parents are living out of state at the moment and it was sitting empty. We completed a short sale on the home she owned (and we lived in) before we got together because of the expense related to autism treatment. At one point we had R in daily speech therapy, and you don't want to know what that costs. We are set up in this house for the next few months at least, but have been looking at the housing market and building up a decent down payment. Fortunately any credit impact from the short sale will have no impact on the new house as my name was not on the loan.

In 2006 I was still ostensibly in school and had a complete breakdown. I was living alone in an apartment at the time, and just stopped leaving. I stayed in, killed time reading and playing video games, stopped taking care of myself almost entirely, it was bad. I moved home and started therapy with a clinical depression diagnosis. I got on Wellbutrin and stabilized out of the danger zone. I'd like to think that therapy and meds did more of the turnaround, but honestly I think it just got me stable and acceptable enough to attract my wife, and her nature as a planning pragmatist realist supplied the environment that led to some kind of productive life. I've been on Wellbutrin ever since then, and the one or two times over the years I have lapsed in taking it have been noticed.
After last summer we started to have very much more intense fights. For the first time she was seriously threatening to leave, and intentionally using words that spell the end of a relationship. In October I started going to see a psychologist for the first time since 2008, and she brought up ADHD for the first time in my therapeutic history. Depression, ADHD, and the executive functions all have significant overlap, so I really have no idea what clinical words are best to describe my neurology. After a few sessions my wife started seeing the same psychologist in her own individual sessions. This was the first time that we engaged outside help to try to resolve marital issues. I think eventually the idea was that we start having couples sessions, and having the same impartial third-party have a complete immersion into both of our viewpoints seemed like it would be helpful. I think she was making some serious effort to be more tolerant and roll with schedule changes(I have almost no ability to predict how long something will take, or plan accurately, and I often get lost in what I am doing.) With this new job we have a lapse between insurance coverage, and we have those sessions on hold because COBRA is insanely expensive. I think these sessions were doing some good, but we have not had any joint sessions to date. At the end of January I got on 30mg Vyvanse, and just this month went up to 40mg. I'm not really sure if I notice a difference. I really hope that this at a higher dose or some other medication will help. My problem isn't staying focused or jumping from thing to thing. My problem is that especially unpleasant or difficult tasks just never come to consciousness or important but uncomfortable truths or event just get put away into the realm of non-thought. It's prioritization of tasks, motivation, and goal setting. I have a hard time coming up with goals at all, and mostly just see what life brings. This attitude is a healthy response to some situations, and very unhealthy to others. Most of our life right now involves those other situations.

Our entire marriage we have seemingly had the same fight. It has only gotten into scary and dangerous territory since autism, and really only this severe since we moved, but the themes are the same. It seems like many wives on this board put up with an insane amount of crap, and I think our elevated stress level with autism severely lowers her already-substantial tolerance for my insane crap. I think being in my parent's house is an extra layer of stress that she can ill afford. I say she and not we because I don't stress. I get stressed in the sense that a massive weight builds on my shoulders, and I begin to feel the weight of my inaction and disengagement, but stressing thoughts don't whiz around in my brain. I simply turn them off. I have done this since forever, and it is a major problem. Orwell's doublethink would be doublepluseasy to master. I can stick my head in the sand and fiddle while my world burns around me. I come up for air for a reality check far too little. I am worried that this is something about me that just cannot change. I don't particularly enjoy the end result.

I am very conflict averse, and will shape reality in such a way that things are OK, and I am the good guy. Our fights consist of her yelling and screaming and me standing there silent wanting to it to be over. Since I only come up for air during these fights I come off as fake to her when I express my feeling for her and my desire to preserve our life and family. I am sincere in these moments, at least as sincere as I know how to be, but in time rationalization and non-thought returns the status-quo. When we really go the distance and she lays everything on the table I end up pretty much agreeing with her on all counts. She says she has no love for me any longer, that she cannot trust me and that I do nothing to be there for her emotionally. She thinks that I do not care about her or the children or anything really, and while I don't want that to be true, and vehemently struggle against the possibility of that being true, I cannot help but wonder if I have nothing to offer but shallow facsimiles of love.
Last night after she went to bed, I was scanning these forums and the thought of losing her and the kids left me shaking and in tears. Am I just psyching myself up to stir some proof of feeling? Is it really loss of her herself or just the role she plays? These are ugly thoughts that I would so like to dismiss, but at this point I have to confess that I know nothing about myself. I don't often lie to her with direct intent to deceive, but I tell her the lies I have told to myself. She is a strong, responsible, sexy woman, and even if I had a leg to stand on wishing she were different in this way or that, the wish list would be tiny.

