Breaking Out of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction — After Not Breaking a Fall

ADHD relationship dysfunction

Breaking out of ADHD relationship dysfunction — after not breaking a fall?  That sounds all kinds of painful, right? It was, but not as painful as remaining on an ADHD Roller Coaster gone wild.

I’ll tell you my personal story in a minute.  It might help shed some light on your own ADHD relationship troubles. But first some background.

ADHD Relationship Dysfunction Junction

Here’s how ADHD couple conflicts typically develop —and become entrenched:

  1. You’re several years into a relationship before discovering that one or both of you have ADHD.
  2. By that time, you both have developed misinterpretations of the other’s behavior and counter-productive coping responses.
  3. Not to forget: the lifelong misattributions and poor coping of the newly diagnosed ADHD partner, since childhood.

Once there’s a diagnosis and maybe medication on board, it can still take enormous effort to overcome these entrenched patterns and emotional responses. Especially if you don’t know what they are or how to do it.

Moreover, how do you distinguish ADHD symptoms, which should respond to medication, from these entrenched poor coping responses?  This is an often-overlooked essential challenge. In my long-held observation, it’s why even the best attempts at medication don’t create results folks are hoping for.

I’ve tackled this topic for years, in my writing and in my presentations to the public and clinicians, from San Francisco to Turkey. Now you can find ADHD couple interventions in my online training.  For more information: Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle

Could I Depend On Him?

Yes, I’ve hard-earned the status of “ADHD Expert” from my own original research and writing.  Yes, thousands of adults with ADHD and their partners or spouses, too, have shared their stories with me. But rest assured: I’ve had plenty of opportunity for “walking the talk” at home.

One particularly negative repetitive pattern involved my fear that my husband (the ADHD partner in our marriage) would be incapable—and even disinterested—in caring for me should I become sick or disabled, even temporarily.

I am not alone. This is a recurring fear expressed in my online group for the partners of adults with ADHD. This fear has a basis in reality. A commonly repeated phrase in the group is: My ADHD partner is unreliable. This is not offered as a criticism so much as a statement of fact. Many have learned to live with it. But still, they fear that moment when they might be incapacitated and have to rely on their ADHD partner.

“Good Intentions” Go Only So Far

In our case, my husband was reliable on some level. At least, he meant to be. But what do you call it when good intentions still fall flat?

  • How do you know if you’re fooling yourself, knowing the difference between your spouse being incapable—or unwilling?
  • More importantly, at what point does it matter which it is?
  • When you’re dropped on your head, metaphorically speaking, it still hurts.

In fact, there was an incident just yesterday.

Let me tell you about it. But first, turn on your speakers, because there are sound effects.

ADHD relationship dysfunction

Injured, Stranded, Heartbroken

Over our first years together, I had plenty of “evidence” to support this not-so-irrational belief. That is, I’d be on my own if I were ever to become sick or incapacitated. He might mean to be attentive but, you know, distraction and disorganization.

For example, I had foot surgery. The doc issued strict orders to keep my foot elevated and move as little as possible. My husband, who worked at home then, swore he would be a regular Nurse Nightingale—the 6’2″ and 230# version.

His tenure started post-surgery: He steered my wheelchair careening through the hospital hallways and into the elevator. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-style. Whee!

A little bit fun, yes. But I was holding on for dear life, praying he didn’t knock my foot into the elevator doorframe—or catapult me out of the chair entirely!

Once home, I saw he had dutifully set up my bedstead with a land-line phone and his cell phone. That way, I could be sure of reaching him upstairs in his office, on the other side of the house, should I need him. Great start.

When it came time to use it, though, the land-line phone had a dead battery. The “pay as you go” cell phone had no more “go”.

I lay there marooned for too many hours, him out of shouting distance. He didn’t think to come check on me, either. Once he gets absorbed in his work, he tends to stay there.  As a result, I felt helpless, hurt, duped, and frightened.

