What if a husband doesn't get it?


Hello!  Ned Hallowell here.  I haven’t posted on this blog in a long while, mainly because I didn’t know how to!  But, Melissa has kindly instructed me, and with luck, this post will get on.  Let’s see!

I  wanted to address a theme I see in MANY posts, and in my practice all the time.  It is the problem of the husband who refuses to entertain that he might have ADD, that he might be contributing to the marital problems, that he might benefit from a consultation with an expert.

We men tend to be skittish when it comes to talking about ourselves from a psychological standpoint.  We tend to feel threatened when someone raises the idea that we might have a “problem”.  No way, not me!  Get off my back!  I’m just fine, you’re the one with the problem!  I work all day, then I have to come home and hear this?  I’d be fine if you’d just stop reading all those books and magazine articles!  I’m not crazy and I sure don’t need any shrink!  These are the typical male responses to the question, “Might you have ADD?”

So, what’s a woman to do?  First of all, know that you are not alone!  Second, don’t give up.  There is hope!  I have been down this road many times, with many couples.  Third, get help.  You cannot drag your husband into my office, or the office of any mental health professional.  The help I have to offer will only work when your husband is ready to hear me out with an open mind.

So, how on earth do you open the closed male mind?  With sex, drugs, or rock ‘n roll?  Those might work, but I don’t suggest those at the top of my list.

At the top of my list is forming a team.  Find others who can help you.  Speak to your family doctor, speak to your husband’s brother or sister, speak to a friend of both of yours who might help.  The goal is not to persuade your husband of anything, but just to help your husband see that his fears are unfounded.  There is nothing to fear in the diagnosis of ADD.  The time to fear it is when it is not diagnosed.

So, your team needs to help your husband see that his life can only get better if he will stop and listen long enough to understand the issue.  I am very good at speaking to men like these.  I love talking to male skeptics.  As long as a man is willing to come to my office and pay my fee (paying the fee is sure sign of commitment as opposed to just coming in to appease his wife), I can usually help him to get past his fear (which is rooted in ignorance) and begin to take steps toward change.

You need to find someone like me, someone who can speak a man’s language, not sound too shrinky, and someone who understands the positives as well as the negatives associated with ADD.  You can start by reading my books.  Then, look around in your community for an expert who shares my take on this condition.  DON’T go to the wrong expert.  Check the person out in advance.  If your husband has a visit with an expert who blows it, your husband will likely never accept help again.  The first visit is crucial.

The bottom line is: you can’t do it alone.  You can’t (usually) coax, cajole, browbeat, bribe, or terrorize your husband into being open-minded.  People don’t relax and open up with a gun to their head.

So, look around.  Speak to others in your community or on blogs and websites like this one.  (You might also consider bringing your skeptical husband to the couples weekend my wife and I are running in Boston june 19 - 21.)  

But whatever you do, do not give up. Just try different approaches.  Sooner or later, the odds are one of them will work.

Good luck!!!



Thank you so much for that

Thank you so much for that post! I'm in the exact position right now. I FINALLY got my husband to agree to see a therapist. We're going tomorrow. You see, I also have ADD. I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago. It happened after my son was diagnosed. After doing much research, and talking with my therapist, I've also come to the conclusion that he has it, too. He says he believes me when I tell him about it, but he has refused to seek any kind of help, or do any reading on it or anything. the only reason he's going tomorrow is because our marriage is in such trouble that it was either that or a not so pleasant alternative! I really hope this helps!!!!

between hope and dispair

The diagnosis is new, still waiting for my spouse to pick up meds, then a couple of weeks before he returns to therapist.  I'm between hope and dispair, much where I've hung the last 2 decades.  I feel hope that now there is a possiblity of success in our lives, but dispair at all I've missed.  Today I was looking a friends facebook.  She lives across the country from me, we were inseparable as children.  I only see her when she comes here.  My family is all in another country and I miss my cousins terribly.  I have not been able to see them because our financial situation has been so chaotic and worsening.  My husband is in charge of the finances--that's a long story in itself.  But because of the ADD I now recognize what a mess our lives have really been.  I'm in pain.  I've given up on being able to see or connect with friends or family, I've kept hidden much of what goes on.  Really my life has been so painful on so many levels and so ridiculously conviluted that I keep most of it inside.  I want freedom in my friendships, free to have people over, free to visit, free to do things that cost money.  I miss everyone and I miss long for openness.  I gave up gardening because even my most loved activity became conviluted from stonewalling, putting off, and all the effects of a severely disjointed partner and marriage.  

