Differences re: Organization Styles

My wife and I had a short argument this morning about my "need" to have things in a certain place.  And as I was trying to explain to her why it matters to me that things are in a certain place, I had an "a-ha" moment.  And that is this:

My "need" to have some things in a certain place has more to do with how I stay organized.  As opposed to my actually needing something to be in a particular place.  For example, when I am getting ready in the morning, I have developed routines and habits so I don't have to think about every little step of the process.  And part of that is always having the toothpaste, the deodorant, the hair spray, the lotion, my comb, etc. in the same place.  That way, when I need any of these items I just, out of habit, reach for a certain place and there it is.  Meaning, I don't have to think about it.

If something is not where I expect it to be out of habit, then I have to stop, think, look for it., etc.  And that disrupts my routine, meaning that once I find it, even if it only takes three seconds, I have to sort of "reboot" to get back into my routine.  And now, something that was about as "mindless" as walking, takes thought energy.

It really does not matter to me the particular place an item is - to the left, to the right, on the "counter" or in the drawer.  What matters is that it is in the same place day after day.

So, if my wife (who has ADHD) uses something and puts it somewhere different, that would be fine, if that was where she put it every time.  In that case, I could just develop a new habit.  But my experience is, she'll put it one place one time, another place the next.  And so what used to be mindless and effortless for me, now takes more effort in terms of "brain" power, and perhaps also in terms of time, if I need to constantly stop, look, find, and "reboot."

This also occurs in the kitchen.  I do most of the cooking.  And sometimes when I am doing three things at once, and have everything timed just so, and I need a particular spice or oil, or I need a bit of butter, or whatever, knowing exactly where those things are enables me to "automatically" grab them.  If, however, I reach for the butter and it's not where it usually is, and especially if I have to search a bit for it, it can throw off my entire sense of timing in what I am doing.  Or if the spice I always put on the far left is not there, and I have to actually look at the labels of several spice bottles to find what I am looking for, it can throw me off.  I've even actually used the wrong spice when I picked up a bottle without actually "looking" at it, expecting it to be the spice I always put in that place.

I'm not suggesting my way of organizing is better, or that my wife ought to adopt it.  I am saying it is a system that works for me.

And I realized that when my wife makes fun of me, or criticizes me, or belittles me, because I like things in a certain place because it helps me stay organized, it makes me feel bad.  After all - I don't make fun of her for having to write things down so she can remember them, even things that I would never have to write down to remember, like "take out the trash" or "leave for work."

And when I realized all this today, in the midst of our argument, I lost it.  I was really furious that I am spending all this time to understand how her brain works, and not get mad at, impatient with, or criticize how she does things.  And yet, here she was, once again, rolling her eyes at me because I mentioned that I prefer to have something in a certain place.

It's a system.  That's all.  It's not that I am controlling.  It's not that I am OCD.  It's not that I need to have things a certain way.  It's that I find it helps me develop habits and routines when things are consistently put in the same place.

So, when I told her all this - (granted, I was yelling and I shouldn't have been yelling, and I did apologize for that) - I think she actually heard me.  That sometimes there is a reason I want things in a certain place, because it helps me stay organized.  I said "Exactly - for example, that's why I'm not always having to search for my keys or my phone when I am leaving the house, because I always put them in the same place."

And I thought of two analogies that might help.  When driving, there are lots of things we do out of habit.  For example, in my car, to turn on the wipers I push the lever UP.  I do it without thinking.  In my wife's car, the lever must be pushed DOWN.  And I never remember that when I am driving her car and it starts to rain.  And it's always just a little "annoying" when I push the lever UP in her car and it doesn't put the wipers on, because I have to do it a second time, and because I always have the thought "Drat.  I keep forgetting that in her car the lever needs to be pushed DOWN."  It doesn't matter that this all takes only a second or two, it's a disconnect, and it kind of "throws" me.

Neither way is better - who cares if the level has to go UP or DOWN?  It's the same amount of effort.  The point is, if it was UP one day, then DOWN the next, then UP for two days, then DOWN the next, with no consistent pattern, then every time we put on the wipers we'd have to either do it by trial and error, or actually look at the lever to see which way to push it.  There's something to be said for consistency.

The other analogy is the grocery store.  When the milk is always in the same place, and I know where the milk is, I don't have to think about where the milk is when I need it.  My habit is to go to the aisle where the milk is.  When they move things in the grocery store, it frustrates me, because now I have to actually LOOK for the item I need, and when I find it, I have to learn the new place.  Usually it takes several purchases of milk before the new place sinks in so that I don't have to think about it.  And fact is, I know it frustrates my wife when they move things in the grocery store also. 

I know - long post.  I guess I'm just feeling frustrated that my wife doesn't understand that the way I do things isn't always because I'm "picky" or "controlling" and that it doesn't always mean I think my way is better.  And I'm tired of feeling like she's putting me down all the time for using a system that helps me stay organized.

I'm working on differentiating when it really matters to me that things are in a certain place, and when it doesn't matter.  When it doesn't matter, then who cares.  But if it in fact does matter (to me), and it's something that might be hard for my wife to remember to do consistently (because I do know that that is something that is usually difficult for her), then maybe I work with her to come up with a solution.  Maybe it means I always put away the dishes and/or the groceries.  Maybe it means I move something when she puts it in a different place than I am used to putting it.  Maybe it means I develop a different habit of pulling everything out that I will need to make a certain meal before I start, so that if I have to look for something it won't affect my timing.  Maybe it means we label the drawers.  Maybe it means we each use our own hair spray - and she puts hers wherever she wants, I and put mine in the same place each day. 

Or . . . maybe I'm just being ridiculous and trying to justify myself.

