A Two-Day Experiment for Your ADHD Relationship

I've been thinking about power balances in relationship recently, and the role that validation plays in maintaining balance between partners.  I want to propose that you consider doing an experiment to better understand the ways that you and your spouse validate each other (or don't).  If you understand this better it will give you information about how to diminish conflict in your household.

Validation is a form of sharing power.  If you respect a person enough to be able to see their logic and "believe" their feelings, you are bestowing stature upon them in your relationship.  Conversely, if you write off their ideas, you diminish them.  Learning how to validate your partner's feelings - acknowledging their reality - can go a long way towards keeping your household more calm and keeping arguments in check.

When conflict arises in your relationship there are several ways you can respond.  You can de-escalate the conflict, match the conflict, or escalate the conflict.  A sure-fire way to escalate conflict is to invalidate the partner's idea (or  diminish the person - same effect).  So if Susan says "I really hate that you never help out around the house", a defensive response such as "what are you talking about?  I always help out", a sarcastic "yes, dear" or even an "I can't deal with this" and leaving the room will escalate the conflict.  Rather than acknowledging her feelings with a simple "I'm sorry you feel that way, let's talk about it", Susan's partner has tried to invalidate her point of view.  This leads, in a very direct path, to resentment and hard feelings.  Susan may or may not be right, but her perception is that her spouse isn't helping out.  The only way to deal with it effectively and move on is to figure out what's going on, and then create a plan to deal with her feelings and with the situation.  Otherwise, she remains in limbo - unresolved and frustrated.

Non-ADHD partners fail to validate their spouse's feelings all the time, too.  When Bill says "I can't do X" and Linda replies "Of course you can do X - it's so simple" she is ignoring what Bill is telling her.  It is hard for a non-ADHD spouse to understand the complete feelings of "overwhelm" that many with ADHD experience or the shame/fear that can lead to inaction.  A non-ADHD partner's lack of understanding (and frustration) can make it easy to assume that their spouse's experience and feelings are similar to their own ("I could do it, so that means you could do it"), rather than unique and worthy of validation.  A better approach for Linda would be a response such as "I understand that you can't do X right now the way you've been trying, but perhaps there is a different approach you could take?"

I'm guessing that the two of you invalidate each other much more than you realize.  So try this experiment:  For two or three days, look at every response and reaction you have to each other and note it and rate it.  "1" is a wonderful interaction that validated your or your partner.  "5" is an interaction that completely invalidated one of you.  Criticism, contempt, stonewalling, sarcasm and defensiveness should all be noted as "5"s because these all invalidate the partner.  Paying no attention (for whatever reason) should also be noted in the poorer end of the spectrum (you can figure out later if it was due to the ADHD symptom of distraction or an intentional put down).  Criticism masked as "help" is a common invalidation to note, as well.  Any time you have an interaction - good or bad - write it down.  Note your own behavior, too.  This goes both ways.

To do this well, you'll need to sit down about once an hour and think about the interactions in that hour for those times you are interacting.

At the end of the experiment, find some time to sit down together and talk about what you've discovered.  There may be patterns, such as a non-ADHD spouse being particularly critical around a subject such as not getting enough attention.  It's likely that many of your invalidating actions are centered around ADHD symptom responses.  There may be areas of strength that you need to note, as well.

My hope is that this exercise will do three things for you:

  1. Make you more aware of the frequency of this destructive behavior so you can diminish its presence in your lives
  2. Get you thinking about better, more validating, ways to respond in these same situations in the future.
  3. Help you decide to reinforce existing validating interactions

You may find this exercise a bit depressing.  But the first step in changing behaviors is identifying them.

We all have a right to hold our opinions.  Dismissing those of your partner shifts the balance of power away from the ideal of "partner" towards an unbalanced relationship in which one or both of you will be less motivated to make changes.  It also adds fuel to the fire of your disagreements.  Validating that your partner has the right to hold his or her opinions - and listening to what they are so you can learn from them - puts you on the path to more empathy and a greater likelihood of working out your problems.  You don't have to agree with each other, but validating each other's ideas is a "must".


I accept the challenge :)

I am going to do this experiment starting today.  We had a couple interactions this morning which were great, but then I got hip deep in tax documents and the unintelligible (to me) way my husband recorded the 1099s he was supposed to be checking.  He unfortunately never finished and therefore I have to finish them for him this morning with raging cramps, and I had to call for an explanation of his *system* of checking.  I will have to talk to him about how he saw the interaction but I am sure I made some invalidating comments about how he listed the dates in his checklist--I couldn't figure out which ones went with which month!

Actually when it comes to validating, I think my ADD spouse is generally better than I am about it.  He tends to take what a person says at face value and view it as their reality easily, whereas I am much more like "What do you mean you can't face looking at the invoices?  They have to be done and you have already procrastinated it for 3 weeks, you are going to have to suck it up and deal."

Our problems are almost entirely about built up frustration coloring current situations and probably built up invalidations affecting him.

ADHD and tax forms

This posting caught my attention. I have ADHD and even research it a bit in graduate school right now  (especially how it intersects with LD). I also used to run a business. In my experience, tax forms are extremely difficult for someone with ADHD. My advice for you is to figure out a way to redistribute tasks between the two of you, or hire someone else to do this task. This may seem unfair, but  expecting someone with ADHD to do this task will only lead to frustration, despair, and liability.

On the brighter side, ADHD often seems to be interconnected with creativity and other talents that might be useful for your business. Almost by definition, we could say that ADHD is boredom with routine approaches. This boredom can lead to a search for new approaches. This search (and the boredom that causes it) is the nature of invention, and an engine for a business. I think that many successful business people, artists, inventors, and scientists are bored by standard approaches (perhaps this is the same thing as curiosity?). If they are successful, they may be part of a team with people who have different abilities. Perhaps you and your husband are such a team?

I hope that someday government agencies will become aware of the accessibility of their tax forms (and practices) for people with ADHD. Right now the situation is like a building without a wheelchair ramp.

