I'm an ADHD husband and I'm slightly uncomfortable posting here b/c so many of you have so much frustration with your ADHD husbands. Please understand from the outset that I acknowledge my ADHD and struggle with it every day. I work with my wife to limit the damage as much as I can (giving up my computer games for several months, password protecting the TV set) and try to create habits that are helpful (dishes / counters / laundry). I am ADHD-PI -- primarily inattentive. In fact, I think I have a completely different form of ADHD called "sluggish cognitive tempo" which is just beginning to be studied as a separate disorder. But the symptoms may sound family to many of you: difficulty with motivation, constantly changing interests, spotty adherence to household chores, severe trouble maintaining employment, neglecting important household projects, addictive behavior to stimulating activities like computer games.
My wife runs a business out of her home and I only work a few hours a week. She has been incredibly supportive with me and it was her idea for me to apply for disability. I'm very grateful for the patience and love she has shown me; I honestly don't know how she does it. We love each other, and have been through some really terrible times -- almost always my fault -- and we are still learning to work together.
Now to my point:
Christmas, like any gift-giving holiday with my wife, has turned into another disaster. She loves giving gifts, and she spends days and weeks looking for just the right thing for everyone on her wish list. I, on the other hand, am terrible about giving gifts. There are a whole complex of issues with gifts for me, but the ADHD components are:
- I have trouble keeping my antennae up throughout the year to catch "the right gift" when it comes up.
- I have a lot of trouble putting the energy into LOOKING for gifts if I haven't already found one. Going to the mall and looking for presents is torturous for me and even getting in my car to get there is some sort of Triumph of the Will. Even shopping online sometimes keeps slipping to the bottom of my long and yellowed to-do list.
- Once I do get to a store, my brain kind of shuts off and I get gifts that aren't "good gifts." I know "it's the thought that counts" but it is discouraging to have to return jewelry -- as I once did. We tried to have fun doing it and we picked out something she liked together, but it really made me anxious about buying jewelry for her (definitely not looking for jewelry advice by the way). Even before that experience, I'm always second-guessing myself about gifts and I get very anxious.
- Because of my ADD, I don't work very much and have very limited income.
- Since I can't spend money on extravagance, I spend a lot of time thinking about things I could do FOR her, which for a normal person would be incredibly sweet and awesome, but for me just turns into a reason to procrastinate; I almost never do any of the wonderful things I've planned.
My wife and I have been through this mill for five years; almost every birthday, anniversary, valentine's day and Christmas. I totally understand why she feels the way she does. The gift-giving and effort is extremely unbalanced. I've offered to just not give gifts, but that's not satisfactory for her. She likes to give gifts and the exchanging of gifts is so very important to her. She said she wants to create memories. Unfortunately for us both, the memories are mostly of tears and raised voices.
We're at an impasse now. We've had our annual Christmas fight. I listened to her feelings, validated what I was hearing, and told her it was completely understandable to feel the way she did. Then she started talking about my inability as a choice and I yelled at her that she didn't understand and stormed off leaving her as I found her -- crying on the couch. I feel like turds but I don't really know how to cope when a really life-crippling failure being prodded like that by someone I love.
It seems to me that what needs to happen is:
- I get better about presents and planning.
- She gets better at understanding my problem and not taking it personally as a sign that she isn't loved.
- We get better at talking about the issue without it dragging into a long-running, regularly scheduled relationship killer.
I feel like point 1 (my getting better) is the one I should have the most control over, but after a lifetime of exactly the same problem, I'm not holding out much hope.
Your feedback and experiences are welcome -- even if you're pissed as hell about your husband for the same thing. It would be nice to know we're not the only ones.