No, you are not being ridiculous

Really, you've written a great post.

My father, who I always thought was perfect, always took everything out of his pockets, etc when he went to bed at night and put it in his shoes. Wallet, keys, notepad (he was always writing notes to himself) were always in his shoes and his shoes were always in a certain spot right beside the bed. He was a guy, of course, so he could (and did) wear the same pair of shoes every day. Woe unto anyone who moved them.

Maybe he was not as inherently organized as I thought. Maybe that was his way of organizing himself.

Anyway, the repercussions of that when living with an ADDer are obvious. They have such a tendency to just drop things when they are done with them, and then they can't find them. I think the average ADDer must spend years of their lives looking for stuff (and their spouses too). And if she forgets where she left her hairspray, she'll use yours, of course.

I like that your post isn't judgemental. You aren't saying your way is better, just that it more corresponds with the way your brain works. I hope your wife understands.

That is very true I do spend

That is very true I do spend most of my time looking for items. The worst is those items that I know I may need for a later date and put in a safe place that makes perfect sense at that given time. For some reason that perfect place doesn't come back to me at the time I need the item. I almost always do find it but it is soooo painful and time consuming.  The worst is when I am at work and my husband calls to ask where a reciept or something he needs (usually now) is and I have to give him 5 look here spots. For some reason he doesn't see the relief and joy when it is found in third spot that he looked, and the whole house hasn't been turned upside down.

That is another frequent argument that we have, the fact that I don't do anything the same consistently...hence the time spent looking for items. I have been able to develop a routine for those things that are really important, my keys, my wallet and my work badge (after spending $40 for my work badge because I lost it 3 times, and then the storage place I thought worked was my lunch box evidently the chip isn't fond of the refridge). I haven't lost my badge in three years. I won't say that every day I walk in the door I have to stop and think about keys here badge here it never becomes a thoughtless automatic process. If I don't stop and think it gets tossed on the table.  Every day is a work in progress. I also tend to loose my items and when in a rush may use my husbands with very good intentions to return it where it was, but sometimes I just forget.  I know from personal experience living with me is difficult exhausting and always an adventure. We sometimes joke about how boring our life would be if everything was always the same, in looking for lost items we find things that have been gone a long time sometimes even money, those drawers get cleaned out. When i get lost as I frequently do we see things we never would have seen if I was paying attention to where I was going.  I know that those who are living in the frustrations of a forgetful ADDer may not see the humor I express, but if I didn't have the humor I would be very depressed and very angry, as I see so many people here on this site from both sides.

I am very saddened to see the the money problems and the irresponsibility caused by those who have  ADD. But each person is unique and there are many people with ADD (although frustrating to live with) that are responsible functioning adults. I see many posts that tell people not to get involved with a person who has ADD that its just a life time of trouble. Life can be a big adventure. 

Pink's picture


I am the non-add and you are right... sometime we find things we haven't see for a long time. We do laugh about it. I also have a son with add and a husband with add. I am angry with my husband because he is not working. He doesn't believe working will help in many of our marriage problems. but I also think of my son. If I am a bad wife for my husband then, my son's wife will be the same. That will make me sad.

I am trying to change... I do sometime tell my son please don't become or behave like your dad. I have try to teach my son to keep his stuffs where it will help him find them. If he lose it... then it is lost. I tell him next time try harder to put it where you think you will remember. If something he really like he try very hard to put it in spot that he will find it the next day.

I know people with ADD can change their behavior if they want to and if they try. I know they can do that because I see both my husband and my son if something very important to them they work harder at it.

As for the rest of their normal stuff... of course it is my job to know where they took off their shoes and where they put their key or toys. That is life.  Sometime we the non-add lose thing and we don't remember where have put things. when that happen we said to ourselves that we are very tired and overwhelm.

Maybe ADD people see the house and responsibility as an overwhelming things and process to handle.

Pink's picture


I am going to read it more and study it a little. very good article.

Pink's picture

I like your way...

Your post is great. I like to have things in the same place all the time. I have a husband with ADD and I have to teach him to put his phone, keys in the same place everyday. Still doesn't work. I buy box or hanger by the door. They way they think is whatever they have in their hand and they are done with it they will just put it whatever they are at that time. For example, if he went shopping for food and come in the house he will put the key in the kitchen. If he pick up the mail and there was a DVD he will put the key on the top of the TV. Sometime he just leave the key in his pant and forget to take it out. We spend an average 1/2 hour looking for his stuff.

There is a show for kids "Blue Clue" talking about forgetting where you put something. It tell you to go back go back to where you came from. It does help him. He will ask me did you see where is my glasses. (he was wearing them) I tell him to go back to where he came from and sometime he remember by going back to the spot.

It is also work for non-add I study this in my college in psychology memories class. How a human brain can only remember 7 items at a time. If you want to remember more you need to create a group of items into one item. I love that class.

I adore Larry Davis show on HBO about DVD and he has a system that he put the DVD on the same spot all the time. One day it wasn't there. Maybe you and your wife should watch the show. You can laugh at each other and have fun.

Try Blue Clue and Watch some fun show. It work with me and my husband and we just laugh at ourselves.


I found that the easiest way to manage a badge (on a lanyard; we were required to have that) was to hang it on my rearview mirror when I first got into my car at the end of the day. Since I couldn't go to work without the car, it was always available when I needed it. Hope that helps someone. I've been trying to get my husband to do that for 2 years.

Hoping, I found your post very interesting!

and in 2 very different ways.  One which seems to highlight one of the issues in your family, and the other that might have given me another way to understand the way ADD works.