“ADHD relationship dysfunction” patterns might have been clear to me—if we’d truly understood ADHD.

ADHD relationship trust

Warning To Self: Never Trust Him Again

I made a mental note made to my subconscious: Be very careful in trusting him again with your welfare. No matter how much he professes to trust him. And seriously ask yourself, why do you remain married to him?

It was complicated.

Remember, this was early days in Adult ADHD awareness. We were on the “bleeding edge,” you might say. There were no books to guide us—especially none on ADHD relationship issues.

My first book, Is it You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? was only the third book available on Amazon about Adult ADHD, published in 2008. It broke new ground in detailing the importance of acknowledging the impact of ADHD on both partners and emphasizing the importance of teamwork with evidence-based treatment strategies.  This blog is the oldest continuing website of any kind of Adult ADHD, since 2008.

But we were dealing with ADHD in the mid-90s. Adult ADHD had been made an official diagnosis only in 1994. Most professionals had not yet received the memo.

Our attempts at couple therapy were so disastrous they motivated us to double-down on cooperation. Anything to avoid facing that again. Besides, we were paying good money to, by turns, entertain and horrify the therapist. My memory of their faces always features a dropped jaw.

Only one mental-health expert I found then acknowledged the potential impact of ADHD on the spouse. Fortunately, he was local to the Bay Area then: Daniel Amen, MD. Bless him.

In fact, happening upon his Change Your Brain, Change Your Life at the local library is how I first learned about Adult ADHD. I clung to Dr. Amen’s paragraphs of validation like a lifeline. Then I extended that lifeline to others in the ADHD Partner online group.  We were all feeling our way. On our own.

Gradually, our own “ADHD relationship dysfunction” improved. But it was often one step forward, three steps back. And I never knew when things would shift and I’d feel dropped on my head. Metaphorically.

Gina Pera

“Nurse NightinGoat” with Ice Cream—And Barbiturates

Several years  after the foot-surgery fiasco, I had another outpatient surgery.  Dr. Goat (my husband’s nickname) accompanied me to the appointment. As we left, I was still groggy. The doctor gave the instructions to him. Once home, I staggered to the bed and fell asleep.

A few hours later, I awakened to Nurse Nightingoat plying me with two Vicodin pills and a bowl of French Vanilla ice cream: “The doctor said every 2-4 hours. The ice cream will prevent nausea.”

Like clockwork, he showed up with the pills and the ice cream every four hours—or was it 2?  I don’t know. I was in a semi-stupor. Finally, I said, “Stop! You’ll turn me into poor Marilyn Monroe!”

He showed me diligence, compassion, and care.  I updated my fear scenario around being unable to rely upon him in an emergency. But I had not entirely forgotten. Survival instincts have memory.

ADHD Relationship Dysfunction: A Big Dip On the Coaster

Yesterday, I took a protracted, very ungraceful, and rather painful fall in the garage.

I tripped over a bicycle pedal and tried to avoid tripping over an air purifier.  In the process, I ricocheted myself in and on several directions and hard surfaces before finally landing with a thump on the raised kitchen doorstep.

It sounded like this:


My husband is working at home again these days, after 6 years of working in an office. He was right overhead (at least I thought so).

Surely he heard the cacophony. If not that, surely he couldn’t miss my whimpering and calling out to him. Something like this, though not quite as energetic:

Lying there in a crumpled heap, my mind ran through all the likely scenarios: He had heard the calamity but figured “She’s okay. She’s the self-sufficient type.” Or, worse, he heard it and didn’t want to interrupt his work. But damn, I might have actually broken something.

I finally got to my feet and limped Quasimodo-like back to my office, calling out as I went. I held out hope that he might actually be elsewhere in the house, out of earshot during and after my fall.  Then, I discovered. He was in the bathroom.  On the other side of the house. Shew. That explains it.

“What’s happening!?” he said.

“Goat!” I called, “I just had a bad fall!”

