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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Issues with trusting ADD husband

I have read many posts on this site over the past several months but have never before posted anything.  I am at a loss about how to handle my major trust issues with my spouse.  We have been married for 15 years and he was diagnosed with ADD about 8 years ago.  He has all the typical characteristics that are well documented in this forum, but recently he took his impulsivity to another level.  About a month ago he began texting and emailing someone he used to work with.  She was moving to another state and he asked for her phone number.  I found out about it about 2 weeks into it.  He said they were “just friends.”  As time went on, I uncovered more information about the nature of his relationship with her.  The texts and emails were sexual in nature and my husband admitted to initiating the sex talk with her.  He said it was all a joke and she’s how many states away so what harm could it do?  I am far savvier with a computer than he is and was able to recover deleted emails.  He continued to correspond with her even after he said he stopped.  He is no longer able to access the computer and no longer has his cell phone.  He has admitted to enjoying the thrill of his interaction with her and has denied that anything will even happen again.  As I confronted him with each new piece of information, he lied and tried to cover up as much as he could.  As his lies were exposed, he slowly admitted to different things (i.e. that the texts/emails were in fact sexual, that he did feel some attraction, etc.).  He has said that there was no physical relationship and that from his perspective, they were joking around and it went too far.  As far as I know he has never done anything like this before.  Am I naïve to believe that he won’t do it again?  I am in immense pain over this and feel like my heart is broken beyond repair.  I have lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks, have barely slept and feel like I have been neglecting our children and my job.  I can’t figure out if I should trust him again or move on before he escalates?  He is highly impulsive and I worry that if another opportunity presents itself that he will take it.  I have no one to talk to about this and am hoping that others who have had some experience in this area can help me see the forest for the trees.  I am so hurt and overwhelmed that I cannot figure out if I am foolish for wanting to trust him.  I love him deeply and I don’t want a divorce.  I also don’t want to live my life in a hypervigilant, paranoid state always wondering what he’s actually doing.  It was very therapeutic just to type this because I have been holding in my pain around everyone else.


I would recommend that you get counseling together if he will go and by yourself if he will not. This issue is not just about his ADHD, it is about the marriage and you need to find what is the root cause for him stepping into a sexual/emotional online relationship with another person. So it is time to find out what is truly going on in the relationship and see if it is salvageable.
If you do not have the money to cover the cost of counseling, maybe you can get help through a religious organization that you are involved in or find a clinic that that offers a sliding scale to patients.
People can overcome the damage done by a partner who has strayed and trust again but it will take some honest communication and reestablishing the agreed upon ground rules between the two people. It does not have to be the end.
I wish you the best and remember that you do not have to accept being treated in any manner that is disrespectful and you are the one in control of your life. Best to you!

Posted by theothmans on Nov 01, 2013 at 8:34pm

Thank you for your kind reply.  We have gone to counseling in the past and he may be open to it again.  I agree that there is more of a reason, but he is off the scales with his impulsivity and said that when it started, he really didn’t think about it, he just did it.  He has lived much of his life that way.  I do believe that the initial step, not the underlying cause, was due to his ADD and highly impulsive nature. 

I think I forgot that I am in control of my life.  I also deal with depression so this situation greatly exacerbated the degree of my depression.  I really appreciate your reply.

Posted by amarie on Nov 01, 2013 at 8:50pm


I feel your pain! And it’s a tough place to be in! I have few questions for you - did you share your feelings with your husband? Does he care how you feel about this? Is he ready to attend couple therapy with you, if needed? And how well he is treating his ADHD? It sounds like his impulsivity and stimulation seeking is going quite high! He might benefit from more interventions. Does he know how much you are affected by his behavior? Is he ready to take ownership?

I would strongly recommend you both check ‘Melissa Orlov’s ADHD effect on Marriage” where she talks about her own similar issue! You might find it useful. According to me Betrayal is Betrayal whether it’s physical or emotional. However, it depends on how you perceive it and deal with it. You might have some hard decisions to make, but it’s totally up to you. Others can only give their opinions! No one can predict future and say whether he will ever do it again at all. He might or he might not! Will you be ok with it? Are you willing to take that chance? What is going to give you more mental peace? Do you have any family to support you? One thing is for sure, you can’t work this out by yourself, without your husband’s support, initiative and willingness to work with you. Pls find a therapist (ADHD experienced) for you to talk so that you can clear your head. It’s very important to look after yourself during periods like this. Also feel free to share with some good friends who can support you. I wish you the very best and Take care. Hugs

Posted by Ms.Wonderful on Nov 01, 2013 at 9:02pm

He is remorseful and does know how greatly I am affected by his behavior.  He told me he wishes he could undo it.  I do believe that he is genuinely sorry.  I just don’t know that I can endure this pain again.  Of course he has promised never to do anything like this again, but he lied so much over the last several weeks that I do not know what to believe.  I am very cognizant of the fact that there is no predictor of future behavior and agree that he would benefit from more interventions to deal with his impulsivity. 

