Communicating with Motivation

Here is a question of mine that I'd like to toss out there for some feedback. The question is how do you get your ADD spouse to do something you really need done without making them feel inferior, less, defensive and/or unmotivated? We all know that a person with ADD is more likely to accomplish tasks/goals if they feel motivated to do so. I've also learned from this site as well as other research that very often if a person with ADD feels nagged he/she will "shut down" and a domino effect occurs resulting in no follow through and anger and resentment on both sides. My sister-in-law shared with me that she communicates with her ADD husband in a way that makes him want to do what she needs him to do. How does she do this? How do all of you do this? Can you give examples? (Please understand that I am not referring to manipulation as this is cruel and selfish. My question is a tricky topic to try to explain while keeping brief on a blog. Rather, I am trying to get at the core of how you communicate with a person with ADD so that they feel motivated to do what you need done - "need" being reasonable and fair requests.)

First, Ask Your Sister In Law

I would love to hear what your sister-in-law does, and if she has any suggestions as well as from others on this forum....she's a good place to start, particularly since she also knows your husband.

Melissa Orlov

How to get ADD spouse to do something important...

I believe my husband is ADD and have this philosphy. Just ask for the important things and try to do all the rest. Never ask for more than 3 things at a time, and even then write it in a list. Give a "warning" a day or so before that it is coming up. Only ask for things immediately when it is urgent. Try to make the tasks due date flexible. I try, sometimes succeeding and often failing, to arrange my life so that I can do all the rest. I am now in the process of re-evaluating, and perhaps will cut down on my community volunteer work, in order to arrange my life so I can still take care of "all the rest" and maintain my sanity.


My husband of 7 years was diagnosed with ADHD years ago (over 12 years ago). He had been on a med that worked wonderfully for him and then it was taken off the market 2ish years ago (affected the liver badly). So he’s been in the process of trying new meds. The last one he was on made him just a jerk (to sum it up quickly). He would choose not to hear me when I’d ask him to help with anything. He would rather have stayed on his computer playing his computer games or rather have his nose in a book. If I did ask him for help, he’d get mad and snap at me. Bite my head off. I got to the point that it was easier for me to just do it than it was for me to listen to him snap and complain. This all started after the birth of our second child. After I was able to explain how I saw him acting, he agreed to try new meds and now is currently trying to wean off his meds completely (with the help of a psychologist) and is trying neurofeedback. And I’m happy to say that things have changed dramatically for the better! Anyway – back to how we communicate. I have had to change how I think about things. Firstly I had to decide what was a need and what was a want. As we approach the birth of our third child (within the next month), that changes for me (and I hope that doesn’t make things hard for him) - I need more help taking care of our two children and keeping the house tidy (I no longer expect it to be immaculate, what with two young children and an ADHD spouse who doesn’t see the clutter anyway – I just like things picked up so they’re not stepped on in the middle of the night or something). I used to just WANT him to help – but now I NEED him to help. And I’ve stated it just that way to him, “ I am exhausted at dinner time and I really need your help with the kids then. Can you please give them their bath tonight or do the dishes or . . . (fill in the blank)?” If I can I’ll email him at work and let him know what I’ll need help with that night. I don’t email more than three requests or he’ll just gloss over it and it won’t get done. I’ve found that he needs advance warning about things I’ll need him to help with. And I need to not expect him to do it right away. We had tried using lists. I’d make a list of 3 or 4 things that I wanted done. In my eyes, he’d just ignore the list. In his, he was just waiting for a time he wanted to work on it and he’d get to it eventually. So, I learned that if I needed it done right away, I’d either do it myself or repeatedly ask him. I felt like I was nagging, but he assured me that it wasn’t nagging. I think it may have something to do with the tone of voice I used. I wasn’t condescending or mean about my requests. I just asked him, “Could you please . . . (fill in the blank) before . . . (fill in the blank)?” I also think it helped him to have a deadline as long as that deadline wasn’t NOW. So, I had to change my thinking when it comes to using lists – I had to realize that I had to give him time to get it done – and that time had to be his time frame, not mine. If I need him to help with something right away – or that has a time frame that cannot be his own, I just remind him a lot. For instance, if I have a doctor appointment and need him to watch our kids while I go, I remind him a few days in advance, “Please don’t forget that I have a doctor appointment on Wednesday at 8:30.” Or I ask him if he’s put it into his calendar at work that he’ll have the kids that morning. I don’t know if that helps at all with how to motivate someone to do something you need them to do. I truly believe that it’s tone of voice I use and just being respectful of how I ask him (using “please” and “thank you”) that gets him to do it. I think if I were short or rude or nasty about it, it’d just motivate him to do just the opposite - - nothing. I still feel like all of my reminders are nagging, and he still assures me that I’m not nagging and he appreciates my reminding him. Hope that helps a little.

Thank you!

This is my first visit to this forum and my first day checking into the very real possibility that my husband of 6 years has ADHD. After a certain household chore (on top of several other recent requests) were not completed last night I Stuggled with how to bring it up without nagging or picking a fight. Somehow the conversation was exactly right and he shared with me that a partner at his law firm recently commented to him that he displays some very similar signs and characteristics to his son who has ADHD (in a "looking out for you because you are frustrated and I care about you" way NOT to be mean thankfully). My husband has never been great about talking about his feelings but I really feel like we made huge progress last night with this revelation.

Now reading some of these posts and some articles on this site, it seems fairly clear to me that this is a most likely diagnosis. JGFs post in particular hit hoem so many thank you to all for sharing.

Any suggestions on how to get started? My husband does seem very open to pursuing diagnosis and treatment but I find myslef in scary and unfamiliar territory.

Dear apollo, I simply asked

Dear apollo, I simply asked my husband, "How do you need me to approach you when things need to get done?" We have found that a "Honey Do" list is the best way to do that. He can't stand having a list of things to do to occupy his mind all day, so he gets them done and crosses them out. Tasks in a household are overwhelming and I beleive it will never be a 50/50 split (It has taken years to stop being resentful about that one). But a list is our best method. Hope this helps...

itty bitty bribes

It is very hard to get my husband to do things when I need them done, or how I want them done.  If he wants something then I'll say,"If you clean out the garage you can buy it". That worked just yesterday.  I try hard to find ways to make it important to HIM.  I've been wanting him to bring in more income so I finally suggested we start selling things b/c I can't keep the house up myself.  He then began to think of ways to avoid selling things and then suddenly found more work!! I've found that the wording is very important when dealing with an ADD spouse.  He will go into attack mode really fast if I interrogate him or "nag" him.  Then he seems to be more defiant and intentionally NOT do things that I ask.  When I back off of him and let him do it he is much more cooperative.  I had to give up the control of having things done my way and learn that he'll do them, but in his way and in his time.  My husband married me partly b/c I get things done.  Well, control issues also come with this great quality and that aspect drives him crazy.  It's definitely a balancing act.