Should an ADDer be responsible when they ruin something?

After all the emotional stuff on here this morning, I'm almost ashamed to post this...

After long struggle, I've got my husband to agree to "doing the laundry." What that means is that I sort the clothes and he puts them in the washer and dryer. This is because I have trouble with the laundry room because the floor is covered with stuff and I've had a couple of bad/scary falls there. The clothes are never hung up. We do "dress out of the dryer," which was a topic of much conversation a while back. That's because he says our closets are not big enough to hang our clothes. We honestly don't have too many clothes, just small closets. Rental house, so I can't do anything about that. And he won't look for another house for us.

Anyway, I went into the laundry room this morning to get clothes to wear today (I can navigate it if I'm not carrying anything.) and found a favorite shirt on the floor in front of the dryer wet and ruined. He never got it into the dryer! Chemicals from the concrete got into the fabric and it's permanently discolored; I've had that problem with other stuff. When I brought it to his attention, he said "If you don't like the way I do laundry, to it yourself" (knowing it's dangerous for me). Then he left out the back door without saying goodbye. Now to me, the only response to "you ruined a favorite shirt with your carelessness" is "I am so sorry. Here's $20 to buy yourself another shirt. I'll be more careful from now on," not sulking or refusing to acknowledge responsibility.

So is it wrong to expect the ADDer to take responsibility for their own behavior? Should I expect, as the wife of an ADDer, to clean up his messes, support him when he gets fired, wipe up his spills, accept that he'll ruin my stuff, and just keep smiling and telling him he's wonderful? I don't want to live like that!!

Um Yes and No

My husband has similar issues where neglecting things into complete disrepair are concerned. We live in a very small space as well and don't have tons of money so certain things are very important to my sanity. I don't delegate a lot of household tasks to him until I see that he can actually do them with some level of proficiency because most things he doesn't. It is reasonable to expect him to take responsibility but at the same time you have to realize that if he's becoming distracted while completing even a simple task it's not carelessness, he legitimately didn't mean to ruin your shirt, he just didn't see it land on the floor and was probably already thinking about the next thing on his "list" instead of focusing on what he was doing. I've learned that my husband can load and unload the dishwasher, take out the trash, cut the lawn, bring laundry up from the basement eventually if it's folded and on hangers, and will take the laundry down to the basement. He is also exceptional at child entertainment which allows me to do the other tasks which he can not do. You have to find out what he can do and don't expect him to do what he can't.

That said he should be taking responsibility to improve his skill set through some serious cognative therepy even if it is two steps forward one step back and should at least acknowledge that his actions while not intended have injured you. If he's feeling attacked he won't do that though. Let him know that you know it was unintentional but damaging none the less.

sapphyre's picture

I separate my 'delicate/special' items and wash them myself

Hi Sueann

Unfortunately, special care of certain items does not seem to be in my husbands laundry abilities, for similar reasons as to the first comment. My biggest fear is him putting stuff in the dryer that is not designed for it - it will shrink/lose shape and I can never wear that item that cost money again.

I either buy very easy to wash clothes (that will survive if they get left on the floor), or I make sure I wash them. I'm not sure this is an option for you.

One option might be to cover the floor in front of the dryer / washer with 'contact' (clear film) or some other neutral material to avoid any issues with items that are accidentally dropped.

He really didn't mean it and I suspect (given your previous leaving the plug in the bath story) he has no idea it happens, or how to check for it.

Maybe a note nearby the laundry room exit to double check he hasn't dropped anything?

Good luck!


Thanks for answering

It really wasn't the shirt so much as the fact that he basically was saying, I'm not going to try to do it any better and if you don't want to accept your stuff getting ruined, you have to do it yourself. I can't do that because the laundry room isn't safe for me. This was not a delicate/special item, those I do wash by hand and avoid the laundry room altogether. Sapphyre, I love the idea of contact paper on the floor in front of the machines.

There is a general lack of him being responsible for stuff he damages. When he wrecked my car, he was like, well it happened and get over it. Since the car was still driveable (and since he wrecked it on the way to a successful job interview, he didn't think he should have to pay to fix it. He breaks and damages stuff all the time and doesn't feel he should even have to wipe up drinks he spills, etc. He does not get the concept that if he doesn't do it, I have to, and since I didn't spill the apple juice, I shouldn't have to wipe it up. He's medicated and is basically a psychiatric social worker himself. No one has suggested Cognitive Behavior Therapy to him and he's not going to ask for it because I suggested it. After all, I'm just a lay person. 


