Attacking Inconsistency of Focus in ADD Marriages

Are you angry that your ADD spouse is able to focus on something of great interest to him, and not to anything you want him to do (like the dishes, or childcare)?  If so, you would not be alone.  I’ve been reading a whole series of forum posts lately on this topic by women who are really frustrated by lack of attention to chores and to them.  I would like to address it, because I think the conversations are missing some important points.

Here’s what the forum writers are complaining about:

  • ADD spouse acts like a teenager – irresponsible about basic household chores
  • The non-ADD spouse feels obliged to complete tasks left unfinished by disinterested ADD spouse
  • Non-ADD spouse observes ADD spouse’s ability to focus on things like “finding a single bug in 1000 lines of code” and “cleaning and organizing an entire warehouse of tools” or “playing boring computer games for hours” while the same person can’t finish even half the dishes
  • The ADD spouse’s inability to do things for the non-ADD spouse can be interpreted as “he doesn’t love me or care enough about me to help”.  The spouse starts to feel like an unimportant, second-class citizen in the relationship

And here’s a typical comment on this topic:
“My husband always, ALWAYS seems to be able to find focus in what HE wants to do and when He wants to do it.  This adds to my hurt and frustration when he ignores me, forgets what is important to me, forgets to give me the respect and attention he seems to be able to give his friends.  Its so frustrating!  Talk about making me feel like second best,  a back up plan etc.  Why is this?  He wasn't like that until after we married.  Where is all the hyperfocused attention he lavished on me while dating???”

It’s a drag that the chores and distraction are becoming a battleground in these relationships, but nurturing bad feelings is really compounding the problems that these women are having.  I would like to talk a bit about what it is about ADD that makes it so hard for people to focus on uninteresting stuff, then provide some ideas about how to get around this.

It’s important to understand that ADD is best described as a dysregulation of the attention system…so it’s not that someone can never focus, it’s that he or she focuses in a dysregulated way – sometimes intensely, sometimes not at all.  You can see that this is a much more accurate way to assess what is troubling these women.

The hyperfocus present in courtship isn’t controllable at all.  It just happens, because there is a ton of emotional stimulation in courtship – it’s all new and wonderful and highly stimulating…boy, does courtship play right into what ADD people do best!

It would be great if that high interest translated into wanting to do the dishes for your wife because you love your wife, but that’s not how it works.  Dishes and household chores are never on the “10 most interesting things I know” list for anyone, and for folks with ADD that’s the kiss of death when it comes to getting chores done.  Furthermore, as the non-ADD spouse gets frustrated, the conflict that chores start to represent means that most men (again, forget ADD) won’t want to go near them.  Too much conflict, too much potential to let down your spouse.  I know, it doesn’t seem rational, but that’s the inside workings.

And it’s not so easy for an ADD person to just say “I must do this because if I don’t my wife will be mad at me tomorrow.”  There is a lot of research that shows that people with ADD live so much in the present that they often can’t force themselves to do something today that they hate in order to be able to have a better tomorrow (this has to do with the executive function parts of the brain).  Think about why you do chores – it’s not because you love them.  It’s either because you know that if you don’t do them for a while you’ll be even more unhappy in the future or because seeing things clean gives you pleasure.  Again, not a great fit with the ADD brain.

It would also be great if the focus on the relationship that is experienced in courtship lasted, but it doesn't (not even for non-ADD couples).  Eventually, (often right after the wedding) things return to a more "normal" state, which in the case of ADD means "distracted".  This feels like "I don't love you" to the non-ADD spouse.

Does this mean that a person with ADD can’t do chores or won't ever pay attention?  No!  There are plenty of folks with ADD who pull their weight around the house as well as doting ADD husbands.  But they need to train themselves to do so, literally.  And creating the right environment in which that training can take place is an important part of making it happen.  Which is one of the reasons why the frustration that these women are expressing is getting in the way of the goal of getting their spouse involved.  Their frustration tends to poison the environment and demotivate the spouse to make the changes needed.

Here are three examples of ADD spouses taking over things they hated:

  • Doing dishes:  An ADD spouse agrees to do the dishes in the evening, as well as unload the dishwasher any time it is clean and needs unloading, but keeps forgetting.  His wife does her share (morning and noon dishes) but none else.  As the dishes pile up, the ADD spouse sees them and cleans them up.  Clean dishes left in the dishwasher result in piles of (rinsed) dishes on the counter…again, eventually they disappear.  After a couple of months, the ADD spouse fully takes over his agreed-to responsibilities and the dishes get done regularly (but not always…and the non-ADD spouse never jumps in to do work that isn’t hers).  While dishes used to represent a huge area of conflict for the couple, the chore is completely off their radar screen now.
  • Picking up socks:  An ADD spouse leaves his very stinky socks all over the house.  After repeatedly requesting that this stop, his wife finally tires of it and starts throwing out any socks that she sees left around the house.  Her husband gets the point when he wakes up one morning with no socks.  He ruefully buys more and starts to pick them up.
  • Billing clients:  An ADD husband who works out of the home is consistently behind on his billing, which creates financial stress for his family.  His wife begs and pleads with him to do better, but he doesn’t.  Finally, with the help of a counselor who helps him see the stress this is causing, he hires help to do the billing.  He pays for her services in part with the money they save on finance charges on their credit cards.

There is a theme here.  Teenagers don’t take on responsibilities such as cleaning their room because they think it is fun.  They do so because it is what is expected of them.  This is also the case with adults with ADD…to a point, and the difference is important to understand.

The very important caveat here is that non-ADD spouses cannot simply say “you must do this” or “this is your chore” and enforce it the way parents can with their teens.  Rather, they need to be sensitive to the interplay of emotional environment, skillsets, ADD, and interests.  You can’t “expect” someone into not having ADD.  They have ADD, and it does affect what/how they function.  In the dishwashing case above, that couple chose that as the primary chore of the ADD spouse because it was a chore that he said he could deal with.  His success in doing it has encouraged him to take on other chores periodically when he sees something that needs doing.  As you can imagine, his volunteering to help out works very well for both members of the couple.  But it still took a couple of no-conflict months to get him fully to a point where he “owned” doing the dishes and six more before he started picking up other things.

In the billing example, the emotional issues surrounding the man’s ability to provide for his family were so sensitive that it took a counselor’s interference to get him to implement the fairly obvious solution of getting billing help.

When it comes to issues of showing affection through attention, a non-ADD spouse often needs to overcome a feeling that a man should be in charge of setting up their dates.  If you wait for him to be organized enough to plan a date when not hyperfocusing you may wait a long time.  Or, you can just make the date and then have fun.

Here are my specific recommendations:

  1. Stop nurturing resentment over inconsistent attention.  Accept it as the number one symptom of ADD and do yourself and your relationship a favor by not taking it personally.
  2. Agree together on what needs the most focus.  Think carefully about this – what will help you as a couple the most?  Is doing one chore important?  Spending time together?  Pick ONE thing, and then leave lots of time to gain momentum.
  3. Let the chore do the talking so you aren’t perceived to be an enforcer or nag.  Leaving the dishes undone simply says “I’m here…needing to be done”.  Creating a situation in which there are no socks presses the point home.  Be creative as you think of non-confrontational ways to encourage compliance (and, yes, some would interpret the socks as "passive/aggressive".  Since it worked, assume she knew her husband well enough to judge his potential response...remember creativity is important)
  4. Let the person doing the chore do it his way.  Want to be reminded of how annoying it is to be told you’re doing something the wrong way?  Find a manual for some really annoying project and have your husband stand over your shoulder and give you detailed instructions on how to do it…’nuf said!
  5. Set reasonable boundaries.  Can’t deal with the socks?  Give fair warning.  If they’re still around, do something about it.  But make sure what you are doing doesn’t include yelling or screaming.  And don’t turn yourself into a little Hitler.  And don't demand an ADD person become responsible for keeping the house neat.  That way lies madness!
  6. Be flexible except in some specific areas.  Your way is not the only way – make sure that your spouse has the freedom to do his stuff his way.  Areas to NOT be flexible:  finances, children’s health (medications), the need for connection, respectful communication.  But everything else…
  7. Make your need for attention known, then do something about it.  Schedule dates, set aside time for talking.  An almost surefire way to feel more connected is to take walks together.  The physical movement keeps the ADD spouse engaged so that he/she has the ability to focus on you (try it – it works!)  Don't sit around waiting for your spouse to become magically "not distracted" (i.e. not ADD)  Accept his distraction and compensate by insisting that you get good time together.
  8. Have some fun.  This will help diffuse defensiveness that develops in your household.



constructive criticism for Melissa

Based on what I have read from your posts on here including the one above I would suggest that the book you are writing be more positive based reinforcement rather than negative and limiting ( for example see number one recommendations above "STOP..") People (including me) are put off by negative instructions- Don't do this, stop doing that, change the way you think about that etc. If you want to institute change then people should perceive themselves doing something positive rather than having restrictions or limitations placed on them. You speak an awful lot about how the non ADD person should alter the way THEY think and put more responsibility on the non ADD spouse for helping the ADD spouse take control of their own self. Just an observation Melissa. I know you are trying to help us all here, but sometimes how you write something comes off quite judgmental and sometimes unfairly blaming the non ADD spouse.


Thanks for this - it's exactly the kind of input I need as I work on my book.



Hi Melissa, One thing I

Hi Melissa,

One thing I wonder about when reading this site is how representive it is.  Do most spouses with ADHD partners experience the type of things described in this site?  Frustration is a dominant theme.  Or is it only a subset that feels frustration or people going through a certain phase of ADHD recognition and because of that are motivated to write in and that's what we see here?

Since learning about ADHD I have identified 3 couples in our social circle where one of the spouses has ADHD as follows:

*  With one of the couples the husband has ADHD as does one of the sons.  It is well known in the family and to others.  Both take medication and while I am sure there are challenges (short sharp temper most noticeable) the situation appears to be proactively managed.  It is possible but I doubt frustration is a dominant aspect although I sense that they have gone through a lot and are where they are at now through a lot of hard work.  In other words probably passed through a lot of frustration.

*  With another couple it is again the husband that has ADHD and I strongly suspect his son.  While the husband took ritalin as a kid there does not appear to be any recognition that he has adult adhd.  He is a functional alcoholic and often expresses concern about his alcohol intake but does not seem to link this fact to the possibility of ADHD or realize that medication may help to address the alcohol issue.  His son meanwhile is experiencing increasing difficulty at school.  The non ADHD wife I think would be aghast if anyone ever suggested that either the husband or son had ADHD.  When it comes to her son especially - she does not seem to have a reality based perspective.  She thinks her husband and especially her son and everything they do is great.

*  With the third couple - it's the wife who has ADHD as well as their daughter.  Both are undiagnosed but things continue to escalate on the school front in the daughter's case.    The husband is in complete denial of either wife or daughter's possible ADHD even though he is constantly having to cover or make up for his wife's complete unreliablitily.

I used to be a person in complete denial like the last 2 situations referenced above.  I thougt my husband walked on water.  Every missed appointment or failed follow-through on his part  was interpreted by me as my unreasonable expectations as opposed to any real problem on his end.  In fact when I first started to slowly come to the realization that he had ADHD I thought of him as having a bit of an atypical case because I did not think of him as unreliable, chronic loser of things; deflecter of blame etc...  Now I read this site and sit back and observe and the way I look at things now - he's pretty typical apart from the fact that he is very successful at work.

I sometimes wonder whether I would be better back off in oblivion and self blame where I think two of the above mentioned spouses reside.  Particularly in the situation with the non-ADHD husband I wonder what it will be like for him as his situation gradually unfolds.  Sometimes I worry that with knowledge and looking at things in a different way and particularly through the eyes of this website I am now more prone to frustration now that I think I recognize things for what they are.  Other times I wonder if I am passing through a phase and eventually I will find peace.  Is this the frustration phase?










nobody likes criticism - even us with ADD

I am the ADD one. I love to help around the house. Admittedly, I may go to the kitchen with the intention of emptying the dishwasher. I start emptying it, and for some reason halfway through I notice the garbage can is full. So I go to the laundry room, pull out a fresh garbage sack - to replace the one I'm going to empty - and hang it on the door. As I reach down to pull up the garbage, I notice the dog bowl has no food or water. I fill up a cup with water, take it to fill the water bowl, then I go into the garage to get dog food. I fill up a second cup with dog food and when I go back in the kitchen, there's my wife, finishing emptying the dishwasher and she gives me a dirty look. When I go over to help, and finish up, SHE notices the garbage sack is full, pulls it up and when I turn around, she's gone into the garage to drop the garbage sack into the big garbage can. I run after her and say "Hey I was gonna do that" and NOW I take the bag away from her. I drop it in the garbage can, but notice there's something in left in the garage, and I pick it up, take it to the bedroom, and when I come back to the kitchen, the garbage liner is in, and my wife says, "We need to talk about chores." Oh yes, she put the cup of dog food in the dog bowl too.

