ORIGINAL POST - April 2010
I was diagnosed with ADHD at 16 and I'm now almost 28 and married last year. I think that I'm pretty high functioning but my ADHD symptoms have caused major problems in our relationship and I've tried really hard to explain how ADHD affects my ability to focus, keep track of time and communicate. I've also done a lot to make it easier on my wife. I got an iPhone and keep my schedule organized, I set alarms on it to remind me when I need to do things or be somewhere, I keep a daily journal on it to try and keep track of basic things that happened during the day, I try to make sure I'm not on the computer when we are hanging out together or talking, I reset my sleep schedule to go to bed earlier with her instead of staying up late on my own, I ask her about her day almost everyday (sometimes I still forget), I have a chore routine, we aren't rich but I hold down a steady job, I schedule band practices and other 'me time' while she is at work and I try really hard to do everything I can to make her happy.
One of the major problems is that when there is a problem I get easily frustrated and defensive. She doesn't understand what I'm trying to say and I don't understand her. It can go on for up to 4 hours and I can't keep track of what was said and sometimes get distracted. Sometimes it goes on really late into the night when I have to wake up early for work. I get really tired and it actually makes me feel physically ill. She says its not okay to talk about it later and we have to resolve the issue right then and there. She also gets really emotional and worked up, which I don't blame her for because I obviously do and say stupid things sometimes. We can't seem to work out how to communicate better. I tried making a lot of suggestions that have worked for me in the past, like postponing the conversation to a time that isn't the middle of the night or when we aren't as emotional. I've also tried to tell her what it's like to be ADHD and used some suggestions off this site.
It seems to me that she thinks I'm using it as an excuse and is so fed up that unwilling to learn more about it or use any of the suggestions that I've found online for better communication. I really want to do something to make things better and finally have a little extra money, so I decided it would be good for me to see a therapist who specializes in ADHD and try some behavorial therapy and get some help with communication. She said that I was just doing it for myself to make me feel better, that the therapist would probably say she was in the wrong because they would only be hearing my side of the story, that they would tell me I should get out of the relationship and that it's not worth the money. I don't want to see a therapist for myself, I want to see one to improve our marriage. I can't seem to explain myself well enough to my wife and I need more tools than I can find online to make things better.
So my questions are, how do I improve communication with my wife who seems unwilling to learn more about ADHD and try any of my suggestions? How do I convince her it's would be good for both of us if I saw a therapist? and how can I help her understand better what it's like to be me?
EDIT - UPDATED almost 2 years later
What I wrote about was a really tricky situation which isn't totally resolved but has improved a little bit. I never made it to a therapist but at a certain point last year I put my foot down and refused, as kindly as I could, to talk about problems when she brought them up in the middle of the night. At first I would listen to what she had to say and then excuse myself to go take a walk and smoke a cigarette so I could do some breathing and calm myself down, so that my first words were a reaction but instead a reflection. That helped a lot in not having that initial defensive aggression. I just got in the habit of recognizing when I was about to overflow and then I'd take a quick break to bring myself back down.
That helped shorten the long talks a little bit and helped me focus a little more but I was still really upset that we could potentially end up talking until 2am and then I'd have to wake up at 8am for work. So eventually I reached my limit and stood firm, telling her that I would not have those discussions late in the evening and they would have to wait until the next day. For several months things sucked pretty bad, anytime she wanted to talk and I refused, I would end up sleeping on the couch and she would stomp around the house all angry and then go to sleep in the bed. The next day though, our conversations were significantly shorter and calmer.
It took a long time but now, most of the time at least, she just tells me there is a problem and we agree to talk the next day. Sometimes she just apologizes the next morning and says that it was nothing and other times we have a 30 minute to hour long conversation and everything is all good. We get in less fights and they are rarely bad enough that one of us chooses to sleep on the couch. I think our last big fight was over 4 months ago and she apologized the next morning and told me she over-reacted because of an experience she had in a past relationship.
Without my flight/fight defensive response taking over and her nervous anxiety ramping up her emotional state, communication became much easier. I don't know that any of this will be helpful or work for your relationship but it was helpful for mine. My mother, who has been married to my father for 40+ years actually gave me the advice to postpone the argument and I am very grateful I followed her advice, even though it took a while to see the positive results.