What Your Non ADHD Spouse Wants You To Understand 58


Men who deny or minimize their ADHD can destroy their marriage. An ADHD diagnosis and treatment is much cheaper and easier than a divorce Pete Quily ADHD Coach graphic

lightness and darkness photo Arto Marttinen unsplash.com/photos/fHXP17AxOEk

Lightness and darkness photo Arto Marttinen

Melissa Orlov has a great post that’s a must read to help the ADHD  adults understand what their non ADHD spouses want from them. Great title too, The Care and Feeding of a Non-ADD Spouse.

Unfortunately a lot of men and women who have Adult ADD are in denial about how their ADHD related behaviors affects their spouses. Or, they minimize the true impact untreated ADHD has on their marriage.

Some ADDErs need to be on their third spouse before they begin to take their ADHD seriously, ie ADHD medications are useful, but they won’t magically  teach you self awareness and skills.

Sometimes I coach people with adult ADHD just around relationships, they have a high stimulation job and adequate support systems at work. But they are on the verge of divorce at home because they’re in denial or mimization of their ADHD problems and are not effectively managing their negative ADHD symptoms.

Because of this, they frequently irritate their spouses and their spouses nag them, tell them to stop doing this, start doing that but they don’t know HOW to do those things. Then the endless non productive conflict happens in perpetual self sustaining feedback loop.

Often the ADHD adult or their spouse don’t contact me until they are almost ready for divorce.

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “What Women Want”? This is what I think you would hear if you were Mel Gibson and could hear your wife’s thoughts.

here’s a few ones:

Thoughts and actions are not equally satisfying: You may be thinking about me a lot, but when you are off in your own world, or distracted by something else, I have no way of knowing that.

To me, it feels as if you almost never think of me. It makes me sad. In the future, can you take a few seconds and show me through actions, not thoughts, that you are thinking of me? A short kiss, an “I love you” or some other action will mean a lot to me.

I’m working really hard at this relationship, but sometimes despair because it doesn’t feel to me like you are, too: I’m not asking that we meet in the exact middle. But sometimes I despair that we’ll never meet at all!

I need attention, and one form of attention is having you take my needs seriously enough to show an effort in my direction. This gets back to the “thoughts and actions” are not the same as ideas notion. I want to be happy around you (and you want me to be happy around you – it’s so much easier that way!) but it’s hard to keep always trying without seeing any reciprocal action

ADDer have a higher rate of divorce than non ADDers.

If you’re married to (or were married to) an someone with adult ADHD, what advice would you give them to help them have a better marriage/avoid divorce?


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58 thoughts on “What Your Non ADHD Spouse Wants You To Understand

  • Miss Lynx

    I think a lot of that article could apply to any ADD/non-ADD relationship, regardless of gender(s).

  • Pete Quily

    They definitely could Miss Lynx,

    but they often seem to be more of a problem with ADDers than non ADD people, and not understanding AND not acting on them is one of the reasons ADDers have higher divorce rates.

    With non ADD men sometimes the problem is mainly awareness and willingness to act. With ADD men it’s awareness, willingness to act, AND the problems of having ADD.

  • B. Johnson

    I usually miss the timing on posts. I am not a woman, I am an adult male with ADHD. I just want to point out that you are correct that we are absent minded to our spouse, but the thing I think most well meaning people leave out is – we (ADHDers) can justify in our own minds with explicit detail, the failures on the spouses part, this only fuels the separation. It takes a strong person to get beyond the feeling of “it’s not my fault”.

  • Daphne

    If I had found this site a few years ago I wonder if my 19 year marriage would’ve survived.
    I am convinced my ex husband is ADD or ADHD. He has even thought he might be but unfortunately does not recognize the effects it may have had on our relationship.
    He is a paramedic, and loves the fast pace and adreniline. Our marriage ended after he had a series of affairs and felt like he just didn’t love me any more and couldn’t make that feeling come back. But he flip flopped all through the 6 months it took us to finally separate.

    All I can say is, men, question it and don’t be so proud that you won’t seek help or advice from a counselor or therapist. Your relationship is at risk.

  • Pete Quily

    Hi B, yes men and women both do that, it’s called rationalization, based on fear too look inside. Very common and very costly.

    Too bad Daphne,
    maybe you could write a blog post for others to let them know. Maybe if someone did that for you earlier, things might have turned out differently.

  • steve miller

    I am 46 years old and just found out i have add.My wife would like a divorce now.I have seeked a marriage counsler,and i am seeing a doctor and am on medication. and am now seeing things for the first time from my partners eyes.I am horrified about how i have been and what she has had to put up with.I have tried to explain that i didint have the capacity to understand my issues .I just thougt that how i was,and her complantes were just complaints.I now no that i couldnt have been moor wrong. After seeking help and taking medication i understand why i had so much troubl in school and outher ereas of my life.We have two children 6-9.I am a good father and i am extreemly close with my children.I love my wife derly and commited to seek any help that would make me a better husband,father,and person in general.But my wife has had enough and will not give me the oporatunity to show her that i can make a change for the better.I dont blame her for feeling the way she does. After taking the meds and seeing the doctor i see how my understanding of things have been so wrong I feel amazing gult for putting her through years of frustration. ther is nothing i wouldnt do to keep my family together.But when i ask her to just give me a chance and go to counseling she tells me she is done.I cant emagin life without her. I know i can be thr husband she diservs.I just need the oporatunity to show her.Everything i say is wrong or just to late.I am trying so hard to work om my add but it is so hard when i am loosing the person i love so much. ESpecialy with understanding how much i have hurt her.At this point i am getting so upset and just dont know what to do

