Unidentified ADHD Probably Ended My Marriage

Comments 75

Okay. How do I explain this so people can understand?

Favor request: Please set aside any preconceived notions, biases or opinions you have about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD. Less than a year ago, I thought it was a bullshit, totally made-up thing drug companies used to sell pills to kids who were just being kids, or undisciplined, irresponsible adults who didn’t want to grow up.

But then I was introduced to other explanations.

For this post, maybe imagine that “ADHD” is a generic umbrella label to describe common behaviors you may believe to be nothing more than immaturity.

Is that too boring of an intro? Should I maybe just write about how I experience life? Probably. But I’m out of time. Dammit.

I write about marriage and relationships a lot because my parents divorced when I was little and I got a divorce a few years ago and it was all very bad for me. Because of how bad it was, I’ve worked almost as hard as someone like me can to figure out why it happened, because I never want to go through it again.

I look around and see things that should be better than they are: the political process and how elected officials conduct themselves (I’m American); our public education system; the insane economics of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries; silly rules at my job, or the inefficiencies I run into unexpectedly just living daily life. You know the ones I’m talking about. Like when a company screws you over with crap service or an accounting error, and then when you call their customer service line, you have to give your full name, phone number, and account number to the automated system only to have the person who picks up following 35 minutes of ‘80s-pop-song elevator music ask for your full name, phone number, and account number a second time.

“Why don’t you already know this, Call Center Person!?” God.

In many industries, there are accepted “best practices.” After trying something a kazillion different ways, the people with the most knowledge and experience conducting a particular process or task compared notes and settled on a mostly universal “best way” of doing whatever they’re doing.

Because there are—forgive the expression—multiple ways to skin a cat, there are sometimes many very good ways to do something, which is great. All good ways are probably good.

I feel like with today’s technology and global mobility, we should be able to easily figure out what those good or best ways are.

Take the United States for example. Our biggest and most-debated problems are what? National security. Government debt. Illegal immigration. Public education (including the insane and financially unworthy cost of higher education). Health care. Environmental policy. And all the social issues people scream about.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at national security.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at managing finances.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at handling immigration, or the education system, or achieving high citizen satisfaction in (insert thing you care about here).

And at the risk of oversimplifying complex issues, I’m always dumbfounded by the deliberate choice people or organizations make to NOT do things in a way proven to be successful. Why not just round up the five leading experts on any given subject, or study the five most successful governments or organizations at whatever problem you’re trying to solve, and model solutions after them? I don’t get it.

Good God. Look how long this ranty tangent was! Over 350 words! Just so I could make a silly point about marital best practices which wasn’t even the main reason I’m writing this! People sometimes complain that I write too much. Maybe this will help them understand why. No. They probably stopped reading already, or ignored this altogether. I wonder if the people who called me fat, boring and pathetic this morning are reading. They probably still think I’m boring and pathetic. Fine. But, fat? I only weigh 173 pounds fully dressed with stuff in my pockets. I wanted to tell them, too, because: Screw those bastards, but then even more people would see how defensive I am. Which is what’s happening right now. Dammit.

There is a “best way” to behave in marriage. Just like there’s a best way to manufacture corrugated polyethylene highway drainage pipe, and a best way to design emergency stairwells in high-rise buildings, and a best way to prepare and bake angel food cake.

There is—taking into account the differing needs of our partners, children, and lifestyle—an optimum way to treat those we love, and give our relationships the best chance for success. Best practices for dating and marriage, if you will.

I think it’s worthwhile to try to figure out what those best practices are. That’s why I write about this stuff all the time. I don’t know anything, so I try to write in the first-person to make it clear that I KNOW I don’t know anything.

I just think things.

And I’m mega-ADHD! Are they getting this? I can’t believe how long this is getting. That’s what she said.

Because I write a lot about relationships, people sometimes ask me questions I don’t have answers for. I created the Ask Me Stuff page because I thought it might be a cool way to interact with readers and generate good writing topics, not because I actually know enough about anything to help people. But still, people ask me stuff. One frequently asked question in comments and emails following the new and unexpected attention this blog received from a recent popular post focused on to what extent I thought my ADHD behavior contributed to my divorce.

I didn’t even know enough to ask that question before last spring when I was diagnosed.

The most honest answer I can think of is: No matter how real ADHD is, I exhibit a series of specific behaviors consistent with the ADHD diagnosis which I believe not only doomed my marriage, but also damages many of my other relationships. I tend to have great relationships with people I see regularly, people who love me unconditionally, people who exhibit patience and don’t take personally my erratic and infrequent communication, and everyone who totally relates because they’re the exact same way.

Everyone else gets inconsistent attention from me, and that sometimes causes friction and hurt feelings for some people, and sometimes that ends with me never talking to them again, which isn’t ideal.

I think if my wife and I had more knowledge about, and respect for, ADHD (along with everything I’ve learned about relationship dynamics in the past four years), I’m pretty sure our marriage would have survived, and maybe thrived, with fewer fights and headaches.

We’re 1,000 words in, and I haven’t done what I set out to do. Maybe some of the people who don’t think I’m fat and pathetic and boring will keep reading. Do I really look THAT fat in the photo? Maybe I should have a new one taken. I totally should. Maybe I’ll look skinnier. Probably not. Dammit.

Does Your Partner Have ADHD?

Here are some things that have always been true about me, and because I didn’t know there was another way to experience life, I never wondered whether it was weird that these things happened.

Through the prism of hindsight, I remember all these little moments where my wife must have thought I was a stupid moron, but since she can tell by things I say and think that I’m sometimes smart, certain ADHD moments must have felt to her like I was doing them intentionally, or at best, mindlessly as if I didn’t respect her. You know—like leaving a glass by the sink, or forgetting about some event on the calendar she had mentioned three times, or putting off a home-improvement project she wanted me to do or help with.

