My first post

I have read Melissa’s book ( and several others regarding ADHD ) and have read many posts in this forum over the past few months.  I still do not know some of the acronymns but decided it was time to throw our story out there to see if anyone had comments or could offer any insight.


I am the Non-ADHD spouse.  My wife and I dated for five years prior to getting married and have now been married for six months ( 2nd for both of us ). Of course during that time I noticed certain eccentricities, in fact I used to tease her about being my “Fifty first Dates” girl.  About 18 months ago she was diagnosed with ADHD, like many this came after her daughter was diagnosed and she recognized some symptoms in herself. She has been on medications since.  I personally did not give it too much thought at the time as I recognized some of the eccentricities may be part of ADHD, and the medication would help her focus.
While our dating relationship was certainly not without conflict we always seemed to work things out cooperatively.  What I was not at all prepared for was what one author calls “the big switcheroo”.  Literally the day after returning from our honeymoon it seemed I was living with a totally different person!  The somewhat absent minded, caring person I dated was gone.  It was like Dharma had been transformed into the Tasmanian Devil!  WTF??  It appeared to be a complete disconnect regarding our relationship.  There appeared to be a seething rage and defensiveness lying just below the surface that is exposed at the suggestion that we have an issue for which she may be responsible.  So I started reading and wound up here.
Some background … My wife was the valedictorian in her high school class, received academic scholarships that allowed her to graduate from a highly respected private college. During college she married and gave birth to two children.  After graduation she took over a business founded by her father, while raising the children, coaching Jr., high sports, and successfully competing in international martial arts competitions.  She later sold the business.  Today she is a manager at a fortune 100 company and really does not struggle keeping a job like many with ADHD. Although she has to work to get there on time.
 

To say the least she is not lazy, and does a lot around the house.  In my mind she is grossly inefficient as to how she does it but that is okay.  For example, I was recently out of town on a business trip for a week.  When I returned the vaccum cleaner was sitting in the same spot in the living room as when I left. She said she actually vacuumed several times while I was gone but just put it in the same place … in front of the closet door where it belongs!


She does, however struggle with most, if not all of the classic ADHD symptoms described in the books and on this forum.  No concept of time, terrible with spending and finances ( bankruptcy 2 yrs. ago ), impulsiveness,  clutter, losing things daily, etc. Given these symptoms and considering her accomplishments it is clear she has developed a fairly refined coping strategy.  More on this to come.


Now for my part.  I am certainly not OCD but have been called a neat freak a few times.  Pretty much a place for everything, everything in its place kind of guy.  I know, right, a match made in heaven LOL.  We now live in my house, the same place I lived for six years alone.  My space was like a Zen retreat.  No matter how crazy things got I could always retreat to my place and recharge.  Needless to say that is no longer the case.  We manage to keep the living room, kitchen and dining room fairly organized but the rest of the house looks like a war zone most of the time. That drives me crazy.  I created a TINY den we call “the man room”.  Unfortunately the laundry area is off this room.  Even though we have discussed many times that is my space she views it as a staging area for laundry, which is one of her chores.
 

Prior to recognizing the pervasiveness of ADHD we had some pretty awful symptom, response, response arguments.  I have been verbally abusive to her on many occasions and self medicated with alcohol a lot.  I have come to understand that I did this to try to stem the anger I felt but it got to the point it no longer worked!


The more I read about ADHD I came to realize that with the exception of perhaps two, every woman with whom I have had a serious relationship was most likely ADHD, including my ex-wife!  So the anger that I felt was not just from this but had accumulated over the course of several relationships with no idea as to the root cause of the problems.  Wow!


So with all of this background I wanted to share my observations and thoughts on ADHD.  I believe the coping strategy my wife uses has served her quite well until I came along.  All of the situations in which she has succeeded have involved short lived, somewhat disjointed, fast paced decision making.  Her first marriage was a train wreck.  She now has to deal with someone that will recall she said “ it was blue” last Wednesday and today claims she said “it was red”.  This stupid little hypothetical is the very core of most of our conflicts.


