Successful, Motivated ADHD Husband, but Feel Alone

My husband of 17 years was diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago and he felt a revelation inside, an AHA moment if you will. He finally had pinpointed what he had been feeling since childhood. Placed in a resourse room in school because of his grades, but always winning the heart of his teachers with his wit, sense of humor and energy, he managed to get through hign school. Receiving a soccer scholorship for college was the 1st real test to see if he could function on his own, only to fail out after 2 years because he couldn't manage "it all". No wonder?

He took risks as an adult, married with 3 kids, and successfully owns his own business. He is a motivation speaker and "Wow's" his particpants with his energy, creativity and it passion. So what is wrong? Sounds all good, right?

Then why do I feel like he is a roomate, instead of a life-partner? He travels a lot and the dynamics of our marriage is this. He leaves and everything is in order (and beleive me I am not a "stick in the mud", I do give in and I have become very flexible over the years and with 3 boys). I was home with my kids when they were young (basically raising them alone), and now I am back teaching elementary school and working full time. When he travels life is a routine, and just the way I like it. Then all "hell" breaks loose when he arrives home. He is like a whirlwind.  I just have such a hard time transitioning and he is off in his own world when he is home. He spends alot of time drinking and hanging in his home office. He does things with the kids when "he" wants to do them or if it interests him. He has such a hard time breaking out of the "me, me, me" philosophy and when we discuss it he gets angry or wallows in "I'm not a good father". attitude. We have come to realize that he works best off "lists" so when things have to be done around the house, this is how we go about it.

We have considered spilting on several occasions. We have seeked counseling together and seperate. That seemed to help, until it was forgotten. I know I should be thrilled that he is willing and open to discussion and counseling, but the tools learned last a few weeks and then we are back to the same old, same old. It is like a circle that continues to roll. What bothers me most is that when he drinks (beer) he cannot stop. So having a few beers in out of the question. Is he an alcoholic, probably. But will not even consider getting help there.

So why do I feel so lonely all the time? I want a best-friend who takes interest in the kids and my life.

I hope I have not rambled too much, just seeking advise. Maybe someone can give me feedback?


What's a Successful Husband?

I don't know how old your kids are, but it sounds as if the two of you are in your "mid-marriage blues" period. This is when the kids are young enough to still take lots of attention, careers are in full swing, and both partners are somewhat bored. This translates into "the spouse seems irritating" (goes both ways); "I'm tired of having to accomodate my spouse" (goes both ways); and "boy, the grass sure does seem greener on the other side" (again, for both spouses).

What to do?

First, this is a pretty common stage but it gives you an opportunity to both take stock. Marriage counselling isn't going to work if one partner is doing it to satisfy the request of the other partner, rather than because he (in this case) thinks it's a legitimate option for starting to resolve differences. What you end up with is a situation like what you describe. Changes stick for a couple of weeks, then disappear as the less interested party loses motivation and interest.

What seems to be confusing you is that your husband is successful. Successful in business does not, however, translate to successful in relationships, and you shouldn't confuse the two. It simply means that he has something outside the home that gives him positive feedback (a good thing) and feeds his ego (sometimes a good thing, sometimes not). My husband was like this, too. He was very, very successful outside the home (still is) but the downside was that his success made him doubt my comments about how our marriage wasn't so successful. It gave him the ability to suggest that our lack of success was "my fault" rather than "his fault" or (better yet) "our fault jointly".

Don't fall into this trap. Your husband (at least as you describe him) has a drinking problem that needs to be addressed (it is easy for ADHD people to become addicted, as they have less impulse control than others - also, alcohol, drugs and ultra stimulation can be forms of self-medication for their brains). He also sounds, again as you describe him, pretty self-centered. In addition, it sounds as if he just plain isn't paying attention to you - possibly because when he does it's one of the least fulfilling parts of his day.  This sounds harsh, but think about it. When he is at work he is a boy wonder, gets lots of great feedback, and is king of the roost. When he is at home and focused on you, he gets "push back" - he is told that he isn't doing things right, feels like he's a bad father, and has to do a lot of boring stuff that you (presumably) put on lists for him. If you were him, where would you rather expend your energy?

