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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Help me love my ADD/ADHD wife

I’ll keep it short and sweet. Yesterday I yelled at my undiagnosed ADHD wife because she came home 15 minutes late. It was dark and I was waiting up for her and I began to worry. I told her that “I should go out and make you worry about me, that way you’ll know what it’s like…”

She was apologizing but I caught myself feeling guilty. I literally zoned out, and thought to myself. For days now (prior to my yelling at her) I’ve been upset at her typical ADHD behavior (not doing any chores around the house, not cleaning up after herself, neglecting to do homework with our ADHD daughter, etc..). If you’re the parent of a ADD/ADHD child and married to a ADD/ADHD spouse you know exactly what I’m talking about.


I realized it wasn’t her being late coming home (it was only 15 minutes). It was the build up of everything. Of course I spent the rest of the night and most of today distant. Because I’ve been reflecting on how I let things build up. This isn’t the first nor the last time I’ve been down this road. And after 9 years I’m at my wits end. I’m sick of it. Divorcing her isn’t an answer, we have a ADHD daughter, therefore a ADHD daughter and a ADHD mother living together is a recipe for disaster (especially since our daughter has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and DOESN’T respect my wife’s authority).

I feel that I’m stuck in the parent-child dynamic. Where I feel that I’m the only adult in the house. And that I have to treat her just like our 8 year old ADHD daughter. To be honest, being the husband in the marriage I have to do the traditional wife’s cooking/ cleaning/ homework with the child and taking care of home while running a small business. It feels like I’m married to myself for the past 9 years. Like I’m some single parent with 3 daughters. And it’s made me resent her and hate being married. I don’t want to feel like this anymore because every article I’ve read about ADHD marriages, I am a definition for how the non ADHD partner feels towards their ADD/ADHD spouse.

Yes I know I need marriage counseling, I’m hunting one down now. But is their any online seminars I can attend? If you’re reading this and you’re spouse has ADD/ADHD I don’t need to tell you how I feel. You already know.


You’re not alone.  Here is one resource you could use -

I’m not certain it’s the best place to start, but it’s something and I’ve started reading her book “The ADHD Effect on Marriage” and it’s helping.

Posted by Swim on Nov 09, 2013 at 10:17pm

Thank you for letting me know about that website. I’ll go look into it.

Any information I can get my hands on (or eyes) will help me. It’s been to long I’ve been feeling like this.

I wonder is their any other couples that have been married over 15+ years and how they deal with a ADD/ADHD spouse.

Posted by not2day on Nov 09, 2013 at 10:57pm

I sit here and shake my head as I read your thread merely because my experience is so similar to your own.  My wife has ADHD and it’s been a STRUGGLE!!  Moreover, we’ve only been together for 5 years.  Also, like you we have a child together (17 months old).  Honestly her ADHD didn’t bother me so much until we had our son as my needs changed, i.e. I needed her to be more responsible and attentive.  I could go on and on but I feel you already get it.

Anyway, we read the “ADHD Effect on Marriage”, which is wonderful.  Melissa Orlov, the author, has been so helpful to me as I’ve emailed her several times regarding my situation and what to do.  We also went to an ADHD Coach weekly for about 4 months to learn different strategies we could use at home to help us work better together.  I have to say my wife has gotten SO much better, but it’s still hard.  At least now though it’s more tolerable, and I don’t think about leaving the marriage daily.

Nowadays, I try to focus more on the positives, and all of her good traits.  The truth is, no one is going to be perfect as anyone will bring issues to a marriage.  However, just like a puzzle some pieces fit better than others.  Right now I’m trying hard to make things work so we’ll fit as best as we can.  If a day comes when I can’t do it anymore I may leave, but that day is not today.  I owe it to our son, and like you fear not being with him on a daily basis to make she he’s being taken care of.

I would suggest following up on the marriage counseling, or an ADHD coach.  It can’t hurt, and could only make things better.  Good luck!  It’s nice to chat with someone who understands even though our experiences are not exactly the same.

Posted by hopeful one on Nov 10, 2013 at 12:05am

ADD & Romance by Jonathan Scott Halverstadt book is excellent too. Please try it, i read it first then pointed out bits to my ADD partner so we could talk it over & it helped us. Good luck!!

