Losing hope - where did my husband go?

It is my first time posting here and it is probably too late for my marriage of nearly 20 years. My husband was just diagnosed a few months back, and has taken it incredibly hard. He won't go to couples therapy, claiming it is too expensive, yet he just spent nearly $50,000 on a remodeling project we didn't agree to do. We had been working on the ADHD marriage home course, which he only agreed to after I threatened to leave. He listened to the first couple sessions with me, but never did the homework, and then just stopped showing up to the dates we set.

We've had our ups and downs, but have had a really good life. Things started going horrifically bad this summer. I guess it started when he became obsessed with a specific graphic video he found on-line, which he wanted me to re-create in the bedroom. He basically had no interest in sex aside from this very narrow and specific act (which I was not comfortable with) and would actually just turn off in the middle of love making when he knew it wouldn’t happen - he was so fixated on it. He would also complain that I always wanted an emotional connection during sex. He broke numerous bedroom dates, and got angry when I was upset he didn't show up. For example, I would come home for our date to find out he had gone out to meet a friend for a drink instead.

About six months ago he exploded after a failed bedroom date saying that we've never been compatible in life or in the bedroom, that we have nothing in common, and he should set me free. His parents are happier with their second marriages, the house next door might be for sale so maybe he could move there to be close to the kids, etc. It was devastating. Honestly, he doesn't carry his weight around the house and isn’t exactly a picnic – I pay the bills, shop, cook, handle taxes, insurance, yard work, household projects, everything, and I have been incredibly frustrated, but never thought about divorce.

The last six months have been a painful hell as he has continued to withdraw further. He just feels emotionally dead. I admit I probably am not warm and fuzzy myself - I feel awfully wounded and guarded. He is out more than he is home, usually 15+ hours a week in the evenings, frequently coming home at 2-3am, yet when he is home sleeps the day away. And we have two kids! I confronted him about three weeks ago, sure he was having an affair. He would be on his phone constantly when he's with me - even when we went on a rare date together, but never answers my calls when he's out. He doesn't wear his wedding ring, always has his phone with him, etc.  And has not shown an interest sex for over six months.

I realize I shouldn't have done it, but I saw his phone charging while he was in the shower a couple weeks ago and I looked - discovering he set up a separate e-mail account and was exchanging graphic e-mails and photos with someone. I confronted him and he has been incredibly angry with me. He says I violated his trust by snooping, that I have ruined our marriage. That it was nothing and only a problem because I know about it. He has shown no remorse, only anger directed at me. I did ask him some questions about how it came about. He said it just happened, there was an ad for a singles dating site and he just did a trial, no big deal. Really? He created a fake e-mail address, created a fake profile, and exchanged numerous emails through a singles dating site!  He took action, it didn’t just happen.

Now he says he’ll work on the chore inequality, but not the romantic, affectionate or sexual aspect of our relationship because that is too much for him. I feel like a single mom. It is incredibly lonely. I’ve asked him to leave, but he says he won’t do that to the kids and that I’m obviously not thinking about our children. He doesn’t see that they must feel the tension and see his angry outbursts, though we don’t fight together in front of them. I have moved thousands of miles away from my family to be near his, and he is bringing in our only income since I lost my job. I feel so devastated by the loss of our family, and utterly powerless to improve our marriage. I’ve downloaded the ADHD Marriage session, bought the book, made therapy appointments he won’t go to, tried to make dates, meet him on his terms, and he has done nothing. He’s just throwing it all away. I can’t eat or sleep, can barely function. I don’t know where the man I love went, but I don’t see him in the person I’m living with. Trying to keep up a front for his family, our neighbors, our kids is so incredibly painful. I have confided in my family that we are having serious problems, and when he found out my family had a hint that anything was wrong he blew up at me saying that I was making things worse. But I need their support. I am in agony.

Throughout it all it’s nice to know there is a group of people who may be going through similar situations. Just reading the posts of others on this board has helped me to feel just a little less crazy.

