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.



record your spouse????

like your response and especially listing good strategies

but i cant imagine not being aware that i'm mishearing mis remembering and mostly just not getting it.  thats me



In my marriage it is more of

In my marriage it is more of a perception problem than mishearing or not getting 'it'. We can both witness the exact same person, exact same circumstances, exact same situation...and have a completely different take on it. I went to a doctor's appt with him once...and afterwards he accused me of trying to manipulate the doctor, feeding him info, and some other VERY VERY untrue things. It was me, him, and the doctor. I know my own mind, I know my own thoughts and intentions...and I knew the progression of the conversation and what information I contributed. I was very careful to speak only the truth, speak only when spoken to, and offer my input in a short, concise way. It was, however, one of the rare times that he actually listened to me when I said "you are just flat out, dead wrong about what you're accusing me of" and seemed to start to understand that maybe HE does have a perception issue. Best I can articulate it, he appears to see everything through a negative lens. And in some situations, he sees everything through rose colored glasses. He isn't impossible to communicate with, but more often than not I regret even trying to talk to him about anything...even when the subject has nothing personal to do with either of us. However, HE is the one who says "I can't talk to you". Oddly enough, I have zero issues communicating with anyone...except him...but yet I am the problem. Very frustrating. 

He said to me once "you just do not want me to have my own opinion or feeling on anything that does not match yours" and it was like a punch in the gut...because that could not be further from the truth. I want him to be his own MAN, with his own opinions and feelings...of course I do. That's the problem...the reality is that all of our problems in our marriage have resulted in ME having my own opinion and feelings that do not mesh with HIS and cause him to have to alter his behavior in order for me to be happy. (ex: not drinking too much, not completely withdrawing from the family, not spending money we don't have)

nomorebadhead's picture

perception is often the problem

One of the main problems with ADHD is the ability to explain things accurately. especially when the explanation requires the ADHD person to admit any fault. therefore what you get is a lot of confusion with anyone they talk to about their problems.

Mr. Arsitak's picture

An effective and simple tool for perception etc

I am an adult male with acute chronic depression and type 1 diabetes since 1963 (age 15) - BOTH quite well controlled w attentive learning, logging, specialists (psychiatrist-pharmacologist; endocrinologist; insulin pump user 15 years+-) and a hefty dose of mindfulness meditation & self-compassion.

My ADHD blossomed in the years following the initial depression episodes brought on massive injuries to "the me I knew", and those close to me at every level (family, relatives, employer(s), licensing agencies, IRS, etc.).  For decades I successfully was able to "cover it up" with a quick and informed intelligence to live pretty happily and successfully until about age 50. 

My spouse has never been of the Florence Nightingale class of care-giving sorts, but was more of a self-help and stop-whining type of personality - and in relation to my latest acute chronic illness, it was just when her giving was just giving way that I MOST needed (needed? wished for?) just hugs and such, overt tender caring and sharing of emotional give-and-take... a mutual collaborative approach to married life that I had always wanted, and she was not raised in the same way.

So without halfway decent communication skills it looked like we were doomed to a live-in-hell marriage or a separation-divorce. How dumb is that!? Just like others here have posted.



