The Sweet and Sour of ADD

Ned Hallowell likes to say that ADD is a “gift that’s hard to unwrap”.  Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about the “gift” idea – instead I tend to think of ADD as something that can be “sweet and sour”.  When a person with ADD is in what I think of as “good alignment” (or perhaps their “sweet spot”) life can be very sweet.  But when it’s sour everything can be awful! 

Is ADD a “gift” in my family?  Maybe.  My daughter is very creative, and it’s possible that her creativity is augmented by her ability to “see” things differently because of her ADD.  On the other hand, I’m creative as well, and I don’t have ADD.  Both my daughter and my husband are very empathetic people – is that because they have struggled with ADD issues?  Maybe, though not provable.  My daughter is incredibly persistent.  Ned would attribute that to her ADD, and perhaps that is the case because she has had to really push herself to achieve at the level that satisfies her.  But is that a “gift” or would the gift be being able to achieve without so much effort?  Neither of them are high energy, but I can envision a situation in which “high energy” were a gift…provided it weren’t out of control energy that made someone have trouble fitting into the world around them in a way that was satisfying and let them meet their goals.

Ned Hallowell argues that the “sour” traits of ADD have accompanying “mirror traits” that are positive ways of looking at the same action.  For example, the mirror trait of “distractible” would be “curious”, “impulsive” is mirrored as “creative”, and “intrusive” as “eager”.  But is “intrusive” really “eager” if it manifests itself in a series of conversational interruptions so great that you can’t talk to each other?  To me, this is just…interrupting.  It serves no positive purpose that gets either party closer to a positive outcome they are trying to achieve.  This is where my concept of the “sweet spot” comes in.  Both members of a couple are more likely to see the positive in ADD if the person with the ADD is in that sweet spot – i.e. managing the ADD well so that what you are trying to achieve (communication of information through a conversation, for example) is actually accomplished.

What factors contribute to getting into a sweet spot?

For the ADD spouse:

  • Fully acknowledging your ADD and accepting that you have it.  You can’t control ADD’s impact on yourself or those around you if you don’t fully accept that you have it.
  • Taking responsibility for actively managing the ADD.  This includes being receptive to the input of others, fully treating the ADD, and recognizing/lowering its impact on others.
  • Putting yourself into situations that give you joy.  These can include jobs that match your interests, hobbies, and (most of all!) making time for connecting with those you love.

Though it is the responsibility of the person with the ADD to find his sweet spot, a spouse can help.  Some of the best ways include:

  • Celebrating victories.  Research shows that celebration of victories is more effective at connecting a couple than offering to help someone who may need it.
  • Accepting ADD as a part of your spouse.  Rather than trying to get the spouse to be “non-ADD”, work with the ADD spouse to minimize the impact of ADD by developing coping strategies that work for you both (thus lessening potential resentment).
  • Practicing “loving detachment”.  Stay part of a couple by not taking over the responsibilities of the ADD spouse, even if he struggles.  This is hard, but far preferable to taking on the responsibilities and ending up in a “parent” role.
  • Expressing your needs, and staying in touch with them.  While all marriages require negotiation - and ADD marriages particularly do - remain true to your most important needs.  Express them clearly and figure out ways to get them satisfied.  Else you will move into a place of resentment and hurt feelings that will damage you both.

Medication can help many people with ADD get into their sweet spot and, in my mind, should be considered as a first line of treatment.  However, there are reasons why someone might not want to take meds.  If that’s the case with the ADD partner in your couple, then make sure to have other ways to effectively manage ADD symptoms.

But indulge me a moment as I talk a bit more about meds.  My observation is that meds can “clear the way” for a person with ADD to more effectively realize their full potential.  For example, my daughter’s meds allow her to focus better and to organize better.  With effort, she is able to keep her studies organized enough that she has time to actually study and learn her material.  Without the meds she spends so much time chasing after assignments that she forgot, collecting papers she lost and explaining to teachers why she missed yet another deadline that she has little time to actually learn.  My husband’s meds allow him to control his anger and be less distracted.  With lots of effort at first, and now less effort, he has been able to focus on me better, putting some routines in place that let us spend lots of quality time together and really connect.  Without the meds his unexpected bouts of anger made me too wary of him to effectively connect and he was too distracted to spend much time on me, anyway.

In neither case are meds “magic pills”.  They only provide a basic tool (anger control, focus) that clears the path for each person to expend the effort needed to live their life in a way that emphasizes what they want to achieve, rather than emphasizes playing catch up from ADD symptom-induced disasters.  In our household, meds plus lots of hard work, has allowed ADD members to reach their “sweet spots”.  Again, that’s probably not a “gift”, but it sure does make life nice!

There are plenty of marriages out there where the ADD partner has taken himself into his “sweet spot” – where the ADD is managed and life no longer revolves around picking up the pieces but around your joint interests and what you share together.

Let me know if any of these ideas help you and your spouse get into your sweet spot.


wife with adhd

i have been scanning this site for about two hours. so far, i haven't seen a single positive comment about the spouse with adhd. i understand the necessity some feel to bi**h and moan, it's a good spot for that. but at some point doesn't all this simply become a self-fullfilling prophecy? rather than constructive thought and passing on tips and advice, fueling anger becomes de rigeur.  a humorous aside, the loooooong and lengthy posts hardly confirm that the adhd partner has trouble stopping verbiage. anyway, if there is any positive advice or posts, i would enjoy reading them. i always enjoy new thoughts and ideas for dealing with this "trait." thanks!

For Jumpeight

This site tends to attract folks with serious (negative) issues around ADD - if you didn't have them, you wouldn't spend the time necessary to participate.  I write long posts because a.)I don't want people to get the impression these issues are black and white, b.) they are complex issues concerning two very different spouses, and c.) people seem to pull out different points, depending upon their need.  People on the site write long posts because a.) they have a lot they want to get out, b.) their thoughts are often complex and confusing to them and c.) people with ADD often don't get to the point right away.

