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Couples With One ADHD Partner

How to keep my sanity with my ADHD husband?

I am new to this website and group. I am here because my husband and I have only been married 6 months, but I feel very overwhelmed with him and his ADHD. First of all, I didn’t find out of what having ADHD involved until we were married (and neither did he because he was diagnosed with it as a child, but never sought treatment). He also has ODD, which makes him resist my initial attempt to get him to handle things in a certain way; he usually does what he wants, admits I was right, and then wants to apply my suggestion. Add to his condition the fact that he is currently unemployed. That adds an unprecedented amount of stress to my life. I love him dearly, but I am to the point where I am regretting the whole thing. I know that if I could do it all over I would not have married him. We cannot afford to seek treatment because I am the only one with medical insurance, but we can barely afford the copay for me even with that. Here are the problems we are having:

1) He spends the little bit of money we have like crazy. I am now in charge of our finances, but while I am working crazy overtime hours, his “needs” dictate that he gets any extra money and I get maybe like $10 if I get anything at all and he gets like $100. But he quickly spends it all and keeps coming back to me for extra money as if we got it like that, and gets upset when we don’t have it. We have no savings

2) He gets depressed because of having little control over his impulses and he sees how it hurts me, and because of being unemployed and unable to provide at all. His feelings about these things makes him blow up at me sometimes over nothing or things that were actually his fault. He is never physical and always apologizes, but it is taking a toll on me emotionally.

3) He does not know how to communicate in a normal way. He is quick to negate what I say in a normal discussion, but it doesn’t make sense because he usually ends up agreeing with what I just said, like he wasn’t really listening. I cannot talk to him like a normal wife because 1) he cannot stay focused on what anyone says for longer than five seconds, and 2) he overreacts to conversations about problems we are facing. I have to handle everything on my own and I have no emotional outlet because he cannot handle it. I only have my diary but that’s just not enough, and I cannot talk to my friends because you just never know who will gossip about what and I don’t think it’s wise to involve family members because they will only continue hating the spouse long after the problem is over.

4) He has lots of energy. This means that he wants to be out of the house as much as possible. That is a problem for our automobile gas bill which is only budgeted for a certain amount from each check (he insists on having the car while I am at work, especially when he needs to take care of different errands). It is also a problem because when the weekend comes he wants to hang out all Saturday and all Sunday with friends if he could. Um, I’ve been working almost 60 hours a week, and I would really like to rest at home. I’m not saying for him not to go out ever, maybe just Saturday so I can rest Sunday. That is fair and he agrees to it in the moment, but if someone invites him to do something Sunday, he just has to do it or he is angry.

5) Recreation usually turns into what he wants to do. There have been plenty of times when he will ask what I wanted to do, I’ll tell him, he says we can do it and we’ll schedule to do it, he’ll come back some time later wanting to do something else, I’ll remind him of the original plans and tell him that we agreed on them, he’ll say we can do the original plans another time or give me lame reasons why we shouldn’t do them and should do what he wants. 

These are our biggest issues and they are chipping away at the joy that comes with being a new bride. I am having a hard time distinguishing which problems are attributed to ADHD and which are just him being selfish. I am also having a hard time trying to figure out what responsibilities he can handle and which are beyond his limitations. I have a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders and I would love to delegate as much as possible, but not if he cannot handle it.

Someone please help us with one or all of these things. Neither of us see divorce as an option, but I would rather live the rest of our married life as happy as possible as opposed to just existing with a roommate. Also, even if he is not open to trying different methods, what can I do on my end to keep my sanity? I try to keep in mind what made me fall in love with him - he is kind, affectionate, funny, adventurous, social, spiritual-minded, courageous, and very clean - but sometimes I get so overwhelmed that it seems to overshadow these good traits. HELP!!!


I so feel for you.  And I can relate to every single one of your difficulties.  I have been there for sure and am still in the middle of them.

My best advice if you truly want to be happy is to get out.  I hate to say it, but none of these things will get any better, and chances are some of them will get much worse as your marriage progresses.  My husband and I have been married for 17 years and we have two young children and I have only a parttime job.  You can bet if there was a way financially and emotionally for my kids and I to leave I would have done it years ago.

I hate to be a downer but this is reality.

BUT, if you are bound and determined to stay (but keep in mind at 6 months it is a lot easier to leave and it gets exponentially more difficult - ADHD people, as you have noticed, are manipulative and he will make it emotionally difficult for you to leave if you want to, especially if you function for him) then you have some work to do.