I am not a therapist but it appears to me that my wife’s coping strategy is a sort of algorithm she runs her head.  In her algorithm she does not look at the face value of what is said, but instead performs a kind of analysis regarding the other person.  This includes the other person’s body language, attempts to discern their motivations … “Why are they asking this? What are the implications of this response versus that one? What do they expect to hear? What answer will serve me best? Etc.” this has led her to reply to a simple question or respond to statement from me that has absolutely nothing to do with the question or statement I made.  It may also result in her making a statement that is completely contradictory to something she said as recently as a few minutes prior.  As you might imagine it takes some time for her to run this algorithm so she employs delay tactics to allow it to run it’s cycle and cover up forgetfulness.
 

A hypothetical example of this would be if I ask a simple question, “ Was it blue?”
Her:  Ummm, let me see … it was wet
Me:  Yeah but was it blue?
Her:  I saw it again yesterday.
Me:  Look, I just asked you if it was blue!
Her:  Why do you need to know if it was blue?
Me:  I am curious, I just want to know if the stupid thing was blue for crying out loud!
Her:  Stop attacking me!


She uses the words “ I don’t know” or “I forgot” all too infrequently.  She would rather dive into an argument than admit either of those.


So now I am attacking her.  Not because of the questions, but because I am asking her a question she cannot answer, or I am asking at a rate that is faster than the cycle of her algorithm.  Furthermore the algorithm exists only to serve her as an individual.  It does not allow for her as part of a functioning relationship.  I get too close.


So here we are in argument … not about whether something was blue …  but why she thinks I am attacking her. And why I think she thinks I am attacking her. 


Me: I am not attacking you, why do you think that?  I just asked you a simple question.
Her:  You are attacking. You keep asking me the same question!
Me:  That is because it is a simple question and you have not answered it!!!  You don’t remember do you?
 

At his point the argument is in full swing and her pattern is as follows almost every time with various statements.
 

1. Excuses.
I don’t want to talk about this anymore.  I am tired.
I have not slept well in two nights, I can’t think now.
I have not been to yoga in two days, I can’t think now.
I am sore from my workout …
I have not eaten enough today …


Me: Those are just excuses.  Just answer the stupid question.


2. Attempt to shift the blame, make it my fault in her eyes.
I am upset now, how do you expect me to answer it?  Maybe I could if you didn’t attack!
I only told you about this to try to be nice to you.  Why do you want a fight?
You are just being selfish again!
You need to get over yourself!


Me:  Look I am not attacking you.  I asked a simple question. All it requires is a simple answer.  This defensiveness you are showing is part of ADHD.  Can’t you see that?


3. Divert the discussion.
I don’t want to talk about this. You don’t do this with X!
Don’t you care about X?


Me:  X is 11 years old, you are 43, the expectations are a bit different!


4. Confrontation
You are such a hypocrite!
Why are you so inconsistent?
I am who I am, and I like it.  You have a choice you know!


Me:  I am a hypocrite because I expect different behavior form an 11 year old than a 43 year old?  You should look in the mirror more instead of worrying about other people.


5. Passive Aggressive
I am sorry you have to put up with me.
I am sorry I am who I am.


Me:  Passive aggressive.  Nice!


6. Cynicism
Not everyone can be as perfect as you.
I can be perfect and never fail.

7.  Disconnect
I am going to bed.
I don’t want to fight, I am going ….

So, once again the argument results in nothing.  Once again I have gotten too close and been pushed away. Yet another day she has escaped facing her issue head on.  Once again she has sidestepped any possibility of growth or self awareness.
This is getting really old, really fast.  Any thoughts?

barneyarff's picture

This was very well written.

This was very well written.  the thing about the vacuum cleaner made me laugh.   It happens in my house too.  And the thing about having your own room where you can have some order, then she invades it with the laundry.  Oh Boy!!!!   I try to cook many dishes at once.  Of course that means I need organization in my kitchen so I can quickly grab things.  Without fail, even though I have asked many times, my DH has purchased so many little bags of bulk items from the health store (unlabeled of course) that they are spilling all over the cabinet when I open it up.   The 1st hundred times, I just rolled my eyes and tried to organize it before I got to working on the meals.  But after a while I'm tired of my space being invaded.   Then when I ask him to please quit doing that, I get the kind of arguement you get with the ""Was is blue" question.