Through the closed door, I heard it: profound annoyance at being interrupted. A sigh something like this:

He, however, recalls his sigh more like this:


My worst fear triggered: He was annoyed that something bad had happened to me that required his help.  Is it starting to sound like I’m “in denial” of abusive behavior?  I get it. But hang on a minute.

loves me deep down?

Caring “Deep Down”? Exactly How Far Down?

It’s hardly my first encounter with this scenario.

In more than a decade of leading the ADHD partners support group, I’ve heard it too many times. That is,  an ADHD partner seems to view a partner’s temporary illness not with compassion but as an….inconvenience. Among the many potential ADHD relationship issues, this is one of the most hurtful.

Yes, I can explain the range of alternate explanations—for example, how ADHD neurobiology can interfere with even the most compassionate person’s ability to organize appropriate responses. ADHD relationship dysfunction issues present only one of the many sets of challenges that adults with ADHD face every day.

But we cannot ignore the fact: When you come against such from your intimate partner, it’s frightening. Your first response might be denial. You don’t want to believe that the person you fell in love with can be that cold, callous, or selfish.

You’ve heard that ADHD treatment can improve functioning. So, you hold out hope against all evidence.  You might tell yourself, “My partner cares about me deep down.”

The fact is, some intimate partners absolutely can be that cold, callous, or selfish—ADHD or not. If that’s the case, we better face it. Humans come with variable capacities, especially when it comes to higher-order brain functions such as empathy. There is nothing monolithic about ADHD, either.

The Gray Area of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction

How do we know, though, if it’s ADHD creating this undesirable response or something else?   Sorry, but there are no easy answers.

When we talk about the ADHD effect on marriage and relationships, we are talking a huge array of variable issues.  Not 10 easy tips and tricks. It’s for each person to assess and make the call.

We can get into real trouble, though, if we believe that with enough love and caring—and medication—a true sociopath can change. ADHD relationship strategies can go only so far in some cases.

The complicated truth, however, is this: Sometimes you know for sure what you are dealing with only after medical treatment for ADHD and any co-existing conditions, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression.

Yes, ADHD medication treatment often improves empathic functioning. To learn more, read ADHD, Empathy, and Dopamine.

Educate Yourself on ADHD—and Be Realistic

Granted, this is true for some; ADHD symptoms and poor coping strategies can stymie their ability to express or act upon what’s in their hearts. Psychoeducation is a must for both partners.

But we must be ready to tread the gray area.  There’s only one thing that the 10-30 millions of adults with ADHD in the U.S. alone have in common: variable aspects of this highly variable syndrome. Then there is the rest of “personality” and background.

We must consider the complicating co-existing conditions (e.g. conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, autistic-spectrum disorders, and more).

It’s easy to toss around “cookie-cutter” platitudes about people with ADHD. But, they don’t help anyone—and can do great harm. We must see people diagnosed with ADHD as individuals, not clones. The same is true for their partners.

So, I want to be very clear: With someone other than my husband, my story could have turned out very differently. The best decision might have been to leave.

There’s “we can work on this” relationship dysfunction. Then there is “impossibly toxic, destructive, and irreparable relationship dysfunction.” As you learn more about ADHD, especially the emotional baggage of late-diagnosis, you’ll be better equipped to know the difference.

ADHD relationship dysfunction

Beware the Professional Gaslighting

I feel I should mention an observation here: Many Adult ADHD specialists act very protectively toward their clients. I understand this. I feel the same way toward the folks in my local Adult ADHD group.

Unfortunately, this too often means that these specialists feel little empathy for the partners. That’s putting it mildly, I’m afraid.

In fact, some specialists view the partners/spouses more as annoyances—perhaps even the core of their client’s problems—more than ADHD itself. They want them to “get with the program” and throw all their support behind their ADHD partners. NOW.  They also imply — and so does a plethora of websites by non-experts claiming expertise — that they are responsible for the so-called parent-child dynamic. In short, they shame them.