The only thing I would say that is reasonable to expect HIM to do is to get treatment.  He most likely needs medication - you can expect nothing to get better on its own.  He should be taking meds and get regular behavioral therapy.  If you say you can’t afford it then you can’t afford to complain.  If he had diabetes you’d find a way to get him treatment.  Find a way and insist that he follow through.  For me, knowing what I know now, this would be an absolute deal breaker.  If my husband stopped taking his meds it would simply be a who is leaving, not and maybe situation.  He will probably not want to stop taking medication once he finds the right one because he will function so much better.

The rest is all stuff you need to do that has nothing to do with him.

1. Let go what you can let go of and actively work to let go of all the other stuff that bothers you.  This may require prayer, or meditation, or deep breaths, whatever but let go of all the stuff that irritates you.  My husband will do laundry.  He will not PUT AWAY laundry but insists that he has done a lot work work.  He washes dishes but leaves the rest of the kitchen a mess and then insists he has “cleaned the kitchen” - If I continued to let these little things bother me I would be nuts. I’m sure you have half done projects, and messes and piles around your house.  This is the kind of thing that can eat away at you if you let it.  Don’t let it.

2. Anything he will do around the house let him - don’t comment, don’t ask beyond just letting him know that this is now his responsibility and you will no longer do it.  Count on these things being things he likes to do, not things you need done.  But just deal.  I know it is frustrating and you have taken on a lot. But this is life with an ADHD spouse.  They are not cooperative, fact. Just deal. 

3.  Find something to do that you can do alone that you like to do.  Whether it is escape to the movies or get a regular massage, something, golf, bridge, something only for yourself!  Every spouse should have things they do alone but this is especially important for spouses of ADHD people.  They are difficult to live and deal with so you need to be around easy, fun people to remember what it is like.

4.  Find peace.  Find a way to get peace for yourself on a daily basis.  You can walk or meditate or do yoga or swim or just smell flowers.  Whatever it is that gives you moments of peace do it, and do it often throughout your day.  You will not manage if you don’t.  You are in a high stress marriage.  There is no getting around that, so you need to take care of your inner peace because you cannot expect it at home.

5.  Take as good care of your body as you can because if you get sick he will not be able to take care of you.  He will try, and he will think he’s doing a good job most likely, and he actually may, for a few days but if you ail for more than that you are on your own.  So best to be in good shape and good health to prevent any down time where you might need to rely on him.

6.  If you plan on having children know that there is a probably 50/50 chance that they too will have ADHD.  It is hereditary.

7.  Don’t hold grudges.  It will only undermine your relationship and your own happiness.  Plus his brain will hold all the grudges a marriage can take.  Resentment is a marriage killer.  He may not be able to help holding a grudge, but you can so you should.

8.  Accept that you will overfunction for him and that you are the manager of your family, and you will do most of it alone.  And to the extent you can, make him OK with this fact.  It is silly to think that he will be able to handle a lot - but DO give him positive feedback when he does handle something (and understand that you will not get this in turn, either he will not acknowledge that you have given him positive feedback and then later say you never notice what he does, and you yourself will do a lot without any acknowledgement whatsoever).

Good luck.  If I knew at 6 months what you know now my life might be a whole lot easier!  Of course, I wouldn’t have my great kids so… life is a trade off.  You don’t get everything you want and some of us don’t get much, but that shouldn’t stop you from being grateful.

Posted by YellaRyan on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:58pm

6 months is nothing, get a divorce now. Things will not get better, and if it seems like they are it will only last two weeks to a month at the most. Take care of yourself.

Posted by CullyRay on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:34pm

YellaRyan ....Amazing advise…Don’t you wish you had your good advise when you were starting out?