Posted by NannyChris on Nov 10, 2013 at 3:34pm

Counseling takes time and you both have to want to make it better and it sounds like you need immediate triage. So here are a couple of things you can do for yourself right away.

First, let go of any and all of the little stuff that bothers you, that you can. Like all those things she does that make you slightly frustrated and roll your eyes. Find a way. I know it’s hard but those little things add up and make you lose perspective.

Next, steal some time for yourself. I know you are probably feeling obligated to pick up the slack where your wife leaves off but it can easily lead to resentment if that means you are giving up stuff you like to do. You may or may not tell your wife about this. I tack on an extra hour at the beginning of my work day to read uninterrupted because I have an ADD husband and two small children, one with ADD, and the house of course who will suck all of my day. So I don’t even say I just leave for work early. Do what you need to do to feel you have time and space just for you as often as you can manage.

Last, release yourself and your marriage of all the expectations you had, of what it was going to be like, what your wife would be like, what your kids would be like… All those old notions won’t work. Mourn them. Say goodbye to them and open yourself to new possibilities (but don’t pass over the grieving process, we non-ADD spouses have to give up a lot to be in the relationship and chances are no one in your circle gets it at all, they probably all say stupid things like “Just make her a list”). Give yourself the time and space to be disappointed or whatever you need. If you don’t take this resentment will bubble underneath everything till it finally makes you sick.

Disappointment comes when reality crashes up against expectation. I know exactly where you are at and can tell you it gets better but only by focusing on changing YOUR mind, not your wife’s.

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 11, 2013 at 7:54am

@YellaRyan…It’s funny that you said “First, let go of any and all of the little stuff that bothers you” because that’s what I’ve been trying to do. It’s hard for me because I have very good (really good) memory. Trying to forget and let go is hard. But I do take it one day at a time.

Releasing expectations of my marriage was the part that hurt. By my second year I realized that this isn’t going to be what I signed up for. As you (and anyone reading this knows) When a ADD/ADHD person set’s their Hyperfocus beam on you it’s unbelievable. You feel like you’re living in a fairy tale. Like many of you reading this, that was why saying “I do” was so easy. Matter of fact, it was my wife that proposed to me. But when I realized my marriage isn’t like everyone else and it’s far from my expectations I started mourning, resenting her & wishing I never got married. I think I stopped morning by the 6th year and just gave up on my marriage being what I wished/hoped for. The sad thing is reality hurts more than fantasy. But instead I take the good little moments one day at a time and build from them. For example, it’ll be weeks till she’ll cook any meal for me. But when she does it makes it more memorable. Going into the marriage I expected semi daily meals (I cook for her, and she cooks for me).

People don’t know what it’s like being married with a ADD/ADHD and having a child (or more), It drains you so much, from day to day. Especially the mental fatigue is what makes it so hard. Because we non-ADD/ADHD ers can recall all of the disappointments and frustrations. But I’ve recently learned (after 9 years) from my wife, that because of the millions of thoughts running through her mind at any given moment, she knows that she isn’t doing something that makes me happy. She’s well aware of it…she’s well aware of how I might be upset at her because she’s failing to meet (the minimum of) my expectations And that only adds more stress on her and more negative thoughts. So ironically, we’re both going through our struggle of mental fatigue.

Posted by not2day on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:21pm

I feel your pain as well. I am the non-ADHD wife with an undiagnosed ADHD husband, a diagnosed ADHD son and a borderline teen daughter who definitely has major executive functioning deficits at a minimum. I know what it’s like to be the only one in the house who has the innate ability to plan and organize.

We’ve been married 17 years. It wasn’t until our son was diagnosed with ADHD 5 years ago that I realized it was the explanation for so many of my husband’s behaviors.

Prior to that, I took on the tasks in the relationship I was more suited for—like the finances. My husband does not touch the bills or finances. He doesn’t even have a debit card, and he doesn’t want one, because he knows he can’t manage it appropriately.

I’ve also learned to let go of getting upset about the time he spends on things I think are a waste, like racing games on his tablet and antiquated woodworking hand tools. These things bring his mind peace and joy, so who am I to judge what does that for him.

