Why Knowing (And Accepting) You Have ADHD Matters

When you and your spouse are first exploring whether or not ADHD has been a factor in your marriage it can seem both a relief (finally, a reason that explains so much!) and a bit overwhelming (ADHD seems to be everywhere!)  Some with ADHD resist thinking about how much ADHD can impact their relationship because it makes them feel "broken" or lessened.  I asked myself the other day - does it matter if you label it ADHD?

The answer to that question is yes and no.  Knowing about ADHD really helps you find the optimal way to improve your life.  But you don't have to "label" it ADHD in your everyday life.  Here's an example:  For years my husband and I laughed because he is a man who needs to exercise pretty much every day else he can be cranky, unhappy, disconnected and hard to live with (and also doesn't sleep as well).  We now realize that this is related to his ADHD and that exercise is one of his forms of "treatment".  But does it matter that we now know that it's ADHD related?  Not really, as long as he's exercising.  It's just HIM and one of the things that is part of him (with an excellent side benefit for me, in that he's in great shape!)

What does matter is that you (ADHD or not) get a chance to put your life in order in a way that satisfies you and brings you joy.  (Note I say YOU here.  No one is obliged to satisfy anyone else.)  For those with ADHD who are travelling a journey to find out what brings them joy, the label of ADHD is useful insomuch as when you know you have ADHD, then you also know that using specific tactics that are shown to work for people with ADHD is the fastest/best way to get to your goal - and sometimes the only way, given how ADHD works.  I always remind people - don't try harder, try differently - and by that I mean try those things that are known to work for ADHD because they will work better for you than other approaces simply because of the way you are wired.

While it once completely controlled my life and my husband's life, ADHD is now almost non-existent in both of our lives and certainly in our marriage.  You can't imagine how much better things can/will get for you if you are able to think clearly and non-judgmentally about ADHD and what is already known about dealing with it.  (And, for those with a learned fear of failure, having faith that good treatment means you don't have to continue to wonder whether you'll fail at what you try is also helpful...but that's a different post!)

ADHD is only a curse if you fight the idea of having it more than you fight to subdue it's symptoms.  Once you subdue the symptoms then you can start to understand the great things that it offers you, as well.  For some, those things include minds that move quickly and "see" things in unique ways; tenacity (my husband is a good case of this); an ability to love well and forgive quickly (because they live in the moment); almost unending curiosity...the list is very long indeed.  There's a reason why the only guy for me has ADHD!  Everybody else is just too boring!




makes sense

There's a reason why the only guy for me has ADHD!  Everybody else is just too boring!


This is the reason that I still love my ex BF.  He brought excitement to my life and taught me how to play again at 56 years old.  I miss him and you are so right--I think that everyone else will be boring!  We still communicate and I am not sure if there will ever be a future for us, but I hope everyday that he will put away the stigma he feels about the life he's had.  While I wait I am building a life to take care of myself, and I acknowledge that he may never self examine so that he can leave the chaos behind.


Melissa, what a great post!

Melissa, what a great post! We're still at the point in our ADHD journey where we're learning what's a result of the ADHD and what isn't, and what to do about it. I'm sure, at some point, it will come with a lot less effort. But it helps that my husband wants to be involved with his little family, able to focus on the job he loves, and understands that he and I need a good relationship once the kids are no longer in the middle. I'm so thankful that he's pursuing treatment, that he's amiable, and that we still find joy in each other's company. I can only hope we continue to improve!

other examples?

"While it once completely controlled my life and my husband's life, ADHD is now almost non-existent in both of our lives and certainly in our marriage."

So it's possible? It's possible that this isn't a life long struggle to justify that it's all worth it in the end? I've been hurt so badly, but his heart is so good and his efforts underway... i keep wondering if this site is like others where only those with horror stories show up, and all the success stories fade away, not needing a place to vent and post. i want to know that my husband can function without a codependent partner, and that i'm not naively buying into a life of disappointment and delusion.

happycamper, I think it's

happycamper, I think it's possible :-) I like reading the success stories, too, they make all the struggles my husband and I have gone through seem worth it, like maybe we can have a happy ending. Don't give up hope, don't give up on your husband. Melissa's story isn't an anomaly, I believe it's very possible! While my husband and I struggle withe the ADHD aspects affecting our marriage, and other issues that regularly affect marriages, I'm thankful that we're struggling together; that has made such a huge difference for me. Those struggles have really helped us to help and understand our son, as well. While my home may not be showcase, and might be mired in dysfunction, it's at least full of love and laughter, and for that I'm grateful every day. Keep trying, keep loving, and try to be patient. I'm sending a lot of hope and good thoughts your way!

other examples?

