Women with ADD - Constant Communication May Miss Target

Last week in the New York Times, I read research that suggests that women’s health is hurt by keeping things that bother them inside, instead of communicating to their partners. And, it’s not just the relationship that is hurt, but their hearts as well.  Not just emotionally hurt, but physically. This is good news for women with ADD as we’ve never been accused of holding things in,  We must have pretty healthy hearts!

Sometimes, though, as I discovered last night, we might think we are constantly communicating how we feel while we actually may be missing our target.

For about five days now, I thought I was communicating frequently and clearly to my dear husband that I had a stiff neck. I assumed he would understand that I was not just trying to give him a running narrative of my health like some 24 hour cable news program, but that I wanted him to know I was in pain.  That I wanted some comfort and empathy, and that this was the reason I kept saying no to activities he suggested doing.  Since he didn’t react or respond I assumed he just didn’t care or wasn’t listening.

I was incredibly surprised to discover last night that my husband actually didn’t understand what I meant when I wandered around the house for days muttering about my symptoms. It turns out he actually had no clue why I kept informing him about the condition of my neck. My thinking was, if I repeated the same thing to another person 5 times within a 30 minute period, the other person would get that something was very important.  He, of course, accused me of being indirect.

In general, women need to process their thoughts and feelings out loud.  Adding ADD to this can really create a problem in effective communication.  The sheer volume of thoughts and feelings and connections, coupled with the tangents and inspirations - all expressed out loue - can lead one’s male partner to withdraw, or look blank and leave you feeling abandoned.

Sometimes women with ADD are flooded with a jumble of things to do and  a tangle of emotions they can’t sort out any easier than the papers on the dining room table. They may feel like they are drowning in a vast cognitive sea without any driftwood to latch on to.  Sometimes they just want to know someone hears them, like a life line. Sometimes they want someone to help tidy up their thoughts a little, like they would on their desk. At other times, though, they may need complete quiet and the best thing is for their partners to leave them alone for a few minutes.

It can be confusing for a partner to know what you need when. Sometimes, in a hotel room I need someone just to take over and help me pack. Other times, I do better when everyone just leaves the room for a few minutes and relieves the pressure. Even the best intentioned partners don’t always know what to do to be helpful even when they want to!

So what to do if they aren’t getting the clue?
First, you can notice when you are repeating yourself and it is not making an impact. You can understand that sheer repetition of the same thought in the same form isn't likely to have the desired effect.
Ask yourself –“What am I really trying to communicate? Specifically.
What do I want them to understand?
What do I want them to say?
What do I want them to do?
What would be helpful?
What can I request?
The more specific you can be, and the clearer you are in your own mind about what you want or need, the greater your chances of success.

For example things like
“What would help me is for you to spend five minutes listening to me and help me sort thru my thought and feelings. “

“What would help me is just for me to tell you how I am feeling and you just listen and give me a little hug”

“When I am freaking out what I need is for you to leave me alone for five minutes.

Or don't leave me alone…”

Keep talking- it will help your heart in more ways than one but if you aren’t getting a response, don’t shut down and give up. According to the paper and the research  ” self-silencing” is the biggest risk of all for a woman’s heart.

Luckily, self-silencing isn’t a big issue for women with ADD! Just try to be more specific than you ever dreamed necessary.

I have to stop typing now… I have a stiff neck!..I know you’ll understand.

Sari Solden is a therapist and author of "Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life" and "Journeys into ADDulthood".  We appreciate her expertise, particularly in the area of how women can manage their ADD and what special issues they face.


leener's picture

It's taken me four months to

It's taken me four months to understand exactly why my last relationship didn't work out. It finally dawned on me that it was because of a miscommunication and overreaction on my part. All this time I thought I had been very clear and that he was making no sense. Turns out he had no idea what I was talking about and now that I think of it, what he said made total sense. But we ended everything over it! So very sad. It didn't need to happen that way. Now I'm thinking of ways I can slow down and really HEAR a person rather than just reacting to them. It takes a lot of discipline but this break-up really taught me a painful lesson in clear communication.

Communication issue

I am the non-ADD spouse trying to understand why communication has gotten so strained between me and my ADD wife.  No matter how I try to communicate my feelings/needs, one or more of the following always happen:

1)  She always drives directly to a solution that she has for the the problem (or the perceived problem) - she cannot seem to just simply listen and hear our my thoughts.  She cannot even seem to offer options or feedback.

2)  She immediately feels like I am making a personal attack on her - especially if it has to do with ADD behaviors (like not finishing a project or getting overwhelmed with work).  

3)  She somehow turns around the issue so it becomes my problem only (or I am the once causing the problem) - she never has admitted that she may bear some of the responsibility for the problem.

