Total Lack of Sympathy

It so happens that right now I have a terrible cold. My ADHD husband is acting like he usually does under these circumstances...he is punishing me for not being well. Does that sound strange, or have I found a forum where people will understand what I am trying to say? It is as if, by my inability to carry on and keep life as it should be,I have somehow done something unforgivable. He will remain aloof and unsympathetic and emotionally cool until such time as I straighten up and get back to normal. It is almost as if, by totally ignoring me while I am not well, he can pretend that I am not sick....he acts like this when ever things are not going according to plan. Has anyone had any success at getting their partner to recognize they might need compassion or understanding, or do I just resign myself to this lack in our relationship and stop hoping that he will care when I need him to?

Thoughts on sympathy

It's weird because I just posted about this earlier today.  I am the ADHD spouse, and I take excellent care of my husband and two kids when they are sick.  I actually enjoy it.   Can't say the same for my non-ADHD husband.  He admits that he is terrible when I am sick.  My ADHD (and still unmedicated mom) was AMAZING at taking care of me when I was little.  I don't think this is an ADHD feature, perhaps a gender difference?  No one takes care of the mom when she's sick...

Lack of empathy in other arenas may or may not be a symptom to the distraction/obliviousness to which we can be prone.  So many women I know, whose spouses are not ADHD complain about that.  But cranking up the "jerk" factor when you already feel like crap is not ADHD.  I don't really know what that's about...

I hope you feel better!


"No one takes care of mom"

Bingo, unfortunately.

I'm also an ADHD mom and there is very little sympathy or empathy whenever I get sick. Hell, I think DH doesn't even believe me half the time.  There was one weekend last year when all four of us were sick.  Vomiting, diarrhea... you name it.  In between my own bouts I was cleaning up after everyone else.  DH was the first to get it and the first to recover, but I continued dealing with the messes, getting up at 2, 3, 4, 5 am with each kid's trip to the bathroom (or my trip to their room to change sheets and then give them baths).  DH never helped.  Not once.

DH will take over some tasks when I'm sick if it absolutely must be done (like make/order some kind of dinner and put the kids to bed) but it is always made clear that he resents having his routine upset and that he has lots and lots and lots of work to do that will be delayed because I'm off my game.

Sometimes you need to demand

There are times when you simply have to go on "mom strike."  That is, you need to say "I don't care if it puts you out of sorts - I am sick and unable to fill the role that I normally do - that of the caretaker.  It's time you take care of me."  If you do manage to pull yourself out of bed and do whatever it is that needs doing you may be reinforcing the idea that you 'really aren't all that sick...'

There have been (a few) times in the past when I have allowed others in the family to ignore me by my putting in the extra effort (like getting out of bed at 2am even if I wasn't feeling well rather than booting my husband out of bed.)  I later decided that it was okay for him to experience a bit of what I normally do.  Did it make him cranky?  Sometimes.  Did he look for applause?  Sometimes.  Did I give it?  Sometimes - hey, I admit it - I know that appreciation of his efforts (even if they are made begrudgingly) will get me further, in the long run, than being cranky back or ranting at his lack of enthusiasm!  (And now that our relationship is calm, he does many things in order to show he cares...there are only a few areas he begrudges that's fine.)  My point is only this - ask yourself this question - is what's being asked of me while I'm sick reasonable?  If not, don't go along with it.

i have done the 'mom strike'

i have done the 'mom strike' on a few occasions, but that just means everything piles up. Most recently i started a strike last weekend, said i was not doing certain chores and needed help...well 5 days later with not a clean pot in the house to cook dinner with, I caved and did the damn dishes.  On two other occasions i was not only sick but in the hospital for 5 days, each time, so i wasn't even home to play mom, when i came home there was a week of laundry to do, and every dish we owed dirty on the counter....and was asked a day after my return...I need clean shirts to wear, can you do some laundry. UGH !  Its hard to separate what is ADHD, what is plain laziness, what is not giving a damn about the fact that one spouse carries most of the burden for the household.   I'm afraid on the occasion that he does a chore i normally do and he wants applause I just can't give it to him, because he did something one day out of 365 days that year.  How do you get the mom strike to work, when he seems fine with just letting everything just pile up ?

There is a difference between

There is a difference between sympathy and empathy.  Sympathy is acknowledging a person is sick. Empathy is being able to be in another's shoes and feel compassion for that person, and understanding what it must be like for that person, and try to do something to alleviate their discomfort/pain.

My ADHD dh can be sympathetic but he lacks empathy. In our entire marriage, he has not ever shed a tear over anything I suffer (illness, injury, disability, crisis, death, etc) or for that matter any of the difficulties in the marriage. He cries for his autistic son. I am not completely sure if he's crying for himself because life as we struggled with is now even more limiting, or the real struggle his son goes through sometimes. Not all the time tho, because he is doing the best he can under the circumstances (with ADHD), and it doesn't come naturally to him. He needs to be reminded he has to behave that way or do it the way I ask.

Sometimes in frustration, I would say, "What would you do for your mother-sister-your best friend? (Pause.) What would you go about it? .... (Pause.) Now do that for me. I need the kind of care just like what you would offer to the ones you care for. If you were willing to do it for them, you must be willing to do it for your own wife, the woman you married...."

