Spouses - OCD and ADHD

My wife and I have three very bright and beautiful children but are at a severe juncture in our marriage. A web search brought me to your sight as I try to understand my unrelenting anger and my spouses daily struggle with structure. From a quick assessment, it looks like my wife has ADHD and I have been pouring fuel on a raging fire. My constant griping and blaming has created such a miserable environment that my wife walks around with knots in her stomach and the children continually apologize as a way to not upset Dad. Our diferences are all over the small things. I think the small things should just go away and she feels that they are small and do not need the scrutany. Some examples are as follows: leaving doors unlocked and lights on, making 4 trips to the grocery store in a week and not remembering to buy milk, sending the kids to school with coats and picking them up without them, washer and dryer being used as a storage device. I would like to add that we play very well together. Our family environment is wonderful when we are having fun. If awareness is the starting point for change, I am there. What advice can you give to me and my wife to move forward individually and collectively? We definitely cannot continue on the path that we are on for much longer.

Response to kysteel

Being the ADD spouse, My response to your problem is that I think you should educate yourself further on this subject. Not only on facts and behaviors but read the posts here and on other websites where you get the real deal on what people are really living with. I think that your very luck to have so much happiness in your family. Small thing are just that small things. You think they are easy to fix but there is exactly where the difference lies between people with ADD and those who don't have it. There are techniques to work on these things but "just do it" is not the mantra of the ADD person. This doctor's books are wonderful DTD and DFD. I,too, have a very similar family situation and I really do understand. Working together without anger or resentment is the key.

As the ADD wife of a

As the ADD wife of a slightly OCD husband, we struggle with many of the same arguments. My husband gets very upset about, the afgan not being folded on the couch properly, or the dishes not being put away, or my clothes being strewn wherever I last had them (then got distracted by some other chore) so much that it makes him turn red and sweat. I actually do not even notice these things being out of order (even thought I try, *sigh* so hard) until he comes throught an notices and must put each thing back in it's place. As part of MY ADD I simply do not see the "little things", I only see the "big things", (or, the things that are interesting) **NOTE** Each time my husband fusses at me about something he thinks I should have done better, it "shuts down" my brain. For some reason I cannot function. I get entirely overwhelmed with the whole housework scene and think "screw this!" (I also work full time with a one hour commute each way and am going to grad school full time, so it's not like all have to do is lay around the house) BUT, with a simple kind word, or when he notices the things I have done RIGHT, he really helps me improve. We've also had the conversation that if the house being perfect is so important to him, perhaps he should clean it. I can CLEAN, I just can't be NEAT.

Conflicts around household tasks.

I am sooo with you on this! My husband, who is not ADHD, (and I am) used to be very messy, himself, and it used to drive ME crazy. (He was even messier than me). I'm not sure what changed him, but he has become so picky about every little thing being out of place...dishes in the sink (as opposed to on the counter or in the dishwasher so he has room to wash his hands), some of my and the kids' things being on the kitchen counters (where I will actually SEE them and remember what I need to do with them), kids toys in the living room, (although not strewn everywhere, just recently played with), no kitchen garbage can left out (which means I have to open the cabinet doors with my dirty-from-cooking hands in order to just throw a chicken skin away), etc, etc. Yet his side of our bedroom looks like a bomb went off and his clothes are everywhere. He usually has to clean off the passenger seat in his car so I can sit down too. He seems to expect SO much from me and the kids, yet doesn't want to do much about it himself. We also have a dog who is not quite fully grown yet and still causes some destruction in the home, which is frustrating to both of us, but yet he is both unwilling to spend time training him nor to give him away. See a pattern here? "Debi...you and the kids do everything to my specifications. I do nothing but enjoy a nice atmosphere." I'm sorry to sound so negative. I'm trying to not be that way towards him in person. But just last night he came home ranting about this and that around the house and I just went to bed to avoid all his criticisms. Now I've woken up feeling awful and need someone to talk to. Thanks for listening, Debi

Hi. Your situation sounds

Hi. Your situation sounds similar to how mine used to be before proper medication and counseling. Concerta has helped me greatly, and I have a great female counselor who enlightens me regarding the relationship between my husband and me. I don't mean to sound critical (because I used to act/react in the same way), but right now you seem to have a "victim" mentality - I think it can be quite common in ADHD folks like us. You probably don't realize it, but it sounds like you are internalizing his comments, letting resentment build, pitting yourself against him, etc. The key is to communicate honestly and openly with your husband and to stand up for yourself - he is also responsible for making sure the household runs smoothly. Tell him what issues you find challenging - it was so freeing for me to finally stop feeling guilty and tell my husband how difficult time, space, stuff management is for me (hence the piles of laundry, dishes, papers, etc. - the clutter, the lack of structure in our house/family, etc.). I have to run and deal with kids right now, but I'll write more later.