It goes against all reason, against all of what they should understand about ADHD. But it’s there.  I sometimes get that reaction by proxy. Simply by talking or writing about our evidence-based model of ADHD couple therapy. Not from preeminent Adult ADHD experts, who fully grasp this, but more at the clinical level.

The truth is, some clinicians and certainly the non-experts online routinely “gaslight” the partners of adults with ADHD.  I’ve seen a marked difference in the last 5 years online. I could explain why, but I’ll leave that for another post!

“You must be more compassionate,” they say. “You must understand what your ADHD partner is struggling with.” No matter if that’s how they started out, 20 years ago, with them being understanding and helping. Now they are exhausted.

They need legitimate help, not platitudes. Moreover, their ADHD partners deserve better, too.

Gina Pera

Learning to Draw On Newer Memories

After almost 20 years together, I’m clear that there is a “deep down” kindness in my husband.

Too often in the past, poorly managed ADHD obscured or sabotaged his innate empathy. He’d fail my expectations—and his own. Instead of reacting with contrition, he’d react with anger.

Later, he could say, the anger was directed at himself (“I failed again!”). But that came as cold comfort to me,  caught in the cross-fire.

Happily, Things Are Different Now

That morning, as I limped to the back of the house, seeking solace, I decided to momentarily ignore my husband’s put-upon-sounding sigh. I put aside all the old painful patterns around it. Instead, I drew upon the more recent memory with Nurse NightinGoat and the reliable Vicodin/ice-cream routine.

With that memory in mind, I mentally stepped back and gave him a minute or so to “transition”—not to mention finish whatever he was doing in the bathroom. Something like this:

I flopped on the bed and finally said, “Hey, I hurt and I need some comfort.”  At that point, he hepped to—speedily fetching a selection of cold packs, sitting with me on the bed, petting my head, kissing my banged-up wrist, and saying, “Poor you.”

This was a much better outcome than we both might have experienced in years past. To wit:

  • I’d react with hurt and anger to his imposed-upon-sounding sigh, accuse him of being the most selfish man I ever knew—”and I was stupid enough to marry you!”—and storm out of the room feeling horrible about my marriage and plotting my escape.
  • He’d react by withdrawing to the safe confines of manipulating databases, feeling stunned that he screwed up again, that his intent so badly translated into actions, and, finally, in perhaps a subconscious effort at ego-protection “what the hell is wrong with her anyway?”

Will this strategy help your relationship? Are you learning how your challenges might be common ADHD relationship dysfunction patterns?

Will stepping back and allowing for your ADHD partner, now on board with treatment strategies, to have a moment’s transition help to heal past counter-productive patterns?

Will you be able to build enough new patterns,  enabling you to let go of some old ones?

I can’t promise it. But it might be worth a try.

Postscript: This morning I went to load the clothes into the washer. What did I find? An absolutely clear and wide path, free of bicycle, humidifier, and other flotsam and jetsam. Thank you, Dr. Goat!

We Hope Our Story Helps You

We both believe in sharing our story—and our lessons hard-won—so that other couples can better enjoy the ride on their own ADHD Roller Coaster. To help heal your ADHD relationship dysfunction, you might find these resources helpful:

Thank you for reading this long, but important, post. I’d love to hear your experiences in ADHD relationships.  

ALSO:  I am entirely self-funded, with no outside support of any kind, including pharmaceutical industry.

A version of this post appeared May 24, 2015

—Gina Pera

ADHD couple therapy training gina pera

116 thoughts on “Breaking Out of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction — After Not Breaking a Fall”

