The Other Side Of The Fence...

Hello, everyone.

(The Short Story) I've noticed there's a lot of threads in here about ADHD spouses -- diagnosed or not -- who in turn are in denial and unwilling to make changes.  What if you are on the other side of the fence? 

What if you just found out you are ADHD and you desperately want to make changes, but your non-ADHD spouse has already given up before you were ever diagnosed...  before you ever realized what was causing the problems?

(The Long Story) We've been married nearly 14 years.  In most respects, our marriage has been a textbook marriage involving undiagnosed ADHD...  We met the first day of freshman year in college.  We were the best of friends for 2 1/2 years, before we started dating.  Everything was fun and happy and perfect, until we got married straight out of college and almost immediately had a slightly autistic son and then also a daughter a year and a half later.  Things were sometimes good, sometimes bad as marriages usually go...  there were plenty of stresses from life and work and what not.  But we'd entered that slow downward spiral, which in hindsight had all the indicators and arguments and complaints that read almost word-for-word from the anecdotes out of all the ADD marriage self help books (if it would help you guys give advice, I can elaborate later).

About a month ago, my wife had finally decided enough was enough, that she was tired of dealing with it all, and that no matter how hard we tried nothing was ever going to get better.  She was ready to get divorced.  The trouble is, neither of us is separately in a financial situation to get divorced...  We bought a house just two years ago, and we can't afford to sell it.  Neither of us can afford to move out.  And neither of us wants to leave our two young teenaged children.  It will be at least a year before we can actually get divorced, if that is what happens in the end.

So she moved into the spare bedroom, and ever since we've been "roommates who happen to be married with kids".

In the meantime, we'd had a few talks about it, as I tried to deal with the shock... I hadn't realized the relationship was that far gone in her eyes.  She'd explained that since I can never remember what she says, it always feels like I'm not paying attention to her.  She understood that it wasn't exactly my fault -- I was "absent-minded" and couldn't change that -- but she just couldn't deal with it anymore.

That got me to thinking.  I had been dealing with my "absent-mindedness" all my life...  At least twice as long as she had.  I was pretty tired of dealing with it, too.  And I had never really considered that it could be changed.  I'd always just assumed that it was something to live with.  I'd always found ways to deal with it and work around it (I've already have a bucketful of reasonably successful coping mechanisms...), and so it had never caused a major problem until now.  So, I went to my doctor, we talked about a lot of possible causes, she asked me a lot of questions, I filled out several questionnaires, and in the end I was diagnosed with ADHD just a week ago.

Like when my son was diagnosed with autism, it was something of a relief...  All those years of knowing something wasn't quite right, and now it all makes sense... Now, plans can be made and things can change for the better.

So, I'm starting in on trying out some medication -- low dose Concerta to start -- I'm actively looking for an ADHD coach or counselor to help with some behaviors I haven't learned to deal with on my own, and I'm reading up all I can (as G.I. Joe says, "Knowing is half the battle").  I am eager to makes changes for the better, but my wife...

But I'm not sure what she thinks about it all.  She's completely disconnected.  I seems like she's completely given up.  I finally understand what's been going on, and know what to do about it, and it's all too late.  It's like finding the train schedule two minutes after it's already left the station, and standing there on the platform as it chugs off into the horizon.

I know what the books say, and I know what everyone here will suggest...  I know I can't make her change.  And I know I shouldn't make my own changes with the intent of changing her mind or saving the marriage.  That I should change myself for the sake of making myself a better person.  But it's so hard to do that if there isn't even a hope of rebuilding our relationship. 

Right now, it feels as if there's no point of being a better person, if it won't make a difference.

Thanks for listening, everyone.  Now, I need to go and try to get some sleep before I have to get up for work.


I could have written your story, almost word for word...