If you want upbeat information about ADD, I would suggest that your read some of Ned Hallowell's books, including Delivered from Distraction (which includes a chapter on marriage).  He is great at giving people hope and ideas about how to look at ADD more positively.  If you want to get to more "businesslike" posts, go to the blog posts rather than the forum.  Particularly of interest would be those in the "favorite posts" area if you would like a place to start.

If you have specific questions you would like to ask, please add them to the forum and others will give you their thoughts.

Good luck with your research.

Melissa-I, of course,

Melissa-I, of course, understand why people are posting their thoughts and issues. It is wonderful to find that you are not unique and can find empathy and share your problems. To listen and hear others is a gift we can all give, it is important in my life as well. I am just coming from a place of "glass half full" and hoping that rather than staying in the problem, solutions can be found as well. My comment on lengthy posts was simply to bring a little humor, as the ADHD'er is most often the one with the lengthy responses. I meant in no way to have you defend long posts, it was "an aside"-silly, lighten-up stuff.  Since the forum didn't specify non-ADHD v. ADHD, I was simply looking for solutions others may have gleaned through their experiences.I have read nearly all of Ned Hallowell's books, and they are wonderful and informative. I was just looking for some answers and advice as anyone. Thank you for your response. I shall have to review my posts in the future to make sure they don't have an edge to them.

Positive Posts by Melissa

I often have to remind myself that the people who are drawn to this site are very very frustrated. I was (am) one of them!! That is why I only read Melissa's posts. Initially it felt great to read that other people were experiencing the same thing. But then it was too depressing. And, I did feel a little hopeless. But, Melissa is fantastic! She is straightforward and realistic, but very hopeful. I think the phrase I repeat most often is my head is one I got from Melissa - pursue happiness. I am going to write it again because it makes me feel great...pursue happiness. I was (ok, I still sort of am) an "I can fix you!" wife. Now, I have made a small step away from that to pursue things that make me feel good. As the sole provider and mother of two young children I don't have loads of time to "pursue." However, everytime I do I feel great and I like having THAT as my goal! Thank you Melissa for your sage advice!

I believe I'm one of these

I believe I'm one of these "folks with serious (negative) issues around ADD" as I'm married to a man with ADHD and my son also has ADHD. Although both my husband and son are on medication, are good natured people, and try very hard to work through their issues - to put it bluntly - most of the time I'm at the end of my rope. With that said, let me give my 2cents regarding Melissa's response post. From my experience with ADD (ADHD) - Melissa Orlov has to be one of the most positive people on the universe to put up with and downright campaign for positive marriages with a spouse with ADD/ADHD. In my opinion Melissa is an ADD saint. From my perspective, marriage with an individual with ADD/ADHD issues is not something I would support. I love my husband dearly, but would I purposefully marry this man again if I knew then what I know now..... probably not! He's a good man, and even with him doing his best - and I am loved - I will tell you truthfully this marriage is too much work. I don't want to do "lists" anymore, I don't want to give "gentle reminders" for the gazillionth time anymore, I don't want to be interrupted again, and again, and again as if what I have to say isn't worth listening too (even though I KNOW he can't help being "eager") - I don't care if he can't help it anymore. I'm tired of being unable to complete a thought, a meal, a book, a class, because I can't get enough uninterrupted time to myself on a consistent basis. I'm tired of engaging in a conversation that always ends up with me LISTENING to both sides - even the side that's supposed to be me talking but in actuality is my husband talking for me! I'm tired of never getting direct answers to questions, and I mean NEVER. A question like, "what are you doing tomorrow?" shouldn't be a puzzle... and many of us non ADD/ADHD'ers can't live "in the moment" all the time! I've read many of Melissa Orlov's posts and it's clear she's well aware of what I'm talking about - lives with much of it herself - and still has the enviable ability to put a positive spin on it. I can honestly say, try as I might - I can't spin it that way. The best I'm able to manage is an "I can put up with it for today".... and then try to find a way to escape for an hour tomorrow - and it is escape. I've read Ned Hallowell's books and I agree that "he is great at giving people hope and ideas about how to look at ADD more positively." However, in my opinion his positive outlook works best for the self-esteem of the spouse with ADD, not for the spouse without it. No matter how you sugar-coat it, the spouse without ADD is, at best, limited to accepting a well-meaning marriage with little to no empathy and workability, or quit the marriage. How can living with a husband with ADD/ADHD improve MY self-esteem, improve MY functionability? Well, it can't. Does that mean I'm advocating divorce for marriages with an ADD/ADHD spouse - not at all. Once married there are millions of reasons to stay married, particularly if you have children,financial issues, and you like your spouse. What I'm saying is if you know there are ADD/ADHD issues BEFORE marriage - think and look real carefully before you take the plunge. ADD/ADHD cannot be fixed, changed, cured, altered.

Bonnie, I have been visiting

Bonnie, I have been visiting this site for over a year and have to say your reflections are on key. When all the anger and frustration is calmed down within, I too have come to the conclusion  that "the spouse without ADD is, at best, limited to accepting a well-meaning marriage with little to no empathy and workability, or quit the marriage. How can living with a husband with ADD/ADHD improve MY self-esteem, improve MY functionability? Well, it can't." Seriously its just the way it is.
Married for 17 years and his ADD was diagnosed while we were engaged but I had no idea how this played out in a marriage, how could I we were in the throws of a romantic relationship. I do fear that my children will be attracted to this type of person. I ask myself was I unconsciously looking for this type of person?  I have let my self off the hook by saying I COULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN WHAT LIFE with ADD/MARRIAGE WAS GOING TO BE LIKE!!! Any way hats off to you. You seem to have balance in this moment. Wish I could contact you, but know we can't (right Melissa?)

