Slipping Backwards in ADHD Relationships

For those of you who have learned new tools and had been doing better but are frustrated that things have gotten worse again, you are not alone!  I am embarrassed to say that even in my own relationship it took a recent shocker of a conversation to get us back on track again.  I write about it here because I think many of you will find the story and its outcome reassuring.  Couples have setbacks, even those who have learned new techniques for finding happiness in their relationship.  But don't despair because you can get past the setbacks, just as you did the original issues.

As brief background, my husband started a different job two years ago that means that he travels significantly more than he used to.  When he's home, he is also often thinking about work, even during times when I believe he should be engaged with me.  The constant effort needed for this demanding job also means he is exhausted much of the time.  As you might imagine, this scenario hasn't made me very happy, and without realizing it I was sliding back into complaining, nagging and criticizing.  Really, it was an expression of my frustration.

Lest you wonder, I really DO know that these actions are not good for a relationship...I felt I was "expressing myself" and my discontent at the changes in our lives.  He felt I was on his case again - and this is something to which he is very sensitive and does not react well to.

After a significant amount of time of this slowly mounting frustration we had "reset" our interactions without even realizing it - something like the old frog in the water that slowly rises to a boil, we didn't really see what was happening.  But I was complaining about these relationship changes and not as happy as I was.  He was avoiding me and focusing intently on work.  It was one of those negative cycles that just keeps reinforcing itself - the more I complained the more he avoided me.  The more he avoided me, the more I complained.  Finally one night something finally set him off and he asked "Look, if you just don't like me, why are we together?"

Since I DO like him (love him, in fact) this comment took me by surprise.  And, because of our past history, I also knew exactly what he meant.  In communicating my frustration in the many tiny (and not so tiny!) ways I had been doing it, I had been telling him I didn't love him.  Just like old times when the same thing had happened!  Needless to say, I immediately stopped the nagging and complaining, which helped calm our relationship considerably.  BUT it is only part of the solution.  I can calm myself so that I am expressing my love for my husband, but I cannot "solve" the larger issue (he is so distracted by work that he doesn't give me enough of his attention.)  We can only get part way there on my efforts. 

This is like many problems in ADHD-impacted relationships - the solution takes two people.

I am happy to report that we are doing better again.  We haven't solved the problem completely - the job still takes more of his "brain space" and time than I would like.  But he is paying more attention to the fact that he needs to communicate he cares about me in meaningful ways - and I am doing the same.  I appreciate the time and effort he is taking to be with me more.  He appreciates that I am not picking on him any more.  Disaster averted once again, thank goodness!

If you find yourselves sliding backwards, just remember that you CAN pull yourselves back on track!



I've Never Seen anyone post about this

I've never seen anyone post about this issue that I am having  In addition to all of the othter things-focus, organization, memory issues, communication, my spouse hasn't been able to get a job or close a business deal in 12 years-the whole time we have been together.  I am the sole support of us Luckily I am able to do it, but I feel that it is unfair and I am sooo angry  He says that he is really trying, but he does for a while and then gets distracted-or he messes up a deal by" being sure" that he heard something totally different that what the potential customer actually said, etc etc  I can't do any of this for him , and I have my own very demanding job to focus on  I feel that I can't stand this any more-the lack of real productivity (its not even about how much money-just being a contriibutor) the not being grounded in what is really happening  I feel l like I am constantly living in a negative  state of anger, and dashed hopes and expectations.  Also in lots of ways he is a sweet guy so it also feels like I am kicking a puppy sometimes  I really only want an adult partner and it hasn't happened yet

I can't believe I'm reading this...

I was just thinking the same exact thought of your subject line, that I've never seen this discussed on, and I have never posted, this was going to be my first post:  what the hell DO you do when they *CAN'T* work??

I'm past the point of saying he won't, because I know that is a lie and not the truth, and he truly WANTS to work so bad!!!  I have been there to hear the telephone interviews (probably about 30, in all) that bombed, seen the resume that was sent to HUNDREDS of employers before I proofread it...looks like my 5 year old niece put it together and typed it...and when asked him about it, he failed to see what was wrong with it...then, that became me filling out or "helping" him (looking over his shoulder) while he filled out online apps...nothing would do him but we had to move back to his hometown, 70 miles away from the big city we both worked in (IMPULSE), he knew his current job at the time was on the skids, that he was to be laid off at any time, but he said he figured he would "just fall into something" after we moved....TWO YEARS of absolutely nothing have gone by....I don't know what I would do if it had been 12 years already, like you.  Well, I still work 70 miles from our home, a two-hour-one-way commute, and that's just making barely BARELY enough to pay our bills...and I find myself sitting here thinking what else can I do to make *us* more money??  UUUUGGGGHHHH!!!!!!! i want to go somewhere, out in the middle of the woods, and scream until my head falls slap off my shoulders and then just die, because I don't know how much more of being his primary caregiver I can take....then, while thinking and stewing on this, this morning, my wedding vows came to mind, and how this time (my 2nd, his 3rd) i was going to take my vows seriously, in sickness and in health, richer or for poorer....but how much more of this sickness can i take??????  It's a recognized disability with the ADA, can he get gov't assistance???  does anyone know this answer??  i'm sure the answer is a big fat NO, because it's treatable...but what about when they refuse treatment or refuse to even acknowledge something is wrong????