I'm on your side of the fence. I am about 3 years post diagnosis and was 43 and in my 13th year of marriage. We were in the Room Mate / Household Co-Manager arrangement, but still in the same bedroom. I had NO Idea I had ADD, although I joked about having it all the time because I could not remember anything unless there was an Outlook Reminder going off. I believe I had developed some good coping skills and of course some bad ones too. I never had an issue keeping a job, was pretty organized and usually on-time. These were items that I got sick of having issues with, so I forced changes to make these areas good. I was the Worst Communicator Ever and I'm still working on this skill. I have 2 daughters and love them to pieces. They are the only reason our marriage has survived. The disconnect was well established by 2009 and if it were not for the DD's and a big mortgage I'm sure we would have split. Sounds familiar, huh...

Okay... You know what has plagued you your entire life, like me, and it does feel good to know it is not just the way you choose to be. You are getting treatment, researching ADD and looking for counseling/coaching, Excellent. Adderall has changed my life and I knew it 30 minutes after the first pill. You are right about working on yourself, so don't stop, because it may not save your marriage, but you can be better for your kids and your family. 

It sounds like you are off to a good start. Read the posts from the NonADDer's, there are many who can help you understand the Other Side and do give great advice.

Pbartender's picture

Yeah, it sounds very

Yeah, it sounds very familiar...  I do at least half the day-to-day chores without being asked.  I've worked at the same laboratory for the last 14 years (ever since we got married).  I plan out a budget for our bills a year in advance.  And I've found if a project has a deadline, I always get it done lickity-split.

But, if the project doesn't have a deadline, it never quite gets finished before something else takes priority.  I'm have a spotty memory.  It takes an extraordinary effort to pay attention sometimes.  And like you, I have trouble effectively communicating what I'm thinking or feeling...  It never comes out quite right, and what my wife hears is never quite what I'd intended.

Out of curiosity, and if you don't mind my asking...  I'm presuming things worked out between you and your wife?   What's the relationship like now, three years later?


Working out...

As far as things working out goes, it has been a very turbulent 3 years, but things seems to be slowly improving. Unlike most of the Non-ADDers on this site, my DW is not really much of a believer in ADD and she does not really think it effected us too much. It is pretty complicated, but I just stopped talking about ADD stuff for the most part and worked on what I Knew were my main issues. As long as things get better, I don't really care how she thinks I got better, just that she feels as though things are better.

You do sound like a copy of me, Chores, deadlines, budget, taxes, checkbook, bills, job stability are on my checked Items List. My un-checked list is still a work in progress ;)

Don't give up. Change because

Don't give up. Change because you want to change your life.  OK I am going to sound like a hypocrite because many of my posts are about how fed up I am with my husband of nearly 20 years. he was diagnosed maybe 6/7 years ago, i have wanted to give up and divorce him many years now, but I have not, mainly because of our children who would be pained by the split as all children are.  The reason I am fed up is because even while he has been diagnosed he doesn't do much to actually change, he wont read any of the books I have bought to help, he barley takes his meds which help tremendously, he barley communicates with me or he doesn't 'hear' me correctly, we no longer sleep together, etc.  I have come so very close to leaving, started looking for another house and everything, yet I am still here.  Anyway my point is....On the rare occasions he takes his meds more than two days in a row i feel like the sun is peaking behind the clouds and i have a glimmer of possible change. Then the rug gets pulled out from under me again.  However it sounds like You Are trying to change, as Nike says 'just do it', your wife may eventually see in you the person she fell in love with after some time to heal has gone by, and maybe she wont.  Being a better person will always make a difference, if not in your marriage it will for your children.

We are much the same

Mine takes his medication religiously, but has NO DRIVE or MOTIVATION to do anything else to improve.  I try like hell to get him to read, to engage in conversation, go for counselling again...NOTHING.  He doesn't even "try" to be with me anymore, which is definately not in character for him.  I am really really hurt because not only he won't talk and communicate and engage in "us" but he doesn't even want me anymore.

I suppose it really is over.  I don't now if I should feel sad or mad or hurt.  I thought I was doing the right thing by letting go, and giving in and trying one last time for the rest of our lives, but again it was not the right decision and I look like an ass again/still :(


Pbartender's picture

Here's the part that gets

Here's the part that gets me...

