I need help supporting a partner with ADHD!!

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    • #106368

      Hi there,

      My partner and i have been together for 2 and a bit years. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and later as an Adult. He takes regular medication. We have recently moved in together and we are struggling. I have felt that he is not doing his share, also telling me I am nagging when I remind him to do his responsibilities and so on…generally arguing has become an every day occurrence and we are fresh out of ideas. I have been doing lots of research into trying to understand how his ADHD brain works and how i can help him succeed in his tasks whilst not feeling overwhelmed or bored.

      I was wondering if any couples had some helpful tips. Looking for actually changes we can make. Currently we have divided all weekly chores. I do all the cooking and vacuuming. and he takes the bins out and does the washing. We then take turns cleaning the bathroom.

      I really want to make sure we have a good system in place for when we have kids!

      thank 🙂

    • #106380

      Wanting, you stand with many, though we all feel we are standing alone. This is not simply ADHD. I’ve never let these words be seen, but I now see that they may help another being greater than myself. Keep in mind that my family is now healing together..
      It is Wednesday November 28th exactly 10:00 a.m. in the morning. I stand here alone having return from dropping off my son and my wife at school and work respectively, the possibility of the destruction of this family unit was made evident by our son last night. He finally told his mother, my wife, that he would rather go live with my parents than be in our household.
      Part of me is happy because it is a breakthrough for him to open up to her to that effect. I have already known of his feelings On the matter as well as his feelings about our family and its instability. It is a situation that is the result of a multitude of events and behaviors associated with a dynamic in which both she and I have been an continue to be engaged. We both must own this. It is up to we adults to behave like adults in make a decision about what is most important in our lives. My wife has known my decision to that end is that it is our family that is of most importance; that it stays together.
      But I have apparently not done enough, been enough tried hard enough, thought of her enough nor achieved enough for her to find contentment. This is evident base on the realities of what her behavior has been like towards me as well as Ian for at least 5 years if not more.
      Behavior far from that which once was loving, and allows one to enjoy life and the others around them to enjoy their lives. My work My acts, my behavior has not been perfect. I am human. And still demonstrate personal behavior that while annoying and symptomatic of my having attention deficit disorder, are at worst very annoying but still able to be resolved or coped with by anyone who has stated and done what my wife claimed to have done, and has some compassion and empathy for their partner and others.
      Unfortunately that is not the reality in my life in my family with my spouse. Because in spite of every fiber of my being wanting to deny reality, the behavior that my wife has been demonstrating toward me and then my sonv as well, is of the quality and duration so as to absolutely be considered emotional abuse. This is what poses The most significant threat To this little family we have staying together. It is an issue that I confronted my wife with some months ago. It is an issue that she has resisted for quite some time. And most recently she stated having recognized what her behavior is; what it suggests; that she understands and that such understanding has led her to apologize, feels bad about that behavior and has committed to changing it.

      But that is as far is we have come. She unfortunately has further than she may be able to go. Because in spite of her claims she is still doing things that are indicative of behaviors engaged in by Emotional abusive people.
      I know this with absolute certainty based on what I have acquired through researching the area over at least a period of 3 years if not more. It’s something I realized early in my search, and even worked hard to find evidence to the contrary For at least 2 years and even today I struggle with the concept that that is the situation now.
      And I struggle because if she resists actively engaging in remediating her overt direct and hurtful Behavior toward my son and I. Behavior that is demeaning belittling excessive controlling and continuous, Nothing will change. Nothing will heal. And my son will continue to feel the way he feels. A feeling that now is expressed by his telling Madeline that he would rather live with my parents than in his home, with us his parents.
      And this is why I am standing here alone writing this down With a lump in my throat and tears running my cheeks, that I may reflect upon the absolute fear and sorrow, even grief that I feel at the prospect of losing this family to The traumatic effects of emotional abuse. This is in spite of trying to provide my wife with information about symptomology, actual causes, progressive course as well as approaches one can implement in the interest of finding a resolution and sustained remission, In spite of a variety of ways in attempting to approach or on the matter in spite of being one given and wanting to forgive; she seems entrenched in the position that while her behavior may be bad, I’m still 50% of the matter to be resolved.

      However hopeless the situation may seem, therapy has reinforced that I can feel my emotions and I can process them appropriately; Regardless of the depth of the pain and sadness. And in spite of the worry I have for the effects this entire scenario will have on my 9 year old son going forward. Like me, he is an extremely intuitive, empathetic and compassionate individual who loves his family as much as he loves life. I hope he can hold on to that person he is through everything no matter what occurs.

      Your husband must choose to change.


    • #106382

      Hey there,

      Well done for reaching out! It’s good to see people coming here and trying to make sense of what’s going on in their or their loved one’s lives.

