New here, what to do with husband who won't even try?

I've been reading a lot of the posts and comments here, I'm amazed by how much ADHD can take over a marriage and encouraged by seeing some folks who are working towards making it work.

My husband has ADHD, undiagnosed, but I am pretty sure (I work with students with disabilities) and on top of it he has sustained a minor brain injury in a motor vehicle accident. I have been trying, in vain, to have him get diagnosed (got a referral for a good neuropsychologist and we have the insurance to pay for it). He admits his brother has huge issues with ADHD, and I've tried to let him know I see the same issues in him as well. He will not admit it. I've tried specific conversations on the behavior that makes it difficult to have a full partnership, such as the fact that he does not remember things, no matter how many times I tell him. He will even repeat the same things over and over to me. (usually, his schedule or information he wants me to remember FOR him). He told me last week "Well, I would say I would do better but why bother when it's a lie and it's never going to happen"

I am so frustrated at this point. I have a teenage daughter from a prior marriage, but with him it's like having 2 children, and my daughter is much more self-sufficient. Every time he doesn't retain something I feel marginalized and I have chronic depression (for which I have been on medication and seeing a therapist myself) for years.  I don't know how to get him to take some kind of step, some kind of responsibility, short of serving divorce have those of you with spouses taking some responsibility for their ADHD managed to get them there, encourage them to take the step?


Hi sullygrl, I'm so sorry

Hi sullygrl,

I'm so sorry to hear of your frustration and depression.  It's totally understandable and a normal response when you see the issue so clearly and point it out but he won't fully acknowledge it or work on it with you.  It must make you lose hope.  Sounds like he might be feeling afraid to get help because he doesn't want to face the depth of any potential brain damage and the underlying issue of ADHD that most likely existed before the accident?  Has his minor brain injury has been checked out by a doctor?  Some injuries can lead to dementia later in life.  And the symptoms of dementia are similar to ADHD - around the ability to plan and remember.  Sounds like he's relying on you quite a bit without having to admit it.  What a challenge for you to stay emotionally strong.  That's great you have a therapist.  I hope you can vent your frustrations with her/him. 

While you've talked with him before, what about an approach using reflective listening and open ended questioning? To do this  have a conversation with him by carefully picking the optimum time to talk with him - no or minimal distractions, and choose whatever is the best time of day for him.  Start by giving him some positive feedback on something and let him know how much you care.  Maybe start by saying something like: "You know I've had worries and concerns around your ability to remember things.  How is it for you when you see me worried about this?" then reflect back exactly what he said without showing any anger or frustration - use the same emotional control you would use with your students.  How would you describe your ability to remember things?  How do you feel about it?  Keep reflecting back every time without adding in your own judgments (I would practice this with an empty chair first and envision how the conversation might go and how you might respond without judgment/opinions or defensiveness).  Ask him what it would be like for him if he were to see doctors or therapists for this.  What if he did receive that diagnosis?  What does he think would happen? 

It sounds like he thinks he'll get bad news and there will be no hope and then he'll just have to live with the depressing news that he's impaired.  But there are new treatments and scientific advances all the time.  It's almost like someone saying yes, I know I have colon cancer but most people die of it so why treat it, when in fact if it was treated sooner life could be saved.  What if there was a new way for him to actually feel confident in his ability to remember and to be the husband you need?  If you reflect back enough without getting defensive, giving your opinion or passing judgment) the hope is that he might begin to be willing to face his fears by taking the initial step to see a neuro psychiatrist.

I'm so sorry for your pain.  I'm with you on it. I am dealing with my own spouse who's taking medications for ADD and Anxiety but who quit marriage therapy.  He cannot stick to any changes and insists on doing it totally and 100% himself because he always prefers to handle everything himself.  It sure feels like because he can't compromise and work together that he just doesn't care about our relationship.  I've been married for 21 years.  I've been to the brink of divorce and back continuously. If my 7 year old daughter wasn't in our lives I would have been gone for sure last year.  Since the diagnosis of ADD last year there's been major relief and he no longer blames me for 100% of our problems.  But I suffer from low self-esteem after being married to him (due to years of his judgmental criticism of me) and flat out depression from years of frustration! Most days I totally give up on the hope of ever having that beautiful true love I never had.  I regret marrying him but I feel stuck at the same time there are days that I feel that no one else could ever appreciate me or love me the way he does.  And he's a soul mate but the feeling never sticks around for too long.  And because he won't work on this the way I feel and the way the therapist felt it should be worked on, it sure as heck feels like he doesn't care about me or the relationship.  So why stay?  So incredibly I'm going to try what I suggested to you above. It's hard to not melt down emotionally!

Wishing you the best.

sullygrl's picture

WSMY99 - I've heard of reflexive listening

but never seen/heard it in practice. Sounds like something that might have some legs, if I can find a time where he is willing to listen.  He had doctors care, was hospitalized for the concussion, but there was never follow-up past that.

Seems like you have experiences similar to mine.  Which I am sorry to hear! It is hard to feel that they care about the relationship when they are not putting the same kind of effort into it. And I don't know about you, but when my husband says something about "why bother it's not going to get better?" when I ask him about trying things to help him remember things, especially when I have told him for the fifth time, makes me want to say "well I guess I won't bother talking then, since you won't make an effort to listen and retain what I say" 

How have you managed for 21 years? Especially with the self-esteem issues that come with depression and lack of validation from your husband? And how does your daughter do with the dynamic? My daughter is a teen, so I am less worried about her when there are issues, she knows what they are and how they effect my husband, but a younger child would be less aware of why things are the way they are?

best to you as well!