Yes, Im angry.  I'm just fed up with, as another put it, death by a 1000 little cuts.  I have yelled a lot in the past.  Now I just work more out of town.  My DH is finally  getting some help but only after I told him to either get some help or leave.  the kids are relieved that the tension is less now.  What a horrible way to raise kids.  What a horrible way to live.  I'm convinced that the rage I've had for so many years contributed to me having cancer.

And I'm not like this.  I'm not a raging maniac.  I'm rather funny and smart and compassionate.  
but I have let this ADHD monster change me.   I didn't even know what was going on for years.  In fact I thought it was me losing my mind.  Now with the help of this forum and books, etc.  I realize it's not me.  I have reacted to it badly (Should have left him years ago before kids and just let him wither on the vine)

But at least I'm learning to stick up for myself a bit.  last night I called home and my DH was mad because my non ADHD child did not wake him or the ADHD child up before she went to school.  Well, when I'm gone, the 2 ADDers are constantly late for work/school.  I told DH that everything I had read said that to constantly get the ADDer up and going is only enabling.  Plus, she's a child.  He got all huffy and said  "Well so if you oversleep I should just let you over sleep?  How would you like that?"  PLUS I spent 2 hours the night before helping our daughter with a project.  She should have gotten me up because I helped her the night before.   (?????)   the "logic" baffles me.

but, you just know that if I oversleep, my DH will take great delight in letting it happen and then rubbing it in.  Now, oversleeping is not something I normally do.  If I have to get somewhere in the morning I usually wake up early because I'm worried about oversleeping.  He doesn't see the difference.  He is only concerned about how it isn't "fair"

I told him to take it up with his therapist.  You know he will spin it in some fantastic fashion so it will end up being that DD and I conspired to make him oversleep so we could point and laugh at him.  Or it will be some other oddball story and excuse.  In the end it will be my fault and DD's fault.

 

Living with an ADDer is just crazy making.  I am becoming more and more convinced that the cons outwiegh the pros.  I'm just horrified that I dragged two innocent children through this.  I tried so hard to make their lives good.  I tried so hard to give them a "Leave it to Beaver" childhood. but about 4 years ago, I just wore out.  Then I got very sick.  And he doesn't even see how his ADD caused me so much work.  He doesn't even SEE it.  ARGH!

I relate to your post...

Hi there...

I was reading your post and feeling my temperature starting to rise. Your wife sounds like me in certain respects... I am the wife and have ADHD and didn't know until 2 years ago. I am also a high-achiever- which is probably why my ADHD wasn't uncovered earlier- I could always ace the test by just pulling an all-nighter while the adrenaline was high... I am now a lawyer and have had a successful practice for the past 5 years. We have 2 children, which I am primarily responsible for. Along with working full time (although right now I am on maternity leave), I do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, drop offs, pick ups, laundry... I also organize the kids appointments, school, birthday parties. I am also the kin-keeper... make sure that we get birthday cards, respond to invitations, see our parents and siblings and friends...

My biggest symptom was always emotional lability- highs and lows...  but with medication and therapy, I feel way more stable and happier... less anxiety, etc... 

Like your wife, I get defensive sometimes when there is no cause. And that's probably my husband's biggest complaint with me... And that comes from years of undiagnosed ADHD- frequently being misunderstood, blamed, different, and also from years of not understanding your own self and your behavior. Your choice as an undiagnosed ADHD person is to either develop really low self esteem about all these struggles that you can't seem to overpower... OR to develop an attitude of "screw it. I am trying my best. I am not perfect, but I am pretty great, despite these few things. I'm not going to beat myself up about them". I have had both reactions at different times. I used to joke I was an odd mix of insecurity crashing into bravado... It was hard to be in the middle. I either felt great about myself or just awful.