The following is an average day. Kids wake up anywhere from 6:30 to 7:30, I go down with them and serve breakfast at the dining room table. My wife sleeps in a little and showers, finishing just about the time we head upstairs. She takes the kids into the playroom and I get ready for the day. I sit down at my computer in the study and work. She plays with the kids in the playroom and in the bedroom with the train table. She incorporates homeschooling lessons into this. We go down for lunch and feed the kids. Shortly after lunch on most days R's ABA therapist shows up, usually from 1:00 to 3:00. My wife and the other two kids play outside the play room while R does therapy. I try to wrap up work around 5:00, and we go downstairs to cook dinner. We eat all our meals at the dining room table, and most meals are prepared in advance and frozen. We do this thing called once a month cooking where for one day during the month my wife and I cook for several hours straight, putting meals in gallon freezer bags for every meal of the month. After dinner we head upstairs for bathtime. Bathtime usually ends around 6:00 or 6:30, and the kids play for a while before bedtime at 7:30. I usually give them the bath while my wife gets PJs together and cleans up toys and games. I read them 3-5 books before bed every night. When the kids are asleep we get in bed. She usually has the iPad and I have my work laptop. We used to watch movies a ton but since we moved she has more been browsing on the iPad and I'll browse or play a game. She usually goes to bed around 10:30 or 11:00. I've always tended to stay up late, so I do not always follow soon after. This is another source of tension. We cuddle while doing this usually but we need to interact more during this cool-down time.

As I said there are many parallels with stories I've read here, but also some things that don't track. Having read many other threads here with some crazy spousal actions I'll just clear up a few things that you might expect me to omit. There is no abuse in the relationship, either verbal or physical. My sex drive I would say is normal. In normal times we would have sex roughly 1-2 times a week. Right now its more like once a month, and I think that is a combination of not actively making babies(having to consider birth control) and of course the issues with our relationship. I don't insult my wife or kids. I pay the bills, but not with the kind of schedule she would prefer. I am more comfortable with getting some money built up on the credit cards before paying it off. I never miss a payment due date but I have no set day to pay bills. I'm more casual about it, which is something we have fought about. We have a joint account I have money sent to for her use, but impose no real restrictions on her spending. For the most part the stress of her credit card balance keeps her in check. I very rarely buy anything for myself, and most of our spending is food, dining out, or toys/clothes for the kids. We save close to half our income each month to put into a down payment on the future house. There are times when I could be playing with the kids more but don't. In recent weeks I was working on fixing my car(I've actually had to go into the office more the past few weeks and actually needed it for the first time in a very long while), or tidying up outside. On the weekends we do more intense cleaning. She typically focuses on eliminating clutter, and I focus on deeper cleaning. She does most of the laundry but I carry it down and cycle things through the machines on that trip. Every other month or so we will do a date night but we both feel like we should do more of those more often. I do not typically engage in romantic gestures, but I have learned how unwise it is to do too little for birthday, anniversary, Valentines, or Mother's Day. I'm very often a few minutes late for things, and she is very disturbed by unpunctuality. I never lose keys or phone, but she loses these things all the time (counter-intuitive).

There are other specific examples that I wanted to mention that started fights or showed my disregard for her or reality. I'll probably elaborate on those but this is enough in one sitting as it is. I appreciate the read and any commentary anyone has. I expect there will be a lot of been there done that sentiment.


Welcome.  Thank you for making an attempt to improve your relationship.  To me it sounds like there is more than ADHD going on here.  Also it seems that you do more than the average ADHD person around the house and to help with the kids.  Given that at least 2 of the kids are on the autism spectrum do you think it’s possible that you would have qualified at the same age?  That might explain some of the concerns regarding depth or validity of feelings. 

