Please help, I don't know what to do

I am a woman with ADHD. My husband and I have been together for over 5 years and I think my ADHD has now brought him to the point where we are about to split up over it. I have no family close by and no friends to turn to and I don't know what to do. I was diagnosed with ADHD about 4 years ago, after a lifetime of thinking I was crazy. Since I have been academically successful (I am in the final stages of my PhD) I have never sought counselling and no one ever suggested it; all of the resources that my university-based doctors offered were aimed at helping improve academic performance, an area in which I have never struggled outwardly. My husband has often complained that I push him away and that I am always negative and depressed (which is true). I have zero self-confidence and self-esteem and have never figured out how to make friends or talk to people, so he has had to shoulder that burden alone. I only just realized (in reading Sari Solden's book) that many of these symptoms are associated with ADHD and that ADHD affects far more than just academic ability and concentration. I desperately want to improve and learn how to live with this, but I fear it is too late to save my relationship with the man that I love more than anything else in the world. I just found out that my husband has developed feelings for another woman, one that we both work with (we work together, and have done for most of our relationship) and one that I thought liked me and was a "friend". I know that nothing physical happened between them but the pain of knowing that they have these feelings is almost unbearable. My husband and I had a long heart-to heart and we both spoke more frankly than we have in years, which was good. He told me that he still loved me but that I'd spent so much time pushing him away that he wasn't sure he could ever feel close to me again. He said that he thought it was worth trying though, and we agreed to give it a try. He has agreed to go to counselling with me to try to understand and deal with my ADHD better, and to help build relationships with people and I feel like I can move forward with this. Unfortunately, for the next 3-4 weeks, we still have to work with this other woman, and he has to work closely with her since he is her supervisor. I can't bear to see them interact and be friendly together, even though I believe he is committed to trying to fix our relationship. I am afraid that my issues with this will drive us further apart. I hate to see him interact with someone he is close with, knowing that I don't have that closeness with him anymore. I feel like this is the kind of thing I should be able to talk to a friend about, but I have no one. Please advise.

I don't know if you have

I don't know if you have already talked much with your husband about how it made you feel to know he was interested in this other woman, but if you haven't that seems very important to do. It may also help him see how important he is to you, if he knows how upset the idea of losing him makes you feel. I can't imagine trying to work in that situation. If you are afraid that you will be visibly upset at work, I would talk to your husband about that too. Your husband will be more prepared and empathetic about your behavior. It sounds like you both really care about each other and want the relationship to work, but don't feel sure of each other's feelings. Try to start counseling asap, these are very difficult things to discuss. I recently went to counseling for different issues and it has been more helpful than anything else I tried. My other suggestion is ask your husband if he will commit to spending time with you in the next couple of weeks, doing things together. Dates really, In a sense getting to know each other again. Getting out and doing something special together makes me feel good in any of my relationships, friend or boyfriend. It feels to me like your celebrating how fun and enjoyable it is to be together. Maybe the two of you can try planning some activities to do together before or after work, just the two of you, like going out to breakfast, or to the movies, dancing, etc. I hope things work out for the two of you. I really wish you the best of luck!

Danger Alert!

You are at a really touchy point right here!  Make sure that you ask your husband to be extra sensitive to your needs as you work through what will happen with this woman over the next few weeks (why only 3-4 weeks?  You don't say...)

You have your own choice to make - you can get twisted up about this woman in your anxiety and fear about her, which will most certainly hurt your relationship with your husband and your chances of recovery in your marriage, or you can CHOOSE not to get twisted up.  Tell yourself this - "the worst possible thing I could do right now is to push my husband further by getting uptight about this woman after he has agreed to talk with me openly about her, and after we have agreed to get counselling to work through this."  Make sure that he knows how much you love him, and make sure that he knows that you are working hard to "subdue" your to-be-expected anxieties about her.  Let him know that you are doing this in direct response to his openness about her, and to your hopes that he'll also keep up his end of the bargain and not pursue her for the time being.

