Can't You Just Hyper-Focus on the Laundry?!

My DH and I finally talked the other night.  He is not quite finished with the book, but he was at the end of his rope, so I thought I'd better go ahead before he really lost it.  He was open to the idea of seeking help/coaching/official evaluation and even spending the money necessary to do so.  I will try not  to give all the details of our conversation, but I think (as someone else here had warned me) that reading the book (his first on ADD) made him feel worse instead of better!  He started to understand that things may NEVER get better in the way he wants them to.  And this made him feel more hopeless and angry.  At best, he thinks he will be expected to change his whole approach to me, to our marriage, to our life, in a way that is not acceptable to him, and at worst, that my symptoms will never change or improve and he is stuck in an incredibly frustrating relationship.  He will not leave me--it is against our beliefs and he reassured me of that.  But this probably makes him feel trapped and even more hopeless?  Anyway, I shared the information I had gathered about getting help locally, and I think that made him feel a little bit better.  

And for the next 2-3 days I really BUSTED it.  I caught up on some things and made detailed To-Do lists and got a LOT of things crossed off of them.  I tried to make sure I was mostly on time for things and I did NOT make us late for church on Sunday (one of his pet peeves!).  I have been working really HARD to manage myself better the past few days and to try to accomplish things that would be VISIBLE to him (great advice from Sherri!).  I also went to bed basically at the same time he did rather than staying up until the wee hours.  Things were pretty good and he seemed to be responding fairly well (at least, he didn't seem angry).  But then on Sunday afternoon, we were arguing again.  It was so disappointing.  I guess I wanted him to "throw me a party" for catching up on doing laundry or something, but instead, he seemed frustrated that I still had not folded it all and that it took me so long to work on a memory book project for some retiring teachers at our kids' school, etc.  I got really upset--WHY WOULD I KEEP TRYING SO HARD if it doesn't even matter or help?  I tried to explain that I had essentially climbed a mountain in the past few days, by accomplishing what to him would only be like taking one step up on a flight of stairs.  So yes, I was super-sensitive to any criticism (he said I overreacted) and what I really needed was some appreciation or at least to be noticed.  But I felt so unsupported.  And this makes him mad too because he thinks that the books, and I, and probably the psychiatrist, just want him to be a "cheerleader" and not take an active part in "helping" me.  I don't think that's true--what I want is for us to work TOGETHER, but he thinks he is already doing that when he "helps" me (you ADDers know what that really means...control me or treat me like a child).  And I don't know how to explain the difference to him.  Maybe there really IS no difference?  I don't know anymore.

What I do know is that I am WEARY.  He cannot imagine the effort it takes for me to accomplish what I have done in the past few days.  I cannot keep up that level of energy without his support, and especially not if I am going to get criticism.  But then I just feel like I am acting like a baby!  Do I have to get a pat on the back to do the things I am RESPONSIBLE for?  What is my problem!?  And yet, that's exactly what I want (need?).  

Some things he said in our conversation the other night (some of which indicate he still doesn't quite understand)...

He gets it that I have trouble with tracking time and that I incorrectly assess how long it will take me to do things.  But he doesn't understand why I am ALWAYS late getting ready on Sundays when we leave at the same time every week and I do the same things to get ready every week?  I tried to explain that there are actually LOTS of variables which cause me to think I need to get up at different times (sometimes I take a shower or sometimes I take one Saturday night; sometimes I decide to cook muffins for breakfast and sometimes we just grab cereal; sometimes I have to straighten my hair and sometimes I don't; sometimes I have to iron something and sometimes I don't; etc., etc., etc.).  And I usually estimate wrongly on the length of any given task which makes me late for all kinds of DIFFERENT reasons--but hardly ever the same one consecutively!