You can be talking directly to me and I can be paying attention to you, and then you’ll see my eyes sometimes wander off because something you said triggered another thought, OR something weighing heavily on my mind overpowered your story for a second and I accidentally thought about it instead. She used to say: “Please look at me, and not through me.”

I, along with most people with an ADHD diagnosis, have a superpower. We can sometimes “hyperfocus.” It happens a lot when I’m writing. It happens when I’m meeting a girl for the first time. It happens when I’m reading a good book or article. It happens when I feel particularly motivated to finish a project or am up against a deadline. And because we can demonstrate competence, attention to detail, and the ability to complete complex tasks successfully, it must appear to some during other times as if we are bored, disengaged, thoughtless, stupid, high, mean, or neglectful. Maybe even some other bad things. Sometimes I’m awesome at stuff. And sometimes, I feel overwhelmed in ways hard to describe.

But I wanted to try (and totally failed) in this post! I guess I’ll try again Monday. Maybe if I can accurately capture how I experience a day, or an event, or life management tasks, something will make sense to someone.

I’m sometimes awesome at idea generation but bad at execution.

I misplace things.

I sometimes forget a portion of a set of instructions, making something harder than it needs to be, or failing altogether.

I often avoid things requiring sustained mental effort (long conversations I am not motivated to have, reading and answering email, making phone calls for personal or professional reasons that will take a lot of time, including my parents and other family).

I talk a lot.

And the most interesting (to me): I have trouble estimating how long something will take. I struggle with time perception. People with ADHD often do not develop the ability to accurately gauge the passage of time. Like, moving from task to task at an appropriate speed when getting ready for work or my son ready for school. Or mapping out a future schedule where I block out time necessary to accomplish something (like writing a book). Or remembering to make restaurant reservations or doctor appointments with sufficient time clearance.

I read one neurologist say: “To an ADHDer, there are only two types of time: NOW or NOT NOW.” And yeah, that sounds about right. I procrastinate in ways I imagine most people could never believe or understand. (My navity set is still out from the holidays, and just this morning I found some unopened Christmas cards in a stack of mail in my kitchen. Seriously.)

Maybe it’s the way my brain naturally works. Maybe it’s just a lifetime of bad habit formation. I won’t pretend to know.

But ADHD behavior is commonly interpreted by people who don’t understand as self-centered and/or narcissistic.

And it makes sense to me why spouses dealing with those behaviors without information they need to manage it effectively can find their lives and relationships spiraling out of control and ending in painful, messy failure.

In my experience, having an explanation or reason for why things are a certain way can make all the difference in the world in my ability to deal emotionally or psychologically with things that suck. Maybe if ADHD is affecting you or your relationship, and then you connected those dots, you’d feel better and maybe as if you now have some control and the power to make things better.

They say knowledge is power. So, if any of this makes sense to you? Get powerful.

75 thoughts on “Unidentified ADHD Probably Ended My Marriage”

  1. I had often wondered if my ex struggled with ADD or ADHD, but he would get so defensive and angry about anything that he interpreted as criticism we were never able to explore that. Finding ways to talk about things like this without taking it personally, or without making it an attack on your partner can be hard.

    I wish I understood that moment of transition when you are in a relationship and stop acting as a team facing the world together, and end up circling each other as you prepare for a rumble. I know there were abuse issues in my marriage, and that there were some signs and difficulties from the very beginning. But early on, even though it started out hard, there was still that feeling of facing troubles together. Maybe if we’d been able to hold onto that, our marriage might have turned another, healthier, direction.

    Just some random thoughts provoked by your post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. My ex behaved the exact way you described. Any comments from me that were less than perfect resulted in a major fight and defensiveness. Ultimately, he blamed me for every bad reaction he had towards me, name calling and zero affection. We were far from being a team but I held on to the hope of reconnecting and remembering why we fell in love. Such a painful relationship…

  2. Your description would also be consistent with ASD – something that can make relationships extremely challenging – I don’t know you and obviously am not able to diagnose you but there are considerable overlaps between add and asd – have you ever considered this as a possibility?

      1. From my understanding there can be plenty of overlap of symptoms – and those that he’s posted in this article could potentially fit both syndromes. I have a couple of children on the spectrum and am in a long term relationship with a partner with high functioning autism and so much of this rings a bell – in terms of the intermittent communication, the struggles to maintain focus, the apparent lack of concern.

        Do you think Matt that if you were aware of your ADHD when you were married that you’d have been able to – or even wanted to moderate the behaviours that your wife found difficult?

        1. Of course! Awareness is EVERYTHING. It’s damn hard getting wheelchair bound people in and out of cars safely and efficiently, but if you install wheelchair ramps, or van loaders, things become much more manageable.

          Some people with Tourette’s Syndrome shout vile insults at people. And if you didn’t know they had Tourette’s you’d think they were awful and you’d never want to be around them. It’s easier to work with things, when you know what you’re dealing with, and you put a smart plan in place to do so.

          My ex-wife is a phenomenal organizer and task manager. She’s very good at event planning, and seeing everything that needs done, and making sure they get done by doing it herself, or through delegating responsibility.

          So instead of telling me something once, and then getting pissed when I didn’t remember later, maybe she’d KNOW not to do that, and we’d develop a more-efficient calendar system or way to tackle task lists or note taking or whatever.

          I believe most marriages end by two people accidentally hurting one another through miscommunication and differing emotional responses that make empathizing really difficult.

          Add an undiagnosed brain thing to the equation? One that exacerbates so many of the problems couples are already having?

          Goodness. One might say it’s surprising we made it nine years.