Firstly, I also like things to be in their place, though it sounds like I am not quite as good as you are at always putting them back exactly where they go.....maybe my things have more of an *area*.  My husband is pretty bad at putting things back where they go and it makes it hard for both of us to find things.  One of our solutions is that to the extent possible, we try to have him not move my things around.  If I were you, one of my very first trial and error attempts would be you each having your own things.  If she has her own hairspray, comb, etc then hopefully yours will still be where you like it and conflict will be reduced.


Secondly, I applaud the recent strides you two have been making!!  I think you are doing wonderfully, but you are posting about her continuing to exhibit the same negative attitudes toward you even though you have been changing your attitude toward her and her traits pretty extremely.  I actually think you may be cutting her TOO much slack, but really no one who isn't literally inside a situation can really see the reality of what is going on.  It think it is completely inappropriate& disrespectful in my opinion for her to be sighing, huffing, and rolling her eyes while you are speaking to her about something she is doing that is bothering you.  It is SOO disrespectful and unloving that I honestly don't understand how you can continue to put up with it.

It sounds like she does this a LOT and the appearance is that she thinks *her way is better*.  You have bent over backwards to try to understand what you do and how it impacts her & to express to her that you like things a certain way but that doesn't make your way better than hers.....just your preference.  Good for you, you should do that!   But while she is improving (and I understand that ADD improvement is slow and not always linear) she does not appear to be getting to a point of giving you the same courtesy.  In her mind you are still doing things in a ridiculous way because you are controlling.   That reaks of thinking HER way is better and yours is stupid to my mind.   Also completely unacceptable to my way of thinking.


The other thing I took from your post is that as you were describing the result and frustrations of the constant reboots during your routines, I couldn't help but appreciate that must be how it feels all the time for the ADD partner.  Even during a morning routine going fairly smoothly, there are probably a ton of those little reboots that they might not even notice anymore as it is their "normal".  It helped me appreciate how a bad day of these reboots happening over and over could indeed make a very nice personality snappy and edgy just from the frustration.......even if the cause of that frustration is not easily apparant since the reboots are mostly mental.


Just an interesting correlation I noticed.  Would be interesting to me to hear if the people with ADD see it the same way.

Yours, Mine and Ours

Hey Aspen,

Thanks for your post.  I also, when writing about the "rebooting" and how aggravating that is, thought "I bet this is how my wife feels all the time."  And it enabled me to have even more empathy for what she must experience daily.

Re: your suggestion that we have separate stuff, I actually have done exactly what you suggest.  We each do have our own toothpaste, hair spray, comb, etc.  It works in the bathroom because, luckily, it's one of those bathrooms with two sinks.  Funny thing is, she still sometimes uses "my" stuff, which is what happened yesterday.  Oh, well.

Also, she finds my solution - that we use separate stuff - to be insulting.  It feels to her that I am saying - I know you will not be able to do things up to my standards.  I think she thinks that because I am able to do something she can't (put things in the same place), that somehow what I do is better.  And so she thinks *I* think that as well.

And I think that until yesterday, when I realized that my way is better for me because of the way my brain works, I actually did think my way was a better way.  But I also thought that since she never would be able to do things my way, because of the way her brain works, why should I be trying to make her try to do it my way?   Because I also feel that it isn't right for me to impose my standards on her, even if I do think they are better.

So I don't blame her for feeling insulted, because in a way, she is right.  I thought she couldn't things the way I would have liked her to.  But now that I realize that my standards have more to do with how my brain works, I don't feel they are better, just better for me.  And I tried to communicate that to her yesterday.

There's still a problem with my solution though.  And that is because it is just that - my solution.  I didn't consult her.  I didn't ask how she felt about me implementing it.  I just decided.  Me.  On my own.  And that gives the signal that I know what's best for us.  Even though I thought what I was implementing was a solution for me.  And so, the solution (while an attempt on my part not to be controlling), actually is controlling.  I'm coming to understand that.

There really is a fine balance between my doing what is right for me, and doing what is right for us.  I am quick to come up with solutions that make me feel better.  But my solutions often end up making my wife feel bad, because I don't consult her about them, and because they almost always give her the message that because she can't do something the way I prefer, she is just not good enough.  I think I am being considerate by not insisting she change to do things my way.  She thinks by not asking her to try, I am saying I know she can't, which makes her feel less than. 

Fact is, I do think she can't do many of the things I can.  But I think that the reason she can't is because her brain does not work like mine does.  She still feels bad about the fact that her ADHD prevents her from doing certain things.  And I don't blame her for feeling that way.  I also have to remember not to just impose my solutions by unitarily deciding them and then informing her what I decided, because that just compounds her bad feelings - rightly so.

Re: her eye rolling, etc.  I still hate when she does things like that.  And I usually "call her" on it - telling her that when she does that it feels dismissive, and that that just makes me feel like crap.  I know she is trying not to do that, but I know old habits die hard.  I also know that people with ADHD have a hard time with impulse control, self censuring, etc.  So yes, I will continue to cut her some slack on that.  Just as she continues to cut me some slack when I "lose it" and yell - despite my knowing how bad that makes her feel, and despite my not wanting to yell.  

you have a skill that Adders need


This reminds me of something I read months ago. Executive functioning in the prefrontal cortex is the natural, fairly easy way that nonADDers order and prioritize what they need to accomplish.  When we are presented with a new situation (like a new place to live) we deliberately take time to figure out systematic ways of doing things better in our new surroundings.  We use our executive functioning to set up systems. 

Since the theory is that adders have problems with this area of their brain, it is very difficult, sometimes impossible for them to consciously order and prioritize without huge effort.  Since it requires so much effort they just settle for less organization.