This might seem like an extreme response to the situation but sometimes you need to have an extreme response and suffer a little in the short term to make a bigger point in the long term. Part of his problem is ADD but another part is that you are enabling him because he knows your threshold for tolerating spilled juice for instance is lower than his. He knows you will clean it up. If he's a therapist he also knows there's not much you can do to control him. So stop cleaning up his messes. Stop for a long time. It will be hard because you'll find out exactly where his threshold is and if he will really tolerate the house being like that but you'll find out if it's the ADD or if he's taking advantage of you. Let things go to the point he has to clean it.

I'll give you an example. My husband has agreed to empty the dishwasher in the morning before he goes to work. If he doesn't do it, then I don't either. That means the dishes from the whole day for me and the kids get stacked on the very small amount of counter space we have and in the sink. Because of this when he comes through the door in the evening I make no attempt what so ever to make dinner. Eventually he say something like "so are we having dinner?" And I say "I would love to make dinner but it seems there are to many dishes all over the kitchen for me to actually cook anything." In the past the conversation would have continued with why he didn't have time to empty the dishwasher and how I should have done it etc. but we've had that discussion so many times that now if he comes home and the kitchen is a mess he knows it's because he didn't empty the dishwasher. Same thing with taking out the garbage. I can't cook once the can is full because I won't throw trash around the kitchen.

Basically there are two big things that upset him if they don't get done. Laundry if he runs out of underwear and food when he's hungry. When one of the following of his responsabilities stops happening then very shortly he finds he is out of food or out of underwear. Dishes, garbage, lawn care, taking laundry down to the basement, brining it up. That's it. That's literally all I expect. I do everything else while he entertains the kids while I do the rest (which he's very good at). For the record everything else includes all family recreation planing, all finances and tax preparation, and managing our 8 rental units.

Just stop. Make the consequences his. If he doesn't clean something up, you do not actually have to. You could just leave it and if leaving it means you can't do something he expects from you then he will try just a little bit harder. My husband still forgets but at least now when he sees the consequences he realizes he's the one who forgot and makes amends. He also forgets much much less. Also my husband is medicated and in therapy with someone who has ADD and they work on my husbands skill sets. If your husband isn't being treated or if he isn't into making the most of his treatment then nothing you do will actually work.

Sounds logical but does not work practically

Sometimes, the consequences of the thing not being done would be harder on me than on him. For example, spills. I am handicapped and at real risk for falls, so spilled/dropped things are dangerous to me (not him). So I feel like I have to clean up even if he doesn't. Also, there is a risk of bugs as we live in the deep south. At the moment, I am losing the "Battle of the Bugs."

If he runs out of underwear, he doesn't care, just goes without. He does that often even if there is clean underwear; I posted about that under "hygiene issues" a long time ago. I have refused to go somewhere he wanted to go because I didn't have any clean underwear. It did get his attention for a while. But backsliding is so common with him. The grade-school-parent idea of setting out your clothes the night before never occurs to him.

As far as paying the rent when he would not work, I felt I had to as I had signed the lease. My legal obligation does not end because he is not meeting his. Both people who sign a lease are responsible for it individually. And if I don't pay it, I get evicted right along with him.

Natural Consequences

What you suggest, Notavictim, is a great idea when the natural consequences are something that impacts the person with ADHD.  In the two examples you shared - running out of underwear and wanting to eat are consequences that are motivators for your spouse because they are situations he is not willing to tolerate.

What about the person who doesn't empty the litter box, as agreed, who doesn't notice the putrid smell of a full one, or notices but can quickly think about something else and so not be bothered by it (something I've read someone post on this site)?  Or the person who doesn't care if there are things all over the house or if it takes forever to find things?  Etc.

And what about when the consequences affect BOTH spouses?  Or what if the consequences affect the nonADHD spouse even more than they affect the person with ADHD?  If my wife doesn't go grocery shopping (which in our division of labor is one of her chores), we run out of food items that I like to have "in stock" - like fresh fruit, but that doesn't seem to bother her very much.   Or maybe we'll run out of toilet paper or laundry detergent - and I don't want THAT to happen.  What consequences might SHE ALONE suffer in that kind of situation?  Do I buy some toilet paper just for me?  Do I buy fruit and eggs and juice just for me?  Do I buy laundry detergent just for me?  And if I did - how would I even keep her from using these them?

Any suggestion?