I suspect my husband might have ADHD

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    • #106664

      Without making this too long a post, I’ll just start with this: I’m really lost right now and not sure how to proceed.

      I very much love my husband of 12 years. We have 2 young children and he truly is a loving and attentive father. It’s more about our marriage and it’s not new.

      Although I LOVE so much about him, I’m also becoming more and more resentful of the responsibilities that seem to belong solely to me. Possibly it will sound like an exaggeration, but I do all of the things. All of the household chores, all of the finances, all of the planning, the purchases (even major ones like refinancing our home, buying a new car and every other thing). I manage the kid’s activities, appointments, healthcare, school work, etc and etc

      From my perspective, his lack of participation comes off as just being lazy. He doesn’t decide to do much at all on his own and when I bring it up, I’m nagging. When (if) he finally does it, it’s so “half-assed” that I have to re-do whatever it was he thought he did.

      He says he doesn’t notice what needs to be done. He tunes me out like a pro and doesn’t remember much of anything I tell him even though he seemed to have fully participated in the conversation.

      In the past, I have believed he was undiagnosed with “something” but not sure what. Our 4 year old son has Autism and my husband’s brother is diagnosed with Asperger’s — so I have wondered sometimes if maybe he too is on the spectrum but very high functioning. But truthfully, he doesn’t really “fit” the signs of Autism…

      I just know it’s something, because what I can tell you is that he’s not a mean spirited person. He isn’t leaving all of this in my lap on purpose. It seems like he sincerely believes that he DOES help a lot at home which just baffles me because here I am, living with this and I know who does what — and he’s not at all helpful even though he thinks he is. He doesn’t ever come off like he believes this all should be my responsibility… it’s almost as if he doesn’t have any idea at all.

      He is sweet and kind, he’s funny, he’s extremely intelligent… my family lovingly refers to him as the absent minded professor. How can someone some smart and so well intentioned manage to miss basic, common sense things? It’s difficult for me to express.

      As a result of living this way, I’ve grown more and more resentful over the years and feel a heavy burden to manage the home and family and everything in between. It has become a turn off for me feeling like I have to mother him and as a result, there is no sex and hasn’t been for well over 2 years. There’s nothing sexy about feeling like your husband’s mother.

      I have played out the scenario of divorce or separation many times and it doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t feel right and it isn’t what I want… I have no reason to believe it’s what he’d want either, but things can not carry on in this way for the rest of our lives and I’m not sure what the next step should be.

      I want to discuss it with him and find out if he’d be amiable to visiting a therapist for some insight, but I’m not even sure how to bring this up to him. I’m wondering if anyone else could share some of the experiences they’ve had with a spouse who does have ADHD

    • #106702

      First off, I’m not a doctor or professional but I do have ADHD and struggling in my marriage. Second off, this post is kind of all over the place so I’m sorry. I find that as I share things with others, it helps me become a better me. If my wife were to type up a post, her’s would be exactly the same story. I have, in the past couple years, realized how much of a burden I am on her in regards to determining what is a priority and leading the family in the right direction. She is the one that manages most of the same things. I would say, yes he probably does have ADHD and you should see if he’ll go get evaluated. Before any behavior changes can be made, medication is needed. He’ll have more energy and think a lot more clearly once the right medication and dosage is determined. I have a horrible memory and rely heavily on post it notes and a notepad to remind myself to do things. My phone has around two dozen alarms to remind myself daily on tasks and important things that need done for my family. It sucks typing it out because it does make me sound like a child.

      I’ve often thought about whether there was a relationship between autism and ADHD. I find that I’m emotional disconnected from some things that I know, logically, I should have a deeper emotional attachment and drive towards. I’m by no means any level of expert on autism so I can’t speak intelligently to it.

      My wife has said that she is a married woman that has a husband that loves her deeply but she’s also the loneliest person on the planet because I’m not present when she needs. It is true and you are correct when you said that he doesn’t realize things need done. It’s hard to explain but its not that we forget, we just don’t prioritize it. Its not intentional, our brains just dont have it in any of our decision making processes.

      You asked how to approach him about it. I don’t know if this is the right way because everyone is different and at a different spot emotionally and mentally. The brick that hit me was when she told me that if I don’t change, she’ll leave. We’ve only been married for four years and I’ve been taking medication for ADHD for over 20yrs so initially I was like ‘ok then leave’. But I’ve always said that if a person is married a few times, it generally is not the spouses that are the problem. If she left, that would be my second failed marriage so I had to figure out if her concerns were justified. Afterall I had been on Ritalin for 20yrs so I should be fine. So I started researching and learned that maybe the Ritalin wasnt helping me as much as I thought. When I was younger (in my 20’s) it worked fine but now that I’m older, my body has changed and my medication probably should as well. So I searched for a doctor that specializes in ADHD. After a couple sessions, she put me on a new medication and a lot stronger and its helped a lot. I still have a ton of work to do but at least now I recognize my short comings and can hopefully create action plans to help me and my family.