Never done taxes

I have NEVER done my own taxes.  My mom used to do them and now my ADD partner does them!  I tried one time and it ended in tears I felt so stupid and useless.  They make absolutely no sense to me at all... I look at the forms and my brain just fogs up.  It's funny that we're the opposite of what you described.

fuzzylogic72's picture

Then you are definitely the

Then you are definitely the minority. I've been in therapy, group counseling, support groups, etc., for years and have yet to meet a single add-er that can do a tax return on time, accurately and without extreme agony or lots of meds; if at all. I pay to have them done even if I can't afford it. Sounds like you are comparing normal frustration with the near-impossibility that we feel. Either that, or perhaps you have add as well?

Hey Fuzzy - the more I read I

Hey Fuzzy - the more I read I keep hitting upon things that make me think I have ADD too, but though I have moments of intense frustration and no patience or interest in specific things (like complicated tax concepts) it's not a chronic pervasive sort of thing.

fuzzylogic72's picture

hey Cheesey

lol. Don't rule it out! We are not frustrated all the time. In general, we are either 1) completely absorbed (only if it is of personal interest, and sadly usually not of much practical/productive significance), 2) frustrated and anxious (usually day to day things that are important, necessary, expected responsibilities that aren't exciting in some way), 3) Bored out of our minds and looking for an exit door or window. The frequency of these three states, for me, is usually in a 3), 2), 1) order. Which leads to 4), oh yeah, there was a 4); depressed and despondent. 

Sucks, but at least proper meds help reduce and balance out those states. Plus, with Adderall I never need coffee anymore, which saves money for 'state 1)' activities, like videogames and movies!!

Your generalization

HA !! I am a female partner of a long time ADHD'er and just wrote down your description of your states. It cracked me up how clearly you put it. I stuck it on the fridge and he'll drop to his knees when he reads it. He is not on proper or any meds at this time. He kinda gave up when the first couple just were all wrong. Anyhow I already knew these states just living with him. For him I think it will be YES! YES! that's it, that's what it's like, that's what I've been trying to say. You sound like things are ok. Enjoy.

kharris4's picture

Turbo Tax, super ADD/HD friendly

wow, this is going to be a response to a really old comment (o well).  I discovered Turbo Tax online a few years ago, which walks you through taxes one question at a time. Answers to the questions are pretty much, Yes, NO, and how much.  SUPER ADHD friendly, and I'm always interested in completing them, to see if and what my refund is!!

So sad...

I sent this article to my husband, thinking that it would good for us, especially because I am guilty, so much, of doing what was used in the article as an example of non-ADHD spouse behavior. His first response was to feel like a complete failure at life...he hadn't even seen that part of the article, it hadn't registered! Not until I pointed it out...that we both do things without thinking that invalidate the other's feelings, and that I know I've been guilty of it, and that I want us both to do better. I want us to have a happier home, a more connected marriage, and to stop the cycle of resentment. I guess this is where it starts.

Great Challenge

I definitely intend to bring this to my wife for us to try.  Not just yet though.  We are already doing so many things that I fear that if I bring her something else she'll feel overwhelmed by all the problems she "causes." 

Funny I just got off the

Funny I just got off the phone with my husband and we were just talking about this very subject.  We just separated and I am decideing whether I want to stay in the relationship.  He was recently diagnosed, but the meds they putting him on has only helped the anxiety alittle.  One of my complaints is that he invalidates me.  I feel like I don't count.  He makes decisions, does whatever he wants without me or against my wishes (much of it harmful to a marriage) and tells me I'm being stupid or he's not going to listen to me or I should just relax.  He claims I put him down alot...although talking to him, he consider's a put down if I disagree with something or confront him with a problem.  But I have to admit...I do.  I do it out of frustration, anger, and resentment more than anything.  I am going to try this even if we decide to part ways.  Unfortunately, being late in diagnsis (he's 46)  He has more than ADHD to deal with.  Along with the ADHD he suffers from anxiety, depression, sex addiction, and past substance abuses and thinks that I'm mostly the problem. 


You just described my husband!

I'm at the end stages of our marriage, sadly. At this point, I just feel so sorry for him. He's a great guy in the grips of something that causes him much pain, but he's so obstinate about everything being my fault, that there's nothing I can do. Keep us posted on your progress. I'd love to hear of a success story somewhere!

Just got off the phone gal

After my post...I printed this article and called my husband this morning and read it to him.  For the first time in years we had a real conversation where we actually listened and talked instead of defend and attack.  He agreed it sounded like us.  He as never admitted being responsible for anything but some small transgressions.  It was always me in his mind.  He even admitted that he has used the anger and resentment that has built up about his feeling invalidated that he used it as an excuse for his online emotional affairs and cybersex.  Guys that's a biggy.....He has never admitted that he's angry or that his behavior is harmful.  He also saw where he was invalidating me.  It was hard for me to admit to him that I invalidated him because he is so eager to blame me for everything, but I trusted God......And for the first time ever....he accepted responsiblity.  He even said he started looking things up about ADHD and alot of the stuff made sense.  Through this convesation we both admitted that we have felt beat up by the other for most of our marriage.  Even though alot of the times...I wasn't invalidating him-I was asking a question or confronting him with an issue...he took it as invalidation and I got defensive.  I realized whether it was real or not to him, it was.  By no means does this excuse his behavior, but for the first time he and I are realizing that maybe it's the ADHD and his poor coping choices that are the core of our marriage problems.  I'm not sure yet if our marriage will survive. We have a long way to go, but feel for the first time hope.  Thanks for the advice....I wish we would have known about ADHD and validation years ago....we maybe wouldn't be in so much pain now. 

Beat Up

Beat up is how my husband and I both felt after years of invalidating each other's ideas, so your words hit home.  It's exhausting, humiliating, and infuriating!  Thank you for sharing your story and realizations...and for illustrating that thinking about your situation in a new way can open doors to understanding and, hopefully, progress.  Perhaps, if the two of you start a dialogue about ADHD issues and try new (validating) patterns of conversation things will start to turn around for you.  I hope so.  My other words of advice when a couple gets to your stage - think "relationship" rather than "marriage".  What's important from now on is how the two of you interact with each other as people, rather than who is doing what in the marriage.  Hope that makes sense.

