Reply To: I need help supporting a partner with ADHD!!

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#106382
Spaceboy 99
Participant

Hey there,

Well done for reaching out! It’s good to see people coming here and trying to make sense of what’s going on in their or their loved one’s lives.

This situation is a common yet thorny one in ADHD/Non-ADHD couples, where the ADHD partner feels nagged, and the NON-ADHD partner feels neglected, or like they’re doing all of the work. The good news is that you’re not alone, and this CAN be ‘fixed’. The bad news is that you can’t solve it unilaterally. Your SO has to see the problem, want to resolve the problem, and actively participate in resolving it. The first step, quite simply, has to be a sit-down talk. He needs to understand that, whether or not he feels nagged, you have an issue with the way tasks and chores are being divided. You feel as if you do everything on schedule, and he does not. You can provide examples if that won’t put him massively on the defensive. He might get defensive anyway, in which case you need to let him have his say, but you need to make it clear that this is a problem. At that point, start going through solutions. Would he prefer it if, instead of taking on individual tasks alone, you BOTH did ALL tasks every week? So you agree that you’ll both do the dishes, you’ll both do the laundry, you’ll both clean the bathroom TOGETHER, same time every week. Or would he rather do some of your jobs instead? People with ADHD tend to avoid the things we don’t like doing. If they’re tasks we find more manageable, we’re less likely to avoid them. Case in point- I never vacuum. I hate it. It’s the most annoying task in the world. So we bought a robot vacuum (my SO is disabled, so I have to do the bulk of household chores, and this was a bilaterally negotiated purchase). Now, that takes care of 90% of the work, but once a week/month you’re meant to run a standard vacuum around the places the robot doesn’t catch. I’ve done that exactly once, the first week we got the robot. The problem is that I hate going to the vacuum, grabbing the vacuum, dragging it uo/downstairs, plugging it in, vaccing, unplugging it, plugging it in elsewhere, vaccing there, before finally dragging it back upstairs and putting it away. It’s a relentlessly organised task, and I’m not an organised person. Plug sockets do not conform to my ideal vacuuming route. Standard vacuums turn a 5 minute job into a 20 minute job. Just this Christmas we bought a cordless vacuum, and I’ve vacced four times since the 23rd. Why? 1: the vacuum is THERE, on the wall, in plain view. 2: the vacuum is light and easy to use. 3: it allows me to structure my vacuuming route as I see fit. 4: I can do something i never used to be able to do, and just walk through the house looking for dust bunnies and clean them up in seconds rather than several minutes. It’s WELL worth your money to pay for convenience instead of having arguments. So, if you have the space, get a dishwasher. Consider ways in which all your chores, not just your SOs, can be made ‘low willpower’. So, in my case, vacuuming used to be a ‘high willpower’ chore, because of all the setup involved. Now there is no setup, and it is ‘low willpower’.

That’s good general advice, but I’ve wandered away from the point. So back to your words.

It’s very easy for adhd people to feel nagged, because we have a very poor perception of time, and are overly sensitive to criticism, perceived or otherwise. Say you’ve asked him, very nicely, once a day for five days, to do the chores he was meant to do last week. Every time you ask, he (wrongly) hears “You’re not doing well enough” and instinctively takes the defensive, even though you’ve done nothing wrong. When you tell him once a day for five days, all he knows is that he’s been asked five times, not that it’s only been once a day. With every new addition, the old ones jump back into the front of his mind and he’s just like “but she’s already asked me four bloody times, I’m GOING to do it, just not NOW.” and he conveniently (completely unintentionally) forgets that he thought that the last time, and the time before, and the time before…

Like I said above, division of chores CAN help, but at the same time, maybe it’s better to share all of them, rather than split them up. Then it changes from “you need to do this” to “we need to do this”, which is less like nagging, and more of an obligation. If you can get him to AGREE to this, or to see the value in it, then he’s more likely to stick to it, as well.

You can even subdivide the chores. Maybe he hates cooking, but is fine with vegetable prep, and can help while you do that. Maybe he’s happy taking the trash outside, but you could just put it near the door when it needs taking out. That lowers the willpower as well as providing a non-judging visual reminder. Provided he actually sees it, of course. Maybe he does the laundry, but you could sort the piles, or he sorts the piles, you put the laundry on, then you both hang and fold the laundry together, or whatever way works. The fundamental rule is that the system has to work for both of you, else it doesn’t work. You taking on all the chores or the bulk of the labour is unacceptable. One or both of you being unhappy with the division of tasks is unacceptable. Compromise is fine, as long as its equitable.

Me and my SO are quite lucky in that I HAVE to do the bulk of the housework. What that means is that tasks are divided into what I can do alone, what I can do with help, and what I absolutely can’t stand doing. My SO takes care of the things I hate, and WHEN SHE CAN, helps with the things I can do with help. I CAN do them alone, but I just hate it. With a burning passion. And it puts me in a foul mood, which I hate. The things I can’t stand doing simply don’t get done until she does them. Fortunately there’s no overlap between what I refuse to do and what she refuses to do, so that’s a win for us 😛

I can appreciate the sentiment of wanting to get this stuff sorted before you have kids, and I recommend that you get a lot more things sorted ahead of time (my SO and I have discussions about what our parenting style will be all the time so we won’t have disagreements further down the line when the kids are already here, such as even what we’d do if one of them developed a drug problem), but if you guys can’t iron out this situation, I’d recommend holding off on kids for some time. After all, a baby is basically just a big bundle of extra chores. If your SO takes weeks to take out the rubbish, how long is he going to take to change a nappy/diaper? Bearing in mind, of course, that that needs to happen almost instantly, and the two of you will be running on insufficient sleep. You need to make sure you can divide all this stuff equitably NOW, because later is too late.

Hope this helps. If you’ve any further questions, please let me know 🙂