Poor Memory Causing Marital Strife

My husband has ADD, diagnosed since childhood, and we have been married almost 7 years. I am perpetually frustrated with his memory and am trying to understand if and how and to what extent ADD effects memory. I am at such a loss for words when it comes to explaining the problems we have with his memory that all I can do is provide some examples. We have been living with my parents for almost 2 years now. We both were working, but 6 months after the birth of our first child we decided it was best to quit our jobs, sell our home and accept my father's invitation to live with him until my husband found a new job. We did this so that I could be a stay-at-home mom. When we conceived, we were able to afford me staying home. Half way through the pregnancy, our financial situation changed such that we had to file for a bankruptcy. I continued working and we had found good daycare. I was never happy with the role of a working mother and when our daycare gave us notice, we were unable to find a comparable replacement. I remember having several heart-to-heart conversations with my husband before, during and after the pregnancy sharing with him my dream of being a stay-at-home mom. When we discussed selling our home and moving in with my parents, I remember explicitly sharing with him that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for however long, possibly until our kids entered high school, provided our finances could support that plan. I shared that I may return to work at some point sooner if our finances deemed it necessary and/or if I found I needed an outlet of my own. He was supportive of that not once expressing any concerns or disagreement with the idea. After we placed our home up for sale, there were days when I felt discouraged and he would remind me that we were doing this so that I could be a stay-at-home mom and how much better this would be for our children and that we were selling our house at the right time, etc. About one year after our move to my father's, my husband shared with me that he expected me to return to work full-time when our firstborn enters 1st grade. When I brought up our past discussions, he told me that he would not have agreed to this move if he knew I had not been planning to return to work. I am flabbergastedly so confused as to how this miscommunication occurred. I have self-examined myself to exhaustion and replayed conversations over and over in my head and I know with all my heart I was very clear about what I envisioned and when I would return to work. A more recent example, I have been looking for a rental home for us to move into for about 5 weeks now. I have expended a great deal of energy into this task researching movers, realtors, property management firms and exhausting online and paper resources. My husband and I had a conversation and several that once we knew his contract position would be renewed for another year that we would begin looking for a home to rent. (We have been saving money ever since he found a job - which took him 8 months). We learned earlier than expected that his contract was being renewed. I asked him, "Since we know prematurely that your job is being renewed, should we start looking for a house now or should we wait until the actual renewal date of your contract passes?" He replied with "No, we can move tomorrow if we wanted to. Go ahead and start looking." This past weekend as I was sharing with my husband my frustration with an agent regarding a particular property I was following up on, he said in passing, "I thought we were waiting until I had a permanent job before we looked for a rental home." Imagine my bewilderment! Please tell me, is it normal for people with ADD to forget things like this? Can their memories be distorted or mixed with intentions of saying/doing things that in reality never occurred? Is there a memory disorder that can occur comorbidly with ADD that would explain things like this? I am so exasperated and concerned at the same time. My husband has shared with me the other night that he is also alarmed by his lack of memory - he feels it is getting worse especially so over these passed 2-3 months. He has been medicated his entire life and in his adult years has found great success with Concerta and methylphenidate. He doesn't take them together. Which pill he takes is determined by what his immediate needs are or based on the type of situation he is preparing for. If he needs a fast-acting boost that won't keep him up at night (if he forgot to take his concerta in the morning) then he'll take the methylphenidate. Otherwise, I believe the Concerta is his primary medication. Anyhow, any insight would be greatly appreciated.

More alike than different!

