View Full Version : Undiagnosed partner

01-25-14, 05:26 AM
Hi, I'm new here and just trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings in the company of people who might understand. I recently guessed that my partner of 8 years has the inattentive type of ADHD. I stumbled across an article about it which seemed to describe him perfectly. I showed it to him and he agreed. He felt like it explained everything about his life. He has been going through some grief about struggling for so long with it and not achieving the things he wanted to, regretting that he didn't receive treatment years ago.

He has since seen a doctor and a psychologist but neither of them knew a thing about it and couldn't help at all. Since he works in health care, he cannot get treatment in our city for ethical reasons, so we are on a waiting list to see someone in another city. So he is undiagnosed and untreated as yet and I don't know how long we'll have to wait.

I feel pretty desperate to get help as I'm starting to feel that I won't be able to tolerate living with him much longer, even though I am still very much in love with him. I have been struggling with the same issues everyone here is describing, resentment, frustration, feeling ignored, living in chaos, having to do/plan everything myself. Any suggestions you can give me are much appreciated.

We have two preschool-age children and though he loves them, he can hardly stand being around them because the noise, the mess and the constant demands for his attention exhaust him. Everything has become so much worse between us since having kids. He has never been able to support me in any of the hard parts of childcare, such as getting up in the night or early in the morning, because if he's tired, he can't function at all and does bizarre absent-minded things that end up costing us money. I would love to have another child but he says he can't handle it and I believe him but it's very disappointing.

He's a good dad when it comes to the fun stuff but his negativity and grumpiness towards the kids really gets me down and it hurts them too. Our older child has become a terrible nag because he has learned he has to say everything 20 times before his dad will listen. He gets really frustrated and angry with his dad since he can't get his attention.

He works 4 days a week, which is as much as he can handle. The other 3 days, he has time off, which means sleeping in, going for long runs, spending hours on the internet. While he's relaxing, I do pretty much all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, childcare & general organising of daily life, and still he complains HE never gets any time for himself.

His time just gets sucked away down the internet hole, and also it takes him forever to do simple things so it seems to him that he has no time. Realizing about the ADHD is a relief because it was horrible to think of him as lazy and selfish when I know he is/wants to be a good person but it is still incredibly frustrating and I feel like a domestic slave and I just get so exhausted.

I have pretty much given up on trying to get him to help because his 'help' makes extra work for me. If he tries to put away laundry, he puts everyone's clothes in other people's drawers. He doesn't seem to be able to sort things into categories, so he will just put groceries anywhere instead of putting the breakfast things together, for example. If he puts towels away, everything just goes in one big pile in a jumble so it's impossible to find anything.

If he says he'll cook dinner, 5pm will come around (when they kids normally eat) and he's still on the internet. I remind him, he says 'yeah yeah in a minute'. Half an hour later, I end up cooking something quick for the kids, which he gets offended about because he was going to do it, and eventually he starts a meal that isn't ready for hours and even then it's half raw and half burnt because he can't co-ordinate the timing. If he does groceries, he forgets half the things even if I make him a list. If he does laundry, he ruins our clothes by putting disposable nappies or pens in the wash or by forgetting about it in the machine til it goes smelly.

The thing that drives me the most crazy is when he criticizes how I do things. For example, he spends tons of time on the internet reading about the latest fad diets (paleo, vegan etc) and he will criticize the meals I make for having not enough protein or too much meat or whatever the current obsession is. But when I ask him what he wants to eat, he doesn't have a clue, doesn't care enough to put a single thought into the meal planning or to add a single item to the grocery list.

Since he does none of the planning or organizing of the household, he doesn't seem to have any idea of the amount of work involved. He has so many great theories about how to organize everything but is completely unable to carry them out. And since he doesn't actually do them, he also has no idea how unrealistic his ideas are sometimes but still gets annoyed when I don't live up to them.