Just got off the phone gal update

I'm sorry to say...things did not stay well.  He came home saying that he decided he was going to be 110% committed to the marriage and family.  I said I wasn't ready to have him come home, yet and asked him to find another place to stay and give us time to sort things out and some space.  The following week he had an appointment with our therapist.  She had told me she was going to refer him to someone who could help him with his sex addiction and who understood ADHD and she would continue to work with me.  Anyway, after the appointment I called him to see how things went.  I wished I never did.  He told me she said she had ADHD and that it wasn't a really big deal, you just have to learn to live with it. And that she gave him a name of a therapist to call.  He then said he was going to quit his meds and go on fish oil.  That I was the only one who seemed to think it was a problem and he wasn't going to call the therapist because he doesn't think he is a sex addict since he hasn't craved doing porn and sex chat since he was caught.  He then went on to say he realized that he never loved me and was only staying for all these years because of the kids.  He knows he hasn't put anything into the relationship, but expected me too, but couldn't see there was any chance for us to continue being married or that the relationship could be repaired.  He says he is happier.  He says he's going to try and help us out financially.  He just wants to have fun and this is hard on him too because he is bored living by himself and working.  So as usual, he doesn't take responsibility and I'm left to clean up his big mess.  I don't know how I'm going to support my family and I know I won't be able to count on him.

Nettie's picture


It must feel really scary right now, worrying about supporting a family on your own. This could happen because of a partner being fired or other health problems also, so you may come out stronger once you figure out things. Surround yourself with help, research, choose the best options for you, and when strong, expand.

If you want more information about the 110% (impossible)/extremes (he loves you, he loves you not) and adrenaline seeking (porn can be that or an easy escape), there is a lot on this site and in books. Ask, and we'll try to help.


Thanks for your conern and support.  That is exactly what I'm trying to do and I know its ADHD, but it still hurts when someone you care about says something like that and you helplessly watch the destruction.  This site has been a big help, because I know I'm not alone or crazy.  I have read Hollowell's book Driven to Destraction and "Is, it you, me or ADHD" and my therapist has me reading a book on Co-dependency.  I need to focus on taking care of myself.  What hurts now is how he is trying to make himself out to be the victim.  He's even turning some of my family to support him instead of me.  Some of them won't even hardly talk to me, but they do to him.  He's told my son that he's the man of the house and to take care of me.  That just hurts...who does stuff like that.  It's cruel.  But in his mind he's doing the right thing and everybody backs him. 

Mine did that, too

We don't have children, but my situation is the same. You'll need to stay strong, and ride this out the best you can. The truth will, eventually, come out, and people will see what happened. But it will take time.

Yes, they can be very cruel. They don't think--and don't know--that their actions *are* cruel. It's as though your husband is living in a parallel universe, a strange version of reality. In many ways, it's a more "persuasive" version than the truth, and some will fall into it with him. Eventually, they will crawl back out when they get close enough to the situation to see what, in truth, is happening.

It's horrible, hard, lonely, and unfair. You'll need to stay strong, especially for your son. If you're not already, and you can do so, start seeing a therapist, particularly one who has experience in dealing with or treating ADDers. Just being able to go back to mine with some crazy situation or something he said, and to have someone who *really* understands the way his brain works not "fall" for it has helped me to weather this. Keep up your social networks. Keep up with your friends and the family that will back you. Talk to them--help them to understand. Show them the books. Show them postings on this site. You need to create your own support network to keep you going. You're not going to be able to rely on him until he has his "a-ha" moment--and even after then, there are always going to be times when you're going to need to seek support *away* from him.

Don't lose hope. You're not alone, and you will get through this.

Falling Victim to Bad Advice

How sad that a therapist would say ADHD is no big deal (if she did - it's possible that's just what he heard.  She might have said something different.)  Unmanaged ADHD is a very big deal in a marriage, and it sounds as if this person doesn't get it.

Ask for all of the financial support you deserve, and fast, before all those folks whispering in his ear convince him that you and the kids don't "deserve" support.

No matter what, you both will continue to have a relationship together (since you have kids together) so see what you can do to get to neutral ground.  Since it sounds as if divorce is in your future, consider using a mediator rather than divorce lawyers.  Statistics show that you are more likely to have a cordial relationship after mediation than using a lawyer.

Please use us here for support.

catic15's picture

Late diagnosis

Mine too!

My husband hasn't been diagnosed (yet!) but our daughter has, and he shows many of the same symptoms - we all think it's quite likely that he has ADHD.  And like your husband, my husband is also in the grip of something that causes him a great deal of pain. . . he's under treatment for depression, we're in counseling for family/marriage problems, and there is just so much that I'm tired of dealing with.  I love him and in many ways he's my best friend, but he's also obstinant and he blames me when things go wrong. I can't control his feelings, but neither can I change myself enough to keep from doing things that he says cause him pain, and I'm tired of having him hurt and blame me for it.

I feel your pain and

I feel your pain and completely understand where your coming from.  I hope the best for you and your family and remember to take care of yourself first.  I'm learning to do that myself.  The journey for me is hard and painful, but tonight my kids and I laughed and played.  I am enjoying that, because tomorrow may be different when your dealing with an adult with untreated ADHD. 

Thanks for your help.

