UPDATE 6/24/2014 - see update below
I am the non-ADD spouse. Our family has had pets over the years and I am always the main caretaker. A few years ago my husband decided that our family needed a fish tank. He spent a couple thousand dollars on all of the supplies and fish. I was not happy about the purchase for several reasons 1) expense and 2) maintenance - who is going to take care of it - I refused to do anything for the fish. My husband assured me that he would take care of the tank which he did for about 3 months.
For the past three years, the fish tank goes uncleaned for 8 or 9 months and most of the fish die off. Our young daughter eventually asks for new fish and then the two of them will make a trip to the pet store to buy more supplies and fish. He cleans up the tank - only to have the cycle start over again.
A few weeks ago the filter died so now the tank is not just dirty, but everything is covered in green mold and it looks disgusting. I don't see any signs of life in the tank.
I need help with the best way to communicate to my husband that I would like him to drain the tank. It pains me to look at it any longer and unfortunately, it is in our family room where we spend a lot of time.
Please help me with how I can communicate this need without causing a fight between my husband and me. Thank you!!!
Since my original post, the fish tank has had a complete revamp with a new filter, rocks and fish back. For a few days after that, my husband was obsessing over ph levels, cleaning the sides etc. Then, he loses interest and the fish get nothing except for food (our daughter's job). Now fast-forward 6 months to the present. I noticed the tank was getting green again and losing water. The fish seemed to be lifeless. So, one night I casually said to my husband, "Hey, the fish tank seems to be dirty. Do you think you could clean it soon? If not, maybe I will see if I can find a company to do it for us?" He said yes and did a quick cleaning of the sides and added more water. He asked what I thought of it and I praised him for his efforts - although probably not enough. I have a hard time giving him words of affirmation (something I need to work on). Anyways, I mentioned how the mold was still on the bottom and the rocks needed to be vacuumed. Anyways, another week went by and I reminded him again of it. He took care of it, but it always comes with a price. He just can't clean it and be done with it. He had to go out and spend $75 on more supplies and fish. I get it that he needs a reward at the end of it so he likes to get more fish. I just wonder if maybe it would be easier and cheaper to higher someone else to do it for us. Thoughts?
"Honey, can you please drain
Submitted by PoisonIvy on
"Honey, can you please drain the fish tank? It looks very yucky." (And depending on your level of desperation, you could add "I can give you a hand, if you'd like.")
I advise this straightforward approach not to let your spouse off the hook (pun not intended) but to come to the point quickly and clearly.
"Oh, we've all been so busy.."
Submitted by sunlight on
".. that none of us noticed that the water needs changing. When can you do it? It doesn't look healthy for the fish"
You said 'I don't see any signs of life in the tank' - don't mention that at all. Then after the appointed time has come and gone (ie the time when he said he would do it) and the tank is still not clean, then mention that you are concerned for the health of the fish and that it would be nice to have the tank clean so everyone can enjoy them. Repeat as necessary. (If no-one appears to care about the tank he probably thinks nobody is waiting for him to do anything. When it does get cleaned, periodically mention how nice it is to have it - that is positive reinforcement for him).
In this and the credit-card issue I think you need to make clear statements so there can be no misunderstanding. If he tries to goad you into arguing with him then stop engaging in that conversation and find a way to exit the room ("I have heard you, however we will need to talk about this again, I now need to go do ...")
On the finances, try producing a written summary of a few months 'before his credit card' showing income and major outgoings each month, then the months 'after his credit card' showing the same. Do not be too detailed in the written summary but be prepared to talk about detail if he requests it AFTER he has had time to think about what you provide. If he doesn't begin to see what is happening and to respond, then tell him that you are thinking of bringing the issue up in counselling (i.e. - don't ambush him in counselling, let him know the concerns and numbers beforehand).
Some ADHD people may be happy to fool themselves that if there is no immediate crisis then there is nothing to be done immediately. For better or worse it's your job not to allow things to be endlessly buried. I think you mention that your counsellor is not an adult ADHD expert - the risk is that he/she will only be seeing your husband as he appears in the appointments with no clue about the effects of ADHD at home. So when you are in sessions with the counsellor try to make sure that you express your concerns adequately - do you take notes in with you? Would it help? If a suggestion is made in counselling (like the separate account idea) which your instinct tells you might be a bad idea then find a way to put off the decision and come back to the idea at a later session (ie don't let your husband and the counsellor rush you into it, instead say something like 'that is an idea, I would like to have some more time to think about how that might work'). Then clarify your ideas before the next session. Otherwise your husband is controlling the agenda and you are left catching up.