  • steve miller

    I am working so hard every day on my add.But with an ever strugling bussiness in todays economy,and the pressure of supporting my family finatialy,trying to save my marriage that i have such guilt for. It is incresingly difficult to move forward.I am trying not to put to much on my plate.But if we divorce,I will loose all that i have worked for my adult life.my wife,my house,and my children. Its a tuff pill to swallo and incresingly difficult to function and have a smile for my children every day.I have two beautifull kids that i know will be so devistated by a divorce,and that guilt by my hand my sickness is litterly killing me.If i was suffering the confusion of add before this is just such a mountin to overcome i dont see how i am going to make it.I dont expect my wife to forget the past,or make it easy for me ijust need somthing in the way her telling me there is no gaurentee to the outcome but get healthy and we will go from there. that would be so much help.And i know after years of suffering how much that is to ask.But i think it is a resonabl request for some one that is so commited to make change and seek and medication and any arrangment that would at least have the possibility of her understanding i couldint help my self.And how remorsfull i am for here suffering.Over the years my wife has made sugestions that i am sure would have helped,i just couldnt understand.And that makes it worse that i know she was trying.and with my add i couldnt understand.

  • Pete Quily

    Hi Steve,
    sometimes it may be too late. ADDers are often in denial or minimalization about how their behavior impacts family, friends and work colleagues. Often I get called for ADHD coaching when someones in the middle of a divorce or at the end of one, ideally people should start sooner when trouble arises.

    Maybe now you should focus less on trying to get her to go to counselling vs identifying the behaviours you should change and start actually changing them, demonstrating by action that you’re changing things vs just saying give me another chance.

    Channel that guilt into action, maybe get someone who knows ADHD like an ADHD coach or therapist to help you learn those skills and self awareness and awareness of others that you need to know. Maybe pick one behavior at a time and focus on improving that.

  • steve miller

    I have no denial of what has happend from my add.but if my wife was an alchaholic or substance abuser or had a mental ilness I certinly would get her help before kicking her to the curb . I never denied tretment or help,it was never suggested and I didint have the capacity to help my self.I have never lost a job,i paid all bills taxes and ins and maitnence on cars.I coached my sons sports teams.Idid all that despite add.I failed in communication and follow up on her requests.And i would never minimilize what she had to deal or her needs .Itake full responsibilty.But with two small children and my absalute commitment there is no resonable solution to a divorce.Without first seeing if we could recconnect as i get mantaly healthy.I want her to be who she is thats whyn i married her.And I knowthat should be her first priority.but not i am done after i have had 4 weeks on meds and therapy.She also has issues from her alchoholic abusif step father wich she refuses to acknowlige wich she will bring into any relationship she gets into and our children.This not just my opinion phsycotheripst,phsycoligist,and her mother.Its not time to just divorce and move on All issues should put on the table with profetional help at least.

  • Pete Quily

    Hi Steve, this is denial

    “I just thought that how i was, and her complantes were just complaints. I know now that i couldnt
    have been more wrong.”

    Sounds like you’re no longer in denial and actively working at improving yourself and are on the right track. I hope it’s not too late for you too.

    You might want to look at the ADHD and marriage blog by Dr. Ed Hallowell and Melissa Orlov, especially the comments on the posts as well as maybe getting his new book coming out march 16th available to preorder now

    Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption

    Best of luck

  • steve miller

    Thank you, I will work harder at this than i have any thing in my life.My children need a healthy father.And as much as I believ that I have been a good father I also realize with add how that perception can be clouded in my mind. So i wil forever work on my add any outher issues to be the best father i can be.And i reccomend any one in my position to listen to your spouse and work on your issues.Because divorce with children is the most heart wrenching thing a family can go through.I also ask of your spouses that sombody with add that gives a real commitment to change and move forward is at least trying were they couldnt before. change does not come overnight. And even if you cant renconnect you understand that you both tried to do this with some one that has commited and addmitted to there falts.And that you have truly shown your spouse remorse and understanding for what they have gone through no matter what the outcome.

  • Andy L

    Dear Steve,

    I stumbled upon your post and know exactly how you feel, have been there a couple of times myself.
    I understand the pouring out of the soul you are expressing and there is nothing wrong with doing that, however if I could give you a bit of advice from my own past.
    Try to avoid forcing your new found views on your wife and making her understand.
    Women have a habit of feeling scared and panicky when cornered, it is easy to come across as a desperate crazy man when trying to get her to see or believe that you are seeing the world thru new eyes a “changed man” Let her work this out for herself.
    Actions speak louder than words, sometimes backing off is more productive, LESS IS MORE.
    Try making time (and sticking to it) to doing a few things revolving around just you and the kids, things like plan a BBQ or picnic with the kids somewhere they like or a day fishing, (does not matter if you know there are no fish..lol) and nothing fancy or OTT, just some Quality time.
    Invite her but be quite happy for to not come, things like this are things that women like to see and if it does not work out it is a good and necessary start into maintaining a relationship with your children should the worst happen.

    Good Luck and be Cool

  • lalaland

    I am the wife of an adder and for 33 years I have been the adult care giver. I have had extreme stress putting up with this man that I love, and I have had accidents and illnesses that were in most part due to the stress. I am tired of saying, “Pay attention”, “you don’t get it, do you”, “you make everything harder that it is” etc etc. Now that I found out what it is (his behavior), he vehemently denies it and says that I’m the one with it. I see the behavior in his some of his siblings and father. Several of them have divorced twice. They are really lost, but are too proud and arrogant to get help or even to admit to it.

