ADHD and Marriage: Should I Record Our Interactions?

There's a really interesting conversation going on in response to my last blog post that has morphed into whether or not a non-ADHD spouse should secretly record conversations to demonstrate to an ADHD spouse that they really are mishearing and mis-remembering things.  An ADHD spouse has also suggested that recordings might be a good learning tool for "where things go wrong."  Here's what I think:

Never record someone without their knowledge.  You may want to prove a point, but secretly recording someone is disrespectful (among other things).  So, if you feel your conversations must be recorded, talk with your partner about the project and what you hope it will accomplish.  If he or she agrees, and only if they agree, then go ahead.

You'll find you don't like what you hear.  A couple I spoke with once accidentally triggered "record" on their cell phone and happened to tape an argument.  It was a turning point for BOTH of them.  Each was surprised by their own role in the conversation and how ugly they both were.  YOU WILL BE, TOO.  Guaranteed.  (Trust me on this - I listen to couples talk for a living!)

Not remembering accurately comes with ADHD, but can get better once you set external structures (notes and the like) in place to remember more accurately.  Memory problems have to do with several factors - distractibility during the conversation (may not pick it all up); moving to long-term memory sooner than those without ADHD due to certain short-term memory deficits (stored in a more "spotty" fashion); and "the illusion of memory" (more on this next)

The "Illusion of Memory" - We ALL think we remember better than we do - that includes non-ADHD spouses.  We have a sense that memory is like a video recorder.  But it's not.  In the interesting book, The Invisible Gorilla, Chris Chabris and Daniel Simons make an excellent case for the idea that while we all think we remember well, we're not so good at it.  Which means this - the non-ADHD partner doesn't remember perfectly, either.  Sometimes better than the ADHD partner, but not always.


Rather than focus on whether or not something in the past is an accurate memory, focus on where you are at that moment and what needs to be done NEXT.  This makes sense - you can't change what's in the past, in any event.

If you take this less argumentative stance, then it's more likely you will work together as partners.  If the ADHD partner, for example, keeps leaving a child at school by mistake, it DOESN'T MATTER what the non-ADHD partner said as a reminder that morning.  What matters is that a good, solid reminder system of any sort isn't currently in the ADHD partner's repertoire.  SOLVE this problem together, or with the help of a coach or therapist, rather than waste your time arguing in a "he says/she says" argument.  You'll know the problem has been dealt with effectively when the child is no longer being left at school.