Next, you have some soul searching to do.  How badly would you like to stay married to this man?  If the answer to this is "incredibly badly" then your job is to work with him to isolate what the key ADHD and relationship issues are, and figure out how to treat them.  If one of your key issues is that you push him away, STOP!  I don't mean this lightly and I realize that this has been hard for you in the past.  I mean, open yourself up to trust him to love you well.  This is really scary if you don't think you are worthy of loving, but your choices are to 1.) open yourself up to this man who has shown that he loves you and is willing to work with you or 2.) don't open yourself and end up divorced and then having to learn to open yourself up to someone else.  If you eventually have to overcome your fear of being lovable, why not commit to doing it with this man?  The time to make this leap, though, is NOW, before any further damage can be done to your relationship.

Also, he will have some baggage that he will have to get past.  As you change yourself, he will need to see  behavior over and over again before he trusts that you are changing.  Don't assume this means you aren't lovable.  Rather, assume that he is responding to what "the old you" has taught him...be patient, and continue to give him reasons to hope.  Celebrate your forward momentum as it builds.  Create a "new you" because a.) you deserve it and b.) it's the best thing you can do for your relationship.

The two of you do need to get this other woman out of your collective lives, at least for a while.  Ask that he strongly curtail what he shares with her emotionally and that he keep the relationship totally professional for the time being.  If it doesn't work out between you, he (and you) will know that he approached it all in the right (most ethical) way, and has given your relationship all that he can.

From a practical standpoint, though, understand that you are now in competition for his feelings.  Time to "woo" him back.  He's at a point where he is asking himself if he can ever be close to you again...while another woman is trying to show him that he CAN be close to her...it's a tempting apple that many people "bite", hence the high numbers of affairs out there.  So, if you want to save this relationship, get in gear, put aside your hurt, and FIGHT for it!  Forget about pushing him away, and invite him closer!  Do fun things together so that he sees you in a new light.

Make special plans, write him love letters, and do things that emphasize what you both think is special about your relationship.  (For clues to this, revisit your courtship.)  Do this not as a temporary measure, but as the start to a new way of being together.   One to which you are committed because you love him.  And because being close to someone you love is always a hell of a lot more fun than pushing him away.  You CAN learn to do this, if you practice.  If you need ideas, open up just about ANY woman's magazine (many women struggle with these issues, not just you)

At the same time, open up your communications to find out what you both want again, and start working towards whatever goals you jointly create.  Be patient, and ask for his patience as you work through these.  Make sure to think about how you say things, but don't "not" say things because you are afraid to do so.  Your relationship is more likely (in my opinion) to founder at this point due to poor communication than it is to good communication. 

Five - seven years is a time when many marriages have trouble (they don't call it the seven year itch for nothing) and clear communication and a commitment to making the changes you need to make can really turn things around.  Time to be fearless.  Stop thinking of someone with no self esteem (this just reinforces the bad) and start looking for why you are special (one thing - you are smart...I suspect your husband can tell you why he thought you were special when you were dating...you are lovable...in fact, YOU ARE LOVED RIGHT NOW!)

You don't mention what treatment you are doing for your ADHD.  Make sure that you are doing whatever treatment you need to get rid of the symptoms that you mention are an issue.  If you have specific questions about those, we can possibly answer them here.

I would like to say "you go girl!" at this point and encourage you to hold your breath and JUMP!  Do it now, before it's too late!  You'll be better for knowing you tried your hardest.

You CAN overcome the issues that you have faced with your ADHD - the first step is knowing that they are there, and now you do.  The second step is figuring out which of the issues are the most important to address - in your case you and your spouse should work on this together, since your goal is to reinvigorate your marriage and he can shed light on those issues that make the biggest difference to him.  The third step is to make a plan to fix these specific issues, and the fourth - celebrate your accomplishments as you move forward.

