I've long struggled with the feeling that my ADD guy is "not interested" in me, and then struggled with the idea that I need "too much" attention.  He tends to either not pay attention when I'm speaking, or cut me off to do something else (including leaving the room), or interrupt to talk himself.  Not interrupt as in contribute to the "conversation" but to change the subject completely.  About two years ago, I almost entirely stopped answering his question "How was your day?" because I realized he didn't really want an answer.  He's very satisfied with "pretty good" or "busy" or "not bad", then he's off to the races to talk for 20 minutes without a breath about his day.  I realized if I talked about a challenging issue at work, he would invariably respond with "that sucks" or "you'll figure it out" or "huh".  When he says "how was your day" I think it is because he was raised to be a somewhat socially acceptable person, and that is a socially acceptable thing to ask.  But he never really wants to know.  So now I just imagine telling him about my day, imagine him saying "sucks", imagine feeling crappy about that, and skip directly to "pretty good" or "busy". 

BUT I had a huge realization this weekend while reading "Gabby".  Congresswoman Giffords's husband Mark Kelly was writing about the difficulties in communicating with her during her recovery, and her difficulty finding the words she needs to communicate.  He wrote about her inability for many months to ask original questions.  He would speak, and she would respond, by listening intently and when able, with single words or short phrases.  But for a long while she was unable to ask questions, to draw him out, to express interest.  I was really affected by this, and so related to the feeling of trying to communicate with someone who never asks any questions.  I wept for a while.  And was reminded of my guy once telling me, accusing me, really, that I only asked him questions because I wanted him to ask me back.  Guilty, I guess.  A satisfying conversation with my husband would not be an exchange of stories, i.e., you talk and I'll listen, then I'll talk and you listen.  It would be participatory, back and forth, engaged, INTERESTED!  That's what I'm struggling with today.

Actually, I would assume that

Actually, I would assume that you ask your husband questions because they are a way of initiating a conversation, expressing interest in him, drawing a person out, finding out about the other person, and so on.  My husband claims to be interested in me and my life, but from observing him, you'd never know it.  When I talk with people, I'm always very aware of the dynamics of the situation:  are we both getting time to talk; does the other person want to say something; am I being polite; etc.  My husband tends to talk about himself or about abstract issues and only now is he starting to become aware of me losing interest (e.g., after he has talked about the minutiae of computer software, which I cannot understand at all) or that it would be polite of him to occasionally ask how I'm doing.  When we converse, I tend to not talk about myself, because of his seeming lack of interest and because I don't think I should, as a matter of politeness and keeping the conversation going.

Me, too

I soooo understand what you are talking about.  I am tired of almost always being the only one to listen, show interest, support, encourage, be understanding, and be thoughtful.  I deserve all of those things too.  But what do I get?  None of those things.  Wait, I forgot.  I do get some of those things maybe two or three times a year.  What hurts the most is he can act like a stranger with me, someone he's supposed to love, and turn around two minutes later and give all those things I want to a basic stranger.  Then, to add insult to injury, he doesn't even realize or remember how much I've done for him and how little he does for me.  Arrgh!!!  How can you believe someone loves you when they treat you like this?  Sorry for the rant, but I am so close to being done that it's not going to take much to push me over the edge.  I just wanted to let both of you know, you're not alone and you deserve so much more!!!

Hi Gardener

Hi Gardener,

I'm sorry you are feeling down.  I know that your husband doesn't see his behavior as it is.  Typical ADHDer; he knows he loves you, can't quite understand why you think otherwise, and as he has no concept of time, doesn't get how little of it he spends attending to you, and isn't aware of how self-absorbed he is.  I know this is of little consequence as I'm not your spouse, but I find you very interesting.  I love your writing style.  I can tell you are quite intelligent, knowledgeable about ADHD, and even though your spouse doesn't get it, you very much do understand how difficult this disorder can be for those who have it.  You are very kind to people with ADHD on this site even though your own situation is not what you would like (not always easy to avoid psychological transference).  Your sage advice to me in the past as well has been very on point and there's something about it that comforts me, even when you question my reasoning or "reasoning."  I admire how seriously you take your vows; how dedicated you are to your marriage despite how difficult it/he is.  

