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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Marriage trouble...

Firstly- let me say that I am the person who posted last week about the doc not wanting to prescribe stimulants.  I shared with DH what the thoughts were and I think he would like to try a new dr.  However, it is like he needs me to organize the new appointment for him.  He doesn’t really act without me stepping in.  With that said, we’ve been together for 20 years.  I love him SO much.  I think he loves me as much.  However, since quitting his job 1.5 months ago, he has proceeded to sit on the couch or lay in bed day in and day out unless he has a certain event to go to.  Nothing motivates him except for “big” things. 
I left him a honey do list yesterday- which isn’t like me, but he has asked me to do it in the past.  I put down basic things: 1) do dishes 2) clean the living room 3) figure out bills that are due next.
I got home and none of it was done. Not a huge surprise- not the first time something like this has happened.  BUT- I’m so tired.  I proceeded to lay into him and instead of getting angry and fighting back like I would expect, he was like “I’ll get up in a minute” very nicely.  WHAT?  So I proceed to start dishes and handle all of the things I had asked him to do.  I expected him to come and take over.  He never did.  He did move from bedroom to the couch.  And did do DS’s homework with him.  That was it.  All day/night- a 3rd grader’s homework was what he accomplished.  I feel like he doesn’t care enough about me or the kids to even attempt to make our marriage work anymore.  My boys are going to think that it is normal for the mom to do all the work, outside and inside of the household and dads just lay around all day.  Is this his disorder?  Is this just him- is he a lazy good for nothing?  I don’t get it.  I feel like saying “you have until Sunday to figure out if you want this marriage to work or not and tell me how you are going to make it work”  but I feel that is harsh.  However, 20 years back and forth like this- i also feel like an enabler.  I feel crazy I guess- don’t know what to do.  I can’t talk to friends or family- they would think I’m crazy for staying with such a “lazy” person.  Any advice?  Sorry for yet another LOOOONG post.


“I’ll get up in a minute”

“...So I proceed to start dishes and…expected him to come and take over”

Hate to say it but when you have expectations of other people, getting upset when they didn’t guess correctly what they were is a recipe for disaster. 

And yes, making the ultimatum of having until x time to figure out IF he wants the marriage to work is TOO HARSH.  It is more than harsh it is PARENTAL.  Please read the book “The ADHD Effect on Marriage” by Melissa Orlov.  One of the easiest and most certain ways to kill a marriage is Going All Parental.  It tends to make adults Go All Teenager on you—especially if ADHD is involved (you can tap right into that Inner Oppositional Defiant Adolescent that lurks somewhere inside EVERYBODY in a heartbeat).

Posted by BC on Mar 06, 2014 at 12:47am

Another good book to read about ADHD is “I’m not lazy, crazy, or stupid.”  Yes, anybody you talk to who doesn’t know him OR know anything about ADHD will definitely think that LAZY is the appropriate label you should apply to his windshield right now.  You yourself aren’t sure if what you are witnessing IS the dreaded character defects (aka Deadly Sins) of laziness & sloth.  Please read more about what it’s like to have ADHD and to have other people constantly taking your inventory and deciding what character defect explains your shortcomings…and have them keep doing that for an entire lifetime…

Posted by BC on Mar 06, 2014 at 12:55am

I can so see the scenarios above. Only when it benefits the adhder does anything get done. One of the hardest things to understand about ADHD (my hubby) is the seeming lack of emotion.  I come home excited about something and he just does not Get it. Or I am upset about something and he doesnt get it. Only when he is frustrated and his anger comes out is there emotion and it is misdirected. Honestly, you should have figured out years ago that he is not going to follow a list. On the other hand, I have been married for 31 years and while I am certainly worn down, I still hold out hope that one day ...  Good luck.

Posted by Lila on Mar 06, 2014 at 11:14am

“Only when it benefits the ADHDer does anything get done.”

Hmm, I think this is one of those “If you can’t say something nice” moments…so I’ll just TRY to say nothing at all.

Nope can’t do it.

Anybody else find that a bit self-righteous & condescending?  Judgemental?  Horribly critical?  Unfair? Lila, maybe your spouse is so incredibly selfish and immature that he’s giving other ADHDers a really bad name.  I assure you that statement cannot and should not be universally applied to everyone with ADHD.

Posted by BC on Mar 06, 2014 at 11:36am

I would not be too hard on Lila, BC… The reality is that our biochemical shortcomings often result in focusing on ourselves as opposed the welfare of others.  I have this abomination of a condition and I can attest that all too often my focus is on myself and not those I love. 

