Metaphor: Wanting a Garden Without Nurturing It

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    • #116839

      I’m trying to figure out how this works….

      I planted an herb garden on our deck upstairs a few years ago without realizing how hard it would be to water it without a hose. A year later, neither me, nor my then un-diagnosed and un-treated ADHD husband, had used it so I let it die. 6 months later he noticed it was dead and said he missed having it. So I planted a new one in the back yard – he never uses that one, either.

      I’m just realizing this is a metaphor for my husband in general: he wants our house, our cars, our dogs, our bank account, and our marriage to stay good/healthy/alive without “visiting” any of them, noticing they need maintenance, and then giving them the maintenance they need. He wants to focus on his work and hang out with friends, forget to feed the dogs, forget to put money into our bank account, forget to talk to me, forget to check the car’s fluid levels, etc., but for them all to stay happy/healthy/alive/unbroken.

      What’s this from? Difficulty sensing the passage of time combined with hyperfocus and work-a-holism? Difficulty with executive functioning and seeing cause-and-effect and gestalt?

      He’s “considering” trying medication soon. Here’s hoping A) he does and B) it helps snap him out of this way of thinking! I don’t know how things can get any better as long as he’s in this mind-set!

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by WarmMuddle.
      • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #116928

      I don’t have answers, but I sure know what you mean!

    • #116957

      From your other posts, I think we’re in a similar struggle. I relate to your metaphor so much. What I’ve been asking myself is why I feel like I should provide the things my husband wants, even when he puts in zero effort?? Because I definitely play a role. I think I’m easily manipulated by anger and guilt. So when my husband gets upset about something he wants that he hasn’t contributed to, I feel bad. It’s really screwed up. I’m trying to stop myself from jumping in and “fixing” things, but it’s hard because when I don’t, I feel guilty. Is it the same for you?

      I’ve had some success in raising his awareness of when he’s being completely passive despite saying he wants to do something, but not much success in him actually DOING it. I’m just trying much harder to not jump in and do it for him. I’m also going to counselling to deal with my weird guilt about not providing a grown man with the life he wants! It’s hard.

      Our actual yard is often a disaster unless I do something about it, too – so your metaphor works on many levels! I do most of our outdoor work because he doesn’t notice when things look awful. Just today I asked him to mow the lawn (while I was doing some heavy gardening and planting) and it took him nearly two hours to do one little strip, because he decided he needed to hand pull all the weeds first. This is the guy who hasn’t noticed all year when the lawn is full of weeds, how often I mow, or when our yard was the ugliest on the block. It’s exhausting!! I think that’s also why I’d often rather just do things myself.

    • #116958

      Hi folks – I’m the ADD husband, and I’ve been doing the bulk of the yard and house work for us for some time now. Yes, it took some really difficult times to get to that point, but this works for us. I’m an experienced gardener (I love to eat vegetables, I guess), and being out in the yard both energizes and relaxes me.

      To WarmMuddle – meds alone won’t ‘snap him out of’ this way of thinking. I thought that was true for me; it also brought our marriage (now 26 yrs) to the brink. For his behavior to change, he has to be in some form of therapeutic schedule, as well. It sounds like there’s a lot of learned behaviors going on here. They are both protective and destructive at the same time – we want to protect ourselves from the shame/guilt of letting the ones we live down; at the same time, they become self-fulfilling. At least that what happened with me. But in order for it to change, he has to be in therapy – things didn’t change for me (and with my wife) until that happened.

      To Leftie – I’m sorry things have gotten to this point. One thing – it’s really hard for us to figure out a plan in the moment. Is there a calendar or schedule that you both could fill in together? I know I get overwhelmed when I have to prioritize things on my own – it took a lot of therapy to be able to let go of that and its resultant shame. Now we negotiate what needs to be done together – I love house and yard work; my wife does finances and other things (can’t let my ADD near the checkbook 🙂 ). Hold him to task for the things he says he’ll do – it’s hard but necessary (as I know). I’ll ask if your SO is in therapy/taking medication, also. It’s a huge help – the hardest part is that first step to going. It can help us notice the ‘weeds’, both in the garden and in life!

      I hope this helps you both from this side of ADD. I hope you both can do the things to take care of yourselves, as well. Yes, the energy needed to be in relationship with us is a lot. But if the right structures are in p,ace, I like to think we’re worth it. I wish you both well on your journeys, and hope this helped…


    • #116959

      Hi Chris,

      I would never want to come across as suggesting that someone isn’t worth it just because they have ADHD, so I hope it didn’t come across that way! I’m just stuck and have been stuck for a long time, because I can’t get my partner to make more of an effort, and it’s hard to tell at what point I just can’t keep going. I can’t do it all, and nothing I say seems to make any difference.