  1. Hi Gina,

    I’m so glad I came across this article, I really appreciate your work.
    My relationship with my boyfriend is incredibly similar to what you describe. I know he loves me and cares deeply for me, but since those feelings are so often disconnected from actions, I find myself asking myself how much it really matters. I hate feeling like I can’t trust him, I hate feeling like I have to be his therapist, and most of all, I hate feeling like he’s not really present a lot of the time. In those moments, I feel lonelier than I ever have during many years of being single.
    I’m especially disappointed by his unwillingness to get treatment. He was diagnosed as a child and he knows that his severe ADD is negatively impacting many areas of his life. I have told him about how it makes me feel, and he said explicitly that he is worried his ADD will prevent him from being a good husband for me, yet he has not taken any initiative to learn more about the disorder, find a therapist, or start a treatment. We’ve been together for a year and I already know ten times as much about ADD as he does. I have told him some of what I found out during my research, but he has expressed no interest in learning more. It doesn’t make sense to me.
    I thought that, with time, we could work on finding better coping strategies together. I thought that, if I create a safe, loving environment for him in our relationship, it would become easier for him to be present with me, and also to address his challenges. Now, since none of this has happened, I’m coming to terms with the fact that none of these behaviours are likely ever to change, and I find myself questioning whether I want to stay in the relationship. I love this man with all my heart, but I’m unwilling to stick to a relationship where I cannot feel like my partner is an equal to me and where I have to do the lion’s share of the work. It was incredibly validating to find similar sentiments expressed in your writing.

    1. Hi Neama,

      It’s an awful feeling, that your partner doesn’t feel trustworthy, isn’t present, etc..

      I would just wonder…are you sure that he “resists” evaluation/medication or do his ADHD symptoms mean he procrastinates, is overwhelmed, etc..

      When ADHD affects a relationship, in one or both partners, it truly must be a team effort.

      Check out this post:

      Now, I’m NOT saying, “With medication, everything will be great!”

      No, sometimes there are many poor coping responses and bad habits to overcome. But at least with medication, there’s a fighting chance.

      At the very least, even if you decide to leave the relationship, you’ll have helped this person you care about to potentially have a happier, healthier life.

      take care,

  2. I’m so glad I found your blog and have just ordered your first book. Though some of what I read is overwhelming. I began researching ADHD because a young man (“J”), my husband, and I have taken in like a son, was dating a girl who said she had ADHD and she needed her “drugs” to stay focused. Well, the girlfriend is gone but the research continued. All of the research I’ve done mirrored “J” to a T. But it also mirrored my husband “M” of 32 years. It was like a ray of light followed by a dark cloud. I’ve found a possible answer but the road ahead looks as bumpy as the road I’ve been on for 30+ years. Over the years I’ve taken on the smarter, parent role and I know that “M” feels bad about it. All the years of criticizing and shaming him make me so sad. I’ve shared my reading with him and he does see himself in much of it. And it’s made him feel better about himself. So now the work begins for us. Let me say that we have a very good relationship and we’ll continue to work on it till the end. Just a little (big ?), twist in the road for us. :>) Interestingly enough the person I did this deep research dive for is in deep denial and avoidance of the issues and us. “J” is 37 and wants so much more in life including a wife and family. He’s smart, funny, kind, and cute. But I see that his bad communication, and inattention to things that aren’t in his “interest lane” slam the door on real relationships. Friends see his lack of social skills as “oh that’s “J”, he’s funny, a little odd but nice” and keep their distance. My husband says he’s reliving his youth and not necessarily in a good way since the same things happened to him. I hope that “J” sees that acceptance of ADHD and meds and learning new coping skills can help him live the life he wants. In the meantime, “M” and I will continue our work and hopefully model change to “J”. This was a very long comment to thank you for your work on this site and to all of the commenters also. I can’t wait to get your book!

    1. Dear Susan,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me. I really appreciate it.

      Blogging is a slog! Hard work. Constantly dealing with Google’s changing algorithms that favor the highly commercial sites.

      I do it only so others will find this life-changing information.

      I wish the best to you and your husband. Read my book! Consider enrolling in my new courses — one provides a foundational education, and the next details how to optimize ADHD-related sleep issues and medication.

      After helping people through awareness, I got tired of seeing treatment (and even evaluation) stories crash on the rocks. Hence, the courses.

