Non-ADHD Experience

I'm editing the section of my book that has to do with developing empathy for your spouse.  I found many descriptions on this site about what it feels like to be the ADHD spouse, but have had less luck finding good quotes about the feelings that come with being the non-ADHD spouse.  There's lots of "this is what my life is like" and comments about how people do/don't get along with their spouses, but less about their dreams/feelings etc.  If you would like to write a paragraph or two about that below I would love to read it, as would the other readers at the site, I expect.  Thanks.


non-ADHD spouse feelings

At times I become overwhelmed by the sadness and mourning for the relationship I *could* have with my spouse if he did not have ADHD.  I love him very much but I think about how much easier our lives, my life, would be if he did not have ADHD.  It is lonely being the only person in a relationship who remembers and takes care of the mundane, who builds on goals for the future, and who self-monitors.  There is also a component of guilt because certainly my spouse did not choose to have ADHD, just as people do not choose to develop cancer or heart disease.  Would I be as frustrated and as angry with him if his behavior was caused by one of those diseases?  Lastly, the misperception of the general public that ADHD just means that someone is hyper or has difficulty paying attention does little to foster support for families impacted by adult ADHD, and this also leads to loneliness.

Wow, I really couldn't say it

Wow, I really couldn't say it better.

All I would add (for my situation) is that sometimes I think about the fact that I gave up such an amazing man just becuase I was too weak to have the patience for his ADHD. For two years I gave it everything I had but, at the end of the day, I just didn't have it in me.

How do I feel being the non-ADHD spouse?

Tired as hell and I just can't take it anymore. I CANNOT wait until my husband leaves this house....26 years of being married to a mean, inattentive, cheating, immature, cruel, selfish, abusive boy-child is more than enough.  It is time for ME.  I want a life without the constant anxiety and stress he and his untreated ADHD brings into my life and the lives of my kids.  Used to be I wanted the marriage my grandparents had--they still held hands after being married more than 60 years.  That was a hard dream for me to give up, but I will be so much better off.  To think I used to believe him when he blamed me for all the problems...finally came to the point that I stepped back, took a good look around and said "bullcrap...YOU are the problem here." I need this marriage like a hole in the head...I've got a chronic illness that's just gotten worse because of is MY time now...time to take care of me and my kids.  Time to relax...50 years old very soon and I want what's left of my life to BE my life.

yes, torn...

Yes, torn. People with ADHD make us feel SO wonderful and loved in the moment and do have many great and creative and interesting and fun qualities. The guy I was with was hilarious and witty and very skilled with language. It's pure joy to be around them when they are in the hyperfocusing stage, but when that ends watch out. You find yourself giving so much of yourself and playing the parent and also then suddenly cast aside as though you'd never meant a thing to that person. 

I met a guy last October at a wedding who was funny, interesting, good-looking and completely energetic to be with. I didn't think any more of it after the wedding was over because we lived 3 hours apart. Well, he started calling me and showed up at my place. He came down to see me every other weekend and made elaborate plans to hang out. He came home with me for Christmas, and took every opportunity he could to see me. He'd text me or call me or email me constantly. There was never a dull moment and I felt so cared for and swept off my feet. He constantly told me his plan was to move to my city in a few months after he graduated. The guy had finally gotten his life together after having been addicted to pot and alcohol and in and out of rehab. He was 27 and graduating from college in teaching and seemed very earnest to move and become independent from his parents. I wanted to believe him and convinced myself that he was sincere. He asked me again and again to trust that that moving to my city was his plan. Well, when the reality of graduating set in things suddenly took a turn. He suddenly didn't want to leave the town he grew up in, his parents' house in which he was still living, and the hyperfocus ended as suddenly as it had began. I got dumped on Valentine's Day weekend.

I was so confused. This guy had told me, the first time he's told anyone in his life that he loved me; he had asked me to trust him; he had acted so sincere. He had acted like he wanted to be with me and was making plans to do so. Looking back I should have known better. The guy had never had a relationship with a woman last more than 6 months. He blew through his money the minute it was in his hand with no thought of saving or ability to save for the future or follow through with future plans. I got so swept up in the excitement of being with him that I ignored the very obvious signs of his ADD that were staring me in the face. The guy couldn't concentrate on two things at once. I'd talk to him while he was on the computer and he could never answer back. The guy seemed distracted after our third date and I mentioned it and he said he was upset that I'd noticed. He thinks the distraction was brought on by his excessive pot smoking.I am not sure if he was being treated for it or not, but when I look up the side effects of ADD it describes this guy to a tee.

When he broke things off with me, said to my face that when he's with me he wants to be with me, but when he's not he doesn't, I suddenly saw his world anew... the deep dependency he had on his poor parents who struggled to help him and get him off his pot addiction and onto a decent road in life... without them who knows where he would be. Not graduating, not with his money habits subsisting...

I never knew what ADHD or ADD was and now I do. The good side of ADHD is addictive to be with and makes one blind to the bad side. Will I ever be able to trust someone else's excitement over me in a new relationship or will I fear it thinking that it's hyperfocus and a sign that I'm getting involved with another invidividual whose enthusiasm will end as suddenly as it began? 

This is a good site for people to know about, married or not.


Seems the power to my modem was interrupted and not sure if my reply made it......will try and re-create my reply again. I was swept up into the greatest time of my life and as I understand now, was just a moment in time......not having this experience prior, I couldnt believe life could get any better and we married within a year and 6 months later, I was cast aside and asking why to an adhd is met with total lack of empathy which communicates uncaring, sadness, hurt and disappointment to a non-adhd. We have been married 4.5 years, had 6 great months of euphoric and unbelieveable times together. I moved out 6 months ago to get my life back together in hopes she would have an equal experience gaining introspect to herself and our situation. Still, at that time I knew absolutely zero about adhd and the effects.

I am so blessed to have found this site. I could write a book about that I know more about her family history of mental health issues including adhd, bipolar, mania, etc. it is a little more comforting to know I am ok and my values will remain strong and I have so much love to give to a relationship. I mentioned in my reply that crashed earlier, I have cancer and am having surgery in 3 weeks. In over a year, she has been unable to grasp that I have cancer, doesnt ask or bring it up and I am sure it will not even be a reality to her until the morning I check into surgery. I am equally sad for her.....I have had to go outside our marriage to church and other friends to support me during my surgery and recovery. I am so alone right now and thanks for this site I discovered as well as god and great close friends.

You are never alone

So sorry for your situation--you are never along--God is always with you; as a non-ADHD spouse, I know what it's like when your ADHD spouse just "doesn't care" or so it seems.  I have been married 21 years to my ADHD husband who has yet to acknowledge that I have MS (was diagnosed 12 years ago).  I, too, only get support with my MS from others.  My  spouse tells me that he feels helpless--wants to help, but doesn't know how to.  I find that I don't believe he could even know how to comprehend my illness considering he has a hard time writing out a check.  There is a wonderful spiritual website I access called New Ministries Online Community (you can google it).  It helped me and supported me with my illness while my husband could not.  It also gives me the courage I need when I feel like giving up on my marriage.  This website is also wonderful.  I know that I am not alone in my situation.  God bless you, you are in my prayers......Clover1

arwen's picture

bewilderment, fear, anger, despair, lonliness, sorrow

When my husband started to "grow back in" to his ADD in his late 30's, it was initially very bewildering.  He had always been thoughtful before, and now he seemed so thoughtless and self-centered.  He became more and more inconsistent.  I was at a loss to understand what was happening  and therefore distressed and worried.  As his behaviors became more pronounced, his increasing "carelessness" and "thoughtlessness" started to become physically and financially dangerous to himself and to our children.  I stopped worrying about why he was behaving differently because I was too busy being very scared for their safety and our future.  I would tell him how scared I was, and his reaction was always that he would never do anything to hurt us -- he couldn't see at all that he could hurt us through negligence.

From fear I progressed to anger (I'd been brought up to get mad instead of cry).  We'd talked so often about the problem behaviors and how upset they made me and the effect he was having on the kids, and yet he was still doing them!  It seemed to me that he wasn't listening, he wasn't caring, he wasn't thinking, and that seemed really irresponsible and it made me very mad.  And it seemed like he listened better and thought more when I yelled!  So I yelled more and more, which fed my anger further.

Around this time my husband was finally diagnosed with ADD.  For various reasons, progress was extremely slow, which was depressing for me.  I knew it wasn't realistic but I wanted a silver bullet.  I spent a lot of time in despair that we would ever have a non-dysfunctional family life.  I was also very lonely.  Nobody understood what I was coping with -- his family was in denial about the whole thing, and my family just didn't "get it".  I didn't have any friends that weren't also friends with my husband, and he's so charming in public (and had fewer opportunities to show his more troubling behaviors) that nobody understood what I was coping with.

By the time we finally did work out solutions, I felt my life had been shredded beyond recognition, although I do understand that life isn't obligated to fulfill our expectations!  What has made me sad is that I always felt I had some special abilities to bring to the service of many people while I earned a living, and while I have managed to do some good things for a few people over the course of my life, I don't feel like I accomplished anywhere near as much as I could have.  Today through a lot of work and better meds, my marriage is happy again;  I am a stronger and hopefully wiser person; but I am scarred forever.


with each post I read, I am understanding more and more about my situation and beginning a healing process from my roller coaster ride the last 5 plus years. This post reminds me of still another continuous event I live with. In the outside world that I call just on the other side of the entrance to our home.......a very energetic, kind, thoughtful, all about you personality presents themselves to the public......and on the other side of the door an uncaring, emotionally absentee, unloving, thoughtless, user / abuser, person adhd wife.

Since the hyperfocus days ended............I have gone from a lonely, miserable, in despair, angry, resentful husband unaware of adhd to an educated, I am really ok and I will survive the emotional damage. During the hyperfocus days I brought hopes, dreams and a wonderful future to look forward to in our marriage. It is sad she does not have the ability to look beyond the moment and have something to look forward to........there are so many things I wanted to plan for, look forward to, dream a little and actually do. My wife can't relate to the future and can only react to circumstances occuring within her moment. When I romanticize about our past and future events, it is like talking to an emty shell of a person void of emotion and excitement. I am a spiritual person and honestly felt she was sent to me from that time I did not know about adhd, hyperfocus, etc. I remain a dedicated husband and my spirituality will get me through this pain. At times, I felt I was placed in her life for a reason......and still believe that perhaps I would be the vehicle to help her through her issues. As painful as it has been, that feeling remains. It is so disappointing that I do not receive anything in return whatsoever.........

I have had days where I ask  myself how could anyone treat their spouse this way. She is unable to process that kind of information, it is that perception vs performance area they are not able to see. When I talk about repairing, rebuilding our relationship, her eyes glaze over. Thanks again for your healing posts! 

Adhd husband

My wife left you post up on her laptop screen after another very painful episode.  If it were not for the date of the post, I would have thought that she was arwen.  I started to type that "I can't stand what I am doing to her" but I obviously can stand it or I would not continue to do it. I really don't think it is that simple though. I don't want to be ok with the resposes I have (or lack of response) to many of the things that are are put in my path, but I just do not have the automatic reaction to situations that in retrospect (albeit forced retrospection) would be approriate for a loving caring husband and father of 3 beautiful girls to have.

You mention that you finnally did work out solutions. At this point, I need to stop the bleeding from my wife's spirit. This point should have come 15 years ago but here we are. Years of counseling, therapy, and med management by a very compitent Psychiatrist and I still am the cause of untold abuse to my family. If you have any suggestions or could shoot me with a silver bullit (in the left temple), I would bless the name of Arwen.

After reading more of the posts below, I would also add that I have shattered her trust in me.



Before his diagnosis, a lot

Before his diagnosis, a lot of confusion and hopelessness. We would argue about things, then sit down and discuss them, which always ended the same way - him promising to try harder.  He would, for several weeks, then once the hyper focus period on 'fixing things' was over, he'd slide straight back into bad habits.  My major problem was "He knows this is hurting me and making me unhappy, why won't he make any effort to change it?"

I come from an emotionally abusive family, resulting in poor self-esteem (among other issues), which is something my fiancee knew before we started dating.  At times, it honestly felt as though he had pursued a relationship with me because I wouldn't have the confidence to leave, even though I was miserable in the relationship. 

I also felt there was something basically 'wrong' with me.  To be treated badly by your family, then the man who swore to protect you from that, really made me think that is was a problem with me, not with them.  Why else would the people who are supposed to cherish you and protect you treat you so badly? 

Since his diagnosis, around 6 weeks ago, I feel hope and relief. Hope that we can rebuild our relationship - not to what it once was, but into something new that suits who we are now.  

Relief that it's not me!  

However, I still feel hurt and anger over things that have happened. I understand much better why he made certain decisions, but those things still hurt very much if I happen to think of them. Now though, I remind myself that our explanation of him being wired differently to me is very true and instead of taking my pain out on him, I run a bath, vent to some friends or lock myself in our room and cry until I've calmed down again. He hates that I need to do it, but understands that I do need to and that while I can forgive those actions, I will never forget them.

Feelings as the non-ADHD spouse

There are a lot of times that I feel bad for the way I am acting.  I know in my head that he doesn't do things to hurt or annoy me on purpose.  For example, I know better than to just try to start a conversation when he's on the computer - I need to get his attention first and ask him to give me a few minutes of his time.  But there are times that I just start talking and if he doesn't look up from the game he's so engrossed in, I get mad and blow up.  And before I'm even done snapping, I feel horrible because I know that I could have handled that better from the get go.   I hope that makes sense.

He and I still talk about dreams we have together (dream house, where to live, dream vacations, etc.) but now I don't get excited that they'll happen.  It's fun to dream and I let it go at that.  Because I know that he's a lot of talk.  That sounds bad, but I'm just not sure how else to phrase it.  

A lot of the time I feel a whirlwind of emotions.  Because there's a whirlwind of activity going on.  When he remembers to do things without me having to remind him, I'm thankful and happy.  When he's playing with our kids I'm filled with joy and happiness.  When he gets lost in his computer games and I'm feeling ignored, I'm sad and angry. And there are times when I just don't feel at all.  Mostly it's related to him playing computer games a lot and me feeling ignored when he does.  I just get so tired of the same argument that even when I think I should (or would) feel sad about it, and any other time I would cry, I just can't because I'm just numb to it.

He's a good guy, though.  He's trying new meds and working with a therapist.  And for that I'm grateful and proud.  


feelings of non-adhd

I felt as though I was reading something I wrote myself.  I have a lot of growth to do myself in responding to  these behaviors.  It takes a tremendous amount of humility to be in an adhd marriage.  Our feelings are valid yet it requires tremendous strength to bend out of our comfort zone to seek to have our needs met.  I easily become resentful of having to compete for his attention, thinking of something to say that would interest him, wanting him to participate in menial tasks of the family.  Yet when I see how wonderfully he has provided for our large family (8 children) and plays with them at their level, I am grateful his attentions are generous with them.  Thank you for speaking from my heart!  Your words strengthened me.  I am grateful and proud too!


There is a long laundry list of specifics I could make about the feelings that come with being a non-ADHD partner, but honestly, what really crushes me in the relationship is the lack of trust I have for my ADHD partner.

I am a big believer in the power of one's word.  I've read somewhere that thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become your destiny.  And in my experience with my ADHD parnter, unfortunately, I've learned that I cannot trust his word...simply because they don't become his actions.

Flippantly saying whatever comes to mind without thinking it through, making commitments and not showing up, making promises and then forgetting, coming up with inspiring ideas and not following through all add up to a lot of distrust. 

Not being his word with small things, I may learn one day to accept and live with, but what's truly heartbreaking is the bigger things in life.  The dreams we dream together, the places we want to live, the countries we want to see, the life we invision living together...if I can't trust him and his word in every day life, how can I begin to trust him with our dreams will come to fruition?

Without trust, you cannot have a successful relationship, or you compensate for it, usually unhealthily.  Walking with a limp.


You are so right; I will never trust my husband 100% again; he cheated on me with prostitutes, and though I have forgiven him, I cannot trust him entirely.  Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and once it's lost, it takes forever to regain it.  I would say I now trust him about 80%, but I'll never have the trust I did have, that's one thing I can't seem to get back, and it's very sad.

Wimpy & Limpy

Yes, yes, that's it.  Thank you.  I miss trusting.  That is the saddest thing.  It's outside the relationship and larger than he or I, it feels like faith in the world - if I can't trust this sweet man (and I cannot, I assure you), well that's it then, isn't it.

Thanks to all you hanging in there.  I knew I was sad, but not tear-spilling sad. 

Tomorrow's another day.


I could not have said that better...thanks for putting that into words. I gave my ADHD husband everything to make himself successful in a new business and in one fight over money he turned our dream into a disaster and dumped our ten year marriage over it and turned his family against me.

I dream of an easier life

I've known for a long time that my husband had ADD, but didn't really know what it meant. He was diagnosed as a child, and was part of the Ritalin experiment in the late 80s. I knew all of this, but didn't really comprehend the ramifications. Our life wasn't always pleasant, as many can attest to. Looking back on the first few years of our marriage, I can see just which problems were caused by attention-deficit. Then our son started showing symptoms, my husband's became more pronounced, and my depression deepened. All I could think about was how much easier my life would be if I could just take my young daughter and run away...and that would make me feel so horrible, so guilty. But that was my dark dream, my black secret, to run away and have an easier life...

Now that my husband has realized the far-reaching effects of his symptoms, and is seeking help, things have gotten better. He has researched; I have researched. We have talked extensively with mental-health professionals. We are working together. Now, my dream has changed.

My dream now is to move out of the town we're in. We live so far away from any support group; we have no one but each other. In a way, this has been good, as it's forced us to work together. But I dream of having supportive friends and family nearby. I dream of living somewhere that's, while not necessarily on the cutting edge of medicinal breakthroughs, at least up with current research; our current city is so far behind it's extremely frustrating. So I dream of moving, to where the medical community is familiar with current research and can more ably help my family; to where our friends and family are, to give us support and lend a hand; to where maybe we can all breathe again.

Glad I'm in good company

Hi all, I'm new to the group and am SO relieved to read/hear about your experiences. My 45 yr old husband was just diagnosed this year so I'm still learning about this disorder, but I've felt all the same things you all describe: anger, guilt, exhaustion, the wish to escape...on the one hand, I'm very relieved to know what's wrong with him, but on the other, I worry that our marriage won't survive it. He's a good person but very child-like (increasingly so over time) and I'm supporting our family of four financially since he can't figure out what he wants to do. We have two kids, and the younger one is autistic, so that takes most of my energy when I'm not at work. I love my family and don't want to be a single parent but I honestly don't think I can raise my husband too. We get along well for the most part, but it's not exactly a partnership and I definitely cannot count on him in a pinch. How do you know when to throw in the towel - or not, as the case may be? I'm trying to hang in there until my kids are older but every single day is a challenge. Thanks to you all for sharing your stories, it really helps!

My feelings are gone

my goals and dreams are gone and there is little hope left... Maybe I'm more melancholy than anyone else but, I've been overwhelmed by the practical reality of everyday transactions. Working, cooking, cleaning... I once had dreams of friends and travels, achieving a certain amount of security or success but now I'm content to find a quiet corner where I can just breathe. I feel empty, abandoned, ineffective... I've lost my way in the maze of ADD behaviors that apparently dominate my life. It distorts my reality and I struggle to make sense of it. I'm thankful to be alive and on this journey through life, but I wish we could do something on purpose with a goal in mind. I wish I could set out to actually achieve instead of maintain... I feel like I'm treading water...


This is what comes to mind when I think about how I feel being in a marriage to an ADHD man.  When we first married I dreamed of the two of us being a team...tackling problems together, building a life together, growing together, supporting each other, being equals...and so on.  I anticipated the day to day marital problems, but was ill prepared for the problems that came with my husbands ADHD.  I realized early on in the marriage that something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't understand what was going on.  My husband wasn't supportive, he was distant and unemotional, he leaned heavily on alcohol and host of other problems.  I began to feel confused, frustrated, and very disappointed.  I kept thinking, "How could this be my life?"  "Why did he bring this (his problems) into my life?"  When you're in an ADHD Marriage (especially with a spouse who hasn't been diagnosed) everything spins out of control.  You try hard to wrap your arms around it all, to regain control, but it's futile.  No matter how strong you started out, you feel weaker from the journey.  In many ways, your initial dreams become just that...dreams.  You don't have the energy to pursue them anymore.  You end up settling in some ways.  You settle for what's easiest.

to overwhelmed

Your post sounds like one I have lived with for the last 4 years now. I had to leave six months ago due to what I call emotional neglect. We have only been married 4.5 years now however 6 months into marriage the team, the everything you mentioned evaporated.....the nights of talking all night long, dreams, planning our futures, supporting each other, being equals...ditto, disappeared one day.....she was emotionally gone......and still is and can not seem to grasp it all. I just left a quick hour together only to repeat the same tired discussions.......she is so cold, unemotional, detached from me and when I try to share my feelings she tells me why I shouln't feel the way I am feeling.....void of empathy and the same disappointment and stress once again. 6 years ago, I was doing so well.....she came into my life and gave me something I had not had for a very long time......and then without warning, she took it away. I was left in an empty house and marriage.........after 4 counselors, I left for my sanity......and to think how well I was doing before we met. She can not grasp emotional abuse.....In her eyes, I do not have visible scars except for the broken heart that most would acknowledge thru my facial expressions of pain. I am exhausted......thanks for your post, it gives me strength to endure another day.   

Hurt, broken, betrayed, but hopeful

I was a self-assured, optimistic, successful woman before I met my husband. Although I am doing better now, for two years before he left, and for some months afterwards, I was crushed, negative, and constantly upset because I was being forced down by his disorder.

My health was in a downward spiral for years, and "miraculously" improved dramatically within two weeks of him leaving. That says so much about the stress level of being with him, right there.

But after making incredible progress for years in a very difficult industry, my career has stalled. I don't have the children I dreamed of (I dearly wanted children--my husband kept punting the issue--this broke my heart, and I insisted that we discuss it--he would not--he actually "vetoed" my getting pregnant, as though he had "control" over my life, and then blamed the issue back on me!). Now, because I waited so long (originally, in good faith), I may never be able to have children, and my heart is absolutely broken that I will never be a mother. So, on top of all of the pain from the marriage itself, I feel as though there's love in my heart that will never find a home.

After all of my husband's lying and gaslighting, I am extremely slow to trust now, particularly men. I was a very open, "everyone means me well" sort of person before I met him. I am no longer, and I wonder if I ever will be again. 

After years of saving when I was single to purchase my own home, I have no home of my own because my financial security is rough at best due to his debts. This leaves me feeling "shaky," although I am getting stronger and know that, eventually, I will be ok.

I used to be resilient, but his behavior has worn me down and I "hold onto" things more than I used to. 

Getting anything that makes me happy in life will take so much more work, and so much more time after having everything that brought me joy, in the doing and the planning, derailed. I am trying not to be bitter. It is difficult. I feel as though I was "robbed"--of my my husband and the wonderful life we should have had together, my career, my children, my security, my joy. Everything that matters to me--none of it was left untouched, all of it was harmed, some things irreparably. 

I was made to feel so down, so low, and that I deserved nothing good in this world. I am scrambling to salvage what I can of my dreams. Some are dead, and will never breathe again--dreams that would have, if not come true by now, at least I would have been able to give them a good try and could have laid them to rest after knowing I had put in my best effort. I was prevented from getting even that far.

My life and my heart feel so "broken" now, and I'm in therapy to put myself back together. I'm trying to grow new dreams, and reconnect with a few of the old ones.

I don't know if I love my husband any longer. I certainly don't love his ADD. To stay married to my husband as he is now would be suicide--I'd have to give up everything that I love and that brings me joy.

I never thought I'd be typing any of the above. Reading it back brings me so much pain. None of this should have happened. This shouldn't have happened to our marriage. This shouldn't have happened to me.

Thank you

Thank you for sharing that. It's so incredibly painful to read, though...I'm so glad to hear that you are working with a therapist to build your life back up. I remember the sense of freedom that I felt when I realized that my life had not gone in the direction that I had originally hoped, but that I was able to take charge and build something great in my future, anyway. I hope that you find that kind of freedom, too.

hurt, broken.......................etc.

Thank you so much for your post. I was made to feel as if my feelings were my is so validating to see each and every post.........I am ok and will get better with time and thankful I moved out to save myself, my dignity, my values, my self worth!

