Recently Learned I am ADHD

So i figuratively had my wife put a "gun to my head" and tell me she was not in love with me anymore and she was thinking about leaving.  This was the same conversation we have about every 6-9 months, but this time it was different.  We live a good life, based on what I have read I am a high functioning ADHD'er.  I own a  successful company, have two great kids with no symptoms that I can see, we live in Newport, RI and my father in law lives with us.  My wife is a beautiful, smart, organized and driven woman.  She is also the adult child of an alcoholic, and her mother passed away 11 years ago and she was likely bi-polar/manic. Needless to say before I rolled around, my wife was already the parent.  Recently, her father came ill and she just turned 40.  She looked in the mirror and said "is this my life"  I have a husband that won't listen, pay me attention, would prefer to drink beers with his friends and I do not feel safe.  ( all questions many of us have asked over time)  As she approached me with her feelings, i was initially blind-sided, I mean I know we were not intimate, but I am not abusive (other way around) I carry my share of the workload around the house and I had cared for her ailing father when she was forced to travel.  All the while her only sibling was hiding north of boston (for the second time- first was when her mother was sick)

Anyway, I was pissed, how dare she say that she does not love me anymore, how could she not, I have taken care of her sick mother and father ( he has lived with us for the past 7 years) I  am an earner and people around us think I am a great guy and fun to be around.  What I failed to realize was that I was not satisfying her needs what so ever, to feel safe and to feel loved.  (I did not recognize this until I had a gun to my head)

So at this counseling session and seeking follow-up opinions discover I have adhd.  Boy did it make a lot of sense as I look back on my academic career, my dependence on alcohol, the symptom-response-response environment in my home, it was my wife and I to a T.  I am currently seeing an individual counselor that specializes in ADHD and my wife and I are currently interviewing (for lack of a better term) couples therapists. 

One of the challenges or (things that i am obsessing about) is that I feel that my wife is not interested in being a willing participant.  She said so in our first meeting with a therapist and I will chalk that up to anger, not knowing I was ADHD and ultimately not knowing if she can take the "pushing the rock up the hill" life anymore.  I get that I do, but I am also 100% committed to doing whatever I can to improve myself and hopefully our lives together.  I have not yet confided in her that I was prescribed medication to help with the ADHD for fear that she will view it as a scape-goat (response)  I have not pressured her into seeking her own individual counseling which I feel would do her a world of good.  I guess I do not know where to start to open up to her in fear that she will not listen and respect my thoughts ( this is ironic because I have 10 employees that would run through walls for me).

I am sending her away next week for a solo vacation for 4 days and I want to write her a letter with all my thoughts and where I am coming from, so she really has something to think about while away from the hassle of home (Should I?) or should I let her marinate and just relax.  I want her to read ADHD and marriage book, but this is something that she needs to want to do on her own.  Lastly, I know she is not having an affair, but I am having a tough time living in the present and not creating worst case scenarios in my mind. 


Any advice would be great,because I am eager and hopeful that we can turn this ship around with a lot of hard work. She is a remarkable person and I want to grow old with her.


How wonderful of you to want

How wonderful of you to want to work so hard for your marriage.  I am in a similar situation to your wife's - the difference being that I am the one who has pushed for my husband to acknowledge his potential ADHD (for almost 2 years now).  He has been very resistant to acknowledging the patterns - making excuses, or blaming me for all of his symptoms instead.  I was happy to proceed with an informal diagnosis (out of concern for his career), and to seek couples therapy and coaching as needed.  But he was the one to push for an expensive formal diagnosis - I think mainly just to shut me up, and, I think, to prove me wrong.  Regardless of the reasons, I now appreciate the importance of a formal, professional diagnosis - by an impartial 3rd party - for the sake of both spouses.  We have completed the first of a 3 part assessment so far.  

I am not responding with advice so much as perspective - hopefully illuminating your wife's experience a little bit for you, because it sounds as though the patterns in your marriage may be similar to those in mine (and, from what I've read, similar to those in most other ADHD marriages as well).  I am also responding on behalf of your wife, in a way, because I suspect you may not have heard what she has been telling you.

As much as I try to explain my feelings, and my experience to my husband - he simply doesn't hear me.  I think this is because his experience is so different from mine, because of the input from others outside our marriage (who always think they understand, when they truly do not) who do not see the depth or breadth of his symptoms at home, and because of the dysfunction that's developed in our marriage.  He does, however listen to others, and to me in the presence of others.  I once listened in disbelief and exasperation as he said to me, in front of a couples counselor: "I had no idea you felt this way" - about something I'd expressed to him again and again.  He says and does all the right things in front of couples counselors, friends and family - but when they are no longer watching, he is not the same.  To me, this feels like he cares about others, and what they think of him,  more than he cares about me, and what I think of him.  It feels like our marriage is one big lie:  he is wonderful, charming, caring and generous in public, but selfish, uncaring, inattentive, deceitful, and often angry at home - very much a Jekyll and Hyde character.

Listen to your wife.  People outside your marriage don't know the patterns of your home life.  Trust that what she is telling you is true.  It is to her benefit, and to the benefit of your children to work out your marital issues - I promise you she wants to fix things.  If she really wanted to leave you, she'd have left you.  She brought to your attention that she is unhappy, and needs things to change for her to stay.  You need to show her that you are willing to work with her to make those changes.  You aren't yet aware of how your symptoms have been affecting her, and how they've created a lot of dysfunction in your marriage.  She is frustrated and angry.  And maybe right now, she doesn't love you.  But that doesn't mean she can't find that love for you again.