You are a good person.  What I see is impressive and INTERESTING. I might not know you in real life, but we all bare our souls here.   Despite my own ADHD and impulsivity, I am not given to disclosing everything about myself in the outside world.  I find most women to be constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret, and thus few of my friends know how I have been struggling in my marriage.  I certainly feel that you and others out there know me better than most people, and certainly understand me better.  I don't know if you feel the same, but I don't feel I am talking out of my ass when I say you are WONDERFUL, and I know you have made me smile more than once :).  

So, back to your husband.  If I remember correctly (ha-ha; I made a funny), your husband is not on medication?  The fact he doesn't seem interested in your day and prattles on like an excited child when discussing his day sounds very ADHD.  I remember going to visit my relatives as a kid, and I was the only one not talking while my my outgoing cousins would talk and joke endlessly.  I could not follow conversations for the life of me, but could follow my own disjointed thoughts for days.  Although I silently lamented my lack of social skills, my inner world, was, in many ways, more interesting.  I was easily bored...with everything...and everyone.  I never knew when to jump into a conversation, or I jumped in at the wrong time, or after people had moved on to a different topic.  Many, many times, I found myself wanting to escape.  I hated going to loud bars in college. It was like sensory overload for me.  I would just shut down and not even attempt to converse.  I was already bored, and to talk to people above the noise and try to pay attention was more than my brain could take.  I had enough noise in my own brain without external noise.  I frequently missed social cues because I couldn't attend to other people.  Your husband is unwittingly missing yours.  My boredom with other people wasn't personal.  I didn't understand why or how other people were able to sustain a conversation about something SOMEONE ELSE was interested in, and appear animated and interested.  This made no sense to me.  Since I started medication 11 or so years ago, I realized that people were not quite as boring as I thought.  I do have to remind myself to ask questions, and then I realized that when I ask questions, I became more interested in the conversation.  I still struggle with this to a lesser extent.  I can be socially adept one day and off beat the next.  If I am excited about something, I might chatter incessantly, whereas I should probably shut up.  This drives my husband bat shit crazy.  Speaking of which, I should wrap this up...  I am just saying though it is very personal when you are on the receiving end of being dismissed, it doesn't sound personal in that it's not because you don't measure up.  That might not solve your problem, but please know it's him and not you.

Hope things get better.

I found this discussion

I found this discussion interesting, and something I have found with communicating with my H also.  Just happened this weekend, i was talking to him about how hard of a time I was having staying focused on work meeting the kids needs with school, home, etc. basically I'm burnt out. When I paused, he jumped in about something else..about HIM.  I felt like saying 'did you even hear me"? It drives me crazy, that conversations always end up about him. I rarely bother talking to him anymore other than small talk or things that need to be done, as I don't get the support or interest I need.  Its hard not to think he is just self-centered, but maybe its just that hard to pay attention to ME..

I don't think there is

I don't think there is anything wrong with drawing attention to the fact that he just changed the subject and expressing how that makes you feel. Not to get some long, meaningful discussion going about it but to just say "hey,what I am feeling really matters to me and it should matter to you too. It really hurts when you cut me off like that". I do it and will continue to do it as long as he continues to cut me off and change the subject. 

Another aspect of this to consider is the emotional pull it has on them to hear that we are "burnt out". We aren't allowed to be burnt out, depressed, upset, or needy. I was struggling very, very badly with a new job (working 12 hours, nights...I'm 44 and it has taken a huge emotional and physical toll on me) a week or so ago and I didn't really share with him what was happening for a while. Then, when I finally did he got pissed off, basically told me I was dragging the entire family down, and pretty much made it sound like I needed to 'fix' it. I HAD to go back to work when he lost his job in maybe he feels a bit guilty...and I know he just does not deal with me feeling down or depressed very well. So, I finally just said to him "the last thing I need is for you to be angry or to act like this is somehow my fault. I need your support. I need you not to take it personally. I need you to understand that your support could go a very long way to helping me cope with all of the changes." and just flat out told him being cold and distant to me because of it would only make it worse. Much to my surprise, he shut up, listened, and when it was all said and done I felt a whole lot better. I thanked him for being supportive and for listening and for understanding how hard of a time I am having adjusting. 