Chris, (non-ADHD Spouse)   I

Chris, (non-ADHD Spouse)


I am so happy that you are striving to achieve a better quality of life for yourself, sincerely I admire you for the hard work you are doing.

I encourage you to write down those paragraphs and share them with whomever you wish.


I’ve read through the posts noted in this link below, and I agree with you; very sad.

Emotional wellbeing and feelings of happiness are elusive to many, many couples.

Reality is, there are as many unhappy couples who cannot so conveniently attribute that elusive happiness to the effects of an ADHD person.

(what about the unhappy marriages where ADHD is not in the relationship?)


These posts demonstrate despairingly tragic relationships; they all assume that the despair is a result of the ADHD.  I don’t buy into that.

In none of the posts do I hear the writer taking responsibility for their part of happiness in the relationship?    

Instead, I read an unspoken message of self-rightouness based on doing all the “responsible work” within the relationship that is misleading.

Because their partner has ADHD does not exonerate the non-ADHD of some of the blame.

An ADHD partner deserves recognition, validation, and appreciation for the desirable and wonderful qualities they bring to the relationship.

Strengths and weaknesses are the sum parts of all of us.


Being accepted, not judged as defective; is truly the miracle of love.  And this is ALWAYS a choice.


MVH (ADHD Spouse)


Not blameless, but . . .

Hi, MVH -

Oh, I did a fair amount wrong. If you speak with my ADD spouse, he'll tell you it's *all* my fault! ;) When I speak with my therapist (who works with ADD/non-ADD couples) and specialists, I'm told in no uncertain terms every little thing I did wrong. The word that gets used most often is "co-dependent," and I fully agree. Even if he didn't have ADD, co-dependency is *not* an ingredient in a healthy marriage, and I'm sure we would have had some problems. 

But I was also told, in no uncertain terms, that our marriage didn't stand a chance without my partner's ADD being diagnosed and treated properly, and that there was--and is--nothing I can do to save it without him understanding what went on and "owning" his disorder (he's in denial over what it did to the marriage).

I've gone through serious breakups before, and I'm used to looking at those situations as "50-50," meaning that we each did roughly 50% wrong. When I go to therapy now, I'm told that this isn't a 50-50 situation--it's closer to 80-20 or 90-10, with the larger number being his ADD. I'm having a *big* problem wrapping my head around this--I would *rather* that more of the problems were coming from me, as then I could *do* something about them!

My husband is a super guy: wonderful, sweet, romantic, generous, loving, hard-working, kind, compassionate. But all of these qualities disappear when we run up against issues where his ADD holds court in strength. A general, common scenario: Situation A would present itself (anything from a little issue to a huge one), which would require action B on his part and action C on mine. Assuming that I could get his attention for a few moments, we would come to conclusions about what needed to be done, I would do action C . . . and he would go off thinking about and doing something else. I would later point B out to him, and he would say he would do it. We'd come back to the issue long after this point, and he would tell me he'd still get around to it, tell me he "never said" he would do it, get angry at me, shut down, or threaten to leave (even over little issues). The result would be that either I would have to give up and leave the issue unresolved, or do B myself (if I could), and be very unhappy that I was doing "my" work and "his" in the marriage.

Repeat this scenario, daily, and you can get an idea of how unhappy life had become for me. It was like living with a perennial toddler. A wonderful, sweet, generous, loving hard-working, etc. toddler who had a very odd view of reality and what marriage was about, and (again, because of his disorder) did exactly what he felt like every moment of the day and looked out for number 1 at the expense of those around him.

I cannot emphasize enough that these are *not* his personal qualities--they're actually the *opposite* of his true nature. But when he lets his ADD be in charge--which has became more and more often over time--it's as though he's trapped way in there somewhere, and on the outside I have to deal with an entirely different person. This "ADD guy" is *not* someone I want to be married to. He's the one who did so much damage to me and our marriage, and I am furious at what he did to my wonderful husband. But "ADD guy" is in charge now, and there's nothing I can do about it.

BreadBaker, my heart really

BreadBaker, my heart really went out to you reading this post! <quote> This "ADD guy" is *not* someone I want to be married to. He's the one who did so much damage to me and our marriage, and I am furious at what he did to my wonderful husband.</quote> This sums up the first 5 years of my 6-year marriage! And truthfully, things wouldn't have changed at all...except that my husband got passed over for a promotion at work, that he fully deserved and was more than qualified for, because of his focus issues. That was his eye-opener. That, and the work we did together to better understand our son and provide a positive environment for him with his emerging symptoms. Because of those 2 things, my husband decided to seek treatment on his own. Doing research with me, working together on household chores, dating each other, and taking his meds, have turned our marriage around! I'm sincerely hoping that you and your "real" husband can reconnect, and put "ADD guy" where he belongs, in a crew role instead of the male romantic lead!

Great explanation!

Well put BreadBaker! ADD behaviors have had me spinning! I have often been unable to describe these type of transactions in part because the accusations of my wrong doing often left me wondering what was wrong with me? Why am I the bad guy? What can I do to help correct the situation or how can I change? I suppose I can add feelings of self reflection leading to self condemnation to the list. (That was before the ADD diagnosis, thankfully, I've sorted those feelings out)

ebb and flow's picture


Very well put.... This is exactly it! Good post!

The only part that made me think is where you say...

"But when he lets his ADD be in charge--which has became more and more often over time--it's as though he's trapped way in there somewhere, and on the outside I have to deal with an entirely different person."

I don't think ADDers "let" their ADD be in charge if it's just how their brain works. ADD brain function is "normal" to them--even though it unintentionally hurts those around them and frustrates even the ADDer immensely. I think they have to try very hard NOT to let their ADD be in charge and if we put ourselves in their shoes, we would probably want to go lax sometimes too! I think it would be exhausting and frustrating to always TRY to be "normal". And if you can't go lax at home with the people you love (who are suppose to accept and love you unconditionally)... where can you relax?

I just think we take for granted all the brain functions that come easily to our "neurologically typical" brain.

I wish I could treat my ADDer as though he had some accident and is now slightly brain damaged... I know I would become frustrated at times with his actions (or inaction) but I'm SURE I would have more compassion somehow. :(

BreadBaker this is not directed at you in any way, btw. Your post just made me think and I'm just trying to process it. :)

Assuming ADHD the issue?

Hi, who's Chris?  Anyway, I wanted to respond to your comment that these despairingly tragic relationships all attribute their issues to ADHD.  This isn't the case at all, and in fact I regularly get comments elsewhere in the forum that writers here (myself included) are too hard on the non-ADHD spouse.  It just depends upon which thread you happen to be following and, ironically, whether or not you have ADHD (the ADHD spouses think people are too hard on ADHD people and the non-ADHD spouses think people are too hard on non-ADHD other words, neither party thinks that their version of life is being adequately heard...which I often agree with and am trying to change.)  This particular thread is about what the experience feels like to non-ADHD spouses, and lots of times that experience is bittersweet - happy that you are with a wonderful person but sad that this person you know is there is "hidden" behind their increasingly destructive ADHD.  There are clearly non-ADHD spouses who are so angry that they deny that they play a role in the destruction of their relationship - this denial is horrible for both the ADHD spouse and the relationship overall.  But denial that ADHD is a major factor is also destructive.

BOTH partners are responsible for the way that any relationship looks.  BOTH partners deserve validation for their way of being and the issues that they have.  BOTH parthers have wonderful qualities.  BOTH partners have strengths and weaknesses.

Why the "us vs. them" mentality and gross generalizations (such as 'they all assume' and 'in none of the posts') when a further read of just this one thread alone illustrates that the gross generalizations are not true?  Read more of the blog and forums and you'll find lots of examples that don't support your generalizations.)  Furthermore, most (not all) of what you are interpreting as "self righteousness" could also be interpreted as anguish, confusion, bitterness and anger.  "How is it that I can work so hard at trying to make things better and the NEVER SEEM TO CHANGE?"

People with ADHD are far from defective.  My husband, to give an example close to home, is an amazing, exciting man.  I dated quite a while before I found such a wonderful guy.  My daughter (to give another example close to home) is one of the most self-aware, kindest, most interesting young women I know.  They are wonderful people.  I have always accepted everything my daughter has to offer, as is the nature of true parental love.  She's been a pleasure to be with, always.  I will admit that I have not always accepted my husband.  Those times included when he was being mean, hurtful and sarcastic...when he said cruel things to hurt me because he was unhappy...when he blew up for no reason...when he refused to do any chores at all or help at all with our children...when he ignored me and made me feel as if I was completely unlovable.  Though he was a good person underneath, as a husband, he was (your word - and an awful one, I must say) "defective".  I would have used the word "unsatisfying".  As a wife, I was also "defective" at the time.  Sometime, when the good person is "hiding" and refuses to take responsibility for "unhiding" him or herself, then they earn the title of (your words) "defective".  Note here that EITHER member of the couple can earn that title by not taking responsibility and I simultaneously earned it, too.  In our case, our mutual "defectiveness" started with ADHD symptoms and our MUTUAL responses to them.  Now, happily, we have fixed the issues we both had and are far from "defective".  (You might ask if that means that my love is conditional...I would answer that it is not, that you can love someone without accepting their current behavior.)

I really do respect your feelings on this matter even if I think that in your zealousness to make your point you went a little overboard in your generalizations.  I often think it must be really hard for people who struggle with ADHD to read the complaining and pain shared in the forum by some non-ADHD spouses.  (This is one of the reasons that, on the home page, we steer new readers to the "favorite posts" section first.)  And how many people with ADHD have said to me "I just want to be accepted"?!  But to make the blanket judgement that the non-ADHD writers here don't accept responsibility is grossly unfair.  Some are in denial, but most do understand that they are partially responsible, and find themselves here for the specific purpose of learning more and figuring out what they (themselves) can do.  Go read some of the posts.  Yes, they are uneven.  Posters are working through many issues here.  But one of the most frequently asked questions (written or implied) is "what should I do?"  Note the "I".


I find your comments quite unbelievable. There are sites everywhere for them, help everywhere for them, expensive treatment for them, and all they want is more understanding, it is ALWAYS about them and NEVER about us (non-adhd)!. If you read the top it says "NON-ADHD EXPERIENCE". I am going to make a huge assumption here but I think all others would agree. You are FINANCIALLY STABLE" and that alone would make all the difference for most of us!

Excellent counter-point

Thank you **MHV** for injecting even a trace of objectivity into this discussion.  I've read through all of the posts up to this point, and while I can appreciate the frustration living with an ADHD spouse can bring, I refuse for one second to believe it is the foundation of all failed marriages that have an ADHD element to them.  ADHD is an imperfection, much like ones tendency to shift blame unto others before scurtinizing their own role in their misfortune, or being overbearing, being paranoid or aloof, or any other problematic tendencies or mindsets.  ADHD is not a deal breaker.  In fact just about every post here has lauded the other half of the equation of the "disorder" and that it played a large role in what attracted them to the person to begin with.  I think we could all agree that the "good" rarely comes without the "bad."  In other words, you can't have your cake and eat it, too.


Perhaps instead of ADHD being the crux of failed marriages (not withstanding traumatic childhoods, non-ADHD spouses being prone to strident fits of aggression, co-dependency issues, etc.), it is a simple lack of basic compatibility that is at" fault" here.  aka, spouse A's imperfections do not compliment Spouse B's.  Of course there's going to be a large element of disappointment that accompanies this possible reality, but should we let this engender *hate* within us?  Of course not.  Hate is ugly and destructive.  It is not something we should seek or nurture.


Instead, perhaps we should strive to work *with* the other party, whom we've grown to love despite our frustrations and whom we know loves us equally?  We can appreciate that our natural tendancies have pulled us apart without malice or cruel intentions, so why react to such a reality with malice or cruel intent?  It is not healthy for us, for them, and certainly not our children.


I implore that non-ADHD spouses reading this not allow themselves the temporary comfort of creating an enemy of the person that truly loves them, who wants nothing more then their safety and happiness.  We need all the love and support we can get in our lifetimes; enemies will gladly define themselves and do not need their ranks added to by the people we love.


***Edited for attributing to wrong member

Agreed, but certainly not applicable to all cases

Many of us non-ADD spouses *have* tried the loving approach, and working with our spouses. In response to that love, hard work, and understanding, for many of us the problems--emotional, verbal, and even physical abuse--have gotten worse, not better.

I agree that it's always a good idea to approach problems with a spirit of loving kindness. However, it's difficult to work *with* someone who absolutely refuses to acknowledge that there's any sort of problem and work with you as well. And then, worse, blames *you* back for *their* disorder.

For some of us, physical abuse is an element of the ADD--and, yes, I *do* mean to say that it can be a result of the disorder, and not stem from some other issue or "incompatibility."

Some ADD spouses lose focus so profoundly that, on occasion, the non-ADD spouse is physically hurt. If you've been reading the posts on this forum, you've undoubtedly come across several that relate this type of situation. In nearly every instance where I was hurt, I was told I was lying, it wasn't his fault when it very clearly was even to an outside observer, and/or the equivalent of "you got in the way of my fist." Then, while crying in pain, I would be ignored, called a liar, and/or berated. Why? Because his ADD had made him "blank out" and, since he didn't recall having done anything, he assumed that I was being "manipulative" by feigning an injury, crying in pain, and becoming upset. The upshot would be that *I*--while often nursing a burn, a bruise, or some other wound--would be in the position of being made to calm *him* down while he ranted and raved about what a horrible person I was.

That sounds like a "deal-breaker" to me.

That sort of reality warp--which can be caused by ADD--will take a marriage down single-handedly, and there is nothing that the non-ADD partner can do, short of taking all of the abuse in silence. For which, often, that partner is "rewarded" with more and worse abuse.

Are you advocating that? Really?

I've tried being "nice" about being hurt--as well as being forgotten, ignored, and neglected. If the other person doesn't "get it" that they have ADD, and that through it they hurt and neglect other people, no amount of loving kindness is going to help the situation.

ADD, by itself, in many instances, *can* and *will* take down a marriage. It *can be* a deal-breaker if the conditions are right. By this, I mean that the ADDer won't self-reflect and won't take responsibility for himself or herself. If the ADDer is trying--I mean sincerely making a true effort, not kinda-sorta and when he/she feels like it--then the non-ADDer has to help them along, and approach the situation with a spirit of forgiveness. But if the ADDer won't lay the foundational work, it won't at all matter what the non-ADDer does. The marriage will die.

I think many of us--me included--*do* approach as much as we can with loving kindness. I don't "blame" my husband for having ADD. However, he's an adult who refuses to accept the extent of his disorder, how it affects other people, and that he needs to take responsibility for himself. I hold him responsible for his actions and behavior. He's an intelligent man. For him to study the disorder, and to consciously know that he's been diagnosed, and yet to negate the existence of *every* symptom that caused extreme problems and pain for the marriage and the wife he vowed to love and protect is, at the very least, irresponsible. For me, it's been excruciatingly painful.

It sounds as though what you're advocating is looking at the ADD as a minor detail (I assure you that every one here *wishes* that this were the case!), and "sucking it up"--which in many cases would result in the physical and/or psychological and/or emotional taking-down of the non-ADD partner. To me, this sounds like the rationalization of abuse. That the abuse is "meant" or "not meant" by the ADD spouse is, in a way, irrelevant--the effect on the non-ADDer is the same: negation of self, negation of pain, profound lack of respect.

I don't "hate" my ADD spouse. That doesn't mean that I'm going to, figuratively, stand in the way of his fist as he pummels away at my face while telling me that he isn't doing anything . . .

exhausted lady's picture

you hit the nail on the head....

I, too, have decided to end my relationship with my ADD partner.  Although I realize he has ADD, and all that entails......I still am responsible for my own happiness, and my own life.  HE decided to quit his meds years ago, and his symptoms got progressively worse, and worse, and worse.  After dealing with supporting him financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically, mostly without a word of thanks, I threw in the towel.  Enough.  He cheated on me, repeatedly, lied, exposed me to the possibility of HIV, betrayed my trust over and over again, and then tried to make me think it was all my fault.  I realize that a lot of people with ADD don't do this to their partners, but mine did all this and more, to me.  So, I'm done.  The broken promises, other women, taking care of HIS kids, doing every single thing that needed to be done for OVER.  I haven't felt this good in a very long time.  I am finally free.  I had to take on a very intense, high-stress job to get out of this relationship, but the work stress doesn't hold a candle to the stress of living with a man who devalues everything about you.  Oh yes, at first, when he was hyper-focused on me.....I was swept off my feet.  I spent years trying to rekindle those feelings, trying to talk to him, trying everything I could think of.  Nothing worked, because he was always focused on something (or someone) "new".  So, I wish him well......but, I am NOT going to live like that again, EVER! 


I could have written this word for word myself. Thanks for letting me know my feelings are NOT crazy or unfounded and that is him and his disorder. 



"I think many of us--me included--*do* approach as much as we can with loving kindness. I don't "blame" my husband for having ADD. However, he's an adult who refuses to accept the extent of his disorder, how it affects other people, and that he needs to take responsibility for himself. I hold him responsible for his actions and behavior. He's an intelligent man. For him to study the disorder, and to consciously know that he's been diagnosed, and yet to negate the existence of *every* symptom that caused extreme problems and pain for the marriage and the wife he vowed to love and protect is, at the very least, irresponsible. For me, it's been excruciatingly painful."


I've been reading this site for awhile but I finally registered so that I could reply to this blog post.  My username sums up how I feel being married to a man with ADD.  We've been together 5 years, married 4.  Four kids - mine (14), his (ADHD - 9) and ours (3).  My husband is my 42 year old child.  When I met him I had hobbies and things I loved to do.  For the most part, those things are gone.  Normally I'm the main breadwinner; right now I'm the only breadwinner.  I do 95% of the housework, child care, and the errands of life.  I gave up my hobbies because there is just no time left for me.  I tried to keep one hobby for awhile, which was taking dance lessons one night a week.  I had to give that up when my husband jeopardized our relationship with our babysitter because he could not manage to arrive to pick up the little on on time.  My husband keeps up his hobbies and mostly plays on the computer. 

There are so many things I could say to express how I feel about being in this relationship.  Truly I think I could write a book.  Sadness, rage, utter frustration, absolute exhaustion.  They all seem manifest themselves in a profound grief.  I have battled suicidal feelings, but I simply could never do that to my children nor my parents, and I cannot imagine my husband trying to parent our little one alone.  The thought frightens me into keeping myself going no matter what.

That's not to say that there is nothing good.  My husband is a gentle soul, very kind and tender.  If he were not like that, we would not still be together.  Sometimes we still have fun together.  Sometimes I have glimpses of the joy and passion of our first year together.   My life with my ADD husband is sort of like living in a rainy climate.  It's mostly gray and dreary, but once in awhile the sun comes out and the world is beautiful and sparkly for awhile. 

I'm very glad I found this site.  Reading the many blog and forum posts has given me comfort that I'm not alone. 

non-ADHD spouse

hello , I am new to this group.  Glad to find others experiencing some of the same issues that I am facing.  I have not had anyone to talk to.  When my daughter was in first grade she was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD with hyperactivity and impulsivity.  I embraced her diagnosis and taught her that she received 2 gifts -- dyslexia and ADHD she is very creative, bright and many other attributes, but she is a handful.  My son, now in 6th grade, recently diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type.  Same thing taught him to embrace the positive qualities.  I researched and researched ADHD.  However, My husband recently diagnosed with ADHD inattentive without hyperactivity, I cannot embrace his diagnosis.  Why am I such a hyprocrit?  He walks around in a fog and acts helpless.  He is an underachiever and expects me to handle everything.  He does not participate in problem solving and has said many times "I know you will figure it out", maby I want support "figuring things out".  I have to do everything.  I used to have dreams and dreamed of setting goals for a successful future with my husband, now I just dream and hope that I can get everyone through their day.  I feel unappreciated, no one does anything for me, Holidays and birthdays are never made special for me, he does nothing on mothers day.  I am lonely, I would like to have conversations, but most of the time I feel like he is not listening and/or participating in the conversation.  I have talked to him and he agrees that things need to change but it never does (I know this is because he has ADHD and he forgets, but comeon, I have needs too).  He is a good guy, sweet disposition, nice father who plays with the kids and wants to do better.   I am overwhelmed and warn out.  I am tired of taking care of everyone.  I know that my husband can't help many of the things that I complain about.  He is going to the doctor to start treatment at the end of March.  I know that medication will help.  Somedays I have no hope and other days I have hope that treatment will help him unwrap his gifts.  I am so afraid of disappointment, I have been so disappointed in the past.  I have never seen him take an active role in helping himself, so even though he says he wants to, Will he?  I know we will also need treatment, but what kind of therapy should we look for?  I really want to see his potential and I know that he has some wonderful, positive qualities hiding somewhere deep in that brain  of his, I just really hope that he will learn to unwrap and share them.  Any advice or stories are appreciated. 

Not Uncommon

It's not uncommon that people with ADHD kids have little trouble supporting those kids, while they have great difficulty with their spouse's ADHD. One reason is that the expectations for the two relationships are different - a parent/child relationship has different dynamics than an adult/adult relationship. (You don't expect cards from your kids, for example.) Be forewarned that medication is just the start of treatment. One of the very real issues for people who don't get diagnosed until they are adults is that they "missed" learning some basic skills they need. The meds will provide some relief for you husband from his worst symptoms. With that relief, he will then need ot apply himself to creating new habits - including how he conversed with people, how he demonstrates that he's paying attention, how he organizes himself, how he initiates and completes tasks. It takes a while. At the same time, you'll have some work to do in terms of how you interact with him. You'll want to learn ADD sensitive ways to interact, as well as how to set your own boundaries so that the responsibility for your hubby's ADD sits squarely with him. A good place to start with thinking about all of this is the "favorite posts" area of the website.

Great Advice

Hi, Melissa,

I thought this was great advice that you gave.  Do you happen to know where I could get information on interacting with my ADHD spouse.  I sometimes don't know if I give him too much info or if I'm simplifing my message enough.  It would also be helpful to find a website or book for my husband that explains that he didn't "get the basics" growing up and how to get them now (he's still in partial denial on these issues). Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.................Clover1 

I understand

Hi, I'm new too.  Your husband sounds alot like mine.  My husband is also a sweet guy and good with the kids.  Although mine takes his medicine for a time (usually between 3 to 6 months) and then decides he doesn't need it.  This totally throws my life into chaos, because now I have to spend every minute trying to manage the new family that he creates.  When he stops his medicine he stops being a husband and a father.  He becomes kind of a big brother, rebellious teenager to my kids.  He introduces them to movies, music and video games that are in my opinion, for adults, and not even the kind of adults that we want our children to grow up to be.  He dosn't care about their homework, grades, bedtimes.  He and the kids can destroy the house in 2 hours of me being gone.  He blows money and is an example to the kids that money grows on trees.  And he absolutely hates me, when he decides to stop his medicine.  The kids pick up on his sarcastic comments to me and treat me the same.  I absolutely feel I can't handle this anymore.  Whenever this has happened in the past he has threatened divorce.  I have always begged and pleaded for him to start the medicine again as divorce was so devastating to my childhood (stepparents).  After 17 years of marriage this time I said fine, go.  Now he won't go.  I need help.  The only way I could live like this is if I had a full time person to take care of him and the messes he creates when he does this.  My kids went from A's and B's last year to failing when he stopped.  This year they're doing great but in 3 weeks of him being off my daughter has already been found cheating at school.  What do I do?!  I don't even have my spouse to discuss this with.  If I even told him he wouldn't think anything is wrong.  He has said that there is no way he will go back to his medicine.  I am really at my breaking point.  I need him to leave.  The kids obey me when he isn't around and I know it is hard to raise kids alone, but it can't be harder than having another parent in the house telling the kids to go against everything I say.

