If you have ADD, I have a few comparison questions please

Ok many of you here know we are almost 5 years post-diagnosis with a very happy solid marriage.  We definitely have ADD impacts, but patience on both our parts as well as regular work, meds for my ADD-I husband, and coaching have made our challenges no worse than any other couple trying to navigate life when one is from Mars and one is from Venus....at least my assumption is that our issues are roughly the same based on what my friends complain about in their husbands :)


Trying to figure out if something is ADD related or not.  My husband and I discuss how something needs to be done.....for example (definitely not the most important example of this but it works for demonstration purposes) we have 2 small decorative shelves in our bathroom for all the detrius needed to get ready in the bathroom in the morning. His shaving cream, deoderant, hair gel, etc all go in one section and mine in another.  We have a large double sink and if things aren't put back, things start to look messy in a HURRY.  My husband usually fails to notice mess, so the goal is just to have the habit of putting stuff back on his shelf after using it.

He'll do well for a while, then he'll do crappy for a while and he doesn't seem to get himself back on track once things start to slide.  Please understand I KNOW that things slide for everyone and that we'll all have mornings when things don't go back.  My things never are off their shelf for more than a couple hours because we are in that bathroom many times through the day and if things get left down, I see them and put them up......not so much him.  So eventually when I get tired of dealing with the mess, or I get tired of putting his stuff back, I mention that the counter has been getting a little messy, and I will almost ALWAYS get a response similar to.....

"Hey I put my stuff back sometimes!"  Umm firstly, WTH??! since no one said you didn't, and secondly (and really my biggest issue) when did sometimes become the standard that we were going for?

Maybe it is "Hon, I have done the dishes every day for weeks, I think you need to refocus on helping in that area"  Response "I am pretty sure I did them a week ago Sunday"   Again firstly, whether you did or not, 'weeks' is still a correct term and what you did is no where near our deal as far as dishes and stuff.  And secondly, once in 2 weeks is NOT our agreement, so why are you acting like it is?!?!

Do I ever slip up and say, "you never do the dishes lately"  Sure I do, but honestly a good response to that is not "I did them 2 weeks ago"  I mean that is kinda proving my point, right?

If I say, he has been a really poor communicator and I'd like to work on our communication skills, I will often get a response like "I am better than most of our friends' husbands"  UMMM?!??!  #1--How would you know that since you are not there communicating with them.  And #2--based on my knowledge of what my friends say, he is probably right, BUT that is not the standard of our communication goals.  Sometimes it sounds to me like he is saying "I am not the worst communicator on earth.....or among our circle of friends.....so why would you complain about me?"  If I am angry at him, I will get the "I am a much better husband than a lot of husbands"--this is the one that sent me over the edge the other day.  You live in no one else's house, so how can you judge what kinda husband they are?  Again I think he is probably right........based on my reading he is better than many, many ADD-I husbands and I give him props for that,

But again it is sounding like he feels as long as he isn't the WORST husband, there should be no complaints.


So here is my question, when you are comparing your standard of doing things with what you imagine to be acceptable amounts, what is the standard in your head?

I get so frustrated with this logic that I sat him down and had a convo about it.......I am not sure he understood me.   I was VERY choosey about what man I picked to marry because I LOVED my life as a single person.  When he was trying to get me to go out with him (and risk our friendship) I actually told him flat out that he'd have to be pretty great to compete with how much I loved being single.  My standard was high.  Of course he is better than many husbands, if I wanted a lousy husband, that option is out there for people, you know?

I told him the standard for comparision should only be, is our life together better than the sum of its parts........if it isn't better than the lives we had single, then we need to fix things in my mind, but when I said this to him, he was like "I guess" but he couldn't/wouldn't clarify the confusion......and believe me we know when "i guess" really means "I do not agree but do not want to talk about this any more."

I am an admitted perfectionist and I am working on it.  But to me the obvious goal as far as putting your things back where they go would be 100% of the time, so if it was pointed out to me or I noticed on my own that my stuff was in the way, it is a quick "OOPS" and put it back. I would never defend that "sometimes" I do it right..........like DUH don't  we all?

My communication goal is to understand my husband and be understood by him, whenever that isn't happening, I would like to fix it and I couldn't care less if someone else is worse than we are....I ONLY CARE ABOUT US.  My goal as a wife is to be the best wife to ERIC that I can be. I want feedback from him so that I am not directing my efforts in ways he doesn't care about while ignoring what he does care about.  I give him that same feedback and I couldn't care less what kind of husband anyone else's husband is when it comes to our convos about it.

Does this make any sense?  Any insight into his thought process?


