Self Preservation

I'm new to this site, but it has been sooo very resourceful for me. I've been married to my ADD Spouse for almost 20 years. He is a good father and for the most part tries to be a good husband. He is considerate, giving and he doesn't really have a selfish bone in his body. He does however have ADD and was diagnosed over 10 years ago. He has all the classic symptoms, but inconsistency, forgetfulness and procrastination are the BIGGEST.

I have been there for him through thick and thin good and bad, but I've had my fill. The issues we have gone through financially, emotionally and the like all stem from the fact that I can't manage it all; kids, work and his life too. He goes missing in action a lot - just falls off into another world. I usually don't know he's gone (mentally) until I am left with a mess to clean up. As I said earlier, he was diagnosed 10 years ago, but decided he didn't like the way the meds made him feel so he stopped taking them. He didn't ask me my opinion he just stopped. Maybe because I have him an ultimatum and so once he thought things were fine he stopped complying.

I've just recently told him that I want a separation and filled him in on my plans to leave. He is grasping at straws again, he has made an appointment to see a doctor again, wants counseling again (we've been 3-4 different times throughout our marriage) and has vowed that he recognizing that he needs help. This seems to always be the case once I declare that I'm fed up. Nothing he does is an original thought of his own, only a repeated version of what I've said. At the end of it all I realize that I don't trust a word that comes out of his mouth. I am chronically angry, tired of seeking personally mental counseling because I think something is wrong with me and taking anxiety meds because I am nervous and stressed all the time waiting for the other shoe to drop. Most of all I am sick of arguing/yelling, especially in earshot of my kids.

I've made the decision to preserve what is left of my life, happiness, hope and love for my kids, myself and God. Just hate feeling like because I am choosing me I am being selfish and that the reasons are petty. 


Oh, here is your new thread! 

Oh, here is your new thread!  Good, now people will be able to see and comment on *your* situation without reading through a thread that started 2 years ago!

I don't have any advice for you.  You sound very tired, drained, and frustrated.  Living with a spouse who has ADD/ADHD sure is exhausting, isn't it?  They are difficult people to live with, although sometimes quite easy to love!  I know I feel that way about my husband of 24 years. 

Would your husband be willing to go back on the meds, if you feel that made a big difference in his and your life?  And would you be willing to try again, perhaps after a short separation with a plan to get back together?  It would be a shame to split him from his children, if he is willing to try again.

Does he have other mental health issues?  The reason I ask is that you mentioned that you are anxious and feel like you are "waiting for the other shoe to drop."  Sometimes that can point out other personality issues that need treatment. 

All I can say is, hang in there and take care of yourself first (kids second of course!).

Other issues...

Thanks for the reply, I'm not sure how the meds helped or not because he wasn't on them long enough. What I do remember was having a feeling of hope that the problem was identified and we were on our way to working things out. 

As far as other mental issues, I can't really see past the ADD to be able to rightly identify anything else. You are correct though I do need a time of seperation if for no other reason but to see if he really wants to change because it's his true lasting desire for himself OR is it because he doesn't want to lose me thus once things calm down we go back into the dysfunctional relationship. 

Then I would enlist the help

Then I would enlist the help of either a therapist, his medical doctor, or a mediator and make it a condition of your returning, that he try the meds again and work with a physician or psychiatrist to truly find some tools that can help him. 

Unfortunately, sometimes the ADHD person does not see a need for personal change and thinks they are just fine and dandy and it's the rest of the world that should change to be more like them!  I don't know if that is a bit of narcissism mixed in, or if the denial is part of the ADHD itself.  They can also feel threatened by the continued need to adapt themselves to the world with medications, different tools, etc.  They can get depressed with all of the failures they experience. 