I know it may sound demanding or weird, but dh understands better when it's really spelled out like A+B=C or by an IF/THEN example. Sometimes it needs to be pointed out immediately when it crops up. Don't wait or sit by like a victim waiting for him to come to you. Without the empathy, they cannot even think of making sure we're ok. Just say "honey, I need to take my meds in bed. Can you bring it to me with a glass of water please. I'd be so grateful to you. The sooner I get better, the sooner things will be back to speed. Thanks."  He will find he has no choice but to help you get in good health faster, with his assistance.

In all my other relationships, platonic or otherwise in my prior life, there has always existed an element of empathy and compassion. I miss that almost "telepathic" element the most. In the ADHD relationship I experience, there isn't a deep spiritual or emotional bond I can feel. We're bound by our circumstances.


My STBX used to say, "If you want something or want me to do something, just ASK." It's true, it was hard for me to process that he couldn't just see that I was recovering from surgery or hadn't slept in days with a new baby or had the flu. "I didn't KNOW!" was a frequent response. I wish I had been able to understand this earlier on--that he just didn't have that empathy or ability to see those things, that I should have taken him at his word--he really didn't KNOW that I needed help, and that he wasn't going to change when I got upset with him over it. This boils down to him not knowing that our kids needed to eat or a bath at night, which is pretty hard for me to understand, but...

Although ultimately, I couldn't resign myself to being with someone who appeared so self-absorbed (because he wouldn't work on other, even more serious things), I do think that this can be a core issue in ADHD/non relationships. I mistook the hyper-focusing at the beginning for someone who was empathetic the way I am; then, realize later that it was his brain and gratification at the new relationship with me. Just yesterday, he told me that he had been on the phone with a friend who was going through something difficult. I said, "Oh, that's so sad, I am so sorry." Without a beat, he said, "Yeah, but my life is worse." It is still hard to wrap my mind around the idea that he would blurt that out immediately without even pausing. I sounds so self-centered, whether he really is or not? Most people we know who know him, think that he is really an "all about me" kind of person, unfortunately. 

Bu you are right, though, copingSAHM. If anyone is trying to work with this issue, asking for a glass of water is a lot better than being hurt that your spouse is ignoring you when you are sick. And having your spouse be bewildered or angry back that you are hurt or mad at him/her. And I am not so sold on the gender thing--I have plenty of friends who are married to men who would never ignore them when they are sick or had a new baby. 

Pbartender's picture

Sometimes, I've run into the

Sometimes, I've run into the problem like so...

There is something wrong with my wife.  I can tell there is something wrong with my wife.  I'm pretty sure I know what's making her feel bad.  I understand her feelings, and why she's feeling bad.  But I'm not certain what, exactly, what she wants or what I should do to help her feel better about it...  In my mind I see so many possibilities for things I can do for her, and I can't figure out which ones are the ones she wants.

If I do nothing, obviously, she'll be upset with me for ignoring her.

If I try to figure it out on my own, half the time I don't do what she was looking for and she'll be upset with me for not understanding her.

If I ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?"  She answer, "No," and then get upset at me for having had to ask.

So, how do we handle this?  A lot of us KNOW that we have trouble with this, and when we ask you what you want or how you're feeling it's a plea to help us out a little bit, so we CAN show you some sympathy and empathy.  It's not that we necessarily CAN'T or WON'T or DON'T WANT TO, but sometimes our brains just miss those cues that tell us we SHOULD.



Pbartender's picture

I'm flattered...  and thanks

I'm flattered...  and thanks for fixing my typos.  Hah! Typical ADHD.  I think faster than my fingers can type and end skipping letters or whole words.

It's important to know, though, that this happens all the time in a more general sense...

I can notice every concrete, visual, tactile or auditory detail about a situation (it's worst for social situations, but can happen in other circumstances, too).  That gives me huge insight as to what is happening NOW.  But unless it's obvious, the sheer number of possibilities for causes and solutions can be overwhelming...  Not necessarily because there are so many possibilities, but because it can be so difficult to correlate the details I've noticed to that massive list and filter that list down to a handful of most likely possibilities.  In my head, they've all got equal validity.  How do I decide which one is the right one?

So, in a way, I DO notice the social cues.  I'm not really missing them.  But, once I've got them, my brain can't always figure out what to do with them, how to categorize them, how to correlate them, or how to prioritize them.

For a guy like me, who's a "fixer", it's excruciating to see someone I love and care about upset, sad, frustrated or angry, and be unable to help or even understand why.



Really interesting!

Thanks for that clarification!  I'm wondering how that specific description compares to the way that the research was done...

Can you take the ideas that I've talked about in my other post and apply them to your relationship?  My husband and I have gotten to a point (after discussing it) where he is not offended if I overtly bring something to his attention (especially if it's 'hey, I feel like some sex' or some variation :-) and I don't feel badly about making the effort to make myself clear.  Why should he be required to read my mind?

Pbartender's picture

"Can you take the ideas that

"Can you take the ideas that I've talked about in my other post and apply them to your relationship?"

I can...  I previously have to a large degree...  When I was unsure I'd ask, and I never got offended if she ever blatantly brought something to my attention.  But that only goes so far, if she doesn't play along.



It might be a "guy thing" for

It might be a "guy thing" for a teenager or early 20-something who's gone from his mother's bosom to being with someone, but I find it hard to believe that someone like my dh (who is in his fifth decade of life) still hasn't been able to just "know" things. This is one of the things that boggles my mind. I wish that someone, especially his mother, would have told me things that she *must* have had to deal with over the years.

lynninny, I have BILs and SIL - none of them exhibit any signs of needing to be asked to do anything - I observe they do everything without any requests. And boy do they treat their spouses (my siblings) amazingly well (caring for the children and their spouses like nothing I've experienced). They treat my parents like their own parents.

