Non-Add Spouse Living Like a Mother and Losing Sense of Self

My husband and I are almost positive that he has inattentive ADD. He will be formally evaluated for it next week. We have been married for almost four years and have been together for seven years total. I should have seen the signs that ADD was having an impact on our relationship from the very beginning, but I didn't. When it was brought up years ago, I figured that the "I might have ADD" line was just one of the many excuses I was given every time a promise was broken, a task was undone, a lie was told, etc. Now I see that it is more than likely a very serious issue that has been plaguing us for years. My concern is that after so long of playing the role of a mother and "playing house," I feel that I have lost any sense of self, any sense of self worth, and any sense of self control.

I admit that in the past I was reactive and angry in our conversations, mostly due to the resentment and bitterness that built up over the years of being lied to, led on, and manipulated. Every time we would have a conversation that we had already had five times over that month, I would "freak out" and "lose it." I couldn't understand why I was sounding like a broken record, having to have the same discussion over and over and over. I would yell at him for lying. I would forecast the end of our marriage when he would blow off our plans to hang out with his friends for the weekend. I was so confused and was going crazy. Now that we know he most likely has ADD, I have altered my communication patterns. I have been reading this forum a lot and trying to utilize some of the advice here as well, such as leaving post it notes around the house, or texting reminders, etc. When we talk, I try to stay calm and express empathy for his frustrations and confusions. However, this still isn't working out very well for us.

I feel as though I am a mother dealing with a 10-year-old boy when we communicate. I feel that I have to constantly remind myself that "I know better than to be (angry, sad, disappointed in him...etc) but he doesn't know any better than to lie and manipulate and he can't help it if he can't remember to feed the dog or pay his bills." This is such a lonely place to be in. I watch every word I say and the tone in which I say it. Of course everyone does in some way or another, but I have to think hours ahead of the game to determine any snags we may hit that will set him off into a spiral of anger ( at the guy who cut him off on the freeway) or guilt/pity (because I told him I was sad that he talks bad about me with his friends) or complete shutdown (like when I try to explain how I am struggling and feeling isolated during this journey to get him help for ADD). Even when I do make strong efforts to control what I say, how I say it, when I say it, and what exactly is said, he still reacts as though I am attacking him. He claims that once he has "decided" that I am mad at him, nothing I do will change his mind, and he will treat me as thought I am mad and acting angrily towards him. (The "deciding" thing is an issue too. He once "Decided" that I had cheated on him and even when he discovered it wasn't true, he still held it against me because of the hurt he was feeling just by the thought of me having cheated, which I didn't.) I hear several times a day from how the ways in which I need to communicate better for him, how I need to understand more for him, how I need to speak less and let him speak more, how I need to.....fill in the blank.

I want to be supportive, but I really feel that my husband is hiding behind his illness. He knows he may have ADD, yet he doesn't make any effort to attempt to communicate differently, he just expects me to. He doesn't do his part around the house, or help with the dog, or do the budget, or pay the bills. He has no responsibility for the car service maintenance, the yard work, the grocery shopping, the errands. Nothing. And when I ask him to do his part, he gets upset and claims that I am not sensitive to him. He claims that I only do all these things to prove a point about how much I can do and he can't. He once told me he needed to observe me do every single chore so he would know how to do it. He followed me around while I cleaned and ran errands, but he never did get around to doing them himself. I leave notes, I text reminders, I ask how he is feeling and if there is anything he would like to talk about.

I really want to be a supportive wife. But I can only do so much and in the process, I have completely lost any sense of self. I spend so much time running our lives with no support that I'm starting to feel like cleaning and cooking is all I am any good for. I'm starting to blame every lie and dropped promise on myself, instead of asking him to take responsibility. I tell myself, "Well, you should have known to print out the directions to this place because you know he can't remember these things." Now, although he may have promised to print out directions on a road trip, I take the blame because I should have known better. I can't express any sense of disappointment to him, or else he will spiral into shame and guilt and eventually anger, at me for not understanding him.