          I’m a fairly capable guy. But I have attention issues and I don’t think it’s from a lack of trying. And I have organization and memory issues that make me seem infinitely more incompetent than I do when tasked with things I’m skilled at.

          One of the things I’m skilled at is giving a shit about marriage and people I love.

          Having a clearer understanding of both myself, and my relationship WHILE it was happening, would have done wonders.

          Isn’t that true for everyone? “If I’d only known then what I know now?”

          Our wisdom grows simply by staying alive long enough. Frankly, it’s the only part of aging I like.

          1. Yes – I think awareness is key – on both sides and without it a relationship must be pretty much doomed. I have struggled however with the incredible difference in needs – my partner wants to do things to help our relationship and I want to accept him as he is – but somewhere in the midst of this there are neurological differences which are incredibly difficult to navigate for both of us.
            I suppose I’m saying that for us, quite often awareness and willingness to try are not enough and that some of the behaviours that I find difficult to tolerate and which come across as disrespectful to me are incredibly difficult for him to change.
            When he was diagnosed (with ASD and ADD) I thought this would be the answer to our difficulties and the bridge to resolve issues between us – and to some extent it has helped. But there are some things that – despite awareness – are so very difficult to change.
            Thank you for this post – and your reply to my comment. I was especially touched by you saying that many of your past friendships or relationships have ended with the two of you giving up on communication all together – I can empathise with that.
            Our wisdom does grow with age – and I like that too – as does our resilience and – I hope – our self belief. I’m trying to think of the other parts of ageing that aren’t too bad:

            I am far less self concious – that’s cool

            More confident

            Less concerned about what others think

            I am sure there are more…..

          2. DANA A MCDONALD

            This hits home. I wasn’t diagnosed as ADHD until I was in my early 50’s. I’m pretty sure 2 of my 3 siblings and my dad had it, so it just seemed ‘normal’ in my family. I’m not sure how much it contributed to the end of my marriage, but it complicates my life in many ways. Medication definitely helps, but I wish I’d known sooner.

  3. I am the wife with an ADHD husband who was diagnosed only 6 years ago. It explained a lot at the time but it’s really difficult at times.
    I read a lot about this and get support from a blog by Melissa Orlov – ADHD and marriage. Scary, discouraging at times but often helpful.

    1. Great blog! Also read Is It You, ME or Adult ADHD by Gina Pera! Matt – you should read that too!! I think you might have it already… (;

  4. Tbh, I didn’t read 100% (85-90% maybe? ) real talk because I have a ten year old with ADHD. I felt the same way . Drug companies you got us again!! I love my son SO so much. Could I be married to him?? Whoa, bad mom alert, NO!! lol anyhow, ADHD is what prompted my matter thesis (published and can be viewed by googling Adults Perceptions of Children and Adolescent Use of Medical Cannabis for ADHD, Autism, Seizure Disorder, etc) so I did A LOT of research. There is an excellent psychologist who writes about adult ADHD that might interest you. Gotta look up his name. ..I’ll be back (in Arnold voice)

    1. I went to see Hallowell speak in the nineties shortly after I was diagnosed. I started taking parenting classes at that time to learn how to parent better and started my ritilin at that time and it changed my life.

      It is a real thing. Trust me.

  5. My therapist friend always calls me “OCD”. I always point out that I make a very good living with that particular skill set. (an event planner) I am probably ADHD too. Rather than seeing int as a problem, do jobs, career wise and in your marriage, that work with your strengths and weaknesses. I move fast and do multiple things at the same time, then, when tired, settle into the ones that need concentration. Hubby moves slow and is patient. After almost killing each other over the years, we are learning to 1.) take on the tasks that suit each of us 2.) stay out of each other’s way 3.) adjust to moving faster/slower for a short period of time depending on the circumstance 4.) maintain a fast lane and a slow lane rather that using the middle of the aisle.

  6. I think that understanding the “why” behind behaviors is always important. And it helps people with their tolerance towards things. But at the end of the day, it’s still the behavior that matters.

    Growing up, I didn’t particularly like my dad. In many ways I did – he’s my dad. I loved him then and always will. But some of his behaviors I didn’t like, and thought were selfish and at times even cruel.

    Later I learned more about his childhood, and I started to understand maybe a bit more *why* he did things the way he did. And I saw him as a person who was somewhat broken, as many of us are. Understanding made things hurt a bit less, but at the same time it didn’t change the fact that some of the behaviors weren’t great. And in some ways, it didn’t excuse them (to me).

    We all have good sides and bad sides. We all have stuff that has happened to us to make us who we are now, and some of it is stuff we would prefer we hadn’t gone through.

    But we all decide who we will be tomorrow.

    Having that knowledge and information of “why” we do certain things is very valuable. But I only see it as valuable if we use that to try and improve in the present and future. And from reading for a long time, I think that’s what you’re doing Matt.

    Unfortunately some people take that knowledge and use it in a different way. It becomes an excuse, or a crutch. “Hey, I do this because X happened to me”. Yeah, maybe it did. But it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow.

    In relationships I think we need to be patient and empathetic. At the same time though, we need boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

    In any case, love your posts Matt. I know you’ve had a lot of differing feedback in the past few weeks, but I think you’re doing a great job of growing personally while putting your stuff out there.

    1. I second everything you said zombiedrew2. His posts are great. Brave, honest, self revealing and self reflective. It’s a healthy place for many of us to take a seat and read for a while. Keep it up Matt.

  7. The website ADHD and marriage is a great resource. I am a wife with ADD, have been diagnosed since middle school, and it’s still hard on my husband. But I have meds and coping strategies, and that helps a lot.

