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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Is there hope?

Although he has never been diagnosed, it’s extremely obvious that my husband has ADHD. Our son has it and we all know that there is a hereditary component to it.

We have been married 13 years, together 15. He’s had 16 different jobs since we’ve been married. He has been fired at least 4 times and 3 times he’s left a job with no other prospects. One of those times, he just stopped going and sank into depression - he was officially diagnosed with general social anxiety disorder. He has taken depression meds off and on since then, but has remained on them for the past several years.

When I met him, he was general manager of a fine dining restaurant. He is now working part-time at Macy’s as a clerk and he is studying to sell Aflac. The Aflac thing was sort of a “because there’s nothing else” kind of job. He was excited at first, but has gotten to a difficult point and I am not hopeful. He was sort of hoping that Macy’s would turn into something, but of course this being the holidays it’s been hard work and the luster has definitely worn off.

He’s been “sick” for the past few days so he hasn’t worked at Macy’s, on top of being the first one to volunteer to go home if there’s too many people. Since he’s been “sick” he has spent most of his time in bed…which is how things started when he stopped going to that other job before being diagnosed with anxiety.

I am at my wit’s end. I have had 2 jobs the time we’ve been married, one I held for 12 years (since before we were together) and my current job that I’ve had for 8. If it weren’t for me, we’d be in a homeless shelter. Unfortunately, I don’t make enough that we can comfortably live and we certainly aren’t putting anything away for retirement.

DH is 14 years older than me and 2 financial planners have told me that he’ll be fine b/c I’ll be working when he retires, but I’m basically screwed since I cannot afford to put anything away. I’m becoming majorly resentful. On top of being the bread winner, I’m the one who manages our son’s homework, meds, doctor appointments you name it. When DH has to (if I have to go out of town, etc.) everything slides.

I’m fearful that my son is learning this is all acceptable. I’m fearful we’ll end up losing our house (which we had to put back together after Katrina). And my heart is breaking that DH cannot see what his behavior is doing to us.

If I divorce him, we’ll lose the home regardless. It kills me that he’ll get half of any proceeds thanks to our state’s laws (even though the house is in my name). What’s worse is that a divorce coupled with losing our house will destroy my son. He’s having the first good school year he’s had in years. I dread the thought losing all his progress.

Is there any hope?


I feel for you. I so understand the stressful situation you are in.

You’ve got to figure out a way to get him a diagnosis. I know men with ADD can be beyond stubborn, resistant, pig headed, defensive…. But if you have any sway with him encourage him to seek a diagnosis.

But mostly what I want to say is it does get better, but only if you are taking care of you. After so long of taking care of everything for him and your child it can be difficult to even know what that is!  For me it has been several years now of turning around to myself to see what I even need!  But start small. Just head in the direction of yourself and start taking time and resources where you are able for only you. I know not a lot of people support the spouses of ADD people. Mostly family and friends get exasperated with YOU for not lighting a fire under him! Or wonder why you stay or think you are just an enabler. So you need to take some time to support yourself. Seriously, even if it is something simple like making yourself a cup of tea or ten extra minutes in the shower.

And I think it does help if you educate yourself on what ADD really is, even before he goes and gets his diagnosis and treatment. I would suggest you go on YouTube and look up Dr Russell Barkley. He explains it better than I’ve ever heard. And no your husband does not know what he is doing to you and your family. And no he cannot help it. One of the hardest things to grapple with is it is not a matter of character. He can no sooner make better decisions than a blue eyed person can make himself have brown eyes.

No one would fault you for leaving certainly. But if you stay start researching and taking care of yourself. Best to you.

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 30, 2013 at 12:24pm

Thank you so much for recommending Dr. Russell Barkley on you tube.  I am watching video after video and they are wonderful!  They apply to both my son and my husband and help me understand them a bit better.  Much appreciated. smile

Posted by howtodoadd on Dec 01, 2013 at 6:12am

I can relate so completely to your post that I wanted to take a few minutes to respond. I rarely respond to posts in public forums, but I am/have been in a similar situation for years also and wanted to share that yes, there is hope.