My family doesn’t exactly embody unconditional love so I do not feel that I can turn to them.  I have a very difficult time opening up to friends or family due to a lack of love and support for the majority of my life.  I am so used to being alone and doing everything alone, as are many spouses of people with ADD/ADHD, that the idea of seeking help or support is a foreign concept.  I agree that it is necessary to seek some help and support for myself, mostly so I can be the best mom to my kids.  I really feel like I am failing them as I am struggling to function.

Thank you for your reply.  It means so much that people are taking the time to offer suggestions and reminding me that I should take care of myself.  I have honestly forgotten to do so as I am dealing with my pain.  I am very petite and my son is almost my size.  He said I look too small to be an adult and asked why I was getting smaller.  I hadn’t realized how much weight I had lost until he pointed it out to me.  How can a person forget to eat?  I am definitely overwhelmed and appreciate the reminders to take care of my needs.

Posted by amarie on Nov 01, 2013 at 9:27pm

Hi amarie,
I have been through almost exactly the same thing in my marriage.  I think that people with ADD are experts at covering up.  Because you have someone with impulse control issues - which does not, I believe, feel like OUR impulsiveness so it is hard to understand, so that does not help.  My husband, in rational moments is able to explain to me some things about ADD and impulses are different.  It is not like with a “normal” brained person where you reach for the chocolate donut and immediately think “Uh, should I?” there is none of that.  It is just “This is mine.”  Looks like a sense of entitlement sometimes and there is practically no ability to reflect in the moment on others.  So, sorry to say, but you probably didn’t factor into his decision at all to get involved with the texting, etc.  It was probably just “Is this exciting, does it make me feel good. Done”

And then you have a lifetime of doing these impulsive things and getting “caught” by authority figures and having to fess up, say something, apologize… so it creates a skill at what you might call deflecting, or making excuses, or lying.

And then you have the super-sensitivity which leads to self loathing after this whole cycle, being impulsive, lying about it, feeling horrible about it, on and on and on.  The self loathing portion of the cycle I find the most destructive in our relationship, because it puts me at the center of blame for HIS feeling bad about himself.  He screwed up and now he is blaming me for feeling bad about it!  Take me out of the equation and he wouldn’t feel bad one bit.

Can you trust him again?  To not get involved with another woman, maybe.  To not get into a cycle of impulsive behavior, lying about it, feeling bad, no way.  It is going to happen, he has ADD!  Its just a matter of what he acts out on.  Hopefully it will be chocolate rather than something more hurtful or destructive.  This idea that somehow if they just try hard enough and manage the symptoms properly and talk these things through, understand what they did, etc. is totally bogus because he has a brain that does not fire like normal!  It is just not going to happen.

But, you have to decide if you can live with it.  Counseling for people with ADD is I think is of varying help.  We’ve tried, sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t.  He has his own therapist, sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.  But it is all to the degree at which HE wants help, not me.  So I have to live my own life.  I am able to cope by choosing my deal breakers and letting him know, often if need be what they are, and hoping he doesn’t push me to my limit, which may happen at some point.  I don’t know.  But it is not up to me to decide if he is behaving properly.  It is up to me to decide if I want to deal with it and how.  That’s all I got.

Its your life, its your relationship with your kids - preserve those things first and if he wants to be on board then great, if his ADD is getting in the way, OK fine, wait if you want, don’t if you don’t but YOU decide, not him.  You don’t have a whole lot of your kids’ childhood ahead of you, it goes superfast and you will miss it to the extent you futz over him and your relationship.  Plus the ADD brain will resist any complications.  Cut and dried is the only strategy I’ve found that works even a little.

Best to you.  I really feel for you.  I have been exactly in that place before.

