Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Marriage is hard — and when ADHD is in the picture, it can feel downright impossible. Here, a wife who is ready to walk asks what she can do to save her marriage.

Saving an ADHD relationship

An ADDitude reader recently wrote: “I am married to a man, age 49, who has driven me out of my mind for the last 10 years. He’s totaled two cars in four years, been fired from two jobs, and flies off the handle. He doesn’t take care of any household responsibilities, despite best intentions. He is finally taking medication and has started seeing a therapist. I applaud him for that. But I am to the point where I want to give up on him. How can I save our marriage? What should he do and what should I do?”

A successful marriage takes work. Two people blending their lives to support and accommodate each other is hard. And being married to a person with ADHD is harder. It is a roller coaster ride, often frightening, frustrating, and exhausting. Years ago, your relationship may have begun with excitement and energy, as your husband hyperfocused on you. You were the complete center of his attention and all that mattered to him. But things change dramatically.

You feel confused and unloved because your husband seems to have lost interest in you and his responsibilities to the family. You say that you are at the point of giving up on him. You cannot depend on him to contribute any leadership in your home. It sounds as if he has also caused your family financial hardships. Know that you are not alone. It is natural that you fear that things will stay the same. You have been so preoccupied with your spouse that your own desires and goals have been put aside. You need to address that.

To-Do List for Your Husband

The first step for your husband is to get an accurate diagnosis from a professional with experience in the treatment of ADHD. Does your husband meet the DSM-V criteria for ADHD? If your husband gets a confirmed diagnosis, he is on the right track. A cognitive behavioral therapist can be helpful, especially if there are other challenges, such as a mood disorder, poor self-esteem, substance abuse, aggressive anger, chronic anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

An ADHD coach can help your husband gain insight into destructive behaviors that interfere with his marriage and family. A coach will explore ways of managing frustration and anger, decreasing self-blame and low self-esteem, reducing procrastination, and improving time management, social skills, and communication. A coach can also help your husband create a personal plan for success.

[How Learning to Listen Might Save Your Marriage]

To-Do List for You

Fortunately, there are things you can do, too, to improve your relationship:

1. If you haven’t done so already, learn as much as you can about ADHD. Read articles and books, or attend a local support group or a national conference on attention deficit.

2. Don’t take your husband’s behaviors personally. Remember who has the disorder and don’t take the blame. It is not your job to “rescue” him. You can’t make his ADHD go away, no matter how much you try, and you are not responsible for his disorder. He needs to take ownership of his actions and seek the help that he needs to address ADHD symptoms.

You say that he “flies off the handle.” He must learn to deal with frustration and anger in an acceptable way. On the other hand, you are responsible for your reactions to his actions. Try getting away from him for a few minutes, and try to stay as calm as possible during those times. You probably know by now when he is in the throes of an “ADHD-charged moment.” This may occur when he is overwhelmed, frustrated, or running on stimulus overload. This is not the best time to bring up certain subjects. Learn to differentiate between facts and feelings. Even though your husband may have hurt your feelings by not listening to you, he may not be aware of how his actions and words affect you.

[“An Open Letter to My Husband”]

3. Remember that your husband is not defective or flawed. His brain is wired differently. He may seem unmotivated to change his behaviors, but he is not deliberately trying to annoy you. I can assure you that his actions are not due to lack of caring.

4. Learn to be patient. Change takes time. He has probably gotten a lot of negative comments and criticism, and he is sensitive to it. Find occasions to give good feedback. Be a cheerleader when you see positive change in him.

5. Do not enable him. You married an adult and you are not expected to do everything for him. Over time, you may have nagged him so much that you feel as if you are raising a child. It is natural to feel emotionally abused and unloved. Don’t become his mother or the janitor who picks up after him. You can be his helper, but you are not his personal slave. It is his responsibility to cope with the everyday challenges of life.

6. Never tolerate abuse – verbal or physical. If your husband cannot manage his anger/aggression on his own, he needs professional help. You must insist on being treated with respect! Likewise, you are responsible for not “tearing him down” when you don’t agree with his actions or when he forgets to do a task or a chore that you asked him to do several times.

7. Build better communication. Agree on a set time every week when you can talk without interruptions or distractions. Use this time to clarify what hasn’t been working in your marriage and what is important to both of you. Learn to listen more and talk less, but be honest about how his ADHD traits affect you. Ask open-ended questions and explore possibilities for change. Resolve misunderstandings by seeking clarifications of what you or your husband said or did. Be transparent about your thoughts and feelings, and encourage your husband to do the same.

People with ADHD don’t do a good job of recognizing social cues or appropriate boundaries. If your husband seems emotionally disconnected, be open and honest about your feelings out of love and concern for the relationship. If you feel that you can no longer communicate effectively together, it is time to seek professional help.

