January 17, 2020 at 4:14 am #138683
I am a husband to an ADHD wife. We have been married now for two years and I can’t see a third year ahead of us. We dated for only 6 months before we got married. My wife who is now 30 was undiagnosed until after our marriage. When we got married and moved in together, I started to see behaviors that I had no idea had existed before marriage. I would bring things up to her about her forgetfulness and her poor decisions/compulsive behavior and fights would ensue but go no where. I was often baffled at how she could sink herself into a weird or pointless project for hours but to share in menial tasks around the house was worse than pulling teeth. I am the kind of person that when I don’t understand something, I research. So as I watched her behaviors, I started to track things and make lists to try and understand if it was something she was doing or if it was my fault. After month 5, I diagnosed her with adult adhd. No I’m not a doctor nor a psychiatrist, but she had every trait known to the disorder and they presented like reading a textbook on adhd. I told her what I had found, shared with her my desire for us to work together to get her help, and hopefully medication as I had known a few people with the disorder who managed it well enough with meds and therapy. She flat out refused. She denied the sciences behind it, denied any of the info I told her and outright called doctors a bunch of scam artists. This argument went on for another 6 months until I hit my breaking point. I decided that if she was not going to at least hear what I had to share and try to see if we could make our marriage better than I was not going to stay. We are both very Christian and the thought of divorce is difficult. We had argued about it a few times and when her impulsive behavior manifested in the arguments, it would come to the forefront of the fight that maybe we should get a divorce. Around the 6 month mark I told her if she wasn’t going to at least talk to a doctor to see if there might be something going on, then I was going to leave. We had already fallen heavily into the parent child relationship and I was working full time, in school full time and felt like I was raising an adult child. I simply didn’t care anymore for the marriage I had helped create. As soon as she saw how serious I was, she scheduled an appointment and within a few weeks found out she very much has adult adhd and is more severe in the spectrum. I have been through therapy for depression and am medicated for it and have found a healthy balance to live a normal life where it is nearly impossible to know I ever struggled. I naturally believed that therapy was the next step, but the same thing happened again. For the next year, I asked her off and on if she would please seek out a good therapist. I believed she needed to choose her own therapist as it would be easier to connect if it was her choice. This time around I was more understanding of her struggle to do things, and didn’t pressure nearly as badly. I tried to be more patient but after a year of almost every other week asking if she had any opportunity to contact any therapist in town, I returned to the only solution I could use, I threatened divorce very seriously. She found a therapist within two weeks and has begun to learn about her disorder more fully to try and find a way to manage. My biggest dilemma is I am tired of the roller coaster. I’m tired of swinging the biggest emotional stick at her to get to doing something so important. I am attending therapy with her now as I had wanted for us to work together once she felt she had the right person, so that she wasn’t on this path alone. I just don’t see an end in sight for the uphill battle. I understand marriage is hard, I understand her disorder makes her abnormal. I get that we can’t communicate, connect, and do things like a normal couple. I don’t understand how to be a husband to her and be myself. I am a type A personality, I love education, pushing myself to new levels of success and truly get a high off of hard work and mundane tasks like yard work. If I get a good sweat remodeling my bathroom, than I feel like I had an amazing day off. My wife on the other hand is drained by doing chores. If I don’t say anything, and I have experimented with this to see if it would be ok, then she will let the house turn into a pig sty and not feel any different. I maintained a clean and organized home before we lived together and now I struggle to find the balance again. I have tried to bring this up in therapy, but how do you tell the therapist that you feel mentally unhealthy because you’re towing the mental line for two adults. This is not to say that my wife doesn’t try. She is probably the most determined person I have ever met, it’s one of the reasons I married her. I watch her work so hard to try and manage herself. I see how she feels being abnormal and my heart goes out to her. I deeply love her and want for her to be happy. I also want to be happy but I keep feeling like I’m missing something big. I can seem to talk to everyone else in my life but when I try to talk to her, it’s like we are speaking two different languages. Our conversations have no end or else go no where. There’s no growth from emotional connection and I feel so unbalanced in my own life. I’ve lost some of the self care practices that I once religiously held myself to because I am burned out. And at the end of it all, I can track that about every 4-6 weeks she will hit a huge downward spiral, do something super impulsive like blow several hundreds of dollars or give up on herself and doing any part around the house, and if I don’t fall back into the parent role, it just keeps going. I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster from hell, but I love my partner. I can separate the fact that she has ADHD and she is also herself, with her quirks, and bad/good habits. I feel like if it weren’t for the adhd we would be ok, but I feel so weak admitting this, but I don’t know if I can manage a marriage with adhd. We both also want children, and I never imagined I’d reach my 30’s and not have a kid yet, but every time I think of having a child with her, I die a little inside. The fear of failure and hurting that child because of how our marriage manages now, is so daunting that I can’t even begin to dream of kids again. I feel like a real bastard for wanting to get out of the marriage I am in but I’m lost for how to make it work for us. Please, give your advice, whether in support of divorce or in support of making it work would be extremely helpful. I don’t know anyone else who’s married to a spouse with adhd and this is my first attempt at reaching out to a group for support.
