Over It But Hopeful

Thank you so much for this site! I had no idea that so much of what has been going on in my marriage is tangled up with ADHD.  I read the posts here from all of you willing to share your experiences, and I could have written them all myself.  I’m so tired of the pain.  I have been married to a man with ADHD for 23 years and little by little, day by day, all order and sanity has seemed to slip away, and now at 46 years old, I find myself at lonely, angry, frustrated, hopeless, and ready to just walk away.  He always blamed me for everything, and for a long time, I believed him.  He was diagnosed about 5 years ago and started taking meds.  It helps, but it doesn’t really solve any of the underlying issues or behaviors.  The really crazy thing is that after everything, I still love him.  I want to help him, but I also know that I can’t fix it.

I’m having a hard time finding the words to express myself here (and I’m a writer..HA!) because everything has become so absolutely out of control.  My mind has become so overwhelmed by everything that I can no longer sort it all out and see a clear path.  It’s like I’ve caught the ADHD and am now suffering from it as well.  I’ve given up trying to keep the house clean, having family dinners, having friends over, and a lot of other things I enjoy simply because I’m constantly exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically from the constant struggle.  I just want to breathe, and sometimes that is all I can do.

Over the years, I’ve learned to stuff my emotions because he could never deal with them.  When I would express emotions, which I will admit were pretty intense by the time they finally spilled out after being denied for so long, he would always shut me down, usually by getting angry and running away to his man-cave.   If I pursued him, he would usually respond by saying something hurtful, or by calling me names, which just shut me down further.  I used to be a very emotional person; now, I just feel numb most of the time because the pain is just too much when I let it through.  I don’t like who I’ve become.  Sometimes I hate that I love him because if I didn’t, it would be easy to just walk away. 

I realize now that we didn’t have the tools to communicate effectively…or even at all.  He sees that too, at least he says he does.  No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get into that brain of his.  Yet, this site has really helped me see that this whole thing is not about me and that I’m not crazy. I’m a victim of this disorder just like he is.  Perhaps there is hope for us.  We have decided to seek couples therapy (again), but this time, we are going in with a better knowledge of the role ADHD plays in our relationship.  He has also agreed to see a counselor who specializes in ADHD himself because for the first time, ever, he realizes he needs more tools to function.  So maybe we are going to be alright.  Time will tell.  I’ve put 23 years into this marriage, so I owe it to myself and to him to not give up just yet.  I just want the pain to stop because I don’t know how much more I have left to give.  Thanks for listening--it is good to know someone is.


You are wonderful write who describe exactly how I feel

I am early 30s and dating a ADHD man and we are serious about our relationship, I am working hard to make us work, your message is EXACTLY how I feel. "I’ve learned to stuff my emotions ...When I would express emotions, which I will admit were pretty intense.... he would always shut me down, usually by getting angry and running away to his man-cave... If I pursued him, he would usually respond by saying something hurtful... shut me down further...." well I am walking on your footsteps especially "It’s like I’ve caught the ADHD and am now suffering from it as well". Ironically I told him "I feel like I have ADHD just like you", his respond is "then you should take some med" It hurts, it really hurts. He said he loves me so much, his parents told me how much he loves me, but his behavior still hurts me deeply. I have faith in him, believing underneath his anger and frustration, a complicated brain, he is a good person who love me. I told myself I can be tough and handling all these, because I believe in our love.

Every time it's freaks me out when I see this forum... well is it doomed to a unhappy marriage with a ADHD person? should I walk away right now?  I have lovely parents who love each other after 30 years of marriage - I want that. I want someone can grow old with me, love me when I got wrinkles, I want someone who can be a responsible dad. I can be with someone "normal" - someone less intelligent, someone less interesting, someone do regular stuff... I can be a normal wife to a normal hubby, having normal kids... I keep asking myself do I really want this? I can take risk for a tougher but more exciting life with him, more challenging life with potential ADHD kids.

23 years... would you mind if I ask you if you can turn back time, will you still choose him?


Hanging in there

Your question took me by surprise, but I didn’t hesitate and immediately thought “yes. I would do it again.”  I’ve always been a firm believer that I would never change anything in my past because I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for EVERYTHING that has happened in my life.  Also, someone posted on here earlier today about how the ADHD part of him is part of what I fell in love with. This is true!  I love the quirkiness it gives him.  That being said, I don’t know if I can continue to do this because of the emotional pain, but I am hopeful that we will get through this. One day at a time, right?