      If your relationship is strong now, it can be that much stronger — and happier. Less frustrating, for you both. But please know, we must be smart mental-health consumers. We just cannot rely on the average therapist or physician.

      Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle – Foundations

      As for J……it can be very tricky, reaching folks like J, as you describe him. Be sure to read my book’s three chapters on “Getting Past Denial.”

      take care,

  3. I’m in a relatively new relationship with my partner newly diagnosed with ADHD. I feel so wronged as we only moved in together 18 months ago and he hid all the signs from me. I’m so scared and lonely. He can be amazing but all the bad stuff is undoing the good and he doesn’t ever see it. I’m feeling anxious and sad most of the time and close friends have started to comment along with my grownup kids. I have no idea what to do. Our relationship was amazing and I was so smugly happy that I’d found “the one”. I just want to get back to being me without being Criticised and having someone constantly overreact over everything! He has all the self-help books and constantly cracks on about “not sweating the small stuff” and how he craves a “partnership” in a relationship. Well bugger me, there is NO partnership here and I’m friggin’ drowning. 🙁 🙁 :’(

    1. Hi Connie,

      Do you know that your partner purposely hid his ADHD-related challenges?

      It could happen, but it might be a wrong assumption.

      What do you mean by an “amazing relationship”? Sometimes the “thrill of the chase” is stimulating.

      Sometimes when a thing feels too good to be true, it is! 🙂

      But sometimes with treatment, the ADHD partner becomes more that person again.

      You say he’s newly diagnosed with ADHD. So, what is that meaning in terms of treatment?

      These are the questions you might be asking yourself.

      In the meantime, what can you do in terms of self-care?

      Having “all the self-help books”….might be a sign….of something. 🙂

      take care

    2. funny that I happened upon this article and comment so soon after it was published, still hot off the presses. Connie, what you said is 100% what I am also experiencing, but instead of 18 months, it’s closer to 3 years. Earlier on, it wasn’t as noticable because we weren’t living together or trying to be “life partners”. as things progressed, the arguments, overreacting and irresponsibility started showing. Most conversations devolve and any talk about ADHD is in context to why she shouldn’t be held accountable. She never acknowledges the elements of ADHD that affect the relationship. The whole internet says I’m supposed to just sacrifice myself to be supportive, while having none of my needs met. Quite a doozy I found myself in. It should also be noted that all the amatuer psychologisslts who write articles never say “this is how you make the distinction between a workable and unworkable situation”. Chronic irresponsibility is abuse, regardless if they have a note from their doctor. we don’t get into relationships so we can be subordinate to the other person’s disorder. So I’ll be the “mean person” that says, leaving is a fantastic option and we aren’t meant to be martyrs or saints. I’m still in my relationship and I would have left a year ago but in my situation, leaving will result in (temporary) homelessness. Over the last year, and definitely in the few months I’ve shifted to figuring out how to manage the homelessness and am making plans to leave. I find it hard to believe there is an positive prognosis in most relationships with ADHD and i think most people dislike being alone more than they dislike being in a terrible relationships.

    3. Hi Mike,

      Actually, I wrote the post several years ago. I just updated it today.

      (Appeasing the Google gods, in order that you might find such posts, involves a huge amount of work!)

      I agree with you….the Internet has been co-opted by amateurs peddling all kinds of ADHD snake oil. And many of them have PhDs and MDs!

      I am known for holding the line on nonsense.

      Absolutely it does NO ONE any good to “be more supportive, have no needs, etc.” It doesn’t help you, it doesn’t help your ADHD partner.

      It is easy blather from charlatans using SEO terms to improve their clickbait and make more money from Google ads! Or “coaching.” Or “seminars.”

      For many ADHD-challenged relationships, proper education and treatment can make a big difference. For others, there is just too much damage, too much need….sometimes the best we can do is save ourselves.

      take care of yourself!

