how to communicate

ADHD spouse is at parents' house for long weekend.  He has been going almost every week for a year; he helps them out.  I have expressed my desire for spouse to communicate with me periodically while he is gone.  Occasionally, he does.  This weekend, Thursday to today, one communication; he sent me a picture of the beets he cooked for his parents for supper.

What is the ADHD-appropriate way to communicate to my husband that his not communicating bothers me?  It seems that if I say anything, I am nagging; if I say nothing, he assumes that all is A-OK.  If I say that I feel sad and lonely when he doesn't communicate with me, he says that this makes him feel guilty (and I've been told repeatedly that guilt paralyzes his brain and thus his ability to do anything).  Any tips on this situation?  

Pbartender's picture

You could try this... In a

You could try this...

In a nutshell:  No matter what he sends, in his way he's made an effort to contact you.  Respond to it.  Let him know you appreciate the effort.  Don't focus on what he did wrong (though mention it, if you feel you need to).  Encourage what he did right.  Give respectful, helpful suggestions and prompts*** for doing it better.  Don't worry about what he's talking about, but be glad that he's talking.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.  And try to cut him just a little slack if he doesn't get it perfect right away or every time. Even with ADHD, if he's got half a brain, he'll figure it out eventually.

I've seen my wife do this sort of thing on her better days and even if she's being rather blatant about it, it's surprisingly encouraging.  I've been trying it with my autistic son, who has similar ADHD-like problems with social interactions, and it's worked wonders.

It's not about what my wife says, but how she says it.  Changing the tone and tenor of what you're saying can make all the difference in the world.  Remember, just like you've got ingrained frustrations from expectations about him built on years of experience, he's got them too.  So, just like we've got to change our behaviors in a positive way and keep it up long enough for you to change your expectations, so do you.  He's expecting you to nag him not doing it, to complain about what he's not doing right, and to lay a guilt trip on him about how it makes you feel.

Throw him for a loop, and do exactly what he isn't expecting of you.  Make yourself do it for an entire long weekend...  then try to keep it up every weekend, doing it one weekend at a time.  Eventually, it'll become your new habit.  Hopefully, he'll start noticing that you've changed your habits and join in with positive changes from his side.  Even if he doesn't catch on, you will be a better person and feel better about yourself, because you will no longer be in the habit of responding negatively.

I know, I know, it feels like you have to cater to his delicate emotions and sensibilities, and there's no guarantee he'll actually get the hint, but...  This is EXACTLY how the more successful ADHDers among us do it.  And for those of us who have spouses who don't care or don't understand or have given up, it's the ONLY way to start making things better, even on the smallest scale.

All that aside, I think part of this sort of thing could simply be being out of practice with social conversations...  I know I sometimes feel like I could use a tutorial and some practice at it.  With the ADHD, it's easy (for me, at any rate) to want to talk to someone, but be a complete loss about what to say or how to say it, because I'm missing out on the cues to point me in the right direction.

In those instances (especially over long distances), I've been teaching myself to begin with something along the lines of, "There's really not much going on here, but I just wanted to say 'Hi' and see how you were doing."  That's usually enough to get my wife (or mother, or sisters, or brothers... I tend to have a fairly garrulous family) going, and I can sort of follow her lead from there.

***Such as:

  • "Thanks for dropping me a line tonight.  It meant a lot to me."
  • "I'd love to hear from you again tomorrow."
  • "The beets look delicious, but how are you doing?"
  • "Tell me about what happened today...  was there anything exciting?"



I agree with PB

You could try to initiate communication as well.  Perhaps respond to the beet photo with a photo of your own weekend activity?  If he's with his parents, they may require a lot of attention...

When I am away from my husband or he's away, it's often very hard for me to call him because i've got my hands full with the kids.  I know he likes to say goodnight to them and he gets upset if I forget to call... but honestly, when i'm struggling with the kids and so desperate for sleep myself, it's hard to remember to call, and when they're being oppositional, cranky and fighting, it seems to me to be the WORST time to call... however, what I told him was that if I don't call him during 'bedtime' that HE should call US so that they don't go to bed without saying goodnight.  I'm not TRYING to prevent him from saying goodnight, I simply forgot, or even if all the while during a temper tantrum i'm saying to the kids, "ok, let's say goodnight to Daddy!" it's not always successful.

