When ADHD marries ADHD

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    • #87667

      Hi y’all,

      I’m an ADHDer married to an ADHDer, and I’m looking for advice. We both handle our ADHD very differently, and it’s causing a little drama.

      I was diagnosed as an adult, and am keenly aware of how it affects my day-to-day living. I received treatment when I was diagnosed, and again a few years later for anxiety. I’m open to treatment, but am trying to work things out on my own. I feel like I have the tools, I just need to keep using them. There are days when I can’t get motivated to do anything, skip my exercise, forget to meditate, eat fast food. I feel like I CAN’T make myself do what I know I need to to take care of myself and my symptoms. Usually, I snap out of it in a few days and go into a productivity frenzy. I make lists and calendars, plan healthy meals, and clean everything I can get my hands on in the time I have. Trying to make up for lost time, I suppose, and taking advantage of the energy while I have it. I’m way into researching ADHD, trying new strategies, trying to grow my strengths and overcome weaknesses (or at least learn to manage them). It’s interesting to me, and I see some results in my life.

      He is a little more tough about it. He was diagnosed as a kid, and has the “just make yourself do it” response. He was treated as a child, but had a bad experience and is not interested in treatment as an adult. He’s found his own ways of coping, and I respect that. He’s very tough and can be disciplined when it comes to work or other things that are viewed publicly. Not so much at home. He seems lost here, spending hours in front of the tv, or looking to me for entertainment. Not a lot of goals or interest in personal growth. I’m the opposite, so it’s hard for me to understand him sometimes. He doesn’t seem to want to recognize how his symptoms still affect him, as it’s something from his childhood. When he does make a “mistake” like forgetting to put away laundry or take out the trash, he is very apologetic and quick to promise to fix it. Most of the time, he remembers. 😉 Sometimes he doesn’t. I get frustrated, but because I do the same thing ALL the time, I understand and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s very successful at his job and provides well for our family. He just has his own way of dealing with it. If he was single, it’d probably be no problem, but when his ADHD habits interact with mine, we’re a mess.

      I guess my frustration is this. Even though we both have ADHD and both work full time, I feel like the home manager. I have asked him to find what works for him to remind him to get things done, but have never had a response. So, I’ve made lists and charts and hung them up conspicuously (with bright colors!). But I haven’t been able to find what works for him. I feel like I nag him to do things. I do not want to keep spending all of my mental energy reminding him to do things. I’ve got my own things to worry about and manage! I depend on him. He just doesn’t seem to think of the house as “our” responsibility. I feel like it’s mine, and he’s “helping” me with it. It’s very frustrating, as I struggle just as much as he does with ADHD symptoms. There’s no way I want to wash dishes or vacuum! But I have to, or we live in a mess. Once one of us skips a chore, the mess spreads like a virus until our whole home is cluttered and messy.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as bad as he is at letting the house slide. I resent having to always tell and remind him to do things. I do not want to be his mother. It’s hard enough managing my share of the responsibilities. And I can tell that he resents me. After asking a few times, I usually yell. I hate yelling. I do NOT want to be that person: the yelling wife. Ugh. I hate it. Plus, I know he can’t help it any more than I can. But when I yell, he responds instantly. We can talk for 3 hours about what all needs to be done. Nothing. I raise my voice once, and it’s done. But then we’re both mad at each other because he hates the yelling as much as I do. Sometimes, after a task has been sitting there for weeks, I just do it myself. But then, that takes time away from my own to-do list!! I hate to have yelling in our marriage, but I can’t seem to motivate him any other way. Heck, I don’t want to motivate him, I really want him to figure out how to motivate himself! I just want him to be responsible for him! But he doesn’t seem to understand what I’m asking. There’s a disconnect that I can’t seem to communicate to him effectively.

      So, my options are: 1) yell and hurt the relationship, but the thing gets done. 2) nag and pester (with a lot of expended energy and little result). 3) ignore it while the house turns into a pigsty. 4) do it myself, on top of the 20 other things I’m trying to motivate myself to do…

      I feel like I’m stuck in this spiral that I can’t stop. We’re never on the same page. There’s got to be another option.

      He really is a good husband and my best friend. I love spending time with him and being married to him. Lately, we’ve just been frustrated with each other a lot more, and I’m noticing that the problems are mostly related to our symptoms. It’s little, simple stuff that really affects the other. And it’s hard for me to have fun when we’re out because I’m still frustrated about the stupid housekeeping that I have to do when we get home. But I guess that’s a big part of marriage: fighting about the dishes. 😀

      Has anyone else had this experience? I’d really love some advice! <3

    • #87698

      I think step number one is to acknowledge that he may not be as concerned about maintaining the home as you. I live alone, and to be honest, I really don’t care that my place looks like a hurricane just hit it. Or at least, I don’t care enough to spend time on it since I have a huge list of more important things to get to.