UGH, just happened again...I

UGH, just happened again...I was talking about who had to be where and when this week, i.e. schedules, which I will likely be doing the running around, and he responds its going to be hot this week...HUH ? So i said what does that have to do with what i was talking about ?    SO hard to have a conversation with someone that does not HEAR what is said, or misinterprets the conversation....

Possible Explanation...

Hi Funnyfarm,

Yeah, I know we're annoying when we do that.   Of course, you know I am the ADHDer in the relationship, but I'm also the daughter of an ADHD Mom and the mother of a loveable and very bright ADHD boy, in addition to being a teacher.  I am on the receiving end of my own behavior sometimes, and boy, can that be illuminating!

This is going to sound crazy, but it is possible that he was listening, processed what you said, but that your discussion of the week ahead triggered a thought about the upcoming weather.  He EXPRESSED that thought out loud.  I think most of you non-ADHDers out there would verbally react to what someone just said FIRST, and then make a follow-up comment about the weather.  We are just not that linear sometimes (more stream-of-consciousness)and I've posted elsewhere on this site about having a complex visual image in my brain, but not coming even close to verbalizing it.  I'm sometimes too distracted to realize I wasn't clear; especially when my medication wears off.  Melissa either spoke or wrote about a similar situation (I think it was on the seminar I took last year).  She said her husband would have a conversation with her, and the conversation would stop for whatever reason, but her husband's brain continued to process the situation.  Later he would pick up the conversation, but wouldn't include all the thoughts he had had on his own, so he was recommencing the conversation at Chapter 14 when they had last left off at Chapter 3.  He, too, was too distracted to note that he hadn't verbalized the continuation of his thoughts.   

This has happened to me countless times.

Of course, he may well have NOT been listening.  Far be it from me to dismiss the obvious ;).

Sometimes, my husband will start talking while I'm doing something else, but I can't turn my attention quickly enough to transition so I miss the first part of the conversation.  I have started to tell him that I missed what he said because my attention was not yet turned.

nope doesn't sound crazy, I'm

nope doesn't sound crazy, I'm pretty sure it was the first of what you said, he listens which triggers a different thought, it comes out and we are onto another topic, my topic completely forgotten. I do understand its just hard having a conversation with a pinball machine. My ADHD kids do this too.  Which leads me to a thought that its easier to accept these things in your children but much harder to accept from your spouse. Thats probably not fair, but I sort of expect to be able to hold a conversation with my H that lasts longer than 20 seconds.  

Good point on your last comment, i need to make sure I HAVE his attention first before I try and speak to him or he will not hear the beginning.  Now he sometimes will have a thought, start talking to me, but I'm 3 rooms away, and I'll have to say if you want to speak with me at least come into the same room so I can hear you.

Pbartender's picture

Still Learning vs. Should Know Better...

"Which leads me to a thought that its easier to accept these things in your children but much harder to accept from your spouse."

Yep...  That's because kids "are still learning", while your spouse "should know better by now".

Of course, it doesn't matter how much you know better by know, the ADHD still causes us to scatterbrain despite our best efforts.  A good coach, however, should be able to teach techniques to help with that.



PB, I agree with you, but would add

PB, I agree with you, but would add that you have a very different relationship with a child than with a spouse.  You are supposed to be teaching and training a child, whereas your spouse is intended to be your partner.  Now the best partnerships involve us continuing to learn from each other, but in a very very different way than with a child.  I think it is the parent/child dynamic that we fall into where we are the boss and the spouse is the problem child that causes so very many of the problems in ADD/non marriages.

When it appears that our spouse and our child are exhibiting the same issues, we have to respond DIFFERENTLY to each because we have a very different relationship with each.  When we wrongly respond to a spouse as if he/she were a child........well we all know  IT'S ON then.

Pbartender's picture

Oh, absolutely. Furthermore,

Oh, absolutely.

Furthermore, even though it does sometimes happen that an adult doesn't know better, can't know better, or has other issues that cause him to make a mistake even though he does know better...  He is still an adult, and should take responsibility for learning from that mistake and finding ways to teach himself to be better.  He shouldn't be relying on another adult to do that for him.

