What can I do to save my marriage and help my husband?

Hi! I am 35 and married to a man with ADHD. After reading the post here I already feel encouraged and it has helped me understand my husband more easily. However, I do need your help and advice. I married my husband less that a year ago...I have three children from a previous marriage. He is 32 and this is his first serious relationship. He wowed me with heartfelt promises and he is very kind and loving man. After about three months I realized that I probably had not married the man than I thought I had. I know that taking on three kids and a wife was a huge step for him and according to him it is what he has always wanted. Our marriage is now in serious trouble even though we love each other very much. If any of you are married and you have ADHD or if you are married to someone with ADHD please help me understand how to help him because he has a hard time verbalizing for himself. Issues that we are dealing with..... The three things that I ask for when I married him was that he be honest, stable, and responsible. I didn't feel like they were unreasonable request.....but is that to much to expect?

  • He is constantly looking on line for a new job and tries to convince me to move all the time (I am not willing to move because my children are in school and honestly I don't think that he would like a new job somewhere else any more than jobs here where we live)
  • He lies all the time....even over silly things. Over things that really matter too, he would rather lie than be honest if he thinks I won't like it. (this may be completely different and unrelated to ADHD, but still a problem)
  • He wants my undivided attention all the time and hides away anytime that others are around.
  • He does not live up to promises to do things with the kids after asking them if they want to and telling them that they will
  • He does not help around the house or with any responsibilities unless he knows I am at the end of my rope and then he tries really hard to help, but only till he knows that I am over it.
  • He will not take medication for ADHD because he said when he took it years ago it affected his job, he is in sales and he said it slows down his brain to much and he can't react quickly enough to close the deal.
  • I am not sure if this is related but he has also struggled with ED his whole life....He says he can't turn his brain off long enough to concentrate on sex.

    Now please, don't get me wrong, I am not trying to imply that I am perfect or that he is awful. I love him very much and I want to understand him and know how to help him. Right now I am stressed to the max...with work, the kids, and taking care of the house it is hard to give him all of the attention and reassurance that he needs. please help before it is to late.
  • Issues in new marriage

    Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this!  You have so many questions that I thought I would try to answer them "email style" - that is in response to each one, under your question.  Please remember that I don't know you in any depth, and these responses are just guesses, so if they don't "ring true" then ignore them!

  • He is constantly looking on line for a new job and tries to convince me to move all the time (I am not willing to move because my children are in school and honestly I don't think that he would like a new job somewhere else any more than jobs here where we live)
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    This is an issue that all couples face, not just ADD couples.  Where will home base be if you have competing demands?  This is a very personal negotiation.  In this economy, if you have a job that's secure then in my book the combination of the job plus the kids suggests you might like to stay where you are.  On the other hand, if he can demonstrate to you that the job he wants somewhere else is unique for some reason and worth the dislocation then you might consider moving, particularly if it comes with some guarantees, or a golden parachute or some such.  Kids are usually pretty adaptable, though again this varies from family to family and there may be other factors such as the age of the kids and whether or not you have extended family in the area.  Try to talk through all of the factors, though, if you can.  This is a big conversation and it's important that both people at least feel heard, if nothing else.

  • He lies all the time....even over silly things. Over things that really matter too, he would rather lie than be honest if he thinks I won't like it. (this may be completely different and unrelated to ADHD, but still a problem)
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    I'm wondering if this is a shame response.  He is afraid to displease you, so instead of telling you something that might make you mad he lies.  This can really undermine your relationship in the long run (as many in these forums will attest) so it makes sense to get some marital counseling around the issue sooner rather than later.  Issues to explore - how he feels when he lies, why he thinks he does it, where he thinks he draws the line, his past history with lying, how you feel about him in general (to get to his underlying feelings that you might reject him if he tells the truth) etc.

  • He wants my undivided attention all the time and hides away anytime that others are around
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    Again, it sounds as if he is seeking your approval when he seeks your attention this way.  If you are paying attention, you must love him... Lots of people who've grown up with ADD carry a lot of shame and insecurities around with them and if this is the case for him, this may be one way they are playing out.  As for the hiding, you may find that it stems from something different than what you expect.  For example, it might be that lots of people provide more stimulus than he can take at one time.  Or that he doesn't like the particular people that are coming over - thinks they are inauthentic or something.  Or he may feel that they don't approve of him in some way.  Whatever underlies it, this would be a good thing for the two of you to understand better so you can come to terms with the behavior.

