My husband has ADHD and I’m running on empty

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    • #110881

      My husband has ADHD and I’m running on empty. I’m not trying to be mean or ugly, but I feel like everything gets blamed on his ADHD. At some point isn’t a 45-year-old man going to just force himself to do what is needed around the house? I understand you had a long day at work, I understand you’re tired, I am too. But if I am cleaning out the garage, how can you bitch and moan instead of helping me? At what point do you lose your guy card? It just feels like it gets used as a crutch. I’m exhausted and tired of being the only one who works around the house. Can I please only have responses from non-ADHD spouses? Because right now the last thing I need is more explanation. I need more solutions.

    • #111300

      Hi, I know your post says non-ADHD spouses only; I’m not a Non-ADHD spouse, but I had a thought about your dilemma – and I promise it’s not just another excuse.

      I’m going out on a limb here, since we’re strangers on the internet and all; but it sounds to me like maybe your Husband hasn’t fully/conciously acknowledged the fact that his ADHD has an impact on you – or perhaps he has, but is genuinely afraid of admitting how deeply his condition effects you and your relationship. Either way, you’re burnt out, so things have to change – simple as that. And the first step towards sustainable, long-term change, in my experience anyway, is honesty.

      I myself have ADHD, and I’ve been able to build a really solid relationship with my family – but it took us a long time to get there. One of the most important steps in the process, was me taking ownership of my ADHD, and acknowledging that although my behaviour isn’t always within my control, my actions still have consequences – for me, and for the people I care about.

      So, my solution/suggestion would be: set aside a specific time to talk, and agree on it with your husband (so you can circumvent distractions, transition difficulties and/or hyperfocus). Right from the start, re-frame the issue so that it’s ‘You & Your Husband’ vs. ‘Your Husband’s ADHD’; rather than ‘You’ vs. ‘Your Husband & His ADHD’. Remind him that you two are a TEAM. You’re in this together; like it or not, his ADHD impacts both of you, so life needs to be MANAGEABLE for both of you. You could try something along the lines of: “I love you, and I understand that your ADHD makes Executive Functioning a challenge. I know you don’t intentionally do [X,Y,Z] – but when [X,Y,Z] happens, it effects me too. It’s important to me that both of our needs are being met. I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we can achieve this, because our current situation is unsustainable. ADHD is your reality – but you’re more than a diagnosis, and you’ve developed other skills and talents in spite of your challenges. We need to find a way to distribute chores/responsibilities which play to your strengths, so that I’m not shouldering too much on my own”.

      Or, you know, something that sounds more like an actual human, and less like a blurb from a Psych 101 textbook, haha.

      I hope that helps – I know ‘talking it out’ isn’t an immediate solution, but that’s the only thing that’s ever actually worked for me (besides the adderall, of course, haha). Either way, I hope things improve – it’s a difficult situation to be in, because, as they say, “you can’t make people change; people have to want to change”.

      I had some other thoughts that might be relevant – I know you’re not looking for great big long explanations, but maybe they can help provide some context:

      I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but people with ADHD tend to have a lot of unresolved shame and self-esteem issues – which, for me at least, made apologies TERRIFYING. It’s much less scary to say “oh yea, I forgot to wash the dishes because of my ADHD”,than it is to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. This is a difficult/challening/overwhelming task for me, and I screwed up. I know it shouldn’t be that hard, but for some reason it is – and the fact that this simple thing is so impossible for me to do, makes me feel worthless”. But, in my case at least, that’s exactly what I needed to do – because I needed to ‘prove to myself’ that my family would still love me even if I screwed up the simplest instructions.

      It may seem ridiculous and super obvious, but even now, years later, I still need my parents to confirm that they ACTUALLY love me every now and again. Living with ADHD creates a weird internal echo chamber of doubt and uncertainty, where you question everything from the passage of time, to the strength of your own family’s love.

      But, by acknowledging the impact of my actions, being honest about my limits, and asking for help when I’m struggling, my family and I have been able to deepen our understanding of one another and more easily resolve our issues.