  • Ads

    Hello, I have been in a relationship with a man who has ADHD. It helped that I am in school to be a therapist and was able to identify those behaviors. He finally decided to get help (after missing 3 appointments) and now he only has one more adhd test to go. I am kind of nervous about getting married after researching and seeing how many people get divorced because of this. I do love him, but I am irritated and wonder if this will get better. He doesnt have the best self esteem and his family doesnt help (they are very negative people). I dont know what to do!

  • Elizabeth

    Great, but I’m the one with ADD, not my hubby, the most patient man in the whole universe. Any tips for men dealing with flighty ladies like myself (as I’m sure it’s a completely different experience)? I drive him nuts, but I’m cute 🙂

    Links or comments or both, I’m not picky.

  • petunia

    From my 25 year experience with an ADD husband who refused medication and counseling till recently, living with ADD as a spouse is a lonely and fearful existence. When you have made sacrifices over and over again in an attempt to make up for your ADD spouse’s bad choices and neglect, it is very painful to be asked to make even one more compromise. My advice to spouses who are ADD would be not to delay one more minute in getting the help you need to be successful in your marriage. No more denial….No more excuses. You must be the one to make the sacrifices to refill your spouse’s emotional bank account. You can’t ask someone who is empty of emotion towards you to make a sacrifice for your good when you have neglected the welfare of your family. Don’t wait for one more sunrise to begin loving your spouse or you won’t have a spouse to love. Don’t wait for your spouse to finally give an ultimatum for getting help before you wake up from the hibernation in your “cave”. This is what my ADD spouse did, and I have hope that our marriage will survive, but at the same time, I would rather be by myself than live alone with a neglectful ADD spouse for the remainder of my days till I take my last breath. Living with an ADD spouse is a very lonely and unloving existence.

  • Stephanie D

    These are some of the best posts I’ve read. I thank-you all! My husband is newly diagnosed with ADHD but will not seek treatment. He cried all the way through The FIREPROOF movie, but nothing changed, he read me the list from men are from mars women are from venus, about what you can do to score points with a woman then never did any of them. We read and discussed the LOVE LANGUAGES, again, no changes, Marriage counseling-resulted in the therapist telling him to lead the marriage-He clearly can’t. We Have been together for 15 years. Miserable for 8 years. I went into this marriage saying one thing, I will not go down as a Nag! So, we just don’t communicate. Lists don’t work, talking doesn’t work. What else is there?

  • Maxi

    I am living with someone with ADHD. I have done as much as I can in researching about ADHD and understanding it from my partner’s point of view. But no matter how much I try to “coach” him or to support him, he does not put as much effort on his part to better control his ADHD behaviours and thoughts. I’m considering leaving him because I feel I tried as much as I can and he doesn’t put enough effort into saving the relationship. It breaks my heart because he is such a great person but I cannot handle the clutter, anger outbursts, forgetfulness, lateness, etc.

  • Pete Quily

    You’re assuming it’s effort. You’re also assuming someone has taught him the skills on how to manage ADHD successfully. Are those assumptions both correct? Also you should never coach or do therapy on your spouse, you’re too attached to be effective, that’s why outside independent objective coaches are more effective

  • Maxi

    Thanks for your response. I don’t assume that he has been taught the skills to manage his ADHD. I encourage him to use post-it notes, simplifying his routines to reduce forgetfulness, etc.

    I have been reading a lot of books and doing research online because my partner does not have the “skills” to do this. He is appreciative of my effort and when he tries techniques it eventually falls by the wayside. It’s the will and staying power he finds difficult to maintain and I understand this is part of an ADHD mind (being distracted, etc.)

    I’m feeling like an enabler and I agree that I cannot be as objective as you would be. I have tried to get him to try your coaching last year and he refused adamantly. I try not to push things too hard for him as he gets irritated and upset. But then nothing gets achieved. I’m hoping each time he will aquiese a little bit at a time and try coaching.

    His work hours are very erratic and that is what makes having a routine difficult. Otherwise, I’m sure he’d be able to do counselling or coaching.

    I think you have the best information I’ve seen so far and I thank you for doing a great job.

  • Pete Quily

    Thanks Maxi,

    Sounds like you’ve read a lot about ADHD, that’s good many spouses don’t and just assume its a moral problem or other adhd myths.

    It may not be will and staying power, but specific strategies that are customized to work for him vs someone else. Often will power is a word for strategies that work for me and add moral tone. It seems you’re trying your best and putting in a lot of time and effort. And pushing does usually activate the oppositional defiant disorder in ADDers.

    Perhaps right now you might consider switching the focus from him to getting help for you in what you’re going through by someone that focuses specifically on spouses of people with adhd ie Melissa Orlov of adhdmarriage.com

    Glad you like my site.