  • He does not live up to promises to do things with the kids after asking them if they want to and telling them that they will
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    This is pretty typical of folks with ADD and most often has to do with distraction.  He loves the kids, and wants to do something with them, but then gets distracted...probably has had the experience that when he finally gets to them they have already moved on, too (which may reinforce feelings that they aren't that interested in him, even though it's just that they've already adapted and moved on).  Make sure the kids understand that his behavior isn't personal.  Then see if he's willing to put a reminder system of some sort into place - these can include alarms, asking the kids to come get him and drag him away from what he's doing, or something else.  Be creative and see what works.

  • He does not help around the house or with any responsibilities unless he knows I am at the end of my rope and then he tries really hard to help, but only till he knows that I am over it.
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    This is a big area of conflict in ADD households.  You need to communicate with him sooner rather than later that he must "own" some of the household responsibilities as a meaningful way of showing you that he cares about you, then work with him to see what will be the best balance for you both.  Usually, I find that this ends up being giving things that are relatively "easier" for the ADD spouse to do for some reason (for example, mowing the lawn because it is outside and involves physical exercise or doing the dishes at night because they still have energy while the non-ADD spouse is too tired).  Then, make sure to not interfere - let him do it his way.

  • He will not take medication for ADHD because he said when he took it years ago it affected his job, he is in sales and he said it slows down his brain to much and he can't react quickly enough to close the deal.
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    Medication may slow down his brain - which is good for some things and not so good for others.  However, if he only tried one medication, chances are good that he'll be able to find a different medication that can help him with his symptoms without slowing down his brain.  70-80% of folks with ADD find a med that works for them without significant side effect (and making yourself unable to do you job would be considered a significant side effect!)  Trying a med doesn't commit him to continuing it, but it will provide him with more information about whether it will help him (rather than just fearing that it won't)  Also, you can make it clear to him that you don't care how he treats his ADD symptoms, but given that some of them are really getting the way of your relationship he needs to treat them somehow.  There are non-medicinal approaches, such as exercise and nutrition that can help, too, as well as structural/behavioral changes he can make with the help of a good coach.

  • I am not sure if this is related but he has also struggled with ED his whole life....He says he can't turn his brain off long enough to concentrate on sex.
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    Distraction during sex is an issue for lots with ADD.  If he doesn't try meds for anything else, he may want to try a short-acting stimulant for purposes of seeing if he can slow down his mind during sex.  These usually work for about 4 hours, and Dr. H and lots of others will tell you that they can provide the focus necessary to change sex quite profoundly.  Don't know about ED issues, but it seems as if it might be worth a try for calming his mind.  Very significant exercise might also do the same thing, as might  music???

  • Now please, don't get me wrong, I am not trying to imply that I am perfect or that he is awful. I love him very much and I want to understand him and know how to help him. Right now I am stressed to the max...with work, the kids, and taking care of the house it is hard to give him all of the attention and reassurance that he needs. please help before it is to late.

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    In the end, he is the one who needs to find "internal" reassurance that he is okay - you can't do this for him, though I'm a big believer in the positive effects of showing people compassion and love at all opportunities.  You can help him by continuing to accept him as a wonderful person, as you clearly do.  But see if you can find that delicate balance that lets him know the seriousness of your concerns, the depth of your support for him as he struggles with issues brought about by his ADD, and your needs.  Too often, non-ADD spouses bend over backwards so much to try to accomodate ADD issues that they end up angry, frustrated, and no longer in love with their spouses.  Set your own boundaries, so that you make sure that you are living a life that satisfies you, while maintaining the flexibility needed to manage your new situation.  This can be hard, I know, and I'm not trying to minimize the effort you're already putting in...I'm trying to encourage you not to go too far down the path of giving up what you truly believe is your own life path to accomodate ADD issues...while staying compassionate, empathetic and the like.

    Hmmm...perhaps I haven't said that quite right, but I'm hoping you get the idea.  You love him.  The best way to love him is to also continue to love yourself.  Don't know if you are at the "I'm losing myself" stage yet, but if you are, then please seek support.

    One last caveat.  If either of you seeks the assistance of a therapist or counselor, please make sure it is someone who knows a lot about ADD and who has a positive, strengths-based approach to it.

    Good luck!  Let us know how you do.