Has anyone with ADHD amicably separat... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Has anyone with ADHD amicably separated from marriage for both partners' sanity? (or stuck-it-out and found new joy & harmony?)


I'm trying to navigate and make sense of my 16-year marriage (2 kids - 10yo and 13yo) post my ADHD diagnosis at 39yo. I only recently started medication trials at 42yo.

I'm a Male, married to a wonderful woman, however, with a new perspective on our roller-coaster marriage (after reading a few books on Adult ADHD, including "Adhd Effect on Marriage") I am struggling to see a path through our challenges given our different "modes of operation".

For our, and our kid's mental health, I wonder if separating is the kindest approach.

I'd love to hear from anyone (male or female) who has travelled this journey - whether it be separate, or "stick-it-out" so to speak. My wife is understanding and supportive, but burnt-out and exhausted and does not want to endure more years of the confusion and chaos that comes with "me".

With love, thank you.

19 Replies

Yes, I have amicably separated from my ADHD husband. We consciously uncoupled two years ago and co-parent our sons, 9 and 11. He now lives not too far from me and we still do key things together like Christmas, Father's Day, Mother's Day and birthdays. We share care of our boys - I have them 4 nights a week, he has them 3. My former husband has been sober in AA for 16 years and I've been an active member of Al-Anon for 15 years and this has helped the ending of our marriage be kind and thoughtful as we are both working on ourselves, every day. My boys are happy and well and my former husband and I are both certainly way happier. I'm in a new relationship as at 8 months ago and wouldn't you know it - he has ADHD too! Hyperactive type this time so a little harder to pick initially as he seems more organised - but the distraction levels are high, so are the impulsive comments which he apologises for straight away. Funny thing is - I'm reading all I can about ADHD now especially ADHD marriages, and I'm re-thinking my whole marriage. Not going back, but just seeing how much so many of our difficulties were related to undiagnosed ADHD and perhaps more importantly, me taking it personally! Of course no-one can say what you should do in your situation - but for me, now, knowing what I know about ADHD, I know for sure that a marriage can work - even with ADHD present - as long as you are each working on yourselves and stay committed. Now, in my current relationship, I'm able to say ''that's just his ADHD", keep loving him and not take it personally and all is well.

Thank you :) Your sharing is reassuring. As the ADHD spouce, 40 years undiagnosed and I feel a lot of shame and sorrow for what I have dragged our marriage through. This book was my eye opener to what I've been putting my wife through, and how she responds to what I do/say - amazon.com.au/ADHD-Effect-M...

It's only taken one week on ADHD medication and a new sense of mental clarity and observation for me to stat feeling that letting go may be the most loving and kindest act.

Yes, I loved that book. I’m now reading The Couples Guide to Thriving with ADHD by the same author which is a great follow up. I get how exhausted your wife is, I really do, but I think if you’re seeking treatment and she’s prepared to look at how she responds to your symptoms - anything is possible. Whatever the problem - love is the answer.

I have been married twice and divorced twice and was recently diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 52. It is possible you both have to be willing to learn and work together. Starting over with a clean slate, not to bring up past issues. Communication is the key and communicate when you are on your meds, not when you come off your meds. Write down what you talk about and agree too so you don't forget. Read it often to remind you. Only talk 2 minutes at a time. You talk for two mintues and she talks for two mintues with out interruptions. Listen, Listen, Listen and Learn Learn Learn together. Therpy will help someone who specializes with ADHD couples and Therpy for yourself. I listen to audio books while driving to work. These are good books for both of you Married to Distractions, Taking Charge of ADHD. Answers to Distraction, Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction. This will help both of you understand more and some of the books have steps to help you both work together. MOST IMPORTANT FORGIVE YOURSELF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, ACCEPT YOUR SUPER POWERS. When I first found out I was angry at the world, why didn't I know things could have been different, I could have helped my child. The world is just learning ADHD is real and now we have help. She needs to know how you are feeling the guilt etc. now that you know. Let her read all of the replys. Together you can learn and love each other like you never have before. It is a work in process everyday. Once she understands ADHD she will not take things personally. Be sure to have your kids tested. I found out because my grandson was tested, then my son and I went. I wish you both the best. I hope this helps.