It seems that there an awful lot of ADDers who use it as an excuse, when at worst it is merely an explanation.



THANK YOU!   My H and I have

THANK YOU!   My H and I have had that conversation several times...i expect him to be able to do XYZ and he doesn't, when I state my expectations, he has said "You expect me to behave different than the boys do and I have ADHD too"....yes I'm sorry I do, you are my 50 yr old Husband not my 10 yr old child.  I know ADHD makes things harder, really I do, however I feel that it is often used as a 'get out of jail free card' sometimes too.  The hard part for me is knowing when is he really not able to do something/remember something, and when it it just an excuse....

Pbartender's picture


"You expect me to behave different than the boys do and I have ADHD too"...

Okay, here's the funny thing...

My whole perspective comes from the fact that I have an autistic son.  We have rather high expectations for him...  We expect him to go to all the same classes and do all the same schoolwork as the other kids his age.  We expect him to take care of his daily chores and complete his homework without being reminded.  We expect him to behave in a polite, respectful fashion no matter where he is, what he's doing or who he's dealing with.  And, thus far, he does all this without medication.  It's not always easy -- he's had to learn to do a lot things in his own, different, way -- and his autism often makes things difficult for him.  We recognize when his autism causes problems, but he's not allowed to use it as an excuse.  Now, seven years after his diagnosis, he's in his last year of middle school, he gets all As and Bs on his report card, and most people never even realize he's autistic, unless we tell him.

So, how can I possibly hold myself to a lower standard than what I expect from him?  If, with the help of his parents, teachers, and counselors, he can make much of a change in his life, so can I.

In this, I cannot be more proud of him, and my own son is his father's role model.



Glad this came up....

My DD, 13, recently started showing some behaviors that are similar to something my husband has done our entire marriage...and I admit it terrifies me. The issue is with him (and now my DD) blurting out very nasty, hurtful comments when we fight...for no other reason except to hurt me. If my DD asks to do something and I tell her no, she can say some of the meanest things ever. She comes to me later saying how badly she feels and says she wants to learn to think before she speaks. I want to help her, but I don't know how. I ask DH...he avoids the question. I ask again, he says it's normal behavior for a teenager. I COMPLETELY disagree. It is 'normal' to him because he was exactly the same way with his mother (he wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until age 37)...but it is something I feel is going to be extremely destructive for her if she doesn't get help. Then comes the defensiveness. I am just trying to "fix" her like I always have him. Well, in a sense...yes. How can I ignore her pleas for help? How can I ignore something that I KNOW will carry over into relationships with her and cause her pain? (she only does this with ME...and he only did it with his mother...until he married his ex-wife...and now he does it with me) 

Then, out of the blue...he starts with the hurtful comments. I said "thank you! thank you for proving exactly what I am trying to tell you. There you sit and admit 2 minutes ago that you and she are alike in that you both think before speaking AND you let your stubborn pride get in the way...and here you are saying things JUST TO HURT ME, your pride leading the way!" Within just a few minutes he seemed to reel it in, and I do think he is trying. It was actually the first time I can remember that he did seem to reel it in a lot quicker...maybe because he's now on adderall? 

She doesn't seem to recognize what she's doing until it is too late...same with him...but he is NOW aware that he does this and needs to hold himself more accountable. As for her, I don't know how I will help her, but I will. It breaks my heart to hear her say mean and nasty things (she is such a precious, precious child most of the time) and it also breaks my heart to think she would grow up feeling horrible about herself for it too. I have to do something...regardless of how 'personal' my husband takes it.

thinking before speaking

"Within just a few minutes he seemed to reel it in, and I do think he is trying. It was actually the first time I can remember that he did seem to reel it in a lot quicker...maybe because he's now on adderall?" 