What I do know is that had we known about the ADHD 23 years ago, we could have done things differently.  He was 42 when he was diagnosed.  That’s a LOT of baggage to sort through both for himself and for our relationship.  Since you are just starting out and you are both aware of the issue, you may be able to work through it together.  I want to believe that our love will get us through this.  I love him, and I know he loves me even though he doesn’t know how to love me the way I want and need to be loved.  One thing I read somewhere on this site talked about how a ADHD spouse kept trying to help her spouse with his issues the best way she knew how, but not the way he needed her to help.  My husband has told me this over and over, and I never really got it until reading here on this site.  I see it now: I was loving him the way I needed to be loved, but that wasn’t what he needed. *sigh*  It gets so confusing. 

If you love him and you both are committed to working with this disorder/disease/disability (whatever they call it), then stay with him.  Don’t expect it to be easy though, but then, nothing worth having is easy, right? (at least that's what I keep telling myself. HA!) :) 

Thank you...

Your firm answer gave me a big encouragement, I read your reply again & again and thank you so much for sharing with me. Yes I fall in love with him because of his good side of ADHD. I am a creative person, he always give me surprises. He told me from the very beginning he was diagnosed with ADHD and borrow a book to me so I can know him better. At that time I wasn't believe it at all as he made me so happy I didn't see any problem with him. As time goes by, we had more and more fights. I took out that book and finished the book over night with tears and choking. That explains everything, it's not him, it's his ADHD behavior which drive me crazy. Gradually I learn to be more understanding, although from time to time I have emotional outbreaks. I've done counseling, read books, read forum, I though I can understand him but it seems I haven't done an excellent job.

In every few months we have HUGE fights on stupid little things, maybe over choice of TV programme, food, discussion on small stuff - He just burst into massive anger in one second and sometimes he has so angry that shut himself down for few days. (Do you have the same experience btw?) Usually these few days are the toughest time for me, besides feeling lonely, worthless, abandoned, I also get his f-word text messages further broke my heart. I have to admit I hate him when he treated me like this, but on the other hand, I keep telling myself, it's not him, it's just his ADHD, it was unintentional. But I still feel resentful for what he did. Well, he has prefect reason to be angry or treated me badly, how about me? I have to be a nice person 24 x 7, if I get angry, it will give him stress and he is even more stressful and become angry. How unfair is that???? Yes I am emotionally tired, feel hurtful and lonely... I am tired of apologizing things doesn't cause by me. I treasure our relationship so much I apologize to stop his anger. Worth it or not? I don't know...

I am actually quite intrigued by your idea: "he doesn’t know how to love me the way I want and need to be loved" and "I was loving him the way I needed to be loved, but that wasn’t what he needed." I absolutely understand that! Well the way I want to be loved - is to give me caring and stay connected and that's how I show my love - But he needs alone time, he wants me to trust him he will come back to me re-charged and happy with energy for me. I want to stay connected but he just want to shut down so I won't give him additional stress to cause him anger. Well, I am even more confused now, perhaps we are a mismatch as we want different things? or I need to be the one who reconcile this? I don't know. He is a good person, I know it for sure 100%, that's why he deserved to be loved, to be understood, to have a nice family - with the right person who can understand and cope with "disorder/disease/disability". I do have the thought that it's a "disability" (no offence...) he always think it's like he has a bad leg, I can't expect him to change/improve himself to run as fast as a ordinary person, so I keep giving him special care and love...  and I've never love someone so deeply...

Set boundaries now

I was a bit concerned when you said "I also get his f-word text messages further broke my heart. I have to admit I hate him when he treated me like this, but on the other hand, I keep telling myself, it's not him, it's just his ADHD, it was unintentional."  It's one thing to deal with the impulsivity and momentary outbursts, but it is a whole different thing to call it "unintentional" when he cusses you out in a text message.  That is not okay.  When mine says hurtful things to me, it is usually in a moment of intensity during an argument.  After he cools down, I make it clear that I do not accept that type of behavior or treatment.  I think it is a lack of coping skills that takes them to that place where they just lash out, but it is not okay.  You have to set a clear boundary there or it will always be the easy place he can go to to shut you down.  

