April 15, 2019 at 1:39 pm #114040
Hi there. First post here. Here is the question/issue I’m looking for input on. How do you express or deal with frustrations in/with your spouse and their ADHD behaviors in a constructive way?
A little background: I’m a non-ADHD husband married to an ADHD wife for a little over seven years. We’ve been together for around 10. Have three kiddos, oldest is 7 and shares her mother’s ADHD diagnosis. I’ve got my own challenges, working with depression. Overall, I’d say our relationship is strong. We don’t really argue much. We try to give each other what they need (although, in some ways we are polar opposites, so sometimes fulfilling one of our partner’s needs really depletes our own reserves.) I work outside to support the family. She stays home to care for the kids and manage the family, although she recently started taking on some odd jobs to help with finances. I’d overall say that she is VERY high functioning despite her ADHD diagnoses. Still, there are times where she struggles, and as her job is managing the family, those struggles obviously affect others in the family. I try really hard to simply accept as much of the ADHD behavior as I can when it just affects her or I, but when it starts to affect the kids, I find myself getting really upset.
A recent example: Oldest daughter has been struggling with some behavior and school issues. We suspect she has her mom’s ADHD and have her evaluated. Sure enough, her eval shows she has significant ADHD issues that pretty much mirror her mom’s. She needs follow up support, including getting with a counselor. Mom, as the family manager, says she’ll take care of it. Weeks go by. Kid continues to struggle. We talk repeatedly about getting her into a counselor. No appointments are made. Mom messages me asking if I have any ideas with how to deal with daughter’s bad behavioral issues when she gets home from school (I’m at work.) Them mom gets upset when I ask her if she’s set up an appointment for the kid or has even started looking for a counselor. She again says she hasn’t but will. A few more days go by and I ask again if there’s been any progress. She says she needs me to remind her. I’m sitting here going, “we’ve talked about this at least a dozen times over the past month. I’ve specifically reminded you at least three times. At this point, what more can I do except do it myself?” But I can’t say that, because if I do, she gets REALLY upset and claims I’m “attacking her,” that I think I’m more capable than her, and that I don’t trust her.
Less impactful but more frequent example. I get home from work. The kids are watching videos on the tablet. Mom’s working on three of the 1000 projects she’s started simultaneously (900 of which will never get finished). Not only have kids not eaten dinner, but there isn’t even a plan for dinner. Kids have bedtime in an hour, and they haven’t even started their homework. The sink is overflowing with dishes, the dishwasher is full, and there are dishes sitting on the counter that have been ‘drying’ for the last three days. I see all this, start making dinner, get on the kids to start their homework, and start plugging away at the dishes. But yeah, I’m frustrated. I’m doing her job as well as mine, now. I fully realize that this is not some moral failing on her part, but that her ADHD won the day (as my depression sometimes wins my day.) Still, if she senses that I’m at all frustrated, she wants to talk it out right then and there. Despite the fact that we’ve had this exact same conversation 100 times before with no resolution. She seems to think we need to talk it through every time until we come to a ‘solution.’
I love my wife, and have come to accept that there are times when her ADHD is going to get the better of her. I truly do. That doesn’t mean that when it does, I’m never going to get frustrated. Usually during these conversations/arguments, she says something along the lines of “if it’s frustrating for you, imagine how it feels for me!” I totally get that. Having depression, I know how frustrating it is to not be in control of your internal thought processes. But, just because her ADHD is frustrating for HER doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating for me, too. I mean, she’s struggled with her ADHD for her whole 30+ years on this planet, still gets frustrated with it, and hasn’t been able to come up with workable solutions. Yet, she seems to think that I should never get frustrated with her ADHD or, if I do, that we’re going to come up with some magical solution in the moment when her ADHD is running wild, and I’m tired/frustrated, and sometimes dealing with depression issues, too.
I’m really feeling cornered and would appreciate any insight for strategies to positively deal with the frustrations caused by your partner’s ADHD? I’ve tried direct talks separating the behavior from the person, but she still feels like I’m judging her. I’ve tried to simply swallow/hide the frustration, but of course that just leads to it building up until there is a blow out.
April 18, 2019 at 7:48 pm #114411leftie22Participant
Hi! I can relate to your struggle, and I recently posted my frustration with my husband’s lack of follow through on the things he’s supposed to/agreed to do. I didn’t get too many responses, so I think there are a lot of us who are struggling and just don’t have good solutions.
The thing I find the most annoying is the fact that my husband gets upset at me (much like your wife) if I bring up something he promised to do and didn’t do. To me, that’s the part that’s the hardest to understand – the lack of apology, and the fact not only does HE get to be mad at ME, but the promised task still doesn’t get done, and I feel like my feelings go unheard and unaddressed. I don’t know the solution to this dilemma, so I don’t have much advice. We can’t force our partners to follow through, and that’s hard to live with. I think any human being would be frustrated when promises get broken and commitments aren’t honoured.