I am trying to stress to my son that having ADHD is like being left-handed.  You will never quite feel comfortable using the tools that the right-handers use, and you might have to devise some of your own strategies for life, but it's not that there is anything *wrong* with you, just a difference.  In a way, I hate it that our society has become so regimented and rigid that one way of dealing with the world is the ONLY way, and people like your husband and my son have such trouble managing that they have to be medicated in order to function properly.  That's my own struggle with all of this.  My son and my husband are very creative people, much more so than I, the non-ADHD person.  Their minds are always going and turning out ideas, it's rather astounding to observe.

Anyway, I think you are approaching your situation correctly, in getting some distance but not closing all the doors.  Even if your husband just wants you back, that's a good thing, yes?  :)


Yes! Guardrails and measurable goals are exactly what is needed in order for "the doors" to stay open. Even better is to have a professional observe and monitor. Thanks for such great advice and understanding. 

Definitely include a

Definitely include a professional.  It can be easier for an outsider, especially a medical professional, to suggest treatment options and monitor progress, since watching over our ADHD husbands tends to turn us into their mommies.  Not healthy for them or us!  Best of luck to you, and let us know what happens.  Please don't close your heart to a reconciliation.

We do get tired of being the one that needs to change

Hi. Your reply resonated with me. I'm the wife in a marriage of 19 years and I'm the one with ADHD (Combination type). Throughout my marriage I've always been told that I'm not doing things efficiently, am not organized enough, am talking about irrelevant issues, can't just get to the point, don't put enough energy into the house, don't follow through on things I say I'll do, sometimes just act like an idiot, intervene when I shouldn't, talk too much about myself, get too defensive (because my explanations are so long), and on and on. I feel that all problems are my fault. I feel as though I'm the one who is broken and I'm the one who needs to fix what I'm doing. I tried medication briefly, hopeful it would act magically -- rather, I became loquacious and a bit giddy when I first took it, and that angered my husband. I kept trying, but when it wore off in the evening I felt very withdrawn and quiet and depressed, not at all myself, and I couldn't engage with my children. I've learned a lot of coping mechanisms over the years even though I didn't know I had ADHD until a year ago. I knew that I couldn't do things the same way others did, and I knew I couldn't get it right in my marriage.

I have a job and I do well at it. I work full-time from home as a consultant, and am the only member of my household brining in income (and have been for the last three plus years). I make the bed, take care of the pets, do the laundry, clean the kitchen, make some of the meals, help drive kids when needed and it doesn't conflict with work meetings, buy the kids clothes, help with homework. We have cleaning help once a week. My husband takes care of finances (except for taxes which I do), driving the kids around, making their doctors' appointments, meal planning (he and I share cooking), grocery shopping, and making home repair appointments.

I'm creative, spontaneous, like to read about a number of topics, like crafty projects (that don't take too long or need too much planning), speak three languages. I'm generally a warm, happy person. But my behavior has changed some over the years as I try to anticipate what I'll do next that will anger others.

However, I don't meet my husband's expectations. He now knows I have ADHD and is sad about that, knowing that I'll never be what he wishes I were. And that makes me sad too. Just today when talking, we were both in a good mood, I answered a question too wordily and he decided I was being defensive and that turned him off. I really wasn't. I had interpreted the question incorrectly and was answering in the way I thought was most useful. There was no blame to be had, so no reason to be defensive. It soured the whole afternoon. I tried to explain and fix. He didn't want to listen. I cried. Once again I've screwed up a lovely conversation. And yet, I certainly didn't say anything mean or try to screw it up.

I get so tired and being wrong. Of having to apologize. Of being the one walking on eggshells until my husband forgives me, usually for being me.

Okay, this rambles. I just wanted to express my thanks for your understanding that people with ADHD are different. Perhaps in this society we're misfits, but we do have good traits too. Sometimes they just are hidden by our fear of getting it"wrong" again and the despair over never having the ability to get it "right" because we just don't operate the same way.

It takes two ...