Classiccity, Thanks for the

Classiccity, Thanks for the comments. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my perceptions of how things are. And thanks for saying that I "seem to have balance in this moment." I don't really. I do a lot of ignoring - which I don't like to do but it keeps the peace. I also try to keep my husband busy.... In my case I had no idea my husband had ADD until my son was diagnosed, this year. We've been married 7 years. My son has had behavior issues since birth - his first night home from the hospital he could not go to sleep (even after 12 hours of coddling, rocking, quiet, dark - tried everything!) UNTIL the TV was turned on. I kid you not. My husband is pretty fond of the T.V. as well. ADD/ADHD is so invisible that I think it's easy to minimize it's effects - unless you experience it over time - as you would in a marriage/family situation. In my case, my husband was always "in the moment" and when things get tense he, as he says, "just lets it go." When we met, I thought this was a very spiritual and "zen" way to handle issues. I was amazed at his ability to let problems roll off his back and not let them bother him. Now, in hind-sight, I see that I misunderstood his behavior. He wasn't solving his problems and issues of day-to-day life calmly and "zen-like" - what he was doing was NOT addressing the issues of day-to-day life at all! Most of the time he simply forgot things needed to be handled. It's easy to just "let it go" and "live in the moment" if you FORGET the past.... even the immediate past! You say that you fear your "children will be attracted to this type of person" - my son ADORES his father as they are like 2 peas in a pod. My son and husband also have a great deal of tension and drama between them - I suspect because of the ADHD as well. In my case, I see my son being more attracted to someone like myself, non-ADHD. Non-ADHD people offer the much needed, craved, and wanted STABILITY. I'm the rock in his life. Incidentally, ADD has a strong hereiditary component - have you noticed if your children have any AD(H)D issues? With my son, he's already being treated with med's and his teachers all know of this issue. Since he's only 6, I'm very hopeful that he can learn and acquire behaviors that will help him navigate life more smoothly. Unfortunately, my husband only discovered his ADHD now - at 55! So, in the end, where does that leave us NON-ad(h)d spouses? I come to this site when I'm at the end of my rope - just to prove to myself that I'm not insane and that there are other people experiencing the same thing (chaos) as I am.

Experience over Time

Thanks for the positive words about being an "ADD saint" (I think it was meant as a compliment...!  :-)  Actually, there was a long period of time that I wasn't an ADD saint.  I can be one now because my ADD husband has taken his ADD in hand and done something about it (finally).  We are in the "sweet" part of the "sweet and sour" I posted about above.

For what it's worth, my observation is that I haven't seen anyone with ADD who has gotten it truly under control one year after diagnosis.  But this doesn't mean he can't get there.  But he will need to take into consideration what his ADD does to your life more seriously if he is going to make your life better.  For example, while ADD explains why he interupts you, he CAN get that under control should he decide he wants to (with work).  You don't have to suffer interuptions forever, and while you should pick and choose your battles, if this is something that really irritates you, start to push back.  Also, you can create a private space for your own down time and retreat to it, as well.  Insist that everyone leave you alone when you are in this space and you'll get the time you need.  He CAN figure out how to do some of the work around the house if that's critical to your relationship.  He CAN figure out how to pay attention to you in a way that's meaningful to you both.  But it is the nature of ADD that as a couple you need to prioritize what to "fix" first, get that habit going, then move to the next thing.

But first, he needs to understand "my ADD affects my wife in a way that hurts her, and I am willing to move heaven and earth not to hurt her anymore".

It took my husband about four years to get to that point and then a relatively short time to change things once he really understood.

A good counsellor and a good doctor may be able to help your husband get there - but MAKE SURE that these people understand ADD.  I will say, after having read the stories here for a couple of years now, that those who are married to someone who just doesn't care to look at how his ADD affects others has the worst of it.  (I refer to ADD folks who won't look at their ADD for a long time - it's typical that they don't self-reflect right after diagnosis because the expectation is that meds will somehow fix takes a while to understand that meds only help the ADDer start to fix things - meds are just a "step".  Folks who say "too bad, live with it" are the least likely to have their marriages intact a few years later)

ADD saint was meant as a

ADD saint was meant as a compliment. Thanks for your post, it was very helpful. I think I'm at the point where my husband "needs to understand "my ADD affects my wife in a way that hurts her, and I am willing to move heaven and earth not to hurt her anymore". I think my husband is trying..... I just don't know how much he CAN actually do? He's asked me to go to his therapist with him and hopefully that will help. He seems to think we have trouble communcating and that HIS needs aren't being met..... Maybe it will be good to have this conversation with a counselor. We've actually had this conversation ad-nauseum, but he doesn't remember discussing how ALL our needs, my son and I included, need to be balanced out and met accordingly. That's actually one of his behavior characteristics - he only remembers his side of any conversation or interaction. Once you notice it, it's really rather bizarre how he can be that way consistently without falter. I've pointed it out and he acknowledges it, but he doesn't think it's a big deal - from his point of view this is normal and what everyone does. He can talk with a friend, relative, colleague and be clueless later on as to what THEY said during the "conversation." This is actually a big problem. Well, I'm hopeful and thanks for the good words.