Dramatic Change

This is a man whom the meds clearly help. You may need a mediator of some sort - therapist or doctor or something. However, as a first step, ask him WHY he isn't on the meds - not in an accusatory way, but to learn. Learn as much as you can about this. Depending upon his answer, you can craft a statement to make to him that addresses HIS needs as well as laying out your own. He may be more responsive to listening to you. The issue for your kids doesn't go away with divorce, unless he doesn't get custody. (I have a friend with a child who fails every test and paper he must turn in on the day after he visits his dad, then does fine the rest of the time, as an example). And you mention that having a "babysitter" of sorts for him would help, but would it really? Is the issue really the mess, or is the issue that he's sarcastic and belittling and hard on the kids? You can counter the spending of the money by also sitting down with the kids and explaining what things the family will now need to give up to pay for the purchase of X that they all just made, for example. You might be able to get a cleaning person to come to the house 3 days a week for an hour or two to clean up. You can calmly say "The sarcasm you are using with me hurts me and makes you look bad" every time he says something sarcastic. The kids aren't stupid...they'll start to think about what they are seeing. But note that any time you yell or seem unreasonable or seem somehow to look "weak" you hurt your credibility. He knows the "solution" to this problem, and so do you (take the meds again) so it's important to really understand what's going on and why he's doing this. So that's the first place to start. Perhaps a counsellor can help you dig into it. (Hint - it may have to do with his feeling the need to assert his "power" in the family.)

I thought the meds helped

The medicine my husband is prescibed is Wellbutrin.  My new counsellor says Wellbutrin is not for ADHD.  While I have read otherwise, I would like an experts opinion.  My husband was always very night and day to me when he was late taking his medicine.  For this reason, I sometimes thought he needed a higher dose.  He would be sarcastic, mistake normal conversation for put-downs, and try to start fights if even a little late taking his medicine.  Now he is like this all of the time with me since discontinuing his medication.  My counsellor has also said that Wellbutrin stays in the body for some number of days after taking it, so I guess she is saying my observations aren't correct?

Wellbutrin is primarily an antidepressant

My husband has been taking Wellbutrin for years. It helped some with his ADD symptoms, but not enough that he was willing to consider working. He has tried all the ADD meds, and once he got on an effective dose, he went back to work. But he's been fighting side effects on all of them, including shaking so bad he got charged with DWI.

My observations line up with yours. One day he forgot his meds and his boss sent him home to take them. It must be pretty noticeable if his boss, not his spouse, noticed the difference. And he's trying different medications to control the shaking. So, even after 3 years, it's still a learning process.


I thought the meds helped

While I though the medicine was a miracle worker for my husband, my new counsellor says Wellbutrin (which is what he was on) is not used to treat ADHD.  Although I have read differently, I would like an experts opinion.  My husband was like night and day if he was even a few hours late taking his dose.  He would be sarcastic, mistaking normal conversation for "put- downs", and try to start fights until about 3o minutes to an hour after he took it.  (he is always like this now that he no longer takes it at all)  She also says that Wellbutrin stays in the body for some days after stopping it.  So I guess she dosn't think my observations are correct.  Does this type of behavior sound like normal ADHD behavior and is Wellbutrin an effective treatment for ADHD?  He tried stimulants and it was a disaster.


Wellbutrin is used very effectively off label for treating ADHD by many doctors, including both Drs. Hallowell and Ratey. The "wear off" factor for Wellbutrin used for ADHD is different for than when used as an anti-depressant (often, Wellbutrin is taken twice a day for ADHD - once in the morning and once around dinner). You should get the opinion of a different doctor on this one, as this particular counsellor doesn't seem to be well versed with how to use this medication. You have observed that it works for your husband - pursue it!

ADHD Spouse

Some of the feelings that I have in my marriage to my ADHD husband are frustration, anger, anxiety, love, and dread, to name a few.  My husband's actions always double my actions because I'm constantly fixing what he messes up.  He was never taught what being an adult is like, i.e., responsibility, etc., so my role is dual in the marriage and that, frankly, is unfair.

dreams feelings.....

Although my spouse is medicated, pills don"t teach skills. We are both stuck in aggression and defense but going to a counsellor to work this out. I often have nightmares where I am rummaging through an old basement and can't get out or that I am looking for a small amount of money to pay to someone to prevent myself from being killed. Other dreams parallel finding intimacy and sensuality with others. I feel depleated, emotionally thin and labile. She is warm and wonderful then distant and angry and I seem to catch her moods and the cycle begins after a "good period." I am trying not to be codependent but I feel I have no voice  that is heard or understood in the marriage. The more I remember my Ala-Non training the better I feel but it seems to put a greater distance between us and add a level of resentment from her side. I feel confused, lost and without direction; I want to run and hide and pull myself in. Due to the crazyness of the interactions between us I have I have considered suicide as a way out. It's the feeling of "which person in either of us will show up today" that keeps me unsteady on my feet. any suggestions????

Dear lonelylondon, If you are

Dear lonelylondon, If you are contemplating suicide, then you need to get immediate help.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worth taking your life. I'm glad you are receiving counseling.  Is it marriage counseling or individual?  I would recommend first each of you get your own counselor to help you with your problems individually.  One thing I told my husband is that we cannot fix our marriage until he utilizes every resource to acknowledge his problems and works on a plan to fix himself.  I also need to work on learning how to communicate with my ADHD husband as well as many other things.  We both receive spiritual counseling which has made all the difference.  I believe your dreams are a way of  you "calling for help".  A call to your pastor would be a great start for you to realize that YOU MATTER and YOU CAN GET THROUGH THIS!!  God, bless...............Clover 1 

A slightly difference experience

I am relatively new to the forum; this is my first post.  But since my situation seems to be a bit different than anything else I've read here, I thought it might be good to share.

I am so blessed to be married to my husband of 9.5 months, who was, thank goodness, diagnosed with ADD when he was in law school (about 10 years ago).  He was likely also suffering symptoms as a kid, but because he is so bright and continued to do well in school anyway, his parents never questioned it.  It wasn't until his 3rd (final) year of law school that he finally saw a mental health professional who made the diagnosis.  My poor husband suffered years of depression and anxiety that were likely related to his ADD before he was diagnosed.  He continues to battle those, but having the ADD diagnosis changed his life.  It took him several years to find a psychiatrist he felt he could work with productively, and also a variety of experiments with different medicines.  He's now doing pretty well (never perfect, of course) on Adderall for his ADD and Cymbalta for his depression/anxiety.

He told me about his ADD fairly early on in our relationship.  We have both seen various mental health professionals at different points in our lives, so I think that made it easier for us than it might have been.  It didn't scare me (as much) that he needed all these pills to function well, and without them, he was like a different person.  It also meant I was more self-aware and willing to talk about what I was bringing to the relationship.

We've been together for nearly 5 years, and during that time, things have mostly been good.  Part of the reason we work so well together is that I am kind of a Type-A personality anyway.  So I just go ahead and do a lot of things that he is terrible at (cooking, certain chores, planning), and try to find other things he's better at.  It's important to me to live in a VERY clean home, and that was a struggle when we first moved in together, and I am simply amazed when I think how far he has come in terms of cleaning up after himself and keeping organized.  We used to fight a lot about how I wanted everything "my way," but he has since agreed that "my way" has its merits at times--and other times, I let it go because, after all, it's his house, too!  He appreciates living in a clean and organized house, so he usually goes along with things how I lay them out, and we tweak as needed to make sure he can actually keep up.  I learned to recognize that he just does not think or function the way I do, and he never will.  And that's OKAY.  If I married a clone of myself, that would make me crazy!  I actually appreciate being able to do things the way I want a lot of the time.

Sometimes he is a little resentful of being "managed" by me, but most of the time it works for both of us.  He appreciates being reminded about things about 80% of the time--and when he doesn't, I tell him he can't have it both ways--he can't be mad at me for reminding him, when he'd also be mad at me if I DIDN'T remind him.  Mostly he is grateful that I help him as best I can, and I am grateful for how hard he works to try make me happy.  I try to be a gentle reminder, rather than a nag, and that usually works.  (E.g., "hey, I know you had a busy day--did you get a chance to call so-and-so?")

We truly are a partnership.  Despite all the help I give him, I am not willing to "mother" him.  He is a grown man, and he can contribute to this marriage a full 50%, even if that 50% doesn't look the way I thought it might.  I refuse to take on ALL the household duties (we both have full-time jobs; no kids yet), so we worked out a pattern where he does certain tasks that are easier for him, and I do others that are harder for him.  Practically speaking, this means he does a lot of the laundry (I often remind him to do it, but that's not such a big deal) and vacuuming and dishes, while I do all the cooking, dusting, picking up around the house, etc.  Finances-wise, he handles the big-picture stuff (retirement, long-term savings), while I manage more of the day-to-day.

He has a pretty prestigious job as an attorney, and is incredibly smart.  His treatment has helped him become much more successful.  It amazed me to learn how well organized he is at work these days!  But he had to learn ways to deal with his ADD, and he did.  That makes me so proud.  He also really values my opinion, even about stuff at work, and I try to help him with the areas he struggles with the most--reading people, remaining calm and diplomatic, etc.  These are things I am good at, and it makes me feel good to help him--and then he feels like I want to help, and it's a win-win.

Meanwhile, he has brought a lot of fun and spontaneity into my life.  I am a very orderly person, and without him, I fear the order would take over all the fun!  He is so much more emotional than any other man I've known, which is mostly a sweet and wonderful thing.  He is very loving and thoughtful.  I have never felt so cherished.

This is not to say that everything is perfect--of course it isn't.  We struggle with how to communicate about his ADD.  I try to keep a sense of humor about it, so things don't get so heavy all the time.  He struggles with that--he takes so many things personally, even when I make clear that it's his ADD I blame and not him personally.  But we're continuing to work on that.  90% of the time, I don't mind having to remind him about stuff, or all the little things I do that he doesn't know about.  And the rest of the time?  I am trying to find healthy ways to blow off that steam (sometimes it's as little as turning my head and rolling my eyes so he can't see; sometimes I need to talk to someone else). Sometimes when he doesn't take his Adderall (he has to give his body a break every so often; it wears him out so be so focused all the time), he's very volatile and moody, and it can be hard then.  We're more likely to argue, and he gets mad when I ask him, "did you take your meds?"  Usually after 30 minutes or so, he calms down and we go about our day.  It is sometimes hard for him to recognize that as an "outside" party, I can tell when his mood or affect fluctuates because of his medication, whereas he's too "in it" to be able to be objective.  When he's changed meds over the last few years, this has been a problem and led to more arguing.  Luckily, it's always temporary.

Overall, though, we're both very happy and looking forward to continuing to build a strong marriage.  I think our individual self-awareness, respect for one another, and faith have helped us tremendously.  We have bad days, sure, but for now, at least, the good so far outweighs the bad.  Whenever he forgets something, unless it's really critical, I try to let it roll, and remind myself how many things he DOESN'T forget anymore, and how far he's come.  I know a lot of daily functioning is a lot tougher for him than it is for me as a non-ADD adult, and because I see how hard he works, it's easier for me to let the little stuff go.

Great post

Hey Juliefsu,

what a great post. My husband has ADD and I think I'm doing many of the same things as you do. It was very hard at first and I'm sure there are hard times to come. But I am so pleased to be with him, and so pleased to see all the progress. It's also great to read your post because it makes me think that the progress is not just in my mind.

I think success in these marriages has a lot to do with accepting that your man loves you and that most of the things that seem hurtful are unintentional. Once you understand, and truly accept, these two things it becomes easier to deal with.

I think the times when he is off medication, although they become hard to get through, are helpful because they fully illustrate to what extent this really is a condition. Also reading all these posts where I see other spouses complaining about the same symptoms in their husbands is helpful because it shows me that it IS a condition, not something he can just fix.

My husband is more open, honest and creative than most people. He is hard to please sometimes because things have to be in his special way, but man is he easy to please at other times.

You and I also have in common that I am quite orderly, but my life was actually quite messy until I met him. When he moved in I realized I had to shape up, and it is actually really good for me to HAVE to keep things tidy. It is how I thrive best. He pretends that he doesn't need all this orderliness, but we both know that he needs it more than most because he can't stand it when he can't find things. You say you actually like the fact that you can have things your way - so do I, and I think most women do. In that respect, we argue less over the household chores than other couples.

I could go on - but thanks again for such a positive post.

i agree with monkeygirl

i agree - thanks for a positive post juliesfu! it's great to see a post where someone has been able to work through the challenges to something one can be hopeful and excited about. it probably helps that your husband was quite successful to begin with, but I can tell that YOUR smarts and flexibility have amply contributed to the success as well.

I admit I am challenged in that area, and your post gave me motivation to renew my efforts to work in a positive way with my not-sure-if-he-has-ADD-but-sure-sounds-it husband.  It also doesn't help that my husband is incredibly defensive, argumentative, and dismissive.

Good luck to all!

Are we there yet?

I have been married to an ADD husband for almost 30years. The first 12 years of our marriage were a complete roller coaster ride of affairs, lies, crazy jealousy on his part (even thought he was the one having the affairs), booze and overall turmoil. We went to so many counselors but things just stayed the same. Finally, we separated and stayed apart for 6 1/2 years and I managed to begin to feel like myself again...more confident, regaining a spirit of adventure, more relaxed with the kids, making future plans, and enjoying life more. My chest wasn't tight and filled with repressed anger and sadness all the time. I could see beyond today's problems and into hopes and dreams for the future. I had more physical energy and very few aches and pains.

We have been back together for 11 years and life is not good. I feel like exploding most of the time and my body, especially my legs, are filled with a lot of pain.  No more hopes and dreams...most times I try to plan a vacation or activity, he "forgets" to get the time off from work or plans something else. This is with asking him if he would like to do this thing with the family and him responding "yes". This is with many verbal and written reminders of the forthcoming event. I am left taking long vacations with the kids by myself. I am left attending family reunions without him. I am left trying to complete projects around the house when we have asked others to come help us with something like... put up an arbor. The arbor project was this last weekend and something that he had agreed on during the previous week. I am left to explain why he is not there and to do it by myself.  I know that I have a choice when left to do these things on my own and could choose to not do them. At least in choosing to do them, I have a good feeling of accomplishment and fun times with others. I surely do miss having a partner in life, one I can depend on and share my life with.  The best description I have of what my husband is, is a fairly bad room that does not share in household responsibilies, that is gone ( emotionally and physically) when needed and who is grumpy and downright nasty at times.

He was diagnosed with ADD about 4 years ago and tried 5-6 different meds without much success. The Adderall worked well but made him grind his teeth so much that it was painful and not good. Nothing else worked at all. We have an appointment tomorrow to start work with a new Psychiatrist and hopefully get him started on trying some new meds. I will not stay with him any longer if he is not medicated. All the therapy in the world ( and we have tried most of it) will not keep me here if he doesn't get on some meds to make him an empathetic person at times and one with whom I can have a rational, responsible relationship some of the time. 

I know that I have done things wrong in this marriage, too. I have allowed him to manipulate me with his anger.  I have taken over the role of mother to him. I do not like who I am when I am with him...a person full of repressed anger and very little joy for life. In my effort to not yell and scream at his ADD behaviors I have repressed not only my anger, but my other emotions as well. As I respond to others in the family, I find that there is not much enthusiasm on my part to do things or be as involved as I'd like to be. I'm worn out from dealing with him. I look forward to when he is gone playing music with his is peaceful and things make sense with real responses to situations and life. I feel crazy when he's around and I'm dealing with the ADD perspective of life. I have spent years trying to figure out what I could do to make this marriage work. Now, I would mostly like to just get out of this relationship and cut my losses. I will continue trying for the sake of the family and put my effort into this new Psych. and hopefully new meds. Only, though, if my husband gets a clear enough head to see what his ADD is doing and takes the responsibility to become the person that he truly is. That person can be so tender, loving and fun......someone that I see so rarely these days.

Emotional detachment in marriage is a cruel irony

"I know that I have done things wrong in this marriage, too. I have allowed him to manipulate me with his anger.  I have taken over the role of mother to him. I do not like who I am when I am with him...a person full of repressed anger and very little joy for life. In my effort to not yell and scream at his ADD behaviors I have repressed not only my anger, but my other emotions as well. ...I'm worn out from dealing with him. I look forward to when he is gone ... I feel crazy when he's around ... I have spent years trying to figure out what I could do to make this marriage work. Now, I would mostly like to just get out of this relationship and cut my losses. ...[my husband] can be so tender, loving and fun......someone that I see so rarely these days."

Thank you for sharing. You've expressed exactly what I feel too. I'm so sorry it's this hard. You're not alone.

feelings of loss

HI ceebee,

you have articulated exactly how I am feeling, I too have been married 32 years to a man with ADD yet to be diagnosed.  I have feelings of grief and loss of the life I could have had, if only I'd known earlier about adult ADD/ADHD.

I too have many repressed emotions, which have drained me and I have to make myself attend family events with a smile on my face and be able to engage in conversations when I actually feel like I am being false and hypocritical all the time with my fake ness.  I have been totally drained, by trying to keep my marriage together and put on this brave face that I am a 'superwoman' and can do everything.  Raising 3 children alone, and for them to have missed out on what it's like to have a father, that talks to them without yelling, attends their school events, takes and interest in them, they too have suffered significantly. My only hope is that they do not marry a person with ADD/ADHD - as they have seen my pain and sadness, stress I would not wish that on anyone.

If I had my time over,  I would have sought help possibly 30 years ago, rather than shouldering all the responsibility and constant blame.  Perhaps my marriage would not have lasted, but at least I would have had a chance to move on and live a 'life' .  I feel that I deserved better.  My anger comes from these feelings where my husband has had free run on choosing his life path, I feel he has stolen my right to a fair and equitable relationship.  This will be impossible living with a partner with ADD/ADHD, life will always be onesided and the weight of responsibility will always be on my shoulders  -  I acknowledge that he has disability - but ultimately, that doesnt mean that I have to live the remainder of my life looking after him, I have given him 32 years the best part of his and my life, I now have to be a little selfish and have some life while I have my health and few remaining years ahead of me.

If he fails to acknowledge his ADD/ADHD and seek help, my marriage will not last.

Non-ADHD Experience

Hi, Melissa,

There are some other feelings that I have about being married to a man with ADHD.  I feel cheated out of a life that I was supposed to have.  Every day is a constant struggle of being a wife, parent, and a parent to my husband.  It is frustrating having to constantly take responsibility for your spouse.  Isn't the man supposed to take care of the woman?  I didn't sign up for a parent-child marriage, but that is what I got.  Since he is now taking Concerta as well as Wellbutrin, things have gotten a little better.  I guess the best way to sum up my feelings is "lonely" and "overwhelmed".  Believe me, it takes a lot of patience, perserverance, and faith to stay in a marriage where you have doubt, lack of trust, and insecurity.  Hope this is helpful to you.

God bless...........Clover1

cheated out of my own carefree way of life...

clover1, i can relate. i feel guilty for thinking that way, and i go back to the "in sickness and in health" part of my vows and think that if this were cancer or paraplegia, with all attendant responsibilities, would i feel any different? it makes me feel awful for thinking that some of his behaviors have given me every excuse i need...but what i'm really walking out on is my spouse's, my love's, most serious illness.

still, i don't want to be an angry martyr in the end, so the resentment and selfishness i feel will have to go if i am going to stick by him. i also believe that everyone, including him, deserves a loving, appreciative partner...not a cranky martyr doing it for the "family." what a dilemma. sigh. i was the "dreamer" before i met people call me the practical one. i hate it.

Happycamper13:  I have an

Happycamper13:  I have an auto immune disease which is a serious physical illness with some cognitive symptons as well, but I handle everything because my ADHD husband, try as he does, simply can't do some things.  I used to be a dreamer too, but now, I am realistic.  The bottom line is my husband got the help he needed, but only after I filed for divorce.  We are together again, but I know I will never have the life I thought I was going to have when I got married.  I love my husband and I know he loves me--we just have to remember to always check in with each other every day.  I believe God will one day give us all exactly what we need and want.  Until then, try to focus on what you do have, not what you don't have.  That's what keeps me going as well as my church.......clover1


Hi Clover1,

don't you find that the doubt, lack of trust, and insecurity fade when you realize how much of it is  triggered by actions of your husband that were not intended to have this effect? I struggled at first with feeling ignored and not appreciated when I came home to find that he had done nothing around the house, except for contributing to an already growing mess. I understand now that it has nothing to do with a lack of love or appreciation, and that is really what I bargained for when I said Yes to him: his love. In fact, a lot of the misery is produced in my own mind because I make this connection between dirty dishes and lack of appreciation. That is where a lot of us spouses are "wired the wrong way", at least from the perspective of a person suffering from ADD.

If I broke my leg, my husband would not feel hurt if I refused to go dancing. But that is actually how many spouses react to their partner's ADD. And we are supposed to be mentally sane...

It helps some,

but doesn't heal everything.  It's what's enabled me to forgive some rather big mistakes. We're both working on things and it's made life a lot less stressful. I can (usually) brush off the dirty dishes, the smelly socks on the floor or the message that doesn't get passed on. 

But knowing about his ADD doesn't improve the credit rating that he dragged through the dirt. It doesn't suddenly make my pregnancy a happy experience, instead of wondering whether he had lied to me about wanting the baby.  It doesn't make those first horrible, miserable months of motherhood suddenly become the joyous time I had expected it to be. It won't bring back the friends that I've lost because of his attitude.  It doesn't erase the feelings of worthlessness and loneliness from the last eight years or make me feel like a goddess after regularly going four to eighteen months without being intimate. It certainly doesn't give me back my self-esteem or the money he wasted on video games while I was struggling to put food on the table.  It doesn't give us a good reference from our last landlord and make it possible for us to rent again in his hometown.  It doesn't make this relationship a partnership.

His actions, while not malicious, were still irresponsible. They've impacted the entire family instead of just him and I've had to give too much of myself to hold things together. I don't know if I can ever trust him with money again - I'm lucky that he doesn't mind me taking care of all the finances, but I hate that I have to do it just to be sure we can keep a roof over our heads.

But personally, no, it doesn't just fade away and from reading the tales of a lot of the other posters I doubt I'm alone in this. 

As for your broken leg analogy, with a broken leg, you know about it upfront. It's not sprung on you years into the relationship, you know their capabilities and there's an end in sight to their limitations. And if being resentful over things I have no control over having a huge impact on my life - not just for a moment, but for years to come - is not a sane reaction, then measure me up for that white jacket that lets me hug myself.  


Ah well, maybe I'm just overly optimistic because I'm only seven months into our marriage... I have a great deal of experience in battling with self-esteem, as i suffer from depression. It is sad and ironic that running a family and meeting the challenge of being married to someone with ADHD should cause someone to feel low self-esteem, when what you really deserve is a medal of some kind. I liked your post because you seem to be among the rare spouses that cope really well, and seem to have the right angle on things. Well done you!

Thank you!

I think being able to understand that he's not being cruel or malicious is due to being raised by an alcoholic mother who was very often cruel and malicious when drunk.  The analogy we've always used to try and explain our differences in the way we see things and process information is that we're like two differently programmed televisions - we both had a good laugh when we discovered how true that really was!  

Don't get me wrong - I have my bad days,  full of anger and resentment, but I try not to take it out on him, since he has enough to deal with day to day.  Just as his diagnosis didn't solve any issues, I know that fighting with him won't solve anything either. Getting angry may light the fire under him for an hour or two but aids nothing long term.  

It's nice to read a positive post! So many posters here have been so damaged by their partner's actions that my heart breaks for them. 


Haha - the television comparison is good - I used to use this kitchen-appliance comparison: If you've bought a blender,  don't expect it to make bread! This was before I got married, and before I understood that the guy I was dating had ADD. I think a lot of women married to "normal" guys could use that advice: he works this way, don't try and make him work any other way because you will only cause grief for the two of you. Maybe you can make him work the way you want, but he will lose his passion and not be the man you fell in love with.

The way I imagine it, if you suffer from ADHD, life is really really complicated, and they feel a lot of pressure to tackle issues that seem really complex to them, and a lot of guilt for being incapable of it. So when they react with anger and frustration it is because they are overburdened and stressed out - by things that seem totally trivial to the rest of us, but nevertheless... I totally agree that being angry doesn't really help. Except my husband does tend to listen and understand, at least when I present my anger or bewilderment in such a way that he knows I am not blaming him or trying to pick a fight. If he can step back and see the problem as a third party. so to speak.

Anyhow, enough from here. Nice to read your post too!

Best MG

Thank you!

