Nurturing the Soul

There are a lot of posts on this site about fixing specific problems, like division of housework and chores.  As a non-ADD spouse, I completely agree that these solutions are necessary to create the absolutely necessary relief in the frustrating cycle caused by ADD.  But once you start to get past these little things, I'm wondering what a long-term life with someone with ADD means.

I believe that marriage -- at last a successful one -- is based on being soul mates.  That, in turn, means that you and your partner understand each other more than anyone else in the world.  I've read a LOT of marriage books, including Dr. Hallowell's latest book, Married to Distraction, and all of them emphasize the importance of connection -- of taking time to listen to your spouse, understand how they see the world, and to let them know that you empathize with it.

There are a lot of different strategies in these books, but so far I have found that none of them seem to work for us.  I am assuming that it's because of the ADD, and not that it's just my husband.  Some examples:

1.  One popular marriage coaching series has its first step "talk charges."  These are 4-5  60 second (at least) interactions you have a day which are non-logistical.  In other words, no calling to find out if hubby is going to pick up the drycleaning.  You call to share a story, a thought, etc.  (And BTW, he says don't call to just say "I love you," this creates an obligation to reciprocate and also doesn't give you a chance to connect over something substantive, like say the funny thing your son did that morning).  Sounds great, right?  Except that my husband NEVER calls me during the day -- too hyperfocused on work and rarely picks up the phone when I call.  If he does answer, he's rushed, stressed, and distracted.  Great, let's move on.

2.  Another connection strategy is about giving gifts.  The tip I read was that gifts should show intimacy, or in-to-me-see.  In other words, they should demonstrate a deep knowledge of that person, and what would nurture their soul.  It's not about cost or value.  So, for example, I know my husband's dream is to write a book.  For his birthday this year I bought him an online writing course.  He loves it.  It fulfills him, he looks forward to it, and really no one else would have thought to do that because no one else knows this dream of his.

My husband never buys me gifts.  OK, never is a strong word -- sometimes he will run out the day of birthday/mother's day/whatever and get whatever he sees at the store.  For years he gave me a pair of house slippers for every occasion, I have no idea why.  Last year for my birthday he got me a Snuggie from Walgreens.  Again, no clue what connection that had to do with anything in my life.  I got nothing for Christmas, for our anniversary nothing either.  I feel like such an afterthought, and like I'm a total burden because I "force" him to have to think about me four times a year.  It is so depressing.

Keep in mind that even before I learned of the ADD I gave him lists of gifts I would like.  Things like specific perfume brands, with links to the websites that sell them.  I have cut out things from magazines, which contain the phone number/website of something I would like.  And folks, these are not expensive things.  And then I get a Snuggie.  I am really considering just buying myself gifts from now on and asking him to just hand them to me on the occasion, maybe we can just play act the whole thing.

3.  Another idea of giving is to give three "gifts" a day -- things like making coffee, doing one of their chores for them, etc.  The idea here is that you anticipate their needs -- which again means that you know them very intimately.  Maybe it's a day you let your spouse sleep in while you get the kids up, because you know she is tired.  The long-term effect of this is to build up good feelings and to allow your spouse to feel inspired to reciprocate, so that you end up in a positive cycle of giving.

I've tried this, and end up just being taken advantage of (that's what I feel like, I don't think it's intentional from my husband).  My husband just doesn't notice what I do, or make the connection that he is receiving, and that he ought to give.  I know he hates doing laundry, so each week I wash, dry, and fold his clothes.  I let him sleep in on weekends (even though I am the one taking care of the kids all week and work also).  I'll take care of his bills, or record one of his favorite TV shows to watch that I know he will miss.

He doesn't reciprocate.  Whatever the trigger is that in normal people would make them say, "Gee, that was really nice.  Maybe I'll do something nice, too."  Doesn't happen.  I think he would literally let me get up early every day for the rest of my life and never feel any guilt or obligation to do the same back.  Again, I have given him ideas.  At our counselor's suggestion, I emailed him a list of 10 things that would make me feel loved -- things that he USED to do (so I know he is capable of doing it).  These were things like filling up my gas tank on weekends, or calling during the day (see #1), making me dinner, etc.  He's never done a single thing from the list (unless he had to for himself, like he was driving the car and about to run out of gas), I think he's forgotten that he even has it.

4.  Just talking.  Hallowell's book has a series of 30-day exercises, all of which revolve around spending 30 minutes just talking to each other.  I haven't even bothered with this one.  From the time he gets home, he is poking away on his iPod touch (which I want to fling out the window) or texting, or something.  I used to call my friends to fill the void of having no one to really talk to, but I stopped a while ago, just so I could absorb what I huge whole of intimacy we have in our lives.


Keep in mind that this is with someone who is taking meds and TRYING.  We've made some improvements in terms of him doing more around the house and with the kids.  Maybe all of this emotional stuff will happen over time, and I'm just being impatient.  But given how hard it is for him to do the very basic physical things -- make sure to call if he's late, brush the kids' teeth before bed, etc., I just can't imagine getting to a point where we are more than business partners and coparents.  Is this as good as it gets?  We find better ways to divide up chores and then we basically live parallel lives otherwise?  I'm afraid that won't be enough for me to be happy in this.

Any suggestions (and please don't suggest he read The Five Love Languages -- he usually can't get past the first page or two of any relationship self-help book).