All I can say is that if something is truly important and/or time sensitive and affects the kids, I know I have to do it. Our son has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum, and I handle all his appointments, specialists, communication with the school, etc. Any piece of it that I try to give to my husband doesn’t get done, so I’ve accepted that as unfair as it feels, I have to do the crucial stuff.
That being said, it’s overwhelming being responsible for a disproportionate amount of life “stuff”. Could you and your wife make a list of things that need to be done, and agree on who will do what? And you take on some of the things that are affecting your daughter? I’ve found that a lot of contacts and appointments can be done via email, so it doesn’t have to be done during 9-5 business hours. It might just be a reality that you need to take the really time sensitive things on, in the evenings or when you have a break at work.
I also realized that having a total division of labour (me at home with the kids and him at work) wasn’t stable enough or realistic with ADHD in the picture. My husband kept losing his job, or hyper focusing on freelance where he wasn’t getting paid, etc., and it was just too much instability. So I’ve gone back to work part time. Are there ways you could restructure your arrangement so your wife could work a bit more and you could work a bit less outside the home, and take on some of the childcare/household duties? My husband is also terrible with keeping the kids to a routine, homework, bedtime, discipline, etc. So I found a job where I can still do the morning and after school kid routine, and work while they’re at school. I’m also responsible for the bedtime routine and most kid discipline, because my husband struggles with being consistent, noticing the time, transitioning from an activity etc. I don’t love taking on all this stuff, but if I don’t, it doesn’t get done, and I’m not prepared for my kids to pay the price. I do feel frustrated and resentful that he can’t do it, though. I’m pursuing counselling for that.
Anyway, I’m sorry you’re in this position, and I get it. I think no matter how constructive you are with communicating your frustration, it’s typical ADHD behavior to deflect and deny, and to continue not to follow through. So you might need a written agreement of what gets done by whom, and a support system to deal with your frustration when the plan doesn’t get followed. Good luck!!!
April 22, 2019 at 7:49 am #114424Dr. EricParticipant
Instead of saying what you don’t want, explicitly say what you are asking for more of.
Even with neurotypical kids in a dance or cheer camp, saying “Remember to point your toes” makes for a much more positive experience than saying, “Don’t flex your feet.”
Also be direct in expectations.
“The kitchen is a mess,” is not the same as, “Please do the dishes.”
Also, ask for things in the time that it can be executed.
I need to to know that I should buy batteries when I am in the store (or at least when I can write it in my shopping list), not when driving the car somewhere else.
April 22, 2019 at 10:43 am #114511WarmMuddleParticipant
Oh, how familiar this all sounds and how exhausting it feels to read about the exhaustion I feel being a spouse of someone suffering from untreated/under-treated ADHD! I have to work SO hard not to slip into “I must do everyting or else nothing will get done!” The truth is that even when I was doing everything there was STILL chaos – there are things ONLY my husband can do.
He was only diagnosed 6 months ago and we are doing better, though I’m unsure how much is permanent. But he’s started taking medication and I’m hopeful.
But talking to him about his difficulties was the hardest part! He’s completely unaware of what they are! If I brought up anything specific (“please take out the trash when it starts over-flowing,” “please be more affectionate,” or even “please do this thing you said you’d do”) he’d react with frustration and anger. Then he’d make a real effort with that one thing, but a million other things were still neglected and he’d always fall back into neglecting the one thing I’d requested.
The only thing that’s made me feel any better is a good counselor – ours actually has ADHD so he understands our struggles well.
My best advice is this: focus on the trouble your wife can perceive. When I tried to talk to my husband about him being “distant,” “disorganized,” or “overwhelmed” we got nowhere because he doesn’t realize he’s any of those things (I think decreased self-awareness is the WORST part of ADHD), but once I started talking about him feeling “un-energetic” he started listening because he DOES feel like he has less energy. Maybe the feeling is the same for your wife, but what helped me identify it was asking him how he feels different than he did before we got married (which was shortly before his symptoms started getting worse).
Secondly, once you’re able to get through to her find a couple’s counselor/therapist who’s familiar with ADHD. Your wife needs to set up her own reminder system. You can’t remind her of everything when you have your own things to remember! You both need support on navigating ADHD: your wife on her symptoms and you on figuring out where each of your “lanes” begin and end, then sticking to your lane, and letting her suffer when things I her lane fall apart.
I think ADHD marriage is a lot like addiction marriage: both partners need support and the sufferer will never seek treatment as long as we (their non-ADHD spouse) is preventing the natural consequences of their actions. Your kids’ health always comes first and i have no doubt it will be hard to figure out where your lane ends because you care so much about the kids, but if I was in your position I’d start setting some boundaries like, “when I come home after a long day of work I don’t have any energy to help with dinner or the kids hungry behavior so ig the kids aren’t fed when I get home I’ll need to take space to myself.” Then the hardest part is sticking to it and NOT helping!
I hope something in here helps. Best of luck!!!
P.S. my husband CONSTANTLY forgets to eat! Then he feels terrible because he’s been so hungry for so long! You’d think he’d have figured out how that works after 37 years of life, but here we are!