Submitted by Suda on
@sunlight - I agree that I should phrase it in a such a way about the health of the fish. It does pain me to see them die off one by one. I will use your wording - might strike a cord with him. As far as the finances go, we had an 'ok' conversation but he agreed that a regular meeting to discuss only finances would be helpful. it was poor judgment on my part to not give myself more time to think about the credit card idea and possibly draft a list of rules. he does better with visuals, but it is said and done and now I have to move forward with a new direction - these meetings should help. thanks for reminding me to bring notes to our therapy sessions. i used to do that everytime, but got away from it probably from my exhaustion and feeling that nothing is every going to change.
Maybe he'd agree to transfer
Submitted by copingSAH on
Maybe he'd agree to transfer to a smaller tank and less fish when it gets full of algae. And make it so that it is more affordable and manageable for your daughter to learn to care for.
My dh, too, decided to buy a tank full of fish a couple of weeks before I gave birth to our first child. Never did understand the impulsive action -- did he not think having a human baby was enough, he had to have his own fish??
I never said anything or proposed anything in my case, being busy with a real baby -- it just got to the point where he was sick of looking at it and the tank water was literally evaporating. That's when he relegated the fish tank to the basement - with the fish still in it! Never again if I can help it, it's too cruel and he had no awareness these fish (and other pets he's come into contact with) are creatures to be cared for.
(Incidentally, this was the same time he decided to quit to look for another job, now that I was a stay home and we relied on his one income... thank goodness for my blissful ignorance back in those days...)
I think as soon as the ADD/ADHD neurology encounters stress or life change, the brain somehow becomes fixated on a goal that is not related to the imminent change, in order to cope. Or it is another type of conflict-creating.
"for your daughter to learn to care for"
Submitted by sunlight on
Yes, I wondered about that, even if she is very young it would be a good thing to get her involved. I think the husband should be the one to teach her though? (Under careful but almost invisible supervision...) Otherwise it's just the non-ADHD person relieving the ADHD person from something they committed to (in a different universe a long time ago... in their head) and I think that might be a baad idea.
Submitted by Suda on
@copingSAH definitely not going to mention a smaller tank - just more money spent and we still would have the same issue. My daughter has trouble keeping her hermit crab :)
it makes me feel better to know I am not alone and appreciate your personal story about your own fish tank drama. Thanks
If this was me ...
Submitted by Freaking ADD on
If this story were about me, the "health of the fish" approach wouldn't help at all. I'd say that they're fine, because if I admit they're not fine, I know what is coming next, and I know I don't want to do that right now. And once it becomes "not my idea," there's little hope of generating enough interest for me to do it willingly. Not to mention I'll end up on the internet looking for tank-cleaning robots and giant sucker-fish. Speaking of fish, I wonder what ... (and I'm gone).
I think I'd be more responsive to an alternate idea that's focused on helping me out. i.e., wife says something like, "What do you think about the fish tank being so nasty?" To which I reply, "Oh it's just this, or that, bla bla bla," (because I don't want to tackle that project right now). Wife says, "I was just wondering if changing it to a terrarium would be something we could all enjoy? Plus, I know how tough it is for you sometimes, to clean the tank as much as you'd like to. And it seems like a terrarium would be easier for all of us to take care of regularly. Then we could spend more time doing other things together." I say, "Yeah, maybe. I can look into it." Wife says, "Okay, yeah if you don't mind when you have time, I'd be pretty excited to see what we can do."
1. Wife not griping about fish tank. Just asking about it's state of being.
2. Wife not asking me to clean fish tank. She cleverly knows I'll want to clean the tank if I'm excited about the new project.
3. Wife couldn't care less about terrarium, but at least she's got me thinking of alternatives.
4. Additionally, she's got me thinking of alternatives that involve less of my time and focus.
5. I might've been trying to put her off by saying, I "can" look into it. But she counteracts by letting me do it when "I" have time. Less pressure = less "overwhelm."
6. Wife, in a genius checkmate maneuver, ensures that I will look into it by telling me that she'd be excited about it, which now has me excited about it, too.