I can feel your pain and

I can feel your pain and agony seep through the screen.  Ugh.  It certainly sounds like you really want your marriage to stay intact and work...despite everything that has happened.  But it seems like nothing will get better unless he is willing to work with you.  Right now he is too busy hurling blame and putting his defenses up.  You mentioned setting up therapy sessions that he won't go to...are YOU going to any therapy for yourself?  My first thought after reading your post was that this woman needs to be doing something for HER!!!  This roller coaster has taken its toll on you.  However, I would caution you against seeing a therapist who isn't well versed in adult ADHD...I was seeing one for 6 months before I began to suspect my BF had ADHD and since she wasn't knowledgeable on ADHD issues and symptoms, her advice wasn't working for someone in my shoes.

I wish you peace and hope you can continue to find support in your family...there is nothing wrong with that despite how he is making you feel about it.

Thank you

HurtButHopeful, Thank you so much for your reply and advice. Yes, without him willing to make an effort on his end, I feel my relationship tool box is pretty much empty. I have been trying to get an appointment for myself, but without luck so far. I'm waiting for several return calls, but seems this time of year is awfully busy for mental health professionals. Making sure whoever I see understands ADHD is a really important point - I had been more focused on making sure it was someone well outside our social and work circles. I really appreciate your kind words this morning. Thank you!

hugs to you, sweetie

Hi there,

It hurt reading your post, because I can feel your pain. I am so sorry you are going through this. What an awful, exhausting, heartbreaking thing...

I have adhd- and so does my husband. Mine was uncovered about 3 years ago and his was only diagnosed about 3 or 4 months ago.

While my husband has not had an affair (as far as I know), some of the behaviours you describe are similar. We have been married for 10.5 years and together for almost 13. I started dating him when I was 20 years old. I love him very much and he has amazing qualities, but in the past few years, he has changed a great deal. He always had a temper and was a bit of a curmudgeon... but he was also very thoughtful, reliable and loving. In the past 2 years and especially in the last year, he has become irritable, volatile, sensitive, depressed, selfish and unreliable.

He quit his job in June, for good reasons (toxic work environment)- and that's when things really began to unravel. He took the summer off intentionally. I was supportive of this, because he was burnt out and desperately needed rest and relaxation. I thought it was going to be this lovely family time since I was on maternity leave with our second child and our son had the summer off. I thought we would spend some quality family time together and maybe my husband and I would redistribute the chores and I might have a little mental break myself before heading back to work in November.

That is not at all what happened. The summer was a nightmare for me. My husband ran around manically trying to ensure that he had 'the summer of his life'. He basically proceeded to do whatever he wanted and to help very little with the chores. That part would have been okay if he wasn't also being verbally abusive and blocking almost all my attempts to properly parent the kids. If I asked him to do anything, he would start debating me about why it wasn't necessary and cause some big ridiculous fight. He would argue me over every little thing:

1. putting sunscreen on the baby ("it's 4 oclock and overcast!" - yeah and she is an infant with red hair whose skin has never seen the sun... and sun goes through clouds);

2. bedtime ('it's not even dark yet.' 'he's not tired- see how much energy he has!' yeah- he's 4 and it doesn't get dark until 10 right now and he's overtired, not energetic.);

3. meal times ('why does he need to sit down at the table?' ummm because we're a guest at my parents house or your parents house and that's what they expect and because we're helping establish good patterns);

4. putting life jackets on the kids ('I can just hold her on my lap. She doesn't need one'- because it's the law. it takes 2 seconds to do it.)...

5. My eticence to abandon all scheduling and just let each day unravel with no structure ('This is the summer! Why can't you loosen up? It's his summer break!' yeah but this isn't a one week holiday this is 3 months- a quarter of the year. We can't fly by the seat of our pants for a quarter of the year. Our kid likely has adhd- he needs routines and consistency.)

 After I realized that he would fight me on everything, and that it was just easier and more peaceful to do it myself, as I had been doing prior to his quitting his job, I began just doing it myself. But this also enraged him and he accused me of being controlling and always having to have thing my way. What a joke. Sorry if I'm insisting that the kids are fed, rested and safe. I'm so controlling.