This author recommended that adders develop routines just like you describe.  Things always go back into the same place and these routines become habits which do not require executive functioning.  If you wife is willing, just ask her to consider the most aggravating problem she deals with, think of a habitual way of dealing with it, and work to make it an automatic habit.  Just one thing that she will concentrate on for a month.  It can be very simple like laying her keys in one place EVERYTIME.  But only do one habit at a time and celebrate the victories.  it is truly a victory for her compared to us.


It does sound like you are a

It does sound like you are a very organized person, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be that way...until you're married to someone who isn't. Ironically, my ADD husband, who is ALWAYS losing keys and other small things, is the one who is thrown off, frustrated, and gets angry if he goes to use his hairbrush and it isn't in the basket in the bathroom. Me, I know if it's missing to either check the other bathroom or my daughter's bedroom...no big deal. I wonder if this issue would even relate to her ADD at all, maybe just be a part of just a simple difference in priority. It isn't priority for her to put the butter back in exactly the same place each time, or the spices, and for you it is an inherent part of who you are. I can honestly admit I just toss stuff back in the fridge or cabinet without any thought to it being in a certain spot, as long as it makes it in the right cabinet. Granted, I am disorganized as hell, but it just isn't something that is a priority to me. It would exhaust me to think I had to try and remember to put everything back exactly where I got it. I remember to feed my kids, give my special needs son his medications, give the epileptic cat his meds, feed and water the animals, get the kids to school on time, pick them up on time, pay the bills on time, etc...so the energy or effort to keep everything in one place isn't something I have. I know where everything is 99% of the time, even if I leave it in a different spot everytime (fingernail clippers, for example). Just something for you to consider. In a way I guess I've never given thought to any of the 'small stuff' because our issues were always so much bigger and more damaging...like his spending money beyond our means and his failure to be a parent to his daughter (who we got custody of when she was 12..she is 18 now and gone to college) and his resentment towards me for trying to keep some type of control over her out of control behaviors..and the list goes on and on. I couldn't care less where he puts the hairbrush, as long as he doesn't lie and cheat, ya know?

Again, we truly have to ask ourselves over and over again if it is worth fighting about. Marriage is about compromise. Being married to someone wtih ADD requires a LOT of compromise, but it is worth it. Try not to beat yourself up, slip ups and regression will happen...but learning something each time it does is where progress is born. Even when you feel she is putting stuff out of place and not caring when you're making monumental efforts to change your attitude about things you still need to keep focused on YOU and what you're doing..and eventually, hopefully she will come around.

If in fact you decide that it is something you cannot work around, then I think the idea of having separate stuff, where feasible, is probably going to be the only option. I'm not saying never make her share in some responsibility, but when it comes to such a huge gap in personal priorities of where stuff goes, I'm afraid this one might be one you have to solve by keeping your stuff to yourself and her having her own.

I am questioning this very issue myself, Hoping

I am trying to deal with what things my husband doesn't do because his "brain doesn't allow him to do things I can" and what things are related to "he doesn't do things that I do because he doesn't prioritize them highly enough."


You are accepting a lot of behavior as beyond her ability.  Other ADDers seem to present this idea as the way things are when dealing with an ADD partner, but in my personal relationship (and I understand there are various types & levels of ADD) I just don't see him as incapable of anything.  He can and does do the things that are of the most value to him.  These things do not naturally include things like, for instance, shutting cabinet doors and closing drawers.  He leaves them open all over the place & I have read about enough ADDers doing this to suspect it relates to his ADD, however one time I was hurt and bleeding because of a specific cabinet he left open in our first home.  He was still undiagnosed at this time, but he NEVER again left that cabinet open.  It somehow was a high enough priority to close ( I believe because I was hurt), but the other cabinets were and still are left open.


Now I am not willing to make it a high enough priority in our lives to insist that he get in the habit of always closing cabinet doors, but if I did because if was important enough in our life for him to do it, I absolutely believe he could do it.


It is so hard to understand what is he "doesn't do something because his ADD makes it difficult" and he "CAN'T because his ADD makes it impossible."


I'd be very interested to know how other couples draw that line and answer that question.

Pink's picture

I think they can change

I think they can change and learn to close all the cabinet.  My husband is the same, he leave all the cabinet doors open. He takes what he wants and leave it there. You are right until something bad have to happen for him to learn.  Sometime they do not learn.  I do tell him a lot of time when he forget thing or something happen... "You know we are so lucky this happen this time, but sometime we won't be lucky, so please next time try to pay more attention." He feels bad, then he just move on. Same mistake happen again.

I think some part of ADD is blocking them from learning from their mistake.  They repeat the same mistake over and over. I think their brain doesn't recognizing and remember the event.

It is like don't touch the fire it is hot. If you touch it you will get burn. I think a person with ADD sometime do not understand. They touch and get burn... then look around what is wrong what did I do wrong! They have no clue until after the event happen and someone explain it to them. But then the sad part it happen again. Sometime they remember right after it happen other time some one else have to explain again.

I think they might have a problem like when you get old and forget things and keep doing it again and again. I think it is the brain thing that they do not have.  But with all that if something really important to them they can beat the brain and remember to do it because they "Want" that and they work at it harder.

