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Couples With One ADHD Partner


What do I do when he wants me to “help him worry less.”  He says that I have so much going on with me (my new diagnosis of ADD and trying to sort it all out) and he has so much going on with him (trying to start his career and have a positive outlook on life) that we are conflicting.  We can’t communicate effectively.  He says that he’s at a point in his life where he wants to be on time for things, not be late, and just get things done.  It frustrates him when I cannot “rise to that occasion,” or if I do something “wrong” (meaning NOT the way that he would’ve done it).  He understands that things have been not so great in our lives (finances, career planning, adult things…) but he’s trying to have a positive outlook on things and turn them around.  That’s hard to do with my constant negativity.  He understands that its “not [my] fault and that I’m dealing with some things.”  He feels to blame… like if he would just make more money, if he was able to do more, I would be better.  He says that he just needs more time…
    Admittedly, I am a chronic worrier.  I do so needlessly however most of these things I keep to myself.  I also have come to understand that my husband is kind of an edgy person; he does things a certain way on his own accord and he just prefers that.  At first, no problem, but as time passed (we’ve been together a total of 4 years this July) I couldn’t keep up.  I found myself having trouble anticipating his needs and noticed his frustration.  My response was to ask him to verbalize my inadequacies and maybe help me understand how I can do things the way that he prefers.  Works for a little bit but comes back to the same conclusion.  I’m anxious around my husband, especially in the car, bc I know if I do something wrong that it’s going to frustrate him (and I’m going to notice that whether he displays it or not.)  In turn we’re probably going to argue and the situation escalates out of hand, unnecessarily.  He asks me how he can be more patient.  I’m dont know, we have to get help…
    One of the things I worry about is money and finances which have a lot to do with our progress right now.  I make more money than my husband and for that reason has always had to take care of most of our bills.  Not an issue bc my husband is a server, which I used to be (its how we met), and I understand that income there is variable.  My husband has a goal of starting his own business and is just getting started in that endeavor.  I have always been in favor of thinking of our income together.  So when I’m having trouble with work and know that if I lose my job we have nothing, it affects me a little bit, I worry about it.  I have never came to my husband and asked that he make or provide more money in our relationship, I have always been supportive.  He feels like if he were able to contribute more money, things would be better for me.
    So bc I may be rambling now, my question is, how do I not feel like I’m ruining his life? How do I not feel to blame in this? How do I fix it, how do I fix me? How can I help support him and his feelings without letting my own interfere? I need to be able to cater to him as a wife and take care of my add too.  I feel that bc I have ADD, I must be to blame for everything, automatically…


Btw in re-reading my post, my husband may seem like he exhibits some ADD symptoms as well.  I believe that he is also ADD but wouldn’t develop this bc he is so sure of himself.  He’s sure of everything.

Posted by BigDreams on Apr 13, 2014 at 11:12pm

I noticed that there seems to be a trend in things for you and your husband—he asks you to do all the work in figuring out how he’s supposed to do things.  It’s your job to suss out how he’s supposed to be more patient, how he’s supposed to worry less.  It seems he is quite literally asking you to do HIS work for him.

Your husband may need to consider the idea that figuring out ways to cope with a sense of impatience and the feeling of being worried or anxious is HIS task, his challenge.  Putting it on you to figure out coping tools for him is like asking you to eat his meals for him—he’s not going to get much benefit out of it if you’re the one doing the chewing and swallowing.

Likely your husband has always had a tendency towards impatience and worrying/getting stressed when things aren’t working well.  Your behavior might trigger it more often but that’s putting a lot of blame on you and putting a lot of pressure on you to fix it for him. 

He may want to consider how his learning to cope with his situation as it pertains to you will help him in other areas—dealing with coworkers, stress on the job, etc.  It’s a skill he should consider developing independently of you, so that he’s better able to deal with his life with you as well as life in general.  As the non-ADD spouse in my relationship, I can sympathize with him if he’s caught in the trap of saying “you’re the primary thing that causes me to feel impatient or worried”.  But from walking miles down that road myself, I can tell you, it’s likely a story he likes to tell himself while in reality, he probably is wired to be an impatient worrier and was like that before you ever came into his life.  When I accepted that I needed to work on my general impatience and my tendency towards worrying/stressing out, my life got a whole lot better.  And I was better able to support my ADD partner (and deal with things when his ADD was so bad it did mess up our lives).

