To the non-ADHD spouses ... and my fellow ADHDers

I've been reading a lot of posts in all the different sections and wanted to offer to all of you some thoughts, observations, and advice I've had since being diagnosed.

You  can get a good in depth overview of where I'm at with ADHD here.  In short, I've been diagnosed, by 2 different Doctors, with ADHD about 4 months ago.  I embraced my diagnosis and have not denied it.  In fact, from the day I was diagnosed I've been relentlessly committed to doing what needs to be done to overcome the obstacle I never new I had for 40 years.

With that being said, here we go:

  • Medication - It is just one component.  It does NOT make everything that's been going on disappear magically.  Unicorns don't come out prancing around in your back yard or your mind.  What it has done for me is remove the blindfold I've had on for the past 40 years; quieted the 100,000 things going through my mind - every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every year, for 40 years; in turn it allows me to focus, understand, and deal with the other issues created by ADHD over these years.  If anyone is thinking or believing that meds are the cure they are sadly mistaken. Meds are a tool to assist you in your healing.
  • For me, I know that I need to have structure.  This does not mean supervisory structure as in "parental oversight".  It means putting in a structure of organization for myself that I manage myself.  The non-ADHD spouse is part of that structure not as a parent but as a partner.  Understanding that allows a wall to be brought down.
  • Behavioral and cognitive retraining is of paramount importance to my success and the success of our marriage.  This retraining includes both sides of the marriage -  the ADHDer and the non-adhd spouse.  If either side of the marriage refuses this then the marriage is done.
  • ADHDers - We must realize that with or without a spouse/partner the ADHD is still there.  In other words, no matter what the outcome of our relationship each one of us is responsible for not only our actions but the outcomes going forward.
  • Non-ADHD spouses - You have been hurt tremendously by the past actions of your ADHD spouse, who undiagnosed, obviously did not consciously intend to hurt you.  If you are committed to your relationship/marriage then you must realize that the only way to move forward is to forgive the past.  Notice I did not say forget.  Forgive and forget are two different things.  I as one with ADHD cannot change the memories of the past.  What I can do is create the future, right now, to replace the memories of the past with a fantastic relationship from this point on.  Trust me.  My wife and I were there in the first 2 1/2 months since being diagnosed.
  • ADHDers - The same goes for us.  If you cannot forgive then you cannot move forward.  Additionally - If, after having been actually diagnosed, you deny or reject the ADHD then there is absolutely no way for you to move forward.
  • You as a couple must over communicate with each other.  I'm not saying that each one of you tell the other what you're doing every minute of the day.  That's called reporting, not communicating.  You must over communicate with each other in terms of what your feeling, how your feeling, what you see improving, and most importantly you must continue to communicate the love that you have for each other.

I hope this helps.  Even one person.  It's my view and comes from my particular situation but I'm betting someone can see and understand what I've said.

I'll close with the follow two quotes:

"Do not think of your faults; still less of others' faults. Look for what is good and strong and try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes." ~ John Ruskin

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." ~ Thomas Edison

So true but!!

I agree with everything you are saying BUT I am currently deployed and me and my wife of 8 years are going though the hardest time of are marriage,  I cannot get meds over here and I dont know what to do,  She has told me she already had a emotional connection with another man but nothing happend.  I am so freak out I dont know what to do.  She says she wants to work on are marriage but keeps the divorce thing lingering.  I was diognosed with ADD as a kid but thought I grew out of it and I have now realized that I have not and It has affected my marriage greatly. 

I'm am so very sorry for not

I'm am so very sorry for not getting back to you sooner.  I had thought that we we're notified when someone replies to another's post.

So, I'm completely at a loss as to why you cannot get meds.  Whether deployed or not, and if your diagnosed then there is no reason that you can't get your meds. (It might be that your so far out in the boondocks that you can't get.)  I would really push to get the meds if that is what is prescribed for you.

I was in the USMC and I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard other Marines tell the same story as you did with their wives.  The only advice I can offer here is for you to concentrate on yourself.  Whether your wife is with you or not, you will, still, have ADD and as long as you devote that time for yourself to move forward.

ebb and flow's picture


I wish my ADDer had as much insight as you do about his ADD!

I completely agree with you on all of the points above...