  8. I wish more adult people were willing to be open to these kinds of possibilities (ADD, ADHD, personality disorders, etc.) because I think that’s the only way any of it is going to get any better. My stbxh has been diagnosed with a personality disorder but he has a million reasons why the diagnosis is incorrect. We went to couples therapy for years and he was presented with the idea that he may have some ADD tendencies, possibly even highly functional aspergers. His reaction to that? Complete and total defensiveness and dismissiveness. I educated myself as much as I could to see if things would change with just my own awareness and understanding (however minimal or imperfect). But it’s nearly impossible when only one person in the relationship is willing to even entertain these kinds of possibilities.

    Thank you for a peek inside your experience of ADHD. It won’t put a halt to my divorce, but it does help to clarify some aspects of what it is like to have to deal with ADHD within the confines of a marriage/relationship. As we have two great kids, any kind of understanding as we move forward is a good thing!

  9. Recently I wondered if I was hyperactive, at least mentally, and often much more active than others my age ( 70) I have a therapeutic water physio workout I do 3x week. Yesterday I took my R hip that was scheduled for demolition ( replacement) and my incomplete knee up for 1 1/2 km and down again in the local provincial park. Energy and drive to surmount issues that would deter others from being as active as they want to be.
    My fave kids teaching were the little dynamos, the right brain unique souls, not fit for the sit- quietly- in- rows school setup, I like best socializing in small groups, having brief but stimulating chats. Being wired sure served me well as a Primary teacher, being wired gets lots done. Last week I tried a pain medication ( for my arthritic finger) that put my friend to sleep but it kept me up all night. Echoes of how ADHD kids get a stimulant to be subdued!

  10. Hi Matt. You mentioned in an earlier post that you were starting therapy (back in June or July, I think it was). I was wondering how that was going for you. I’m hoping you’ve found a therapist that you like and one who is actually helpful. My son (now 23) has been through several who said they treat ADHD patients, but ended up not having a clue how to help. Executive functioning issues seem to be the main problem in all this. Have you read about it? There’s so much information out there. It’s real. It’s diagnosable. It’s treatable though not curable. I definitely believe in “labeling” or at least diagnosing. Knowledge equals power, I think I read in one of your posts. SO TRUE.

    One day, while sitting on the stairs of the therapists’ building, waiting for my son’s appointment to be over, my sister in law called me. She was desperate. Her marriage to my brother was falling apart. He couldn’t make his job work, he was unorganized, his financial situation was worse than bleak, and he wasn’t doing anything around the house to help. As she went on, it was completely obvious that he had the same issues, as a 55-year-old man, as my 23 year old son — his nephew. I told her that it sounded like ADHD (inattentive type) and executive dysfunction. I’m no doctor, but I’ve been reading and attending conferences since my son was in 1st grade. It was a huge turning point. Having that knowledge has helped them find resources they need to work this out. They are still together 4 years later, but it’s tough going.

    I wish you the very best and am so hopeful for you now that you are diagnosed. It sounds to me like you’re a very insightful guy. With the right therapist, you’ll make big strides. Thanks for writing this blog. You can’t imagine how many people you are helping!

    1. Check out ADD Connect for actual ADHD therapists. I am one, so I know the frustrations caused by therapists who think they know, but don’t actually know… it’s infuriating to be in the know, only to realize 1/2 your profession has bad info.

      1. Thank you so much, Dr. K! I love ADDitudemag but haven’t visited in a long time. I guess it’s time to go back there and see what’s new! Thanks!

  11. Pingback: Unidentified ADHD Probably Ended My Marriage-A Repost | FormulaicMadness

  12. OMG…two types of time…Now and not now. Yup. I’m late for everything. Sometimes people think it’s rude or disrespectful but I genuinely just get distracted by EVERYTHING and CONSTANTLY misjudge how long things will take me. For instance, for some reason, I seem to think I can work 2 jobs, take a 20hr/wk online class, write my blog, read 2 books, pay attention to my boyfriend AND stay in touch with my friends and family. I have a tendency to overcommit during the times that I hyper-focus.

  13. I don’t have ADHD nor does anyone in my immediate sphere but I found this post to be quite enlightening. The asides in particular. Everything being simultaneously connected and disjointed. Thanks for that glimpse. Are you worried about your next marriage? These comments have been the toughest to swallow of any post I can remember….and I was around for elbrookman! Lol ! Just kidding.

  14. Mary Lou Bonacci

    Hi there, First, you are not fat. I have a 41 year old son who has ADJD. It has been a struggle for him. He has learned through behavior modification to have many successes, bj it it is hard work!
    I am a behavioral health therapist and a retired full time professor of social work. I couldn’t ” save” him. He had to learn and is still learning. To be successful in life and love you must do the same. Find a good MSW/ therapist who works with ADHD and get busy I wish you every happiness. Peace.

  15. Interesting, Matt! Well said and funny too. I love the way you wandered off into self dialog in the midst of this post.

    I’m hesitant to put too much of a focus on AD/HD, because many of those symptoms are innate to some 75% of men. It is not that they aren’t real, it is that they are so common as to lead me to question what is innate and healthy to us as people, versus what is a defect, a disease. Men often appear very AD/HD to me. On the other hand, women often appear very OCD, as in that proverbial glass on the sink. Bullseye focus with an almost obsessive quality, whereas men’s brains are often going, “just get me out of here.”

    I’m not complaining, or disagreeing with this post, just sharing an observation.