April 24, 2019 at 8:01 am #114611
Thanks for the feedback and empathy, y’all. I almost feel guilty about getting frustrated and posting about it. She is aware of the issues and genuinely desires to do better. I’m 100% positive she is as frustrated with her ADHD as I am. I’m really not trying to beat up on her for something she isn’t fully in control of. In many ways, I’ve come to accept the eccentricities of living in an ADHD household. It’s just the balancing the conflicting needs of not nagging/parenting her, but simultaneously having to be ever vigilant about whether she’s done what she’s agreed to; and then figuring out how to not get resentful about that. Especially when it comes to our kids, and particularly our ADHD daughter. Having ADHD, our daughter is going to be set up for a life full of challenges. I know that as parents, we’re going to have to set up lots of support systems for her to be successful. But I honestly don’t know if my wife is capable of doing that, what with her own ADHD issues. I struggle with feeling like our daughter is being set up for failure, rather than success because the primary caregiver parent isn’t able to provide the support and structure she needs to be a successful kid with ADHD. I so often see the two of them (my wife and daughter) spiraling off each other, letting their ADHD play off each other’s, and I don’t know what to do about that. For instance, kids come home from school, mom hasn’t gotten 1/2 the stuff done in the day she had hoped to, so is frustrated/stressed/unable to focus. Daughter is exhausted from trying to be ‘on’ in school all day as a kid with ADHD and is exhausted. Because mom is still trying to do everything she didn’t get done during the day, she doesn’t start the kid’s routine right away. Daughter is exhausted and counting on routine/going on auto-pilot, so lack of routine sends her into a meltdown. Kid’s meltdown draws mom’s attention away from the tasks she’s already frustrated about not being able to finish, argument ensues, wash, rinse, repeat.
Of course, I know there isn’t a magic bullet or magic phrase to fix all this. If there was, someone would have patented and sold it by now. I just have to figure out how to manage everyone’s needs without completely disregarding my own. Maybe I’ll get that figured out this lifetime. 🙂
- This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by myADHDlife.
April 24, 2019 at 8:07 am #114613
“The truth is that even when I was doing everything there was STILL chaos – there are things ONLY my husband can do.”
Yes. THIS!!! I’ve begrudgingly come to accept that my life will always involve a significant level of chaos, which is something I really struggle with, and I think a big part of my underlying frustration. I crave peace and calmness, and that just isn’t in the cards for me. No matter how much I do, or try to ‘take off her plate’ to make things more manageable, the chaos never diminishes. Take the dishes example above. If I simply start doing them all the time, she doesn’t then use the extra time she now has to focus on finishing up the other unfinished tasks she has, she starts 3-4 new projects, which then sit 1/2 done for weeks at a time and become a new source of stress.
April 26, 2019 at 12:02 pm #114999
I’m the one with ADHD in our house – we’ve working on year 37 now… 🙂 Yes, I recognize how frustrating I can be to live with, and my husband recognizes that it’s unintentional – I *AM* trying as hard as I can, and so is he…
One practical tip that’s helped keep our lives somewhat sane: Checklists. A checklist for long-term projects, broken up into steps. A checklist for every day stuff, even things someone with a non-ADHD brain might consider to be obvious (like, dishes, a bit of a bone of contention in our house, too, but I’ve gotten better with them). I’m not saying checklists solve all our problems, but they do help.
Timers are helpful as well – if your wife is anything like me, she has absolutely no sense of passing time. I hate wearing a watch, but I do bring one outside with me when I do the gardening – my hubby will give me a time I need to come in to do something else, and I set a timer on the watch so I can’t forget… otherwise I’d be outside until the sun sets, and then wonder why my husband is annoyed!
Good luck… keep a sense of humor, and remember to love each other!!!! 🙂
April 26, 2019 at 2:20 pm #115008
Thanks. We’ve tried variations on this, but I think I’d like to get back to it. My wife is pretty good about calendaring stuff, but in practice, that doesn’t really seem to help her get on top of stuff that takes multiple steps/days to complete. I suppose I should have mentioned that we also have a two year old in the house, which raises the degree of difficulty on getting anything done without having to start/stop 100 times. I think that is where a lot of the problems come in. She starts on something on her to-do list, gets interrupted, and then forgets to complete it, or loses the momentum towards completing the task and it ends up sitting 1/2 finished.
April 26, 2019 at 3:20 pm #115065
We had three children, about two years apart, and our eldest has ADHD as well… I think life with toddlers is chaotic under any circumstances, and the toddler years were definitely crazy for us!
My hubby makes me sit down and come up with the checklists. Then, for bigger projects, he has me break down the list into mini-checklists, so each step has to be checked off. Then he goes over the lists with me to make sure they’re practical (I’m not so good at practicality).
For example, you mention that your wife needs to get treatment lined up for your daughter – you can help her get a checklist set up for the project, including every tiny detail (e.g., find counselor, make appointment, etc.) and then print it out in a monster-sized font and post it on the fridge (or some other obvious place where it won’t be lost or buried)… explain (again) that it is very important (which she probably knows – I know from personal experience how easy it is to be distracted away from projects, even when I know how important they are) and explain that it’s super high priority, even more important that getting the dishes done… Then when your two-year-old interrupts her as she’s proceeding with arranging your daughter’s treatment, she can later look at her checklist and jump right back into the next step (hopefully, instead of diving into some other project).