Most ADHD people tend to feel things quite deeply, but not necessarily react appropriately to the stimulus provided.  Ie, they way over-react to the seemingliest smallest thing.  Also they tend to lack social awareness to how their actions effect other people.  They will tend to discount the hurt or pain the other person experiences, either because they don’t think they would react that way themselves, or because they think their own hurt takes precedence.  And they forget about it when they are told.

It’s not really clear to me what the persistent fight you have with your wife is.  If it’s about not feeling like she’s important to you maybe you can start acknowledging what she is doing well, as she’s doing it.  Compliment her outfit.  Make some effort to comment on how you’ve noticed her as her own entity in a given day.
I recommend the book ACT with LOVE, it’s meant to strengthen relationships in general and be used as a couple, but I found value in it even though my spouse didn’t participate.  Also, since you are able to save a substantial amount of money each month, maybe it would be of value to reallocate some of those resources toward therapy.  It sounds like your wife could really use a release valve.

Being willing to make an effort is wonderful.  Good luck.

Thanks for the welcome. I

Thanks for the welcome. I think posting on a forum such as this is also a good way to keep my brain actively engaged on this issue instead of letting it fade away into the background. I definitely want to preserve our relationship. I feel doubts about the strength of feelings I have, and to the extent that I take our lives for granted, I think I just assume that being together raising the kids is how it is and could only be. Entertaining the thought of separation and visitation just feels like outlandish speculation about an impossible, unacceptable future. I am pretty sure that we would already be separated if A) We didn't have children (or perhaps had fewer), and B) She made income that could sustain her independently.

Nailing down whether this is ASD, ADHD, Depression, or something else is tricky. I have been diagnosed with Major Depression and I have confidence in that diagnosis. The therapist I started seeing in October is fairly certain of ADHD, but no formal diagnosis has been offered. I don't think the label is as relevant as addressing the issues, and we haven't really been working on defining "it". There are certainly many examples of mental health issues in our family. I doubt that either of us would have been solidly placed on the spectrum. Perhaps Aspbergers, as neither of us exhibited a speech delay and tested highly. I have no environmental "excuse" for the way I am, being privileged at every turn with no major demons in the family. My wife has an ample share of those demons, but her personality is such that she defeated those through pure strength of will. She is the only one in her closer family who I would say stands on their own two feet (With the exception of her mother, who crouches under the weight of carrying everyone else).

It is not so common for me to get resentful. I typically just put the analysis of these issues away before that happens, but when I do keep these themes in my head I often think of how much I do as compared to others. It seems like I am more engaged in the actions of running a household than even neurotypical men. I work from home, when we didn't do pre-made meals I did most of the cooking, I do most all the bathtimes, when R and E were in baby&toddler swim lessons I was the parent that got in the pool, when things get really cleaned up it is typically because I went on a cleaning rampage, the list kind of keeps going. These are all physical actions that end up in front of my face, and I think her problem with it is that I play virtually no part in the planning, goal setting, or making of judgments. I am very good at attacking what is in front of me, the active iron in the fire. I put other things away. In response to our issues I see launching into some contribution as an easy thing to wrap my mind around. Getting into the goals and plans is more ethereal, and more difficult for me to know how to go about starting. She had to push me to start looking for a job, and after many times bringing it up I finally revised my resume and posted it online. In two days I got the call about this current job and in a week I had an offer.

With regard for depth of feeling I really don't have confidence in any answer I might give you. These issues really hurt, and when we fight I feel them acutely, but the pain never seems to be enough to drive action. That is her usual perception. If I really cared about her enough I wouldn't let X or Y slip my mind. If I really loved my children the times of their appointments and getting them fed and to bed on time would not get lost. If I really loved her I would think about her at work and call her to see how her day went (I've been going into the office more with the new job to get up to speed). If I really appreciated our relationship I would volunteer to spend time as a couple more often. To most of these Ifs I have no answer. We fight. She says I don't care. I say I really do. She asks how I show it. I draw a blank and tell her I'm trying to miss less and engage more. For her there are no points for intentions. I feel like a debate team member given a ridiculous position to defend who has no argument they could possibly submit in good faith.