    1. 1/20 people have the neurological condition ADHD. Women are just as likely as men to suffer from it; however, they’re misdiagnosed up to 85% of the time because the experience is more internal. Yes, everyone has characteristics of ADHD from time to time, and everyone can recognize when it is a problem – the difference is that those without ADHD can take steps to fix it, while those with ADHD cannot due to how their brain works. These individuals can most definitely learn strategies to cope with it, but the condition remains. There is a HUGE difference between a marriage impacted by ADHD and one without, and the literature shows a higher divorce rate of those impacted, ESPECIALLY when it goes unrecognized/diagnosed. Matt is 100% correct in his post just now – I say this both as the ex-wife of someone who has ADHD but refused to take steps to improve it, and as a Dr of Psychology who’s main focus of her practice is diagnosing and treating adult ADHD.

      1. I can see you feel rather serious about all this, made especially evident by your use of all caps like, HUGE and ESPECIALLY, and also the speed in which you try to credential yourself. Just the same, I stand by what I said. I grow weary of all the pop psychology and speed in which we attempt to label people. Also, the lack of debate as if every darn ideology must now be established fact that no one ever questions.

        Not that you are the least bit interested, but I suffer from Chronic Maladjustment Syndrome, as in, most people annoy the crap out of me. 😉

      2. OK, well I was simply trying to provide accurate information for those who don’t understand. And I identified myself so my perspective could be understood better. Since you can’t infer tone or emphasis through text, I used caps. It doesn’t bother me if you prefer to categorize whole genders and think in black and white. I’m sure it’s nice to be able to interact with those irritating people from the safety of being behind a computer screen so you don’t actually have to bother with understanding a person. Whatever works for you! Keep on keeping on.

  16. So are so right, Matt. Thank you for all the things you have thought about and, writing this blog, have opened eyes and changed lives. Seriously. You never know how far the ripples of your words may go, or how many will benefit.

    I had many of the same symptoms. I got distracted easily, a major issue as I worked in an office with over a hundred cubicles in one room. I would blurt things out as they crossed my mind. That mind was not logical, working like a multi-colored ball of twisted wire. Unless I saw something it didn’t exist so I left things out to remind me. I couldn’t figure out where to file things (there were so many choices) so I left them in a pile. My inability to concentrate in an open concept office limited my work performance. So did my lack of understanding the basics of ‘simple organization that any clerk would know’.

    Now I write romance full time and so do a lot of research and thinking about people, as in why they act and react the way they do. (Your blog is an amazing insight to some of the male mind.) A year ago I discovered a lot of middle-aged women are being diagnosed with ADHD (menopause can make the symptoms worse). That wasn’t my case but I still checked a lot of the boxes so went to the doctor.

    The psychologist said I was a classic case of ADHD (combined, mostly inattentive). Five months ago (age 59) I started taking ADHD medication and worked on being mindful as to how to live with the way my brain works. Life is far better.

    The best part is knowing I am not stupid, lazy, a slob, a ditz, and all those other things. I have ADHD and I am working on being the best me I can be.

    I’ve found the “ADDitude” site very helpful, with articles on all sorts of subjects : http://www.additudemag.com/channel/adult-add-adhd/index.html

  17. Matt, I posted a long while ago, probably when you first mentioned ADHD, and were going to pursue a diagnosis. I’ve been married to my guy 40 years, realized about 5 years ago he has ADHD — since then he’s come to accept the idea, but not pursue treatment. It was actually a relief to learn about it. With the knowledge I have gained, things are much better between us, but not because he does much differently. I just don’t take things personally as often. I still do the finances, the housework, the appointments, the social engagement. Because they matter to me. He wouldn’t mind if I didn’t. We had many dark times and challenges over the years, but now I can occasionally say “Squirrel!” when his attention wanders, and he is good-natured about coming back to the moment. I can point out when his behavior feels like thoughtlessness. I can touch his arm and say, will you do this right now? And because he is in so many ways a great guy, he’s worth the strategies, patience, and forgiveness I have learned to employ. He, in turn, mostly tolerates me when I’m moody, worried or too stuck on the details. All parts of the way MY brain is wired.

    And this article had me laughing because my guy could never read it, because you know, it’s kinda long, it kinda wanders, there aren’t any pictures or things to click on, or music, or video, or wait, what were we talking bout?

  18. I filed for Divorce last week, after years of trying to be heard, validated, appreciated…and digging deeper for forgiveness every time my heart broke; so that I could make myself vulnerable and try again. NOW my husband wants to see a couples counselor.
    These two things are what I imagine could have been the only truthful and helpful things regarding our understanding of one another that a counselor could have said to us before we got to this place:
    (1) That which is not said is not implied.
    (2) That which is said is true

    The image that continues to baffle and sting me is the utter shock on his face when I served him the divorce papers. I thought he would have some sense of what was coming, since we had actually talked about it, and he hadn’t spoken to me in weeks. Where did he THINK things were headed?
    It’s sad, but I think that a woman’s resolve to not put up with her partner’s shit makes him appreciate her more. There seems to be no linear relationship either; I.e. As she gradually detaches, he gradually invests. Instead, it is a sudden threshold, and only when she is “so over it”, does it fall within his visual spectrum.

    1. Wives ask me all the time, almost daily: “How do I get him to understand before it’s too late?”

      I always say I don’t know and try to explain how I experienced it. I once wrote posts suggesting that leaving and him feeling the same anguish she feels when a thousandth “dish” gets left by the sink, and she knows she’s done, might be the only way.

      In other words, this comment makes entirely too much sense to me. Which is bad.

    2. Mary Lou Bonacci

      First, let me tell you how sorry I am for your pain. The loss of love and the dream is truly painful. Second, are you sure you are done? If what you wanted was to be heard and validated counseling may give you that opportunity. If you are separated and still love your husband, stay separated and do the counseling. Do not stop yhe divorce, put it on hold. Not for him, but for you. This will give you an opportunity to see if your marriage still has life. Also, you should do individual work with a counselor or with a women’s empowerment group to encourage you to speak to be heard. If after the counseling, you find he is unable or willing to change you can proceed with your divorce knowing it is not to be. This will also help you in future relationships. I say this because it is all about you now. Peace.