I would have finished it all. I knew what I wanted to accomplish. By my wife essentially interrupting me, and doing it for me, I feel like a failure, with good intentions BUT I DIDN'T DO IT HER WAY. AND SHE HAS NO PATIENCE FOR ME DOING IT MY WAY. (By the way, I have seen marriage counselors criticize the (OCPD) wife who complains that her NON-ADD husband doesn't do the chores, and the marriage counselor says, "No ma'am, he doesn't do then the way you do. Why don't you chill out, ask him to do the chores, AND JUST LET HIM DO THEM HIS WAY?" The end of the show demonstrates that she is less frustrated, the chores get done - but she is still having a hard time letting him do it the way he does it. If a man makes a statement in the woods, and there is no one to hear him, is he still wrong?)

BTW, OCPD means Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Personality disorder refers to a rigid way of doing things, that despite the evidence that it does not work in (her) setting, (she) continues to do it. I probably don't need to explain about Obsessive neatness or Compulsive house cleaning.

Funny, but on Zoloft my wife is somewhat more tolerant of me - actually a lot. (She also isn't afraid to let someone else drive the car, or afraid of about 30 other things we discussed before she started Zoloft.) However, she still has issues with the parable of the Prodigal Son, who DESPITE HAVING DONE BAD THINGS AND SQUANDERED HIS MONEY, STILL MERITS THE LOVE OF HIS FATHER WHEN HE RETURNS AND ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS. You see, my wife is the other son who never did anything wrong, and doesn't think it's fair that Daddy still loves him too. (She still doen't understand the parable.) But her way is certainly more organized, THEREFOR IT BECOMES THE RIGHT WAY, AND MINE IS THEREFORE WRONG, since there is ONLY one way to do it right.

I know it doesn't seem fair to always do it right, and instead of applause, it's suggested that you BE FLEXIBLE - and you take it as personal criticism. (Does this dress make me look fat?) As a suggestion - don't take it personally - the more FLEXIBLE (not rigid, right, perfect, correct or better) any spouse is with another spouse, the more likely that spouse is to be able to roll with the punches that tend to happen when you marry someone who isn't a carbon copy of you. (Could you - would you want to - live with someone just exactly like you?)

I want to do more around the house, and I try. I wish my wife wouldn't interrupt me and just let me do it my way. Most of the time, it all gets done. If she could stay out of the kitchen, she might appreciate it being done instead of being irritated about it being done a different way.

Sometimes there actually is a way it has to be done!

My husband cooked us some lovely pork chops last night. But he left the rest of the package on the counter (instead of putting them away) and the DOG had a lovely supper.

I know, in the long run, the 2 nights without dinner will not hurt us (can't afford to replace the food until payday). I know he didn't mean to leave the pork chops out for the dog. But I'm still going to be hungry on those nights.

Why can't ADDers admit that sometimes there is a right way? You do have to put the food in the refrigerator, follow speed limits, pay bills on time, etc. Any idea how to get my ADDer to see that?

No question there CAN be only one way to do some things

I think there are plenty of situations where there IS only one way to do things - when the consequences or the payoff is BIG if you don't. Examples of obeying the speed limit (or other legal requirements), paying bills on time (so as to avoid late fees, increased interest), even putting up the food (so it doesn't spoil, fall on the floor, or get eaten by the dog) are all good. If the consequences are significant - doing without supper would be a big one for me - then there IS a right way... or a few ways. I suspect there would've been some place to have put the food that the dog WOULDN'T have gotten to it, unless your Great Pyrenees can fit in the kitchen.

I also know there are likely situations where it is LESS important to do it ONLY ONE WAY. If I put up the dirty dishes before I put up the salad dressing- and probably get distracted by something right afterwards, like a TV ad for a movie I've heard something about - I can come back and put up the salad dressing, and I hope I do. Or I suppose I could've put up the salad dressing first, then watch the commercial.

There is a thing about PICKING YOUR BATTLES. If you don't DECIDE WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND WHAT IS NOT, well, that's kinda like what folks with ADD do. Sometime everything I see becomes more important than the thing I am doing - well, the thing I WAS doing. Maybe more representative would be when your kid tests your limits by wearing makeup at 13 or deciding to wear a T-shirt with a risque saying on it. It depends. If you never pick your battles, then it IS a POWER STRUGGLE, and I promise you, it is INCREDIBLY DEMORALIZING when EVERYTHING you do - OR THE WAY YOU DO IT - is Wrong. I think most of us know that we do a lot of things wrong, and choose to defend ourselves rather than just add that wrong-doing to the big stack occupying most of our adult lives, decide that we are hopeless and that the world would be better off if we didn't keep screwing up everything, and just give up. ON THE OTHER HAND, being forgiven for mucking up, being accepted as fallible, and loved for our contributions feels better and probably helps the marriage, too.

Great Pyrenees indeed

Our dog is a mild mannered mutt who weighs about 60 pounds. I think smelling those pork chops sitting on the counter for an hour just tempted him to jump up and grab them or else one of the cats got on the counter and knocked them down to dog level. It's the first time that's happened and he was embarrassed and says he'll never do it again. He actually put the left-over pasta we had for dinner away last night, and I didn't even ask him!

He's not bad hearted, he's really a sweet guy. He does not have the temper problems so many spouses of ADDers describe here. I don't want to have any battles with him, let alone pick them.

I feel if he suffered consequences for his ADD actions, he might learn (he's not stupid.) But I can't figure out how to have consequences for him that don't affect me. Our biggest problem right now is that we can't afford to heat our house. How can I stay warm while he's cold? I'm a full-time student, so I'm here a lot more than him. So the consequences of his poor employment decision-making fall more on me than him. When he chose not to work, I had to carry the load of our joint obligations by myself. i signed the lease, how could I not pay it and not get evicted? How could I have eaten dinner after the dog ate our pork chops? They were gone even though I did nothing wrong. Am I obliged to check behind him forever like he's a child?

Just musing... I don't know the answer to this.

I am the non-ADD wife

I am the non-ADD wife (husband has ADHD) and I just wanted to say that your two posts were full of very helpful information for those of us who live everyday trying to be more accepting and less 'right/better/perfect'. Excellent advice...and exactly what it took me a very long time to get. Every mistake isn't the end of the way isn't the only way...and nobody is perfect. I do some of the stupidest things sometimes myself...I remind myself of this when I get upset because my husband (or daughter whom I'm really starting to worry about) leaves the bread open, the milk out, the cereal box open, etc.

Picking your battles is such a huge was for me anyway. If my husband was in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher I would sit happily in the bedroom and let him multi-task his little heart out. You need to stop your wife, in the moment, and tell her "Please, when you come and work around me it makes me feel degraded and useless. Please go relax, find something else to do, and let me do this" It almost feels like her passive-aggressive way of constantly sabotaging your efforts...just so she can complain. I agree 100% that is just as detrimental to the marriage as the ADD is..maybe more so in your case.

MTC's picture

First this, then that, and OH how about the other thing>!>!>!

Your description of doing chores above was like a cool wind blowing across my brow on a muggy hot day. Wow.

Many times I'll start one chore, segway to another, and another and... yah, like you said. Actually, typing this reply now is about the 3rd thing I have started after emptying the lower tray on the dishwasher - then I watered the dogs, then I worked on an audio track (digitizing old tapes -- which is really cool beca... sorry).

I just started adderall last week, and I think the dose is too high to start, so I'm gonna ask for a modification or such.

I will keep reading this thread later -- but I have to go finish emptying the dishwasher and starting Xmas eve's meal and take apart my ford V8 but before that I'll write a novel...

EGADS. I get it, but can't fully stop it yet. Best wishes!!!

on point

i really enjoyed your story about household chores. my (fresh married) husband has add and you described it beautifully. when he moved in i swore to myself not to get upset about undone dishes. pure waist of time and it leaves me furious!! so, usually, i just do it (instead of getting upset about it), leaving the silverware for him, coz´i hate cleaning those and it is a small enough part for him to take/concentrate on. and if he does do the dishes im happy and surprised. i cook a lot and do the laundry, he in return takes care of the trash. i might do more household chores, but he does things for me i hate doing like changing the bed sheet. even though i have to remind him or ask him (several times)  if he still wants to do / finish it.  when i remind him he rushes off to do it. when i have a bad day and just do it myself (i´m still working on my patience), he is unhappy, because i didn´t wait for him to do it.

i guess what i´m trying to say is, that i get irritated with my spouse very quickly when i have problems with MY life, and it is so easy to blame the forgetful, "lazy" add one. it took me a year into the relationship to get, that most of his behavior is not laziness but lack of concentration. i wonder, and like to ask here, if a lot of people with add are also very sensitive/emotionally unstable?! with my man i can see the very typical vicious circle of "i have to take care of that" but fails due to soooo many things that come in between this one thought process and is left with "im a failure".  we both deal with "mental" health issues, since i have a borderline-personality disorder. maybe that´s what makes it work, because we tolerate each others special way of dealing with life. one thing that is still very difficult for me is his job, or should i say non-job situation. my hubby is 28 years old and is currently financed by his parents. he has a bachelor but university was hell for him. the experiences with his prier bosses makes him avoid the whole job/income issue all together (i might add that he seems to have a bit of aspergers syndrome too, since he is socially awkward and doesn´t know how to communicate "right"). and i´m sure you can understand that I'm worried about the financial part of our marriage.                                           

i love how different he and his brain is, and sometime i have to remind myself that he is and sees the world differently.


Thank you!

Thank you so much for your post!  It was very helpful!  My only question is how to deal with us BOTH having ADD!  You would think it would be easier but it is actually a huge problem!  There is no one to structure either one of us!  I am in therapy now to deal with my own issues and also to learn how to deal with him.  He has just started going also (once) so we'll see how long it lasts.  thank you again for your tips and also for this web site!!!

putting down the banner

A few months ago my husband brought up the topic of having someone come and "help around the house" a few times a week.  I (the distracted one) was convinced this would be absolutely impossible--too expensive, too complicated (cleaning my house?!  I don't know where everything goes!?) and most especially, much, much too embarrassing.  (I know that's spelled wrong . . .).  After trying to discuss it nicely for a couple of months he simply said "I need this.  We are going to budget for it."  I gulped.  We budgeted in $90/week.  Within 15 minutes I thought of a very competent friend who might be available.  She's been coming for a few months now and I tell you she's an angel of mercy.  I'm still embarrassed, but I am no longer dreading the moment Jonathan walks in the door (at least, not on MWF, lol.) 

My point is, I needed to admit I was not able to do it, and tell my own shame that it was not presenting any working solutions so it needed to sit down.  (I was forcing my spouse to live in the current shambles of my ever-present fantasy that next week would be better, and that was completly unfair.) Then, I allowed for another solution for the now which my spouse could support.    Concurrently, my spouse was very calm, clear, and direct about not accepting all my fired-up excuses.  This has been helpful in many other areas, such as interrupting,  budgeting, etc. 

ADD & The House

Emily, I'm in your boat! We want to clean before the house cleaner person comes!

Marriage/Inconsistency of attention

I started a relationship two years ago with a man with ADD. He is building/living in a retirement home next door to his sister; his son bought the place on the other side of his place last summer. We live 100 miles apart and I think he truly does love me. I can't for the life of me figure out a strategy equivalent to the sock or dishes story in relation to having time together. When we're not together his family feeds and entertains him - there are no socks or dishes to pile up. My moving up there is out of the question under the circumstances. I've been a teacher for 20 years, but this is a whole new appreciation for the challenges of ADD.

catch 22

This sounds great but....I've tried this with my DH.   No go.   He'll agree to a task and a schedule, and I ignore his part piling up and up and up....once in a while he might clean up part way, but not completely.   I've left some things for a year, with him never doing it.