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 01, 2013 at 11:16pm

Hi amarie,

Thanks for writing again! I have one more suggestion for you, it seems like you are too hard on yourself. You are going through a tough time, so just be easy are not failing your kids right now, you are trying to deal with it. May be letting go of some past issues and creating self love through counseling will help you cope better. It seems like your husband is with you, so get some help with a positive attitude and things will clear up. Best of luck.

Posted by Ms.Wonderful on Nov 02, 2013 at 12:23am

First, you DO NOT have ‘trust issues’.  This is NOT about you, you have done NOTHING WRONG.  In saying you ‘have issues’ puts the onus on you for fixing it.  You cannot ‘fix’ it.  Only your husband can and if I understand the magnitude of what you wrote, he will not.  He continues to have a significant relationship with another woman.  Worse, he lies to you about it.  This means you begin to mistrust every word out of his mouth - about anything.  And, make no mistake, you should be mistrusting.  Lying is a slippery slope.  Once you start (and he is way past just starting), the lies are easier foist upon you.

The real problem is your husband has integrity issues.  There are lots of different kinds of infidelity. Lack of honesty, emotional involvement with another woman.  There are probably others.  Just because there is no physical relationship with this woman does not make it OK.

You owe it to yourself - and your kids - to seek counseling.  However, changes in behavior have to come quick.  And you have to have a way to check to see if he lives up to any obligations he makes.  Do NOT let on you can access his email.

He lies again, move to get out..

You need to start putting money aside, As much as you can, should the situation warrant you leaving.  I would suggest you throwing him out but the courts and police do not allow such a thing without a divorce decree booting his sorry tail to the street You are not stealing… This is YOUR money and your children’s money.

The fact that he has lied to you repeatedly, and in light of your knowledge of his infidelity, screams that you are in very deep water and over your head.  Marriage counseling is big business.  The sorry state of affairs is that it’s efficacy is, at best, questionable.  Google ‘efficacy of marriage counseling’ and the peer reviewed stuff that comes back is pretty terrifying. So, if you do not get prompt results… you will probably not get any.  Plan accordingly.

I have read ‘YellaRyans’ (Posted above) stuff before.  She is a clear thinker and a ‘seasoned campaigner’ with regard to these issues.  I heartily support what she says and suggests.   

Note I have said nothing about ADHD here.  Who cares ADHD?  This is your marriage and your trust, and your life, and your kids’ lives.  ADHD points to a cause, NOT an excuse and certainly NOT a reason for you to put up with this bull$hit for one millisecond.

I wish you luck.  Make a plan, set time frames and stick to them.  PUT MONEY ASIDE SHOULD YOU HAVE TO BAIL OUT.

Posted by LakeLife on Nov 02, 2013 at 2:16am

I am hard on myself and have blamed myself for all of this.  My rational mind knows that I am not at all responsible for his actions, but my pain says that there must have been something I could have done.  I realize that I couldn’t have, but at the same time, I wish I could have.  Does that make any sense?  I am at the early stages of working through all of this and the feedback, advice and input from all of you is invaluable.  I do realize that the ADD is part of the reason, not an excuse, for why he initiated all of this. 

YellaRyan-thank you for letting me know about your experience.  My intention with posting on this site was to solicit advice from others who have been there and who understand the issues and the pain involved.  Your advice and input was/is very much appreciated.

Part of why I am so lost in all of this is due to the verbal and emotional abuse I endured as a child as well as a lack of unconditional love and support.  I do not, as I’m sure many of you have surmised, have a healthy sense of self and really struggle to know when I matter vs. when to let others have their way to ensure their happiness instead of my own. I do know that I need to address the issues related to my poor self-worth.  The kind words and support from all of you means more than I can adequately express.  I truly thank you all for taking the time to post.  As I have read your feedback, I don’t feel so alone.

Posted by amarie on Nov 02, 2013 at 5:14pm

I wanted to let you know you certainly aren’t the only one dealing with this!  And telling your story, reaching out—it can be extremely helpful & makes it seem a little less isolating.  I’m not married, but my boyfriend of 2 years has similar impulse control issues with his ADD.

The actual impulses aren’t so much the problem—it’s his extreme fear of what he may one day do that will hurt me (based on his past experiences).  He fears the thoughts/fantasies he has are “bad”—you and me may have thoughts like that all the time, but we can easily shrug them off.  We certainly don’t have the need to share them with people.  He constantly has to share them with me, & it makes him doubt our own relationship, but strangely the sharing of it makes him feel better—like he’s being honest. I am not really one to WANT to hear about his desire for a threesome or whatever he’s thinking of—All of this sends me into a panic, and a few hours later he wants to go out to eat or see a movie—acting like all is normal.  Meanwhile, I’m tormented by all of it, wondering if I should move out, if I should give up, if we have a future?