Posted by jetergirl on Jun 16, 2014 at 10:44pm

Hi everyone,
I haven’t commented on any threads for many months, but this discussion just touches my heart so much. Strawberries, you seem like a genuinely good-hearted person who loves the man you married. However, it takes a long time to really get to know someone, to know them fully. As you are already beginning to see, your new husband isn’t exactly the person you expected you were marrying. I’ve been where you are. 11 years (and 6 kids) later, I still regret marrying my ADHD spouse. Sadly, I hoped that he would get better, that his mood swings and immature behavior was just a “phase”. And he would cry, threaten to kill himself, etc whenever I talked about leaving him. Back then, I was too young and it hurt me to think of hurting him. So I stayed. I love my kids dearly! They are the only ray of sunshine issuing from my union with their father. However, 3 of my 6 kids also have ADHD, and my husband handles their symptoms horribly. You would think he would be understanding of their impulses but he is not. In fact, he has very little patience for his own children who struggle with the same symptoms as himself. We have had to separate from him at times, just so that I could “figure out” what to do, how to provide and take care of all my kids alone. Although my husband is not much help with the kids, he is another adult in the home, like a babysitter, I guess.
The point I’m trying to make, Strawberries, is leave. Leave now. This doesn’t get better. My husband also has ODD, and that makes the ADHD harder to treat because he won’t be serious about treatment. He will manipulate you. I live with my husband, but he knows that I have very little trust for him. We sleep in separate bedrooms. We are like roommates, or that “parent/child” relationship because the bitterness, anger, resentment, and distrust has poisoned what is left of our marriage. I’m not saying you will have the same future with your ADHD spouse, but YellaRyan was absolutely right: if you stay, you’ve got your work cut out for YOU. And yes, there are lots of ways to surround yourself with people who care about what you are going through and can be a listening ear, but can YOU live like that? I was a hopeless romantic when I met my husband, he was my first boyfriend and I have never been with any other. Perhaps that’s why I have dealt with so much bitterness because I’ve never known the happiness of marital union that I had sooo hoped for. Only you can decide what’s best. You must love him, forgive him, bear with him, even when it gets worse and it will. My husband is only 41 and his brain function has decreased so much. His memory is worse, his concentration is very poor. He won’t take care of himself (daily showers, dental care, etc) He won’t exercise, has gained nearly 100 pounds in 2 years because of excessive emotional eating (which he blames me for). So, just saying, the aging process is against those with ADHD if they won’t be responsible for their own health and treatment.

Best of luck to you Strawberries, whichever road you decide to take. I hope you find the peace you are seeking.

Posted by Kiki808 on Jun 16, 2014 at 11:13pm

Leave now!!!  This is his problem not yours.  Unfortunately, the longer you stay married, the more you will become so entwined with all of his issues, you will never get out, at least not without a lot of financial, emotional and possibly physical (illnesses follow stress) problems of your own.

Once you are out of the marriage, he can concentrate on himself getting better, and not relying on you to take care of all his issues.

I wish you the best.


Posted by Rrite on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:02am

Run, don’t let him keep you there with manipulation when you do go. I am living with my boyfriend who has ADHD and ODD. I have been here 10 years and every day is hell. I dread going home at night after work but I can’t go anywhere else because he gets so angry if I am not here to listen to him complain. He talks every second of the time he is home until he falls asleep. I come home and every slight or problem, perceived or real, gets dumped on me as soon as I walk in the house. I am not allowed to say anything about my work or he blows up, yelling that I should know better than to work where I do and I should be like him, and enjoy life and not bring work home. Of course he is happy, he dumps all his crap on me and doesn’t have to think about it until the next day when it happens all over again. Trust me, with out DX and meds it will never change. I don’t remember how to laugh or even what feeling relaxed is like because I am constantly on guard waiting for the next explosion. I am in therapy and have gained 78 pounds in the past 10 years. It is a nightmare. I am exhausted. I worry about him killing himself even though he is too selfish to hurt himself. But I am not sure that he won’t hurt me or my animals. He has never been violent but is emotionally and verbally abusive and then he says that I make all this up and that I am crazy. Get out while you can, they are masters at misdirection and as soon as you start doubting yourself you are lost. And it is a long painful trip trying to get back. I question if there is really a relationship that the partners love each other or even like each other and is there a man out there that actually respects and listens to a woman. Every once in a while it is like a tiny window opens up and I can almost glimpse hope shining through and then I go home and realize that the pain is all that I have in my world.

Posted by Jackiomy on Jun 17, 2014 at 1:36am

Great advice YellaRyan. Strawberries…run now. He will not change. I have been married to ADHDer for 32 years.  It only works if you are committed to be the breadwinner, banker, compromiser and on and on.

Posted by Lila on Jun 17, 2014 at 5:42am

Wow its incredible what i have read… just few words… seek for peace…pray very often….ask for help..first to God is very important ..and them to ur family or someone u trust &  specialy someone who know about it..Love yourself…reward yourself .be corageous.. read proper info about ad! o vercom!e . Help him to look for help. Take care of ur mind & heart. Be sincery w ur husband about ur feelings…he needs to recognize add problem & do all the eff!orts to control !it.  Look for goals & take ur desicion ...base in a deep meditation but do not delay tooo much… u deserve be happy and stable in emotional sense. Pray! Love yourself!  U are not alone in this ... millions are experience trials.