The best defense is a good offense

I get these exact same responses from my ADD husband. Word for word.   I used to ponder his position and check myself to see if I was being too demanding.  Then I eventually realized what he was doing was deflecting my words so he would not have to do what I needed - power play.  That is mean, not just forgetful.  Your points are exactly right and this is where our anger and frustration come in.  It is angering to be so dismissed AND manipulated by the person you must live with on a daily basis.  Not only live with but the 2 of you define who you are as a couple and it seems that fighting for the right to be messy AND unresponsive to promises and agreements negates everything you are trying to build together in the relationship - trust and faith and support.  "The best defense is a good offense" is what my husband says a lot.  It took a long while before I was able to accept that he is being offensive to me as a defense for his own disability/messiness/wanting to do things his way/not being told what to do. Whatever the reason, little battles like this can wear you down.  Don't be so compassionate with him that you lose your self and how you want to live.  We have a big house.  DH lives the way he wants to live (WAY below my standards).  I have my own areas where things are organized and put away.   I could tolerate his messy dirty ways if he was financially supporting us.  I would even clean and organize for him (like I did for decades when we were young and he had full time employment).  I feel like an idiot while he giggles sheepishly after not doing what he promised or tells me he's NOT SO BAD?  "I'M NOT A BAD PERSON" is an offensive response to a small request.  I don't like myself in this relationship.

I appreciate your response Jennalemon

and I have been considering it.  I think it is odd since you get the same word for word response that I get, that I don't think we are getting it for the same reason.  I say that because even though he does seem to do some 'deflecting' of what I am saying......at the very least minimizing what I am saying, it doesn't seem to be in any way a power play. 

I mean he isn't trying to get out of doing it since he will hop right to fixing whatever I am pointing out......just that while he is doing it, it seems like he wants to make sure I am aware that he isn't the worst man in the world at doing x, y, or z.  BAFFLING to me since I have never ever never claimed or treated him like he was.  I love him to pieces and while I do certainly have high standards, I chose him because he is a high quality guy, you know?


I thought this statement was interesting :   I feel like an idiot while he giggles sheepishly after not doing what he promised or tells me he's NOT SO BAD? Because in the past my husband's frequent response to a question about how something is........a food at a restaurant or something is....."It isn't too bad" and he actually thought that was a compliment whereas I thought it was one step up from saying, "I really don't like this and hope we never come back".  Sometimes maybe it really just is the word choice we use.  He is better than he used to be, but word choice isn't really his strongest suit!

And I really relate to this:   "I'M NOT A BAD PERSON" is an offensive response to a small request.  I know what you mean and I guess is part of why I overreact to it when my husband seems to be saying this to me, because I immediately jump to the point of "Why on earth would you think that I think you're a bad person for not putting your shaving cream back??!  Do you think I am some kind of awful witchy wife?"

My ADD responses...

My non-ADD husband and I don't have too many of these discussions about household stuff, but I totally identify with your husband's responses overall.

One perfect example would be husband says: "You have been getting into the office kind of late for a couple of weeks." My typical response would be "well I have been there late a few days this week, but last week I was there on time on Wednesday ..." My brain/impulse is to go IMMEDIATELY to the exception, or to diminish the offense, or to deflect in some other way taking responsibility. Now, I don't always SAY the exception/excuse, but I almost always THINK it, that is just where my mind goes... DEFENSE!!!!!!

Another similar situation would be that things have been going smoothly for a while, but then we'll have an episode/fight where the ADD impulse behavior, arguing, etc. flares up. When he comments on the flare up, I'll say something like, "but why are you getting so upset about it and jumping on me right away, because "things have been going so well..." His response is, well, if the car has been running well and then the motor falls out, we can't just keep driving because "the car HAS been running so well in the past." Basically, the issue/conflict needs to be addressed INDEPENDENTLY of how well I've been "behaving" in the past.

The comparison situation is common too, because I will say that I am soooo much better than I used to be, and that his standards are too high, or why can't he just relax a little bit and lay off or back off or whatever. Again, his reply, similar to yours, is that it doesn't MATTER what the standards of others are in comparison. And also similar to your responses, my husband WANTS to know what bugs me and he tries to fix it. And, if he does something that I've asked him not to do (e.g. leave the dishwasher open), he does apologize without excuses and says he'll try to do better.

One more thought on comparisons - I COMPARE EVERYTHING. I compare myself to EVERYONE (smarter, larger, tanner, smaller, blonder, more social, more "together," etc.) I don't know if that's a specific ADD trait, but I know it leads to a lot more "relativity" and "gray" than "truth" and "black & white." I have made great strides and am more rooted in reality now, but that is my natural "happy place" and my default if I'm not being self-aware. You and my husband's natural place is truth, black & white, your husband hasn't done the dishes in 10 of the last 14 days... seems pretty easy.... but I'm sure you've heard the ADD description of our timeframe either being NOW or NOT NOW, so especially with the conflicts regarding time that may also be at play...

As for your standards about what to expect, I understand what you are asking, it's just hard to answer... maybe because we're opposite gender/ADD couples. I think it might be harder for the ADD HUSBAND to "live up"(?) to the expectations of a non-ADD wife, especially how you described the way you were/are a perfectionist and were really happy with single life. Trying to wear the "man" hat for a moment, that would be intimidating for me without ADD, and then it's compounded WITH the ADD and our immediate compulsion to deflect and excuse.... which NOW adds a whole NEW layer of emotion/conflict/anxiety/avoidance than JUST not keeping the bathroom sink clean. Does that make sense?

