My Personal 12 Commandments

Recently there was a complaint that there were not enough positive posts around here, so I thought I would do one.  I recently read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It's really good, and has a neat framework for thinking about small ways you can create more happiness in your life.  One of the things she did was to create her "12 Commandments," or her personal rules/values to live by.  So I thought I would make my own and share them here.  Please keep in mind that living these commandments is a work-in-progress for me, but they do give me some guideposts to live by, and it really helped to write them down.

1.  Put love first.  I got this one from the Marriage Fitness program that I listen to, and Mort Fertel's theory is that the things we hate about our spouses are the same things we fell in love with; the only thing that has changed is our love.  In other words, when we're "in love," we see everything rosy, and then when that starts fading, we start getting annoyed.  It's a little more complicated in ADD relationships, since some of the changes are very real after the hyperfocus stage, but it's true that when we were first dating, I was much more willing to forgive and accept because my love outweighed my resentment.  Got to get back there, and put love first over being right, annoyed, etc.

2.  Seek first to understand.  This one is HARD, especially since my husband has a tendency to say inflammatory things when he's mad, which makes me very reactionary.  But part of what I'm working on is creating a space between the stimulus (something my husband says/does) and my response, so that my response is consistent with who I want to be.  Part of this is ignoring or putting aside the "trigger" and trying to understand where my husband is coming from.  I'd say I've been successful with this about 25% of the time, which is not great, but it has almost always resulted in a de-escalation and positive outcome.

3.  Find explanations in charity.  This is from the Happiness Project, and is a quote from Montaigne or Samuel Johnson or some other famous person.  Basically, I realized that I tend to interpret things in a way that fit with my current idea of who my husband is.  If he doesn't take out the trash, he doesn't love ME.  Finding explanations in charity means interpreting his failure to take out the trash with his being overwhelmed, or forgetting because he's too distracted, or some other reason that supports his good intentions.  It also makes me reflect on a lot of evidence that points to the fact that he DOES care -- by calling, helping with kids, wanting to share something with me, etc., so that my charitable explanation for his shortcoming is more supportable.

4.  Be the change you want to see.  You've got to love Gandhi.  I think of this when I find myself thinking that my husband "should" do this or that.  The only thing I can change is myself, and be an example of how a spouse should be.  Hopefully, this will inspire him to reflect on himself and change as well.  If not, I'm still a better person as a result of my own changes.

5.  Make time.  This one is for myself.  I blame a lot of my lack of time on my husband not helping, having all the responsibility, etc.  However, as he started to help more, I realized that I still had no time for myself -- pretty typical for a working mom with two preschool kids!  So I decided I needed to make time based on my life as it is, my husband or anyone else can't do it for me.  Some of my actions in this area include going to bed early/waking up early; cutting out a LOT of TV; using the card file system from Sidetracked Home Executives to make sure I am optimizing every block of "free" time, no matter how small (I've realized I can get a good workout in my own basement in about 25 minutes), and to outsource things that I can.  I also schedule an "indulgence" for myself once every week -- lunch with a friend, pedicure, massage, etc. which has changed my life for the better.  I've realized that if something is truly important, you'll find time for it.

6.  Smile.  I used to do this a lot more.  A marriage counselor my husband and I saw pointed out that it's impossible to have negative thoughts while you're smiling.  (Try it, it's true.)  I try to smile for 30 seconds when I first wake up in the morning.  I also try to smile at people who piss me off (and also go back to #3).  It makes a difference in your day.

7.  Act from a place of abundance.  I'm pretty good at this one.  This is the idea that when you give something to others as if you have more than enough already, more comes back to you.  For example, many people who tithe or donate a lot of money to charity say that they began *getting* a lot of money out of nowhere (sudden promotion, windfall, etc.).  I think this is true of a lot of things -- I try to give people who work for and around me as much credit and recognition as I can...and find that as a result, the spotlight comes back on me more than if I were to jealously hoard all of the credit to begin with.  Doing this with love is a little trickier -- it's hard to convince yourself that you already have all the love you need, if you've been feeling that you lack it for a long time.  But I think there's breakthrough potential here.

8.  Do a little every day.   This is related to #5.  Nothing happens overnight -- small efforts over a long time results in big changes.  So every day I try to do a little -- exercise, read, etc.  Also, I try to focus on the small changes my husband has made, rather than focusing on the big picture, which is depressing because we still have a long way to go.  And I give myself permission to make small changes myself; I'm not going to transform overnight, either.