Experience over time

I can never find my balance or find peace of mind.  I end up thinking maybe I'm the one with the problem.  He works harder than anyone I know, works like a dog, is creative and highly intuitive and smart.  But he procrastinates and avoids things that really have financial impacts: he only does the taxes every 4-5 years and that is under severe duress (IRS and Accountant saying NOW).  It adversely affects our finances, which adversely affects me on many levels. I'm the day job and sole income (he's self employed). He yells at me if I bring it up and says blames me for all sorts of things.  He does not seem to have any insight into how what he does and does not do affects me to the core.  I don't sleep at night because I don't have peace of mind.  He came up with the idea that he might have ADD, saw someone a few times but did not think she was the right person to help.  Now he's distorting things and saying I'm the one that thinks he has ADD and is seeing someone only to show me I'm wrong.  Most of the time I wish that one of us would just go away so that I would have peace.  


Hi, even do my husband was partially diagnosed by a psycolgist in Jan 09. I knew he had ADD for at least a year before that (thanks to Deliver from Distraction... my counselor lended to me), at  the end of last year we suffered probably the bigest crissis so far... you never know what awaits you arround the corner with an ADD partner, right?. Any way, just a couple of nights ago I took some time to read some of the blogs which are wonderfull. I feel like  I have been at the end of the rope for quite a long time now... always with  hope that he was going to change, that he was going to get it... how much hurt he is causing to me and our children and parents too. Now I GET IT, he is not going to change, and I'm not sure he is fully aware yet of how much hurt, he is giving us and in how much trouble he is in. He doesn't want to take medication, he has been seeing the  psycologist  that told him he had ADD since Jan, I do not see any major  or little changes or a desire to be a better husband (he says he wants to be at least my friend again... but he does all the oppossite), at least he has kept a Job for almost 6month now, and since he is out of the house more than 12hrs a day because of commuting or who knows what, 5 days a week, things are not so terrible bad, but as soon as we have a couple of hours together during his days off, friction, frustration and anger show right away. I'm at the point where I walk arround with a big, big wall betwen me and him to avoid more damage to my self. I'm not sure what my point is... probably I'm becoming ADD too, hahah... Probably I'm trying to ask, how long is a reasanoble time to see some results... I really want out of here, but I'm scared  of not doing the right thing (again, since marrying him wasn't the smartest thing either)... as I put in my subject I'm quite lost in this tornado of what my life has become... and I have to think not just for me but for my 4 little children too. If any body has any words o wisdom, I'll be happy to read. Thans.


ditsysusan's picture


I'm ADD and I am about to leave my ADD significant other after nine years of trying.  I think what attracted us was our intense similarities.  Who knew that the most intense similarity was our ADD "features."

HE does not think ADD is anything more than an excuse.  I have tried to get him to read Driven to Distraction and other books,  but he just says he will and "doesn't get around to it."  He also "doesn't get around to seeing a professional about it, or our other troubles."  I have been in therapy for at least a year, and it has helped me enormously. 

There is a limit.  And this, that Bonnie has said is the truth the truth the truth. "What I'm saying is if you know there are ADD/ADHD issues BEFORE marriage - think and look real carefully before you take the plunge. ADD/ADHD cannot be fixed, changed, cured, altered." 

It is breaking my heart, but we will keep up the correspondence from three thousand miles away it turns out.  He is the loneliest man in the world and he just will not get real and find out why.


It's just been too long

I hear you Bonnie when you say you just CAN'T any more. I've been married to my husband for 26 years, 23 of them with undiagnosed ADHD. I found out he was having an affair with a much younger woman at the same time we both found out he has ADHD. He's not with the other woman any more, but 23 years of undiagnosed adhd with an affair on TOP of it has me absolutely so unnerved I don't know what to do with myself.

Everything Bonnie said, is what I've felt, or gone through. I've already been through the years of him making mountains of mess that I had to clean up, getting yelled at for not "making lists", getting blamed for not being organized enough when he couldn't organize himself out of a paper bag. Our life has been in constant chaos since we got married, but he always blamed things on "other people" or "situations". Nothing was ever because he was at fault for something. But, I never saw someone sabotage their own life as much as he sabotages his. HE does this less now, because of being on medication, plus counseling, and just plain "getting older". But, so MUCH DAMAGE has been done to me, that I feel like I am unfixable. I want him to know how much damage there is. I know he doesn't see it, sure as heck dosn't FEEL it, and we are supposed to be HAPPY that we are married to such "creative" people?

    I don't have a clean house anymore, well, at least the way I would like it to be clean. He will only clean the middle of everything. He really DOESN'T see the dog hair piled up half an inch thick against the baseboards in the house. He can look at a countertop with 3 things on it, and ask me where is the ........(fill in the blank) and it's RIGHT THERE. !! He DOESN'T see it. I walk up to the counter, pick up one of the three items and hand it to him. "Why do you hide things from me"? AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! 20 years of lost keys. For 15 of those years, every morning became a key hunt that the entire family had to participate in or he would scream at us. But, he wasn't mad at himself for waiting until 5 minutes before he had to be somewhere before even approaching the door to leave. He would get mad at US for not helping him find the keys. another AAAHHHHHHH!!! He now has ways of helping himself remember keys, forgotten items, etc., but that's only been the past 2 years.

I don't mean to blow my own horn, but I am one of the most tolerant and patient people there is, but BOY has that changed now. I was actually TOO tolerant, and it hurt me in the long run. I WAS patient and loving and kind to him when he would say the craziest things. I had to be a go between, between him and our daughters on a regular basis. He was SO HARD on them when they were small. He couldn't understand the needs of children. To him, they weren't being disciplined enough. But, he couldn't define the word discipline. He was mainly concerned about grades. He is a little different than most adhd'ers. My husband has an unusually high IQ and always got straight A's through school. He never had to study, and pretty much breezed through school. He found the "other" kids to be "stupid", always calling them "morons". But, socially, he was super shy, had a LOT of fears and phobias, but somehnow managed to "get by". He couldn't understand our girls or me having to study harder to learn school subjects.

