New to the Forum, but not to ADHD!

Greetings All,

My name is Jeffrey and I was formally diagnosed with ADHD 14 years ago. I have been with the same woman for all that time. We have been married for 12 years, and have definitely seen many ups and downs. She long ago decided not to have children with me because she felt she would be stuck with most of the burden of raising them. I have had to make my peace with that, even though it hurts. We have tried a lot of different things to help cope with the extra needs my condition places upon the marriage, some of them have worked well, others have not. I am on medications, we have sought counseling, both individual, and together, but we go through repeated cycles where everything is just fine, and then they "...go to hell in a hand basket..." all over again. My work schedule rotates every month. I work 4-10 hour shifts, so there are months where I am sleeping all day while she is working, then I am up when everyone is asleep, also, her 79 year-old mother lives with us too. I have been successful in several areas that most people with ADHD usually have trouble, despite barely graduating high school, I served four years in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged, I also have a bachelors, and a masters degree. I am not incompetent, just inconsistent.

If there are two problems I know that stick in my wife's craw, it is my lack of support around the house (chores) and the state of my personal office (a candidate for that "Hoarders" TV show). She fights a constant battle with me to keep my "clutter" from spreading from my side of our bedroom to the rest of the house. She cajoles me, she pleads, she begs, and she nags. Nothing seems to get me motivated to help out on a consistent basis. She thinks I don't care. She thinks I have no pride in our home. She gets so angry and frustrated with me that she doesn't even want to be in the same room with me, let alone speak to me. Of course, I do not help, I either become defensive, or retreat into myself when she is like this. The more she pushes me, the more I resist her.

She is so jaded at this point that, even though I got us both copies of "The ADHD Effect on Marriage," she read a few pages and it made her so angry about me that she doesn't want to read any more! I still think we have a pretty solid marriage in most respects. We have divided the "important" stuff up. She works from home, so I make sure that all the technology works the way it is supposed to. She handles the money. I insisted upon separate bank accounts from the start of our marriage. I give her most of my paychecks and she takes care of keeping the bills up-to-date. She works 1 full-time job and 3 part-time jobs, all from home. Then she has to follow me around to make sure I'm not leaving a mess behind me. We have days where we work so well together, you would think we have got it all figured out, then we have days where we just rub each other the wrong way. Sometimes I think it's her hormones, (she does have a thyroid condition) but it can't always be that. I realize that it takes two to make a marriage work and it takes two to screw it up. We have gone through a few separations over the years, but neither of us is willing to give up on the other fully. I just know I don't want her frustration to get to a point where she no longer can feel how much I love her and vice-versa. I do make time for her, I do special things for her, I know sometimes I just annoy her with trivial facts, but she is my best friend. I want to share all the crazy thoughts that flit through my head. I realize that's not always practical, and I try very hard not to bother her when she's working.

I am sure that her perspective is different, but I am trying to be as fair and objective as I can here. I just want to get through whatever stuff is keeping us from having a better marriage and let her know I do care. On my days off I find myself exhausted. I have asked her to get a list together of things she wants me to do, and she does, but even when I do get everything done, the only thing she remembers is all the times I didn't. She does not care to have much of a social life, whereas I have a small circle of friends I meet at a local pub once or twice a week. She gets on me about me not being a single man, and I shouldn't spend hours at the bar, but other times, she will pay me to go down there. I think probably if I could just be a little more consistent at helping her around the house, she wouldn't be so frustrated with me all the time.  She seems to have trouble chilling out. I think she's got some sort of anxiety disorder, or maybe OCD. She has a constant obsession with "clutter," and what do I do but clutter everything? I guess I just want to make things better between us, if I can. Sorry if I rambled.


not sure ....

