When does the ADHD partner walk away?

Ok, so what do I do?

This has gone on for most our 7-year marriage. Horrible, horrible unresolved arguments. Countless times that I have felt I have just wanted to get out. But I haven't. I guess it's the ADHD that's meant that I have been able to quickly forget, forgive and move on.

Ok, am I organised - no, am I forgetful - yes, do I follow through on what I say I am going to do,sometimes but never in the time scale my other half expects. Can I be tactless - yes. Am I socially awkward yes.

I am 39 and was diagnosed with ADHD 18-months ago - it was a game changer. Until I took Ritalin I had been living in a fog my whole life. I just didn't realise.

Wife understands but does not appears to accept the ADHD - if I really cared and was committed I would try harder and sort it out. When I was diagnosed I read loads and bought my other half to read too. We went to a Melissa Orlov seminar about a year ago which I booked. I was really hopeful that this would help my other half understand that our relationship is not unusual for an ADHD couple and that we could start working at things together.  The outcome was not what I anticipated. My other half only became more angry - "so I just have to give up and accept that the rest of my life is going to be like this!"

But here's the crux. Even with undiagnosed ADHD I have a good, really well paid job. I have learnt to play to my strengths. I manage (well if you can call it manage) all the money at home. Not out of choice, rather my other half is just not interested. She is not a reckless spender ( well not any more) but she never checks the bank balance, is is unable to manage a budget and just doesn't seem to see how things just add up. Debts just keep building. In the first few years I spent around $80k bailing her out, not that I think she has ever acknowledged.

Over the years I have had to take responsibility for all the bills. The one she agreed to take on she didn't get round to paying. It wasn't the top of her priority list apparently. I do the weekly food shop. I often get accused of buying the wrong stuff - she is keen to plan our meals and pull a menu together. Problem is she has never managed to follow through.

She accuses me of not following through but she allocates pretty much all administrative type tasks to me - whether it's booking a holiday, phoning a plumber, getting a builder round. Never has she picked up any of these task but seems only too happy to use my failures to beat me round the head.

We both have full time jobs and try to split child care equally. In 5-years I have only forgotten to pick up the kids once, although I am frequently/usually late, albeit not by more than 5-minutes.

Marriage is sexless (perhaps every 6 weeks) and has been pretty much since we got married. Yeah there are times when she's more interested and it's good but it never lasts for more than a week. It's not because I have lost interest in her - I still fancy her rotten.

I have no hobbies any more, and few friends. I was an elite athlete but I realised I would have to give this up when my other half became pregnant (my decision not hers). Almost every evening I spend with my other half, unless one of us is working. When I have been invited to nights out with other dad's I am always very late - not because of my time keeping but my other half insists I get the kids to bed first.

Weekends I do most of the child are - and enjoy it. My other half seems to get especially stressed around the kids. Since our oldest was about 3-months old until 5-years I have been almost exclusively the parent who has to get up in the night to comfort her.

Arguments, and I mean real shouting matches, are at lest a weekly event. To often in front of the children. I hate this. I am rarely the instigator of the shouting, although she may be riled by a thoughtless but non-deliberate I make. I try not to respond, particularly if the kids are around. But at the same time I know I can give as well as I get and it almost inevitably escalates.

I struggle in arguments, my other half sees them as a means of communication and that need working out there and then but for whatever reasons that just doesn't work for me. I just end up blaming her as much as she blames me. It's almost as though I cannot think at all in a shouting argument. My head just feels like it is going to explode - literally. Generally I try and walk away but this just winds her up. I guess experience tells her that I will just forget it by the morning so it will go unresolved. The result is she will just follow me shouting and calling me names - "not a real man".

The other week she followed me upstairs, yelling at me. I couldn't face it and I did not want to rise to the bait, and I was also worried about waking the kids so I wend downstairs to the lounge and shut the door behind me. Again she followed and spend a good 20 minutes trying to break the door down. She even got a carving knife out to help her prise it open. All the time yelling at me, telling me to grow-up. I have no recollection at all about what instigated the argument, but I think it was something pretty mundane.

It's not that it hasn't happened before, it's just that I really feel it has got too much for me. I am at the end of my tether.

I have tried to remain positive and keep trying for years, but to be honest with some real doubts as to whether it can ever work. I do wonder whether my underlying doubts have meant that I have not fully committed...I really don't know how much I have caused her to feel this way?

Yes she nags, bosses, belittles, but then I often/usually think I am right, can be socially awkward, forgetful, and am apt at foot in mouth, at least at home.

She keeps telling me I need to be more romantic, but it's hard to be make big romantic gestures to someone who seems to be constantly angry with you.

My wife suffers from moderate anxiety. She always has, although I suspect my ADHD behaviour, particularly when it was undiagnosed, caused it to sky rocket to intolerable levels. She accepts she has it but has always been fearful of getting treatment. She has never managed to follow through with her intentions.

I have two beautiful girls (5 and 2) who I adore. A beautiful house which I bought. We break-up being the man the chances are I am going to come off worst and I also worry that her inability to manage money is going to result in me having to bail her out for sake of the children.