By the way, I was diagnosed about 10 years ago, but then my Psych Dr. moved and I've just been getting refills on meds from my primary care dr. (non-stimulant... Strattera & wellbutrin). After a REALLY ROUGH past nine months with WAY more emotional/relationship turmoil that I caused (beyond the scope of this post for sure...), I am back at a new psych doctor and trying out some stimulant meds. It was only after finding this forum that my husband realized that I was likely on the wrong meds, and related to so many spouse stories, and also I realized that my husband was not unusually demanding and crazy, as I read other non-add spouse stories describing their situations... I guess my point is that my husband has endured almost 17 years of my ADD not being properly treated, so there is a CUMULATIVE build-up of frustration and emotion injected in MANY situations (e.g. household tasks) that would not normally be there had I been properly treated 10 years ago right after the diagnosis.

Hope that helps!!


THANKS szgrrl

I really feel like you have given me some valuable insights.  Question if you have time....

You said:  My brain/impulse is to go IMMEDIATELY to the exception, or to diminish the offense, or to deflect in some other way taking responsibility.  Is this because you feel attacked by your husband and his comments?  Or because all through your life you have felt attacked questioned by people in general?  I don't ever want my husband to feel like I am attacking him esp over something silly, but he has said before that he felt attacked and I have been BAFFLED as that was no where near where my mind was.  Course he has also told me he felt attacked and/or judged and upon honest reflection I have had to agree that there was some of that in my mood/tone.


Gonna definitely ask hubby if he generally compares himself to everyone.  I haven't ever gotten that vibe before, but then I wonder when he says thinks like he is a better husband than our friends' husbands or whatever.  I mean that is a defense that would never come to mind for me because what the heck diff would it make to my husband if I was a better wife than X if what I was doing was driving HIM crazy.  Relationships are just so individual.

I think it might be harder for the ADD HUSBAND to "live up"(?) to the expectations of a non-ADD wife, especially how you described the way you were/are a perfectionist and were really happy with single life. Trying to wear the "man" hat for a moment, that would be intimidating for me without ADD,

I am sure that you are right and he has a hard time living up to my expectations at times......pefectionists aren't exactly a treat all the time either, I know.  I do want to make it clear that I AM happier with him than as a single person, and I do think we both agree that together we are better than either of us was alone......like I didn't say that to him to say 'you better shape up cause I am thinking of dumping you for the single life'......NEVER crossed my mind.  Just that in my mind that would be the only comparison a married couple would make.  AM I HAPPIER WITH HIM THAN WITHOUT HIM......not do I cook more than the wife next door or whatever.  I mean who cares?  All that matters to me is that Eric is happy with me, but I don't get his comparisons especially when they also seem to be his defenses.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience!!!  It did indeed help and I wish you all the best in your ongoing treatment!

Answers to questions above

Hi Aspen - Glad you found the reply helpful... sometimes it's hard to articulate and the answers are in my brain, but it's hard to organize them cohesively :).

<<< You asked about my defense reaction: Is this because you feel attacked by your husband and his comments?  Or because all through your life you have felt attacked questioned by people in general? >>>

This is hard to answer. My husband would say that I do it because of my "shades of gray" upbringing, and everything in my family was always "fine" or "relative" or "whatever" and I didn't learn how to accept criticism. I think this is a big part of it, but I also can't visualize myself responding in this way to other people. Part of it is that we work together, so our lives are so intertwined that there is simply not another person who I interact with so intimately. If there WAS another person - good friend, co-worker, etc. who I was close to, then it might occur with them too.

The other aspect is that he does "push my buttons" and even though I don't *think* he's criticizing me to attack me (especially later on), it does feel like "yet another thing I'm NOT doing right" at the time that it happens. I'm pretty sure years of receiving the criticism (even if he doesn't mean to attack) have weakened my "rational response" mechanism AND probably diminished his "patience" mechanism when he delivers the criticism.

Another thing is that in OUR communication patterns, my husband has a dozen or so "trigger" phrases that I ABSOLUTELY HATE and when he uses them, any bit of rational thought I was having leaves the building. It is a PHYSICAL reaction with me, like I'm heating up and am going to explode. This is sort of off your topic, but at that point I really cannot deal rationally with the subject at hand. I think this is mainly MY problem because the emotion involved with me when it happens far outweighs the subject matter, but it is definitely at play.

<<< Not so much a question, but you ended with ... "but I don't get his comparisons especially when they also seem to be his defenses." >>>

I was thinking more about this after I replied yesterday. I think that "comparisons" are the way I measure myself and have always measured myself. ADD/ADHD folks tend to have poor self-perception. I have always had a difficult time judging the appropriateness of my actions. Just in the past few months I have gained insight on this forum and from other things I've read that questioned the "truth" I held so dear and desperately, all leading to the realization that what I thought was CERTAIN REALITY was maybe not what I thought. (And I'm almost 45)....

