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Couples With One ADHD Partner

deciding to stay or leave

i have beenin a relationship for 4 years. I see many signs of ADHD in my boyfriend. I have been researching and i am convinced he has it. he has all of the classic symptoms, disorganized, cluttery house, talks incessively, interupts when i talk and easily distracted, can not organize anything, easily frustrated.
I am at my wits end dealing with his angry behaviors.  He’ll be calm and then next minute a simple trigger and he is in one of his “tantrums’ rambling on and on and on about things that we have already discussed, angry blurting out things and becomming verbally disrespectful and insulting to me. I understand he is frustrated but i do not deserve to be verbally disrespected. If i interupt he will say things like, “don’t talk back to me and shut up” and the insults will come too.
I am trying to be calm, patient and restrain my self during his tantrum.  I will discuss things later even the next day. always trying to “find the right time”
Do i stay or do i go?  i am hurt and can’ t deal with his insulting temper.


Haven’t you answered your own question?

Look, I know once you discover that someone has a condition that is leading to their behavior it makes it more difficult to justify “abandoning” them.  It’s not their fault, right?  But who’s life is this? 

The only question you need to ask yourself is can you deal.  Obviously he hasn’t gotten any treatment.  OK, say you can convince him to get a diagnosis and then treatment.  Say he goes on meds and sees a regular therapist.  And then say two or three years later, after you’ve had a couple kids, one or more with ADHD, it all goes to hell because his meds stop working so well, or he stops therapy, or he gets overly stressed and then anxiety kicks in.

Can you handle that?  Because that is the best case scenario.  Love is meaningless if there isn’t respect, and frankly if you do any reading on what adult love actually looks like it is decidedly NOT love if there is disrespect in the mix.  So, what would you stay for?  Even if he gets better he eventually will get worse, then better, then worse, then better…

Your life.  Your choice.  His anger, his feelings, his ADHD - his life, his problems. You cannot do anything to make another person’s life any better that they themselves are not already doing.

Posted by YellaRyan on Apr 14, 2014 at 10:29pm

Thank you for advise. it has been most helpful and supportive.  He has MANY good qualities but…...Breaking up is hard to do…....... I will talk to him.

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:05pm

One example why adults with ADHD have a difficult time maintaining relationships. I am 43 and have been divorced twice and a track record of relationships that I have managed to screw up. In your post you stated you have done some research so that is probably something you have already read about. I’m actually surprised your relationship has lasted 4 years. In all of my relationships I would become bored with the relationship and do something stupid to end it. Some ADHDers will avoid meaningful conversation with their partners to work out problems and do other things such as what you described above.

Point him in the right direction to get help and educated on what he’s facing then step back from the relationship while he works things out. You shouldn’t tolerate the verbal abuse.

Posted by wesleyutwood on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:08pm

He is 48 never married , no kids.  Yes i have read about relationships not lasting.  I will talk to him. Not easy…

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:21pm

Dear chrissyp,
I agree with the others’ input, his problem & his behavior with apparent denial on his part. Get out if you can.
That being said, I read thegirlfriend’s description of behaviors and found it enlightening. Because, you see, I have the ADD diagnosis, but my non-ADD spouse is the one exhibiting all of the bad behavior toward me! I am coming to, or maybe already at that difficult crossroad. So, I am hoping I can get help and figure out if I need to separate or end my marriage or stay & continue to be miserable, with no end in sight.
Here’s hoping we both find the strength and support to do what’s best for ourselves and find some healthier happiness in our lives!

Posted by Speechie1962 on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:40pm

May i mention the Hyper focus.  Oh my.  his house is a wreck because he is hyper focused on the “focus” of the week.  Conversations are revolved around the “focus”. I feel unimportant often. pushed aside. Thanks for listening.

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:55pm

Why are most of the people responding to this thread not people with ADD?  I have ADD and suggest that you ask your partner to see a reliable professional for a diagnosis and perhaps (likely) medication.  If he won’t do that, then leave, but use your influence to perhaps get him some help.

I have been on medication for over 10 years and still have some of the problems related to ADD.  I just get tired of finishing things, putting things away that I intend to use again soon.

Try making some agreements, like it is ok to have stuff sitting around, but each of us will put everything away before bed or before leaving for the day.

It would likely amaze my partner how often it is her stuff that is left sitting out.

Posted by Judestir on Apr 15, 2014 at 2:06am

I just cant imagine feeling sooo stressed and anxious and not wanting to get medication and how he doesnt feel like crap how he treats me. His focus is how terrible I or my kids treat him . (not saying i am perfect). ok Simba….It is a plan to talk and hopefully he realizes my needs….Healthier happiness is my plan..

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 15, 2014 at 5:37am

Yeah… to sum up…

Abandon Ship!...  Bail Bail Bail….

You need this guy like a hole in the head.

For a more tempered view, YellaRyan, above, is a gold mine of sound advice on these matters.  She is even-keeled and insightful.  Check her past writings. 

Good luck.