After re-reading I can see why the description of the persistent fight is vague. I have a really hard time remembering details of the fights. I guess my brain is trying to erase them. They center around my lack of engagement and occur usually as a result of me dropping the ball on some promise or commitment. For her plans for what one does the next day are decided on and etched in stone. For me they are more like guidelines or starting points for whatever may actually happen. She feels like she is all alone, the only one doing any work in the relationship. I don't consider her feelings or try to make her feel better, and instead try to defend my actions or positions. During the fights I feel like I need to explain the facts of what happened and that comes off as making excuses.

On Friday the kids had swim lessons at 4:30. I had thought I'd work from home but ended up having to go into the office. I fully intended to leave shortly after lunch and get home around 1:00 or 2:00. Right before lunch I screwed a server configuration up and had to work to make it right. I don't usually make mistakes like that and was totally absorbed in the work. I should have called and let her know that I was going to be late, but I didn't. I ended up leaving around 3:50 and with traffic I didn't get home until 4:15 or so. She was expecting to leave at 4:00, and waited. Eventually she left but was late and hit traffic. I called her when I left the garage downtown, and said I would just get my workout clothes on and meet her there(We have a family membership at the YMCA and when they finish swimming they go to a little daycare area and we work out together). At this point she was already pissed and told me not to come. She mentioned that she wouldn't let me come anyway and play the good daddy hero when I had already broken my promised schedule that day. She took a wrong turn somewhere and was not even close to getting there at 4:30 so she just turned around and drove home. We sniped at each other all weekend and had the blowout on Sunday night.

Her mom came to visit all last week and I used that time with reinforcements against the children to get some things done. One day I ran to drop off two dozen packages with UPS, got a badly-needed hair cut, and bought a phone to replace the old job's corporate one I had to give back. I was away for several hours and figured it would be good to come home bearing gifts. I went to Trader Joes and got some staples, fixings for guacamole, and shrimp dumplings. These latter two are favorite treats of hers. At the checkout line I saw some greeting cards so I got one for her, and as an after-thought got one for her mom. I wrote a short note in hers giving my love and saying something like she deserves a card every week for all she does. In her mom's I thanked her for all her support and active engagement with us and the kids. I brought these home and all went over well, but in that fight Sunday night she mentioned that I only got her the card to play the amazing husband card while her mother was there. As I said I have learned that major relationship days need cards, and it is true that I have almost never gotten her a card "just because". So this one was me not really caring about her and caring only for what anyone but her thought. To me there were cards in the checkout line, and as if I saw something shiny to chase down, I got out of line and went to the card aisle to get her one. The MIL's card was an after thought. These kinds of miscommunications are common, but again I can't help but think there is truth there. I really think it is probable that because her mother was in town I was spurred to be on better behavior(The southern notion of heightened alert at the presence of company), and while that thought wasn't in any of my calculations, I may have acted differently if there was no audience.

Just earlier today around 4:20 I was half working and half browsing this forum when she asked me if I could cut out early to go for a Target run. I said sure, and started to wrap things up. Bear in mind I was still browsing the forum somewhat. I was not hurrying to shut things down on the work side, or even thinking of the passage of time. I probably could have broken free of work stuff at 4:30. Come 5:00 she reminded me and I started to get the kids ready to go, but she said it was then too late and they would be hungry for dinner. I'm not really sure where those 40 minutes went. Needless to say she was upset about my delaying things. I told her we should just go and hurry back, and for me that just meant we would teleport to Target, get whatever, and teleport back. I was thinking we could make it back by 5:30 or 5:45, when in reality it would probably be 6:30, and the kids would be starving. This sounds so petty and silly when typing it out, but this sort of event happens at least twice a week. For her I'm sure it is the equivalent of water torture.

Part of what's so bewildering about all this is her temper. She burns hot and fast, and then totally cools off. I tend to brood if I haven't turned the thoughts off. So we have these fights and she'll get a phone call. When she gets off the call shes talking with me and laughing about this or that. Sometimes when all is calm and we are talking she will allude to herself yelling at me and it seems like she's joking about her Mrs. Hyde. The mad moments are pretty intense. If I actually engage and hurl answers back at her she is libel to lose control. She has smashed glasses, thrown her cell phone against the wall, and most notably ripped my work laptop out of my hands and bashed it against the floor (Total loss, had to requisition a new one). When she is in a rage she says that the calm times are just her putting up with things so as to not go crazy. I really believe that she is depressed and overall unhappy. I think there is much I could change about my actions to make that improve, but I'm not the sole driver of that mood.