When reading your reply, I was continually struck with the impression that it sounds as though you're the only one working on your "problem" of having ADHD. It may be that the underlying factor here, is that you and your husband both seem to see this as just "your problem." But it's not. A common theme in many of the stories on this site, is that often times the couple were married long before one of them was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Having an official diagnosis doesn't mean that the ADHD person has changed, and is no longer the person their spouse married originally. Yet, that seems to be how many non-ADHD spouses feel.

Honestly, from your reply, you sound like an amazing individual ... much like myself! LOL. But it sounds like your husband — at least from your perspective — chooses not to focus on your positive qualities, and instead, only sees what is "wrong" with you. Living with ADHD — whether you have it, or live with someone who does — takes a lot of effort and understanding from both people. I think the lack of inward confidence that often develops from having ADHD, inherently gives us more empathy toward our non-ADHD spouse, because we DO feel like we're the broken one ... and we're more inclined to believe that it must be more difficult for our spouse to live with us, than it is for us to live with them. On the other hand, if the non-ADHD spouse feels like they are "normal," it may be more difficult for them to empathize with how we feel, living with ADHD.

My point is that — although your husband may feel like he's not responsible for you having ADHD, and that it's "your problem," — it doesn't mean that he doesn't have a role to play in the effects of ADHD on your relationship. It takes work from both spouses. Just as you have the responsibility to hold yourself accountable for making an effort to work on your ADHD behaviors, so too, should your husband hold himself accountable for making an effort to work on his responses to your ADHD behaviors. Personally, I've found that my wife and I were able to make much more progress, once she was able to gain insight into how I feel about having ADD. I think it was a true revelation to her to realize that I, too, get extremely frustrated and angry with myself when the ADD affects my ability to be "normal." You might try — in one of your loquacious moods — to illustrate to him how you feel during times when your ADHD is affecting you. Let him know the frustrations, anger, and disappointment you feel about yourself, and about how it affects him. Maybe that insight will make the difference for him.

Also, as more of a side note ... when you were taking meds, were you just taking one dose a day? I also had the same situation you described about feeling withdrawn, quiet and depressed when my meds began wearing off in the evening. The solution for me, was taking two doses a day. I take 70mg of Adderol daily. But I take 50mg (30mg XR, 20mg immediate release) in the morning, and then 20mg of immediate release in the afternoon. The XR stays in my system longer, but doesn't kick in very quickly, so that's why I take the 20mg of immediate release with it. By midday, I can feel it wearing off, and that's when I take the afternoon "bump." That's made all the difference in the world for me. The afternoon bump gets me through the rest of the day/evening, but doesn't keep me up all night. It took some trial-and-error, and my doctor's willingness to experiment with the dosages, to get the right combination. But once we found it, it made a big impact.

I don't know if that would be the case for you, but it's something to consider, at least.

More than one option ...

Having been in the same situation as your husband, I have my own feelings about your plan to try separation. Personally, I feel like separation is the wrong approach. Having ADD/ADHD is frustrating, because we know that we're different, and often times feel like we're the ones who have to fix it. The problem with that, is the fact that the symptoms and behaviors of ADD/ADHD also make it difficult for us to stay focused on perpetuating change. As with many aspects of our lives, we're good at it for awhile, but eventually we're bound to lose focus ... sometimes for just a day or two, or sometimes for longer periods of time. The reason I feel like separation is a bad idea, is because — in my case, anyway — knowing that someone else is there for me, willing to help, encourage, and motivate me, is a big factor in my ability to stay focused on the bigger picture. I can honestly say that knowing my wife believes in me and is rooting for my success, has been the biggest factor in the progress I've made. If we had separated, I truly feel that I would've continued spiraling downward because I would've felt that I'd lost the one person who was supposed to believe in me.

However, I also recognize that there's not a magic solution that works perfectly for every couple. Your husband may not have the same thought processes as I do. But I just wanted to give you that insight, to factor into your decision.