      The difficulty I have with suggestions like making a calendar together, or holding my husband to task for the things he says he’ll do, is that both of those things make him avoidant or angry. He’ll either avoid the conversation altogether, not contribute when I ask him if a plan sounds okay or what he wants to add to it, then just go and do his own thing. We share an online calendar because he said that would help him, but currently I’m the only one who puts anything on it (my stuff and the kids stuff). He doesn’t add anything, and I doubt he looks at it. If we agree to a plan together, he often just doesn’t do the things he was supposed to, and if I bring it up – guess what – I get the anger again. So I just feel trapped. If I try to help him plan, I’m “micromanaging”, if I hold him to task, I’m the bad guy.

      He’s on meds, but I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference. I’ve asked him to go to a doctor who specializes in ADHD, but he hasn’t. I think a lot of it is behavioural, and while he says he’s willing to go to counselling or coaching, he doesn’t go often enough or can’t follow through on the advice. I got our son accepted to a coaching program, and the coach is willing and able to work with my husband as well, but in the 6 months we’ve been connected with him, my husband has seen him once. He wrote down but didn’t follow up on the coach’s advice.

      I can’t force these things, but I think our relationship depends on them, so it’s hard to know what to do now. I do think a relationship CAN work where one or both partners has ADHD, but only if that partner is self aware and willing to work (and not get angry at their partner when they suggest help.)

      I appreciate your perspective, but my husband doesn’t have the insight and awareness that you do. I really wish he did! It’s nice to hear that it’s possible though, so I feel more hopeful that my son who has ADHD will have that insight and learn better coping and cooperation skills than my husband did.

      • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by leftie22.
    • #116961

      Just wanted to add – I feel like another factor is upbringing. My husband’s parents were super strict and feel like their children are a reflection of themselves, so they were never willing to let my husband “fail”, because they thought it would make them look bad. So they bailed him out, did things for him that he should have done himself, and set him up in life with what they wanted him to have. Then once he was on his own, it all started falling apart. I feel like he still on some level feels like someone “should” be looking after him (although he would vehemently deny that!!)

    • #116966

      I’m just realizing this is a metaphor for my husband in general: he wants our house, our cars, our dogs, our bank account, and our marriage to stay good/healthy/alive without “visiting” any of them, noticing they need maintenance, and then giving them the maintenance they need. He wants to focus on his work and hang out with friends, forget to feed the dogs, forget to put money into our bank account, forget to talk to me, forget to check the car’s fluid levels, etc., but for them all to stay happy/healthy/alive/unbroken.

      Yes! This is the exact issue we have here. And then he complains about how everyone else he knows can have those same things but never seem to have the problems he has. I don’t know if he truly cannot grasp this or if he’d rather not face his own part in the picture.

    • #116968

      What a beautifully written post – thank you so much for sharing this! I’m moved by it because right this moment, I have a community garden plot in my city neighborhood literally a block away from my home that desperately needs tended to and watered. But I can’t rally myself to walk over there and take care of business. Tonight, however, I am going to do just that.

      As an adult ADHD sufferer, I can share with you that my struggle is rooted in what you identified as “difficulty sensing the passage of time combined with hyperfocus” (minus the work-a-holic part!). I’ll add that I am completely cognizant that my garden needs watering and I haven’t forgotten about it at all. I move into a place of shame and fear that makes it even more difficult to just get the job done. I start telling myself that the other gardeners think I’m a bad person who should be kicked out of the garden, that I couldn’t bear it if others were present when I showed up to my plot, that they’d certainly shake their heads at me in disappointment and disgust. It’s silly because every single time I push through and just go, I enjoy myself and get lost for hours weeding, tending, and chatting with fellow gardeners.

      I really like the suggestions Leftie and Chris have offered you. It reminds me of something from Melody Beattie’s codependent books, which I suggest you explore. I also suggest having these difficult discussions with your husband in a loving and compassionate way that is true to yourself and your needs. The biggest reality here is that things can get better and isn’t that amazing?! It has to be something that you both want, though, and your husband is going to have to be the one who does the hard work.

      Thanks again for this post and for giving me perspective on my own garden (both the literal and metaphoric!)

    • #117024

      Leftie –

      Thanks for your reply. I too didn’t want/mean to imply you thought we weren’t worth it. Like kesl above (LOVED the post!), I too feel that debilitating shame and fear that others ‘see through’ my façade of competency. Thank you for your kind words – but to be honest, it took me a LONG time to get to that self-realization you mention. Sadly, it took almost losing everything important in my life (marriage, career, etc) for me to seek the assistance I needed – again, the shame that I couldn’t do what seems so natural to ‘normal’ people.