He works shifts which have no pattern to them whatsoever and he almost always forgets to print out his roster for me unless I nag. This means I have a very hard time planning anything since I never know when he's going to be home. I really need some time out for myself but seldom get it, especially since I can never commit to anything in advance - everything has to be spur of the moment. Planning holidays, birthdays or anything social becomes totally ridiculous.

He is also trying to start a business, which he is devoting a lot of time to but not really making much, if any, progress. Is it even possible for someone who is unable to plan or organize to run a business? When he gets mail, he opens it and then leaves it lying around on the floor for the kids to scribble on so important documents regularly get lost. How on earth would he manage a business?

I want to be supportive of his dream but I am really scared of investing our savings (most of which was generated by me) into it. I'm worried if he goes ahead with it, it will end up being me that has to do all the work. He does have a lot of good ideas but he can't carry them out unless someone else coaches him every step of the way. He complains he can't concentrate on the business plan because of the kids, but when I took the kids away for a couple of weeks to give him some quiet, he said that was even worse and he did nothing but procrastinate without me there.

I have started trying a few things to help us both. I've been decluttering and storing everything with labels to help him understand where things go. I'm thinking of asking relatives not to buy anymore toys for the kids, to reduce the mess that he finds so stressful. I have put him in charge of loading and unloading the dishwasher and washing dishes, so that is his one and only domestic chore. He's managing ok - the kitchen is often a mess since he puts off doing it, but it has reduced my resentment levels a little. Any other ideas?

01-25-14, 07:28 AM
It sounds like there is alot going on for you! I really sympathize. My husband and I are both adhd so its a 3 ring circus around here between us and our 3 kids (they all have adhd too). I wish I had better advise. We try and play our strengths and divide the differences. He can be very organized but only with his OWN stuff. He does his own wash and it gets done perfectly. When he helps me with the wash my daughter will end up with size mens 32 jeans in her drawer that belong to my son. The dishes are a bone of contention with us. Its like a contest, who can ignore them longest. I got a new dishwasher for xmas and this has helped because the other one did such a sh*tty job you might as well hand wash them. I am the family planner. I hate this job but I am the only one who knows what everyone is doing. The good thing is, now when someone wants us to do something he always says "let me check with Sarah" this is a huge step, before he would say yes and we would be overbooked. The best advice I can think of is this: If he never ever changed and was the exact same way forever could you love and accept him as he is? If the answer is no, then you do have alot of things to think about and reevaluate.

01-25-14, 10:33 AM
Kiraffe, welcome!

I hope you will find the ADD Forums as helpful as I and many other non-ADHD partners do. There are lots of older conversations in the Non-ADD Partner support board that you may find interesting or helpful if you have time to read back through the archives.

It sounds as though you have a lot on your plate right now. Big sympathy to you! I recognize many of the frustrations you describe, and I think they are very real, very serious. Something that seems to come up a lot is non-ADHD partners ending up with disproportionate shares of the chores and responsibilities, and feeling trapped or overwhelmed as a result of having no time, space, peace of their own. That's not a problem with a simple answer.

Everyone here seems to agree that a couple or a family need to find ways of sharing work, etc that feel right to them. There's no magic answer that works for everyone, and different individuals have different needs, capabilities, aversions, preferences. But if you feel you have no choice but to do more than is comfortable or right for you, that's not going to be sustainable.

Normally the last thing I'd ever say to anyone is to express an opinion about how many children they should have. But you mentioned your sorrow that your partner doesn't seem to want another child, and my response to you is to ask you if you are sue that you do, given the demands of your present situation. I think it's extremely important to be clear about the difference between what is really true and what we think is supposed to be true. And I have found that much, much harder than I would have imagined to do in a situation where ADHD is involved.

You can't make assumptions about how things should be or will be. You can't assume that really they are one way just because that's what you have always known. You have to look carefully and honestly at what actually happens in real day to day life at your house.