Dear Monkey Girl,

Thank you! Your post really hit home with me.

i miss being careless

i spent so much time getting myself to let go before i met my husband. i came from a very "type a" upbringing, an imperfect perfectionist with great grades, romantic dreams and a nervous stomach. i strove to let go of control, become carefree, live in the moment. i became a very "free spirit" according to my family and friends...felt light on my feet and in my heart, mostly. i defined myself by learning to take life less seriously, breathe and not worry over little things, like clean dishes or a perfect body. it's part of what made my husband and others fall for me.

now i'm the practical drag. i don't write creatively anymore, both because i'm exhausted by all the spinning chaos in my head, and because i don't think my man's fragile ego can handle the characters and stories i want to write. he could sometimes, but i know that at others he would obsess and be hurt or jealous of nothing, fiction. i feel like a prisoner in my creative mind anymore.  i'm the one his friends and family say is so good for him because i'm so "grounded" and "reasonable." i don't mind being described that way sometimes, but now i feel that's all i am, all i'm allowed to be.

my dreams are scattered now, my hopes so fragile. i've built back up walls it took me years to tear down. i fear if i stay with him, i will never have the moments of quiet and solitude i need to think or fully become myself. what's funny is that he helped me tear down so many walls, become vulnerable, allow myself to need another human being....then he started to fall through, over and over again.

he loves me so much that i still fantasize that we can have a romance and partnership to go with our easy, tender and engaged friendship. but the future is so scary to me. i want to love him and try, and i feel like we could be happy together...and never really be happy without one another. but i'm scared to spend my tiny daughter's young life and a vital portion of mine growing more tired, more bitter, or getting hurt the way i have been. it doesn't help that my famous family legacy is temper. i feel the universe is giving me the ultimate challenge to how i process anger, and to overcoming my own patterns - and i wonder if i'm buying into a life of struggle. i was doing pretty well with it, i thought, until the last year or so. i'm devastated that life has to be this hard and wondering if it really does.

i also sometimes still feel this is all my fault, that i'm impossible to live with once you get to know me, that someone else would love him just as he is, with few complaints, no matter how unrealistic that may be for anyone. i have my own self-esteem issues, as do most of us i suspect. i love him. i feel like i've failed him somehow. i also feel like i failed to choose a responsible mate, and that all the waiting i did to find the right one just led me to another guy who fooled me with his "potential." duped by my own insanity, co-dependency, whatever.


Quiet and solitude


a lot of non-ADDers complain about being neglected by their partner, and at the same time of not having time to themselves. I realized some time ago that there is a contradiction in that. There are long times when he is concentrating on something else, or hangs out with friends and really doesn't need me to hang out with him. Last week I went for a ride, went to the park and lay down in the sunshine for a while, jsut to look at the trees and let my thoughts wander, then went for coffee at a café I like and read the newspaper. We are newly married, so my brain tends to work overtime trying to figure out how we are going to get organized. But that afternoon, I decided that I could take time out, and I spent a nice time with myself, thinking about other things, reading newspaper articles that would have interested me before we got married. It felt very, very good.

He spends a lot of time in his own world, and I think I should do just that more often. I think it is part of your organized and maybe perfectionist self that tells you that you must constantly work on your family life. But I wonder if it might help you if you sometimes took some time out, and just spent some time relaxing on your own. Reconnecting with yourself, and with the woman your husband fell in love with.

That is, if you can find the time :-)

i am reconnecting now....

thank you for your comment today. it's so nice to know someone reads your thoughts and actually cares sometimes...or sees themselves in your words.

my husband i are separated. just before my post above i found out that he had impregnated a young, broke, unstable, train-wreck of a foreign girl when i was 8 months pregnant with our only child. the other baby was 2 months old before i knew. he'd known since the day the other woman tested positive. he has since turned his whole life around and is keeping up the great improvements. he's in treatment, on good meds and looks like the man i fell in love with for the most part. unfortunately, he now has to face the 18+year freight train he set in motion when his condition and his soul were so out of control. i don't believe i can be by his side as he does it and still be who i want to be, or have the light-hearted outlook that is so much "me." we are close still, and i keep thinking that now that he's on the right path, someone else will get to reap the benefits of his healthier attention. maybe one day, it will be me again. some part of me still fantasizes that i could release the anger, that he could, with dignity, manage the mess he's made and turn it around, and some years from now, we'll try again. i think that fantasy keeps me going as i detach and separate further...part of me won't let go of  "you never know."

that said, i am happy you are taking time to connect with yourself and find your peace and your womanhood. it will help your marriage, and help you maintain your love and strength through whatever comes your way. my problem was never in the contradiction. my husband never wanted to do anything alone. for even the most solitary task, he wanted me in the room, paying attention to what he was if in moral support or something. he held on so tight, with so much smothering love i couldn't breathe. he threw subtle guilt trips or pleadings around almost anytime i asked for time alone or with friends. he took it very personally that i didn't spend every waking minute enthralled with him, wanting to be by his side for every breath. he's working on that now in counseling.

i wish you the best. i've not been here for a while. i moved over to a site called i do direct a lot of people here though. this site was a real eye-opener for myself and my spouse.

thanks again...


Thanks again

Hello, and thank you for responding. Yes, this list is a real eye-opener. I don't even know what to say about your story - except that I hope for you that you will get through this ordeal and win your old personality back. I can see that you have a LOT of things to deal with, but something tells me that you also have the ability to escape bitterness and resentment.

I wish I could say more - I read your email just before I went away for the week end, and actually thought about your story many times during the trip. I do think that if we are able to meet this challenge and deal with it, we will be stronger and wiser than most people. Am fully aware of sounding a bit new age, but that is how I feel about it.



Dear Happy Camper 13

You are such a brave woman.  Thank you for your story.  My husband had an affair and had sex with the woman without using a condom.  She was not on birth control at the time and was actually trying to have a child with her own husband whom she had been married to for less than a year.  The women's husband was a drug user and my husband knew this and still did not use a condom.  Just completely reckless.  Fortunately I did not contract any STDs and she did not get pregnant, but this could have been me.  The woman was a train wreck.  Self admitted alcoholic, admitted getting drunk a lot and sleeping around. Had been married for less than a year....  I screamed at my husband "do you really thing being with an alcoholic is going to improve the quality of your life?  Do you really want the mother of your child to be an alcoholic? You grew up in an alcoholic home how was that for you?  Was that fun for you.?  Are you fucking crazy? I said the woman looks like your own Mother and is an alcoholic like your Father.  You are trying to re-create the dysfunction you grew up with my God do you need therapy!"  She was a train wreck.

But for a person with ADHD an alcoholic is the perfect choice.  She would provide lots of chaos and stimulation in a toxic way of course, but truly this could work.  I said if this is what you find is attractive than you and I no longer have anything in common.  We are separated and getting a divorce.  The woman did not want to be with my husband and had ended the affair saying she wanted to try to make her marriage work.  I could have been you in an instant.  I cannot imagine the pain you are feeling, that fact that you can even get out of bed.  I am in awe of you.  I wish I could hug you hold you.  Thank you for that web site I am definitely going to check it out.  I wish you all the best.  You are a very very brave woman for sharing your story.  I am electronically here for you day and night anytime.

no-win situation

Feelings of the non-ADD spouse:


I am writing this knowing that my husband has ADD, and only beginning to grasp that this vastly affects every aspect of our social and emotional life together. I believe this has everything to do with where we are now in our relationship, a complete breakdown in communication or empathy for the other person.  The effect on me is that I feel completely alone in the relationship, desperately trying to talk about what things have happened that contributed to me feeling so distant, so unsupported and so lonely. My husband experiences this as hammering away at what he did wrong or only talking about what is wrong with him. He would much rather just move on and not talk about it because it happened yesterday. In reality we then just move on and create more distance between us, more misunderstandings and with no foundation to solve the same problems that arise in the future. 


I am feeling like this is hopeless. Just when I need him the most, I am at my most vulnerable and need the most support, he is in his own world, not connected to mine and I am the most alone. I feel angry and hurt and disconnected. This is even more highlighted when there is a major social emotional change going on. If I try to bring it up and analyze it, he explodes because I have already talked about it in the past. This makes me feel crazy and emotionally blocked and stuck. I am dammed if I do and dammed if I don't. My need to talk is blocked by his need to ignore it. How can one move on if issues are never resolved? Is that the plight of the ADD relationship, issues are never resolved, things never change and the non-ADD spouse just has to move on alone, unhappy, unconnected, unsupported, distant, and forever frustrated?


Seems like a no win situation.



I can relate

to your comments. I could have written much of what you wrote. I also feel quite alone in our relationship. There is so much I want to say! So much I need to say. Like your husband, talking about something that happened yesterday makes no sense to my husband, and as in your relationship, this just grows the divide. I actually tried withdrawing from him, thinking he might ask what was going on. He loved it! He even thanked me for the silence, not that I hadn't been muzzled for quite a while before withdrawing. That's how I feel -- muzzled. It takes a lot of effort to keep the lid on the emotional explosion happening inside me. 

I don't think you can move on without resolution of some kind, though I'd be really happy to hear ideas if there are any out there. 

Every day I get closer to leaving. 

Response to I can relate

Dear Wishannastar,

Shutting up and putting up is what my husband wanted too.  Just shut up, do everything, let me treat you like a door mat and "Life is Good" as they say.  Let me stay out week nights until 2:30 am, let me screen suck 24 7 during our two week vacation and just shut up and be along for the ride.  That was my job.  That is what I needed to do to make it work.  That just didn't work for me.

We are separated and will be divorcing.  This web site keeps me strong.  Reminds me what did happen, but more importantly what could have happened.  We have no children together. I need to divorce, no going back.  I try to forget all the things I love about him.  Try not to think about when it was good.  The first 5 years were amazing, the last 5 total despair.  I read the happy endings on here and I dream about that being me but deep down it is not going to happen.  My husband needs to fall a lot further.  Time will tell what his rock bottom moment is.  Thanks for you post.  It helped me a lot.

hockeymom11's picture

more along my line

this post is more along my line of thought.  I've read TONS of posts about how to be positive, how to respond, how to help the ADDr, but my husband doesn't WANT help.  He tells me all the time that I'm the one with the problem and I need the meds and I'm the one that yells and is dysfunctional etc etc etc.

After reading some of the posts of you folks just "giving up", well, we're not just giving up.  I'm tired of being a door mat.  I'm tired of doing everything, living alone, feeling isolated and him not giving a shit.  I am DONE. We have kids together (one with ADHD) so there's no getting rid of him forever, but I'm done putting up with his selfishness and unwillingness to listen or change anything.

He tells me all the time that I'm the bad parent, I'm inconsistent, I can't follow through with a task or keep on track. What he is describing is HIMSELF.  For 14 years I've been the CEO of our house and our children.  the only thing he did was the finances which was  BIG MISTAKE.  Now he has spent thousands on computers, video games, remote control cars, go-carts, golf carts, race cars MP3 players (because two just aren't enough!). 

I'm done.  Melissa posted after one of mine and said it sounds like a nasty divorce heading our way b/c of the way I was responding.  I don't want nasty, I just want out.  I'm fed up.  I want peace for me and my children. 

He doesn't want to change, I've asked him if he understands what his behavior does to me.  I gave him Melissa's handout on "6 signs ADHD may be part of your marriage" and "For the man who thinks ADHD doesn't matter" from this site.  I told him that those words on the paper are EXACTLY how I feel and the REASON why I react the way I do.  He read them and could care less.  He just doesn't see it, he shows no emotion and will never change. 

I know we should "never say never", but I've wasted years in a miserable relationship and I just can't spend the rest of my life like that.  There has GOT to be something BETTER out there. Even if it means being alone and at peace. 

Hugs for you, hockeymom11 . . .

My husband and I don't have children, but I'm in the same boat with the husband I'm divorcing. I'm always wrong, he's always right, and the ADHD as far as he's concerned is responsible for nothing more than pleasant personality quirks. <rolls eyes>

I really feel for you, and, again although I don't have children, I fully understand your anger and frustration. There's nothing you can do when an ADHD spouse just doesn't think anything is wrong, isn't interested in anything like self-reflection or self-monitoring, and doesn't want help (or doesn't want enough!). After enough stonewalling by the guy, I know that I looked at my life and thought that I had two options: try to mend the marriage, hope that he "gets it," and resign myself to being miserable until he does (if he does), or just let go move on, and live my own life. My husband left me (because I was the "bad" one), but I hit a point a long time ago where I just don't want him back. At this point, I think I want the divorce more than he does, and he's no closer to "getting it." I don't think he ever will, really. 

I'm doing better now that I've been away from him for a number of months, and I know things will only continue to get better. I wasn't so sure about that for a while. I had an awful lot of anger and annoyance built up! But that's not "me"--it's what living with his disorder turned me into. I'm much, much closer now to the "real me" than to the "living with him" me, even though things are difficult, depressing at times, and heartbreaking when I think of what I've been cheated of. I feel so much more calm now, even when things are going crazy around me, than I was with him. Every little thing would send me into a frantic tailspin when he was here. Now, even when near-disaster strikes, once I've come to grips with it, I can stand back, assess the situation, roll up my sleeves, and get to work on fixing it.

Things *will* get better. <hugs>

Reply to no win situation

Dear No Fun,

Your problem was my problem.  We went to marriage counseling and all of the problems in our marriage were identified.  Unfortunately, the only person who could fix them was my husband.  I was on board and willing to work my ass off but he clearly wasn't.  So yes, we had all the issues down but there was and is no resolution.  He had no interest in individual therapy.  Was willing to continue marriage counseling, but the counselor said he needed to work with him alone and there was no point in us coming together anymore.  These issues can be fixed if both want to work very hard in therapy and do the recommendations found detailed in the web site by Melissa and Dr. Hallowell.  My husband just wasn't interested.

I said this before but in one session my husband was asked "how do you think it makes Kelly feel when you are out with her and flirting right in front of her?" My husband "Like crap!" Counselor "then why are you doing it?"  Husband: "I don't know".  I said don't you want to figure it out? Don't you want to stop doing it. Your killing me here. NOPE.

Bottom line is he didn't want to figure it out, for what ever reason he was not willing to go there.  Your hurting your wife, your making her feel like crap, your making her feel invisible and you don't care enough to figure it out? WTF! I truly feel that to him our life looked pretty normal and great compared to the home he grew up in and he didn't really see a problem with all these problems. I truly feel because of his up bringing he did not know how completely fucked up this was.  It just didn't seem that bad to him.  Getting well is taking away their drug.  All these destructive behaviors feed their brain and I think the thought of giving them up terrified him.  So I guess there was no hope.  He was not interested in fixing anything for what ever reason.  I guess because he wasn't throwing me out of a car and driving away leaving me on the side of the road everything was OK.  All this is not so bad.  What is she complaining about.  That is one of the stories he remembered. He and his brother and sister were in a car.  His parents were fighting. His Father pulled over, pulled her out of the car and left his mother on the side of the road.   Then his Father began slamming a rock on the hood of the car with the three kids in the back seat yelling.  "We are all going to die!" What was going on in our home wasn't that significant.  He wasn't beating me, wasn't swearing at me, wasn't getting drunk and being passed out on the couch.  Wasn't throwing me out of a car. Compared to what he had seen in his life growing up, what was wrong with our marriage, just didn't seem like a big enough problem for him to deal with.  I was devastated.  Problems identified.  Solutions were not going to happen. Period.  Not now anyway.  Thanks for you post. It really spoke to me.

Rebuilding My Dreams

I was 21 when I met the man suffering from ADHD who is about to become my ex-husband. I've been riding this rollercoaster for 10 years to the month.

When he and I fell in love, we both marvelled that we'd found each other, our soul mates. We shared the same values, our personalities clicked as if we'd always known each other, there was an intense chemistry that I've never known before or since - it really was love at first sight - and the more we knew each other, the more perfect it became: he was raised abroad and his family were all overseas, while my career in international development would take me abroad often. I couldn't have children and he didn't need any. We were both comfortable with an unconventional lifestyle and we were happy with the idea of making each other our home as we traveled the globe.  Although his life was a mess when I met him because he had overstayed his student visa and had become an "illegal," we took a chance and married thinking things would be much more normal once the instability in his life and the stress impacting his behavior were minimized with the regularization of his legal status.

But over time it became clear to me that his topsy-turvy life had to be due to more than his legal status.  Through my determined efforts to understand his typical ADHD behavior I was able to put the puzzle pieces together myself, but he would vascillate between accepting the diagnosis and denying it.  Six years after being professionally diagnosed, he still insists on believing it's a character flaw and not ADHD that makes him how he is, creating a cycle of self-hatred that pushes him toward destructive behaviors (substance abuse, cheating, lying, verbal/physical aggression, repeated job conflicts/loss, cheating, legal infractions). He resents my efforts to heal our relationship by trying to confront the ADHD situation. His favorite expression has become "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink"... he even has it plastered on his Facebook page.  So I'm divorcing him now, and of course whenever our relationship has reached a crisis point in the past he's been there to talk me back into staying with empty promises and lots of tears and declarations of love so he's doing that again.  But ten years is enough.

I'm still young, but I'm a realist too.  Losing this relationship is losing all the dreams that came with it.  It's not going to be easy finding someone like him again, someone who felt like a soul mate, who didn't need kids, who was ready to follow his wife around the world (!). If I get lucky enough to find someone like that again, it will be hard to trust and love as freely as I did with this man because the abuse, the lies, the cheating, the back-and-forth, the empty promises and the years of wasted love and support have drained me so much.  Now I have to pick up the shreds of my self-esteem and dignity.  Those who know me think that I exercised poor judgment by believing in him and working with him to accommodate or overcome his ADHD behaviors, which they simply see as immaturity at best and abusiveness at worst.  I know he needs a counselor and meds, and I kept trying to get him to accept that, but as he says, "You can lead a horse to water..."




The "you can lead a horse to water" comment seems so defiant, it makes me wonder if there is a power struggle going on and this is his way of asserting his power. The other interpretation would be that he has no confidence whatsoever in his ability to change his life (very low self confidence) and therefore figures it's less risky to "not try" (and cover it up with clever sayings) than to try and risk failure. I don't believe that you showed poor judgement. How would you have felt about yourself if you ran at the first signs of trouble? Unfortunately, however, you can't fix this problem as the underlying issues have to do with untreated ADHD symptoms. Very sad that your husband can't find it inside himself somewhere to confront his ADHD for something that seemed so good. My heart goes out to you.

This sounds so familiar

I was absolutely blown away at what I read. I am a non and our relationship was so perfect, so wonderful, did not think life could get any better, I had it all and didn't need a thing now. We married within a year and 6 months later it started unraveling. She became distant, detached, careless and thoughtless to mention a few things. I would ask her a question and it was my fault.......time and time again. Any discussion about any subject that was not in her current moment in time would send her off the charts. I begin to see her experience frustration with herself, anxiety, impatience followed by anger.

We started counseling and I thought it would be a good idea to go to her counselor which she told me was to deal with self esteem issues and that was a mistake. Her counselor in essence began protecting and treating her behavior as though it was nothing unusual. I felt ganged up on as the counselor continued to say things like she is just a random personality........1 year of that nonsense and I stopped going....seemed as if my wife would just sit and entertain us for an hour.

Went to our minister, he knows her and she didn't like what he said so that idea went south. 2 years later we went to a church sponsored counselor and that idea went bad as well. My wife continued to resist trying even the simplest ideas we were given. I finally moved out from all of the problems that were now eroding our relationship. She held her feet firm about doing anything...I found myself a prisoner in her world and it was affecting every waking moment of my life. She goes from depression to anger to hyperactivity.......could go on and on, but think everyone knows what I am saying. Her father is manic and bipolar and when I would say this is the best source of information for us and is really an opportunity. Next, she gives in and goes to a psychiatrist who diagnoses adhd and other personality issues. Medication is prescribed and she refuses to take it. Here we are another year later with an out of control, manic, depressive, etc. personality that is wrecking the worlds of those closest to her. I am exhausted.



Switch the genders, and minus just a very few details, and that's almost *exactly* my marriage as well.

It's the resistance to any blame or change, and the refusal to see the condition for what it is that I find the most frustrating sometimes. I don't know about you, but I don't "blame" my husband for his ADD--but he has to do SOMETHING about it. He can't just shove the problems and the blame off on everyone else, refuse to listen to the difficult--but accurate--messages that are being sent to him, and stick his fingers in his ears and go "LA! LA! LA!" when ADD is discussed and treatment options are presented.

I feel your exhaustion, pain, and frustration. Hang in there.

And exactly on my marriage. 

And exactly on my marriage.  My husband told me the other day that I'm angry and resentful that he has ADHD.  I'm not.  I'm angry and resentful that he doesn't value me or our relationship enough to appropriately manage his ADHD.  He takes meds, but hasn't seen a counselor for over a year.  He thinks he's a wonderful self-evaluator.  He's not.  His self-evaluation is based on his perception of reality.  Sometimes that matches what's going on, but most of the time it doesn't.  Everything I've read and heard says that a coach, mentor, counselor, someone, needs to help identify behaviors that need to be changed.  Meds don't do it alone.  Finally after a standoff for a month, he made an appointment with a well respected cognitive behavior therapist.  I've been seeing one for about 2 months.  I pray this will lay the foundation for rebuilding something that used to be beautiful.

Rebuilding my dreams response

Your post really spoke to me.  I am now divorcing after 10 years.  I was also unable to have children with my husband.  I have a child from my first marriage, but this was my second and infertility did not work with him.  This I see now was a blessing.  Every single word spoke to me.  The hook is those memories from when it was good.  The longing for them.  The bond you have.  But I read what has  happened to some of these other fine people and I shudder "that could have been me".  I am still completely in love with the man I married.  Unfortunately, I have not seen that man in a very very long time.  Should he return I know intellectually it will be a short lived appearance.  I can acknowledge the love I feel, but I can allow my mind to decide what is best.  The love you feel for these unique incredible people is amazing.  Why does it always have to crash and burn with time?

Once your life becomes routine you have lost him.  They can't do routine.  They become completely bored.  They need the roller coaster.  So in the beginning it is the roller coaster of love, and once that life and that love matures, becomes secure, familiar and routine you have lost him.  I know I will not be one of the people on this web site who gets their happy ending.  I read these posts with longing but I know that will not be me.  I admire them for finally pulling it all together once the ADHD person hits their rock bottom and then gets help and climbs out.  They somehow wipe away all the hurt, pain and disappointment. Inside I am sad because I know that will not be me.  All I can hope for is a brighter future.  The man I fell in love with, the man I married was such an amazing person.  I don't think I will ever find what I had with him again.  But I need to accept that and move on.  I try to remember the first 5 years and hope I can forget the last 5 years.  Thank you again for your post.  I guess we are in the same boat.  Stay strong and I am here for you online.

Out of all the events of our

Out of all the events of our roller coaster marriage, this one is the best example. 

Around five years ago, before I got pregnant with my son and long before there was any diagnosis for ADHD, my husband and I worked opposite shifts.  I worked the normal day shift and he worked the evening shift.  We had to do it this way to work around daycare hours for our daughter.  He would drop her off and I would pick her up.  So far, so good, right?

First off, I don't drive, so picking my daughter was hard.  She would throw fits and tantrums when I picked her up and tried to get her dressed to go.  The walk home or to the bus stop was torturous.  When I'd get home, I'd have to make supper for an impatient, cranky child, get her bathed and put to bed.  This was complicated by my husband not helping out with the housework.  I'd ask him to do the dishes the night before and lo, they still weren't done.  So I'd have to wash some of them, just to be able to make supper.  Add doing 95% of all the housework, his 5% done only after a lot of nagging and fighting on top of this.  By the time he'd come home from his job, I was spent.  He'd sit at the computer, play some games for a few hours without talking to me much, except to bitch about his job.  I'd go to bed.  He'd come in during the wee hours and wake me up, wanting to have sex.  Surprise, surprise, I wasn't much interested, especially considering I'd have to be up in a couple hours for work.

The crowning glory of all this is one day, while I was telling him how I felt and interrupting his computer gaming, he told me that I treated him like a slave.  I just stared at him.  He barely moved from in front of the computer screen when he was home, never did anything to help me out around the house, didn't do the grocery shopping or handle the bills or make the appointments but he was a slave.  

I've never forgiven him for that comment.  It hurt too much and still does.