      If you aren’t sure if you can talk to him about it, then my guess is that communication between you to isn’t as open as you would like it. When you two do argue, does he like to try and distract or reflect things back towards you? Its common. Either way, it sounds like you are hurting and it sounds like you are feeling alone. I promise, he is as well but we dont show it the same way. He’s complacent so it can make it easier for him to deal with things. My recommendation would be to find a couples therapy that specializes in ADHD. A Professional that really understands the condition and can help with a diagnosis and help the marriage. What I felt after getting on medication for the first time:
      – A lot more energy. Prior to medication I was always tired. I sometimes would almost fall asleep on my drive home from work. It was scary. Completely stopped once I got on meds.
      – I can focus on work a lot better. This moved me up in my organization where I’m now in a senior level management role.
      – I am a lot more patient.
      – I am a lot less lazy
      – I can reflect on my mistakes a lot better now
      – I was able to go back to school and finish my bachelors and masters degree. I barely graduated high school…I mean barely.

      Once on medication:
      For me, I live my life as a checklist. The problem I had in the past was I never added my wife, or ex-wife (i’m in my second marriage), into my checklist. I got all my things done, all my work items done, and then I was done and contributed to the family (at least that’s what I thought). But not once did I ever ask myself, “what can I do for my wife today?” or “…my family today?” I would also procrastinate on non-routine items because I didn’t know where to add them to my checklist. If I added them to the wrong place, they wouldn’t get done and then I would deem myself as a failure. Because we forget so often, fail to uphold our word, and unable to make a decision/choice, we fail a lot. This fear of failure is a driver in our lives. So not starting something means not failing at something. We go off on tangents a lot so I digress and back to checklists. For me, I have a routine, a checklist. My meds are in the same place, out in the open (not in a drawer or cupboard), every morning. My wallet, keys, and everything I need in the morning is set out. I put all my cloths out in the morning so that I have less to think about when I wake up. At work I have a post it of everything I need to do that day which I create the afternoon before. If anything falls out of routine, that’s when things are forgotten or done half ass. My wife created a google calendar where we put all of our appointments and tasks and anything involving me, us, or them. That way, if i schedule something for myself and forget to tell her, at least its routine enough for me now that I most likely put it on the calendar. I was reminded A LOT to add things to the calendar before it became routine for me.

      My checklist, is about me and my things that need done. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to do other things, but if they aren’t on my checklist, I don’t even think about them. Something you can try is creating a checklist. This is going to sound childish and he may think so as well. Maybe initially, you own it as something you need. But have him lead the charge in creating the checklist (one separate checklist for both of you). It will consist of seven sheets of paper, Mon-Sun. This wont solve all your problems but it will start to paint a picture for him. In order for this to work, you have to stay consistent with it and with him. I know I’m asking you to do more, but this could payoff to a point where you are doing less. My goal, was to get those things I needed in our marriage to be added to my checklist. In order to do that, I had to make it part of my routine to create a physical checklist of things that needed done around the house and with the family. Something that has to be included on this list is date night with you, start with once a month or twice a month. You mentioned that your sexual relationship is non-existent. This is because he’s more of a roommate to you than a husband. I don’t believe you want to identify him as such so you need to get back that romance you once had. A simple date night where you are just a girl and he is just a boy may help you get there.

      We got into a ‘discussion’ that I never do anything for her and then I listed off all these things I did for her daily. Her response, “how do you know what I need when you’ve never asked?”. She was right. I was filling up her bucket, but it was the wrong bucket. I filled up the ‘I can do these for myself but thank you’ bucket when I should be focusing on filling up the ‘this is what I need from my husband’ bucket. Once he realizes this, your marriage will be a little better every day.

      You are an amazing strong woman. To be in a relationship with someone with ADHD is not easy, I see that now. I would have left a long time ago. Continue to have hope and faith and keep encouraging him to talk to someone. Once he does, his life will open up like he’s never experienced. I always tell people that living with unmedicated ADHD is like living life through a steamed up window. Every once and awhile you’ll have a water droplet run down the window and it will keep your full attention but you really cant see too much past the glass. You life is the steam and the drops with an occasional glimpse of reality. Once medicated, the steam is wiped away and the world opens up. It sounds like he is a high level ADHD person which is why you are still with him. He’s intelligent, probably does well at work, and he’s got a good heart. He’ll be an amazing different person once medicated, if indeed he does have ADHD.

