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Couples With One ADHD Partner

A Bad Day...

I know there is a strong, and important, message out there for spouses to “focus on the positive” and “let things go” and in general, I think these are great messages for living, for everyone. The problem arises, however, when you, the one who is supposed to be this paragon of strength and virtue, are struggling with your own problems. I have never been diagnosed with depression but over the last 2-3 years I €™ve been struggling €“ for reasons related and unrelated to my relationship. Regardless, today was a bad day. They’re not all bad days, but today (for reasons I’ll explain later) I just can’t shake the feeling that my life, the one that I wanted and imagined for myself and have always been working toward, is over, or worse, never really started.

My ADD partner and I have been together for about 8 years and were recently married. Over the course of our relationship, I almost left 3 times, for very specific, mostly ADD related reasons. But I always stayed, “it’s not his fault”, “he said he’d work on things”, “he said it doesn’t have to all fall on my shoulders all of the time”. And of course, I wanted to believe him. But this last year, as I single-handedly planned, managed, carried out our wedding, I realized exactly what I had always known deep down; that nothing will ever change, nor will my willing it to change, through suggestions, using different phrasing to explain things, asking in different ways, telling, nagging, bitching, yelling (basically becoming a person I never thought I’d become), make a difference.

How it started this time: we were visiting a friend last night who, when we walked into place, apologized for needing to catch the last 5 minutes of a webinar he was watching. The webinar was on Aspbergers in relationships. So here was a person in a relationship trying to learn more, actually taking time to find and listen to a webinar on how to manage himself and his relationship. For the rest of the night, all I could think was “why doesn’t my partner ever do this?” Of course, the answer is because it is not interesting to him, mentally. But in all the years we’ve been together, and after all the ways I have tried to talk about how ADD affects our relationship, not once has he done anything to educate himself, or me. Anyway, the experience really shook me, so here we are.

“Let it go” .... I can’t let it go. How do I let it go? How do I get passed this feeling of hopelessness?  How do I get over feeling like I’m going out of my mind trying to communicate with him? How do I not feel so resentful and angry and just let it go? What €™s more, how do I not fear for the life of my future children; that their father will leave a burner on close to a dish-towel, or will be looking at his phone as our child walks into traffic? How do I let go that I wanted a career, or at least a job other than being the household manager, and didn’t have to feel the “double burden”? I had things I wanted to achieve and now, I have to be the banker, the mother, the father, the housekeeper, the dog keeper, the car keeper, everything. There’s normal distraction and then there’s ADD…and I just can’t compete. I feel so defeated and angry at myself for getting into this situation. The worst part is, I can’t even tell my best friend because he wouldn’t understand. He would question me about the source and context of my feelings, and then judge them, but ultimately assume that by being attentive for, say, the next 24 hours, that it will somehow magically make it all better €¦.

Well, I’m sorry for being today’s black cloud. I just recently found this site and know there is a lot of great material and stories on here so that €™s where I €™m starting, but any other ideas are welcome.

Replies

Don’t have children with this man. It’s not 100% that they would have ADD but the risk is there. And you’d be facing a future as basically a single parent.

This has gone on for 8 years. It’s unlikely he is going to try to change any more than he has already. If he won’t try meds or they don’t work for him or won’t try coaching, what do you think the odds are that he will change? Can’t or won’t doesn’t matter that much. It doesn’t matter much if it is ADD, a brain injury, Aspergers, alcoholism, or just being an immature jerk.

You sound unhappy enough that it might be time to face the fact that you are dissatisfied with current conditions and if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life this way, leave before having children makes your burdens worse or you lose more time of your own life.

In hindsight, getting married may have been unwise. Can you get an annulment? You can not make him change any more than you could eat his food for him. If he won’t or can’t, and you don’t want to live this way, don’t. Better to leave before the resentment and other ill feelings wear you down more.

I’m working on my own ADD and how to adjust meds and find ways to cope but as I’ve only been dx’d recently and had it lifelong, and already coped fairly well, my partner could accept my quirks as is. He didn’t try to change me and I didn’t try to change him. We did have some things to adjust to with different approaches to chores and such but it was easy. If someone has to change too much that makes a successful relationship more difficult.

If it is time to go separate ways, will waiting any longer change that?

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 26, 2014 at 9:26pm

Sadly it is a grieving process for the things you wanted it but now can’t have. I can’t have children with my partner as main bread winner and not sure i can trust him with them. Instead we have lots of lovely ferrets and there’s good reason why children won’t have been best plan for me regardless. But yes, you do need to park dreams and ideas and for me that was conscious choice. Closest thing to it would a child born mentally handicapped - you still love him or her dearly but you need to change your expectations. They won’t become president but will provide love and rewards. It is up for you to decide what compromises in your dreams are acceptable to you. If ypu go ahead with children, make sure you have a good support network.