It kinda boils down to that whole “give a man a fish”.  If you do all the work for him, he’ll only be able to manage when you’re there doing the work for him.  If he learns strategies to cope with feelings of impatience or worry (and yes, even the occasional resentment that comes from having an ADD partner) he’s going to feel a lot better in the long run.  It’s more work up front, but it’s a better, longer term solution for him.  Consider getting into couples counselling and encourage him to go to one or two sessions all by himself so he can have the privacy to admit things that he’s angry about or embarrassed about.  If he won’t do the couples therapy thing just yet, encourage him to get started reading books about coping living with an ADD partner (“Living with ADD When You’re Not the One Who Has It” by Mimi Handlin and “The ADHD Effect on Marriage” by Melissa Orlov are good starts).  And no, before he suggests it, you reading the books and telling him what they say ISN’T going to work…he has to read them himself.  wink  This about him doing for himself in this life you share.

Best wishes

Deb O

Posted by Deb O on Apr 14, 2014 at 8:17pm

The whole idea that you can help someone else change is bogus anyway.  Can you behave differently so that he feels better?  No, that is crazy. 

You do need to work on yourself on an ongoing regular basis because as you know ADHD is a wily and capricious condition.  It will flare up because of stress, change in diet, change of life circumstances - good or bad, etc.  The birth of our first child, which was an amazingly good thing, caused my husband’s symptoms to ramp up to the point he was paralyzed.  So your work is on you and managing your ADD as well and as responsibly as you can so the effects don’t spill over on to others.

He has to work on his stuff.  Period.  Which means he has to deal with how he feels about your ADHD.  I know for me it was incredibly difficult to really deal with my feelings about my husband’s ADHD .  I had a period of mourning all that would never be because of it.  All my hopes and dreams, all the ways I have had to compromise my life, my career, the ways our relationship is compromised.  It’s big, it’s really big and you have to step aside - meaning stop taking responsibility for his feelings - and let him do it.  So long as you are his scape goat he will never do the real work he needs to do.

And maybe, if you are really honest you will find that this is a game you created together of guilt and blame is so as not to really have to connect on a deeper level.  There is always an elephant in the room that relationship dynamics like these are hiding.  If you do your work and let him do his you will find reality is better than the game.

Posted by YellaRyan on Apr 14, 2014 at 10:49pm

I totally agree that he has to work on himself.  Since I found out about my ADD I have started daily medication, I started reading the Driven to Distraction book by Dr. Hallowell & Dr. Ratey among any other literature I can get my hands on about it; at the recommendation of my psychiatrist.  I am about 3/4 of the way done and I absolutely love the book.  I have tried to introduce or explain some things about this diagnosis to my husband, some of which he is receptive to.  Whenever I began to learn about adult ADD, I kind of dove right in head first.  To me and understandably so, to my husband, it was kind of overwhelming.  I tried to take a step back for a little bit so I don’t just bombard him about ADD stuff 24/7.  I even bought the book Is it you, me, or adult ADD by Gina Pera, presumably for him.  He read maybe the first 25 or so pages… He said to me one time that he wants to learn about this and help me/us but he just has too much on his plate right now. 
    I remember 2 years ago, before I knew I had ADD, I thought our problems were just normal relationship problems.  I was still trying to wrap my head around possibly becoming a step-mother.  I had no idea why I felt like I liked this child, yet when she was around I was tremendously depressed.  I bought books and read things online about how to communicate better, and how to deal with blending families; b/c these things are stressful to normal people.  Some progress was made but not enough and not long enough.  ADD helps explain a lot of that.  As a step-mother now, let me tell you we’ve came a long way but we still have our little issues.  I feel like they’re mostly surrounded by communication difficulties, complicated by ADD. 
    I have found a therapist but have yet to start sessions, due to finances.  I am 100% sure that I need it, I would do daily sessions if it were sensible! However, until I somehow manage to maintain a job and stay caught up on bills/expenses long enough to save some money (I fear that one day I’m not gonna be able to afford my meds) I’m kinda stuck.  So here I am! 
    I do wanna get rid of this issue in our relationship bc until we do, I don’t feel like we’ll ever grow as much as we potentially could.

Posted by BigDreams on Apr 15, 2014 at 7:40am

Too good to leave, too bad to stay : a step-by-step guide to help you decide whether to stay in or get out of your relationship by Kirshenbaum, Mira.

Posted by irinasko on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:29am

Also the ADHD effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov are great books to help you figure out the dynamics and help you decide what to do.

Posted by irinasko on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:37am

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