It is to the point that expressing my feelings/needs is simply not worth the frustration of her response.  No matter how I try to couch my communication, I always get a negative response from her.

I don't want to stop communicating with her because I love her very much and want to share things with her.  Should I just accept the fact that this is her way of reacting and deal with the fall out?

I disagree

I am married to an ADD man and I disagree with the conclusion you have come to.  I think what you have to accept is that the way you two are communicating with eachother does not work for you, not that it never can.


A lot of your issues sound like typical male/female interaction issues, though her going into problem-solver mode rather than hearing you out sounds more like a typical male reaction than the female one.  Women have dealt with this one for years.  It does require having a mate who understands the status quo does NOT work and is willing to work on communicating better, and it will never be perfect (but I don't know any married couple's whose is!); but absolutely it is possible to learn to communicate in a way that both you and your ADD mate feel heard and validated.


I deal with the defensiveness.  Partly because we HAVE both spent a lot of time trying to identify what has been caused by the ADD, but he tends to feel blamed a lot whether or not I am intending it.  Quite frankly we've had some very direct conversations to the tune of "Dude, cool your jets.  No one is blaming you for anything. We need to find a solution to this and you taking the 'tude right away is not helping."  That has worked for us because he has become aware of how frequently he is defensive and sometimes it is possible to shut it off at the pass.  It can be such an instinctual reaction that they a quick comment hits the reset and helps him detach from that initial instinct to feel blamed.


I can tell you that absolutely did NOT work before he realized how often he was defensive.  We have both had to understand that we both have good motives at heart and that it does no good to impute bad motives to the other one.  Yes sometimes the result fails, but it is never because of lack of caring and it often is not because of lack of effort, but sometimes the effort is misdirected.


It is still a process, but our communication has come lightyears.  Mostly it is reverting back to our original communication level.  In the beginning we were like practically perfect communicators, then as the ADD behaviors manifested more and more and I got angrier and he shut down because of the anger it fell off badly.  Now that we have a diagnosis, and we are past his original year long morning period about having ADD ( during which it felt to me like he barely worked on it at all & his defensiveness built to its highest level because of feeling the ADD took the blame for everything) we are getting back to where we want to be & where we used to be. 


That is part of what has convinced me how much the communications issues and the lack of intimacy issues, which seemed to go hand in hand for us, were the result of the baggage of anger.  I felt he wasn't doing his part and making me feel cherished like he used to, and he felt like  I had become unaccepting of him.   He wants to feel like unconditional acceptance, and I could not give it anymore when he was clearly not following through on his committments (a BIGGIE for me) and not helping at home the way he agreed to.


He has learned to step up on the commitments, and we are still renegotiating the home.   Really it turns out he was speaking to what he felt sounded fair, but it just wasn't anything he realistically does/can do.   We are trying to figure out what that middle ground is, and we've had a couple of weeks of pretty good success at it using Melissa's suggestion of a few jobs that are just HIS which he is responsible for, and the rest of the things he helps me as asked so that he can feel like a "hero" for helping me. 

As far as clearing up old backlog.....that is still a work in progress too.  He has things that he has been supposed to dea with for up to a couple years now that are not time sensitive so never get to the point of "on fire" at which he best gets things accomplished.  At our regular weekly family meeting we are slowing working our way through these together so that they can get done, but he is keeping his other projects from falling into this category, so I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  About 4 big projects, which he is too overwhelmed by how old they are to tackle on his own, and hopefully we are out of the hole.

Best wishes to you and your wife!


In the past few years my daughter who is now 27, has started taking meds for ADHD. She says it helps her focus. I know this is a problem that runs in my family and have often wondered if I have the same problem.

My life has always been full of drama, and I get bored easily. I am 44 and been married 3 times. This marriage is full of ups and downs. Right now we are separated. This marriage is on again off again. Most of the time I'm not sure if I'm coming or going.

How do I know if I have ADHD? Or this relationship is just really unhealthy?

I feel very overwhelmed at times. I constantly commit myself to many activities like family affairs. But I do enjoy them. The cleaniness of my house effects my mood. When things are going bad I have this overwhelming desire to run away, which normally involves a long fishing trip to the beach. And I cannot seem to... for the life of me make a decision about if I want to continue my marriage of 7 years that has been both the highest and lowest time of my life. I feel like its runs its course.

I asked him to move out after Thanks Giving of 2010 when he accused me of having an affair with my daughter's friend. Which was not even close to the truth. He finally moved out in June but was not happy about it. Funny thing is, he had a single Dad add going before his foot got cold out the door. He said when he moved out we were going to continue to work on our marriage but then took a new job 3 hours away and only visits on the weekend.  I have the desire to cut these strings now but I continue to hang on for some unknown reason. Maybe it's the fear of being alone. I used to be his every thought. I couldn't wait to get home to him. He worshipped the ground I walked on and I did the same.  Somewhere in the span of these 7 years we lost sight of each other. It became a hateful and hurtful game with no winners.