9.  Give your needs met.  Another gem from Mort Fertel and Marriage Fitness (if you're interested, you can get free emails at -- they're worth it!).  This is about not keeping score.  When I stop focusing on myself for one minute, I realize that my husband has been asking for things that I have not given him, out of resentment, or exhaustion, or whatever.  Most of them are not unreasonable, and I can do a better job of meeting his needs, rather than always focusing on my own needs that are going unmet.  Again, if I come from a place of abundance, this does not have to be a "loss" for me.  And if my husband feels valued and understood, he's more likely to reciprocate.

10.  Don't bring up the past.  SO HARD.  I am lawyer, so in any argument I tend to want to bring up "evidence," which usually involves a parade of wrongs from the past.  BAD IDEA.  I've tried to reframe this and see that by bringing up the past, I'm allowing it to continue controlling me, rather than having control of my own life.  Hard to let go, but it has to be done.

11.  Act the way you want to feel.  This has popped up in so many places (including on this forum) that I feel like this is a special cosmic message just for me.  I find that if I act more loving, or connected, or like soul mates...we actually start to be so.  The key is for me to resist the temptation to act on how I *actually* feel (hurt, resentful, petulant, etc.) and instead take the "fake it 'till you make it" approach.  It works.

12.  Be me.  This is about connecting with who I know myself to be.  I used to be a person who was really funny, and made people laugh.  A lot.  I used to love to dance and sing karaoke.  I loved to socialize.  I need to uncover all these aspects of myself that have become buried under hurt and anger, and in doing so, I'll be able to be the person my husband fell in love with again.

I hope this is helpful/inspiring to others -- please share your commandments, if you have any (everyone's will be different!).

Now I just need to read these everyday to be reminded....

Ren - your commandments are everything I wish to be and do.  It made me laugh (I am a lawyer, with a toddler and it sounds like, the same husband). I believe in every point you made and , in my own way, I try to implement a lot of in in the way I live. But it really slams me in the face when things are rough, as they are now, how much it all goes out the window in terms of dealing with my husband. But at least for right now, after reading your post, it softened me a bit, so maybe I will try to utilize the points - when, admittedly,  I TRULY do not want to.  Thanks.

Easier Said Than Done, I Know

Catfish -- trust me, these are *very* aspirational for me, and I by no means live all of them (or even most of them) every day.  But I will say that a lot of these "rules" have been floating around in my head for a while, and there was something really powerful about writing them down.  It made them more real, and it's easier for me to remember and hold on to them when I'm in an agitated state and want to do the exact opposite of what I've committed to do.  Good luck -- I know how hard it is to live these values!

sapphyre's picture

Thanyou Ren

These are great! I am inspired, and also feel I am on the right track, as these are similar to what I've been trying to implement in my life :)

Thank you for shring your 12 Commandments

I'm new on this forum, accidentally stumbling my way in when googling variations of "husband has add".  Feeling fairly down at the time, I was really grateful to have come across your post, Ren.  It lifted my mood by offering up hope. I want to help my husband, or at least not contribute to his problem.  We have 2 young kids who love him dearly, as do I, and there is a lot in our 10-yr marriage that's worth fighting for.  You identified some of the strategies that I can immediately put into practice, or reflect upon,  in this "fight." Thank you.


THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting!  My husband and I are in the thick of it right now...trying to take the next step in treating his ADD, while trying not to kill eachother! Printing this out now as positive reinforcement for me to read every morning!  Thanks again!

I needed this post today.

I am realizing I will need to put in a lot of work to get back to loving my husband again.  Maybe I am ready to start letting go of the anger?  I was hoping the love would just magically return like when we first met.  Realizing now I will have to actively work on that I guess.



A call

Ren, a shout out thanks to you, if you still read on this board

Your 2010 commandments, for you, that you discerned, then chose to accept their challenge, and sought to live up to are, to me, a call.  

Before I get started about them, I need to say that I know that for  those who visit this board who are dealing with partners, ADHD or not, who (for whatever reasons) put their energy into denying, projecting, cutting down their partner, or abandoning the relationship, or for those here who are being abused, doing, really fulfilling Ren's commandments for herself will not magically bring about change in the denying, abandoning or abusing spouse.  It takes two taking action.  No partner can "fix" the other partner.