Posted by hilaauk on Aug 26, 2014 at 11:34pm

Hello,
You are amazingly competent, bravo!

I have ADD, comply with taking meds and was also dx
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The meds allowed me to be aware of what I was doing >at the time I was doing it. For instance, as I was working on learning python, I could now tell that my attention had wandered and then drag myself back to what I was doing. For me: a miracle and also using a paper planner + google calender.

With this better ability to focus I also noticed my husband criticizing me and getting angry.

All my trying, and I tried hard, was useless without meds.
Oh yeah - I’m dyslexic as is my son, doing well as a chef in Chicago. My daughter has become quite a good artist, people collect her art and she also does graphics.
So it’s not so terrible to have ADD. When I got to be 58, I didn’t have as much energy as before. I didn’t realize I was working 5 times harder than other people. However, before that, I enjoyed learning and creating new software that added geographical info and made it easier for people to get their work done, for investment workflow, a school system, a dept of transportation and a park system.

If your husband is not on meds and compliant in taking them then he does not have the ability to change no matter how much he wants to.
My husband also doesn’t read up on ADD and he is normal .
Choice:
Go on meds and stick with as long as it takes to find what works for him. Set a time for him to make the 3 most important changes you need him to do and find out if he can make changes.

Or
No meds and you go
Or
Meds and no change and you go

A kid who grows up with love will be ok, even if they think a bit different
Hope
Holly

Posted by wrongagain on Aug 26, 2014 at 11:41pm

What you are experiencing now will wax and wane over time but it will never get to what you imagine “better” to be.  That is simply a fact of ADHD.  I have been married for 17 years to a man with ADHD and sacrificed my career for his only to have him be fired about every 4 years or so then take his time to find a new job, usually about a year, while I held it all together for us and the family.  When I broke my arm and had to stay immobile for 5 weeks my husband was not there for me but if you ask him today he thinks he was.  They just don’t get it.  And my husband wants to work on himself!

You have to chose to either be happy with the way things are or get out.  There is no other option that isn’t going to lead you into more depression.

Posted by YellaRyan on Aug 29, 2014 at 5:08am

Hi all, well to start It’s pretty negative in here. Let’s try and fix that…
My wife and I have been married for 10 years, but I was only recently diagnosed with ADD. Before becoming educated on the subject, I’ll admit that she has put up with some pretty horrendous behavior on my part, but we still love each other and are working on things to make them better. (One of those things is joining this website) It’s true that you can’t change others, they have to want to change themselves. That being said, what needs to be changed? Sometimes…I won’t admit to more often than sometimes…all men, regardless of age, can be dumb. When it’s combined with ADD, dumb combines with ADD symptoms and transforms into an undeniably ugly beast. Because of the “sometimes” factor, we need direction! No mind reading, no “well you should know how to do it”, just plain simple instructions:
1) Here is the widget project…
2) Here are the steps I’d like you to follow while performing the widget project. (Yes ladies, your man is a perpetual 13 year old, spell it out for him)..
3) This is the expected outcome when the widget project is done.
If you spell things out for him and he still doesn’t finish, then he needs to work on that, but it’s no one’s fault! Don’t lay blame! You can criticize only if it’s constructive and positive! (Personal experience: Guess what…he knows he screwed up! He doesn’t need to be told how bad a job he did, and that he forgot something again, and he doesn’t have his priorities straight. These are things that people with ADD fight against regularly. Let him know that you understand and want to help, and he will open up. <GASP> He may even tell you his feelings!)

If you ask for something there needs to also be a priority level associated with it. Stress how you NEED this done immediately! ADD had the unwanted side effect of reordering priorities on the fly. Meaning what was important two seconds ago, has now become a past priority and has been overwritten. He will need help to come up with a system to keep his and your priorities separated, and most importantly, current. (I’m still working on this myself, sorry I can’t be more specific.) (As an example of overwritten priorities, I added the previous paragraph after I had already finished writing this post…I now see it as a ramble and completely unnecessary, but I’m going to leave it because it seemed crucial at the time and its a great example of overwritten priorities. I told myself to only check grammar and such.)

In my case, when I’m without my medication, I’m thoughtless, forgetful, unfocused, unreliable, the list goes on. How I cope with the “outside world” when I am taking them is completely different than when I’m on them. I’m not saying that I don’t do any of those things while on my meds, because meds aren’t a magic pill, but they happen with less frequency. I’m also more aware of the fact when my focus is waning and try to correct myself if I’m behaving differently.