  • MrsHm

    I’d like to echo the comment by Elizabeth from last year – does anyone know any good resources for when the ADD/non-ADD gender dynamic is reversed (i.e. the woman is the one with ADD)? I’ve looked into most of the stuff out there on ADD & relationships, such as the adhdmarriage.com site, and the book “Is it you, me, or adult ADD?”, but it seems most of it is written with male ADDers in mind. Generally the authors do acknowledge & make some attempt to talk about the fact that women can have ADD too, but most of the info seems to involve the implicit assumption that it is the man who has ADD. I felt this was a particular problem with Gina Pera’s book (“Is it you me or adult ADD?”) where my husband & I felt that a lot of the behaviour described was actually stuff my husband exhibits more than me, and he’s definitely NOT got ADD! It seemed like most of what she described was typical male behavioural issues that are made worse by ADD, not necessarily universal ADD symptoms.

    For instance, based on my own experience & a lot of the reading I’ve done, it seems women with ADD are often all too aware of the impact their behaviour has on others and are eaten up with guilt about it, which leads to a whole different set of issues compared to the more “oblivious” attitude of many men with ADD (I realise this is a gross generalisation and there are many men with ADD who do recognise the impact their ADD has on others, and who feel equally guilty, but on average this seems to be more of an issue with women than men. Most of the time I read men expressing this view it has only come after they have started treatment & had their eyes opened to what they have been like!). These gender differences might be due to the way females are raised to be rather than some innate difference – from an early age we are expected to be perceptive about other people’s feelings and are raised to be “people pleasers” more than men are.

    A lot of the stuff I’ve read seems to paint the ADDer as lacking self-awareness, low in empathy, in denial, overbearing in their behaviour, and tending to fall into a pattern of letting their partner take on all responsibility & be like a parent to them. Most of this just doesn’t sound a lot like the problems I have (and no, I’m not just in denial & lacking awareness of my issues!! I’ve been battling for most of my adult life to get some recognition & help with my ADD, and have been trying everything I can think of to help myself improve. I am all too aware of the massively destructive impact that ADD has had on my life & that of the people around me).

    Anyway, I’ll stop my rambling but I was just hoping someone might have some pointers on good sources of advice for those of us who are female ADDers married to a non-ADD man?

  • Pete Quily

    Good point MrsHm,

    both Gina and Melissa are married to ADHD husbands, hence the natural focus for them more on males with adhd in relationships vs women. Sometimes some people write about men with adhd and don’t clarify traits of men vs adhd traits or traits of the comorbidities ie narcissism, etc.

    Often women with adhd will internalize (depression, anxiety, self doubt) while men with adhd will more often externalize, (ODD, denial, anger) of course that’s in general and there are exceptions. Sari Solden and Kathleen Nadeau have written books specifically on women and adhd, I don’t know if there’s a site like adhdmarriage.com specifically focused on women with adhd in relationships. Maybe someone else does.

    As someone who coach both women and men with ADHD, I’d suggest whether you’re a woman or a man, the most important thing to do is to focusing on learning to understand how adhd impacts you specifically in the different areas of your life, relationships, career, finances, social life etc and find ways in which to learn how to manage it more effectively. See my post The Top 10 Ways to Manage Adult ADHD
    for some ideas.

    FYI often the adhd guys in denial have such deep shame about it and don’t know how to manage it, and never been taught how to, they get tired of being frustrated with it and just turtle up and go into denial. Often the adhd women have more guilt and are at least open to talk about it (compared to most, not all of the men).

    Sadly few medical professionals are trained to deal with adhd, less with adult adhd, and even less with women with ADHD.

  • Sue

    I have been married to a man for 20 years who has multiple affairs. ADD is his explanation for everything that has gone wrong..including our marriage.
    He has been carrying on an affair with an enlisted woman in MD for three years (he is an officer). He claims they have an itellectual connection that he does not with me…I do not speak computer. He dismisses it like it is not important.
    He has no contac with our children (more than a year with one child & 5 months with the other). He claims they should make the effort??!?…He blames them
    What is the ADD? What is character flaws?

  • Pete Quily

    adhd rarely travels along Sue. Often there are other conditions like narcissistic personality disorder, and adhd is blamed when its maybe more the narcissism. Sounds like more than adhd is the problem here and that he’s using adhd as an excuse vs an explanation. adhd is an explanation in some cases, but once you know it’s adhd then you have a responsibility to DO something about it vs saying i have this and it means I can do what I want consequence free.

  • Help Needed

    What am I to do. I recently found out my boyfriend has adhd. I love him so much. I often feel drained though. We often go on breaks so i can get a chance to breathe. Most of the time I feel like his mom, therapist, and doctor more than I feel l like his girlfriend. He is not social, meaning he does not have any friends so he expects me to be everything. I enjoy his presence but sometimes I just want my own times I want him to have guy time and friends. He loves God and so do I but it seems thats the only thing that he focuses on besides me… Its like he is super religious. That’s all we talk about and it ALWAYS makes its way in our conversation. I’m a preacher so I love love love God but sometimes I just want to relax and have conversation about other things. I also feel like at times he uses my mind bc he will ask me something that I know he knows but we have to go through conversation our arguments bc I get tired of thinking for him. He is very emotional and everything is always deeper than what they really are. I have tried post it notes but that only works for so long. we often argue bc he does not follow through with anything. He comes up with great ideas but never follows through until I talk about leaving. I love him and he is a great person. I talky want to be with him but I hate feeling this way. He supports me and loves me but at times I feel it’s too much and marriage and kids will make it harder. I don’t want to get divorced so I stay away from marriage even though that’s something that I want some day. I understand that adhd is real and have encouraged medicine but what about therapy. He speaks about anxiety when being around groups of people, he knows that he judges people, he acts out of his emotions, and had low…but is better than before, self esteem and aha adhd doesn’t help. He feels like this added to his issues which causes him to be really emotional and hard on himself. Please help I love him but I don’t know if this will get better. Maybe therapy will help us both.