There is just too much responsibilty on the non-ADD spouse to parent the ADD partner.   If we don't, things explode.   If we do, there is resentment.

catch 22 by Neen

This sounds like my husband.  He'll clean up part way, but never completely.  We've just about remodeled our whole house, problem is it has taken 10 years and still isn't done and we live in a small house.  I've also noticed that my husband still has something that he has not completed in almost every room we've worked on.  Why is this?  Are they afraid that if they entirely complete something they can no longer be looked at as a failure, which so many ADHD folks have been told all their lives and have lived with that thought?

unfinished projects

I know exactly what you mean when you mentioned unfinished tasks 'in almost every room'.  In our first house, which was tiny to begin with, I lost the entire basement as a functional living space!  The space had become nothing more than a storage area, jam-packed with unfinished projects: chairs that were newly refinished (a costly job) but needed reassembly and 10 years later were still laying in a heap on the floor; boxes filled with brand new items remained unopened for years because my husband had gone off to chase the next 'good deal'. (The excitement of the chase and acquisition of any item seems to drive him.  Once the item is acquired, it is no longer interesting, so the hunt moves on to other 'prey' and the original item is abandoned.)  Slowly, over a few years, I came to lose my entire basement!  (I suspect 'hoarding' behaviour is also a very real issue with my husband and wonder if it is common among ADDers.)

On the positive side, I have found it very useful to put myself in my husband's shoes when I feel frustrated.  If I try to understand how the brain's unique wiring might cause a particular behaviour, I realize that my husband isn't intentionally annoying or manipulating me.  (I try to remember that, deep down, he's a very sensitive man.) To use an example, when I had asked repeatedly when he would get around to assembling those chairs, he would reply, "I'll help you".  My knee-jerk reaction was to get defensive.  ("Why should it be my responsibility to complete his task?") But I also know that my husband is not mechanically inclined.  (I am.)  He was likely asking, in an indirect way, for help, while being fearful of outright admitting that he couldn't finish the job himself! We ended up working on the job together, and truly enjoying the process.  The fact that the task was challenging and physical helped keep my husband focused.  That we did it together was a bonus.  I respected his need to think things through in his own way and refrained from 'taking over' and becoming bossy, which I am inclined to do!  Making suggestions (such as "Do you think this might work?") was so much more respectful than "It's not going to work if you do it that way!"  We came away with a feeling of immense accomplishment and mutual satisfaction.  We cleared a huge space in the basement and gained 2 beautiful, functional chairs! I swear I saw my husband's self-esteem strengthen a little more, and I felt a reconnection with the man I married.  It's still an ongoing issue and a daily battle, and I often wonder if I have the energy to keep going, but these little victories really help!

reply to still hopeful

My husband is a hoarder.  He doesn't throw anything away nor give anything away for many many years for fear that someday he will need said item.  Our garage is chalked full of stuff that he many need or use someday. 

I am approaching my husband's disorder in same fashion.  I make suggestions that maybe "we" could tackle a project or task so he is aware that I am there to help.  Only problem at the moment is he is dealing with depression as well as ADHD and is lacking motivation to do much of anything right now.  So, until we pull out of this dilema, I'm afraid nothing is getting accomplished.  I wish I could hire someone to complete all of the projects but it's just not in our budget. 

'dealing with depression'

I can sympathize with your situation.  My husband also struggled through an acute episode of depression.  (I think it was triggered by extreme anxiety.  He had been trying to deal with too many major issues at work and home.  I think the total chaos in his brain became too much for his system, and he 'crashed'.)  After several months of rest, sleep, and 'refueling', he is back to his old self.  It was tough going through those few months for me, though.  I essentially lost my partner for a while and had to function as a single parent as well as support person for my husband.  

I hope your husband's recovery is smooth.

reply to still hopeful "dealing w/depression"

Thanks for your reply.  I think this is exactly what my husband is going through.  Total chaos in his brain as he is experiencing anxiety attacks as well.  I'm doing most everything on my own, also in addition to trying to be a support person for him.  It is very tough.  I'm trying to be patient but some days I just feel like giving up. 

Hope things are still going well with you.


I was paralized by anxiety, which was a new thing for me, due to a sequence of major changes in my life. It was the anxiety that got me to call my doctor (GP) who had prescribed anti-depressents for my stress. They only helped for a month or two. My Doctor had me take to quick question/answer tests and found that I scored high on the Bi-Polar test?!?!?! He refered me to a Phychiatrist who within 10 minutes observed and told me he though I had ADHD. Wow... 43 years and nobody noticed?!? He had me read "You Mean I'm not Stupid, Crazy or Lazy", I was convinced almost immediately. Now I understand, take my Adderal, and am trying to repair the damage to my almost 15 year marriage. I understand that I was "Juggling too many Oranges"... I hope your husband is doing well.


How long did it take for the Adderal to kick in. Now that I now know I ADHD the anxiety for me is insane, before, I used "things" to control my lack of focus. Like watching TV, video game, talking on the phone to friends, organizing stuff, everything except what was important in life. Now as I try and focus on the important things the chaos in my head is overwhelming. When I want to get up from the computer at work and do something else I recognize it is the ADHD and lack of focus so I have this horrible inner battle going on?


I was really nervous about taking my first dose. Fortunately a really good friend of mine with ADHD talked me through what he thought would happen and eased my racing mind. The effect from the Adderall happened within 30 minutes and I realized what it was like to "Feel Good/Normal", not in a "High" like a feared, but like taking a blanket off my brain. Things slowed down...

I Totally understand some/all the inner conflicts in the head. What I have read is that there are so many symptoms and so many ways us ADHDer's deal with them. The book I referenced "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!" by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo was my first real validation of all the things in my head that I thought was just my screwed up way of thinking. I actually read the whole book, a feat in itself, with a highlighter. Stimulant medications help the majority of people, from what I have read, and my experience has been good. A year later, I never miss a round of meds and feel better most of the time. The ADHD is by no means gone, but better in check. My Insomnia was what I called the "Slide Show"... Before diagnosis I would lie down and close my eyes and see images flashing through my head, like I could not stop thinking. My compulsive eating has stopped, although I am told I cannot take ANY credit for this because I am taking "Speed", not because I stop eating when I feel full, try not to munch constantly and walk 20+ miles a week, but that is a rant for another time... I am off my Sleep Aid (Lunesta) and my Anti-Depressant (Zoloft), but still require an occasional Klonopin to help with anxiety spikes and occasional bedtime relax assist. The biggest problem for me, now, is that I see the impossible list of things that must be addressed and get worked-up because there is not enough time to do them, where as before I was the laid-back guy that did not worry until it was blowing up in my face. Ignorance is bliss? Overall I perform my job faster, I'm in a better mood, sort through tasks faster, read people better and it will take more time to adjust to my new awareness of my surroundings.

I hope you achieve good relief through your diagnosis and treatment.

I wish you well...

Agree also

"There is just too much responsibilty on the non-ADD spouse to parent the ADD partner.   If we don't, things explode.   If we do, there is resentment."

I'm in that same boat w/my DH... He'll agree to do a chore, for instance taking out the trash, but then not follow through, even at the point where the trash is overflowing. If something doesn't fit in the trash because it's overflowing, he'll leave it somewhere else (i.e. food wrappers on the table next to the trash can) rather than taking the trash out. If I don't jump in and take care of it, he gets mad at me for "making" him do it! If I finally get sick of smelly trash piling up after several days and do it myself, he gets upset because "well I said I would do it!" He also frequently promises to help later ("I'll help this weekend, I want to watch this show on TV") but then when the weekend comes, he'll leave ("Well, Dad wants to go sailing/I'm going to the store/library/hobby shop, bye!!") and be gone all day or all weekend. 

I've tried what Melissa describes above with the socks... he gets angry that he can't find his socks, buys more, and then the cycle repeats. It never gets to the "ruefully... starts to pick them up" bit. Dishes that he agrees to do will sit there for days piling up and attracting bugs until we finally run out of dishes... at which point he gets angry with me for not doing them.

I've basically given up on ever getting him to help... I'm starting to try the FlyLady system as a way of getting the house done by myself slowly, but with 2 ADHD kids in addition to hubby, it's hard. I'm so tired!!! 


Oh Jessica, I feel your pain.

Oh Jessica, I feel your pain. My DH is ADD, plus both kids are ADHD--ages 8 and 10. maybe we should both run away and go take a really long nap somewhere! I wish I could offer more encouragement, but the truth is I am really in a bad place right now. My DH did one ONE task last week and we had a HUGE fight over the weekend because I didn't thank him enough for it. Seriously--those words came out of his mouth. Does anyone thank us for the 1001 things we do each day--nope. One thing that does help us (me) is checklists and to-do lists. I have laminated lists for both my kids of the tasks they need to accomplish to get out of the door in the mornings before school--helps a ton. I am working on one for the summer (kids don't go to camp). I will also make a to-do list and say nobody does anything else until your list is done. That also helps. Either we get to the park or we don't, but either way, the chores are done. I have no idea how to get an ADD hubby to actually DO chores--I can't get mine to either. He will let stuff go and go and go until I blow up and then he does 23 jobs in one day and walks around all put upon--we clearly haven't solved that issue in our house. I am not doing so well at this moment, so I probably shouldn't be offering advice right now!!!!! It is hard, but not impossible--I pretty much just plan on me and the kids doing chores and leaving hubby out of it. If he helps, yippee, but I don't hold my breath. It is exhausting. Go to bed early. dana

thanking enough

My husband and I had that same argument this weekend -- I didn't thank him enough for something he had done.  I have the hardest time with that because if I thank him for every little thing he does, it sounds so fake and untrue.  And, no, I don't get thanked for anything I do around here -- nor do I expect to.  It's exhausting to feel like I have to be thanking for every little nit-picky thing anyway.   What do you do - thank him and sound insincere or not thank him and end up in an argument over it?  

I have no idea how to handle

I have no idea how to handle the thanking thing, especially once there are kids around. On one hand I like them to thank me for a nice meal or something like that, but I don't feel I should have to throw a parade every time they do something I've asked them to do. I wish we could get to a place in my house where we all just did the stuff that needed to be done to keep our family running nicely--myself included. I find myself often adding up what I did versus what hubby did. Doesn't make me nice to live with either. You are right, exhausting. dana

How much attention is enough?

This is my first time to this site and I just had to reply to jgf.  It must have been the planets because my husband (the one with ADHD) told me last night that I needed to pay him more attention!  My attention for the last 4 years of our marriage have been cleaning up/ finishing up all those projects he has started or not started but swears he will do so on the weekend and it never happens.  I, too, am not doing so well right now as I am fried, have nothing left to give to him and when I do give are they ever satisfied, is it ever enough?  I am so exhausted that last night, in bed, I decided I did not want to be a "wife" anymore, I do not want the role anymore so that I am not open to criticism for not doing enough.

this is such a great forum to

this is such a great forum to get help for this stuff. I told my husband that for the rest of our lives I am not discussing who does what, who does more, who SHOULD do more, who didn't do enough--all the possible variations of that conversation make me want to run screaming into the street. I seriously could have divorced him this weekend and not thought about it twice after the thanking comment. ADHD folks just don't see how draining they are. my 10 year old son is ADHD too and I really worry about him as a grown up--one of the posts here talked about how ADHD folks just exist in their own happy place because none of the "unfun" stuff even registers--true in my house. I am the one up in the middle of the night worrying about money, kids, work, whatever and he is snoring peacefully, having forgotten whatever we discussed about the topic. I found out yesterday that our youngest son needs two surgeries this summer and instead of being worried about that, I am panicking about finding the time to actually make all the phone calls related to that, getting all his various specialists to sign off OR have to see them all before these surgeries can happen. How sad is that? There is no way I could hand that off to hubby--by the time I would explain it all I may as well do it myself. dana
arwen's picture

you may make a difference with your son

Dana, I have an ADD spouse and an ADD son (I do not have ADD).  My husband was not diagnosed until he was in his early 40's.  Because my husband did not receive treatment or counseling or even ADD-appropriate parenting when he was growing up, he has little self-awareness, he can't finish projects, he doesn't understand the *concept* of "put away", many of the typical ADD behaviors.  He was not like that when we married (in his extended birth family, all the men have ADD, but they "outgrow" it in puberty, then "grow back in" to it around age 40), but I could see the consequences of the ADD child in the adult man, so I was determined that our son would be raised to deal with life more effectively.  Our son (now in his late 20's) has had a more difficult time finding his "niche" in the world than my husband did, and tends to need more encouragement in his undertakings, but because he received treatment *and* counseling *and* ADD-appropriate parenting (at least from me!), he *is* self-aware, he *can* finish projects, he *does* understand the concept of "put away", etc, etc.