I would definitely agree with your hypothesis here.  It is much easier for me to keep my temper in check when my Focalin friend is coursing through my veins :)!   It is also easier for me to step back and realize if I'm not being nice.  Without medication, I snap, am more sarcastic, make assertions that have no basis in reality because I know it will piss him off.  I can go from happy to mad in a nanosecond without my medication.  There has to be an emotional component, though.  I am not even tempted to go off on strangers, etc...  I never have...  But if he hurts my feelings, I react like a wounded animal.  I have to work so hard at not doing this.  I posted on "Undiagnosed ADHD Can Make You Angry."  I would add that the diagnosis might give you awareness, but anger can continue to be a very real issue for people like me, especially if coping mechanisms are not utilized or when the medication is wearing off.  I now take Focalin XR twice a day (2nd dose for sleeping) and a 3rd dose which covers the gap in the afternoon.  It is bad, bad, bad for our marriage when I am not medicated.  I meditated this morning, and that also really does help me calm myself.  I find I can stop, listen to what he has to say, and reflect and respond rather than react with rage.  There are many times when he's not even trying to hurt me, but I perceive his intent incorrectly.  He does the same with me.  I guess that's where we are, but I'm going to work on that.  I can't really say that he doesn't understand me and make no attempt to give him the benefit of the doubt, right?  I don't tend to be vicious, which is my one saving grace.  Alas, that honor belongs to my DH.  He can cut right through me when he's angry, and I never get the proper apology he would expect if the situations were reversed.   

I cringe when I see my son using a bad coping mechanism that he's seen me use as well.  It makes me work that much harder to solve my issues. Hopefully, one day, I will solve more of my issues.  I won't give up on that.  I'm far too stubborn;)!

Gardener IS Great!

I wanted to chime in and agree with you guys. Gardener has given me some great feedback and I'm very appreciative of her efforts :)

I am also sorry that you are feel neglected in the give / take of conversations. I'm still not great, but just knowing the ADD symptoms and having a little help from the Adderall to slow my brain down makes my participation a little better. I agree with Sherri, as usual, that it's okay to tell him when he changes the subject that you really need to talk through a topic with him.

Hang in there Gardener... 

This is the worst feeling in

This is the worst feeling in the entire world...although I feel it/have felt it in different ways at different all feels the same. I don't think you need to go at him with guns ablaze, but I do believe you really are going to have to ruffle his feathers a little and suggest you guys see a professional. I really am wondering why you feel the need to protect his 'bubble/perfect little world he's built for himself' so the expense of even your basic human needs? My DH is probably as bad ADHD as it gets, but when we were in counseling once our counselor kind of make excuses for him 'changing the subject' like this...saying that often what I was saying was just 'white noise' to him. Yes, SHE said that about ME...not HIM. He actually chimed in and said "even if that were true, I really don't think it would be fair to never listen to what she has to say just because I don't find it interesting" and defended me. Also, recently he interrupted me when I was talking about something and started going off in a different direction. I immediately said "I was not done, that was rude" and he apologized and I kept going with my story. Even if he couldn't give two shits less about what I was saying (which is just going to happen sometimes in marriages...and it works both ways!), he can at least behave respectfully and listen. Damnit. 

I wonder, it feels like a very huge lack of respect to me...but then many of the things my own DH does feel that way to me too. Does anyone else feel maybe this is just a lack of respect and that maybe if you would speak up and say "Hey, I wasn't done with my thought..." and demand a little more respect, then maybe he would start 'relearning' some of these ways of dealing with you? 

I know how that feels

My husband usually had the tendency to speak before he think and often said rude things that hurt me, but one day I said no more! I spoke with him about that, he did not realize that he was doing that until that moment, he felt so bad, and since then, he's doing his best, he improve a lot. Now when I see coming that behavior I stop him before he open his mouth, and let him know his lack of impulse control and he try his best to control himself at the moment, this work for us. When he suddenly change the topic of a conversation I know is the result of his distraction, I let him know was going on and he try to keep the topic. Sometimes when we are with friends and family it's looks that he never is going to stop talking and he did not notice when people are starting to get bored. Sometimes , he responded defensive if I said something about his behavior. But we established some personal cues to alert him when he is going out of control, that seems to work for us. Maybe  you can talk with him, let him know what is going on, your feelings and both of you can  find a way to cope with this ADHD symptoms without hurt each other. If he understand you and recognizes his ADHD symptoms maybe he is going to be able to have self control or at least try to do his best .  Melissa Orlov's book, The ADHD Effect on Marriage, gives great tips to improving communication and she explains very well this conversational issues related to ADHD symptoms. Good luck!