      Yes, your husband needs to be accountable for his part here. He has to want to do it not just for you and your family (as important as that is), but for his own well-being, also. At the time, my own self-esteem was so low that doing this for my family was the initial motivating factor in seeking help (I’ve had an amazing therapist going on 2 years now). However, I’m at a place now where it’s okay for me to want this for me. I’m just glad my wife loved me enough (she’s also an LICSW by profession, so that may have helped) to not give up – though I certainly gave her reason to…

      I hope this works out for you. But at the end of the day, you also have to do what’s best for you and your family. I’m sending all good wishes/vibes/mojo your way – whatever that may look like. And I hope he can get the help/assistance he needs.

      And kesl, thanks again for articulating so well that internal struggle I too have – now I have to get home and water my tomatoes! 😉


    • #118023

      💜💜💜 for all of you and your perspectives!

      • #118027

        Chris! I just noticed your reply, thank you for relating to my experience and shame and irrational feelings of incompetency. I often forget that I’m one of many and that when I remember this, it gives me perspective and strength. Yesterday I purchased a tomatoe plant, four cucumber plants, and a bell pepper plant. I planted each and weeded the plot afterwards. Like WarmMuddle below, I’m grateful for the perspective this post offers us all – those of us who have the disease and those who are important parts of our lives. And of course the garden that flourishes when we meet its basic needs.

    • #119340

      Wow, you hit a hot button for me. My ADHD husband seems to live in a fantasy world when it comes to “what it really takes” vs. what he thinks it takes to maintain or complete something. My solution? I decided to stop bailing him out and am struggling in a big way with letting go of my frustration with his pace/style/approach. For example, he decided he wanted to paint our home interior after some minor construction work was completed. I thought it would be better to hire out the job, but he wanted to “save money”. The construction work finished in January, and he began painting in March. Yes, it took that long to get started on the painting. It’s still not done…..but I’ve refused to help and I will not relax on the quality of work that needs to happen. It’s been a sore point to be sure, but I need him to see what it takes and he only seems to get it when he’s actually experienced the process himself. (No pain, no gain????)

      On finances, he’s recently started yet another new job after being fired from his old one. The dilemma for me is that what he thought of as a major pay increase is actually not one since he lost vacation and other benefits. So I ran the numbers and showed him reality. He thought he was contributing a lot to household expenses, but once his personal expenses were deducted, there wasn’t much left for the house or family expenses. Reality is that I’ve been supporting him for over a decade and he had no idea. His response was to feel bad about himself and feel shame, because that’s where his mind goes. I’m trying to let him sort out those feeling with his therapist and not feel responsible for his self-talk (since I cannot change it!)

      For the garden, I recommend you just say no. It seems harsh, but otherwise you end up throwing away good money after a project that cannot or will not be maintained. If possible, try and streamline your lives in a way that requires the minimum amount of maintenance for everything outside of you and the family. Relationship maintenance is hard, and there might not be room enough in his mind/heart/day to manage more than the relationship maintenance in spite of good intentions.

      Hugs and prayers to you!

    • #119410

      CrystalFL – I feel like I could have written your post!!

      I’ve been thinking about this whole post a lot, because it comes up in so many ways in my life with an ADHD spouse. I realized that a lot of the issues seem to come from magical thinking. What CrystalFL said about the fantasy world definitely applies to my husband. It’s like he has no idea how long things take, how much they cost, and even when presented with facts, will deny facts and present a completely ridiculous argument. It makes it really hard to have a discussion.

      For example, he was out of town travelling, and needed to get home in time for our daughter’s dance recital. He was 3 hours drive away, so I asked him to leave at 8, to make it home by 11 at the latest. He says sure. Then books a meeting at another town on his way home, giving himself 1/2 hour to tour a new branch. I told him there’s no way he’ll be able to finish a tour in that amount of time and still make it home. “I’ll make it.” He didn’t.

      It’s disappointing, and the refusal to accept that he’s not good at calculating time or money is just baffling to me. Shame also seems to get used as a weapon – like you can’t say “Hey, this might not be my strong suit” – it has to go straight to “I’m a horrible useless person.” Frustrating.

    • #119415

      The more I think about this- rereading “wanting a garden without nurturing it”- so completely describes my family… and convinces me (even more than I already thought) that either I was the only sane one or all of my “issues” somehow added up to normal-ness. It explains why I was yelled at for being a messy kid AND why no one bothered to show me a better way (don’t look in their closets or cabinets…) or give me the tools (even as little as 2 small laundry baskets instead of a bin bigger than me or a safe step stool for me to reach up in my closet… ). Why my offers or attempts to do things have always been met with anger and contempt.