I guess my point is that if we (ADD folk) go through life with inaccurate self-perceptions, and all we really KNOW and understand is how we compare with others because that's our measure, then I'm probably going to hang on pretty tight to that "comparison method of self-assessment" because that is where my self-perception (i.e. self-WORTH) comes from. So, when someone challenges it (e.g. my husband, or you with your husband), that's maybe why we go to the defense comparison instead of, "oh, yeah... that is the TRUTH."

I'll have to chew on that some more, but that might give some more food for thought :).


Thanks for your perspective

szgrrl--thank you for your perspective and honesty in your reply!

"My brain/impulse is to go IMMEDIATELY to the exception, or to diminish the offense, or to deflect in some other way taking responsibility. Now, I don't always SAY the exception/excuse, but I almost always THINK it, that is just where my mind goes... DEFENSE!!!!!!" I don't think my DH would ever admit this to me--even though it's just stating what happens, not qualifying it as good or bad, he doesn't acknowledge anything like this going on in his mind.

What we encounter more, though, is not him pointing out the exceptions (that does happen here and there)--I get much more of the absolutes, as in, always or never. Example: my DH has some seedlings in bottles and containers in our kitchen window, which he waters in our kitchen sink. Last night, as he was watering them, I said "Hon, when you're finished, I would appreciate it if you rinse the dirt off the counters and out of the sink." He replied "I'm always careful about that." And I just can't say anything to this--I don't want to say, no, you're clearly not ALWAYS careful about this b/c if you were, I wouldn't have any reason to ask you to be more aware of it, right?

So I guess my question to you, if there's one buried here at all, is how would you prefer a situation like that to be handled? Do I need to approach it in a completely different way? I certainly don't want him to feel attacked, ever, but especially not by such a simple request.

We also have issues with him not accurately remembering when he's done something (like, cooking off meat for our dogs or stuff around the house)--he seems to think he does it more often and much more recently than is the case, so if either of us brings up the topic, he genuinely thinks he does it enough or helps out enough. I don't know how to begin to address this--it makes everything difficult b/c we can never just get at the issue. We need to first sort out who really does what and how often. I don't want to secretly keep track of when he does something vs when I do it b/c that just feels sneaky...and I have a feeling that if I confronted him and showed him "evidence," he would feel offended--and rightly so! I would feel hurt, too, if he were keeping tabs on me or my actions without my knowledge. So again, a buried question: have you ever had issues with skewed perceptions? And if so, did you find a system that allowed you to objectively see what was going on?

Thanks for any insight you can provide!

Always/never... skewed perceptions

I don't know if this is a male/female thing, or just our particular communication dynamics, but in the plant/dirt situation above, if my husband said the exact same thing you did (it seems fine the way you said it by the way), and if I replied with, "but I ALWAYS am careful," the conversation would come to a dead stop.

Quite a while ago, my husband started asking me (making me?) use a "tool" where before I answer every question that he asks, I must preface my answer with, "you'd say that because..." Now, to be honest, I HATE HATE HATE HATE doing this. BUT, what it does is FORCE me to think about WHY he is asking me something before I knee-jerk answer him. So, NOW, my answer to his "hon, can you clean up the dirt in the sink" would be, "well, you'd say that because I guess I'm usually not very careful, or hmmm, I think I did NOT clean up after myself last time." So, If I DID say, I ALWAYS do it, he would look at me and say something like "OK, so I'm just a complete idiot for asking you because you ALWAYS do it and my memory just doesn't work." (Not quite that harsh... ok sometimes that harsh... cumulative frustration...)

Now, even though I hate saying that phrase, and I definitely don't do it every time, this "tool" has been helpful in our communication. When I answer immediately, I haven't processed. I feel compelled to answer, even if I haven't really thought about what he's asking. So, what pops out is the quickest, most immediate gratification response that comes to mind. Occasionally it is the RIGHT answer (but as he says, a broken clock is right twice a day :).

Does your husband answer pretty quickly in that sink/dirt scenario above? I can relate to answering like that. What I can visualize is that I have watered my plants 100 times in the sink. I REMEMBER when I clean up after myself, let's say it's HALF of the time, but I REMEMBER those times, because it was probably something I had to make a conscious effort to do. SO, that is what stays in my head. So, he sees me watering the plants and calmly, pleasantly asks that I clean up after myself... Well, I ALWAYS DO! (or at least that is what springs to mind). It occurs to me as I write this, that if he said, "hey hon, I know you've been better about cleaning up the dirt, but could you make sure you do it..." All of a sudden, he has ACKNOWLEDGED and VALIDATED that I DO IT... albeit SOMETIMES. Maybe at that point I am more likely to say, "OH, OK, Yeah, I guess I could be more consistent/better/etc." vs. BUT I ALWAYS DO IT!!!!