I'll give him some credit.  He isn't as bad as some of the stories here.  He doesn't call me names or cheat on me.  He watches porn, but not to excess and that really doesn't bother me much, now that we've gotten the unreasonable expectations dealt with (Another story).  He also has learned exactly how much I was doing around the house and how little he was.  Roles reveresed when I got pregnant with our son.  I was so sick with morning sickness, I couldn't get out of bed.  I couldn't even sit up.  So everything I did, suddenly fell to him.  It was an eye opener and did start to fix somethings between us for a little while.  It didn't last and we've been hovering on the edge of divorce for years.  He can't change and I have no more patience for it.  It was recently suggested that he may be ADHD and I guessed that my daughter was too, since she acted the same as daddy.  She's been tested, he hasn't yet.  We can't afford for him to go to a private clinic, so are on a waiting list with the public one.  He's on medication, which does help somewhat, but doesn't stop the insensitive things he says and does.  I'm far too angry with him for the things he's said and done over the past 16 years to have any patience for him.  Its very hard to be supportive and I don't have any support myself.  Only reason I haven't left him yet is I have no where to go and with my current job (we both have different jobs now), childcare is almost impossible.  Don't know what to do, but I can't live like this. 

Hi, Tiamat1972, When you're

Hi, Tiamat1972,

When you're at your wits end, it's time to get help.  This web site is wonderful, helping me know that my situation is not unique, but I also needed to talk to someone face-to-face.  It helped me to put things into perspective, get advice, and learn the ins and outs of ADHD.  Maybe you could speak to someone at work for guidance.  I went to a free spiritual organization that had special groups of women whose husbands had ADHD or were sex addicts.  After 21 years of my husband's ADHD, I wish I had found this group earlier and saved myself from so much hurt and anger.  I truly hope you can find a group to help you.  Don't give up hope.

I know its time to find

I know its time to find help.  Problem is, actually finding it.  We've been in and out of counselling for years and it was only by fluke last August that one counsellor suggested he might be ADHD.  We started reading up on it and the more we read, the more sure we were.  But this has only answered the mystery, not solved it. 

That counsellor that identified my husband's ADHD has become hostile towards me.  Now I'm at a loss at where to go.  We can't afford to go a private clinic and the waiting lists for the public ones are insane.  Add in the difficulty of finding one that understands ADHD.  I really want to work on this but when the counsellor is as lost at what to do with him as I am...

I'm really glad I found this site.  I cried when I read the posts but I don't feel so alone anymore.  I've shown it to my husband and he almost cried too.

In one word: Exhaustion

I'm exhausted. I'm tired of my entire life being made about his distractions, his dependence, his inability to handle anything in his life outside of getting to a job and playing video games. 

I'm tired of never-ending questions about the simplest of tasks, such as finding something in the refrigerator or whether "warm" on the laundry machine dial means "warm" water. I'm tired of being asked to check on chicken he's cooking every 3 minutes. I'm tired of his daily physical complaints with little-to-no medical cause. I'm tired of being interrupted in every conversation I have ever attempted to have with him.  I'm tired of having to wake him up in the morning because if I don't, he won't spend any time with our son. I'm tried of his mess. I'm tired of his hourly crises ranging from having hurt himself walking again or having lost something expensive again. I'm tired of broken and damaged items in my home, usually being brought to their damaged state within days of my buying them. I'm tired of receiving 4 phone calls within 20 minutes, because he can't read his own handwriting on a list of groceries to get. I'm tired of having no energy to care for our child, who actually needs me.

I'm tired of the headspace he demands from me.   It's not enough that he does barely any housework and what little he does he never finishes or he does more damage in doing it. (He washed my phone this weekend, right before he left his own at the grocery store.)  He has to go even further than zero and well into deficit, demanding my attention for every miniscule task of bsaic living that he attempts to take on.  I'm tired of his sabotage. I'm tired of his criticism. I'm tired of his black hole of energy and effort sapping every single resource from my own dreams.

I'm tired of watching the years of my life be wasted in his vortex of chaos.

I'm tired of his disability being made into my responsibility. I'm tired of his being around at all.  I dread weekends, because he's nothing but an even further drain on my energy with his constant questions and constant interruptions. I have no peace and no place to go. I have no friend in this house because nothing I say has any consequence. I'm tired of being less than invisible, wherein my feelings do not count, but neither can I ever be allowed to just be fully absent.

I'm tired of living my life in a Sylvia Plath poem.

"If the Moon smiled, she would resemble you./You leave the same impression./Of something beautiful, but annihilating./Both of you are great light borrowers./ He O-mouth grives at the world. Yours is unaffected.


"Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand,/arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity,/White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.

No day is safe from news of you./Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me."

If I remain with this toxic, destructive man, I fear I will wind up like Plath too.

Experience of Non-ADHD Spouse

I have it better than many of you. My husband had majored in Psychology with no one suggesting this diagnosis for him. But when his therapist (who he was seeing for depression) and I simultaneously figured out he has ADHD, he embraced the diagnosis eagerly. However, since this constellation of illnesses had caused him to be unemployed and uninsured, it took another 6 months for me to finally be able to pay for a private doctor and the full cost of meds.

At first it seemed like a godsend.  We found a marriage counselor. He finally decided he was willing to try to work again, and life seemed "normal." But it's not and it's never going to be, and I grieve for that "normal" life we will never have.

We never talk about anything substantive, like hopes or dreams. He talks about wanting a graduate degree, but has taken no steps to take the GRE or find a program in his desired field of study. He totally ignores everything I ask him to do. No matter how many times I ask, he does nothing in the house beyond cooking dinner, which he does because he likes to cook. But as far as throwing wrappers, cans, etc. away while he's cooking, no way. He'll say he's put all the dishes in the dishwasher and there weren't enough to run it, totally ignoring pans that will fill it up and then some. All the while he pays lip service to gender equality and maintains he does not expect me to do the work he does not do. Apparently, he believes some sort of fairy is gong to come and clean it up while we sleep. There's been a chocolate syrup spill on my stove for a week now, it does not occur to him that if he spilled it (and he did) he should clean it up.

He's always "tired." He says he can't get off work early enough to go the marriage counselor. After dinner, we just go lie down in bed and watch tv. When I fell on the sidewalk in front of my house last week, I screamed like a banshee. The neighbors on either side of our house heard me and rushed to help me get up, and he did not. No tv, radio or water running but he was just staring at the ceiling and did not hear me.

He does not feel he should be held responsible for his actions. He got a criminal charge (for being under the influence of ADHD meds(!)) but I have to pay for his lawyer out of my student loan funds. He's known about this for months, but could not find a way to provide this extra money he needs himself no matter how I pressed him to look for a weekend job or something to provide this. He has cost me so much money it isn't even funny. It seems like his needs, such as his meds or his legal bills, get provided for but mine do not. He says that's just because I go get them for him.

My needs and desires, such as medical needs and owning a house and driving a car that was made in this milleneum, do not matter to him. He says he loves me, but I feel like he thinks I was put on this earth to serve his needs.

I'm 56 years old. When I cry because I hate this house, and we'll never qualify for a mortgage, he says "never is a long time." Am I supposed to enter into a 30 year mortgage when I'm 70? He won't leave although I paid the security deposit on this place from my student loan, and I haven't got the money to move myself. He doesn't beat me, so I can't go to a battered women't shelter or get any other kind of help to rebuild the life I gave up to marry him.

Mostly, I just feel empty. I am pouring my whole soul into making someone else's life better. When does mine get better?



Black Hole of Need

I hear you and can really relate to your frustration. I was also supporting my husband and myself off of my student loans and now that I want a divorce he doesn't want to help pay for any of them.  I've also spent so much money on him it's ridiculous.  Part of it was my fault though - I didn't know what else to do (he's still not accepting the ADHD diagnosis) but I did notice that it seemed to help his terrible mood and pulled him back out of the fog and toward me a little tiny bit if I surprised him with things - trips, gifts, nights out on the town - so I spent a lot of money that way trying to recapture the connection we used to have.  Of course it never patched things up for more than an hour or two at best. 

If our husbands hadn't had ADHD, they would have been far more able to realize how disproportionately much more we invested in the relationship relative to them on every level - effort, money, energy, time... Whereas before I would spend my free time reading about things I enjoyed, for the past 7 years I spend most of my time reading about ADHD, marriage advice, depression, better communication etc etc.  The man who gets me after this relationship is (hopefully) going to thank his lucky stars for all the strong relationship skills I'll bring to the union.

Your question really struck home for me : "I am pouring my whole soul into making someone else's life better. When does mine get better?"  About a year ago, before I decided to divorce, we were talking heatedly during another one of his meltdowns and I said "I have spent the last 9 years always putting my own feelings, needs, problems and stresses on the back burner to help you get through one after another of your crises. What about me? When do my problems matter? I've been supporting you for so many years - when is it my turn? Will you ever be able to do the same for me if I need it?"  He didn't have an answer.

I called him flat-out selfish, selfish, selfish, because ultimately that's what it feels like.  Even now, he just found out his father (who lives far away) was diagnosed with a very severe and advanced form of dementia (hallucinations, physical impairment and the whole thing) and his younger brother and elderly mother are the primary caregivers. They are so stressed out and crushed dealing with this acutely challenging new situation and want him to come home to help, but when I relayed the message he exploded in anger, swore, talked about how stressful his life is and how they don't understand what he's going through, ranted about how they aren't willing to help him (by sending him more money, since he's been unemployed for a long time - and they are not rich themselves), and concluded by saying something like "If he dies, he dies.  Oh well." His own father!


Fundamental Values

A lot of people here talk about giving up fundamental values or parts of themself to take care of the ADDer. It sounds like you are in that boat with me.

I've realized that one of the fundamental values I was raised with is to be responsible for yourself. If I bought something and got it home and decided I didn't like it, I couldn't take it back because "it's not the store's fault you changed your mind." The idea of spilling something and not cleaning it up is so foreign to me. I remember having stomach flu and being sick, even as a small child, and being told it wasn't my mother's fault, I should clean up after myself.

So I feel like I'm married to someone from another culture when I marry someone who expects it's his right to be taken care of. I can't wrap my head around it.

Oddly enough, it's his warm kind nature I fell in love with. Little did I realize it's only for other people, and from me, his partially disabled wife, he expects to receive and not give.

I've never had to buy my husband things (except to replace his wedding ring when he lost it), it's just the amount we spend on his meds while my medical needs are unmet, and the amount I poured into keeping our heads above water while he decided not to work for 2 years. Because he does so much live in the now and the not now, and that horrible time is not now, he doesn't think about it and is angry at me because I do. Now he wants half my student loan for this semester to pay for a lawyer for a ticket, and I wasn't even in the car. When does it end?

I think you have made the best decision, if he won't even consider treating his ADHD. It sounds like you've done all you can. I love your description of a Black Hole of Need. It is so true.


And I thought my husband cornered the market on selfishness.  I believe this man is by far the single most selfish self centered person I have ever met in my life.  Its odd too, because during the hyperfocus/dating stage, he was so generous.  I just don't get where the switch was made.

The statements "I am pouring my whole soul into making someone else's life better. When does mine get better?"   and "About a year ago, before I decided to divorce, we were talking heatedly during another one of his meltdowns and I said "I have spent the last 9 years always putting my own feelings, needs, problems and stresses on the back burner to help you get through one after another of your crises. What about me? When do my problems matter? I've been supporting you for so many years - when is it my turn? Will you ever be able to do the same for me if I need it?"   really hit home with me.  It is all about him, no matter how I try to squeeze myself into the mix, its always all about him.  Even when I am ill, its all about how HE has a sick wife at home and he needs to rush home.  If these people only knew that when he gets home, he sits on the couch while I take care of MYSELF!  He comes to my rescue to look good in the eyes of others, yet he ignores me when he gets here.  Its all about him getting out of work.  And looking like the doting husband while doing it! Boy, at least I am not the only one he fools!

He's a life sucking energy draining vortex of infinite unending need. 

maybe non-ADHD spouses need to be selfish for a change

LOL I love your sense of humor Steph. :)  "He's a life sucking energy draining vortex of infinite unending need."  If my husband had ever actually gone through with one of his suicide threats, I might have had that carved on the tombstone.

Sorry to sound insensitive. He's a human being so he's worthy of compassion and respect (and he's had plenty of both from me until now). These kinds of comments are what happens after I've been drained beyond empty.  It will be great to leave this snarkiness behind once the healing begins after the divorce.

But seriously, this gets down to the difference between successful ADHD/non-ADHD relationship and the ones that fail. the non-ADHD spouse is "selfish" too - as far as setting non-negotiable boundaries and ensuring compromises and turn-taking are fair and equal. And if it isn't, walking away may be the best thing (for both parties!) - even when kids or financial issues are at stake.

Steph..You are so funny.  I

Steph..You are so funny.  I know it isn't funny that they are sick, but it truly is how it seems on the vortex thing sometimes.  I say it is like living with a hormonal teenager who is constantly PMS. 

Almost husband did almost the same thing except with his mother.  And the going home to take care of the sick wife...yep, yep.  Mine did the same.  Half the time he didn't even make it home until late in the evening because of all of the distractions on the way home.  I really don't know whether to laugh or cry at these things.  It is such a waste of life to have a disorder such as this destroy the person and all around them...and so unnecessarily if they would just work on it.  But then, they think nothing is wrong with them....

Experience of a Non-ADHD Spouse

Until I started reading, I didn't know others dealt with the same things I do.  Sometimes it takes a while to sort out what is going on and come up with a plan.  I know my situation is helping me to grow in ways I never's all about choices for both of us.


I am new to this site. Three years ago my husband was diagnosed with ADD but refused to accept it. We were having problems with his family and their lack of boundaries especially with regard to our marriage. My husband took us off to a therapist, but once I was comfortable, pulled out. I continued with therapy and am still in therapy. My husband's irrational, impulsive out of touch behaviour has driven me to utter despair. I feel lonely most of the time and his lack of presence (I describe it as him orbiting)is a constant source of stress for me. I found myself becoming an angry unhappy person. I even asked for anti anxiety meds to help me "deal" with my husband. I thought if I am calmer, I could get him to understand what I needed and wanted from him, from life and from our marriage. After 23 years of marriage I am without a career because we have travelled around the world in pursuit of his career. He never wanted to settle and wanted to change jobs or country every 5 years or so. After coming to the US with a 6 year old I put my foot down about leaving again to track down some new foreign country. Everytime I start studying or just finish a degree, we move to a new country. After my husband's ADD diagnosis, and refusal to accept it, we limped by painfully as I tried hard to hold my ground and try and estabish a career for myself. Eighteen months ago, he had an risky affair in China. Our son was just starting 11th grade IB. I have no financial security of my own. My legal status in the US is dependant on my husband's visa. To divorce him would mean returning to a country that I don't identify with as we have now lived here for 12 years (with a lot of conflict because of that). I have friends here, but no friends in my home country. I had no alternative but to try and work through this affair with him. He promised it was a mistake and that he would do whatever it took to make it up to me. After months of hearing him say he didn't understand why he had the affair, except that he felt frustrated by the situation that had developed between his family and me (boundary issues), I asked him again about the ADD. He seemed open to the idea and we mentioned it to the therapist, who immediately claimed he hates labels and never bothered to explore it. Months have gone by and the books lie around (I've read then and re-read them), my husband promises at regular intervals to start reading them but nothing changes. This past week a distant cousin re-appeared, blurring the boundaries again and I have felt myself being dragged back into the same arguments that we had before the affair and the resolution that we reached after the affair has disappeared. We again talk about ADD, and now my husband has agreed to have himself re-tested, but has the attitude that it's not important to spend time researching ADD, he'll just take the "pills"! I see my life flashing past me. He retires in 8 years time and wants to move back to Europe, but I can't face moving away from the friends I've made here to be stuck in a foreign country with a man who can't be present with me in the relationship. I need people and friends. My husband has problems making friends and interacting with people socially. He is happy to be alone. He likes to live in his own orbit and dips into relationships when he chooses to. I have spent 25 years of marriage wishing for, wanting to have the close connection that I feel marriage is about. It continues to elude us.

I am so sorry for what you

I am so sorry for what you are going through.  Do you belong to a church/organization that can give you some guidance on what to do and who to see to get you the help you need?  Divorce has different rules in different states.  For example, where I live we have a "no fault" divorce, but my sister has a "fault" divorce law in her state.  There is also something called "separation support" where you don't get divorced and can get your husband to help you financially if you separate.  Perhaps one of your friends could direct you to someone to start the ball rolling.  As far as the other things including his affair, I think most of us on this web site can relate.  The reason I finally kicked my husband out was because it was more painful to be with him than without him.  When I realized that, I knew I couldn't be with him the way things were.  The good news is my husband finally did get help, the help he truly needed (not just the pills).  It was a very costly experience for both of us since I was filing for separate support.  We are together today, and every day takes hard work on both our parts to keep our marriage in check.  Please don't give up hope, there is always a solution--sometimes it's not the exact one we want, but maybe it's one we can hold our heads up high and live with.  Best of luck to you.....clover1 

Feel your pain

Your story felt very much like mine, except I do not have the worry of being deported, I belong in this country. My husband of soon to be thirty years travels for his career, so he is not home much. (It is very lonely doing everything as one, when marriage is defined as two.)  After many years and many jobs, (and financial turmoil) this job is a perfect fit (not for our boys or me) for him. It was not until our son was diagnosed with ADHD that I suspected my husband was too. I kept thinking it was I. He said it was my inability to communicate that was causing our problems. (He was the first male that I had ever had the inability to communicate with)  In addition, his family backed him up on this. Now he take medicine and he sees a Psychologist (who is adhd) and has been told it just a matter of male and female communication differences.  For a while, I saw his wife who was an ADD counselor, but when I was told that, the marriage that I so desperately wanted was never going to happen. That my husband was never going to “get it.”  He would never be able to understand empathy, but could be sympatric at times. The close, intimate relationship that I craved for is beyond his capabilities. I would either have to accept this (and find a way to release these emotions elsewhere) in our relationship or move on. I was told to develop my own world without needing him. I stopped needing her. I am trying to develop that world. (However, I ask myself why be married? Am I not closing myself off from having a fulfilling, satisfied relationship with another man? (I would never cheat; I have too much respect for myself)

I too am dependant financially on my husband. Every time I had a job or  tried to develop a career, he would be fired or bored and we would move. I lost promotions because my employer could not depend on me not to move.  I did get a two-year degree but in a field, (while at the time, taking care of two young children and him taking a job that involved traveling) that is saturated with young talented people. At age 57, it is hard to break into or reenter that field now.

To become a productive advocate for my son, I have spent many hours working and researching ADHD. I researched many websites, read many books, talked to various child advocates, child psychologists, special education teachers and educated myself on the in and out’s on this subject. I have been doing this for ten years. (It is exhausting at times) And my husband mostly trust me to have this knowledge for my son, but when it comes to him, I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I too have left books and magazines around, emailed websites, to no avail. He says he reads them if he has time, but that is where the conversation stops.  There is no response, no action taken.  If I mention them then I get a do not nag me attitude. It is like touching someone with sunburn.

It is a lifeless marriage. I have no doubt that my husband in some way loves me, but his refusal to step outside his box and take any responsibility towards developing our marriage has left me with nothing to respond too. His decision to put every ounce of his time and energy into his work and hobbies, through the years, instead of his wife and family, leaves no doubt where his priorities lie. (Why did he marry me?) In the last fifteen years, my body has deteriorated from constant stress and neglect.  In the last two years, I have gained over fifty lbs and not a minute goes by that I am not in constant physical pain. I have been diagnosed with depression, fibromyalgia, anxiety, migraines, sleep deprived and TMJ.  I have been told that my nervous system is too overloaded.  I have gone through yoga, medicines (some had me eating in my sleep), neuro -feed back, and exercise regimens to no avail. The constant stress is the result of the adhd and my husband’s refusal to trust my knowledge of the situation. I feel so battered and bruised mentally and I guess physically it shows.  In all fairness, it is not my husband’s fault, but mine, for I am the one who made the choice to stay with him. (However, I think my body is giving me a message.)  Moreover, I’m distrustful of what our relationship will be when the boys leave home. So I feel your pain.

I am moved

I am moved by the many comments posted here, and by your honesty about the sadness, grief and anger that can fill your days. So much "waste" created by the dynamics of untreated ADHD and responses both partners have to symptoms! Thank you for sharing, and for reinforcing my inspiration to try write this book to make more sense of it all.


I was coming to this blog to read up on others' experiences as I battle with myself *not* to start a stupid computer game and instead do the important work that I'm behind on here in the office. I have not been diagnosed formally but I have an MD that has prescribed for me and it makes a difference for sure. All the same- I've known how much pressure and frustration I create for my wife but reading the stories from other spouses I'm just crushed reading the words. My wife could have written many of them (maybe she has) and I hate myself for the endless circle of exhaustion I must cause for her. She has to remember the appointments. She has to force us to sit down and schedule (and I act like it's torture). She has to keep us on task to accomplish things. She gets stuck doing the painfully monotonous and repetitive things that feel soul-crushing to me. It's ridiculous and I wish I could give her back the last 10 years of her life in many ways. She has endless patience and shows me she loves me constantly and God knows she probably shoudln't. It makes me cry.  Thank you for sharing your painful words.

Mis3rable...I hope you will

Mis3rable...I hope you will go home and tell your wife how much you love her and how much you appreciate all that she does for you.  Even those kind words of acknowledgement and appreciation helps to heal.


Thanks to onceagain and clover1 for comments. In the last 2 days my husband has finally spoken to his neurologist about his ADD (he gets migraines as well). Fortunately the doctor has a lot of experience with ADD and has prescribed Adderall. Now we're fighting insurance to get it approved because my husband is not under 18?! Hopefully the prescription will be filled soon so that my husband can start trying the meds. When my husband is "trying" he is wonderful. Warm, loving, spontaneous. I am trying to learn to deal with his family on my own and not involve my husband. He is enmeshed with his family and does anything and everything to placate them - go with the flow. I feel like I'm a child when I'm with the family and my husband acknowledges that he does too, but is prepared to "put up" with it. There are times when our relationship is great but usually it's because I'm not expecting him to focus on too many issues. I'm trying to learn how to deal with the issues with a sense of humour and try to understand what it must be like for him. I think the good stuff has been so good that I have stayed for 25 years and I feel that if he has medication, we may be able to weather the storms better and manage the long haul.  

Non-ADHD, Don't lose your 'Self'

How do I deal with being a non-ADHD spouse? I take care of myself first. I run, focus on my spirituality, my kids, etc. All the things that make me happy, I do. I’m sorry to tell this to the non-ADHD spouse, but you better take care of yourself first, or you ADHD spouse will drive you in the ground with the rollercoaster behavior. Trust me; my wife is on Concerta, going to counseling, etc…which is great. However, it doesn’t take much to get her off center, and the rollercoaster ride is on again.

Sorry, but I’ve been there and done that, with trying to be the empathetic spouse, supportive, engage on trying to make the marriage a priority, etc…I’ll do all these things, only when I take care of myself first. When I do this first, I have a better chance of having a better experience with my ADHD spouse.

I’ll also tell the Non-ADHD person, remove yourself from anything that can put your ADHD spouse in a position of attacking you. You are not dealing with a rational mind, so things that connect you i.e. financial, sex, children, etc…if there is conflict in these areas remove yourself from it, if your Non-ADHD spouse is unwilling to make these areas of your life better. Walk away, and focus on things that make you happy.

This is my advice. Take care of yourself first, than there is a better chance of having a better marriage. This is not about me, but someone who has a serious problem. I can’t manage what goes on with my ADHD spouse, but I can certainly manage how I want to deal with it. It’s taking back your sense of ‘self’ that these ADHD folks will take from you.


Well put

Excellent advice. I wish I'd followed this years ago. It's a rough lesson to learn, but I'm finally there. Thanks for posting this.


Thanks for the email. I’m sympathetic to anyone who has ADHD or other mental issues. I don’t pretend to know what goes on between the eyeball of someone with ADHD, it has to be tough. But, this doesn’t mean I have to participate.

I’ve learned the hard way, and every Non-ADHD has to do what is best for their situation. I have two little kids, and I’m not leaving them. They didn’t ask for this, and I’m not leaving them with my ADHD wife to raise alone. So with this said, I had to come up with my own solution to survive and to ensure I don’t lose my ‘self’ to this ADHD behavior, while at the same time keep my family together.

My solution – take care of your ‘self’…These folks will steal it from you, so protect it. I consider myself a very good Dad, and I’m not going to have this ADHD behavior rob me from of something that is so valuable to me, my children. All I can say, my marriage will never be what I'd like it be, but I can define the rules by which I'll play. By getting my 'self' back, my life is in a better place, and that includes living with a ADHD spouse. 

