Small steps forward are better than no 'positive' steps at all

I'm the non-ADD spouse who's been married for almost 7 years.  We have 2 beautiful children and in the midst of another 'crisis' I decided to explore another avenue than I had previously.  Among other things, my husband has the tendency to 'email' and/or converse with women from his past purely to get the attention that I am obviously not giving him.  This has been an issue since the 1st year of our marriage.  I've been on this 'changing what I can control' kick since February of this year.  Realizing that I can only control me.  I can not control my husbands behaviors, actions, inability to react a certain way, attention.... NOTHING, I can not control anything outside of me.  I have also realized that my home (our children) feed off of my disposition.  Although our children are 4 and 7 months, the oldest is especially sensitive to how his Mommie feels.

I've been in therapy 'just for me' and we've begun couples counseling (again) having just had 2 sessions so far.  Since being a member on this site, I've noticed my patterns... only posting the negatives and seeking advice on how to deal with them/it.  In order for me to thrive (with or without my husband), my therapist and I realized that I needed to change my approach and/or reactions to certain issues that arise within my marriage.  Changing the approach, while still not letting go of who I am.  Essentially, no longer being co-dependant upon my husbands ADD issues and issues that are just simply him and not even ADD related.

Okay, so last week Friday, I found out that my husband was conversing electronically with the same woman from his past again (after we had agreed in our therapy session to give this recovery our all).  The very same woman whom I've indicated would be deal breakers for me to dissolve this union.  Within the emails (this time) were not sexual content, but rather talking about me and our relationship and how she/he would be different if it were them in a relationship and not my husband and I.  In the past?  I would have exploded, yelled, cried, not slept, not eaten... you name hurt like hell and I wanted him to know it.  This time?  Don't get me wrong, the pain is very much still there....but my reaction changed. 

I woke him up, told him what I read, and told him that I was no longer going to allow myself to feel like the 'other woman' in our marriage.  Since the conversations with this individual are apparently more important to retain than the marriage and our son's comfort of having their parents reside in the same home...then i am no longer wanting to be in this marriage.  I meant every word.  I went into the spare bedroom, and attempted to go to sleep.  Sleep of course did not happen because my husband of course changed the hurt from being mine to his.  As in the past, he began stating that had I been there for him emotionally and especially physically, then he would not want to converse with other women.  In the same breath, he states that he loves me and would like for our marriage to work.  I listened, and I politely, and unaggressive-ly as I could, emphatically state how I feel, what I wanted and what i would no longer tolerate.  I told him that I need to be me, a happier me, the me that I once was before we got married, before all of this drama and issues came up.  The me that would not have allowed to be walked all over by anyone.  I ended that conversation with...I love you, I also want our marriage to work...the ball is in your court.  You need to figure out what makes you happy...

The very next morning, he asked if I could call into work because he was feeling 'depressed' (in the past that was code word for ....I may do something that you won't like...i.e. suicide, emails to ex....etc).  Prior to today, i would have taken off, placed my hurt on the back burner to deal with his pain.  That day?  I did not repeat past 'bad' habits....I went to work.  He called me sooo many times that morning, until I said....if you really want to spend time with me, let's go to see a movie and have lunch?  I'll use a vacation day just to do something positive because your bad actions can no longer control my reactions. 

We did just that! We went to see a movie, had lunch.... but more importantly? - - - - - we talked.  I even held his hand, something I hadn't done in a long time.  I even snuggled against him while watching the movie.  Of course, I was still in pain from what he had done, but my pain was short lived compared to past occurrences. 

Soooo, I've said all of the above to suggest that maybe making me the focus kept me closer to being 'the me' that I am instead of 'the me' that had been created because of reacting to bad experiences. 

I'm looking forward to the next little step.....any step forward is progress!

I love your attitude and I

I love your attitude and I love the way you are owning your reactions and letting him own his. Accepting that you cannot control him and his actions is liberating...I've been working on this, but haven't completely gotten there yet. I still feel the twinge of panic occasionally.

If you haven't read it, get the book CoDependent No More by Melodie Beattie. It is very helpful.

Congrats on the progress YOU are making...hopefully it'll motivate him to work on himself.

Keturah's picture

"CoDependent No More by Melodie Beattie"

I actually purchased "CoDependent No More by Melodie Beattie" because of your suggestion as well as what I was learning through therapy.  Thanks!

all the right things

Sounds like you're doing all the right things.  There is nothing like a little 'twisting in the wind' for an ADHDer to realize he or she has shot him or herself in the foot!!!