I have been with my DH for 11 years. Neither of us had any idea when we got together that he was ADHD/OCD. All we knew what that he suffered from some general depression and that he failed miserably in school. We both assumed it was because of his childhood and lack of parental support. He went through 12 jobs during our first year of marriage, and I almost lost our daughter because the extreme stress forced me in to pre-term labor. At the time, his doctors diagnosed him as bipolar and thus began our journey of medication after medication and treatment after treatment with no success. It was heart wrenching and maddening.

I have worked full-time since the age of 15 and I keep my jobs for 10-12 years. My DH’s cycle of working a job for a few days/months almost killed me, I simply couldn’t understand it. I also couldn’t understand why he could not be interrupted (I thought he was being a prick, come to find out, the ADHD/OCD makes it virtually impossible for him to keep his train of thought during a conversation). I couldn’t understand why everything seemed to have to go “his way” or why in the hell I was working to support a fully grown man who I had thought was to be a partner through marriage, not a dependent. I mentally kicked and screamed and wanted out… I wanted out so bad… but for the sake of our daughter I was determined to make it work. I tried to leave him twice, and both times he ended up hospitalized.

Finally, after 7 years of struggling, 7 years watching him try medication after medication, of having to put him in a mental ward twice because he tried to kill himself (due to anti-psychotic medications he was incorrectly prescribed), 7 years of wondering why the man I loved was so extremely difficult, it happened… a psychiatrist diagnosed him as ADHD/OCD. He also has an extreme generalized anxiety disorder which I personally believe is due to the fact that he can never relax because of his racing thoughts.

He struggles to do simple tasks like go grocery shopping because of the anxiety of being out in public, and keeping track of his personal belongings is maddening… he loses everything. He struggles to keep a calendar or keep track of anything he needs to do from day to day. To this day, we have yet to find a medication that will adequately control his ADHD - he reacts to virtually every ADHD medication with extreme mood swings and rage - so he doesn’t take anything for the ADHD. But simply knowing that this was what he struggles with has made our marriage, and our family, completely different and in a very good way.

After much research and accompanying him to more medical appointments than I care to recall, I finally am beginning to understand how his brain works and why he reacts to things the way he does. It’s not him, it’s the ADHD. He’s not a jerk, even though he often appears that way because of his frustration and racing thoughts. My DH is a wonderful, caring man who has overcome an extremely abusive and neglectful childhood to become the most wonderful father to our daughter and he is a faithful and loving husband to me.

I still am the sole breadwinner, and he still has to deal with the incessant racing thoughts, the constant panic attacks, being unable to focus on his racing thoughts to break the cycle because of his OCD, and the list goes on. But now when he responds to me the way he does when I “interrupt” his train of thought, I can smile inside and remind myself that he is not mad at me or being a jerk, he is frustrated because of his internal struggles. And I am learning ways to get my needs met, while keeping his limitations in mind and being considerate of them. It’s not personal!

It has also helped to be able to share some of daddy’s struggles with our daughter so that she can understand that on days when daddy needs some down time or quiet time, it’s not personal, daddy has some things in his brain that don’t work like others and so we can be supportive and caring, instead of angry and frustrated and hurt.

My DH does actively engage in efforts to help himself to deal better with life, he sees a counselor every week (I can’t be his counselor so this was one requirement I had for him – I can’t take the constant talking about what goes on in his brain day in and day out), and we are constantly trying new ways of keeping our family organized in ways that work with his ADHD, not against it. We have found timers and electronic reminders that work so that he can remember where he needs to be and when. And we have found ways for him to relax and keep his mind occupied (video games, I HATED them when we got together but I understand now, they help him immensely). We finally accepted that he is a full-time stay-at-home dad, he can’t work a typical job, and that is ok. He is resourceful and helps bring in income where he can and we are currently trying for some disability for him due to his doctor’s all agreeing that his conditions can’t be controlled by medication. 