So, time for some soul searching for you. If he were paying attention to you, would you be happy? Do you like/love who he is inside? Do you fantacize about family times together? Is he a good person? Can he make you laugh (or did he use to?) When I ask you these questions, what I'm really asking is - do you want this relationship to succeed? Is HE the guy whom you want to be your best friend, or are you looking for just anyone? If it's him, then it's time for you to get inside his head a bit. At some point (soon) he'll probably need some addiction treatment, but before you two go to this very difficult place, you need to be on better terms and I think to do that, you need to understand him better. Start learning more about him - from his perspective, not yours. Look for things that you find surprising.  Try to understand whether my hunch is right - that you are hard to be around right now. Ask him how he feels about your relationship - what he wants from it. FInd out what goals you still share. Then, share your own dreams and goals...and start brainstorming together about how to reach them.

Remember when you were dating? The two of you were a team. Think about how you might create that teamwork again. Use his "me, me, me" as a starting point - a place to jump off so you can turn it into "us, us,us". Find out how the two of you can fit together in a way that interests not only you, but him. Most successful men understand that with success comes hard work. And most will admit that, while it's not always fun, sharing household and family responsibilities is "fair", so you should be able to get around your household issues.

But I think you have a harder task ahead of you... What I'm guessing the two of you have really run amok with is that your husband perceives you as being unecessarily demanding, while you see yourself as just the opposite - having become perhaps so flexible that you resent that he doesn't see how much you "give" just to accomodate him. Your needs (friendship, to be paid attention to, to have a partner, to be in control of your environment) are not being met, and your resentment about this has grown to a point that he is rebelling against you. My husband's version of this, when he finally was able to verbalize it was "I'm never good enough for you, so why should I even try???" Your husband is avoiding you by spending non-working hours in his office and escaping into the world where he is loved (work) and where alcohol dulls his bad feelings. I know he runs his own business, but I know enough big senior execs and business owners to know that they can make time for family most of the time when it is a priority, even though sometimes work really does call.  That means that right now, it isn't a priority, and the two of you owe it to yourselves to understand why.

This all sounds rather harsh, and I apologize for that. Aside from those suggestions, here are a couple other things you might try:

  • excercise on the days when he is expected home. The chemicals released into your body will help you stay calm even after the whirlwind hits and, over time, you'll get other added benefits
  • start creating dates together so that some of that energy can be focused back on you. Tell him explicitly that this is why you are doing this, and set some ground rules - conversations about "serious" topics can only happen for X% of the date and the rest has to be fun (this should put him at ease). Take turns deciding what your date will be (so one or the other of you doesn't feel as if they are getting dragged to stuff they don't like).  Choose some dates that are completely new and unexpected - focused entirely on exploration or fun (you need to start having fun times together again if you are going to be friends, rather than fighters)
  • start thinking of things about him that you love so you can focus on the positive as well as the negative
  • take some time in the morning or evening to snuggle together. Again, talk with him about this. Tell him you miss him, and that snuggling for ten minutes a day or taking a walk and holding hands will be reassuring and just plain nice. My husband and I spent a period where we vowed to wake up 10 minutes early to just snuggle and think of one really nice thing to say to each other (minimum) to start our day off in a connected way. It really does work to make your day go better, even if it may sound silly.

Forgive me if I have misinterpretted what you wrote - I have relatively little to go on when people write in, but I often guess correctly when "reading between the lines".  Best of luck with this, and keep us posted (bad pun!)

Melissa Orlov

Mid-Marriage Blues

"Mid- marriage blues?" So when is it going to end?? Seriously, thank you so much Melissa for your feedback. You were right on and have us pegged. Not harsh at all. I appreciate your suggestions. Just an FYI : Our kids are 9 , 13 & 15, all boys. We have tried several of your suggestions already, but I guess not well enough OR consistent enough. And how did you know that alternating "picks" (where and when) for dates was so important. Have you lived this too? The success does not confuse me, it just makes me feel like I should have nothing to complain about, that I should be happy and content because I DO have a motivated husband that provides for his family. I have done some personal soul-searching over the past couple of years and I don't know if he is "that guy" anymore. I don't know if I like what I see inside him anymore. Maybe it is a "mid-marriage blues" thing or maybe not. How on earth can I tell? I often think it is me, just expecting too much. I am riding the wave right now, and not getting off one way or another. In the past year or so, we, together, have been through the tough discussion as to: Are we meant for each other? Do we stick it out for the kids? Do we want to spend the rest of our lives together? Can we come together and make goals for our future that both of us will enjoy? And what came at the end was that we DID want to try and make this work. We did have such a spark and attraction at one time. There was hope and a belief for us being together. So we continue through life together. But now we are back to business as usual. I know I have high expectations. But I also know that if I did not initiate a date, a walk, something to do on a Saturday afternoon, clean the dishes in the sink, pick up the clothes off the floor, it will not get done. Ahhhhhhhhhh! You know I consider myself a pretty positive person, and I am positive the clothes will not get picked up unless I do it (LAL). Again I appreciate your feedback and suggestions (I will hang them right next to my treadmill:) I will keep you updated. Thanks.