      If that’s the case, I’m not suggesting he shouldn’t have to do his share of house maintenance. I’m just saying that if you can acknowledge it’s not as important to him, you two can have an honest conversation about it and come up with a strategy that works for both of you. For example, there might be something that is important to him that involves you where you aren’t as concerned, and that can be a springboard for some give and take.

    • #87706

      It’s funny, I would think we’re flipped. He keeps making comments about how messy it is, whereas I don’t mind the clutter in spurts. Maybe you’re right though. He was always WAY messier then me when we were dating. And I do tend to misread his social cues a lot. He’s gotta be really blunt to get through my adhd fog. Lol. It’s worth talking about. Thanks for the feedback!

    • #87819

      I don’t have a lot of answers here but will share and you can decide. (Check our Melissa Orlov stuff. She wrote “The ADHD Effects on Marriage.”)

      What I understand is it’s critical to have time together where you in your brain put the ADHD stuff on the pack burner, not check under the lid and have some fun as a couple. Leave the house stuff in the pot. Let go for a little while during couple time. Your relationship needs that feeding.

      I hate to say it but it’s true, through all time the woman usually through time in Society the woman has been given the majority of the responsibility of the house and kids. So when women work unfortunately in our society most wives run up with this same underlying problem with husbands no matter how many year have passed. You I’m sure would also like to be able to go to work and do as he is doing. Most men don’t have much inclination for domestic responsibilities. The best you can expect is to see what he might actually like doing or not mind the least to do, then he might be less adverse. If they don’t care for the chore it’s less likely he will get it done without all of what your already doing as your likely the more conscientious in your relationship. Its also how men have been brought up in society to do that which you “fight”, hence the double whammy.

      Be sure to get a plenty of self nurturing that really nourishes your soul. Reconnect with who you are aside from the ADHD and responsibilities, so you can more easily weather the challenges.

      The other is to set up a really friendly ADHD home where things are more easily arranged at home to make storage solutions faster. Open box or selves, hooks instead of folded clothes towels. Easy care clothing. Just 2 colors of socks, same type so that all the same color don’t have to be matched as all are matchs. Allow for bagged salad, bagged precut veggies, precooked food item from grocery store like rotisserie chicken that still give healthy option but make your after work hours easier. Or pay someone to help with house chores or do chores together or side by side. Make life at home less overwhelming. (Books – “Organizing solutions for people with ADHD” by Susan C Pinsky and ADD- Frieendly Ways to Organize Your Life” Judith Kolberg & Kathleen Nadeau and also Terry Matlen “Queen of Distraction”).

    • #87945
      Penny Williams

      There are some great tips in the following articles. I also recommend setting some structure and a schedule for household chores, and assign the tasks. That way, for instance, he knows that he empties the cat’s litter box every Saturday morning at 9 am, for instance.

      Married with ADHD: How Real Couples Make It Work

      How Learning to Listen Might Save Your Marriage

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

    • #90706

      I agree that structuring chores works best, a clear understanding of who does what & when. Also.. I have a son who I think may also be ADHD like me (I just realized I am at age 56) I only get him to do something if I am blunt and to the point.. nagging, and/or yelling makes it worse. Just say something like “do the dishes b****h .. and walk away” .. and he does them ! lol

    • #90899

      I’m in the same situation, I was diagnosed at age 36, and my husband at 37-38. Mine is more pervasive, though, plus I grew up in a household with narcissistic parents, so that’s a double whammy on my self-esteem. I find that being each other’s “body double “ helps.. that’s when you and your partner agree to be in the same room with each other, working on separate “parallel “ tasks. It gives each of you company and increases accountability. I feel more productive somehow when I’m working near or next to someone. We decided a few years ago that we’re not big chore-doers and have delegated that stuff to a twice-monthly professional house cleaner. That lights a fire in us every other Wednesday evening to “straighten up” and de-clutter before she comes Thursday morning because she can do her job better if we do that, plus we have just enough shame about how we live, motivates us to “clean up for company.” We’re also in weekly couples therapy, which is helping organize our issues and talk openly in a safe and structured setting about topics that cause too much defensiveness when we try to broach them on our own at home. Mind you, we have our good days and bad days regardless of how many supports we have in place, but when that Thursday therapy appointment rolls around each week, we at least know we have a forum where we can process it all. It makes it more hopeful and a little less overwhelming, at least. Hope this helps, and good luck navigating this mine field.. you’re not alone!

    • #91268
      Big L

      Let me come at this from the guy’s point of view. My wife and I were both diagnosed with ADHD. Prior to our diagnosis we just plugged along coping in our own ways without understanding why we do what we do.

