Reply To: Looking back on my whole marriage

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I read your post and thought to myself I could have written this exact entry. My husband and I are in our 40’s and married 17 years. We have 4 children ranging in age from 15-7. I too am the non ADHD spouse. My husband has been taking medication for his ADHD for about 5 years. Although “diagnosed” he never went about it via the “proper” channels. He gets his medication prescribed monthly from his general doctor. I have urged him for the last 3 years to please go see a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment regimen. Still he has not. As you know this is one of the most frustrating things for an ADHD spouse. Follow through and the complete lack of it. I could probably list 10 things right now that should be attended to which he has no desire or motivation to tackle. I also believe my husband suffers from depression which perhaps mild could benefit from both behavioral and medication treatment. I have been asking my husband to seek therapy for himself and for our marriage for about a year. Again no follow-through with that. I have had so many similar things in my marriage that you mentioned above including several job “lay-offs” which at times I have wondered if he was actually “let-go” due to inefficiency or disorganization in his job role. One of the reasons I demanded he at least speak to MD and try medication was his forgetfulness. Keys, wallet, suit jacket, when he left the house. Failure to remember things I asked him to handle or take care of and finally as a mother of young children the last straw came when he forgot our daughter at a practice field one evening while I was working! I received a call from another parent stating my 1st grader was at the school all alone holding onto a fence with no one in site. She was just about to pull away after picking her own child up and noticed mine there. Thank heavens my daughter knew where I worked and they called me. I had given my husband specific instructions to pick her up at 7pm and low and behold he got involved in something and hyper focused on it and never paid attention to the time. He also claims I told him 7:30… I am a bit OCD and knowing his ways I repeat myself so many times. I know I told him 7. It was at that point that he agreed to try medication. He had told me the medication is “like putting on eye glasses and seeing the world for the first time” He has essentially taken the same regimen for 5 years. I do think that it could be even more effective if managed appropriately. (I am a pharmacist so I feel like I have some additional insights on the medication part).

So here is where I give you some advice that has helped me a bit. I heard this great quote “If you want to change your marriage, change yourself!” I do think it is wonderful that your husband is open to seeing a psychiatrist and it seems as if he would even be open to seeing a therapist alone or as a couple (?). I am glad that you realized that you needed something to help you as well. I personally see a therapist every week. She is a psychologist so no prescribing medication, but it helps to talk with a neutral party who has never even met my husband. I vent the frustrations I feel and she gives me ways to cope. Through talking with her over the last 6 months I have realized that we should have been in marriage therapy all along. I too suffer from loneliness in my marriage. My husband who in the beginning use to hyper focus on me and making me laugh (this is common in early courting relationships when one person is ADHD I have learned) has basically checked out. Likely because I spent years nagging him and mothering him but also because he is not able to handle me and our relationship anymore. From my experience I truly believe that ADHD people are not good multi-taskers. Men are not as good as women either. My husband is completely maxed out with his job and caring for our children and running them to activities and such that he has no energy or ability to give me any attention what-so-ever. So although I feel lonely every day I find things and focus on them to help me. I see my therapist every Monday, I go to the gym 4-5 days a week and take spin. I joined weight watchers and go with a friend on Thursday’s (this can be like therapy too). I focus on my children and being present for them and cheering for them at their sports and dance and such. I read personal growth books about different topics I am interested in including ADHD and marriage. I also read fiction and belong to a book club with some former co-workers. I take a walk or go to sleep when I am at a loss of what to do. I listen to podcasts (awesome feature on your phone if you do not already know about it). Personally I like the podcast RISE and RISE TOGETHER. Every day at some point I say a mental prayer that I realize I can not change my husband as he is an adult and he must acknowledge and work to better himself inside his own illness. I am done stressing it and making him appointments (that he often would neglect to show up for). I try to stop nagging him and walk out of the room when his banter is too ridiculous for me. (He too makes untimely comments). I have noticed that the cell phone is TERRIBLE for ADHD sufferers and I have read a lot about that as well. I have asked him that he not bring the phone into our “bed” as I often fall asleep or awake to my husband on his phone. Often doing work but more often looking up stupidities or fantasy football. He honors my request for a few days and then it goes out the window. I’m tired of always asking and things not really changing. Marriage is so very hard and anyone who is married to someone with ADHD has it even harder! Couples where one or both suffer from ADHD I believe need professional help to keep things on track. In all his shortcomings I will say this, my husband is a wonderful father to our kids. He enjoys attending their events and sports and always puts them as top priority. His hyper focus when directed towards the children is wonderful.

Take one day at a time. Learn some coping mechanisms with this new diagnostic revelation. Read, troll this website for advice. Pick up some new habits for yourself. Mostly try to understand that this is an illness. They do not wake up each morning with the thought “Today I will drive too fast, get a ticket for several hundred dollars, put that ticket somewhere, forget to pay it, then get a notice in the mail for $XXXX which my wife will see and get mad at me for all the above…” I do not believe that someone with ADHD does this. If they have suffered their whole lives they have spent their whole lives being told “you are not good enough, what’s wrong with you, why can’t you figure this out”. When I was growing up I can clearly remember classroom teachers saying these things to children… I am sure that the same things were said to my husband. He has spent his whole life in a cloud of mental chaos. Not feeling up to par. And not able to figure out why he can’t figure it out. Truly an illness. There has to be a line however between feeling sorry for them and enabling them to continue in constant chaotic state. They are adults. They must put pieces together to figure things out. Or at least want too. Your husband sounds as if he is willing to speak to the psychiatrist and start putting pieces together. That my friend is a blessing.

Books that are helpful include:
The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov
Helping Your Husband with ADHD by George Sachs and Tim Norman
The Doormat Syndrome by Lynne Namka