In any event- over the summer- he was like Jekyll and Hyde- one day swearing at me and saying he wasn't sure he could stay with me and taking off in a fit of rage and then giving me the silent treatment for days... then swinging to the other side and saying that he loved me and the kids so much and we were everything to him. In the past year, he has brought up divorce or separation about 8 times.  This obviously broke my heart and I cried and begged and pleaded and he ended up staying. I spent the summer walking on eggshells, close to tears and ricocheting between being sad, exhausted and furious. By the end of the summer- I was so relieved to be back in my home (we had been guests at my parents and his in-laws for the majority of the summer) and have my son back in daycare where there was some semblance of a schedule.

My husband got his diagnosis in August and I felt some real hope, because it explained SO MUCH. I was very willing to be patient with progress and I know a lot about the condition and knew how much treatment had helped me. However- my husband's bad behaviour only continued to get more volatile. While the summer had been all about him maximizing his enjoyment since he was 'never going to have this time off again", the fall he earmarked for his job search. So I continued to do everything by myself (albeit with less interference from him) and he focused on looking for a job or doing whatever he wanted to do. I told him that since I was going back to work in November, that I would appreciate it if he could take the baby the odd time because I won't have any time off either once I go back and that he would have lots of time once I went back since we were putting the baby in day care at the same time. This didn't appear to register and I didn't get any breaks from him before returning to work in November.

Just before I returned to work, 7 weeks ago, we took a 5 day trip together to celebrate our 10 year anniversary (I planned it, booked it, paid for it- he did not make a single suggestion or plan). the trip started off on a  high note and he was saying how much he loves and adores me and the kids and that it was the best trip of his life. I was not able to be as enthusiastic- since he had been treating me so terribly for so many months and had been particularly cruel in the few weeks leading up to the trip. But I was open to him- we were intimate, we went for dinners and we went on some activities (biking, ziplining) together and things were going well I thought. There were no fights. On day 2 of the 5 day trip, something shifted inside him and he started freezing me out. Since we were thereand together and he was suddenly giving me the silent treatment, I pushed on this a bit and he basically snapped and said that I am cold and unimaginative in the bedroom and treat him more like a friend than a husband and that I broke his heart on the trip (the day before he was saying it was the trip of hs life). He told me that our marriage has been dead for years, that I don't love him, that he feels in his soul that he needs to move on, that I can keep the kids and that we'll all be better off without him. He told me he was going to contact a divorce attorney and that he was just doing what he knows I want anyway. That was his bottom.

In the past 6 months on the other occasions where he had done this, I had begged him to stay, etc... mostly because I love him and eep down I know he's a good person and I know he is going through something and I want to be there for him. And Moreover- he is a great dad and is very close with the children and the idea of our family splitting up and the pain it would cause all of us, particularly the kids- is unimaginable. I was always ready to subvert my feelings for the sake of the kids.  But this time, I had hit my limit. The volatility he is displaying is harmful to our children and our almost-5 year old had begun acting out in various ways that indicated to me that this was deeply affecting him.

I told my husband that I loved him, that he was mistaken about my desires, but that I was done chasing him down and begging and pleading with him to stay. I told him that it was his choice and that if he decided to leave, I would work with him to make sure the kids were taken care of and that they see both of us. I told him that I would be incredibly sad and disappointed if he chose to break up the family but that my goal and respnsibilityo is to take care of the kids and that I will do that. I said this calmly. I didn't cry. And in my heart and mind I felt calm and resolute (although heartbroken). I told him- I love you and I believe your ADHD and depression are clouding your vision here. I don't think decisions of this magnitude can be made quickly like this and when you haven't even entertained counseling (which I have suggested several times- either independently or couples). He screamed at me that therapy is not his thing and some people are just not a fit and we've never been a fit... that everything in his life aside from me is good... that it's my fault he quit his job and my fault he hasn't found a new one... and that he would take a bullet for his kids- so how dare I insinuate that he should go to therapy for his kids, if not himself.

I just absorbed all the blows and stayed silent. Later that night- he came to me,  and said he'd like to try staying together. I told him that I was happy he decided that and that I really love him. I told him that I will continue to be there for him and that as long as he wants to be with me and work on it- I will. However, I told him that I am protecting the kids and that if he ever tells my son he is leaving or packs a bag or anything that causes my son to think he is leaving- that he would have to leave (not forever) because I won't have my son all confused and I won't have him enduring the back and forth that I am dealing with.