Totally Agree

I totally agree!  I used to be an avid long distance swimmer.  I so need to get back to that.  Throughout the years, I've neglected myself and the things I took joy in.  Too burnt out from highs and lows.  Just long did it take you to get to that point of conclusion?  I'm also wondering, that even if we were to get to that place, could the relationship still be rewarding and fullfilling?  For myself, I'm always telling myself that I need to be more understanding and patient, but for the non-ADHDer, realistically, you still need to repress and cut yourself off from your feelings when they do go off.  No matter if there is a clinical reason for what they still hurts. 

It sounds like you both have agreed to commit to something that is working.  From the numerous posts that I've read, you're one of the few success stories.  From my conversations from my husbands ex-wife, she told me she stayed in the relationship longer than she wanted to, due to their kids.  I have no children with my husband, and chose early on in our relationship to not have anything financially joint together.  I'm still deciding that even if my spouse does commit to working on a positive change, would the outcome be rewarding and fullfilling enough for me.  I guess I still need to read more posts. 

I'm so very curious.  If anyone reads my post, would you please give me your honest feedback on what you would do if your situation in your relationship with an ADHD spouse were as easy as just walking away, with no children, or financial bindings... Would you walk?    

Totally Agree Comment

It took me 5  years of ups and downs, to get to where I'm at today. My first five years of marriage was aweful. It was in January of 07, that I made a decision in my life, and this was without even knowing my wife was ADHD, that diagnosis came a year later. I said I needed to save my 'self'.

To answer your other question - can the marriage be rewarding and fullfilling? Yes, but only to a point. It's the kids that drive my boundaries, decisions, and how I'll deal with my ADHD wife. My needs will never be met in my marriage, so it's not fullfilling and rewarding. Will my marriage work for the longhaul, I have no idea. If it wasn't for our kids, I'd have left years ago.

I'm surviving because I'm taking care of my 'self'. I fill my life up with so many other things. As long as I do this, I have found it easier to deal wiht my ADHD wife. This is a hard road, so be careful of how you want proceed.

Thank You For Your Honesty

Thank you for your honesty Running21.  Thats what I love about this website.  You get feedback given directly to the questions you need answered.  Although "hope" was the key word that kept many of us non-ADHD spouses to remain in our relationships...that word had been crushed to the point of non-existence...thats why many of us are on this website.  I totally feel you on "taking care of yourself" first.  Thats the only way to survive and maintain sanity.  Like I have told my husband many times, "I wish I was Mother Teresa", but I'm not".  I can't keep giving and being made to feel worthless everday, even if there is a clinical explanation for it.  Just thinking about each and every single simple thing that has to be analyed and disected is too overwhelming.  I've already started my path on taking care of myself.  Unfortunately for me, it had to be seperation.  Although I still love my spouse very much, I'm seriously thinking about divorcing.  Perhaps if we take our relationship back to a casual "friendship", the expectations of being in a committed relationship would be lifted, thus no dissappointments and the feelings surrounding dissappointment would affect me, like it has now. 

There are many sayings..."Be true to yourself"..."Live life to its fullest"..."You create your own destiny"...etc...   For me, the expectations of being married, were to enrich my life.  To be able to confide and share my lifes ups and down.  And as another saying..."To make me want to be a better person".  This relationship had given me the opposite.  Throughout the emotional wear of seven years, all its left me with is great depression.  Clearly for reasons of not being able to "be myself". 

Yesterday, I went to my husbands ADHD doctor.  He now wants me to start taking Lexapro.  Before I met my husband, I was a positive, happy, independant, fit, and healthy woman.  Now I'm subjected to Lexapro?  Yes, this has definitely been a hard road, and I will definitely soon have to make "the decision" on which road to take.  I commend you Running21 on your courage and perseverance.


Hopeless: I felt very bad

Hopeless: I felt very bad when I read your post.  I, too, have felt like I have lost myself in the last 6 years of my marriage. Apart from being physically drained (we have two small children and I work full time) and almost numb to everything, I feel very, very emotionally alone.

To answer your question honestly, if I had no financial ties and no children, yes, I would walk.  I guess that makes me a quitter.  But even though with my husband's recent diagnosis I feel hope, I am devastated (the word "soul-crushing" comes to mind) when I think of the dream of marriage that I will never have.  Like you, I imagined a marriage as a partnership where I would be the priority in my husband's life, and he mine.  We would make plans, confide in each other, support each other's hopes and be each other's cheerleader.  Yes, we would fight, but we would also make up and be able to recognize and understand how we hurt each other and learn from it so we wouldn't repeat it again.  We would show each other our love through small acts of kindness, gifts, and other tokens of affection.  You get my point.

I'm not going to have this kind of marriage.  As Running21 said, my needs will not be met in this marriage because it is apparently too hard for my husband to make me a priority, despite his intentions.  He says he will do this or that (like come home from work early when I need to work late), but at the actual moment when he has to act on this, he believes that what is going on at work is too important, cancels, and then I am left holding the bag.  In fact, "holding the bag" is the phrase I would use to describe my marriage in a nutshell.  Forget, by the way, having anything special on my birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day -- mind you, I do not expect expensive or extravagant gifts, but it would be nice if for one day out the year, I didn't have to plan my own birthday celebration.  It's never going to happen.  My husband doesn't have the emotional space to keep track of what's happening in my life, so when something great happens at work, he doesn't remember to do anything to celebrate, or ask me how an important meeting went, etc.  Sometimes when I watch competition shows (like American Idol) and the winning contestants are crying because they are so grateful for their spouse's unending support to get them where they are...I am so jealous because I cannot imagine ever feeling that way.  I feel so self-sufficient and like I am only here to take care of others.  I, too, am trying to take care of my "self," but that still has its limitations if you have no one to truly share your life with emotionally.

Can I survive this?  Sure.  I'm sure we'll have an OK marriage, and with the meds, and therapy, my husband can help more and develop strategies to be more present.  But I will never be connected to him soul-to-soul in the way that I imagined I would be with a life partner (and the way that it seemed like we would be, when we were dating).  I will never be taken care of, or have a truly safe, soft place to fall.  This marriage is like driving a car with bad alignment -- you can stay on the road but it's going to take constant effort on your part to do so, and if you let go, you will go crashing into a ditch on the side of the road.

Unlike Running, I am the woman in the marriage and the primary caretaker, so leaving for me wouldn't mean losing my kids.  Financially I'd be fine also.  But I don't want my kids to have a broken home.  They didn't ask for this, and they don't deserve to bear the consequences of my selfish desire for my ideal marriage.  I also know that my husband would be broke and eating beans out of can in some rathole apartment if it weren't for me (though I suppose he could miraculously start functioning if he had to, he does great at work).  So, I do feel like I need to stay with him, more out of pity and obligation than of love.

I know I'm sounding like a martyr, but I have given myself permission to have a pity-party for myself since in reading this blog I am now realizing that I have not been living in the Twilight Zone for the past 6 years and my reality has, in fact, been real.  But I think I am pretty depressed myself and probably am more negative than I should be, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt.

We All Truly Have Something In Common Don't We?

Thank you Ren for your honest opinion.  I think we all went through our bouts of insanity during our relationships, and sometimes I do question my own sanity till this day.  I've realized that the glimmer of "hope" that we get shown from time to time is the thing that keeps us going.  After years of that "hope" getting crushed...well...long story short...reality sets in. 

I too don't want to remain in a marriage that leaves me feeling empty, but I've learned to understand that ADD/HD or not, all marriages have their troubles.  Still, there has to be something substantial enough to keep my love alive for him.  Yes, this relationship will be in the end, decided if there is enough "love" for me to continue, and basically his CONSISTENT efforts will determine that.  Fortunately, I've learned from my previous marriage that ended after 10 years because of physical abuse, that I will never be financially dependant on a man again.  I had to raise 2 young children, w/no child support, and literally nothing in the bank... at one time working 3 jobs to support my children and myself when I left.  I worked hard, and put them through private school, and survived the teenage years alone.  It's ironic how most women stay in marriages longer than they should because of their children, which I myself also had initially stayed longer than I should've, but I also ended my marriage for my children as well.  When our turbulent marriage started to affect them(acting out, imitating their father's behavior, grades dropping), I had to make a decision to get out.  My ex-husband refused to get treatment for domestic abuse.  Because of the history of generations of the males in my ex-husband life, physically abusing their wives...I knew I had to break that vicious cycle.  I saw all the wives how miserable they were, but they still chose to stay married.  Their thinking became twisted, and it was as though they accepted and justified their actions, stating that thats how the "Jones's" are.  I didn't want my daughter ending up or settling w/such a man, thinking that physical/verbal abuse is love, nor did I want my son to think that he could EVER physically/verbally abuse ANY woman, and I sure didn't want to settle for a miserable life like that as well.  If there are any parents out there who are subjecting their children to this...they really have to ask themselves that if remaining in such an abusive relationship because of the children...are you really doing "them" justice by remaining?  Is it a purely selfish decision, or is it a decision based on the true love you have for your children.  How could this possibly affect them when they become adults?  Please take a look at the responsibility you have as a parent, and what decisions you make for them, and how your decisions could affect them now and in their future of the generations to come.  What you choose now if you decide to remain w/your spouse who refuses to get help, or if he is getting help, and the problems of abuse remain, might not only leave you w/ feelings of regret, but may haunt you later in life to not only deal w/your own continuing troubles, but your childrens and future generations troubles as well.  Remember...your children are your priority.  They will always remain your children till the day you die.  Spouses can end up as ex-spouses, so don't be saddened on that fact your spouse didn't/can't live up to what they should've provided for us.  Shift your focus on you and your children, because in the end if things don't work out, thats all you'll have. 

At the time I was married to my husband then, I was living on a different island that I was not born and raised on.  I packed whatever I could at the time, with my 2 children in tow...and never looked back.  Not being prepared, along with no job skills, was very scary...but survival instincts did kick in.  Most women know when its time, and that THEY have done everything possible THEY could have done before throwing in the towel.  What I found so strange, is that all the years my friends/family have pleaded w/me to get out of the marriage, I didn't listen.  One day, it took a complete stranger to ask me "You only have 1 life to you want to live the rest of your life this way...miserable"?  It was like a lightbulb going on when she said that, and the straw that broke the camels back was when he hit me...for the last time after that question was asked.  My oldest 2 children are now successful young adults, and I can honestly say, that if I had a choice to do it diffently, I wouldn't.  The years I had to work hard, suffer and sacrafice...I don't regret a single thing.  I look back, and from what I have accomplished then, I know I can surely survive anything that is put in front of me.  I really feel women underestimate how truly strong they are, and that if given a choice between living the rest of their life miserably or happily, that they don't need to settle for miserable just because of children, or financial difficulty.  From personal experience...if there is a will, there is a way.  I also know that physical/verbal abuse are behaviors associated w/ADD/HD also.  Just because there is a medical reason for such behaviors, it still should not be tolerated.  The ADD/HD spouse must be held accountable to change, or if they refuse, you need to make a decision and prepare to remove yourself from the situation especially if the children are being affected negatively by such abuse.  For those spouses whose children are grown, or have no's a decision based solely on you, and what you wish to settle for in life.  I truly believe if you really want out...its never too late.  It's only too late until the day you die.

Yes I too am dissappointed in the special occassions, and the pain is definitely real when he puts his work and other things before me, as well as all the other problems we've been through associated w/his ADD/HD, but I do have something to compare this relationship to, and if I had to compare the consistent physical/verbal abuse of my non-ADD/HD ex-husband who refused to change, then with this marriage, I'm willing to try to stick it out, IF AND ONLY he continues to show a CONSISTENT effort to do whatever it takes to make it work.  The changes are not happening as fast as I'd like them to be, but, he is trying, and I do see changes remarkably different than all the other years prior.  Like I said before, I don't ever want to live a life w/regrets.  If I completely give up now, then would I be able to determine if I made the right decision if I held out long enough to see if the changes would be sufficient enough for me to remain?   What really doesn't get me too crushed about the "special occassions" is that given any other day, he'll surprise me w/flowers...just because. : )  Or he'll plan a rock concert event (which he knows that I absolutely LOVE) to take me too.  Lol...thats basically the only time I'll really go out in public w/him. hahaha  Those little "glimmers of hope", that reminds us that they actually have a soul, is what keeps us going.  Realistically in the end for myself, those little "glimmers of hope" isn't enough though.   It's that "time" again...I feel it.   He needs to step up to the plate, or I will walk.  

It really does help me to continue though to try somewhat, knowing that most of our problems are stemming from ADD/HD.  Had these problems been occurring w/a non-ADD/HD spouse, I definitely would've walked a long time ago.  Starting my journey of finding myself again, and creating my own self happiness, has drastically took the load off of all the burden and pain.  Instead of making my spouse and his ADD/HD problem a priority, I've made myself the priority, and I've found that by putting myself first, I feel so much happier and energized to ride it out a bit longer to see if there is still hope, and if this will be enough fullfillment for me to stay married.  Although I have lowered my expectations of my spouse, he definitely was not let off the hook to go untreated w/his ADHD for me to continue.  No way!!!  I don't think anyone should have to go through life settling for that.  To me, thats like a slow tortuous suicide. 

Like you, I had a feeling of hope, when my husband finally started to CONSISTENTLY take his meds.  Something I have never seen during the entire 7 years we've been together.  We came to a halt when the therapy requirements were not met.  I truly believe that he WILL initially start, but whether it will be consistent, thats another story.  I have found that by continuing to plan for life w/out him, it has made me more resilient, and therefore when things don't play out as expected, my soul is not crushed, and I remain standing w/a strong mindset to continue on what I need to to for myself.  It's not that I don't care, but its just that I look at prepping myself to go it alone is actually very realistic, and most women SHOULD be planning these things regardless if they're contemplating divorce or not.  What if your spouse were to die suddenly?  Most women aren't prepared for something that is highly possible.  I'd rather start planning now where I have the time to take these steps, than to scramble if/when something tragic were to hit. 

Don't get me wrong.  I still have expectations and requirements that my husband needs to fullfill.  I need to see consistency in meds and therapy, as well as execution in what he's learned in therapy.  If I need to understand, and change in lowering my expectations because of his ADD/HD, then he still needs to fullfill his part of the requirements if he wants to continue this relationship as well.  As long as I see a sincere consistent effort on his part, then I'm still in.  It's still fresh right now, and I will continue to be optimistic, but knowing that if it doesn't happen...I think we all know when its time to throw in the towel.  If/when that time does come...this time I'll be ready, w/my feet planted firmly on the ground.  You're in an excellent situation Ren, as far as preparing for the worst case scenario.  Depression/negativity is understandable...but don't stay in it too long.  You HAVE to find whatever it takes to get out of it.  Think about your yourself and your children...make that your priority.  They are depending on you, and if you're not well w/yourself, you'll be no good to them or anyone for that matter.  I really feel that in the end, we all know the answers to the questions that we ask ourselves and others... when and if its time to leave or stay.  When I stated that children/financial reasons shouldn't be an obstacle for leaving a relationship if you truly want out...I'm stating this based on my own personal experiences and opinions.  I cannot and will not judge anyone if this is an obstacle for themselves.  I haven't or won't ever walk a mile in anyones shoes, and I feel empathy for those who are in such a position.  At the end of the day when I do find myself overwhelmed at times, I always compare myself to others who are struggling w/their childrens or their own life threatening health issues.  An issue that I am now experiencing w/my mother.  It helps to minimize what I'm going through, and appreciate the blessings that I do have, and that I could have it worse than what I "think" is the worse of what I am going through now.                  

Thanks Hopeless.  I

Thanks Hopeless.  I thankfully don't have any abuse (except for the minor verbal abuse when my husband flies off the handle, which I've learned to ignore and which has almost disappeared since he started taking meds).  So I am not keeping my children in an unsafe environment.  My actual concern is that my husband is so checked out, and is sometimes so distant and uninterested in the kids, that if I were to divorce him, I'm afraid that he would disappear from their lives altogether.  (Luckily he is in law enforcement, so I'm confident that he would find a way to make sure the financial support came through, otherwise he'd lose his job).

I know I can live my life without my husband.  In fact, my husband, used to commute to another city.  Long story, but we moved to our current location when he was *sure* that he was going to quit his current job.  Of course, after I found a job here, sold our old house, and were looking for a new place here, he suddenly changed his mind because his current job got interesting again and he decided to stay.  I insisted that we still buy a place in the new city (where I now had a job) because I was pregnant and didn't want to be pregnant and have a commute myself (and because I was pissed off that he had changed course midway and wanted him to deal with the consequences of that).  So, he ended up with a 80 mile commute, which to this day he blames me for because his version of history is that it was my idea to move and I forced him to live here.  Whatever.  Anyway, a year and a half into this arrangement, he decided he couldn't deal with the commute and decided to get an apartment in the old city, where he was going to crash a few nights a week.  Well, a few nights a week became M-F, and so while he could get up at his leisure, go out with buddies after work, etc., I effectively became a full-time working single mother with abosultely no help.  This has been the situation for two years (and we now have child #2, because somewhere in here we had a "glimmer of hope" phase and having another seemed like a great idea).

Truth be told, my life wouldn't change much if I walked right now.  He doesn't live at home except for weekends, so the kids don't know any different any way.  As I said, though, I think that it's better for them to see him more often, rather than less.  And since he was diagnosed with ADD, he has been making more of an effort to come home several nights a week and he says there is a possibility that he will get transferred to an office closer to our home, which would allow him to move back (I'll believe it when I see it, things like this tend to go awry at the last second, and then he never remembers that he ever made such a promise).   The point is, that I've learned to be very self-sufficient without him.  The question I keep asking myself is: what value is he adding to my life, since I'm doing so fine with out him?  Honestly, he needs me a lot more than I need him.  Since he basically abandoned me two years ago, I've had to adjust by farming out so many things: housecleaner, nanny for the kids (better than a husband, in some ways, if you ask me), someone to help with various errands, yardwork, etc.  I'm an attorney, and have done the math, and I know I'd be able to keep most of these things even if I were on my own. 

So, it really comes down to whether my kids would be better of with his presence or without.  I think they are better off with.  That basically makes me a single mother of three kids, rather than two, but maybe as we progress through therapy (if he can get hus butt there) he can make the transition from child to partner. 


I would run!

exhausted lady's picture

Just my 2 cents worth......

Hopeless in asked for honest feedback.  It sounds like you are very early on in this relationship.  No kids, no financial or (I hope) legal entanglements.  My advice to you is to run, not walk.  If you are already feeling the negative effects of ADD in your relationship, it will probably get much, much worse.  The early stages are when you are the new & shiny thing that the ADD mind is focused on.  That hyperfocus stage IS wonderful, but it does not last.  Maybe a year or two at the most.  Then, (in my experience) his attention will move on and you'll be left wondering why you are suddenly invisible, devalued, unappreciated, and being used as an emotional punching bag.  And, of course, it will all be YOUR fault that he's not happy.  I was on cloud 9 for the first couple of years with my ex-partner......and then the switch went to "off".  I thought he truly loved me.....I sure loved him.  During the first couple of years he treated me very well, for the most part.  A few "red flags" went up, but I was so infatuated, I chose to ignore them.  Mistake #1.

I stayed for far too long in my relationship with an untreated ADD partner.  It almost destroyed me as a person, and especially as a women.   We were together about 8 years, lived together for 6 years.  I just give my thanks to the powers that be that I never married him, or merged our finances.  Even with that amount of caution, he went through my entire retirement fund.  He had promised to "take care of earning the money" so I could care for my mother when she got very ill.  I trusted him.  Big mistake #2.....and I quit a very good job so I could take care my of mom.  He immediately started cheating with other women behind my back, lied to me, completely emotionally abandoned me, and blamed it all on me.  After two years of that, he quit his job.  No unemployment, and he sat doing nothing but looking at porn on the computer and watching TV for over 6 months.  Since I wasn't working, and had mom to care for, I had to cash in my 401k or lose my house.  Nothing I did for him was ever enough to make him happy, even though I did EVERYTHING around the house, and there are 5 acres here to take care of.  My exhaustion, and stress level caused a huge drop in my libido, and that was his excuse for "punishing" me by seeing how many other women he could collect in his harem.  During this time the man never touched me unless it was to have sex.......and then I don't ever remember a loving caress.  It felt more like he had a porn movie running in his head, and I was the nameless female being used as a sexual outlet.  It was a 180 degree turnaround....the man I thought I loved was gone, and I haven't seen him since.

After 3 years of putting up with that kind of behavior I finally exploded this summer and kicked him to the curb.   I don't know if meds would have helped, because I think he has too many other issues as well.  He is still mad at mommy for not being the perfect mother, and I think he's tried to turn every partner he has ever had into "mommy" so he can get his revenge.  He has certainly been through a string of women!  I bought into the "I'm a victim" story hook, line & sinker.....until I realized that his version of the truth is very distorted at best, and usually a complete fabrication.  Everything that is wrong in his life is ALWAYS someone else's fault.  If I had a dollar for every hour I had to sit and listen to him bitch about his jobs (there were 7 jobs in 8 years), I could probably retire completely.

I think maybe, with some ADD'ers, if they don't have additional disorders, and MAYBE with a lot of time and counseling, things might work.  But that's only if they are able to face the fact that they have the disorder, and do whatever is necessary to deal with it. But you will still have to make HUGE sacrifices.  You will have to be the adult.  You will have to take care of yourself and make sure your need are met, because he won't.  You will have to take care of the house, car repairs, finances, kids, plan all social occasions, vacations, and make all the decisions.  You will have to live with him "forgetting" that it's your birthday, anniversary, Valentine's day, Christmas, etc.  God help you if you get sick and really need him, because he probably won't notice that you've quit breathing until he gets hungry and wonders where his dinner is.  And then he'd probably be pissed at you because you died without making sure that he was taken care of.

To me, living with an ADD person was more like being sentenced to living inside an insane asylum circa 1890 than anything else.   My advice is to get out now, before you wake up one morning a shell of a woman, broken in spirit, broke financially, and depressed to the point of suicide.  That is where I was at when I finally hit MY bottom, and the rage boiled over.  It will take me many years to recover financially and emotionally from the wreckage that this man left in his wake.  I truly feel sorry for the woman he latches onto next, because he will no doubt suck the life out of her too.  His MO is to use a woman until he sucks her dry, and then on to the next victim.  I wish I had been able to see that a lot sooner.  It's like being caught in the vortex of a black hole of need that you can never fill, and he will always demand more no matter how much of yourself you pour into his neediness.

I hope you make the right decision for YOU.......and are happy whichever way you decide to go.  These were just my experiences, but from reading the posts I've found here (and thank God I found this site), my experiences with an ADD partner are a very common thing.

fuzzylogic72's picture

bad experience

Wow, harsh... it sounds like you had a pretty bad experience with your ex-partner. You must be so relieved now!

exhausted lady's picture

yeah, it wasn't pretty

Hi fuzzylogic.  Yes my experience was bad.  There were short periods (post hyperfocus) where we did get along....enough to give me false hope, and keep me in the relationship for far too long.  I admit, I'm very bitter about the whole thing.   I also admit that my experiences were probably very deep in the "ugly" end of the pool.  I'm sure not every relationship has these issues, but mine did.  I read a recent post that they wanted to see comments about hope.  Well, I hope I can recover my true self, and my financial security before it's time to draw social security.  I'm in my mid 50's it's going to take a minor miracle on the financial front.

I also admit that his ADD probably wasn't the only thing going on.  Sexual addiction, bipolar, narcissism.......I'm not a trained psychologist, but I am very good at research, and those things sure rang a bell when I read the symptoms and behavior traits.  I'm only human myself.  I'm sure I didn't handle some of our issues in the most healthy way.  But, I DO credit myself for not taking a baseball bat to him.  At least I still have my home.....which was mine when we met.  I have my wonderful family, and now - at last - I have some peace of mind.  I am slowly healing, but I really doubt that I will ever be able to fully trust another man.

fuzzylogic72's picture


Narcissistic P.D. sounds like a likely assumption; some of the behaviors you mentioned are textbook definition of that one... it's pretty brutal. Dealing with a Borderline is extremely damaging, but NPD is supposed to be a nightmare. I really hope that being out of the clutch of that dark reality will allow you to breathe new life back into yourself again. I don't believe that "time heals ALL", but we can rest assured that it should at least take a bite out of some of it.

exhausted lady's picture

I DO have hope....