My dh has made it difficult to visit my parents in well over a decade. My parents always have to make the trip to visit and they are getting on in years. They are disappointed with his lack of courtesy and respect (not overt but still obvious). I find it a source of deep embarrassment and dishonor to my parents, but dh doesn't think much of it. He once explained it to me this way:  "Well, since my parents are dead and can't see their grandchildren, I don't see why your parents (his in-laws) should have the chance to see our kids." 


I approached dh last night

I approached dh last night about visiting with my parents for this holiday. This time I listened and observed his response. I see is a high anxiety reaction. He is not only not wishing to see my parents, he's worried about his car being broken into, his car being dinged by another car.  His tendency for his car is a bit OCD.  I told him I am going to be more pro-active with the children this year if he doesn't want to go. I cannot spend another year feeling like my life is being put on hold until he is ready. I will need to make arrangements for me to take livery or cab service to travel the 100 miles. I cannot drive his car (he is also anxious about me getting behind the wheel of his car).

Basically I told him I just need to know what his immediate gut reaction/feeling is towards visiting over the holidays. He admitted to the anxiety and that he knew he caused more anxiety not going year after year and then it's like this horrible avoidance trap of having to face my parents (his in-laws). He then said that it wasn't that he didn't want to go but he'll on the condition he doesn't take the car, that he will take a "loaner" car from the car dealership and send his own car in for maintenance during the time we go visit.

It seemed all very complicated but it is not anything I am surprised with. It used to be he'd pick a fight or threaten me at some point right before we are to leave that he's not going. I decided not to argue the point and told him if that's what it takes and it works for him, we'll all be fine with that. I don't agree with the extra precautions but it will have to work. I am looking forward to this happening, but I will be ready to be pro-active in case he ends up with an excuse not to go.

So in this case, his lack of "interest" is more fueled by anxiety over incidental issues. The empathy issues are still there but I think when it's coupled with anxiety, it becomes extremely complicated but not completely a faulty empathy.



travel anxiety

One more thought -

I dunno about ADHD guys, but Sari Solden mentioned in her book "Women with ADHD" that we have a really hard time with traveling, especially staying at someone else's house.  We feel embarrassed about our lack of organization and we're anxious about packing, organizing our belongings (and of course the belongings of the whole family if you're a mom).  we get overwhelmed when we have no down time and no privacy.  Holidays are hyper-emotional for everyone and holiday gatherings with people we don't know well can be really hard. If he lost his parents, Christmas must be really hard.  I'm sure he can't help but feel envious of you because your parents are still living.  My husband and I alternate christmas locations each year between his family and mine.  The last time his mother was alive was Christmas '96.  The next year we were supposed to go to my family, but DH wanted to be with his dad & family for the first Christmas without his mom.  It was really hard for me to not go to my family for 2 years in a row, but I knew it was important to him.  

Also, Noise and people we don't know and trying to make small talk can be overwhelming and we shut down and have to go into another room and people assume we're angry or being difficult.  DH was angry at me for about a year because of my habit of disappearing once i'd finished cooking dinner.  I always just need about 5-10 minutes of space after a long day with my 3 year old and a long afternoon refereeing both girls after I picked up the older one from school.  Cooking dinner is always a struggle for me - mostly because I have to wrangle the kids at the same time - and all I want is a few minutes with no one screaming at me or hurting each other.  I'd assumed that nobody would notice or care if I took a few minutes for myself.  After all, they have their food, right?  If they're at the table with DH, they're content, eating and presumably not in any danger and not fighting.  Nobody talks to me at dinner anyway... DH is always asking DD how school was.  Then she asks Daddy how his day was.  Nobody speaks to me except for asking for refills on drinks or seconds, and DD#2 is usually in her own little world stuffing her face and singing.  I honestly was completely astounded when DH told me how angry he was about this because I felt so invisible it just didn't occur to me that he NOTICED if I was there or not never mind have any feelings about it.  He said dinnertime with family is sacred and I was ruining it by not being there.  I was unaware.  So now when dinner is ready I don't tell anyone.  I first go and lock myself in the bathroom for 5-10 minutes and when I come out I tell them it's ready.  Unfortunately, one or both kids will be banging on the door screaming for something, but at least I know they're not fighting or under my feet while I'm using a sharp knife or opening the oven door, and I'm no longer ruining dinner.

Taking a rental car seems to be a good solution.  The worry over the car could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his anxieties about other things having to do with traveling.  Try to talk to him about it to find out how he could be more comfortable while staying at your parents place.  It would be worth it if it means you could see them more.

Ellamenno, thank you for your

Ellamenno, thank you for your perspective with the dinner and dishwasher stories; it was brilliant of you to announce dinner a short interval later, after you regain your momentum. It it has brought me some insight to what I usually referred to as "distraction" it appears more related to the ability of "ordering" or prioritizing for my ADHD dh. I've been hearing the term "executive function disorder" these days, especially with the young. Brilliant kids but they have a challenge in how to prioritize their approach to test taking and study or some basic living skill sets. Both my kids exhibit this. DS1 is quirky and brilliant in school but he cannot for the life of him remember the basics of setting/cleaning a table at every meal. Or loading a dishwasher. DS2 is autistic, life is much like the film Groundhog Day, we start new a slate every day.