Does that make sense??? Even as I was writing I realized that in many scenarios/ situations, even if my husband doesn't say "hey, you ALWAYS do XYZ" I still want credit for when I DON'T do it. Is this right? Are we ADDers justified in demanding this validation? Not saying so, just saying I think that is part of what is going on.

Really, all of the above ties right in to the skewed perceptions. YES, I have skewed perceptions. Your last paragraph really resonated because SOOOO much of our communication is not about the "issue" but about RE-ESTABLISHING THE FOUNDATION OF REALITY. My husband's reality is X. Reality IS X. My reality is B. So, FIRST, he has to get me back to X. Not only that, but I fight him on it, and then finally "come around," even though it's a conversation we've had a million times.

And... the only thing that works for me at that point (right now) is a time out. The harder I'm pressed, the more I dig in. We have many conflicts, but not specifically some of the household things you mentioned. One thing I learned recently from a really good video series (Google dr. russell barkley adhd - I watched several last week - really good stuff... his site is http://www.russellbarkley.org), anyway... what I learned is that we (add/adhd folk) don't learn by "practicing" or learning skills, he says that we must learn at the "points of performance" or when the behavior that is causing the problem occurs. So if there household tasks are an issue: WHITE BOARD, lists, notebooks, etc. OR, with the communication, even though it sounds like you speak to your husband very reasonably, ask him at a time that is not ON THE SPOT (at the sink :) what would help him to HEAR YOU. or what he NEEDS to not immediately respond. E.g. when you guys are hangin out and not in the middle of anything, say, "hey hon, I was thinking about when you were watering the plants the other day and I asked you to clean up and you said that you always are careful. My perception is that there is dirt left behind a lot, so I'm wondering what came to your mind when I asked to make you say you ALWAYS are careful. Do you really think you are always careful? Is there a way that I can ask stuff like that without you feeling attacked?" Maybe even start out with, "I'm going to ask you something and I don't want you to answer right away... hear what I have to say and then take a few minutes to think about it before you respond." (I know that sort of sounds condescending... I still don't like it when my husband asks me to take a few minutes... I'm still learning :).

OK... rambled enough... think these posts are therapeutic for me too ;).



Hi Aspen, I've been meaning

Hi Aspen,

I've been meaning to respond to this for a while, but I got kind of ADHD-lost in it ;), so I wanted to wait until I had some time to think about it.  I, sadly, relate to the response your husband has.  I liked the way you explained your logic; that "sometimes" is not the "standard."  It helps me more fully wrap my head around this unacceptable reaction and why it angers my husband so.  Thank you.

I will say that I have been MUCH, MUCH better about not reacting like that, and certainly own up to things more quickly (sometimes immediately), but it's a bad habit I haven't totally broken.  I can tell you that my Mom, son, and I are ALL guilty of that behavior.    It feels like ADHD "logic" coupled with a reaction both impulsive and defensive in nature.  The defensive part might be part poor coping skill.

When you write about your husband comparing himself to other husbands, he actually sounds like MY non-ADHD husband when he compares himself to to other husbands.  I can't stand when he does that.  I know that he does more than other husbands and is a more involved Dad than most Dads.  I do appreciate this more than he knows and think it is wonderful.  It's the way he is; it's not simply a function of me being a wife with ADHD. It does piss me off when he mentions it when he complains about me for a number of reasons:  he LOVES to put himself on a pedestal and martyr himself, we're BOTH working outside the home fulltime, so damn he should help me, and finally, I, like you, don't give a poo what other husbands are doing or not doing.  If 99% of other husbands are using meth and dating hookers, am I supposed to be grateful that he's not??? That's the equivalent of the thought process he's using...

Finally, your bathroom shelves.  I know this is the merely the vehicle you used to express your general frustration with his excuses, but I wanted to share some recent insights into my own brain that are helping me (EFFORTLESSLY) keep the parts of the house decluttered to which I have applied these insights.  I have realized that I do not view space the same way as other people.  My linen closet in my master bath is just one example of this.  The shelves, are, to a normal person an obvious point of organization.  Not to me.  I realized that flat space is just a nebulous wasteland where things go, but rarely in the same order.  I contrast this with a silverware drawer.  I know where the knives, spoons, and forks go.  I am not confused.  I never stare at it, wondering what I should do next or how to organize it.  The compartments tell me what to do.   Same for the plates.  Just stack them on top of each other.  But the linen closet? I need to put away towels, face cloths, shampoo, bath soap, bath toys, toilet paper, extra toiletries, cleaning supplies, and so on.  The towels used to fall over, and many things didn't go back exactly as they should.  This led to overcrowding, poor use of space, and things falling from the shelf to the floor (which also stores such items).  I realized I needed to turn the rest of my house into a silverware drawer.  I went to the dollar store and got some plastic bins. I put face cloths in one plastic bin, ALL of the supplies needed for my kid's baths in a bin with a handle, all of the toys in a bin, all the cleaning supplies in a basket (so I can pull out everything at once).  To my brain, the space is now defined.  Even as I sit here typing, I can visualize where everything is.  I couldn't do that before, because it didn't really have a defined space.  I now consistently put back my kid's bath supplies...it's easy to do because it all fits in one basket and then I put it away.  I have applied the same logic to our walk-in closet.  I used to fling my clothes up on the shelf because it was a long shelf with no defined spaces.  I bought open bins from Target and lined them up on the shelf.  I know where everything goes now, so I don't fling anymore...at least in there.  Same for the tupperware cabinets.  I have a lot more work ahead of me, but these insights are allowed me to remain clutter-free in these areas of my house.  I guess what I am saying, is, have your husband go out and get a basket with handles for his shelf.  He might be more likely to put his toiletries back where they belong.  It was such a simple idea, but it works for me.  The other imperative is that an area not be overcrowded, because it's harder to control, too visually overwhelming, and leads to us ADHDers stuffing too many things in one place.  It happens all the time to people like us.  O.K.  I hope this helps.  I have to go now.  Laundry is calling! 