Bizarrely, and I only say bizarrely only having re-read this, I still love her. She is beautiful, charming, strong (in-public), is universally respected (including by me), we generally share views and most values, and when she is not angry or stressed she is affectionate and I really enjoy being with her. She says she still loves me - I believe her. I just don't know what she loves about me or why she wants to be with me. I don't mean this because I have a low self esteem, rather that she never articulates the things about me that make her love me.

I have gone and booked a hotel for 3 days to try and get my head straight. For once calmly and not on the back of an argument with the anger still raging. She tells me I need to be clear, and she's right. I think she was really shocked and disappointed when I actually went. Normally I (or she) would just calm down and forget it.

I know that we have to break the cycle that we have been following for the past 7-years. The pain, disappointment, anger, loneliness followed by one or two good months of it feeling like we might actually have a chance of sorting thing out by "trying harder" and then back to where we started.

We have been having marriage counselling for the past four months, which I instigated, but no progress. It's just a refereed blame session. What the hell do I do????

Wow, this sounds very

Wow, this sounds very frustrating.  I have said before that it is such a shame when one partner doesn't want to work WITH the other on the relationship.  It sounds like you have started to do some work on your issues, but your wife seems to be stalling or in denial about hers...and that's not fair.

The only thing that really popped into my head was that maybe you two need a different therapist.  If, after 4 months, it is just all a big blame session, then maybe it's not the right therapist for you.  Maybe someone who is willing to give you guys some concrete "homework" and strategies would be better than someone who just sits there and referees.

I just posted a much shorter

I just posted a much shorter version of almost this same thing in the "other" category, but my wife suffers from depression and an anxiety disorder, and I just recently went on meds that have helped me keep my emotions in check, she how ever does not admit that some of what she is feeling about me stems from her untreated and chronic. Mood disorders, that even my therapist says sounds like she may be going threw a bad case of postpartum depression and is focusing all her anger about everything at me and using my poor behavior from our past as fuel for her fire.

i have always had a short fuse when it comes to anger and would be quick to explode and she would gladly return in kind. This went on for a lot of our relationship. I am now the calm one and waiting for her to go to her therapy appointment and hope that she does not try and throw out the emotional abuse card that she has been using the last month.

so my heart goes out to you and wish you the best of luck.

Agree about Needing New Therapist

Your story is a sad one - it's almost impossible to make a relationship work if both partners aren't dedicated to making changes in themselves - objectively measurable changes that you can count (example:  therapy to manage anger, so that the number of fights is cut in half).  I agree with the person below - if you have been working with a therapist for 4 months and you are still having blame sessions you most likely need a new therapist.  That does not sound like progress.  Or, if you aren't ready to try a new therapists, you, at least, can refuse to participate in blame sessions...this will make your wife's blaming more obvious (when two people are blaming each other it's harder to sort it out.)

You can only contribute your best self to the relationship.  Make sure that you are optimizing your treatment, that you are working on those things that are most interfering in your relationship, and that you are taking responsibility for yourself.  Contribute your best self and you take away her ability to lay blame at your feet.

You make an interesting comment - "...but I often/usually think I am right..."  Do you spend time trying to validate her opinion?  If you remember, validation isn't about agreeing with her, but simply about trying to understand her point of view and acknowledge she has a right to hold it.  I wonder how your therapy sessions might go if you responded to her first attack with a "why do you say that?" or a "let's talk about that idea for a while - tell me more..."  Perhaps, just to change things up, you should try it next time you are in.  She might let you have it...or she might be surprised at your willingness to hear her out...which would be good.

As for when to call it quits - here is a quote from my upcoming book (The Couple's Guide to Thriving with ADHD) in which co-author Nancie Kohlenberger and I try to answer that very question:

"Questions about whether or not to stay can best be answered, we think, when couples know they have done their utmost to bring their best selves to their relationship.  It takes time to explore how to bring your best selves forward.  Couples facing ADHD issues must learn to optimize treatment, set better boundaries, learn new communication techniques, and more.  But at some point couples know inside themselves that they are ready to ask is our "best" still a good fit?  Can we find joy and happiness from what we each contribute to our partnership?  Can we love ourselves, and our partners, for all the wonderful things they present...as well as their flaws?

We urge couples to give themselves enough time to fully understand how ADHD impacts them and what their options are in dealing with it.  Not all couples succeed in turning their relationship around, but it's amazing how many do.

Couples sometimes ask how long this process will take, and of course, the answer to that question varies greatly.  In general, though, we see that once the ADHD partner fully understand the issues that ADHD symptoms contribute to the relationship and initiates a concerted attempt to optimize treatment, it takes at least 6 - 18 months of serious effort to turn things around...(more here, edited for this post)...But if you find that your best selves are no longer a good match, or that one party is unable to locate and act on their inner caring, loving, supportive self even given adequate tools and time, then it may be time for a new path."

Best of luck to you...this is a difficult time.