I dont know why I continue to hang on. I support myself with my 2 boys. I have my own place and he has his. We dont even participate in day to day activities together. Our bills are separate, our lives never seem to connect anymore. But he still wants to remain married with weekend visits.

Could someone tell me what is the point of this relationship when neither person seems to gain anything from it? 

Lost in this limbo...

Wow isn't this true. I have

Wow isn't this true. I have accused my husband of not listening to me. I always thought I was direct and gave enough information- probably too much. It's been quite frustrating as I am a professional and respected for my ability to communicate. In a conversation the other night I finally said to him-" I need to talk out loud to help myself figure out how I feel.  I need you to actively listen in case you can help me". I was surprised at the change in the room and we actually communicated.

Accept the fact!

This sounds just like the interaction with my ADD husband! Trying to make him understand was only causing confusion, frustration and anger. If I wasn't causing problems, what I had to say think or feel didn't matter. Often he would make a comment to just dismiss me. I really can't handle the fall out. Now, I don't even care to have any small talk either. I've become as self absorbed as he is. I went through a bit of a lonely phase but found other ways to express myself and communicate with others. I would be nice to have a more meaningful relationship but after I detached myself I found I could have "benefits" too. Oh well.

Accept the fact!

Thanks for your feedback.  It sounds like I need to just face the fact that I am not in an emotionally reciprocal relationship.  It sounds like I need to find other ways/people to express myself.  I still feel I need to let my wife know when her behavior or words upset me, but not expect her to have a real discussion with me about my feelings.  If I am not left hoping for a real response, this may actually make it easier to tell her how I am feeling (and not get upset when I don't get a response).

Try something different

and keep trying. I certainly don't mean that it's the same for everyone. This is just the way things have worked out for me. If I tell my husband how I feel he just tells me that I'm too sensitive or demands to know why I want to start trouble. When he does seem attentive I'll learn later that he has been unable to retain and apply what we discussed. Long conversations are impossible as it appears to be to difficult for him to keep track of what's been said. He much prefers light social banter that gives him plenty of room to joke around and entertain himself. It's more of a surface relationship than the deep meaningful relationship I had expected to grow into. I've had to accept the fact that my need to be understood will not be met without much hard work in counseling which he declines to be involved in being certain that if there is a problem, it's all mine. He's straight. Thankfully, he will at least take his medication but to actually work out something that I need, he'd rather not.

I've accepted that that's the way we roll...


Thanks for your great insight.  I am just now coming to grips with the fact (as you said so well) that I will not have the deep meaningful relationship I thought we had or I thought we would eventually achieve. 

I have one more question for you as something just dawned on me today after another frustrating conversation.  When I do express my feelings, my wife has a very exaggerated response that tells me she either did not hear me correctly or she is just trying to make fun of me.  This has happened twice lately and I want to see if there is a pattern here.  In the first instance, I told her nicely that she may want to consider not taking on so much work as she had started to work late into the night or all weekend.  Her response was extreme in that she felt I was telling her to quit and not work at all (the farthest thing from the truth).  Again today, when I asked her not to check her e-mail on her blackberry when we had decided to have some together time, she responded by saying she will now never check her e-mail when at home with me (a total exaggeration of what I was asking).  Is this ADD behavior?  I just does not make sense to me and has made me unwilling to share my feelings as she immediately tries to solve the issue with an extreme solution.

My ADD husband says it is

ADD behavior definitely as he does it also, though not to that extreme your wife is doing.   He says he does it out of frustration, to solve the problem, and to feel this problem will never come up again.


I asked him when he realized he just made the problem worse, and he says "when you start hollering at me".  I said "Seriously, not till then?"  And he said "no I am not thinking about it and I just want your problem with me to end."


It also doesn't make sense to me, but there it is.

Add husband asked me to ask you if you had done something that may have upset her, like had you checked your email or the newspaper or something?  Cause he says sometimes he notes some behavior of mine that he lets pass,  and then if I comment on something else of his, he is automatically on edge about it because he "let mine go".  Even though he doesn't realize that at the time, but on thinking of his overreaction later, he realizes what caused it.   He says maybe you are doing something that is irritating to her that she isn't mentioning and then she feels like she isn't getting the same courtesy.

Exaggerated response

It is possible that I had done something similar (but doubtful).  When I do call her on something that she has seen me do, she immediately says "you do it too so what is the big deal!"  This time she did not claim I was being hypocritical.  I think she really knew her behavior was not correct, because she immediately cannot look me in the eye and will not answer me when I ask her why she did the behavior.  From your husband's response, maybe my wife just wants to do something that will end the issue (for her and me) for sure?  It sure comes across as her mocking my issue, but maybe she really just wants to get it behind her and move on.  It really helps to be able to talk this through with others.  Thanks.