As far as what you mentioned in your post, keep in mind that there are more than one option when it comes to medication. When I began taking meds, my doctor and I experimented with dosages, as well as different meds. If your husband didn't like the way the meds made him feel, maybe he just needs to try something different. Also, you didn't mention whether he was taking anything else with the ADD meds. ADD and Depression often go hand in hand. We know we're capable of doing/accomplishing certain things, or that we SHOULD be capable of it. And when we don't accomplish those things, depression sets in. Your comment about him "missing in action," and being gone mentally, sounds indicative of how I feel when I'm in the clutches of depression. If he hasn't considered that possibility and hasn't tried anti-depressants in conjunction with ADD meds, that might be worth considering.

Lastly, I don't think you're wrong for considering your own mental and emotional well-being. A little bit of selfishness is good ... if you lose sight of yourself during all of this, it'll only result in more anger and resentment toward your husband. I guess the difference lies in your reasoning. If you're choosing to give up because you've tried everything you can do to help, and it's not working, then it's not petty. On the other hand, if you're giving up because you just don't want to deal with it anymore, you could be missing out on great things in the future. As I'm sure you've read on this site, ADD does not go away ... but that doesn't mean that it can't be managed or get better. I'm confident that my wife would agree with me when I say that — once we BOTH started working TOGETHER to alleviate the stresses of our individual and combined experiences with ADD — our relationship has become stronger, and more valuable to both of us, than it ever was before.

However your situation turns out, I hope the best for both of you.

Freaking ADD - I greatly

Freaking ADD - I greatly appreciate your comments and the time you took to do so. I want to be clear in that I have known for the greater part of our marriage that my husband has ADD. Our son and daughter both have it. When we suspected that the two of them had ADD we took them to a pediatric psychologist and their pediatrician and they are both on Meds. We set up schedules and take great patience in giving them instructions, helping them manage homework, etc. We identified the problem and quickly started working on improving it - not solving b/c that isn't an option w/ ADD.

With my husband I have begged, prayed, encouraged, screamed, threatened and given ultimatums that he see a counselor, get on meds, stay on meds, make lifestyle changes with me to help him remember, stay on task, not procrastinate. None of this has worked and when he did finally go and see someone, get properly diagnosed and prescribed meds he started them and took himself off of them. Its only when I say that I want out of the marriage that he kicks into gear and starts scheduling appointments, having deep revelations as to what is happening, etc. Its like he becomes ultra focused all of the sudden. Of course I get excited, anger and frustration dies down and I agree to stay. But 2 - 3 months down the line and poof back to the way things were before. I give gentle reminders and he becomes combative, gives excuses and finds reasons why whatever happened wasn't his fault but someone/thing else.

I Love him and I have no doubt that he loves me - what I do question is his love for himself. My love, patience and care hasn't been enough to make him want to improve and stick with it. That is one of the reasons why I have decided to separate from him. The other reason is because of some of the financial decisions he has made, ones that effect me and our kids. He sometimes goes rouge with money and I'm always and have been the clean up woman. I must create and maintain a stable environment for myself and my kids, one that includes financial stability as well.

Oh you asked if there was something else he had, like depression. No I don't think depression, but he is diabetic.

Does HE understand his ADD?

Your reply seems to indicate that you are, indeed, doing your part to help your husband. I wonder if HE truly understands his own ADD? It sounds like he may only understand it enough to acknowledge that it exists. I know, for my part, that learning (from this site, actually) more of the behaviors and their effects on myself and my family, helped a great deal in my dedication and focus on changing/adjusting what I can. It also helped a great deal because there were behaviors that I had/have, which I didn't know were part of the ADD. One more way it helped was the realization that it's not just me ... there are many, many more folks going through the same frustrations/issues, etc.

Here are a couple things that I've learned, which may apply to your situation.