Sarah wisely asked you to consider whether you are OK with your partner if he doesn't change. That's really the key question. It is much to easy to tell yourself that the he will change because he is SUPPOSED to, or because you NEED him to, or even because you know he WANTS to do so. RIght now, the reality is what you wrote about, and it sounds exhausting and not very good for you.

My experience was that life became enormously more bearable when my partner got his diagnosis of ADHD and started treatment with both medication and therapy. It is not even remotely possible that we would be together now if he hadn't done that. So it can really make a huge and positive difference. I hope you and your husband will have a similar experience when he gets to see the person int he other city you mentioned. That is very important and you should stay focussed on that goal.

But even so, getting a diagnosis and treatment doesn't erase ADHD or magically fix problems within a family. I struggle very much with the inequity of life with my partner. I didn't sign up for a life where I had to do significantly more than 50% of all the had stuff, and where support and attention and enthusiasm for me dropped from the initial high points of our early relationship (think ADHD hyper focus) to a very low level that seems unlikely to change.

There is an extremely valuable book by Gina Pera called "Is It You, Me or Adult ADD?" It is specifically written for partners of people with ADHD. I think you will find it full of information, advice, and insights that relate strongly to your own life. It could really be your best friend right now.

My advice to you is to think very carefully about what specific things you most need to get by every day, and then insure that you get them even if you can't get lots of other things that would be desirable. Your dishwasher plan sounds excellent--maybe that's a model which can over time expand further. Don't downplay the importance of what you need and what the kids need. It sounds like time for yourself is a priority--don't let other needs come between you and it.

I would be extremely reluctant to commit family resources to your partner's business until he gets treatment for ADHD--it is amazingly possible for significant resources to disappear, fast, owing to ADHD-related problems. I'm not saying he can't succeed at a business--of course not! I am saying that pre-diagnosis might be bad timing for starting a business. Success may be more possible if he gets treatment, if indeed you find that he has ADHD.

And one more suggestion: since it seems to be slow/hard to get help for your partner regarding the ADHD, maybe it would help to put the focus on you, and to look for a supportive therapist who could work with you now about your challenges and frustrations in this situation. Presumably a regular garden-variety therapist would be easier to find than an ADHD specialist! And anything that can ease your burdens, give you clarity and provide support that sounds absent from your life otherwise, would be valuable to you.

Good luck with everything, and please let us know how everything goes. All good wishes to you and your partner--

01-26-14, 09:16 PM
I'm a 39 year old ADHD-PI (diagnosed only two weeks ago). I was functional and successful when single (lots of self-made coping strategies), and fell apart with wife and young kids (two under two).

Almost your entire message could have been written by my wife two months ago. My wife and I have been there, and so far with stimulants, it's getting much better.

Before I get lost in relating some of our story, I want to address some of your practical questions and issues:

1. Nobody can diagnose your husband from your message, but your story is so incredibly familiar it's would be a surprise to me if he doesn't have ADHD.

2. I don't think it's realistic (or fair to you or the kids) for someone with unmanaged ADHD to work on starting a business while already struggling and checking-out from a family. It's impossible to control people, but don't put your savings into it. Offer for him to register and PM me if he wants to talk to someone who has been where he is.

3. I said similar things to my wife about needing a break from the kids to get anything done. I can see now that this was just frustration being around the kids, and a distorted memory of productive hyper-focus in my single-life (which happened, but seldom when I wanted it to) I didn't need an ADHD-diagnosis to tell me I can only think about one thing at once, I know this about myself. However, before medication I didn't even have mental room to emotionally connect with my second child (which was really upsetting my wife). I'm pretty sure the only way "time away" would get my focus back is if I was away long enough to emotionally disconnect from my family. The good news is, so far stimulant meds are giving me ability to handle the kids and do things without going anywhere.

4. Your "organizing" is a big help. My wife is the same way naturally, and it really helps me. My wife "fired me" from the dishes. She eventually used a label printer to put reminder instructions up like, "trash full? take it out", and "don't put dishes in this sink". You may think I'm joking. I'm not. Without meds, things I'm not thinking about can't get my attention even if they are right in front of me. I take out the trash, usually, with the help of her and two "talking" calendar reminders on my phone. I recommend you read this post specifically (, and then read the entire thread.