It’s okay to feel frustrated. It’s even okay to express it… My hubby and I found therapy to be helpful. He learned how to tolerate my idiosyncrasies a bit more, I learned how to develop a tougher skin so I could accept constructive criticism a bit better, and we both learned how to communicate better – our minds run in different tracks, so learning to communicate is important (I’ve learned that telling him, “The thingie is on top of that big thing in the garage,” does not help the average person find a tool on the workbench)!! It helped a lot… Good luck!!!
April 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm #115000LynnHoffman65Participant
Hi — I only had a chance to skim your posts. I am the non-ADHD spouse. My husband only realized that he had/has ADHD when my daughter was diagnosed with it, and then we both began to see the similarities in the way he behaves, reacts, etc. I just wanted to add that a little humor goes a long way. We’re moving and right now, I feel like we live in an obstacle course of half-packed boxes. I am working while he is currently the stay-at-home dad (soon to be working dad). Anyway, I said to him this morning, “I think it’s time to organize our boxes today, and not work on your “Star Trek” project.” 😉 He smiled and said, “Yeah, but you’ve been enjoying your home-cooked meals haven’t you?” I nodded. “And the house is fairly clean, isn’t it?” I nodded again and said, “Yes, honey, you’ve done a good job with those things, and we need to work on the boxes too!” (I know it doesn’t sound funny in text, but really it was a light-hearted exchange.)
April 26, 2019 at 5:32 pm #115081
Another practical tip from the grandma: Weekend batch cooking! Maybe this could even become a fun family project. Planning the week’s meals, shopping for ingredients, and then cooking up dinners for the next week on Saturday and Sunday was a lifesaver when our kids were little (or at least a sanity saver). Before we started doing things this way, I would often come to the end of the day and realize that there were suddenly four pairs of eyes staring at me hungrily, expecting a dinner that I’d forgotten to cook! With the new system, it was so wonderful to suddenly realize that it was dinnertime, reach into the fridge or freezer, zap it the microwave, and voila – hot, homemade meal (almost) right on time! 🙂
My hubby jumped right into this routine – he loves organization! He and the kids helped me to decide what meals were to be cooked that week and all five of us went shopping at the grocery store for ingredients – yes, very chaotic, but we wanted the kids to learn how to choose food and it was kind of fun, too – besides, there was no extra cash around for babysitting in those days! 🙂 Hubby and I cooked together on the weekend, and the kids pitched in a bit, too. He always made a big batch of chili, a family favorite. I always made a batch of pizza dough and popped it in the fridge after the second rising: Pizza night was the kids’ favorite meal, when they each got a round of dough so they could create any kind of pizza they pleased.
Your seven year old is probably old enough to help out with weekend cooking projects, and it might help her learn to get things done despite her ADHD… and maybe even show her that an ADHD brain can sometimes be advantageous. I credit the extra creativity that allows me to transform limited and inexpensive ingredients to tasty meals to my ADHD… 🙂
April 26, 2019 at 6:36 pm #115087sandilaParticipant
I’m the partner with ADHD and would like to provide a little insight for you and others that are wondering why your spouse seems to get mad at you for pointing out things that he/she hasn’t done. It sounds like you’re being really patient and doing a great job under challenging circumstances of understanding and empathizing with her. I hope she really appreciates that, since your marriage would not work at all if you didn’t understand that she was suffering too. Like @Donkeylady, we have a couples counselor (with ADHD!) who has been extremely helpful and like @Donkeylady it seems like there are many strategies but that the main thing for your spouse to learn is to be able to take constructive criticism. For someone with ADHD, especially if it was undiagnosed and untreated for a long time, there is a lifetime of ADHD-related-shame that can come rear its head at any time. It’s incredibly frustrating to not feel like you can trust yourself to do the things you want to do, and gut-wrenching when you realize that you’re disappointing the people you love because of it. Plus we’re not so good at emotional self-regulation so when the shame gremlin (as Brene Brown calls it) comes rearing its head, basically you’re going to get tears or anger, sometimes both at the same time. Or alternately, a cool bitterness that means that emotions have been pretty much shut down, with a seemingly cavalier “this is just the way I am, deal with it” attitude. None of this really means that your partner doesn’t understand the impact it’s having on you and doesn’t feel bad about it. In fact, it’s all because she feels bad.
So the first step in making it possible to express frustration is to help her manage these feelings in a way that lets her be more open to critique. The next thing is to make sure you are requesting things of her that she is actually able to provide, and giving as much support as you can without burning yourself out. Support doesn’t mean doing everything for her, but it does mean approaching things as a team. Even if it’s her problem, you have to deal with the consequences, so it’s best for you and best for your marriage if you can both collaborate to help her solve the problems that she involuntarily creates for herself.