1. ADD folks often respond to stimulation. Some are adrenaline junkies, some are simply stimulated by things that fall into their spectrum of interests/hobbies, etc. I've read several accounts of ADD folks who simply aren't able to "take action" until they're stimulated to do so. They don't finish tasks/projects until they're up against a deadline. Or, as it sounds in your case, they don't see the significance of their actions/behaviors until they're stimulated by the finality of an argument/separation/divorce. Personally, I've seen this in my own relationship when I realized that my wife felt like the only way to get something done was to start yelling, arguing, etc., at which point the "rush" of the argument, or my anger about it, would fuel my ability to get something done. The same was true when we hit the stage where we were on the edge of separation, etc.

So it makes sense, when you say that he becomes ultra-focused suddenly, and then wanes after 2-3 months. And that's another reason I question whether he fully understands ADD himself. I guess the trick here, is getting him to keep an overall focus on repairing and nurturing your relationship. Unfortunately, without knowing him personally, I don't have any insight about what that might be. If he hasn't been to this site, that might be a good start. I have a couple ADHD books, which I've barely opened in the years since I bought them. However, once I realized that the biggest aspect of my life affected by my ADD was/is my marriage, I found this site. With that focus in mind, I ended up learning, not only about ADHD marriage dynamics, but ADD/ADHD in general. I've learned more about ADD/ADHD from this site, than any other resource.

2. Having ADD, I sympathize with his assessment that the things that are happening aren't his fault, but someone else's. But I had to come to the realization that — while I didn't see my explanations as excuses, or assigning blame to others — that's how they came across to other people. I had to realize that, while I don't have control over what other people say/do, I do have a responsibility to admit when an ADD behavior either started, or contributed to the situation. So, I owe it to myself and those around me, to work on the things that I can affect.

3. ADD meds aren't magic pills. They don't fix the problem, but rather, make it easier to overcome the challenges. They don't work overnight, or even within a couple days. He needs to stay on them long enough to let them affect his overall patterns. At that point, even if he doesn't see the difference, you may be able to. At which point, you can illustrate to him, the differences in his behaviors on the meds, and off ... as well as how those differences affect your relationship, and you personally. Maybe that knowledge will help him to accept the dislike he has for how the meds make him feel, because he knows that they make a positive difference.

4. Well, it seems like I had more "things I've learned," that were relevant here, but alas ... they've escaped me for now.

I guess I'd just reiterate what I said earlier, as well as the reply I posted to another person who commented on your post. There are several different meds for ADD/ADHD. The fact that one med didn't seem effective, doesn't mean others won't be. Or other dosages. And don't discount the effect any of those meds can have, when combined with anti-depressants, if he does in fact have symptoms of depression. For example, I'm pretty good about staying on top of my ADD meds. But I have a tendency to stray off my anti-depressants. Eventually, the depression symptoms will start affecting me enough to know that I need to get back on them. Yet, at that point, the depression has affected me enough that the ADD meds aren't as effective, and I start feeling negative about how well any of it works. I know for a fact that the meds help significantly, but when I get in that state of mind, I don't always feel that way. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I hope there's something here that helps ...

Given all that

.. all of which concerns *him* and his awareness of the situation his family is in, Greatgrace42 said *she* must:

"create and maintain a stable environment for myself and my kids, one that includes financial stability as well"

And she must do this because he isn't. That is the point. He might be a great father while he is interacting with and stimulated by his kids, but he does not provide a stable environment for them and SOMEONE has to.  When she issues ultimatums he focusses on himself and what he needs to do - but that is not being a financially responsible father every boring day in and out.  She shouldn't have to 'motivate' him to provide a stable life for his kids and nor can she wait while he figures it out - every day their lives are being impacted and he is putting obstacles in the way of their wellbeing.  It's not about him, it's about the family.


I have one question for you,

I have one question for you, bc it seems like you have a lot of wisdom in this area. How long have you been living out the examples you gave? What I mean is how long have you been on the journey of self awareness, meds, etc. What did it take for you to get there, as far as time, 1 month, 2 or a year? I guess I have more than one question... But really how long and I'm sure you'll say you are still a work in progress, but clearly (from how I read your posting) this isn't a quick and easy process that can be rushed through and it appears that you have some time under your belt. 

