Out of the Woods

After being unemployed for over a year, I recently returned to work at the company from which I was laid off -- when business got better, they called me back, doing similar work but on a different product.  While I had been unemployed, my ADHD husband's job had heated up, and I had taken over more of the household responsibilities to more evenly distribute the total effort.  When I was asked to return to work, we knew it was going to be a big adjustment -- his job was still very busy, but he was going to have to take back his household responsibilities, because I was going to be working *more* hours (full time with planned overtime) than when I was laid off.  I've looked at it as the acid test of the dynamics we've put in place since we rescued our marriage from our separation five years ago.

No surprise, it has not been a smooth, seamless transition.  I am less inclined to patience with all the time pressures I'm experiencing.  He's having a hard time with the increased need for communication and with staying on track with so many responsibilities.  We've had a few moderate fights, and we're definitely not getting everything done that we need to.  We're both tired a lot, but because of the backlog of purchases/expenses  that were deferred during my unemployment but can't be deferred any longer, we can't afford to hire any help at this time.

But so far, we've met the "good enough" standard, and it's gradually getting better.  We still are doing our formal meetings three times a week, although we tend not to discuss as much about feelings or problems and deal more with the more complicated logistics we again face.  Hopefully, as we get used to the more demanding situation we are in again, and re-learn to work more efficiently, we will be able to get back to those topics we've put "on the back burner" for the present.  The better habits and behaviors (e.g. not yelling, not assuming, not jumping to conclusions, not judging, trying to communicate clearly, trying to listen, double-checking to make sure we are on the same page, our regular meetings) that we worked so very very hard to establish when we rescued our marriage are paying off big dividends now.  It has also unquestionably been a help that this change has occurred during the summer, and not during his Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) season.

We're not totally out of the woods yet -- but we can see the Emerald City in the distance!  But aside from the encouraging trend, we are really pleased that the changes we made five years ago are continuing to really work, some of them surprisingly well, despite some significant stresses and strains (not all of them related to the new job).  My husband was even able to cut back on his counseling schedule temporarily over the summer, without any significant impact.  So even though we are tired and stressed, and battling some ADHD-related issues, we are also really happy to find that we've learned ways to manage that help our marriage work "good enough" in the face of significant change.


I am going to be facing the same problem

I'm starting school next week. I worked for a month or so this summer but have not been in school. I've never taken 5 classes in all the time we've been married. (I was 21 the last time I was a full-time student). My husband never does any work unless I am right there beside him. If I go to the computer to do some work, he lies down. If I go to the bathroom, he lies down. Three of my classes are at night, and I have no idea how he'll do without me there. He wants us to wait and eat dinner together when I get home, but I'm going to be hungry and tried enough at 8:30 without having to cook when I get home. I have no cell phone so I can call him and remind him to start dinner, and his cell has no alarm functions. (Company provided, and that can't be changed.) Any idea how to get him past this "I'm not doing any work unless Sueann is working beside me at the same exact second" mentality? (It's not like I'm taking a weaving class. Getting a degree at 57 is not that easy.) You are so smart, Arwen. You're who I want to be when I grow up. Maybe you have some ideas. BTW, congrats on going back to work.
arwen's picture

tough question

I know exactly what you mean about getting a degree at your age being hard work -- I took *one* graduate-level class while I was unemployed, and while I enjoyed it and did well, it was definitely a challenge -- there's no way I could have handled five courses.  So I salute your courage!  And wish you the very best of luck, and health.

As far as your question goes, I don't have a good answer.  My personal approach would involve making my spouse feel guilty, but frankly it doesn't sound like your spouse would feel any guilt no matter what you said.  My next inclination would be to hold an accountablility session when I came home -- like a foreman who shows up and wants a status report -- and cause some consequence-suffering if nothing was done.  But I understand how tired you will be -- and it sounds like for you, frustrations just make you more tired (whereas with me, they make me mad and that gives me energy).  My third choice would be to make it physically impossible or at least really uncomfortable and unpleasant for him to lie down, but I'm not sure how.  I would also seriously consider installing a baby-monitor between the computer room and the part of the house he's supposed to be working in, and yelling through it if I didn't hear sounds of work being done.   I'll have to mull this over some and get back to you.

To the practical consideration of eating dinner, I would say that first and foremost, you should do whatever it is that *you* need to do in order to eat right and not be exhausted -- let your husband feed himself (or only agree to cook for him if he gets the work done while you're gone that you expect him to do).  I have a similar problem with my being back at work, and what I've done is to use the weekend to prepare things that I can then quickly utilize during the week.  In 45 minutes on a Sunday, I can cook up 3-5 pounds of chicken pieces and/or pork chops, several cups of rice, and a pot full of pasta.  I store it all in plastic containers in the fridge, and then during the week, I can just quickly cut a portion of the meat in chunks, mix it together with the pasta or rice in a large bowl with a can of soup or jar of sauce and some spices, or with some frozen mixed vegatables, and heat it up in the microwave  -- it's not haute-cuisine, but it makes dinner preparation much simpler, quicker, and easier to clean up all week long.  And it's something that is simple enough for my husband to handle if need be, either for both of us or for himself alone.  For us, that's a real boon, since we both usually arrive home at the same time from work, often on the late side, and both of us are tired.