Completing my thoughts

My husband responded well to open and honest communication, vice lashing out, skirting around issues, etc. The object is to work together and problem-solve. My counselor really wants me to work on getting the kids more involved in household chores, etc. I plan on doing this when I return from a week long early summer vacation. We also have a puppy. Because most of puppy care falls to me, etc., I insisted that we get an invisible electric fence. Before medication/counseling, I would not have pushed the issue, and would have let his initial rejection of the idea thwart my efforts/intent. It isn't always easy to speak your mind, stand up for yourself, etc. - somehow we ADHD people (women in particular, I think) become less assertive and more reactive in a marital relationship. We somehow lose ourselves and our sense of identity. I"m working hard to recover mine, and I can honestly say I am happier than I have been in a long time (trying to focus on my strengths (creativity, interpersonal communication, sense of humor, etc.), not on my weaknesses as a home manager. And the kicker is, your husband really wants you to be happy too. You just have to be honest with yourself and him about what your needs are. I say it most of my posts - proper medication, counseling, and research of ADHD (books, websites, support groups, etc.) are literally life-saving measures. I wish you only the best. Do yourself and your family a favor - get the right treatment - love life again!
clancy's picture

Same scenario but all with ADHD

Debi- I have been going through this for sometime. Both my husband and I have ADHD and have our areas of messiness. Beginning this year I gave the reins to him to try to fix our money problems. I'm working and we used my account. When we began this, he immediately went through the house like the '"white tornado" and demanded that I clean the bedroom over my winter break before he would begin. As I look back, I realize the disorder in the house effects the order in his brain. I'm jumping around here. Both my adult children have ADHD and from listening to them this year complain of how the other sibling's mess bothers them and after reflecting on my problems with all their mess it occurred to me that we all have an area that we need to keep well ordered for our well being. And we all have huge areas that we don't keep organized. We are very vocal about how we feel about the mess that bothers us and sometimes aren't tactful in how we express ourselves, almost like being in DENIAL and need the convenience of having someone to blame instead of looking at ourselves or even having compassion for each other. The micromanaging of our lives by my husband almost backfired as I began to realize the lack of boundaries in the relationship/household was something I could no longer tolerate and called his bluff when he began talking of separation as a solution to the mess. I was glad he brought it up and agreed to it because I refused to allow myself to be held hostage any longer. He backed off and changed his attitude as well as tactics. We are still a mess,not as badly and my summer project is to organize and declutter for MY sake, not his. But my therapist once mentioned that we really need to see where each others strengths are and divide household chores accordingly. What a great idea. My daughter doesn't like to do the dishes even though my husband has assigned her that task,because she cleans at work and at culinary arts school all day and night but she'll happily run errands or tend to our pets. In return I'm happy to declutter the dining room table of her mess. I haven't had a chance to discuss this idea with him as he is very old school about those things. We are really lacking in our communication and I have to take responsibility for most of it as I'm more passive and try to avoid what might become a negative exchange. But this is my life and I need to do what will make it better, even if some discussions are hard. I need to do that and I will. But one thing I am learning from this blog is that this is not a "traditional" family, as one person so perfectly described an ADHD marriage/family. I don't know if this post helped you but it certainly helped me to read my scenario on the screen. Thank you.