  4. Hello! I’m grateful for the information you have presented. I am in an odd situation and have not found any information concerning it directly. I’m am 57 and my daughter who is a 34 and her 3 year old live with me. It was suggested to me by her therapist in April that she is likely suffering from ADHD. Since then I have spent a good amount of time researching it. There is more to say than I can possibly write but our biggest thing is I CANNOT say anything at all to her without it being flipped back at me “I know mom I’m just a failure” or “You only ever criticize me” I feel like she is gaslighting me constantly. Today it was so bad that I thought I might just have to leave the situation and let her face life on its own. But my concern is for Ezra. I pay for everything and my entire life revolves around taking care of Ezra, I love being around my grandson but I have zero time to take care of me. I’m exhausted and have no life. On top of that Saturday will be my last day employed as my remote position is being move to the office 5 states away and I can’t just leave her with no support. There are just so many issues. I need help just as much as she does.

    1. Dear Karen,

      thanks for your comment.

      You know, what you describe isn’t such an odd situation. It’s rather common, in fact.

      I’m not sure how what you describe is “gaslighting.” But I understand how bizarre and blaming it must seem.

      The thing is, when someone has poorly managed ADHD — undiagnosed well into her 30s — there is a lifetime of living through a distorted filter. Not knowing why she has the challenges she does. Not knowing why she’s always criticized. Not knowing how to do better. All kinds of things.

      Can you think back through her life since childhood and reframe through the ADHD lens? How some things were harder for her (and that probably made things harder for you, too)?

      You don’t mention….is your daughter open to an evaluation? People don’t suddenly change because they hear they might have ADHD. They still have the symptoms. :-). But they might not agree that ADHD is an issue for them. They might have poor insight to their challenges, also called “denial.”

      Sometimes, even suggesting “I think you have ADHD” feels like criticism. Because it hits all the “sore spots” that have been criticized for years.

      It’s so tricky, the complexity. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my first book. I suspect it will explain a lot. I would urge caution about “researching” on the Internet. There is a lot of garbage mixed in the legitimate info, and until you are really solid in your education, it can be tough to know which is which.

      Your best bet, I’d guess, is really focusing on education and trying to help her to an evaluation. If not for her or your sake for her son’s.

      good luck,

  5. Hi! My marriage is defined by the parent child dynamic. He hates it, I hate it, but if he cant function without being told, reminded, prompted and held accountable, then he cant follow through.

    I have to remind him to set the reminders or write the list and even then, the task is always unfinished or done half assed to where I then must do something.

    He feels like a failure and I feel like the mom that has to hold it all together. I am exhausted and want a husband that is capable and reliable. That adults with me. That I dont have to find ways to get him to do normal household things like, mow the lawn, fix the sink or call a plumber, or change my flat tire or pay the electric bill on time.

    Then there’s interrupting conversations and being impulsive — which creates more things for me to navigate!!! No diagnosis, no meds, tried couples therapy and he’s the victim. I’m hard to please. I expect too much. I am too critical.

    But I really am capable of handling all the things and just expect a partnership. That’s it. Not another son (we have 6 kids between us) that I have to tell to shave his face!! He’s 46 and we fight about me telling him to shave to look professional at work and look nice for me!!!

    If I speak calm and sweet, I’m told I am belittling. If I am assertive and direct, I am harsh and controlling.. if he could just do the things without any hiccups or me having to prompt, I wouldn’t have crap to say right?! Every. Single. Day. I am disappointed and let down and then have some extra thing to do because he didn’t. He’s sorry. He didn’t do it intentionally.

    At what point is not doing some action intentionally to follow through not intentionally hurting me?!!! He’s the victim with a mean wife and I’m the only capable adult that consistently shows up and handles everything for our 6 kids and 2 grandkids and 2 dogs.

    Oh and I work full time and I HAVE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS!! I am tired. I have regular weekly therapy where even my therapist says that i have therapy just to vent about my husbands lack of effort, emotional maturity, self awareness and continuous disregard for how his ADD and fractured executive functioning affect me and the family. It’s going to therapy to try to manage a grown man. To get him to do the things.