"...he doesn't do much to actually change...  ...he wont read any of the books I have bought to help...  ...he barley communicates with me or he doesn't 'hear' me correctly...  ...we no longer sleep together, etc."

These are complaints that I see all over these forums from non-ADHD people about their ADHD spouses.  But in my instance, I'm the ADHDer, and it's my non-ADHD wife who acts like this.  It's difficult to improve yourself, with so much doubt and disdain floating around.

I hear what you guys are saying, but it's tough to make improvements, when there's no reason for improvement or if improvement makes no difference.  Making changes for the sole purpose of being a better person requires a certain amount of self-confidence that I don't exactly have at the moment...  It's been ablated away by years of my wife's frustration, anger, scorn, and lack of trust.



We are all doing the same

We are all doing the same dance one way or another, its so sad really.  One partner wont/can't change the other desperately wants them to.  I am fed up with the way things ARE, but I WANT them to change, I still cling to the hope that SOME day it will be different. If he could make some very important changes in his behavior I could let go of the hurt bit by bit, but it just doesn't seem to matter, I don't matter I feel. Maybe he feels why change it wont matter my wife hate me anyway...I don't know he doesn't open up to me.    If you have made changes, and your spouse has still shut you out my guess is she still needs more time, or she just doesn't want to let you back in. That is sad too. I can see how it would be very discouraging to do all you can to make improvements and not see any difference from her. I wish you luck.

One thing to keep in mind,

One thing to keep in mind, pbartender:  it's likely that your wife has gone through years of your disdain and she might well feel at this point, "I tried.  Nothing happened.  His behavior didn't change.  Why should I do back flips because after all this time, he's suddenly seen the light?"

Pbartender's picture

Now, I was never disdainful

Now, I was never disdainful toward her...  Though I can understand how it might have appeared that way.

And I can understand the sentiment.  From this side it's, "I've been trying and trying and trying and nothing ever works...  Why can't she give me a break?"

Good point about the disdain.

Good point about the disdain.  I should not have made that assumption.  In my situation, even though my husband always professed to having good intentions, the fact that he ignored me, got fired twice, and was unemployed for many years felt like he was treating me shabbily.  Now when he talks about me not being "supportive" because I didn't show enough interest in his heavy-duty outpatient mental health treatment program, I have to stifle the urge to say something sarcastic about his lack of support for me for many, many years.

Do it anyway

I don't know the ins and outs of your marriage, but I can tell you my experience.  I haven't been with my ADHDer nearly as long as most people on here (only 3 years), but in that time there has been so much pain and damage that I'm not sure any amount of change can save us.  There are so many things I've been through for him that I desperately want to forget.  They're things I'm reminded of every time his ADHD shows its ugly head.  It's like reliving the pain all over again.  Imagine a dog who has been hit for a long time.  And then one day its owner sees the light and decides never to hit it again.  He even sticks to the commitment.  But the damage has been done.  For the rest of its life, that dog will associate that owner's hand coming towards it with the pain of being hit.  It will shy away every time.  It will never trust that person again. The only way that dog will ever feel safe again is if it doesn't have to be around that owner.  Now I'm not saying anyone is hitting or physically hurting anyone here.  But if you're like most ADHD people on here, odds are a little absent mindedness isn't your only symptom.  You probably have issues with impatience, angry outbursts, disappointing your spouse when they need you the most, and just generally not being there for them.  It is possible that trust can be rebuilt.  But it's also possible that it's just too far gone.