Hi again fuzzylogic.....yes, having that darkness out of my house has probably saved my life.  Today was just a very bad day.  I had thought I could try to remain on a semi-friendly basis with him, but today showed me that I truly need to cut all contact.  I am much better than I was 3 months ago, but I've got a long ways to go before I am the confident, independent woman I was when I met him.  He had been diagnosed with ADD before we met, & was on meds for the first couple of years we were together.  Sometime in the midst of my mother's medical crisis (it went on for months), he stopped taking them.  I think that's also when the hyperfocus stage ended too.  I was so busy trying to keep my mom alive, and still working full time, I didn't take notice until it became VERY clear that he seemed to be intent on punishing me.  I am very sorry I didn't follow my gut instinct and tell him to leave right then. 

Nope, I was in love.  So, I ended up putting up with the emotional abuse for another 3 years before I finally woke up, grew a spine, and told him he had to leave.  Thank god this house was mine, and I had the freedom to say "get out" and make it stick.  I am fairly certain he's NPD as well as ADD....and I'm so relieved I have my own "safe house".   Emotional abuse is also a form of domestic violence, whether it is caused by NPD, ADD, or any other disorder, it still boils down to abuse.    Now comes the time for me to heal, and to get on with my life.  Some days are better than others, but the sun still comes up again the next morning and it's a new day.  I live in a very rural area with almost no counseling services.  The services that are available are fairly costly, and he ran my finances down to an absolute zero.  So, this site has been a godsend to me.


When I say something to her and she doesn't answer because she is hyper focussed on the computer or doing somethign on her iPhone and when she talks to me without wanting/needing a response from me, I feel invisible, which makes me feel like I don't matter, like I am nothing.

non adhd experience

After 4.5 years riding the ups and downs......I am so alone, lost, broken and un-fulfilled dreams and expectations formulated during the hyperfocus dating "chase" days. Once it is is over, one day you wake up and they are gone from your life as you knew it, by then it is too late. 3 counselors later and no change.

As far as developing empathy for my adhd spouse............I am so used up as the result of daily drama 24/7. I am absolutely mentally and emotionally exhausted. I can not seem to have empathy for self -inflicted chaos and pain. It feels like my spouse intentionally or unintentionally gets up every day thinking to herself, "what can I do in my world (our marriage is not included in her world, it actually does not exist as I knew it on our wedding day) today to get into that will cause pain to everyone around me?" Usually before noon each day, she has opened a dozen doors, left them open and by the end of the day 20 more doors are open and none have been shut in what I refer to as resolve / close one door prior to opening the next half dozen. Now at 5 pm, I get the usual used to be a call of love, just calling to hear your voice and now the call is desparation, overwhelmed and panic! Of course I do what I can....step in and "mop up" what I can.....and the cycle repeats itself day in and day out. So, how can a non have empathy for his adhd spouse who refuses she has a problem and all of her family has adhd and are bipolar?

Now for me..............she has absolutely no empathy for cold, callous, uninterested......we argue constantly about simple things like what is the weather supposed to be today? We have not had a civil conversation in 3 years. I strive to keep our conversations light to avoid confrontation.......and she eventually turns the corner and comes out argueing.

She disagrees with me constantly....will ask me a question and then challenge my answer. I do not have anyone to share the day, my hopes, my dreams, etc........I am in her prison and if she would only look at her family history and her recent diagnosis and accept medication as was prescribed I think we would have a place to start. Her children and father are medicated and she knows the difference and still refuses.





Living with the challenges

I have read this blog before but this is the first time I have posted a comment.  I have found all of the information on this site to be very helpful to me in understanding my ADHD boyfriend.  I keep a copy of Driven to Distraction next to my bed, and find that it can give me comfort when another confusing moment comes my way in regards to his behavior.

We are both in our fifties, have been divorced from long marriages, and have been together on and off for four years.  We do not live together, and although it was originally my "dream" to do so, I see how living apart enhances our relationship and makes it a bit easier on both of us.  Although he was trained as a clinical psychologist he was not diagnosed with ADHD until three years ago.  Although he suspected ADHD, he was, at the time we met, treated for bi-polar disorder.  The ADHD diagnosis and the use of medication has made a huge difference in how he sees his world and begins to understand all the frustrations and failures that have trailed him through his life.  But life is still not easy for him.  Along with the impulsivity and hyperactivity he also has an anxiety disorder.  He works very hard at keeping his life organized, and when we first got together and he tried to explain to me how waking up in his own house with his own things was so important, I now understand it.  I have done a tremendous amount of research on the topic (I am also a special education teacher) which has been a huge key to the success of our relationship.  He can be wonderful and charming, has a great sense of humor and curiosity, loves to do the outdoor sports that I love, but can get into deep funks of obsession that turn him away, temporarily, from those who love him and care for him.  At least now he can recognize these and warn me, but for the first two years I had no idea what was happening.  It is still hard for me to deal with, but I realize now that it is not about me.  He talks about his busy brain getting caught up in a cycle of thoughts that he cannot stop and I can see his frustration.  He is respectful of taking his meds, works with a therapist, gets treatment at the Hallowell Center, and works very hard to balance his work days.  He has held a job for a long time and is quite respected for the work he does.  He has been a very good father to his children (now grown).

 But it is still challenging for me to be the non-ADHD girlfriend.  There are moments when I get very frustrated when he does not return phone calls (sometimes days at a time) and gets so swallowed up by the other responsibilities in his life that I seem to become an aside.  He says one thing one minute (in the mind - out the mouth), perhaps an idea or plan that he has for us, and then his anxiety sets in and he negates anything he has said.  (In the course of our time together we have done some of the things he talked about but I have been brought up and let down more than once!)  My friends who do not understand ADHD at all look at me with raised eyebrows, but what they don't understand is that I truly do love him for who he is and realize that I can support him, but cannot change him.  We have made progress in this relationship through both of us having a better understanding, and he respects the fact that I have put so much into learning about ADHD.  Both of us have learned to look at some of his antics with great patience.  But there are times that I question where it is all going.  We do not see each other that often (perhaps a blessing) and at this point when we are together it is still, for the most part, fun and enjoyable.  But I do question the future, and though the relationship is a bit more balanced now I still feel at times that it is much more about his needs than mine.  He knows this, and we talk about it, but where it will get us in the long run I do not know.  There is still a wall of protection that he has built up for himself, and although he says it is not about keeping me out, it does.  I have more to say but it is late and my brain needs to sleep! Thanks to all of you who have posted your comments in this blog.

Sweet misery

These posts meant so much to's like seeing what I've been going thru for years. I just thought I was married to someone who is a little different. He's acknowledged that he is probably ADHD (been since a child). We've had our ups and downs like any 10+ year marriage but now I know that he isn't just lazy or stubborn. I believe he is suffering from a condition and so it has given me new strength and incite. I think I've been doing a lot of ADHD management instinctively but could always use new approaches to old problems! Also what is our first step to getting a diagnoses? I'm so afraid he won't let me help him get help...hope I can have a heart-to-heart with him and get him going.

Hurt, despair, depression, and hopelessness

I’ve read lots of posts about wives with AD/HD husbands, but in my marriage it’s my wife that has ADD. I guess it’s good in some ways, because I’ve held a job for the last 23+ years so we don’t have the financial problems some people have.

 My wife was diagnosed about 9 years ago, when we had our kids evaluated. We found out that my wife and three boys all had ADD (our youngest son has ADHD).

 It has been a roller coaster ride. We seem to go through a cycle continuously. I resolve to be a better husband and try to take care of the things around the house that need to be taken care of. After a while I get worn out; then I get angry; then depressed. I would talk to my wife about it and she would always go on the defensive. Then we’d work it out; she would resolve to do better and it would work for a week or two before they cycle would start over.

 We’ve been through this cycle a few times. Last week I told her we had to make permanent changes or I was leaving. I reminded her of how many times we’ve had this same conversation and she doesn’t remember those times.

 Being the only one in the house that doesn’t have ADD makes me feel isolated, depressed, and hopeless. My wife and youngest son are all on medication, and it helps, but even on the medication the situation is intolerable.

 I feel like things are never going to change. I’ve started taking anti-depressants for the first time because of suicidal thoughts. I don’t want to leave, but I don’t want to keep living like this either. I don’t know what else to do.

 I love my wife and I love my family, but I can’t stand to be in the house because of the messes. The worst part is that my wife seems oblivious to it all, even though we’ve talked about it on so many occasions.  

If you took a poll

to find out how many spouses of ADD mates take anti-depressants, I bet it would be pretty high.

Someone tried that for me, at my husband's demand. It just made me feel nothing at all. I guess that's what they do to people who aren't clinically depressed.

I felt like my husband had a lot of nerve demanding I take drugs to change myself because I was unhappy that he wouldn't even TRY to work.

Gee...where do I start?

Just joined today.  Been reading first for hours in awe of posts depicting my own emotional rollercoaster for 7 years.  For now, all I can say is "What A Blessing" to finally come across a resource to communicate your feelings and be validated, and also not having to wait in anguish, till the next therapy session to vent and get answers...for... whoopie...a whopping whole hour!  This is gonna be my Sanity Hotline. 

My husband was diagnosed with ADHD early on in our relationship when our status at that time was just boyfriend/girlfriend, at the age of 38.  I noticed after several months upon us living together that something wasn't quite right with him.  I don't know what brought me to self-diagnose him with ADHD, especially that I never knew that ADHD existed.  If I can recall, it may have been a t.v. commercial stating symptoms when adult ADD/HD was hitting public awareness.  As you all may probably have experienced, we all have our long stories on how we got our ADHD spouses to get to that point of getting diagnosed, for those of you who are already there.  Long story short, I told him I would leave him if he didn't.  Another long story short...we went through years of pain, only seeing therapists when things got to the breaking point.  Sorry if I'm not going into detail w/my first posting.  For myself being the non-ADHD spouse, I'm "burnt" out already to rehash case scenarios.  

Because he got physically abusive with me again...(although he doesn't think pushing/shoving a person with great force is considered physical abuse) I had no other choice this time but to seperate with him.  It's been 5 weeks now, and a week ago, we started seeing an ADHD therapist...again.  Lol...I really envy all these people who have had some kind of consistent behavior for even a week.  For only lasts 24 hours if I'm lucky.  The problem for me?  By the time we were due for the 2nd therapy session, I was so fed up and disgusted with him already, that I didn't want to sacrafice anymore time to try anymore.  I got major trust issues stemming from this relationship.  I'm sure you all can relate.  BURNT OUT!!!  I'm hoping by spending more time on this website, I can start taking steps to begin my own healing process for myself, regardless whatever decision I do make, about staying in this relationship or not.  For those of you who have had prior relationships/marriages like I have...all I can say about being in a relationship/marriage w/an ADHD spouse is ...this one tops them all!!!  He got me twisted and spinning like I've never experienced before.  Thank God I'm a spiritual person!  Regardless what the outcome of the relationship is...hang in there!  We are soooo worth it!  I love you, and I feel your pain!  We're taking a positive step on regaining our sanity and strength back by communication and understanding here...something that we've been deprived of for so long.  I know this is an incredible breakthrough of hope for me.   We will survive this...and we will...DREAM again!!! :)  Till my next posting.....ALOOOOOOHA!!!      

Enlightening information

Enjoyed your post, yes, I am the non and had not heard of adhd until finally it all came together. My wife and I started going to counseling 6 months after we were married due to a 180 post hyperfocus days. I felt as if going to her counselor would be effective to communcate our issues since she had been going to her therapist for 8 years....huuum, that was not a flag to me. Oh well, her therapist was clearly supporting my adhd wife and sorta blowing me off with things like she is "random", etc. After one year and both looking at me like I had 4 heads, I decided her therapist was not helping our marriage, so I ended my sessions.

We are both spiritual and I suggested a year later that we pursue counseling thru our church, starting with our minister. Now, interesting and I should have picked up on it and did not at the time, our minister is very familar with my adhd wife from her former marriage. He suggested many relationship building ideas that my wife bulked at. My wife actually resented his direction. He did give us in essence "homework" and a year later I asked my wife how she was doing and she said I am not doing that.

Ok, another year passed and I researched another very respected church counseling center, talked with one of the counselors and convinced my wife to attend, which she did and we like the direction he was steering us until she starting resenting where he was directing us so yes, our third attempt ended. Now, still at this juncture I know absolutely nothing about adhd. Ok that was now a year ago....and I moved out 6 months ago to regain my life as I knew it pre marriage to an adhd wife.

Ok, now I find Mort Fertel online and am so impressed with what he has to offer relationships and marriage renewal. My wife agrees and we start this unbelieveable self help program......I could be the poster child for his program. Remember, I still have no knowledge of adhd when we started this program.....I knew she had some add issues, didnt know anything else and when we were asked to outline what was different in our early days and came to me perhaps the add?

Fast forward.............she bailed out of taking action on 4 months of learning and that is what propelled me to educate myself on adhd. Here is the kicker and it took me a while to get here............first, we have the problems in our life in order to fix what is wrong. Second, problems in a marriage are referenced "dual responsibility"..........not one partner is at fault, both partners are. So, with that said, I admitted to my adhd wife that I take 50% responsibilty for our problems....what i am saying here is that I responded to her adhd behavior in a negative way. Now, next kicker here......when i asked my adhd wife to consider taking the other 50%, she refused. Now, as I told her, I will do anything at all to save our marriage and to please accept that adhd is an issue, I will be there for you and with you to investigate meds and help / self help, whatever it takes and she still refuses. This is her third marriage and she talks about failure, etc.....but just cant seem to acknowledge or understand doing the right thing, making positive choices, ie., choosing to succeed.... I have not even mentioned this, she can not grasp other words for a non....choosing not to do the right thing is failure.....




Ditto, ditto

My husband's therapist is convinced that I'm the baddie, and he's the poor, put-upon soul who's married to a shrew, too. She couldn't diagnose him either after several years of treatment. The word "incompetent" comes to mind. It's amazing how much damage a misunderstanding therapist can do.

My husband can't man-up either. Everything is my fault. At "best," he'll say that we're incompatible. Well, yes, I'd agree with that--any two people are incompatible if one of them doesn't put any work into the relationship, does nothing to strengthen the bonds of the marriage, can't even understand how to be part of a team, won't commit fully to positive outcomes, and puts a tentative little toe in the marriage when the other person has thrown in their mind, body, and soul for the run.

I could go on, but I'm actually trying not to ruminate lately. I have so many great things going on outside of the disaster area that is the end of our marriage, that I'm trying to focus on those and put all of this trauma behind me. It's difficult. You want to dissect, you want to make sense of things, you want to--as a non-ADDer--"fix" things or "heal" the other person and your marriage.

But it's just not possible if the other person doesn't make a concerted effort--or, better, the first steps (instead of the non-ADDer taking the lead in *everything*--and I wonder if any of them realize just HOW MUCH it would mean to their non-ADD spouses to see such an effort from them).

After a while, you just have to let go, move on, and--I know this will anger some people, but I'm going to say it anyway--get down on your knees and thank the Almighty that *you're* not the one with ADD, and can just walk away and rebuild your life on saner ground.

I'm Getting It Now...

Sandune, thanks for responding back so soon.  Lol...will be on this website everyday until I get to a place of healing, and I'm a true believer in "The Lord works in mysterious ways", and "He doesn't give you anything than you cannot endure".  I am so thankful to know, I can get support and feedback here.  I once was so witty, and optimistic about everything.  This relationship has left me bitter, and closed off to everyone and everything for so long.  It's as if I became the "Walking Dead".  But your posts have left me with great hope...I am not alone in this. 

Ahh yes..the hyperfocus days.  I think thats what kept us going.  Knowing that they had the potential to love us like that once..and trying so hard to get back to that moment.  Although my husband got diagnosed early on in our relationship, by three therapists... he only accepted the lesser diagnosis of his ADHD, which stated that he was just BORDERLINE, and never suggested him to continue (or at least thats what he told me) anymore treatment.  We also went to get a Neurobiological Feedback Testing, which diagnosed him with Extreme ADHD.  The treatment plan for that if I can recall, required a lot of work, initially requiring him to go three times a week to perform brain excercises.  He went to about three sessions.  The ending result of that was, he didn't like the doctor.  The first doctor that did an evaluation which led us to follow up with the other two, prescribed him medication...which I thought he was taking, but discovered the meds. months later with only 2 missing pills. 

Looking back on the the earlier years, of the events that took place in our life, really had something to do with masking the ADHD.  We moved approximately 4 times in 7 years, due to property purchases/investments that kept me busy packing and unpacking.  He and his father owns a trucking company, that he put in at least 10 hour shifts, 6 days a week, and on Sunday, he would work half a day.  This job schedule led to the demise of his first marriage. (Most add/hders hyperfocus on their work)

We would attend Sunday church services, but not consistenly. Looking back, I truly feel that had led to my feelings of being isolated, which I take full responsibility on that.  But like my mother says..."God helps those who help themselves".  Years later, when it got really bad again, I finally sat in a couple of sessions with a family therapist he selected and was seeing for a few months.  The second time I sat in, the(male) therapist started to get frustrated with me, when I questioned his credentials.  A red flag came up when he told me he just recently got divorced.  ??? And he's a marriage counselor?  He then started making sarcastic comments about me, stating that I seemed like my husbands mother, and that I seem to have a control issue.  Another red flag.  Upon leaving the session, he then made a wisecrack and told me "Yes Mommy".  Umm...that was the end of that therapist.  lol  We finally ended up with a (female) therapist, that, as we've all been there before, had listened, took down notes, discussed, and gave us simple exercises to work on till the next session.  Ending spouse could never follow through with the exercises.  I gave up.  I told him, "Why should I continue further when basically we can't move any further".  Bottom line is if they can't follow through with what they're faced to make the decision to either accept the fact that this is how it's going to be, or get out of the relationship.  Which is why most of us are left with our own self-esteem and self-worth issues.  We love them so much, we make "the relationship" a priority, and we forget about ourselves.  For years, we tolerate the oppposite of Honest, Sincere, Understanding, Loyal, Trustworthy, Dependable, Thoughtful, Considerate, Warm, Kind, Happy, and Unselfish.  All the qualities that form a strong foundation for any relationship/marriage.  Basically, we "put all our eggs in one basket", and when the eggs do fall...we're left with nothing.

I truly believe the Lord places hardship in everyones lives purposely, and not by coincidence.  Ironically, our ADD/HD spouses are not the special persons...we are.  We are the persons fully CONSCIOUS of our circumstances, yet we still give of ourselves.  It takes a special person to project the patience, and endure the pain like we have, of being in a relationship with a ADD/HD person.  Keep being matter what choice you make, to either stay or leave in your relationship.  For my own personal journey of self healing, I need to leave the bitterness and resentful feelings behind, or I will never be able to continue to move forward and personally grow.  I forgive my spouse, I forgive myself.  I'm choosing to be thankful for the life that I have been given to experience the good and the bad, and that I still have, to continue to impact others positively through my personal experiences.  I don't mean to come off so self-righteous.  It's just that I have come to appreciate life a little more.  My mother was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer back in October, and is now going through chemo.  I went through a reality check, and still am.  Life is so short.  "We" need to start living life happy.  It's OUR choice...just remember...OURS! positive step already...we're on this website. 

While I am in tears as I write, and my heart is still in great pain, I KNOW, time heals all wounds!  I thank the Lord that he had blessed me with you!!!  We almost always get bashed by our spouses, and hardly ever get praised.  So I say to all my fellow survivors in closing till next time...I Totally get it!!!  You Are Awesome!!!  I Truly Love You All!!!  I Appreciate and Thank You from the bottom of my heart for all your time that you take to post your stories and replies.  You can't imagine how positively you've impacted my life in just one day!  Mahalo, and Aloha!!!!!  :)         


Great post!!  Welcome to our

Great post!!  Welcome to our family.  I get it, too.  I feel the same way you do and have already taken the steps to be positive in moving forward with "my" life.

When will the saddness end?

My husband went back on his meds for about 2 weeks then his new phychologist and he decided for him to stop taking them. 

I see "Running 21" posting about staying for the young children.  But does anyone have any idea's for when they are older?  I just try to stay away when my husband is home because if I try to talk to him like about the kids, anything, he takes it as starting to fight and says something sarcastic.  He makes to the kids, endless plans of outings, things they will make or do together, that he will help them with their homework and on and on of things that will never happen.  I know the kids sometimes feel guilty for liking me and try to cover up what they do with Daddy.

During the day, I have to ask my kids to help me clean up after him as I simply can't do it all.  I don't know if this is right or not.  The other day when he was home I asked my daughter to clean out the shower after he got out.  She asked if I could ask him.  I told her I couldn't because he would get mad. So she asked him.  He went into the bathroom and was banging and slamming so much I was surprised anything survived.  He told me that was a terrible thing to do to him.  I hadn't thought much of it as the kids usually clean up his messes without a fight when he is not home.  I would love to have the money to hire someone to keep up with his messes, but we are of course broke.  I'm so depressed I also spend money on take out more than I want to because I am simply too overwhelmed and sad to cook.

So in the evenings I constantly, from about 6-12 pm clean up after the family.  I do not sit down.  My husband and kids play video games, make snacks leaving the kitchen a mess, watch u-tube, watch movies.  My husband knows nothing about their life, it doesn't cross his mind.  Sometimes I just leave at night and have to stay gone till after 12, or he will expect me to start making food for the kids or doing their forgotten homework at 11:00 at night.(One kid is only 7).  I only want what I think is normal.  The kids might help clean up dinner then some family time or homework, then bed at a decent hour, so I could have a couple hours without the kids.  Is that normal?  My husband and kids don't think so.

He threatened me with divorce for years.  When I finally want it now he won't leave.  He really hates me when he is off his medicine.  I don't know why he would choose to live with someone he hates.  If he wants to stay why not take the medicine.  We get along pretty good when he takes it.

I feel so hopeless.  I have never felt so bad for so long.  I'm afraid the stress and saddness with cause me to get cancer or something.  I feel it isn't fair.  I love being a parent and raising my kids.  He always talks about how awful it is.  Yet he is getting to raise them to be selfish lazy people.  Complaining about every concert and boy scout event.  He gets to ruin for me, what I think is the greatest blessing.  They gravitate to his unmedicated personality of sarcasm and the only thing to achieve is having fun for yourself.  My 7 year old doesn't want to read a book on my lap, when he can watch a rated R movie and play violent rated R video games.  It makes me want to scream.  Thats my baby!  Don't ruin it for us!

I need help so bad and I don't know where to turn.  Tears are rolling as I write.


Jobeth, it sounds like you're a slave in your own house! Why aren't you important enough to yourself to spend time on? Why are you allowing only 1 parent (him) to run the house? Why are you allowing the kids to run the house? I don't know what a therapist would say about this (I'm not one, so take what I suggest with a grain of salt).

Honestly, it sounds like you need to do some things for yourself. First off, I would suggest taking yourself to therapy, and possibly couples therapy with someone who specializes in ADHD. Also, schedule some time for yourself during the week to do something just for you, that you love. Go to a bookstore and read a favorite volume; get a pedicure; drive around the countryside; a yoga class; something relaxing that's just for you. I promise, you will feel better when you take care of yourself.

Prolonged stress isn't good for your body or mental state. Getting some relaxation time each week, time to reconnect with the person you are (not all of your roles) will help balance this. Eating healthy food and drinking your water will also help balance your stress, strengthen your body to handle it.

Next, I would suggest sitting down and making a list of what you expect from your household. From my point of view, and feel free to respectfully disagree, doing your kids' homework, cleaning up after them and your husband, isn't doing anyone any favors. You're enabling their lazy behavior, enabling them to take advantage of you and to expect that from future relationships; your kids aren't going to learn what they need to by you doing their homework for them. I'm sorry to be blunt, and hope I'm not hurting you more by saying this, but what you're allowing them to do to you isn't healthy for anyone.

Once you have a list of what you expect from your family, I would make up a chore chart, and schedules. The clearly-outlined schedules and chore charts, posted in common areas, will tell each person at a glance just what (and when) their responsibilities are. My kids are 4 & 2, and they know that they have to put their own shoes and jackets away at the end of the day, take their dishes to the sink; on the weekends my 4YO cleans his own bathroom (with a little supervision, of course). Once you have these charts established, print them out, and talk to your husband with them.