He gets it that input is "flat" for me--I do not prioritize things or create any kind of hierarchy as I receive stimuli.  Everything is of equal importance as it enters my brain.  So he now thinks that is why I hate to shop--when I walk into a store, I have no way to compartmentalize anything--it is just overloading and overwhelming, so I shut down.  He used to think it was because I saw the whole store as one big thing and could not break it into parts, but now he realizes I see ALL the parts but can't categorize or prioritize them.  That's true.  It's one reason I prefer online shopping.  There is only so much you can see on your screen at one time and I can do a SEARCH only for what I am looking for without a million distractions to take me off task.  BUT...there are an infinite number of possible places to shop online, and I tend to think I can't make a decision until I have considered ALL the choices, so that just creates another problem that you DON'T have in a real store.  And I spend HOURS or sometimes DAYS searching every website I can find!  There are walls and limited choices in a physical store.  But then I take one of almost EVERYTHING in my size to the dressing room in a real store (I have to see ALL the choices!).  Then I must prioritize or create a hierarchy somehow to know which item(s) I want/need/like the best.  So that takes forever too.  It's also why I can spend two hours in the grocery store...especially if I don't really have a list.

He gets it that I tend to hyper-focus and become a perfectionist about things.  But he doesn't understand why I can't apply my hyper-focus and perfectionism to laundry or other housework and chores?  Okay, the ADDers out there are probably laughing at this one.  I had to restrain myself when he said it.  I don't even know how to explain it without sounding lazy or ridiculous!  But I did the best I could...chores are BORING and have to be done a million more times, even if I do it really WELL.  They are never-ending so I have NO motivation or interest!  But yes, wouldn't it be nice if I could selectively use my hyper-focuising skills?!  Maybe a coach can teach me how to do that.  And when I decide that today is a chores day, sometimes I DO hyper-focus on it.  But that is not always a good thing either...on Thursday, I was determined to finally do housework.  I did get a lot done, but I also spent two hours scrubbing the tile floor under our washer and dryer when our bathroom floor is still covered with hair and our toilet is still dirty!  But the laundry closet floor is clean enough to eat off of!

The saddest thing that happened this week was that he filled out his part of the questionnaire that the doctor sent.  Nothing really surprised me, except for one set of questions.  Q: "Forgets unintentionally" His A: "Just a Little" / Next Q: "Forgets as an excuse (intentionally)"  His A: "Very Much" (highest rating possible) -- This is not true--I do NOT forget things intentionally!!  It truly saddens me that he thinks I do.

I really hope there is hope for us.  I'm sad tonight.  (He is out of town which is why I am still up and on the computer.)  He keeps telling me that he knows he is not good at encouragement, but while he used to say it like, "I wish I was better at it," lately he seems to say it like, "So get over it because I can't help it."  But when he gets mad that it takes me twice as long to do things as it probably should, that same "excuse" is not acceptable for ME, even though I can't help it either.  I don't TRY to be slow!  

YUK.

Wow! I understand you and I DON'T have ADD!

You are absolutely right, housework sucks! I have real problems forcing myself to do things that suck, over and over again. So does my husband (ADD). It really sucks that because we have uteruses, we are expected to do all that. Even when both husband and wife work equal number of hours, the wife is expected to do most of the home maintenance. If there are children, she does most of the childcare.

I remember a cartoon, I don't remember what it was, but it was one of the "family" cartoons, where the wife and mom can't sleep because she says she's too stressed. She says something like "I can't help it. As I am lying here, stomachs are getting empty, clothes are getting wrinkled and the grass is growing."

I see both sides of my marriage in your post. My ADD husband does not want to do anything to maintain our home and yard. It's boring, hard and never-ending and I understand that. But it's boring and never-ending for me, too, and also physically difficult because I have real problems with my knees and legs. So to me, what comes across is him, physically fit and capable, standing over me, in chronic, untreatable pain, saying you do things that hurt you because I have ADD and don't want to do it.

Can you have HIM write a to-do list for you, prioritizing the things that are important to him? If he really feels loved if he sees a closet full of ironed shirts, have him put that first, and you try to figure out a way to make that happen.

