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

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As the other responses have stated, this is a common problem with ADHD marriages. My wife and I are going through it now and it is a lot of work on her part just as it is on my part. Unfortunately the first step is for him to realize the reality of the situation. This took me a long time to understand. It’s so easy to make excuses for not getting something done. I became an excuse expert which didn’t help the situation. One reason I used excuses a lot is because my memory is really bad. This is a characteristic of ADHD. I know the backyard needs cleaned up from the dog but I forget to do it over the weekend and when my wife calls me out on it, I make up an excuse. Then an argument would ensue due to my ego being hurt. That would then escalate into me call her out on things that had nothing to do with me not doing the chore I needed to get done.

Here are our solutions that has worked so far:
1) We make a list for every day of the week. We do it for both of us, not just for me. We started out as it being just for me and it made me feel too much like a child. Logically I understood it but the process wasnt very satisfying as an adult. Then she created one for herself and for some dumb reason, it helped and gives us both goals and expectations. When I complete a chore, I go to the list and cross it off. Make sure he’s an active part. My recommendation would be have him lead the creation of the chore list every week. Make sure that each day is on its own sheet of paper. If all of the days are on one sheet it can be overwhelming. Don’t fill up the day with lots of chores and be cognizant of the weather. Combine chores that you can do together like folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen. Most important YOU need to be consistent with everything. He will not be consistent until he sees you. After enough time, things will become more habitual for him and be easier. Also, if something is going to change in an evening (date night or a football game) where he usually has a chore he does, be sure to address it as soon as this event is scheduled. “On Saturday we are going to the lake, since its monday now we’ll need to be sure to have all our saturday chores done prior. Do you have any suggestions on how we should do that?”

2) Don’t allow excuses to be acceptable (unless they are truly valid). This is just reinforcing a bad habit that he’s survived on is whole life. “I have ADHD” is NOT an excuse. Not saying that its not a valid condition but its no excuse for not taking the trash out. We are intelligent human beings with or without ADHD and because of that we are capable of looking back at a situation and saying ‘dang it, I did forget to do that and there is no excuse’. Let him know that when he thinks you are ‘nagging’ that you are ‘nagging’. He promised that he would do something for you and he didn’t fulfill his promise. You are disappointed and hurt. Right now, it may not seem like that big of a deal but over the next few years all those times will add up and you may build up a level of regret and anger towards him. Let him know now that when he does forget or fail to complete something that he is hurting you and letting you down. Let him know you understand the ADHD but there are plenty of tools out there to help him remember.

3) Create a shared google calendar and schedule everything on it. Use it consistently and refer him to it every day for everything. My wife did this for us and its amazing. When I want to work on the yard, I add it to my saturday slot so she knows not to schedule anything or expect anything else. If you want a date night with him, schedule it and remind him (probably several times) that he needs to plan a date night with you on that night. If he’s like me, I was always afraid of disappointing her with date nights which is me failing. ADHD individuals fail a lot in their lives and, for most of us, it sits with us forever. My wife started giving me suggestions where she stored them on a google sheet. When she listed a date night, I would go to that sheet and pick something that she wanted to do.

4) Set alarms on his phone. Phones now a days can have an infinite number of alarms. Have him set an alarm each week to remind him to do things (call doctors, go to the grocery store, etc).