For ADD Spouses - Research on What Your Partners Find Frustrating

Our research about how ADHD affects marriage also illuminates the specific ways in which non-ADD spouses are frustrated in their relationships.  The responders in this section are, once again, non-ADD spouses who have officially diagnosed ADD partners.  The themes these people write about are incredibly common.  If you are an ADD spouse and you hear your non-ADD spouse comment on these traits you should assume that they are being truthful – these REALLY ARE problems in your relationship – not a figment of your spouse’s imagination.  The question asked here?  What do you find most frustrating about your relationship?

The Biggies, according to our panel:
Non-ADD spouses don’t like having to do all the “heavy lifting” in the relationship (chores and emotional).  They often feel like they need to parent their partner, which they universally hate.

  • "I absolutely hate that I am the one to recognize problems within the family and to initiate conversations or change."
  • "A huge portion of the responsibility seems to fall to me.  When it comes to things like cleaning, paying bills, getting the dogs to the vet, getting the cars serviced, or just generally meeting our committments, I spend a lot of time either doing those things or reminding my husband until I'm ready to scream."
  • "Being a parent to my husband."
  • "My husband's inability to take care of things he agrees to be responsible for."
  • "I am most frustrated when I am busy trying to get things done at home and my husband comes home at the end of the day and sits in front of the TV.  We both work, but the majority of the housework falls on me.  It isn't that he isn't willing to help out, he just literally doesn't "see" what needs to be done."
  • "The most frustrating part of marriage for me is that I have to do absolutely everything! It got so bad with my ADHD husband that I was doing his expense reports and billing for his work so that I could make sure we had money to pay the bills. I do all of the laundry, shopping, cleaning, bills, child care arrangements, teacher conferences, educational stuff for the kids....You name it, I do it. I even know how to use the snow blower and lawn mower."
  • "I get very tired of being the one who has to constantly "police" situations or put out life's little fires."
  • "NO attention to detail, losing things, not being prepared, needing frequent reminders, forgetting conversations shortly after we have had them. It is like having another child!!"

Non-ADD spouse loses trust in their spouse because they don’t follow through on those things they promise to do.  They feel as if the only way to get the ADD spouse to complete a task is to nag, nag, nag – and that ADD “forces” that nagging.

  • "I cant rely on him, so I can't trust him."
  • "I realized early on in my marriage that I would have to be the "adult" in the family when it came to paying bills, making sure my kids had what they needed for school, making sure the kids were picked up when they were supposed to, etc.  But I am only one person and I have three kids and work full time.  Therefore, I have to depend on my husband to help out with some of these things. It is frustrating to me that when he does take on responsibility for some of these tasks, I still have to play "mother" until the task is complete.  Absent constant reminders and nagging by me, the task at hand does not get done. It is extremely frustrating to have to nag and remind him to do things in order to make sure the task is done.  It is not unusual for me to have to call him several times to remind him that he is supposed to be picking up a child.  Then, even with the reminders, I am in a state of angst until I get confirmation that he has indeed picked up the child.  I can't tell you how many times I have gotten calls from one of my children asking why they haven't been picked up even after I have called him and reminded him to do so."
  • "The most frustrating thing is having a husband who is not in touch with his own feelings and never brings them up in conversation.  Because I bring them up and he won't acknowledge them, then it must be MY problem and I must be a nag.  I'm tired of shouldering the emotional responsibility and distance.  How can I feel appreciated when no one will admit the very challenges I've spent 36 years trying to overcome don't even exist????"

Things never seem to get completed – they stagnate.

  • "The most fustrating aspect of our marriage stems from my husband's stagnation with his disability.  I would love to see him take a more positive approach and utilize the resources available to him to work on making change in his behavior."
  • "My husband putters more than anybody I know - but very seldom accomplishes anything."
  • "Going in circles.  Repeating the same fights, even the same words, as if it was a scene in a play that you can't get out of.  Like the movie Ground Hog Day.   I just feel we repeat so many things."
  • "We have projects all over the house that are not finished.  My house is constantly in a state of unfinished jobs."

An ADD spouse’s inability to slow down enough to pay attention to the non-ADD partner:

  • "He doesn't seem to listen to me.  He can't seem to relax, and he's ALWAYS on the go.  I'd love to sit and hold hands once in awhile!!"
  • "Lack of satisfaction on his part.  It seems like nothing is ever good enough or exciting enough.  He keeps wanting something more exciting than he's experiencing."
  • "I have a fear that over the years I will become "boring" - aka, less "stimulating" - to my ADHD husband."

These comments may sound familiar, but they aren’t from YOUR spouse – just other people who live with ADD.  What does this mean for you and your spouse?  ADD does play a role in how you interact and, in fact, often plays a pretty predictable role.  This is actually good news!  If you accept that these patterns exist you can learn ways to change them to improve your lives together.  So, pay attention to what your non-ADD spouse is telling you, as hard as it may be to hear those things.  Try to overcome the “defensive” feelings you might have, and make a mutual pact to keep your conversations free of anger and accusations.  The results can be wonderful.  For an ADDer’s perspective on what the benefits are to “hearing” your non-ADD spouse’s comments (and another ADD man's perspective on the downsides of not hearing), go to this link.

If you’re interested in what our research says non-ADD spouses like about their ADD spouses, go to the previous post - "What I Like About You".