Then there is all the social stuff with family, friends, and isolation because "he doesn't like so and so", when it was the adhd. He moved us to a place where we are now socially and physically isolated from people. It has made me even crazier than I was before. I want to open the door, scream and run out.

After we got married, I saw several different sides to my husband he didn't really show beforehand. And, the sex, well, that's pretty much totally dissapeared. He was romantic and fun and funny to be around, but then after getting married, he was moody, angry, didn't want to have sex. It almost became a jekyl/hyde thing. We got married just when computers were becoming available for home use. But, once we got one, I didn't see him again for years. He LIVED for that computer. He took it on vacations, played video games for hours, and of course stayed up till 3-4 every night. He still has the night owl thing, and I had to go to bed by myself for years because he stayed up.

Yes, he had to work two jobs because he was a teacher/educator. But, he had an OBSESSION with work. He wouldn't QUIT working. he spent NO time with me as his wife, and no time with the kids while they were growing up.

There is just so much to tell, it could fill a book. But, my main question is this? HOW DO WE GET FIXED? Those of us who have been in LONG TERM relationships with an undiagnosed adhd'er and it's taken every bit of everything out of me, and then just when I find out he really DOES have a problem, I find out he's having an affair on top of it.

I feel too broken to BE fixed. What do people like me do? I read and know that many things that I am going to need to heal, he just CAN'T or won't give me. I need his support, I need affection, I need hugs, kisses and some tenderness. I need to be listened to, and really be heard. And just be HELD sometimes, for as long as I need. Five minutes isn't long enough once in a while, but about five minutes of holding me is as long as he can stand. When I talk, he hurries me to the point, and I feel like everything I say has to be like a 30 second sound bite on the news. But, when he talks, he can talk for hours about himself and expects me to listen. It's terribly frustrating.

These aren't things that are EXCEPTIONAL in marriage. These are NORMAL, every day, wants and basic NEEDS that we spouses need to survive. No wonder so many of us aren't surviving or making it. We are DYING INSIDE, OR HAVE ALREADY DIED INSIDE.

How do I heal from this?



It's been a long 28 years,

It's been a long 28 years, only the last two on Concerta. By now it just feels like too little too late. He's got his little pill, where's mine? This long term "relationship" has done me in. I didn't give too much, I gave it all and there's nothing left.

When my blood pressure took off because of all the stress I knew it had gone too far. I've not really been the same since. It's like I've given up and I don't care anymore. I think I had some kind of melt down when I sobbed for hours on the floor.

I'd walk away if I could but I'm not able to support myself and I'm struggling with a sense of hopelessness even though he says he's ready to go to counseling. I've seen him counsel. He'll tell you whatever you want to hear and do whatever he wants to do. After watching his behavior for almost thirty years why should I expect anything different? How do I take care of myself? The CHADD group in this area is not functioning. I work part time, attend school part time, I eat right and exercise but, I'm isolated and broke. What about me? I don't want to be a victim here... this is crazy! Are there any good self help books I can pick up at the library? 

Been there, done that.

Clarity, I could have written what you wrote.  I was always just a "little" depressed and finally started taking anti-depressants for me.  A counselor once told me that caretakers of Alzheimers patients tend to be depressed more and I think those married to ADDers tend to become caretakers.  Second, I suggest you read the book "Alone in Marriage" by Susie Larson.  It is great!!!

Hey, thanks! I just put in my

Hey, thanks! I just put in my request at the library. yay! I didn't have to buy it. Now I just need to get to a quiet, sandy beach so I can read it. (:

You might want your own

You might want your own copy.  I'm underlining and writing in the margins like crazy.  Plus when things go awry, I pick it up and re-read the appropriate chapter.

tracsport's picture


After we got married, I saw several different sides to my husband he didn't really show beforehand. And, the sex, well, that's pretty much totally dissapeared. He was romantic and fun and funny to be around, but then after getting married, he was moody, angry, didn't want to have sex. It almost became a jekyl/hyde thing.

We got married just when computers were becoming available for home use. But, once we got one, I didn't see him again for years. He LIVED for that computer. He took it on vacations, played video games for hours, and of course stayed up till 3-4 every night. He still has the night owl thing, and I had to go to bed by myself for years because he stayed up.

Yes, he had to work two jobs because he was a teacher/educator. But, he had an OBSESSION with work. He wouldn't QUIT working. he spent NO time with me as his wife, and no time with the kids while they were growing up.

There is just so much to tell, it could fill a book. But, my main question is this? HOW DO WE GET FIXED? Those of us who have been in LONG TERM relationships with an undiagnosed adhd'er and it's taken every bit of everything out of me, and then just when I find out he really DOES have a problem, I find out he's having an affair on top of it.

I feel too broken to BE fixed. What do people like me do? I read and know that many things that I am going to need to heal, he just CAN'T or won't give me. I need his support, I need affection, I need hugs, kisses and some tenderness. I need to be listened to, and really be heard. And just be HELD sometimes, for as long as I need. Five minutes isn't long enough once in a while, but about five minutes of holding me is as long as he can stand. When I talk, he hurries me to the point, and I feel like everything I say has to be like a 30 second sound bite on the news. But, when he talks, he can talk for hours about himself and expects me to listen. It's terribly frustrating.

Dede, I came across this, what you wrote and all and whoa.....your husband sounds like me, being married to his job, working hard. I thought I was doing the right thing by working as a teacher all day, coaching, and then working at a bar at night.....I wish I could change things in the last 5 years of my marriage, but I can just focus on there here and now. I talked way too much about work, and never had any hopes, dreams or my life, personally and my marriage, and for my kids....My wife too says she is spent, emotionally, she is hurt, and overwhelmed...she wants a quick fix, but refuses to believe ADHD has anything to do with it.