I was sorry to see no one responded to you. There IS an explanation --- of sorts --- for this. And, apparently, it's not uncommon. I've experienced much the same thing with my partner, and it is completely bewildering. He'll say that we never talked about something, and I KNOW we talked about it several times. Sometimes I think the memory issue is because, actually, at the time you were having the conversation, he just wasn't that interested and so did not pay attention. The recall, thus, is not there because he really didn't hear you to begin with. It's not intentional; it's just another quirky way his brain works. Similarly, as the article below discusses, you may find that his memory sometimes gets a bit inventive. :-) It is all definitely a part of the ADHD. The article below was in the May 2008 newsletter from the Hallowell Center. Hopefully, it will give you some insight! Perhaps you could have your husband read it, so you're both informed and perhaps have a starting point for tackling some of the related issues. Hang in there. Motives and ADHD - Not What You Think By Guest Author, Bernadette Berry It is important to alert non-ADD spouses and parents to the idea that because the ADD brain functions quite differently from the non-ADD brain, it is wrong to assign their personal motivations to their partner's or child's behavior. For example, it is frequent that non-ADD people believe: * that their ADD partner does not care about them when they do not arrive at an important date on time. * that their ADD child is being lazy when they step over things lying in the room rather than pick them up. * that their ADD partner is "lying" when they make up stories to fit events for which they have no other explanation or patently did not occur. * that their ADD child's frequent interruptions are the result of the need for instant gratification or just plain poor manners These assumptions assign a moral shortcoming to the ADD person, which is both incorrect and hurtful. To make these assumptions would be to miss important facts about how the ADD brain works. Russell Barkley argued in 2003 that inattention is likely the result of working memory, rather than poor attention, per se. As I work with people with ADD, I see that this manifests itself in a number of ways. Take the adult who blurts out the first thing that comes to their mind. This may make a person very funny, but it can also make them tactless. This blurting out has to do with an inability to inhibit their responses. Family members must learn that this is not intentionally hurtful behavior as all concerned work to get it under control. Children with ADD often cut into conversations. But I don't see this as the result of needing instant gratification. I believe it is better explained by one of the difficulties with working memory, which is an inability to hold information/events in their minds. By the time people have become adults with ADD they have often learned ways of dealing with this difficulty. They may sit rehearsing in their mind what it is they want to say (this of course makes them miss out on what is being said, and increases their apparent difficulty with attention); they simply give up trying to contribute and sit and listen as well as they can; or, of course, they may still cut in. It is easy to understand how people with attention problems may miss out on information. It is less easy to understand why they make up information and, therefore, are frequently accused of lying. But the literature on remote memory tells us that memory works by remembering a few salient points and 'filling in' the rest of the information with what is likely to be the case. The reconstructive nature of memory is likely to be influenced by people's desires, beliefs and the emotions associated with these events. This may give us some insight into the problem of the ADD adult "making up stories". It is important to remember that when we do this 'filling in' we are not aware we are doing it - we believe we are remembering it (confabulation). The threshold at which this "remembering a few points then filling in the rest" occurs appears to be different for the ADD person - they appear to do it for immediate memory as well as longer-term. Research suggests that children with inhibition control problems are more likely to have false memories than children without this problem. From my work with adults with ADD I have also noticed that not only do they seem to create 'false memories' more than non-ADD people but they appear to be more sure that they are right about this memory. It is easily seen how this creates huge problems/arguments in relationships. Couples frequently report to me that their ADD partner not only forgets to tell them important things but that they are convinced that they have told their spouse and can recite the situation where and when they passed on this information. Unfortunately, there are no specific solutions to these issues. Rather, there are a host of tactics that families with ADD can try to figure out what works for them. It is critically important that non-ADD family members be aware that these issues exist so that they can avoid assigning their own motivation to their ADD partners, children and friends. Bernadette Berry is a Clinical Psychologist from New Zealand who has been practising for 27 years. She works with children, adolescents and adults and specialises in helping individuals, parents and couples manage ADD within their lives.

More Alike Than Different - Tactis for Families w/ADHD

Thank you so very much for responding to my post. I stopped checking my post and was worried that it was too personal of a problem and possibly inappropriate for the blog. I found the article to be insightful and helpful. It is the first time I've read something that acknowledges memory as a problem and further explains it in depth (however, I would be interested in reading even more in depth on the issue - what is going on in the brain that makes memory behave this way in a person with ADD?). Now, I just need to learn what the "host of tactics" are "that families with ADD can try to figure out what works for them." Does anyone have any examples to share? The other piece to this is that my spouse needs to be open to the idea that his memory is causing problems in our relationship, and secondly, be willing to try new tactics with me until we find one that works. There is a lot of stress in our relationship, besides his ADD, and as a result he might not be open to the consideration right now. Nonetheless, thank you, again, for responding to my post and sharing with me the article.

Memory and ADD

I'm not in my normal office right now, so can't check for sure, but I think that John Ratey's "User's Guide to the Brain" includes a good deal about memory and also about ADD, so may be helpful as you look for more information.

As for tactics that people use, peruse the blog and the forum here as a starting point.  ADDitude Magazine has some good ideas about dealing with ADHD in general and may well address memory specifically (many of their articles address kids, but not all).

Melissa Orlov

Poor memory

This posting and article are very insightful for me. I have ADD and as a child I used to make up stories because I didn't remember what happened. Now I am honest about it. I just fess up that I cant remember and always feel horrible for not remembering --but it is almost as if I cant access that part of my memory. It affects me at work quite often. I am teacher now and share the classroom with another co-teacher. I have driven the co-teacher crazy by forgetting important messages from parents. Even when I make a conscious effort to "remember a message" after a half hour I wont remember who told me the message or important details. Now I always carry a small dictophone around my neck (it's about the size of a cellphone and I got it at Radio Shak for $30)-- I find that it helps exponentially. I also use one to remember things around the house (i.e. we need toilet paper and that my husband has a music lesson tomorrow, etc). I dont know if that's something your husband would open to. Lists on the fridge help also.

thank you

Thank you, anonymous, for posting that. My husband is always thinking that I'm deliberately trying to forget events or things that we've talked about, in order to get away from things. It led him to become verbally abusive. That's before he understood ADD. We are on the way to recovery now, and I think that we can make it, afterall. I'm going to recommend this site to him, so he can read here and feel that there are other people out there who are married to ADDers and who are going through the same things. About memory though, I think that ADDers remember things that are "unimportant" to other people. We see deeply, have deep insight, we remember other things that people always forget. Like snowflakes on our palms, or the sound of leaves crunching in the autumn. Things that may be unimportant to others but we feel are the most important things. So I really don't think that we make things up. We just remember differently. And I think it could actually be better! I think we are gifted, not "deficited" :-)