I'm getting called away to the family, and I'm not sure when I'll finish relating my story, so I'll be back to relate the story a bit later...

01-27-14, 01:30 AM
...on to my story. I hope it shows just how much you are not alone in your struggles.

I was a fairly functional work-a-holic when I was single. I started and struggled through a small and successful software business (which I doubt would have been possible without my non-ADHD business partner). I took a (long) voluntary break from work as I got married to enjoy time off. Fast forward several years later. After my wife became pregnant with our second child, I hit a wall where the chaos of family made it nearly impossible to sleep or effectively concentrate most of the time. I could not focus on either family, or getting back to work.

My wife went from shouldering most of the family burden to all of it. She would get our first child up and started every day. She'd shop, she'd cook, she'd manage the social schedule. Ohh, and she was pregnant with #2.

I finally knew something was really wrong with me when I started feeling severe anxiety. I started seeing a psychatrist because I was frustrated that I wasn't getting anything done or back to work. I was *not* talking about the burden I was putting on the family, because I didn't see it.

After our second child was born, I hardly paid attention to him. I started mentally drifting off even more with my wife. When I forced myself to play with my daughter on weekend afternoons (because I knew I should), I literally fell asleep. My wife helped me manage my fatigue, by giving me 'small doses' with the family and letting me retreat to solitary activities when it was too much -- compounding the burden on her. This usually meant playing computer games. Keep in mind, this was not some kind of intentional disregard for family. I was just seeking something that would absorb my mind to calm me down.

I suspected I might have ADHD-PI after running across it. The symptoms too perfectly described my lifelong troubles, childhood-school-issues, anxiety, procrastination, and relationship conflicts. My psychiatrist agreed it was worth investigating. My wife made me an appointment with an ADHD specialist.

Even just suspecting my ADHD helped. Suddenly things that had not made sense started to make sense to both of us.

I was diagnosed ADHD only 13 days ago. Since taking stimulant-meds, things have already been improving. I have focused on my wife and children without distraction -- and I enjoy it! I've connected with our second child. I have played with them for hours without ending up on my phone or asleep. I don't get lost in computer games for hours. I cleaned up my office, and took care of a bunch of stuff I'd been procrastinating. I've been tired in the evening, and gone to sleep before midnight every night. It's a really pleasant and calm change.

We have our eyes open that we don't know how long this pill-remedy will work. It may work forever, it may work only for a while. Right now, we're happy about it.

02-04-14, 07:45 PM
ahhh Kiraffe, welcome and I can totally understand ALOT of what you are going through as can a lot of people here!!! I hope you find the support you need and desire.
I don't have a lot of energy to respond (we've been sick here) BUT:

1. do post on here to get help and support

2. go back and read some previous posts, or what others currently post because you will see how you are NOT alone and get some good ideas and suggestions from Non-adhders and adhers alike.

3. I can relate on the sorrow of wanting another child and having to almost grieve the loss of being able to have another child because our family system CANNOT handle another child in it and now I am too old for me to even WANT to have more children. However sometimes, it just IS the best decision that is made As more chaos doesn't solve current chaos.

4. I would SERIOUSLY not go along with putting time and resources of the FAMILY into starting a business until my husband could show me improvement in treatment (whatever that turns out to be). I don't know how many unkept promises or ideas I heard or unfinished projects I observed or went through until he got a better mix of meds. It wasn't about GOOD intentions, I never doubted that.

Keep us updated on treatment. I saw a major improvement in our family when my husband when on medication. I wish he would be more receptive to some help in his executive functioning skills areas, however he is pretty stubborn *sigh* Goodluck.