Posted by LakeLife on Apr 15, 2014 at 5:47am

I’ve been married for 35 years to ADHD and I can tell you it doesn’t change. I am filled with nothing but regrets for staying. Is that what you want to have to say for 35 years of your life? Leave now, Sweetie, or your pain will be met with utter indifference. Don’t bring innocent children into this nightmare. Sorry to be so negative, but it is what it is, and you have a chance to change that for yourself.

Posted by sparklefarkle on Apr 15, 2014 at 3:47pm

This is a very interesting conversation… I know that ChrissyP probably already has the advice she was looking for, but I would like to get a little in, as this is something that I’ve struggled with as well. I’m 46 years old, and I have ADHD. A couple years ago, I married someone who does NOT. It’s a MESS. My household is constant tension, frustration, shame, guilt, embarrassment, I could go on…

I believe that not all one-sided ADHD marriages are doomed. It completely depends on the two people and how their personalities, habits, quirks will mesh. It takes a VERY special, patient, easygoing person to be with an ADHDer. It is NOT easy being married to us. You HAVE to be okay with the house being a mess at times (or most of the time..). You HAVE to be okay with your spouse forgetting things. You HAVE to have a sense of humor about coming home from work and your house being an entirely different color. You can’t the chaos personally , and you can’t make your ADDer feel like they are stupid or less important than you. And, if taking up that much extra slack doesn’t work for you, that’s understandable! It’s not for everyone! Especially if the ADDer won’t get treated. You have to look out for yourself first.  Being in love with someone doesn’t always mean that you are going to be compatible living together or raising a family with them. ADHD doesn’t go away. Meds help symptoms at times, but the ADHD will always be there. If you can see that it presents too much conflict, unacceptable conflict, staying isn’t doing either of you any favors. Love ISN’T always enough. 

I don’t know how my husband is doing it. I told him about my special brain when we were dating. But he didn’t know the magnitude of it all until he moved in when we were married. He is a good person and he is good to me. And I know he loves me. But… even though he is careful about his reactions, I can “feel” his frustration, his anger, his embarrassment…. He hates it. He has NO sense of humor about it.  He doesn’t invite his family or friends over to the house. I don’t think he is very happy. And, seeing him react to my “stuff” tends to make me stressed and ashamed, which makes my symptoms worse. I really feel that he regrets getting married, and I don’t know how long he’ll stick it out.  I feel that I shouldn’t have exposed another person to this. I shouldn’t have gotten married.

Posted by Grierwego on Apr 15, 2014 at 11:47pm

So…we are coming up on our 34th year of marriage. I learned 3 years ago that my spouse is highly involved in internet porn (sex addiction SA). Through SA counseling & additional counseling/evaluations my spouse was diagnosed w/ ADD. The ADD was undiagnosed until the SA was discovered. Is anyone out there dealing with this dynamic? So much of his behavior, choices etc are now understandable looking through the ADD lens. Given the view of addiction as “an illness of escape, with it’s goal to obliterate, medicate or ignore reality. It’s an alternative to letting oneself feel hurt, betrayal, worry, and-most painful of all-loneliness.” (Carnes 2001) what & how best to proceed?
Prior to the SA & ADD disclosures our marriage seemed OK, but hindsight is 20/20.  The last 3 years have been traumatic, we still have two teen children at home. He’s in counseling for SA, and working the 12 steps for SA, but the ADD has not been addressed. Now that we both know the issues we are dealing with it’s difficult for me to “revert” back to the negative behavior in our relationship. I unknowingly contributed to his denial of having ADD, as well as covered for his intimacy issues & isolation. I want to move forward together, but his behavior is so self sabotaging. It seems to me that his ADD is the primary issue to work on, identifying his strengths & working on his limitations. I’ve been to counseling and become informed on both SA & ADD, but he still is in denial. If I stay in this relationship now, then I am condoning his behavior if he doesn’t make a time-bound commitment for change. Does anyone know of any good ADD counselors in CO familiar w/ SA?

Posted by CO ADDspouse on Apr 16, 2014 at 3:19am

i do not have any answers for you Co ADDspouse. sorry. My boyfriend seems to be a little hyperfocused on sports betting, although when something else takes interest (last week my daughter’s new car) was the “topic” of his conversation.  Grierwego, i have a question…If i show him some of the research i found about ADHD and show him in a loving way, do u think that wood help him to understand everything i am going to tell him?  everything includes the fact that i dont know if i can deal with his behaviors…LOve isn;t enough thats the hard part.. he wood give me the world and do anything for me., despite his tendencies to be a bit controlling and the anxiety he feels when he is stressed.  and his tantrums.  Yes i too have to be “careful” about my reactions and what i say and when i say it. I just dont know how i can do it anymore. If i break up i dont want him to feel he is less than me i just want him to feel, i cant do it!!unless he is willing to get some kind of help.

Posted by chrissyp on Apr 17, 2014 at 2:42am

I am the one in my marriage to have (diagnosed) ADHD-I. My husband & I were together for about 11 years before we married and he *knew* what I was like beforehand. Note: I’d only been diagnosed and had therapy for depression, not ADHD-I.

When we got married, it was like he expected me to magically conform to the TV wife in Leave It To Beaver or something, after we had our kids. We’ve been in couples therapy a few times. Sometimes it seems effective in opening a level of understanding, but it doesn’t seem to last long.