Thank you for this post....I think you are a survivor, and a strong person, I know it was in July, but I am curious to see how you are doing now.....



In reply to Bonnie

I agree with you 100%.  What about us, the non-ADD spouse?  I realize that it isn't their fault and that (at least in my husband's case) they sometimes don't even realize that have it until they have been in a everyday relationship with someone who starts notices these things and gets so frustrated after having to tell them something for the millionth time or go behind them and fix something that they supposedly fixed or clean something that they just don't see.  Some older women (like my mother) say that is the way all men are and you should just learn to live with it but can I?  It is changing who I am.  I am tired of being a 40-year-old man's mother or keeper or whatever you want to call it and I'm tired of him being mad that I even say that.  He doesn't see it that way.  I understand that my husband is a good man and has only the best of intentions but again, ask me if I would marry him again knowing what I know now.  My daughter who is 8 loves him unconditionally and he is great with the kids.  I don't really trust him to be able to care for them without me around but he is like another big kid to them, I guess.  He adopted my daughter and now he is forever her dad. I am trying counseling, books, whatever it takes but after reading how some of these people have been married for years and years without much improvement, I don't know.  I don't know what will happen. 

"It's not their fault"

You have to be careful with the "it's not their fault" logic.  No, it's not the ADHD person's fault that he has ADHD, but it is his responsibility to do something about the ADHD if he wants to remain in his relationship.  As an almost universal rule, untreated ADHD hurts a marriage.

My husband reminded me the other day that it took him a couple of years after being diagnosed to really understand what his diagnosis meant - that HE had to change things in order to stay married and that his ADHD really did affect the rest of us in a nasty way.  Time does help.  Perhaps my husband's recent note about what ADHD does will help, too.  See this post.

My point is this - it's okay to hold a person with ADHD responsible for his/her ADHD...but you need to do it in a loving (though firm) way.

That is the mistery so far! Loving but Firmly!!

I'm a good practicing catholic, I have asked the same question to my confesor, counselor, psycologist, friends..etc, etc.. how do I practice charity with somebody with ADD, how, How, HOW can I be loving and be taken seriously? (I tried that for the first  2 years of our marriage and from time to time after that... but as I put it... I just get ignored and steped on) and how can I be firm without getting into and argument that transforms into a big scene some times even in front of the kids.  In our marriage I have come to the conclusion that if I decide to stay in this relationship (if it wasn't so difficult and complex to leave him, I wouldn't be writing here) I need to accept the fact that changes from his part might be non existent or might never come at all, I need to learn how to live that loving and firmly thing to keep family life as peacefull as possible and not lose the respect for my self or lose my self totally as I realized great damage is all ready been done. And lots of wifes are depressed and emotionally dead after years of abuse and neglect that we have imposed to our selves due to external situations, or our own belives and values... always thinking that this is what we have to do or take, or just any other option is not that feasable.

For Dina123 - on putting yourself second

Dina - unfortunately, the path to making your marriage work better is not through subjegating your needs to avoid conflict.  It is through mutual negotiation.  Take a look at my post on finding your boundaries and on re-finding yourself (in the favorite posts area) and think about what the basics are that you must, must have in your relationship in order to be who you are and live a life that gives you pleasure.

You need to find a way to communicate your needs to your spouse that doesn't threaten him so that he will have an "ear" for you and be willing to listen and discuss.  This is sometimes hard to do with a person with ADD, particularly since it is typical that people with ADD have been criticized all of their lives and told they didn't meet people's standards.  Nonetheless, it is not possible to improve your marriage by burying your needs and me on this one - I did it for years.  You just end up angry and frustrated and asking yourself "is this worth it?"  You also end up disliking yourself - feeling as if you haven't been true to who you are.

You ask "how can I be loving and be taken seriously?"  I'm interpreting that question to mean "how can I express myself in a loving way and have him pay attention to chores and things that I need him to do?  He only responds when I get on his case".  If that's what you mean, then the answer is that you need to initiate conversations - at times when you aren't asking him to do anything for you - about the more theoretical aspects of how the two of you view marriage.  For most men it is theoretically obvious that their wife shouldn't be their "slave" and do absolutely everything, even though they may not like doing any specific chore.  Try having some learning conversations around what a marriage partnership means, and find some common grounds at the theoretical level.  Then, once you have that, take the theory and translate it into practice.  If you both agree that you shouldn't be the slave, what makes you feel the most slave like?  What are the implications for how you will converse together?  What impacts do his feelings have on which parts of the "chores" of taking care of a home he might be comfortable with?  What are the things you both like and hate about what needs to be done?  How can you help each other around them?  etc.  If you get mired in the details, retreat to the conceptual agreements.  And be creative about how you problem solve.  This means complete flexibility about HOW something is accomplished.  You will, I guarantee you, do things differently.  (!)

The "ignored and stepped on" issue is a big one, too.  Understand that "ignored" with ADD can mean "distracted", which is quite different from ignored.  Ignored suggests that he has no interest in you.  The fact may be that he is interested in you, but so distracted that he doesn't show it much.  If so, a good approach can be to say "I know that you are easily distracted, but when you are so distracted that I don't get any of your attention I feel lonely and unloved."  You can then work together to create times when he isn't distracted so that he can focus on you more.  Some couples find that taking walks outside together is a great way to connect - the walking helps "calm" the ADD partner, and both enjoy the time to be together without lots of other distractions.  Essentially, anything you can do that will provide you good "connect" time will help you both put "good feelings in the bank" upon which you can draw when you have a disagreement.

The "stepped on" part may be an anger response...can't tell from what you write here...perhaps you can provide some further details of your experiences?

Finally, it is easier to remain charitable if you remember that many ADD actions can be hurtful, but are not personal (though some are...)