January 17, 2020 at 2:21 pm #138713
Hi Need to know,
Get out now. It is the super-strong people (whom ADHDers unconsciously seek out as mates) who have the steepest falls. You will work and work and work, accepting for a while that you will do it all, but risk realizing too late that no one can.
You say you fear hurting a child because of your fraught marriage. But a child also would suffer from your wife’s ADHD behavior alone, especially if your wife were the at-home parent while you are at work. Even medicated, an ADHD parent’s behavior will not be fully normalized. I grew up with a severely impaired ADHD parent – harrowing. Made worse by the fact that it destroyed my other parent.
The firm boundaries you have helpfully erected (get to the doctor and therapy or else) don’t seem to have moved her to commit to real change. And you’d have to erect those boundaries over and over again.
You have carried your spouse for 2 1/2 years, and propelled her through evaluation, diagnosis, and the start of therapy. That’s more than enough.
Leave before a pregnancy occurs.
January 18, 2020 at 1:27 am #138733
The reply by “Deep” should, in my opinion, by deleted because of its hateful, spiteful tone, and generalizations about people with ADHD; and especially mothers with ADHD. Many of us had and are fantastic mothers with ADHD. Spontaneity, empathy, and an ability to “roll with the punches” are incredible assets to parenting, and are traits that many ADHDers share. But ADHD is extremely variable, and is layered upon an individual person. The disgust that drips from your post suggests you would be better off contributing to a forum not focused on ADHD.
January 18, 2020 at 4:57 am #138736
Realistically, it may take years for your wife’s symptoms to improve even with therapy, especially if she isn’t on a working medication. It’s really up to your own judgement whether you have the patience or resilience to continue in the relationship in its current state, but bear in mind that there may be no quick fix. Perhaps there’s just too much of a maturity gap between you, or you’re just too different to live together happily. It’s okay to choose divorce for the sake of your own mental health.
On the other hand, if you truly want to stay in the relationship, then I encourage you to continue trying to find a balance between helping her and taking care of yourself. Prioritize reestablishing your self-care habits. Break down your frustrations to specifics and prioritize those: for example, if you’re frustrated about the house being messy, look at each source of mess. (If the dishes lying dirty for a couple of days is mildly frustrating but dirty laundry all over the floor totally drives you nuts, then let the dishes go for now and figure out why the laundry isn’t making it into the hamper.) If the problems with the relationship are superficial, but the foundations are sound, then it should work out in the end. Of course, it is up to you to determine if that foundation is there, if it is strong enough, or if it can be made strong enough.
