How to Remember Agreements When ADHD is Involved

Do you fight over whether or not you agreed to something in the past?  Or perhaps you're a non-ADHD partner frustrated that your ADHD partner doesn't seem to remember your conversations?  If so, I would like to suggest a simple solution that will help you avoid these fights.

Each time you have an important conversation that includes an agreement, write down that agreement in a journal.  You don't have to write a ton of details, but agreeing what you will write down will help you distill the idea to its essence.  In addition, the journal can be a place that an ADHD partner who suffers from short-term memory problems can refer to when suddenly faced with "what was it i was going to do again???"

Then, when you come upon a disagreement about what you agreed to, you can refer to the journal.

But that's NOT the end of the story.  Nothing says that just because you agreed to something in the past means you MUST do that thing.  You may have changed your mind - perhaps something has changed since you last talked.

The importance of the journal is not about keeping the agreement static and unbending. The importance of the journal is that you don't WASTE TIME arguing about whether you agreed to something or not.  What you agreed to is in the journal.  Now you can ask yourselves the more important question, which is "where are we today on this issue, and what do we do next?"  Your conversation changes from the unproductive "he said/she said" fight into the more productive "making a plan."  And, when making that plan, you have a reminder of how you felt about the ideas "back whenever" so you can use that as a starting place if you wish...or not.


Remembering agreements and conversations

Discussions between my ADHD husband and I nearly always dissolve into a banal screaming match about who actually said what. I have noticed that more often than not he 'switches' his opinion or tactic partway through a 'discussion' then tells me it was me that said this or that not him. It is absolutely time wasting, hurtful, confusing and tiring. I have tried to suggest that we should possibly make a recording of important discussions so that these long-winded side tracks can be avoided, but he says he feels that insults his intelligence. I have also made a point of writing things in my diary so that less time is wasted on stupid arguing when important decisions need to be made efficiently, but again he tells me that it's a direct criticism of his intellect. I have attempted to take on board much of the advice on this forum, but am having difficulty in applying it in my family. I long ago realised that I need to simply run the house without much help as any requests are received as criticism (which I know stems from a childhood of low self esteem etc). We made agreements in the past about who can handle what in the running of the house and the raising of our children, and who was happy to do what, but it got to the point of him accusing me of 'making things up' and writing them in my diary. I'm not sure anymore if he actually doesn't remember these things or if its another mechanism he has developed to remove any responsibility from himself.

Another example is his psychologist appointments. After many years of fighting, struggling, depression, etc I finally facilitated some help that we could afford. In the beginning and leading up to it he was aware that the point was to work out some management strategies for his wellbeing, the sake of harmony in the house and to attempt to save our floundering marriage. But now I'm confused again - he comes home from each appointment with "My psych said this" and "My psych said that" but always in a context that is psychoanalysing me instead of himself. After every appointment he goes through another nasty phase, insulting the whole family and blaming me and saying that I'm not doing anything to fix our situation. He believes I need to see someone too, because in his opinion my frustration and sadness is me not coping with life - with him - to which I remind him that he is seeing someone to work out ways of finding a middle ground of communication, a compromise in us making allowances for him and him making allowances for us dealing with him. Unfortunately no matter what is written down he is able to deny it at a whim and then we go round and round again. I know I am having trouble coping with the energy these fights take, and yes it definitely impacts on my wellbeing and my mood. But I am quite aware (as our children are) that we only feel drained and worthless when he is home. When he is away, the household returns to a happy place that flows well  - to the point that the children ask why life is so difficult when Dad is around.

Do I simply trust that things are 'working' when he is at his appointments and that his treatment of us afterward is a side effect that will eventually go away? (ie just part of his accepting things about himself) or do I enlist the help of the psych and explain that I feel his patient is missing the point? Our children have the same issue with him forgetting things he has agreed to do for them, so I suggested the writing down of these things. Unfortunately when the paper with the agreement gets brought out, he goes off at them for "being disrespectful as he is the parent and they are the children". I'll note here that this issue was another of my former 'agreements' with him that was written down - that it is not respectful or acceptable to speak down to the children and "put them in their place" as he refers to it. Particularly when they are simply seeking a clearer way of living and communicating too. We had several discussions before having children about our preferred methods of parenting, but whenever it gets challenging he reverts to 1950's ways (backed by his family) that I cannot allow as per our pre-children decisions. Now the children do not respect him as he rarely shows or verbalises any respect toward them as human beings. (Again this is something that he says is my doing and my fault).

Melissa, is it possible that denial can be so huge that nothing will help? My husband seems to find a way to wangle everything in his favour at the expense of the rest of us no matter how much we understand, accept, allow, change or learn about.


he will never change his thinking

Hi mandi.. 

I am fighting the same battle, we dont have children together (2nd time around for us both) Yes you need to get in touch with his therapist. It is absolutely no point for him to see anyone, if his attitude is not changing.

My partner was going to a therapist too, I called to ask a few questions myself, and found that he had not been turning up to his appointments and had  been gambling instead of going to his sessions...he said no-one was going to tell him how to run his life...he was in charge and that was that!

I have also run out of energy, we have a home-based business... its so hard trying to keep everything running and trying always to 'cover' and make excuses to clients, when he flips out and becomes abusive to them...having to put on a smiley face to customers everyday, when underneath I just want to scream at the world! I have lost the happy, sparkly me...I seem to be  a pretend person now...and I hate it. I never used to get angry or frustrated, I never had cause to, but now I feel annoyed that I feel the need to cover all this crap, and put on a front to everyone else....I am always anxious and walking on egg-shells, just waiting to see what the next DRAMA is going to be, and what I have done to be blamed for now.

He doesnt seem to take responsibility for any of his actions...when he offends people he just says that he has a mental illness and that its ok...I am sick of him being 'ok'...he is soooo far from it! He cant see that he is being perceived as a nasty vicious aggressive man, as that is what people see when he gets loud and righteous.