Melissa Orlov

Thank You

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I felt/feel so lost and confused and it was such a relief to read your advice. I needed to hear that we were going about things the right way, and I sincerely value the insights and suggestions you have given me. The work situation is really tough for now, but I know I have to deal with it or risk pushing him away even more. I definitely helped to "hear" someone else say that too. The reason it will only last a few more weeks is that the other woman is leaving and moving away (nothing to do with the situation, it had been planned for a long time). I am using that as my "goal", to be as OK with it as I can be, because I know that situation will ease in the not-too-distant future. I do nothing by halves, which I think is part of my problem, and learning how my behaviour and responses affect my husband has been a huge shock to me. I spent yesterday bouncing around, trying to come up with all sorts of fun things we can do together, and ended up making him feel overwhelmed and exhausted. He has asked that I give him some down-time to regroup and relax, before embarking on anything new and exciting. It is especially tough because of the work situation, he feels that he is constantly having to check his behaviour and reassure me that he is committed to trying to figure everything out. I understand this, I just hadn't realized how emotionally draining that was on him too. I'm also realizing that my energy levels are not necessarily natural and that it is tough for most people to keep up with me (maybe I need to cut out the sugar!). I have resolved to give him some down-time and to try to integrate fun things into our routine at a less dramatic rate, but it's hard because I want to show him how committed I am, and modulating my responses has never been a strength. We have definitely been working on communication and have talked very openly about many things that we had not discussed before. I feel we are making progress but he keeps reminding me it took several years to get to this point, it won't be fixed overnight. I have a need for instant gratification, and it is hard to remember that these things take time, this has all happened in the past week after all. When I had my ADHD assessment, I scored completely off-of-the scale for some aspects of ADHD but I was completely normal in other areas. The doctor diagnosed "likely ADHD" but wasn't sure, because I performed so well academically (I had a 4.0 GPA as an undergrad and was about to start my PhD)... it's amazing what a high IQ will allow you to accomplish in the face of adversity! While I was in the USA I was given Strattera, which may or may not have helped, I was never convinced. When I moved to Canada (where I now live), Straterra wasn't available so I took nothing for 4 years and felt like I was going more and more crazy. All that education and I never figured out that my temper, anger, lack of interpersonal skills etc were due to ADHD and not to my inherently being a loser! My husband finally convinced me to go to see a doctor about it and she prescribed Concerta, which I have been on now for about 6 weeks. I am on the middle dose right now, but I have an appointment with her tomorrow and I am going to request that I try the higher dose. It has made a huge improvement to my life, I am just hoping it didn't come too late. I will also be asking her to suggest ADHD counsellors, although a quick Google search indicates that the nearest ADHD specialist is a 2-hour drive from home. I feel like I am moving forward and that we are moving forward. I think that I need to keep telling myself to go slow and steady, not to rush things and expect them to get better overnight. It's tough, but I am committed. Thank you again, I really appreciate your advice and the time you took to help me.

Consider a Coach

One thing that you may wish to consider is hiring an ADHD coach who can help you learn tactics for moderating your behavior with your husband, as well as give you an outlet for your enthusiasm and need for instant gratification.  Some coaches will work by phone, and email, rather than in person, so this could work for you.

In essence, you would put together a list of things you would like to accomplish, such as giving your husband more room, and downsizing some of your plans, and then your coach would be a sounding block for you to figure out good ways to do these things.  This wouldn't replace talking with your husband, but it might take some of the pressure off of your relationship a bit.  Your husband is right - you can't/won't fix things overnight, and working at a slower and steadier pace will likely help you in the long run (less exhausting for him, among other things).

Melissa Orlov

Update

Thank you again for our advice, I really do appreciate it. I have started seeing a therapist, who is also a certified coach. I had my first session yesterday and I am trying hard to start making the positive changes that I need. I will be seeing her again on Monday. My husband says our relationship is over, he doesn't think it can be fixed, at least not until I figure out who I am ad what I am like. I realize now that I have been living in the shadow of this ADHD all my life (no friends in school, labelled a trouble-maker and a chatterbox, no self-esteem etc) and have never had a chance to figure out who I really am. He wants me to figure that out first and then assess where we/I are at that point. We are still living together, and we still share an office at work. We are each others best friend, and neither one of us wants to lose that. My therapist was, I believe, alarmed to discover that I have no friends, family or support network other than him. I still want us to try to fix the relationship. I can't shake this nagging feeling that he doesn't want to try because he wants to pursue this other woman. I have no idea what is going on there, but I don't believe it is entirely platonic. I have resolved to do my best to get through this for me, but I just wish I understood why it all happened this way. I want nothing more than to get our lives back on track together. I know I have to stop stressing out about the other woman because in getting upset about it, I am likely to push him back to her, but it's hard and it hurts like hell. I've also started feeling as though my husband may himself have ADHD. I definitely have the combined form, but I think he has the inattentive form. He definitely suffers from anxiety (and is receiving treatment for it) but I wonder now if it is combined with ADHD. I brought this up with him last week and he agreed that it was possible once he realized that people with ADHD aren't all like me! He read DTD on the weekend and identified many of the traits that I had identified in him... he is seeing his doctor on Tuesday about the anxiety so I'm trying to encourage him to discuss the ADHD possibility too. I told him that I want to help him through this, because I feel his anxiety and related issues have also impacted our relationship. He said he wants me to focus on me, but I find it easier to help myself if I can also help others in the process...