This is the first man, EVER, in my life that I have ever truly loved, and I KNOW he loves me...he really is a good man with a good heart, but I feel like Jenny when she married Forrest...I know that sounds terrible, but that is the best way to describe how I feel in my marriage...that I married someone with "special needs".  I have tried to reconcile with this FACT, but it really is really hard, the more tired and exhausted I become.

ALL THAT RANT TO SAY - I know exactly how you feel, AMS, please, PLEASE, do not feel alone. Like I said, I've never posted on here, and my frustration level is through the roof today, the only reason I am now...sometimes I come here just to read others' "experience, strength and hope"; just simply reading a post like yours and knowing someone else is going through the same exact thing, helps me hang on just one more day, which is all we have, or are guaranteed - is today.

Much Hope and Love your way, AMS. Good Luck, and thank you for your post...believe it or not, you helped someone today!!!

Thank you for responding

Thank you so much for responding  I guess it helps a little to know I'm not the only one  At least I feel I am not crazy  I keep struggling with how to just come to a place of acceptance-this is who he is, this is the way it will be, he has a lot of great qualities, etc etc, but I just can't get there I also want to respect him and it is hard to do so with the situation the way that it is 

You're definitely not the

You're definitely not the only one.  In the late 1990s, my husband lost his job.  He worked on a research project and the project lost funding.  For most people in his situation, his boss would have found another job, but not for him.  (This should have been a clue that there was something else going on, but I didn't get it at the time.)  For the next five or six years, my husband did not work.  He applied for one or two jobs TOTAL.  He eventually got a job with the post office.  He tried hard at that job but he was not well suited for it.  And then he lost THAT job, because he committed an egregious error that was grounds for immediate firing.  Since then (more than four years ago), he has not applied for any jobs.  He does have some income, through a part-time job that was handed to him by the school where he went for a certificate.  Also, he provides "caregiving" to his parents, who pay him for that.  But really, seriously, not applying for ANY jobs for four years?  

I believe my husband when he says he wants to have better jobs.  However, he seems to think that his fear of applying for jobs should give him a free pass.

P.S.  We've been married almost 30 years.  It doesn't get better over time, it gets worse.

it just gets worse...

I, too, am working hard to cover the times when my partner cannot work( we have a home based business and all accounts are in his name, so any income has to go through those accounts...and when he flips, I am the 'useless' lazy bitch that sucks all the life out of the relationship, and doesnt 'contribute anything financially'  (there is always enough money for alcohol, gambling and anything that takes his fancy when he feels like it) I am barely covering expenses with any income that I make.  Because the accounts are under his name. he thinks that HE is paying for everything! Ha! He doesnt see that I'm the one putting it in there!! I am always trying to play catchup after his spending sprees, I can't ever get really does just get worse.

If I ask him on a calm day, that maybe we should change accounts into my name so that he isn't able to spend when he flips, he has agreed, but when it comes to the paperwork, he thinks I am going to run off with everything, and leave him in the poo,..doesnt he realise he's the one that has already put us in it! 

Can they really not see?....

So close to my heart, thanks for sharing

I find it remarkable that you shared this personal story. We never know what goes on behind closed doors and it is important to be reminded that even someone as experienced as yourself goes through mountains and valleys in your ADHD marriage. My husband has ADD and every summer is a rough patch since he is an educator and the change of schedule that summer brings, brings along with it new challenges and struggles to focus on what's surrounding him. As much as I love him, it can be so frustrating and I am finding myself feeling very down about our relationship. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. It has helped me cope. All the best luck in finding that happy place again!

The Struggle...and Finding Hope

I completely relate to your husband's annual summer "Focusing without Inherent Structure" challenge.  I am a teacher as well, and I have long maintained that time just passes without me knowing what to do with it or what I have done with it.  One of my chores in my marriage is taking out the trash, which is simple, except during the summer, when I can't remember which day it is!   Last summer, I was so bad at remembering it that I set up a Google calendar reminder for THIS summer.  Thank God for technology that syncs information across multiple devices.  Now I get reminders on my phone and my tablet; I haven't forgotten yet this summer!   This is just one small example, but these problems are solvable.  