Tell him how all of the behaviors are affecting you; don't lay it out in a way that blames him (even if you want to and feel it's justified), but in a way that helps him to understand just what it's doing to you. Show him the charts, and tell him that you're really counting on him to help you raise these kids and take care of things, and ask him which chores he'd be willing to commit to. Then you 2 sit the whole family down and lay it out. And here's the important part: no matter what, you need to tell yourself that you are worth more than to be a slave to your family! STOP doing your kids' homework; stop making excuses for why you need to do everything. The Berenstein Bears and the Trouble With Chores (if you can find it) is pretty enlightening, believe it or not.

LMK if you need a starting point on schedules, I have some made up that my young kids can understand. Good luck, and take care of yourself, you’re worth it!


Hi and thank you for your

Hi and thank you for your speedy reply.  Your suggestions are the way my house has been run in the past, when my husband takes his medicine.  Unfortunately he has been off more than on for the past 2-3 years.  Whenever he used to go back on before, we would start over again getting the kids back in the routine.  They will not consistently help when they know he dosen't aprove.  HE LITERALY HATES ME WHEN HE DOESN'T TAKE HIS MEDICINE.  And part of his anger is shown by encouraging the kids to spend all of their time playing as he knows the only way to hurt me is to destroy our kids.  Now in his mind I don't think he is meaning to destroy them.  I think he just thinks asking them to help around the house and do their homework is me being a control freak, and a mean boring person. If I get them to help when he is around I have to yell.  When he is on his meds, if I ask for them to do something and they don't hop on it, or answer me respectfully, he says something to them.  They immediately do it.  I just can't spend my life yelling anymore.  I am too beat down.  I don't do my kids homework.  If I stay away until I think he may have put the kids to bed, but come home and they are awake, I guess seeing me reminds him that the 7 year old has homework. (Our 7 year old has ADD too,and thus requires supervision and guidence while doing his homework)  So my husband expects me to sit up with our child and help our son who is now tearful and over tired because its late at night.  Yes I try to do the homework with our child before my husband gets home and the party begins, but the driving of the other kids doesn't always end before that.

Believe me, my husband has heard your suggestions countless times and has even brought it to therapy.  He turns it around as me being a control freak.  So all I can do is try to get the kids to pick up after themselves before he gets home and try to clean his messes from the night before.  My husband also has a problem with going to thrift stores and collecting trash from the side of the road.  If I don't constantly work on getting the stuff out of the house that he brings in, our house would look like the people on the show Hoarders.

Jobeth, again, I'm not a

Jobeth, again, I'm not a therapist, but the behaviors you're describing from your husband don't sound like they're ADHD related, but possibly something else. And perhaps the dopamine he gets from his meds help regulate that other issue. Please consider counseling for yourself, even if it's a pastor instead of a licensed therapist; you need to be able to talk to someone nonjudgmental about your life. I honestly wish I had an "Easy Button" to fix all of our lives! (Wow, I could make a fortune with that...) But seriously, I feel the anguish from you, the note of almost-despair, and I wish I had a fix for you. Please seek some form of therapeutic talk. I know from experience that finding therapy in a shopping bag, bottle, or cheesecake might feel good, but isn't the answer. *grins* And please, please, find something to do just for you? Have drinks with the girls once in a while, or take a painting class, start a new hobby...just do something to remind yourself that you don't have to be Mom, or Ringmaster, or Wife all the time...that sometimes it's ok for you to just be Jobeth and nothing more. I take a yearly weekend trip to reconnect with myself, and get an hour or 2 to myself each weekend. Bless my husband for understanding! Just having that time to regroup makes me a happier, more relaxed wife and mom, a more compassionate ringmaster. Please let me know how else we can help!

Why am I here?

I agree totally that the only way to live my life happily in my marriage with my ADHD husband is to completely disregard him.  He will distract me, throw me off course, belittle me, rattle me, and make my world feel completely unsteady and shaky. 

My main question is:  if the only way I can live with him is to ignore him, why am I with him?

I used to be a confident, successful person.  I think it's the complete lack of all structure that has made me unable to finish my tasks, that makes me feel off balance, out of my element.  And I'm so sad these days.  I am mourning the marriage that I will never have.  I will never have a husband that pays attention to me, that manages to include me in his daily life, that smoothly coordinates our daily tasks.  Our household will never have the structure and dependability that I need to function well.  I will never have the moral support that I thought he would give me - he says the most callous, hurtful things to me daily and doesn't even realize how nasty he is.  I don't see what there is for me to live for in this marriage. 

Chin Up Girl

Awww chin up girl.  The pain does get lesser in time.  I don't know exactly where you're at with your husband...whether he was diagnosed yet or not.  But I know for me, this website brought great relief to the pain I had.  Some posts, I was in tears writing.  Your main question was mines too for a long time, as well probably with every non-ADHD spouse on here.  I totally feel you on what we "used" to be like.  I'm still on my journey of building my own self up, back from what was lost along the way.  One major relief was that my husband finally got the specialized help, along w/meds that took some edge off of the hopeless feelings I had. 

We do alot of soul searching.  I've found that when I remind myself when I'm feeling down is that "we came into this world alone, and we will leave this world alone", it makes me stronger to create my own happiness despite whats going on in our relationships.  For me, I had to seperate for over a month to get my nerves balanced, and to start thinking about me first.  I knew that "I" had to create that happiness for myself.  Ultimatums have to made.  Find something that you once enjoyed to start rebuilding and refueling your energy level back up.  It may just be as simple as taking a nap.  There was a point in time when I seriously thought I needed to check myself in to a psychiatric ward.  I don't know if you're a spiritual person, but praying to the Lord and asking him to take this burden off of me really helped me too.  You have EVERY reason to live.  Don't just let an unhappy marriage determine your self-worth.  I find that coming on this website, and sharing my experiences w/others is building on my strength.  Not only is it self-healing to reflect and unload your pain on here, but I'm sure it's impacted others to continue to have hope...even if its just hope for yourself.  I hope you feel better!  Try to be more optimistic...for yourself.  Just remember...YOU ARE SO WORTH IT!!!   

Did I mention neglected?

That's a feeling, right? I'm denying my feelings because they're pretty negative.

ADD is like a black hole and my whole family has been sucked into it.

I guess I'm feeling empty. void. nothing.

A positive page?

Could there be a page here where people talk only about the things they have done that were successful? There are so many negative postings here, it almost feels as if people just come here to vent their frustration. That is o.k., but not really constructive. It almost feels as if posting something positive here only creates negative feed-back. How about a positive page? Maybe also one for ADHDers who can talk about what has worked for them?

Non ADHD spouse comment

I found this site the very week I moved out. I left with my  kids a month ago. I cried with relief. I am not crazy... I was never crazy.

I was with my undiagnosed husband 15 years/13 married. I am on anti depressants, blood pressure meds, have been worked up for chest pain several times, and have anxiety attacks related to his job status changes. When I met him I was an independant, debt free professional, I owned my own house and had money in the bank. Now I am renting a small house with my kids, have another house we cant sell in another state (due to his being fired), in thousands of dollars of debt etc. My kids had not structure or discipline because I was so exhausted and immobilized from my own stress and anxiety. I never knew which  man would call or come home- Jeckyl or Hyde. I have physical reactions to when his name comes up on my caller id. I had to get PTSD reversal in hypnotherapy for that a few weeks ago. Last Fall he stopped talking to me all together for 3 months. I started planning my escape, I gave him a warning that we needed to do couples therapy. I scheduled 4 appointments and he managed to attend the fourth after I threatened divorce if he didnt.

He has only agreed to individual counseling now that I have left.

My ten year old was dx'd two years ago, my husband didnt want him on meds due to his own traumatic childhood experience of meds (they gave him sedatives for his hyperactivity) but I started my son on them anyway. I put both my kids (10 boy and 5 girl)in therapy to support them with this separation.

I started therapy three years ago because I thought I was going crazy. His behavior was so unacceptable and I was so worn down, dysfunctional, confused, co dependant, depressed, hopeless, isolated and made to feel that it was all my fault.  Its taken me three years of nearly weekly therapy myself,  6 months of couples counseling, three different drugs and a rental house to fall in my lap to get strong enough to leave.  He says he will do anything to get me back. I have demanded counseling as the first step. I really want him to get diagnosed and on meds.

There is no going back, only forward. I have no interest in being married to him and living with him. He is a great dad (when he can focus), brilliant researcher, has a great heart, kind soul and loves me very much. And the other side is forgetful, absent, hurtful, sarcastic, passive aggressive, defensive and mean. I will coparent and be his friend, I still love him alot and cannot love him if I live with him. Now I can love him for his gifts and forgive him for the things he does that hurt me.

The feelings I have had over the years include abandonment, fear, ridiculed, hurt, ignored, contempt, depression, joy, love, and excitement.

I could go on and on, I am sorry to vent. I am like all the other spouses. I wish I had this site ten years ago, or even five. SO much more makes sense to me now. I have compassion and empathy for him, I truly do. And as I told him "I promised in good times and bad, but not through my own insanity." So I stopped doing more of the same and tried different.

I am a new person in my own space, with my kids. I have peace here, I am emotionally safe, I am physically safe. I am finally working on my graduate school applications. I laugh and I have stopped crying. I feel sane again (mostly). He keeps trying to rope me back in playing the helpless one and I keep trying to give it all back to him. Its hard and in process. I dont know how this will turn out, but I know I am moving forward, wherever that takes me.


Thanks for listening.

I feel lots of different

I feel lots of different things at different times - when things are bad I feel frustration, hopelessness, anger, pity for myself, worry about how things are affecting the kids...but mainly anger and frustration.

But when times are good, and I get out of the negative spiral I let myself get into I am just so proud of him. He has come from an unhappy home, had a crappy childhood, no support from his parents and dealt with all sorts of horrible things but here he is still trying to make things good for me and our children in the ways he knows how - by working very hard, always ensuring that we have the material things we need.  I know that at times (alot of the time) he hates himself for things he has done, there is a lot of guilt inside him. And now he is trying to get help for the ADD and for that I'm so proud of him. He didn't ask to be born with this disorder, his life wouldv'e been so much less of a struggle without it and I feel that at times he shows an enourmous amount of courage.

Being a non-adhd spouse response

Dear Melissa,

I guess it depends on what part of the journey I was on.  When he was diagnosed I think I did what most non-ADHD spouses do.  I read every book on the subject and tried to educate myself on the subject.  I had tremendous empathy for him.  For his struggle.  Being a nurse I had a good foundation.  It seemed pretty straight forward to me.  Meds, therapy, behavior modification, and give the disorder space to breathe.  I got the books on tape for my spouse to listen to.  He seemed to mock and belittle the information.  He didn't take it seriously.  He said:"I always knew there was something wrong with me, I just didn't know what it was." Then the denial, this was no big deal.  It wasn't a problem.  So I felt frustrated by his denial.  Angry that he would not read the books.  It was still early in the relationship.  We were still in love.  Everything was still new.  He had just moved in.  I saw there was a problem immediately being a nurse and he was diagnosed as an adult.  How could his teachers have missed this?

Going on your web site and reading your blogs terrified me.  I felt like the diagnosis was a death sentence for a marriage/relationship.  Over ten years he was off meds more than on.  Not in therapy more than in therapy.  I found myself saying "Just take the fucking pill!!!!!!" Do it for me!  It makes my life easier! If you can't do it for yourself, then do it for me!  My anxiety increased over time.  When the potential infidelity behaviors began to surface I was like "Oh shit, here we are, we are at that point.  Just like the web site.  Just like the books.  No I don't want this to be us.  Please God no, please I don't want to go here.

Then immense anger and a feeling of a loss of control.  First him coming home at 2:30 am on a work night.  I was so angry.  "When your husband is coming home at 2:30 am on a week night he is fucking someone I said!" as he struggled to get the front door open and with the chain lock on.

Then the night he was "meeting a friend who manages a band in Cambridge." No I could not go, it was sold out.  Then I am not driving you home if they don't have a ticket for you.  He was a married man, meeting a single woman who worked for his company Sprint at a dive (I mean dive) bar in Cambridge.  He did everything he could to go there without me.  I said I AM GOING!  Any sane man would have said Just forget it but not the ADHD spouse.  They love creating these mini dramas.  It is what they live for.  As soon as I saw the look on Tanya Queen's face it said it all.  He was meeting her.  It was a woman (his explanation was gender neutral at home.)  She was not band manager!  The concert was not sold out!  It was not free.  It was $10.00 each to get in.  She did not leave a ticket for him at the door.  Lies, Lies, Lies and more lies.  She introduced us to her group of female friends who call themselves "the cunts".  Yes that is right.  That is what this 20 something called her group of female friend who follow the metal band around.  After the initial shock of "oh shit he is here with his wife", we hardly saw her that night.  My husband would not allow me to put my arm around him.  Would not allow me to show him any affection.

We discussed this incident in marriage counseling.  I was not born yesterday!  I was angry and hurt.  He was clearly lying.  A married man does not meet single women out a bars alone!!!!!! Hello ADHD husband, is anyone home.  She was a train wreck.  Tanya got pregnant as a teen.  Wore plastic fangs.  She was a piece of work.  I thought how in the hell is my husband, tall, handsome, with a Master's degree from Emerson find this attractive?  Why would he want to spend 1 second with this person.  I was bewildered.  Who is he.  What is happening.  The loss of control, feeling like you are Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole unable to stop.  It reminded me of the underworld that the Joker lived in from Bat Man.  What was happening to us.  Please make it stop!  You are powerless.  Completely powerless.  Agony, despair, powerless. 

Then the "i wasn't doing anything!" His slumped shoulders, his head down in the marriage counseling session said it all.  Yet "I don't want a divorce! I love you"You have a feeling that you are loosing your mind.  This is not happening.  Please make it stop.  The helplessness.  The despair.  His actions and his words do not match.  Then the offering.  If you want to meet single women in a bars then lets get a divorced and you can do that all you want to.  YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!!!!!!!!! You cannot come home at 2: 30 am for a team outing on a work night. I AM NOT GOING TO TOLERATE THIS BEHAVIOR!!!!! 

Then you think we are ok.  He said he loves me.  He said he doesn't want a divorce.  He is going to stop now.  We are going to be ok.  We dogged that bullet.  He became more attentive.  Dropping me off at the train.  Hugging me, kissing me, telling me he loved me.  It was just a fantasy he created to keep the destructive behaviors going.  The lying, the sneaking around had become his drug to treat his ADHD.  Then you are thinking "what the fuck am I doing.  how can I love this person?" 

Then you discover the evidence of the affair.  OMG we are here.  We have arrived.  Why Why Why Why.  Then ANGER!!!!  Rage just explodes.  You are shaking, crying.  But he said he loved me?  He said he didn't want a divorce?  I don't understand.  It is like being on a freight train with no brakes.  Just absolutely powerless.  This is my life now.  This is my life.  Everything you read in the books, on the blogs came true. Bewildered.  Where did my beautiful husband go?  It is like he is buried in sand and you are frantically trying to find him to excavate him.  You keep digging and digging and digging and reaching and reaching and you can't grab him.  Can't engage him.  Just falling and falling and falling.

Letting go... You so desperately love this person.  You so desperately want to help them but you can't.  You understand the problem but it doesn't matter.  You think what the hell is wrong with me, how can I still love this person.  That is the trap of the non ADHD spouse.  The qualities the ADHD husband has got you hooked.  The creativity, their brilliance, there shine, there charisma.  Watching my husband work on a video or audio project at Emerson you saw his brilliance.  He talent at its best.  In a crisis he rises to the occasion. That is when he truly shined.  In an Emergency, in a crisis.  Superb.  But when life becomes routine you've lost him.  He is gone, and there is nothing you can do but say goodbye as your heart breaks.  It is like watching a magnificent sunset that you will never see again.

Then you hope.  You hope this is his rock bottom.  You hope throwing him out will make him wake up, get help.  He is  in  treatment now.  He is taking his meds for the first time without me holding a gun to his head.  But you know in an instant that can all evaporate.  Most of us Non ADHD spouses do not get our happy ending.  I do not know the numbers or the statistics but I am certain they are bleak.  I never found them out because I did not want to know how bad my chances were.  Maybe I will look them up, but I do know that Bipolar disorder and ADHD have similar outcomes.  Relapse, relapse, relapse.  Every one with ADHD does not become Dr. Hallowell.  More often  than not they end up in a very bad place as far as relationships go.  I have not lost my compassion for my husband.  For how hard it is going to be for him to ever have any kind of normal stable relationship.  Prior to me he did not have any long term relationships.  His first marriage did not last a year.  So I do still have compassion for him, for his disorder, for his struggle, for the self loathing that must come from the lying and the cheating.  I understand that all of these behaviors is how he self medicated.  To continue on with this person I would have died.  The despair I felt almost got me to take my own life.  I actually wrote suicide notes to each member of my family.  I was in a very very bad dark place when the house of cards fell down.  When the disorder beat me, when it won.  I had so many hopes and dreams for us.  He was going to complete his documentary.  I was going to write my book.  We were going to beat this thing.  But it all became too big.  It was bigger than us, more powerful than us.  Just like in Vegas where the odds favor the house.  If I had to sum up the experience in 1 word I would say what I felt was completely and totally powerless.

Sincerley, Kelly


How it feels.

Trying to explain how it feels is like trying to explain to a healthy person how it feels to have fibromyalgia. It's very difficult. It's like trying to describe an intricate carving to a blind person without letting them touch it. Anger seems to be at the base of it, I feel anger still yet it is sort of taking a back seat to despair and hopelessness after 20 years.

I want to be compassionate and not blame him, but having been in other marriages, and watching my life disappear and fall apart when he came into it, I can't help but feel he is to blame.

Most days it feels like those dreams where you are trying to fly and can't get off the ground, or trying to brake a car but the brakes don't work, like running from an unknown horror chasing you.

When a strong, energetic positive organized person becomes the opposite, one cannot help but feel the ADHD spouse contributed greatly to it. You change into something, into someone else, trying to find yourself, the person you know you are.

I could also write a laundry list of all the horrible things that happen, all the horrible feelings you experience. Hoping that it is all just a nightmare you will wake up from. Feeling betrayed and wishing someone had warned you before you took your vows.

It's like going to bed and waking up and finding yourself in some strange parallel universe where nothing makes sense.

Most days I feel like I'm drowning and  it feels like he is pushing my head under for a while then walks away oblivious to the fact I'm drowning.

It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Make it stop. I know I'm very intelligent, very capable, very strong,until he appears, then I feel helpless and hopeless. I feel like two different people.

In the work I do, I am praised for being so competent, inspiring and organized. At home I wonder why is it I can help people transform their lives and homes, I feel like a fraud as mine flounders and I struggle so to stay organized. I know they don't have an ADHD spouse undermining everything, yet...

I feel bitter, because I supported him as he went back to school, started his own business, and every endeavor he attempted, and watched it all go to hell in a handbasket. He did get his AA, but did nothing with it and 20 years later still trying to pay off the student loan. He never once encouraged or helped me achieve my dreams. I don't even try any more.

You feel bad for staying and bad for thinking about leaving, after all it's not his fault.

I could go on and on. I don't know exactly when it started but I found myself spending a lot of time staring vacantly out in space, just feeling small and helpless, sometimes just numb, mostly exhausted. For years I've stood on balconies, porches, doorways looking out ....feeling trapped, feeling a longing for ...something.. .feeling like I'm serving a life sentence, just waiting for it to end so I can rest finally.

I've been suicidal, practically homicidal, and a lot confused and even more depressed. It's totally exhausting ,scary and unnerving.

That's how I feel  most every day. What a way to live.

I think for me the worst part of it all is  sometimes I look at my husband and my heart aches with love for him, I want to wave a magic wand and make the ADHD disappear so that he won't have to deal with it. I want so much for him to have the original "me" back. Then  in a blink of an eye,  I wish a hole would open up and he would disappear into it. VERY conflicting feelings.  Very schizophrenic.

How it feels

WOW!  I have SOOOOOO many of the same feelings that you have mentioned in your post.  I have kept them bottled up inside of me, which I know is not good for my health and well-being, but I'm afraid that people would think I'm the crazy one if I ever let most of these feelings out. 

My Dream is to exper. a peaceful life filled w/Love and oneness!

But what hinder's that the most is my fear of what seems like overwhelming odds...:(

Can I maintain a spirit of Love that produces oneness, Can I work through each day without having negative emotion and reactions to the way she lives out her life...Can I be a leader and good example...Can I maintain calm while addressing those things that must be addressed...Can I always show love, respect, compassion and acceptance of her has a my wife and as the individual she is. Can I be wise enough to be quiet and not give her an avenue or reason to cast off her behavior by making it mine...Can I c my self, and deal with my heart daily, can I be apologetic and ask for forgiveness when my actions or less than caring...

Non ADHD spouse

I have been married for 43 years, and my husband has never been diagnosed with ADHD but I am sure he has it. Talks to himself constantly, if he opens a door doesn't shut it, tap on but not tap off, fridge door open but not closed, light on but not light off etc etc...We originally got together and married when he was 21 and I was 19, and were drawn together because we both came from unhappy backgrounds and we both needed the kindness that the other offered. He can still ne very kind, I hope I still am, but basing a marriage on it is a bit shaky. My main feelings about being the spose of an ADHD man? LONELY, even (mostly) when we are together - because all decisions, "make it right" moments, come down to me. I cannot rely on him for anything. Totally dependent. I think I am perceived as controlling by others, and I am, because I have to be. In earlier times our three (now adult) children also felt sorry for their dad, that he was hen pecked I believe, but with the passing of the years they have become much more understanding. I would love to not have to take control, to be able to rely on someone. Lonely, lonely, lonely. Our children love both of us, but if they need any sort of committment from us - they always contact me. They never ask him to babysit alone - because once together we took our small granddaughters to the local pool and while he watched the 3 year old and I the elder, he "forgot" she was there and went off to another part of the pool and just left her. Luckily someone caught her as she sank, as I rushed over. He told everyone about that at the time and was afraid when he had that experience, but he has now forgotten/developed a rationale for it - it sort of "didn't happen" in his head (it was about 3 years ago). He cannot decide anything - even which vegetable he wants for dinner without angst - it is easier if I just dont ask - so I decide everything. Plays the guitar and likes music festivals - will play the guitar all day and ignore all else - and did the same when we had young children. This caused many quarrels. We go to music festivals and he just leaves the rest of us and disappears without telling us where he is going - self focused. Talks to himself constantly, not out loud, but his lips move constantly. Doesn't look at you when he talks to you. Will listen to something I have said, comment on it and then 10 minutes later say it himself as if it is the first time the idea has been expressed. Walks around and around the house in an endless circuit, at various times has driven all four household members mad. Does one thing and destroys another as he does it, but entirely focused on one thing at a time. Believes everything he is told by anyone else and, contrary to many anecdotes expressed on here, works hard and has held the same job for years, but in a minor role, no responsibility. Once when he asked for a written reference his employer commented on what a hard worker he was, but that he lacked initiative. Thinks I am frigid, in that I find him sexually unappealling and the idea of sex with him repugnant - that is because I feel like his mother, NOT his lover, and it would feel like incest to me now. There are a great many more behaviours that have made being his partner such a hard, not entirely (most mostly) thankless slog. BUT... there have also been times of great kindness, when my mother was dying for instance, when he carried her everywhere, visited her in the hospice daily in his lunch hours, he just couldn't have been more wonderful - but then the day after she died and obviously before any inheritance hit our bank account - he was off spending money he knew we would eventually get (joined a very expensive gym under a false name and signed up to buy a new car). At the end of the day, he has done a great many things that I have loved him for, and our children and grand children have loved him and do love him, and he still can be very kind (when his own SELF does not get in his way), but the main word to describe an ADHD spouse from my perspective - lonely. When speaking to our doctor about this years ago he told me to save myself by developing my own interests and life - and I listened and did that, but it gets very hard to ignore that massive hole in the relationship that means that when your car pulls up, he doesn't stop playing the guitar to say 'how you going hon, good day?' and when you ask him, he looks up smiles briefly and says it was okay, and goes back to doing what he is doing. He is a nice man, a good man, kind, can be thoughtful, a good provider, not lazy - but not entirely present either. Perhaps he is a lonely as I am, perhaps it is something we share but as we seem unable to sustain a conversation for long these days (make that always) about same without him feeling defensive or that he is being accused of something, that would be conjecture. He is frightened of all talks of ADHD, would not entertain being diagnosed or medication. The word alone might fit the picture more than lonely.