My (Non-ADD) DH will not communicate with me at all other than wanting to say goodnight to the kids when we are apart.  Even if I send him messages asking him about logistical stuff, I will usually get no response.  If I sent a photo of beets I cooked for someone, it would definitely get no response.  If I email with something needing an immediate answer, I'll get a very brief response.  I try not to read into it - I guess simply because he's 'normal' and I'm not.

I try to not read anything

I try to not read anything bad into it.  And then my husband will say, when he's home, "have you heard from our daughter?  I texted her twice and she didn't respond."  (This, after husband was gone four days and didn't respond to any of my five or so messages that dealt with family matters.)  Or, I'll notice that he didn't respond to or initiate any communication but he did post videos on Facebook.  

I've pretty much given up hope for my relationship.  I'm not angry, except at myself, for being a smart woman who has done stupid things.

Pbartender's picture

The tempting reply would be...

And then my husband will say, when he's home, "have you heard from our daughter?  I texted her twice and she didn't respond."  (This, after husband was gone four days and didn't respond to any of my five or so messages that dealt with family matters.)

The tempting reply would be...  "I don't know...  Have you heard from my husband?  I texted him five times and he didn't respond."  ...with a wink and a smile and big old raspberry.



I feel it the other way around.

I am the one with ADHD. I getting check out. I doing everything to improve. I am not on meds yet. I'm taking a lot of the steps. I know I have it, But not that bad. My wife shuts me out on any of it. She only read a little of books and then give up. I just waiting to see the Dr. She will not talk about anything of it with me. I'm taking the step in the book with schedule and stuff like that. She has family members that have ADHD, But she don't have it. Everything turn mono tone when I finally said yes I'm getting check out. She turn cold. Really cold. She the one who beg for years. Then when I take it very serious she withdraw. She the one who got the books. Books came in and I read them twice. I been reading posts on this site. Lots of these ADHD spouse have wonderful Spouse's that work with them. Some of the posts could of been written my my wife. I changed many things about me. Why is she withdrawn. It was kind of better when I did not believe I had it. It is like she holding back her love for me now. She never been like that before. I been trying to fix things. It is like she don't care. I am working out and losing weight. We are going on dates. I give her flowers every week. She never want to talk deep about anything like love. I have to say I love you first, because she will never say it. She don't come to me for hugs like she used to. She say she need to feel it and she can't just turn it on and off like people that have ADHD. It was not like like that before. I doing everything in the book myself. I trying to place steps in place before I go on meds.  I'm seeing a therapist and have a appointment with the doctor. They are book up and my appointment a month away. Yes when I look up ADHD and marriage I had a ah ha moment. She says I have it, But she will not do any of the steps with me. I am placing a lot of good habit. I doing everything. I can't reach her. It's like she the one with ADHD. I taken on a lot more stuff. It is like she in a cave. I have a great job. I don't go from to job to job. I been there for a long time. People say there no way I have ADHD. But I know better. I am the best in the my company. None of this stuff happen the week before I said Yes honey you are right. In the past when she said me you have ADD, I would say bull crap. I did not know what it was. I thought kids only have it. I sometime think it was better not knowing.

Getting better

Any non ADHD relate.

I need to know if any non ADHD people closed off to spouse. I need advise. I do not know what to do. Please I need advise. I know I kind of been clingy. She says she needs to think. Someone please tell me straight. It is it like she emotional divorce me. I have a 17 kid with her. I do not want to give up. I going to keep working on myself. I feel so hurt. Should I go to a law office and prepare for divorce. Just somebody give me a answer. If I am being a tool or what. I do not care if the response is hard. Maybe I need to be knock into shape. This is helping get things out by writing. I am also doing a online journal for my thoughts and feeling. I am awake to all ADHD stuff. 

barneyarff's picture

HI GB I typed a reply, let it


I typed a reply, let it sit and reread it to make sure it was ok.  Hit send and it's disappeared into the ethernet.  These "newfangled" computer boxes are frustrating.    :)   I'll try again.

I'm emotionally divorced from my DH for many reasons including:

1)  I can't swing a dead cat anywhere in the house without hitting some mess he's left out

2)  the experts have told me all kings of things *I* should do to change or things *I've* done wrong.  (Thanks for the guilt) And even when I do what the experts tell me I'm supposed to do, it doesn't help.

3)  My DH whines a bunch about how he's trying to change yet after 2 days of doing what every other adult on the planet does as part of the daily routine, he expects a medal and lots of TLC, etc.   Never mind that for years and years his behavior has been, um, otherwise.   I'm tired of falling for it, again.  It wears me out. 


So  I suggest that

For 3 months, day in and day out without fail.........