Husband Wants Out

It is very likely that your husband has this other woman in mind at least some of the time.  Perhaps it is not because he is having an affair with her, but perhaps it is simply because she made him feel good, and you haven't recently done so.  (A case of "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence".)  The issue for you is that the other woman is a fantasy, not reality.  In other words, whether or not she is a real affair, or only someone who is empathetic, he will place some of his fantasies on her, and she will look great (even if she isn't great).  Furthermore, in this age of internet connectivity, moving away doesn't mean she is gone unless he decides she will be gone.  And while you may be able to "demand" that he stop seeing her, the reality is that he is the only person who makes that decision.

Not fair, but that is the way it works (trust me, I've been there).

There is no way to "fight" a fantasy, other than to be yourself again.  Your husband married YOU, not the other woman.  He married you because there was something that you two had together that was special.  Something that you gave each him that no other woman had given him before, and something he gave you.

Right now that special something is buried under a lot of bad stuff.  Worse yet, you have no other person who can help you dig out from under that stuff (except your therapist, and getting her was a great move!)  So, you have to rely on yourself to help yourself be the best person you have inside you (and, hopefully, start making some friends - you can't just be relying on your husband!)  You need to do this for YOU, NOT HIM.  You deserve to be happy (whether with this man, alone or with another man) and you now know enough about your ADHD to start to see a path that may take you to happiness.  Would it be easier if you stayed with this man?  Maybe.  Is staying with this man the only way to remain happy?  No.  (Does that question mean that I think you should get divorced?  No.  It means that you can only control your own behavior, not whether or not he decides he wants to stay with you.  BUT you CAN control whether or not you find happiness - with or without him.  And chances are much, much better that he'll decide to stay if you find your own happiness.  Or, put another way, it's great fun to live with someone who is happy and figures out where they are going...and not so much fun to live with someone who isn't.)

Understand right now that if you decide not to stay together, you will most likely lose the "best friends" status (someone else will end up the best friend).  Does he claim to be your best friend and that you are his, or is just what you say?  I have a friend whose husband left her after he determined that he was gay...and she had hoped that they could still remain good friends...and even in that situation they couldn't.  So what is at stake here is not only your relationship, but your "best friend" friendship.

I don't want to make you more anxious.  Rather, I want you to understand that you don't have control over him - only you - and that the best course of action for you is to be YOU.  Or, more accurately, you without the ADHD symptoms that have plagued you and him for so long.  He is going to be wary for a while, even after you start making changes, so just keep on your forward path and don't get overly worked up if he doesn't follow right away.

Taking you at your word on the "best friends" stuff, and assuming that he feels that way, I think it's fair to ask him for some time before any decisions are made one way or the other.  To me, that would me "real" time, not "fake" time...in other words, ask for his word of honor that even if he is interested in this other woman that he do his best to be honorable about being married to you, and respect your efforts to find a place in which you are happy.  And tell him that you hope that once you are happy he, too, will be happy.  And then, consider including him in your trip in a non-invasive way.  This is your journey, but he is clearly an important person to you.  Invite him to join in as much as he feels comfortable doing.

Melissa Orlov

No idea where to go from here...

I really thought we could work on this. I entered the weekend feeling upbeat and determined to do my best to show my husband I wanted to change my old behaviours and find the real me beneath all of this. I thought he was committed, I thought he wanted to try to fix things too. Now I don't know what to think. He keeps saying that he doesn't know if he can ever feel close to me again, he says he thinks it's too far gone. I asked him why he fell in love with me in the first place, he says he can't remember. Now I don't know what to do, where to go or what to think. I feel like the last hope I had to cling on to has gone. I have no goal to work toward and no one left to talk to. I went to bed last night wishing that I wouldn't wake up so I woudn't have to feel this pain anymore. I know I need to figure out the ADHD thing for me. I can't fix it for anyone else, it has to come from me, for me. It would be so much easier if I had a reason to though, and now I don't.