02-14-14, 08:58 AM
Thanks so much for all your replies. I have not been able to talk about any of this with anyone who understands it before now. We have had pretty mixed responses from friends and family we've talked to about it. One of my partner's friends got really upset about it and said I was trying to brainwash him into thinking he had mental problems in order to control him and change him! And another person laughed, as if it was a good scam to try to pass laziness and lack of organisational skills off as a mental illness. So now I'm a bit scared to talk to anyone about it.

It's good to hear that medication has helped for so many of you - my partner is willing to try it but we are still waiting to see a doctor.

Davesf, it was really helpful to read your perspective on it and your story does sound similar to ours. My partner was fairly successful in his life too, pre-domesticity, but he kept things incredibly simple then. He only owned what he could fit into a backpack, lived on peanut butter sandwiches, didn't own a house or a car. Now his life has become so much more complicated. He says he really does want a home and a family and that he would be lost without it, but it often seems like he hates his life since having kids. I'm just beginning to understand this in terms of limited mental energy - that he does love his family but it costs him more energy than he has sometimes.

Things have seemed a little better since we have both become aware of the ADD. He seems to be more aware that it's his own issues that are causing his grumpiness, instead of thinking his family are just intolerably annoying. I've realised that I have to point things out very explicitly or he won't notice. When I pointed out that I hadn't had a day away from the kids in 5 years, it seemed like he was genuinely surprised as if he had never considered this before but then he went and booked 3 weeks off work, in which time he is planning to look after the kids while I have a break. It's incredibly generous of him but I have no idea how he will actually pull it off - probably by feeding them nothing but peanut butter sandwiches. But that's ok with me! I was feeling like he didn't care about me but this proves that he does, it's just that he doesn't notice that I'm struggling unless I really spell it out.

sarahsweets, I'm impressed that you have found ways to manage when your entire family has it, and being the organiser yourself. That's really amazing. I think that part of what drives me crazy is that being organised doesn't come naturally to me either, I am pretty bad at it, but now I have to organise 3 other people as well as myself. I can't think straight when I'm living in the midst of other people's chaos and I end up being quite absent-minded myself and doing everything badly. I can imagine how that feeling multiplies when everyone in a family has the same issues.

After reading about how likely it is that our kids could have it too, I've started worrying about them a bit. They are 2 & 5 - can you tell at that age? My 5 year old is pretty hyperactive (although my partner never had that symptom), like he's always climbing furniture and running loops around the house and making a lot of noise but I thought that was normal for a boy that age. Now I don't know what to think. My 2 year old is pretty quirky, was slow to walk and still doesn't really talk, had major sleep difficulties and he gets distressed in busy environments such as playgroups. Do you think there's any advantage to getting them checked out at a young age or just wait and see?

Thanks for your advice, VeryTired. I think I accept that another baby would be much too hard for us at the moment when we are hardly coping with what we have. The tough part is accepting that maybe I can't have the life that I want with the man that I love. When it comes down to it, I'm sure our relationship and the kids we already have are more important than an imaginary third child but I still feel regretful about it.

02-14-14, 09:58 AM
hey kiraffe... your post reminds me alot of me...

please work WITH him... if it happens... small things from the right places will do a great deal...

he needs to be encouraged and enabled through understanding and the right tools... be careful this doesn't descend into "actions based" arguments or "labels"...

i know your just talking about your world so it's cool... what you wrote above... it all starts from you re-labelling his behaviors ( to yourself )...


computer is not fun... it's stimuli... almost like a babies dummy...
start by aligning yourself with his passions... what are they?...
try visual prompting ( drawings ) instead of verbal...

habits... there is some immediate gains to be had with habits... i.e. every time he sits at the computer ask him to stop himself and do 1 thing first ( hug kids, wash 1 cup )... it's a taster for him and you... to ease into behavioral awareness and systems...