      In my trials to “get counseling” I was never able to “break through” because I DID know what to do, but wasn’t powerful enough to override the adults in my life and their calling me the bad part. Even as an adult, it has seemed like every little bit I improve myself (and I do not!!! talk about it) the more everyone else shuns me. Ridicules me.

      Thank you, WarmMuddle! You may have saved my sanity.

    • #119443

      I read this post and re-read it several times. I cannot begin to thank you enough for this. I have an ADHD husband. He wants what he wants and it never seems to matter if it’s practical or maintainable. I’ve got a camper that’s been used twice in 4 years. I’ve got a smoker that gets used once a year. I’ve got a fire pit that gets used twice a year. I’ve got a basketball hoop in the garage for the past five years, because after the post was put in the ground he didn’t install the rest and then thought that if it was installed his car would get hit by kids playing basketball (you couldn’t play basketball with his car in the driveway), but whatever. He currently wants a $1,200 lawn mower. Our mower works fine and we don’t have a huge yard, but if I don’t get it for Father’s Day he will be upset with me for the entire summer.
      The part of this that bothers me the most is we have conversations about home repair, remodeling, moving, vacations, etc. and I think these are things that are actually going to happen. He asks me to research and get quotes for things. Then he tells me that they aren’t going to happen (they are within the price range that he wanted). So, if it’s something HE wants, he gets it. If it’s something that I want, have conversations with him about, get his input, make all the plans for and try to actually get done, it’s not happening. I’ve been chewed out for taking action on things, after years of inaction and what was probably 100 hours of conversation. I’m tired.
      Having a conversation about this with my husband never goes well. Anyone have advice for how to keep my house from falling down and not end up in a massive argument about it?

      • #120435

        Musicalmrsc, a lot of this sounds familiar (in my life I mean). Maybe you need to cut some of these conversations short. Maybe a “no, sorry,” for example with researching products, services, and quotes, and with the lawn mower.

        First you need to be completely clear in your own mind that you don’t want to do it. Then decide a polite way of saying it, and stand your ground. Smile, shrug, hug, and/or change the subject. No explaining, because that just invites argument.

        If you can afford to buy a $1200 lawn mower that you don’t need, why not spend that money on a vacation or house repair, or something else that you want?

        Good luck.

    • #119976

      Hi folks- thanks so much for your caring, considerate and challenging posts; I’m grateful my posts generated some real thought. To CrystalFL – I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I struggle with ‘Time-blindness’, and have worked hard at combatting it. Sometimes it comes from a worry that we never get anything done on time; so when we’re doing something in the moment, we lose track because the feeling of accomplishment is a positive one – even if it costs us time and other things. I’m speaking for myself here – it’s never a spiteful act. And when we do realize the mistake, the shame that follows often leads to worse responses. It’s happened way too many times for me to count.

      To musicalmrsc – while I get impulsivity with ADD, this sounds like a personality trait, as well. My understanding of impulsivity isn’t just doing ‘what I want’ – it’s more global and impacts all aspects of life. Is he taking meds or in therapy? If not, that may be a helpful first step. I know I need both to help manage the many pieces of my ADD. He may not know how or why he does this – that’s debilitating, too. I’m not trying to make excuses here – trying to understand where its source might be. That’s the struggle with ADD – we’re not even sure where these crappy behaviors even come from. Once identified, then we have to own them and address them. Has that happened? I’m sincerely asking…

      It must be hard on both of you – I’m now very (often painfully so) aware of the anger and disappointment I’ve caused in my marriage (thankfully 26 yrs this week). While I live and understand the ADD perspective, this new awareness has me standing with you and your struggles. There’s more and more helpful resources these days – I hope you can all find a formula that can bring you all back to the relationships you envisioned. Sorry for rambling a bit here – your experiences struck a chord with me as I’ve been in that, and want/hope that you can get to a place you want to be. I check these boards pretty regularly, so I’ll check back; I’m sending all my positive energy your way… CHRIS

      • #120439

        Thanks for the advice everyone. Father’s Day came and went without me spending $1,200 on that lawn mower. He didn’t mention it directly, but he threw my Father’s Day card in the trash and told me that the shirts I got him didn’t fit. He stomped around angry at me all day. It was a good thing I didn’t get the lawn mower, because our fridge broke and then I find out that we should replace our hot water heater and furnace because they are past their average life span. He’s currently telling me that he wants fancy replacements for those because we could gain a few square feet if we go with the expensive ones. This will mean ripping out walls… I’m envisioning staring at bare studs for the next several years. Here is what is confusing to me: Before we got married, he would have never thrown my card in the trash and been angry with me. Before we got married, he wouldn’t have lied about having the furnace inspected annually. Before we got married, he was able to take a project from start to finish (eventually). Before we got married, he was able to plan vacations and we actually went. Since we’ve been married, he’s a different person. Is he now comfortable showing his ADHD around me? As far as I’m aware, he’s never been on any medication. It’s like I’m living with a different person. Anyone have experience with this?