Yes, it is going for divorce and for some reason he is in a big hurry.  Knowing how he has behaved in the past...he hyperfocuses on one solution and is impatient and pushes and pushes thinking this will solve all his problems.  Only to create, usually more problems afterwards.  My big problem is his not respecting boundaries.  Even in our separation he doesn't respect boundaries.  Just this week he showed up unexpectedly at our house and he took our daughter for awhile.  I had to leave to take my son somewhere and he showed up before I returned.  He let himself into the house, looked through some papers and saw that I had applied for a job.  He later called me and told me he called the place and gave me a recommendation because he new them and wanted to help me.  Only I didn't ask for it.  That's just one of many.  He calls me at work, to where I have had to tell our secretary to not send any calls through.  I work at a school. I've tried to talk to him, he says he understands, but he gets an idea in his head and .....he can't wait.  He stills says he wants to help financially, but I have yet seen any money.  He did offer to get me a car, but he was going to get a loan in his name and didn't understand why I wasn't greatful and accepted.  His help is saying he's giving me everything except some money and the business.  I get the house, some money, and the debt and on my salary I can't afford the house.  He tells me how much better he feels now that he's off his meds and left.  I said, yeah, you've just unloaded your responsibility on me.  He is in complete denial, unaware, and happy and I get to live in hell, because I've still got to deal with him.  It seems really unfair.  Why do I have to be punished for his problems?  I just tried to count and stand up for myself.

be careful

be careful to get everything down in writing, even the hard stuff and the little stuff. You don't mention whether you have any binding agreements between you, but it seems to me that he can come to the house any time until such time as you have an agreement in place that specifically says he can't - and that has some legal teeth in it (hard to get a person who doesn't respect boundaries to start to do so without some consequences). So move to a more "business-like" arrangement with him as soon as you can - i.e. be cordial, but firm in sticking up for yourself. You don't want to needlessly antagonize him, but you also don't want him to feel he can walk all over you, either. Set up a specific temporary payment plan for him to funnel you money - dates, amounts, etc. Ask for fully what you think you need - for all you know a court or mediator will look at the amount when you get to a more formal arrangement. His willingness to take out a loan suggests he has some comfort with making regular monthly payments. Yes, you "still get to deal with him" for a little while longer, but you have more power than you think you do to control what that looks like. You will continue to interact and have a relationship around the kids (forever) BUT that relationship can be one in which you have more ability to stand up to him than you seem to have had in the past. (Example, once you've separated, you can change the locks on your doors and explain politely that he's not invited to enter the house when you aren't there.) If you can't afford the house, don't let him saddle you with it. Agree to sell it, split the proceeds, if any, as you agree. DO NOT take on his debt. He should take his share, and you take yours. (Unfortunately, many married couples don't think of debt as mutual, rather as what one person takes on...until a divorce. It's a rude awakening.) Talk with a mediator or someone who can give you advice about how to get yourself out from underneath being financially liable for any loans he might take now. You don't want to be paying for his newest car or toy if you don't have to simply because the marriage contract is still current. Get a separate bank account that is only in your name and put your portion of your salary into it. In a divorce settlement he may still be entitled to some of it, but at least he can't go in one day and clean you out unexpectedly because he won't have access to the account. Pay house bills and child care etc out of the joint account. The job "assistance" may not be as innocent as he would like you to believe. If you are working and have a good salary at the time that you separate, then he may be able to claim you don't need his financial help (or need less of it). Or it may be his idea of how to help you. Who knows? My instinct is to say that unless you want to make a real effort to stay together, you should take advantage of his current good humor and desire to divorce quickly. I have nothing but impressions to back this up, but I suspect you'll get a better "deal" now than later if he starts to feel angry towards you. But, again, some of that depends upon how you yourself respond to him. Stand up for what you deserve.


A lot has happened since my last post and wanted to update those who have supported me on this site.  I am doing great.  I feel better than I have in years.  I feel emotions and feelings that I have ignored or denied.  Good feelings.  Not only do I feel joy, but peace.  My financial situation hasn't improved much--he hasn't given much support still, but a good summer job just came my way and I'm all signed up to start school this fall and get my teacher certification.  I feel God in my heart again and know he will take care of me.  One of those gifts is dealing with confrontation and uncontrolable stressers.  I was always afraid, but God has given me much practice in those areas lately in safer situations and it gave me the confidence to stand up and confront my soon to be ex-husband.  It was so empowering.  You're right I do have more power than I think.  I allowed him to make me feel otherwise...and he was wrong.  I have had to deal with my son's car accident and then mine this last week, getting the papers ready for filing for divorce, my husband trying to regain control, along with his manipulations, paying the bills, and I'm still here and I'm OK.  Matter of fact I'm doing better than OK.  He's not.  He is now in his depressive stage and reality hit this week when he saw the divorce papers and what I was asking for.  He thought for sure I would take his deal, but I said that deal was good for you, but it wasn't good for me or the children and I'm going to fight for what's best for us.  This is where I need help...I've been able to be very matter of fact in most cases, but when he tried to assert himself, manipulate me and give me an ultimatum to get what he wants...I went back to my protective pattern of over talking him, not listening, speaking loud to drown him out.  Note: he did this the day after my car accident.  I'm OK, just a little sore.  I know this is not helpful and now that I've become more confident....I need some tips to help me keep centered and calm. 

Staying Calm

Find a reasonable friend (one who doesn't think that your job is to take whatever you can possibly get from your husband) and let someone help you remain calm. Having support is a great way to keep perspective (providing you choose the right friend. Stay away from folks you perceive as being vengeful, at least for now). Also, meditation or physical activity has been proven to help relieve anxiety, stress, etc which are key elements in remaining calm. Each night before you go to bed, and each morning, give yourself 5 minutes to breath deeply, close your eyes, and remind yourself how well you are doing. All of these things should help.

Late to the Conversation

I really ache with all of you who have expressed deep pain and frustration with your spouses, especially the husbands who can't or won't be objective or even consider that there's something they can do to improve your interaction. I don't know if this will help but being a husband who has ADD, I identify with the defensiveness. Before I was diagnosed, I assumed everyone's brain worked like mine and that others' expectations were unfair and unrealistic.

We married when we were 32 and my wife, a former teacher, noticed what she'd been trained to notice: learning disabilities. She tried to talk to me about it but to me it was like she was talking about seeing flying saucers. We were watching a local news magazine show about a photographer who ran his business out of his home - and drove his wife to depression and the brink of divorce. I was critical of his behavior and felt for his wife. Then MY wife calmly said, "That's you." After thinking it through a bit, I had to admit to myself and her that there was something to what she said.

I'd heard a pediatric psychiatrist on a radio talk show about ADD, so I called her. Though her practice did not include adults, she agreed to see me. After a half hour of answering questions and then "flunking" :-) an auditory discrimination test, I heard her say that I was "mildly" ADD. I mightn't have believed her if she hadn't convinced me that the background noise in the auditory discrimination test really DIDN'T get louder and louder despite the way I'd perceived it. Funny how anxiety affects us like that.