FOCUS!

You are NOT alone. It is very difficult and it is clear inside your words. 1) try to fix yourself. Purge your ANGER onto a paper or word processor and read it. Read it when you are lonley. Get it out and you will start healing 2) you cannot controll another person. Only control yourself, let the other person respond. Generally they will. It may take a while, but .... 3) Pray to a higher calling. Get a spiritual grounding to settle down. Know that your God is and will always be in your life. 4) Keep busy as possible. Go to movies, library, church, etc. 5) Be patient.

here's where you go...

You march up to your husband and you sit his rear-end down for a talk. I realize this is an ADD forum, but what you are dealing with has little or nothing to do with your ADD. Someone turned your husband's head. It is easy and convenient for him to say this happened because your marital problems got out of hand. That may be partially true, but it is NOT OKAY for a married man to develop feelings toward another woman/coworker! It is NOT OKAY for her to express her feelings towards a married man! You have done nothing to warrant his behavior. It is unacceptable and inappropriate for a married man. Your vows undoubtedly did NOT say "in sickness and in health, unless, of course, a spouse has uncontrolled ADD and acts crazy". Please quit making this a competition with this woman. You cannot win that battle, as there will always be someone better or prettier or younger to turn his head. You have to be able to trust your husband in all circumstances. You do need to find out what tends to drive him away and work on that, but don't let that overwhelm things. For as long as you are dwelling on yourself and your ADD, you will seem pathetic to those close to you and certainly not desirable as a life partner. Beyond diagnosis needs to be the lifelong management stage where you learn to live with it as part of the background of life together NOT the forefront! So coming from someone who has no mental health training at all, but aspires to have a strong moral compass in my life and marriage, here is my advice: Sit him down for a talk, and do NOT bring up your issues as cause for anything. Make it about him. Explain to him that your marriage vows make his behavior totally inappropriate. Lay out your expectations that there will be no personal, non-work related discussions between this woman and himself. No time spent together other than what is required for work. And that you will have a zero tolerance policy for communication with her once she moves. Explain to him that you are getting your ADD under control with treatment, but that it, or any other illness, does not give license for him to stray to a greener pasture. Tell him you both committed to the marriage and that you have every intention of holding up your end of the bargain despite his straying heart. It doesn't matter whether he *feels* like he can ever be close to you again, you are one in marriage. Treat love as an act, not a feeling. Love this man and let him love you back under that context. If he is unwilling, then you might need to find a support group for wives who were cheated on.

here's where you go... (background)

I probably should have given the background to say that that I am the ADD partner in my marriage, and I am the one who has continually found myself striking up extra marital "friendships". The advice I am giving you is, in part, borrowed from what was given to my husband from the marriage counselor we went to. He encouraged us to stick more to right vs wrong and less to what felt good to help us work through these things. In time, doing what is right for each other has drawn us closer together than we had ever felt previously. It could work for your situation too. I sincerely believe in the old adage that "This too will pass" and hope that you with both be able to get beyond this in the coming months.

Huh?

What do you mean, you had a reason to, and now you don't? Do you think your husband is the only one who is negatively impacted by your behavior? I doubt it. Your relationship hit a wall, and you've given it a whole, what, week? to work on it and because he's not turning backflips, you're ready to give up because you didn't get what you wanted immediately. Stop being selfish and take responsibility for yourself. Sorry, but the answer is the same whatever the disorder.

Back off

If you have nothing nice or constructive to say, why bother saying it? Seriously, do you think that the kind of feedback you're leaving people here is helping (I read your other posts too)? Do you not realize that most of us have been battling these issues our entire lives and receive more than enough negative feedback from our own selves? Some of us have been through hell and aren't even half way back yet. Posting here takes a lot of guts and it is often the first attempt we've made to reach out to the world and ask for help. I may be many things, but selfish isn't one of them and I resent that remark. I take full responsibility for my ADHD and the changes I need to make to get through this, so back off if you have nothing positive to add.