      Good luck to both of you and God Bless!

    • #106712

      Hey there 🙂

      First off, well done for reaching out! It’s AWESOME that you’re trying to figure out what’s going on, and you’re an amazing person for trying everything you can to make your marriage workable, rather than just up and leaving at the first (or fiftieth) hurdle, and I respect you immensely for that.

      Now, a lot of what you say is ridiculously common in adhd/non-adhd relationships. I’m the one with ADHD with me and my fiancee, and from my own perspective, your husband seems to fit the same kind of bill.

      The ‘not seeing things that need to be done’ is a VERY real thing. We can literally walk past a pile of garbage bags that need to be taken outside and not make that cognitive link between ‘garbage bags’, ‘in the wrong place’, ‘need to be taken out’. We may not even see the garbage bags. In the past, I’ve had to actually WEAVE between laundry drying racks to get to our kitchen (we live in a one-floor open-plan apartment), and not only not realised I should put the laundry away, but actually not really even noticed that the laundry was there. The problem lies in routine. If things do not SUFFICIENTLY disrupt our routines, we tend not to notice them if we’re focussed on something else. And even if we DO notice them, very often there’s an element of ‘OK, I know that’s there, I’ll get to it later’, and then we forget. Again. And again. And again. We also avoid doing things that we dislike, that cause stress, and that we’re unconfident about doing. This doesn’t mean it’s RIGHT that we do so, but we often do it WITHOUT realising what cognitive processes are going on. It’s quite insidious in a lot of ways.

      Now, my situation is quite ‘fortunate’ in this regard. My fiancee has a disability, and as a result I HAVE to take up most of the burden of housework. This wasn’t a problem with the tasks that I’m accustomed to doing, washing clothes, doing dishes, filling/emptying the dishwasher, cooking, shopping, etc., but I had much more difficulty with things that I never did before, or avoided doing, or DIDN’T REALISE NEEDED DOING. I’m so poorly motivated to dust and vacuum that we’ve actually had to buy a robotic vacuum cleaner to take care of the floors, and we have a cordless vacuum cleaner that hangs in the entrance to our apartment for spot vaccing and dusting. My SO HAS to tell me when the bathroom needs cleaning, or when the rubbish needs to be taken out, or the fridge needs to be cleaned, because I just DON’T see it. And sometimes, even when she does, I forget because I was thinking about playing the piano, or planning meals for the next week, or a brightly coloured bird flew past the window and I got distracted while she was talking and didn’t hear.

      Now, I’m not just ranting about my situation for the sake of bragging rights. Even if your husband isn’t willing to talk to a specialist and look into an ADHD diagnosis (bear in mind that he really, truly does sound like he could benefit from the process), there are still things that you can do to make things easier for yourself. The first question is, how many of these things could be handled by a purchase, or a third party? It sounds very much like a cop-out, but a dishwasher and a robot vacuum, or a cleaning service, while pricey, can save you from arguments and resentment. My SO and I actually funnelled money AWAY from our wedding last year to make purchases like this that would reduce the load on us, and remove the source of the attendant arguments, and we’ve been a lot happier since (and the house has been cleaner).

      For the things that money can’t buy, is there any way you could arrange things so that you start doing these tasks TOGETHER? Or are there any tasks that you do that you KNOW your husband can do well which you do yourself, and others that you ask him to do because you hate them, but then wind up having to do them anyway? If the latter, trade some jobs. If he puts dishes and laundry away like a pro, have him do that, while you tidy up the kids’ toys, because you know he’ll leave half the toys behind the couch. If the former, as long as he actually engages while you do tasks together, then in addition to getting the work done in half the time, you get to spend a little more time together.

      A good way to bring this up with him would perhaps be to sit down with him and ask for a list of the things he does around the house on at least a weekly basis. He can write it down if that helps. Then, give him a list of the things he actually does, and then a list of the things that YOU do around the house on a weekly or DAILY basis. Explain that this imbalance is NOT good, and that you’re really struggling with it. Then you can segue into his saying that he forgets, or doesn’t see it, which is when you respond with ‘I know. I’ve looked into that, and it actually sounds a lot like there’s a chance you have ADHD.’ Then you explain that there’s a whole online community of people walking around not realising that they’ve got dirty plates piled to the ceiling and feeling like they’re the only one doing anything in the world, when in reality all they do is maybe clear the tables once or twice a week. It’s not his fault, he’s not somehow flawed, but this situation is becoming hard for you.