Have you read or watched Brene Brown? If not, I highly suggest you and your wife both do. There are two big things in particular that she’s talked about that I think are relevant here. One is for you to consider the possibility or act as if people are truly doing the best they can, even if they are constantly screwing up. I know you are patient and empathetic, probably more than most, but if on some level there is a part of you that thinks “well if she really cared, she could do this”, you need to work on that. Because she really cares, and she really can’t. Not always. I can’t guarantee that she’s always doing the best she can, but if you have a problem (like scheduling the counselor), think to yourself “What would I do if I really accepted that that this is the best she can do right now?” Maybe you would just do the thing yourself. Or maybe you would help her, in a non-judgmental and process-oriented way, to figure out what’s keeping her from doing it and try different strategies for making it happen.
Either way, it’s not fair. You shouldn’t have to do this. You do enough. It would be great if she could just follow through without additional effort on your part, but if that’s not happening, you basically have three choices, (1) keep getting frustrated with her, and seeing her defensively lash out, which may occasionally work but mostly will not and will lead to more frustration for both of you, (2) do the thing yourself, which will work in the short term, but if you do it all the time will likely stoke resentment in you and varied emotions in her (guilt, incompetence, entitled irresponsibility, hopelessness), or (3) work with her. Be her teammate, or sometimes her coach. In most relationships that kind of power dynamic could be bad, and while that could still be true here, I think (and others may disagree) that there are ways in which this could be totally healthy for an ADHD/non-ADHD pair. You want her to be better. She wants to be better. You both have the same goal. If you can get over your resentment about the fact that she can’t just do it without you and she can get over her defensiveness and learned helplessness and actually work with you, you can improve things. She’ll never cure the ADHD, but there are a TON of things that can help – daily practices and supports like medication, meditation, and exercise, and tactical tools like timeblocking, body doubling, checklists, etc.
It’s akin to dealing with a chronic illness or even an injury. If your wife broke her leg, would you resent having to help her with things sometimes? Would you think she’s not trying hard enough when she can’t climb the stairs without assistance? No. But would you just do everything for her and let her feel helpless and not in control of her own life? I hope not. You’d do something in between. Let her fend for herself and see how much she can do on her own, but help her out when you see her struggling, without being angry at her for not being able to do more. You’re allowed to get exhausted, you’re allowed to be mad at the world that she has a broken leg, you’re allowed to express frustration (even to her, but also to others who can listen compassionately without bashing your wife) about how it affects you. But the one thing that’s never going to help is thinking “Damn it, why doesn’t she just walk? I’ve seen her do it before, I’m sure she could do it now. She made it halfway up the staircase, why is she stumbling now? I’ll just watch her, and if she doesn’t finish I’ll go up and tell her how disappointed I am that she didn’t walk up the rest of the staircase.” When you say it that way, it’s ridiculous. Since you’ve struggled with depression, you have a better sense of how mental illness and disabilities can be just as challenging as physical ones. But as someone who has both, I’ll say that the difference is that ADHD NEVER LEAVES. Imagine if you’d struggled with depression since birth and still did, constantly. It can be crushing.
The other thing that Brene Brown talks about that may help your wife is that she has to be willing to really understand her pain and her shame and not run away from it, while also practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion isn’t saying “that’s just how I am, so I’m going to let myself off the hook”, but it means treating yourself with love even when you’re looking at a part of yourself that you don’t like. It means being honest. If you come to your wife with frustration and it brings out her shame gremlin, she’s going to get defensive and maybe even angry at you. But she needs to be able to acknowledge it, and talk about it, and not let it have so much power over her and her response. Ideally she could say something like “I know you’re frustrated with me. I’m frustrated with me too. I don’t know why I can’t seem to call the counselor. Every day I wake up and tell myself I’m going to do it, and every day I fail. When I think about my failure, it’s overwhelming, and I push it away and get distracted by something else. When you bring it up, I can’t push it away, and I have to face it. I feel like I’m failing you, and myself, and our kids. I hate this feeling but I don’t know how to make it stop and so I feel angry at you for making me feel this way. I know that it’s not really your fault, I just don’t understand why I can’t do simple things sometimes. I know I have to do this thing, but I haven’t, and no matter how much I promise I will do it, I don’t have confidence that I can actually follow through since I haven’t so far. Can you help me?”
And then maybe you two can have an honest discussion about either some of the unconscious emotions that are holding her back (does she have some resistance or guilt around her child’s diagnosis?) and/or some strategies and next actions you could try and see if they work better (thinking through everything she’ll need to make the call, when she’ll make it, and what obstacles may keep her from doing so, and what she’ll do if her first effort doesn’t work; or just sitting next to her while she’s making the call). In time, you’ll develop more of a partnership around these things, and you’ll both develop more confidence in her ability to deal with setbacks and stalling and follow through on important things.