After reading your posts, I'm grateful that I didn't know about all this before I got married.  There are a lot of things to consider.  One of my three children also has ADHD.  It was apparent almost as soon as he was born; of course we didn't know that's what it was then.  Raising him (now 18) has been the most difficult thing I've ever done in my entire life.  Yeah, I'd do it again. He's my kid. I love him. But it sure wasn't easy. So, that's something else to consider.  

One thing I will tell you is that it won't get easier.  Marriage, kids, and living puts a strain on even the strongest marriages.  As life gets more complicated new stresses ease in and pressure mounts, there is not always the time to "manage" him.  And it will also become more difficult for him to manage himself as you go through life.  I'm not trying to discourage you. Please don't think that.  But I believe people should have all the information in order to make an informed decision.  I think that's what you're searching for here, right?  The information you need to make the best decision about your future.  We can't choose who we fall in love with, but we can choose to nourish that, or we can choose to let it fade if it is destructive to us.  I wish you all the best in making the decision.  It may wind up being beautiful and fulfilling, or it may not.  It's times like this that a crystal ball would come in handy. :) 


I second this...

Ms T makes a very good point.  My husband's ADHD was never much of a problem for us until we had kids.  Our second child is 16 months old and we have been on the brink of divorce for most of the past year.  Thankfully, my DH just started Concerta, which seems to be working very well for him, and he is in counseling.  I have hope for the first time in a long time.  But before he started treatment, I felt like a single parent most of the time.  I grew very resentful and once my 2.5 year old started becoming upset because daddy was ignoring her or daddy didn't show up when he said he'd be there, I was ready to leave him.  It's one thing for me to suffer because of his ADHD, but no way am I going to let it damage my kids.  I'm not saying you should run screaming in the other direction from your relationship, but if you plan to have a family, I would really think it through.  There have been many times I wished I did not marry my husband.  The only reason I can't regret it is my kids.  

Ms. T, I'm curious what signs your ADHD son had at such a young age that you knew he had it too?  My kids are 2.5 and 16 months and so far, I don't notice anything, but I know they have a higher chance of having it.

Kids and ADHD

Well, he wasn't actually diagnosed until he was in 2nd grade, after his teacher called us to tell us he was climbing up on his desk and curling up in a ball during class.  He still doesn't know why he did it.  But before he went to school (which will see it right away if it's there), there was just an intense energy about him.  I know this may sound strange, but I knew the moment he fell asleep because the energy would go away.  Besides that, there were the completely unexplained tantrums that would last for hours.  Screaming, throwing, fighting were all a part of them to the point where they would call me from the Mother's Day Out program where he went 2 days a week, and when I arrived about 20 minutes later, he was still screaming his head off.  When we knew what set him off, it was always something tiny, like he dropped a toy or something.  We were at our wits end.  By the time he was 2 we had him in a program called RIP (Regional Intervention Program), which deals with behavior problems in children under 7.  Of course, they put all the blame on the parents because their philosophy was that we weren't parenting correctly.  It didn't help, no matter how much we played by their rules.  ADHD was still not really understood then.  Their philosophy is if the kid is acting out, then it must be the parents' fault.  HA!  

Another thing I remember is the aggressiveness.  Until he was about 15 or so he would become physically aggressive when he was upset toward us and his siblings.  I still have holes in walls that he put there.  That was always scary. When he was small, we had to physically hold him to stop him from hurting himself or his sister.  The old "time out" NEVER worked.  I'm glad he finally stopped that because by the time he was 15 he was bigger than me!  

One last thing, people with ADHD are often exceptionally intelligent.  This was noticed early in my "gifted" son.  It's a blessing and a curse because he picks up on stuff so fast that he gets bored very quickly which does not help him with staying focused and on task, and thus, the impulsivity rises up and takes over.  