Thank you. I see some practical and helpful tips here :), thanks for sharing. I have read some of these books and they haven been eye-opening and helpful. I was diagnosed on the back of my Sons diagnosis. I see that I'm still at the "first found out" stage you describe. I keep seeing the reading the words "Super Powers". I look forward to working out/learning just how I leverage all this to my - and everyone elses - advantage.

Yes you are at the first stages, once you accept it you will be fine. Make sure to get help for your son and learn together. It will help you both. This is a family learning together. You will all learn patience and understanding. It has been a year and I can't tell you how much better life is for me. Once I accepted myself for me and my supper powers. And worked with therapy. Life has been so much better. Just remember there is not a cure, you just learn to manage and those around you learn to accept and learn understanding. I wish you the best. Reach out anytime you have any questions. YOU GOT THIS

Hi Jeeplady, you’re life experiences - you’ve been through the ringer. You’re blessings, through all your pain you’re moving forward toward self improvement and a willingness to help others.

It looks similar to mine! I’m in adult male, into my 2nd marriage of 30 years today. 11 years ago (56 yrs old) I quite fighting and got sober, 6 Years ago at 62 years old I was diagnosed ADHD. Today (67 yrs old) and our marriage of 30 yrs is our biggest challenge and no signs of improvement. I know my wife is certainly neurotic from attempting to cope with my ADHD and years of drinking.

Although- Like you, I ‘m blessed, through all our pain I am moving forward toward self improvement and a willingness to help others.

Life is tough, sometimes sucks a lot, but thank God for his grace.

There’s some things I can’t change; Such as a person, place or thing. I pray for acceptance. I pray for courage to change the things I can such as; my though feelings and attitudes. excepting life on life’s terms.

I feel it’s still worth living.

Hi Johnfamilyman,

Thank you there is so much more life experiences I have been through. Rather not say it on here. I can say God has given me grace he knew the things I would go through starting at a young age, he gave me the strength to handle and find the good in everything. And to take that strength and life lessons and help others. I am very greatfull for his grace. Never change who you are just become a better version. Forgive yourself and others for the past, life is to short to hold grudges. No matter your age life is worth living.

Bluey8699, sorry I can’t answer your question but thanks for asking. The replies here are great! I feel like I’m in an earlier stage than you or I’m just more pig headed...

I’m married 10 years with two kids. I was diagnosed 1/2 year ago, but don’t want to fully accept I have ADHD. I only went to see a doctor because my wife was threatening divorce. I’m questioning the diagnosis process, thinking it was too casual (just took 30minutes including filling out a short form). I am taking medication and feel it is helping at work but not too much at home (listening to my wife more than 2-5min without distractions). My wife says having the diagnosis helps her accept me but still feels like her love tank is empty, and still talks about needing another man daily. She talks less about divorce but says she needs a second man to satisfy her need of listening. I tell her I simply can’t accept that.

I grew up in a Christian home with parents working as clergy and in marriage counseling. They have discussed many times throughout my childhood about how marriage is a decision, a commitment and simply takes a lot of hard work. But you can be happy. I hold this ideal for myself, accepting the things that bother me about my wife. I believe anyone can get along if we put in the effort to understand eachother and adjust ourselves (within our means) to accommodate others. But I question whether I can force the same ideal on my wife any longer because she’s obviously in pain.

Thanks again for posting! I’ll stayed tuned to other replies coming in here :)

“...still talks about needing another man daily. She talks less about divorce but says she needs a second man to satisfy her need of listening.“ This sounds like emotional abuse. Please google domestic violence (women against men). I’ve worked with Male and female DV survivors.

Threatening to divorce is another tactic of abuse.

Forcing one spouse to get tested because “something is wrong with them” is common.

In my abusive marriage, my ex bought me a copy of the book “The Art of Loving”

By Erich Fromm because I was “bad at” loving him. It turns out I’m good at loving, I just didn’t love him. And there was nothing wrong with me.

“I believe anyone can get along if we put in the effort to understand eachother and adjust ourselves (within our means) to accommodate others.”

—-I agree with this.

“But I question whether I can force the same ideal on my wife any longer because she’s obviously in pain.”

—You are in pain too. It seems for some reason you believe her pain is more important than yours.

—“...force this ideal...” Marriage as partnership based on mutual acceptance and mutual compromise is a mainstream concept. I’m assuming you had this concept before you two married? And she initially agreed to it?