Needing the time to recharge yourself after a long day or meal prep, that totally made sense to me -- while I'm not diagnosed, over the years I've suspected in myself tendencies towards needing to separate from the "crowd" and "noise". I'm drained after socializing whereas my ADHD dh appears hyper-excited during the social events. I wonder if it is his coping mechanism to show that side of him, just to get through it in one piece.

I find after meal prep I am sometimes too flustered to eat, especially when I'm cooking for a crowd, or multi-tasking when tired, and I need everyone to eat without me while I go and collect my thoughts. And of course everyone is pestering at me to sit down thinking I'm too modest (ha, NOT).  I'm an introvert (INFJ temperament) and on a strong empath, a little too sensitive sometimes, maybe as I feel flustered trying to be everything to everyone. I also have a quirk -- of looking away when I'm talking to someone... my eyes will be looking at them but while I'm listening or responding to them, my eyes naturally wander to the right at some distant point. I can focus on the person's face for a bit, but I need to look away when processing. ADD, maybe? I notice it is a problem when the person will follow my eyes and wonder what it is I'm looking at. I appear disinterested but I am actually 100% grounded on what they are saying and making them feel comfortable around me.

As for traveling, I'm used to having to handle the itinerary, food prep for the boys, bags, everything including printing out a map for dh so he can have that, and he will plug it into the GPS. I find he sometimes tries to plug in the destination while he's driving, he will refuse to stop at a convenient spot or plug it in before we leave the house. I'm not sure why that is, but again, I think it's a prioritizing challenge. He takes off in the car as if he needs to be on the road that very instant. I am working on the proper way to "re-order" his way of thinking for everyone's safety. I am the type that needs to have everything in order on the GPS before I even leave the driveway.




Same quirk here!

I do the looking to the right thing myself, and I'm making a conscious effort these days NOT to, but it's really hard.  And yeah, people will turn and look to see what the hell it is that i'm staring at!

Have you read "Look Me In the Eye-My life with Aspergers" by John Elder Robison?  I don't think I have Aspergers, but I could really identify with a lot of what he says, and use some of the same coping strategies.

I think ADHD SHOULD be renamed "Executive Function Disorder" honestly... Way more accurate!

I have Robison's book on the

I have Robison's book on the to-read list. Have seen the man in an interview and he is painfully direct, but brilliant. I know two young brothers who are very likely Aspies, after watching Robison. No eye contact at all, or rare prolonged eye contact it makes one uneasy. And they are painfully direct too, I used to feel like grabbing the younger boy and say "Look me in the eye!!!" but now I know better than to do that. It's not personal :)


curiouser and curiouser

Wow, coping, I wish I had found this site years ago. My STBX used to have such a hard time with visiting his or my family. We began going to see his less and less as the years passed (5 hours away and maybe once a year), and he just started not going with me to see mine (9 hours away and I am very close with them). I grew up spending every Thanksgiving and Christmas together and absolutely wanted to continue this with my own family as I had my own children. It broke my heart. I asked one year, "Don't you want to see your family?" I think a big part of him didn't.

There were so many excuses and last minute reasons for not going--a bit of cold weather, and there would be a threat of ice on the road (seriously, even when conditions were fine and he grew up in the Northeast). Mine also OCD about his car--the only possession or place in his entire life that he was clean and neat and would not let me even drink a bottle of water in it. I think ellamenno is onto something--mine had terrible sleep issues and apnea and any change in routine or place would make it hard for him to sleep at all. Sharing close quarters and being on other people's schedules, like mealtimes and celebrating Xmas morning super early really threw him off--the whole group would be sitting there waiting and he could not wake up. Then the unfortunately reaction of people being uncomfortable when he tried too hard and would talk too long or do that perceived lack of empathy thing. Not having access to watching tv alone late at night, like he did at home, in a crowded house of people. I found out years later that my family thought he had ruined a birthday party for my grandmother--he woke up late, didn't eat, and as we were at my sister's house and she was making lunch and grilling out for the party, he couldn't wait to eat. I told him that it would only be an hour or less, but he had to eat right then, so he got in his car, drove to a fast food place, brought it back to my sister's house, and ate his food out of the bag in the back yard. Then my sister served her special lunch 25 minutes later and he didn't eat any of it. I was pretty used to stuff like this, but to my family, this was just bad manners. They always had a hard time understanding him. 

And getting going...oof. I would want to leave at a certain time so as not to arrive at 11 pm at my elderly relatives' or my sister with a new baby's house. I would do everything to get us ready, and have the bags sitting by the front door the night before. I would mention several times that we were leaving on this day, at this time--was there anything he needed to do to the car or get the day before? Each trip, he would find stuff to do as I was trying to herd us out the door and delay us by hours. It just got easier to go to my family's without him, and unfortunately, without the stress, I had a lot more fun.

lynninny, the story about

lynninny, the story about your STBX going to McDonald's reminds me of my BIL -- we happened to drop in for a surprise visit to BIL -- first time in a blue moon and we got to talking about drawing. All of a sudden, BIL said he needed to go the the art store to get a set of watercolor pencils. Just like that, he just left the house with us sitting there! We had no choice but to sit there and wait until he got back to say our goodbyes. It was the first time I'd seen anyone needing to do something right on the spot in such an obvious way. Normally I would wait until company left, etc.  At the beginning of our courtship, dh would always tell me how he and his brother (my BIL) have strong "instant gratification" needs, but now I know what drives that behavior...!