I've noticed that a lot of people with newly discovered ADD get on this site and say, "But I've made changes and s/he doesn't acknowledge it." I will say it took a lot of time for your husband to become so frustrated and it will take a lot of time for him to feel that progress has been made. He can't just turn off the fear, hurt and disappointment because you've had a good week.

Thanks for posting that. You explain the frustrations of having ADD in a way that makes the rest of us understand how it feels.

DF's picture

You did good -

Allow me to give you a pat on the back for trying.

I noticed something in between the lines you wrote and I'll quote you directly:

"....why I can't apply my hyper-focus and perfectionism to laundry or other housework and chores?...."

And in the same paragraph:

".....I was determined to finally do housework......"

Sounds to me like you did hyper-focus, it's just that perhaps you were doing it in order to get positive feedback and not do it because you wanted to do it.  Sueann has a point when she says that your husband has been frustrated for a long time.  A few days isn't going to make him throw a party.

I do sympathize with your predicament very deeply.  I always say I'm not so skittish and that my ADD is on the lower/ calmer side of the disorder, but I don't get any feedback from my wife to know any better.  Yes I duked it out with the laundry for some time several months back, but as hard as it is to believe, I don't know where to put some of my wife's clothes.  If there are two drawers for short sleeved shirts, I seem to find a way to put the wrong ones in the wrong places.  To rectify this, I would fold her clothes and place them in a basket in our room.  They would be there for a week and I would feel like I didn't do laundry at all.  I lost the fight with laundry.  I fold clothes once a week, sometimes twice.  I lost.

Another reason I'm wary of putting my wife's clothes away is that 5 months back I in-advertantly found the folder containing information from a divorce lawyer.  The words "dissolusion of marriage" and her signature are imprinted on my soul forever.  It was by accident that I found it and I told her so.  I've not seen it since and I fear that if I ever see it again it will be an official letter of summons.  This has been hell for me for months on end, so for your husband to tell you that he's not leaving you, take stock in that and find your comfort.  I don't have the luxury of any reassurances and without the medication, it's unbearable.

I hope that that tid-bit can give you some comfort to ease up on yourself worrying about your spouse and start worrying about you.  It's amusing for me to tell you that since I'm in your very shoes looking at you/me in the mirror and telling us both to stop worrying about our spouses.  How can we not?  I think back to something I was told here in the forums, that as an ADD(HD) person, I need a good pat on the back every now and then.  I'm still trying to learn how to depend on myself because I don't get those from the one person I need it from the most.

I'm slowly getting used to knowing I'm going to bed alone every night no matter when I go to bed.  That no matter what I do, the best I could hope for is a thank you.  And when I make a mistake it is magnitized 100x by the loss of my relationship with my wife.

In just over two months I have two anniversaries.  One for my marriage and one for when I finally woke up and saw that I was doing things in order to get my wife's approval, and not because I wanted to do them.

I have since changed my perspective and the journey has been tough since I'm working alone.  But I have been able to 'train' myself to do things that matter and learn to enjoy doing them.  My wife always hated coming home and seeing a dirty kitchen.  I find comfort in cleaning it everyday and knowing that she appreciates that without her <ever> telling me.  Like Sueann says, if your husband likes his shirts ironed, make a routine for it and expect nothing in return.  It's not easy putting yourself out there to be stomped on, but it's what I risk everyday because I believe that if given the chance I would do this all over again.

I'm not a glutton for punishment or anything.  I just know that when I finally re-establish my relationship with my wife we will have a bond that will be unbreakable.  Right now she's on vacation from us and I intend to make sure I'm there to refill her beverage while she takes a break on the beach.  If she ever asks me to sit with her some, I'll know she's working to release her frustration with me.  I set my goal of receiving an invitation in 4 more years.  Not to be funny, but to keep my hope on a distant  future.  If I set my goals a month at a time, I'd be running around a minefield of depression as if anxiety isn't enough for me already.

Something to Ponder

DF, you have given me something to think about.  You said I was doing the housework in order to get positive feedback and not because I wanted to do it.  Well, yes that's true.  But it has never really occurred to me that maybe it should be otherwise.  I will have to think about this one.  I thought it would be a good thing for me to be trying to please him.  But I guess it is also possible that anything (hard) is unsustainable if we are doing it for someone else.  

