Guest Blogs

“I Married Him to Be His Partner, Not His Boss.”

I’m not perfect. I blow up sometimes. I get frustrated easily and hold too many grudges. My husband works with me on these things, roots for me, and forgives me. So why is my therapist telling me to do anything different with him and his imperfect symptoms of ADHD?

dating marriage with adhd

“Do you want to stay married to your husband?”

I wiped away my tears. “Yes, of course.”

“Then you’re going to have to treat him like a child.”

For the last 10 minutes, both my therapist and I had grown increasingly frustrated as she insisted I needed to “supervise” my husband — and I adamantly disagreed. If I wanted him to repair our downstairs banister, she told me, I needed to gather the materials, place them by the banister, clear his schedule, and repeatedly check up to keep him attending to the chore I’d been requesting for six months.

Should he forget or get distracted, she said, I was to repeat the process over and over until the banister was complete.

While I am perfectly willing to help my husband in his life, I do not think it’s my responsibility to hover over him and make sure he keeps his promises. “I can’t do that,” I told the therapist. “I can be in charge of some things, but I can’t be in charge of everything. There has to be another way.”

[Free Download: 6 Ways ADHD Sabotages Relationships]

The more I insisted, the more she insisted my marriage was headed for ruin if I didn’t suck it up and, in her exact words, “treat him like a child.”

I finally conceded and told her she must be right. I had a strong sense I was being bullied and ignored, but I didn’t know what to do about it. She was the “expert,” after all. I had sought her out with the specific purpose of understanding my husband’s ADHD brain and how to be happily married to him. If this was all she had to offer to me, then my situation seemed utterly hopeless.

As I pictured myself spending the next 50 or 60 years mothering my “childish” husband, I resolved to not take the therapist’s advice. But I had no idea what else I could do.

I tried to shove that “advice” to the back of my mind and pretend I’d never heard it, but whenever I had to go to extra lengths to get my husband to fulfill an obligation, the image of that therapist sitting in her chair — pen and notebook in hand, pursed lips and angry eyes — filled my mind and all I could think was, “This is me — treating my husband like a child.”

[10 Ways to Balance ADHD with a Happy Marriage]

It’s been difficult to kick that awful advice out of my marriage, but I’m working on it. I know some couples function just fine with one partner taking control of mostly everything. I’ve seen it work, but it absolutely isn’t for me.

I married a man to be my partner, my equal, my best friend, and my lover. I didn’t marry him to become his boss. I don’t want to be his mother.

I understand that I will need to step up my game from time to time because of his ADHD. Plain and simple — he forgets things, and he always will. But I don’t have to treat him like a child. I don’t want to, and he doesn’t want me to. For us, it’s not a solution.

When I had a kidney stone from hell, he stepped up to make medical decisions for me, take care of me, and parent our children on his own.

When I went through an emotional rough patch, he empathized, prayed for me, and worked extra hard to be my partner.

When I lose my cool, he forgives me again and again.

Does this mean he treats me like a child?

No, this is just what a partner does. He recognizes my shortcomings, but loves me anyway — while always championing for me to get better.

And even though I never get it perfectly right, that’s how I try to approach him: Some of his ADHD symptoms are shortcomings in our marriage, but I love him anyway — and I try my best to champion for him to get better.

And he does.

[Does Your Lover Have ADHD? Read This.]

4 Comments & Reviews

  1. Oh, the irony…

    My mega-organised wife said, “…it’s like having four children instead of three…”. When she got cancer, I looked after her after the operation. When other issues arose, I sorted them out.

    I lost my job, my business failed and the end, she didn’t want to live like ‘this’. We agreed to separate a year ago.

    We agreed that day not to argue about anything and haven’t. I visit the kids every weekend and I still deal with the issues (this weekend the cooker and washing machine both need repaired which I’ll do).

    It’s sad. I miss my kids terribly. I am unemployed and live frugally but am reinventing myself and learning how to live life better.

    A partner with ADHD is not a child. They have a different behaviour pattern and need to live and work in a manner that works for them. It is far, far better to look at those strengths and find manageable solutions that the Adder can work with and be self-reliant with.

    I don’t blame my wife or myself. I am immensely grateful for our time together, the great adventures and three beautiful children.

    It’s just time for the next big adventure…

    1. Wow…sounds very familiar to me. I am glad that things have worked out for all concerned. Hard for me to see that happening in my case. The only thing keeping my wife and I together at this point is our young daughter with big ADHD challenges. Thanks for your post as it provides some optimism when considering options.

  2. As far as I know, my husband’s obliviousness to the mental load is caused by anxiety, not ADHD, although we both grew up before that diagnosis was common. Unfortunately, with my own executive functioning issues, having to carry so much of the mental load (and we should just get it out there that what is called the “mental load” is not just mental) is just exhausting. If it weren’t for my husband’s many skills and willingness to perform all the yardwork and even major repairs, I couldn’t handle it. At one point when we were on the point of breaking up, he said, “I’m just along for the ride. Think of me as your third kid.” I replied that the children were my kids; I needed him to be an adult. He’s also a very inquisitive person who listens to a lot of podcasts on neuropsychology and similar topics, and that does give him some insight, just not enough to penetrate the concrete sarcophagus around his self-awareness.

Leave a Reply