I hope something here helps!


"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."  Albus Dumbledore

Thanks, Arwen

I can't believe you took the time to reply to me late on a Saturday night. I appreciate your input so much.

I don't think it's courageous to go back to school at my age. I've had no problem with my classes and am a sought-after study partner. It is not an advanced degree, only a 2-year associate degree from a community college. But paralegals make far more than I was earning before, especially if they also have a 4-year degree like I do, and more than my husband makes. That should give me more leverage get my husband to listen to my concerns.

I plan to bring this whole problem up with the therapist when I meet him next week. I am so baffled by the fact that when we are watching tv and I get up to get a drink or go to the bathroom, I find him lying on the couch when I come back, and if we are in the middle of a project, he goes to lie down if I so much as go to the bathroom. I can't figure out how to make that more difficult. If I fill the bed up with stuff (like clean laundry that I want him to put away or hangars to hang up, he'll push it all on the floor and then we step on it or the dog lies on it. It makes so much extra work, but what does he care since he doesn't do the extra work.

This is a man with a psychology degree who takes appropriate meds. It isn't that he's not self-aware. It's hard for me not to believe he's lazy.

Dinner anyone?

Top quick favorites at our place:

Frozen pizza

Frozen chicken chimichangas, yum!

Refried beans on a flour tortilla with cheese, tomatoes and chopped onions warmed up on a skillet

soup or salad and a sandwich


instant oatmeal

Happy Back to school Sueann!

Meals, Chores and Classes

New to the site but have a few ideas for you.  Been going through this for 27 years.  Have a son with ADHD and a wife, although she feels it is me.  But I see it all over her family, both sides.   Hers is mild but there.  It rears its head when certain things / situations come about, like child rearing and marriage.

First suggestion, while Arwen suggested guilt (and dismissed it), I will reinforce, you won't get an ADHD person to register guilt.  They don't have it.  I know this from experience. Only self inflicted guilt is acknowledged.  Guilt is not a viable option.  Went through many years of dealing with it with my son (lack of) and in that time, became aware of the lack of it in my wife.  Guilt gets you nowhere and only makes the other person mad at you for wasting their time.  It is a concept they fail to grasp (except for "woe is me" syndrome and "you won't show me up" syndrome but that is a whole 'nother topic).

Meals - use easy to prepare and combine items and doing it yourself becomes easier at all hours.  Prepping ahead is good.  Chicken, roast beef, roast pork, chili, sausages such as brats, Italian, and so on (Turkey and chicken varieties generally have less fat. I get them from a local organic / health food type grocery where they are prepared fresh daily in many varieties.); sliced meats (mesquite smoked varieties are very good) make great grilled, broiled or toasted sandwiches; lots of fruits; pre-made salads; fresh veggies such as broccoli, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, zucchini and yellow squash, etc. that do not take a lot of time and may come pre-cleaned and pre-cut help out.  Pasta is easy to re-heat.  Just be creative in combining things and remember to season it.

Most importantly, make food / meals you want!  Ignore the spouse.  Trust me on this. If they want something, they will show initiative and cook it.  I have tried many things and found things all three of our kids will eat.  When I was busy with work several years back (before our marriage troubles cut off my climb up the ladder), my kids ate out so much they only liked fast food.  Then as I began taking over the missing parenting and began cooking for them, they generally now like home cooked meals better (even if it is not as much made from scratch as I would like).  The small food range of youngsters expands and I am even seeing my teenage ADHD son willing to try new things.  I will bet dollars to donuts that your hubby will decide to eat before you get home.  My spouse didn't at first and complained loudly about late dinners.  But, she never fixed a meal for me when I was late and still doesn't.  She is usually asleep or reading a book and Lord knows we can't stop reading to cook.  I learned to just shut up and cook for myself. I also learned I liked my cooking better than hers (and so do the kids, who tell her and she hates that).  I had a Grandmother who told me I needed to learn to cook in case my wife didn't.  I paid attention to that.

I used to make a menu for the week and post it for all to see.  That helped the kids because they could tell her what to cook. But, it resulted in a refrigerator full of leftovers because she couldn't look at all the leftovers in the fridge and figure out what to do with them (um, look at the menu for two days ago maybe). I suggest you try the posted menu approach as it helps you with ideas, too.  At 8:30 or 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., the less thinking the better.   Don't expect a miracle of cooperation to develop regarding meals.  It won't but you may get some help now and then eventually.

Oh, one other thing, if you want a chore done, start with doing one task at a time.  To demonstrate what I mean, "Wash the clothes" is five or six things to an ADHD person.  "Wash the blue clothes" is one thing IF you have pre-sorted them, put them in the washer, put in the detergent, and shown the other person how to turn it on.  Diagrams taped above the washer are good for this.  Drying clothes is a four to six step process, too.  ADHDers are lucky to process one thing.  Use this approach for simple yet multi-step (complex) chores.  This approach has worked wonders with my son.  He can even wash unsorted clothes now!  One load per day with taped notes on his computer and a reminder call or two but one load helps.  Rumor has it he even can assemble a sandwich and grill it on the stove.

Hope these suggestions help.