      If it helps, you can even explain to him what ADHD is, and how it works. Loads of people think it’s just bad child-rearing, but actually, it’s the result of chemical imbalance in the brain. In ADHD brains, there is insufficient production of dopamine, the reward chemical. This deficiency causes our brains to seek stimulation anywhere and everywhere we can find it. It makes us impulsive, hyperactive, and distractible (though not always all three of these). Stimulant medication causes our brains to produce a ‘normal’ level of dopamine, which then helps us regulate our impulses and attention. It suddenly makes you notice the towers of dishes, and the toys everywhere, and lets you sit down and fill out that tax return you keep leaving until tomorrow. You can ONLY get these meds through a doctor, and they are the ONLY way to increase dopamine levels in the brain, though some people claim to have success with herbal supplements. There are also coping mechanisms for ADHD that HELP manage symptoms, but don’t FIX them, if you get me. It’s putting out the fires rather than turning off the flamethrower.

      I personally started looking into ADHD as a result of the Netflix documentary ‘Take Your Pills’, where they focus on adderall abuse in the US. I remember seeing myself in several of the people, and just thinking “Wow, pills that make you do the dishes when you get home instead of bombing out on the couch? These sound AWESOME! What would need to be wrong with me before I got those?”, and because that’s what I do, I started to read up on ADHD, and suddenly my ENTIRE LIFE was being explained before my eyes. Things I’d been doing for years that I didn’t even realise were problems were suddenly explained. Elements of my outlook on life, the fact that I got bullied mercilessly, the reasons for that bullying, relationships that have crashed and burned, EVERYTHING made sense. But if someone had just walked up to me and said ‘Hey, I think you have ADHD’, I may not have even bothered to look into it. Actually, that’s a lie, I might have, but I would only have done so in a cursory sense, and may not have really taken it on-board.

      I’ve started rambling now, so I’m going to cut myself off before I keep going. If you see anything useful here that you’d like more information or advice on, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to get back to you. If you have any questions, or would like further explanation, same thing. I can’t promise I’ll respond immediately, but I’ll respond as soon as I can 🙂

      Best of luck!

    • #106722

      emwinshi & spaceboy — thank you so, so much for the thoughtful input. This is so helpful for me!

      I have suspected for some time that there HAD to be a good explanation for the dynamic in our household. My husband is such a caring, loving, and loyal person. I truly believe that he wouldn’t purposely TRY to increase my workload or ignore things for selfish reasons.

      After my son was born 4 years ago, I suffered for about a year with post partum depression, but I didn’t recognize it because prior to that time I had never experienced any kind of clinical depression and didn’t really know the signs — I just knew I was sinking, unhappy, burned out, crying a lot. My husband did everything in his power to “step up to the plate” so to speak… the house would be a disaster when he came home from work, kids would be sitting around in pajamas still and so would I. He’d just greet us with smiles and hugs, get the kid’s dinner, after they were in bed he’d pick up toys, clean the kitchen, even go to the grocery store late at night to buy what we needed — I was a mess and he was the foundation for the entire family at that time.

      He told me later that it was easier for him to see what needed to be done because there was SO MUCH that was a mess lol

      He said prior to that, he’d always felt the work was done, the house looked good, laundry was done, so he never noticed anything he needed to do, but said he would try harder to help more. I finally sought therapy for myself once I realized how different I had become and how negatively it was impacting the entire family. The diagnosis for me was situational/post partum depression and “caretaker burnout”. I worked with my therapist on solutions and worked with my husband as well.

      But slowly as I got back to my old self… so did he, and here we are.

      I’m ready to talk with him about the possibility that he has undiagnosed ADD or ADHD and ask if he’d be amiable to an evaluation. I think he will be. I’m also going to share some of the comments from here and some articles that I have read so maybe he’ll see that some of the things are exactly what we experience, maybe it will make some sense to him and we can get our shit together.

      Marriages are always, always a work in progress and even though ours has never been perfect, we do try to put in the effort. I kind of feel like this might be a game changer!

    • #106755

      I just finished with a therapy session and the next thing I’m going to be working on is improving my executive functions. If you aren’t familiar with these, look them up and you’ll quickly see where he fits in and what functions are his biggest challenges. He is more than welcome to reach out and chat if needed. I’m not a professional therapist but I’m 45yrs old with a positive attitude and good heart.

    • #108414

      Thank you for this post. It has been really helpful to me, as I am going through something very similar.

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