  19. In relation to your post on ADHD Matt,
    good for you for not only admitting the fact that you have ADHD but also highlighting the fact that it is REAL!

    The sooner we as a society understand that just because we can’t see an illness, it doesn’t give anyone the right to judge on how we act .

    I was diagnosed ADHD in May 2015 aged 42 , was it a shock ? …. Yes and no really , let’s just say it felt like a huge weight had lifted & looking back at my life it does tick boxes so to speak on things that have happened .

    Thing is my consultant said that I now have the “fight of my life” on my hands as I will find myself trying to justify myself to others who don’t believe me or even don’t believe ADHD exists !!.

    I was diagnosed ADHD with OCD so bit of a car crash situation …. As ADHD keeps me off track , late, messy, dis organised and amazingly everything has to be done now , there is no second place it’s all a priority !!
    But then we have OCD which keeps me tidy , makes me tidy the dis organisation caused by ADHD .
    Hey but so what ….. This is why I had a late diagnosis as the OCD was masking everything else . Also add to the fact that I as a mum of 3 young children who worked 40 hours a week whilst juggling the house too struggled like I did …. Thing is I also blame myself as I
    painted a pretty picture …. Years on anti depressants didn’t help …. The monthly Drs visit where I was asked “how are things” …. I replied fine ! Why you ask ??? … because I thought (procrastination) that what I wanted to say was ….” Things are not good , I can’t cope , I am struggling day by day just to manage the kids , work and my marriage is falling apart ” . I thought by the time I walked out the Drs doors that someone would be there to remove my children as I am a bad mum & can’t look after them properly !! So I just said things were fine !! .

    This went on for years and I vowed after a hospital admission which led to the diagnosis that I wouldn’t paint a pretty picture no more and neither should any one else suffering with mental health problems feel they need to do the same .
    It’s a cruel world out there but if we are open and we have the inner circle of family and friends we can trust (they believe ) then to hell with the rest as I haven’t time now to waste on naysayers so to spk , I have lost a lot of years already and now I have a second shot at life and boy my family have seen and gone through enough .
    I don’t want rid of my hubby I just needed to explain why I do what I do and for him to LISTEN and hopefully understand me . This is happening and after all I had ADHD when he met me and he liked what he seen in me as a person then so what’s changed ? .

    It’s not easy believe me but since we have put things into place my children no longer see mum having melt downs , no longer see parents arguing and mum crying .

      1. Thanks Mary Lou , what a fabulous blog Matt you started …. Did you know then how popular it would become ? Honesty is the best policy & in turn it has opened up a lot of others to come forward & speak about their relationships past or be it present .
        I love my guy & I can’t and won’t make him change just because I have ADHD , we just have to understand one another openly and most importantly listen to both sides of the relationship . It won’t happen over night & as parents just time alone is hard to find with a young family & work commitments . But we will do it …. Together & sure days will be difficult but we will hopefully see the good to get through the bad – 100% off each party remember Matt , wasn’t it ? .
        Only thing for me is that I have had ADHD longer than I knew & somehow , (don’t know how ) ? I got here today ?? . Others haven’t been so fortunate & that brings a tear to my eye . If it just means Matt’s blog followers understanding & believing in Mental Health then that’s a good percentage surely . Thanks for the good wishes of support guys xx

  20. Thanks for posting this. As someone not diagnosed with ADD until 18, and now living as an adult with it, I find a lot of people that don’t understand this disorder, and make the same self-centered/narcissistic comments that you had pointed out. I won’t point fingers, because I don’t understand the science behind it myself, but I notice that I lose track of time, procrastinate, misjudge time needed to do things, get distracted by my thoughts, interrupt, and have my mind wander frequently. Call me rude, an asshole, what have you, but medication (which I only sometimes take), is the only thing that makes those difficulties go away. Tell me I’m self-centered and narcissistic because of how I act/react, when science says it’s not entirely my fault. Make me feel like crap over something that I try so hard to control but can’t entirely eradicate.

    Thank you, for validating how I feel! Nothing bothers me more than people who jump to negative conclusions because they don’t understand, nor try to understand the underlying causes of things. Those people are the self-centered and narcissistic ones, not us! I’ve never found someone with ADD that is happy with the above “symptoms” I’ve mentioned. Never met anyone that enjoys having those behaviors and isn’t working to change them.

    1. You have no idea how much I identify with what you just wrote here.

      I work REALLY hard at self-awareness. And I know I mess up and make people feel bad sometimes, and there are no excuses for not trying hard to never do that again.

      But I’m a thoughtful person. A little bit in a Think About Others way, but mostly I mean, I think often and am particularly contemplative.

      There’s no way I’m secretly evil and don’t know it.

      I care, A LOT, about being one of the good guys. About being on the team that lights up the darkness.

      And few things upset me as much as when people suggest that isn’t true. And it’s always worse when it’s people you REALLY like and care about.

      I can tell from your comment you totally get it.

      Sometimes people say “Stop telling me how good you’re trying to be and show me.”

      And you and I both know we’re trying to do that very thing.

      We can’t make everyone happy or like us. No matter how much we wish we could, or how much we wish they did.

      So I think we just keep being us. And keep giving our honest best effort. And then we get to sleep at night knowing we tried.

      And we get to die some day knowing we navigated the river of life he best we could.

      So, thank YOU for validating how I feel. Because the truth matters. What’s inside us matters. And what other people say and think only does when we let it.

      1. I have ADHD and was diagnosed as a teen. I take medication and work on myself daily. Be careful allowing this to become an excuse for everything. That’s dangerous.

        My wife and I each have our problem areas. We actively work on them and support each other. No excuses.