And yes, I agree that it has taken years for so much frustration to build up in him, so I can totally understand why he might not be ready to get excited after just a few days, especially when I have had spurts like that plenty of times before and then just reverted back to the same old ways.  I really do get it--I expect the same failure of myself!  So I like what you said...that I have to figure out how to give MYSELF pats on the back and not expect it from him (yet).  And I really like that you chose something (or things) that you KNOW your wife likes and then you take satisfaction in knowing that she appreciates it without her ever telling you.  That's very admirable...and VERY HARD to do! 

So thanks for the pat on the back (I give you one too!) and the things to think about. (Hey--that's a really SHORT post from me!) :)

DF's picture

Just keep the eye on the prize

Just make sure that no matter what, keep focused.  I have fallen off the wagon a few times and my mood is often displayed in what I write about here in the forums.  I'm in a bit of hopeless mood right now so I want to help myself by reminding you to stay the course. 

This is tough stuff for sure.  I got home late tonight due to visiting a friend in the hospital so my wife couldn't go out and leave me to go to bed alone, again, worrying about her safety.  My kids make an effort to tell me that they love me when they say goodnight, but seeing as how my wife would be within two feet of them at that time and not say anything at all to me is quite difficult.  It makes it hard not to think about who's resolve is stronger, mine to keep working to re-connect with my wife, or her's to finally call it quits ( if that's what she wants ).

I'm really stressing about Fathers Day.  Even on the meds I have trouble when it comes to mind.  Whether she means to or not, I do feel that she doesn't want to be around me.  If she leaves me that day it may be too much for me so I'm working on getting myself ready to see it coming.  Won't hurt as much.  Enough about me.

You are correct in that this is hard.  I will say that now that I clean the bathroom so much, I can't stand seeing it dirty.  My wife was getting to think I was neurotic about it so I cut down to cleaning it twice a week.  It's all about routine.  Once established, you fall into a groove.  I wake up every morning before her and have her coffee ready in the bathroom to help her get into and out of the shower.  I do not do because she asked me to, I just know that she likes that.  I even have the space heater running in the winter so that she's not cold getting into or out of the shower.

I think of the little things like this that I do and I know I'm awesome, but it also reminds me of how I failed her over the years.  She had said in the past that she was lucky she married me, so I'm going to live up to those standards.  The only way I know how is to give her space, develop routines, and not bother her with how i'm feeling.  A week ago I sent an email asking her to forgive me and I've not said a word about it since.  If she never got it then perhaps now wasn't the time to ask.  I won't let it get me down.

I will leave you with my daily alarm on my phone -> "To be, rather than to appear."  Translate how you like.  I go with, 'it's not enough for her to see change, she has to believe it's permanent.'

If that dosen't work, I have my backup plan - I expect to fail daily, so anything else is a step up and worth being happy about even if I don't feel like it.

Read the Mother's Day Thread

DF, You cannot already start obsessing about Father's Day!  You need to read the recent thread about Mother's Day to get yourself prepared.  You are obviously a GREAT father and your kids tell you they love you at night.  THAT is your Father's Day.  A day on the calendar is just a day.  You already know how things are between you and your wife right now.  PLEASE don't create any expectations, or especially not some fantasy, about what she might do for you or give to you that day.  If she surprises you with something, great--a bonus!  But if she just continues in the same manner as is her norm these days, it does not mean anything MORE than it does on any other day.  Remember, you yourself said that you don't do things to get a pat on the back from her.  Well, being a good father is not for her sake anyway!  It's for your kids.  Their affection can carry you through Father's Day.  Stay strong!  All your life quotes are great!