love this

I appreciate these comments, as I have long despaired of understanding my ADD guy's "organizational" methods.  He struggles with his clothes... he's reluctant to put anything into the laundry, because he might want it again before it gets washed.  He's reluctant to put his laundry away because there are so many shelves and drawers, and hangers, and seasons and occasions and colors and and and.  When I put it away (okay, that's always) he just can't seem to find anything, even though it's all been in the same places for EVER.   He once said why don't we put hooks around all the walls for clothes, then you could see what you wanted.  He should have been a Shaker, maybe.  :)  

Hello out there, Gardener :)

Hi Gardener,

Good to hear from you.  I always like reading what you write, directed toward me or not :)!

Yeah, I know we are baffling.  I swear, if I wasn't ADHD, I would be OCD.  I just got a catalog from the Container Store, and I was frothing.  I would LOVE to be more organized.  Little by little, I suppose.

I understand what you mean by all the POSSIBILITIES...  There are limitless ways to organize, and that's downright confounding.  Where to start?  Which method(s)?  How to make it "stick?"  I think by asking myself what I need, is this a realistic system (I'm now much more realistic about myself), how does it need to work so I can function, and how does it need to function so I can work are all questions which help me.  Also, I have found a few Martha Stewart and other organizing magazines lately with a variety of ideas I haven't seen before.  Yes, she's more organized than I'll ever be, but there is a simplicity to her methods (sometimes).  Of course, I could get lost in the projects she suggests.  There's also a book, "ADD Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life" which has some good points.  I think the ADHD tendency is to half-ass a system, make a variation to adjust it, then another without enough analysis until it's so convoluted you can't find everything.  Or maybe that's just been my experience. 


messy all the time,

I try very hard not to nag DH when things aren't where they supposed to be,but sometimes that could be very hard for me to do,I would clean clean clean and he would mess mess mess,that is very frustrating for me to continuously deal with, but I still do it anyways.I guess what really makes it way much easier for "me" is that we don't live with each other,,, but he "blames me" for that!!! and that makes me feel sooo very guilty,no doubt that is not my fault but I feel for some reason obligated to do it for him and very "guilty" on top of it all,it is not all that bad ,,,we share chores of him cooking most of the times(he is always complaining that he wants the food done like this,like that,so I let him do it most of the time),,, and me cleaning,but,I am always cleaning since he is always messing up the house.This type of thing is driving me crazy sometimes,but just not to cause a fight I do it.


love hurts,

I can definitely see where living seperately would eliminate a lot of the cleaning issues......have ever heard of other ADHD couples choosing to live apart to avoid just that issue......but to me you either live together and work out your issues, or what is the point of being married, you know what I mean?

Sharing chores definitely seems like the way to go!


Cooking definitely helps my DH with his ADHD,he has admitted this to me ,it stimulates him and helps him focus,it's like a pill but not the real thing,only finding that self control he so craves for ,but the cooking helps him so I am happy he does,and while I am cleaning and washing especially on Sundays,he cooks.The reason we don't live together is b/c we "can't",, I run my business from home and it starts at 4 am on mornings unfortunately,and I have two kids of my own to tend to,so we would spend a few hours after work sometimes during the week and the weekends together,but I find this to turn around in "our"favor, it somehow keeps the "hyper focus courtship" still in tact,it's like I can't stand him at all,, and then the charming part would kick in,in him and I can't do without him,he have the focus still on me he has not lost that quit yet.The separation between us with not living together somehow is good,It builds up the "missing hunger", and I would admit in spite of the ADHD and all the depressions,mood swings etc,I just can't wait to spend the weekends with him.


We'll, I'm not alone.

Nice to at least find some positive.  Sounds like our house.