A tangent on chores: This can be a major issue for ADHD people because it’s one of those essential parts of life, but people also tend to regard everyday housework as something that “shouldn’t be hard” or require a lot of thought/organization to accomplish. However, ADHD makes all tasks seem about the same; a chore with multiple steps can seem as difficult as a school presentation or work project. The monotony of daily chores is turned up to 11: ADHD makes one incredibly sensitive to frustration, so a minor feeling of “ugh, I just did this yesterday” can morph into feeling like you were just drafted into a chain gang (and many of us also drive ourselves into a spiral of shame because we know that’s a little ridiculous, but the self-criticism only worsens the underlying problem). On top of that, there is the impaired perception of time. I can predict to the second when the microwave timer will go off, but I can’t tell ahead of time if vacuuming the living room is going to take 15 minutes or 3 hours. If a task isn’t part of the normal routine, or if the routine is disrupted, it can be difficult to remember to do it at all. An ADHD person without a regular routine (hi, it’s technically past my bedtime) will struggle to decide when in the day to do a task–first thing in the morning, when you already have to worry about getting out of bed, dressed, teeth brushed, and a million other preparations? When you get home from work, even though you know you’ll be a brain-dead zombie then? On the weekend, when you’re desperate to do something fun? –Having multiple different chunks of work (housework, school, work, errands) that require transitions in between can wreck an ADHDer’s ability to balance their routine and take care of themself. With ADHD, it’s doubly important to have simple & achievable priorities.
Worse symptoms every 4-6 weeks might be related to her menstrual cycle. It could be PMS or PMDD, another mood disorder or health condition flaring up at a certain time in the hormone cycle, or just the emotional side of ADHD doing the same. Birth control medications help with PMS for a lot of people, but sometimes they can worsen the symptoms–it depends on the person and the medication. Alternately, there could be some stressful thing that pops up on her life every so often that’s too much to cope with. In any case, this pattern likely has some concrete cause. (I would hope you don’t need to be told to be tactful about bringing up a lady’s period, but that said, if she isn’t aware that the PMS+ADHD combo can be a really rotten deal then you bet she’ll be glad to know. Tracking my cycle and starting to recognize the pattern helped bring me out of a serious depression. Before that, I didn’t recognize the time intervals and just thought I was imploding every other week for no reason. Also, if she wants to start doing that then there’s a great tracking app called “Clue”.)
“I have tried to bring this up in therapy, but how do you tell the therapist that you feel mentally unhealthy because you’re towing the mental line for two adults.”
I’m not sure I know what you mean by “towing the line for two adults,” but if you mean you feel like you’re taking on the responsibility for both of you, then definitely keep trying to express that concern. Questions like whether to stay together are very subjective, but feeling like you’re in a parental role to your spouse is a pretty cut-and-dry unhealthy dynamic to be in.
Also, if you don’t have your own therapist in addition to the couples’ therapist, it may be a good idea for you to see one. Regardless of the cause, it sounds like you’re really struggling with your own emotional health, and a relationship counselor can help with a lot of problems but they can’t address your individual issues with the same depth as an individual counselor. If you feel like you can’t express the problems that are really bothering you in therapy, then the therapy probably isn’t helping you.
It sounds like this relationship is kind of taking over your life. You’re managing your wife’s life to the point of being her unofficial ADHD coach and being at all of her therapy sessions. It seems likely that either she’s dependent on you to an unhealthy degree, or your own behavior has become excessively controlling. I’m not trying to shame either of you by saying that: you’re also both trying really hard to make things work. Just consider that “divorce” and “continue with the life plan we made on our honeymoon” aren’t the only choices available to you. Let yourself seek out different ways of thinking about your relationship, living together, and communicating. Try to revisit the things that brought you together; shared interests and experiences, common ground. Are those still there? Are they being overshadowed by the problems between you? Have they been replaced with different positive qualities? Are there no positive qualities in this relationship at all? Try to balance your worries with remembering the things that are still good in your life as it is now, even while your doubts remain unresolved. If you’ve been through therapy for depression I’m sure you know how much easier it is to remember the negatives of a situation than the positives. I think of it like, positive thoughts need a little boost to get going, but unlike negative thoughts they’ll help you back later.
Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope some of that is helpful to you. Relationships are tough enough without throwing neurodivergence and mental illness in the mix. Whatever the outcome, you’re doing your best and that’s commendable. It’s great that you’re reaching out for support. I hope you find more peace and happiness each day, and the same to your wife.