Honestly, I don’t understand how you are getting by with three small kids and her being with them all the time. I don’t know how people without ADHD do it, and I sure as heck don’t understand how people with ADHD do it. I don’t know how my own mom (who had undiagnosed ADHD) did it. It was hectic, I’ll tell you that. But if you work with your wife, you’re also modeling for your kids how to deal with conflict with patience and compassion, showing that there are ways to actually address ADHD symptoms constructively, and how to live with a growth mindset, knowing that we are all always capable of improving, but that it takes a lot of hard work (and sometimes another person to support you).
April 26, 2019 at 7:13 pm #115092
Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I didn’t even know that that awful, horrible feeling that consumes me when I “fail” had a name: The “Shame Gremlin.” I’ll definitely remember that (I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 53 years old. I’m pushing 58 now).
BTW, it is definitely possible to raise kids when one has ADHD – I did it, too! The meals were a little irregular, the house was pretty messy and disorganized, voices were often raised a bit (or a lot!) too loudly (sometimes in anger, but often in joy), but the kids had a lot of fun and were happy most of the time. And all-in-all, they grew up into pretty darn awesome adults. 🙂 Thank goodness the whole “helicopter mom” thing wasn’t a thing back in the good ‘ol days, or I’d have been facing a whole flock of those shame gremlins!!!!
April 26, 2019 at 11:58 pm #115095leftie22Participant
The quote about chaos is SO true! I have such a hard time with how disorganized our lives are if I don’t plan. It drives me nuts that there’s no plan for a day, or weekend, or vacation, or career move, or savings, etc., etc., unless I make one. It really makes me feel like we’re just stumbling through the days without purpose, or a common goal. I find that hard.
I also agree about how frustrating it is to watch an adult and child with ADHD spiral off each other. (In my case, my husband and son.) It feels like my husband often sets our son up to fail, then punishes him. Our weekends are so loud and dramatic compared to my days with them when my husband is at work. That makes me really sad for the kids. For example, my husband won’t give our son time to transition out of an activity, will suddenly decide that our son has to do something NOW, then when our son naturally gets upset and can’t turn on a dime, my husband gets super mad right away and jumps right into giving him a time out or something. It’s painful. I often step in to diffuse things, but it doesn’t help for our kids to see that we aren’t on the same page. And I know if my husband would just take 2 minutes to do something in a calmer, kinder way, my son would gladly comply. 🙁 We talk about it over and over, but in the moment he just can’t seem to parent any differently. I thought he’d have more compassion, since he should understand a lot of the struggles (because he struggles with the same things!!)
April 30, 2019 at 8:08 pm #115662Vplaza73Participant
Wow! A lot of what you are all saying is resonating with my current situation as well! I was officially diagnosed with ADHD about 6 months ago and I’m 33 years old. I am currently taking Adderall. My boyfriend is 39. He most definitely has it as well but has never been diagnosed and I also can barely get him to take out the overflowing trash and do the dishes let alone make a doctor’s appointment for himself. he is moving in about five weeks and has asked me to move in with him and the way things are going right now I don’t feel like that that is a good idea.
His sense of time is unreal. I know exactly how this feels as I do it too and can also relate. for instance last weekend he said he was going to come and meet me and my friends for a barbecue on Saturday night. as the hours ticked away and I didn’t hear from him I started calling him and he didn’t answer and said he was playing his video game – he’s very addicted to until 3 in the morning. He then said he was going to come to my place the next day and did not. I went to his house while trying to hide my fury and it was 4 p.m. on a beautiful day he was sleeping in his bed with a pleasure toy, laptop and his cell phone on the bed and had nothing to say for himself but bury his head in the pillow.
There’s a couple of things I want to ask. First I’ll state that his time management is absolutely atrocious. When he says I’ll be there at 7 I know it’ll be 8 at the very earliest probably 9 or 10. this has caused a lot of problems in our relationship because I have to get up early for work but he owns his own business so he can pretty much do whatever he wants. One person wrote I wish he wasn’t so distant I wish you would do this I feel that way a lot and I have let my frustrations come out sideways because I feel like I’m talking to a wall. then he will act like nothing’s wrong and say hey baby when I walk in the door like nothing has happened and I feel like I want to bang my head against a brick because he’s not self-aware enough to realize you haven’t been paying any attention to me you’ve been playing your video games for days saying that you’re depressed which I’m trying to understand and and be respectful of but it’s very difficult when you say you’re going to do things and then you never do them and then act like nothing is wrong. I get made out to be the needy person and I feel like absolute garbage. He does take dexedrine but not prescribed and I think he really needs to see a doctor and I can’t even get him to go in for a regular dental cleaning let alone do all the work that I had to do to get a diagnosis and I’m doing better on my meds but it’s like he’s not meeting me halfway. And now he wants to move in with me? I try and do nice things like take out the trash when I stay at his place and do the dishes but honestly I can’t even cook a meal for him because when he says he’ll be home he never is 3 hours later.
another thing I don’t know if I should comment on but it’s making me feel very jealous and hurt his finding porno videos on his computer and like I said his pleasure toys. I didn’t think about what I was going to say when I found them last weekend and I literally started shaking and said I didn’t feel well and had to go but then admitted to seeing the titles I didn’t actually see the movies and he accused me of shaming him. he can be very sweet and nice but when he doesn’t want to deal with something he’s just like okay bye. I could never do that to somebody I love. I know that we all have our own way of dealing with criticism or feeling accused of something but when I try and say anything he just dismisses it and is like okay see you later and I just I can’t wrap my head around it and then it makes me feel even more isolated sad and depressed.
to wrap this long story up I just don’t know how somebody that can act so sweet sometimes also act like such a ding dong and act like everything’s okay when I’m clearly trying to express that I’m hurt and that I want things to get better but there’s no effort on his part.