Since then, things have been improving. He has been in individual counselling, is taking his meds and appears to be making lots of efforts in lots of areas. I went back to work last month and that has helped a lot since we aren't in the house together a lot. And with my kids both back in day care, he is free to do whatever he wants for his job search. We still have awful days and moments- but there is also some fun light moments and there is less escalation on his part over tiny things. I still do most of the housework, despite being back working full time and him being unemployed- but I don't care so much about that as long as there is peace and he is starting to feel better and treating me better. I am prepared to be patient- because I know that it takes some time to unravel some of this stuff. that isn't to say that I have deep trust. I was very hurt by his behaviour and I still think back on that stuff frequently (it was only a few months ago). He is frustrated that I have trust issues and can't just listen to all his warm words now. He also denies saying a lot of the stuff he said. I just leave it.

All this background  is to say that your husband's pushing you away suddenly is extremely familiar to me. And I understand your heartbreak over this. My best advice is to try to take the emotions out of your response to him. Realize deep in your heart that only he can decide to stay. You can't hold it together on your own. If you are strong and firm and put the kids first, that might cause him to look at his behavior differently. Even if not- it's what you need to do to take care of yourself and the kids.

Big hugs to you. I know how devastating this is and how much you ache for your children most of all- and your self. But get a little fire in your gut. you are not his whipping boy and if he thinks this behavior will fly- he better think again. Determine your bottom line (in your heart). don't deliver an ultimatum to him- but just know where your line is inside yourself. At some point, you may have to walk away... not necessarily forever- but this might be a time where he needs to feel and experience the devastation on his own. Not much will change for you (since you already do all the care and can't rely on him), but he might find that his world is decimated.

Take good care of yourself. This man is behaving reprehensibly. I don't care if he has a disorder or not. This behavior is appalling. You are amazing and strong and brave to hold it together for those kids. You do what you have to do Mama bear. Lots of support and warm wishes your way!



One more thing- I too felt

One more thing-

I too felt totally isolated by this experience and I eventually told my family. They had seen a lot of it in the summer. It helped me a tremendous amoutn to have their support.  Find someone you can talk to and don't listen to your husband's comments about that making things worse. He is the one who has made things worse. He is the one seeking out other women. He is the one who is threatening to leave and creating all this pain in you. He is the one who has disregarded his children's safe and secure home. No one wants to go air their dirty laundryand it feels like a betrayal to tell others what we endure- but your know what? You have needs too. You are important. You need to survive. You obviously can't get support from him. And you need support. Seek it out. Pick someone you trust to reserve judgment and to not spread anything around. And find a counsellor. I LOVE my psychiatrist. Without his support and good counsel over the past year- I am not sure where my life would be at. I would either be depressed or my marriage would be over. Instead- we are trying to repair things and I feel really strong and confident in myself. You need to try to get to that point. I know it's hard. But don't get sucked into your husband's drama. He has serious issues- midlife crisis type issues... and lots of it has nothing to do with you.

Big hugs sweetie.

Thank you, smilingagain!

Smilingagain, Oh my, you sure do understand. That sounds incredibly difficult and familiar, and makes me a little hopeful you have made some progress with your situation! I hope it continues to improve.

I can relate to so many of the things you have experienced. My husband is home EVERY summer and it is incredibly challenging on so many levels. Every day he has the same excuse of why he can't do activities with the kids or me, help around the house - his personal to do list that remains undone all summer.  Yet he finds plenty of time to go out with buddies, play sports, go to concerts, etc.

And the aspect of your husband denying things he has said really resonates. So often it feels like we haven't even had the same conversation. He says these tremendously hurtful and accusatory things, and later claims he never said them. It makes me feel like I'm losing my mind.

I'm curious about your thoughts of not sharing my bottom line. I did recently tell him that if he didn't make a good faith effort by February and get some counseling (this was about a month ago), that I would start looking into a legal separation. I just feel like I need to have a time frame to get through and thought he should know that. I feel like my reality of normal is getting warped. I can't imagine what I would think if someone else told me their husband treated them this way. It has gradually gotten unbearable over time, yet it is scary to me that I can't remember what normal is like.

