I spend a lot of time helping non-ADD spouses understand how to interpret their ADD husband’s actions (or, more frequently, inactions – a word I use without judgment.) I think it’s time to write a piece for the ADD male about what non-ADD women want. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “What Women Want”? This is what I think you would hear if you were Mel Gibson and could hear your wife’s thoughts.
Thoughts and actions are not equally satisfying: You may be thinking about me a lot, but when you are off in your own world, or distracted by something else, I have no way of knowing that. To me, it feels as if you almost never think of me. It makes me sad. In the future, can you take a few seconds and show me through actions, not thoughts, that you are thinking of me? A short kiss, an “I love you” or some other action will mean a lot to me.
I really don’t like being a nag, but can’t figure out a more effective way to get your attention: People with ADD are content to be off in their own world. That’s okay most of the time, but if I had wanted to be completely ignored, I wouldn’t have gotten married. Over the years, I’ve learned that the easiest (notice, I’m not saying “best”) way to get your attention is to be in your face and nag you or express anger. I bet you don’t like this, and I sure don’t! Help me stop this pattern by setting up a cue that we agree upon. When I really need you’re attention, I’ll use this cue…and you’ll agree to stop what you are involved with, and pay attention. I promise not to abuse this – and we’ll get along so much better!
I love you a lot, but wonder if you love me: People without ADD need positive, physical reinforcement. I want to think that you love me, but when you get distracted by just about everything but me, it’s hard to keep thinking I’m one of your priorities. Why should a car, or a computer, or a game be more important than me? As hard as I try to not take this personally, sometimes I just can’t. I need some time, every week, when you are focused on just me – nothing else. Your effort to do this will tell me that you do love me, and will make me feel so much better and happier! Let’s take some time right now and schedule some time together.
I want to show you my love, but my anger is getting in the way: I love you. A lot. I envision a future where you’ve addressed some of your ADD symptoms – and I’ve addressed my bad responses to them – so that we can have fun and enjoy each other again. But we need to work together on this, not fight each other because there’s too much anger and frustration on both sides right now. Can we work together? Please?
I’m working really hard at this relationship, but sometimes despair because it doesn’t feel to me like you are, too: I’m not asking that we meet in the exact middle. But sometimes I despair that we’ll never meet at all! I need attention, and one form of attention is having you take my needs seriously enough to show an effort in my direction. This gets back to the “thoughts and actions” are not the same as ideas notion. I want to be happy around you (and you want me to be happy around you – it’s so much easier that way!) but it’s hard to keep always trying without seeing any reciprocal action. Can we agree on one thing that you’ll work on for me and make a plan for how that will happen? Then I’ll feel happier, which will make me be happier, which will benefit us both.
We both have our strengths and weaknesses: You probably think that all I ever do is tell you what you’re doing wrong and that this somehow means that I think I’m perfect. I apologize for nagging you, and I don’t think I’m perfect (the nagging is proof I’m not!) Let’s acknowledge that we are both people, inherently not perfect, and make a plan to get around those things one or both of us isn’t so strong at. Solutions might include changing who does what, or hiring outside help.
I’m sorry that I’m angry: I hate feeling angry all the time. It’s starting to really make me dislike myself, in fact. I understand why I feel angry – our relationship isn’t going in the direction I thought it would. You’re probably angry about this, too. I badly want to work through my anger – and to have you admit, and work through – yours. This will take some behavior changes on both sides…and perhaps some professional help, but let’s make it a mutual goal to work through it – for our (non-angry and potentially wonderful) future. A good first step will be for me to learn how to accept my past anger, forgive myself, and move on. Would you consider doing this, too?
I want to have fun! What happened to the days when we loved spending time together? Our life is too serious and angry right now. Let’s schedule some fun stuff together (and get a sitter if we need to). The crazier, and the further away from our everyday lives, the better!
I want you to want me: We’re having some problems right now, which may affect our sex life, but I really long for the days when sex was fun, and exciting, and I felt loved and safe with you. I want you to want me sexually, and when we get rid of some of the anger, and I feel more confident that you can show me you love me, can we smooth things out sexually? I really want that. Maybe we can start with smaller signs of affection? Or maybe just go have some great sex…right now!