Why Would He Set Me Up For Failure?!

I have been married for 18 years.  Most of our marriage we had no idea that I have ADD.  I "self-diagnosed" about a year after our son was diagnosed in 4th grade (now in 7th).  I have all the classic symptoms except thankfully I seem to have been spared the addictions (although I think I have addictive tendencies), my impulsivity is fairly low (I think!?),  and I do not generally do the dangerous stuff like thrill-seeking or reckless driving, etc.  But I am definitely easily distracted, impossible to motivate, unorganized, frequently hyper-focused without being able to stop, chronically late, etc.  For some reason, another symptom (if it is a symptom?) is that I am SO easy-going and present-focused, that I have very few strong opinions about decisions like where to eat dinner, what color to paint the walls, where to go on vacation, what to wear to an event, which house to buy, or etc.  I think this drives my husband crazy sometimes!  You would think someone would like that trait, because I am almost always happy with whatever he decides.  But I guess it gets old after awhile to make ALL the decisions or not to at least have someone to bounce ideas around with.  So I am trying to get better about this, but I am not very good at it yet!  And also...he is SO not accustomed to me having any opinions, he seems to resist them even though he would say that he is thrilled for me to push back sometimes.

So that is the background for this story...we bought a lake house about 9 months ago.  We have been working on it and painting it, etc.  Paint colors: he wanted me to pick them. I procrastinated because I knew what would happen.  I would get overwhelmed with the endless number of choices and shades and not know what to choose.  Then if/when I DID choose something, he would not like it.  That is exactly what happened, except add to it that it made him angry that it took me so long to pick them and that I seemed to resist.  But, he did let go of control enough to go with my colors in the end.  I like them.  He thinks they are "okay" but not what he would have chosen.  When I told him that hurt my feelings, he was amazed, because to him it's such a small thing and he likes them "well enough."  Okay, fine.  Fast forward.  Now we are done painting, and it is time to select furniture, mostly for the main room (sofas, chairs, end tables, rug, etc.) but we need a few other things also.  He told me he wanted me to pick out everything or at least narrow it down and then show him a few options.  I froze.  What?!  WHY would he want ME to do that?  HE has an opinion about EVERYTHING and I am happy with ANYTHING!  Not to mention that I know NOTHING about selecting furniture or even what stores to go to.  And I HATE shopping!  I get overwhelmed and can't focus on any one item.  Even my 12 year old daughter has learned that when shopping for clothes, after awhile of me floating around picking up basically EVERYTHING I see in my size, she makes me close my eyes and leads me to the dressing room before I can grab the whole store of options in my arms!  (And she doesn't even know that I have ADD!)  I am NOT the best person in this relationship to pick out an entire room of furniture from scratch.  So when I wasn't jumping up and down in excitement at the idea (more like paralyzed with fear), he got upset; did I not want to participate; does he have to do everything himself?  I relented.  I went shopping and bought a set of bunk beds.  I was so excited that I had made a decision like that BY MYSELF!  He was not so excited.  Why did I buy bunk beds when we need sofas?  We plan to add a bunk room downstairs, but it is not even built yet--I was proud that I was thinking ahead!  He was not so proud.  I had spent money that we needed for the SOFAS on beds we won't need for months!  After an argument, I relented again.  I went shopping again.  I went to 3 stores.  I spent 2 hours at one store taking pictures on my phone of every sofa I liked (lots since I have no strong feelings!), and looked through the price book making notes of all the prices for each one.  This store was a little more expensive, but it has lots of fabric choices.  I started to show him that night all the things I had done that day.  He immediately informed me of the different criteria he likes and doesn't like (e.g., doesn't like a skirted style) in an attempt to NOT offend me if he said he did not like something that I showed him.  SO WHY DIDN'T HE TELL ME THOSE THINGS BEFORE I WENT SHOPPING!?!?!  Okay, fine.  When I got to the research from the more expensive store, he basically said a blanket "no" when he saw the general range of prices.  That's fine, but...I spent TWO HOURS trying to get all the information I thought he would want!  So my feelings were hurt and I felt like I had wasted my time.  He said that it takes time to learn about stuff and educate myself on prices and choices, etc.  That's true, I guess.  But I am so frustrated!  I feel like he set me up for failure on this project.  And he should already know!  I've never picked out ANYTHING like that.  I have a hard enough time with CLOTHES.