Some thoughts

I realize some people come on the forum just to vent, not necessarily to seek solutions for their issues (because the issues they air may not be that big of a deal to them). That said - If it were me (and I know it's not), 1) If I were doing the cooking, the kitchen trash can would stay out during my preparations until I were done with prep. It would be my responsibility to put it away, but if I were the one using it, it would be out until I put it away. If he wants to time the putting away of the kitchen trash can, then he can take care of the tasks that use the kitchen trash can. If I'm doing those tasks, I get to say where the can goes and when. 2) I would put any of his things that he left out on his side of the bedroom - where he would have to deal with them. (Sometimes that shocks them into realizing what a mess they're actually making. Sometimes it helps to say that that's a new house rule ahead of time.) 3) If he's unhappy with the kids leaving their toys all over the living room, why can't he speak to the kids about it? They're his kids too. Why is it only your responsibility to police them? Sometimes guys are completely unaware that they're being bossy boors. Their brains are different from ours -- even taking the "condition continnum" (I prefer not to use the term "disorder") into consideration -- and they're socialized differently from us. That said, if one is getting on my last nerves without meaning to, and interfering with the way I'm doing tasks that benefit both of us, I figure it's my responsibility to let him know it.

adhd wife

hi i couldn't resist feeling your frustration and maybe someone can explain the contradiction. i, too, have add. i know it and i try, but i also have an adult child with add and he acts like he has ocd. maybe, your husband also has add without the H. he can hide it better. there has to be something about this disorder (funny word) that causes some individuals to be able to make a mess, but be frustrated by the mess of others. my son is truly messy. he is a 100% or 0. he cleans things perfectly or lets them go completely. but, my point is that he goes crazy when there is clutter around him and it's not of his making. i've noticed this over and over again. he gets so frustrated that he won't or can't help clean anything that is not of his making.........he'll just toss. yup! doesn't care if it's your mink coat in a pile or an old magazine............it goes. slight exaggeration, as i don't own a mink coat.....but, you get my point. there is no discrimination.......it all goes. maybe i would feel better when i leave and return to find things missing, if i knew what caused this behavior. maybe, he knows that his mess is made up of items that he can identify with, but someone else's mess is just a mess. good luck

I so agree with you. My

I so agree with you. My husband doesn't like dishes all over the kitchen and clothes stacked up on a chair in our room. HOWEVER, he does not try to give me a hand with tidying up either. He works 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. almost every day. And he'll keep busy in the evening for awhile doing 'his stuff' either inside or outside. He does do most of the outdoor chores, but that's once a week. I tend to not see the 'little things' but the 'big things' (to me?!) When he gets on me about something that didn't get done, I totally shut down. I've gone days without speaking to him. I just climb inside myself for a few days and don't come out. I'm clean too, but things aren't always neat. Saturdays I give the house a good run through. But throughout the week, sorry, I'm only one person. I was so proud of a project I did do outside this summer. I've made a huge flower bed in our back yard, along the fence. He actually went out with a tape measure and found a few spots that were out a bit and re did them. I didn't receive a compliment for my work at all. He is a perfectionist. Or should I say, if it isn't done to his specifications, it isn't done right. I'm sure it's hard to live with me, but it certainly is a challenge living with him too. My heart goes out to you.