mid-marriage blues

Yes, I've lived exactly what you are going through, all the way down to questioning whether or not my husband was "the guy".  It lasted 10 years, and it corresponds to the time when my kids were in the age 5-15 age group.  (I think there is correspondence there...taking care of kids is time consuming, exhausting, and resentment-making).


Perhaps, before you decide to throw in the towel you need to see if there are ways to rekindle some of the connection and romance.  Trips without the kids, times doing things that are silly/different/weird that take you away from the drudgery of your day-to-day lives (you can only be excited about car pooling for so long before it is nothing more than a drag!)  Research on romance (yes, such a thing exists) suggests that couples can break down some of the "dreariness" barriers they set up most effectively if they completely take themselves out of their environment and DO something exciting together.  Go to Napa valley and go hot air ballooning.  Go to Italy and tour Venice and Florence, taking in lots of italian food and hospitality.  Go to the local race track you've never gone to and try something totally new.  Take walks in the woods and hold hands, just enjoying the peace.  Plan a couple of surprise dates, the theme of which is "silly".  Anyway, DO something that is fresh and NEW together.  And leave yourself open enough to recognize that spark when you feel it flicker again.  Make sure that the point of the trip is to enjoy yourselves, not to hash over your issues (that's not off limits, but you should make your primary goal to HAVE FUN)


As for being the initiator...I used to hate being the initiator.  But part of the reason I was was that my husband wasn't dreaming about what he could do with me at that point in our lives.  In fact, I was nagging him enough, and the everyday hassles of just getting through life were enough, that going out with me sounded like another chore to him.  Now that things are better I am still most frequently the innitiator, but he does suggest things together that he didn't used to (mostly bike rides and vacations, two things he loves.  His ideas fit into a narrow mold, but at least he is showing his enthusiasm for being with me again!)  So I don't mind being the initiator any more...


It's hard to believe, but when your kids are just a bit older they will suddenly take lots less work, which will also free up energy for you and your husband to expend on each other.  My oldest is now a senior in high school (away at boarding school).  When she left last year my life suddenly took a completely different form.  If you can just get to the point where you see that little glimmer of the spark that you and your husband used to have, you will probably be able, at that time, to be able to rekindle it....


ANother way to approach the question of whether or not to stay with your husband is to ask "is my husband a good man"?  If so, chances are that when you get the baggage you have developed out of the way that goodness will be there to appreciate and love.  No man is perfect (grass is NOT always greener!) so the issue is, can you get to a point where you appreciate your strengths and weaknesses - your goodness and his - and ride that appreciation to a love that is deeper than what you had before when you had that spark?  George and I don't "spark" in the stomach-turning way we did when we were dating, but I wouldn't change what I have now with that for anything because we've figured out who we really are and love each other and ourselves.  Try to separate your loss of hope and your feelings of being overwhelmed from your sense of him as a person (and you as a person) and see if that clarifies the issue for you.


Does our situation sound far from where you are?  Consider that in the time period that was 2-5 years ago our marriage was so miserable that we had both resorted to affiars to get some of the emotional connection we were missing and we couldn't put two words together without yelling at each other.  I had no hope that he would ever carry his reponsibilities in our household, and he figured I would be bitchy forever.  In other words, we were completely dysfunctional as a couple.  But here we are.  I can't guarantee that you'll end up in the same place (though I hope you do) but I can guarantee that it's possible to end up here because I've done it.


Lastly - keep up the treadmill!  It's a great help in calming one down.