      I no longer say “woops, my ADHD made me late!”; I say, “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting – I know that running late makes you anxious, and I’m sorry to have upset you”. I don’t say, “Oh, I forgot to do the dishes because of my ADHD”; I say, “I’m sorry for not following through – I genuinely forgot. Is there something else I can help with?”

      Doing this has also helped my family understand what specifically I struggle with – so they’re much more patient, and have stopped inadvertently putting so much pressure on me. We all know what can be reliably expected with my ADHD, and through a lot of trial and error, we’ve been able to make lifestyle adjustments which play to my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses.

      Instead of saying things like, “why can’t you just get up earlier so we’re not late every day?”, now they say things like, “I’m frustrated that we’re late, but I know your ADHD makes it difficult to percieve the passage of time correctly, and I appreciate you doing your best”. Instead of, “seriously, how many times do I have to ask you to do the dishes?” they say things like, “hey, Hon, you know I love you, but I think you may have forgotten your promise to do the dishes” or, “Hey, I know you’re going to take care of those dishes – just curious if you had an ETA. I can’t make dinner until the counters are clear” etc, etc.

      It hasn’t been easy – it’s been a long, ugly road, and we still have bad days, but it’s a huge improvement from where we were before.

      Anyway, best of luck – I hope things get a little bit better every day.

    • #111603
      Penny Williams

      I’m a non-ADHD spouse. You said, “just force himself to do what is needed.” If he was able to simply force himself to do it, it would be done. His brain works differently. Urgency and interest motivate the ADHD brain, not importance.

      Secrets of Your ADHD Brain

      This isn’t an excuse — it’s biological fact.

      So, the step forward is to brainstorm new ideas to try, because what you’re doing now isn’t working.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #113467

      I’m also running on empty. He has untreated ADHD, the kids have adhd, and I’m exhausted. He’s been working to be more attentive in a way that says “you’re my wife and I remember that you need affection,” and I do really appreciate that. I appreciate it so much. So he does get big points for that.

      But everything else being on me… it’s draining, exhausting. Tonight I think I’m going to just crawl into bed early. I don’t feel like I have anything else to give for today.

      And can we just put the rest of the week on hold?

    • #113470

      Untreated ADHD, does he want to get on medication? Or is open to it? Medication gets a bad wrap bc others abuse it–but some of us really do NEED it & for me–it’s the difference from struggling or functioning.

      Yall need a serious talk. I know what it feels like to pull all the weight/responsibilities in a relationship.

    • #113481

      Seek help beyond this forum.
      I am the ADHD husband and my wife was often the one running on empty. We have been married 22 years and I was finally diagnosed about 10 years ago but she kind of knew what was going on for many years. The biggest clue was one day I was sick and took a really strong and high dose decongestant (aka stimulant) and was very focused on my project all day and at the end of the day, my wife found me cleaning our furnace. I finished my project, half the house was spotless and I moved on to the furnace. It was quite a funny scene.
      Your husband owes it to himself and to you to seek treatment (if he has not done so already) and to find a good ADHD coach. I have been through 3 of them until I found one that I could work with. We build strategies to make life work for me and the rest of the family. My wife works with me to find solutions and we go through our frustrations but have many more benefits overall.
      Never allow ADHD to be a crutch! ADHD is a gift, a superpower. He needs to harness that power in a positive way and a lot of good will come out of it.
      Best of luck.

    • #113947

      I just wish I wasn’t oblivious to obvious things at times! Its like I can acknowledge it but my brain goes 1000 miles a min at all times! I neglect others emotions and feelings! Not cause I don’t care but can never focus on important things or tasks unless my adhd gives me super focus then I slay whatever I’m doing but its usually only few thing and mostly not what needs to be super focused on! Theres no real way to explain it! I have severe adult adhd some days ill feel its a gift others a curse! But I find myself going from so many thought at a time I become lost or just brush peoples conversation to side like what they say doesn’t matter but in reality my brain is just cycling thought at insane speeds! I can usually never focus on one thing! Most adults look at me weird cause I talk so fast and about so many things most look at me like child like that don’t know me at times cause I’m so hyper at times and don’t even realise it! But once people sit down with me they see my gifts my genius! Litterally! But most don’t get to see it cause its like I’d rather them think I’m dumb and sneak up with my smarts but doesn’t always work like that in my favor! Sometimes I come off looking dumb before I get chance to prove what I am! Just a rant. But with substance! Also I’ve never liked idea of pills and so on for my adhd so I’ve self medicated most my life with marijuana does anyone else medicate this way or medical and have a good system edibles and so or view? I struggle every day! Does any one else relate??

