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Couples With One ADHD Partner

At wits end

I am married to a man with ADHD. We’ve been married for almost 5 years, together for almost 10. I’m actually a Psychologist who treats Adult ADHD, mainly because I can see the trials and tribulations my husband goes through each day, and believe I can help others. I know I have helped others. However, in my personal life, I have not been so lucky. My husband refuses to acknowledge the way his ADHD impacts our marriage… He’s also significantly depressed. I don’t know what to do anymore, and am at my wits end. I can’t believe it’s come to this, and I need support in knowing it is ok to maybe leave the marriage. It feels like a failing on my part, like I should be able to withstand this storm, given my profession and area of expertise. But he won’t accept help, he rarely takes his medications, and won’t read the literature I provide him on his condition. I’m now 9mos pregnant, and can’t have his moodiness and anger impact my child (who will also most likely have ADHD)... Any advice will be appreciated, I just feel so lost.


I’m a Social Worker and when I was adopting our son I made a comment to the Social Worker, who was helping us, about my being a Social Worker and knowing this and that. She said to me, “No, in this situation you aren’t a Social Worker - you are an adopting mom.” I never forgot that as it reminded me that I’m not always in my work role and especially not objective in my personal life. So I’ll share the same with you - in this situation - you are not a psychologist - you are a wife and mother-to-be. I recommend you seek counseling for yourself to see what the right thing is for you to do. I hope this info helps.

Posted by E's Mom  on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:32pm

If you are having a problem in the marriage because of something your spouse is doing and he refuses to address it, believe you, talk about it, basically ignores your concerns, that is ABUSE!  Verbal abuse is not just calling names but also can be withholding, dismissing, ignoring. It does not matter what the reason is, ADHD, depression, obstinate… whatever the reason is it is still abusive to your spouse to know they have a problem and then absolutely not do anything to help, support, solve…

And yes, you absolutely have the right to be happy.  I wish that I had left my ADHD husband a long time ago and now I am stuck so making the best of a bad situation.  But what you must know is that it is not you - you do your best to be your best in the marriage and try to make it work.  This myth of 50/50 or “it takes two” has been miscategorized.  It is right in that it takes two to make a marriage work.  You are one.  But it only takes one to screw it up. One person can be doing everything that needs to be done to make it work and it still is not working because the other person is not working on it.  That is called not caring and you do not have to stay in an intimate situation with someone who does not care about you.

Posted by YellaRyan on Aug 25, 2014 at 6:23pm

My late husband would not acknowledge how his alcoholism was affecting him. A family tradition for his family as well as cultural as the area we both grew up in, northern Wisconsin, has the highest percent of binge drinking in the US and 6th place per capita alcohol consumption.
His family had a high alcohol tolerance and were overall ‘functioning’ alcoholics until hitting a point where their bodies could no longer tolerate it. His mother and one brother finally admitted and quit. His father and another brother and most other relatives continued drinking heavily.