If she says she needs more help around the house, or with the kids, then she does - despite the fact that you think you are doing your fair share.  If you tell her you're going to do something - keep your word.  Be someone that she can rely on and trust.  I'm guessing that you are a different person at work than you are at home.  Home is the same every day - full of the same people, full of boring, ungratifying jobs like making meals and doing laundry.  The boring home jobs are just as boring for your wife as they are for you.  You still have to help her.  

Don't hide from her the fact that you are taking medication.  It shows that you are willing to address your ADHD, and the problems in your marriage.  Medication is Leg 1 of "The Three-Legged Stool" that Melissa Orlov writes about in The ADHD Effect on Marriage.  It will help, but you still need the other two legs to hold up the stool:  "Making behavioural (habit) changes" with the help of knowledge, and perhaps an ADHD coach; and "Developing strategies to use when interacting with your spouse" (page 149).  Read this book, and have your wife read it.  You will both think it was written about you - that is how amazingly consistent the patterns are in an ADHD marriage.  Hopefully you will both recognize that these patterns are something bigger than just the two of you, and this will in turn enable you to look at your problems and their solutions a bit more objectively.

Hmmm... I guess I did have some advice to offer.  Hope it helps.  It makes me smile to see how much you love and respect your wife, and how highly you think of her.  Write her that letter.  Make sure she knows too.


It is so frustrating and so sad (sorry, but I am still in a very emotional state right now with my situation) that it seems that very often one partner is unwilling to work on things for whatever reason...sometimes it's the ADHD partner refusing to accept the disorder or sometimes it is the non-ADHD partner who thinks it's all a crock or is too far fed up to try anymore.  It's sad and heartbreaking.

Kudos to you for being aware and working on trying to understand better.  I cannot begin to pretend to know what your wife is going through, but perhaps she is just beyond angry and frustrated right now and cannot see through that.  My assvice would be to write her that letter...tell her to read it if she feels up to it, but that you know you can't force her to...  Also, one of the things I wanted SO badly from my untreated ADHD BF (who abandoned our relationship after a fight) was for my feelings to be acknowledged.  I wished he would be able to say that he was aware his behavior was hurting me and his daughter (and even his dog) and that he was sorry and that it must be hard to feel unheard and unloved and not appreciated, but that he loved me and our relationship meant the world to him, so he was willing to work with me to try to understand better and figure things out.  That's what I wished to hear...but I never heard any of it...never even got to hear "'s over."

Your wife may not come around overnight...but I hope she is willing to at least give your marriage a concerted effort now that you both know what you're dealing with.

Read my story

I suggest you read my story my friend. If you click on my name, you can find my forum posts. I hope it sheds some light on your situation and provides some insight into how to take control of your life and your marriage from the grips of ADHD before its too late.

yes send her the letter

hi -- yes, as the wife (PARENT!) of an ADHD husband my advice to you is to send her the letter!  being acknowledged and knowing that my feelings have been heard always calms me down.  but i warn you if it is not followed with a seriously concerted effort (and i do know how hard it is to manage your symptoms!) to make changes that impact the pressure she feels it will only get worse.  there is nothing more frustrating than to be given a little bit of hope only to have those hopes dashed over and over again.  nothing will kill a marriage faster than that when dealing with a problem like this one.  i would also highly recommend that you stop self medicating with alcohol.  i don't know how it impacts you but i do know that my husband under the influence of a couple of drinks becomes ever more "undone" and out of control for lack of a better description which leaves me feeling breathless and anxious bearing witness to it.  it is ADHD on fire!  you describe yourself as fun and appreciated by many -- that too is my husband.  and i can tell you it is that part of you that makes you so damn loveable -- hang onto that piece of you -- it's what makes you so special.  but work on the rest -- because that part of you is NOT enough for a life partner. it is only enough for someone to go out and play with and a marriage and a life is far more than just that.  my best to you.  how nice to see someone who has the ADHD on this board and trying to solve the problem.  your wife is lucky........IF you follow through and IF it is not too late.  also, as an aside i find it interesting that she is the daughter of people who had troubles too -- i too am the daughter of an addicted parent and i find it interesting that some of us (a lot of us?) who wind up in marriages like this -- parenting adults -- have this history in our background.  we continue the cycle of co-dependence unwittingly.  even if it is consciously the last thing in the world we wanted to do in our lives. 


differing opinion


First of all kudos for taking charge of your life - whatever changes come of this new diagnosis with or without your wife will assist you in being a better person and I am sure a better husband.

I am the non-adhd person in my marriage although my husband has been diagnosed since he was a child. We've had several issues crop up over our 8 years together (2 years married.)

My opinion differs on letter - write it absolutely but do not tie it into the 4 days "off" -- it sounds as if she's going through a lot. You could still write her a letter and state how much you lover her and want to make it work and hope she enjoys her days away. When she comes back schedule a meeting with her. Don't tell her in advance or it is all she will be thinking about for the time she's away. It sounds like there's so much on her plate she deserves a renewing time off.

Make sure you're not just thinking about all the changes you're going to make -- do them. We can't ready your mind so we don't know you're intentions. It's great that you want to change but that's much different then changing.

Don't hide the medication. 

I send links to this site/ forum to my husband  - he reads them in his own time.  Maybe you could find some that resonate with your life and show her this site. Sounds like she could use some support too

Wishing you the best.

Red One