Posted by Courage prisca on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:50am

I have followed YellaRyan for many months.  Her logic is sound and her approach is thoughtful and heartfelt. I read all her stuff… often twice.  Consider her words.  You have an entire life ahead of you that can be joy-filled.  I have this thing and, after many years of reflection, I can tell you I am a lot of things… What I am not is a husband.

You can paint this ‘disorder’ any way you want.  The reality is that ADHD leaves no part of a person’s life unaffected.  It does NOT go away and the best you can hope for in terms of treatment is to moderate the clearly destructive pathology of this disorder.  There is no cure and the efficacy of what treatments are available are fleeting and often less than effective.

I have read the Orlov books on ADHD and marriage. You may wish to do the same.  Her work lays out a grand plan for salvaging the hell you are clearly facing.  What those books lack is a dispassionate and quantitative review of the efficacy of her approach.  I fear if such studies were available, there would be significantly less of the breathless optimism that surrounds her books.

What studies are available show ADHD afflicted marriages dissolving at almost twice the rate of marriages in the general population.  As for the spouses affected by this thing, drug abuse, incarceration, under and unemployment, alcoholism and other maladies are rife.  In virtually every social metric, ADHD sufferers come up with the short end of the stick.  Don’t let it happen to you.  Do not try to play Mother Theresa and ‘save’ this guy.  He is not listening.  He can’t.  We can’t.

Good luck.

Posted by LakeLife on Jun 17, 2014 at 6:17pm

I’m new to the group but disappointed so many are telling you to quit. I’m a newly wed too. We just celebrated our 1 year and it was tough. I definitely believe he has to understand his ADHD and how it affects not only him but you. Then he must want and take action to take better control of his life. If he refuses, then no, it will never get better. But I hope he takes the situation seriously and works thru the challenges with you. My husband drives my nuts but he at least takes efforts to be a better person n husband. Look into free support groups and if your work sponsors free therapy sessions. We’ve taken advantage of the resources available to us n it allowed us to move forward with the wedding planning. We don’t have a lot of finances but we make affording his medication a top priority. Best wishes to you.

Posted by ALM0613 on Jun 24, 2014 at 9:02am

I’m new here but a lot of what you’ve written makes sense to me. I’ve been with my ADD partner since 1996 and he was diagnosed in 2003 - its hadn’t been an issue before as we were at uni and the structure suited him. The problems started when he lost a structure - the good times in our relationship are when he is working, the bad times when he’s not. Recognising this, I tried to put a structure on when he was working - do X to pay your rent but it didn’t work as he didn’t respect me enough to follow it. It had to be a true outside one. Try and get your partner into a work programme - financial or volunatary but it needs to be one where he feels valued so he focuses on it. To save your sanity, if you can, get someone in to do some basic housework - toilet and kitchen at least so you get some payback from work and don’t get depressed from fact house gets worse and worse and perfectly reasonable adult there who’s just playing computer games and watching TV. TBH my partner is utterly mean with money but had money worries as he’s told me he’s earning when not. Treatment can help a lot but won’t necessarily solve problem at route - my partner has been on and off a lot. Rather sit down and consider whether whether you get any support, pleasure or value from him - does he make you laugh, offer emotional support when you’re stressed, cuddle you, love you - or does he drain you? Life will be full of needless mini-crisises but if you’ve got a good emotional connection you may be able to work through that. If you’re wanting children though, be realistic that the main burden will be on you and as bread winner, that may not be possible.

Posted by hilaauk on Jun 27, 2014 at 10:49pm

Thanks for all of the advice, especially ALM013. I am happy to report that my husband just found a job a few weeks ago. It doesn’t pay much, but it’s something. I also found local free resources to help him get counseling. I know that what he really needs is DRUGS, but this is a good step in the right direction. Come to find out, these particular people are not psychiatrists, so they cannot prescribe drugs, but they can refer him to someone who can and we can save up to get whatever drugs he needs. I am so happy. He loves me so much that he is willing to seek treatment because he knows he is driving me crazy.

The one thing I would encourage people out there not to do, is not to try to pray way mental illness. Prayer is wonderful when done as prescribed in the Bible, but we must also work in harmony with our prayers by seeking treatment. Do both! We both have said many prayers and it has lead us up to this point where he can start getting the help he needs. That’s good, because I was about to hurt him very badly.

Posted by strawberries404 on Jul 29, 2014 at 7:24pm

Also, one thing that I learned in dealing with him is to make lists. He won’t make lists for himself (SMH and rolling my eyes) but I have taken the initiative by making lists for him and putting them in places he is most likely to look, and they do work for him, despite what he says.

Posted by strawberries404 on Jul 29, 2014 at 7:26pm

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