Any insight with regards to why my ADDer who was diagnosed and medicated in 2009 doesn't want to see/admit how his ADD symptoms may be affecting our relationship negatively? 

:/ lol



Hi ebb and flow, Sorry for

Hi ebb and flow,

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner.  As I don't know you or your ADDer personally, I can't give any specific insight.  However, I've read some of your posts which gives me an idea of where you and your ADDer are at.

For 40 years I was undiagnosed.  During those 40 years I would do and say things and then I would look at them and say "That is NOT me!  Why am I doing and saying these things. What's wrong with me?!!". Then I was diagnosed, not once, but twice because I wanted to make sure.  Once diagnosed the light bulb went off and I said to myself - "So that's why I've been doing and saying things that I know are not me!" and within 2 hours of taking my first dose of meds (I take Adderall) it was like a blindfold had been taken off of my eyes for the first time in 40 years.  Correction.  It wasn't like a blindfold had been taken off, it was a blindfold that had been taken off after 40 years.

Now I had 40 years of going through all kinds of B.S. and when that blindfold was lifted the very first thing I said was "I now know what was wrong. I and I only can correct it. I am committing myself 100% to getting this." and so I've committed myself and I will never allow myself to go back to wearing a blindfold. Ever.

From your posts I get a sense that your ADDer is overwhelmed by work and by life in general.  Does he have a system in place for organization?  I use Getting Things Done and I can tell you that it has been revolutionary for me.  I also eat healthy, exercise, and take supplements besides my meds (meds can be and are very helpful but I've come to understand that people with ADHD/ADD absolutely need a whole approach to tackling ADD/ADHD.  You would be amazed at how much progress I've made.

My marriage is pretty much gone even though I have been doing all of the correct things.  My wife, whom to this day I love with all my heart, made the decision to not look forward but look back at the past and hold on to it.  This was even after we agreed to give it one more try.  The first 3 months were the best in 21 years of marriage and my wife agrees with that.  She just could not get past the past.  I understand the why but am heartbroken because we were finally there on the right track after 21 years of riding a roller coaster.

My point in telling you this is that if only one side of the relationship is willing to make the necessary changes the relationship won't work.  Perhaps your ADDer is not willing to make the changes.  That is sad but it is reality.  The choice for you is deciding whether or not you want to continue the path you and your ADDer are on together.

I hope this helps.

Hey ken sorry for not responding


Ya I had the same problem here with not getting the notice,  A few things have change since my last post. One is I got meds and I am seeing a therapist while deployed.  So that is working great and me and my wife have also come to terms with me having ADHD we have read Melissa Orlov book and it was a great relief to now understand why we felt the way we did.  We are working on things but as you know it is just email and skype.  I do think that some things are better being separated while going though this, it gives us the time to collect our thoughts.  I was so much in shock when the meds started working and started embracing being able to focus on what I wanted to.  I do need some advice from someone who has been through this.  My wife was hurt and at times in a state of depression and thinks she has anxiety problems.  I know I hurt her and I want to make it better and so does she but she is still reserved still holds back.  I think alot of it has to do with her fear that things will go back to the way they were  and she is afraid of opening up that door again.  I also wanted to get you opinion on me being deployed she has been going out on the weekend and sometimes she goes out on week days and this bothers me.  At first I thought she did not care and she was living two different lives almost but I had a thought that what if she feels anxiety when she thinks about us and our problems, maybe her feeling are to much for her to handle right now and going out and having some fun is her outlet.  Don't get me wrong I don't expect her to sit in the house all the time but it is almost like she does not care how I feel about it that she is going to do what she wants she does not see anything wrong with it.   Being prior service you can understand how hearing she goes out can effect me being over here so I wanted to get your opinion on it. 

Brandon I Understand Completely

Great to hear you got your meds and therapy.  Man it is tough being away from the one you love and being on deployment adds another dimension to it. I don't know you and your wife's past history and so I can give you input on my observations from where I've been and what I've learned.

First, kudos that you and your wife are reading Melissa Orlov's book! That's huge.