A marriage should be about divvying up tasks based on strengths and weaknesses, not what is customary for the wife and husband. That is especially important when ADHD is part of the relationship.

The other suggestions above are all great as well.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 11, 2013 at 9:13pm

@adhdmomma…yeah my wife is the same way with things that make her happy to pass the time.

Like you, when our daughter was diagnosed, that’s when all of my wife’s actions and behavior made perfect sense. with my wife she’s responsible for planing our dates & lunch dates/ dinner dates (though at times I’ll plan two or three of them per month smile She’s also responsible for decorating our home. Because as you know ADD/ADHDers get tired of the same old thing really quick, so I must admit our home has a new look to it every other month. 

I wish the world knew what it was like to be married to a ADD/ADHDer WITH children. maybe societies stereotypes and comments wouldn’t be so close minded. Like YellaRyan said “Just give her a list” isn’t the answer.

Posted by not2day on Nov 11, 2013 at 9:55pm

It is a pleasure to read all the advice and empathy on this particular thread but I feel compelled to respond to washbush. THANK YOU for a beautiful reply. The timing was to good to be true. We have a 27yr old daughter with ADD ( I know it’s back to ADHD ). She struggles so we her parents struggle. And I continue to surprise myself during conversations with her that I’m still learning how to advise her at times. Just last week she called and right from the start she was aggressive yelling and basically having a negative tirade. I have learned not to exacerbate the situation by trying to slow her down and actually discuss each problem she was focusing on.She can’t. I’m non ADD and so adjust to her style. She has taught me well. She is also not wanting to hear possible alternatives to her problems ( too much info to think about ) at that moment. So I just listened till she wore herself out. Then I told her she was a wonderful person and she should not place so much pressure on herself. That she did not HAVE to get a college degree and she could still have a good life. The only thing she needed to do was respect herself, make the best decisions she could in life and treat others with respect and kindness. She did not have to spend all her money on friends, have the biggest best parties to the point of putting herself in debt thinking that if she looks good people will be drawn to her, etc etc. don’t make promises she can’t follow through on. Happens often. Bottom line she heard me telling her that she is good and wonderful just being the person she is. And that it is more than ok to dance to the beat of a different drum. She has always tried to follow all the usual paths in life and it’s been a complete disaster for her. She has so many wonderful qualities. She is intelligent, caring loving, has a great sense of humor. As I’ve been told she lights up a room just walking into it. I think she really heard that she is fabulous just being who she is and to stop putting all that pressure on herself. I could feel the tension melting away even over the phone.  What started out with me thinking ” Oh, it’s going to be one of those conversations again” turned into a wonderful positive call. But the other best part was even tho I always felt that way about my girl and living with ADD I actually ” got it ” when I needed to most. And being your age and so introspective gave me new hope for her. I so enjoyed your reply. It was filled with a quiet truthfulness of what it’s like to be ADD. It was a moment of peace for me, the mom and wife of ADD! Thank you

Posted by maryscadary on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:06pm

@not2day, don’t worry about the world, we know.

And don’t forget, that like many things in life, this is a process.  Inherent in the nature of a process is the fact that all decisions do not need to be made RIGHT NOW!!!, in fact, it is the point of “process” to put off decisions until they are essentially made themselves, or revealed to you.  But, and I am suspecting that maybe you have some control issue, or are very good at managing lots of stuff so you feel you should at all times, you have to be able to let go.  Really let go.  Meaning take the emotional charge off of it.  Yes, you are going to remember everything, but you need (for yourself primarily) to forgive - that is essentially taking emotions out of the memory so you aren’t reliving the upset each time you think of something. 

And here’s the thing, there are many ways to do this, both simple and complicated from meditating to going to an ashram to getting closer to god to writing a letter to just simply deciding to… and you need to find the process that works for you best.  But you need to do it.  This is forgiveness so that you can release the bonds of the emotion, upset, disappointment, etc.  Most of us who struggle with something hold disappointment as a badge of honor.  It gives us something.  “I tried so hard and still it didn’t work!” can sustain you, even get sympathy from others, but it doesn’t feel good.  Resentment, disappointment, upset - all synonyms for anger.  Anger a synonym for fear.  Fear that I am not worthy, likeable, deserving, that I’m bad….