  • Sue

    Been trying to figure out if i can handle being married to someone who is ADD and narcissistic. I have been defending and enabling for so long…do I really love the man or am I just afraid of a different lifestyle? It is hard to tell the difference between the ADD behavior and the narcissistic behavior. He calls the other women just symptoms…the mistresses (3 I know of in 20 years)….What do I have in store for me if I try to learn about livingwith a spouse with ADD that uses it to behave badly???

  • Pete Quily

    Probably more of what you’re already getting Sue. I’d suggest finding a therapist that knows both conditions to help you find out in detail. Also suggest having a look at Co-Dependents Anonymous http://www.coda.org/ to see if there might be something there useful for you

  • Pete Quily

    Hi Help Needed, yes better get therapy BEFORE marriage and kids. that won’t make adhd easier, will make it harder to deal with. best to see a therapist that knows adhd

  • Sue

    It all sounds familiar..My husband has filed for divorce…Has cheated on me multiple times. He talks about himself and what he has missed out in life because he is slow, could not focus, was bullied, has no friends, alienated his children, …Think long and hard about His Needs, Her Needs in the relationship. I wish I had known what he was hiding from me…years ago…And then I could make a choice..But here I am 20 years into a marriage with a man…was an at-home mom, cheated on at least three times that I now know about,…and he decides the day after Thanksgiving that he is done. and he walks away to the mistress of two years. But then again, he says she is “just a symptom’ of his condition. Is she?
    Reality of financies and kids are attached to me…She is a playmate with no obligation…So is it the ADD>

  • so tired

    Being married to someone with ADD is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I thought the marriage would be hard because he has kids from another marriage – nope, that part is easy! The constant obsessing, hobbies, spending money we don’t have, buying new cars every year, lack of follow through, forgetfulness and tardiness are out of control. If I had known he had this when we were first dating I would NOT be here now. I didn’t find out until we had a 3 month old son and everything came to a head…it’s unfair, it’s disgusting and I want to have a an adult as a partner. I’m sick of living in a household with a 31 year old child. It’s pathetic.

  • Pete Quily Post author

    Hi Sue, sometimes its’ ADHD, but sometimes it’s other comorbid or coexisting conditions that go along with the ADHD, since ADHD rarely travels alone.

    I.e., sometimes people think that the problem is just because of ADHD when it’s often more attributable to other conditions, i.e., narcissism.

  • Pete Quily Post author

    Hi Nicole, it sounds like he has unmanaged ADHD. I would encourage you to learn more about it and the different ways to manage it. See my post, Top ten ways to manage ADHD,
    Here’s a lot of free resources on ADHD on my website check out the ADHD marriage blog, and go to your closest ADHD support group, either by yourself or together to learn more about it.

    Also as a spouse of someone with ADHD, you’re not responsible for the ADHD but you are responsible if you throw water or gasoline on the fire that is often ADHD.

    Many times the spouse will think they’re throwing water but because they often don’t understand ADHD it’s often gasoline. So learning more about ADHD is crucial for the non ADHD spouse.

  • the non add one

    The 2nd time that they lie, refuse counseling and medication, minimize the importance of trust and blame it on you, run for the freakin’ hills!!! If I should have kicked him out 10 years ago because it’s been 10 plus years of the same crappy behavior, oodles of resentment and anger build up and children who don’t feel like their Dad can take care of them. He can’t! At least I’m doing the right thing now.

  • Evasive Action

    My Wife is really getting sick of my A.D.D. situation. She seems to nag and scream at me for the simplest things (‘my’, sighing when she thinks I don’t have the right to sigh, forgetting to shut the cabinets in the kitchen, getting junk food without her approval etc…).

    For the longest time I always blamed ‘her’ for not understanding ‘me’ enough. More and more though, I’m gaining the realization that it’s ‘I’ who do not understand ‘her’ enough.

    All she wants is for me to realize that she has worked extremely hard to help us get to where we are. She needs me to understand that my A.D.D., if not contained more adequately, could hold us back from moving forward in life, financially and socially.

    Ultimately, she wants us to be healthy, wealthy and wise and she’s breaking her back trying to help us get there. She wants my gratitude and my help. More often than I do, I need to tell her how thankful I am for having her in my life and how much I appreciate what she has done to better our situation. Also she wants me to try to work as hard as she does to improve our lives. In the past, I focused way too much on ‘what’ she was getting so angry at and not enough on ‘why’ she was getting so angry.

    It’s what she’s been trying to tell me for a very long time. Now it makes so much more sense to me and I wish I had allowed myself to fully realize the heart of it sooner. I love her with all that I am and I don’t want to lose her. Hopefully it’s not too late.

  • Pete Quily Post author

    Hi Evasive, good you’re getting out denial. Denial is a big reason so many ADDers get divorced, some need to be on their 3rd wife or 20th job before they start being willing to look at themselves vs always blame others.

    Don’t know if it’s too late or not but even if it is, if you don’t change, you’ll just repeat the same patterns with another woman and get the same results. So start taking action now.

    Maybe ask her to prioritize what are the top 3 things that if you changed would improve her quality of life and peace of mind the most. And just shut up & take notes, don’t argue, justify, rationalize or minimalize. Then create a doable plan to start to take action on them.

    Maybe look at my post 10 ways to manage ADHD.