I sense you have greater insight into ADHD than the average bear….  Knowing what you do, I think you would agree that such outward signs of selfishness are certainly consistent with this damable Disorder

‘Judgemental? Horribly critical? unfair?’

Sometimes understanding why ADHDer’s do things can only go so far…  Sometimes, it simply is what it is.  Can we really expect our spouses and the ones we love to forego all that they have yearned for and learned?  Should they really say to themselves ALL THE TIME ‘Oh, it’s only ADHD… It’s not that s/he’s lazy, inconsiderate, selfish (insert your own descriptor)’  The reality is the dishes still need to get done, the dog needs to get walked, the bills need to get paid - and those are the easy ones.  How about a profound lack of emotional support?  The inability to see the emotional damage our self-focus causes?  The lack of intimacy (of all kinds)? 

Should our spouses simply give up all they have come to expect in life because ‘it’s ADHD, it’s not….. (him not loving me, him not caring, him being selfish, him lacking fidelity him…... you go continue with the list).

Knowing that it’s ADHD. at some point. does not undo the damage.  It does not undo the hurt…  It does not get the dishes done.  It does not get the kids to soccer.  It does not get roses on Birthdays…  It does not .... Well, you know…

The reality is that for non-ADHD spouses to accept this thing, they have to let go of so many of the things that most spouses not facing life with ADHD take for granted…. and SHOULD take for granted.  A clean house.  A sane and consistent routine for kids….  SO much else. 


I want to change.  I don’t want those I love to give up all they have come to expect and yearn for in life.  All too often, those counseling ADHD afflicted couples suggest that is what must happen.  I don’t want them to give up those things.  I want to provide them. 

Can those who counsel do that???

Posted by LakeLife on Mar 06, 2014 at 6:10pm

BC, I appreciate your candor. Try for a moment imagining you are ALWAYS in the position of being the one who is responsible, being the one who is ALWAYS having to figure the best way to approach a subject, constantly reading about adhd and trying to make the right choices, decisions…If I talk to him on his way out the door and he forgets something it is my fault for distracting him. All this is not lump sum criticism, it is a fact of life for adhd at my house and this is the tip of the iceberg.  Certainly there are different degrees of ADHD and perhaps my hubby is at a higher level of attention deficit than others.  Walk a mile in my shoes…

Posted by Lila on Mar 08, 2014 at 10:32am


I don’t have to “try to imagine” being the one who always has to be the responsible one nor do I have to “try to imagine” what it would be like to continually be the reminder/nagger who dutifully nags at all the right times (or sometimes at the very worst times or in the least “effective” ways) who then gets blamed when the vast majority of nags/reminders are never written down and/or are promptly forgotten.  When the important task just didn’t get done the next argument is You Didn’t Tell Me To Do It followed by the OK So Maybe You DID But You Didn’t Remind Me About It Again Later On followed by the OK So Maybe You DID Remind Me But I Didn’t Put It On My Calendar…round & round…times almost 20 years.

What you describe is but one of the many ways ADHD impacted MY LIFE for just shy of 20 years.  So in that regard I have walked a mile in those moccasins, and I know exactly how exasperated and exhausted (and a dozen other emotions) you feel!

There ARE different degrees of ADHD just as there are different degrees of personal responsibility & accountability that people take for their part in the chaos.  Imagine my horror, disgust, shock, RESENTMENT (and a dozen more emotions) when I/we found out that the “responsible one” also had ADHD all along but was for some unknown reason the one who was merely OBSERVED as being the one who was “better” at stuff like that—so all the planning, organization, and time management tasks had always fallen onto me over the years. 

No wonder I was getting really, REALLY tired of being the one who continually got stuck holding the short end of the stick!

The beauty of it all, or should I say the poetic justice of it all, was that this was when all of my husbands “excuses” for at times just not stepping up to the plate and finding some effective strategies and work-arounds (as I had been FORCED to do) became the “excuses” that just didn’t really fly around here (the same excuses that way too many males try to use to get out of ever being held fully accountable for doing things like deciding to delegate to others anything/everything they don’t want to do because there’s always been somebody else who will just do it for them).

Let’s look at some of what LakeLife contributed to this thread:

“I want to change.  I don’t want those I love to give up all they have come to expect and yearn for in life.  All too often, those counseling ADHD afflicted couples suggest that is what must happen.  I don’t want them to give up those things.  I want to provide them. 
Can those who counsel do that???”

