How do I support my ADHD Wife?

I see lots of comments from persons with ADHD in this forum about how in order for real change to take place, the person with ADHD needs support from his/her partner/spouse.  That criticism, judgment, and even just waiting silently will contribute to the person with ADHD's feeling like a TOTAL FAILURE.

My question for those with ADHD - what does support look like to you?  What are some specific things I can do to show support to my wife.  When I ask her, she says "less criticizing and controlling.  More compliments."

That sounds good, but when I give her compliments, she immediately dismisses them.

So, I'm looking for other suggestions.



ask what kind of compliments

My ADD husband also dismisses most compliments, but not all of them.  If I say "wow, you fixed that?  I thought it was impossible!" he beams.  If I say, "you're looking extra cute today" he makes a face and says nothing.  My particular spouse likes compliments for things he does, not things he is.  You need to either ask or experiment, to see what kinds of compliments mean something to her.  If you're not sure when you are "criticizing" or "controlling" ask her to gently point it out to you when it happens.  (don't ask for examples from the past -- nobody can remember unpleasant events accurately, especially not when they are hurt or upset.)  And you don't deny or distort when it's pointed out, just say, okay thanks, that's helpful.  If you ever had to take sexual harassment training at work, remember the intent vs. impact discussion?  It doesn't matter if you don't intend to criticize, if it feels like criticism, it might as well be.  If you really don't agree something is criticism, ask if there is a way you can say what you said that wouldn't be received as criticism. If my opinion you are on the right track by asking her what support looks like to her.  


Yes, I have asked for her to tell me when I say something that feels like criticism to her, but that is hard for her to do.  So I now try asking her, when she responds in a crabby tone, or with an eye roll, or whatever "You seem annoyed by what I just said."  Some times she acknowledges it, sometime not.  If she does, then I willask "So how might I have said that differently?"  Her response is usually "I don't know" or "Just don't say it."  I'm still trying, though!  :-)

summerwine's picture

Give her compliments any way.

Give her compliments any way. It's hard to say thank you. It's still a complement. Other things ... say thank you a lot and please. Lots of hugs. Be like a cheerleader and not a parent. High fives and pats on the back. Instead of saying "don't do this like this" say "It was awesome when you did this like this". Letting her vent about her fears and feelings and stuff about having ADHD or a bad day or PMS. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Believing her when she says something is hard. Being encouraging and not condeming?


Yes, I still try to give compliments whenever I think of them.  Saying thanks you. And I have been also giving more kisses and hugs.  I am still waiting for the opportunity to say "If you do x right now I'll give you a big kiss and tell you how awesome you are!"  :-)

An aside on my saying thank you.  When I thank her for following through on doing something she said she would do, I usually just say "Thank you for doing that honey."  Her response to is usually "I said I would do it" in a "there's no need to really thank me because I only did what I said I was going to do" manner.  How do I communicate to her, that that's EXACTLY what I'm thanking her for, without her hearing it as "because we both know you usually don't do what you say you are going to do."

Re: H4M

I know when I say "no need for thanks" I am not saying  it because "I know I usually don't".  Personally I say it because my thoughts are "no thanks required I am doing what I expect of myself or was expected of me."

I will admit I have a hard time accepting praise because I know we ADHD'ers are easy to falling to the "whew, I did it and now I am done" mentality.  Throwing us back into the inconsistency cycle instead of keying up for the next time it needs to be done.

In some cases (especially if it is a task that has been a sticking point of contention) hearing the appreciation just further calls out how "deficient" I am or was in that area.


All of the above are not my wife's issues or anyone else they are mine.  Praise in a true form is simply an act of kindness.  It is on me to take it that way or keep my mouth shut until I can process it accurately.

Just some insight into one ADHD'ers ideas.

My husband seems to thrive on

My husband seems to thrive on many ADHDers do. It is really interesting to read that some of you don't necessarily expect it or 'enjoy' it, for a lack of a better word. I think it can, if the receiver has the wrong attitude, be taken as 'parenting' or the sender being condesending. I had several opportunities to thank my husband yesterday...he was really trying and I appreciated it. I did thank him for the things I thought of, before I went to bed, but forgot a couple of other things. It is hard to get into the habit.

Ironically...and it just dawned on me reading this thread...he is ALWAYS thanking me for everything...dinner, getting his favorite foods at the grocery store, laundry, and even sex. I have never really felt 'comfortable' with it and have even told him "don't thank me for sex" because it felt like him saying I was doing it as a favor to him or something. I guess it is all in how you look at the true meaning behind thanking someone. I am trying to broaden my view on it a bit and see it as simply a way of expressing gratitude for a kind gesture...or him doing something so that I don't have to (taking out the trash is a good example). 



As an ADD-partner, I remember receiving so many praises and compliments from my non-ADD partner at the beginning of our relationship, "you so beautiful" "you are perfect in every way". I deflected a lot of these comments because 1) A low self-esteem questions whether they are true, 2) I knew they were not specific enough to be able to back it up with evidence, 3) the intentions of trying to figure out the other person in a new relationship makes you question their intentions, and 4) making a positive observations, when so much of modern culture likes to point out what's wrong, feels as though the other person is trying to make up, compensate, or intentionally find something nice to say, which can come off as seeing the other person as phony or contrived. 

Now that our relationship is in the gutter, I crave contrived compliments, just to know that something, anything, I do is good enough for him. I never hear those things, or even positive "thank yous" "pleases" and "great job!"s of cleaning dishes, taking initiative on organizing or fixing something broken that accompany everyday performance issues. I love positive reinforcement, even if I don't know how to respond to it and my replies to a compliment come out awkward. We're just not used to hearing it, so we can read into it more. To make a concerted effort to focus on a task (that other's take for granted or do naturally), we with ADHD have to work "overtime" or spend "extra" mental effort to accomplish it. If we were in a job, we'd expect our employer to say "thank you" with paying us time and a half. However, we with ADHD don't see the compensation when working against our natural tendencies, for ourselves, in particular (we are maybe a little more modest than the average individual), but when we do something on behalf of others, I think it deserves recognition. I was raised in a household where my mother made me write thank you notes for every birthday and holiday gift I received, even if it was "expected". My partner wasn't raised as such. I still can't help but feel as though I'm "owed" something when I don't receive a compliment, even though I put away his clothes, cleaned his dirty dish, scraped the ice off his car, organized his papers, pulled myself away from my consuming work to sit and watch TV with him. When I spend so much time tending to my own insecurities and the weight of duty on my ADD shoulders (not selfishness, just personal overwhelm), these golden acts of altruism, however rightful and just signs of love, need to be reinforced. At some point, people stop working if they don't get paid!

summerwine's picture

How about just telling her

How about just telling her that you're making an effort to show appreciation for the little things and not taking her for granted? We women love that stuff! It sounds like being defensive it like her automatic response. I totally get that. When you're woman with ADHD everyone is always judging you and not in a nice way. So I totally understand why she responds to compliments and thanks with I would have done that anyway! Ha my son says that too. Must be an ADHD thing? Anyways I would just say something like "I know you would have and I'm thanking you. I am showing appreciation for the little things. You are awesome" Can you tell I wish I was told that I am awesome more often? Just keep smashing through the defensiveness with approval.