I can't say whether your situation is like mine was -- although I know exactly what you mean about wanting to run screaming in the street, and about being up in the middle of the night worrying while my ADD-spouse snores peacefully away -- but I've seen this happen in other families with ADD members too.  So, don't despair about your ADD son, he's not necessarily fated to be like his father, if you persevere and bring him up appropriately you may be able to make the same kind of difference with him that I did with mine.

Good luck!  I know this is an especially hard time for you, but hang in there, my prayers are with you!


Re: never enough thanks

wow, I didn't know someone else did this one. My adhd husband NEVER thanked me for any of the hundreds of things I did every day, but that "one" thing HE did required thank you's "many times over". I could never understand why he needed so many thank yous for his one or two things, but he would give none in return. I still haven't figured out that one. I wish I could help you on this one. If someone else knows about this, I'd also appreciate some insight.


The NOW person

Someone once told me that an ADD child is called the "now child".  Being married to someone with ADD is like this:  You could bring 3 siblings a candy bar and the ADD child comes to got his first, eats it and goes back out to play.  When the other 2 siblings came in to get their candy just a few minutes later, the "now child" wonders "where's mine!"  My ADD husband doesn't see what I need but can definitely focus on what he needs.  That's ok....I'll have to work harder on my own needs. I'm growing every day.

I am going to wow that one

I am going to wow that one also, my husband also requires thanks for what he does, but for the twenty things I do he literally will say, "but you actually LIKE doing it, so it doesn't count!"

Lindsay2952's picture

Nope don't know about the

Nope don't know about the thank yous either. I'm getting to the point that I don't want to take his offer of taking our 3 year old to the library anymore because I don't want to have to kiss his feet when he comes home.


A couple of times I've tried to thank him for a task he has completed - like making  a phone call I had already made or buying unwanted grocery items .  He seems to need the acknowledgment of his contribution, so if its not too painful I'll try to give it to him.  Arrgh.

Maybe I can help you understand his thinking..

I think I remember having this feeling before, on your husband's side.  In my marriage I'm, most likely, the one with ADHD.  I'm exactly like everyone describes and I have a hard time doing things A LOT.  In fact, I'm supposed to be doing something totally different right now but I'm not...  There have been times when I would try really hard to make myself focus and get things done and my husband wouldn't really notice and that would make me feel a bit down.  It's not like we really want to be thanked, it's just that, like in my case where I never thought I might have ADHD, I felt that it took a ton of effort to be able to accomplish something.  I don't know why but I just never thought that "it's normal to always get stuff done."  Because I just have a hard time getting stuff done.  So when we actually do accomplish something, we feel proud of ourselves and we just want to share that with our spouse or loved one and say "hey look, I actually finished something, isn't that great."  It probably is hard for you to understand but, like for me I get distracted easily and somehow even though I know it's not true I just end up thinking I have all the time in the world to do anything.  It would probably be appropriate to say that I have no concept of time.  I also frequently over or underestimate the time it will take me to do something so that doesn't really help.  For me and my husband, it's usually easiest for me to get something done if, rather than setting a time for me to do something or making a list of things to do, if he reminds me of when it's time to do something and I do it RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT.  In my case I know myself well enough to understand I'll get distracted so I will do it right then so that I can get it over with.  If he wants me to take out the trash he can say "honey the trash is full, can you take it out right now please?"  or if it's time to start dinner he can say "please start making dinner now honey, or it won't get done in time."  He was saying that to help me get the dishes done on time he might call me from work an hour before he gets off and tell me to start them.  If you can just get your hubby to admit that he's forgetful and to do things right when you ask him to, it might help.  Sometimes when I have something to do on a certain day, like an appointment for the kids, I will set myself an alarm that morning to go off just in time for me to get ready and go, because the alarm will remind me.  If your husband is like me, he needs a reminder to get started.  I don't know if all ADHD people are like that.  I think it was mentioned here before but asking for small things to be done is best, don't ask for like... three things to be done in a row because like... if it was me I'd think since it's three things there's no problem with taking a break in between each task.  And that is pretty much where the distraction occurs.  Lists may actually be very counterproductive if I think about it, because there's so much room for distraction between the lines.  And asking your hubby to "help you" with things might be good too.  If my hubby is making dinner he can ask me to do stuff like cutting vegetables or grating cheese for him and somehow I actually like tasks like that because they're easy and don't require much planning or stress over how or what to cook but it allows me to help out.  I also am more likely to cook something that I've learned to cook before because I know that I can do it.  Your hubby might really want to help you but he just never knows what he should do because there are too many options.  If my husband asks me to clean the kitchen counters, sweep the floors, mop, vacuum, and clean the bathroom I usually end up doing nothing or at most one of those things because I just feel overwhelmed by the idea of where to start or how to do them and there are other things that are more interesting.  But if he leaves a scrub brush in the shower I'll see it when I get in the shower, see the dirty places on the shower wall, and usually just scrub it before I get in since I'm already there.  It may sound strange but it works.  If the vacuum or mop are left out all ready to use I'm also a lot more likely to use them but I don't really know why.  It's like there's only manual labor involved so it's fine, I don't have to remember the chore, find the things I need to do the chore, get the materials ready to use, then do the chore.  I can't explain it but that's how one chore feels like a lot to do sometimes.  It's not like I list out all the stuff I have to do in my head but I just feel this feeling of it being a lot and it feels like I'm being crushed by it sometimes.  I hate feeling anxiety because I start to get physically ill when I get too anxious so it doesn't help much.  Most of my life I've been in positions where people had high expectations and when I sometimes failed to fulfill them because of my forgetfulness, putting things off, or lack of focus it made me feel like a horrible person and created a lot of anxiety, which would drive me further into whatever book series, TV show, or game that I was into because I wanted to avoid the anxiety.  It's a terrible cycle to get caught up in.  So yeah, I hope my suggestions help because putting pressure on your spouse to do things will, by him, be seen as you personally causing a large portion of his anxiety.  It's not like he doesn't love you, but if he thinks you're the source of anxiety, he'll begin avoiding you and he'll interpret that as himself not loving you, which probably isn't the case.  Well, I hope that my suggestion helped you.  I just realized that I spent too much time on this and I really have to do something else.   

mtg2667's picture

I agree on the chore issue

My ADHD husband will do chores that he "feels" need to get done, not the ones that will help the household out...vacuum, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, dusting...etc. He'll say that the garage needs to be cleaned, AGAIN!  Or his truck needs to be washed AGAIN! How does that help me?  If it is something that he does not want to deal with he will make our children do them.  So I don't ask him for his help, because it will be put on my children to do (they help out and have their own chores) and he is not nice about it either.  He will yell out to my son, and tell him what he wants, no "please" and "thank you" or "good job son", he just barks out the orders and expects my son to jump.  Oh but when he is asked to do something...he needs a list, then a reminder. And say he does go to the store for me, he will call me within minutes of leaving the house while he is driving, call while he is shopping and call before he checks out at the grocery store!  It's almost as if he can't do it on his own.  We buy the same things every week, we have the same needs as we have had in the last 18 years, why can't he make a decision on his own?  He needs constant reasurance, oh and don't get me started on the "you don't love me anymore" issue.  My husband needs constant reasurance that I love him, if I don't tell him (even if I'm not feeling it) he is bent out of shape! What is that all about?  I feel that my love for him is understood, that if I don't say it today doesn't mean that I have fallen out of love over night.  It is very frusturating to say it, especially after an arguement, that has just happend...he wants me to tell him that I love him when I am still angry.  And he doesn't understand that I can't say it and mean it when I am angry with him.  What do I do?

Same here with my BF of four

Same here with my BF of four years. We've lived together for the last year and a half and I have really struggled to get him to complete tasks. No matter what it is, whether it's putting away dishes, picking up the living room, taking out the trash, etc. I always have to go behind him and get the stuff he missed. I've tried task lists (he doesn't follow them--too many rules), taking turns (that was a disaster--he'd leave things for days and I'd end up doing it anyway or helping him do it), delegating ONE task to him at once, etc. Nothing has really worked so far. Any other tips? The only thing we've made headway with is the dishes--we have to do them together. We unload the dishwasher and reload it all in one sitting. It's a pain to do, and the dishes pile up, but at least we don't fight over it anymore.

Catch 22

So true, my husband says he will fold clothes or do dishes. They may get put in dishwasher but he has to rearrange it if I have put some in there and then he leaves the counter un wiped off and somethings in the sink. Shoes, clothes and anything else he walks in the door with is left where ever he sets it down. When I married him 23 years ago I never new about ADD. The signs were all there. He had been living in a new travel trailer he had bought. I never saw the inside until we were married and he pulled it over to my house. I had never seen such a pig sty. It took me two days to clean the travel trailer. I just put the trash can out side the door put on some gloves and started cleaning the rotten food, moldy dishes etc. You couldn't even find the sink table or counter. I wondered at that point how anyone could live like this, he said he had just been very busy. I had no clue. Well my place doesn't get that way because I won't let it but he always drags junk home and I continually throw it in the truck and and haul it to the dump. He only recently was diagnosed with ADD. Seemed to be doing fairly well on the first medication but I now think it is not working as well. We have gone backwards in the last two weeks. We had just gotten some money from an investment payoff. $9,000. to be exact. I thought great we can pay off some bills. He said no we need to save it. It has been two weeks and it is all gone. This morning he wanted to know where it went. Well he loaned $5,000. to someone, the rest he bought stuff. A broken pickup that will take more money to fix. A broken Kayak and a broken lawnmower for someone else that he was going to fix it for. Oh he also bought a boat trailer that he was going to make a trailer to haul garbage in. He bought all the stuff to make it what he want and he bought all the windows and stuff to make our deck into a sunroom. That is a lot in two weeks and now he is overwhelmed and doesn't know where to begin so he will do nothing. Not to say that we can't sell anything because no one in their right mind is buying anything with the recession except my ADD husband who thinks life is going to give him a bundle of cash to get him out of debt. What I see with ADD is unrealistic thinking.

This was my life to a "T". I

This was my life to a "T". I am seeing a repeating story of medication helping for a while, but then not so much. I am wondering if there has been any scientific studies on whether medication actually does help and if so, for how long? Or is it just anecdotal? The same with behavioral therapy?
Lindsay2952's picture

I understand about the

I understand about the spending.  Now I start to sweat if we have some extra money..   I hide some in a secret place, transfer it to another bank account, put it in marked envelopes to keep it ready for the expenses over the next 2 weeks; if he gets his hands on it its gone in a few hours.   It's a chore to find the balance; I try to leave some for him for his own spending money, but the rest I hide.

These suggestions sound soooo

These suggestions sound soooo much easier than they actually are, and also assume that the ADDer has the same level of cleanliness/irritation about chores left half done or undone.  This is just NOT the case.

I have had to "Lower my expectations" or change my expectations around what I'm willing to accept as tolerable for ME. I've had to change my tolerance for wanting nice, clean, organized things and a sparkling house.  We now live in a fairly clean, fairly organized house.  And much of that I can tolerate, and some benefit has come from freeing me up to pursue other more important things in my life. But there is a flip side.

1)  We don't have dishwasher, and we live in a VERY small house with a tiny kitchen.  Not doing dishes is intolerable, aside from the visual and olafactory assault, there just aren't enough dishes to eat from.  Instead of fighting about dishes undone or half done (all the worst pots left or no silverware cleaned), I just started buying paper plates, bowls and plastic utensils.  This reduces the dishes load.  I have dropped the concern about "environmental" and toss out the plates/utensils.  The concept that the piled dishes will eventually make the ADDer do the chore is far-fetched and hopeful.  My husband barbeques and leaves the marinating pots etc by the barbeque.  I used to pick them up and clean them.  I decided to leave them out (who cares if the raccoons come by and drag them away!).  He left one pot outside for over 6 months, with moldy food etc in it.  Kept promising to clean it.  He finally decided to throw it away instead of clean it.  I intervened as it was one of my most functional pots.  I've found dirty dishes in the oven (when I went to pre-heat and wondered what that horrible smell was!) they had been there for weeks, because he didn't want to wash them, but wanted me to think he did, then completely forgot about them.  Where's the guilt?  NONE. And it doesn't change the behavior even when he has to clean the stinking, baked on stuff. He takes lunch in plastic containers, but we were always short of containers.  I found bags and bags of moldy containers in the garage that he didn't want to bring in and clean to use the next day.  He threw them out.  Now I don't buy plastic containers.  He can reuse yogurt containers.  He has "accidentally" thrown out our forks with the other lunch stuff, even after promising not to take the real forks.  I have decided NOT to buy more metal forks.  Now we use plastic.  Does any of this change his behavior?  Not much.  But it has changed a bit.  But mostly, I've dropped my concern about having plastic containers with lids that match, nice forks, etc. 

