Is it really nagging?

Clearly it's frustrating that ADDers don't notice messes and undone chores. But I'm also reading that a lot of the non-ADDers are worried about nagging.

I would LIKE my boyfriend to nag me more. Not nag, but remind.

A lot of times I don't do chores because if I even notice they need to happen, I get sidetracked. BUT if my boyfriend tells me they are bothering him, or he just needs help because he doesn't have time to do it all, I am almost certain to get it done (not awesomely, but done). They stand out in my head as the important things to do.

The problem is, he doesn't seem to like to remind me.  I know he likes coming home to see I've emptied the dishwasher or gone shopping, but he rarely actively tells me, "Can you take care of this today?"

I don't know if he feels bossy or like he doesn't have a right to tell me how to spend my free time, or if he'll overdo it and ask for so many things that I won't be able to prioritize them. Or maybe he's holding out for me to do it without command because that's like Christmas for him ... ?

Look, I'm not talking about criticism ("Why don't you ever go shopping?" "Why is your mail always all over the table?") but like, individual reqests: "Could you get the moldy fruit you bought 5 weeks ago and didn't eat out of the crisper?" He wouldn't even make it that pointed; it'd be like, "Can you get the expired food out of the fridge?" But he's never even asked me to do that.

Can someone explain this for me? Does it really suck to nag? I thought it was suppose to be fun to tell others to do your bidding. 

There's a difference between

There's a difference between negative harping and nagging and an agreed upon way of helping the ADHD person recognize what needs to be done and helping them remember to do it.  I think it's best if the ADHD and non-ADHD mates mutually agree on how this helping is going to be done.  Sometimes I think non-ADHDers think the ADHD person should just be able to do what needs to be done without being reminded by the spouse.  I used to pretty much think that and didn't want to "babysit" to get stuff done but once we talked about it and he said it helps him if I make a list I decided I might as well expend my energy being helpful rather than on stewing about what's not getting done.

My thought is that if I'm good at recognizing what needs to be done and making lists or other ways that work for DH to get things done that help me then that's something I am willing to do.   My DH is pretty willing to do things if I make a list or ask in a positive, constructive, non-condescending way.  He doesn't always get to it right away, sometimes forgets, sometimes loses lists but overall quite a bit gets done if I help him see and remember what needs to be done.

Yes. It sucks to have to

Yes. It sucks to have to 'remind' someone to do something that we non-ADDers feels SHOULD be obvious. Garbage sitting right in front of the door, yet he steps over it, kind of thing. It also sets up a dynamic in the relationship that is not healthy. Even if it would be helpful to you, there are some of us who feel that 'reminders' put us in a place of 'mothering' (or fathering) and as you can imagine this can trickle down into many other areas of the marriage. (bedroom being the worst).

He needs to take the time to understand fully how different your perception of your shared environment is...or how you prioritize things in your head. That would be where I would start. The more I seek understanding of why my husband is the way he is about a specific subject the less frustration I feel and the more empathy I have.  Second, if you feel this is a serious issue for him then you need to come up with a routine/chart/system that will remind you "sometime before you go to bed tonight, you need to wash dishes" or "Thursdays is the day the trash goes out". Maybe he would be willing to deal with the hairy fruit left in the fridge if you could devise a system to help with the more routine chores. So, you're trying to avoid him feeling like your father thus feeling resentful and you're also wanting/needing to figure out a way to better remind yourself of what needs to be done without him having to do it.

Would it be realistic to set aside 2 hours, 3 nights a week specifically for chores? I have heard many people here say that it helps ADDers to do chores maybe if you were both in agreement and could set aside certain times (allowing flexibility when necessary, of course) then doing them together maybe that would help? Every Saturday a.m. and Tues & Thurs evenings?

Nagging or not?

Well, my guy (the ADD one) will ask me to remind him to do things (like chores) that he has agreed to take over.  I remind (gently) and it doesn't get done. I remind again (more forcefully, but still nicely) and nothing.  I now move to (depending on the chore and my mood) wheedling, begging, negotiating, nagging or accusing.  Then he might (or might not) do the chore and feel pissy at me for nagging him.  It's just a lose-lose situation for me.  Before I got sick, I'd do most things myself because I hated nagging and fighting over chores.  But now I can't and basically the house is a mess.

To be fair, sometimes he does things without being asked or after I've asked only once. But too many times it's as I stated above.