I want to be in this relationship happy not jealous and feeling secure but at the present moment I’m not feeling any of those things. I’ve resorted to snooping through his phone if he falls asleep and feeling paranoid and looking in his drawer to see if his pleasure toys have been moved around because then I know that he use them and I’m just driving myself crazy and I don’t know what to do.
April 30, 2019 at 10:45 pm #115666
I’m old enough to be your mother – in fact, my youngest is your age and my oldest is the same age as your boyfriend – so please forgive me for the maternal tone. I would strongly suggest that you and your boyfriend hold off on moving in together and get some couples counseling before proceeding any further. Based on what you’ve said, it sounds to me like this relationship is not ready for the commitment (and hard work and stress) that is necessary for successful cohabitation. You don’t trust him, he refuses to discuss things that you consider to be important, and he’s driving you nuts – things won’t get any better if you move in with him… in fact, I suspect, they’d get worse, but then you won’t have to option of being able to go home to your own place to decompress. I sincerely hope you find happiness and security, with or without your young gentleman… please tread carefully…
May 1, 2019 at 2:45 pm #115730Vplaza73Participant
Thanks for your reply and I appreciate your advice (I know these things you say are true I’m just lying to myself). I agree with everything you said. It will make matters worse. I won’t be able to go home when I get upset. He says he cares and loves me but I told him doing and saying something are two completely different things. He even said he wants kids when the topic came up a couple times and I said “so I can take care of them all the time while you’re at work until 10pm?” No thanks. I really want this relationship to work but he’s not putting the effort in.
May 1, 2019 at 12:32 pm #115707
One more thought on this issue…
I’m pretty sure that one reason my husband is so patient with me is that I am willing to at least TRY to mitigate my most annoying symptoms. One of you compared ADHD to having a broken leg – I think physical analogies are imperfect, but are good at explaining the fact that we ADDers can’t help the way our brains work… but that does not mean we should sit back, let the chaos fly, and sing, “Blame it on my ADD, baby!” If we behave like that, our partners would be more than justified in their annoyance! 🙂
My head doctor once told me that she believes that ADHD is a normal variant of brain wiring, one that was important for survival in pre-industrial days, but it often leads ADDers into trouble nowadays. To live in the modern world, one has to learn to live by the modern rules. I learned that I need to adapt. Hence the calendars, timers, checklists, meditation, and medication… On my doctor’s advice, my husband became my “coach,” calling me on my ADD-isms, so I could then learn to avoid or at least mitigate the fallout occasionally caused by my ADHD behaviors (Note: I would recommend becoming your spouse’s ADD coach ONLY if you have a strong, well-established marriage – my ADHD was not diagnosed until I was 53 years old – I very much doubt that my 23, 33, or even 43 year old self would have tolerated it!) – hiring a professional ADD coach might be safer for younger marriages…
I think I am more creative and empathetic than the average bear – I am also more sensitive and prone to unintentional mistakes than most – I suspect many of both the positive and negative aspects of my personality are due to ADHD. It’s the way I was born. That doesn’t mean that everyone else has to bend over backwards to accomodate my eccentricities, though. I work hard to try to fit into a world that depends on schedules and social niceties – in return, my friends and family cut me a little slack when my behavior runs a bit off the beaten track…
May 1, 2019 at 4:16 pm #115750
“I think I am more creative and empathetic than the average bear – I am also more sensitive and prone to unintentional mistakes than most – I suspect many of both the positive and negative aspects of my personality are due to ADHD.”
You just described my wife to a T. She can do amazing things. She creates birthday cakes that would be right at home on one of those baking competition shows. She sews her own renaissance fair clothes (including a hand-made corset) that are honestly better than anything you can buy anywhere. She’s EXTREMELY empathic (so am I) which can be both a blessing and a curse. She’s hired herself out as professional organizer. It can make it all the more maddening to know she has all this talent and ability, but can’t seem to make a dang phone call to schedule an appointment for the kid, despite several reminders. Or why she can’t seem to remember that the kids’ homework is a DAILY think that needs attention.