    She literally asked me if I think she can make me ok with living this way and then everything would be fine! He has to do work on himself or it will always remain the same because no matter what I do, it is literally just me doing and that is not a team. He can’t remember or focus to read the several books given or to do the homework given and feels like I wont just love and accept him how he is.

    Seriously? Why should I accept this unfair work load and forced stress that impacts my MS which forces me to find ways to overcome MS challenges more so to be able to work harder to maintain our family and home?! Because he wont put the same effort into managing himself?! Ugh. Sorry, that was a lot to unpack.

    Nobody I know gets it. They have no idea. I wish someone would just look at him and say “hey, you’re killing your wife and ya need to figure your crap out to be able to life and understand that her MS is getting worse, she can’t mom you forever, nor should she have to!” Leaving is an option, but he swears he loves his wife and he’s trying and he’s sorry, then continues to do this when he doesn’t like the result? Why risk losing the woman ya love? Why continue to feel awful and not want to problem solve?

    Your article resonated so deep in my soul, to my core. You get it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Dear Melissa,

      I appreciate your letting me know that this blog post resonated for you. It and the rest of my work resonates for many people (thank goodness).

      I’ve been in the trenches myself. And, I am intimately familiar with literally thousands of other folks’ battles on the same theme.

      I know this territory extremely well, more than most authors, bloggers, and even other ADHD experts that you will encounter.

      You are in a seriously unsustainable situation. But you knew that.

      People in your situation tend to get stuck. As if in a trance.

      They are exhausting themselves in order to compensate for their partner’s poorly managed ADHD symptoms.

      They are trying to make sense of it on the fly. They are trying to keep a lid on their intense feelings of resentment, frustration, and anger — even as they are spinning untold number of family plates.

      You have a diagnosis that, as I understand it, is worsened by stress. (As most conditions are!). You absolutely must take care of yourself.

      The best thing you can do in that regard is getting educated in what you are up against — and how best to help your partner to “see the light” about ADHD.

      Please read or listen to my first book. Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

      To fast-track your process, consider joining my online program — Course 1 (Foundations) is available now, and Course 2 (Sleep & Medication) will be out soon.

      Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle

      Please avoid one common stumbling block — that is, folks who refuse to learn about ADHD unless their (potentially ADHD) partner does it with them. Or, worse, expects their partner to take the first step and manage it on their own.

      That is a sure-fire method of failing.

      Learn about it first. Let your emotions settle about how life could have been different to this point, if only you’d known earlier, if only he’d pursued treatment.

      Get your ducks in a row. Then approach your husband.

      Take care of yourself!!! (And I mean it 🙂 )


      P.S. In a survey I conducted years ago (among the partners of adults with ADHD), I asked respondents about expectations of/satisfaction with therapy. For themselves or their ADHD partners — or couple therapy.

      Most agreed that therapy regarding untreated ADHD was mostly guaranteed to go nowhere. Most were disappointed that the therapist had nothing to offer — in the way of “getting through” to their ADHD partners.

      This is just one of the many serious problems with general therapy.

    2. I am in the same position as you. I shattered my knee because of his ADHD and not completing his project. I can’t work , I’m literally hanging on by a thread. And if I say anything he runs and hides and tells everyone how horrible I am. I think if I hear “I can’t handle conflict” one more time ( even though he’s the one who creates it, I just get to clean up the mess) I’m gonna scream. I’ve lost myself in his problem. I’ve even started having panic attacks. If you knew me , you would know this is so not something you would ever think would happen to me. I’m tired of being the only adult in the house. I really feel for you.

  6. Hi again,
    I was wondering how everyone that is non ADHD deals with the lying and the blame from the ADHD partner? I’m really struggling with this.

    1. Hi there,

      Yes, unfortunately, many people deal with that kind of dysfunctional behavior.

      You can learn in depth about how this happens — and what might cause it — in my book:

      Other of my blog posts touch on this from different angles.

      I hope this helps

      Take care,

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