I hope this has helped a little bit.

in response jumpeight

I'm sorry that you feel like we are bi**ching and moaning but it is a relief to find out that we non-ADD spouses are not alone.  Usually the ADD person (at least in my husband's case) doesn't see that there is anything wrong and he is doing fine.  He doesn't see the effect it is having on me and honestly I don't know if he cares.  So for me at least it was a tremendous relief to see that I was not alone and that no, I am not crazy for feeling the way I feel because he gets mad that I feel that way.  I truly am not bashing people with ADD, I am just venting about my ADD husband, not everyone with ADD. 

Goldilox's picture

And me too..........

Most ladies here, not all, say they are married to a man with ADHD...well I think I'm the one with it, not my husband.  I've always thought I had ADHD, and like Dr. Hallowell pointed out...back in my day, you were just a bad kid, had too much caffeine or too much sugar etc etc....I have every single one of the symptoms mentioned and I've always had them...I've never went for a professional exam and now I'm not about to since I lost my job and don't have insurance benefits.  What stuck out the most to me was forgetting things...having to come back in the house to get something, I do this ALL THE TIME!  I even get frustrated with my own self because I hate I'm like that.  When I'm driving, it doesn't matter how much time I have to get there, I got to drive like a bat out of hell to soothe myself....I guess because my brain is always in a hurry!  I even have road rage if people get in my way.  I also have the explosive temper, which I hate about myself.  However, the temper and other "mean" traits have calmed down a great deal since I got saved and born again.  lol...but I still have the racing mind, being unorganized, feeling overwhelmed with projects etc...and even being "saved" the temper still comes out sometimes, I guess because I'm still human.  Does anyone know of anyone else that is being treated for ADHD and what medication they're on?  My first question would be about weight gain?  I've witnessed several children that gained alot of weight while on medication for ADHD and was wondering if that was true for adults as well.  Thank you for reading....sorry so long....typical ADD!! lol

Learning about ADD

You can learn a lot about ADD by picking up a copy of Delivered from Distraction by Dr. Hallowell either in a store or at the library.  That will also explain some alternative approaches you can take to help start treating the ADD even if you don't currently have insurance.  Treating your ADD should start to help you get a bit more organized, which may be a relief to you.

Temper and mean streaks are pretty common in people who have ADD (though not with everyone).  Meds can really help that part when you get ready to think about that path. 

The stimulant meds don't tend to make you put on weight.  In fact, appetite loss is one very common side effect, so it is often the opposite.

From my experience with my

From my experience with my husband and son - both are on meds - the meds are not only helpful but essential. With my son the meds actually make him lose his appetite. I have to schedule his meals right inbetween dosages because otherwise he won't eat at all. We actually joke at my house that my son doesn't need to eat... he photosynthesizes! Really - weight gain will not be an issue.

lack of appetite

Bonnie - you may want to continue exploring meds that might help your son and not affect his appetite.  For example, Focalin often works for people without appetite suppression.  Talk with your/his doctor about the options.


Thanks, Melissa for this post.  I am reminded of the saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  My partner stopped taking one of her meds four weeks ago.  I found out when we were talking about whether she needed anti-anxiety meds for minor surgery she had last week.  I'd been feeling like the relationship had been harder; but every time I asked if she'd taken her meds she said yes, so I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong.  I'm still pretty mad at her - she doesn't notice how it affects both of us - but the good news is that she's back on a half dose now and tomorrow she goes to the full dose.  Between my anger from her skipping her meds, her lower med level, and the surgery this has been a sour week.  Thanks for reinforcing my hope that sweet weeks will return. 

arwen's picture

ADD -- diversity

Melissa, one of the thoughts that has helped me through the years is that there *have* to be powerful positive evolutionary aspects to ADD, or we wouldn't have so many folks around who have it!  Traits that are counter-survival don't keep propagating.  This idea has forced me to consider what could possibly be good about being impulsive?  about putting off decisions?  about ignoring other people's needs?  The truth is that, like anything else, these behaviors have both upsides and downsides.

One thing that I've observed with my ADD spouse is that in an emergency, he  invariably instantaneously reacts rapidly and appropriately because of his ability to hyperfocus.  I figure he survived his childhood because he was able to rescue himself out of whatever emergency he created for himself from the downsides of his ADD behavior! (lol)  Maybe we don't have many emergencies as adults, but all it takes is one to kill you.  He has saved my life at least once in automotive crises, and has saved any number of people from serious harm by his smart quick thinking.

The way I look at this is, it's my job to make sure that whatever he can't control about his ADD creates as few emergencies for other people than himself as possible.  (I've prevented a couple of serious tragedies myself this way.)  And it's his job to rescue us from any emergencies (whether he creates them or not) that I can't stop.  It does mean I have to work more than he does in this give-and-take, but we both appreciate having each other as "  insurance policies".



There are certainly "mirror traits" for ADD - you point out the quick response time your husband has as a positive, which it certainly is.  However, I don't think that your logic about evolutionary positives of ADD is quite right.  One in seven women is now diagnosed with breast cancer, making it even more prevalent than ADD, yet I see no positive evolutionary aspect to that...

Nonetheless, keep looking for the positives in ADD and reinforcing them - it's a great habit in which to get.

Wow, I guess you have no idea

Wow, I guess you have no idea how insulting that sounds, because you seem to be caring...  what that says to me is I have ADD but I guess I am as evolutionarily unwanted as breast cancer.  Maybe there's some purpose to it??  No, look at breast cancer??  Sadly, I've already had children and passed on my genes.  Oh well.  Defective as they may be, in your eyes, they will have to soldier on, and my work is indeed cut out for me to combat attitudes that they have something very very wrong with them and are the equivalent of a feared and deadly disease. I'm sure you will say THEY are not that, just the traits that make up their PERSONALITY.  Kind of hard to differentiate, if you're the person in question.