I don't know ... but it sounds better than you suddenly being interested in the fish that you haven't wanted anything to do with before. I'm not saying that as a slight against you. But I over-analyze what people say to me and how they say it, ALL THE TIME. I think part of the reason for that is because I'm constantly on guard against being ridiculed or chided for something I'm not doing like everyone else. It's defensive. So when I hear something that's suggesting, "I know it's not easy for you, and I'd just like to help you work around this," I'm much more receptive.
tried the terrarium approach, but not sure of the results
Submitted by Suda on
Hi Freaking ADD, after reading everyone's thoughts and ideas, I decided to try your approach. My husband sounds a lot like you and probably has been researching some sort of self-cleaning robot and would be throwing more money at it. Changing the tank to a terrarium will still cost something I am sure, but it would be a hell of a lot better than looking a stale, green moldy tank whose filter is broken and water is evaporating. I didn't use your wording exactly - probably should have. He sort of gave me a "huh, what lives in a terrarium?" and I replied "well, I don't know, but there isn't any water or cleaning." Now my daughter has noticed the tank and started saying to my husband "Dad, you know the 2 catfish and 2 snails are still alive? the tank looks dirty - you need to clean it." He now has asked her to research terrariums. She asked him the other day if she could take the tank to school for her class pet for the year and he seemed to get very angry about that. I think he didn't want to add more work to his plate and he thought I was behind it trying to secretly get rid of the tank.
So, we aren't any further along with the fish tank. I would have loved for him to give me some sort of timeline, but I guess until my daughter and I research terrarium's then we will be looking at a dirty tank. Ughh, I want to scream because it is driving me crazy and I do feel bad for those few lone survivors in the tank.
Submitted by Freaking ADD on
Hey Suda ... yeah, from what you're saying, it sounds like the approach had mixed results. Maybe having more information about it at the time would've helped. But with that being said, I looked it up and apparently my understanding of a terrarium wasn't exactly right, either. But it's still a cool idea.
Here's a link to a wikipedia page that gives you a lot of information in one place. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrarium
Basically, I was thinking of a terrarium as being a habitat for turtles/reptiles/etc. But according to Wikipedia, it's more like an "enclosed garden." Still, I would think that adding a turtle or interesting insects would be cool.
We had an aquarium for a couple years and I ended up hating that thing. The problem for me was the water. There were just too many details involved in making sure the water had the right levels of whatever, right temperature, making sure the kids weren't feeding TOO much, which I knew would result in dirtier water, etc. etc. From what I understand, a terrarium might still require some upkeep, but not as much as an aquarium, because there's essentially no water.
If/when the subject comes up again, that's the part I would emphasize. I'm trying to think of how my wife might word that conversation, where I would be most receptive. Again, it would be along the lines of trying to HELP ME, as opposed to making me feel like I'm the cause of situation that is affecting the whole family. Things like, "I know you really like having the fish, watching them grow and interact with each other, etc., but I also know how much you dislike having to always change the water, keep up with the filters, food, chemicals and all that. It seems like a terrarium (or similar) would give you the same satisfaction of being able to nurture something, without having to worry as much about maintenance/upkeep." and "Plus, I really think we'd all enjoy it, and maybe we could make a family activity out of taking care of it (once a week, once every two weeks, once a month, whatever)."
Lastly, but probably most importantly, offer to help him clean out the aquarium. He may (or may not) want to set up the terrarium on his own (I would). But it's the initial "That means I have to clean that thing out, first" that would make me procrastinate getting started on the project. When my wife is willing to help me on something that I really don't want to do, it's a lot easier for me to do it. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't necessarily make me WANT to do it any more, but knowing that I don't have to do it by myself, goes a long way toward my ability to hunker down and do it. Also keep in mind the possibility that he may not be looking forward to missing out on whatever else might be going on when he's cleaning the tank out. For me, knowing that my wife and/or kids are helping me, keeps me more motivated because I'm able to spend time with them.
One last note ... Speaking of self-cleaning robots ... if the aquarium ends up staying, and possibly even getting cleaned, there are certain fish, crabs, etc. that do actually aid in keeping the tank clean(er). Ya'll could research, or go talk to someone at a pet store about those options. Again, hopefully, if he sees that these other fish/creatures might make the overall experience better, he might be more inclined to give the tank a good cleaning, so that he can introduce the self-cleaning robots into the mix.
Although, as this site points out, every one of us ADD/ADHD folks are different. Even if he and I are similar in our behaviors, we might be just different enough that these tactics don't work as well. I'm just trying to help by saying what I'd be most receptive to. I hope it helps, though!
Submitted by kaycee_michelle on
Thank you, thank you thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU! I also have been in this blunder of what to do to inspire my husband to clean the nasty fish bowl. It is so helpful and refreshing to have you share such insight!!!