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Overcoming Resentment in ADHD Marriages: A Journey to Reconnect and Move Forward

Updated: Apr 9

After 16 years of marriage, during 14 of which we've been aware of my husband's ADHD, I've learned a thing or two about resentment. Just like Gina Pera's book describes ADHD marriages as a roller coaster, resentment is a front-row seat on that roller coaster, an ever-present companion, binding us together in a relentless cycle. There have been numerous breaking points for me when I wanted to step off the roller coaster, but each time, I decided to stay. So why is that, and why do non-ADHD spouses, like me and many others, endure these cycles? The two main reasons are love and children. I can't make the decision for you and your marriage, but I can share why I chose to stay and how I come to that conclusion each time, hoping it might help you, too.

Where does my resentment come from and how did it build up?

For me, resentment, like that of many non-ADHD spouses, accumulates over time. As my husband withdrew, I chose to take on more, assuming it was only a temporary situation. Lacking a good understanding of ADHD, like many neurotypical individuals, I thought he would "snap out of it", and our balance would be restored. In reality, he never "snapped out of it"; instead, he learned to hide it or express it differently (emotional dysregulation). This became the rollercoaster ride I've been on for the last 14 years. Some ups were small, and some were substantial. Looking back, the resentment never truly dissipated; it accumulated like a dormant volcano and erupted a few times. Each time, my husband bore the brunt of my frustration.

So what made me stick around?

Each time resentment built up, I turned to educate myself. Reading books and listening to videos and ADHD talks helped me reflect on what led me down that path once more. Sometimes, the resentment was so overwhelming that education provided minimal relief, but at other times, a lightbulb went off because what I read or watched helped me connect the dots. Regardless, three things consistently brought me back from the brink of resentment to a more acceptable level where I wanted to try again.

1. Realization

One key turning point for me when I was at the peak of the rollercoaster ride is realization. Life can make it hard to remember why you married the person in the first place. But when I recalled the reasons behind our marriage and compared them to the reality of my husband's behavior, it helped me decide if he still measured up to what I initially wanted. Please note that reasons behind why you marry someone and your assumption of what marriage would be like are not the same. Staying true of the reason why you marry your spouse in the first place is the point of reference. If he did, I realized I was more willing to accept the newfound knowledge from ADHD education and take a step forward in repairing my marriage. This often prompted me to sign up for ADHD couples training and work on our relationship, with my husband joining me in these endeavors.

2. Understanding

Another crucial turning point for me was understanding how challenging it is for my husband. This understanding typically came from the education and ADHD couples training. There is always lightbulb moment when I finally comprehended that one or some of his behaviors was due to ADHD symptoms, not something he could fully control. For instance, I mentioned how Dr. Barkley in my previous blog where he helped me realize that people with ADHD turn to drinking not because they enjoy it, but because they are trying to slow things down since people with ADHD prefer to live in the "Now." This insight was a major turning point for me, as I understood he was just trying to self-medicate, which is different from my assumption that he enjoys it. This understanding allowed me to open up and empathize, creating a path to recovery.

3. Willingness

The final piece was the willingness to open up and try again, but differently. This was the most critical aspect, requiring me to tear down the emotional walls I had built and communicate with my husband about my feelings and fears. Each time we have this conversation, he also opens up, and I discover he is genuinely trying because he explains the reasons why he does something a certain way. These conversations became healing moments for us, leading us to try once more with a new commitment to supporting each other better and approaching our relationship differently than before.

So, do I still resent my husband?

The reality is, resentment is always there. It's a human emotion that we all experience. However, through open communication where you don't hold back, I realized that my husband loves me deeply and he is willing to do better. This realization gave me the motivation and courage to try to make it work for us. I can't promise it will solve all our problems, but it does provide the motivation to keep trying.


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