January 20, 2020 at 9:41 am #139328
The bottom line is that nothing will change unless your wife wants it to. As long as she’s in denial, all the conversations in the world will change nothing.
Here are some insights on ADHD and marriage that might help to at least give you some perspective and a way forward for now:
ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
January 20, 2020 at 5:38 pm #139468
I’m the ADD husband here, married 28 yrs and diagnosed 17 yrs ago at age 35. We have 2 awesome kids (21 & 18); I’m a HS teacher and my amazing wife a therapist. I try to remain positive in this space; but it’s hard here. For the good of your wife, you should go. She’s not a science project! I was really upset to see the language you used when referring to her: disordered, abnormal. Then you go on to say things like‘I have diagnosed’, ‘I am researching’, ‘I am tracking’. Do you have any sense of how that might make her feel? If you did in fact research, you should know that overpowering shame is one of the things that we suffer from most. Imagine the constant awareness that you will let down someone you care about every day – but never knowing how until it happens; or knowing you should be able to accomplish ordinary tasks, yet are overwhelmed by them. At the time, I would rather face my wife’s searing disappointment for not doing something than acknowledge the reality that I CANNOT do it. So imagine how judged she feels now? Sadly, it’s not nearly as hard as we judge ourselves; the anger (or compete withdrawal, in my case) is the way to mask how we truly feel about ourselves.
I agree with Penny here (I usually do); your wife needs to do this for herself first, then for you and your relationship. However, she needs a partner and champion to stand WITH her through this; not someone trying to ‘help fix’ her. It took me a good while to recognize that – and my wife, too. I had to do the hard work for myself before we could begin to get back to where we hoped to be. But, I always knew my wife was standing with me – and I am so grateful that she did (even when I tried to push away).
I know being in relationship with us is hard. With the right structures in place, I think we are worth it. I’m sorry for my emotions getting the best of me earlier (regulating emotions is another one of those frameworks we lack). I really do hope things work out for you both – whatever that might be. I just needed you to know what this is like from the Attentional Deficit (I refuse to use the third descriptor) side. Take of yourself, and each other…
January 21, 2020 at 9:35 am #139544
Your wife will only change if she works at it, and is not in denial. This will take time. She is probably overwhelmed by her diagnosis, not to mention the work involved with developing a strategy for managing her life. Has she seen a Cognitive Behavioral therapist? My fiance sought one out years ago, to help him become organized, etc. He was tired of forgetting and losing things, and agreed to go on medication along with the CBT. He said the meds helped him focus on what the therapist taught him.
He is now 52, and has not been on medication since before we met. (We’ve been together for 4 years.)
Also, I agree with some of the other posters. Your wife is not “abnormal”. She has ADHD. You are neurotypical, she is not. You need to step back, stop parenting her, and let her work on this.
That said, in your defense….I imagine you are frustrated. You didn’t know your wife long before you married. You weren’t together long enough for the hyper focus stage to wear off. You thought you knew her and when her behavior changed, you felt like you got the old “bait and switch”. You are, as Melissa Orlov wrote “Mourning the relationship you thought you had”.
I understand your concern with having a child. You could have a child with ADHD, and that could exacerbate the situation. Then again, it may not.
Give it time. You don’t have children and have not been married long.
- This reply was modified 1 month ago by Celeste65.
January 21, 2020 at 5:12 pm #139731
I’d suggest a reading assignment. Try reading the ADHD Effect on Marriage together by Melissa Orvlov and The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The first book will help you understand your wife and ADHD, along with your role in it. The other book will help you both identify your love language, how you exoress and recieve love. Knowing each others will help tremendously in communication. Good luck to you and your wife on this journey.
I’ve been in a relationship/marriage for 12years and my husband has ADHD. He was previously diagnosed but had managed it for years on his own. After his mother died last year, his symptoms exploded. If it weren’t for our marriage counselor and these books, I don’t know if we would be together right now.
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