We're not late per se (if we even go anywhere!) but I arrive exhausted and drained from ADHD dh's incessant chatter on long car rides.  He can talk non-stop for a good 45 minutes or more about nothing in particular, just reciting the weather, road conditions, monuments, his childhood, etc. and then he starts all over again. I'm not sure if that is a way to quiet the anxiety? My mother used to think we had an argument in the car, I looked like I'd been through hell and back :)




car ride

That is H does the same thing, but he is normally not a talkative person, however there are times, like driving for instance where I feel like he is a tour guide, "over to your right there is a fence, and on your left  xyz store, and on and on..on routes that I have taken hundreds of times myself, i don't need to have someone point out to me what is at every stop or corner.  My kids will say yes dad we know you have said that 100 times.  It makes me so drained just listening to him and I want to scream will you just shut up and drive!

The talking while driving thing....


It's a way to (try to) get past the anxiety/stress of driving.  And perhaps trying to prevent criticism by not letting anyone get a word in edgewise.

I hate driving and find that I will do this unless I make a conscious effort not to.  Especially if I have to drive with someone I don't know well.  I don't play tour guide though.  Mostly I'm rattling on about the various possible ways to get to wherever I'm supposed to be going and trying to find out which is the fastest/easiest/least  annoying route.  I'm always self-conscious and feel like everyone else on the planet just LOVES to drive and I'm the only freak who hates it.

I will do anything to get out of driving.  If a friend asks for a lift to the airport I tell them the only way I'll 'give them a ride' is if they actually drive there.  Driving home is fine with me:  I don't have to get someone (or myself) on a plane on time.  But I refuse to be driving and have someone stressing out about which lane i'm in and which is the best way to get to the airport and 'oh, you missed the exit!  %*$&!'

Maybe listen to music in the car?  I guess that might be worse though if you don't like the same music....

The art of the one-to-one

The art of the one-to-one conversation does not seem to exist for my dh. There's no philosophical talks, no feedback, no ideas, no brainstorming, nothing about hopes, wishes, dreams for our children. It's all about the mundane trivialities of life. I end the day feeling very empty most of the time. He'll come over and know to give me a hug after a long trying discussion but I think sometimes it is a bit too little, too late. A person can only feel so much left after prolonged "aloneness."

The music in the car is already cranked, and dh is talking over the music... just a volume level lower and it would be fine, but he constantly keeps it cranked a volume level too high, that he needs to speak very loudly to be heard. God forbid someone cuts him off on the road, he will go off on a ballistic tirade. I have actually burst into tears from the explosiveness of his verbal road rages.

Well, tonight might be the night I eat the words from my previous post. :)


I will not own that misery and frustration that is my life. I will be responsible to live that life but I will not own the dysfunction and fragmentation -- I raise a profoundly autistic child who I love and cherish, but who cannot process information easily and who at every corner faces sensory overload. An ADHD dh who has those similar traits to a lesser degree BUT in an adult form, I am that "cog" who wishes nothing more than to be "ONE" with her family. If it weren't for my other child, I would not have kept going and recovering little snatches of hope for the future.

Tonight, we were with a friend at a toy store. My child went into a severe sensory meltdown suddenly that I had to take him to the lobby. He was thrashing, screeching, flailing, banging slamming, you name it. My nails were all bent backwards from trying to regain a hold on my child writhing out of my grip.

What does my ADHD dh do? Nothing.

He stood with his friend at the service desk on the pretext that he was helping our friend pay a balance. Instead of pulling some cash to ask the friend to deal with it, he stood there hanging out with him. According to my other child, the friend kept asking dh to go out and help me. DH stayed at that counter for 20 minutes (it seem interminably longer) talking about" autism awareness" to everyone within earshot. All this time, our child is fighting me like a banshee, bloodcurdling screams reaching all the way into the store and everyone at the registers staring out at as like some zoo spectacle. When dh finally came out to check at the friend's insistence, he looked annoyed and was even snippy with me, that I was being bitchy and his excuse was that his ADHD was giving him a real challenge today and there was nothing he could do about it. It was his ADHD that came before the greater good that made it seem so damn hopeless. And of course I look disheveled and frantic and I must be the "bad parent".

I don't want to feel hopeless for myself, but I feel the situation that just happened tonight was just another hopeless example of the frustration I am bombarded with. But I won't let it bury me alive. I will survive this and make it through. And if I've contradicted myself in anyway, I guess that's to be expected, I feel so much fragmentation in me right now.

ok... here's the other side

I don't have a lot of time, because i've just got home because I too, did some shopping tonight after my job that's an hour away. DD#1 has a birthday party tomorrow & I've got to make a 3D dragon cake tonight.  (cake part is made, but it needs to be assembled and decorated... no small task!)

Your husband didn't help because most likely he was feeling similarly to how your son was feeling in his head, but was not showing the outward signs.  Yes, he should've helped you.  But I don't think he actually was able to because he was shutting down.  I get overwhelmed in big stores with the craziness around the holidays and the crowds and extra stimulation is often just too much and I have to leave a store without buying what i needed.

I know, also, that ADDers tend to believe that the nonADD spouse has everything under control.  It's hard for us to believe that we COULD be of help in a difficult situation because so often we are told 'just... just... get out of the way and let ME do it!"

[quote] I know, also, that

[quote] I know, also, that ADDers tend to believe that the nonADD spouse has everything under control.  It's hard for us to believe that we COULD be of help in a difficult situation because so often we are told 'just... just... get out of the way and let ME do it!" [/end quote]


LOL, I could see myself totally saying "let ME do it!" if I'm not seeing results quick enough.