While you feel like you got the old switcheroo after marriage, maybe your wife feels the same... Where is the man who loved me and accepted me for who I am? Who is this person who is verbally abusive and bullying and who cross-examines me over small points like why I left the vaccuum in a certain spot? That's certainly how I felt after I got married.

Some of your wife's defensiveness is warranted. It sounds like you actively try to cross-examine your wife into a corner to get her to admit fault or admit that she has issues... And that is an attack. You've already said you have been verbally abusive to her on occasion- so why would she immediately react with an admission of guilt when you are browbeating her and trying to get her to admit that she doesn't remember whether something is blue?

Your wife's point about not treating the 11 year old that way is a valid point. In general- you should stop trying to cross-examine and debate anyone on some trivial point that doesn't matter, especially since it arises innocently for her. Especially when someone has ADHD. She isn't lying when she gets something wrong- she honestly cannot remember. If you can see that she does not remember- stop trying to force her to say she doesn't remember it and not accepting anything less.  This is very harmful to her and it's akin to repeatedly insisting that someone without legs slamdunk a basketball. Whether she is 11 or in her 40s... she has a serious neurological condition and since she's just been diagnosed, she is learning to unravel all her coping skills. It is not your place to jump in and hold a mirror up and smash her face into it repeatedly to "help" her. That is unloving and unkind. What is likely happening on her end is that after your initial back and forth where she has stated her (incorrect) position and you start to hammer away at her... the stakes have been raised so now she's a liar if she doesn't flip around her stpry... but she is not a liar... her comment was innocent, but mistaken. Maybe just respond with "Oh. Okay. I thought it was blue". and then move on... She may then come back to you later and say "I was thinking about it and maybe it WAS blue.". But she will never back down in the face of an aggressive attack. 

Now- don't get me wrong- if it's a big point that needs to be fought over- fight over it- but stop going to the ramparts over small points.  I know it's annoying that she doesn't remember something accurately and insists that she does... but this is a symptom she doesn't fully understand and can't fully control- especially if her diagnosis is relatively new. It's much better to let her uncover these things with her therapist on in her own time. OR- at a time when you are not fighting over a point. But the way you've described it step by step- you come off (to me) like a very critical and picky person.

If you know she doesn't remember something- stop trying to shove it in her face. period. She sounds like she's done remarkably well holding things together over the course of her life and on the whole has done a great job. And I am not suggesting you let her mistreat you or put up with any untenable symptoms- but you're going to have to learn to let small things go- or you picked the wrong partner. Try loving her for the points you admire and acknowledging her strengths and her efforts to improve her weaknesses. Try being supportive of her efforts and successes and going light on the areas where she still needs to improve.  

As much as you've been seeing this as her problem (she can't remember and won't admit it!) this is both of your problems (you get mean over petty stuff and stuff she cannot control). You have no business verbally abusing your wife over this. 

Good luck.

barneyarff's picture

Hopefully "arguing" with an

Hopefully "arguing" with an attorney will be the stupidist thing I do today.

 

1) If the vacuum clean is in front of the closet, how does one get into the closet without constantly moving the thing?

2)  If one needs a reminder to vacuum, a list of chores on the refrigerator is much neater than a vacuum cleaner in front of the closet.  Besides, it's more polite since the vacuum cleaner is in other people's way.

3)  If a small room was agreed upon for the non ADDer to have, why would the ADDer break the agreement?  If the Adder finds it impossible to not stay in compliance, why wouldn't the person renegoiate rather than just make a mess?

4) As for the "Is it blue" argument.  I will agree that going down the path over a benign question is silly.  But, really.  It's very confusing for the non to hear  Is it blue?  Yes, it's wet.

For me, I'm thinking :What?  Did I ask something wrong?  What did I miss?  "No, dear, I didn't ask if it was wet, I asked if it was blue."  I saw it yesterday.  So, now I'm really confused.  "Im glad you saw it yesterday.  Was it blue?"   It was round.  "HUH????!    Yes, we should all just walk away.  But after 1000 times one does get frustrated.  One just wants to yell  "FOR PETE'S SAKE, ANSWER THE QUESTION!   WAS IT BLUE?  IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!!!!!"    And yes, it's not a good road to go down, but why not just say, I don't remember.  Most of us would just reply "OK" and move on.  But from now on, when my DH answers a question in some bizarre way, I will stop asking and just understand, it's the ADHD.   I will bet any amount of money though that if HE asks "Is it blue?"  and I say "It was wet"  he will have a few things to say about that.