I was on medication for 12 years, and for me, personally, it just didn't work to the extent I thought it should.  Being a teacher, and having ADHD, I read and still read constantly about this topic, and have tried EVERYTHING to improve myself.  I would look at my students with ADHD and think that most of them were not struggling with their executive functioning to the extent I was.  The ones that were...Good Lord...those were the ones driving everyone crazy and really underperforming in spite of high IQ's...  I just knew something more was wrong with me; I was getting WORSE, and I know ADHD is not a progressive disorder.  Finally, last fall, I read a simple but life-changing article in ADDitude magazine by Dr. Sanford Newmark about food sensitivities and ADHD.  Eventually, I had food sensitivity testing, and discovered a dozen and a half food sensitivities, and have discovered several more since.  I've probably always had some of them, but food sensitivities can occur at any time, more commonly with people who have eczema and other allergies.  I have long maintained that I have a hypersensitive immune system without knowing why that was.  Leaky gut, which is common in people with ADHD and/or autism, was causing a lot of my issues.  I also have typical ADHD vitamin deficiencies in Omega-3's, zinc, D3 (also more common in the Northern hemisphere), and can't process my B vitamins properly and require a methylated (broken down) version in order to absorb them.  Once I started taking this special complex (available only through my Naturopathic Doctor, it's so powerful), I stopped needing medication.  That wasn't even my goal.  I just realized that I felt better and that the meds would rev me up too much when I was already feeling revved up (I no longer feel revved up on these vitamins, but it was kicking my Krebb's Cycle into gear).  When she told me she was going to get me off my medication, I was laughing on the inside, as in "SURE, you will, lady.  You don't know how bad my ADHD is."

But she did!  I have been off my meds for 3 months, and my marriage is FINALLY starting to turn around.  To me, that is the ULTIMATE PROOF.  I have been struggling ON MY MEDS for years, and my husband and I just had our first session of marriage therapy with a new therapist (we went to one two years ago, but he really WANTED DIVORCE at that time, and our therapist sucked, and I was in a bad state).  This therapist is clearly better than our previous one.  What's more, our relationship is starting to change, and I am starting to see that he understands me better than I previously thought.  We are starting to laugh together, again, and he is seeking out my company, and snuggling with me every day.  It is still early, but these are huge changes, and I'm starting to be hopeful.  I know that in my case, what I needed was to realize that what I was doing, in spite of my tremendous efforts, was not producing the desired outcome.  I needed to change course, and I took a risk and I did.  I am so grateful that I trusted my instincts.

It's important that to remember Melissa's story about the ebb and flow of marriage.  We are all vulnerable, and the most important thing is that we learn from our mistakes, and to pick ourselves up when we make a mistake.  For my part, I need to remember to make sure to keep my technology usage under control, because one thing I remember from my early years of marriage (before medication, and even after) was that I could get really, really distracted and ignore my husband's pleas for attention.  It would hurt him, I really didn't see that, and I could only see what I had to get done, and why couldn't he understand that.  Eventually, after a number of years of this, he stopped asking, we became disconnected, and then the fighting over EVERYTHING began.  I am not perfect, but I never want to go to that place again...

My Naturopathic Doctor told me that in order to accomplish more during the summer, I needed a kind of signpost to earmark certain parts of the day and organize around them.  This is something I'm working on, and am getting a little better at...

Good luck to you!


carathrace's picture

Good On Ya!

What a wonderful, hopeful post!  Thank you so much for telling your story.  I admire how you sought out the answers for yourself and followed through, and I'm so glad your marriage is better.

Can you say a little more about the "signpost" you mention in your last paragraph?  How does that work?

The Signpost

Thanks for the words of encouragement :).

What she meant is that I needed to have a schedule of sorts organized around key moments in the day, you know, like all you normal people out there do instinctively instead of drifting through time like my kind tends to do...a lot.  She said that I needed to know ahead of time when I was going to have lunch, for example, and organize the hours before and after around that.  That is probably not a profound statement to the majority of you reading this, especially given that so many on this site are the "NON's," but to me, something about the way she phrased it struck a deeper chord than the "Create a schedule!," which frankly, just makes me cringe during the summer ;).  All I do during the school year is fret from one scheduled event to the next.  When will she drop the ball, folks;)?  But a signpost?  I don't know.  It just makes sense to me.  I still have a long way to go, but my house is a little cleaner than it normally is, so I guess that's something!