Imagine the same

Imagine the same scenario...and if he would have said "wow..the floor looks great! You've been really busy today...everything looks so nice!". Say what you will, but a little bit of 'cheerleading' can go a long way. I am a little upset with him that he didn't take notice or at least not bitch about what WASN'T done (to his expectation).. It isn't about getting a party, it is about a feeling. It is about feeling loved. It is about feeling like no matter what you spend your day doing, he will come home and hug you and miss you just the same. When you do make the effort, you want him to hug you just a little tighter. You aren't measured by your house cleaning skills...at least you shouldn't be. Does he know what Agape love is? (I assume, since he goes to church).

I am not going to say I am the best at always thanking my husband for all of his efforts. Honestly, he does nothing around the house, yard, etc...so any effort would be so appreciated. He watched our son so I could take our daughter to the movies this past weekend...and I made it a point to thank him. He would never even think of thanking me, but that's OK. I want him to know that I appreciate him...and he lets me know he appreciates me in other ways.

Your husband IS going to have to make a lot of changes. He will have to learn to accept certain things as 'just the way it is'. ALL marriages are like that. All of the hard work you're doing has to be met with the same from him. Does he think that because YOU have the ADHD that it is up to you to do everything and him nothing? I am confused about that part. I don't WANT to have to research, learn, accept, compromise, etc...but I love him so I do.

Your example of how he answered the questionaire is HUGE to me. I was the one who said that the more I learn sometimes, the more depressed I get. At first I was excited...then I started learning and was like "damn, this is never going to work!" I started imagining he had ALL of the 'common symptoms' I would read about...started being convinced he was somehow hiding it all from me. I started expecting the worst and stopped dealing with just our reality and started thinking 'our reality' was everyone else's. I kept reading and thinking "there is no way in hell he'll put in the hard work necessary to manage his ADHD" (still not certain he will, but doing a lot of praying about it). I mean it is overwhelming for us too. Also, I can completely understand your husband's inability to believe that your behaviors are unintentional. Don't get me wrong, he HAS to change this way of thinking...someone has to make him understand and accept that your actions are NOT intentional..(like you and ellamenno, DF, YYZ, and a few others here have helped ME be able to see...I'm getting there) but I understand that initial reaction. when I first found this site I remember reading over and over from ADDers saying "I knew my behaviors were hurting my spouse, but I just couldn't stop" or Wayne saying "she came to me at the computer and cried and said she missed me and I just didn't get up and hug her or anything..and she walked off" Since this is something I could NEVER EVER EVER imagine doing...nor could I imagine doing something over and over again that I KNEW was hurting someone I loved...it has really taken a long time for me to accept these things as part of ADHD. Hell, it has taken me a long time to accept that ADHD is an actual physical affliction and not just a behavioral one. I had an epiphany...just like my son cannot help that his brain does something wacky and causes him to have seizures, my husband cannot help that his brain does something wrong and makes him have ADHD. I WANT to understand and sympathize...but it isn't an easy road. I don't mean this in a "living with my husband is horrible" way...I just mean that I am having to accept my own faults and that my own expectations have probably always been too high. I want, more than anything else, to feel loved...and for him to feel loved by me. Simple..but not.

Love Reading Your Posts!

Sherri, thanks.  Don't be too hard on my DH, even though I was. :)  He is truly more patient than any human ought to have to be.  You said,

"It is about feeling loved. It is about feeling like no matter what you spend your day doing, he will come home and hug you and miss you just the same. When you do make the effort, you want him to hug you just a little tighter. You aren't measured by your house cleaning skills...at least you shouldn't be. Does he know what Agape love is? (I assume, since he goes to church)."

Yes, he does know agape love, but of course, it is really hard to live out, especially when he has learned to guard himself against recurring disappointment.  And I'm not sure that he fully understands HOW to do it even though he understands it intellectually, and I do believe he has the intention or desire to love me that way.  Your description with the hugs is beautiful.  I wanted to scream YES! That's EXACTLY what I want--to be hugged no matter what, and when I do make the effort, to maybe be hugged just a little tighter.  I do think he struggles in this area, but I also believe that he does love me and wants to be better at it.  

