Son of an ADD Mother and my marriage is falling apart.


I have been visiting this forum for about a year and after reading.listening to the book realized I should have posted a long time ago as people seem to have the same experiences. If you've been where I am, I'd  really appreciate your advice on what I can do t avoid walking away from my Marriage.

My wife was diagnosed with ADD (no Hyperactivity) when she was in grade-school and it was what I'd call a defining trauma of her childhood- she would stay up all night in 5th grade reading ahead in their classroom reading so she could fake the reading out loud when it came to her turn or would try to go to the bathroom anytime she had to do something in front of the class and was almost held back for learning disabilities that led to her diagnosis. She also had an SAT score in high-school that almost kept her from college until she found a way through U-Wisc Osh-Kosh which specializes in ADD accommodations and from there she transferred to Madison and went on to a Master's Degree. We met working in the United Nations in Pakistan and she is earning 6-figures and not even 30 yet! So definitely and over-achiever, but one who has had to fight 6 times as hard to get there. She will never let anyone tell her she can't do something and always reaches for her goals until she meets them. A very remarkable woman. Also a complete sweetie and one of the most sympathetic and socially intelligent people I have ever met. Actually, I have learned many of my emotional skills from her and for much of our relationship felt that if she said it was so I should probably defer as she would know better than me on anything behavioral, especially when it came to self esteem, relationships, and family.

If you can't tell, I have a lot of love and respect for this woman. She is the love of my life and the only person who has given me real happiness. Since I met her, I've gone from PTSD, Suicidal, estranged and angry from my family, and with poorly managed Diabetes, to someone who is relatively on top of those issues. I should say, I had some help from a very good therapist, a lot of Effexor, and what has been a lifetime of determination on my part to move past my past.

We have been married for 2 years and dated for 3, but we are both about ready to walk away from the marriage. As my wife would say 'change happens when the pain becomes greater than the fear'. My viewpoint on this is that basically my wife is not willing to acknowledge that her ADD has serious effects on our lives that could reasonably make an otherwise very supportive husband angry. She won't talk to me about it anymore because she feels it will all be blaming her and her self-esteem can't take that anymore. I also know she is half right about this. My mom had/has very bad ADD that she has never addressed. This means I'm walking around with a whole host of anger-towards-my-mom issues that spill over into our relationship. My mom was never reliable, would forget about me and my siblings, she once sat reading a magazine while my brother was beating me up, etc...) So seriously negative ADD impacts on me. So I'm wondering if our marriage is basically doomed by the fact that I had to step-up all the time as a kid to take care of myself when my mom would 'forget ----' which makes me take on the parental role in almost every situation.

I think this makes me extra judgmental and angry when my wife 'lets me down' in someway like forgetting to refill her medication on time, not remembering things I've told her (and blaming me for her not knowing), or lately over-focusing on work at the expense of things spending time on our move from the USA to France which I've shouldered in many ways 'to be supportive'. I know she loves that 'she can be herself with me' and that I am 'so understanding' which I definitely am, but the flip side is we've never had a system for me to say 'ok i need things to move back in the other direction now'. I feel like she'd do fine on her own, but when I'm in the picture its just assumed she shouldn't have to do much or worry much.

My wife and I both know I have these issues, and we both know she has ADD symptoms. What we break-down about is how I can ask her to take on more when she feels that no matter how much she does its not enough. She feels blamed and that her self-esteem is lashed constantly by my anger. And I feel that there isn't any validation of my anger or hurt so naturally it never gets resolved (let alone us agreeing to how to manage something differently).

I think we are both ready to walk away at this point, although its more likely to be me than her as inaction seems to be one of her major symptoms that we fight about. If anyone can give me a step by step on how to break this cycle I'd really appreciate it. She knows I've read this book, but she refuses to look at it as she says she doesn't need to as she's heard everything 'they have to say about ADHD'. I know I can't 'make her' do anything or be anything and am now just wondering if all I can do is walk away to escape the kind of angry projections and denial I get hit with every-time I say 'we need to be able to talk about how to deal with this without breaking up'.

This post looks way to long and rambling, but hopefully there's another Husband of a high-functioning ADD Woman out there who can explain to me how to pierce the denial-bubble...




Hi, Ben.  I hope you get some

Hi, Ben.  I hope you get some helpful responses.  I'm the wife of a low-functioning ADHD man, and I can totally relate to the desire to pierce the wall of denial.  We're at the point at which I have to censor everything because of the likelihood that my husband will respond with "You're attacking me" or "You're saying that everything is my fault."  Funny, but if either of those things is at all true now, it's because of years of my husband refusing to deal with problems (a refusal that continues now that we're separated; sometimes, apparently, even the "nuclear option" isn't powerful enough).  

Hi Ben, First off, I want to

Hi Ben,

First off, I want to commend you for your obvious love and commitment to your wife. If you read the post I just posted, you'll see that I am/was in much the situation as you are. It has taken a separation for my spouse to wake up and realize the gravity of the situation. He has finally quit running and it tackling some of his issues, but it took the separation for him to wake up and see what he might lose.

Obviously, your wife is an extremely intelligent woman, and is painfully aware of how much ADHD affects her everyday life. I have ADHD myself, but have always been high functioning (much like your wife), and took on the "non" role in my marriage. I think women tend to internalize a lot of the effects of ADHD, turning it into anxiety/depression instead of expressing it outwardly. I wasn't diagnosed until my 20s, so I spent my childhood consumed by anxiety and worry that people would "figure out" that I wasn't normal and that I had to work so hard to do things that othe rpeople did seemingly effortlessly.