5) As for not letting the small things bother the person.  it's not the small things.  It's the 100 small things that happen 1000 times.  It's like a Chinese water torture.

EEEK  pushing "send"

ha! :)

Don't worry- I won't go hard on you! I LOVE a good debate in fact- as long as everything is respectful- which you have been. :)

So I will address your points one by one:

1) If the vaccuum cleaner was constantly in front of the closet- yes, you would have to move it time you want to get into the closet.  It would be better to put it back, I am sure. However, if the person who is predominantly at home using the vaccuum and accessing the closet is cool with it- maybe it's not worth it to go nuts trying to make this point. Certainly not worth a massive fight or making someone feel belittled. 

2) Your suggestion to have a list of chores isn't bad- but again- there are lots of ways to skin a cat and my point isn't that the wife's ways are perfect; my point is that people can do things in a variety of ways and get them done. And my bigger point is that- even when something has to be addressed because it is worth changing- there are much better ways to do it than the original poster discussed.  

3) I think boundaries are extremely important. If it was agreed that a certain room was to be for the non-ADHD spouse to have and to be kept uncluttered, I think those boundaries should be respected. But ADHD people can be forgetful and/or impulsive. It might not have been a deliberate act of malice. It might have been a momentary lapse in memory. Perhaps putting the vaccuum cleaner in front of that door would solve this? Kidding... Honestly though- maybe a little sign could be affixed to the door as a reminder right there? Your questions about 'why wouldn't the person renegotiate rather than just make a mess'? is kind of like asking 'why doesn't the person have the foresight and judgment and self-control that I do?" Because frankly- we don't think like you do. She might have completely forgotten. She might have thought to herself- I will just do this quickly because it's convenient and he is not even home and then I'll clean it right up...' and then distraction sets in or a kid calls for your attention or the phone rings...    Why rely on her memory, which is not great? Why not just put a little note on the door and then have an agreement that if that still doesn't work that he will be free to throw out the clutter...

4)I am sure it is very confusing for the non-ADHD person to have those conversations. I am empathetic to that... But- if you have educated yourself about your spouse's condition and you know that the point is 99.9% not going to be resolved by taking that approach and that you are in fact shaming them and making them feel small and less-than by doggedly pursuing them over it- then I think it's kinder and also more effective to drop it.  Obviously no one is perfect and the non-ADHD spouse will not always be able to drop it. But if you come at it with a better understanding that what you are doing is not accomplishing your goal AND it's harming the relationship- maybe that will help.

5) I am sorry that you have so much frustration and I am empathetic to how annoying some of these traits are. I don't expect that the small things won't bother you. What I am suggesting is that you try to reserve harsh words and aggressive behaviour for the big things and that you try to find healthier and more constructive ways to work around the small annoying (but basically benign) ones.

As a final note- I never took issue with the fact that some of the behaviour is annoying and hard to deal with. My issue is with the response to the behaviour.

:)

barneyarff's picture

 thanks for not yelling.

 thanks for not yelling.  I've been yelled at enough and had been made to think I'm nuts.  (and I'm the non)

 

1)  The vacuum cleaner (or whatever) is left out and isn't in anyone's way, I'm fine with it being out.  However I'm thinking of when my DH leaves the vacuum cleaner out.  It's almost always in the path between the living room and dining room and it's there for a month.  I have to walk around it and it's embarrassing because if anyone comes over you just know who they THINK left it out.   Once again, wrong as it is, women are judged for the condition of the house.  (At least in my area).  And I put it away the first 200 times (we've been married a long time)  but I get tired of putting it away.  In fact, I've been told ON THIS BOARD that if I put it away,, I'm enabling.  So here we are again with the "death by 1000 little cuts"

2)  whatever the reminder is to get a chore done, within bounds of reason is OK.  But if a person leaves thing out in order to remember to clean things then you have a clutter problem.  And, to be gross, I bet the toilet brush is put away and not left out..... well wait.  DH has done that and I had to finish that chore too.  But you see how confounding that can be to leave cleaning stuff out.  It's kind of unseemly, if you get my drift.   Of course having a fit about the vacuum cleaner being out in front of the closet on occasion, seems rather unexciting to me.  However if it's left out where I'm tripping over it, that's a whole different thing, wouldn't you agree?

