Marriage

Why Can’t I Stop Nagging My Husband?

“Some weeks are worse than others, and some days I come home and am amazed to find grocery bags containing the things I asked for. Some weeks I have to say the same things over and over, so it’s easy to forget that I am not a nag. I am the wife of a wonderful man with ADHD, trying to make our lives work the best I can.”

Illustration of couple communicating through tin-can phones against colored background

“Don’t forget, I have an appointment on Tuesday at four, so you have to be home early,” I tell my husband.

“OK,” he answers.

I remind him once, maybe twice that week. I get the urge to repeat it more, but I refrain. Then, the evening before my appointment, I mention it one last time and see that “Oh, no, I totally forgot about it” look in his eyes.

He promised his boss that morning that he would work late tomorrow, so he won’t be home in time for me to get to my appointment. Now I’m angry. He’s hurt, which turns into anger. No one is happy.

Sometimes, the chain reaction begins with a text from a friend, “Hey, I texted your husband about a cookout this weekend, and he never got back to me.” A call from our son’s daycare saying that the form my husband picked up wasn’t returned. A piece of mail sitting on his nightstand that I asked him to mail a week ago. I have to ask about every task and chore, I have to remind him of every appointment, I have to repeat every request.

Why I Nag — and Fear ADHD Spouse Burnout

My spouse isn’t malicious or lazy, and I know that. It’s taken me several years to know that, but I do now. However, understanding I am married to someone with ADHD and accepting the ways it has changed me are two different things. Sometimes I see these changes as good and sometimes I see them as bad. The worst change: I have turned into a nag.

[Get This Free Download: 6 Ways ADHD Sabotages Relationships]

I have never considered myself the anal type, the nagging type, or the overly persistent type. Before realizing my husband had ADHD, I took his forgetfulness as self-centeredness. I thought the fact that most of my requests were disregarded meant a lack of caring or love. I used to take on more than I should to make sure that things were taken care of.

Even with my new understanding, I still repeat myself. It’s not something I enjoy, nor does he relish hearing me say the same thing a dozen times. Every time I repeat myself, it means that he has forgotten something.

When you read about the high number of ADHD marriages that end in divorce, you are seeing the evidence of how oppressive forgetfulness is. There is a tainted partnership that comes with it, a lack of feeling connected when one partner is always “the parent” and the other is always “the child.” Each partner dislikes who they become with the other.

Nagging Only When Necessary

What has helped us is the acceptance of the fact that neither of us enjoys the give and take of his ADHD. It’s just necessary to get anything done. On good weeks, he will use his Google calendar on his phone (with several alerts) to remind him of his appointments, family dates, or my appointments. If things get chaotic and we do not do this at the beginning of the week, he understands that I have to nag. I don’t enjoy doing it and he doesn’t enjoy hearing it, but it has to happen. We have started reading together and talking to our counselor about ways to express these frustrations.

[Read: It’s Not You. It’s Not Me. It’s ADHD.]

ADHD is hard to talk about. Some weeks are worse than others, and some days I come home and am amazed to find grocery bags containing the things I asked for. Some weeks I have to say the same things over and over, so it’s easy to forget that I am not a nag. I am the wife of a wonderful man with ADHD, trying to make our lives work the best I can.

ADHD Spouse Burnout and Nagging: Next Steps


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