Reply To: Feeling overwhelmed by my spouse's ADHD

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I can relate to so much of what has been written. My husband was diagnosed seven years ago in his early 40s, six years into our marriage. He has always felt different and inadequate, barely made it through school and struggled with addiction (thankfully clean and sober almost 20 years). I took on most all responsibilities early in our marriage, which led to resentment. We both work full time jobs, and today have two small children (and a small farm and two puppies) as well. I was a seething put of anger and dislike. As a poster said above, I did most everything, and felt like I had to nag or constantly remind, and eventually do everything myself (oh, martyr!) or it wouldn’t get done.

Our son, now six, has been a handful since he was 17 months old. He’s now six, and has finished kindergarten (which probably took two years off of my life). In April, after I had to jump through so many hoops, he was finally diagnosed with ADHD combined type and anxiety. I have learned SO much about ADHD since his diagnosis, mostly due to groups like this (and others) and podcasts. As I learn about tools and techniques to help our son, I see where I need to help my husband as well. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes this all pisses me off! It’s so much work and stress to be the partner (and parent) of people with ADHD! BUT…I can recognize and appreciate my husband’s gifts (so smart, so funny and loveable, sensitive, such a good dad…and see that his challenges are something he needs help – and grace – with. Time and organization are huge issues for him. Seeing things that need done are huge issues. I see a parent coach (to help with my son) and she pointed out that ADHD causes people to see all tasks horizontally, like a flat timeline, so that everything has the same importance. It’s my job to find ways to help both my hubby and my son turn their lists vertically, and assess what order to put things. For my son, it’ll mean helping come up with a checklist of 3-5 things that need done in the morning to get ready for the day (hopefully including peeing, brushing g his teeth and getting dressed), that we can put on his own little clipboard to check off each morning. For my hubby, it’ll be similar anytime he’s faced with a large project (defending our pastures, for example, OMG I thought I would kill him! – this was before our son’s diagnosis – but he couldn’t prioritize and estimate time on removing old fences, drilling new post holes, setting new posts, and stringing five new strands of barbed wire). Hubby is usually in charge of making dinner (a leftover from my high risk pregnancies), and that usually works out ok…with reminders of me about time when he gets distracted by phone calls and stuff. For the dishwasher, I bought a sliding “clean/dirty” magnetic sign as a visual cue. For spending – and he is impulsive – we have an agreement that we will not spend more than $200 (except for Costco trips and things) without a discussion. I just pointed out Friday, on our way to camping in the trailer we bought two years ago, that no, we don’t need to trade it in for a “better” model, and that he has a tendency to think something else must be better than what we have. I have to take responsibility for the fact that I tend to get worn down by his ideas of bigger and better and eventually cave. No more. I am grateful that he’s been a fantastic employee for many years and is very secure in his job.

Anyway, I would encourage those of you who are struggling to read more about the affects of ADHD, recognizing that it is a brain difference, not something they do on purpose “to us”. Give yourselves grace for your feelings – it is freaking hard on us who don’t have ADHD, too, in different ways than it’s hard on those who have or. Penny Williams recently had an excellent podcast about self-care for parents of ADHD kids, and I would suspect it would be relatable to those with ADHD spouses, too. (Her Podcast is Parenting ADHD Podcast…I think it was episode 62 or 63.)