2)  I also finally accepted getting someone to clean my house.  I paid for it, and I think she wasn't a very good housecleaner compared to what I could do.  (I used to clean houses for money in college) But I didn't have to do it!  The hardest part was the nagging to pick up before she showed up every other week.  But he finally got that and it really did help.  He has his "own room" (his non-custodial kids room) where he keeps his clothes and closet.  I didn't care if he didn't pick up that room before the cleaner came.  Not my problem.  And frankly, I can close the door when I don't want to look at it.  It did get bad enough that he started keeping it straightened.  I "solved" the problem by making it his space and letting go of my urge to make him keep it clean.  When shoes, clothes, dirty socks, towell etc get left around the communal areas, I just pick them up and throw them in his room and shut the door.  And I mean I just throw them in.  Not my problem.  The rule is that the communal areas remain free and clear of personal junk (like shoes and clothes).  Not my problem if he can't find the shoes he wants.  I have my own bath towel that I dry in my closet (because he doesn't care how many towels he uses and doesn't hang them properly to dry, so I'd go to towel off and they'd all be damp and rank).  When about 6 towels pile in the bathroom, I just collect them and throw them in his room.  He's responsible for his own laundry, washing, folding, putting away.  It really is like a teenager.  The difference is that while I may be responsible to teach a child to be responsible, and they need encouragment and lessons, I'm not responsible for teaching my husband lessons.

3)  I've made dates and he shows up late.  And I'm not talking a few minutes.  I had arranged to go to an art opening that was supposed start at 6:00.  He didn't even come home until 6:45, then said he wanted to shower (he's in the trades) and eat something.  He was annoyed with me, his rationale: the opening was from 6:00 to 8:00 and we "still had plenty of time to get there".  Why was I so upset?  I was upset because he agreed to go with me, said he wanted to and showed up (typically) 45 minutes late with other things he "had" to get done first.  I didn't expect him to be exactly on time, and the opening was for 2 hours, but to get annoyed at me and tell me I'm not flexible?  Why would I plan a date like a movie that has a specific time for attendance.  And yes, I frequently end up going on my own and we "meet there", when/if he chooses.  But that is NOT a date.  He said he WANTED to go to the opening.  He said he was interested too.  I have decided that saying be "FLEXIBLE" means "do things the way I want because I can't be responsible to stick to a plan". So, how do I handle that situation?  How do I be more flexible?  How do I arrange dates that somehow allow for 45-1 1/2 hours of "flexibilty"?

4)  We have 2 dogs that need normal doggy care.  Food, water, cleaning poops from their yard area.  We share this task.  During the weeks it's his chore, weekends it's mine (he's away every other weekend).  My husband sometimes leaves before me for work.  He has left not letting them out of their doghouse, not feeding or giving water.  I used to do this because I couldn't just let the dogs not eat or have water all day long.  I finally decided I wasn't going to do his "chore" anymore.  They weren't going to die without food for one day.  So I'd give them water (because it's just not right for them to not have water).  He'd come home from work and I'd tell him they didn't eat and poop needed cleaning.  He'd say "well at least I gave them water"  What??!!???  He thought HE'D given them water!  He finally admitted that when he left for work before me, he just decided not to take care of the dogs because he knew I'd take care of it - and he was in a hurry and had to get to work.     Geez, so did I, but it's not like it was a surprise that he had to feed the dogs! Now he does it.  So that worked.  I had to drop my "responsible" self.  Okay, they are dogs, not children, and they could go without eating for a day.  It's also his responsibilty to pick up dog food from the store.  If he forgets, and they run out, he makes them eggs, bread, anything in the frig and then HAS to go to the store.  I don't do it for him (though I desparately want to).  I won't let them starve or die of thirst.  But his compassion and sense of duty did kick in there.  I found I could let go of this area, though it was and remains difficult not to say something or do it myself.

The flip side of all of this is that I bend over to accommodate - by adjusting my tolerance levels, adjusting my expectations, giving him his space to live how he wants, do his "chores" - But there is very little reciprocity.  And the "chores" are frankly everyday necessities that should just be life responsibility that are shared (I say should, because that's my perspective and how I grew up).  We all deserve to have our needs met too.  I've meet his by going way more than half way.  It is normal to have metal forks and plastic containers and clean pots and pans in the house, and leaving my own towel in the bathroom.  Where is the meeting me part way?  At some point I am compromising my quality of life (okay, they may be little things in the big picture - but they add up!).  Also, it's like deciding to live alone in some ways.  I tell myself, he lived 36 years before I met him, if we didn't live together he'd have to do his "chores" in life, and he'd do them his way, I wouldn't be there to help him.  But why be married?  At some point It's like choosing to live alone, but with a high maintenance room mate who you have tax liability for.  GEEZ - I'm getting to the point where having an actual room mate to share the bills and chores is looking way more attractive.


HERE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

where to begin????

oh my gosh--I have posted on this thread a few times and here I am again--I am so exhausted with my ADHD hubby right now. Weekends are so much work I actually would prefer if he wasn't here. Yesterday we actually had a nice long date night with another couple...that I planned, made all the phone calls for, got the sitter, paid the sitter, arranged for #2 son to go on a sleepover so the sitter would have an easier time, packed up #2 son to attend the sleepover, coordinated the sleepover pick up and drop off, planned dinner for the sitter and #1 son, made the dinner reservations for the 4 of us for after the show we saw, googled the directions to the show, planned where and how to park for the show and how to get to the restaurant afterwards. Can I tell you, by the time the event happened, I just wanted to lay down and nap. But hubby had a ball. And my dress for the evening that needed ironing was hanging by the iron, but he only pressed his outfit and left the iron on for me to do my own...and then put the iron and ironing board away of course since I was the last person to use it. It is very subtle how selfish ADHD people are. the amount of stuff that isn't even on their radar is stunning to me. I am in total agreement with all the other posters who are tired of parenting a spouse--how do you break out of this??? Add my two boys to this mix--both of them have ADHD and honestly do better than their father half the time. Hubby is medicated but maybe it's not working any longer??? He has been on the same dose of the same thing for three years or so. how often do you update that? BUT, the scary question is: do meds really make you retain boring information?? do meds make you pay attention to someone else before yourself?? do meds make you not act in passive aggressive ways and pout when you are forced to do things you don't want to do? it is like teenage behavior. dana

You are my soul mate.

Besides all of the behavioral incidences you mentioned, it was the last paragraph that I've been asking myself for years - is the medication, at this point, merely a placebo.?! I had to fight to get him to be tested, and now, all he does is pop the pill in his mouth and that seems to be all he needs. I have asked him to give his liver a rest if he is not going to practice any specific behavioral changes recommended: sleep, diet, exercise, time management tips, etc. My husband does not believe that his behaviors should have an impact on me, that he's not that bad, his excuses are based in truth, he sees no patterns throughout his life, and I'm a nagging, over-the-top, mothering shrew. Thanks for your input.

behaviors have an impact

Not believing that his behaviors have an impact doesn't mean they don't - just that he's unwilling to recognize that impact.  You know this already.  He needs to learn it.

Without nagging or in any other way giving him ammunition to suggest that you are being emotional or unreasonable that will give him an excuse to ignore you, can you think of a way to "lay out the case" that his behavior is making your life miserable?

Effectiveness of Medication

My husband was on a generic ritalin for 2.5 years when we finally went to a counselor who told us she had experience with a lot of people who found generics didn't work as well (the psychiatrist later confirmed this).  We chose the generic for cost, and we were seeing a counselor instead of a psychiatrist because of cost.  We finally decided the cost of a psychiatrist would be worth it.  Spent a few months trying different meds (some VERY expensive, as our insurance doesn't cover them), and settled on brand Ritalin.  My husband has to take a very large dose, we found this out through the psychiatrist.  It has made a difference.

The point of my story is that you can go for a long time just taking the meds and expecting them to be working.  1)  They may not be as effective as they should (for example, citrus juice delays the ritalin effectiveness, so because he was drinking it with OJ in the morning, it was delaying the effect) 2) The dosage is important 3)  Medication is really only a way for the ADDer to get into a brain function that is different from their normal.  They still have to be interested in working on skills to function within that brain space that is not "normal" for them.  4)  This is the biggest:  They HAVE to take the medication!  This in itself can be a challenge.

Very good

Very good questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Does make you wonder......



mtg2667's picture

New here too

I would like to first say how refreshing it is to read all these posts...its like reading about my own life on every single post!  I have been married to my ADHD husband for 18+ years, we have two children, 15 and 10yrs old and I am truly exhuasted.  I've always said that I have three children because I feel like I always have to pick up the pieces that my husband leaves behind.  I am ALWAYS the peace maker, the bill payer, grocery list maker...the handler of our lives and I long to have a relationship with my husband that would look like he is a team player in this family.  I  long to have conversations with him without it turning into heated arguments.  I once told him not too long ago that I wished our relationship was 50/50 in dealing with our family and household chores and he replied "when you make as much money as I do, then we can talk about 50/50".  My mouth dropped, who is this person?!  I married a wonderful man, I know nobody is perfect, but I need a team player, someone to come up and say "I got it" when I can't, without being asked and nagged to death! 

He was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago, he is taking Focalin 10mg 2x a day (when he can remember) he is also on Lexapro for depression and anxiety, but I truly feel that these drugs are not working any more.  My husband and I hardly speak, we do not go out on dates because he gets too worked up on trying to make it perfect, he just needs to be himself and relax, but I don't think he can.  If we do go out, and I'm talking special occasions here, I have to make the arrangements, and God forbid he see's what it is going to cost!  I am wondering if we are dealing with something more that ADHD. 

The kicker is he blames me for everything that goes wrong!!  But the things that are right and wonderful, I had nothing to do with...funny how that works out.  He also has problems at work, they feel he is combative and I can see that, but he does not.  He has no friends, the few that he does have were from when he was active duty military (11 years ago) and live out of state.  But here where we one.

There is one burning question in my mind that I wish someone can explain or answer:  I work with children with special needs for over 5 years.  We are trained in behavior modification and helping our students be proactive with their behaviors and choices, everything has a consequence even if you have special needs.  These children are taught that the choices they make may not always be the right one, they learn how to control their own behaviors and problem solve how to avoid that behavior from occuring again.  These children are very successful and they all have a wide range of handicap issues.  Why is it that my 47 year old ADHD husband does not care that his choices and actions have consequences and learn from his mistakes, if these children can do it why can't he?  I have tried these modifications on him, and it's like talking to a wall.  He shuts down, will not open his box and let me in.  It's almost like we are living two separate lives in the same house.  He loves his life the way it is, he goes to work, then hits the gym, comes home to a hot meal, goes outside to exercise the dogs, comes in and watches t.v., goes to take a shower and is in bed by 9:30pm.  He does not care about our day, what is going on in our childrens lives, all he cares about is himself.  If I do not initiate sex, its not going to happen, and let me tell you, with all the verbal abuse and the "It's all about me" attitude, he's not looking too good to me to even think about having sex!  I long to have an intellectual conversation with him, but its not going to happen.  We communicate through texting and it's no more that a couple of sentences a day.  I know he is a smart man, he loves conversation, just not with me.  I feel like I'm the enemy.  Everyone around us gets his "benefit of the doubt" but not me and his children.  He is so negative, critical and judgmental with me...other than withdrawing, what else can I do?


Why is it that my 47 year old ADHD husband does not care that his choices and actions have consequences and learn from his mistakes, if these children can do it why can't he?

Because he has an attitude of entitlement and he believes that he is above the rules and everybody else doesn't matter. Same as my husband.  Quite Narcissistic.  

I feel for you

I don't have any answers for you.  This website has been helpful in the fact that I am not along.  95% of these posts are my life as well.  I am tired of working full time, taking care of a 3 year old AND a 42 year old and am exhausted of being blamed for everything that goes wrong.  My husband will not do any work around the house but will iron his shirts because I refuse.  He leaves the ironing board and the iron out for three days along with his shirts.  I finally put everything away, including his shirts, and the very same day he brings them back down because he has not gotten to them yet.  That was 2 days ago and they are still unironed on the laundry room door which is adjacent to my kitchen, so I have to look at them all the time.  I am tired of having more work to do because of him.  I have gained 30 pounds from all the stress and not a nice person anymore.  My daughter is three and every birthday of hers is like one year closer to my prison release.  All I can say is that I completely understand your frustration.


arwen's picture

ADHD adult learning consequences

MTG, you ask if kids can learn to understand that behaviors have consequences, why can't your 47-year-old spouse?  Although it may be difficult for understand, the answer is that it is *because* he is a 47-year-old man with ADHD and not a child that he has trouble learning it.  I am absolutely not excusing him, but I'd like to offer a perspective.