You pick up everything last thing you have have out and put it away properly

Pick one annoying habit you have (overspending, being late, watching TV instead of talking to her, etc) that really bugs your wife and STOP DOING IT without expecting a medal, M&Ms or gold stars

Don't whine about how *hard* things are for you.   Geez, here's an example of whining.  My MIL whined to me about how hard it was to swallow a pill and it gave her great anxiety.  She ended by saying "I didn't sign up for this"  Of course at the time I was laying in bed recovering from shingles that I got because my immune system was low because I had a life threatening illness which had caused me to have  had horrific surgeries, and procedures over the last year.  I didn't feel too sympathetic.  So, if you whine about how "Hard" it is to remember to close the refrigerator door (or whatever your issue is) I bet your wife wants to roll her eyes.

Good luck.  Don't whine.

hitting "send" again


Thank you

It is the doors in the kitchen the get left open. Thank you. Feel free to be hard on me. I need it. I know your hubby don't listen, But I do. If I can learn more and how will be a blessing. I write down almost everything she say and work on them. We have things plan all the way out to January. I have better reminders in place. I don't think we have it as bad as some with ADHD. She has said trust issues. I do believe her. People tell me how it is. I promise I will listen. Do not hold back. If I'm being little Bit__.  Trying to get her to relax. I will get better and change. I don't expect a medal. Thank you



Sister and her son have it

My wife sister has it and her son. I talk to her and she said it go away in women when they get older. The son takes meds and is having many issues. I also to her and husband about issues with ADHD. Told about this site.

Oh, how I wish that were true!

The belief that "it goes away in women when they get older."  I think what really happens is women are FORCED to function better in adulthood if they have children/families/husbands who depend on them.  Generally speaking, women are the ones who organize the household, do most of the childcare or a least ORGANIZE the childcare, cooking, shopping, laundry, cleaning,doctor's appointments etc. etc....  It may appear to outsiders that because a person does all these things that the ADD has 'gone away'. 

For some lucky women (and men) I suppose it can somehow vanish.  For this woman:  Not so.... alas....

I do all the cooking, cleaning, and 85% of the childcare.  I have 6 part time jobs now, and I bring my 3 year old to one of them so I don't have to inconvenience my husband or spend money on a sitter.  I take the car to get inspected/fixed.  I move it twice a week and sit in it (with the 3 year old) because we can't afford to park it in a garage, reminded my husband the other day that we needed to renew DD's passport or we wouldn't be able to visit his family for xmas...  I had been trying to find a time when we could do it (both parents and child have to go together) and had even obtained an application and taken my daughter to have photos taken.   Oh - and I'M the one who reminds my husband to check his fly before he leaves home.

sounds like I'm normal, right? WRONG!

all of these mundane tasks require a monumental effort (not to mention enough adderall to kill an elephant) on my part.  I am exhausted ALL OF THE TIME.  Yes - I was proud of myself for remembering on the morning of the last possible day we could get the passport done that I'd remembered... And I was proud of myself for getting the photos done ahead of time.... proud that is, until I couldn't FIND them.  I'd put them in a special place, you see.....  a place where they couldn't get misplaced, right?  Only.... I couldn't remember WHERE THE F*CK that place is.  So, we had to go to the post office and get a new set of photos done (which took less than 5 minutes, since they used the first shot they snapped) and we were right there anyway and could get the application processed too.  So although it was quick and easy & we will get the passport on time (which we wouldn't have had I not reminded my husband about it) the takeaway lesson from the morning was, "Ellamenno once again lost something and we had to pay for a replacement. Thus, the day is ruined and there is cause for great sighing, scowling and general malaise for the whole weekend......AND WHY THE ARE ALL THE KITCHEN CABINET DOORS OPEN?!?!??"

these are the times when i'd like to say, "yes, the cabinet doors are open.  but the dishes are clean. everything is put away. the beds are made. your clothes are clean and put away.  the kids clothes are clean and put away.  the floors are clean. I've prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner, the bathrooms are clean, I mailed the rent check, deposited 2 of my paychecks, I baked the cupcakes for the bake sale at DD's school.... and all of these tasks I accomplished while you sat on the couch playing with your iPad and/or watching a football game and you never had to lift a finger to do any of it, so why are you so angry about the cabinet doors??? And by the way:  YOUR FLY IS DOWN!!!!!!!!!

I do not say any of this though.  because that would be 'whining.'