This sounds almost exactly like my husband and I.  My husband seems to see almost everything, including other people's intentions through a negative or aggressive lens.  This has gotten worse over time (he used to be more positive). It is very challenging to live with someone like this, negative, inconsistent, someone who sometimes seems to be seeing or remembering a very different reality from the one you KNOW to be true.  I can tell from the language that you use that you are a harsh and careful judge of yourself as well.  I think living with someone like this can do that to us - we are so often thrown into a corner where reality and what we have just been accused of are so out of sync, that we become very careful evaluators of ourselves and others.  My husband is SO CERTAIN that he is right that I will wonder - am I wrong?  Have I overlooked something?  And sometimes, by asking myself that question, I have gleaned some added insight that has been helpful to me.  But, I have also grown to accept that often times he has just perceived or recalled an event inaccurately (or maybe I should say, differently - differently from how most of the world would have perceived it).  I am not sure why.  It seems to me as though he often reads malicious intent into the actions and words of others, again, why he does this, I can't say.  But I no longer spend a lot of time trying to prove or explain how I know that I am right.  That doesn't help.  I do think it helps me to remember that whatever the "truth", the experience, as he has relayed it, is the truth for him.  I realize that this is why people want to record conversations or arguments.  We want to be able to show our partner and perhaps ourselves too - you see - I wasn't crazy!  There are certainly times when I seem to be agreeing (or simply not arguing) with total inaccuracies just to keep the peace - because for that moment it is easier to say, "Wow, the sun is blue!" than to argue that it isn't.  In that moment it may matter more to me to have a moment of agreement and peace than to be scientifically correct.  

I realize as I write this that while my partner is permitted to express whatever emotion is in his head, whatever reality is in his head, I don't allow myself that same freedom at all.  Very different rules apply to how we communicate.  I don't know how the rules came into being - some are self-applied I suppose, others I have "learned" through trial and error, success and failure.  These rules are the result of learning HOW to live with someone like this.  And, I can't decide if these rules are good or bad.  I have learned what works and doesn't work, and because I am the more modifiable, adaptable person, I have done all the changing.  Sometimes that means we live together more successfully.  Other times I feel like I live in some weird warped world that is dictated by all these rules - and I'm the only person who follows them. 

I most definitely learned

I most definitely learned to be very careful with my words for a very long time. I was invited to go to the doctor's appt, was very hesitant to go for this very reason, and when he didn't like what the doctor told him he tried to blame ME. It just was not true. I only told the truth...and that is what I asked him "what did I say that was not true or that was misleading. What did you hear me say that you feel was untrue?" He couldn't tell me anything. I used to just 'fold my hand' to avoid escalation. Then I decided I would try to agree to disagree with him, as it was really sad to me that after being together for all of these years we had never really even thought of that as an option. But, as his 'negative lens outlook' progressed, I decided I wasn't going to agree to disagree on something that he was NOT right on. (my DH has, too, gotten worse). I hadn't thought of the 'aggressive' lens, but it holds true as well. Now I pretty much try and handle each situation as they arise, point out to him "I'm sorry you feel that way, but you're incorrect" (if it is some incorrect interpretation of my actions, feelings, or words) and then just let it go. It is not worth arguing over, but I will no longer let the 'difference' in perceptions lie 100% on my shoulders. If it is something that really doesn't matter, I don't make a huge deal of it, but if he is accusing me of "calling him stupid" or "telling him how to do his job" or something along those lines, I quickly correct him and move on. 

I would suggest you not necessarily share every emotion in your know how exhausting it is to us when our ADHD DHs do this...but at least start vocalizing what you feel would help you not be resentful of him. I think the same rules should apply to everyone involved...and stopped living my life by self-imposed rules, for the sake of keeping the peace and NOT 'confronting' my DH, several months ago. He didn't like it at first...but he is getting used to it again. I wasn't like that when I met him, and I certainly don't want to spend the rest of my life like that. Change had to start with me. 

good advice

Good advice.  Thanks.  I do indeed believe that change belongs with me.  I try hard to remind myself that he hasn't made me this way.  I have allowed myself to become this way because of him. Telling myself that reminds me that I have the power to change who I am (not who he is). 

