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
    This is so helpful as my marriage is quickly unraveling. I’ve only recently considered that a good portion of our challenges are caused by undiagnosed ADHD. Unfortunately while these scenarios are exactly what we experience he’s uninterested in considering that this could be a basis for our problems.

    He remains angry at me (almost always), spins scenarios and words often and rarely owns up to his part of a situation. I often feel like I’m crazy with so many inconsistencies and constant navigating of either the mine field of his emotions or the newest version of a scenario. He’s largely not interested in counseling or any consistent help.

    I feel lost. I love him but our relationship is largely unhealthy. He’s in the church circles and does well managing all of this outwardly.. only within the home does this often come into play .. making it hard to seek support as everyone knows him as the funny godly guy.

    Would love to hear your thoughts..

    1. Hi MF,

      I appreciate your situation — he’s the “funny Godly guy” while you are the little bag of frowns. 🙂

      You are not alone. This is all too common a phenomenon.

      Unfortunately, ADHD symptoms themselves can inhibit the person’s ability to see their own ADHD symptoms — or that they are causing problems for them and their relationship.

      So, it is rare for the spouse to say, “Hey, I figured it out — ADHD!” and the potential-ADHD spouse to say, “Great! Where do I sign up?”

      It’s not fair. But many times it is up to the “partner of” to be the first to self-educate. The more you become educated and the more you validate your perceptions, the more clear you will be about the extent to which ADHD is interfering with your marriage and your husband’s life.

      I wrote my book for people like you….who need a comprehensive course in Adult ADHD, including its potential effects on the partners and the range of evidence-based strategies. Including “getting through denial.”

      I encourage you to read or listen to it. Getting validation for your perception might help you to care less what “everybody else” thinks — and to know that being in this “largely unhealthy” relationship” is not how you want to spend the rest of your life.

      Please take care of yourself and invite the “church circle” people to spend a week at your house, with your husband in charge of everything. See what happens. 🙂


    2. Hi MF,
      I have been married to a man with ADHD for 44 years. All along he has and still tries to make everything harmful that he does, my or someone else’s fault. He seems mortified by accountability. We did lots of therapy. He gave constant promises and lip service but in the end he said he felt phoney if he had to try and work on some of his behaviour issues and find new ways of communicating or working with his problems. He said he is who he is and should just accept it. (Lying repeatedly, drinking too much, cheating while travelling, being clued out and “not bothering” (his words) when he needed to care in important situations, gaslighting, back stabbing, coming on to my women friends and trying to gossip about me, being an unengaged parent so I needed to do it all.) I could go on and I have left out the worst of it.
      Has it been worth it? I can’t believe I believed for so long that it could have been worth it, if he had truly wanted to work on his issues, perhaps get meds, but he didn’t and doesn’t . He is an expert at eliciting sympathy from those who don’t know what he is like at home and this seems to be enough for him. If I was giving advice to my younger self, I would say “Go! and don’t look back.”
      I have accomplished things in my life in spite of the sabotage and chaos from his mind, actions and inaction, but I feel I have wasted at least half of my adult life dealing with his dysfunctional issues. If the person with ADHD does not do the work and realize the harm they cause, it will only get worse. Sorry to say this, but after all these years of patience, responsibility taking, loving and proactive work on myself, nothing has changed because he doesn’t want to and that has made it impossible. We now live in separate parts of the house and if I can figure out how to leave financially I will, ( I’m 67) to have a decade or two of peace would be great.

  2. Hi Gina, thank you so much for your book. It’s definitely in my library. My husband and I have been coping poorly with his ADHD and addiction(s) for 7 years; and just finally found respectable help for the past year.

    Through my research, I realized I was coping by trying to “control” him – aka co-dependent behaviors – in a misguided attempt to feel safe. When in reality self-care made me feel safer. Further learning taught me to stay in my own “hula hoop” (S.M.A.R.T) – his decisions, behaviors, etc are his responsibility; and my decisions, behaviors, etc are mine – and get out, and stay out, of his hula hoop. (e.g. am I doing something for him that he CAN & SHOULD be doing for himself?) Which I do all right with for the most part.