Are there ADDers who are blissfully unaware of their shortcomings and are 'happy enough' and gliding along through life unaware of the hatred coming from their spouses?  Beats me.  I am neither blissful nor unaware of my spouse's anger toward me.

And for the poster who wrote about the mother in law who whined about taking a pill... um.... how did she get through childbirth?



I'm impressed by all that you

I'm impressed by all that you get done, even if your husband isn't. 

In regard to your final comment, though, there are people who get through childbirth without taking pills.  If they have to.  Because by the time they ask for pain relief, they're told that it's too late in the process and they can't have any.  (Yes, that was me with the second child.)  

Nobody believes me at work

Nobody believes me at work that I have ADHD. I control lots of stuff at once. Never needed to write stuff down. Sometime on my hands or bathroom mirror for stuff.  One way is use my workers or my spouse as reminder. Like my wife. Always ask what about this and that. People are like calendars to me. I use them to remind me of stuff and they do not know it. I am a great communicator. I learn how motive people to do great thing. Even In the back of my mind I could not do them. I even motives my bosses to change there thinking. We are set up in business to break even. Write offs and stuff. Well, 4 out the 5 years I made a profit. Nobody in my part company has ever made. First manager to get a bonus in ten years. As you can see I am not a great writer or spelling. But I do have issues. I worry a lot. People do not see it. I am a bold actor. I can make look like I am in control, But inside I am a wreck. Everyone is like a friend at work. I have great relationships with people. Even people I have fired keep in touch with me. They always say that they knew where they stand with me. Many say that I am best boss they ever had. They all say I have heart and care about them. Things are in place at work. Nothing's out of order. Now if seen how I drive and all stuff I do at at home. One of my workers has a husband that has ADHD really bad. Sitting and talking to her I ask if husbands does this and that and that. I was asking about the things I do without her knowing. But he is way out there. She said yes to this and yes to that. She did not know That I have it. One  thing that piss off is when someone say everyone has a little ADHD. People do not understand. People would never believe me that I am like this. I feel like a fake. They always say how can that be. You control so much. You never late and you get things done. The big part is the people that are around me. They are the one really doing the work. I just direct, teach and coach them and I love numbers. Ask my wife and a different story at home. She see doors left open. 10 projects around house not done. Missed placed stuff. The season salt in fridge and so on. The trust issue and not doing what I said I would. Trust things would get done. I have never cheated. Forgetting stuff. So yes my wife is a big part in success in my life. I did not see the affect ADHD has. That is the most important relationship. Reading these post have help me me very much.












So you have been together many years, and in one "aha" moment, you think she should forgive and forget? It sounds like she put up with your behavior a long time before SHE gave up. Now, if you are serious, it's YOUR turn to try to understand HER. You need to think in terms of "years" when you are trying to get your relationship back on track.

Sounds like you are doing a lot of great things to try and turn things around, but you probably have a lot of "proving yourself to her" that needs to be done before the trust can be rebuilt and she believes you have really changed permanently. You need to earn her trust back. Quit talking about divorce and give her time. The good  things you are doing need to become permanent in your life before you can expect any rewards.

thank you

I needed to hear that. The change will be permanent. There no way I want to split. I know I do have a lot of proving to do. I know thing are different. How I act and stuff. I see it now. I was shocked. I know I'm trying to hard. I am impatient. I trying to rewrite to wrongs. Most of it is focus and nervous. I know we love each other. lynnie thank you. I been trying to look at all aspects.

A positive read for me :)

I want to commend you on your efforts as someone with ADD to try to improve your relationship!!!  My boyfriend has ADD and the one thing I am missing the most is the things you mention you are doing to improve things.  I have mentioned many times to him that I am missing the, dates etc.  I could live with the rest of it if he could just make me feel special again.  I crave him and miss the man he was when we first met.  I can't help but feel he is just not interested.  We have talked about it many times and I get "I understand what you need honey" but nothing ever happens.   So he understands but just doesn't want to or doesn't think of me?  Either way, its killing me. :(  Its all very confusing and every time we talk about it, it seems he withdraws more......sigh....   I just don't know what to do.   

You are doing an awesome job, don't give up :)

barneyarff's picture

I too, feel like a smart

I too, feel like a smart woman to has done stupid things.

As for complaining because the daughter didn't text this guy back, I've got to tell you, I've noticed with my ADHD hubby, if anyone treats him like he treats others (being late, leaving a mess, not calling) he gets furious.

When I remind him that he does those things, he huffs and puffs and says "That's different"