    • #169932

      This is late in responding but I am a spouse of an adhd man. I totally understand running on empty. It happens weekly if not daily for me. My husband is a perfectionist probably as a result of coping with his adhd. He is very productive and can out work anyone. But he has to have almost constant affirmation. He doesn’t like to look me in the eyes but is irritated if I look away for a second. I have the opposite frustration as you in that he is too involved. But almost every decision is my heavy. Some days it’s just too much. What has helped me is to allow myself to do the things I enjoy. If you need take time everyday. This is the best way I’ve found to not get burned out. Don’t worry if he thinks you’re mad at him, tell him you’re not but continue on doing your thing. This is the best help for me. God bless you!

    • #169933

      Didn’t the original person who posted ask for responses from “Nons” only?

      I digress.

      Unless your husband accepts that his ADHD has affected your marriage, and owns his behavior and responsibilities, nothing will change. Medication might help but it will not be a “cure”. Cognitive behavioral therapy helped my fiance. In fact, it helped him more than any medication. So much so that he is not medicated.

      I find that many books and websites point to what the non-spouse can do and the changes they can make. That is all well and good but unless the ADHD spouse owns their behavior and is willing to make changes nothing will change. The non-spouse will continue to do everything and overcompensate, leading to burnout.

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by AdeleS546.
    • #170048

      I’m sorry for posting as an ADD husband, but I find it hard for partners on BOTH sides of this to understand the other without their input. First off, I’m sorry things have gotten to this for all the non-ADD partners; I cannot and will not make light of your experiences. You deserve to have partners that support and nurture you, as you do them (us?). And I agree with Adele and Outsider above – he has to own his actions, INCLUSIVE of ADD.

      I’m married 28 yrs now, diagnosed 18 yrs ago. My wife (an LicSW herself) was ready to leave when I finally got into treatment. Is your husband in treatment and on medication? I took meds for a while, and thought it would ‘fix this ADD thing’. While it did impact the levels of distractibility, I didn’t realize until I got into treatment with a talented therapist that I was able to see that ADD wasn’t the major issue. Like Silver_Scribbler, I had built up years of shame and inadequacy such that I was virtually incapable of functioning in our relationship. I explain it like this: imagine waking up every morning with note posted everywhere announcing that you were going to forget something important/let someone important in your life down today – you just don’t know what that thing will be, EVER. You never realize it until it happens. Trying to make amends for it never seems to be enough – not for us, anyway. So you live day to day like this. No wonder our amazing partners (and you all sound like you are!) get so weighed down.

      That’s not to excuse anything I did in my relationship – it just gave me an understanding of WHY it happens so I could get at dealing with HOW to work with it. I needed to do it for me before I could do it for us – that’s why it’s so important for your spouses to be in treatment. I’m able to take ownership of what I do, even when my wife calls me on my mistakes (and there WILL be those – that’s the nature of this condition). I hope for your sake that he can get to that place.

      And I agree that you need to do things to take care of yourself. Whether it be time out with friends, pursuing a hobby outside the house, whatever energizes you. It takes amazing energy to be in relationship with those of us with ADD. ADD spouses need to recognize that and support our partners in that. I’d like to think we’re worth it when the right structures are in place – that we put/keep in place for our own sake and the sake of our partners. I’m sorry if I overstepped here; I read these boards often and your story resonated with me. I wanted you to know that many of us ADD partners support you (and the other non-ADD spouses) here. I only hope some of this gave you some insight – I wish you good luck on whatever path this journey takes you both, and send all positive energy your way…


    • #172969

      Thank you all for your insight. I was wrong to only ask for neurotypical responses. It is a year later and we are verging on divorce. Neither of us has changed and we can hardly tolerate each other. I am debating whether or not to show him your responses. The central theme appears to be getting therapy. He does take meds but refuses therapy and refuses to stop drinking. His alcohol intake is the largest issue right. Let’s just say it is affecting everything. And I mean everything. I am not a happy wife at all.