Hello Jeffrey,

Not sure what sort of help you're looking for, but one comment you made jumped out at me:  Nothing seems to get me motivated to help out on a consistent basis.  I think of the word motivated in two ways:  1)  makes me want to do it  2)  makes me actually do it, want to or not.  Which kind of motivation are you looking for?  The help for each type of "motivation" is different.  I am the non-ADHD spouse (loooooong marriage, and my guy has never acknowledged ADHD as a possibility or gotten a diagnosis) and like all human beings, sometimes I struggle with "motivation" too.  There is stuff I don't want to do, yet do it anyway, and have never grown to like it.  Paying bills, scrubbing the bathroom, folding laundry.  Because I do these things even though I don't want to, something must be motivating me.  For chores, my "motivation" is the pleasure of a clean, tidy home and keeping the bills paid and the lights on outweighs the displeasure of doing the chore.  So, in short, if you don't want to do something, and there are no unpleasant consequences, you don't do it.  Unfortunately, for you, either there are no unpleasant consequences or you are unaware of the unpleasant consequences or you haven't connected the undone chores with the resulting consequences.  For most ADHD spouses who don't do their share of the household chores, it's the last one.  A huge source of anger, hurt, sadness, etc of the non adhd spouse is feeling like they are the parent, the one who always has to take care of business, and the other spouse gets all the benefit with none of the pain.  My guy sometimes excuses his noninvolvement in housework by saying that I am so much better at it.  Oh my.  How does he think I got that way? 

So, first question is:  Is the pain of an overburdened spouse sufficient motivation to do things you don't want to do, or is it not?  If it's not, you'll never find the magic secret that will "motivate" you to help out.  (BTW, I'm a tough love kind of woman, because these are desperate times, so I'm going to call you out on the phrase --which I'm sure you didn't intend -- "help out".  Help out implies it's not really your job, it's someone else's, but you should "help out".  I "help out" my daughter by running an errand after she's had foot surgery.  I "help out" a coworker do one of her jobs to meet an important deadline.  I even "help out" my spouse by going to his office on the weekend to rearrange the new office furniture.  I don't "help out" by doing household tasks, and my spouse shouldn't either.  Sorry to beat this to death.  A clue this is a touchy subject.  Kind of like dads don't "baby sit" their own children.  They care for them just like Mom does.

Next question:  Are you looking for "motivation" to actually do it, because you've recognized that you have to do it whether you ever "like" it or not?  This is the area where you figure out what ADHD barriers are getting in the way.  Do you start to organize the office, find something really cool you'd forgotten about, get engrossed in that and suddenly it's time for bed?  The solution is to have one tote labeled "cool stuff for later".  Along with the trash can, the Goodwill bag and the Important box.  Do you think you have to do it all in one sitting?  Set an appointment once a week, set a timer for each event, and get it done.  Treat it like a job if you have to.  Do you get panicky (like an actual hoarder) at the idea of getting rid of anything?  Tell yourself there is no space for new wonderful experiences in your life if your life is already full.  Tell yourself that item "X" is not the actual good feeling it reminds you of... you can keep that good feeling forever, even without the item in your house (under a pile of other crap).  Tell yourself that the clutter is the physical representation of your mind, and what your mind sees it will mirror, and if you see more clean, clear spaces you will feel more like that more often.  My guy collects crap, but I have never allowed it to reach the proportions it might have if he was left to his own devices.  Yet his personal space in the house is much more "full" than the special room I have created (we are post kids at home).  He frequently comes to my room and admires how clean, light and peaceful it is, and loves to sit in my guest chair and do God knows what on his IPAD while I'm doing my own thing.  He hasn't yet seen the idea that he could have it, too, and I'm happy to have him visit. 

After so many years with knowledge of your particular state of mind, you already understand that there is "now" and "not now".  You create clutter behind you because when something is in your hand and you lose interest in it, it kind of just falls from your hand into another invisible dimension.  On the counter, the end table, the night stand, the floor, the dining room table, the desk.  Wherever you happen to be.  And then you never really see it again.  Even when you have to move it aside to make room for something else.  Right?  I once joked with my husband I'd like to tattoo "Don't put that there" on his hand.  Fortunately he laughed, too and said "I'd end up carrying the same thing around for weeks!"  You are not the helpless victim of your inattention.  You are subject to the tendency (maybe slight, maybe very strong) to get distracted, but you are not incapable of overcoming, to some variable degree, that tendency.  I have a tendency to eat more than I need, and a tendency to gain weight.  But I have learned tools, tricks and strategies, and yes, motivations, to overcome that tendency more often than not.  You can to.  Motivated yet?

Best wishes!