"While it once completely controlled my life and my husband's life, ADHD is now almost non-existent in both of our lives and certainly in our marriage."

So it's possible? It's possible that this isn't a life long struggle to justify that it's all worth it in the end? I've been hurt so badly, but his heart is so good and his efforts underway... i keep wondering if this site is like others where only those with horror stories show up, and all the success stories fade away, not needing a place to vent and post. i want to know that my husband can function without a codependent partner, and that i'm not naively buying into a life of disappointment and delusion.


You'll be wanting to get rid of the co-dependence! Ultimately it's not healthy and will prevent you both from succeeding. Find other ways to support him that don't involve giving up who you are and that give him back the responsibility for his ADHD issues. But yes, it is possible. Applaud all forward progress, forgive him when he has problems, vent in a way that doesn't hurt him, gather your feelings and thoughts to present to him in a non-threatening way...these things will all help you move forward.

How is it possible?

I can't even imagine that ADD could not cause problems in the life of the person who has it, or their spouse.

To start with real basic stuff: Do they just give George his meds in Massachusetts? I find the $130 a month that my husband's meds cost (after the insurance has paid their part!) to be rather daunting. His side effects from the meds are so bad and so obvious that he is now facing a charge of driving under the influence, which of course he wasn't, but that doesn't mean the lawyers will defend him for free. My husband is now in an entry-level job in his field, at 48 years old, because he never had the ability to even think of working in mental health (he majored in Psychology in college) until he had his diagnosis and treatment. So paying that much for meds crowds out so many things we should have, because he's making less than what most kids straight out of college make. He will never rise to the level he's capable of, and should be at now, unless he wants to work to 100, to make up for his "late start."

The posts here are full of stories where the non-ADD spouse has given up huge chunks of her life to accomodate the needs of the ADD spouse. Arwen's routine of multiple weekly formal meetings sounds like it would crowd other, more pleasurable, activities out of their lives. It does not sound like anything is ever simply "free and easy" for them; how do they NOT feel that this has affected their lives?

We've pretty much reached a plateau. He spends 10% of our income on his meds, I don't get my medical needs met because of it. He works and comes home, and believes because he works at a difficult job he should not have to do anything in the house so I do it all. Marriage counselors say they can't offer us any more help. I don't know how to make it any better, but I know I would not have married him if I'd known what my life would be like. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trying to survive. How do I get to where we don't feel that his ADD has affected the quality of our lives?

A number of things to respond to

Sueann - there are a number of things in your post that i thought I might be able to respond to...First, the meds. If he has side effects that are that bad, then he should seek a different medication or treatment. The goal with meds is to get relief from symptoms without meaningful side effects. Try different meds, different doses, whatever, but don' t put up with awful side effects. You might also explore generics, if you haven't done so already. You say that paying for meds crowds out what you should have had because he makes too little now. I think you are placing the blame in the wrong place. Previously untreated ADHD symptoms are to blame for how much of your income the meds take up and his coming to his career late. But you can celebrate that he is able to do it now since his diagnosis and treatment. Things are looking up. You are concerned that non-ADHD spouses give up large chunks of their lives to accomodate ADD spouses. Yes, living with an ADD spouse takes more time and thought than living with a non-ADHD spouse. But that's just one part of the story. The other part of the story is that there are good things to be had, also. Arwen isn't forced to give that time to her husband. She has made a choice to do so because she wants to stay with him and perceives that this is a fair and balanced system that works for them both. My husband and I use a completely different "system" in which he covers certain parts of our lives (mechanical, computers, and more) and I cover others (home care, food, kids). ADHD isn't the only issue that people have that affects those around them. My mother had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 12 years before she passed away and that, too, took tons of time for my father. Life is full of these choices. The idea that he shouldn't do any of the work around the home is simply unfair. But be careful that you're not asking for it both ways. Your husband's not suddenly a great organizer, even if he is on meds. A system like the one that Arwen has in place is there specifically to get her and her household organized so that everyone knows what chores to do and when to do them. In her case, at least, she has learned that she is tilting at windmills to think her spouse would be able to do that organization and prioritization on his own. So, if you want your spouse to do chores, you will have to invest some time into the effort. Invest time to save time, I guess. You get to the place where ADHD doesn't affect your lives by fully accepting that the ADHD is there, and then putting systems in place that get you around it. Some systems are a bit time consuming (like Arwen's) but the end result is that you both feel better about each other - increasing the chance that they will spend "fun" time together even though they are also doing chores. For my husband and I, our systems have become more invisible - they are comprised at this point of mainly verbal cues, making sure we schedule time together, making sure we look to the positive rather than the negative, modifying our behavior on a daily basis to be sensitive to the needs of the other person (in a good way - for example, he will try to come to bed earlier than he might otherwise...which is still later than I would like...I've learned to read a good book while I'm waiting for him). You won't be successful at moving ADHD out of your lives until you both fully accept it and deal with it. Life isn't always fair, but making the best of where you are on any given day can take you to some pretty great places.