Will do tricks for a bone

Sherri and I both commented on the effectiveness of positive feedback over here: (Sorry, I didn't see that when I started this forum topic).

I'm the ADDer. If I'm praised for doing something that is hard for me, I am

1. way more likely to notice when it needs to be done again

2. way more likely to give it high enough priority that I'll actually remember to do it the next time it's needed

Any improvement is a chance for positive reinforcement. But it only works on me if it's given nicely! If I take out the recycling after being asked once, I'll just feel bereated again if he says: "See, it's not soooo hard. Sheesh." (He's never done that). If he says something like "Thank you so much, you have no idea how happy that makes me!" with a kiss? I'll probably look forward for the recycling to pile up so I can do it again.

This is a very good point. 

This is a very good point.  I've noticed DH is much more engaged in trying to be helpful when I compliment him and thank him profusely for doing things.  In all reality most people would probably respond the same way - not necessarily unique to ADD.

fuzzylogic72's picture

for sure

This is SO key in dealing with us. I have never been in a relationship where this was not an effective motivator (or inhibitor, if it's not used)


I have of course thanked him when he does something I want/need, is considerate and so on, but that doesn't seem to do the trick.  I feel if I lay it on too thick it comes off insincere (which it would be, since I still have a hard time grasping that a capable adult can't remember to do something my 8 year old remembers) and sarcastic (which it wouldn't be).

Should I really just effusively thank him and praise him for, say, vacuuming after my only asking once? Say something like "wow, everything is so clean and beautiful now and this makes me feel so much better, thank you so much for doing this"? Is the sincere thank you, hug and loving smile I give him not enough?

It just feels sort of manipulative or something to me, I don't know...

Depends on how you talk normally

A thank you, kiss and smile is good enough for me. That would be kind of a big deal from my guy, who isn't super affectionate or generous with compliments (he has other strengths).  But if I were the one saying thank you, that would come off blase because I'm usually super enthusiastic about everything.

Some people here have said they object to having to make a big deal over something that barely seems praiseworthy, especially compared to the share of household work they usually do. But in my experience, certain chores probably ARE harder for me to remember than they would be for most 8-year-olds. I'm not going to notice mail pile up on the kitchen table, and it's not going to bother me. If I organize and put it away, I'm doing it for my boyfriend.

From your guy's perspective, vacuuming right away might actually be a big deal. Staying on track and finishing probably means it was his absolute top priority for the day, and he put forth a lot of energy to move past the 10 distractions on the way to the vacuum closet only to give you something that would make you happy. To him, it might have all the same intentions as a dozen roses.

If you think about it like that, maybe the sincerity will just come naturally.

But, you know, it's totally possible that he does not respond to praise at all, and he's only vacuuming begrudgingly. I just say it works for me.

As for the manipulation, who cares? I wouldn't. I'd just want my efforts to be recognized, which even a half-baked thank you accomplishes.

Thank you :)

Now, I don't mean that as a manipulation ;) but thanks for being clear and explaining it to me in more detail.  I guess I could try to be more enthusiastic about it (and try not to criticize when he doesn't do it right or doesn't finish the job).  Easy to say, difficult to do, but I'm going to try harder.

doing it right

One thing to think about is whether your definition of "doing it right" is too tight.  If the floor gets cleaned, for example, do you really care whether this week he vacuums or uses a broom?  (I'm making up an example here.)  If a partner decides to leave her clothes in the dryer because she knows she can find them every morning, rather than put them away, doesn't that fulfill her mission of "finding clean clothes"?

That said, getting a chore done can be really tricky for someone with ADHD - hard to remember, hard to organize, hard to complete.  Encourage your partner in a number of ways:

  • positive feedback, as Ailin says, makes a big difference
  • creating "external structures" that remind one to do the chore at the right time
  • don't criticize for something that is done differently than how you would do it (your way isn't the only way)
  • acknowledge that it may take your partner more effort or time to do the same thing as you (often because organizing the job takes more time if you have ADHD) and don't hold your partner to the same efficiency standards you have

This helps create an atmosphere in which an ADHD partner who wants to help out can experiment to find the best ways to structure him/herself to be able to do so.

Nagging vs Reminding

Being responsible for reminding another person to do things on a regular basis is a real drag, and can easily lead to resentment and parenting behavior.  It's not that you can't ever express yourself, like "the rotting fruit in the drawer is bothering me, would you mind tossing it out soon?"  But once you ask the person to be responsible for reminding you (i.e. not worrying about the fruit until they remind you) then you place an unnecessary burden on that person to always be "on alert" for your stuff.