I don't have any friends because all my time is consumed with the daily responsibilities of two people, not just one. We don't have enough money to go out and do anything so even the idea of me going to get a drink and unwind with a friend is out of the question. The last time I did, I came home to an angry husband because I "said i was getting "A" drink, not out drinking for an hour."

We have been in couples therapy for years, and every time, my husband gets tools to use, and he doesn't. Most of our therapy was centered around him and his childhood and his issues, while I was instructed on how to behave differently if I wanted him to behave differently. So I did, but he didn't. We now have to cancel our couples therapy to focus solely on his ADD treatment, since we can't afford both.

I'm at my wits end. I've been diagnosed with GAD, my mind races all the time about everything I need to take care of by myself, my back and jaw ache constantly, my eyes and arms twitch, I can hardly ever catch my breath and I occasionally break into panic attacks. According to my husband, he "understands" how I am struggling and feeling so lonely, yet, he walks away from me when I'm crying and claims that he has his personal reasons for why he won't hold me when I'm upset. But he won't tell me what they are.

I feel so alone. I feel desperate for a normal adult conversation. Desperate for just one day when I don't wake up counting my words and anticipating the minute when I say something in the wrong tone, or turn away too fast and he will assume I'm "being a bitch" and shut down for the rest of the day. I used to think I was bright, and capable, and had a future that I would run into head first. Now,I feel like I'm a cold hearted undeserving bitch who can't do anything right and if I even consider leaving my husband, then it makes me even more of a cold hearted bitch because he needs me.

But, is it okay to ask for what I need? Like some understanding of my struggle, like some compassion for my sadness, like some concern for my overall wellbeing, like some time devoted only to myself? Who do I ask if I have no friends? Who do I talk to? I feel so lonely and do desperate. I'm at the end of my rope.


I was diagnosed with ADD about 2 years ago at the tender young age of 43. NObody suspected it, especially my wife who is still unsure it really affects us, but so much of what you describe paints a close picture of what we have gone through. The main difference is that from the very beginning I knew that my wife had expectations and clearly defined boundaries. This helped me because these clears "Rules", so to speak, created structure which I can thrive with... Without clear guidelines, or fear of consequences, an ADDer tends to not worry about these things, because the other things are so hard to do without messing up. Does this make any sense? What can appear as lazy can be a way to cope with being over-whelmed by other stuff. From day one, I help clean house, do the yard myself (Great Therapy), pay the bills, do the taxes, split all of the child duties from late night baby details to taking them to parties, homework, baths, dinner, everything... We can do these things :-) The problem can be that we may not notice these things that are quite obviously in need of doing, until they blowup or our spouse gets angry about it. This is a terrible cycle because the NonADDer's don't want to nag and the ADDers hate failing over and over because it has happened our entire lives. You cannot do everything yourself! Your spouse needs to take some things off your plate.

How abut some good news? You have been educating yourself about the effects of ADD which is good! Your husband may be elated to discover that there is a reason his brain works the way it does, like me... I was so excited to find that I was not just a Selfish, unaware, non-observant, lazy guy because I just had no moral compass. I read my first ADD book with a Highlighter! because I kept reading things that were about ME, like I thought I just had a weird way of thinking... I responded well to Adderall and I never miss a dose. It can feel like taking a wet blanket off your brain, believe me. Not everyone responds well immediately and it may take a while to figure out the right dosage for your husband, then it is up to him to work on relearning years of bad coping strategies and you, unfortunately, will still see old behaviors or react like you used to out of habit. This IS a very difficult process and I am not out of the woods yet, after almost two years.

This website has helped me immensely...


I am so sorry for your

I am so sorry for your aren't alone.

You've lost your sense of self because you're consumed with 'fixing' his ADD. You have no time for anything else because all of your time goes into thinking about his ADD, figuring out ways to change yourself in the hopes that he'll change, reading and learning all you can...and getting nothing in return. Your life has become all about him...because you have let it. You have become Codependent. I recommend this book to everyone I know who is suffering as you (and I) are...Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I have it as an audio book and listen to it constantly. It will be your best friend on your journey to breaking free from the bonds of your husband's ADD.