It seems like whenever we talk to people they side with me. This is really dangerous because I will nurture that reality and use it to rationalize all my escaping away. They tend to see areas where she needs to work on, or consider her expectations from me too stringent. I'm not out to meet some average bar set for husbands. I really do want to meet her high standards. While this is the pot calling the kettle black, I do think she needs to work on some issues. My mother, HER mother, the therapist we both saw individually, they all interpret the circumstances with a more narrow spread of problem distribution between the two of us. Therapy started to turn into how my wife can change to be happier with the situation, given that most of what I do is not going to. I don't want to concede to that reality.

Stress is a huge part of this. When she gets a brief stress break things are better, we have fewer fights, more sex, just overall improvement. With three children so close together (plans for a 4th some time in the next few years), and autism our lives were just turned upside down. I feel really guilty for not engaging more with that. She has read a library of books and I haven't read a single one. I try to support initiatives she and the therapists are working on when interacting with the children, but in this area, I have largely checked out. Apparently for fathers of autistic children, this is the norm. Not comforting. Neither is the divorce rate. She made two friends here with autistic children and they go out for dinner and drinks occasionally. Before we moved she would go out dancing to blow off steam with her two close girlfriends every few months or so. She's very active in mommy forums and online special needs communities. Despite all this you are right, she needs more outlets. I'm going to try to get her to resume therapy. It would definitely be cheaper to pay for sessions out of pocket than pay COBRA premiums, and we may not be doing ourselves a favor waiting until mid May when my benefits kick in.

I bought ACT with Love on amazon just now. Perhaps it will keep this momentum going. Thanks for the recommendation, reviews looked very promising.

Ah this does sound more ADHD

Hello.  This does sound more like your wife is reacting to the ADHD symptoms and assigning them personal value which gives them more power than they deserve.  It sounds to me like your wife could use some more education on how pervasive ADD symptoms can be in a relationship and that they are absolutely not a personal reflection on your caring for her and the kids.  ADHD Rollercoaster, Gina Pera, is a fantastic in depth look at relationships impacted by ADHD and Melissa Orlov's book has information on that as well as ideas on how to improve things.  Meanwhile you can try to implement systems that would help you remember.  Alarms on the phone, calendar reminders, etc.  For an easy to digest DVD on the subject, you can get the PBS DVD from the library, ADD and Managing It which gives 38 tips in a funny 90 minute video.  Or there are dozens of workbooks and books that can help.


I've become convinced that joint sessions are absolutely key going forward. I know she is getting some good out of the individual sessions she has had. I think a lot of that time is not spent talking about me, which might help her in more ways than marital. She dealt with these horrible childhood events by just denying them power, and fighting through them. She literally just decided to not let them impede her goals; she is that strongly willed. I think now that she is through the breech it is time to open that box and take care of those things. With couples therapy perhaps it won't be so accusatory to address her perception of my actions. Thanks for all your comments Shelley. ACT with Love was delivered yesterday and I read the intro with much interest. I am not sure if the newly-started 40mg Vyvance is doing anything, but if I keep coming here and reading up, making it a habit, it will probably reinforce that mindfulness that is sorely lacking.

carathrace's picture

some thoughts

Hi, tmartiniv, I read your posts with much interest.  I don't mean this as an insult, but you seem to be unusually articulate, aware, honest and willing for a person with ADHD.  You've probably noticed by now that a majority of the non-ADHD spouses at this site describe situations where their ADHD spouses are quite the opposite.  You seem also to be able to own your own mistakes.  I just wanted to say that these are very good traits.  You started this thread "Looking for help to be a better husband."  Honest - Open - Willing... you have the potential for success in my opinion.

I always like what Shelley says, and almost always agree with it.  So I don't know if I'll be saying anything new here.  I really do think it's ESSENTIAL for you and your wife to be in joint counseling with someone who can help you both translate into each other's language.  If it's possible for you to find an ADHD coach who can help you with strategies to improve or work-around some of your executive dys-functions, that would be very good too.  There are a lot of good strategies in the books by Ari Tuckman, and they're written specifically for ADHD people, in short sections, so you can skip around.