The special needs children you work with have only a few years of life experience behind them -- they are still learning, they do not have many years of habits to change.  Your spouse, on the other hand, developed his behaviors and coping mechanisms for his ADHD a long long time ago, when he was growing up, and now has some 30+ years of habit that you are asking him to overcome.  The longer his behaviors are entrenched, the harder it is to dislodge them.  If the children are 8 years old, your husband is six times their age -- isn't it reasonable to think that therefore it may take him on the order of six times longer to learn the lesson than it takes them because of what he has to unlearn?  Keep in mind that in having ADHD, he has a learning disability just as they do, although of a different nature.

In my experience, adults with ADD/ADHD who were not diagnosed in childhood are more likely to have somewhat short-circuited value systems.  Because ADDers typically have memory problems, they have a hard time learning from examples (they may *mimic* behavioral examples just fine, but that doesn't mean they have understood the underlying rationale or principles, so they can find it difficult to produce appropriate behaviors when they are deciding how to act in a new situation).  Consequences may not even be noticed due to their ADD.  Because they tend to struggle with so-called ordinary tasks, they tend to try to make things as easy or simple for themselves as possible (not intrinsically a bad strategy).  This tendency extends to elucidating rules of living for themselves (which may work very well indeed within the universe that they experience life in) and these simple rules therefore may very well not include any concept of consequences.  When they expand their universe to contain a significant other, or even children, they may not recognize that their rules of living aren't working so well anymore, especially if they continue to work well *for them*.  Even if they do recognize the problem, they may find themselves at a loss to understand why their rules of living aren't working anymore, or how to replace them, and fruitlessly continue to use them.

Keep in mind that your husband developed many of his behaviors in order to cope with the world around him in a way that worked *for him*.  Consider:  if *you* had a system of managing your life that seemed to you to work just fine for you, and it had been really difficult for you to come up with that system in the first place, and you couldn't really understand how it was a problem for anybody else, how eager would *you* be to change it?  With a 47-year-old man, you may not just be dealing with long-entrenched habits, you may be also dealing with an active normal human phenomenon called "resistance to change".  So it may be necessary to find a powerful counter-motivation to effect any modification.

I went through this exact problem with my spouse, who was diagnosed at about the same age as yours and is also a smart person.  My husband was eventually able to learn this crucial lesson, but it took a *lot* of time and effort to accomplish (and I was tearing my hair out in frustration in the meantime, just like it sounds like you are).  The technique that helped the most with this lesson was to identify or create a situation where "the shoe was on the other foot" -- that is, where *he* felt (and quite rightly) that there should be consequences, but that the offending party was dodging them. When his self-interest wasn't engaged, it was easier for him to consider the concept -- then I had to get him to see how this was similar to his behavior.  The closer the situation was to something that had actually happened with him, the better this worked.  For example, if my husband had left tripping hazards on the stairs, I would remove them -- and decline to return them, which he would see as unfair.  But then when our son left toys on the stairs, my husband took the toys away from our son and thought that was perfectly OK.  I could take these events and show him that either his response as a parent had to be wrong, or his response as an offender had to be wrong.  NO DOUBLE STANDARDS.  What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  This was very difficult to enforce, I had to be very persistent, but in the end it worked.

I hope this helps you in some way.  Regarding the meds, if you feel they are not helping, you may want to consider expressing your concerns to whomever is prescribing them for your spouse.  I have consulted at various times with my husband's neuro-psychiatrist on his meds issues, when I have had concerns.  I found I had to be something of an activist on this score in self-preservation, and not wait for my husband to decide to bring it up with his doctor,  but I was always careful to include my husband in this process.

Good luck!  You sound like you have some good skills and knowledge to deal with the difficulties, I hope you can find some way to get through to your spouse!


Thank you for posting some positive ideas on dealing with consequences.  My ADD husband does not understand analogies at all.  Cannot see the connection between whatever analogies I have tried to use in the past whether they were work, personal, or hobby related.  He just can't do it.

arwen's picture

using analogies

JAM, I'm glad if anything I have experienced can be useful to others.

I can see I didn't express myself adequately about analogies, though.  There are many analogies I tried with my husband that just didn't get through at all.  What I finally learned were the only analogies that worked were the ones that primarily engaged his feelings instead of his brain.  Even then it took a lot of talking and repetition at the beginning.

I've often observed to my husband that his brain doesn't communicate with his "guts".  By that I mean that he's inherently unable to bring something out of his subconscious (feelings) to conscious awareness (brain), and vice versa, he isn't able to impose his intellect to examine his feelings.  This isn't really too surprising when you consider that self-awareness is not the strong suit of many people with ADD.

Folks with ADD also tend to have trouble classifying information (e.g. can't get organized).  This difficulty can extend to how they store memories.  As a result, memories of two events that may seem very similar to you (and in your mind may get grouped together in some way) get stored in their memories as separate unrelated things.  This contributes to difficulties in understanding analogies because to them, the two situations are apples and oranges.

Once I began to understand these aspects of my spouse's ADD, what I tried to do with the analogy was make that connection between his feelings that is "guts" experienced when he felt he had suffered consequences unfairly, and the thoughts his brain had when he was doling out consequences, and show him how the two ought to produce the same outcome but hadn't.  The results were best when the two situations were as close as possible both in time and nature (e.g. the example of son leaves stuff on stairs vs. spouse leaves stuff on stairs within a couple of days of each other), so that there was some hope of him remembering the events clearly enough and seeing the similarities.  The analogy offered by another poster elsewhere of how she felt dealing with her own spouse's  ADD, that of trying to row a boat that was taking on water to an island of safety, would have been totally lost on my husband, it just isn't something close enough to his experience for him to be able to imagine, or evoke the feeling.  It had to be something fairly immediate in time and close to his feelings in order for the analogy to be understood. 

These opportunities did not always come frequently, so whenever they happened, I made sure to seize upon them right away.  This means being proactive -- figuring out how you want to try to deal with certain situations ahead of time, and bringing your plan out when these situations occur.  Being simply reactive is unlikely to do enough good.

Obviously, everyone with ADD is different, so what worked for me may not be helpful to you.  But if it can give you some insights or spark some ideas of your own, you're still "ahead of the game".  Good luck!

using analogies

Thanks for your thoughtful clarification.  From your explanation I can better understand why analogies may be so difficult for an ADD person and that using immediate situations that appeal to emotion may help.  I'll give it a try!

harder than you think

You are right, they are harder than they sound.  But, as you found out with the dogs, part of these dynamics is exactly what your husband says - "I didn't feed them because I knew you would do it".  You are moving in the right direction to move yourself out of his life...what you haven't figured out yet is what might motivate him to move into taking on the responsibilities.

For my husband and I one of the things that helped was my telling him, firmly and repeatedly, that while the dishes might not be important to him, having him take them over was important to me because it would demonstrate to me that he cared.  We had many conversations about how abandonned I felt, and how the dishes were symbolic to me.  And it didn't have to be the dishes - it could have been anything - some concrete, readable way to show me that he thought of me and respected me enough to pitch in.

He didn't like it at first - thought I was being unreasonable.  But I stuck to my guns because it was a really big deal for me.  When he started doing them (for me, not because he wanted to), he found that I was very positive about it, and that reinforced the benefits of helping out.  Now he understands that part of my "language of love" is doing things for each other, and has learned to communicate that way and views his taking on things around the house as a way of showing he cares.  This is a completely different motivation from feeling that chores ought to be done (which is what motivates many women).  He still doesn't CARE whether or not the chores are done, but he cares about me enough to want to make me happier by helping out, anyway.

Your solution of giving him a room and throwing his stuff into is a fine one.  Now, if you can come to terms with it a bit more (rather than secretly resenting that you must do this and he doesn't behave "normally") then it will work even better for you.  You might try having a bit of fun with the towels to see if you can fix that up.  I would be tempted to hang a sign with an arrow on it above the towel and see what happens - something that says in dark, unmissable letters "Use this towel and you DIE!!  :-)"  And, perhaps, putting a safety pin through it near the bar so that when he tries to take it off the rack it won't come.

I'm sensing that humor, at this point, would help you quite a bit.  Right now it seems as if there's quite a bit of tension around the chores, how you live together, etc.  If you can relieve some of that tension in both you and him, perhaps there's more room for progress.  It's worth a try, at least.


the mountain of dishes


my wife and I have been having marriage problems, and she has come to the conclusion that I may have ADD. At first I thought this was ridiculous, because I never experienced attention problems when I was in school. Surely, it would have shown up there, I thought.  When I read that ADD is about HYPERFOCUS and inaction in other areas, I paused. It is 100 percent true that I hyperfocus on the projects that I want to be involved in, yet I apparently neglect everyday tasks.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning the house..I've left them all to my spouse.  Call me chauvenistic, but sadly I watched my mom do all the housework when I was growing up, and thought thats THE WAY ITS SUPPOSED TO BE.  (my dad did cut the lawn, and take out trash). But it was mom who got us dressed, gave us baths, went grocery shopping, took us to the dr. when we were sick...It was mom who took us to and from school events, etc. And dad went to work 9 to 5.  So somewhere in my mind, I supposed I imagined that's the way it would be when I married. Probably truer to the point, household chores just never make it to my "radar screen".  As my wife has realized, I just don't SEE dirt or dust on things.  This is NOT a ploy to not have to clean... it is 100 percent true.. it just doesnt cross my mind that things are dusty. I don't intentionally tip-toe around the dirt and snicker, saying "ha haa, I'm not gonna clean this!" Only when it is pointed out do I then SEE it.

For 10 years of my adult life, before I met my wife, I lived alone in Hoboken NJ. (yes, you may assume it was dusty! Interestingly, the ony times I ever cleaned was when I had a date coming over).

My dishes would pile up, until I had none left. Then I would be FORCED to do the dishes.  At one point I realized I had too many sets of (inexpensive) dishes, and one solution would be to THROW AWAY some of my dishes, rather than clean them. SIMPLIFY, i thought.  No one has ever told me that this action/idea was a sound decision, yet for several years I was quite happy with less dishes.  Similar story about my laundry without the throwing away part).  Things piled up. I DID it all, eventually, but there was never a day-to-day management plan for laundry or dishes.  The laundry was especially problematic for me because there was no washer/dryer in my building..I had to take all my stuff several blocks away.

After I got married and bought a home, we had our own washer/dryer outside our bedroom. My wife started doing the laundry, both hers and mine. Again, people may think "Oh, how LAZY, he just doesn't want to do his laundry!!!" But the truth..and I am 100% sincere here, is that I FORGET about the laundry. For almost 3 years now, my wife has done it all, and folded my stuff, placing it back in the drawers. Periodically she would say "are you happy your laundry is clean", and then I would think, "oh yeah, it IS cleaned!" And NOW..finally she is calling on me to hold up my end of the deal, so to speak.  Recently she let my laundry pile up,

as an experiment. Eventually I noticed the growing mound, and thought, "man, I've got to do laundry I guess". For as long as I could, I then just stepped over it... until I had no underwear or pants left..then I was forced to do it, or go to work naked. It DAWNED ON ME..."hey, I need to do laundry, this pile is getting big..ughh.". 

My wife recently asked me if I would be excited about doing HER laundry every week..and I do someone elses laundry??? Crazy! Yet that is what she has been doing for me for 3 years now. And after that AHA! moment,  I still forget that laundry is getting done, or needs to be done. (the few times I've done her laundry with mine, I've been told that I do it wrong, had it on the wrong setting, shrunk her clothes, didn't add the dryer sheet, .. my feeling is that there are too many rules.. I've always just thrown everything in together in one unsorted pile, and pushed "WASH".

I also want to comment a bit more on dishes, which several on this blog have mentioned. As a potential ADD person here myself, letting the

dishes pile up presents a similar issue as the laundry. For me, seeing MORE AND MORE dishes doesnt trigger anything in my mind

that says "wow, I'd better do these". Instead I think, "man, this looks like lots of work..I don't have time for this now". And then, genuinely it is forgotten about. I've never left the house, and thought "oh, man, there are dishes back in the house in that sink! My day is off-kilter!"