I don't think of Ren's commandments to herself, as anyone lives obedience to them, to be a magic fixer at all.  One could look at them through the lens of "here we go, one more batch of directions to the non-ADHD partner, to tell her or him once again that for things to be better, he or she must bend  to mindset and limitations of the person with ADHD, and give up or put second her or his own needs and character.  Is this another 'let me tell you what you lack, as a non-ADHD partner' looking only at that? "

Just my read: I don't think Ren posted these commandments to herself as requirements for everyone whatever the stage of treatment, maturation, or social behavior of their ADHD partner was.  I don't read them as universal advice.

What they do for me, however, is call me to softening my heart, both to myself and to my partner.   I've found living with ADHD behaviors in a household to be a struggle, that requires me to be tougher in insisting on boundaries, in cutting through the jungle of extra work and worry to find time for me so that I can take care of myself, even minimally.  I hadn't wanted to have to be this tough with another person.  I hadn't dreamed that I'd need to be this tough in insisting that I don't get run over by his needs, interruptions, and bona fide lacks.   I hadn't wanted home life to have these difficulties in them (nor had I ever been able to guess that they would be there).  I have had to harden my resolve.  I didn't want to harden anything.

Ren thank you so much for calling me to doing some of the same relational work that I'm struggling with, with a softer heart...I need somehow for my heart not to be conditioned into lack of hope, into alertness for things falling apart (because they do often, here), and, through merciless attrition of needing be the one of the two to do the hard thing, the cleanup thing, the struggle with certain things here at home, to lose my soft love for my husband and kindness with which I treat myself.  Of which I still have an abundance, but we have long years of ADHD struggle, both of us, to go, and as far as I can tell, ADHD impact on me requires some no-slack-soldier self discipline that I've never in what is not a short life so far ever had the need of with anyone else.

Folks this is just me to Ren.  

And again, if your partner will NOT come into relation with you, or is abusing you, I understand with all my heart that Ren's commandments to herself to put love first, smile, give, listen with charity will in that kind of relationship, be that Zen situation of only one of two hands clapping.  

Myself, dealing with how this daily life conditions me into overwork, not caring for myself, and sadness at times, I needed Ren.  And do.  Thanks again, 2010 Ren.


Oh, what a wonderful post, of reality, love and heart....

Thanks C


I am so glad this got bumped

I am so glad this got bumped back up!  I loved the original commandments and I love your reply.  You are right - this wont fix a relationship where the other partner refuses to do what it takes to work on things.  But it sure can make being yourself ALOT better, and it will help you live in love, and make decisions that while may not benefit you directly - will benefit you by being based in love and respect instead of anger or hurt.  I am trying to always base what i do off of love right now, and its not always easy.  It doesnt mean I dont get angry, though I am starting to see that the more I use these commandments, the easier it is to let of that anger.  It just makes ME feel better.


I am glad I scrolled to this part of the forums!!! LOVE IT!

I Like This Too...Stacey

I just read what you said about how you can't touch your husband unless he initiates it and I was thinking about the CSA thing you've mentioned about the sexual abuse?  My wife has a bit of this too...but she does really appreciate it...when I intimate ( intimate contact ) but she does get very "stiff" at times and doesn't always now how to respond?  When I say "stiff"...she likes it...and doesn't like it both at the same time and there are certain rules I've found that she started out saying to me early in touching...which seemed odd but not now in context?  She had a thing about touching her forehead and not touching the top of her head....but I found that after repeatedly ( and tenderly and respectfully ) doing that with her enough times...that she seems to have forgotten her own rule and does not say anything anymore and even likes it now....seemingly?  Even if she still is "stiff" at times or when she is not prepared or taken off guard?  It is a little like walking on egg shells there and kind of "touch" and "go" with her depending on?  It just reminded me of this when I read what you said...and I see this play out differently...but saying...I think it's the same thing?.

But Ren's personal commandments are really good even though I haven't seen these before?  I could sum them up in my own way by saying....."be the ball"...or ...."keep your eye on the ball" and that would pretty much mean the same thing.

And I don't want to put into this anything negative....but as I was reading this and going down the list...I was thinking about "Do's"...and ...."Don'ts"...which in respect to Ren....these are all good "Do's" and ones I agree with?