3)  (Don't you love how we "bullet" the points?  lol)  Crossing Boundaries, for me is a huge issue.  whether there is malice of not, the damage still happens.  I will roll my eyes so hard they get stuck if my DH says one more time "Well, you shouldn't be upset.  i didn't leave the $8 gallon of organic milk out all night on purpose.  It wasn't as though I was trying to be malicious."  Malice or not an $8 gallon of milk has gone bad!  My DH seems to think that if he didn't do something on purpose that makes it all OK.  The same with the room.  Of course the ADD wife left the stuff in the room because she forgot.  But the stuff is still in the room!  Malice or not, the damage is done, the boundary was crossed----again.  (although i like the idea of the vacuum cleaner in front of the door<grin>)  I have threatened many times to build a pyramid on top of the freezer so DH can't pile all of his stuff on top of it.  You just know I've had to run down to the garage to pull something out of there while I am in cooking mode and the freezer door is piled high with his crap.  Did he put it in his daytimer (Annoy wife.  Pile crap on top of the freezer)?  Of course not.  He doesn't even remember where his daytimer is.  Is it still annoying as all get out when I'm in a hurry and need to get into the freezer?  yes.....   I have been known just to pick up all of the crap and throw it on his side of the garage.  He gets really mad at me though and says I am much worse than him because I did it on purpose.  So, you see, malice or neglect, it's still annoying.  and I would say that neglect in it's way is as "bad" as malice.  And I'm tired of being told I'm "worse" than him because I've tossed his crap back onto his side of the garage on purpose.

4) As for the questioning.  I agree that it should be dropped.  Here has been my personal problem with that.  i was starting to think I had gone nuts because there would be so many conversations like this.  I seriously started to wonder if I had had a stroke or something because it happened so often and DH got upset with me and acted like I was nuts.  In fact a few times he called me schizophrenic and I was getting worried.  So I would ask the question again and pay close attention to my words to make sure I wasn't screwing up.  It wasn't until I realized I didn't have that problem with most other people that I was able to reason, it wasn't me.  As you probably know if you are in a crazy environment you start acting crazy too just to fit in and survive.  So, for me I was trying to prove to myself I wasn't crazy, it was the environment.

So, here we go..... pushing send....

there is really nothing more to say...

I understand everything you are saying and I agree with a lot of it. Your husband's behaviour with the clutter and what-not sound extremely annoying. 

Having said that, my points about avoiding verbal abuse and not picking petty battles stand.

Only you know how much you can withstand in regards to living and dealing with your spouse- I wish you the best!! 

barneyarff's picture

Thanks for the

Thanks for the acknowledgment.  Sometimes---well more than sometimes---it feels as though I'm told I need to adjust and what is making me wild with angst is just nothing.  Or I have to feel sorry for DH because he has a "condition".

And I will try very hard not to pick any petty battles----nor pet any picky battles.   ;)

And best of luck to you, too.

 

PS... I think I've configured a pyramid for the top of the freezer.  boy is DH going to be PO'd.  Of course, if he takes it off, then we have other issues, don't we?

Welcome

Welcome to the magical ADHD roller coaster. I have had that conversation numerous times with my spouse.   That was more before I finally internalized what the books are saying.  You see, when she answers it was wet, that is your signal that you are not talking to your wife. You are talking to ADHD. At that point it is time to realize if you really need to know the color you should reschedule the conversation for when wife will be in control rather than symptoms. You can not argue with symptoms, they are not rational.