I'm exhausted now from just remembering all this.  I will say, my husband was not like this as a child.  In fact, his mother says he was quite passive.  It shows up differently in everyone.  I hope this helped. :) 

Was he ever tested for food

Was he ever tested for food sensitivities or allergies? The reason I am asking is because I have a son (he's 19 now) who had aggression issues from about age 7 until age 16. At my breaking point, crying daily, I took him to a doctor who prescribed an anti-psychotic drug. I knew that wasn't going to be the route I took, so with a little research and a lot of prayer I put him on a gluten free/casein free diet and within just a few weeks he was a completely different kid. I also ask this because some of his behaviors sound more like autism than ADHD (prolonged fits/crying spells) and autistic children often have an inability to completely/properly digest wheat and dairy products so they just sit in their guts and eventually 'ferment' (not technically, but I cannot think of the exact word) and create a substance that goes to the brain and reacts as an opiate would. They basically always have this 'up and down' reaction going on in their bodies that make them feel horrible...thus aggressive. Sorry to get off subject, just food for thought. 


We never had him tested for food, but I do remember at some point the gluten-free diet was suggested.  But, there were complicating factors to that since he refused to even try anything that wasn't a hot dog, mac and cheese, or pizza.  Seriously, that is about the only things he will eat to this day (18 now).  And the aggressiveness has subsided..well, at least he doesn't act on it anymore if he is still feeling it as intensely. 

And you brought up another point that my ADHD hubby and I have discussed recently: Autism.  While we were told by professionals that my son didn't have autism, the hubby, in his research on ADHD, began to wonder if ADHD is connected to autism in some form or fashion.  I haven't heard/read anything on that, but it is an interesting idea.  Anyone ever heard any connection made between the two?


A very limited diet is common

A very limited diet is common with autism...and all of the foods you listed are very common...and all sources of wheat (gluten) and it does not surprise me that is all he will eat. My son was the same way...he was 'addicted' to the foods that gave him the things that gave him his 'fix'. It was not easy, my son is non-verbal, but we muddled through and 4 years later he is still calm and happy and VERY rarely aggressive. (only during hair cuts, tooth brushing, etc...)

I think you are right

I do agree setting the boundaries and letting him know things are not ok to me is important - yet will he remember it is another issue. Sometimes I know he will forget anyway, what's the point of being confrontational? Maybe I just give up confronting him in order not to upset him... so most of the time I just suck it up.

It's my dream to have adorable children calling me "mommy", when I read the book mentioning ADHD is 50% of chance inheritable I was a bit shock. He told me his childhood is pretty miserable one because he didn't do well academically and socially (but he ends up pretty successful in his career due to his high intelligence). You must be proud to raise your children. I know if I have a ADHD children I still will love them a lot and give them as much support as I can. I don't have the prefect gene either so I don't expect a prefect child however I am not a tough woman ever so I am not sure if I am emotionally strong to accept this challenge...

When I start reading this forum, what I was looking for is to know about about ADHD so I can be understanding for a man I love. Well the more and more I read I feel fearful...


I understand feeling crazy

I understand feeling crazy and confused...but let me share with you why I feel we, myself included, feel this way. We're confused because we cannot figure out how we are going to 'fix' this situation we are in. We are confused when we don't FULLY accept our lives, as they are today, and accept that this might be 'as good as it gets'. We are confused because we fight like hell to make things better, thinking if we'd just do this or say that that somehow  magically this is all going to go away. We are confused because we do not/cannot fully understand ADHD and how much of the behaviors we see are ADHD and how much aren't? SOOOO many questions, so many things that need our attention...or so we think.

Stop. Don't stop working together to learn to treat each other differently (better)...but stop working so damn hard to categorize everything and come up with a solution for everything. We get confused because we lose sight of who the hell we are, we are programmed to stop trusting our own guts, and we completely destroy ourselves trying to 'fix' something that we did NOT cause, we CANNOT fix, and it isn't our responsibility to fix. 

You're simply overwhelmed. You're not crazy. Yes, you are a victim...just like he is...but now that you know, put the victimhood behind you and move forward. As long as you continue to feel like a victim, you will never be the person you need to be in order to cope with life with an ADHDer. 

Over the years, I’ve learned to stuff my emotions because he could never deal with them.  When I would express emotions, which I will admit were pretty intense by the time they finally spilled out after being denied for so long, he would always shut me down, usually by getting angry and running away to his man-cave.   If I pursued him, he would usually respond by saying something hurtful, or by calling me names, which just shut me down further.  I used to be a very emotional person; now, I just feel numb most of the time because the pain is just too much when I let it through.  I don’t like who I’ve become.  Sometimes I hate that I love him because if I didn’t, it would be easy to just walk away. 