We're 55 now and I'd like to say that I've learned not to be defensive and invalidate my wife - I identified with the article - but even knowing all this and our deciding to love each other permanently, no matter what, I still sometimes hear accusation when there isn't any and fail to validate her feelings and opinions. After half a lifetime of blaming and being critical of others, my unkind, knee-jerk reactions are still as sharp as ever - well, almost. It helps to acknowlege it to her after the fact and apologize but healed wounds still leave a scar and can hurt to the touch.

I've learned to deal with the difficulties of our lives as "just life," but we've had a whole lotta life cramed into the past 15 years and it doesn't appear to be over yet. So I know that married life is challenging enough without throwing ADD / ADHD into the mix. 

My frustration is that we've never been able to afford the intensive therapy we need - mostly me - and the medications (very expensive right now) only help so much. Ritalin left me feeling wired and jittery, Wellbutrin helped for a while but doesn't so much any more and Strattera helps some, but it depletes our already stretched funds and leaves me totally impotent, despite throwing yet more meds into the mix. I'm trying to line up a new psychiatrist to manage my meds (I had to take a job out of town), to see if there are other options.

No whining - this is just our reality right now. All can say - most of the time :-) - is that I will not give up. But I understand how even a well-meaning husband can make it so difficult for his wife that she would consider divorce - and no guilt to those who have taken that path.

More directly to the point of the article, I'm going to try its suggestion without saying anything to my wife. She's not likely to participate but I'm sure just working on my side can help - and maybe she'll notice a difference.

Late to the conversation.

Hallelujah! Without even realizing it you may have already made the biggest and most significant change to your relationship. You have accepted responsibility for yourself and your actions within your relationship. Owning the impact of this on your wife is singularly the most important thing you can do for both of you.

The next thing to ask is should you 'fix' it. Only you can answer that. Are you happy as you are? If you are stay that way but find a way to make the way you operate fit within your relationship. If you are not then seek help and try medication or other interventions, treating yourself as 'broken'  when you believe that you are not is self destructive. Living in denial that you are harming yourself and others you have relationships with is also self destructive, so you need to be clear about the outcomes you desire. Negotiate these with your spouse, as it is a partnership and has to work for both of you.

If you are both 'on board' working for a better outcome, the battle is half won - well done to you for owning yourself. :)


Right now I do feel too worn out.  I have been with my ADHD husband for about 18 years and we lived together for years before that too.  And I'm tired.  Remember Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles...? "I'm tired!"  Mostly because I'm a peacekeeper and an enabler and like a bad parent I don't expect him to do anything, I maintain my side of the relationship, by finding joy in his presence, taking care of house & children like a single mom, with a really nice income-contributing boyfriend.  I think it's been more difficult lately because I've much less work outside the home and am getting weary due to his forgetfulness.  Conversations, moment to moment.  Could this be something else?  I know for me I need to practice more patience, but the forgetfulness, the reminding & recall & reminding of what is said from one moment to the next. this is becoming a huge challenge for me - I am responding to often with irritation... and  admittedly, I am irritated!  And I'm sad.  And I feel too worn out to even begin a conversation with him.  Advice?

great idea, impossible to do

This sounds like a good exercise for me to do.  However, if my ADHD husband was able to sit down once an hour for several days to record his interactions, we wouldn't be having our current problems!  Hell would freeze over before he could do that.  I laughed out loud reading that part.  When I read many of your posts, it makes me wonder if your husband possibly had a mild dose of ADHD, as many of the things you describe as straightforward and easy would be impossible for my husband.  Not trying to sound mean, but sincerely wonder about that.

I agree with you Georgia

HA! A bit off topic but my ADHD spouse brought home a puppy on the weekend ( we already have a dog and numerous other pets.) And before I could bring some common sense into the situation he informed me the dog's name was Georgia. I guess it is on topic because this describes one of his states in his ADHD. Somehow it involves him bringing home pets without thought to who is going to be responsible. To his credit he listened and eventually agreed that it was a bad idea. Anyhow he would never take the time to write anything down either unless he thought I was leaving his a##  then it would be a beautiful apology and list of promises. What I have got him to do is agree on Melissa's Book The ADHD Effect on Marriage. I read him the first chapter and he was enthusiastic. He'd never read it on his own and this forces us to sit down together a couple nights a week for about an hour ( that's about how long I can keep his attention and he needs his own time after a long hard day) and I read. Most times I pre-read and make sure he hears the important content. We've just started so it could fizzle out or one of his antics could make it seem redundant but speaking from the non-ADHD'er who is used to taking the controls I can only do my best to keep sane and try to rescue or re- create our relationship. I often worry that I'm a control freak. Is that who I am or who I became out of necessity.

One of the biggest fights we

One of the biggest fights we had after our reconciliation a little over a year ago was over some baby raccoons. We were out riding, saw them along side the road, and he just knew their momma was dead and was hell bent on bringing them home. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE animals, but I saw this situation going nowhere but horribly wrong. The risk of rabies to our other animals (dogs and cats) and our children, knowing NOTHING about raising them, their mother could have very well been alive and just out looking for food, and the ultimate responsibility would have fallen on me..as with everything. BUT, as he saw it, I was controlling him by not wanting to interfere with nature and bring home WILD animals. I could not wrap my mind around that situation...still can't. It somehow made me the bad guy for putting my foot down. I will never forget being told that he didnt' want to be with me anymore over it, because he wanted to be with someone who would support him in things that were important to him. To me, it was shocking the fight that came out of that...the fury he felt towards me over it...and to him he was completely in the right and saw NOTHING wrong with his request to capture and bring them home. I saw the future, the trouble, the cost, the risks, the responsibility...he saw 3 baby raccoons.