      This situation is a common yet thorny one in ADHD/Non-ADHD couples, where the ADHD partner feels nagged, and the NON-ADHD partner feels neglected, or like they’re doing all of the work. The good news is that you’re not alone, and this CAN be ‘fixed’. The bad news is that you can’t solve it unilaterally. Your SO has to see the problem, want to resolve the problem, and actively participate in resolving it. The first step, quite simply, has to be a sit-down talk. He needs to understand that, whether or not he feels nagged, you have an issue with the way tasks and chores are being divided. You feel as if you do everything on schedule, and he does not. You can provide examples if that won’t put him massively on the defensive. He might get defensive anyway, in which case you need to let him have his say, but you need to make it clear that this is a problem. At that point, start going through solutions. Would he prefer it if, instead of taking on individual tasks alone, you BOTH did ALL tasks every week? So you agree that you’ll both do the dishes, you’ll both do the laundry, you’ll both clean the bathroom TOGETHER, same time every week. Or would he rather do some of your jobs instead? People with ADHD tend to avoid the things we don’t like doing. If they’re tasks we find more manageable, we’re less likely to avoid them. Case in point- I never vacuum. I hate it. It’s the most annoying task in the world. So we bought a robot vacuum (my SO is disabled, so I have to do the bulk of household chores, and this was a bilaterally negotiated purchase). Now, that takes care of 90% of the work, but once a week/month you’re meant to run a standard vacuum around the places the robot doesn’t catch. I’ve done that exactly once, the first week we got the robot. The problem is that I hate going to the vacuum, grabbing the vacuum, dragging it uo/downstairs, plugging it in, vaccing, unplugging it, plugging it in elsewhere, vaccing there, before finally dragging it back upstairs and putting it away. It’s a relentlessly organised task, and I’m not an organised person. Plug sockets do not conform to my ideal vacuuming route. Standard vacuums turn a 5 minute job into a 20 minute job. Just this Christmas we bought a cordless vacuum, and I’ve vacced four times since the 23rd. Why? 1: the vacuum is THERE, on the wall, in plain view. 2: the vacuum is light and easy to use. 3: it allows me to structure my vacuuming route as I see fit. 4: I can do something i never used to be able to do, and just walk through the house looking for dust bunnies and clean them up in seconds rather than several minutes. It’s WELL worth your money to pay for convenience instead of having arguments. So, if you have the space, get a dishwasher. Consider ways in which all your chores, not just your SOs, can be made ‘low willpower’. So, in my case, vacuuming used to be a ‘high willpower’ chore, because of all the setup involved. Now there is no setup, and it is ‘low willpower’.

      That’s good general advice, but I’ve wandered away from the point. So back to your words.

      It’s very easy for adhd people to feel nagged, because we have a very poor perception of time, and are overly sensitive to criticism, perceived or otherwise. Say you’ve asked him, very nicely, once a day for five days, to do the chores he was meant to do last week. Every time you ask, he (wrongly) hears “You’re not doing well enough” and instinctively takes the defensive, even though you’ve done nothing wrong. When you tell him once a day for five days, all he knows is that he’s been asked five times, not that it’s only been once a day. With every new addition, the old ones jump back into the front of his mind and he’s just like “but she’s already asked me four bloody times, I’m GOING to do it, just not NOW.” and he conveniently (completely unintentionally) forgets that he thought that the last time, and the time before, and the time before…

      Like I said above, division of chores CAN help, but at the same time, maybe it’s better to share all of them, rather than split them up. Then it changes from “you need to do this” to “we need to do this”, which is less like nagging, and more of an obligation. If you can get him to AGREE to this, or to see the value in it, then he’s more likely to stick to it, as well.

      You can even subdivide the chores. Maybe he hates cooking, but is fine with vegetable prep, and can help while you do that. Maybe he’s happy taking the trash outside, but you could just put it near the door when it needs taking out. That lowers the willpower as well as providing a non-judging visual reminder. Provided he actually sees it, of course. Maybe he does the laundry, but you could sort the piles, or he sorts the piles, you put the laundry on, then you both hang and fold the laundry together, or whatever way works. The fundamental rule is that the system has to work for both of you, else it doesn’t work. You taking on all the chores or the bulk of the labour is unacceptable. One or both of you being unhappy with the division of tasks is unacceptable. Compromise is fine, as long as its equitable.

      Me and my SO are quite lucky in that I HAVE to do the bulk of the housework. What that means is that tasks are divided into what I can do alone, what I can do with help, and what I absolutely can’t stand doing. My SO takes care of the things I hate, and WHEN SHE CAN, helps with the things I can do with help. I CAN do them alone, but I just hate it. With a burning passion. And it puts me in a foul mood, which I hate. The things I can’t stand doing simply don’t get done until she does them. Fortunately there’s no overlap between what I refuse to do and what she refuses to do, so that’s a win for us 😛

      I can appreciate the sentiment of wanting to get this stuff sorted before you have kids, and I recommend that you get a lot more things sorted ahead of time (my SO and I have discussions about what our parenting style will be all the time so we won’t have disagreements further down the line when the kids are already here, such as even what we’d do if one of them developed a drug problem), but if you guys can’t iron out this situation, I’d recommend holding off on kids for some time. After all, a baby is basically just a big bundle of extra chores. If your SO takes weeks to take out the rubbish, how long is he going to take to change a nappy/diaper? Bearing in mind, of course, that that needs to happen almost instantly, and the two of you will be running on insufficient sleep. You need to make sure you can divide all this stuff equitably NOW, because later is too late.