Sorry--I think I am just venting.  I am trying so hard, but then he gives me an impossible task!  Please give me a break.  I tried to explain this, but he is trying really hard also NOT to have so many opinions and to give me back some control in the relationship.  I think he sees it as a way for him to allow me some freedom to make decisions and he is trying to be committed to being content with my choices.  But the problem is, I know he's really not.  He would have picked different colors.  He would not have bought the bunk beds.  He would not have wasted his time on items above our budget.  But, he's TRYING not to show it, which is why I went along with the idea in the first place.  I appreciate that he's trying.  But good grief!  Can we start with where to eat dinner instead of furnishing and decorating a house...PLEASE?!

Setting you up for failure or just not sure what to do

ADD Wife: Does your husband know you have ADD? It sounds to me like he needs to understand the disorder better so he can understand what you are going through. My partner has ADD, and he has trouble with many of the same things you do. One thing I have learned (the hard way) is that it's best if we divide our tasks according to our strengths. If your husband is more efficient at researching furniture and picking it out, that's what he should do. Find a contribution to the project that you can make that better suits your talents. It's hard for those without ADD to understand why some tasks are difficult for those with ADD. The first step is being able to realize "It just is." The second step is managing the situation, not fighting it. Good luck, and remember that he loves you. He's just not sure what to do. You may need to have a "Honey, this is how it is and this is what I think will work better for us" discussions.

You are right

Yes, he knows I have ADD.  However, he definitely needs to understand it better.  I have given him Melissa Orlov's book and he said he will read it.  I think that will definitely help. He is trying and he does love me.  I feel badly that he has to deal with this at all, but I guess there's no point in going there--we have no choice.   When we had our discussion about this particular incident (when I bought the bunk beds), I realized that he blames himself when I get "paralyzed."  I totally overreacted to his response about the beds.  He even said, "Wow, I must be a royal jerk for you to think you can't do anything that is not exactly what I want.  Why should I always get my way?"  His comment shows that he NOT a jerk at all, and he really doesn't WANT to be in control of me.  I think there is plenty of hope for us, but I feel like we have sort of hit a wall until he can gain some knowledge and understanding so we can start working together.  Now that I am better able to explain my feelings and reactions to him, he is starting to blame himself instead of me.  But we really need to get to the place where we can both "blame" the ADD and not each other OR ourselves!

I agree that we need to each play to our strengths.  Part of what I think may be happening now is that he is probably so WEARY of taking over so many (of my) responsibilities that he feels like he CAN'T or doesn't have enough time to add more, such as furniture shopping.  So he is trying to delegate some things back to me, and he may just not be making the best choices of which tasks to give back.  I think (hope) this would be easier if we were working together to address my symptoms.  There are probably other things I could and SHOULD start taking responsibility for, which would alleviate some of the pressure so that he could do the things that really are "too" hard for me right now.  This is why I think we are in a bit of a vicious cycle until we can re-group.

However, he did GREAT last week!  I worked really hard one day to get some housework done.  I used the timer method--set the timer for 15 mins and changed activities back and forth each time it went off--and I got a LOT done!  It was amazing!  He was so complimentary and I was so proud.  I explained the method I used to him and we discussed that while it would probably never work for him, it was obviously successful for me.  He acknowledged that he does use the concept of setting an "end time" for certain tasks, so he could see the advantages of that, but our needs for the LENGTH of time are very different.  He can work for HOURS whereas I need short bursts.  I can work for HOURS too, but then I get hyperfocused and CAN'T stop myself, regardless of any clock, timer, or for that matter, earthquake or bomb!  It was a great conversation.  BUT...(and isn't there always a "but" with ADD?!?!) the next day I was completely useless.  I got hyperfocused on the computer and got basically NOTHING done all day.  I was so scared for him to know it because I knew he would be frustrated yet again by my inconsistency.  At least I knew I was frustrated and mad at myself!  But I sort of made a self-depricating joke out of it, and he simply laughed it off and did NOT get angry or frustrated at all!  It is so hard to explain, but that reaction from him gave me the freedom to try the timer method again the following day, rather than to think, "See, another failed system that doesn't work for me!"  The fact that I did not USE the system does NOT mean it did not work.  It most certainly DID work!  I have always defined SUCCESS as CONSISTENCY.   But I am finally learning that with ADD, I need to change my definition of success and find a way to INCREASE consistency "well enough" so that we can both be happy with it.  I am realizing that there is NO system that will EVER provide consistency, so I need to quit looking for that.  I need to evaluate the success of a method or system based on whether it worked WHILE I WAS USING IT.  I know now that finding the MOTIVATION to use a successful method ( to "start") is another issue/symptom altogether which may itself require another set of methods!