Recently I told him it hurt me that he couldn't tell me he loved me and wanted to work things out, he said he doesn't know what he wants so can't say that. On the one hand he's talking to me about getting a divorce and leaving me emotionally deserted,  then when I say we may need to separate he lashes out and says it's all me and I'm not thinking of the kids. It feels like he is only staying because he doesn't want to feel like he's failed at something else. He pretty much admitted that to me. I feel so special, ha!

The kids would be so incredibly devastated by a divorce. He has always been an amazing father, but is really letting them down too now. I feel like I cover for his absences (physical and emotional) so much these days.

And I really appreciate your thoughts on sharing with my family and finding a counselor. I feel somewhat uncomfortable sharing with my family, but they have been so tremendously supportive. I don't know what I would do without them. In fact, they are flying me and the kids home for the holidays. I told my husband I had miles, because I think he would fly into a rage if he knew they had arranged it. 

How does one see a clear path through the fog of this insanity?

How does one see a clear path

How does one see a clear path through the fog of this insanity?

All you can do is take care of yourself and your kids and go one day at a time. It is crazy. It is insane. And if you saw someone else going through it- you would question their sanity. But as long as you have the strength to hold it together, doing so is admirable. Thank god your kids have you as a rock. If both of their parents acted as your husband did- there would be no family, no security and your children's world would be ripped apart. It may be that you eventually have to separate, despite your best efforts- but if you do all you can do to try to save it- you won't have regrets later. Fingers crossed your husband will come out of this madness and take the right steps to help himself. You can't do that for him.

I'm curious about your thoughts of not sharing my bottom line.

I guess it seems to me that sharing your bottom line might come off as an ultimatum and, for me, that has always had the effect of pushing my husband further into whatever position he's adopted. Maybe your husband doesn't react that way. In the end, I guess it doesn't matter so much whether you share your bottom line or not- as long as you have one and are prepared to enforce your boundaries.

Sometimes I think that my husband is pushing me away out of shame. You know, he has behaved so terribly that he can't see a way back. He feels ashamed about his lack of control and his impulsive, devastating remarks and actions.  I think he picks fights in the hopes that I will take the bait and participate in a fight so he can then tell himself it was a two-way thing and that I share the blame. So instead of apologizing, he acts even worse, hoping that it will create a big fight, wherein I blow up and validate to him that I am as responsible for the conflict as he is or that I am a crazy bitch who anyone would have problems with.

What has worked has been trying to be calmer, less reactive and to strip the emotions out of my responses, as much as I am able. That's funnily enough, also how I deal with my preschoolers tantrums. But it seems to be effective for both. It's been very hard. I am an emotional person and an intense person (have I mentioned I have ADHD as well??) but I have worked hard to get my symptoms under control and I am determined to be an adult and to put my children first. When my husband tries to pick a fight, I try not to engage. It's hard and sometimes I am more successful than others.

It's also been very helpful to realize that the vast majority of his behavior is not personal and is just unmanaged adhd. It feels very personal when you are being screamed at, bullied, belittled, abandoned... but it is borne out of a whirling mess in his head that he doesn't understand at all. It scares the shit out of him. He doesn't know why he is acting this way either- so he blames me... In particularly tough times, I remind myself that he is depressed, not behaving logically, very unhappy with himself... I remind myself of all his wonderful qualities that were there for most of our marriage. I remind myself of the the tough times I have had that he has helped me through over the years (alcoholism, bulimia, infertility, adhd diagnosis). And I believe that this is his very tough time. I want to be there for him, the way he has been for me... I want to help him through this- whether the marriage can ultimately stay intact or not- and I hope that it can.

At the end of the day- people who are not in this situation can't understand it. But you don't just cut ties and ditch your family when things get rough, particularly when you have children. This is the "through thin" and "in sickness" part of the marriage vows. That's not to say that you stay through ANYTHING- that's where the bottom line comes in. But I commend you for doing everything in your power to right the ship. That is real love and commitment, even if it is not appreciated by your husband and even if it appears insane to the outside observer. 

Having said that- it's extremely important not to let the chaos envelop you and rob you of your sanity, your health and your SELF.

