Reply To: My husband has ADHD and I’m running on empty

Home Welcome to the ADDitude Forums For Spouses & Loved Ones My husband has ADHD and I’m running on empty Reply To: My husband has ADHD and I’m running on empty


Hi, I know your post says non-ADHD spouses only; I’m not a Non-ADHD spouse, but I had a thought about your dilemma – and I promise it’s not just another excuse.

I’m going out on a limb here, since we’re strangers on the internet and all; but it sounds to me like maybe your Husband hasn’t fully/conciously acknowledged the fact that his ADHD has an impact on you – or perhaps he has, but is genuinely afraid of admitting how deeply his condition effects you and your relationship. Either way, you’re burnt out, so things have to change – simple as that. And the first step towards sustainable, long-term change, in my experience anyway, is honesty.

I myself have ADHD, and I’ve been able to build a really solid relationship with my family – but it took us a long time to get there. One of the most important steps in the process, was me taking ownership of my ADHD, and acknowledging that although my behaviour isn’t always within my control, my actions still have consequences – for me, and for the people I care about.

So, my solution/suggestion would be: set aside a specific time to talk, and agree on it with your husband (so you can circumvent distractions, transition difficulties and/or hyperfocus). Right from the start, re-frame the issue so that it’s ‘You & Your Husband’ vs. ‘Your Husband’s ADHD’; rather than ‘You’ vs. ‘Your Husband & His ADHD’. Remind him that you two are a TEAM. You’re in this together; like it or not, his ADHD impacts both of you, so life needs to be MANAGEABLE for both of you. You could try something along the lines of: “I love you, and I understand that your ADHD makes Executive Functioning a challenge. I know you don’t intentionally do [X,Y,Z] – but when [X,Y,Z] happens, it effects me too. It’s important to me that both of our needs are being met. I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we can achieve this, because our current situation is unsustainable. ADHD is your reality – but you’re more than a diagnosis, and you’ve developed other skills and talents in spite of your challenges. We need to find a way to distribute chores/responsibilities which play to your strengths, so that I’m not shouldering too much on my own”.

Or, you know, something that sounds more like an actual human, and less like a blurb from a Psych 101 textbook, haha.

I hope that helps – I know ‘talking it out’ isn’t an immediate solution, but that’s the only thing that’s ever actually worked for me (besides the adderall, of course, haha). Either way, I hope things improve – it’s a difficult situation to be in, because, as they say, “you can’t make people change; people have to want to change”.

I had some other thoughts that might be relevant – I know you’re not looking for great big long explanations, but maybe they can help provide some context:

I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but people with ADHD tend to have a lot of unresolved shame and self-esteem issues – which, for me at least, made apologies TERRIFYING. It’s much less scary to say “oh yea, I forgot to wash the dishes because of my ADHD”,than it is to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. This is a difficult/challening/overwhelming task for me, and I screwed up. I know it shouldn’t be that hard, but for some reason it is – and the fact that this simple thing is so impossible for me to do, makes me feel worthless”. But, in my case at least, that’s exactly what I needed to do – because I needed to ‘prove to myself’ that my family would still love me even if I screwed up the simplest instructions.

It may seem ridiculous and super obvious, but even now, years later, I still need my parents to confirm that they ACTUALLY love me every now and again. Living with ADHD creates a weird internal echo chamber of doubt and uncertainty, where you question everything from the passage of time, to the strength of your own family’s love.

But, by acknowledging the impact of my actions, being honest about my limits, and asking for help when I’m struggling, my family and I have been able to deepen our understanding of one another and more easily resolve our issues.

I no longer say “woops, my ADHD made me late!”; I say, “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting – I know that running late makes you anxious, and I’m sorry to have upset you”. I don’t say, “Oh, I forgot to do the dishes because of my ADHD”; I say, “I’m sorry for not following through – I genuinely forgot. Is there something else I can help with?”

Doing this has also helped my family understand what specifically I struggle with – so they’re much more patient, and have stopped inadvertently putting so much pressure on me. We all know what can be reliably expected with my ADHD, and through a lot of trial and error, we’ve been able to make lifestyle adjustments which play to my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses.

Instead of saying things like, “why can’t you just get up earlier so we’re not late every day?”, now they say things like, “I’m frustrated that we’re late, but I know your ADHD makes it difficult to percieve the passage of time correctly, and I appreciate you doing your best”. Instead of, “seriously, how many times do I have to ask you to do the dishes?” they say things like, “hey, Hon, you know I love you, but I think you may have forgotten your promise to do the dishes” or, “Hey, I know you’re going to take care of those dishes – just curious if you had an ETA. I can’t make dinner until the counters are clear” etc, etc.

It hasn’t been easy – it’s been a long, ugly road, and we still have bad days, but it’s a huge improvement from where we were before.

Anyway, best of luck – I hope things get a little bit better every day.