O.K.  Off to figure out how the rest of the day is going to go instead of walking around in circles :D!


P.S.  I realized the reason it makes sense to me is because I am a visual learner, so I LITERALLY visualize a signpost with what I have to do on it...  I suppose that is why her idea spoke to me...


It's really great to hear that you are still doing well off the meds and with the new eating strategies. And that your relationship is improving. Hope for the rest of us. Good job!

naturopath recommendation

Hi There,

My husband will not go on meds.  He will not allow my son to go on meds.  He is a teacher too, and boy do I dread summers.  Can you please advise me what your Naturopathic Doctor recommended for you in terms of treatment?  He would consider this route, but we do not know where to begin.  Thank you

Naturopathic Methods of Treatment

Hi Grimley,

I'm sure you must be SO STRESSED OUT as you live with two untreated ADHD family members.  I just want to reassure you that for me, this method has worked INFINITELY BETTER than medication and I feel SO MUCH HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, CENTERED, AND LESS HYPER AND IMPULSIVE.

Your husband should really go to a Naturopath and get his vitamin and mineral levels checked, so he can get appropriate dosing as well as the correct supplements.  I'm sure every patient recommendation would be a little different, but here's my regimen:


*probiotics: This helps with leaky gut, at this point, it's just "insurance."  I can tell you it made my stomach feel A LOT better.  My doctor just told me I don't have to take this one all the time anymore, because my stomach is doing so much better, thanks to all that I'm taking and my allergen-free diet!

*fish oil: Quality is very important here, because you don't want mercury poisoning! 

*vitamin D3:  Even with a multi-vitamin, I was very deficient, which is common in ADHD.  I had to start at 10,000 IU's a day for a month!  Now I take 2,000 IU's and also receive another 1,000 IU's from my multi-vitamin.  The effect on my mood and well-being is nothing short of profound.  D3 is a GREAT mood-booster!  I feel less anxious as well.

zinc:  This is another common deficiency with ADHD, and naturally, I had it.  Like D3, it's an immune booster, and is also involved in the nervous system/brain function.  I have to be honest, I don't feel much effect from this one, but I still take it, because I presume it's important.  Plus, being a teacher, it can't hurt to have a germ-fortress ;)!

My doctor just told me I could drop that one after the start of the school year because I'm eating so well :).

B vitamins:  I take pure encapsulations (it is lower case) with Metafolin L-5-MTHF​.   THIS IS THE WONDER SUPPLEMENT THAT GOT ME OFF ADHD MEDICATION.  Now I don't process my B vitamins well, which 3 different integrative health practitioners told me.  I know this because when it was suggested that I have a B vitamin deficiency, I said, "Well, I already tried B vitamins.  They keep me up ALL NIGHT.  I mean ALL NIGHT.  Can't sleep."  

I have to take a methylated (partially broken down) form of B vitamins, which is the supplement above.  This is the only one you can purchase EXCLUSIVELY from a naturopath or other Integrative practitioner.  I don't know if there are other similar items on the market or not.  

I tried taking this one only once a day, and unlike meds, it took DAYS to fall apart, but I got to the point where I couldn't focus, so I brought it back up to 2.  I'm going to hold at 2 and when the school year starts, I may need to bring it back up to 3.

I also had food allergy testing, which helped me immeasurably.  I have about a dozen and a half food allergies, which impacted my immune system and my brain!  Gluten was a big one, and is worth reading about!

Book Recommendations:

ADHD without Drugs:  Dr. Sandy Newmark

Written for pediatric patients, it still explains a lot of our issues!

The ADHD and Autism Cookbook (can't remember authors, I let a friend borrow it):

It explains the issues that people with ADHD and Autism often have with gluten and/or casein (found in dairy).  After the first 80 pages are a bunch of recipes I have yet to try... ;)

Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD:  Susan Pinsky

Because meds or supplements, we still need STRATEGIES!  THIS IS MY BIBLE!!  Written by a professional organizer and mom to an ADHD daughter, who realized people with ADHD can't get and stay organized in the same way as others.  HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS.  Organizing is starting to make ACTUAL SENSE TO ME.  Where I've applied her methods, I have had success :).

Hope that helps!


Edit to Original Post:

EAT PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL.  Imperative to cognition.  Seems to help with mood as well :).

I was lucky (yes, lucky) to have a food sensitivity to sugar cane.  Since I stopped eating it, my energy has significantly improved!  I feel so much clearer and AWAKE.  People with ADHD do NOT process sugar well, and even mainstream ADHD treatment is on board with this.  Not saying it makes us more hyper (I don't know)...




Grrr's picture


Hope had eluded me for what seemed like forever! Thanks for posting this!! More! :)