I also get the "Don't tell me I didn't do it. I started, that's doing. I just didn't finish it"


I think my guy's ADD affects how he reacts to feeling that he hasn't "reached the bar" on something, or knowing that I think that... but I think you're asking how that bar is set to begin with.  I tend to decide what feels right to me... I know I enjoy the feeling of waking up to a clean kitchen and coming home to a made bed, so I'm regular in how and when I do those things.  Yet it doesn't bother me if there are books out, couch pillows disordered, a pair of shoes over there in the corner.... So I tend most to what I have decided is most important.  For my ADD guy, for the most part the doesn't seem to notice (that whole attention thing) whether dishes are done, beds made, possessions lying where they were dropped etc.  And since he doesn't notice, it doesn't "bother" him, and he doesn't attend to getting it done.  He seems to take most of his "what level is acceptable" from observing other people.  I.e. we live in a neighborhood where most folks don't leave masses of toys in the yard, months of leaves on the lawn or downed branches lying around all summer.  He will occasionally comment on that one house that does, as being a mess.  BUT if it's autumn, and we haven't worked on the leaves, he will excuse this by saying that neighbors A and B haven't done it either.  But if A and B and C and D are all out working on the leaves, then he does, too.  If gossip is going around at work that someone's marriage is in trouble... he becomes more attentive, and uses words to the effect that he is a better husband than that guy... I think most of his life he has felt he is "not quite good enough" (and his ADD dad didn't do much to counter that idea) ... how do you know if you are good enough - by comparing yourself to others!  I get most of my "good enough" measurement standards internally, or from what my mother taught me, and my guy seems to get his, when they are absolutely needed for defensive purposes, by looking outside himself.  I don't think he has ever "decided" for himself what his standards were.  And he has told me over the years that he's always felt that when if he achieves something, the goal post will just get moved, and he'll never be good enough.  Don't know if this is helpful, but that's how it seems here.  Best wishes.

P.S. none of this applies to my guy's passions / work.  He has very high standards and is very demanding and will devote countless hours to perfecting the stuff that matters to him... but things either matter to him a great deal or not at all.  

Great post, Gardener.  I

Great post, Gardener.  I think that my husband and I are like this, too.  I have a very strong internal compass.  I do or don't do things based on whether I think they're right or wrong.  And sometimes, I'll admit, I'll do things even though I know I shouldn't.  But I always think about things and compare them to my internal standards.  My husband, in contrast, seems to base his actions on what he thinks other people want him to do.  Now, he can be very helpful and he's never abusive and rarely angry, and so operating his life based on what he thinks other people want doesn't have all negative results.  But it does limit his life, I think.  And it makes me question my role in his life.  

Today was our anniversary.  My husband asked his dad (for whom he provides caregiving services) for the day off.  Good, right?  Well, actually, I just felt like another obligation for my husband.  "Today's tasks:  don't go to parents' house; attend to wife so that she stops bugging me for never paying attention to her."  I want to be someone he chooses to spend time with because he likes me, not because he feels obligated to be with me.  But he's very resistant to thinking about what he wants in life and prefers to do what he "has" to do.

arwen's picture

always/never -- lost in translation

Lots of good comments already.  My ADHD DH really can't handle "shades of gray" very well, everything has to be simplified into a black-and-white dichotomy, and that generates the same kinds of responses from him that you hear from yours.

In your example of stuff on the counter, if I said to my DH that things were *starting* to get a *little* messy (and didn't actually speak with that emphasis), what his brain *hears* (or automatically simplifies and translates my statement into) is that the counter is a mess because he isn't doing his job of putting stuff away -- he doesn't really hear "starting", he doesn't hear "little" -- in his mind, the counter can only be in one of two states, clean or messy.  So if I'm saying it's not clean, then I must be saying it's messy -- and I obviously wouldn't be saying it to him if I didn't think there way something wrong with what *he* was doing (well, that latter part is correct, at least, lol).  From there he goes on to think that I'm saying it's *all* his fault and that he *never* puts stuff away, because of the same kind of black-and-white, two-state thinking.  Well, since he does sometimes put stuff away, clearly my statement is unfair!  Ergo, the defensiveness kicks in.

So I find it's helpful to put the emphasis in when I'm speaking, to focus his attention on the qualifiers, so that his mind is less likely to lose them in translation.  It also helps to preface my remark with something that acknowledges his effort and therefore emphasizes that I am *not* saying he's a terrible person who never cleans up, like "Hon, I know you try to remember to put your stuff on the shelves sometimes, but . . ." (this doesn't help the "translation" but it does help defuse the defensiveness -- and anything that triggers a negative emotional response is likely to get in the way of progress).

Translation also plays a role when we are talking about what is the goal in dealing with the counter.  When I say, "We need to always put all the stuff back on the shelves", it does not mean the same thing to my DH as it does to me.  To me it means that I need to take whatever steps are necessary to *ensure* that I put my stuff back on the shelves every single time.  To my DH, always putting stuff back on the shelves is clearly impossible, so he automatically translates my statement into "We need to always TRY to put as much stuff back on the shelves as we can manage."  With this permuted goal, it makes *any* effort on his part a  success, in his mind.  If I later complain about the counter, therefore, he feels that I'm effectively saying that he hasn't succeeded, when (in his mind) he unquestionably has -- another trigger for the defensiveness.