Love was not enough to get my husband to face his drinking. The last 2-3 years of his life he hit the point of having blackouts, alcoholic fugue states of maudlin rambling or fits of rage with no discernible trigger or focus. The irony is he stopped drinking for a month for my birthday, no withdrawals, no cravings, admitted he got more done and felt better but refused to stay sober. He did admit he was an alcoholic but liked drinking and wasn’t going to stop. The first night he drank again, was so drunk he couldn’t find the bathroom.
While much of our marriage was still good during the day, I could no longer tolerate the evening drunken fugue states. I was ready to leave, checking for a place to move to and what attorney to contact before giving the ultimatum that he go for treatment or divorce. A few weeks later, before I told him, in a bizarre drunken fugue state, he shot himself in the head 10’ from me before I could do more than scream no. He loved alcohol more than me, more than himself, more than life. He had every reason to be happy except for the hole in his soul that alcohol both created and could not fill.
Both nature and nurture were probably involved in his drinking. With being dx’d only recently and finding out how my relatively low to mid range ADD traits have been a pain in the butt lifelong, I don’t think ADD traits were much of his problem. He could hyperfocus and had a terrible sense of time but lacked the procrastination and disorganization and bouts of brain fog that are most troubling to me.
De Nile takes many forms. I’m sure you are far too aware in your work that is a wide, cold, deep river many drown in. And love is not enough.
After 34 years, 32 of which were truly very good overall, and 2 years of creeping changes, trying to get him to face his drinking, considering my options, knowing that my telling him it was sobriety or divorce would likely cause him to choose alcohol and slide even further into drunkenness alone, I was finally ready to leave him alone with drink. He left first. He refused to seek treatment for the underlying depression that was becoming apparent, would not consider medication, and made his choice. And my closest friend of 24 years would not face her alcoholism. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather were alcoholics. Her father has been dry for 15 years and would not try to get her to face it with the AA attitude of she has to hit bottom. She went from being a good employee, attentive single mother and dependable friend to falling apart within 6 months after some serious health issues forced her to stop working. And she hit the bottle hard with an alcoholic boyfriend. Drank up her life savings, significant profit from sale of her home, son’s college fund, lost her son when he moved in with his aunt for his senior year in high school. lost her house, her sanity and sleeps in a homeless shelter. I was living across country when she started to show signs of mania and Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. I tried to get her father and brother to visit her and get her into detox. Nope, she has to hit bottom. I managed to get the county mental health to send a team out to evaluate her along with a few friends who had also been trying to help her. They did get a court order to be detoxed, she agreed to another 30 days but went straight back to the bottle. Her son was not enough, her own life was not enough. She wanders the streets of the original Skid Road in Seattle mumbling tonelessly to tourists and passersby and sleeps in a shelter. She would not let us help her out of the river. Alcohol is the deadliest drug of all.
You know that your child will be high risk for ADD. Yet remember that even identical twins with one affected have about a 40% chance of the other not being affected if my source was correct.
For both you and your child’s well being, leave. Love is not enough. You have not failed. He has failed. You would only have failed if you had failed to try.
I nearly lost a friend because I confronted her with her eating issues. Long obese but she had lost almost 100 pounds after meeting her husband 8 years ago. She lost weight then without trying, the slow consistent loss that is healthiest. Was happy, they married and 4 years things going well. She had maintained the better weight and something flipped. He went from being perfect in her eyes to not being able to do anything right and started to gorge. Regained the weight plus more in about 6 months. Was driving him off with her harridan behavior. She was furious, would not speak to me for over a year. I knew this was likely going into it. But she was eating herself to death, developing many health related issues from the weight as well as being on the verge of divorce. I had the choice of losing my friend to death or having her pissed but possibly alive. This one time there was a good ending. A live friend. But I would have failed had I not tried.
You and your baby deserve to thrive and succeed with happiness, health and well being. Give the responsibility for failing where it belongs, with your husband. Go and make a life for yourself and child that is truly living. Free of guilt, shame and failure. Stand tall and proud.
Yes, there will be regret and sorrow for your husband. That he will not make the choice to free himself of the bondage to his brain and behavior he will not admit to.
I hope you can find in time that you can remember and appreciate the good things you and he shared as well as learning from his errors.
Simple aging can affect the brain and make social skills and cognition decline to the point someone you enjoyed being with is now intolerable. My father did so. Pain and other health issues can make life miserable enough for someone to make them irritable and hard to be with. My mother’s story. A stroke, brain injury, infection, toxins, hormone swings, can make people intolerable. No guarantees in life. When it reaches the point we stand at the river and either will be swept into it ourselves or turn back and let them go on alone, it is a hard choice.
My heart goes out to you and your child. And yet I sense that you will come through this even more able to help others. Because you will know from the inside out that at times we must let people go, no matter what the reason is. People self destruct for many reasons. And are destroyed at times by things they truly could not prevent. And those they would drag down with them must let them go. Blessed them with love and release them so that no one else is destroyed along with them.
You will come through with more compassion, more understanding of being deeply torn and hurt, feeling helpless, and as you rebuild your life, be able to show others by example that life worth living can be rebuilt.
Be strong, stand tall and resolute. Know you did all you could. When tears come, let them fall and cleanse you. And when the pain, guilt, shame and sense of failure have ebbed, let new strength and understanding flow in to sustain you.
It took courage and strength to face this. I honor you for doing so.
May the light of hope and wisdom shine in this dark time. It will keep you out of the river.