as a adhd, it seems everyone needs to be so careful,

I am reading these and am annoyed and dumbfounded and suppose to be doing some work and yes got side-tracked.  I am adhd and am 53 and have my own business and run the home and so-on and so on besides teaching for a major company. I have had this since I can remember as a child always a nun or teacher or parent telling me, What is your problem, can you not listen? I knew I was hyper and always loved to keep busy and do for others due to the fact then they would not get on to me. I  was given valum to calm down did not work, I went into hyper-mode really bad. Mom took me off, my mom in the medical field did not want me to have ridilin for who knows. I then got into people-please to leave me alone. But my mother had strict rules for me because I worked for her and I was her wife so at 12 I kept a family of 7, cleaned, cooked supper and I followed her rules to give me the paycheck to do what I wanted. No blame to her I convinced her to let me do this, it was a challenge, I did it and good at it, but I was truly smart but no one wanted to help a frustrated little one who did not get it right off the bat. ADHD it gets frustrasting not to get it at first, brain hurts, just frustrating. i wanted to be something do I made myself memorize for high school and made b and a's. But college I just never thought and I got so much trouble in school for not keeping my mouth shut, my brain went so fast and what I had already filed they you guys just were processing it, nothing meant just the difference. I went to beauty school, to end up putting me thru college, funny my aunt and uncle had 5 salons and doing better than any college tudent I knew. So I continued and long story short, I did so well funny I make money with my mouth and can out do hours of anyone I know due to the variation and never boring abd working for s big company teaching. Here i what I think of all complainers of adhd, it is b.s. They may be lazy, unorganized and whatever, so am I but lazy I am the opposite. unorganized, yes alittle I got diagnosed when I was 40 and had my daughter diagnosed so she could handle it if she had it. I got on medicine wo I can listen, focus and I love to hyper-focus and just leave me alone cause I think it is rude to try. My daughter is o smart not as creative as I , a my parents did not think I would make it till I was 10. The risks I took as a little child, I am amazed myself, kinda fun. So now I run a successful business, teach and love what I do but I married twice and both had not worked and let me tell you I would rather marry someone like me than a BPD narcisstic and amazing how they can beat the ever living emotional hell out of you. Now he wants to get me for prescription drugs of adderal one a day and he wants to prove I am addicted to prescription drugs. Hello you guys of no add or adhd the thing is not just medicine to help the key is routine and disipline and consistence along with prescription if they need to. It makes me so angry to hear parents just want meds with nothing else, so ad cause parents have no desire to give what it takes to guide us but we alo are accountable until we get it. Complaining dous nothing they need help of therapist and they have to continue and keep routine at home, give them specific duties, do not assume oh whatever give them and make them accountable and all needs to be clear. They are creative,smart, reliable loving and caring but do not enable it only hurts all. My sister could and loved to wtch bugs, birds for ever dhe iss add and not a great CPA. Do not pay for them to do stuff they need to earn it, but love them and encourage the challenge. if they whine about adhd or whatever, give them the whys, the needs of jut needs to have participation, and be ready for tough stuff. As kids if we screw up hell to pay you learn to think of consequences, the sme if you  enable you lost, we are smart weirdos oh issues well live on the responsible we are too talented, need not sit at a desk,ugh and noone will ever stand in my way to make whatever I wish. It is up to me.... read more no excuses but love joke I forever laugh at me, but laugh with me,not at me and do not blame me if you assumed you thought I should,would, or if you give me so much space, it might be easy for me to go oh well. So if we can come to some great decisions, make sure they are written down, we read better than listen, cause we can re-read and no mis-assumptions all down in black and white and just cause you have love and hopefuly a great future both sign it. No exceptions and creative in how the outcome, don't be controlling ugh and allow them to go and if they fail to complete well love you and you agreed so what and how can we continue. IT IS tough on all but therapy and if needed meds but even well-brutin is great cause this i not easy but it is so over-rated in enabling, I am so amazed at parents with children and if you have children please be patient, but as for discipline with no let down and see and read how they learn best. It takes willingness, love, accountability and takes us doing it in a way that keeps us focused and works for us but it will also work for the best of the family. If I keep failing I will get up but excuses get old, I AM   really smarter than you give me credit for so do not except excuses except the alot form us..............adhd forever, did not spellcheck,sorry

I need help from anyone please???

Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I am 27 years old. I have been ADHD as long as I can remember, but was just finally prescribed the right medication for my imbalance in February of this year!! After 3 weeks on my new meds, I was in total horror and disbelief as to how "WHACKED" my thought process was!!! I couldn't believe that I could possibly think, "perceive" life so totally different, and wrong before!!! I am so happy to be where I am now in my life, with my new found vision!! Everyday I am learning more about myself! Learning a new way of "life" really!! 

So, here is the problem!! My boyfriend and I used to fight like crazy!! We would say the same thing to each other, "you are crazy, what are you talking about!! You have me so confused, that I feel crazy!!" lol Sound familiar?? So on my new meds, after coming to a new realization of the way I perceived things. I came to the conclusion one day, what our problem was. It was like a light bulb turned on!! I told my bf, Larry.....we are fighting about everything, and we are trying to prove the same side to each other!!! It's like we were fighting over nothing! I was flippin out, cuz he didn't "get what I was saying" and he was flipping out because  "I didn't get what he was saying." I realized.....we were saying the SAME THING!!! I told him, Larry......I think it's how we perceive each other!! Our biggest problem is perception!! (I cant believe I'm hearing so many people on here, use that same exact word!! That's crazy!!!) So, Anyways (sorry, ADHD,I ramble sometimes! :/ ) When we argue, I am now able to ask myself, Is what I think about that particular situation, really what's going on? Am I perceiving it correctly? or is my ADHD head twisting it around? Problem is, Larry is ADHD/ADD but not diagnosed! He is actually in the denial stage about it!! He thinks there is no way it could be him at fault, it's just me! He knows the way he's thinking is correct!! He says, what he says makes complete sense to him! ( lol, the same as I used to say) So when he tries to fight with me, because he always thinks I'm being negative and fighting with him! I simply say, "Larry, I love you and I'm not fighting with you! Although it may feel that way to you, I understand!! It's the ADD/ADHD causing you to think that way!!I tell him it's amazing the difference with the right medication and I can't wait until he gets to experience how wonderful it is to "see" for the first time in his life! I tell him, if I had only had someone to tell me what a difference, someone close to me, that I knew I could trust and believed!! He's 4 years younger than I am, and I keep telling him, don't make my mistake and wait the extra 4 years, trust in me to help you!

It is driving me crazy!! It's like, I am working so hard to do better!! Admitting my faults, and working to make me a "better me"!! But it sucks so bad, that he doesn't see the changes that (everyone else can see) I've made and how hard I'm working on overcoming this lifelong disability! But, what's even harder than him not acknowledging how hard I'm working is the fact that he's accusing me of doing the complete opposite!! It sucks so bad!! And it's so hard to try and improve myself, when he is so negative and bringing me down and telling me I'm the negative one!!! I keep telling myself that he can't help it.... but, he can help the fact that he won't even acknowledge the possibility that there might be a problem!! (unfortunately, his mom makes the situation worse! When he asks for her opinion, if she thinks he has a problem, she will say no, in fear that she will make him upset and make him flip out!)(She has even told me that she just agrees with him to keep him calm and not upset him!) He asks me, Why no one else tells him he has a problem except me? He says he thinks I'm just trying to make him feel bad!!! I tell him, "I Love You!! WHY??? WHY??? Would I ever say anything to make you feel bad?? I tell him I am his gf, and hopefully wife someday, and it's my job to tell you the truth, the good and the bad, so that you can be the best that you can be!! Just like I want you to tell me everything good and bad about myself, so I can be the best that I can be!!