I could have written that paragraph 6 months ago. Word for word. I say start fresh. You've, again, been programmed to never depend on him to validate your feelings because every time you reached out to him, hoping to see a compassionate reaction, you got ridicule and anger. It isn't that he doesn't love you or doesn't care about your feelings, it is that HE TOO was shutting down because it is very difficult for someone with ADHD (who is caught in this vicious cycle) to just say "I am sorry I hurt you". They feel like crap about themselves already, it is just simply too much to accept responsibility for another ounce of pain. Not only this, but on a much simpler scale...for many ADHDers, when things heat up, their brains immediately shut down. He says ugly things to shut you down because it is a means to an end...to get you to STOP. "Pursuing" someone with ADHD who is melting down is a recipe for disaster. PLEASE understand...I am NOT saying it is your fault, or that you've intentionally done anything wrong...I am just saying stop taking it all so personally...express your feelings to him "that was rude and hurt my feelings" and THEN WALK AWAY. Stop looking for instant validation...it might not ever come, or be expressed verbally...but engaging in long, drawn out attempts to share your feelings with him WILL NOT WORK and, truth be known, is not necessary if YOU can learn to stop needing his approval. Read the book CoDependent No More by Melodie Beattie...this will make so much more sense. In the same sense, they are 'programmed' to feel that any and all conversations with us are going to inevitably lead to 'our feelings' and they just shut down and communication dies. 

It is about communication, but I caution anyone who focuses solely on this as a solution. My husband and I have been through hell and back over the past 7 years, mostly the past 2 years, and as I said your post could have been mine. We can now talk for hours about anything and everything. My feelings still get hurt occasionally but I have grown to have a lot more Faith in God...and my marriage...and the one who has changed the most is ME. If he hurts your feelings, tell him. There is nothing wrong with that. But why does it have to go further than "that really hurt my feelings...will you please pass the butter?"? I know it sounds like giving up and giving in...I mean who doesn't want validation and consistency? But I felt it was worth a shot since what I had done all of those years (pursued him, insisted he 'hear' me, insisted he agreed with me) hadn't work. Quite simply, it works.

I know this is just one of many issues when dealing with ADHD, but it is worth examining that maybe they are more 'right' than we are by walking away from fights and by being able to forgive a lot quicker. I've always said, they have ADHD...not deafness. If you say 'that hurt my feelings' then what more really needs to be done? More often than not, the behavior stops and/or he apologizes...eventually. 


Thanks Sherri

Thanks Sherri!  

When you said you could have written that paragraph six months ago, you gave me some hope.  My realization of the impact all this has had on my marriage is still fresh, and so I'm just now coming to realize so much of what you said.  I know I can change, and I know I cannot fix this.  I want to stay with him. Yet, part of me resents the fact that I have to give in and be the one to change.  I'm not an overly needy, high-maintenance kind of woman, we never would have lasted this long if I was.  I don't need much, but I do feel that he can at least TRY to give me something I need every once in a while. A little effort on his part would be nice.  He can take me out on a date.  It's been so long since we spent some alone time together...and I'm not talking about sex there. I mean that intimacy you gain when you connect with someone on an emotional level--and you have to spend time with someone to make that connection.  I know he's capable of it because we've had it before. I need that, and to think of spending the rest of my life without that makes me tear up.  Is that so much to ask for from him?  I mean, we didn't even do anything for our anniversary this year...or last year.  The year before I took him to London for two weeks. It was just him and me. It was wonderful, but then we got home, and I really haven't felt connected to him like that since. I don't think it's wrong to expect SOMETHING from him.  *sigh*  There's that word, "expect."  It always gets me in trouble, and I do try to not have expectations because I always end up disappointed and hurt.  I suppose I still have a lot of work to do on myself.  

Thanks again for the tips.  I will take your advice to heart and see what happens. :)


Yep, that's me and my husband...  exactly.  Overwhelmed, exhausted, shut down, given up...that's me for sure.  And yet, I still enable him.  :-/