    However, the times where I start to lose it is,

    1) we are caregivers for my parents, and he occasionally makes decisions that put my family’s safety at risk.

    Take last night as an example: he stays up late in their house to watch TV and when he comes back to our fifth wheel to sleep, he forgets to close the garage.

    As he comes in, and in my half asleep state, I’m thinking “get up and check the garage.” I fell back asleep and woke up around 1:00am to find the garage open. I’ve used the “I feel” statements to handle that in the past. But the high alert I feel I need to be in to protect my family is exhausting.

    2) I finally moved back into my parents’ office instead of their kitchen – I was keeping an eye on my mom; but couldn’t get any work done in there. I just set it up Tuesday, my husband is in there last night and uses up the toner printing an inordinate amount and then says “That’s not even what I wanted.” (Ummm… Couldn’t you look at the screen to determine that BEFORE you hit print? )

    So before I can work, I now need toner (probably paper, too) and for him to clean up his mess. I plan on asking him to do both. Which should be fun, because he hasn’t been working (unless you call building forts and training dinosaurs, work ), and has maxed out his credit cards.

    But just like he finds a way to buy two brand new pairs of British Knights, I know he will find a way to buy me toner.

    Why am I telling you all this? Venting, maybe? I can usually sit back and not let his maxing out credit cards, for example, affect me cuz it doesn’t impact me as much – cuz I’m not going to pay that balance for him; that’s his responsibility.

    But when his decisions impact me, like my job, and disrespect my space & belongings, and doesn’t protect my family, the hairs go up. I guess I just need to set boundaries…

    Again. If after reading this, you see anything I can work on or try differently, please let me know. Thank you, Gina!

    1. Hi Danielle,

      I understand the inclination to address our own “codependent” behaviors rather than trying to change our ADHD partner’s problematic behaviors. Especially when ADHD is neither diagnosed or properly treated.

      This inclination is reinforced by many in the mental-health field. But it’s a problem, and I made sure to address the problem in my book. So, definitely look for the pages about Codependence.

      The thing is, trying to mind your own responsibilities and let him manage is…..typically catches up with us. It’s a very tenuous partnership, never knowing when you will really need your ADHD partner to cooperate.

      So, I never advise that as a long-term solution.

      Also, check the passage in my book about “setting boundaries.” It’s one thing to set boundaries. It’s another thing for our ADHD partners to remember and be able to respect those boundaries.

      It’s another “therapy trope” that typically works against us when it comes to dealing with ADHD.

      Venting is important. Keep reading and learning!

      Thanks for writing.

    2. Hi Danielle,
      Please read my reply to MH. I spent 30 years working on myself, learning to accept, staying in my own lane etc. but as you said, if your loved ones are at risk, your credit score, your belongings are not respected, you can’t always stay in your lane when he is ripping into yours. If he hasn’t made any progress within a couple of years of diagnosis and uses adhd as an excuse, I would say maybe cut your losses. I feel I wasted so much of my adult life dealing with someone who refused to face their problems and tried repeatedly to make their problems mine. No more.

  3. Any advice for severe RSD? I can generally handle my husband’s ADD symptoms (he’s an inattentive type), but where I am really struggling is the RSD symptoms. He gets so “in his feelings” as I categorize it, that he becomes immobile for hours on end. This morning what set him off was “would you mind cleaning the bathroom today?” To him this was a personal attack of me asserting he should have both known it needed to be done and me criticizing him for it. I, obviously, didn’t intend it that way. But now, the bathroom isn’t cleaned and while I’m trying to work full time and manage our kids, he is laying in bed all day furiously scribbling notes likely about how overbearing I am to discuss with his therapist. I just don’t know how to even talk to him at this point without getting yelled at and then without consenting, getting stuck with all our shared responsibilities until he can self soothe enough to participate in our life. It is starting to interfere with me doing my job, which I am the only one employed right now. I am exhausted!