He obviously hasn't run into too many raccoons. Sure they're cute as babies but things go bad quick. You made me laugh tho. My partner was more of a baby than my own kids about this puppy. We live in an apartment. At one time because of his addiction to bringing home cats we had 14 cats in our home. My children were calling me the cat lady. But true to his ways when we were to move he said we'll just leave them behind. Completely against anything I would ever consider. In the end we had to leave some of them and got rid of the majority and asked neighbors to watch out for the rest. To this day I worry and am ashamed that I let him convince me they would be ok. I think I have given up some of the things that were core in me. But if I were a stronger person I would have stood up for what I thought was right. As much as our relationship needs help I need help to effectively trust my beliefs and stand by them even though he has this way of making me feel crazy and second guessing myself.

I am not sure he has ANY

I am not sure he has ANY experience with raccoons, but he was certain there was nothing wrong with bringing home 3 baby ones. He grew up running the mountains, so I get that his perspective is different from mine..I grew up in the city, but there really needs to be a line drawn somewhere...and I draw the line EASILY at wild animals. Where I feel I am being rational and realistic, he feels I am crushing his 'dreams'. I think it might come down to him feeling like I think he is too "stupid" to know how to take care of them than anything else. Anytime I object to something he wants to do I am either being controlling or calling him stupid. It can't ever be as simple as I just see things completely differently than he does. When he doesn't agree with me it never crosses my mind to feel he's being controlling or saying I'm stupid. The worst thing I might think is that he's just being stubborn, but I guess that is just another difference. I guess I just pray that we never see anymore baby raccoon without their momma. :o)

Another bright idea

Now it's a kitten. We worked through the puppy and  now he wants a friends new kitten. My children are coming tonight for the weekend and I know he's going to play on my 13 yr. old daughter to pick up his fight. I have shared my children with their father for the last 7 years but they are now with their father full time. 1. financially they are better off 2. we had to move out of the small town where we all lived and they wanted to stay in their schools since they have been there since JK. My ADHD partner knows that he plays a part in them not being with us. It was hard for me to get used to since I am a chronic worrier. But they are here this weekend and I never know if my partner will be ok or be jealous of the attention they need from me or if he will behave like a grown up. I sometimes feel guilty that I have made some sacrifices for my ADHD partner. He's like the sick child in the family. Not that I see him that way but he always seems to act out in order to get the attention on him. It's exhausting. Sit with me...no sit with me. Don't spend too much money on them, you know how they play you. OMG he's the biggest player of all. My kids understand no. He on the other hand finds a way to manipulate to meet his needs. Usually in front of the kids knowing I won't call him on anything while they are here to keep peace. Every weekend with them is great but I'm always worried about how he will handle sharing me.

We are to be having discussions at night that he has agreed to in order to work on our relationship.There are so many things to work on I feel there could be a bowl filled with things to discuss and we'd forever have something to pull out for the night's discussion. Even then I'm not sure he'll be in the mood and it is disastrous if I push things.Turns out I wait to see his mood before I push the discussion for the night. He goes off topic so easily. I feel like I'm constantly bringing us back on topic. Anyhow last night was tough cause there was a hockey game ( Go Leafs!) Not alot of hope that we'd be solving anything. I did get him to agree to watch the trailer of ADD and Loving it. At the begriming he said can we buy this. I think he knew he wasn't interested right now but on his time he would be. Turns out he saw my frustration in only asking for 1/2 an hour of his time and watched it. Went ok a little discussion but no light bulb moment. I guess what I want him to see is that his symptoms have and continue to effect everyone around him. He's of the mind " it's the way he's always been". It's like I have to show him a movie of his life so that he can remember all the devastating effect his "disorder" has contributed to. It's his now and not now attitude. So he got through all those things that was before. Right now I want him too see it clearly but it seems he doesn't see the connection. Baby steps I guess. I wonder if he does see it but is tired of looking at it. Of course I'm the one who believes if we don't look at it how can we make improvements.  Maybe I'm trying too hard. I feel like I need to remind him that I was ready to pack things in a little over a week ago. Once again now and not now thinking. I feel like I'm the one learning and it's my responsibility to teach him...when he's ready. I've made it very clear that I am more than willing to see where I need to learn and make changes to help our relationship. Now, he's ok. Just afraid of the Not Now. Oh yea no discussion of meds. " now".

This makes me very sad.

This makes me very sad. Reading everything you wrote, the main thing that stuck out the most was "Maybe I am trying too hard". Your answers are in your own words, but it is so very difficult to see them when you're smack dab in the middle of the storm.

He has essentially already cost you your children, they don't even have a normal, peaceful (unless you concede to his every whim) household to come to on the weekends, he's jealous of them and fights you for your attention, and you know what he's doing but you go along to keep the peace. That is the root of most of the problems. You're doing everything in your power to keep the peace and you're essentially giving him what he wants. You're feeding the entire situation by avoiding conflict with him.

Stop trying to fix him. Stop trying to fix your marriage. Take a long, hard look at how you are making this situation stay in a perpetual limbo and work on YOU. I don't mean that in the sense that you're intentionally doing things wrong, I mean that in the sense that you need to ask yourself why you are giving up everything in your life for this man who is giving very little in return. What kind of life is it? You will get NOWHERE pussyfooting around with these situations. Work on you, INSIST he work on him, draw VERY CLEAR boundaries (especially when it comes to the kids), and stop trying to spoon feed him information in the hopes that something will 'click' with him. Something clicked with him when you were ready to leave him....you stayed, you're promising to change everything about you in order to make him happy, you're bending over backwards to keep the peace....and he's more interested in a hockey game.

Really...please understand. I'm not trying to be harsh or mean or insulting to you in anyway. I have lived in your shoes...where you give and give and give and eventually just get completely taken over by the ADHD. I think Codependent No More would be a good book to add to your list of things to read..ASAP. I know you feel like you're doing the right thing, but when you're having to sweep things under the rug just to keep the peace, then you're really making the problems worse. Your need to get your life back, you need to get some boundaries in place, you need to stop letting him keep you on eggshells, and you need to make him get some professional help so that the two of you can work out these issues. They do not fix themselves. He needs to get as serious, or more so, than you are...or you're fighting a losing battle.