Same mistakes over and over

Definitely rings true for my situation. We spent countess hours and thousands of dollars in counseling trying to resolve the issue of "why do you seem so sorry when you do XX, but then turn right around 3 days later and do XX all over again?" It truly was one of the most frustrating things I ever had to deal with in my entire life. One of the things was spending money...and I truly believe this is simply an inability to control his impulse to spend..buy whatever pops into his head that he wants. He has so much "stuff" that was purchased, used once or twice, and then completely forgotten about..and we're not talking $20 purchases..$100-$1500..and every where in between. The other issue that kept repeating itself over and over was his going out 2-3 nights a week ... going to visit friends..going to play music...going to drink. It started as one night a week in a very responsible and respectful manner, and escalated into 3+ nights a week, coming home VERY late, on the rare occasion he wouldn't come home at all, and drinking far too much and driving that way. I pair the heavy drinking he did with him hanging out with friends because they somewhat went hand in hand. It almost destroyed our marriage, and he was soooooooooooo sorry each time it would happen, but it happened over and over and over again. He now admits that it was something he made a conscious decision to do and he didn't care that it hurt me or that it was destroying our marriage. It was an 'out' for him, to escape the fighting and the misery of our marriage. Never at any point did he want a divorce or want me to divorce him..he even begged me to stay with him, try counseling, etc..when I would get fed up to the point that I wanted out...yet it never stopped for any significant period of time. I still don't completely understand why...and I'm not sure he's capable of giving me the answers I need.

Pink's picture


Once you allow that behavior to happen they repeat it. For example, I might let him out for long night and say okay he needs a time out to relax... then the next time I said no this time you can't stay late. He said why... you let me last time. it is not fair.. then he will go out and do it because of anger.

He doesn't understand and respect the wife. Sometime it is okay but other time it is not okay. I know from counseling. He doesn't respect me as a wife... he calls me names, yell at me... at the end of the day why aren't you spending time with me? I think some ADD people do not understand their reaction and they way they behave hurt others people feeling. It really hurt. You are right... they do it again. I am sorry to say this... but they act like a dog who you can't train.

I spent many years in

I spent many years in "control freak" mode out of fear that every.hurtful.thing.he.did was going to be repeated 1000 times, like some of the other ones were. I was never able to relax. I lost complete faith in him as a husband..and friend. "all you want to do is control me!" "no, all I want is for you to have some self control!"

We broke the vicious cycle, after hitting rock bottom, and things are much better for us now. The over spending didn't stop until I did what I swore I would never do...I took his debit card. It was either that, or let him financially ruin us. I stress over finances more than just about anything else..since we live on a tight budget, so his spending was costing me my health. I couldn't sleep, I was overwhelmed with worry and fear and constantly stressed over having to check the bank account daily, rob Peter to pay Paul when he would spend money we didn't have without discussing it with me, and I decided I had had ENOUGH!! He didn't want to cause me stress, but he could NOT stop spending. That is how that issue was resolved.

As for the repeated behavior of going out and drinking over and over and over again...several factors eliminated that issue. The main 'friend' he was drinking with (he was single and a complete instigator) and he are no longer friends. He has surrounded himself with only friends who respect our marriage and aren't calling 5 nights a week tempting him with offers. We also spend more time together, going out, and this provides him with an 'escape' but we 'escape' together. Also, our home life is MUCH happier and healthier so he isn't always looking for an out. He knows that I want him to enjoy time to himself, with his friends, but do it in a respectful way. He is trying to prove to me that he can. In 9 months he's stayed out later than I was comfortable with only once. It was hurtful and brought back a lot of fears and emotions but after careful consideration I decided to cut him some slack, tell him how I felt, and not let it be a huge issue...in the hopes that he will respond more positively to my new approach. So far, so good.

Other 'small' things never got resolved, I accepted them and moved on. Some larger things were resolved..mostly because HE changed his attitude towards me as well (I'm not the moster, control freak he always wanted to accuse me of being in order to justify his crappy treatment of me)..so we've both made changes that needed to be made, and he has proven that he is, indeed, capable of changing things that he knows will destroy our marriage if he doesn't. So have I. :)

hockeymom11's picture

that darn pre-frontal cortex again...

I don't know if anyone else read this article, but it scares me.  Over and over and over in posts I read (and live) the fact that the ADDr won't/can't/doesn't want to change their behavior.  Reading this article and the fact that they have an inability to feel and express emotions and feel empathy  means that my husband's behavior may NEVER change.  If one cannot feel empathy, how can he understand what his behavior is doing to others?  I've read hundreds of posts on this site and posted tons myself and unfortunately most are the same:  "he still does XX and still doesn't want to change and still continues this behavior".   It's discouraging to say the least.

I know there seems to be a SMALL percentage of couples (Melissa and her husband for one, SherriW & Arwen) that can work this out and he wanted to change, but such a large percent (seems like 90% or more) are not changing.  These odds seem very very bad to me and I'm discouraged.  I wish I were closer to a Halloway Center so I could have my husband go and see what his behavior is doing to all of us.  I am perplexed, saddened, and feel that there is very little hope of this condition improving.  Science is science and statistics are statistics.  maybe I'm reading far to into this, but I think from a scientific/analytical type of mind and the numbers aren't good. 


from the article mentioned above:

"ADHD is a result of neurological dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the newest part of our tri-brain system in evolutionary terms. It is the part of our brain that performs executive functions. The functions of this brain deal with 1) attention span, 2) perseverance, 3) judgment, 4) organization, 5) impulse control, 6) self-monitoring and supervision, 7) problem solving, 8) critical thinking, 9) forward thinking, 10) learning from experience, 11) ability to feel and express emotions, 12) interaction with the limbic system, and 13) empathy."

I hear you

My husband is a mental health counselor himself, and will frequently say that his clients who are bi-polar, schizophrenic, etc. can learn to manage their conditions with appropriate drugs and therapy, but they will never be cured. I think the same must be true of ADD. I really worry about that. None of the ADDers in my life (husband, daughter, grandson) show any interest in learning how to manage their ADD so they fit into the world with rules and expectations that the rest of us live in.