I think I really need an ADD Coach to help with some of this.  I have a counselor who understands ADD, and she has helped me a lot to sort through my feelings and change some of the "tape players" in my head as I learn to stop blaming myself and discover my gifts.  But she is more of a traditional counselor who doesn't give me "assignments" or much practical advice or suggestions/techniques for dealing with specific symptoms.  So I am starting to look for some resources in my area now who can help me start to really treat and address my symptoms.

Positive path ahead of you!

Wpw! I'm impressed with your thoughts and actions. Congratulations for trying out a strategy and it's fabulous that it worked. I know from my partner Max, who has ADD, that sometimes a strategy works one day and not the next so be prepared for that and don't let it get you down. (At least, not too far down.) Max once told me, "You can get me to do anything for 15 minutes!" so your timing sounds about right. Like your husband, I often blame myself for problems that come up. I think, "Gee, if only I had handled that better, everything would have been alright." But I read once that the only purpose of regret is to vow not to make the same mistake again. So I just tell myself to keep at it and eventually some things become habits. I think an ADD coach would be great. My experience is that the less we focus on blaming each other and our dysfunctional childhoods for the problems that come up, and the more we experiment with practical solutions, the happier we are.

are you me?

I came to this site in deep deep despair.  My husband and I (I have the ADD) have been teetering on the edge for the past few years.  His comments, mid argument on Saturday- "I don't know what else to do" "I've tried everything I can, but you just don't understand".   We've been married 6 years.  Started a business 4 years ago.  Moved in with my father in law 8 months ago.  Closed the business 5 months ago.  Declared Bankruptcy in February.  Why? I was the business manager.  And we didn't know I had/have ADHD.  Now we know. Too late, but now we know.  I am working, very well, in a office environment...diagnosed and started adderall 1 week before I started my new job.  My boss is thrilled with my performance.  I enjoy my job...the variety and the opportunities to hyperfocus!

I read this article Saturday night...late, as I am a night owl.  And almost bawled.  You are me.  Your husband's arguments/concerns/frustrations are the same as my husband's.  I can't pick furniture or clothes to save my life.  I am hurt so easily by his being frustrated.  I hate that he 'tests me', as I call it.

I printed the article and had my husband read it while I prayed furiously that he would take it in the spirit in which I had intended...a mirror, not a condemnation.  And he did.  I heard him laughing!

I feel like a huge burden has been lifted..not only from myself, but from him and our marriage as well.  I am no longer hurt/angry with him for being so frustrated that he speaks hatefully - trying to shock me into sense.  Its not me, its the ADD.  I see the ADD in my history so much more clearly.  I hadn't realized how MUCH of an impact it was having.  I hadn't realized my lack of strong preferences (I don't care where we eat..its just food, I don't care what I wear so long as I don't look fat, I don't care, so much, about furniture, so long as it isn't gaudy) were part of the ADD.  Neither had he.  My inability to consistently cook anything more challenging that baked chicken, potatos, microwaved veggies? The ADD!!

We are currently devouring Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction.  He has the earlier book and the snapshots of the people and their struggle with ADD has opened his eyes to the fact that it isn't laziness or lack of desire (something I've been trying to tell him), its the ADD that drives him crazy.  His heart is already softening!  Tonite, he came home hungry and didn't get hacked off that the only thing I'd made was shimp stir fry (from a bag) that he wouldn't eat in a million years. (he has a gourmet palate! with me cooking? he has to do it himself)

Melissa Orlov's book was purchased on Sunday and is patiently waiting its turn, but we are going to read it together.  I am so hopeful.  Two days ago, I was in such dispair.  Now? It is like the sun is rising again.