I had been flailing in the fall - paralyzed with fear and anxiety and unable to get moving on anything.  I thought I was doing a heroic job, just surviving day to day and for ME it really was pretty hard:  a move to a new city, a new and very complicated routine for living in a huge city.... things that people have to do every day, but those things terrified me.  Such and moving our car for street sweeping.  A very mundane, everyday thing people do here... but for me it was terrifying.   I worried about how to avoid getting hit/hitting someone else's car in the scramble/fight for a parking space.  worried about not getting a space.  worried about being late and getting a ticket.  worried about people getting angry at me for not knowing what to do.  and all of this with a screaming baby in the car. I struggle on public transportation with two small children and a stroller every day... I cook, I clean, stay home with our younger daughter and I work part time when I can. 

One day my husband and I were having a heart-to-heart talk.  I wanted him to know how difficult things had been for me here and that I really was having a hard time and needed his understanding.  I asked him to tell me what he really thought of me and how I was doing.  He took a deep breath and let it out and said, "Well..... I think you complain too much."  I was shocked.  WHAT?!?!  I was working so hard!!!  But then as we talked further and I began to wrap my brain around how dire our financial situation was - and saw the numbers - and realized how hard HE was working and all the extra stuff he had to do because I was too overwhelmed to deal with it I came to realize that... ok.... I just need to step up and get some help and figure out SOME WAY to make more money.  In fact, I had NO IDEA what his life was like because he never told me any of his problems.  Why?  because he figured he could not lean on me or count on me for anything.  He said he was tired of always 'getting dumped on' my my fears and problems (like your husband demanding you miss work because HE was feeling depressed).  I realized that I WAS being selfish by assuming my husband was happily buzzing along through life with not a care in the world and could 'rescue' me anytime I needed him to.  I was wrong. 

As for your husband emailing exes.... oh, no, no, no...  That's not ok.  Especially if previously there had been some 'sexual content'.  Starting up communication again is NOT ok.... especially if now he is confiding in her and speculating about how a relationship with her would be.  An ex of mine 'friended' me on Facebook and I had a few friendly exchanges with him - nothing sexual, and no mention of our relationship from way back when (we were 19 and 20)  My husband was upset about it - I explained that I had not contacted him, he had contacted me, there was nothing flirtatious, he was welcome to read any and all of the messages and I would be happy to 'un-friend' him if he'd like.  Yes, it had been fun to catch up, to see pictures of him and his kid and it was amusing to me that his wife looks like she could be my twin sister, but when I realized it was hurting my husband's feelings, I felt terrible.  We've had issues in the past and I admit I WAS untrustworthy.  But I know now there is too much at stake to behave stupidly - and I don't even have a particle of interest in it.  For ADHD women perhaps (at least this one) the impulse problems in the flirtation department diminish and disappear as we age/have children.

I leaned on my husband too much for too long and yes, I blamed him for a lot of problems that I caused because I couldn't see what was really happening.  When he finally told me he felt scared because he thought I couldn't handle it if anything happened to him and I was left to deal with the kids - I realized I need to step up and show him and MYSELF that I can.


Keturah's picture

@ ellamenno

OMG.... I would swear on a stack of Dr. Seuss books if I could (lol).  Your husband is the male version of's why I can relate.

After my earlier post, my husband and i had a HUGE argument.  One that had me looking for apartments and wanting to move out of our home with our kids.  I felt that I was making too much progress in my 'recovery' from being co-dependant to risk taking a step backwards.  I could not sleep a wink the entire night.  I am a positive person, I try and often succeed at everything that I attempt.  So, failing at my marriage wasn't an option I wanted to explore.  The things my husband had asked of me that would help him...I've done.  However, I begin to get fed up.  As an example If he asked me to turn left because this made him feel better?  i turned left.  But then he'd later question why was I turning left?  I'd say because you said that turning left would make you feel better.  he'd reply with something like:  No, I want you to turn left, only when the sun is out!  In my example...left could be...turn off the light, cook a certain meal, declutter the desk?  Anything! ...but my issue was that if he needed something from me, tell me....and stop adding layers of additional parameters on to it.