Forgiveness is for the forgiver.  It releases you from the root fear that you are not enough.  Because we all have this fear that (and apologies beforehand to any ADDers reading this that might find it harsh) I married a defective person - the only person who could possibly love me is someone with this life impacting flaw so what does that make me!!!  As long as you are NOT forgiving, at some level inside yourself you are holding on to feelings of low self worth.  ADD is not the problem, ADD is the trigger for you.

This is tough stuff, very difficult and time consuming work to stay with and be happy with a person with ADD.  So, give yourself a thousand breaks and all the time in the world and let yourself really feel what you really feel even if there is no one to tell it to… and forgive primarily yourself.

And remember that your child sees how you treat your wife, how you feel about your wife and her ADD, and she will understand that this will transfer to her (even if that is not strictly true, that is how children think).  She does not see your relationship with your wife as separate from her.  It is telling her things about herself which you are not even saying out loud.  This is why you gotta get off the “its the ADD” and get on to making peace inside yourself.  Its so hard, I so get that. But this is the work of the non-ADD spouse who stays for however long they stay, from one day till death do you part, it doesn’t matter how long you choose to stay it matters how you work on yourself.

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 12, 2013 at 1:29am

@YellaRyan…you’ve given me a lot to think about. I remember the last time I spoke to a therapist I brought up how hard it is to forget the repetitive issues. Meaning being distracted by something and neglecting something else. I told him how is it that you seriously want someone (meaning me) whom remembers their first day of Pre-School (which was 27 years ago) to forget 9 years worth of repetitive “issues”? Of course it’s not easy.

My own Eidetic memory is my greatest enemy.

Posted by not2day on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:28am

flip side here my son has it I have I know my boyfreind has it but will never address it. And I am the only one taking medication. So I carry the load of our ADHD world and it does wear me out my son is also ODD lives with his dad who took him off meds. I can no longer deal with my son he physically abused me 6 monthes ago. Refuses to listen to the simplest request. he gets enraged. I love him but do to his age he can refuse medication. I am the ADHD parent and SPOUSE and I manage everyone else’s adhd tempers messes laziness procrastination. But you can’t force her to seek treatment and with the right medication and behavior therapy things improve a great deal. I still have a lazy day and ADHD does act up at times but I see all the amazing changes in my life with proper treatment. best of luck

Posted by normal people scare me on Nov 12, 2013 at 1:30pm

As an ADD wife, reading this scares me. I’m glad my husband is tough on me and it makes me better. I hope he never thinks the way that some of you do. Her ADD qualities is probably what made you fall in love with her in the first place. But now that it doesn’t work for you, you think about escaping. How do you think it feels to be her? I’ll tell you, isolated/alone, useless, stupid, like you can’t do anything right. Work with her. Do it together. She doesn’t like being this way, but they can be benefits when turned around. See there’s something you can do about it, you can leave, that’s easy. The hard part is sticking it out and finding ways to help her b/c she can’t escape ADD.  She should embrace it and use it to her advantage, but you have to help her.

Posted by ADDHockeyMom on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:42pm

My husband and our son have ADHD. I have OCD and love to organize and make lists smile We have been married for 18 years!!  We thought about divorcing 4 years ago and went for counseling.  I am so thankful that we did as our marriage and our children have been able to heal. 

Dealing with your wife’s ADHD is just one of the many things not working in your marriage.  You married her for a reason, as there is something in you that that she fulfills. Doing everything for my husband and kids was were I got my self worth but what I didn’t realize is it was destroying theirs.  Leaving her isn’t going to solve your problems.

Your wife needs to be diagnosed, as my husband was 4 years ago.  It took me saying that I wanted a divorce for him to accept we needed help.  He was able to get the diagnosis, get on medication and go for counseling.  He needed to learn that even though he was board, distracted, etc. that he still needed to be a responsible husband and father. He needed to find a way to do the things he didn’t “feel” like doing.  I needed to learn that my expectations were unrealistic and that I needed to let him be responsible for his “stuff” and not pick up the pieces when things didn’t get done.  I needed to learn to let my family fail, as humans were generally learn best from our failures. I needed to learn that it’s OK if the laundry sits on the pool table and there are dishes in the sink, etc.