02-14-14, 10:06 AM

You're being brave and smart in how you are trying to approach this. A big theme that runs through a lot of non-ADHD partners of people with ADHD is recognizing the distance between how-things-are and what-you-hoped-for. OK, that's part of life for everyone, but believe me, it looms larger and has more insistent power in our lives than is usual. It's not an easy thing to make sense out of, but there is really no other way. We all have to recognize if, address it, and make our peace with it.

I hope you'll keep telling us how things are for you--and that the 3 week break works out great for everyone!

02-14-14, 12:21 PM
Reading this post just made me very sad for you and all that you're experiencing, and how alone it must feel to shoulder so many burdens on your own. I'm really glad for you that there's a support system in place here that you can turn to.

I also have to say I think this might be my last time entering this subforum. If this is my future in the event someone is insane enough to marry me, I think I'd rather just hide in my apartment alone until I die.

02-14-14, 12:50 PM
Your partner sounds much like i used to be.

Things were sort of OK until kid No2 came along at which point my brain melted and I became unable to function around the house.

I was finding it hard to cope in all parts of my life and the additional child destroyed all my coping strategies at a stroke. After that I lost my job and eventually my marriage.

The most important thing is that your partner engages with what having ADD means for him.... the effects are intensely personal and will take a long while to suss out fully. Meds do help a lot, but they can't sort out the personal baggage and negative self talk that comes from living with undiagnosed ADD.

My view is that meds are great at buying time to sort out a set of coping strategies, but the real benefit comes from combining them with a good course of self inquiry through therapy.

It is also extremely useful to have a supportive partner, but that partner must understand that the whle relationship may have to be rebuult on new foundations, This is very hard... my ex didn't understand this, she wanted meds to "fix" me so that i would become a "normal" dad/husband.... which was never going to happen.

it is a long road.... acceptance of the diagnosis is the first step

Edit... I'd also say that starting a business at this stage is probably unwise to say the least.

02-16-14, 04:12 AM
SB1985- oh no, please don't think that! My post was about the frustrating parts of our relationship but the other side that I didn't describe is, I really love him and wouldn't have put up with all this annoying stuff for 8 years except that he is a very interesting, kind, creative, intelligent, fun, adventurous person too and we get on well most of the time and have 2 beautiful boys. I wouldn't take any of it back.

And I do have hope that things will get better the more we understand this. The idea is brand new to us at the moment but the more I understand that he can't help the things he does, the less I get angry about it.

It's really interesting to hear so many people saying the same thing about it all falling apart after having kids. I wonder, does it get better once you're past the baby/preschool age, once they get a bit more independent?

02-16-14, 04:19 AM
I love that idea of washing one cup or hugging a kid before every time he goes on the computer... he would get sooo much done if he was able to master that habit. I think he would like it too. And the visual cues instead of verbal is a good idea too - he seems to like colour coding, is that what you meant?

02-17-14, 12:57 AM

It's about experiencing the loss in a sense of what you were expecting how things would be and seeing if you can come to a new acceptance and understanding that works as "normal" for you both. Sometimes I find myself becoming envious of others with more "normal" husbands but I quickly remind myself that there is no perfect relationship and I remember the things I love about my husband and his strengths, and don't allow myself to dwell or go there. It's better that way :)

As for your children...the symptoms in Adult ADHD manifest differently than when they were children. My oldest is classic ADHD and she is even more of a handful than my husband's parents describe him (and my husband remembers being). Looking back, I saw signs of her struggles from birth. You don't get ADHD at age 6, it was just a common age to get diagnosed as then there was another environment besides home, for dr's to use in their diagnosis. My daughter went on medication when she was 3 1/2 years old! Pretty much, she was very impulsive even to the detriment of her own safety. She could also zap the energy of a room of 6 adults! That's how busy she was.
Your youngest.... sounds like some sensory issues? have you ever had your youngest assessed for autism spectrum disorder? just a concern due to very little speaking and "awkwardness" you mentioned (and one other thing you said). However, ADHD and autism have some closely related symptoms.

Good luck with everything and that's nice that your husband is going to give you a little break. Let's hope he survives hehe.