My husband is a lot like you in many ways.  One thing I know for sure is that you and he don't forget things and lose track of time because you don't love your wives.  It can feel like that to us, when we've told you a million times that doing so-and-so hurts/worries/angers/frustrates us, and you do it anyway.  My hubby will ask how can he show me he loves me?  and I'll say something like "bring me flowers sometimes".  And he never brings me flowers.  So I wonder, "does he or doesn't he love me and want to show me? because I told him how!"  But I know him pretty well, I know he loves me, he just has too much noise going on in his head most of the time, and getting flowers just doesn't stick.  At this point, I think she needs a translator, a neutral party, to explain you to her, and explain her to you.

It might be helpful if you both thought hard about, wrote down, and told each other what your "bottom lines" are, your non-negotiables.  Like one of mine is, he has to go to bed the same time as I do.  (He tends to get on the computer and stay up til 3:30, not realizing that much time has passed).  I can't sleep well when he's not in bed, so I end up having a crappy night's sleep.  I think I've finally gotten my point across that I mean business on this.  So now it's up to him (and I'm helping) to come up with strategies, like setting timers that go off in another room and he has to get up & turn it off.  But there are other things that I can bend on, or not be so firm about.  ANd then he has certain bottom lines too.  So we kind of negotiate.  And we still disappoint each other.  But I know, if I can see he's trying, I'm not going to get mad at him.


I noticed the same thing reading all these threads about wives on their last nerve. My denial is not active, and because I have already been "broken-in" to therapy through depression, I guess the adversarial/denial stuff is off the table. By nature I want to make everything OK, so I am loathe to have an outburst or add fuel to any fire. It is good and bad. Sometimes I think I don't engage when I should. As a fractured person it is really problematic to engage in an argument and defend a position that really warrants defending, when the other 12 stances in that discussion are totally indefensible. I also see that while Wellbutrin is an anti-depressant, it is also indicated for many ADHD patients, so perhaps what I am right now is an unintentionally milder form. It isn't enough by itself.

No insult, thank you for the compliment. I have had 29 years of life and almost as many living with this dysfunction. I know where the road leads, and I don't want to hit rock bottom again.  I think for many of us we do have to hit rock bottom, but less stated is that you can hit rock bottom again through different delusions even if you learned lessons from the first set of issues. I used to tell myself that I could just think my way out of things, but intelligence just enables a web of rationalization that's much more intricate and imprisoning.
I have no other marriage as a frame of reference, but these problems exhibited themselves in all endeavours for the entirety of my life. I was with the same woman for the four years in college, and as I was getting to the point where I could no longer keep the academic side afloat she simply had to leave me. It was the inverse of my marriage. Our relationship was pretty good, but I seemed to be going nowhere, fiddling while my future burned. In high school with more structure I either got As or Fs, and generally I made it through as a B student relying on intelligence and the smallest amount of effort possible. I got detention for sleeping in and missing class all the time, and one Saturday I wandered off during detention. They found me in the library reading Mein Kampf. I remember I was genuinely interested in hearing the words directly from the villain himself, but I obviously chose to couple that insubordination with A) A diversion otherwise respected(Scholarship in a library), and B) A topic with excellent shock value. I would skip history class only to sit in my dorm room reading Plutarch, relishing in the deliciousness of refusing to recognize any kind of authority in deference to the very tasks that authority would love to inspire. Even as I type this I feel a tingle of pride for my arrogant, snide, ridiculous younger self. These attitudes are not sustainable, but the blaze of glory before the fall is compelling.

Until recently I feel like this behaviour presented as laziness or lack of motivation. Recently with kids and work etc, I have become aware more and more of inattention or hyper-focus. Again, the problem is having tasks come on my radar at the right time with the right priority and amount of effort. Often something my wife has asked me to do is totally gone from memory until I am reminded. Sometimes I do remember, and jump into something else that obliterates that task in my mind. Frequently I will remember and will engage in the task, but take much longer doing the task in order to do it with the utmost possible quality. I have read plenty of descriptions here about ADHD spouses taking forever to do things, and in my case it is tinkering, "researching," or attempting perfection that burns the time. Left to my own devices I would finish, but that point is several times longer than my wife could ever handle. She's more of a good enough for government work type gal.