You need to learn to forgive and let go.  Reminding yourself of all the things she is not doing is a choice.
You are choosing to stay in your junk.

You need to let go of your expectations of what a marriage is supposed to look like. (an expectation is premeditated anger) There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or a perfect person, you have your stuff also.  We went for counseling separately, and when we each took care of our own junk the marriage healed itself. 

Don’t forget the person with ADHD doesn’t like that they can’t remember things either.  I know my husband gets sad when he can’t remember things about the kids.  I will help him remember, when he wants me to, and it usually ends up being great moment for us.  I have told him, jokingly, that it’s not fair that he doesn’t remember the bad times like I do and I want that part of his ADHD smile 

I have learned to let go of the past, forgive, and love my husband and children the way the need to be loved not the way I think they should be loved.

Posted by jolley63 on Nov 13, 2013 at 11:10pm

@Jolley63…Yes my wife has trouble remembering too. But I help her remember by what we call a “trigger”. Something like a song, or food that will help trigger the memory.

The past few days since @YellaRyan gave me some things to think about, I’ve been stepping back and letting her do things her way. To be honest it’s strange because I’m not taking care of thing immediately. But she gets around to doing them. Even with our ADHD daughter I’ve applied the same “At their pace” mentality. I don’t micromanage things any more. Besides feeling strange, I’ve had more free time to watch some movies, catch up on my artwork and watch some football games INTERRUPTED!

Our daughter was diagnosed 2 yeas ago. So it’s been that long I’ve been tip toeing my wife towards getting diagnosed (and admitting what’s going on). It was earlier this year she finally admitted that her and our daughter have a lot of the same “habits” as she called it. That day was one of the happiest days in my life.

Loving them for them and not micromanaging them or getting upset because I feel like I’m the only adult in the house, is a daily process. So far it’s been going well but I’m trying hard not to “expect” anything. So that I won’t have premeditated anger like you mentioned.

Posted by not2day on Nov 14, 2013 at 3:23am

Dear not2day,

Glad to hear things are easing up on your end.  I think you should congratulate yourself on taking the good advice offered and stepping back so your AD partner can step in.  It’s hard, isn’t it?  I know that after my husband’s diagnosis of ADD last year, one of the lingering effects of ADD on my nearly 20 year marriage was I had to get used to NOT being hyper-vigilant.  It’s a challenge, isn’t it?  Retraining yourself not to take it all onto your own shoulders, not to worry about everything, not to anticipate problems and be prepping solutions even before things go haywire.  When you’re used to living in chaos, a shift towards even a slightly calmer environment is a big change and we spouses can’t always make that transition as well or as quickly as we’d like.  When you’ve spent years living ‘under siege’ from ADD/ADHD, it’s very strange and it takes work to release those ingrained habits.  As much as your AD partner needs to practice new habits, you will, too.  Sounds like you’re already practicing stepping back to create space so your partner can step in.  That’s huge.  Take care of yourself and take steps to set up systems that will support this new way of doing things. 

As silly as it sounds, what worked in our family is a daily chore list FOR BOTH OF US.  The week’s worth of lists is pre-set and we just rotate through the pages, one a day.  That way, I as the non-ADD spouse can learn to only do my share of things, and my ADD partner has a pre-fab no-muss no-fuss no-thinking-needed list of things he needs to do.  Even if his list today is only unload the dishwasher, take the kitchen garbage out and put the newspapers in the recycle bin—today’s list is there.  It took a couple of weeks to refine the lists (to figure out what weekly chore can be done on what day) but now they’re done and all the standard chores that need to get done through out the week are on them….we even found a way to bind them so that they’re like a 7 page flip book.  That flip book hangs from a magnetized hook on our fridge and we both refer to it every day.  Its a wonderful way for my husband to practice more independence (he never has to ask me what chores he needs to do today) and it’s a great communication tool (he can just look at today’s page of the book and see the note at the top of the page BUSY DAY FOR D, see I’ve got dog walking for an hour and grocery shopping—always 2 hour whirlwind—on today’s list, and he knows without asking me that it’s probably not a good day to ALSO try to talk me into dropping his stuff at the drycleaners across town).  The lists also give me the built-in limitations that my new It’s-not-all-on-me lifestyle require.  You’d be amazed at how such a simple thing can change your life.  I highly recommend easing into using such a tool.  It’ll help you and your partner practice what you each need to practice.  And I dare say you’ll start to find you will have time to do even more artwork!