Please seek out the resources you need. Support, counselling, friends, hobbies... Get your strength and power back and stop relinquishing your power and letting him call all the shots. I'm not sure whether you show him your sadness and vulnerability- but maybe don't do that for now. Show him your strength and your resilience. Not with anger (although of course you are angry). If he wants to do his own thing and not participate with the family- that's his choice. Make it clear that you'd love it if he was there, but that you and the kids are just fine. This may not feel true (you feel broken hearted and broken inside) but it is. You are a tough cookie.

My thoughts and support are with you. Hang in there and I have my fingers crossed that things improve for you in the new year. Have a good time with your family over the holidays. enjoy your kids and count your blessings. Enjoy any peaceful moments that you have.


Me too

I have read carefully all your words and taken them as an advice for me too because my life is also painted here. I am in a very difficult situation now after 23 years of marriage. It is all I can say now: Thanks :(

Awwww... You hang in there too!

I understand. I couldn't write anything for months because it was just too devastating. It's only now that things are going a little better that I am able to kind of process this and put my thoughts out. All summer, I was a mess, close to tears all the time, anxious, exhausted, baffled, heartbroken... it is devastating. and then having to try to pretend things are okay for the kids and for the friends and family... I understand not being able to write anything. It is so hard. and it's your life. it isn't some gossipy thing you want mishandled or misunderstood. i understand. But you hang in there too! Hugs to you. :)



Smilingagain, Knowing other people are going through this helps tremendously. It is a little oasis where I don't feel quite as crazy. Honestly, I question my sanity every day, wondering if there is something I'm doing to cause this, am I misunderstanding? I just can't wrap my head around the reality that this is what my life has become. It feels like a bad dream. Just so surreal.

Your point about your husband pushing to make you take the bait is very interesting. I've often thought with my husband that he's trying to make it so bad I'll be the one to leave, so he doesn't have to take that responsibility.

I actually spoke to his mom last night for the first time. If he knew he would be furious, but his is the only family I have nearby. I didn't tell her any details, just that we were having an incredibly hard time and that I felt out of options, I asked if she would take him to lunch or something - anything that might give him an opportunity for someone to talk to and maybe open up. He can nag and bitch about me to her, I don't care, but he just keeps this all in his head and it festers. He is close with his mom, as I am, but they don't usually go out and chat one on one. It was a hard choice, but one I've been mulling for a long time. I felt having an ally who knew and could support him was worth the risk of his reaction. I may be wrong.

Another bizarre story from earlier this week - I confronted my husband saying I knew he was having an affair of some sort, whether emotional, physical, or on-line. He took a deep breath, and looked like he was about to say something. I prayed a little prayer to myself, asking for strength and calm in handling what was coming next. After sitting there pensively for over a minute he casually said "have you seen any friends recently?" I shot him a look and he said "was that the wrong thing to say? I just thought if you had stronger relationships with your friends you wouldn't ask so much of me" !!!!!!! I replied that no friendship could fill the role of husband and father. It's those kinds of interactions that make me feel crazy. He then stated that any type of outside relationship would be a symptom of problems, not anything that caused a problem!!!! True, but yikes.

Your good advice is getting filed into my brain for the next round. I really appreciate you sharing your experience.

Have a wonderful holiday. Hope your situation continues to improve! THANK YOU!

Good for you!

I also told my husband's mum about the situation. I was worried about it- but in the end, I was genuinely concerned for him. I said something similar to her- maybe she could get together with him and be an ear, if he opens up to her. I didn't tell her how terrible he was treating me- I more framed it as how out- of character his actions were... She was kind of cool to me at first- but then my husband has had a few medical crises since then (did I mention he had kidney stones in September- a month before our big trip where he told me he wanted a divorce)? I think his mother saw how much I care for my husband, how I dropped everything to care for him and how much I truly love him. After that- she was nicer to me again and since then she has approached me a couple of times offering support. I love her. She is very discreet and she knows her son very well so I think she can hear the ring of truth in certain things that others find incredulous, only kind of knowing him. 

Anyway- she has been great. All I want is to help my husband get healthy and happy... As yeah- to eventually address the issues between us... But on the top of the totem is his health... I think that has negatively impacted everything. And the good thing is- she IS his mother... S I don't have to be. Let her Bring over soup and nag him about taking his medicine...

anyway- good for you. I hope his mother handles this well and that she approaches this gently with him and is able to somehow help out. 

I  will be thinking of you over the holidays! Hang in there!