Shed a few tears on this one

You are so right. Why I feel so out of touch with reality is because I"ve been living someone else's life. I haven't been really me.I'm hanging on for dear life. My real self is telling me I don't know what to do next time and I don't know when it will be. I laughed when I read one post from a woman who referred to the state of her night guard. I started with my teeth and gone through many a night guard. Most of the time I think he didn't deserve this obstacle. I know everyone has a past. Having a bad childhood was bad enough for me and left me with painful scars, so I imagine that and ADHD and I end up wanting to help him and not add to his inability to find the rest of the world's normal. No insult intended for all you ADHD'ers. So yes I am keeping things in perpetual motion. I have obvious problems with boundaries, forgive easily, have hope eternal but have a hard time facing reality and can be persuaded to see it through his reality and it gets crazy. I'm so ready to say" oh I didn't know, I thought I was doing it right, I thought I had done my best. " Believe me I do make mistakes and have many regrets. I just don't want so many anymore. I want to fix it. I always know I can do better. The problem is me.I need to get clear on who me is and what she really wants.  And What she'll to have it. I'm 45 one would think that would be clearer now.

Apparently I don't need much. I seem to settle for what others may call stupid. I think he knows this and considers himself pretty lucky to have such a sweet gig. She does require a bit of straightening out every once in awhile to keep her in line. Half joking cause I think he really does believe this. I'm stuck and looking for a way to make things better by pushing without having to leave.1. I have no where to go   2. no money  3. no job. I'm looking but just got a cast off my hand.  4. I love him  5. I'm the only one left in his life that cares..... just a thought if he cared as much about his own life as I do then he would be working as hard as me to save it. OMG here I go jumping from fence to fence. He needs help because I need help. I need to know if he can see how a change may be hard outside his comfort zone, but worth it. Is that possible to get I ask of all you ADHD people out there.

His life?

I just re-read what I wrote. I said " if he cared abut his life as I do then he would be working as hard as me to save it. Now I'm trying to save his life, when I started this I was trying to save our relationship. In some ways that is his life. Is that the way he sees it?

Been away for a while, I know what you mean...

I never thought of that before: "I'm trying to save his life." For months and months, both before and after my husband left, I was desperately trying to do just that. I stopped last autumn when something finally clicked in me when I saw him one day. I think my husband prefers to be "broken" so he doesn't have to take responsibility for himself. It's just an easier life for him, and, in a way, who can blame him? Anyway, the core cause isn't his fault, but he's very dishonest and harbors a huge amount of resentment towards anyone who gets particularly close to him. I don't even think he realized how scary he would sound when talking about a certain ex-girlfriend, a couple of family members, etc. An awful lot would slip through. With the exception of one of the relatives, they never had any idea of how much hatred and resentment he harbored. He's perfectly nice and lovely to their faces, and they can't understand how anyone would have a problem with him (?!!).

Anywho, I think that to confront things and try to "fix" himself would be more than he could manage without falling apart...but he also seems just not to care. It's not that big of a deal to him. I'm probably not explaining this well--and it's a confusing mess when I think about it.

I smiled when I saw the mention of the nightguard. In the last few years of my marriage, I developed TMJ so severe that it was causing neurological problems in other areas. I eventually got a night brace. A few months after my husband left, my TMJ symptoms vanished (they come back on very rare occasions--when I'm so stressed that I can't see straight). I haven't needed the nightguard since. When I see my dentist, he'll jokingly say something like "how is that TMJ doing? Oh, yeah. He left!"

At this point it would seem

At this point it would seem you care ONLY about his life, to the detriment of your own. When you come to the point that you accept that you CANNOT change him then you will be 1/2 way there. You're trying to fix him. You're trying to change him. You're trying to give him information that you think is going to help. We've all sent links to this site and we've all tried to fix our marriage, but in the end the SOLE decision is theirs. If there weren't so many other things going on, I'd encourage you to keep pushing the information on him and trying to get him into counseling...but you've already given up...well, what haven't you given up? Ask yourself that, just asking to give you something to think about.

I know that 'fixing' them has some selfish motives, because we feel that our lives would be perfect if only we could get them to admit this and accept that and change x, y, and z...but the truth of the matter is, no matter how much he changes, if you don't change your habits and your issues too then his change will never be lasting. If he can rely on you to always enable his behaviors and he can rely on you to put everything else aside for his own sake, then he will never really NEED to change. I would be willing to bet that the 5 or 6 reasons you listed about why you are 'stuck' are EXACTLY the reasons nothing ever changes..he KNOWS this and it is much easier to keep you jumping through hoops, stuck in the situation, than it is for him to change. Why bother?

Real changes WILL come when you stop putting him first and start putting yourself first. I recently had to do this, it is very hard, but I turned around and *WHAM* there I was stuck in the "I've got to fix everything" (HIM) role again. He is responsible for his own actions and his own choices...and I have a right to make decisions based on what those are, but I don't have the right to try and force him to do what he doesn't want to do. I don't have the damned energy to do it anymore. They have to face the consequences of their decisions...good and bad..just like the rest of us. Period. I feel your pain. It is not easy but the more you try and fix things, sadly, the more broken they become sometimes. They see our attempts to learn about ADHD (and especially us trying to educate them about it) as us saying they broken and need to be fixed. The effect it has on their marriage is something THEY have to see for themselves. Melissa's book is a great tool, and he'll either see himself in it and 'get it' or he won't.


ebb and flow's picture


I'm reading the book "Codependent No More"... I suggest you pick up a copy. :) It's super helpful!!!

I'm afraid I became a control

I'm afraid I became a control freak out of necessity after coming to my senses and realizing just how "out of control" my life had become living with my ADHD husband.  I also have been the main caregiver of all of the animals we've had throughout our relationship and had informed him during our "rock bottom" that I was tired of this responsibility.  I thought he heard me but apparently not.  Recently, we lost one of our three remaining dogs to cancer and almost immediately after, he committed to adopting another dog without mentioning it to me.  I had to take control, more for my sanity.  Luckily I was able to reason with my husband also but unfortunately I had to inform him that if he wanted another dog he would have to find him somewhere else to live.  Maybe a little mean but he got the point!

