“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?
“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 “babysit” 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.”
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.”
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 a period of depression, 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.