Hello there, this is my first post.  I have been reading and reading, I feel so extatic to have stumbled upon this site!  I think my husband of almost 3 years is ADD.  I, like many others on here Im sure, could type for hours on all of our issues and fights but I first off I need a little advice.  I think he may have had issues as a child with ADHD but Im not sure what if anything was done to treat it.  For some reason Im thinking we may have had a conversation about him taking meds or his parents wanting him to but its so faint I just cant remember what may have been said.  It wasnt one of those conversations where we were specifically talking about past medical history, but something that was randomly said durring another conversation.  Our marriage has been extrememly rocky the last 2 years.  We have had some marriage counseling but my husband works out of town 95% of the time, it was hard to make counseling work if we were only able to go once a month, if that.  I went individually once a week to work on my personal issues, faults etc.  His time at home is never regular so sometimes he will be home 2-3 weekends in a row and sometimes Im lucky if he's home once a month. 

 So many of the info, articles, blogs and stories of other people and couples seem to fit him and our relationship to a TEE.  Now I am fully aware that our marriage problems are not just him, even if he is ADD, but reading how people with ADD understand things and communicate, it makes total sense as to why the changes I have made and the different tools Ive tried to use, have not helped the marriage. I feel like I am in a better place with myself emotionally, but the marriage is worse.  I have broke down and cried many times while reading, and thinking what Im reading is a diary of our relationship.  I felt like I was reading a story about us but the names were changed. 

Now that I have found this site and realized this could be whats keeping us from a happy marriage, I feel like I have won the lottery but with no way to cash the check.  This is the first time in a LONG TIME that I have felt any kind of hope for him and I.  My problem is, I dont know how to approach him with all this.  We have serious communication problems and can basically only talk basic stuff: How was your day, hows the weather etc... He is very defensive and I dont want him to think that I am "Blaming" him for everything, or that something is "wrong" with him or any of the sort.  I am hoping someone can give me some insight.  He isnt the type to take medication for every ailment and Im not sure if he believes that ADD is real.  I am hoping that maybe he will atleast meet with someone to determine if he does have it and if meds would help.

I love him dearly and want our family to stay together (we have a son 1 1/2yrs, 3 dogs and a cat) forever but if it turns out he isnt ADD or he wont deal with it if he is, it is inevitable that we will get divorced.  I have suffered too long and taken too much emotional abuse.  It wont be long before our son will be suffering from it too if things dont change one way or the other.


what next?

We're delighted to have you join us here! I think the answer to your question is embedded in your post - if it truly is the case that you will end up and get divorced if your husband doesn't start to address his issues (whether they be ADD or not) then you really must bring this to his attention. Your husband's absences make the task harder, since he's so rarely home. But here are some options (not in any particular order): 1.) Have the conversation anyway, even if it's hard. Make sure to put as much of your comments into "I" statements as possible, and stay away from statements that might trigger defensiveness because he views them as attacks. Consider giving him a copy of Driven to Distraction at the end with something like "This is an amazing book about ADHD that has many positive things in it. As I was reading it, I thought of you." Hallowell can provide the info about ADHD, and you should concentrate upon your concerns about your relationsihp and how you got to thinking about ADHD in the first place. 2.) Find a friend or family member whom he respects who might be willing to "intervene" and encourage your husband to look further into ADHD. (Again, Driven to Distraction or Delivered from Distraction would be a good idea as a way for him to follow up) 3.) Write him a carefully worded letter about your feelings about your relationship and how you are together (or do this in person in a conversation). Tell him what your needs are that aren't being met in the relationship and your plan for making things better. Invite him to join you in making things better and then move into problem-solving mode together. At some point in the future, once he's on board with improving your lives, you could mention that he might explore the possibility of ADHD. 4.) At some point when you are in the car together, put on the audio version of Driven to Distraction or Delivered from Distraction. Tell him you were listening to an audiobook that was really interesting to you and does he mind if you listen for a few minute to finish the chapter? Start it at a place that you think will be particularly noteworthy for him...and see if he gets interested (you will have to have listened to it earlier....) If he asks why that book, you should be honest with him - that you've been thinking about the issues in your marriage and wanted to learn more about whether ADHD might be a factor. There are other ways, as well you could think of, I'm sure. Bottom line, though, is that if you feel strongly that things must change, then you need to get that out in the open - particularly if the clock is running as relates to your child. Just make sure that you state the problem as "the situation must change" not "you must change". He should have a voice in how he chooses to change his side of your relationship, just as you would want to be the person determining what you might have to do, too.