AND- A Very Powerful Word

Your post elicited so many emotions in me. I laughed when I read the title because it reminded me of a phrase I used to say. I felt compassion, sadness and hope throughout the rest because again, I can remember a time (not so long ago) that I felt the feelings you describe. A bit of background- I've been married almost 14 years. Our family's ADD journey began when our second son was diagnosed with language delays at 14 mo., ADD at age 5 and other learning differences at age 6-7. He was struggling in the school system were I also worked and held an administrative position in, of all places, the Special Education Department . Our home life was also falling apart in disorganization, constant bickering over who was right and putting others first instead of OUR family (although it was camouflaged in the name of family - like little league and PTA). Like you, there was never a question of love or having fun for that matter. We definitely knew how to do that! However, my husband and I were at the point of divorce, literally. After a 6 month separation, all that was left was to sign on the dotted line. My husband had been diagnosed formally a year after our second son but wasn't quite convinced he had it. I had been diagnosed in grade school and again one year after my husband. Finally, after, I thought, "ok- that's it"- my first son's teacher informed me he was day dreaming excessively and had I ever thought about having him tested for ADD? I cried many nights for a range of reasons all related to this thing called ADD and then asked myself as you do in your post...."Now what?" It was during this time that I learned the word "AND"- A VERY Powerful Word. I realized that at the core of our disagreements was invalidation. It was right or wrong, black or white, happy or sad. Through validation we began our reconciliation. The key was that it was TRUE validation and an understanding that it did not mean we agreed or disagreed. You see, I was done. I filed and accepted I was divorcing (something unheard of from both of our Catholic upbringings). I accepted myself for what I was and wasn't. I accepted him for what he was and wasn't All the while I told myself that change takes time and that true change is measured by consistency not perfection. I had no expectations because it was what it was. And it was definitely over. I accepted that he was right AND I was right. He was wrong AND I was wrong. We began to celebrate differences in our family and in the process, saved our son by realizing that public schooling was a great environment for one son with ADD AND it was a horrible environment for our other son with ADD. We didn't rush signing the papers and didn't rush back into the marriage. It was the hardest thing we had both ever gone through AND it was one of the BEST things that has ever happened to us! What I'm saying is that we found the AND in the small things and slowly moved to find the AND in the harder issues. The entire family works on finding the "AND" daily and we will continue to do so if we want to stay married for the rest of our lives. We also practiced admitting our OWN side of where we went wrong- which was very difficult for me as a teacher and as an oldest child! We learned that the apology is important but the most important part is to say how we could have done it differently. We now use the phrase, "I wish I would have done [or said] ......instead". We did this in front of our children and continue to do this because it keeps us real. Hopefully, we are passing these new skills on to them. I think this has been the scariest AND the most rewarding part throughout this process. I used to be so worried about how we were damaging our children before and after our separation. But now, I think they are a couple of the luckiest boys too because yes, we have hurt them and it's awful AND we are teaching them that if something isn't working, admit it, move on AND try something different. I guess you could say we used our ADD (our bullheaded persistence) in a positive way. Anyway.....It sounds like you are right there on your way to the scary and awesome journey of change. My only bit of advice is this.... from reading your post it sounds like you are ready to change AND want to save your marriage. So do it! Change - but remember that marriage isn't a 50/50 thing so don't hold any expectations of you, your spouse or the process. Your speed of change is DIFFERENT than hers, not necessarily faster or slower, just different. Good luck in making change a priority in your life because if that is what you truly want then it will happen.

Spacey lady

Laughter is important. laughing at mistakes, helps me remember the situation and hopefully change my behavior.

checklist are vital... daily, week, monthly...

ability to input is vital. If I try to help him remodel an apartment, he has to tell me the goal for the day and week. If he just has me around for a second hand, I don’t have the patience. 

If he doesn’t accept my input when we are faced with a problem, I tend to go to bathroom for a break, and then forget to come back.

if the problems are not explained, I can’t just stay and watch him figure it out... I want to be active, I want to be told my ideas are helpful.

if that doesn’t happen, I tend to wander off and drag my feet and forget to come back... honestly, I forget, I get side tracked, and then I feel better... if I see a solution that takes 10 min, I’m comparison to his plan that takes a few hours... I want to be taken seriously. 

I used to think that the reasons opposites attract was to help,sharpen each other. Make each other better people. If I help him laugh at measuring the holes 1/2 inch off... he helps me remember measuring twice is important... but he doesn’t laugh as much. He is more angry and frustrated. 

but lately, I’ve felt that every thing that turns up wrong is my fault. Even when it’s not.... I get blamed first, and that’s frustrating. It makes me quit. It makes me not come back down the next day.

after all... if I am busy he,ping him remodel... the kitchen, floors and bathrooms loose the attention he expects... so if those aren’t done right, I’m bound to get a lecture. I find that I tell my kids to just do things that aren’t on their chore list, just to keep him from freaking out. 

So right now, my goal is laughter. It’s hard to get him to laugh, but Afv helps, and pointing out other stupid things I do that doesn’t effect him.... and sometimes he laughs at himself, but it’s a work in progress. I find that  I sleep more when I’ve had a day full of mistakes, I eat more... drink more... just not happy....he does the same thing when I haven’t met his expectations...

also very important for me. I have to have a wall between me and any phones or tablets when I sleep. If I don’t, I don’t dream. I didn’t dream for 3years, till I found this correlation. Tv also has to go off on a sleep timer. 

After dreams resurfaced, my ability to remember things and stick to schedules came back....