If those who counsel ADHD couples keep on doling out advice that borders on “Just give up on what you expected and yearned for in life cuz you married a defective person who isn’t capable of doing anything remotely similar to those things…and the two of you can’t possibly come up with any reasonably close approximations that meet both of your combined needs/wants cuz He’s Got ADHD…” then those counselors are a big part of the problem for way too many people deciding that ADHD means a lifetime of Always Settling For Second Best, Always Falling Short of the Goal, instead of just coming up with some creative (and different) ways of addressing the obstacles.

When the non-ADHD partner and/or the ADHD partner assume this kind of victim mentality (“I married a defect”…“Woe is me”) vs (“I’m defective so don’t expect much from me”…“I can’t help it, it was the ADHD) this is the mind-set and belief system that perpetuates so much conflict and chronic unhappiness.

It’s not easy, and I fall off the wagon quite often and start blaming my ADHD, or my husbands ADHD, or my kids’ ADHD for whatever is not so great about any current situation.  Then I have to remind myself that kind of thinking gets us all stuck in ruts that lead to nowhere.  I have to remind myself that I can Play The Victim by not liking the cards I/we were dealt or I can figure out some different way to Play The Game or go find some completely new version of the Game To Play.  That choice is up to us all.

Simply settling for status quo is also a choice.

Posted by BC on Mar 08, 2014 at 11:43pm

While I understand the issues of an imbalance in the relationship, and the need to have that resolved, I feel there’s something else going on that’s potentially being overlooked. And, I felt it important enough to register on the site (when I personally hate signing up for new accounts) to bring up.

Basically, what you’re describing—a sudden shift toward sedentary behavior, not going outside unless dragged to an important event, staying in bed/on the couch all day, not getting anything done, and so on—sounds very much like the onset of a severe major depressive episode.* I say sounds very much like, because there are other issues which can cause similar symptoms, like hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Note, I’m wording it that way (symptoms & issues) for a reason. People don’t suddenly drastically change in that way without there being an underlying cause. You don’t just decide you’re going to drop everything and live on the couch (or bed!) forever. You’ll find out very quickly that it’s extremely overrated. In about a week, the average NT individual would be climbing the walls, much less someone whose neurochemistry tends to seek out stimulation.

On the other hand, depression can come with ADHD. Also, if I recall correctly, this is especially true if left untreated. My understanding is that this is exactly the situation your husband is in.

So what is happening? Not sure, but whatever it is, if I understand your description correctly, it needs to be checked out.

*Full disclosure: In addition to working toward an ADHD-PI dx, I have Major Depressive Disorder (Recurrent). It runs in my family as well, so I’ve seen these episodes from both inside and outside. They don’t look how people expect them to. Frequently, people assume you’re just being lazy, because that’s how fatigue (a major symptom) looks from the outside. So, you could take this as the voice of experience, or me projecting.

Either way, consider this:

If this was who he really was underneath, what are the odds it would take you 20 years to see this?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say you noticed his ADHD well before he got his Dx. You might not have been able to name what you saw, but it showed.

Whatever is going on now, you’re describing as new. Like I said, that’s not a normal change. Something has caused it. It’s important to find out what it is, not because it provides and excuse, but because it may help provide you both with solutions.

Posted by NeuroD on Mar 12, 2014 at 10:19am

I’ve been in a similar situation where a spouse who had lost a job just didn’t try - it’s infuriating!  That was in the 80s, and things are tougher now.  Don’t panic.

On the other hand since then, assertiveness training came about, and much more is known about AD/HD.  Have you considered a life coach for him?  Combine this with my sister’s best advice:  Consider all your options.

With assertiveness, you could sit down with him, tell him the situation as you see it, and explain exactly how you feel about the situation.  Remember to keep a separation in your mind between the situation and how you feel about him.

As your husband, your partner, etc., ask him what he thinks about the situation and his feelings.  Being unemployed has its own set of problems.  It’s difficult for anyone to be excited about a job search, especially when there’s always such bad news about the job market.

Together, see what resources are available out there, and research what his options are.  Think outside the box. 

One of the resources is most likely your state’s unemployment office - some are called “Workforce” now.  They have all kinds of job-search resources instead of just job listings.  They will know how to deal with unemployment. 

It might also be time for an ADD life coach.  Such a person could help him pin down what he wants to do, likes to do, and try to match that to what’s available.  It could include retraining for a different job.  It could mean opening a business. 

Good luck!

Posted by Author58 on Mar 12, 2014 at 7:38pm

Is it You, Me, or Adult ADD? by Gina Pera
Your husband needs a neuropsychiatric or neuropsychological evaluation which will prove what he is suffering with.  Then, medication needs to be prescribed.  I have been counseled to leave ONE chore written down for him to do daily.

Posted by DMB on Mar 23, 2014 at 7:31pm

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