Furthermore, those excuses of lack of sleep, inadequate food, and no exercise are valid. Each of those things are crucial to symptom control.  Much better to postpone discussion until after dinner or yoga class.  Leaving the vacuum cleaner in front of the door is the cue to vacuum, not a personal attack on your desire for tidiness. Having a man cave is a great idea. Is there another option that isn't in her chore zone? If no, is there a place to hang a no laundry here sign, or another place she can stage laundry conveniently?  It is really important to try to find a path that works with the ADHD rather than fights it.

People with ADHD have had a lifetime of being criticized because they are neuro-atypical and want to be accepted for who they are. So it is is best to accentuate the positives and put systems in place to mitigate the negatives. And learn to walk away when the symptoms are in control.  Precious little has to be resolved now. Remember it is not personal.

"People with ADHD have had a

"People with ADHD have had a lifetime of being criticized because they are neuro-atypical and want to be accepted for who they are. So it is is best to accentuate the positives and put systems in place to mitigate the negatives. And learn to walk away when the symptoms are in control.  Precious little has to be resolved now. Remember it is not personal."

I think this insight is CRUCIAL to understanding why there is an immediate defensiveness and barrier up in most if not all ADHD people. It starts in school from teachers who's criticising and statements like "This isn't good enough", "why cant you be more like John? He always gets it right!" and "if you don't improve you'll end up working in McDonalds when you're older" creates a powerful subconscious self esteem complex which as a child hearing this from adults who you automatically respect because they are older and assumed to be wiser, leaves a big imprint. In adulthood as jobs, relationships and personal endeavours fail, the feeling of being useless and incapable is only reinforced. 

What strategies do you suggest to help with recognising that you are talking to symptoms? Obviously spotting signs and responding but how do you switch off your own frustration and not appear condescending? ADHD people are very perceptive and pick up on body language. 

Respond vs React

Hello Michael.  It is truly unfortunate how adults can hurt a kids self esteem for life, especially when the reasons are an unrecognized brain condition. Basically you know when you are talking to symptoms when the reactions are out of scale, don't address the subject, are not rational, etc. if you know the person you are talking to is a bright, kind person and they aren't acting that way chances are the symptoms have the upper hand. Unfortunately it can be difficult to back away gracefully. It is important to always respond vs react (with anyone). Make a habit of thinking before you speak. Try not to be inflammatory or blaming. Reschedule the topic for another time.  Walk away if they seem to be trying to start a fight. Some ADHD people seem to self stimulate with arguing, especially before the meds kick in. FYI, not all ADHD people are all that perceptive, nor do they all read body language correctly. My DH and I have had many a fight when he totally misperceived me and wouldn't let it go. 

You have a choice you know!

"I am who I am, and I like it.  You have a choice you know!"  I have heard this hundreds, no thousands of times. Yes, this is an attitude of "screw it".  "Screw it" is not a good attitude to have when someone is trying to partner with you.  It feels to the spouse like the ADDer is TRYING to make us hurt like they have been hurt because they know they can hurt us so easily.  So, "screw it" says...."SCREW YOU".  The argument about "blue" is familiar too.  Here is why I do the same thing now and then.  He lies, lies, lies.   When he lies, rather than admitting he forgot or he doesn't know, he lies and distracts.  However, most times he lies it is because he is doing things he doesn't want me to know about and he SHOULD be called out on it.   THAT is what the 3rd degree is about.  Sometimes I forget that he does not have clarity when it comes to truth and lies.....I ask the direct question to remind myself that out of his mouth comes ANYTHING....he does not talk to trade information or support or be informed....he talks to play a game of cat and mouse...silly and frustrating.  I don't think this is an ADHD thing.  Some people lie and you can't trust them.  Snidely not answering someone's direct question is LYING......if that person is a loving partner sometimes you just check to see if you are on the SAME TEAM.  Lying and being a jerk/diva are not ADHD.  They are just not feeling the need to be intimate and trusting/trustworthy with you.  The threat that you should just leave if you don't like this little thing or that little thing is empty and mean.  They get away with it....part of the game.   To me it is a low-class tactic.  Your wife sounds high class in other ways...but the way she is relating to you ...  she is pulling the gloves off.