I agree that joint counseling is going to be necessary. We might end up waiting until insurance kicks in though. I'm hoping that the psychologist we were seeing might be able to do some of that coaching, but if that is a different role then I'll seek someone out. Every time I came back from my sessions my wife would ask me how it went and whether there were any strategies offered. I would always have a hard time describing the discussion over the session, it seemed to blur in my mind. She came back from her sessions typically with a laundry list of action items that she could sink her teeth into. Reflective of our personalities I suppose.

For my wife the definition of caring is thinking about a person, and taking action with their happiness in mind. By that definition I do not show that I care about her a large portion of the time. My pathetic assertion in our fights are simply that I do care about her, but can point to very few instances where there is proof. Many of those instances are interpreted as showing off for someone else, playing the awesome husband character. This is a common theme on these forums, and that noise you talk about is not really my experience. I don't have a zillion things whizzing around in my brain as a normal condition. I have a few things, and a massive pile of topics in the void of non-thought. I can feel them there(hence the vague weight of an unthought guilt), but they don't come to the forefront enough to drive action. So I get her flowers infrequently not because I am too distracted, but because the thought is not triggered. We can talk all day about how this is ADHD(or not?), and I hope that medication might assist with shrinking the void, but at the end of the day if I never do anything to make my wife happy what is the point? To a certain extent she is totally correct that feelings mean nothing if they never impel acts of love. Can you be married to a man for 40 years just knowing (never witnessing)that he loves you? At what point does that become no functionally different than being married to a neurotypical prick? Knowing the feelings are there behind the eyes somewhere might be more comforting if your personal calculation made staying together the better option, but that is a depressing reality, and I feel for the non-ADHD spouses.

Staying up too late is one of her big peeves as well. For the longest time I didn't see the problem, because I woke up just as early, and in general seemed to require a lot less sleep than she does with more energy on waking. I sleep like a log and found out that when I don't get enough and I talk and do insane things in the middle of the night. When you have an infant and you are the one who brings him in to nurse at 3 AM that becomes a problem. The consequences are invisible. I still screw up on this one frequently, but have adjusted the magnitude of my error from 1 and 2 AM to more like midnight.

Required Reading

Just mentioning that I am most of the way through ACT with Love and it has some good things to say. I think the major takeaway for me is the concept of mindfulness as an active, prioritized state of being. There is much more bang for the buck in organizational systems that keep reminding me to be mindful than ones just set up for all the varied, specific tasks.
It is obviously not written with the ADHD dynamic in mind, and centers more around the common grudges and miscommunications all marriages fight through. The book has something to say about disengagement, but usually in the context of long marriages that have become rote. It is filled with little activities and journaling. I recognize that these things can be helpful, and I may engage in them later, but these are the sorts of things that get an automatic eye roll out of me.
I bought and just received Melissa's book today. I read the first chapter and I think this one is going to be much more targeted to our experience.

Thanks to you Shelley for pointing out ACT with Love. Even if none of the specific strategies therein are ever implemented, you planted the idea of buying books. Buying a book is similar to therapy in that the act itself helps to maintain mindfulness. Day after day it is harder to jump back to thinking everything is fine when you are posting here or reading a few chapters.

Books are good

Hello.  I agree ACT with LOVE is not all applicable to the special attributes of ADHD effected marriages, yours didn't sound so ADHD impacted in your first post.  If I'd read the second one first I would have pointed you to the top 3 ADHD relationship books; Loving Someone with Attention Deficit, ADHD Roller Coaster, Is It you, Me or Adult ADD, and Orlov's book.  The first 2 are mainly for the non ADHD spouse and are really good at explaining how pervasively ADHD permeates relationships for both the ADHD and non spouse.  Orlov's book is good at giving some real, more practical strategies.  I liked ACT because it emphasized letting go of issues that aren't deal killers, and to pick your battles, as well as the importance of remaining kind.  It seems to me your wife could benefit from those concepts.  We all can.  Melissa's seminar might be a decent choice too if your wife is willing, and you can carve out the time.  I haven't taken it, but the concept seems good.