      • #120984

        Oh definitely. I have made him a card when we began dating and he really enjoyed it and even kept it around for a while. I asked him if he would mind if I did that again and he sounded very impressed that I would make another well, his birthday comes around and he opens his gift and he opens the card and doesn’t say anything and nothing was appreciated. That would not have happened when we first started dating. Keep in mind that our relationship lasted 1 year and a half and his birthday was two months prior to the end. Another thing is that he would make me feel guilty surrounding gift-giving. Often I would give him something very thoughtful that wasn’t necessarily worth a lot of money and he would verbalize a reminder something like this ” I thought you had ordered me that automatic door locker for my vehicle where is that because I really need it and if you aren’t going to get it then that was a terrible thing to have discussed with me because I put off buying it myself 4 months”. Now that wouldn’t have happened when we first started dating. Another thing is that in Canada we get an awful lot of snow and especially where we live near the mountains. Now he lived in the basement of his parents house and his parents were fairly well off to afford to go to Hawaii in the dark cold months of January and February. Never did he ever shovel the stairways and entrance way and sidewalk leading up to his house for the postal workers nor did he take care of the sidewalks out front of the property which is a city by law that you can be ticketed for. Let alone I had a broken leg and was on crutches and if he picked me up and took me back to his place there was no way that I could safely make it even to the exterior of his house. This is showing to me that he just did not care. ADHD can be that way and it is absolutely brutal for the partner to experience. I got sick of all the allowances I had to make for this individual. I couldn’t even visit him in his home and he wouldn’t invite me over more than twice in a year and a half because his place was either so messy or riddled with leftover s*** from all his partying and marijuana use. Yes he was not medicated at all for this ADHD however he was convinced marijuana made his life better and more functional. He wasn’t using marijuana when I met him either by the way
        I’m so happy this relationship ended it was the biggest weight of my entire life off of my shoulders

    • #120072

      Thanks for the topic and discussion. My husband has run everything into the ground from his inaction. The lawn might get mowed once a month, but he gets mad at me if I do it, repair/maintenance needs that have been waiting for years, etc. If I don’t take care of it, it doesn’t get done. I myself am ADHD, but I disciplined myself along time ago to manage my time/money/life because no one was going to do it for me. I’m glad to know I’m not alone.


    • #120075

      “He wants to focus on his work and hang out with friends, forget to feed the dogs, forget to put money into our bank account, forget to talk to me, forget to check the car’s fluid levels, etc.,”

      Trust me, as someone who struggles with the the impairments in cognitive function that ADHD brings, including executive function deficits, no one with ADHD “wants” to do all those things. I don’t deny that I do forget a lot, making it seem like I don’t care; but I do. I care a lot. But, as frustrating as that can be for my long-suffering wife, I am doubly frustrated by the fact that I have to continually apologize for letting her down in some way.

      WarmMuddle I’m not trying to make excuses for your husband. I would just like you to understand that he may forget all the things you mention, but I doubt it’s because he wants to.

      I can definitely identify with what Chris says about the shame and self-deprecation that comes from disappointing and letting down my wife because I either forgot something or I made a decision impulsively that had a negative outcome. When that happens I have to struggle to not let my emotions get the best of me.

      I know, for myself, the best way for my wife to approach me about something I’ve done/not done is to tell me how it makes her feel. Finger pointing and angry words are a sure way to make me respond with my own anger or to shut down altogether (my most common response). What I’m saying is that when speaking to someone with ADHD you need to bear in mind that they may not have a good grip on their emotions. Conversations need to be approached in a way that tells the person how you feel about something. “When you do _______, I feel _____.”

      For anyone who wants to understand the range of impairments, their possible causes and coping strategies, I recommend checking out a YouTube channel called HowToADHD. There are about 100 videos about a whole range of ADHD topics. I’ve learned a lot that way.

      I’m sorry if this post seems to ramble or be a little aggressive, but, hey, <points to self> ADHD.

      • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by socknoggle.
    • #137691

      I’m the garden, and I’m almost dead. I’ts been 38 very long years. I don’t have the energy anymore to be both sides of the relationship.

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