Thom Hartmann has written some very interesting books about what the point of these traits are, surely you are familiar with them, the hunter vs farmer theory?

This was going to be my last post anyway, as I was coming to say that after reading so much here, I'm actually glad my husband is ADHD, as frustrating as many of his habits can be.  I frustrate him in different ways, but I think our ADDness sort of complements each other somehow, when we work together and not against each other. 

I thank GOD that neither of us married someone without ADD; we have definitely saved two other people, and certainly ourselves...and though we will continue to clash in many ways, we will still manage to enjoy ourselves sometimes, make mistakes, do some stuff right, and generally be incredibly imperfect.  Maybe one day you'll find a cure for us, and society will then be in *your* image.



arwen's picture

evolutionary forces

Joyrebel, I'm sure Melissa didn't mean to suggest that people who have ADD are unwanted in our society -- I'm certain she doesn't believe that herself.  I think she was trying to explain by analogy that my suggestion about evolution was not scientifically valid.   *I* certainly don't want to "cure" you, and I'm sure Melissa doesn't either. 

I still differ with Melissa about this, though, because we really don't have enough scientific evidence to say why breast cancer is on the rise, or to say why ADD persists in our society despite the fact that the majority who don't have it seem to find many aspects of it objectionable.  Furthermore, she makes an implicit assumption that breast cancer is evolutionarily undesirable.  While I heartily agree that it is personally undesirable for the individual (and their loved ones) who suffer as a result of it, we do not actually know whether increasing rates of breast cancer is *evolutionarily undesirable* for the *species* in the scientific sense.  For all we know, the increase in breast cancer rates may be an indirect product of overpopulation and a manifestation of a mechanism to reduce the rate of population growth -- to the benefit of the species as a whole.  So I think her analogy is flawed.

I think a more appropriate analogy (and one that I absolutely do not mean in any kind of derogatory way -- my thinking on this is *unconventional*) is to think of people with ADD being similar to weeds.  People tend to think that all weeds are undesirable in general, but this could not be farther from the truth in fact.  Weeds have important roles in the plant world.  They help prevent erosion by filling niches in the ecosystem where other plants won't grow and by propagating very quickly.  They are robust.  Some weeds are actually very attractive.  Some can be used to make medicines or beverages or are good to eat.  Some produce fruit or seeds that feed the woodland animals. There is a real place for weeds in this world -- we would have some serious ecological problems without weeds.

And I believe the same kinds of things are true about people with ADD.  Our society *needs* their creativity, their ability to thrive where others can't, their special skills that don't typically develop in non-ADDers.  Some people with ADD are super resilient or resourceful, which can be critically important in some situations.  They are like the yeast that makes the bread rise.  (Sure, you can eat unleavened bread -- but don't most of us like it better leavened?)

So why do people with ADD and weeds both get such a bad rep then?  Usually when we talk about a weed, what we really mean a plant that is hard to control.  And I think the same is true in general about people with ADD.  Unsurprisingly, the non-ADDers who prefer control have problems with the folks who have ADD, and folks with ADD aren't too keen about the controls and end up in conflict with the people who want them. 

Individually, we may often find dealing with the conflicts between ADDers and non-ADDers undesirable in our personal lives.  But from an *evolutionary* standpoint, that "bad rep" doesn't matter.  There will always be environments that are inimical to non-weeds, and there will always be situations that are inimical to non-ADDers.  Weeds and ADDers occupy these places and fulfill important roles.  These are powerful evolutionary forces indeed!  So I believe we'll always need them both (and the same for non-weeds and non-ADDers).  And therefore the smart thing for us all to do is find ways to peacefully coexist.

Best of luck to you in your efforts!!


"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."  Albus Dumbledore

Nettie's picture

New nickname for self

So, now I'm kudzu. Originally obtained for ornamentation, but now gone crazy ;)


In the Southern state I live in, it's illegal to plant kudzu. LOL

I don't think you should be illegal. You sound like you are coping pretty well with your and husband's ADD.

arwen's picture

simply love your sense of humor

Nettie, you share a great trait with my husband -- your sense of humor!  (It's actually the main reason I married my dear man.)   Thank you for taking my post in the spirit in which it was meant.


"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."  Albus Dumbledore

Me, too

That's what I love about my husband too, always has been. If I can't laugh at him any more, we're done.

Unfortunately, he does use it to deflect my attempts at serious discussions.

Evolution and choice of mate..

I'm not sure if something that affects you largely later in life (specifically at an age after you typically have had kids) will place you at a disadvantage in terms of evolution. I suspect natural selection plays a role by creating more obstacles for the presence of a species/trait through:

1. Making species with that trait unattractive to a potential mate, so that the chances of offspring are lowered: Usually breast cancer is detected at a much later stage in life, so no evolutionary disadvantage there. ADD on the other hand...i suspect ADD may actually gain here - the initial hyperfocus stage in a relationship, the initially charming ways of an ADDer, the zest etc actually serve to attract a potential mate

2. Making survival of species with that trait difficult: I think both breast cancer and ADD have an evolutionary disadvantage here (broadly speaking - I'm sure for example, that there are situations where an ADDer might have a better chance at survival than a non-ADDer). But given that our species is a social one (with unemployment allowance in several nations etc) and also given that this phase is usually after the species has had offspring, I would guess that this negative pull would not be such a strong one in reducing the prevalence of the species.

Putting both the points together, I find myself concluding that the ADD trait does not really present an evolutionary disadvantage...However, it raises a tricky question - the initial attraction phase of an ADDer is temporary - the hyperfocus stage...can nature be fooled by such trickery? :D

ADDers no offense meant...I'm an ADDer myself :-)