Melissa Orlov

Hi Melissa,Wow! We are living

Hi Melissa,
Wow! We are living parellel lives. I just hope that our marriage turns a new page like yours obviously has. I appreciate the feedback and the frankness. It truly puts perspective on our situation and makes me feel a bit at ease that I am not alone.

We have gotten away on a few trips together within the past year, but we need to do that more. I guess I just need to stop waiting for him to come up with the idea, and suck it up and put plans together to benefit our relationship. We have grwon to have very few common interests; he does not like crowds, concerts, museums, or anything with too much stimulus, many of the things I love.

I need to get over this but, I have a hard time seeing "us" in 10 years. I tried getting my husband to share his goals for the next 5-10 years just so that we can at least plan for the future and have something to look forward to together. The conversation came and went, and never any solid goals were set. It happens often that I have a plan that gets put on the wayside and nothing is followed through. Only to be remembered later and I say, "What ever happened to that conversation?".

Because my husband travels a lot during the week, and phone conversations are short and mainly talking about the day, we often go through the motions when he arrives home. The connect/disconnect has made us almost mechanical in our relationship. There a times, few and far between, that we truly connect and have a great time together.

So....for now, it is what it is. Maybe when the kids get older we will have more flexibility to get away for a mini vacation or weekend together (we do on occasion leave for a weekend with friends, but on our own...either he or I so that someone is home with the kids).

But you have given me hope. Treadmill is going to be dusted off this weekend.:) Promise. Thanks.

Does not like stimulus

You might want to pursue the "does not like stimulus" thing - I have heard from Dr. Hallowell that some with ADD have real difficulty with certain types of stimulus...and that there are things that can help alleviate it (which doesn't mean your guy will suddenly like museums, but he might tolerate crowds better.)  I don't know the details, but either the Hallowell Center might be able to answer some questions or his doctor.

Relating to everyone

There are no coincidences. I went to this website to get a list of Dr. Hallowell's books for a client of mine. Well, needless to say, your blogs to the Non-ADD Spouse was just what I was looking for. My marriage is getting worse and worse, and the bounce back time is longer and longer. We have been married for 15 years, and several years ago, and after many marriage counselors, and nothing improving, I started to recognize many ADD traits. He was eventually diagnosed, went on Adderall XR and stopped forgetting appointments. However, maritally, nothing changed because he didn't want it to. Every complaint that I have read, has been present and addressed in our marriage. The only difference is the lack of sex, not the 'always wanting sex', part in our life. It is my biggest complaint. It went from hyperfocus on sex, to all of his hyperfocus being elsewhere. Certainly, I have become his mother off and on, and there are days when leaving seems to be the only answer. My husband is also a recovering alcoholic (20 years) with no dramatic life insight there either. There have been many times when I have wondered if it was because he was Gemini or he really had ADD. The traits are exactly the same. I have read all the books, initiated sex, sought out therapists, looked up articles, nagged, ignored, smiled, bitched for years. I am exhausted, bitter, lonely and resentful. Yet, I am still here. This is my 3rd marriage and his 2nd (he has had many live-in relationships, however). As others have said, they practice new behaviors and agree with the need for change, but only for nano-seconds in my case. Major issues: lack of time management, poor eating, smoking (his father died at 49 from a heart attack and my husband had heart surgery at age 17 after an infection, which has compromised his heart), no sex, no sleep, rage when provoked, lies. The most recent and most destructive incident was a month ago: he stated that he was going to finish up something on the computer (1am) and come to bed. At 3am, he was still on the computer and was really angry when I brought the time and his statement to his attention. The next day was the typical silence, because I really don't know what to say anymore, and he stated that he did not want to go back to the way it was so he was going to assess whether he could be the husband that I need. (Are you kidding me? you're going to assess?) Anyway, 2 weeks of distance went by, and I decided to take a real hard look at myself (AGAIN), and read some literature on focusing on the postive. Well, at the same time, my husband decided to be more connected again (without ever discussing "his assessment", which he said he would do - another problem is not doing what he says he will do). And there we were, pretending to 'try' and me changing my expectations again. This Monday, I went on to the computer to check on a document that I needed to forward, and lo and behold, when I hit the "Word" documents button, the first thing to pop up was a "New folder" with 2 porn photos in that folder. Right there in living color. I didn't even care about the porn, actually I was jealous that someone was having sex. But what really drove me insane was my husband's lying about it. He went through all kinds of reasons and computer possibilities, and pushed button and button to show me how it could happen. He never succeedeed. He has lied so many times, big ones, little ones. It makes me sick. I pack my bags in my head everyday. I am seeing a therapist again alone, because my husband stated a few weeks ago (during his assessment phase)that he would not go back to counseling and "f" all the books. Date nights, evangelical churches, therapy, marriage seminars, books, AA, couples AA. Nothing lasts very long for this guy. After this most recent lie, I have gone back to my emotional corner and he is acting as if everything is fine. I am at a loss, not because of him, but because I don't like myself very much for allowing this to continue without change. I look at the finances, the inconvience, the emotional chaos of leaving. But yet, I want peace and self respect for myself. I think we both were trying last week, but nothing seems to work and I am tired of doing the work all by myself. I am really pretty desperate