      We also have the opposite types, she is an extrovert, and I am an introvert, she is social, and I am a loner. She is like you, does stuff in the house because she knows it needs to be done, and I am a procrastinator, put things off until I feel it’s urgent.

      In counseling, I learned about my way of thinking. If it is not one of these 4 things, I’m not motivated.

      1. New
      2. Exciting
      3. Interesting
      4. Urgent

      How can you get any of the housekeeping chores to fit in any of these four categories to motivate me to do them?

      Let’s use, taking out the trash for instance. Is it new? Well the trash itself is new but the chore, taking it out is not. Is it exciting? Nope, nothing exciting about taking out the trash. Is it interesting? No, can’t think of anything in the trash, or on the way to the trash can outside that would make it interesting. What about urgent? Here is where we can make a case for this chore. When does taking out the trash become urgent to the procrastinator? When it is completely full and ready to overflow, yes. But that’s not when it’s urgent to my wife, it’s urgent to my wife when she sees it almost to the top.

      She used to be like you, and have to nag, and then finally get upset and raise her voice. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now that she understands my mind, and I better understand hers, we talk about the things that we differ on in a safe way. (That is a topic for another discussion) The result was, I now understand that if she has to mention the trash to me, then it has become urgent to her. That now makes it urgent for me, where before talking about it, I didn’t understand that. So I now understand that if she has to mention it to me it has become urgent to her. Now in my mind, if it’s urgent to her, it is now urgent to me. But it took that discussion to help me understand.

      My wife is a clutter bug, if there is a flat spot in our house, there will soon be something stacked on it. I cannot stand it. It’s not that our house is dirty, it’s cluttery, bad. I’ve spent hours organizing STUFF that she has piled in many different places. Once done, there were more flat spots and they became cluttered once again. This too, has been discussed in a safe way, the clutter still exists, but get’s straightened up or, cleaned up if I mention it, because she now understands that I feel like it has gotten out of hand. The only reason I’m not a big clutter bug is that I spent 17 years in the service. Had to pass too many inspections to be leaving things laying around. However, I will admit that the area around me becomes cluttered while I’m there, but get’s straightened up before I leave that area.

      Here’s a thought for you, decide together what chores you will each be responsible for, then use a timer to make a chore urgent for him. Using the trash again, you could use an egg timer and bring it to him set at 10 minutes letting him know the trash needs to be taken out. He now knows that he has 10 minutes to get that chore done before the nagging/yelling begins. But make sure you talk about this beforehand and he is ok with it. Otherwise, it just won’t work. I know some of you will say why should she have to even mention it if it is his responsibility? It’s because we just don’t see what you see. That’s the only way I can explain it, I’m not being irresponsible, it’s just a fact, I don’t see what my wife see’s that needs to be done. It’s not in my thought process. Anyway, that is my two cents. Good luck. It’s working for us very well.

    • #91420

      Blizz70 nailed it. If you can afford it, delegate. Hire a cleaner for 1/month, 1/2-weeks/, 1/week. Whatever you can afford. This is a “married people” thing, not just an “ADHD people” thing. They may not organize for you, but you can hire a professional organizer too.

    • #91765

      I have no suggestions, but I just wanted you to know…. me too. And 3 kids with ADD/ADHD.
      It sucks, and you’re not alone.
      Take care of yourself!!

    • #91774

      I’m in the same boat as well. Me, my husband, and one of our 2 kids has ADHD. My choices are the same as yours when stuff needs to be done around the house: 1) live with it, 2) nag everyone else to do it (and then supervise to make sure it gets done), or 3) just give up and do it myself (which makes me resentful). The fact that the husband and kid with ADHD suffer from anxiety, too complicates matters — if I nag too much or the wrong way, I create more anxiety and that makes everything worse. My husband gets really excited when he finds a new strategy to help get things done (a new list app, a new timer system, etc.) but, in keeping with ADHD, he uses it faithfully for a week and then loses interest and we’re back where we started. My current strategy is to wait it out and trust that he’ll find some organizational strategy that works, and in the meantime just be happy that he’s trying instead of stewing about how I’m always nagging him…

      For what it’s worth, you’re not alone. 🙂

    • #92045

      We had similar problems before we decided to find the money to have a cleaner come around once a month. Like Blizz70, we have a similar last-minute scramble to tidy things up before she comes around to make it easier for them to work, and to avoid them having to deal with things like the cat’s litter tray. I was really embarrassed to have a cleaner come around at all at first, I felt like a failure, but that feeling has faded over time. Getting someone else to do major things like vacuum and mop the house on a regular basis means that things can get untidy, but not really dirty.

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