And actually, he used to be a lot better at it.  I think he has just finally gotten worn down after so many years.  And this past two years or so have been my worst ever, so he is really showing the wear and tear.  I used to at least be responsible about things when other people were depending on me.  But lately I haven't even been able to hold that together anymore.  Some examples:

  • Last fall our SS class was taking a lasagna meal to the fire station one Saturday.  I was supposed to make the salad, but I had to drop it off for someone else to deliver because my kids had soccer games that morning...well, I totally FORGOT all about it--forgot to MAKE the salad, much less to drop it off!  I merrily and obliviously went on to my daughter's soccer game (DH was out of town that Fri/Sat).  The girl who was coordinating the meal had my DH's cell phone number instead of mine, so she called HIM looking for the salad.  Unfortunately, I was across town 45 mins away from her at the soccer game and could not do anything to fix it.  The girl was very gracious about it and just bought a salad to replace it.  But I was so embarrassed.  Oops!
  • The week after Easter I was going through a pile of papers and mail that had gotten stacked up and backed up.  I found a JURY SUMMONS that I had never even seen that was FOR THE WEEK BEFORE!  This means I had not SHOWN UP for jury duty.  I was afraid I was going to get arrested.  I called the court and they told me to just write a letter explaining it and they would reschedule me.  Whew!
  • Last week I was working in a part of my building where I cannot get cell phone reception.  I totally lost track of time and FORGOT to go home and pick up my kids or make ride arrangements for their activities that night!  No one could reach me, so my DH had to drop everything at his work and race home to take them.  Uh-Oh!  That was the night we finally talked about my ADHD and I asked him about getting some help for me/us.  It was a real low point in this journey (or roller coaster).  And the next day was when I started busting it.

So maybe that will help you (and me too) understand why he was not "throwing me a party" or patting me on the back for a few days of effort which didn't even get me caught up.  I can't really blame him, although I was still hurt.  Because the truth is that for 4 solid days I really DID try really hard.  But how can I make up for any of that stuff?  I can't correct or change the past.  Unfortunately for both of us, that is just a fact.  Not that he was trying to get me to make up for it--those are my words, not his.  

I admit, those are some of my worst moments, and thankfully, there have only been a few of them.  But they are pretty bad! and then when you add all the other chronic symptoms, it's a pretty bleak picture.  But...it is absolutely true that none of it is INTENTIONAL and he definitely doesn't believe that yet.  We have a long way to go before he can accept the concept of ADD as a "physical affliction" vs. "behavioral."  I know it is just so hard for him to fathom.  Sometimes I have a hard time believing it myself!  That's where all the negative self-talk comes from:  I must be an idiot, I am so selfish, I am lazy, I will never get it right, etc., etc.!

Guarding himself against recurring disappointments...

Wow... I also refer to my wife having "Shields on Full" and attack before you can be hurt, again by the guy with all the bad behavior. These are ways to protect yourself, but they don't give us much of a chance to prove ourselves. "it is absolutely true that none of it is INTENTIONAL and he definitely doesn't believe that yet." ditto for my wife. I don't blame her, but it is sad that in two years we still stand at the edge. One of the most stressful days for me is one where I am home and my wife is working or away all day and I get anxiety ridden over how much I get done, because when she gets home she will survey the situation. SO Stressful... I try to ask if there are any projects that she would like to see done, but a lot of my projects are difficult to estimate. When I am away and come home and find my wife has curled up in bed and had a lazy day I am happy for her. She is too hard on herself and she never meets her own expectations as they are really unrealistically high. I have Way Better Time Awareness than she does, post Adderall and everything is never done... I have low self-esteem as an ADDer and my wife has probably worse self-esteem issues because she will not give herself a break from her own self-criticism. I can always rationalize why I failed :-) The physical contact, and I'm not referring to the fun stuff, hugs, legs curling up in bed and arm around me at night, that is what I miss and need. I wish I knew what the future holds because the rut is killing me... The adderall is gone and I'm up too late, so keep up your good work and let's keep picking Sherri's brain :-)

YYZ