        Thanks for approaching the topic.

        1. You’re right, Allan. No excuses.

          All I meant by that last comment is there are people who apply malicious intent to ADHD behavior and attack you character.

          There’s a big difference between holding someone accountable (a good, healthy thing) and falsely or mistakenly accusing someone of being a bad person who intentionally does things to harm others.

          When we don’t accept responsibility for our choices, we run the risk of always feeling like victims.

          However, when we let other people tell us who we are, we give up even more control of our lives.

          People should both make the choice to be accountable for their behavior and demonstrate hard work to grow, and also respect themselves and enforce boundaries with people who act without principle, integrity or fairness.

          Either you’re sane or crazy. Either you live in the real world or you’re psychotic.

          Assuming we aren’t delusional, we KNOW the difference. We KNOW right from wrong.

          It’s up to us to behave accordingly when appropriate.

          1. I don’t think “disorder” really applies. As far as I can tell, disordered thinking doesn’t appear to be an issue for ADHD brained people. You don’t typically see cognitive distortions in their thinking the way you would for, say, major depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder. I could be wrong I guess, I’m not ADHD.

            My 24 yr old son, though, is TOTALLY ADHD. He was diagnosed in grade 2, instigated by the school actually. Meds were a disaster for him so we focused on behavior modification. I can’t honestly say it helped a great deal, but as he’s gotten a bit older he kinda grew into better self-control. But you know, despite the challenges it brings, I can’t bring myself to think of it as a “disorder”, or a defect of some sort. It is, in a very real way, an essential part of who he is. His brain is ALWAYS lookin for the fun, always looking for a way to amp things up just a bit. To say he lives in the moment doesn’t even cover it – more like he wrings every last drop of joy out of each and every moment! I admire that about him. I wish I could live like that. My point is, he wouldn’t be who he is without those ADHD traits, and that would be a real shame.

    2. Mary Lou Bonacci

      Hey dazzles012, keep up the good work. It is a gift in a way, my brother( passed away now) was diagnosed in early 50’s. Me not til adulthood and my son at 3. The gift is, we can think of and see things other can’ t. If we learn to focus we can achieve wonderful things. Relationships are difficult but now days so much more is known and we can learn through behavior modification to hone our skils. Best of luck in life. You will find someone open enough to learn about us and get some help with you to find ways to work together. Let’s all work to end the stigma of mental illness. Peace out.

      1. While I completely agree with you that we should all work together to end the stigma of mental illness, I hesitate to classify ADHD as an illness.

        I’d call it a mutation. Or a deviation.

        I don’t even like the word “disorder.” It suggests something is wrong.

        Something isn’t WRONG. Something is DIFFERENT.

        While I hate some of my hangups with task management and procrastination that cause me problems, I wouldn’t trade my ability to think up new ideas and think my way through problems with anyone, no matter how good at completing To-Do lists they are.

        Right now, the best researchers in the ADHD world say about 5% of the adult population has brains that work like ours.

        I don’t view it as an illness or handicap (though it certainly “handicaps” me from time to time), but rather a specific type of human brain.

        There are things me and you (and most ADHD types) can do that the other 95 percent couldn’t dream of.

        We’re X-Men. Causes us a little discomfort now and then. But most of the time? It’s pretty badass.

  21. I have been 30 years married to the person you say you are. It has been quite a ride! However, while the behavior to we who are made differently, APPEARS and is judged as a deficit, and thereby labeled ADHD or ASD – in fact, you and my hubby may better be described as a wonderful, uniquely-made NTP (probably an INTP – introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceptive) – one of 16 temperaments in the Meyers Briggs Temperament Indicator. Best information can be found by anything written by David Keirsey – has a great website. As I wife to a man such as yourself – it has been a time of study and conflict and effort to realize that these “bad and aggravating” traits are made acceptable by the deep perceptions, unusual perspectives, accepting and loyal person who really WANTS to empower others – that is my sweet husband. It seems to be the reason you write. Hubby doesn’t always succeed at these things – but mostly because I (who is an INFJ – introverted, intuitive, feeling, judger) grows short of patience, aggravated by the lack of completion, and screaming about the dishes in the sink when I get home from work while he has been home all day. My hubby has studied these temperaments for 35 years and if you are interested to “chat” with him – you would be a better man as the result. Guaranteed. Attaching HIS email, in case you are inspired to learn more of who you are.

  22. Nice. I laughed at your way of showing it. ADD/ADHD struggles do seriously make life more difficult in so many ways. I work pretty hard at natural healing solutions to keep some of that type of stuff under control! My estranged-someday-hopefully-soon-to-be-ex-husband had a little of that, possibly more than either of us realized. And I certainly have. Had quite a bit of struggle of my own in that area.

  23. I stopped dead when I read your analysis on time (now and not now) and your struggle with time perception. My soon-to-be-ex struggles with time and I, like your wife, didn’t understand. It is draining having to always remind someone about how much time is left before, say, leaving for work or picking up the kids, or any number of things. I had to wake him up for work every day for 20+ years. It makes the other spouse the kid and me the mom. Your blog has helped me tremendously. Didn’t come in time to save a marriage (in the final stages of divorce), and maybe nothing could have. But thanks for all you write.