— “Forcing an ideal” would be like you deciding the marriage will now be open, or that you’d like her to serve you from a platter while you presided over the family from a throne. That would be imposing a lifestyle choice/ideal on your spouse she may not agree to.

—“she is in pain”. Lots of married folks are in pain and unhappy. They blame the marriage/spouse. But it could be that she’s just unhappy, independent of you and independent of the marriage.

—Your gut told you not to be assessed for adhd or not to take meds for it. It sounds like she bullied you into taking a psych med you don’t want. Tread lightly and make sure you are prioritizing your physical and mental needs before all else. I was in an abusive marriage. It’s like the old saying, “the frog in the pot doesn’t feel the water getting hotter.”

Thank you for your replies! Yes, my wife is emotionally abusive. Her parents were abusive and she knows it has affected her. But how can I tell to what degree her behavior is a result of her past, and to what degree it is a result of built up resentment from my imperfections?

I’ve started reading “The ADHD effect on marriage “ based on suggestions in this thread. It’s amazing how well it matches my marriage. And even outside my marriage, I can see that I have annoyed the hell out of my brother, likely due to my repeated oppositional comments (apparently this is an ADHD thing to get a rise out of people just to feel the adrenaline). So I’m really struggling right now, seeing how much about me matches with ADHD descriptions, what do I all carry the blame for? What do I need to take responsibility for and where do I draw the line?

Hello Fellow Imperfect Human :-),

Decide how you’d like to be treated, and teach others (your wife for one) how to treat you. That’s one definition of assertiveness that works for me. We all get to decide for ourselves how we wish to be treated.

The inner part of that is valuing yourself enough to believe you deserve a healthy, loving, abuse-free relationship. That’s your inner work. If your core doesn’t think you deserve kindness, love, and respect, you’ll continue to accept whatever treatment she/people throw your way.

Do you feel worthy?

“But how can I tell to what degree her behavior is a result of her past, and to what degree it is a result of built up resentment from my imperfections?“

Whatever you have done in the past, you don’t deserve to be treated poorly. If you have done things in the past which has bothered her or hurt her, she has a right to express to you how it affected her and how she’d like you to behave differently in those situations. She does not have a right to denigrate you, name call, insult, deliberately harm, passive aggressively retaliate, or otherwise emotionally abuse you.

She has a right to speak up and request behavior changes (which you can either agree to or decline to make), and the right to remove herself from the marriage. She does NOT have the right to punish you or make you feel small or terrible for past behavior.

Nothing you could have done removes your humanity; we all deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect.

It’s not a spouse’s job to “reform us”.

That would make it like one person is flawed and always wrong, and the other is always the “injured party” who’s always right. Ultimate unwinnable power difference and setup for emotional abuse. If I’m the abuser, I can arbitrarily decide that my partner is horrible because he has brown eyes. Every day I could remind him of how inferior he is to me. An abuser will fixate on any characteristic and use it as a lever to ensure their supremacy over the other partner: to paint you as bad and them as good (or as the “judge” of what’s bad or good).

My advice is, forget the ADHD Diagnosis for now. Find the closest domestic violence agency. Read all the information on their website.

Domestic Violence can be fatal. This is something to absolutely take seriously.

And if it’s not fatal, it poisons your spirit and self-worth, drains your energy, and distorts your thinking (“crazy-making”), causes depression, etc. You need all the energy and self-love you can muster.

You matter. You are looking at life through a skewed lens, which tells you you don’t matter. I’ve been there. Educate yourself on the cycle of abuse. You deserve to be physically and mentally/emotionally safe.

Don't give up! You are just in the beginnings of this diagnosis. Truly, you and your wife need to work as a team. This is an exciting change. You now know why your marriage suffers and can start to see how to make changes. Get an adhd coach if possible and show your adhd child what a good marriage is about. Now is not the time to even contemplate a separation. Good luck!!

Holy smokes...Marriage is difficult!! I have been married almost 11 years. I am the blessed one with ADHD and Jason (hubby) is 90y/o in a 39y/o body!! We I have been through probably the same issues that you have had. Not sure, before I stick my foot in my mouth, I will explain. Issues that irritate Jason:

1. "acting like a child" Heck I have to ask Jason who and for how long is (one or both of the kids still at home) being disciplined at the time.