I know, I know—ADD may not be the issue, but after observing him & researching ADD—I can’t help but think it does play a bigger role than some people think in adult males.  I know it sounds like typical male/jerkiness—but I’ve seen him struggle with friendships, jobs, past relationships—almost in awe at some of the impulsive/inappropriate things he says to them.  He feels terrible that these things fail, but he is unaware of his part in it all—just feels like a failure. 

A couple of things have helped me deal with my own fears: 1) i can’t control it if he cheats/breaks things off/etc—nothing I can do can stop this from happening.  Therefore I should spend no time wondering what he’s up to on the computer, who he is chatting with, etc.  I spend that time making sure we spend time together & still keep some fun in our relationship, despite the heavy feelings that come up.  Remember why YOU are there. 

2)  My guy is an impulse talker (this may not be the case with your guy), and half the time he doesn’t register/remember saying 1/10th of what comes out of his mouth.  It’s not an excuse he gives, I’ve just observed it in his interactions with people.  He is not self aware when he may say a hurtful thing.  It all just spills out of him.  My friend says he gets going on his carousel ride & that I need to not get on the carousel.  I’m such a careful talker that every word I say means so much—but he is the opposite.  He’s so dramatic with his proclamations “you NEVER do this” or “we NEVER do this anymore” or “you are ALWAYS” like this—things that aren’t true, but it’s not worth fighting about it at the moment.  He’s not clear-headed.  I don’t need to get on his level & become impulsive myself.  I do the opposite now, and never do anything impulsively (I used to threaten moving out in these moments, but now I know that is something I will think through clearly before actually leaving). 

I know you are dealing with much more—a much longer relationship, a marriage, kids, etc—so I can’t completely relate—but I know the isolation you can feel.  I know how it can hurt, mess with your mind, confuse you & I totally feel for you!  It’s time like those I try to remember that he is NOT the only one that loves me/counts on me.  There are other ways I find joy in life, not just this relationship.

We have a pattern of everything going fine for about 4 months & then he has a freak out where I question the whole relationship.  After he admitted he was feeling really depressed (he recently lost another job! and his dog), I told him I wanted to speak with someone & he finally agreed—I found an ADD specialist.  I’m hoping it works out for him & he finds some peace in it all—I know it may mean that I’m not along for the ride, but I still want the best for him.  He believes he’s just meant for a life of continual failures & disappointment, but I hope this isn’t the case.  Has talk-based therapy helped anyone here?  I would assume there would be tools one could use to better deal with impulse-control, etc? 

Thanks for reading! —Kristy

Posted by noel78 on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:05am

@kristy. My husband has adhd. Talk based therapy works, but you will still have to deal with flare ups. His flare ups are still once a week for small one, once a month for big ones. What talked based therapy will do is let the adhd person learn how to be conscious of his /her own words or actions. He acting on it or not is another story.

Posted by n4ally2 on Nov 27, 2013 at 1:44pm

I guess I will add to the misery.  My wife who has ADHD (Or is the term) is ADHD?  Anyway she also had a “just a friend” and when I asked her about it she got angry insulted and did a pretty good job of making me think I was insane to think anything was going on.  We did couples therapy (This is when she was diagnosed) we worked on the standard issues with couples.  Started communicating better, improved the basic relationship (And she started on ADHD meds) and then I brought up the “just a friend and that I was insane”  The therapist quized her and it wasn’t just a friend but…  Well you can guess the rest.  It had gone on for over a year (Sexually a little less then a year)  She broke off the physical part somewhere in therapy (Before I had a clue) and stopped all contact after it was exposed in therapy.  I ended up on meds myself (Depression & anxiety)  and this must have helped because we are still working on it.  We have kids, a house the whole American dream.  The ADHD part is the newest thing and I’m concerned that this contributed and I’m not sure what to do about that other then therapy and ADHD meds.  It sounds like you think ADHD is a source of this kind of behavior? 

From just the infidelity part it might be worth checking out “not just friends”  Getting the whole truth (Not sure I even have it yet) took months and months.  Which might have nothing to do with ADHD. 

This sucks soooooo much.

Posted by mrzarf on Nov 30, 2013 at 10:19am

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