My timeline ...

I was diagnosed in 2009. Up to that point I never put much stock in ADHD ... I thought it was more of an excuse than an actual medical diagnosis. I was adopted shortly before my 3rd birthday. In 2009 I found my biological father and in one of our first real conversations, he told me that he had been diagnosed with ADD several years prior. That was the first time I'd ever known an adult diagnosed with ADD. Although I still didn't think much of ADD, I asked him more about it. I was shocked when he started listing off the behaviors that led to his diagnosis, because so many of them sounded just like me. My curiosity was further piqued when he began talking about the affects ADD had on his wife and their relationship, because again, they hit pretty close to home. So that's when I began looking at the condition more seriously. A few months later I visited with one of the few doctors in my area that treated ADD/ADHD. On my first visit he said that he felt I was most-likely dealing with ADD, and after a questionnaire and another visit or two, he gave me the official diagnosis.

He started me off on the lowest dosage and over the next 6-9 months we steadily increased my dosages until we found the right level for me. In hindsight though, I think it took a year or more after that, for me to realize that the meds weren't going to fix everything by themselves. That's when I really started trying to learn more about managing ADD/ADHD. During this time, my wife — who readily accepted the diagnosis — was still of the mind that it was my problem. Neither of us understood then, that living with my ADD would require a lot of changes from BOTH of us. So that put both of us behind the curve from the get-go. So, honestly, we've actually only been working on it together, for about a year and a half. And I'd say it all started clicking and we began making real progress in the last 6-8 months or so. If I had to pinpoint the catalyst that triggered that progress, I think it was when we hit the point where two things happened, almost simultaneously.

1. She began letting go of the blame/anger/resentment she had built up over the past several years, stopped holding me accountable for the past, and started focusing on the efforts I was making in the present.

2. I began opening up to her, and letting her know how angry/frustrated/confused the ADD made me feel about myself. Most people know me as an intelligent, extremely confident, and laid back guy. Although my wife was one of the few people who knew that I wasn't the infallible person I made out to be, even she didn't know how messed up I felt inside. I began acknowledging and understanding — to myself, and then to her — the pain and insecurities that I'd been hiding up to that point. I think that's when she stopped seeing my ADD as an excuse, and began understanding how much resentment and anger I had toward myself because of it.

So you're absolutely right ... I definitely see myself as a work in progress. I still have days when I just can't seem to get out of my own way; Days when I'm angry at myself, but inadvertently take it out on those around me. And on the opposite side of the coin, she still has days when unrelated stressors give her very little patience for dealing with whichever ADD behaviors are rearing their ugly head that day. And honestly, there are days when neither one of us are dealing with it very well! But overall, we've both made big strides in understanding each other's personal experiences with my ADD. There are times when I'm extremely depressed because I feel like she's going to be disappointed with me. Yet, she shows incredible grace, understanding and support ... making me feel better and motivating me to try harder the next day. And there are days when she gets upset or hurt by my behaviors, but I'm able to empathize with her frustration and not take it personally, knowing that she's just having a rough day.

I think we both find comfort in the notion that it won't always be perfect, but that we're so much better off — and so much closer — than we were before.


As the wife of an add

As the wife of an add husband, I am really interested in how your wife stopped being angry?  When I tell my husband I am hurt,he immediately goes into the defense mode and I believe self pity. I believe he does that so once again he doesn't have to deal with my feelings and it all becomes about him

Very Sorry for the Late Reply ...


I apologize for not replying sooner. After originally reading your comment, I ventured off on a mission to get a better understanding of the answer to your question, regarding how my wife "stopped being angry." But as so many things go in my life, I ended up never getting back to my original intention. I was only reminded when I got an email from the site, saying someone had commented on another post. Again, I'm sorry if you needed this answer in a more timely manner.