NOT ADHD - just impossible

Me:  Are you taking care of that thing you said you would do?

dh: I have an appointment this afternoon to take care of it.

Me: When?

dh:  I don't know, they said they will come if they have time.

Me: That is not an appointment.

dh: What's the difference?

Me:  sometimes you say you will take care of something and then it is not taken care of.  I am just checking when this will get taken care of.

dh: If I say it will be taken care of, it will be taken care of.  Loudly.

Me: No, you have shown me that that is not true.  So, as a wife, I need to know, when will this be taken care of?  You said you had an appointment a week ago to take care of this and it is still not done.

dh:  Excuse, excuse, excuse.  Yelling now.

Me: When will this get done?

dh: I don't know. Yelling.

Me:  I must know because I am not going to do it this time.

dh:  Yes, I know you must not get your holy hands dirty doing something for me.  Yelling.

Usually this is where I go nuts in my mind because that is SOOOO NOT TRUE...I have been getting my hands dirty in his irresponsible business TOO much...enabling.  
Me:  When will this be done?

dh: Storms out of the room cursing under his breath.

Great Example

This is another perfect example of arguing with symptoms not a person. Clearly he isn't managed well enough to provide coherent answers so he gets defensive and turns the blame onto you and all of a sudden it is your fault.  I know from other posts that your DH isn't seeking treatment so it's unlikely that his behavior will ever change. So the only hope of a different reaction is different input. Stop arguing with symptoms.  Arrange a specific time to discuss the issue, and set a date for it to be done. Define the consequence of him not doing it. Hiring a contractor, doing it yourself, finding a goat to eat all the piles, whatever it is.

I disagree about lying not being ADHD. Sure it's not limited to people with ADHD and probably isn't skewed toward adhd people more than others in similar situations. I would say that lying is a defense mechanism. The liar is afraid of the reaction to the truth so lies to avoid it. The liar is tired of getting criticized so lies to avoid it. People with add are well known for being defensive so lying seems consistent. Inappropriate though it is. 

I was at a relationship and ADHD seminar this weekend and a point of emphasis is that we tend to think of what should be rather than what is. But shoulds are not productive or helpful. One must deal with reality. All unhappiness is a result of unfulfilled expectations.

Thanks!

Thank you for all the replies, I am very grateful for the time you have taken to share your experiences.  I have already gained some valuable insight.  I hope you do not view these as "fire and forget" as I would be interested in continuing the discussion.  Unfortunately it will likely be several days before I am able to give a thoughtful response to your comments.  Thanks again.

Thank you

Hi tfarmer, thanks so much for sharing - I to am the non-ADD husband and can really relate to your story. Knowing that others have similar experiences to me gives me comfort. Up until a few months back, when my wife was diagnosed, I did feel alone and really struggled to make sense of why things happen the way they do. Understanding it now along with this support network has changed my life immeasurably. We have been married for 13 years (both first marriages), two young boys. For the 17 years of knowing her I had no clue (I suspect she did) about ADD. I also really appreciate all the kind and open responses you have received. I read them with mixed emotions, sadness, laughter, respect, understanding. So much there and they are all so on the money, both sides of the coin, if you'll excuse the pun! This vacumn cleaner stuff had me in stitches! The responses in regard to being respectful to your wife and recognizing that it is the ADD and thereby hopefully not being verbally abusive so so important. I will have to re-read all to respond more fully which I will do. However, in the meantime, whether this fits for you or not, I wanted to share with you something I have not read much about here on Melissa's site, that the presence of shame should be considered. My wife experiences deep shame from long before she ever met me. This shame causes defensiveness, prevents her from being vulnerable and really inhibits her being able to stay in a joyful place. Give this some thought as you grapple with the frustrations and anger you feel. It was not my wife's fault the adults in her life when she was a child missed it. It is hers and ours to deal with today. I challenge myself to remember this every day and through now finally taking care of myself and being more understanding hope that our relationship will continue to improve and flourish over our lifetimes. All the best, CG.