      Hope this helps. If you’ve any further questions, please let me know 🙂

    • #106420

      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).

    • #106438

      It is great you are being so proactive! I have two recomendations a book that parses out how ADHD may be contributing and a website on marriage relationships and negotiating successfully. Together they give great strategies and principles to stay in a sane loving mutually respectful relationship.

      Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder
      by Gina Pera (Author), PhD Russell Barkley (Foreword)

      https://www.marriagebuilders.com/index.html Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr.
      I have read a ton of relationship books (related to work, parenting, and marriage) over the past 25 years. This is the first on marriage that I’ve found that resonates on every level. I haven’t scoffed at one bit and more amazingly neither has my husband. It covers more than you are asking about but it’s principles allow you to devise a plan for managing the house that will work for you both without causing resentment in either.

      This may be especially helpful to the poster AJ, they definitely have your back.

      The author does have a christian background but it is not apparent except in videos where he is interviewed by a christian program host. He definitely does not subscribe to the viewpoint that either spouse has the right to make demands of the other.

      Best Wishes,
      household of 5 and husband is the only one lacking ADHD

    • #106498
      Penny Williams

      There are some good tips for relationships with ADHD in these articles:

      Sick of Arguing? It Might Be Time For a Smarter Compromise

      Married with ADHD: How Real Couples Make It Work

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #106587
      ADHD Pun Here

      I’ve actually taken to calling this whole phenomenon “Parenting” because, as others have stated, it makes me feel like I’m a child, that the person I’m with is acting like a parent, not a friend or SO or what have you. One major thing that has helped me is that I’ve taken time to figure out what kinds of phrases do and don’t make me feel parented.

      Example: “Hey, you didn’t tell me you took your meds today. Did you take your meds today?” VS “Hey, I’m noticing some more symptoms than usual, is it okay for me to ask if you remembered to take your meds?” The first makes me feel like a child because the demanding tone sounds like the person talking down to me. The second gives me autonomy, both to say whether or not I’m okay being asked that, as well as to explain why I might be showing those symptoms. The first takes a tone that already assumes I’ve done the wrong thing, while the second acknowledges that I’m generally doing my best and that the other person wants me to be as healthy as I can.

      Sometimes I ask my fiance to remind me to take my meds because I know I’ll forget. But if I asked her to remind me one day and she did it the following day as well, I would hear it as her telling me I’m irresponsible. Instead, if I’ve asked her recently to remind me about my meds, she’ll ask if I’d like more reminders when it’s time to take them.

      As it relates to your partner and chores, have an open dialogue about what he would find most helpful. Talking about ADHD with an SO can sometimes be stressful, so it might be helpful to clearly state that you’re looking to help him as he needs it, rather than as you think he needs it. It can also be helpful to simply ask if you’re coming across as nagging or parenting if you’re unsure. It sends the message that you’re on the same side and that you’re willing to listen and learn.

      And don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have immediate answers for you. Let him know that he has all the time he needs to think, and/or that you two can revisit the discussion if something changes.

    • #106599

      I have ADHD. I do have some faults as a person to live with: I am chronically disorganized and poor at noticing when, for example, there’s an acumulation of mold around the shower fan, crumbs are piling up under the toaster, I’ve forgotten to take my clothes off the bathroom floor, ect. That kinda shit is not fair for my roommate and here’s the thing: if they take care of it for me, I feel this huge, huge wave of guilt and shame. Hearing them doing chores makes me get up and do chores- which I believe is a trait most people with ADHD have. They really desire to do their share and be seen as responsible though our memory is like, really bad, our organizational abilities are a pretty disabled, and our ability to notice the environment is starting to look chaotic is not as good as everybody else’s.

      But here’s the thing: when my roomate tells me “you left your clothes on the bathroom floor,” I happily clean that up. I will do literally any chore in the house with no complaint, not even a sigh of frustration. I would rather do that chore than not do it. I just really need help remembering and noticing and getting organized. My morals are if one person is working, then everybody else works just as hard. And this is a standard that applies to your boyfriend even with ADHD.

      You would be saintly to understand with his ability to notice when things are messy, with his tendency to leave things lying around, to be disorganized, to forget important dates and times, for friends to show up when he’s not home, ect. Anyone with ADHD needs that much patience from their partners. However, we need to accept help when it’s offered in the form of reminders, and we need to help when we’re asked for help. Every human being has that responsibility. Without the understanding of my partners and my willingness to listen and help, I would get nowhere in life.

      So yes- you have the right to get help with the house from your boyfriend. Caring from the house is not your responsibility alone. He shares in it equally. He has no right to be defensive or accuse you of “nagging” when you ask for help. I hate the word “nag,” anyway, it’s such a gendered word.

      Be clear on your boundaries with your boyfriend. He needs to understand how his lack of willingness to help you is impacting your life and happiness in this relationship. He needs to care about that. If he doesn’t, it’s important to wonder if this is what you see in your future.

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