I just wish I could have managed to think faster on my feet and asked him where he'd park the car (he had moved it further away due to his OCD - he rarely walks in with us because he's re-parking the car), so that I could just take our son to the safety of the car instead. It took my other son several times going back and forth between his father and checking on me to have the forethought to ask his father where the car was.

Do you suppose given what I've said earlier -- about being direct A+B=C and if/THEN, asking specifically what needs to be done -- to the ADD/ADHD person, that it will be done by them? Or does it make you in your experience, shut down?  I feel I need to think more quickly, a bit more honed with my communication with the ADHD spouse.

Let me know how that 3D dragon cake turned out! I never could manage all that frosting and decorating, something about getting my hands sticky... :)


dragon cake!

So... ok, it's been a lifetime is seems since I made that dragon cake, but wanted to report that it turned out great....

I was exhausted, but stayed up to make this thing.  I was proud of my organizational skills and followed the instructions and had the thing done by midnight.  then it fell apart.  Without going into a long explanation of how this cake is made, suffice it to say that at first, with the fondant icing it looked like a creature in a pink wetsuit.  It was ridiculous.  So I figured, ok... either I make a tiny gum-paste oxygen tank, flippers and snorkel, or I move to plan B.  Plan B  was cutting the fondant into scales.  Enough scales to cover  a dragon cake about 1.5 feet long and 10 inches high.  I knew this was going to be crazy, but my meds had worn off and I was all set to "ADD out" and hyperfocus.  So I mixed up some extra frosting for 'glue' cut out about a hundred circles of varying sizes, got out my food coloring, paint brushes, bamboo skewers etc. etc..... I made wings and those little mini- wing things that dragons have on their heads (gills or something?  c'mon, you know what I mean, don't pretend you don't!)

I knew I couldn't finish the whole thing, but got it mostly done. Unfortunately though the head/neck portion had to be re-built in the morning and 're-glued' with frosting and secured with skewers inside (as an armature - the dragon was rearing up on its hind legs with its claws in the air) I gave up at 4AM and went to bed. 

At 8am, my daughter woke up and I heard from the kitchen, "AWWWW.... THAT'S NOT WHAT I WANTED!!!" and she burst into tears.  I came out and explained that I still had to work on it some more, and that it should be ok....  She looked dubious... and cried harder.  So I said, "Hey... just think: If my plan doesn't work out, and it collapses again and looks awful, we can take pictures and send them in to the "Cake Wrecks!!" (a website dedicated to professional cakes gone wrong... but you can send in photos of your own cake disasters, too.)  "we can get you and your friends to stand around it pointing and laughing!"  This made her feel much better, as she LOVES that website.... But - fortunately, I was able to get this thing together and it was a pink dragon, with scales from head to toenails, blue wings unfurled and those little ear things too, big purple and black eyes, mouth wide open...  I had planned for it to breathe fire, but didn't get that far....  It DID look pretty awesome and everyone was happy.  It even tasted pretty good.

But wow - was I tired!!!

on that note - gotta get to bed.


That makes some sense to me. I will see my ADHD husband start to shut down when he's overwhelmed or over-stimulated. I used to think that "he just needed a cigarette"....but maybe the core issue is the ADHD....

On the other hand, my ADHD DH is ALWAYS the one that is saying "Just let me do it!" because I don't do it "right"....he has to be in the middle of everything...always needs control. He always find something that I'm doing "wrong". But instead of helping or encouraging he rubs my face in it or gives me a million reasons why his way is better. It's infuriating.

Before DH and I met, I was very self-sufficient and on my own for years. I bought my home, had a great job, very financially independent/responsible, tons of friends....had my schtuff together. He loved that I was so "on top" of my life. Yet, at the same, he would say that he wanted "to take care of me"....but it was in a very sweet, endearing way. I really had to work on not being TOO independent when we started getting serious about marriage. I had to learn to trust him and let him do things for me. Now, he get frustrated because he "can't depend on me to do anything right" and I'm "irresponsible"....he has to do EVERYTHING. Really???

That's just mean.

"Well, since my parents are dead and can't see their grandchildren, I don't see why your parents (his in-laws) should have the chance to see our kids."

I cannot believe anyone would say that.

I guess it really isn't a 'guy thing' unless perhaps the man in the relationship had an archaic (sp?) upbringing.  My DH is the oldest of 4.  His married brother is very helpful with household stuff.  (His wife complains that he doesn't notice what needs to be done enough and doesn't do enough, but I am AMAZED at the amount of  chores/kid-related stuff he does without being asked.)  Come to think of it, of all the couples in my particular social circle, my DH is the only man who does absolutely no housework.  I felt pangs of jealousy when I heard a couple we know (both non ADD) discuss their schedule and they revealed that they clean the house on Wednesday evenings together so that their weekend is free of chores.

Now, I am the ADD spouse, so I've had trouble of my own with figuring out how to prioritize chores and for starters figure out HOW to do each chore.  PBartender is right - we know when something is wrong, or something needs to be done, but cannot prioritize or figure out how to respond.