2. Loosing...everything (keys, phone, etc,)

3. Starting things not finishing...I am the 75%er. I just wish Jason was the final 25 %.

4. forgetting or overpaying bills

I could go on but in the end, my mind works a certain way. So...over the years,

OUR solution:

1. I refuse to be serious all of the time, it is not part of my DNA... About the discipline, I always forget...but if you think I can remember to put that stuff in my phone your out of your mind...shit where is my phone?? But I am serious, the more structured I am, the better.

2. Don't ask (or negative comment...) just help. Seriously, it is going to happen, so be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

3. I have Jason write a list of the projects I have started and not finished, then I finish them.

4. I have to use Jason for this one, paying bills, he refuses to use a computer and I need his structure, no impulse, NEVER forgets anything!!...for this category. Also, sorry to say...(I am a professional woman who makes her own money) but I HAVE to call him when tempted to buy things and talk with him first (ACCOUNTABILITY)!! This one is difficult but my way does not work and my credit union hates me when I am fully in charge and floating in the read!!

I am humble in what I am not good at and have no problem asking for help. Then...honestly there are times that I have a micro fit Grrr, then I trust he has good reasons. And if your like me...my ideas do not go away. I just keep asking until the time is right.

I have debated separating and going my own way a million times. I'm sure I would be fine. But I feel that the more confident I am in my "mentality/thinking" the more Jason respects me. Also, 2 of our 3 boys have ADHD too. I want to be there to encourage and support them the way that I wasn't growing up. So far, Jason does not have the patients to.

In the end, you and your wife have to do what is absolutely healthy for both you and your kids. You and your wife need to be healthy for your kids. I am from a divorced parent so I am not going to judge, we had a horrible time being used between my parents. Your kids should see you happy.

I hope this helps, Good luck and keep us/me updated or ask further questions. Unless your traumatized by my reply...then disregard😊


Hello! I’m writing as an ADD’er and as a future couples therapist. My first thought is, hooray for the self-awareness and knowledge you are developing! There’s power and possibility in that!

2. I hear you feel bad for some of the ways you’ve acted in the marriage. Are you wanting to end the marriage as a way to make up for bad behavior? Does ending the marriage seem less painful than the hard work of looking honestly at your past behavior with your clearer “lens” (diagnosis and medication)?

3. You know what they say: any time you have a major trauma, wait at least a year before making a serious life change. I view this diagnosis as a trauma.

4. Remember: impulsivity is a symptom of ADHD.

5. Psychotherapy. Find an individual therapist for yourself, and a family therapist who can work with your entire family together, as well as you and your wife as a couple.

6. Read Divorce Busting by Michelle Weiner-Davis. Her website is also a great resource.

7. Try to have empathy for yourself. You didn’t choose to have ADHD. You didn’t choose to behave badly with loved ones. You clearly care about them and want to make a better future. That’s all it takes to resuscitate a marriage—one person wanting a better future and willing to work on themselves. It may be uncomfortable, but it is definitely possible. All you need is a tiny flame of hope. Keep blowing on that flame and take tiny steps toward “better”. You don’t have to transform into a perfect husband and father overnight; perfect doesn’t exist, and change that lasts takes time.

8 Don't give up on yourself. You deserve a good life.

Amazing info and thread guys. Glad I found this group/page. It's been a rough go the last few months. My SS has ADHD & it his father - my new husband is deff his connection to this. However, dad has never been tested/diagnosed but fits the mold. I am now dealing with a very impulsive/ defiant 9.5yr old - he saves a lot of this behavior for me bc I am the structured non-ADHD adult in the house and an undiagnosed 34yr old husband who uses the ADHD diagnosis as the answer to all; as if his son is incapable of doing anything bc he has ADHD & I'm.the one who has worked with this population and read endlessly they this simply is not true. Also a kid who when he shouldnt be listening can recall something said to someone else from a week ago but wont acknowledge what you said him 10 times 5 minutes ago because he did not like what was said. And its funny bc my husband is the same way and he doesnt see it. And my question really is where do I start? How do I ask my husband to get tested so we can fix this and make this work for us and for our family because if things do not get better our marriage will end either because he hasn't dealt with his own childhood issues plus/or bc his sons ADHD is not being managed properly. Any advice please send my way!!!

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