With hopes that he might see the comparison & accept the possibility, I've pointed out that we are exactly alike to him! From, the fact that we have had as many jobs as we are old, getting fired at the 1 & a half month mark, for reasons that we swear are not our fault! lol,~ to not having any friends b/c we are unknowingly obnoxious and people don't like to be around us too long! :/ ~to miss perceiving everything~ forgetfulness~ tardiness~ random interruptions~ we are both very talented artistically and intellectually~ depressed~ low self esteem~ pulling out the negative of things~ downright rude outbreaks( but never thinking we were mean at all, it must be in our victims head!)~ know it all's~ we know everything and must have the last word, even though we argue we don't have too~ always having an excuse for everything~ He does have 2 I didn't have, he does something over & over& over to me to upset me(like poke me, or ask the same question that he already knows the answer to repeatedly,when I've previously told him, I'm going to be busy, for a min and need to be left alone in silence, so I can concentrate(and he knows how hard it is for me to concentrate!), but I think that's why he does it! To get a rise outta me! He also has been in alot of legal trouble! Somehow I have not been in any!! Only by the grace of God & the fear of my families disappointed wrath! I can now see that I did all but the last 2 of those things, and working very hard to fix them!! Thank God, I can see it now!!!

So, what I'm saying is, I know for a fact from personal experience, that you can't change something you don't know is wrong!! You can't change that chemical imbalance that screws up your way of thinking and perceiving things, if you don't have any clue how wrong it is!! I at least was able to realize that something had to be off with me though!! "Everyone" couldn't be against me!! I had no idea just exactly how "off" I was though, shoot no one could have ever prepared me for that eye opener!! lol But I was at least willing to take a look at what was going on with me!! He's not!! I don't know what to do?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I LOVE HIM SO MUCH!!!! But, it's not fair to me, or healthy for me to continue this pattern, when I am just finally "seeing" for the first time!! I need to continue to grow into who God intended me to be with a "chemical balanced mind!!" I need someone to encourage my battle, and growth!! I'd love for us to help each other, but HOW DO I GET HIM TO BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY?? WHAT DO I DO?? I told, him I can't continue this way! It's not fair.... I've been messed up my entire life, never living up to my potential!! I'm finally "doing it" , doing what ive been trying to accomplish for years!! Sober, and working towards a healthy future! A future I want him to be apart of, but it's about me right now!! I have to take care of myself!! Continue to grow....but I want him to grow with me!! :( So, PLEASE, IF ANYONE HAS ANY ADVICE...PLEASE, I NEED HELP SO BAD!!!! :/ I'm so sorry soooo long!! Just very frustrated and didn't wanna skip anything!! 

*~Peace & L<3ve ~*~Elizabeth~*

asking for help


1. read this over and over several times:

“He does have 2 I didn't have, he does something over & over& over to me to upset me(like poke me, or ask the same question that he already knows the answer to repeatedly,when I've previously told him, I'm going to be busy, for a min and need to be left alone in silence, so I can concentrate(and he knows how hard it is for me to concentrate!), but I think that's why he does it! To get a rise outta me! He also has been in alot of legal trouble!”
“But, it's not fair to me, or healthy for me to continue this pattern, when I am just finally "seeing" for the first time!! I need to continue to grow into who God intended me to be with a "chemical balanced mind!!" I need someone to encourage my battle, and growth!! I'd love for us to help each other, but HOW DO I GET HIM TO BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY?? WHAT DO I DO?? I told, him I can't continue this way! It's not fair.... I've been messed up my entire life, never living up to my potential!! I'm finally "doing it" , doing what ive been trying to accomplish for years!! Sober, and working towards a healthy future! A future I want him to be apart of, but it's about me right now!! I have to take care of myself!! Continue to grow....but I want him to grow with me!!”

2. read The Dance of Anger by lerner

3. you want him to grow with you.  you want him to grow with you.  does he want to grow with you?

4. the very best thing about good advice is that it does so little harm because no one ever follows it.

5. sometimes God blesses us by not giving us what we want.

good luck


This sounds just like my

This sounds just like my husband and me!  We were married less than a year ago and the conversations between us are very difficult due to his false perceptions, misremembering and blame-shifting.  He has said almost word for word what yours did about me not wanting him to have his own feelings.  It's so tough...I also regret bringing up subjects, no matter how minor because of the blowups that follow, and also have no problems communicating with anyone else and have had many deep relationships with others, but he says I am the issue.  Ugh.  But thank you for letting me know that I'm not the only one out there!!!