Help! My Spouse Is Always [Fill In the Blank]
Running late. Not listening. Messy. Procrastinating. If your spouse has ADHD, chances are good you’re driven crazy by one of these daily challenges. Here, a neurotypical wife shares the four strategies she uses to minimize ADHD behaviors and maximize empathy in her marriage.
My child has ADHD, and my husband has ADHD. People I love have attention deficit, but living with my husband and raising our children together is challenging. I love him with all my heart, and falling for someone who has ADHD has its perks. My husband is imaginative, intelligent, and hilarious. Life isn’t boring, that’s for sure.
Crazy No More
During the 15 years that we’ve been together, though, I’ve noticed some not-so-great things about being in a romantic relationship with an adult who has ADHD. But I’ve come up with ways to prevent myself from going completely crazy.
1. He’s late (a lot). I remember when we were in high school and going on our first date, to see ~Shrek~. I was ready well before the time he said he would pick me up, but was he on time? Nope. Not even close. To make matters worse, he missed the exit on our way to the movie, because he was talking and not paying attention to the signs. He didn’t make a great first impression, but I gave him another chance and another and another. In my heart I knew there was something special about him, and I was right.
SOLUTION: I lie. I tell him that the time we need to be somewhere or do something is earlier than the real time. For example, if I need him to meet the kids and me at Red Robin for dinner at 6 P.M., I tell him to meet us there at 5:40. He never has to wait around for 20 minutes. He gets there 15 to 20 minutes after the time I told him.
2. He doesn’t listen. I tell him I am going to the grocery store, and ask him to text me if he thinks of anything else we need. Thirty minutes later, while I’m shopping, instead of texting me something like “Milk,” he will type, “Where are you?” I told him, face to face, where I was going. There’s no way he didn’t hear me, right?! Well, he may have heard me, but he wasn’t listening. He was either focused on something else (like the TV) or he was zoning out. This is aggravating, especially if what I tell him is important, like “Pick up our daughter from dance class at 12.”
SOLUTION: Before I tell him something important, I touch his arm or his shoulder. This gets his attention, and it brings him back to reality if he is zoning out. After he makes eye contact with me, I tell him what it is I want to say and make sure he responds. If it is something important that must get done by a specific time, I will check in with him about it. Some men call this “nagging,” but I call it “making sure stuff gets done.”
3. He’s unorganized. The first time I walked into his room, when we were teenagers, it looked like a tornado had whipped through it. Clothes, papers, empty water bottles, and dirty dishes were everywhere. It wasn’t just messy, it was filthy. His desk and TV were covered with dust, and his bathroom made me gag. I couldn’t take it, so one weekend I came over and helped him clean and organize his room. Unfortunately, his habits haven’t changed much since then. He doesn’t mean for things to get so bad, and he isn’t trying to irritate me. He simply can’t multitask and follow through with tasks, chores, and projects.
SOLUTION: I break a big job into smaller tasks. Like my child with ADHD, he gets overwhelmed if a project or task is too big, but if it is broken up, it is approachable and seems doable to him. It also helps to make lists that he can check off. If it is something he absolutely couldn’t care less about, but it is important to me, I suck it up and do it myself. For example, matching socks and pairing them up in his sock drawer is something he despises. He would rather just throw his socks into the drawer, but it’s important to me that his socks are matched and paired, so I do it myself. It’s not his fault that I’m a neat freak.
4. He procrastinates. If there is something that needs to be done, he will never, ever do it as soon as possible. I rarely receive my birthday presents from him on my actual birthday because he waits until my birthday to start shopping.
SOLUTION: I remind him again and again. When there is something important coming up, I tell him verbally and in writing, usually via e-mail. Later I remind him by calling him, texting him, or putting a sticky note on his steering wheel before he goes to work. He thanks me for it.
I made a vow to love my husband and be with him for the rest of my life. This is what I intend to do. Sure, he can drive me crazy, but lucky for him, I’m crazy about him. Every marriage has its problems, but as long as you work things out, that’s all that matters.