Ummm ... I think the answer can be found in several parts of my last comment to this post. But I'll try to summarize:

Essentially, I think our efforts to communicate with each other began paying off with big dividends. When I say "communicate," I'm not referring to one's ability to say what's on your mind, or how you feel. To me, it's about effective, successful communication. It's not about telling a blind man that the sky is blue ... it's about understanding that the blind man has no concept of what blue is, so if I want him to understand it, I have to find a better way to communicate it to him. And it works the same way with my wife and I. For years, I never realized that — when I felt like I was just defending myself — she only heard my words as an excuse. Once I realized this, I had to start finding new ways to communicate what I was trying to say. Soon, she began to understand that I wasn't trying to hide behind ADD as an excuse, but rather, I was trying to explain to her why particular behaviors had happened. So, it's akin to the difference between, "I have ADD, so it's okay for me to act this way," versus "I realize that I may have acted this way because of my ADD, but I'm trying to change ... I just haven't figured out how, yet."

I think that's when she began seeing that my behaviors bothered me, just as much as they bothered her. And probably most relevant to your question ... she finally understood that my behaviors weren't intentional acts toward her. If I didn't wash the dishes, or finish a project she needed from me on time, she no longer saw it as, "If he cared enough about me, he'd do the dishes and finish the project on time." She began seeing that I wanted to help her any way I could ... I just didn't always have the time or ability to do things the way she originally wanted me to. Also, I began trying to give her insight into what we call "my process." By that, we're referring to the fact that, now, we both understand that there are just some things that only make sense to me. And oftentimes, the things that make sense to her (and to most people, I guess), don't always make sense to me. I have to try things my own way. Sometimes my way actually turns out to be better. Sometimes, she has to reign me in, and let me know that I'm overcomplicating things. Or that I need to just slow down, and take one step at a time, instead of trying to work on several things at once.

I guess, though, if I'm just trying to give you a few "pointers," I'd go with the following:

• Effective Communication from both people.

• Effective LISTENING from both people, ALONG WITH the ability to not take things personally.

• Define and explain your behaviors ... both of you.
   - Example: Tell him, "When I say, 'I'm getting upset,' what I mean is, "I know you're making an effort, and I'm trying to be patient. But to accomplish this as a team, I need you to get back on task."
   - Example: Have him explain something similar, from his perspective. "When you asked me about the laundry, and I said 'I didn't get it done," what I meant was, 'I really wanted to get the laundry done for you, because I really do know how much that would help you out. But I had trouble today, deciding which tasks were the most important and I overextended myself. But I did get two loads started, and one load in the dryer."

       — In this example, I would be receptive to responses like, "Well, I'm glad you got a couple loads started, at least. Can you work on the rest tomorrow, please?" or "Okay, I get that. But it's really important that all the laundry is done tomorrow ... even if something else is pushed to the back burner." (Here, she's saying several things in one statement: 1. recognizing the effort I did make. 2. minimizing the negative focus on the fact that only SOME of the laundry is done. 3. Emphasizing priority on the laundry tomorrow. 4. Subtly letting me know that there aren't any other projects on the horizon which need to be done ahead of the laundry, so that I can remind myself of this later, when I'm getting off-task because I think there's no other choice.)

• WORK TOGETHER. None of the things above will do much good, if you're not both willing to work together to make things better. It's a Catch-22 ... He needs your input, in order to make progress. But if he's not listening to what you're TRYING to say, as opposed to just what he's hearing, then your input isn't doing any good. If your input isn't working, you're going to be more frustrated, which will result in him feeling more frustrated, hostile and defensive. So you've got to be able to tell him things in a way that he doesn't take as negative criticism, but instead, as "constructive feedback." If he feels attacked, he'll be defensive. But if he feels like you're truly trying to help him, he might be more receptive. And it also helps because it'll hopefully let him know that he's not the only one who's taking responsibility for putting in the work. And for his part, he needs to find the ability to recognize that, regardless of how he may hear it, you're not trying to attack him. You're just trying to get him to understand your feelings and frustrations, in the same way that he tries to explain himself to you.