    You can also check out your closest ADHD support group

    If you’d like one on one customized help in learning how to understand ADHD and become more effective at managing it, I’ve been coaching ADHD adults since 2003 one on one over the phone.

    Here are some examples of the problems I help my Adult ADHD coaching clients achieve or solve

    Here are some of the results my Adult ADHD Coaching clients get

    If you’re ready, open and willing to change the way you think and act to achieve better results I offer a free sample session of adult ADHD coaching.

  • Trent

    tl;dr, if you seek change in others, first change yourself, because demanding another change to suit you will get you the short end of the stick…

    “their spouses nag them”

    Um, I’m no expert (just sure I have ADHD but also an above average IQ) but nobody likes to be nagged, its projection of one spouse onto the other, and I’m sorry but if you’re not going to correct your poor behaviour then why should I change mine?

    Nobody seems to get the purpose of empathy:in human relationships, and its not extending your own subjective reasoning onto others (yes, this includes me letting my short temper off the hook because nobody else’s brain clearly works as fast as mine [in addition to generalising]) but accepting each other’s subjective self – walking the mile in their shoes.

    The answer is not to nag. Nagging us resentful, hateful and hurtful. Riding another’s backside is only going to earn you a stern rebuke. Negative reinforcement perpetuates cycles. And “because otherwise you don’t pay attention” is an excuse.

    Nagging someone is always a choice. ADHD isn’t. We didn’t land on it, it landed on us. Now, does this excuse ADHD? No, it doesn’t.

    But theres a big difference between encouraging (positively) someone to get better and hounding the crap out of them to change. Because we might overcome the ADHD, but you might never change, and why should we (having changed) put up with someone who won’t?

  • Pete Quily Post author

    Nagging is usual counterproductive to us men, even more so for us ADDers. But usually women try it as a last resort, because nothing else they’ve tried has worked and they keep hearing I’ll do that but it never gets done.

  • the non-add husband

    My wife was diagnosed with ADD about a year and a half ago. We are into our 14th year of marriage. We have been working with a counselor who specializes in ADD for about 6 months now, also having seen a few couples/marriage counselors in prior years who were not very helpful, most likely because they did not understand ADD and missed the signs.

    Finding out she was ADD was helpful in that it gave us something to work against when symptoms would manifest on her part or my frustration and anger seemed more elevated than normal. However the diagnosis also feels like it opened up a can of worms as now we know it is real and realize we have no choice but to face it together…head on…and it is hard. Lots of “2 steps forward, 1 step back” moments. Dr. Orlov’s book is very helpful when I am at a low and unable to cope and I highly recommend it or any other resource that you can get your hands on to use for help.

    Guys, do not let pride or fear get in the way as you will miss the opportunity to grow and strengthen your marriage. As a man I am more on the sensitive side and have been the one spearheading all recognition and management opportunities for the ADD, and am willing to dive into my own soul to see where I can make changes to create a beneficial environment for us both. I make a sincere effort to remind myself that things are not all bad, to laugh at situations that would normally trigger a negative response, to give hugs and kisses, and to tell her I love her.

    I believe my wife and I are gong to make it through it all and am starting to see her ADD as a bonus in the sense that it is making our bond stronger, making me more self-aware, and making dealing with adversity slightly easier with each argument. Like this morning’s argument of her always leaving the lights on ( ;

  • Amanda

    My experience is, with my ADHD male partner, very troubling. With very little appropriate raising, a past drug addiction, and now this it’s as if he refuses to come out of being 16. There was a mention of the ADHDer justifying behavior in great detail. Yes justifying in great detail disrespectful inappropriate behaviour on their part while in the same breath condemning a simple mistake, they too make. Honestly it has felt like a suffocation of myself to be turned into his personal servant. I want him to know I exist too, my rights are valid too, my life is here for more, I’m ashamed too.

  • Pete Quily Post author

    ADHD is an explanation, Amanda. It’s not an excuse. He’s still responsible for his behaviour and if he has ADHD it’s his responsibility to learn how to manage it more effectively, see my post top ten ways to manage ADHD. You might want to check out ADHDmarriage.com, and him too as well have a look at codependents anonymous.

  • Natalie Doil

    Hello Everyone!

    I dont know what to do anymore. My husband has ADHD and I have been reading and informing myself since day 1. He kind of put effort but not enough and it resulted in an affair recently. He has been showing me extreme dedication to getting better. He is now with a psychiatrist and on Adderall etc but I am terrified. We have 2 sons and I just dont know if I can invest into us again. There are so many factors into all of this and I understand but I just cant find the courage to continue.

    Tips as adhd spouses please.

  • DeeDee

    I have read several comments. I am the third wife married 20 yrs. Have 3 wonderful stepsons That I love. My husband is a great man. He is undiagnosed I suspect ADD and he has agreed with this year’s ago. He refuses treatment and refuses to see a physician. He has become very angry and blames me for his problems. He admits to depression but still refuses help. We have been separated for seven months. He has ruined our finances etc. I could no longer reason with him so I encouraged the separation. I seldom speak to him and have filed for divorce. I refuse to live with his symptoms. He claims he no longer loves me but I know he’s an emotional wreck. I have tried to encourage him to seek treatment, He has lost our vacation home we had as well as other furnishings. He seems determined to make me miserable but I stay positive and wish for the best for him. I’ve been a stay at home wife during the marriage. I know I will be okay. I still love him but refuse to live with this untreated disorder.

