Reply To: Feeling overwhelmed by my spouse's ADHD

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I was diagnosed 2yrs ago at age 52. Had a relatively successful 25yr career then for certain reasons I won’t go into, my wife and I agreed I would be a stay at home dad for our 4 & 6yr olds while starting my own business and taking contract jobs. This was ten years ago, before I was diagnosed.

I have always been successful at taking care of all kid related things such as school/camp registrations, playdate arrangements, cub scouts, gymnastics, all transportation, doctor visits, grocery shopping, bill paying, car repairs, etc.

I have not been so successful at starting my own businesses even though I really, really, really want to…no doubt in my mind. I am very good at setting it all up, creating the processes’, building websites, research, but when it comes to pulling the trigger and making money, I fall flat on my face. My wife is also frustrated and even said to me that she did not sign up to be with someone with ADHD (well, I didn’t sign up to have it!)

This is what I have found works for success and drives to failure with my relationship and my career.
* Tasks cannot be boring. Boredom is the kiss of death. We shut down, become paralyzed, overwhelmed, don’t know where to begin. While nobody enjoys boring activities, those with ADHD are especially incapable of dealing with it. This is why you see piles of papers everywhere. Going through them is boring and tedious. This is why we are late all the time. The adrenaline rush to get somewhere when running late is a dopamine rush even though we hate to be late. Oh, we also have no concept of time. We live for the here and now, not the future for what might be…another reason we are late.
* We want to be helpful and appreciated but don’t always know how to go about doing it.

YOU: (strategies for success)
Our brains work differently. They are not broken, just different and if you have a little instruction manual, your lives can drastically improve. So try these tips but remember, when you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met…one person with ADHD.

* NEVER yell/shout at us. We shut down. Instead, listen to our frustration and we will listen to yours. Speak calmly and offer up suggestions for success. Keep the conversation positive and solution focused. We hate nagging and complaints. Does no good (it IS ok to complain or vent frustration as long as you follow up with a suggestion as to how to resolve the problem.)
* Don’t expect us to follow your suggestions for success. We’ll forget. Gently remind us and even stand there until we get going on the task.
* Don’t expect us to finish the task. Accountability is important to us. Circle back and ask us how it’s going. When we tell you we found some interesting cat videos on Youtube, it’s ok to remind us that we didn’t uphold our end of the bargain and you are depending on us. We don’t really want to let you down. Remember, don’t yell, but it’s more effective to show your disappointment and that you felt betrayed.
* A footnote to the preceding point above. We are sensitive to emotions and can read them better than most. I feel awful when I’ve disappointed someone and I work hard to correct the damage. This may not be true for all but it is for me.
* Celebrate successes. High fives and excitement…we live for that.
* We are forgetful. What were we celebrating again??? Gently remind us. Don’t get frustrated. It does nobody any good. Just remind us and don’t get annoyed. Accept it, pick your battles, don’t pick this one to battle. I think that is all I wanted to say about it. Wait…what was my point again…?

Ok, if you’ve read this far, you get to learn the ultimate secret to ADHD success. Here it is…

* First learn, you cannot have one without the other. Both are required for success
* It is the lack of structure that prevents us from accomplishing what needs to get done. We are intelligent, competent, and able-minded but without a daily routine or step by step process, we wander aimlessly from step 3 to step 1 to step 4, etc. Nothing gets started and nothing gets done and certainly nothing gets finished. Break tasks down into small steps. Maybe 30 minute tasks (we get bored after about 30 minutes.) This is why an entrepreneur with ADHD can be either tremendously successful or tremendously a failure. If the task(s) are exciting, the entrepreneur will thrive from task to task. When mundane, we struggle like a ship without a rudder and sails with holes, we go nowhere but in circles. This is where discipline kicks in. You see, you can have structure, but that doesn’t mean we’ll follow it which is why discipline is important. There is no medication for discipline because it is more about executive function which we lack. However, we need your help in learning executive function otherwise we are doomed and it is at this point that you the non ADHD spouse have a decision to make. Are you going to help your spouse so he/she can help you into a life of bliss? Do you really… I mean really TRULY love your partner because this is where you make the decision to accept the condition because you love your partner for better or worse or, you wipe your hands, declare you’re done, stand up and walk away?