In many aspects, such as

In many aspects, such as something that adds responsibility to OUR plates, we have to have boundaries. I don't see this as controlling or you 'taking control' as much as you just setting boundaries and refusing to let him cross those boundaries. My husband couldn't get this...during the raccoon situation above. It was all about me trying to control him, in his mind. No matter how many times I tried to say "I am already solely responsible for the care of 7 cats, 5 dogs, 2 children (one with special needs) and YOU" and I asked him 100 times why he couldn't look at it as ADDING a responsibility to my plate and showing that he cared enough to not want to do that. I could picture 100 negative scenarios in 20 seconds...and how badly that situation could have turned out. He saw nothing but cute little baby raccoons that we were leaving behind for certain death. If there ever was a situation that SCREAMED ADHD, it was that one. I was accused of being "unsupportive of things he cared about", "controlling", being "a bitch"...it was insane.

Anyway...always a challenge to know when to draw the line, knowing that having boundaries will get us accused of being controlling, but being willing to face that 'label' if it means standing up for ourselves. I don't cuss him out and stay mad at him for 3 days when he takes more money out the bank than he said he would...I don't use manipulation and guilt to get him to do things 'my way' when it comes to my step-daughter anymore...I have changed SO many of my controlling behaviors, but there are just some situations where we have to say "NO" for our own good.

Yeah March Break!

Oh yeah! I've taken a few days just to stand back. I'm still reading everyone's posts and Melissa's book. My ADHD partner is and has been showing good signs. Not like all the other problems he promised and promised about. He hasn't even taken on any of the huge issues but some of the self centered fog has lifted. I have started to see day by day where I need to change in order to make my life happier. It's not always easy but it is easy when he looks into my eyes when he's talking or responding. And I have learned not to get upset or hurt at the times he doesn't. We are only at the start of our journey. It's like he has a feeding tube and only a little can get through at a time. No big chunks or big issues. The little bit that is getting through is strengthening us bit by bit with the hopes that soon we can take the tube out and move on to more "solid" life sustaining issues. My big goal is to get into cancelling and dealing with an ADHD stepson that is coming to stay for the March Break. My partner has never been a full time parent and uses these visits to make up for his guilt. The visits are never!!!! good and don't promote any respect for me or my role in my own home. I am dreading this visit and the effect it will undoubtedly have on our progress. We've gone over the issues many times but when his son is here he forgets every thing and I become the evil stepmom because I ask him to parent in ways that keep our home on an even keel. I get that they both are excited but his son is 12 and not dumb. He plays the situation out so that I feel I'm in one of those Disney movies where the kids are trying to get rid of the Dad's love interest by manipulating situations and putting us against each other. And boy does he fall for it. As much as I like the child I dread when he is with us and 2 ADHD'ers at one time when I can barely handle the one I got! I'm sure all you people out there that have "multiples" are chuckling but when the guy who is supposed to be setting boundaries for his child doesn't and I'm not aloud to take over,, I am a teacher and have raised my two children and actually have concrete rules and consequences that my children are aware of......... a couple of days seems like forever and I do end up not liking him by the time he leaves. OR Dad does step up but suddenly uses me when the answer is an obvious no. Yuck! He's coming and I can't change that. I can talk about it before hand but Dad knows all to well how things have consistently been difficult. Let's just wait and see. I can only do my best and hope!!!!

I can relate very very

I can relate very very strongly with your step-child situation. Had the same situation, only we ended up getting custody of my SD when she was 12. This is when our marriage started coming completely unraveled. He never wanted to take the parenting role, and I'm not sure if it would have been something he'd have done had I stepped back and given him the freedom to do so or not, but I never did. The only reasons I can give are that I felt like my life had fallen apart and I desperately controlled anything I could to try and end the chaos and fighting. We were best friends that rarely ever fought...and all of the sudden we were mortal enemies...and 99.9% of it was because we disagreed on 99.9% of everything to do with my SD.

Find a way to deal with the upcoming visit. The dread you're feeling, the feeling that you don't like him after his visits, all of it will negatively impact your marriage. My best advice to you is to let things be. If it isn't something that will directly impact your life...in a way that is irreversible and permanently damaging, let it go. For years I let my marriage be destroyed by a power struggle between myself and my SD. In the end, all I did was push my marriage further into the ditch. I thought I had to control her...teach her...show her consequences of lying and being disrespectful...but in the end, she was who she was, nothing I did changed that (she's 19 now and has left home), and I wasted a lot of years of my life trying to fix something that wasn't fixable to the detriment of my marriage and my other children. There are some 'good' things that came out of it for her, that may have been a direct result of my efforts (she graduated high school, didn't get pregnant, and is attempting college)...but there was nothing good that came out of it for me or my marriage.

Stay out of it. Bite your tongue. Let the kid eat chocolate, let him dominate his dad's time, let him manipulate his dad's emotions....but don't engage in the battle with him...with either of them. Short of causing some thing that would cause bodily harm to you, I would stay out of it and let them have their week. Looking back, I used to feel the same dread when it was time for SD to start coming  over for summer visits...and we always had her WAY more than just a week and every other weekend. These kids see us as a threat...everything wrong in their lives is because of us, in their minds. Reality is, we are the biggest threats to our own marriages when we fall into the trap and engage in a battle of the wills with them. Even if you have to get professional help, get some. Find someone who won't judge you, but help you better understand and will help you find ways to cope during the visits.

Who's who?

Sometimes on this site, as in the above, I am confused about who is the ADHD individual and who the other. Who is resentful, hurt, putting criticism in the guise of help? Also if someone is doing those things, do they likely suffer from ADHD?

Separately, isn't the above exercise useful, period, regardless of ADHD?

hey Dorian

Sometimes I wonder if the supposed non-ADHD partner is simply a milder form of ADHD.

I also think....

That sometimes the stress and depression that living with someone with untreated ADHD can lead to symptoms similar to ADHD. My husband frequently accuses me of having it, and I think it's just from putting up with him.

Good point

... I see your point. Not that both don't suffer from ADHD and/or each others' behavior, but there can certainly be exacerbation of it all .