The harder you try to fix him, the harder you try and ADD proof his world (doing everything FOR HIM), the less likely anything will change. We are each responsible ONLY for OUR OWN behaviors. You own yours and let him own his.

If you go out for a drink and come home to a mad husband, so what? He's mad why? Invite him to go along and leave him behind if he refuses. There is nothing wrong with you leaving the house to have fun just because it makes him uncomfortable. I thought for years this was jealousy...and let the "attitude" I got from him keep me from doing anything and I lost all of my friends in the process...all the while he was out connecting with old friends, making new friends, and always had some social event to attend that I rarely could because of the kids. But, I don't blame him...I let it happen because I guess I thought it was written somewhere that if it made him uncomfortable I wasn't supposed to do it. Never once stopped to think that his BEING UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT IT was his issue and not a reflection that I was doing anything wrong. It was his insecurity, not me being a bad wife.

One thing that needs to be hammered into his head until he gets it...the ADD diagnosis does not mean that YOU have to change your way of doing everything means that you both change 50% and meet in the middle. Our counselor once told my husband, when he said "my mind just doesn't work the way hers does" and she said "you're right...and hers doesn't work the way yours does. This isn't all about her understanding you, it is about you understanding her too". He would never get away with that line again in my presence. He isn't brain dead, he has ADD. He's as capable of change and learning 'different' ways as you are. As long as he FEELS it is solely your role to change, he won't change himself. He has to look at it this way....there is ZERO amount of change you could do, to yourself, to make him stop lying. HE HAS TO OWN THAT.  NO ONE makes me lie but myself. No one makes him break his promises but himself. How is YOU changing going to change that?

Having said that, you do need to continue to work on letting go of the anger, approaching his ADD as something separate from the person he is deep down, but you also need to keep fighting to make him see that this marriage has 2 people in it and his having ADD is not a free pass to do NOTHING while you accept every.single.thing.about.him. Like I told my husband recently, I accept a lot of things about you and love you in spite of them, but I cannot and will not accept everything you want me to just because you want me to." You are an individual with feelings and needs and boundaries...just because you are his wife..and just because he has ADD..does not mean that you are doomed to a life of accepting cruel, hurtful, and destructive behaviors from him. Demand more for yourself. Get the book ASAP and start detaching from his ADD and start living your life again. THAT is, in my opinion, the best change your marriage has...and your sanity.

I empathise completely i

I empathise completely

i found myself in the same position, feeling alone, feeling the pressure of having to do everything, for being responsible for everything.

I know you feel alone and it's horrible when things get so desperate, but if you love him and you want to be with him, I think getting diagnosed can be that first big step together. Don't see this as a loss of couples therapy. See this as a building block to a new understanding. Keep helping yourself, learn and understand what you can to overcome your GAD, but also learn about ADD. The important thing is not to lose sight of yourself, the worse your worries and anxiety get, the more you will blame him, and resent him, the more trapped you will feel, and the worse you will feel.

There also comes a time when you have to just stop doing everything for him and around the house. Just stop. Make him more accountable. Rather than the onus being on you to leave him notes and remind him, help him to leave himself notes. We used to have a whiteboard with the days of the week on it. Whatever plans we had went on that board. My partner missed out on some big things because he didn't remember to write them down, but he learned from it. My husband learned/is still learning that if he wants clean underpants he has to wash them. You are still that bright confident woman. You're not being a bitch by not doing his laundry. I was wracked with guilt when I stopped doing everything. I agonised and thought about it constantly I worked myself into such a state over it. He barely even noticed!

Him being diagnosed next week will be the perfect spring board to introduce these ideas.

My husband and i discussed a few months ago how over the last decade his family have always rescued him and helped him along, whenever they foresaw trouble they'd be there to catch him before he fell. Call it molly coddling, call it what you will. How was he ever going to learn to do things on his own? Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic of the psychological reuirements for survival, food and water, would be the motivation he needed to get a job and sort his shit out. he has had jobs and lived on his own, once he moved interstate to 'live on his own' and another time he moved to another city just so he could prove to himself that he COULD actually do it. In doing this he taught himself how to manage his ADD.