Having someone who can be positive with you, even when offering criticism, makes all the difference in the world. Negative feedback can still be positive, as long as you keep your emotions out of the room, and its offered or presented without judgment already being passed before the conversation begins.
I heard a great example the other day:
If your child comes home with straight A’s on their report card except for getting a D in math, would you say:
1) Great job getting A’s in so many of your classes! It looks like math is giving you a bit of trouble. What can I/we do to help you study so that you will succeed?
OR
2) Wow, I can’t believe that your so good in all of your other classes, and you barely get a D in math. What’s going on here? What were you thinking?

I don’t know about you, but I like option 1. If your able to bring a positive attitude across in your message, it will be received with a positive attitude. If the message is negative, it will be received either negatively, not received at all, or received but ignored as just another non-constructive criticism to be filed away. No one wins in a negative environment, so always be positive!

Negative reinforcement can also be seen as blame. Blame leads to defensiveness, defensiveness leads to resentment, resentment to lack of compassion. If you resent the fact that your life isn’t going how you dreamed it would, and feel that your relationship or spouse is the cause, then you will resent either, or both, and lose compassion. Don’t take that path! You’ll find out how to move away from resentment if you walk in each others shoes for a while.

I can tell that you love your husband so splitting up should only be a last resort. If you didn’t love him as much as you do, you wouldn’t be worried enough to ask for help. Remember a few things, he may not want to change how you want him to change, but everyone has something they can improve and he should be open, and not resistant, to it. If you look back at the conversations with your husband and find that they were all positive, then I say he doesn’t know what a great woman he has and both of you should go to couples therapy before doing anything drastic. If they were negative, then you can try to put a positive spin on things even when you feel like you can’t. I guarantee you’ll get better results!

Jon

Posted by jondc on Aug 29, 2014 at 9:34pm

Jon,
A great post. Specific steps from a guy for a guy. As well as frankness on how different you respond to the world with and without meds.

The bit with walking in each others’ shoes is true. We can’t really know what someone else’s experience is like but can get a good taste at times. My sweetheart thought I was being a hypochondriac a couple of years ago when an odd strain of a virus hit me with bad aftereffects. The cold itself wasn’t too bad but I was in bad brain fog and zero energy afterwards. Didn’t realize at the time my blood pressure was very low. I tend to low BP to begin with. I felt like I had a rheostat turned down to just above off. A few days later when it hit him, he ‘got it’. not just the virus but the energy sapping. A couple of other people also had this strain with at least 8 weeks of slow to return energy. He apologized for thinking me neurotic when he realized he’d spent an hour online shopping for a cap as he was not running on enough brain cells to quickly sort through colors and styles. And he hates to shop online anyhow. But couldn’t focus to read, remember what he’d just read. He checked his blood pressure and was very low. We both started to check daily and when as low as 85/50 it would take the two of us together to cook something as simple as scrambled eggs.

I wasn’t dx’d until after that even with life long symptoms. Some of the mind going blank episodes are very much like that virus. So now I can tell him a bit more about some of my symptoms and he can get a better idea of how frustrating it is to suddenly have my brain stall.

Yes we all have things we can improve on. The aspects of ourselves that we are most sensitive about are often the ones we need to improve the most. Avoiding the pain of examining what hurts won’t fix the stone in the shoe causing the bruise or thorn that keeps jabbing us. We often have to center in on the pain in order to get that stone, bandage the blister and pull the thorn. You’ve faced the dx, take your meds and worked out ways that work for you and your wife. Applause to you both~

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 29, 2014 at 11:11pm

Jon, I get what you’re saying about stating things in a positive manner and all. But sometimes I just get so. damned. tired. of all the mental gymnastics I have to go through to figure out just the exactly right and sweet and loving and positive way to tell my husband that he forgot, again, to take out the damn trash so that he won’t completely shut down and tailspin into a massive depression. Seriously, sometimes I just want him to suck it up and be an adult and just say “okay, I’m sorry” and then get up and take out the stupid trash. I know that’s not helpful and positive, but this is seriously one of the biggest problems in our relationship - this expectation that everything always has to be said just so, even over minor things, else I am a nagging critical hag and I have to endure whatever punishment he metes out after I choose the wrong words. I admire you for your positivity. I’m just not there right now.

Posted by ChristyH on Sep 19, 2014 at 8:53pm

ChristyH - I am new here but oh my gosh! You just said exactly what I think, my husband has AHDH (newly diagnosed, not yet medicated) and we are in this AWFUL period of my eyes being wide open to all that I have been dealing with and doing by myself (we have 4 kids) and my exhaustion and pain are peaking just as I am trying to ask him to get help in ‘the nicest possible way’. But anything I say seems like a battle with HUGE anger, denial, resentment, fighting and wounds for the next 2 days. I know patience and empathy are key pieces but it is so tough.

Posted by HopefulMomof4 on Sep 22, 2014 at 4:44pm

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