      • #173126

        So this is my first post on the forums and this one hits so very close to home it saddens me.

        I am the ADHD spouse in my current marriage of just over 10 years. I have a few questions; You say your husband is on medication. Do you recognize any change in his behavior? If not, perhaps he needs to experiment with a different form of medication or dosage. Alcohol and stimulants usually do not mix very well. Have you told him that you want or are interested in a divorce? That will usually drive a spouse to take action and attempt to get their shit together so to speak.

        Beware, TLDR

        If you are interested, this is about my current situation and why I can relate. My wife’s decision for divorce is what motivated me enough to get help. I received my diagnosis back on March 18th of this year. I said some very hurtful things to her without thinking before I spoke (very common for me, no filter) and she said it was at that point she made up her mind about divorce and her ring came off that night and has not been put back on since. She said to me that I have to have a mental problem to behave the way I do and needed to go get help. While for me that sounded harsh, I thought to my self, what if I do, I cant remember anything anyone says and tend to feel like I am staring straight through the other person during a conversation, forgetting what they had said within seconds.

        Poor communication skills for me is what started this downward emotional spiral for her years ago and made her feel unloved and abandoned. Not good. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist and we discussed my issues for about an hour and a half and she diagnosed me with combined ADHD but mostly inattentive type. Finding out this diagnosis, beginning my research, medication, etc. has only pissed off my wife more as she believes this is now my excuse or crutch and am blaming most all of my issues over the years on my ADHD. While I try my hardest to not mention the impact ADHD has on our lives, I can say that if I was more attentive and communicated more I would have understood how unhappy she really was and would have taken action so many years ago by going to get help. Prior to my medication and learning about the condition, any argument we had led me to believe that she was just an angry, crazy, ungrateful person who didn’t care. All the while I’m the one who drove her to that point. She was fed up with me.

        The difficult part for me is now realizing what I put her through for so very long, overlooking the signs that she was unhappy, disregarding her mention of marriage counseling, etc. Knowing I essentially put her through so much emotional abuse brings me to tears daily. I took responsibility for my past actions many times over and mean it from my heart but seeing that I proved her wrong so many times in the past, why should she believe I changed and am a new man? I wouldn’t believe me either!

        At this point she only wants to be left alone and just about everything I do or say sets her off. On top of that she believes I am the same exact person I was before starting my meds and before I started my journey to work on resolving my issues and identifying new ways to cope with the problems I experience each day. I told her that the easiest way to describe the feeling I have now is that I feel born again, a new soul in the same body. I can now see clearly. The amount of focus, drive, compassion, empathy and my new found ability to actually communicate, stay calm, take responsibility when wrong and not take things personal all the time is honestly life changing.

        I believe I can say I understand your pain and everyone deserves to be treated exactly how they would expect to be treated themselves but for someone with ADHD and who does not take the necessary steps to fix themselves first and foremost, take responsibility for their actions and past mistakes and try their hardest to do right by the ones they’ve hurt the most may be not truly understanding the negative impact they have on those lives closest to them. It took me way to long to understand this and when I did I broke down in tears. For me ADHD is a curse that went undiagnosed and unmanaged to the point it put a large strain on my marriage, children, family and friends.

        I am pretty sure my wife is still planning to file for divorce as everything I do or say even though I truly understand what she has been through and love her more than words can describe will never be enough to convince her that I am not that same horrible person I once was. I still pray daily that she will give me another chance but the pain I have inflicted on her is enough reason for her to just move on. The sad thing for me is that I get it.

        I am truly sorry for what you are going through. I hope all works out for you both! Much love.

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