Meds and Side Effects

I am so frustrated with his meds! They've had him on all of them, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Adderall and now Concerta. The Vyvanse was great when he started but he became "immune" to it, and it stopped working. The others produced such negative side effects (shaking to the point of falling, dizzyness, etc.) that they had to stop giving them to him. He's had a complete neurological work-up including an MRI that our insurance didn't cover, and they can't find any reason for this.

He takes the smallest dose made of Concerta and his hands still shake. When he got a routine speeding ticket, the cop decided he was under the influence and now we have to pay a lawyer $2K to defend him. He will lose his job if he's convicted. They added another drug to help with the shaking, but they've tried him on all the drugs and he has these terrible side effects even at low doses. The quality of his life is so much better- work and so forth- that he puts up with the side effects. I feel his ADD needs a bigger dose of meds, but his body can't tolerate it. No one has any idea what to do. We can't afford any further visits to specialists.

One problem is that he gets treatment for his medical problems an there isn't enough money left to treat mine. The pot is only so big, and his ADD just eats it all up and there's nothing left for me.  10% of your income is a lot to spend on medication. And I'm not saying the income should be larger, but that such a large percentage of what it is shouldn't have to go to his meds. Again, I have no idea what to do. He could not work without the meds, so I can't ask him to stop them so I can afford to see the doctors I need to see. 

I hope this doesn't discourage others from taking meds. They are a godsend for him with treating his ADD, so the overall quality of his life is better. I think my husband's problem is very unusual.

Thanks, that's very thoughtful

It was very thoughtful of you to write about that. Unfortunately, patient assistance programs don't help with co-pays when you have insurance. The co-pay for it is $50 (no generic), $30 for the generic Wellbutrin and $50 for the non-generic medication to counteract the side effects of the Concerta. That ads up to so much that I can't even think about going to the doctor to address my issues.

I still don't see how I can prevent ADD from affecting my life under these circumstances.

Sueann, without knowing your

Sueann, without knowing your complete situation and with me not being a Doctor, I obviously can't tell you what will work and what won't, to help stop ADHD affecting your life, but I am 30 now and was diagnosed when I was 5-6 (I can't remember exactly), so I spent my youth in and out of counselor's offices and on and off meds. The one thing I have noticed for myself is that meds seem only to touch upon some of the behavioral issues that ADHD people simply can't physically change, such as concentration, mood swings and memory issues. Although I have found that the majority of my own relationship issues come from those 3 things, there are things we can do to help our non-ADHD spouse out. 

For example, when I get into an argument, I know I have a short fuse and tend to say hateful things to my wife, so I call a timeout, get in the truck and drive to my local quiet spot. I sit there and simmer for awhile (10-20 minutes usually), but without fail, every time I walk back in I am ready to apologize for my behavior. If I'd stayed, we still be at it, for sure. This is a coping mechanism for me. For my wife, she has had to learn that when I do apologize, she then drops it completely and we carry on life. Then on another day, we'll sit down and discuss how my behavior is doing and what issues are bothering her and myself. Then we, together, try and come up with solutions whereby we both give and take. This is certainly the most important bit, as early on, I felt like I was changing my life so much for her, I nearly started to resent her. But then when I noticed she got the message and started coming my way a little, it inspired me to do more. 

This certainly isn't the ideal solution to life, but we have to work with what hand dealt to us. For me that is coping mechanisms, medication (I started vyvanse 30mg last month and next week am switching up to 60mg, I get no side effects anymore but also I don't see any good effects unfortunately -- makes me very sad indeed!) and patience from my spouse. If I can afford it, I'd like to go to counselling too, for the both of us, but until I find a better paying job then that is not going to happen.

So until then, I am going to have to make do with what I can. I do a lot of studying online about ADHD, it's potential causes and reading other people's coping mechanisms. Over the year or so I have been that now, I have noticeably changed to myself. Not so much for my wife yet, but the important thing is she knows I am working on it and has patience (most of the time :-) ).