    1. Hi Leah,

      Unfortunately, a for-profit magazine has acted very irresponsibly in its highly circulated information on “RSD.”

      The phenomenon is more complicated, and it bears almost no relation to the parameters that the MD writing about it claims—much less the treatments.

      You say that you can “generally handle” your husband’s ADHD symptoms, but what you are describing ARE ADHD symptoms. (By the way, there is no ADD anymore. There is only ADHD with three presentations: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined. Most adults are combined and often misdiagnosed as inattentive.)

      Please read my first book to learn more about emotional dysregulation and other ADHD symptoms — along with the evidence-based treatment strategies.

      His therapist seems to know nothing about ADHD.

      This probably isn’t about you. It’s about his untreated ADHD symptoms.

      I’m thinking no one needs this especially now during these stressful COVID times. Everyone needs to be operating on all eight cylinders!

      Please take care of yourself and know that this isn’t something that either of you have to live with.


  4. We really couldn’t get anyone with ADHD treated if they themselves won’t let us help them. Hard thing to do I guess even if how much we wanted them to cope up.

    1. Hi Amber,

      Unfortunately, that is too often true.

      Yet, the loved ones of these “in denial” adults with ADHD often have more influence than they think they do.

      But the approach must be strategic. I write about “getting through denial” extensively in my first book.


  5. I am married to my love 20 years, 4 children
    Career 15 years law enforcement, 25 years military and currently LCSW rural Nevada
    diagnosed 4 time ADHD, have pre-occupied/disorganized attachment; my wife is more dismissive/disorganized
    She has said recently, she knows I am an emotional abuser, she is done with me, because I will never change. I have effectively destroyed all trust she has. She is unwilling to read ANY resource I present. She believes she is well regulated and I am the one to change.
    Being a therapist I have much information to show WHAT we could do different/better, yet she is unwilling to pursue.
    She is committed to staying married and raising our children together, basically roommate. She wont even let me see her (4weeks and counting) she changes in the other room. Affection is tolerated when I touch, but only allowed to a very small way.
    She feels that we individually work and
    we don’t need “them”
    I feel like I’m floundering.
    My bride doesn’t see the importance of making our marriage priority.
    She tells me most of everything is me and the ADHD. I try to explain that either way me or her we are in the proverbial Fox Hole together and we need to work together… My wife expressed I need to make the changes
    How? Especially when I get “punished” from long history of things “I have no hope it will be different….”
    She feels no need for affection or intimacies until friendship, yet expects the friendship to be like she had with friends outside of our relationship…. girlfriends or affiliates in church callings etc
    I know a bit long but felt to give a bit of set up
    I adore my lady, and recognize I have beyond fare share of flaws. I would like my life learning companion to turn toward and do US/WE together
    I feel she is avoidant tendencies or disorganized and I preoccupied
    ANY guidance would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Curious about RSD/post sex irritability

  6. OMG Gina, thank you, thank you so much. Even for the sound effects…lol. Describes my life with my spouse to a T!!!! I am so glad I found your online articles. I pray my spouse gets the tests done and gets treatment.

    1. Hi Christina,

      I’m happy that this post resonated for you. Even the sound effects. haha.

      I’d never knock prayer, but there are active things you can do to help your husband leaves behind “denial” and starts taking his ADHD (if that’s what he has!) seriously.

      Read my book’s three chapters on ADHD & Denial.


  7. This information is so so helpful! My husband is not “hyper ” but must have ADD…. I discovered your book on adult ADD in trying to help my 12 yo son. I am worn out from 25 years of marriage and 6 kids, one w ADHD and one w Downs. My husband is recovering from years of bad sex addiction. He is doing well and happier than he ever was. But my being “invisible ” for so many years and being neglected, has taken its toll. How do I really forgive and live a good life now that he is doing better?