When I work with couples I make sure that they discuss this issue very openly, as each couple has a different tolerance level for reminders.  But in general, I think that people should be responsible for things that are obviously their own in their home.  If that means you need to create a system for cleaning out the fridge regularly or reminding yourself to do things, all the better.  "Parenting" another adult is not only a drag, but it's not romantic, either.


Yes, this is kind of how I feel, I just didn't know how to put it so clearly.  Like I read somewhere (that had nothing to do with ADD): If you always have to remind a person to do a certain task, then the task is still your responsibility, not theirs.  I have soooo much on my mind already, I just want him to take over a few things Without me having to keep track of them and remind him.

Also, him saying he'll load the dishwasher (because it hurts my back) is fine, but when he ruins something because it can't go in the dishwasher, or only loads it every third day, leaving the kitchen a complete mess for more than half the week, it stresses me out.

We've talked about having routines, like certain days are for vacuuming, cleaning kitty litter and so on, but he still forgets more than half the time, even though there is a reminder set on his phone, and I remind him as well.

I just don't know how to make this run more smoothly.  We don't fight over chores/housework a lot, but it does contribute to me feeling stressed, tired, overworked and so on, which doesn't leave much room for romantic feelings.

I will say exactly to this

I will say exactly to this also.  This is one of the issues that is a major hurdle in my relationship at this time.  I am extremely tired of parenting.  I just want my ADHD husband to get motivated enough to step up to the plate and start working on the long list of household chores that need to be handled on a regular basis.  You know the normal up-keep type of things!!!!!  I know for a fact that he was not taught this growing up, as his mother was a slob and did not take pride in her home.  So I guess it should not be a surprise that he is the same way.  While I am thankful that we have a roof over our heads, I still get frustrated sometimes with the condition of our property.  We have lived here for 20 years and it looks horrible.  I do what I can but the majority of the work is more than I can handle by myself.  Hiring someone to help is out of the question right now as we are in the process of digging ourselves out of debt "again".  My husband has recently returned to work, after being out of work for a year.  And yes, you quessed it, during the year he was out of work he managed to do next to nothing around the house.  Claimed he was too depressed and anxious to accomplish much.  I don't nag (actually I don't think I ever have) and I am way past tired of reminding.  I now save up the energy needed for that and use it for myself.  I'm tired of caring.  I'm worn out.    

Hey, I would just like to


I would just like to be thanked by my ADHD husband every once in awhile for doing the laundry, cleaning up, putting gas in his truck when I drive it and notice that it needs gas, getting the oil changed, cleaning up the kitchen after he has cooked and made a mess, etc. but it seems the only thing I get thanked for is putting up with him.  Oh Brother!!!

Oh, to be thanked!!

That was my wish, too, being married to an ADD man. I did 90% of the housework, even when we both had full-time jobs. I cleaned the bathroom once a week for 26 years. He did it ONCE when I was sick. I said thank you, but it wasn't was like he wanted me to throw him a parade and give him a medal! His comment was "It's a really gross job and you don't appreciate that I did it". Ummm...I've done it 1352 times and he never once thanked me. Life with an's NOT fair.

sullygrl's picture

Thankful and Thankless

OMG I'm sorry but that is so funny and so not funny at the same time. I am dealing with this issue right now; I do 90% of the housework (basically he does his own laundry and runs the vacuum on occasion) but if he does something, ANYTHING, he expects the ticker tape parade, big gold trophy, some sort of large-scale THANK YOU for putting your dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink for me like you've done for the past seven years. Really, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. Last night he covered the stinky cat poo (NOT cleaned the litter box mind you, just buried the offensive bits) and just had to tell me. I guess so I could go actually clean it out? He remembered it was offensive but not to get a bag and clean it?

Did yours actually clean the toilet too? How sick were you? Sorry to be so tongue-in-cheek but this really tickled me...

Thank You

I go through this A LOT. It happened a lot more during the first 10-15 years of our marriage, but my husband definitely wants a LOT of praise if he does something that I usually do. I don't get ANY praise. It makes me feel unnoticed and not appreciated. I understand that he has a problem, but I don't understand why he can notice things that OTHER people do (like at work) and will praise their actions, but take no notice of what I have to do. It IS unfair.