So while he's slowly getting help, I know he could stop at any point, will have no idea of my endless pain.  I should have learned to stop hoping long ago, accept what is, but what is is too painful.

Divorce ahead


I have been married 14 years to a ADD man, but realized this only when our daughter was diagnosed. I also have another daughter who is not ADD. My hunsband has finally addmited that he has ADD, but does not want to take any medication nor therapy.

Our marriage is falling apart for various reasons. One being that I have almost hated him for his behavior as I thought he was behaving like that on purpose. Now that I found out why all these things have been happening to us, he does not want to change nor seek any help. He is happy the way he is and wants to keep on living fast.  

I must admit that I have also nagged a lot and have not been interested in him sexually for long time. First this was due to exhaustion as I needed to take care and remember everything in our family and lately because I did not feel like it. For him sex is a natural remedy and it has very little to do with being close and loving each other. For him sex is a way to relax and feel good about himself. As I have not provided that, I can go. As young man he used to do lots of sports for same reason, to relax.

I would still have liked to give a try and to involve somebody who could help us, be he has no interest. He is getting ready to separate and to find a new girlfried, who can satisfy his needs.

So there seems to be no hope to keep the family together, which is very sad.

To Dr H

And what do we do in the meantime Dr H???

Getting through to a guy

Let me preface this by emphasizing that I thought ADD was a grammar school teachers' fad-disease. There was no way I would have cooperated with anyone evaluating my kids for it, much less me. Then one day, 13 years ago (I was 44 at the time), my wife told me she thought one of my employees had ADD and suggested I read "Driven to Distraction" to help me better understand the situation - of course she just happened to have a copy handy. For those of you who haven't read it, there is a list of 100 questions in the middle of the book. If you answer "Yes" to a significant number of them it suggests that you'd be wise to be evaluated for ADD. As I read the questions I noticed that I answered "Yes" or "Maybe" to 85% of them and I realized I should find out more about me and ADD. I don't suggest giving JUST the questions to someone because by the time I reached the questions I had read things in the book that made ADD far less threatening to me. I think one of the main obstacles to a guy accepting himself as being ADD is that he'll perceive it as labeling him defective. Two things Dr. Hallowell said that helped soften me up were, "There are not ADD brains and normal brains; there are ADD brains and non-ADD brains." and: "People with ADD don't necessarily have an attention deficit; the rest of you have an attention surfeit." I work in a creative field and looking back, I now know that I definitely wouldn't be anywhere near as good as I am if I wasn't ADD. PS: It was never about the employee.

love this

I love this story about the "employee"!  Thanks for sharing it!

And he might never get it?

My elementary school child was diagnosed with ADD a few years ago and is doing well with educational accommodations and low-dose medication. My husband was skeptical at first, as was I, but we knew something was wrong and did a lot of research and consideration before putting our child on meds. It's worked out well.

However, I now have a new challenge--- I recently saw a therapist to try and work through some issues in my marriage that have suddenly cropped up.  Every couple of years, particularly during periods of high stress, my husband blindsides me with a "I don't think I'm in love with you any more I think I want to leave move to Hawaii I can't stand the way I'm living you're making me miserable I don't know what's wrong with me" episode. In a few weeks it's usually over and we're back to loving couple again, but those few weeks just shred me.

My therapist's head popped up when I told her this in our initial session. She started asking me rapid-fire questions about him, not me. We talked about his need to play basketball every day, his need for sex every day, his inability to make a decision and stick to it, always second-guessing it. He can't stand to be in one job for more than a couple of years, and he doesn't tolerate stress at all. He's always in motion. We talked about how quickly he gets bored, how he constantly interrupts me and tells me I'm not telling a story fast enough, or stops listening altogether. He blurts out comments that often seem hurtful, though he swears he doesn't mean it that way and I'm being too sensitive. He's very organized, however, to the point of "being anal."  He never reads a book unless it's something really interesting to him, and then he reads it cover to cover in one sitting.

I'm thinking our marital problems are my fault; that's what he tells me. Therapist suggests, "Does he have ADD?"  The more I think over our marriage, our twenty-plus years together, the more I think, "does he?"