  24. I enjoyed this post a lot. I was just getting mad at my boyfriend because he hasn’t called me all day and he usually calls by now. I read your post and was reminded that he isn’t being inconsiderate – he just has his mind on other things. My boyfriend was diagnosed many years ago with ADHD. Unfortunately, he is a meth addict and being on any type of stimulants triggers his desire to use meth so he is not currently medicated. I would much rather him sober and hyperactive than high on meth and chill. However, it is very much a struggle. Our number one issue is his lack of a filter. I find this very common among adults with ADHD. He says something without thinking and I react. I try to have a conversation about what he said and he has already forgotten about it and just wants to move on like nothing happened. I can’t let it go because my feelings are hurt and I want him to validate those feelings. We usually work things out quickly, but sometimes it takes a couple of days and I often think about walking away during those days. I stay because I love him and I know he loves me. I understand the why behind his behaviors and I know I shouldn’t take things so personally, but that is much easier said than done. I appreciate the reminder that this isn’t about me. 🙂


  25. Most counselors don’t know how to help couples with the ADHD dynamic and end up doing more harm than good in the relationship. If my marriage fails, which it very likely will at this point, lack of effective resources will be the biggest culprit. It is sad. The most helpful book we read was You, Me or ADHD by Gina Pera. She has also collaborated on a clinician guide to help marriage and family counselors to identify and treat couples in this struggle. It is a very real and heart breaking thing. I hope others are more successful than we have been. Our divorce won’t come from a lack of love. It will be from a failure to bounce back from the hurt that breaks the camel’s back and that could be any day at this point.

    1. Powerful, meaningful, and relatable testimony.

      Most people still believe it’s a made-up diagnosis. It could be a LONG time before a critical mass of people know enough to even watch out for this.

      It’s what you said. A divorce. And not for a lack of love. People seem to not understand that sometimes.

      Death by a million pinpricks. You don’t see it coming. You just wake up one day, and your marriage is a disaster and you can’t really pinpoint or figure out why.

      Awareness is such a powerful concept that, ironically, most people aren’t aware of as they slowly begin their cycle of permanently damaging their relationships without realizing it.

      On the flip side, every day we collectively take another small step forward toward meaningful change.

      Thank you for reading and sharing a part of your life with the rest of us.

  26. I’m late to the party here, but in total agreement that knowing what something is helps me understand and manage it. No excuses, just “What do I do with that info and how do I move forward”? And as a student and teacher of trauma, let’s remember that the signs and symptoms of trauma and ADHD are sometimes indistinguishable and that trauma is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. Matt, you are killin’ it as far as I’m concerned. I look forward to your posts,and tell my friends and co-workers….and even my clients!

    1. This reply can’t adequately express my gratitude for this. Thank you very much for reading and sharing.

    1. Roberta Griffiths

      Too true April !!
      I was diagnosed at the age of 42 & slowly I am moving on from the anger of not being diagnosed sooner but often think I myself was to blame as now I look back at some parts of my life and let’s just say I can tick boxes on sone things that have happened.
      Thing is I am moving on & have to say I have finally ditched the deadwood in my life – family & friends whom I thought cared but realise now they didn’t . I just somehow hopped, skipped & jumped through life , painting pretty pictures and now I wish I hadn’t of as feel I may have been diagnosed much sooner .
      Second shot at life now & boy am I going to give it what I can !!
      Thank heavens for Matt’s wonderful blog who somehow suffered himself but as a result has helped thousands – give the man a medal ? Thanks to all that take to the blog daily to be truthful & show that there should be no shame in mental health xx

  27. You have no idea how much this hit home with me! I love your writing style. I felt like you were standing right before me talking and I was totally caught up in your side conversations. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and it has been a live saver. I am so blessed and grateful for my diagnosis and the insight it has offered in regards to my interactions with others,

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  35. Omg Matt! And here I thought you saved my marriage years ago. I had my husband read your articles and he actually related to them! Great improvements happened in our relationship, but we still have many issues. I have adult ADHD. My husband has known that since the first week we dated. With that being said, I don’t think he fully grasped what he had just signed up for when we wed. This article helped him understand my ADHD far better than I could explain it. Thanks again!

    1. This was nice to read, Ashley. Thank you.

      ADHD is a really difficult thing to explain to others. I still haven’t figured out how.

      Maybe I should reread this article. 🙂

      Best wishes to you both. Grateful for this note.

      1. Oops! I didn’t see my first post go through so I made a second one. Please ignore it. I basically said the same thing. I blame my ADHD 😉 thanks again for All of the help!

  36. I’m so glad that you wrote this article! Your articles in the past helped me understand my husband. This article helped my husband understand me. He knew about my diagnosis of ADHD from the beginning, but he still doesn’t understand it completely (he wonders why I’m not as attentive and neat as most women.) This article helped him a lot, so thanks again!

  37. Great article! I so wish i would of known about me ex-wife’s Adhd before it was to late in our marriage.The dynamic that took place in our marriage was the same as almost every sad story I’ve been hearing about over the last 4 years. My ex had all the symptoms in adult women. After having 2 young children she began telling me she couldn’t keep up. She was overwhelmed. I had to constantly check on her & the kids. This is where the parent / child dynamic started. I guess i started getting frustrated by her not seeming to care. We started drifting apart but i still loved her dearly. Just didn’t no what to say or do. I thought we could always work it out & didn’t believe in divorce. During our separation i finally started to do lots of research on her issues. Adhd really stuck out. I discussed this with her very kindly & compassionately & she didn’t want to have anything to do with getting a diagnosis. I finally realized we had an explanation for what happened to our relationship.She continued to deny that she had Adhd so we went on to divorce. Finally last fall after about 3 years since our divorce she got a diagnosis. She began taking meds. soon after. She still has major issues with being late, cant get up early, bad temper & house is a mess etc. I know its not her fault. So the moral of my story that i feel like we were cheated by not knowing about adhd & how it effects marriages if it is not diagnosed earlier in the marriage. I can honestly say that if we would of gotten her a diagnosis a lot sooner we would still be in a loving & thriving relationship today. So if any of you folks out there are having these similar issues in one spouse please do yourselves a favor & get some help FAST!

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