I was thinking today that having ADHD is like being a mouse in a maze.  We can smell the cheese, but we keep bonking our snouts on walls and cannot figure out how to move forward so we either stand there stupefied and do nothing or we back out of the maze entirely figuring that we'll never be able to get the cheese anyway so we should go find something else to eat.

example:  If the 'cheese' or goal, is something as simple as say starting dinner I used to think, 'Ok... gotta start dinner... I need to clear off the counter because there's all this stuff from lunch here that I didn't put away... why didn't i put it away?  Then I'll take a dirty plate, open the dishwasher and be confronted with a load of clean dishes.  Now, a normal person would simply unload the clean dishes and then load up the dishwasher and then have plenty of space to start dinner.  But someone with ADHD would get flummoxed as though a dishwasher full of clean dishes was an insurmountable task... It is not what most non-ADD people assume ("They don't do anything that doesn't appeal to them!  if it's not about Them, they refuse to do it!") No, it's more like just a feeling of total confusion. Hitting a wall. Thinking "Crap!  I don't have time for this!"  Bonk.  Put the dirty dish back in the sink... open the fridge... get out some ingredients... think, "Damn.  I need room..."  start to clear the counter... open the dishwasher again... Bonk.  "Right... dishwasher's clean.... " I'm embarrassed to say that before medication, this cycle might happen 3 times before I would actually unload the damn dishwasher.

It is exponentially worse with social interactions (when I don't know what to do or how to respond people assume I'm angry or aloof) and paperwork and/or official forms are the worst.

well... gotta make dinner.


MagicSandwich's picture

Wait - asking for a glass of

Wait - asking for a glass of water is a lot better than being hurt that your spouse is ignoring you when you are sick - that makes no sense. How is that better? Because HAVING to ask for a glass of water is what we do BECAUSE we are being ignored in a time of need. Right? And the hurt is there. 

Oh no doubt the hurt is

Oh no doubt the hurt is there, and it is real. Absolutely real. And it's because we're allowing ourselves to feel upset. It's not about feeling unwell anymore. It's about  something else.

Seriously, I was mad at dh for the last four years, over that glass of water. I was festering with anger whenever I thought back to needing that glass of water and didn't get one - then at the end of my rope and upon joining this forum, something is starting to click. It might not click for the very seriously jeopardized but for me it did.  I want to move forward and don't want to live like a victim anymore. Most of my anger is an EGO issue, realizing to put that aside and focus on how to GET THROUGH in my communication with someone who has a very real disorder of ADHD. I also want to help him get through this with some semblance of an understanding.

The fact was, I was unwell. I need the water. The problem was not my dh didn't bring the water, it "became" the problem after I decided to blame him for it. The frustration is there, but I need to find a beneficial approach to get through it. You see, even though I have to ASK for a glass of water a certain way, I am DEMANDing it in a way that dh understood (water = happy, feel better).  Because he has ADHD. It's like I can't expect a blind person to read the signpost, because their optic nerve is damaged. Gotta find a way to get around it.

Obviously, in the foreseeable future, I'm going to run into times when the demand isn't going to get through the way I need it to. At all. Like the time I had that serious injury. I remind myself to be the one who stays on target, don't let an inability or missed cue cause me to go off track. I just won't own the misery any more....


I know, right?


I know. If I ask myself the truth, then actually, I agree with you. I was writing some advice that I thought would have helped me be a better person and get along with my STBX  early on, but seriously, if I am honest: I could not live one more day with a grown man who could not "see" that our children needed to eat or have a bath or that when I had just had surgery the day before, I needed some help. I had to get up once, a day or two after surgery, and I ripped myself up good, because he could not function or cope and the kids needed me. Even asking didn't work most of the time and when he and I first met he was just not this dysfunctional, or I never would have married him or had children with him. Perhaps there are saints out there who can co-exist and be happily married to people who are this tuned out, but not me. The hurt is absolutely there, and it is why we are separating. The saddest part of it is that he still doesn't really "get" that I am not an angry, horrible person but that he is functioning in life at about 10% and if he had just gotten some help or addressed it, much of this may have been avoided. 


I know, right?

Sorry, moderator, posted twice again. If you could please remove this second post, I would appreciate it. 


I know. If I ask myself the truth, then actually, I agree with you. I was writing some advice that I thought would have helped me be a better person and get along with my STBX  early on, but seriously, if I am honest: I could not live one more day with a grown man who could not "see" that our children needed to eat or have a bath or that when I had just had surgery the day before, I needed some help. I had to get up once, a day or two after surgery, and I ripped myself up good, because he could not function or cope and the kids needed me. Even asking didn't work most of the time and when he and I first met he was just not this dysfunctional, or I never would have married him or had children with him. Perhaps there are saints out there who can co-exist and be happily married to people who are this tuned out, but not me. The hurt is absolutely there, and it is why we are separating. The saddest part of it is that he still doesn't really "get" that I am not an angry, horrible person but that he is functioning in life at about 10% and if he had just gotten some help or addressed it, much of this may have been avoided. 


MagicSandwich's picture

Resign yourself

"- do I just resign myself to this lack in our relationship and stop hoping that he will care when I need him to?"

Yes. Resign yourself. Sorry to say. 

It takes two

THIS is the most sad and disappointing thing in my marriage.  One of the most satisfying things in a relationship is being TOGETHER as a team.  Isn't that what marriage is all about?  Yet DH is AWOL when I am down.  My mother and a dear friend of mine died this past year.  I told him I was not doing well and needed his understanding and support while I grieved...  This year has been the year he has been the most distant of our entire marriage.    HE is letting EVERYTHING go...the finances, the communication, the effort.  It IS like he is punishing me for maybe not being able to carry the load...  It seems like he is "teaching" me to not depend on him.  And he is reaching out to anything and everything OUTSIDE of our marriage to soothe HIMSELF. He has NO empathy for me.  If I am not doing my duties, he has no use for me.  I cannot depend on him.  I am grieving for my losses...including the expectation of love from him. He is not really here for me. Do I think this is a symptom of ADD?  No.  Do I think our relationship has morphed into something that is out of my control?  Yes.