The best piece I of advice I can give you per your being bothered by your wife going out is to focus on yourself. I mean come on bud - Can you do anything about her going out while deployed? No. I'm not making light of your feelings at all. I'm pointing out that you sound like your hyper-focusing on her going out and that's not a good rabbit hole to go down. You are correct that she more than likely has a lot of fear about things going back they way they were (if you were her wouldn't you? ;-)

First - Focus on yourself. Start actively setting up an organization system. (I use Getting Things Done and it's a lifesaver for me.) Besides meds & therapy, make sure you also pay attention to exercise (your on deployment so I imagine you get more than your fair share of "exercise"), diet, supplements(fish oil, multivitamin, Vitamin D, etc).

Instead of worrying about your wife going out try to foster the connection that the both of you have together right now - the book.  I know you're on deployment but you can email each other and start working on sections of the book, discuss them and how they affect the both of you. The both of you need to make sure you communicate and the both of you need to be sure you understand what is being communicated to each other. Don't be afraid to let her know how you feel. Be open and don't hesitate to tell her you didn't understand something or perhaps you think she didn't understand something - ask her if she does.

Bottom Line - Whether your deployed or with her at home, you need to get yourself knee-deep into your program first and foremost. 

I can only hope my ADHD husband can gain your insight!!!

Wow Ken!  Your insight into your ADHD really impresses me.  I am a non-ADHD spouse.  I believe my husband is ADHD, but he hasn't been diagnosed yet.  He will (at times) admit his ADHD tendencies, but these times are rare.  We have been married for a difficult 10 years.  This is the second marriage for the both of us and we are in our late 40s.  Our arguments are sometimes over the top.  He consistently criticizes me for not meeting his expectations (yet he is the ADHD one here).  I either don't say the right thing, or do the right thing.  My facial expressions are sometimes grim to him.  He is an over-achiever, but lacks social skills.  He has pretty much alienated me from all of my friends.  He doesn't understand why I can't have fun with him, but I can have fun with my friends.  This has created huge arguments and I have pretty much abandoned all of my friendships because of his criticizisms and comments.  When I vent to him (because he is the only person I talk to anymore), he accuses me of being negative and "bringing him down." This is a whole different issue that I can address at another time.  We have sought counseling in the past and really like our marriage counselor, but we haven't had much success.

His most severe pitfall is with follow-through.  He can't seem to get an organization system in place to help him deal with his two jobs (both high exec level positions).  He misses appointments, is always late, can't meet deadlines, has (what seems like) hundreds of projects going at the same time, breaks promises consistently, etc, etc.   He has asked for my help with his schedule and calendar, but I have tried to explain to him that if he doesn't either put his appointments in himself or tell me about his appointments, his system won't work.  He has to find something that works for HIM, not that will work for ME.  He has two cell phones (iPhones), an iPad, a laptop, and his assistant (along with myself) has access to his calendar to sync with his devices.  But he still can't find a system for work for him.  He is still missing important deadlines.

Since he hasn't been properly diagnosed yet, I am not sure if meds will help with this lack of organization.  I know that meds isn't a cure-all for ADHD and that is why I have not pushed him to seek a medical diagnosis or to get meds.  I am sure it will not cure his constant criticizing and his inability to take responsibility for some of our indifferences.   I know you are still having problems with your marriage and I am hoping to get some honest answers from you.  Did you feel that taking meds made a significant difference in how you related to your wife and marriage?  I know that it takes both to commit to treatment and healing, but I don't want to have false hope.

I will truly appreciate any advice you can give me and, congratulations on your personal success.  

Great Post!

I also had NO idea I had ADD until I was 43. I was very positive about the diagnosis and have been working hard to understand and gain control of this thing. Now I am over two years post diagnosis I am still reading and posting my thoughts and my marriage, compared to two years ago is better, but not off the roller coaster. How is your reconstruction going? I like the "Forgive, not Forget", but I get things thrown in my face from the past sometimes and if I am repeating the behavior it is understandable, but if I am not, then it seems to be not forgiving the past mistakes. I fully own my past mistakes, I take my meds and continue to research my ADD and know it is still there. I know it takes a lot of new consistent behaviors to replace the perceptions of what I used to be like. There is a lot of pain on both sides of this relationship and I will continue to push though the hard times. Your post says so much of how I think about ADD and it's affects. I wish I would have seen it sooner.