I once read that buddhist monks have just one food bowl, which they wash after eating, and turn over at night. This action is supposed to signify acknowledgement that they might die that night, and therefore not need it again. Waking the next morning, the monks (with another gift of 1 day of life) gleefully turned up their single bowls. I found that image very powerful, and MANAGEABLE!   

I really hope that readers are not looking for some grand conclusion to my comments here. I'm just one guy, of millions, I suppose...


Lindsay2952's picture

We're not getting a dog

we're not getting a dog or another child or buying a house unless I want one and its mine - there's no way I'm going into that !


If I want to go out at night with a friend after I've been with the kids age 3 and 6 all day I tell him I would like to go out at 6 (but really I don't need to go until 7) taking into account he will be late.   At 6:15 he will call to ask to be picked up somewhere beforehand, bring him home, and I want time to wash my face and brush my teeth before I go out!  Then I am ready and in my right mind to go out at 7.


I don't mean on a date with him, I mean I need him to come home at 6.  If I don't ask him to, he wouldn't come home from doing who knows what,  until 8, 9 , 10 or 11 pm.

I'm new and naive........

My husband (ADD) and I (non-ADD) have been married for two years.  He was diagnosed and treated as a child for ADD.  I did know about the condition and some of its most obvious characteristics, but I didn't do any research until about a year ago when the ADD started to affect my own sanity.  He is a pilot and doesn't take medications for the sake of his medical certificate. Our greatest struggles come with my desire for living a simplified life, and his addiction to internet and television. I greatly value honesty, and though he has never directly lied to me, I often doubt his reliability when it comes to household matters and sometimes this comes out as an attack on his dependability and trustworthiness.   It also doesn't help that his career is very spontaneous and keeps him from having the support of a structured schedule.  One thing that scares me is the progressing feeling of motherhood I have over him.  it's not there all the time, but when it is there, I lose my attraction to him as a man. 

I coach myself on being understanding.  I realize that it's my responsibility to do the research rather than to try and analyze his behavior according to my own expectations.  I feel overwhelmed by all of the comments and information on this site.  It all seems so eerily right on the money ( I love this post on him actually being able to focus on something of his own interest.  He doesn't miss a beat of aviation- it makes me laugh to experience my arguments against him come hurling back at me with scientific reasoning!)..... I am comforted by the fact that nearly all of the signs of a success story are present in our marriage - he is aware, he is willing to negotiate and communicate, and I love him for the person he is.  

I am emotionally hyper-sensitive, which often keeps me from looking at things clearly.  I can usually recognize that I need to walk away from a moment and get some air, but it's nearly impossible for me to disconnect emotionally and not get immediate resolution. 

Thank goodness he is resilient and forgiving of the breakdowns I have had, the hurtful accusations, etc etc.  I am willing to fight hard for our marriage because my life without him would be nothing, and I'm grateful to have discovered this website for support and info.  I know i have a tendency to sound like a romantic - this just happens to be one of my good days.  I can really be a disaster on bad days!  (By the way, ratio of good to bad days seems to be about 20:1 - is that good/bad?)

Since i still have the opportunity to be proactve, here is a big question I would love to get an answer to:

My husband and I have no immediate plans to have children and sometimes comment on the joys of freedom from that kind of commitment.  Does adding children inevitably increase the likelihood of our marriage failing?  The patience I need to deal with his behavior seems tolerable, but to add the responsibility of children to the equation almost seems self-destructive.....

Re: lack of focus in marriage

I'm new here, and I need to ask a question. My husband and I have been married 26 years, but he was just diagnosed only 2 and a half years ago. I have had all the same difficulties and thoughts mentioned here on these forums. The biggest by far is this here; Once the person with adhd gets married, the focus they once gave their spouse goes away.

This to me just doesn't make any sense. You mean that in 10, 15, 20 years, a person with adhd can't even one time drum up some hyperfocus to make their spouse feel better about being married to them? They can hyperfocus many different times on other things. Why is only the SPOUSE that gets this particular total "lack of attention"? This just doesn't make sense. My husband (since his diagnosis) and medication has made great strides in doing many things he would never do before. But, once again, when it comes to the intimate relationship of a marriage, it's like living with your brother or sister. It's a platonic relationship. When it IS sexual, it almost feels incestuous because they are no longer the romantic person they were. It doesn't matter how much we try to make it exciting, fun, stimulating, etc., they tune us out. Why is this? and also why do they bother getting married even?


Having children

Hi Lissyivy,

I can't give you advice about whether or not to have children. I can only share my own experience. I have been married almost 2 years to my spouse (he has add) and we have a 5 month old daughter. We didn't plan on having a baby as quickly as we did, but we didn't try super hard to prevent it, either. I wish I knew then what I know now. Before having a child, I had no idea how much his ADD was a part of the issues we were having as a couple. I also felt like our marriage was manageable and that I was being a "good" wife by "taking care of him". I would (and still do) get him up in the morning because he can't do it for himself. I would do innumberable things for him that he seemed to have difficulty doing himself. I felt needed and like I was really CARING for him. After our daughter was born, everything changed....instantly. From the day we came home from the hospital, I no longer have ANY tolerance for his seeming inability to take care of himself. I also cannot stand how his inability to care for himself seems to only make MY life harder. Having a new baby means I have had to shift much of my energy from taking care of him to taking care of our newborn. The result has been that my husband seems to do things to act out to get my attention back. I find this extremely immature and unacceptable. I'm thankful to have found this site so that I have an explanation for the CRAZY behaviors that go on in our household. Having a baby changed EVERYTHING!!! My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me but my marriage is on the brink of failing. The worst part is that I'm not sure I really care anymore.  Sorry to be so negative. Just sharing my particular experience. Maybe others have better situations?

Having children

I won't give advice about whether or not to have children.  All I have to say is please get to some kind of understanding, up front, what a huge responsibility bringing children into your relationship is going to be.  It does CHANGE EVERYTHING.  Where before you were foot loose and fancy free and could go places and do many things at the drop of a hat, all of a sudden there is now another human being in the family that will change where you go and things you do!!!!! I can tell you my daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me but it did put a strain on my marriage.  My husband was the same in that after our child was born and the focus was not entirely on him anymore, it was almost like he became jealous and resentful of his daughter.  I thought to myself that that was very strange.  He had always talked about how he took care of his cousins and how he loved doing it and I thought he was going to be a great dad. Wrong!!!! I became the main caregiver, unfortunately he made the choice to go on living foot loose and fancy free and now his relationship with our daughter is very strained.  I hate that for him but it is what it is. 

Lindsay2952's picture


Well we had children before we knew he had ADD>  He does feel that having children and keeping routines for them holds him down because he wants to go out with them at all hours .... but it's more a very positive thing for us as a family.  He has sooo much more energy than I do to play with them and chase them and he enjoys being with them, diapers, feeding them, he did it all ...


I'm wondering now though whether to start explaining to my 6 year old why daddy is so distracted and goes out so much.  sometimes it looks like his little heart will break when daddy goes out again and again because he has to get his energy out.


One day my 6 year-old  didn't pay much attention when my H came in after several hours, just waved his hand and said, " oh he's just going back out "

Having Children

Deal with your marriage in a mutually satisfying way, and yourselves BEFORE having kids.  I am 8 months pregnant with my second child and I am leaving after this child is born.  I can no longer afford to "take care" of my husband, fix his mistakes, and calm his states of emergency, and will have less time once the baby is born.  He has put us in financial dire straits for the last time and unfortunately he's too angry, I imagine at me and himself, to sit down and help me fix it.  The result is that our family is breaking up.  Kids are stressfull enough for someone who does not have ADD and everything that comes with it.  If he doesn't have good coping strategies right now, it will only get worse as the pressure mounts.

To have or not to have kids

I have only just realised my hubby has adhd...that is after having had 3 gorgeous girls and being together for 16years. We have always had the same issues we have now...only that now I understand that I somehow attracted my husband's attention with my own traits, in that I am organised, I love goal setting and am a wonderful life coach. In our 6 years together before marriage we went through alot of break ups due to my frustrations based on what I now know were adhd traits. I am a primary teacher and I am also trained in special education.....interested in working with kids needing direction ...lock ups for juveniles....these are my giftings. On a good day I recognise that in the past i have just dealt with my hubby's way of doing things by clearly identifying what the plan was so that everyone was on the same page.

Having children is the most wonderful thing I have experienced in my life. again, the first 6-8 months I was very clear on what my role was to be during that time- I was to provide for our new born in every which way and my hubby needed to tend to the jobs i simply couldnt get to  when I was on the couch feeding for most of the day. I cooked dinner at night. He did the grocery shopping. I devised a generic list on the computer of all the possible foods we could need on any given week. Each Friday night i would tick what we needed and he would get up at 6 on a sat and come home from the market with all our goodies.....such a great help!!!!!I am so greatful for this.This helped heaps!

A process for cleaning kitchen needed to be established such as stack dishwasher, wash all pots/pans, wipe benches and table, sweep, mop and take out rubbish....whoever did this job knew what needed to be done....sometimes i didnt get to changing the liner so he would sometimes he got caught up doing something else like reading to the other kids before bed so i wiped benches....

When I am at my wits ends .....i look at my kids and marvel at their skills, love, personality, tenacity, confidence and I wish for them a life of happiness a life where they can be free to be who they are ...the best they can be.

In today's world, we have access to so many resources, groups, sites, social groups, education.......when my hubby was at school, did he have teachers who knew what adhd was? how did they deal with the kid that didnt finish his work? did he feel stupid ? did he feel like he didnt belong? did he get confused about emotions? My guess is that things have changed for the better....maybe I focused on his positives rather than his weaknesses. I love that. I need to remind myself of that when I am feeling like I cant be bothered any more!

I have continued to learn more about my self during this time in our lives ...I have learned to focus on my strengths, sometimes i have forgotten to draw from these to help me deal with those confusing days, my worst days in this home are the days I am hormonal and I cant do much as far as routine, organisation and processes is concerned.... then it passes and I am back on gorgeous man needs me to guide him and talk through ideas....this helps him to get back on track. He is not my project. He is my husband. Our kids are a reminder of our love for each other....I would help them in any way I could, I reflect that to my hubby and he does this too, in his own taking our daughter to the hospital at 2 in the morning, taking the girls shopping to buy jeans....making me a caffe latte at a drop of a hat and there are things I do for him like make sure there is a hot meal ready most nights , cause I know he needs to eat as soon as he gets home, I wash our clothes , i work 3 days a week and am planning to work full time starting in 6 weeks as we need the extra cash. These days I live in the present!Not  a fantasy world where I should have this and that because....blahblahblah

I do get worried at times because he changes jobs frequently and I need to somehow work out how to manage finances, mortgage, bills........his temperament gets the best of him and if I were a fly on the wall...i'm sure I would see alot of getting distracted at work, difficulty focusing, not thinking before saying something and inability to follow through consistently. We are discussing these issues as they arise and how he could deal with things better next time. Going to a christian church has also helped us as the messages are relevant and give us both some direction throughout the week....more positive imput.

So I know I've gone off track..... I always say to him, I am so glad we know why things dont make sense in our relationship now....rather than me feeling guilty and you feeling inadequate. We both need to continue to utilise our strengths and commend each other when using them to better the family's needs. This site has also taught me about loving detachment that has totally changed things this week for us.

If you are thinking of I have from time to time.....this condition can be managed to a point....things could always be worse...i also think if I suddenly was diagnosed with breast cancer and my hubby decided to walk away because it was all too hard and frustrating and unfair and confusing.......that would be crazy yeh?

Tolerence, love, frienship, support and laughter ....keeping it real and light that is my aim.

Also, there are no guarantees in life, unless fear keeps you from getting into it. some people want a boy and a girl. in life you get what you get....and for the perfectionist in me that took sometime to accept.....but I am getting better at making this life the best it can be....and my adhd hubby makes it all the more adventurous.....imagine taking about going to europe with your kids one day...and then sitting in a double decker 2 months


I love the sense of your relationship given in this post.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

arwen's picture

kids don't doom marriage w/ADD spouse

The question you asked was "Does adding children inevitably increase the likelihood of our marriage failing?".  I would say that it is not inevitable, but it's a real possibility.  A great deal depends on the individuals' attitudes, abilities and temperament, as in any marriage.  I think compatible values about child-rearing goals and methods are particularly important -- again, just as in any marriage.  What I would say instead is that having children tends to highlight the problem areas in any marriage, and that this is even more likely in marriages where one or both partners have ADD than in those that don't.