I'm not saying you are doing this, I found myself doing this and it alarmed me. I would do things because it was easier. [There is a great article on here about giving up control -] I wish someone in my husbands family had stood their ground and encouraged him to finish university instead of just accepting that he dropped out because 'that's just how he was'. He is a genius. His year 12 TEE score was something like 480 out of a possible 510 - he was doing subjects I couldn't comprehend at that level and he 'didn't even try'. My point is, you don't NEED to do everything. Once you understand that you will start to feel less anxious and worried.

Good luck, I'd love for you to comment with an update of how you are feeling after reading more of these comments.

Thank You To Everyone....

Thank you so much to everyone who offered support and advice.  I will definitely use all the advice provided and am already in the process of ordering the CoDependent No More book.
 My husband was officially diagnosed this morning with "Severe Adult ADD" and "Possible Bi-Polar Disorder." I am hoping that the medication will help him, but I am also concerned, since he was prescribed Adderoll and has a history of drug-seeking and drug-selling behavior. I am concerned that I will have to count his pills to ensure that he isn't selling them. Would this be a co-dependent thing of me to do in and of itself?

Thank You Again Everyone~

Don't Worry

Hi ispeakinprint

I think you might find that the reason he has a history of drug seeking behaviour is because when he took drugs they probably bought his brain back to some sort of equilibrium.

Hopefully when he starts regularly taking his medication he will recognise the benefits, and from what you have written he will definitely notice the difference. I'm told by my husband that the ability to think clearly and hold on to an idea and see it through to it's conclusion is one of the best experiences for him. The image I always get in my head is like when the rain clouds clear after a storm and the sunbeams shine through, and then the sky is a clear blue. you can almost hear the "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh..."

No doubt there will be an adjustment period, but don't worry yourself about counting his meds. If he takes some and starts feeling the benefits, but sells a bunch and runs out before the next months prescription he will notice the change and will reconsider selling his next lot. Just remember to breathe and let go! Sometimes it's best for people to learn the hard way.

Chin up girl !

2 Years after my first Adderall...

The effects were immediate and extraordinary for me after my first Adderall. Like taking the Wet Blanket off my brain. Once I found my ideal dosage I was good to go. Two years later I am used to feeling "Good" and my dosage is exactly the same. I don't need, nor want, more and I never want to skip or alter the schedule. I never want to go back to the way I used to feel. My very first concern was addiction, so I asked my doc about it and he said the Adderall brings me to normal brain chemistry. Maybe there is a different affect for the NonADDers, but I have never "Felt" Addicted to the point of wanting more and more.


Well said XYZ I have also

Well said XYZ

I have also learned from my husband that it is hugely beneficial to have routine.
When he works shift work it's hard for him to adapt, he spent years sticking to the prescribed morning allotment and the afternoon allotment but then the introduction of  working in the evening meant he would have to take a third allotment, or he could just wake up later and start his day in the afternoon (not practical). Alternatively,  if we woke up in the morning and didn't take them until the afternoon he might not feel quite right. Working mixed shifts doesn't really help the situation either. But it's not completely undoable.



Yes, it would be taking on

Yes, it would be taking on the responsibility (or at least the worry) about him taking his meds in a responsible way.

One thing I was told that is worth mentioning...if he is bipolar, that needs to be treated as well. Often, treating the bipolar will improve the symptoms of ADHD. I was also told that you would treat the bipolar before you would treat the ADHD because ADHD meds can exacerbate the bipolar. Maybe something to discuss before he starts meds. Is there further testing that will take place to confirm or exclude the bipolar? I have a friend who says her doctor said they treat for both bipolar and ADHD I am not sure which information is true.

You have to stay out of it and let him proceed with his treatment as he chooses. I made counseling appts and told my husband when they were, but he handled his meds on his own. Watch for reactions to them that he might not be aware of (anger, hostility) and report this to him and/or your counselor, but please don't put yourself in a position to count his meds. Let him carry that responsibility...even if he fails for a month or two...if they really help him, he'll take them everyday and will hold onto them for dear life.