Reply To: How to best help my husband with his ADD

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Let me start by acknowledging your frustration as well as your interest in helping your husband’s situation and improving your relationship. Being in a marriage with someone who has ADHD can be maddening, more maddening than your partner probably knows — and I say that as a man with ADHD who only realized the magnitude of the effect of his ADHD after it was too late.

From what you have said, it is impossible from my perspective to offer much in the way of advice regarding medication. Your husbands medication may or may not be a problem. There may or may not be some other condition that is hurting his work.

However I do think it’s possible to make a few observations about communication.

On one side, you note that he says he feels his medication is working, and is “super stubborn” about considering alternatives. On the other, you feel his medication is a problem and are “very frustrated” with it all. You are “losing your patience” with his “stubborn attitude. I get the impression that the two of you have gone around and around on the topic many times and are entrenched in your positions. From your perspective, that’s very logical. After all, he’s been laid off from his job. Maybe if he just found the right medication, all these problems would go away. So why won’t he try?

The problem as I see it is that the two of you are no longer hearing each other or communicating at a level that will move this issue — or your relationship — forward. You are locked in conflict on this issue, and from experience I fear maybe on many other issues as well.

Let me tell you what I think he is going through. First of all he is very ashamed of losing his job, and he’s probably extremely frustrated — likely more frustrated than you know — at all that has happened. He may be at a loss regarding how to do better the next time. When you confront him about his medication, I suspect that you — unintentionally! — activate his shame and feelings of unworthiness, which causes him — involuntarily! — to become emotionally flooded out, shut down, angry, irritated, and uncommunicative. His lack of openness or ability to communicate in turn makes you even angrier, so you turn up the volume, so he shuts down more, and on and on to chronic unhappiness on both sides down a road that leads to a not good ending.

If this is the case, if this is a pattern, doing more of the same will not work. You both are well meaning and doing your best. But you both are continuing to take actions that are counter-productive. I would say try something different. Plan a place and time to talk about these issues when both of you are calm and not in conflict. If he is in a defensive, shame-induced crouch, you are not going to get through to him. Come at the problem from a place of compassion and curiosity. Imagine that your husband is not being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn but that there is something else going on — like perhaps, he does not know what to do or how to explain himself and that he really does not believe other medications can help him. Or just believe him when he says the Adderall is fine and then ask what else is going on and how can you talk about that in a loving and supportive way.

This is hard stuff. It requires letting go of very logically understandable resentments and grievances and of knowing best and being right about what’s happening. And that is just on your side. I recommend reading books by Melissa Orlov who is very insightful into just the kind of relationship troubles you describe.

I would also observe as others have that your husband might be in a job that’s not good for him. Why is he having these problems “handling certain things.” One of the most important things for anyone with ADHD is to be in a job they find highly exciting, interesting, and of value. Even if he is a genius he will not be good at doing a simple job if he doesn’t like it. It’s not a character defect — it’s his biology; his type of brain. If this is the case, I’d say support him in finding a job he loves. You’ll be glad you did.

Last thing, I would ask if there might be a way to get him more information and knowledge about what non-ADHD partners go through, which might lead to him being more understanding and compassionate towards you. A good ADHD coach could help with all of the above.