Sometimes, another person on

Sometimes, another person on this forum writes something that exactly describes my husband or me or our relationship.  Here is such a line:  

It seems like he is "teaching" me to not depend on him.

This is my husband.  One of the most ironic things about this is that now, after all these years, I think maybe he'd like it if he were occasionally the strong person in the family, but it's too late:  I don't and can't regard him as reliable or trustworthy or dependable, because he taught me that it is folly to do so, but disengaging him during stressful times in our lives and sometimes even pulling the chair out from under me.


In the same place

So many times there are people in the same place at the same time, it would be great to just chat.  That is how I feel with a few of you.... most of you.


"All that matters in the end is that you loved."  I think there is great wisdom in this belief.  I think all of us are trying to have love in our life.  It seems to be what Melissa is saying too.  Some people are difficult to count on and believe in because of the inconsistencies and inattention to their commitments.  How do we  keep our hearts and souls intact and fill ourselves with love to combat the lack of commitment and empathy that defines LOVE?  When I look around at couples I know very well, I see in half of them where one spouse becomes the DIVA or the BOY-IMP and the other spouse seems to wither into a co-dependent shadow of himself.  This happens when one spouse feels they must (or are happy to) sacrifice their own happiness for the other.  The other then can float on a cloud of superiority (if they choose) and use the feeling of "power over" to stroke their own egos.  Their energies are all put out to the world as the "happy, out-going" one.  Yet, it is all a farce for making themselves LOOK good.  Because they are not really LOVING the ones they promised to love or spending time and attention building the strong families they COULD be building.  Rather than using the support given to them to give back to the people who are giving it TO them, they are running with it to feel good about themselves and present to the outside world, their "personalities"...wanting EVERYONE ELSE to love them.  Yet, they are missing out on the best love they could have...the one that COULD last a lifetime....their marriage partner.  

So how does the "forgotten" partner keep filling themselves with love while being ignored, frustrated, disappointed and hurt by the ONE person who made the love promises to be a team?  Prayer, community, knowing that you NEVER walk alone, extended family, children, integrity.  Life is not fair but life is good.

I am changing my attitude of frustration, anger and resentment to understanding, acceptance, strength and pity. That word "pity" is not sitting well with me.  Yet it is appropriate for what I am feeling at this point.  I PITY our family.  It is a real pity that our marriage is not what it COULD have been/ COULD be.  I am working as hard as I can to change that.

My ADD man is good with sympathy and empathy

with the caveat that he can be brought to understand what I am feeling.  This reared it's ugly head on our most recent vacation where I was upset because on the last day we not only weren't doing much of anything (obviously I hate that :) ) but we weren't really not doing anything together either because he was playing on his new netbook and napping.  All he kept hearing was that I was angry with him because at the end of a week long vacation, he wanted to take a nap and goof off.  I kept getting angrier and angrier that he wouldn't just LISTEN to what I was saying.

We actually snipped back and forth at each other even while out to our very nice dinner and then as we were riding the monorail over to get see the icicle castle (we were at Disney), I was finally able to get through to him what I was actually upset about.  He immediately said "Oh hon I can understand that.  I am sorry you felt that way."  Sometimes the process to get there is completely blocked by the ADD--at least that seems to be our problem.

Because last week I was pretty sick with the flu, and when that happens my husband is a rock star.  I think it is because he understands exactly what the flu feels like.  When my grandmother was slowly dying, again a rock star, but then his grandmother also had a slow death though hers was of cancer.  Because this was a problem that went on for around a year obviously there were times neither of us were exactly keeping all the balls perfectly in the air, but I never doubted that I had a team mate who was on my side helping me get through it.  Also when we had several friends/family die in a small plane crash (easily the most horrific experience of my life), even though he'd lost friends too (not as close to them as I was as he only met them through me), he couldn't have handled it any better.  We had no idea how to handle the suddenness and the persistence of that kind of grief, but he just trusted me to be doing whatever I could be (and I will be honest that there were days that was darn little and it if it had been him, I might have been prodding as to whether he was up to something else too) and he picked up the rest as well as he could.

Obviously at the end of some of those situations, we had some catch up and cleanup to do, but those might be the times when I felt most firmly the value of having a team mate.  He seemed to know exactly what was needed.

The main issues we seem to have come when he has no idea what is needed.  I wish wish wish in those situations that he felt more comfortable asking questions than assuming, but ADD is definitely not a block in our case to doing what he thinks/feels/hopes is needed so that when he clearly knows what those things are; there is no better team to be on.

ADHD or Guy thing

Not to offend all the males on these posts but I think this is just a 'guy thing' not just an ADHD thing.  When I gets sick, was pregnant, recovering from surgery, etc...i had to carry on with life as usual, making dinner, doing laundry whatever the normal domestic tasks most women do. However if he gets the sniffles, its 'can you make me tea, sniff sniff, i don't feel well, then he will take a nap and sleep all day'..big damn baby.  because of 17 years of this I no longer have ANY sympathy for when he is sick..why should I, I don't get any relief at all, ever.  Now in speaking with my girl friends who have non-adhd husbands the story is much the same.

I am sure there are men out there that do not fit this mold and are wonderful, helpful, giving, etc, but it does seem that women are the care takers no matter what the situation.