    1. Dear Lori,

      As the youngest of seven children, I know full well the kind of work you have been doing. And with one child having ADHD and the other Downs, with all the special assistance both conditions require…I can’t imagine.

      If your husband is doing better now, it’s time for him to step up and do all he can do make your life easier and happier. Unfortunately, this might not come about unless you take the lead.

      The last chapter in my first book (Is It You….) details some couple strategies. And my latest book, with psychologist Arthur Robin, details more elaborate strategies for ADHD-challenged couples. The book is targeted to couple therapists, so they can learn how to help these clients, but it is written so that the clients themselves can benefit.

      Good luck to you!


    2. Hi Duff,

      Thanks, I am very familiar with narcissism.

      I would not call it, however, a “heavy pathology from childhood.”

      I would call narcissism a “bucket diagnosis” that until recent times has described a wide variety of behaviors but hasn’t explained their genesis, other than the usual speculation about “childhood” and “blame the mother.” 🙂

      As we learn more about the various types of empathy and their underpinnings in the brain, we learn that this is a very complex subject. There are no one-size fits-all answers.

      I’ve written a few posts on empathy and dopamine-transmission — and one post in particular about a friend who feared she was “raising a narcissist” until her child was finally diagnosed and treated for ADHD.

      Thanks for your comment,

  8. This is a great story with a ending that is unfortunately uncommon from my experience. It is very true about counselors gaslighting. In my experience, I truly was convinced that my spouse did love me but didn’t know how to show it. I felt that she was self centered and icy at times, but I continued to feel frustrated in our loveless marriage. After 7 1/2 years, and opening a business together, my spouse left town to care for her mother and refused to return. She abandoned our business, left all the household bills for me, and started a new life without a single explanation. I have been blamed for every problem we had in our marriage, and for the duration of separation she has threatened me, verbally abused me, and still denies that she ever left in the first place. I feel like I’ve stepped into a universe where reality has no baring. She detached from our friends, our neighbors, all responsibilities, and refuses to acknowledge any of these actions. I have been existing in great distress and trauma. Even as I try to file for divorce, it is difficult to accept that my spouse is someone I really never knew.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Yes, this story’s ending is uncommon.

      Your story can have whatever ending you like. Perhaps your wife did you a favor by leaving. She made it very clear.

      I definitely appreciate the bewilderment you must be feeling.

      We somehow don’t imagine that “normal” people can behave in such aberrant ways. We expect that the signs would be more clear, and if we didn’t see the signs, something is wrong with us.

      But now you understand more about the vagaries of the human brain, how there can be a mish-mash of impulses, and sometimes the incredibly selfish ones win out. You probably did know a part of your wife, but another part won out in the end. Perhaps as responsibilities overwhelmed her and life wasn’t as “fun” anymore.

      I wish you luck going forward. If it’s any consolation, I hear from many folks like you who have gone on to have very happy relationships. They say, “I didn’t know it could be this easy.”


  9. Pingback: ADHD and Relationships: 3 Simple Strategies - ADHD Roller Coaster with Gina Pera

  10. Gina, In reference to this….

    ..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…..”

    I never understood on any level why ADHD hubby would put things right in the way of where people walk!! I’ve tripped and bashed my toes many times on crap laying around or had to move something out of the way to squeeze through.
    The answer is….they need their OWN large room!!!
    (as one poster said).

    And be hyper vigilant about
    “Crap Creeping” into the rest of the house!
    Yes…. I peek in there once in a while to see him happy in a tangle of computers, instruments, amplifiers and WIRES strung everywhere like Spider on LSD.

    I chuckle and close the door, ahhhh the peace of an orderly home!

    Save your sanity and beware of the
    Crap Creep!


    1. Hi Joy,

      Crap creep! 🙂

      I’m afraid I’m the one more likely to be guilty of that in our house.

      I’m a bit of a pack rat, with regular purges.

      My husband calls me a bi-phasic pack rat. 😉


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