One of the common complaints of a  non-ADD spouse with children is that they feel like a single parent.  I've said this countless times myself when our kids were younger (my spouse has ADD, I don't, our children are now grown).  But think of marriages where neither spouse has ADD but one has a job that calls them away from home frequently (truckers, sales people, politicians, etc.) -- doesn't the other spouse have to frequently act as a single parent, sometimes for extended periods?  The only real difference between the two situations is that when job considerations create a single-parent feeling, they are known in advance and agreed upon, whereas when it happens in relation to ADD, it isn't planned ahead of time.

Most of us who have gone through whopping amounts of anger and frustration with an ADD spouse over our children, I think, did not go into our marriages and having children adequately aware of our spouse's problems (*I* definitely did not), and the problems that developed gave us  nasty shocks that were frightening in a variety of ways.  We made plans, we had expectations about our family lives, and when they were undermined or thwarted, and we didn't understand the true nature of the root causes, it made it very very difficult to cope or figure out good solutions.  We expected we would have a partner to help us when we encountered difficulties relating to raising children, and instead we found sometimes that our spouse actually added to the problems, which we hadn't included in our plans!  Feeling like you've had the rug jerked out from under you has a tendency to make you scared, and often when we're scared  we get angry and want to blame somebody.  In a family situation, there's only your kids or your spouse to get mad at (because you are sure it isn't *your* fault), and typically the anger falls on the spouse, which doesn't help the marriage.  By being adequately aware of your ADD spouse's problems and being realistic about what will be required of you as a parent, I think you can avoid getting into this situation in the first place.

I'm sure you've read enough here to have understood that ADD is genetically transmitted.  This means that there is a possibility that some of your children may also have ADD.  This can put additional demands on a marriage, just as can having a child with a chronic disease, or even having a gifted child --  you need to take this into account in your  thinking on this question.

I think if you try to prepare yourself as much as you can for the various possibilities, honestly assess your capabilities and limitations,  and ultimately decide to undertake to have children with your eyes wide open to the challenges, risks, and needs in raising kids with an ADD spouse, you can have children and a successful marriage.  There's a lot of good material here to help you with that -- I urge you to wade through it.

Good luck!


Your Socks comment is Right On Target

When I read your comment about picking up socks around the house, it reminded me of a similar instance in my life.  I have ADD and I love to read!! Sometimes I will have 3 or 4 books going simultaneously. The problem was that I never would put the books back on the shelf. My wife would constantly be nagging me about putting the books away. I agreed that I would put my books away and I would do so, but in a few weeks we would be back at square one. I could not maintain my focus on keeping that commitment. So, we had piles of books on every surface of every room (except the kitchen)!

My wife finally told me that if I didn't deal with the book issue, she would throw them away!... I didn't really believe that she would actually do that. I rationalized that she loved books and reading as much as I did and, while putting them away would be a good thing, THROWING them away would not.

So one day I came home from work to find all the books gone. Not just put away but GONE. When I finally got the courage to ask, she said that she had donated them to the library and that I could go and check them out whenever I wanted to read them. [some of these books were no longer in print. When we eventually moved away I could not find them at all so it was a real loss]

This had a MASSIVE impact on my attitude towards the books and, more importantly, my attitude towards her complaints about the stuff I did. (We also had a huge fight about it, but she pointed out that I had had fair warning and could have prevented it if I had put them away as I had promised to)

It took a while, but I managed to (mostly) put the books that I finished away over the long run. The thing that was most important here is that

  1. she told me ahead of time what she had in mind,
  2. she followed through with the action and
  3. I reaped the consequences of my inaction. 

I would not have changed my habits just based on the possable (but as I thought, unlikely) loss of my books, but having actually lost them, I remembered more vividly the result and that helped me make the changed necessary.

The key is to make sure that the consequences are felt by the ADD person AND that they are left to fix their problem.

Thanks for your comments and and this web-site!

I'm joining this site and

I'm joining this site and this conversation a bit late, but I'm in much the same boat. Here's the quote that piqued my interest:

"There is just too much responsibilty on the non-ADD spouse to parent the ADD partner. If we don't, things explode. If we do, there is resentment."

Definitely. And as the wife of an ADDer, I can also say that when this is broached, DH is in denial and very resentful of the comment that I feel like a parent. He does a lot, but inconsistently. He'll say he will definitely do something, and when I remind him later on, he has a reason why he can't. A headache, too tired, etc. It's eroded my trust in his word. Not in his intentions, but in his follow-through, which is part of the cement of a marriage. I have a lot of respect for him as a person, though.

Also, sometimes, it's not even so much that something doesn't get done, but that he leaves chaos behind. Foods aren't put away and without me, would spoil. Doors to cabinets left open so I bump my head. Books all over the floors so that it's a tripping hazard. Socks (yes, socks) left everywhere. Towels and used washcloths on the bathroom floor. Things left in weird places.

If I weren't picking the stuff up, the place would smell like a cesspool, and I worry that we'd all end up with concussions from tripping. I'm barely exaggerating here. I tripped over something he left on the floor in my third trimester of pregnancy! And he DOESN'T pay attention to it enough to get the message until it's so bad that I simply MUST do something.

Nagging doesn't work. Notes don't work. Reminders are often resented, even though he's asked me to remind him.

Fortunately, he has many other amazing qualities. He is honest, a great father, and generally kind. We all have our faults. I try to keep things in perspective.

But at times, I feel like screaming. I don't like disorder, so this has been a real challenge for me. And I often don't have time to pick up after him, but do so anyway because it's too smelly or disorderly. This eats into my work time, which I resent. We may have to look into new ways of dealing with this. I may try your sock method. ;)

counterintuitive, but...

Consider following the recipe card way or organizing your chores that I suggest in my book.  As counterintuitive as it may sound, you need to back away from this a bit and take a different approach.  You can to draw a line between taking responsibility for reminding him to do things (parenting) and coordinating with him about what is going to get done and when (being partners).  If, when you are coordinating who will pick up the stuff and when, it seems as if he's not leaving any time in his day to actually DO it, then point this out.  Also, consider other options (giving up something else he is giving time to or hiring cleaning help come to mind).

It also fair for you to request that he do a certain amount around the house - in a way that you each think is fair.  If he's unwilling to help out more, ask him for ideas about how it should get done.  One of the issues I sometimes see is that by being a "fallback" person who will clean up if the ADHD spouse doesn't think about it, the non-ADHD spouse unwittingly enables the continuation of sloppiness.  It's hard work to create a new system of organization that keeps you on much easier to just stick with the status quo and let someone else pick up...

You can't attack everything at once, but if you feel that this is a top priority in your household, insist that HE take the responsibility for the reminders, not you (alarms set in cell phones can work well...) and focus on coordinating your efforts, rather than leading.

My ADD husband and I have had

My ADD husband and I have had all the same domestic feuds, over time we have come to some agreements - I really don't enjoy washing dishes or unpacking the dishwasher. No one really enjoys housework but those are my least favourite activities. He loves to unpack the dishwasher, lucky for me. And if we stick to the routine of washing them at night and unpacking them in the morning, he is a good as gold.

It always irks me that he doesn't see stuff on the floor, particularly when it is a tiled floor that any crumb or hair stands out like a shining beacon. He will walk over and through sticky patches on the kitchen floor, past really obvious coffee spills (that he probably spilled a 5 minutes before) on the tiled stairs, but it's like he never looks down.

He has asked me to put together a master cleaning list that he can reference when doing cleaning, because he just doesn't think of certain things.
I've told him we'll sit down together and make the list (he was genuinely surprised when I asked him to wipe down the front of the toilet bowl and mop the floor around the toilet. How does he not see it?!). Well, I'll put it together and then we'll go through it.

I'm just wondering where I can hang this list that is super visible for him but not so obvious to curious visitors.

Also there are certain things I always forget - I never put my shoes away, I always forget to put the little plastic thing back on the bread and I often forget to put the milk away. Not always, but these things happen. He loves to make a big show of bringing the bread bag to where ever I may be in the house and demonstrating how to put the plastic clip back on. Or loudly saying, oh! So many shoes! It used to really irritate me because the rest of the house would be sparkling. Or the irony of him commenting on it when I'm in his study, which has boxes and coke cans and mountains of gaming consoles balancing precariously on the edge of yet another box. It's a work in progress.

Don't know whether to laugh or cry...

In reading this as well as your article "When ADHD Adult Symptoms Get in the Way: Relationship Problems and Solutions" from, I felt like I was reading about myself.  In my case, I am the female half of the relationship and newly diagnosed with ADHD (at the end of May) - and this only came about as a result of my husband feeling so isolated and ignored that he suggested couples therapy.  I always knew I was different somehow, but I thought I was scattered, impulsive and irresponsible - I didn't know there was an actual reason for it until I was diagnosed and when I was, like a puzzle, painful pieces of my life's past began falling into place.

I started therapy by myself first because I felt that the larger part of our relationship issues were the result of something going on with me.  This was when I was diagnosed.  My husband and I have been together for 10 years - I'd say the first 7 were blissful, with him being the absolute center of my universe.  Then we moved and changed jobs and things began to fall apart between us.  I started a job that I found I loved - one that demands a lot from me and pulls me in multiple directions at once (which is the reason I believe I have been so successful at it).  We got a couple of dogs...  I made new friends and decided to return to college and attempt (once again) to complete the degree I had begun to pursue so long ago (stopping and starting up again frequently throughout the years).  My plate was becoming increasingly more full and I never said no to anything.  Last year in the spring, my husband was sent overseas by our company for a period of roughly 4 months and during his absence, I filled every moment of my time with friends, dogs, exercise and work (this was before I resumed school).  I was busy and happy and enjoying time with my friends, etc.  Then my husband returned and I didn't know where to put him, as I had filled every spare slot of time with other things.  The transition has been awkward and trying.  I didn't know then that I had ADHD, I just knew that the more I took on, the less able I was to keep him a priority in my life, but not because I didn't want to.

He felt alone and neglected and unloved so he shut down, which made me feel completely unable to be close to him.  I stopped exercising and began emotional eating.  I put on 30lbs and shut down sexually - making him feel undesired - to top things off.  Rather than confront the problem as we had always been able to talk about ANYTHING in the past, I was so afraid to know that I had let him down, that I chose to ignore the problem, hoping it would resolve itself.  Of course that only made everything worse.

When I was initially diagnosed, my husband called bullsh*t because he believed ADD/ADHD to be a cop-out.  This made me feel like more of a failure.  But one afternoon when he was at the book store, he picked up a book "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!" in an effort to see if he could recognize me at all within its pages.  and he did...  GLARINGLY.  He bought the book and brought it home.

As soon as I was diagnosed and my Dr. asked if I would consider meds as part of my treatment (I also had severe anxiety), I immediately agreed.  I have read many forums where people have been afraid to try meds or just outright refused to but I felt that if I didn't at least try it, how could I know if they helped or not?  I am also in cognitive therapy and we go together as well.  It's still very, very early on right now.  I have also lost the 30lbs I had gained because I thought my anxiety and depression had been a result of the weight gain - this was only marginally true, however.  The bulk of my emotional issues stemmed from my inability to prioritize my personal life.

My husband and I still have a long way to go to get back to where we were but I have hope.

What is most confusing to us both is that at work I appear very organized and cool under pressure (this part was never really true - I was just adept at masking my anxiety) - I am capable and accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously and have built a good reputation for myself.  At work I am neat and tidy.  Of course, I write EVERYTHING down in a notebook or email myself reminders...  But at home it's a different story - I have little piles of mail, I avoid my billing statements like the plague, I do laundry and take weeks to put it away...  I'm not messy per say - I do keep things clean, but I am so cluttered, which I loathe.  I desperately want to clean and get rid of tons of things, but the thought of where to start is daunting and when I do try starting on one thing at a time, I am so easily distracted by other things that I seldom complete one project.  So this is obviously something I need to work on but it perplexes me to no end how I can be so 'together' at work and so completely all over the place at home - all while getting straight A's in my college courses.

I will say that on a positive note, the meds are definitely helping with my anxiety and with some of the stick-to-it-iveness - but my Dr. is still working on the dosages until they are just right so I know it will be a work in progress.  I think my biggest problem is saying no to people and projects even when I am already overwhelmed.

Anyway - I have rambled on (so classic of me).  More than anything, I want to thank you so much for providing insight into this issue and how it affects relationships.  I was starting to wonder if I was somehow purposely sabotaging my own happiness before I was diagnosed.  I am relieved to know that this is not the case.  I look forward to learning how to work with this 'gift' that I have instead of feeling disabled because of it.