Don’t fear your son thinking the behavior of your DH is acceptable, just be open with your son. My daughter is 8 and we have had several age-appropriate discussions with her that help her see her daddy as the wonderful person that he is, just with some limitations. Ideally your DH will get on board and seek help. There is nothing that says that you have to stay with him or that you have to leave… it’s all dependent on what you can deal with.

I strongly, strongly encourage you to focus on taking care of yourself. The other turning point in our relationship began when I realized about 4 years ago that I have to take care of ME in order to take care of my family. I make it a point to exercise several times a week, I eat right, get plenty of sleep, and schedule time for me, whether it be alone time with a book, or keeping in touch with my support network of friends and family. Having ADHD or other conditions isn’t an excuse to let others take advantage of you, and I am in a little better situation because my DH is actively engaged in therapy and knowledge of his condition, but understanding that your DH struggles with a condition that is real can help to give you more compassion and understanding.

The previous poster made an excellent statement when they said that “one of the hardest things to grapple with is it is not a matter of character.” That is so true, it’s not a matter of just pulling himself together, or snapping out of it, it’s a matter of understanding that he has a condition which requires help. I could go on and on, so I’ll stop here. Hopefully something in here is helpful to you. Good luck and please, do take care of yourself 

Posted by ijustwannahelp000 on Dec 03, 2013 at 1:57am

One more thing, I also recommend resources put out by Dr. Amen/The Amen Clinic, his articles on ADD/ADHD and the various ways it manifests itself have been very helpful to me.

Posted by ijustwannahelp000 on Dec 03, 2013 at 1:59am

Thanks, everyone. Ijustwannahelp, your story does definitely resemble mine. And I agree about taking care of me. And I have been trying to, but the financial instability is just wearing on me intensely. I don’t want to lose our house and I don’t want to look forward to a meager retirement. It’s scary. I don’t know how to find time just for me, without everyone else’s needs crowding mine out. It’s very frustrating. Thank you for sharing!

Posted by kenyadee on Dec 03, 2013 at 2:16am

At one time I also was bed ridden, thought I was sick but it was depression, winter blues.  Make a doctors appointment and have his depression treated first or the adhd meds wont work, there useless on depressed people.  Ask his doctor for Wellbutrin name brand only (generic is full of fillers that don’t respond well to adhd-ers).

My doctor put me on Wellbutrin for winter blues (SAD) and within hours I was feeling better, like walking my dog around the block, life was bright again.  It only worked for about a year or so before I was at the top amount to take so I just weaned myself off of them (very important to wean off cuz they are powerful addictive drugs) anyway, the Wellbutrin corrected something in my unbalanced brain because I never went back to being depressed.  Yes, somedays I sit on the sofa watch t.v. and feel sorry for myself but doesn’t everyone do that a few times a year. As much as I am not pro-drugs I feel your husband could benefit for a year on Wellbutrin.  Don’t rush to get your husband on adhd/add medications because then you’ll be stuck with a husband looking for the high and speed rush you get from stimulants, Adderall ect.

Otherwise he could go all natural like me, Im drug free.  Gluten free, low sugar, vitamins, minerals, protein, omegas ect. I feel great finally and my adhd is almost under control. Good luck, your in a tough situation and I wish I could help more

Posted by BexIssues on Dec 03, 2013 at 7:23am

To justwannahelp000, thank you for posting your message, wow your one in a Million!!! I hope your husband knows how lucky he is to have you, I enjoyed your story so much. Your the most understanding person in this world.  Go take a look in the mirror, that’s what awesome looks like.

I know I sound silly but that’s how I felt and it’s good to express yourself.  Best of luck in your future

Posted by BexIssues on Dec 03, 2013 at 7:39am

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