May 1, 2019 at 4:52 pm #115756
My hubby has two signs posted over the oven: “Put a lid on it” (to remind me how to put out the – thankfully now very rare – fires I sometimes set while cooking) and “Stand by your pan” (to remind me to not set a pot of rice or something cooking and then wander off to do something else). I once set the toaster oven on fire, and when throwing salt on it didn’t work, I raced it through the house and threw it into the driveway, where it eventually burned itself out – the kids were all toddlers and thought it was the best trick they’d seen in ages (“Do it AGAIN, Mom!”). My hubby didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry when he got home from work. Some years later, after the kids had moved out, I had my nose in a book and didn’t notice the rising cloud of smoke behind me on the stove until the fire department was ringing my doorbell – we were managing my in-laws’ farm and the place was wired to summon the FD: I was too immersed in the book to even notice the loud siren clanging outside. Luckily, it was a small town and the volunteer force was extremely amused – unluckily, it was a small town and I rapidly developed an “airhead” rep. 🙂 Yes, a sense of humor is key to survival!!!
Maybe large signs might help at your house: Maybe something like “Call the doc!” and “Homework: It’s a Daily Thing.” You guys sound like you’ll survive… the madness makes for good stories once the incidents age a bit! 🙂 Good luck.
June 12, 2019 at 5:30 pm #119641blue_willowParticipant
This doesn’t help express a frustration more constructively, but it helps to avoid some.
One of the practical things we did around here was to set exactly “when” later is.
“What day and time will you be calling the doctor so the appointment is made?”
“Oh, I’ve got a Google Calendar reminder to do that on May 13th at 2pm.”
I then follow up by asking about it that night at supper.
This completely avoids the “oh, I’ll do it later” and “later” never comes thing in our house.
Adding reminders to an online family calendar has helped the setting of appointments not be forgotten, nor the appointments themselves. Google Calendar is free. And it’s helped me keep track of stuff for work, events I need to send out cards for, and all the random stuff. So it’s not just helping him, but it helps me too.
Another practical thing is we sit down together to plan meals.
We don’t do anything complicated. Macaroni and cheese with fish sticks and green beans. Spaghetti and meatballs in the crockpot, with noodles boiled beforehand and a salad tossed together. Carnitas served with things like pre-sliced onions and tomatoes and avocado. Frozen pizza if we must. At our house even sandwiches and carrot sticks are supper.
Maybe it’s time to do more crock-pot meals together? They’re hard to burn, especially if your slow cooker is a fancy one that has the “start cooking at X time, then keep warm until Y time” feature. You can also set a calendar reminder there too, to get that crock out of the fridge, placed in the cooker part, and started.
Routines are key for us. I believe healthy families have routines, so it’s been important to me to establish them. Even if they end up topsy-turvy some days. 🙂
We have a literal checklist for the things my spouse says he wants to do in the morning. It looks a little like this:
1. Feed cats
2. Clean cat bowls
3. Change cats’ water
4. Unload dishwasher
…and there are daily check mark areas next to them, so he can check them off daily. So it’s essentially a spreadsheet we printed out, put on the fridge in a plastic page protector sleeve, and he writes on it with erasable marker.
Of course, that didn’t mean that he didn’t leave his towel on the bed after his shower…but the cats were fed, the bowls were clean, the water was changed out, and the dishwasher was unloaded. Also he obviously took a shower if the towel was lying on our bed, because it wasn’t there last night! LOL
You may need to schedule the counseling yourself, unfortunately. One of my personal rules is “if it’s something that important, have your own plan B for it”.
But at least you have a wife that wants to discuss things! She’s open to communication is what that tells me. The fact it doesn’t stick isn’t totally her fault. With my husband, we had more productive communication sessions when I had his full attention, when I tried to talk to him before the Concerta’s end-of-day spurt petered out, and when we were both relaxed.
Conflicts are inevitable. Feeling bad about them doesn’t have to be. My husband will forget something, like to pick up his Concerta from the pharmacy, and we deal the best we can. His coping skills are not fully there yet either; neither are mine. He ends up with a lot of shame and depression because he wants to be “better”, which honestly should short circuit some of my frustration but sometimes I end up raising my voice and being a little irrational too. I’m working on that, and it’s a journey, for sure. When he feels shamed and accuses me of not feeling he’s as capable as I am, I know I have to wait to talk to him until the situation has calmed down. I tell him how proud I am of him for doing what he does do consistently (whatever that’s been lately), and ask what he thinks might help with an issue I need his help on lately–for example, “I need your help to figure out two things we can do to make sure the dirty water bowl ends up in the kitchen so it can be washed. We’ll both do them, and we’ll keep the one that works. What do you think we could do?” (I use “could” instead of “should” because “should” seems to trigger value judgments about the “right” and therefore “normal” things to do; “could” introduces possibility, even if the suggestion seems “silly” or “weird” to my spouse when he says it. We have come up with some GREAT ideas this way–adding reminders to the Google Calendar came up this way!)
Until my spouse understood that having reminders didn’t make him “dependent” on the calendar in a bad way, and until he saw medication as something other than “a crutch” but “something that makes a difference and helps (him) to do things (he) wants to do” it was a lot harder. I’ve always wanted to try the Epic Win app which makes chores seem like a cool quest where you level up after earning enough points–it’s a gamified to-do list with a good rating among my friends with ADHD–but so far we do okay with the calendar reminders which pop up on his phone and making sure at least the medication routine stays the same.
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