To me perhaps the hardest thing is this: my husband is THE person I want to turn to when I hurt, when I feel someone has been unkind to me or treated me unfairly, when I need loving support or advice in dealing with a difficult situation. He is the person I trust most in the world in that we began our lives together, more than 20 years ago, with a foundation of mutual respect, honesty, caring, understanding, etc, etc. and have created a wonderful family and a (mostly) comfortable home and life together. BUT where our relationship has led us, through both of our mistakes and misjudgements and, especially, through untreated ADHD, addictions, and all of the conflicts therein, is to a place where I feel pain and betrayal at his hands. It seems I can't win: I don't want to separate, although we did for several months during which time he resisted ending our marriage so vehemently that I found it nearly impossible to proceed. Some changes and commitments were made and we reconciled. I cannot live in the constant state of turmoil of the past several years because it's eating me up from the inside out. I cannot see how I can accept his behaviours though, because they are so hurtful to me.
My husband was diagnosed last year at the age of 48. Because of living with untreated/undiagnosed ADHD for so long combined with a challenging childhood, he is a very intelligent man who has always felt stupid and ashamed and has learned a myriad of coping strategies which, although he developed them to serve a purpose (such as building a freelance career in a creative field to maximize his skills and prevent disorganization, etc from causing problems at work), make it very difficult for him to do so many things. He currently struggles with aspects of his career, his education (he's on his 4th or 5th year of a 2 year masters degree with no end in sight), relating to family members (he won't talk with my mother at all and our 20 year old daughter hasn't been able to share with him her plans for moving into her own apartment because he's too distant), organization, time management, remembering things, participating in the household, maintaining healthy friendships, and most of all, our marriage. He has learned to be suspicious and defensive: last night I was muttering innocently to the recycle bin and he actually ran out of the house because he was certain that I was criticizing him under my breath which started a whole chain reaction in his head.
During the past several years we have survived so much: multiple affairs (his), alcoholism (his), financial struggles, family blowouts, marital blowouts. All of this on top of the stuff that life already throws at "normal" couples if such a thing exists, like cancer and death in the family, job crises and raising teens. Add to all of that the other layer of ADHD challenges: he doesn't notice chores that need doing, doesn't even remember that I've asked for him to do them or that I've tried to implement systems, then he gets upset when I react with frustration or resentment because he says that it's unfair that I didn't just ask him to do the chores! Sheesh.
The object of his most recent affair/infatuation is getting married this spring, to a man she cheated on with my husband, and still she's garnering as much of DH's attention as ever. Lives halfway across the country but is still more present in his mind than I am. I get it - it's hyperfocus, infatuation, dopamine, and all that, but good grief, I'm tired of it all. This is the rollercoaster part. After an epiphany last spring regarding this woman and some lightning bolts of awareness regarding his inability to write a paper even though he's a talented speaker, my DH sought a diagnosis of ADHD. Up the roller coaster to a high point! Then he started to grieve the loss of the girl and we went down to the pits again. Enter ADHD meds and counselling - things are looking up! Then a crisis hits and back to the depths of despair and, oh yeah, says he, I actually can't live without this girl in my life. Then Dr. suggests an increase in dosage to help with focus at school and, suddenly, things look balanced again. In fact, this past Feb he was finally on a fairly large dose and the results were very positive! He was going to bed at a regular hour and following a routine. Since we were going to bed at the same time we actually had opportunity to cuddle up in bed and chat or make love before going to sleep (a routine which has not been commonplace for more than 10 years!) He seemed to be getting a lot of his own work done and still have time left over to be a husband and father in the household. His relationship with our daughters seemed easy and open for the first time in years. He stopped asking me to do things that he had forgotten. And, most of all, he had an epiphany regarding the girl in his life, telling me that he realized their relationship was not real but was simply a high, that it felt no different than drinking beer used to. And that with this realization in place he would no longer feel the need to pull away from me as he's been doing so often for so long. Stupid me, I believed him. But next thing I know he's quit treatment and, thud, I've plummeted down the roller coaster again.
I give up. I've told him I don't have the energy to fight against his interacting with women anymore (although if/when he starts sleeping around again, that'll be the last goodbye) and he's ecstatic. Brain full of dopamine, or endorphins, or whichever it is. He gets to have me around to tend to the gamut of needs at home and, when he's not stimulated enough he'll get on the internet and spend some time with the "true love of his life." Retch. I am married to two men: the one who I want to be with, who I only see when he's in treatment and doing the hard work, and the other one who I really kind of want to push down a flight of stairs. I can't reach out to him or appeal to his sense of what's right because he can't hear those voices in his own head. He's so defensive that I really can't tell him anything, certainly can't suggest what course he should follow regarding his ADHD. He is so much the puppet of his symptoms, and the actions that he takes because of his symptoms are so very extreme that there's no way I can avoid reacting to them. Try avoiding the symptom-response-response pitfall when your dear one tells you that he has learned so much about how to be in a relationship from the 25-year-old and that if only you could act more like her dear... Here I sit, reading Melissa's book and wishing we could do the activities at the end around household chores but there's a gigantic elephant in the room named "The homewrecker who just won't quite leave." There is absolutely no point whatsoever in raising the issue of equity in dishwashing when all that his brain seems to see or hear is a loop replaying about how he married the wrong woman. And yet, when I actually went so far two years ago as to sit him down across a lawyer's table from me and begin to "set us both free" he absolutely wouldn't do it. He showed up, began the process only because I was so angry and because I insisted on it, but then point-blank refused before we could actually begin. Honestly, I've seen enough potential for a terrific marriage, when we're BOTH working on it but living with potential is exhausting and demoralizing.
This week the roller coaster is at an all-time low. I feel so lonely and demoralized that it's hard to hold my head up. Meanwhile, life goes on and I have a job to go to and a family to care for. I keep thinking that, if I had stayed down at the bottom of the ride it might not feel so bad but, in February I had such incredibly high hopes for us - higher than they'd been in years. Meanwhile I know that there are actually worse things in the world - someone close to my daughter was just given weeks to live - and I want to feel as though I can grab hold of life and enjoy, but it's so very hard with all of this on my mind and with our home feeling like a minefield, never knowing when a symptom will be triggered.