Thank you for posting.  Your post has been SUCH a blessing.  I pray that you will be blessed as well.

DF's picture

Welcome to the club BLB

Glad to hear you're not full of self rage like me.  It's great to hear your immediate progress and it makes my day better in its own way.  So thank you.

ADDW - I'm with YYZ on what you say about being laid back.  Even on the meds I'm more so, but that's probably because I concentrating on listening and keeping track of my buttons.  It was something else you said that I never really thought about before.  The part about always living in the present so you never know what to do for dinner.  My wife would get frustrated a lot over my indecision all the time, but I think you're right about it being in the moment vs. in the future.  Now that I think about it, I can't plan ahead either.  If I make an appointment or have a meeting more than a week in advance, It's always a suprise to me when it comes up and I've not been reminded about it. 

As you might know by now I've been trying to take on more responsibilities and take burdens away from my wife.  One of which is getting dinner ready.  Oh my goodness!  When I call her about dinner I ask her if there's something she might want to eat that I can make and now that I think about it, I'm asking her what's for dinner?!  When she tells me to only worry about the kids I think she's telling me she's not going to eat what I make anyways because it's the same small menu over and over again.  Damn!  I would like to do more, but I don't have much money to buy many groceries so what I do buy is usually stuff the kids would eat.

DF, yyz, and all, I have a

DF, yyz, and all, I have a question about being "in the present". If you can't look towards planning a dinner in advance of a few hours, how then, do you plan for things like a dinner night out/ date night/ functions in advance- especially when young kids are involved and a babysitter needs to be arranged in advance (hence not being "in the present")...?!! Not mean that to sound snippy- it is a real dilemma to get that commitment from someone who, like you, prefers spur of the moment (and really only "fun" for them) activities... :(

Ah... Planning a night out...

Well... This used to be over-whelming to me. Coming up with "The right thing to do", "Right place to go","Right gift for the occasion". There is no Rule Book to consult and I have made so many bad choices. In the past two years I have become a pretty good planner. I have better time management skills too. Before I plan anything, I like to get a few suggestions from my DW, as she has seen some No plan ideas and bad plan ideas, so she does not care if it is a "Total Surprise".

"In the Present" was how I used to feel. I'm way more 4D than I used to be Lululove. Hang in there :-)


DF's picture

From my side?

Date night?  Nice thought, but last time I had a date night I told my wife she was beautiful and she cried.  Not out of joy mind you since this was during the time that she was really not happy with with me some 8-9 months back.  It made for an uncomforable moment.  I even arranged for a sitter too. 

My wife wife and I do not do date night because we're not at that point in our relationship.  I asked once about 2-3 weeks ago and I got the "I don't know, we'll see" line and then she was gone.  Not physically, but she was gone. 

I do hope with my new job/paychecks there will be some flexebility in our ability to do stuff together, but I don't see that she wants to do anything with me where we're alone together.  It really bums me out 5 out of 7 days a week, but I suppose living in the present means that tomorrow is a new day and there's that to look forward too.  The kids are getting out of school soon and they will be staying with grandparents for a week.  This used to be a time for me and my wife to be together and do stuff.  I can't live in the present about that, because I can already see that she will not be home any night that week.  Thinking about it brings me down and it's hard for me to accept.  If we do something together, and I mean "IF", it will not be alone.  There will be friends of hers involved and I'll be ignored by my wife.  She doesn't speak to me when other people are around and it stings.

I think that's what makes this whole thing so hard and that's that I just don't see her wanting to waste time trying.

Mr. Laid Back here...

I only had time to read the first paragraph, but "I am SO easy-going and present-focused" wow... Me too. I was always like that. After my diagnosis and Adderall regiment, I am definitely "Less Laid-Back", but maybe it is a good thing. I'll revisit later. Time to get child #2 up :-)