  • Logic

    The ADHD doesn’t get better with time. About all that happens is the non-ADHD person does more than their share of organizing and making up for their partner’s deficits. Advice: don’t marry anyone with ADHD. They are damaged goods and you are better off looking for a person without these mental disorderly-ness that ADHD
    brings with it. Sad but true.

  • sophiesmom

    We have been married for 16 years but the last few years ‘things’ have been off and I didn’t know what it was until I began to read about ADHD and anxiety. He has many symptoms but refuses to get it checked out.. I did get him to marriage counseling but then he decided not to go— I still go myself.. But I’m at my wits end and I don’t want a divorce– Things would be so much better if he could relax and not obsess and worry over everything which leads to anger.. I don’t consider myself a nag but I do have alot of resentment and anger myself because of his denial– he blames others when ‘things’ don’t go smoothly. All I want is for him to accept this, get treatment and continue on with our lives. I do feel alone in the marriage but think therapy/medication could help.. Any ideas to get him to seek treatment without feeling ashamed.. He feels as thou people with ‘problems’ are misfits or crazy so he denies everything..

  • L. Shaw

    This article is great. My husband has recently been diagnosed with adult adhd. We’ve been together for 26 years & married 19, but this has only been diagnosed in the last 12 months. Everything was fine until we moved abroad. He changed from then. It has almost separated us. We are still struggling now, but I’m trying to understand. We’ve seen marriage counsellors, individual therapists & hubby now on medication. Which the latter has helped with his focus & organisation. But like the article says, it’s so hard when there is no ‘action’ back. Or when he doesn’t even know how he feels himself or can’t explain anything. I desperately am trying to find out more on this but just don’t know where to go. Does ADHD affect the ‘mojo’ too? As in – he’s completely lost interest in ANY physical contact…. That’s what I am finding the hardest. He was always a hug or hold hands person & ‘more’, but not now. I feel I have lost the man a married….help!

  • AMC

    My husband stopped his ADHD meds. The meds that work wonderfully well, no side effects, a peaceful life. he wondered if his chemistry may have changed so perhaps he does not need his meds anymore. Instead of talking it over with me, his wife…he just quit, kept it to himself. He thought he would judge how well he was doing by whether or not I eventually blew up in frustration and anger. I resent being used as an ADHD seismograph. I’ve been ill the past several weeks, exhausted, frustrated and thinking the frustration I’ve been keeping reigned in was all about my health. I feel like my trust in my husband’s judgement is undermined. He’s done this experiment before and it did not go well. He promised to discuss and inform me if he wanted to make a change. I’m am so burned up. Any thoughts out there!

  • Sue

    Why is it that the non adhd spouse has to accept being a victim of someone too distracted to help around the house, too distracted to show emotions, non-filtered speak, tantrums, score keeping, selfish, narcissistic and downright hurtful behaviors as if it is ok because they’re just wired differently? Is there no hope of changing any of this? I am downright miserable and find myself stooping to his levels of hurtful words and actions now which is a horrible downgrade to who I truly am. At this s point I feel I’m just wasting my life away with someone who is mentally incapable of reciprocating the compassion and passion I invest. Can it get any better? If not, what a sad existence to be unable to have a decent, loving relationship.

  • Sophiesmom

    Still feeling upset and resentful that spouse is denying any counseling. He still believes our marriage is fine, he sleeps fine, our finances are fine.. everything is fine when it’s not or maybe it’s fine for him because I’m doing all the work!!! I can’t even talk to him about anything (Trump, future plans, money, house projects, etc…) without him getting angry- I have my opinions which he doesn’t agree with.. Why is it so hard for him to accept that something is ‘off’?? I have been with him for 18 years (married 16)– I can tell ‘things’ are different. He says it’s all me. It is difficult to stay married to someone who is in denial and whom I resent because he doesn’t need therapy. The therapist told me that if things don’t change, then a divorce will take place. My friend mentioned to me that it’s not good to stay married when there is anger and no love. I’m slowly starting to realize I can’t help him, he can only help himself and I need to start thinking about my future without him. Ugh

  • Non-ADHD Husband

    So this article is 8 years old and the comments are still the same with no solutions. Meds help sometimes but other times they don’t seem to be working and you can’t run your spouse to the Dr every time things get crazy. And I haven’t read all the comments but why is it always a wife dealing with an ADHD husband? Am I the only husband dealing with a wife that can’t hold a conversation or stick to a budget or stick with a plan of any sort, or pick anything up or turn on the washing machine after she randomly decides to put clothes in it, much less ever move them to the Drayer. Am I the only husband who sits silently in at dinner while his wife stares at her phone on Facebook and texts and emails and general internet sites. Am I the only husband constantly trying to keep the house running without making her feel bad because I am doing the things she says she should be doing. Honestly I take time off work to clean the house and what not because if I do it when she is around she gets mad, but she doesn’t ever complete any of it and I have to pick up after her and the kids. And rather than appreciate it she periodicly gets mad and tells me to stop but when I do no one does it and she gets mad that everything is such a mess. At least the kids will grow up and move out. I keep wondering if that will make it easier because I will only have one person to pick up after it if it will make me more frustrated that she will never “grow up like the rest of the kids”. Oh well whatever…

  • Pete Quily Post author

    Meds are only a partial solution, not a complete one. ADDers male or female need to learn skills and how to self-manage themselves in work and their personal lives. Meds only put them in a better position to learn those skills, they won’t magically teach them. Learning skills to better manage ADHD is where ADHD coaching can be useful IF the person is ready, open and willing to change.