Thoreau used to preach "Simplify, simplify, simplify!".  Boy, does my ADHD DH take that to heart!  It's one of his primary ways of coping with the tendency of his ADHD mind to go off on tangents and get lost.  Before he was diagnosed, it was the best strategy he could manage (but left a lot to be desired).  Once he was taking meds and going to counseling, he was capable of more complex thinking without getting lost, but he had no idea of how to overcome the habits of a lifetime.  One of the really big efforts we've worked on over many years is for him to somehow find ways to contemplate *any* in-between state or alternative.  When confronted with a problem, my husband would grab the first even-remotely-workable idea that came to mind, and run with it, without considering cost, time, ease of use, etc., whereas I would be able to figure out half a dozen different ways to tackle it, and evaluate them and determine what was optimal.  We compromised on him stopping to think of *one* more alternative before charging off.  Similarly, when he sees black-and-white, I see a dozen shades of gray -- we've compromised on him stopping to consider *any one* in-between condition.  (The counter is not clean, the counter is not a terrible mess, the counter is a *little* messy.)  This is really hard for him.  It effectively makes *every* decision twice as complicated for him than it used to be.

Does this meet my standards?  No.  I'm nowhere near being a perfectionist, but my standards used to be pretty high -- and I've been forced to accept that, with all the good will and effort in the world, my husband is not going to be able to meet them as much as I'd like.   He's tried every way that either of us, and the counselor, and the ADHD help books, can think of.  He's definitely gotten better at all this, my frustration level with even just *one* alternative solution or shade of gray is significantly down.  We'll still keep working on it,   but for now I have to be satisfied with something less than what I think is achievable, while he keeps learning how to achieve it.

My DH and I used to discuss issues like this away from the situation, as other posters suggested, at those several-times-a-week meetings we had for six years.  Now, in the past year, we are able to handle most such discussions when they naturally arise -- but that is only because after six years of learning and practicing coping skills in our meetings, my husband eventually learned how to take these skills and apply them elsewhen.

I hope something in this helps!  

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."  Albus Dumbledore

catch22adhd's picture

This is what I hear

Being an adhd husband I can relate to much if not all of what has been said in this thread.  Pre self-awareness ---I feel attacked and whether you are add/hd or not you defend.  When attacked you defend.  This is a human trait.  So the problem is why does he feel attacked or why does your request to clean up the counter or wipe the dirt up after watering the plant make him jump to the defense?  For me the problem is validation.  Don't keep quiet or silently appreciate the hundreds of things that I do right and then focus in detail on the 20 things that I do not do well or forget to do.  Do not belittle me by speaking to me as if I am a child or speak condescendingly toward me as if I can not follow a conversation without getting lost.  At that point the problem is not the request, it is the package that it is wrapped in.  I am sure that you are trying not to trigger your add husband by treading softly into the conversation, but give attention to the wrapper or the background noise that typically impedes communication.   When communicating much of what causes the breakdown in communication is not the content of the message, but the background noise.  I can not hear you say please put your bathroom items on the shelf because you treat me like a child (background noise) or because you never acknowledge the good (more background noise)  I do not know..... there may be some residue of negative childhood experiences that are resurfacing but I believe many times it is the background noise that prevents clear communication. Sometimes its pure selfishness ( only being able to see your side of the argument and not the other persons)

Post self-awareness---​What I hear my non-add wife saying is..... does it really matter what I am asking you to do... clean the counter or wipe up the dirt?  These are trivial request.  Her concern would be if you love me and want a meaningful relationship with me, just do it.  Do it because you love me.  Do it because it is important to me.  Do it because it matters to me.  When I make a small request see me in the request and not you.  Do not steal the request an make it about you. Just take the request for what it is keep it about me (non-add wife) and not you.  Do not make it a you thing.  Affirm me by respecting my request.  Do not defend or deflect or even justify.....those are responses that make it about you.  Study me and find out how to please me.  Be into me and much of these petty issue will disappear.

Now I must know that  at the end of the day she loves me and cares about me... she just wants the items neatly placed back on the shelf.  

Sometimes after a lifetime of being attacked it is hard to not make it about you.  

Last perspective.  After reading a lot of post on this blog I am coming to the conclusion that opposites attract. To stay in this vein use for example a neat person vs. a messy person.  The mess person is inherently drawn to the clean person because there is a subconscious awareness that I struggle in this area.  The neat person is drawn to the messy person because there is a subconscious awareness that I am obsessive in this area and I need to find a balance.  It is ok for the books in your bookshelf  not to be alphabetized...  The point is when both partners allow each other to complete them (coach them) in their areas of weakness then they together have balance and are much stronger as a union then they will ever be apart.  Who better to have as a coach and who best knows you then your spouse.  If I had heard what my wife had been saying to me from the beginning, I would be a much better person and professional.

Still living on the other side of the brick wall....

5 days since last occurrence with my spouse. My goal is 365 days with no adhd conflicts.