I wish I could say something encouraging. I love all the ADDers in my life, I'd give my life for any of them, but it is so hard when they keep sabotaging all your efforts.

I have ADD and have based on

I have ADD and have based on my conversations with psychiatrist and personal research can say there is no "cure" for ADD.  The most promising treatment being researched right now is neuro-feedback.  Hook you up to an EEG and run you through specific visual/audio stimulation designed to increase activity in the trouble areas of the Pre-Frontal Cortex.  There is a database out there within the psychiatric community that is storing the results of thousands of test of this treatment.  Results are promising in certain cases that show increased blood flow and neuro activity in troubled areas.  When re-scanned down the road the activity has not reduced.  We can only hope that these physiological changes are permanent, which could results in a "cure" for ADD.

Even though I think we are many years from this being proven as treatment and covered by insurance specifically to treat ADD.  Secondly it will take many years of trial and improvement until the system is perfected and becomes "cure" if it does at all.

The link referenced below is a great link by the way that discusses some of what I mention above.


My guy feels emotions just fine and usually manages to express them.  I do see the empathy thing a bit though, basically in that I need to be feeling really miserable for him to notice and feel bad for me.  It's not enough for me to calmly tell him "this really hurts my feelings" and explain why, I need to be crying or non-responsive for him to realize everything's not okay and feel bad about it being his fault.  He also rarely feels empathy for other people, except in very dire situations.  But the fact that it IS there, just needs more stimulus (for lack of a better way to put it) gives me enough hope.  When he does *get* my feelings, he usually feels really bad for having caused them (remorse) and tries not to do it again - although his batting average is not good when it comes to that.

The first 4 in the quote above totally apply to him, as do 6 and 10, but he is usually fine with things like problem solving and critical thinking and impulse control is not a big problem for him (except controlling the impulse to get distracted by something shiny).

Pink's picture


My husband has too much emotions it is all about his feeling. Sometime I tell him... maybe if you were a woman than you will be okay... but too much emotion in men is not good. he cry and act like a child then on the other side he is very angry and out of of control if things doesn't go his way.

hockeymom11's picture

that darn pre-frontal cortex again...

I don't know if anyone else read this article, but it scares me.  Over and over and over in posts I read (and live) the fact that the ADDr won't/can't/doesn't want to change their behavior.  Reading this article and the fact that they have an inability to feel and express emotions and feel empathy  means that my husband's behavior may NEVER change.  If one cannot feel empathy, how can he understand what his behavior is doing to others?  I've read hundreds of posts on this site and posted tons myself and unfortunately most are the same:  "he still does XX and still doesn't want to change and still continues this behavior".   It's discouraging to say the least.

I know there seems to be a SMALL percentage of couples (Melissa and her husband for one, SherriW & Arwen) that can work this out and he wanted to change, but such a large percent (seems like 90% or more) are not changing.  These odds seem very very bad to me and I'm discouraged.  I wish I were closer to a Halloway Center so I could have my husband go and see what his behavior is doing to all of us.  I am perplexed, saddened, and feel that there is very little hope of this condition improving.  Science is science and statistics are statistics.  maybe I'm reading far to into this, but I think from a scientific/analytical type of mind and the numbers aren't good. 


from the article mentioned above:

"ADHD is a result of neurological dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the newest part of our tri-brain system in evolutionary terms. It is the part of our brain that performs executive functions. The functions of this brain deal with 1) attention span, 2) perseverance, 3) judgment, 4) organization, 5) impulse control, 6) self-monitoring and supervision, 7) problem solving, 8) critical thinking, 9) forward thinking, 10) learning from experience, 11) ability to feel and express emotions, 12) interaction with the limbic system, and 13) empathy."

I admit I read something on

I admit I read something on here that someone posted who has ADD saying something similiar...that he'd never felt any remorse for anything he'd done to hurt his wife...until it was too late...and I let it get under my skin for a while..BUT...

I have many reasons to believe that not all ADDers are incapable of empathetic feelings or human emotions. I know my husband is perfectly capable of showing and feeling human emotions. He's probably one of the more 'emotional' men I've ever met. I would be lying if I said that there weren't times in our marriage that I felt like he was incapable of "putting himself in my shoes" (see above posts about repetitive hurtful behaviors) but when I sorted through the ashes and started to rebuild what we had destroyed, I realized that I wasn't doing a very good job of putting myself in his shoes either. We were both too busy blaming each other to see past the end of our noses. As crazy as it sounds, I'm glad we didn't get the ADD diagnosis until AFTER we hit rock bottom and started rebuilding because I'm not sure he'd have ever accepted the diagnosis and treatment back when he was so convinced that everything was my fault. He came to terms with his faults and accepted his responsibility and THEN was diagnosed with ADD...so it was just the cherry on top of the messy banana split, so to speak.

We nearly lost it all before we found our way out of the hell we were in and decided we wanted something different and realized that change begins within. We still struggle, I still find myself trying to work my way out of an argument with him by saying things that appease the situation. I have to say what is on my mind and walk away leaving the situation alone. It has taken both of us, there is no way around that...that I'm aware of...but my approach directly dictates his response and vice versa.