8. Give your husband unconditional love. This won’t be easy after years of feeling unloved and unimportant to him. Show him that you accept him, even though you don’t condone a lot of his behaviors and habits. Learn to show compassion and remember that your relationship is more important than being right.

9. Last and not least, keep a good sense of humor! It will help you survive the tough times.

[“What I Love About My Wife with ADHD”]

3 Related Links

  1. Revenge Your Ex

    Each day hundreds of men and women seek revenge on their ex-mates for a
    variety of reasons, usually because they got dumped or where cheated on.
    Revenge comes in many ways. It typically starts by using social media to
    vent, and then escalates from there. Now sites like “Get Revenge On Your Ex”
    for a fee will help you get pay back or revenge.

    So what is the best way to get revenge besides slashing her tires, posting
    nude photos of her and so on.

    The best way according to the web site Right Choices 101 is to live your
    life well. This is true no matter who you are seeking revenge on. Coworkers,
    past bosses, bad friends or ex-lovers. Put your energy into succeeding and
    enjoying your life, not wasting your time, energy and resources on revenge
    that can end up costing you much more. Plus, when you seek revenge, you send
    them a massage that you have not gotten over the relationship. It’s much
    better to show you are indifferent and don’t care.

    According to Kenneth Agee of A Foreign Affair, a service that specializes in
    helping men find young beautiful foreign women, “The best revenge is to date
    or marry a women 10 years younger than your ex. This will piss her off to no
    end. No woman ever wants to be replaced with a younger, more attractive
    woman. Just like a man never likes to get replaced by a guy who is wealthier
    or more successful.

    I will never forget one of my first clients we took to Saint Petersburg,
    Russia.” says Agee, “The client told me that two days on our tour was better
    than two years of therapy. Having hundreds of attractive women fighting over
    you gets your ex out of your mind pretty quick.

    I personally went through break up when my ex ran off with another man. But
    a short time later, I met a new lady who was ten times better. I ran into
    that man who stole my ex and I gave him a big thanks. In fact, I could not
    thank him enough. He was stuck with an older nagging women, while I was now
    with a young, beautiful, caring women. Plus, my ex had gained about 100
    pounds. I don’t look at that fellow as any kind of enemy but as the person
    who saved me from my ex and years of suffering.” This is the best a revenge
    when you win without lowering yourself.

    Other sites like “Get Over Her Now” give practical advice and tips for
    getting over a past relationship.

    Top Tips from Get Over Her Now:

    Start making platonic relationships with as many women as possible, old,
    young, skinny, fat, cute or ugly. This greatly helps you get back in the
    game of socializing with the opposite sex. And it opens up lots
    opportunities to meet their cute attractive friends in a more relaxed
    environment. This also helps you build your game and confidence.

    Improve yourself, start working out, get up early every day and exercise.

    Buy new clothes. Dressing better makes you feel better and improves your

    Focus on work and getting a promotion or raise. Don’t let a break up effect
    your work negatively. Put that extra effort into work and it will pay off
    with a better position and more money. This will also build your confidence
    and help attract better quality women.

    Any time you are depressed, improving yourself helps greatly. When you feel
    depressed, don’t sit and watch TV and then sleep-in late. Get out and do
    something that will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Take a
    class, go hiking, fix something you’ve been putting off.

    Don’t start drinking. Drinking will always have a negative impact on your
    life. Don’t drink while depressed or when you are trying to get over some
    one. After all, drinking is for celebrating. So if you are not celebrating
    something, don’t drink. A quality women is not going to be attracted to
    someone who drinks a lot or has a drinking problem.

    Don’t sleep in; sleeping late increases depression. Get up as early as you
    can and go for a walk, take a hike, or go to the Gym. Research shows getting
    up early and exercising can eliminate depression. You will have no game be

    Don’t binge eat. If you start gaining weight, you will feel less self-worth
    and lose your confidence. Confidence is a quality that women are extremely
    attracted to.

    Conclusion, the best revenge is when you improve your life so well that she
    realizes she made a big mistake. And satisfaction comes when you meet
    someone so much better, you are glad the ex is gone. After all, if you are
    seeking revenge, how great could she really have been in the first place!

  2. Those who are interested in the topic of ADHD and its impact on marriage, as well as constructive ways to improve marriages impacted by ADHD will find excellent resources at the ADHDmarriage website.
    Melissa Orlov, Author of The ADHD Effect on Marriage and long-time contributor to ADDitude Magazine

  3. So the.ADHD spouse’s to do list has 2 items, and the non-ADHD spouse’s list has what, 9? Apparently only a saint with no needs of her own can be married to an ADHD spouse. Wish I knew this before I git married to a guy with ADHD.

Leave a Reply