I Don't think saying there are things that you shouldn't a negative as much as just showing the alternatives...and ones you should avoid?  That as I saying also a positive thing in that....knowing what to do is good...and also knowing ...what not to also a good thing?  Nothing wrong with that...either way since...sometimes...what "not to do" or knowing that is equally valuable which if you are doing it "wrong' shows the alternative at the same time?  Connecting the dots....never hurts? This is what I thought about when I read the list an the alternatives which may not be good...if these are what you are already doing?  I've done so many things wrong in my life.....that knowing the difference but making these connections...made it easier in discovering exactly what I was doing wrong and then going directly to what to do instead?

Instead a good way to say this?  Hopefully....that's not being negative?  If anything...I am admitting that I have done most things on this "Don't list" myself..and for anyone with ADHD who is reading this...who is stuck in negative thought and is looking for the same things I look for....."how to do things better" starts with knowing what not to do first and then making the jump going in the other direction?

And since I just made post...identifying the "problem" that I see in my wife's strategy some times ....and I just caught the word "challenge" in the response made by NowOrNever....I think Rens list is a good one to apply to a "challenging person".( a person who is constantly challenging you..,.literally in defense).,.when confronted with this kind of "challenge?"'s what I thought about as the "Don'ts" here for myself ( only) as I read down the list which are all things I know I've done "not so well"...speaking from that place?

1.  Put love first. ....and lead from your heart and allow it to tell you what to do in that moment....instead of leading with your mind and emotions in response to the challenge

2.  Seek first to understand. ...Instead of reacting?

3.  Find explanations in charity. Instead of wanting something and Giving something in return from the heart....back to #1

4.  Be the change you want to see.  Be the ball :)

5.  Make time.  This one is for myself.  Love yourself.   Be good to yourself, and don't beat yourself up?  If you can't give to yourself ( and spend all your time beating yourself up )'s hard to give to anyone else  ( or not do the same thing to others in response? ) ...instead.

6.  Smile. Be the Ball ( again :)  Mirth.   Mirth is good.  Instead

7.  Act from a place of abundance.   Instead of from a place of scarcity.  One I had to over come in having ADHD for sure. Still working on it...but that is the Don't right there?

8.  Do a little every day.   This is related to #5. Ditto :)

9.  Give your needs met.  Instead of the "0" sum game.  That was a big one ....but reciprocating is the other half of this...instead.

10.  Don't bring up the past.  SO HARD.   I wanted to chime in here and say...the past is the past....when speaking directly to the challenge.  The challenge is in the moment....the last 5 minutes or speaking about the present but pointing out what is actually happening now......instead of the distant past as means to "stop" things from going South (in the moment of the challenge and identify what is happening NOW )  I was thinking about this in terms of what Dr Barkley was saying about people with ADHD needing external quos and experiencing  consequences and boy was he right on that one.  The past is not a good means to do this....experiencing consequences and connecting them to the actions right in the another way to say..."hands on learning".  I think what is so not understanding this for a person with ADHD.  Learning needs to the time of the challenge.  If that window of opportunity closes....then the lesson will never get learned because the connection to the past and the why the past doesn't work as a means to provide any learning...if learning is what is needed.  I'm putting this into the context of the challenge the moment....which I'm saying from a person with ADHD.....Dr Barkley was absolutely right?  Some kind of consequence is needed....instead of that one.  The past is not an effective way for someone with ADHD...and the "laundry list" Melissa described this in her a poor way to do it?  I agree.  Check all the above!!  This is me....speaking about myself and giving those reasons why again?  It is difficult for me to do anything sometimes....unless I know why I am doing it and what I am trying to avoid coming from the ADHD perspective that is?

11.  Act the way you want to feel.    Be the Ball  ( once again :)

12.  Be me. And that which is natural instead of contrived perhaps?  Can't say it enough times so I will say it again.  Be the Ball  ( and let your heart show you the way )

That's just the ADHD perspective in comparison I guess....from at least one source for anyone coming that that side of things to compare too?  Critical thinking does require you to at least....use you head and your heart both at the same time? ( which is not negative but as I am saying this....for yourself not to share with anyone else?  Is that Wisdom?  I think it is? LOL

I hope Ren doesn't mind that I did this and took her list and made it my own....but I think everyone needs to interpret things in that way it works for them...and that's just how it works for me too.  I appreciate her providing this for I could have the opportunity do this for myself most importantly.....and share how I can apply it that makes sense to me?  i think it's a great list and I'm going to right it down as soon as I finish with this :)