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 25, 2014 at 7:50pm

Not all ADD spouses are the same. I was married for 21 years to one man with ADD and then ended up marrying a different man with ADD after I was dumped by my first husband. My first husband recognized that he had ADD but refused to use meds to help with his distraction and impulse behaviors.  For more than two decades I held the household together and was the only adult.  After my first husband left me for a 19 year old (he was 47) I met my current husband.  It turned out that he was also ADD but the difference is that he recognizes the issues that ADD brings so he takes medication daily and uses organizational techniques to keep himself focused.  He communicates well: he knows that he forgets to do things so he asked for me to remind him and doesn’t get resentful or consider it “nagging.” He is a wonderful partner. Don’t consider it a failure that you were not able to get your husband to try to alter his behavior, just because of your profession.  It isn’t you. It is his unwillingness to recognize his limitations or to even want to change.  Also, please know that he will be more critical of the ADD characteristics your unborn child will possibly exhibit.  I have seen that repeatedly with our own family and other families.  The person who should be most understanding of the issues because they came from him will be the one most unaccepting of the behaviors in the child. Leave him ASAP and find yourself a real partner and parent for your baby.

Posted by NWOutdoorsMomof3 on Aug 25, 2014 at 7:58pm

Well said NWmom! Not all ADD’ers are hopeless cases for relationships. Denial of a problem almost always is.

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 25, 2014 at 8:07pm

I really feel for you. I’ve been married to a man with ADHD for 27 years. He also will not acknowledge it, get any counseling, take any medication.
These types can be very manipulative. And yes this is abusive. You might expect me to say leave, and if you want to, yes—you should!! But it can be managed, behavior by behavior. Rules. And I did leave him once (for a month, I thought forever but we reconciled) because he wasn’t taking me seriously. Here are some of my rules: escalating anger means the talk is over. Flirting in even the mildest sense mean I leave him for good. Interrupting me during the weekdays (God help me, he works from home and right now I’m also at home) is not allowed. After 5 pm we can talk. Tantrums mean I leave the house and possibly forever if he throws anything, scares me, etc. ........Etc. Have consequences that you will definitely do. Have ground rules for fights: no cussing, one subject only, etc.  Try to see that (not trying to demonize him) ADD is also close to an emotionally abusive situation. He has more control than you think. It is about control. Do not let him control you. Depression is a way to control you.

And, be very very firm about any fears of safety, especially with this child coming soon. If his anger scares you, if you wonder if he would hurt you, do leave. And only accept him back if he does get treatment, from someone else, not you. You can’t be his therapist. You need to be his protected, cared for wife. Very different.

I so hope it works out for you. So much. Whatever you decide.

Come to think of it, I think you should leave. And only go back if he really gets treatment. And shows true change, OVER TIME. If he curbs his temper dramatically. If he does all the things you need him to do to feel safe and secure and not controlled in the relationship. Yes, leave. And look forward to sunnier days. grin

Posted by shelley4832 on Aug 29, 2014 at 9:20pm

You are a degreed professional.  Start acting like it.  Put ADHD aside for a second and look at the behaviors.  Denial of symptoms and refusal to address clear and pressing problems.  ADHD or no, such behaviors are not consistent with the needs of a new born or you, the child’s mother. 

You need a serine environment to raise your child.  Do it now.  Get out.  Bring in help from all your circles.. Family, friends, professionals…  Draw the line in the sand and do not cross it.

This guy’s purpose in life right now should be helping you. What is he doing???  Pissing you off and dragging you down.

Think it’s going to get better?  Fat chance (and you know it) 

Get out and get out now.. No, you should not get out.  HE should.  Although he has the legal right to live there, you can politely ask him, for the well being of your unborn child,  to pack up his crap and get out.  If not, then the options become much more limited.  This will only become more difficult when your child is born

Posted by LakeLife on Aug 31, 2014 at 10:21am

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