Everything you’re doing is important—because you’re modelling how to deal with ADD for your daughter.  She may not end up with a non-ADD partner later in life and what you’re doing now is going to be something she’ll refer back to in her mind when she considers how she and her partner are going to go about building a life together.  You’re setting a good example for her by showing what a non-ADD partner can and—equally important—can’t do for her.  Keep up the good work.



Posted by Deb O on Nov 21, 2013 at 11:26pm

To be honest Deb O, it’s been hard and relaxing at the same time. Ever since Iv’e written this post (and people started giving advice and books), I’ve changed. But it’s hard sometimes I find myself literally closing my eyes and resisting the temptation to “clean up after my wife.”

I’ve even changed my speech to where I don’t command things. I always say “It’s your choice” or “It’s just my suggestion”. Instead of forcing my better idea on her. What’s the hardest part is my ADHD daughter. I’ve let her “run a muck” and I am shocked at how much energy a ADHD child has. I feel it’s enough to power an entire city. My ADHD daughter once spent 3 straight hours talking my ears off. How can anyone do that? Normally after 15 straight minutes of her talking I try to change her focus from me by assigning her some choir to do. I know she likes this change because now everyday she spends at least an hour talking to me about 1,00 things in rapid succession. Sometimes I’m answering (or commenting) on the 5th thing she spoke about and she’s already on topic 423 in just 5 minutes.

But I’ve been a lot less stressed. A lot less cleaning up, a lot less frustrations and a lot more time for the things I like to do, instead of Policing my household.

Posted by not2day on Nov 22, 2013 at 4:49am

Think about this for a minute
What were the reasons you fell for your wife,the things that caught your attention and the reason you married her?Now think about the reasons you have come to dislike her. It is all I think about ,it makes me remember of when we first became friends and how we began to date.
Sometimes I feel like I regret saying yes but it’s just the stress,annoyance talking.I say annoyance because that is really all that it is.Its you becoming sick and tired of being responsible which you shouldn’t be.You should instead just focus on positive things and how to help her.Help her find a way to love herself because she may have ADHD but she knows when something doesn’t feel right.Even people with ADHD recognize the recent in ones face but
All I can say is that I am engaged to a male with ADHD.It can no longer be fun and games it’s time to become serious but he struggles just as bad as your wife.He is struggling with Responsability,time management….. I,just like you, feel that I am the only adult in the relationship taking care of a child.its just a struggle now realizing that the reasons I fell for him are the reason I have come to dislike him…
A paradox?

Posted by Mitchy on Nov 24, 2013 at 12:56am

I just wanted to say hello and that I’m glad I’ve found a place full of people going through what I go through.  I lived in hope all last year that the Mayans were right and that a meteor would smash into the earth and end my misery.  I dealing with my own problems (just turned 50 this week, business is failing) and I keep thinking “Go buy a car and just drive away, as far away as you can, take a plane to England and start a new life”.  Please cont. to share your frustrations because I need to know I am not alone and not going crazy (not that it matters, because I’m pretty sure I’m headed for a heart attack - the stress of 3 years of the ADHD has packed on 50 pounds to my frame).

Posted by ready2scream on Dec 05, 2013 at 9:00pm

@ ready2scream,

You just need to take it slowly and take control of your life. It isn’t healthy to gain that much weight and being stress is only shortening your life span.

As I’ve stated, things have gotten so much better for myself since I’ve applied some minor changes to my own thought process. My wife is doing more around the house, I’ve learned to let her do things at her pace, my daughter’s constant talking doesn’t bother me we actually have conversations now (even though she jumps from topic to topic). I let her lead the conversation, regardless of how many times a topic changes.

I hope you can find some medium where your mental state and your physical state won’t be so negative.

Posted by not2day on Dec 07, 2013 at 1:11am

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