Here's my deal--- if he does, he will never, ever, ever admit it. Even with our child's situation, he's not going to consider it, and I certainly can't suggest it, particularly not at this time when I'm the "cause" of his problems. But I worry that he will go through his life with this itch inside him that he'll never understand and he'll never be satisfied with anything, and that we won't be able to stay together because he blames me for everything. I do love the man, and he has many, many wonderful qualities. Frankly, one reason I married him was for his boundless energy. What can I do to help him--us--- if I can't even discuss what I think might be true?


And he might never get it?

My situation has some similarities to yours, except my husband was diagnosed and "accepted" the diagnosis a few months ago.    This followed on the heels of my 12 year old son's diagnosis (ADHD /LD/gifted) almost a year ago.  One of the pivotal pieces in my coming to have an understanding of what it really meant in my son's case and start to realize that my husband also shared the diagnosis was an article that paralleled their situations very closely.  Dr. Ginsberg, a physician, wrote about his own ADHD and train wreck of a year in grade 3 and how his parents persevered and how he ultimately went to Stanford, became a medical doctor and is now doing specialty training focussing on ADHD.  Prior to reading that article I had read a number of other things but my husband is very anal in a lot of ways too, so much of the stuff didn't fit.  There are no piles of paper around our house, he cleans compulsively and is early for engagements if he doesn't mess up the schedule.  A significant amount of time - maybe even 50% - he does mess up the schedule plus he has a number of the other ADHD characteristics.   Anyways I think the article also helped him recognize himself.  The other factor that I believe played a role in my son's acceptance  was the fact that he had such a train wreck of a year in grade 5 that the diagnosis was a relief - I think he was starting to think he was crazy or something much worse then ADHD.  From what I can ascertain my husband probably had a similar train wreck in elementary school and went undiagnosed and untreated.  As a professionally successful adult he simply locked all the memories into a deep, dark place but I suspect has carried a deep insecurity that something was seriously wrong with him.  So I think in the end the ADHD diagnosis was a relief for him as well.

My husband, like yours, has over the years similarly blamed me for whatever has been wrong in our marriage.  I make mountains out of mole hills.  I don't let things go.  I make big deals about insignificant discrepancies.  I am a bitch and I am controlling.  I accepted the blame for all of these things over the years (25) and have been working diligently to correct my problems.   With the diagnosis and my seeking assistance from a psychologist I am currently in the process of a BIG paradigm shift where I am not to blame and the marital problems are not mine to fix.  With lots of reading including the comments on this site, I am coming to realize that my husband's pattern of externalizing blame is part of his brand of ADHD.

I believe we may be making some headway on this but it is slow and frustrating.  The other night my husband blamed me for his being vague because he claimed he's afraid to say anything because he doesn't really remember things clearly and he tries his best to tell the truth but then I find discrepancies and then it's a big mountain.  The "vagueness" had to do with his cheating on me.  His affair first came to light 6 years ago.  When it came to light he said he ended it but then had essentially a one night stand about 31/2 years later with the same person - felt terrible and told her so, stopped everything and then fell back into an affair with her a little less than a year ago again.  In other words he said he had an affair with her six years ago and again started less then a year ago aside from a one night stand in the middle of the two affairs.  I found an e-mail which suggested that in fact the affair was pretty much ongoing throughout the last 6 years and that he had given her enough money to make her financially stable during that period.  Call me crazy but I don't think characterizing an ongoing affair where he's paying her significant sums of money is anything like a one night stand.  In terms of the actual dollar figure he says he's reluctant to tell me because he doesn't really know and he's afraid if he says one number an I dig and find another that again it'll be a mountain.  The number keeps changing.  At the time when I believed in the one night stand story he told me he'd only paid her around $3,000 over the years.  Now that there's a little more evidence on the table he says he doesn't know if it's $10,000 or $30,000.  My guess is 100K.  Anyways buoyed by the comments on this website I explained to him that I thought his characterizing his lying as being vague and that by blaming me for having to be vague (lie) - was unfortunate and that if he really believed those things he would miss the opportunity to deal with them effectively.    I told him that his characterizing an ongoing affair as a one night stand was not an insignificant discrepancy.  I indicated that I believed his lying was part of his brand of ADHD as was the externalizing the blame and that he needed to see it that way in order to be able to deal with it effectively and give our marriage any hope.  I think he listened and I think he took it in.  I hope so.

The point is, that while my husband "accepts" his ADHD diagnosis, it will be another step or steps to for him to accept all that, that entails - good and bad.  Hopefully he won't switch his focus before getting to those steps.  I, like you think that it will be a waste if he doesn't get it figured out because like your husband he has the unsatisfied itch. 

Good luck to you.