ChrissyP, look, the ADHD is one thing, but the verbal abuse is something else; that’s a very bad thing to have in a relationship, and I don’t think it’s necessarily connected to his ADHD. Behavior like that is HIM. Don’t let the diagnosis fool you. There are plenty of people with his diagnosis who don’t verbally abuse the people in their life.

Let me put it this way: an ass with a broken leg is still an ass. A jerk with ADHD is still a jerk.

Yes, Simba, run. (that quote made my day, especially the “famous African philosopher part!)

Posted by JavaMonster on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:16pm

Also read The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov and Too good to leave, too bad to stay : a step-by-step guide to help you decide whether to stay in or get out of your relationship by Kirshenbaum, Mira.
They helped me decide for myself

Posted by irinasko on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:16am


I find this thread very depressing. It seems all the non-ADHD partners regret staying with their partner. The frustration and anger is palpable even over the internet. It makes me want to go home and tell my husband that all our hard work is for not, that we better part ways now before we get bitter.

I am the ADHD partner and i know it is not easy to be with me. But we all have our issues, my husband too is not easy to be with. If he was Mr. Perfect, he would fit grierwego’s description and he definitely does not. It takes two committed people to create a strong marriage, two people who are willing to admit their weaknesses and use their stregths to positively influence their partner. If you don’t both commit to this process and respect each other through the ups and downs, then the relationship is probably best put to rest.

Maybe i am biased, but I don’t think ADHD alone is a reason to leave. Either you have a positive relationship or a negative one, ADHD is just one of the many challenges you as a couple will have to face. If you cannot overcome or work together to overcome this issue, then it is probably time to leave. But please, please, please do not blame ADHd alone.


Posted by Plcumming on May 06, 2014 at 10:04pm

Well said, Plcumming.
I’ve been married for 14 years to my ADD’er.  We have two small children at home, we both work full time and we both enjoy our play time as much as our work time.  We did not live together before we were married and I really did not know the extent of his ADD until after I said ‘I do’.  Now that I’ve been exposed for nearly 15 years to all the chaos, disorganization, missed appointments, forgotten errands, blow ups, melt downs, etc., I wouldn’t say that I regret getting married and I wouldn’t change my mind if I could go back to that day 14+ years ago.  It would have been beneficial to have had a glimpse into what I would be dealing with on a daily basis, but it wouldn’t have made me jump ship and run.  I am stronger now than I was then, as is my relationship, because we work together on it.  I have learned to deal with all the temper flare ups and all the scatter brained behavior.  He has learned when it goes too far and he needs to reel it in and back off.  It can be exhausting maintaining a household for what equates to 3 children (one of them being my husband), but where his organization and planning capabilities are lacking, mine are stronger.  They have to be, or else it would all fall apart. 

I agree with you - its not all the fault of the ADD’er and it shouldn’t be as easy as just turning away and running.  Success in life is earned - not granted.  That applies to relationships and marriage as well You get out what you put in - if you’re not willing to work together and put some effort into it, you’ve already failed.

Posted by fertie01 on May 06, 2014 at 11:11pm

If someone is constantly drinking, even past the point of being drunk. Do you call them an alcoholic?

If someone has been killing random people, for years without being caught, are they not a serial killer?

If someone steps on your foot more than once during a conversation, is it an accident or intentional?

If he has ADHD and doesn’t want to get help, theirs nothing you can do but leave. Let him get help for himself and once he’s seeking professional help, maybe then you should try again with a relationship. It doesn’t make sense to stay with someone that has problems but won’t admit to it and refuses to seek treatment.

Denying that something is wrong doesn’t make that wrong thing go away. Denying that you have the flu when; you are head hurts, your temperature is over 100 degrees, your noise is running, every time you cough thick mucus comes out your mouth, doesn’t mean you’re “fine”. You’re not fine. You’re ill and everyone can see it except you. So if he is ill and you can see it and he can’t you have to leave him till he decides to get help for his illness. You trying to force it on him will only lead to more problems.

Posted by not2day on Jun 22, 2014 at 8:01pm

Curious to know what happened in your situation?  I just posted on here under crushed and confused after declined marriage proposal. As you and I were the non add’ers. We share similar insight, pain and confusion. I know exactly what you are feeling and am so sorry that you are in this place. Like you, I completely loved my partner and thought marriage might help to pull us closer. She would openly admit to me and her friends that I was only her 5th or 6th top priority in her life behind her kids, work, family, friends and fun. I was told through my therapist that my attempt at marriage was trying to bump myself up the priority list. Wrong. I would have continued to slide. My hurt and probably yours stems from the amount of time and effort that I had invested (3 1/2 yrs) and then having to say I love you, good bye and walk away. It’s like reading a great book and throwing it away when you get to the last chapter. There are many great insights on here that have helped me to understand that I did all I could but ultimately, I had to take control of my own life. Letting go was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And my prayers to you for strength to do the same, to heal and to find happiness again. It’s very hard to accept but I was told I dodged a bullet and that marriage would have been the biggest mistake of my life.

Posted by Cjhank1020 on Jul 01, 2014 at 5:34pm

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