I am a non-ADHD spouse who recently stumbled on this site while trying to find some information on ADHD. I bought Melissa's book and so far have found it incredibly insightful, I am often surprised to see our exact issues staring back at us in print. I was thrilled to find this site and to hear people's suggestions, to receive advice and encouragement, as I'm sure many of you know it is difficult to find someone who can really understand what it is like to be with an ADHD spouse. I am saddened to say that I have found none of that here. Everyone seems like they HATE their spouse who has ADHD. Maybe I am confused, but after seeing all these posts I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't just a forum to feed the fires of resentment. Or maybe I just have an exceptional spouse. I certainly think so. We have been married for around five years, we have kids together, he has had affairs, he has went on spending sprees, and drank way too often, and has said some pretty nasty things to me. He hyper-focuses and leaves me alone to take care of everything else, but I certainly don't hate him. Because he is also kind, intelligent, affectionate, fun, generous, hard working, he is a wonderful father and a great friend. Maybe I am just luckier than others because what I see in my husband is a man that tries incredibly hard in spite of a brain that gets in his way. When I speak to him I generally hear a lot of pain and hurt and disappointment. When I confront him on something and he lashes out that he is just a bad husband and I should leave him, my heart feels physical pain for him because he really believes that. But he is a good man and a good husband. He is intelligent and attractive and in most regards a success but he doesn't believe that. He constantly feels like he is not good enough and when I speak to him and he lashes out at me I know that what he is really saying is that he hates himself and is guilty and ashamed. I have seen many of you write about how living with an ADHD spouse is like having another child. I can see that, because I often feel the same way. However, I would never treat my children as poorly as I am ashamed to say that I sometimes treat my husband. I love them unconditionally and their pain is my pain, why not so with my husband who I also say I love unconditionally. So I am posting something for others like me who want to focus on the positive. I may not be able to find it but I can attempt to give it.
I don't understand the way my husband's brain works and I have a tough time seeing things from his point of view but it goes both ways and honestly, who is to say my way is the best way. This is about both of our happiness and both of our lives. Here are some things that have really helped us. I handle all the money, but we discuss weekly what we have and what we can spend. I even keep a spreadsheet so that we can track where money goes. This is helpful since he genuinely doesn't even remember what he spent money on. My husband isn't a moron and he doesn't want his wife and children to starve. He understands cause and effect. Keeping him in the loop of our financial situation helps him to control his impulse to spend. He kept missing family events so now we have a shared calendar. I talk to him about the event and make sure it fits in his schedule and he wants to go then I add it to the calendar. If necessary I remind him that its coming up. He rarely misses anything anymore and he is proud of himself. He owns his own company and uses the calendar to organize all his appointments, I handle his billing now so it is one less thing he has to remember and I can get the bills paid on time. I never hold out intimacy on him. That is the way that he feels close to me and I find it cruel to take that away from him, is it any different or less cruel than him refusing to spend focused time with me. It also helps him to stay faithful. He doesn't help much with cleaning but he does have his assigned chores and that's what he does every week. He loves to cook so he does the cooking. It drives me crazy that he rarely goes to the grocery store and runs to get meals last minute but dinner is always there and why cause a fight over how it gets there. He takes out the trash and I set up a calendar reminder for him the night before. Does he forget? Of course he does but I don't say anything. The next week I will tell him, it's trash night, do you need any help getting it out? I forget things too, maybe not as often but it would still make me pretty angry if my husband always threw it in my face and acted like I was useless because of it. He doesn't do things the way I do, he doesn't always put things in the right place and when he does dishes he usually gets distracted in the middle and ends up with only half done but it's half less than I had before. Sometimes I ask him to do things and he doesn't want to do them so he pretends to forget, lately it was cleaning the garage. In the end, I figured I'm the one who wants it clean not him, so I cleaned it. Instead of a big fight, I had a clean garage and a happy husband. I don't ignore my hobbies or my life because he is so busy, I just work with him to find a way to fit both our interests in. It's never been that he doesn't care about my interests he just honestly forgets I have them. He expects me to take what I want the way he does. So I do and he accommodates because he loves me. What I have always found is that my husband is incredibly self focused but not selfish. He loves to be the hero he just needs to see the bat signal before he will show up.
My relationship is far from perfect. We have bad days and sometimes I feel incredibly lonely but I do think that it is coming up with creative ways to help us BOTH succeed that will save us, not harboring bitterness and resentment over what could have been. We fight and our feelings get hurt and randomly we feel like throwing in the towel. My husband will NEVER not be ADHD. But every couple has something, it is foolish to think otherwise. I have my own issues, I come with my own baggage. The point is to find ways to set yourself and your spouse up to succeed. Expectations always lead to disappointment. Someone once told me that I should picture my son married to someone like me and when I do I often feel ashamed about how I treat my husband. I have a daughter who is ADHD and I would HATE a man who treated her like she was lazy worthless scum because of it. Just because you are ADHD does not mean you do not have feelings. In the end I do truly believe that people are generally good willed and that you must give love to receive love, be a friend to have a friend. It is easy to blame others and to sit back and let them do all the hard work but how can you ask someone to change or treat you better when you are not willing to do the same.
I'm certain that I will get angry responses to this (although I would remind you that if you have nothing nice to say you shouldn't say anything at all), but I would REALLY love to hear from other non-ADHD spouses who have found ideas that have helped their ADHD Spouse and their marriage succeed. I would also really love to hear from ADHD Spouses about things that would help them excel and to feel less shame and criticism from their non-ADHD spouse.
Thanks for listening.