Everyone is different. Only you know your husband, but I wouldn't stress too much over things like this. It is what it is. Deal with things one minute at a time, and don't focus on what "science" says, rather focus on the human being in front of you...and the one in the mirror...that's all that really matters. ((HUGS))


when he was cheating (I didn't know it at the time) he couldn't be in the same room with me without breaking down and crying..uncontrollably. I didn't know, but when I would leave for work he would go to the den (he watched the kids for me while I worked, we were separated) and cry almost the entire time I was gone. He broke down in front of me constantly. I thought it was either that he was mourning the loss of his mother or that he wanted a divorce and couldn't find the courage to tell me..so I just pushed him that much further away, taking it as a sign of rejection, even though everything he was telling me was the opposite. Come to find out, it was him being eaten alive by the guilt of having the affair. Even after he ended it, before I even found out, he still knew eventually he had to tell me (or she would tell me when he moved back home...we had 'mutual' friends too) and he said the guilt and fear of losing me because of what he had done were unbearable. He drank excessively during this time as well. VERY excessively. This went on for 2+ months before he finally admitted it to me.

I say this because it is another example of how I don't feel that just because someone had ADD means that they aren't capable of any type of empathy or remorse for pain they've caused. I feel in my heart of hearts that he feels HORRIBLE for hurting me. He has said it to me many times, but his actions always speak louder than his words (negatively or positively) and his actions even say it. Don't give up hope.

hockeymom11's picture


you say that actions speak louder than words and I TOTALLY agree, that is why I am so discouraged.  My husband has taken NO action to help himself.  Never ONCE has he come to me and said "I read this thing you gave me and MAYBE I have some of these symptoms"  OR "Here's what I'm trying to do to fix this ONE problem"  OR "I've made a doctors appointment and would like to try meds".  This problem and misery have been going on for MONTHS and MONTHs and YEARS!!! 

NOTHING, ZIP.  Not one mention of his behavior or his problems, just it's all me and I'm the B**** and I'm the one with mental disease. 

I'm devastated.  I've tried Melissa's ideas, read the book, talked to the pros, tried the "conversation tips" used the ideas she and others have suggested, taken their criticism to heart about some of my bad ideas/bad reactions and I'm just at the end of my rope.  I don't know what else to do.  There isn't anything I can do. 

I can't get out due to finances.  We don't speak anymore.  I go to support groups, but my life and my boys life is miserable.  I wish we could have a "happy ending" like Melissa, but it's not looking like that is my track in life.  I guess I shut up and put up until I can save enough money to get me and the boys out. 

I wish there was a different way.  Thanks for all the support.

Have you ever given thought

Have you ever given thought to the idea that the solution may start within you? That maybe you changing yourself, regardless of what he ends up doing, could potentially put an end to at least some of your 'misery' until you manage to either get through to him or leave him..either way you will only add to your misery in the meantime if you don't start making some changes within yourself. CHOOSE not to fight with him over household things...for the time being. CHOOSE not to make everything that annoys you, hurts you, and upsets you about him a fight. CHOOSE to take the higher road and decide for YOU and your children that if he wants to sit and be a lump on a log and not participate in the family, that doesn't mean that no one else can 'be' a family in the meantime. Take the focus off of everything negative imaginable about him and put the focus on everything you want your life to be again. I KNOW it's extremely difficult when you're where you are at in the game, but if I had managed to do this YEARS ago, God the misery I could have spared us all.

Are your issues all 'deal breakers'? Are there some things that you can put on the back burner for the time being. Show him that you're willing to make changes, accept that he's always going to have 'different' struggles in life, but that you're willing to go the extra mile to help...and maybe he'll eventually see that YOU are not 100% of the problem. The way I feel about it, based on my own experience, is that there are only 2 ways he'll ever take responsiblity for himself...and his actions. Either you'll leave him and he'll finally 'get it' or you'll back off, change yourself and your entire approach and attitude towards him and he'll eventually feel comfortable enough to start opening up again too. SOMEONE has to give. SOMEONE has to stop needing to "be right" and just simply give up the control and just re-evaluate everything. I suspect it won't be him and you have to ask yourself some very tough questions...such as whether or not you love him enough to just let go of the past and start fresh and hope and pray that he follows you. I remember making the first move during our separation...even when he was being quite a monster (as was I) most of the time...and admitting to him that I regretted not compromising more with him when it came to money back when he made plenty enough for him to be able to enjoy it more than I allowed. I was always afraid if I gave an inch, he'd take a mile. He fought for everything he got, 90% of the time, and even though we had more, I just kept it a secret because I was afraid he wouldn't stop taking if I didn't fuss and cuss about it. He was so moved that he cried and told me that I had no idea how much that meant to him...and that was the beginning of things turning around for us.

I missed him when he was gone...even though I thought I hated him when he was here, I found out really quickly that I didn't. Had I known about the affair, I don't think we'd have ever opened up the lines of communication so I guess it all worked out the way it did for a reason...and I finally..FINALLY saw how much damage my anger had done, how degraded and belittled he truly was by me, and how horrible I felt for seeing him as nothing more than a childish man-boy who cared about no one but himself. I started looking at him as a human being, and since I HATED my anger as much as he did, I decided to let go of it (didn't happen overnight) and treat him as I would want to be treated.

You really have nothing to lose at this point except maybe a little pride. I felt rejected a time or two when I would open up to him, admit my mistakes, and even had it thrown in my face a time or two, but eventually he LOVED the progress I was making and felt comfortable enough to trust that I wasn't going to treat him like that anymore. Now I am trying to learn to trust him that he really is focused on making things better for me too. I want this for you...I hope you can switch your focus from changing him and NEEDING him to change and acknowlege what he's doing to working on changing yourself and hoping he'll follow suit. If not, then you can walk away without any regrets..head held high. ((((HUGS))))

hockeymom11's picture

so true

SherriW you are so right, the solution is in ME.  I practice Buddhism and daily I (try to) practice peace and compassion which isn't always so easy.  I'm not the best Buddhist and I do respond incorrectly/negatively, but I REALLY am trying.