As I was reading the first

As I was reading the first half of your situtation...I knew how it was going to were going to discover porn.I have just gone down your road last week with this very issue!My boyfriend was doing exactly what yours was...the late nights on the computer,things being and feeling really secretive,we were not having any sex,he was so distant from me,no intamcy,fighting,not enjoying each others company or doing anything fun,etc,etc. Well,I think god was trying to tell me something and guess what?(Keep in mind I asked him to stop the porn a year ago,he promised he would and then this happens....)I found a hard core porn magazine wrapped up in a towel behind the bathroom!He forgot it there.I said to myself..."Well,looks like having ADD and forgetting has its advantages for this situation anyway!"My gut instincts kicked in and besides being in next thought was to check under the mattress.I did that and found an entire stash of hard core porn,videos,etc! Now I realize the controversy with this and some women ARE ok with it and that doesn't bother them.However I will not tolerate it at all in my home!I told him I will never be OK with this garbage!We had a very interesting intervention.He had no idea I found his stash pile..I waited till he came home and dumped out all the magazines and videos on the floor in front of him and the look on his face was priceless.I said..."talk about being caught with your pants down huh?"Anyway...he admitted he had an addiction to it.He has agreed to read books,do a workbook and go through a twelve step program to stop this or he looses me.So far he is doing a lot of we will see.

My point is not to go off about a porn addiction....but for me it all made sense...a true addiction is just that.They focus all there attention on it.So it made sense when I didn't feel like I fit in and why he was being distant,the mood swings because he was lieing and felt guilty,etc.Listen to your instincts!We weren't having sex,because he was "taking care" of it already behind my back.I was devastated!You may be ok with porn,but it affects your relationship in a bad way is my belief.

I wrote the "support for the non ADD spouse" article and hopefully some of those suggestions will help you.Since that posting I have gotten on antidepressants,a sleep med and a codependency class that has all helped huge!Good Luck to you and if something doesn't feel right,you need to listen to that.

Porn Issues

Please read the other reader's response to you, as she provides a list of things that she is doing that have helped her, in particular a co-dependency class that might be a good idea for you.

You don't want to stay in the mode where you doubt and dislike yourself because you stay with the person.  But I will say that the things that you describe here may or may not be ADHD.  They might also be something else that shares characteristics with ADD or is existing along with the ADD.  Which won't help you if he won't go for additional help, in any event.

Does it feel as if he is trying to bully or manipulate you into submission with his behavior?  It sounds that way.  Perhaps it is time to make an exit plan.  What would it take to actually leave?  How would you get there?  How would you support yourself?  What mediator might you use?  If you start to answer these questions they may give you some insight into how serious you are about actually leaving.  It might also help you tell him that you are serious and he has some pretty specific choices to make - either get serious about seeking the diagnoses and help he needs or lose you. 

I personally draw a line.  It's one thing to have things constantly going wrong or being difficult because someone is distracted or is responding to ADD symptoms.  It's another when the person is choosing not to change their behavior to be a better person.  This blog is all about being able to differentiate between choice and symptoms, and I know it's sometimes hard to tell, but the situation you describe sounds as if there might be more going on than ADD and in any event, if he won't change, at some point you go elsewhere.  It's not your job to stay and be his punching bag.  TAke that comment about there may be more than ADD here with a very large grain of salt because I'm NOT a doctor, but your description doesn't follow most of the patterns that I see on this site.

Good luck, and keep us posted.  Your therapist, of course, can give you good advice about how to proceed.