It's got to be mutual ... on all fronts.

One more thing ...

... I knew there was something else!

You asked how my wife just "stopped being angry." Actually, I think that's basically what happened. She just stopped.

She still gets frustrated. She still gets angry. And sometimes she's just plain ol' pissed. And I'm just as guilty.

The difference now though, is that she 'stopped' being angry about the past, because she realized that I had been telling the truth all along ... there are just so many things that I see, do, and react to, in different ways than she does. Therefore, it was unfair for her to be mad about stuff that happened in the past, simply because she felt like, "If I don't do something, it's because I don't want to. So that must be why he didn't do what I asked him to ... because he doesn't care enough about me, or us, to make MY things important."

So now, we've both kinda "started over," with a clean slate. When we do argue about something, it doesn't automatically escalate into commentary on the entire state of what's wrong in our marriage.

I'll end, by paraphrasing something she says to me occasionally when I'm getting frustrated with my own efforts ... She'll tell me, essentially, "I'm not worried about it. I've learned that when something is critical, I can depend on you to come through. And if other stuff isn't done when or how I think it should be done, it's okay, because I know you will get it done. It may frustrate me that you wait till the last minute, but I've learned to just have faith that you WILL get it done."

I've always believed in my wife's ability to handle whatever life throws at her. One of the lowest points in my life was when I realized that, at some point, she had stopped believing in me. And I needed to know she believed in me. I don't know if all ADD folks are this way, but I think maybe a lot of us are ... we feel broken. Every day there's a seemingly infinite list of situations that point out the fact that we don't do things "right." We get defensive. We get angry. And we feel insecure. Those feelings are often perceived as intentional acts toward others. But in reality, we're just like any other "group" of people. It's easy to feel like we're being judged, instead of helped. Attacked instead of supported. So, I had to do whatever I could to make her feel like she could believe in me again, because when I know SHE believes in ME, I start believing in myself. And that's when the best progress happens.

Thank you!

I can't express how grateful I am that you took the time to respond and in such a detailed way. I have never received a response back on this site that has helped me as much as yours.  I am an overly sensitive person and you can imagine how difficult it is for me to not take it all personally,but I am trying. It is hard for me when I fail to understand my husband's ADD and I respond in a negative way. It takes me a long time to forgive myself. I have the best husband in the world and we have been married for 23 yrs.  I will keep what you told me in my heart. May you have a blessed New Year.



two cents


Just my two cents, but as someone who left her spouse a year ago: life is short and you deserve to be happy. Give yourself permission. A marriage is a serious thing, no doubt, and I am no advocate for taking them lightly; however, your life and your children's lives are serious things, too. Your primary responsibility is to your children, and yourself. I am one who literally could not create and maintain a stable environment for us while we lived with my ex. Sad, heartbreaking, but reality. I understand. Leaving can be a really brave choice, and I think you should allow yourself to see it that way. 

Who knows, maybe he will turn it around and you will all live happily ever after. But confronting reality can mean accepting the idea that maybe he never will. One year later, I know I made the right decision (btw, mine still hasn't "come around" in terms of treating his ADHD or managing his life). It's not the right one for everyone, but for some, it is. You shouldn't have to take anxiety medication just to be able to stay with your spouse, right? And I think the scars of living with parents who fight all the time can be enormous for children--good for you for wanting better for yours.

My best to you. 

Conditions for return

Have read all the new responses, and they each add something to the discussion.

Just wanted to remind you, that when/if you do sit down with a therapist or mediator, be sure to give conditions for your finances.  I really think the Dave Ramsey money management system would be helpful (and I am NOT on his payroll!).  But whatever system you can live with, be sure that your husband knows that the main reason you cannot go on as before is that he is endangering your family's very existence by continuing to spend money you do not have.

If he will not agree to conditions in the area, then you have to do what is necessary in order to take care of yourself and your children.  Marriage is not about one person doing as he wishes to the detriment of his family.