    No you’re not, I coach women with ADHD too and sometimes mainly around their relationships, just like I sometime coach men with ADHD mainly around their relationships vs work.

    You might want to visit ADHDmarriage.com or go visit your closest ADHD support group and talk to others in your position

  • sophiesmom

    Your right… there are support groups around. I might need that.. My husband just got diagnosed with Anxiety. I was relieved that he was open and honest about it because for years he would deny everything. He has been on meds for 2 weeks and life is just so much easier.. No arguments, sleeping thru the night, and many conversations which is what I like!!! Just more pleasant to be around. But every now and then he mentions that he doesn’t like it and wants to get off of it… Why? The only thing that he might not be used to, is the calmness BUT that’s needed in this house. He’s not yelling at the kids– we are all talking more. I’m a little nervous if he chooses to stop taking them.

  • InPain

    My husband has ADD and was only diagnosed a few years ago when he was already about forty years old. We’ve been married for 17 years and have two amazing kids. Life is hard. Really exhausting and challenging. I feel like throwing in the towel. I’ve actually felt defeated for years now but stay in this marriage for the kids and in hope that things will change. He is on medication, but that only helps with his ability to focus. He’s okay at work but when he gets home, he’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. I’m tired of the lack of effort in the marriage, the constant put downs, feeling like a complete and utter failure each day and every day. Everything I do is wrong. I’m educated, usually confident and have a great job. I just can’t deal with being humiliated in public or in front of my family or just feel like I’m getting my heart stomped on every day.

  • Sophiesmom

    I can relate and am in pain too! My husband is not taking what is prescribed and it’s making me sad! Things are just in an uproar and I just don’t know what to do. He agreed that he would work on himself and that I would step up and do more. I feel like I’m holding my end of it plus more yet I get knocked down. He can’t relate to anything I have to say but yet I’m HIS cheerleader whenever he needs it. He has a great job and I work part-time, things are good; Why can’t he just relax, do what he is supposed to do and enjoy life? I know that I’m the rock of the family and we have 2 amazing kids also. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t want to be a single parent– there is just no reason for that. I do my best to take care of myself and make sure kids are taken care of but at times I wish I had a spouse who was ‘here’ mentally!! It’s like he’s Jekyll and Hyde which is exhausting to deal with.

    ‘InPain’– Have you visited a lawyer? Let your spouse know that if he doesn’t try to work on the marriage then a divorce might be in order. Our marriage therapist told us this so spouse tries I think but he needs to try harder at making our marriage work.

  • the non-add husband

    We just finished Melissa Orlov’s online couples ADHD course and thoroughly enjoyed it. Was a special time each week my wife and I would stop what we were doing and gather around the computer to commit to each other for an hour. I highly recommend taking the course. Not only do you receive great advice from Melissa, you get to engage in questions with her afterwords and listen to all the other couple’s inquiries as well. Makes you feel less alone in the ADHD fight. Stop complaining, stop feeling sorry for yourself, grab the bull by the horns, and just dive in, it can only help! I would recommend getting her book The ADHD Effect on Marriage and read it together first.

  • Ash

    I just want to add, it can work. I have dated my husband for 11yrs and married just last year. Living together 3years now. We found out 5 years ago he had ADD and since then, sometimes he takes his meds, sometimes not. To be honest, I can’t tell a difference, but he can. We have gone through marital therapy, and I, on my own with another (I developed Panic Disorder with him and have PMDD) and we have both come to the realization, that a lot of of those stupid things don’t really matter!! Your spouse has to be patient, which I am and very understanding of the partner with ADD. I’ve put in the effort to learn the behavior so that when I see it happen, I know it’s nothing to take personally. Sometimes I will laugh and think it’s cute. People in this world don’t have enough patience to understand why someone is upset, unfocused, or over-excited about things. An ADD parter NEEDS someone like that. It does take a lot to admit between the two of them that there may be something ‘wrong’ and go see a professional, but once you find out the diagnosis, it is not that hard to work on. Patience with your ADD partner is key. I feel sorry for those with spouses who don’t have that or the willingness to work with it. What shallow people.

  • Anon

    I’ve been with my husband 13 years and we have 4 children. He has recently been diagnosed with ADHD. He refuses to consider meds abs thinks therapy is a load of nonsense. I’ve had years of utter misery. I do 100% of the housework, get up with the children every morning while he sleeps, have to remember absolutely everything. His behaviour ranges from the inconsiderate (ignoring me and the kids to play on his phone constantly, refusing to come along to any family activity he finds boring, being messy and chaotic) to the detrimental (running up thousands of pounds worth of parking fines, repeatedly, staying out all night without texting or calling) to the dangerous (chronic substance misuse, leaving drugs and lighters lying around our house within reach of our young children, excessively be speeding when driving). I have tried and tried to make this relationship work. I love him so much but this marriage is so toxic and is a horrendous example to the kids. Today was the final straw. He blew up at me over something so minor- I’d volunteered us both to help out for an hour at our kids school summer fair. I’d told him about it and he wasn’t keen but agreed. Of course he forgot and when I reminded him today that we had to go do this thing he screamed at me in front of the children. I started to cry and he continued to yell, how dare I volunteer him etc etc. My babies are sobbing, I’m sobbing and I just thought, no. This cannot keep happening. So I told him to leave. I don’t know what to do. How can a man who says he loves me treat me this way? This disorder has ruined my life.