Two quotes by HH Dalai Lama which I recite daily (sometimes multiple times a day!!) are:

"patience acts as a counterforce to anger.  In fact, for every negative state, we can identify one which opposes it"

AND   "we need to be prudent and skillful in our endeavors to transform our habits and dispositions.  We also need to be realistic about what we can expect to achieve.  It took us a long time to become the way we are and habits are not changed overnight".   HOW TRUE IT IS!!!  This could easily become a mantra for almost everything in life.

I do take the boys out, we do our own thing and I make sure they are enjoying life as much as I can.  I have stopped raising my voice to them (I took my anger out on them) and now lower my voice so they have to settle down to hear me.

I know this is not easy for my husband and I have told him that.  I try to be empathetic and see the world through his eyes, but it's close to impossible for me because I am highly organized, scheduled, basically the complete opposite of him so it's hard for me to understand what he sees/comprehends etc.  I've been reading everything I can on how ADDrs think.

I'm not writing this to say "yipee for me, I'm the perfect wife and doing everything right", but I really am trying and it's just discouraging to me right now to see his response (or lack there of).

I have to keep being a good Buddhist, when I went to see the Dalai lama in person he said "we should work with our enemies because our goal as Buddhists is to obtain inner peace and practice control and compassion, so nothing makes it harder than working (or living) with your enemies"


thanks for your kind words and support.  I know I have a long road ahead of me.  One stone at a time I guess.   (((hugs to you too and namaste)))

The Dalai Lama also said "all life is sacred, except mosquitos!"  just a little Buddhist humor!!  :)

Wonderful post

This was a wonderful post and it made a great deal of sense to me as the non-ADD spouse.  I too get frustrated that I've spent (what seems like) more time trying to understand him vs. the other way around.  Then I remember, he lives in the world that generally operates and appreciates the way I think and act.  It has a way of making him feel "less than" and therefore when I ask, "did you put the dogs out?  Did you shut the lights out?  Did you close the front door?" he's offended.  All I'm doing is voicing the checklist I've created in my head, he feels like I'm checking up on him.  Often I come downstairs and find the lights on, door open, and dogs in.  So he gets pissed, but I'm right.  It's like dealing with a 14-year-old and he throws up resistance to things that just seem contrary. 

So I feel like I walk a line of checking and not making him feel inadequate.  If he were my 11-year-old daughter I'd create an evening check list that he could follow... which incidentally our daughter needs and uses.  He balks at the idea, but lacks the structure in his own head.  I'd like to record some of our evenings to play back for him so he can just see what I see.  If it weren't so insulting (and invasive) I would.

I Understand

I know how you feel and I am the same way.  He hates it that I have to remind him of things so much.  I have tried the list, but he forgets to look at it and the things don't get done anyway.  We were just talking about this last night and he was explaining to me the way his head works.  He would say "You know how you plan everything in your head and then someone changes the plan"  I tried to explain to him that I don't see things that way.  I though about this later and feel so bad for him, but I choose not to baby him about it. 

Yesterday, he was going out to the garage and had his mind made up about what he was going to do.  On his way out, I asked him if he would put something in my car so I wouldn't have to do it in the morning before I left for work.  Because it wasn't planned in his head, we got into this big discussion about it and he still did it wrong.  All because he hadn't planned for it in his head and had something else on his mind, it was the worst thing that I could have asked him to do.  I let it go and later in the evening, is when I asked him if there was some way that I could ask him to do things, without making him uncomfortable about changing his mind set.  I avoided a confrontation with him because of the way I worded my question.  I am trying everyday to think more in his head.  I know that it is so hard for him, and the love I have for him just makes me want to make things better for him.  By no means am I enabling him, but helping him to realize how hard it is for me.  He is very open minded about the ADD and Menieres that he has, and is working so hard at trying to make himself better.

I would say to you, keep doing what you are doing.  It sounds like you love him very much, and that is the way that he, and you, will survive.  I hope that he is learning how to cope with his ADD and seeing a counselor, but if not, maybe get him a book to read that will help him see how your mind works.  If he can understand that, then he may be able to work harder at doing his part.  Take care and know that I am with you on this matter, but leaving him is not an option....at least for me.

You are not being ridiculous!

No Sir, you are not being ridiculous.   You and most of us have developed ways to make our lives better, more efficient and "routine" for what needs to be routine.   There is nothing wrong with that and don't let someone tell you that you are being "abnormal" for thinking this way.   I am the non ADHD spouse and my wife routinely leaves things (hers and mine) in different places.   For a long time I thought she was doing it on purpose as we had also discussed this.   It continued.   Locating things you need when you are half asleep, or car keys in the am, cell phone, cell phone charger, etc... are needs you need to have under control.  If someone else disorganizes your life so it becomes out of control, things get worse.   Not only is her life a mess, yours becomes one also and you become more and more frustrated.   It is NOT a control thing to want to have an organized life.   It is a need you have and one that (as I found out) is not high on the list of concerns of a ADHD person.   It may not be their fault, but it ends up causing havoc in your life.   When your spouse devaluates your needs as unreasonable, unrealistic, you have a person who has crossed the line and does not understand your needs.   How to stay organized without treating your ADHD partner like a child in training is the difficult question.   I do not have an answer other then "seek a good counselor who is knowledgeable in ADHD to help you.   You cannot manage every part of her life.   You cannot also make her feel like she is a child.   It's a catch 22 situation where what ever you say and do is not going to go well.  I completely get how you feel when you are belittled, laughed at, criticized for having good reason to do things a certain way.   I get that as it has happened to me regularly, so much that I started not saying anything anymore.   You will need to find a good counselor to help you NOT become so frustrated your marriage will fall apart like mine has.  Speaking from four years of experience.   Good luck to you.