The Many Faces of ADHD: Brooke, a Wife Whose Husband Has ADHD

Health Writer

ADHD doesn't just impact the life of the person that has been diagnosed, it can affect on every life around them. So is the case with Brooke. Brooke doesn't have ADHD, but her husband does.

Inattention is the major symptom her husband struggles with. He has a hard time following conversations and that has led to poor communication skills. Brooke is often left feeling as if she just doesn't have a partner to talk to. She feels lonely and isolated, even though she knows her husband loves her a great deal. Other aspects of her marriage work well, they share common interests and friends. They have a good and comfortable life together and they love each other deeply. But still, the lack of communication leaves a hole in Brooke's life.

Early in their relationship, Brooke wondered if her husband just wasn't that intelligent but soon realized he was. Then she wondered if he was suffering from hearing problems, but he wasn't. Finally, about five years ago, a doctor diagnosed her husband with Adult ADD. Since then, they have tried different types of treatment. Her husband was on Adderall for a while and Wellbutrin for a while, but he did not continue either. He didn't see much of a change and Brooke did not either.

Brooke's husband has also seen several different therapists over the past five years, but none have seemed to help much. Many don't seem to understand Adult ADD and all that it encompasses. One therapist told him he was fine and didn't need to continue therapy. But still, inattention and communication is a major issue.

Brooke is left feeling as if she is a parent rather than a spouse. She needs to remind her husband to pay attention when they are talking. She needs to take the lead in the conversation and keep focused on the topic at hand. And often, Brooke resents that she has been placed in the role of parent, she would much rather be a wife. Watching other couples talk together or hearing co-workers discuss their relationships, Brooke wonders why she can't have that too. It is not, she stresses, that she has a bad relationship, but that there is something missing.

Her husband, however, is aware of his shortcomings and these cause him shame and embarrassment. He has few friends and feels self-conscious frequently. He feels "different" and his self-esteem is low. Since he has been diagnosed, Brooke and her husband have had many discussions about Adult ADD and ways in which he could improve. They discuss ways to help him listen better, such as turning off the television, talking when there are minimum distractions, but he doesn't always make the effort to do so. Sometimes, Brooke is sure he could do better if he would not be so passive in his attitude toward her needs, other times she is sure she is being too hard on him as he doesn't have the ability to listen. At some times, Brooke wishes he would push harder to find solutions, at other times she doesn't blame him for being discourages as the therapists he has seen have not been much help.

Brooke isn't sure where to turn from here. She is sure, however, that she will stay married. Although the communication is important, she is willing to cope with life as it is, as she is not willing to live without the many other wonderful traits he has.

At this time she will continue to work on herself, finding ways to manage. People have suggested she could find other women friends to confide in and talk to in order to fill the gap and provide her with the verbal connections she desires. But although that is certainly possible, Brooke isn't sure that would really fill the isolation she feels in her marriage. She isn't sure if there is any help or if she is looking for an answer that doesn't exist.