In the 7 years of us being married, I couldn't depend on him emotionally.  So, if I was having a bad day?  I kept it to myself because I had tried 'sharing' with him in the past and it always made things worse.  So I found myself the following morning balling my eyes out like a baby...hysterically!  Not because of the argument, but because I felt OVERWHELMED!  Overwhelmed with being a wife, mother, part time student, and full time employee.  Now to add my husband ADD issues on top of that?  I was teetering on the edge of a breakdown.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband had not left for work and heard me crying.  he came into the bathroom and asked if I needed a hug?  I replied no (why would I when all of these years it has been me giving hugs).  He insisted and I cried in his arms an ocean of tears. 

Once I was able to breath and talk, I asked him if he really wanted to hear me, and understand me?  He said this point, what do I have to lose?  So I said an internal prayer hoping that his medication that he's been on for ADD will help him understand and not try to go into 'fix' it mode.  At the end of our conversation ....I realized ...I realized that with me not 'opening up' and allowing him to know how I've been feeling resulted in him feeling as if I was withdrawing and not 'into him'.  Having him feel as if I wasn't into him, gave him the 'go ahead' to converse with someone who was into him in the past (an ex).  Regardless if he knew the resulting contact would hurt me and our's that impulse control!

Soooo, I've learned that I have to 'let a little go' and let him shoulder some of the burden because it's too overwhelming for me to continue to do so on my own.  It's a process, but I have to begin to be hopeful about our future.  I'm not going to 'lean' on him all at once, but I will lean on him.

I understand your husbands feelings and statements..... the non-ADD'er bears a lot of the hurt, burdens and duties in addition to what the ADD'er adds to the burden pile.  We often feel that the ADD'er simply can't handle the various burdens accompanied with every day living.  We'd rather shoulder the weight then face the alternative....

thanks for sharing

? for Working towards re: talking to exes

You are describing my situation exactly.  After reading posts on here I knew I had to set boundaries.   I was very clear (in my mind) that flirting on-line with exes was not okay with me; a deal breaker.  He continued so I walked.  I do not feel good about it and miss him to the extreme.  I understand his need for feedback.  Somehow in his mind he blames it on me being jealous with an "investigative" nature; just glossed over the fact that he gave me reason to be (I am not normally a jealous person).

My question is this, can it change or will that behaviour always rear it's ugly head under the right circumstances?  Someone on another post mentioned cycles and I have noticed there is a definite push/pull cycle happening within approx. the same time periods.

 You mentioned you are seeing a therapist.  What is their take on it?

Sherri, if you are reading this...I think it was you who said something about not stating directly that someone is ADHD if they don't think they are.  How do I discuss the issues without actually articulating the fact that I'm certain he's ADHD?  I have tried describing how certain behaviours affect me but am not having much luck.

Can people learn to be empathic in mid-life?  He has a huge need to please providing his world is perfect.  If it's not, and it doesn't take much to hit "not" level he runs or shuts down.

I am trying so hard to understand and this site has helped immeasurably.  I am in self-protection mode right now but really don't want to be. 

I may  have said that, but

I may  have said that, but don't remember it exactly. I assume you're saying there has not been a official diagnosis? My experience is that giving them a 'diagnosis' can sometimes be taken by them that we're saying everything is their fault because they have this disorder or that disease. Many times, after diagnosis, the denial becomes stronger and I think this is because with the diagnosis comes the knowledge that, in fact, they HAVE been a part of the problem all along (typically they deny any responsibility for the problems in the marriage..or at least are in denial that there ARE problems). We hit a very, very bad place during the fall of 2009..after about 6 years of nothing but fighting and chaos. I was so angry and resentful that it blinded me. He thought if I would just be affectionate with him, everything would be just fine..but his hurtful behaviors were too consistent and I never could get past the anger. Once we started working through it (after a separation) I said something about not ever wanting to go back to that life because it was so miserable. It was as if it was the first time he had a clue that anything was wrong. "all of it was miserable?" like he was truly shocked...and then you could just see the disappointment and fear overcome him. There is such denial it's almost incomprehensible to me. Initially he was 'happy' about his diagnosis...he had a reason behind always feeling different and such...but then when the reality of it set in, it was like he didn't even (and still doesn't) want to talk about it AT ALL. I don't think he isn't aware of it, or the problems it brings to our marriage, but his favorite line is "You need to accept me for me" which I reply "I cannot accept hurtful things you do just because it would be easier for you if I did, than for you to do the hard work to change them" and round and round we go.

If you suspect he has ADHD, then I would find a counselor and talk to them about it and then see if he will go with you and and let them determine the diagnosis. If it comes from you, unless he's one of the rare ones, it will be met with great resistance.