Your wife sounds much like my husband in that she cannot handle anything that hints at being "her fault". My husband has said for years that he's tired of it always being his fault, so much so that he would refuse to listen to anything if he thought I was going to say he was wrong. I think that many with ADHD have lived for so long in a cloud of guilt/shame and low self-esteem, that they can't hardly take dissaproval from others, especially from the most important person in their life. My husband used to tell me that I KNOW how bad his self esteem is and how much he beats himself up, so it hurt even more when he felt like I was joining in on the chorus of guilt/blame and just re-affirming how little he thought of himself. The problem is that that lead me to not bring up ANYTHING, because I feared hurting him or what his reaction would be.

We are in the middle of Melissa's class, and it really has been very helpful. She does a great job (even better than she does in the book, I think), of establishing the fact that it is NOT all the ADHDer's fault that your marriage is in trouble. It is the result of a multitude of things, many that have to do with untreated ADHD, but mostly things that have to do with both people's reactions and their inability to tackle the issues that have come up. Once my husband saw that the class was NOT about blaming one or the other, he was much more comfortable and has really began to listen and be willing to discuss what we're learning.

I don't have a solution for you, in our case it has taken a separation in order to get the ball rolling. I do know that if both people are not willing to change, there's little to no hope for the situation, but it sounds like you are willing. She sounds like a smart enough woman, that if you can find a way to bypass the denial/anger, she may be able to see that you're not attacking her, but you're just trying to find a solution and save your marriage. Have you tried having a conversation with her similar to what you wrote here?

Thank You

Thank you both for your replies. It feels so relieving just to know that other people struggle with the same things. As many people in my family have ADD, I suspect I have inherited and then coped undiagnosed with many of the symptoms since it is 'mild'. It also makes a lot of sense that I would take on the 'non' role as that was always how I managed in my family with an ADD mother and brother to manage.

I've thought quite a few times that a separation might be the only trigger that would make her move past the self-protective anger, but I struggle with the courage to take that risk as it feels like an all-or-nothing gamble in a way that talking (even yelling) doesn't.

I don't know how she would react to hearing what I wrote here unless I 'censor' it to remove any mention of ADD affecting our relationship. I think at this point just putting those two ideas in the same sentence triggers the blame-association.

I hope we can get the ball rolling without the separation, but I think its a step I'm prepared to take at this point as neither of us can be in teh same space when the anger reaches this level.

Hold on in there

Hi Ben, I'm sorry you are going through such a tough time at the moment, and hope my comments might help a little. My husband has always reacted extremely badly when I have labelled him. In 2003 I told him I thought he was suffering from depression - he flipped. In 2006 I learned about General Anxiety Disorder and thought that this was a more appropriate diagnosis, especially as his daughter had previously been diagnosed with this. He simply blanked me when I mentioned it. In 2012 I had my light bulb moment, when I learned about Adult ADHD. This finally offered me a logical explanation for much of my husband's curious personality traits and behaviour. I gave him a copy of "So I'm not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid". Whether he read it or not, I don't know. He threw it back at me several weeks later saying "So you've found something else wrong with me".  Depression, Anxiety and ADHD are now taboo words in our household. However, that has not stopped me trying to improve our relationship through my own actions. I have actively stopped taking the "parent" role, allowing him to mess up on things due to forgetfulness or disorganisation (unless they are things which have a severe impact on me). I no longer make plans and contingency plans in order to ensure things run smoothly. I accept that there will always be a degree of chaos in our lives. When my husband is having a particularly bad day, I say things like "You seem a bit pre-occupied/overwhelmed/concerned" rather than using words like anxious or depressed. He seems to find this type of vocabulary less threatening and does occasionally engage at that point rather than simply putting up the shutters and blanking off. As a consequence, our marriage is a little calmer, less confrontational and with fewer misunderstandings. So it is possible to instigate change without the co-operation of your partner. However, you can only do it by making change to your own behaviour and abandonning any attempts to change your wife.

You say: "I think this makes me extra judgmental and angry when my wife 'lets me down' in someway" and "we've never had a system for me to say 'ok i need things to move back in the other direction now" .If you could make changes to both of these areas, you would probably see some improvement in your relationship. Perhaps you could work with a coach on how you can behave differently. Tell your wife you are having some counselling to help you communicate more effectively and work through your baggage from the past. Don't mention ADHD or trying to improve your marriage. This all sounds so glib when written down. I don't underestimate how difficult it will be, but do believe it is possible.

Bon Courage!

>>As my wife would say

>>As my wife would say 'change happens when the pain becomes greater than the fear'.>>


That is so true!

I've Found a Way to Pierce the Wall of Denial

I know this is an old post...but it's pretty much where I am as well.  The way I found that works?  I'll let the video do the talking.  I've posted it before but it remains to be the one way I've found that worked for me?  Buckle up...and get strong yourself, quit running in fear and stop chasing the Dragons Tail yourself.  That's just losing poker and a sure fire way to fail.

' ....not to just stop "Chasing the Dragon's Tail"....but to ride the Dragon home."  Pacific Journal of Oriental Medicine

Riding the Dragon is the perfect metaphor.





Good one. Thanks.