But if you're looking for a reason to continue improving yourself, there definitely is one.  Even if your spouse never wants to be around you again, you can still do it for her.  If she's anything like me, odds are she's been through a lot for you.  She's sacrificed, struggled, cried, and hurt more times than anyone ever should have to.  She's probably put her life on the back burner the whole time she's known you.  You may have had the best of intentions, but I'm guessing nobody has put her first in a long time.  She's exhausted.  She's beaten (not literally).  She's hopeless.  And through it all, she probably still loves you very much.  Leaving you has probably been one of the hardest decisions she's ever made...not just because of the moving and the children and the thought of starting a new life alone, but because she hates the thought of hurting you.  I know that has been my biggest struggle in my thoughts of leaving.  I know I will be fine.  I will hurt, but it will be nothing compared to what he will feel.  She's given a lot for you.  She's lived for you.  Part of what has kept me going for so long has been how much I have invested in my man.  Time, money, blood, sweat, and tears.  One of my biggest fears is that if I leave him, he will fall apart and never have the life that I want him to have.  

He has recently figured out how his ADHD is hurting our relationship.  He is trying to make changes, but I think I'm at that point of too much damage.  Your wife may be in a similar state.  My point is, even if your efforts will not win your wife back, do them to honor her sacrifice.  Let her leave feeling that even if your marriage didn't work out, at least she didn't waste her time and effort for nothing.  She loves you.  She wants you to be happy.  And you will never be able to move on and do that if you don't keep going with your improvements.  If you want to hurt her one more time, by all means...give up on yourself.  She probably expects it and she's probably used to the pain.  But if you want to find a way to make her smile one last time...go be happy.  Show her that you'll be okay without her.  This doesn't mean you won't still be heartbroken or that you won't miss her terribly, but it does mean that her work wasn't in vain.  I hope you can work it out.  I hope it's not too late for you.  But if you need a reason to keep trying without her...there you go.

If you start to feel better

If you start to feel better and function better, your wife might still leave or she might stay.  But you'll feel better!!! That's so important.  Unless the ONLY thing in your life is to have a relationship, and really, whether or not you have ADHD, should the relationship be the only important thing in your life?  No!  

My husband has ADHD.  I'm the frustrated wife.  Even if we don't stay together, I really want for him to feel better and function better.


P - thanks so much for this post. My partner and I are talking yet again today about what's going on (we're separated, non-ADHD here), and I'm all over myself wondering if he actually wants this to work or not. 

It's striking how much of this can be addresses/managed/worked through, and Melissa's book appears to be a great reference to do that. Your post hits an amazing point for me, though - what happens when it seem like only ONE person is willing to change/work/discuss??

My guy said he has seen the work I've been doing, and that's encouraging to hear. My trouble is that many times I want to see the work that HE'S doing. And that work is the work I've assigned to him. That's a hard spot to get out of - he's in charge of him. Not me. 

Complicating matters (in my brain only, really) is that I have no idea what he and his T work on or what his goals are. I have no idea what to be encouraging of and what to simply forget about for now since it's not a priority for him. It's like he won't let me in. Can I blame him? Not really, no. The way I was "in" before was horrible for both of us, so why would he invite me in again? 

What I can offer here is a variation of what's been said before...  A person has to change for him/herself first. The rest just has to wait. And, miracles happen every day. A change he or I make might become incredibly apparent quickly to the other person. Boom - reason to celebrate! :)  

That pings at my fears of being alone and abandoned, though. What if the change means that I'm not liked by me DP? What if I don't like my DP? (And, well, I don't really right now!) 

Bottom line, if the lines of communication aren't opened and we begin to thaw out even the slightest bit, then this battle will continue. I've still got some energy for it, though. 

Finally, I'm quite proud of the work that *I'VE* done on my these past few months during our separation. I've received a fantastic job offer, have become clear on who I am and what I want to be, and reconnected with family and friends. It's not always comfortable, no, but I am enjoying this work. I can't imagine how it wouldn't benefit children in my life (if I had them). I do hope that I can share it with the guy I love, though. 




I'm So Exhausted's picture


I am thinking maybe she is like me.  She is nurturing that tiny glow of hope - that there can be better days for both. . . that she really doesn't have to get a divorce that she doesn't really want,  that she will see consistency, that it will peak her interest, that she may once again feel hope and say, "Hey. . . what's happening here?"  And smile.