The exaggerated response

is part of what I've described as extremes and contradictions. It's very common for my husband to choose how and when those defensive comments work in his favor. It baffles me. Just today, while watching a cooking show he got angry at a judge's critique. I explained (once again, as I've done this before) that the comment was not a harsh judgement but a statement based on an observation that was meant to help the chef consider how to perfect his craft. He did not seem to understand and stated that if people are cooking, you shouldn't complain. He will complain about my cooking though! He complains often but, I can make a simple statement that will cause him to tell me that I'm negative person. Yeah, I'm a real problem.

It's confusing to even try to explain these conversations. People used to say "What's good for the goose is good for the gander". My husband seems to think that "What's good for the goose is only for the goose, what are you looking at?"

Aspen seems fortunate enough to have a spouse that may consider and converse about a behavior in hopes to resolve communication issues. My spouse prefers to deny any miscommunication leaving me to "deal with it". Maybe one day, I'll have to put that on his tombstone!


Thanks for these anecdotes which have helped relieve the sting of similar interactions.

...being told that I'm a negative person, and that I'm really quite selfish BECAUSE I BROUGHT DINNER OVER.

I wish it were funny--and it is, only because it is so absurd. But it is really quite painful. Am I to NOT give?  It that supposed to mean "thank you"? Did he say that because some sense of  guilt came up that had nothing to do with me?

In what I thought was a better moment later that evening,  I say, "Do you have a minute to talk?"

"It is ALL about you! Let me tell you something, it is NOT ALL about you!"

...."um, I want to share how this feels to me..."

"That's what your counselor is for!"

The words, the sentiment, and meaning (an emphatic reiteration that his emotions are important and worthy and mine are not) are in my head... and pretty soon, the collection of them that I  push out of my conscious  memory because  "I know that isn't really what he meant."

And as I give (what I think is loving) and get these clinkers in return, I'm wondering...how is this supposed to work?  

Holy cow, Yenelli. I've

Holy cow, Yenelli. I've gotten the SAME reaction! (Non-ADHD here) You've got to share your technique on how you push his reaction out of your head.  It doesn't seem to matter the level of my emotions (nor the fact that I'm trying to manage them, not just stay stuck!)

Even if I'm having an emotional reaction to something he did and we try to talk things through, it never feels like anything gets resolved. Granted, I've sought early on to have things "resolved" on my terms, but now even trying to hold back to understand where he's coming from is only met with blame and deflection it seems. I'm a sensitive type, and trying to remind myself that his reaction has little to do with me helps only a bit. This is the guy who I love and who loves me. I'm so confused why it unfolds this way. 

I've read Melissa's book twice, and I'm eager to start taking steps to put things back together, but, after many promised to grab a copy, he still isn't. :-\  Why not? Avoidance? Anger? Wanting ME to do all that work? I'm just hoping that the strength will come soon to detach from all of this and stop looking to him for anythign along these lines. Oye. 

Great help

Thanks for all of your advice.  It really helps to talk with someone that has been through some of this (and is still trying to find a way forward).

There was one of your statements that really rang true for me (even though as a male I would state it somewhat differently).  You said you were not feeling cherished and that he felt you had become unaccepting of him.  This is the major theme for our relationship (at least from my perspective) over the past year or two.  I had always felt loved by my wife until about 2 years ago (we have been married for almost 15 years now).  Our kids were finally all in school, but just as I thought we would finally have more time together, she took a part-time job that completely dominated her life because she let it (as in working all weekend and late into the night).  About 6 months ago, it finally hit me like a ton of bricks that I really was not getting any attention any more from my wife.  There was no couple time anymore and I had to take all of the initiative to get her time and to be intimate.  Also, I found that several tasks we had always done together, began falling completely to me (because she simply did not see them as a priority).  I began doing all of the cooking, finances, grocery shopping and feeling like a single parent all weekend.  Furthermore, when I tried to speak with her about how out of balance our life was, including not having time together anymore, I was surprised to find my wife completely defensive and not understanding why I was making this into a big deal.  Every conversation for the last 6 months has resulted in her feeling personally attacked by me, no matter how non-confrotational I make the discussion.  She felt like she was constantly letting me down and that I was not longer accepting or her.  She feels like she has not changed at all, but that I have become hyper-critical of her.

I really would like to stop feeling so crummy about our relationship (or lack of one) and get back to the optimistic person I once was.  I am feeling like I have to work on this by myself rather than with her.


To Paul

Without having read your note in detail, alarms went off when I saw the words "she always".. "she somehow turns around the issue:

because I have heard those phrases so often in family negotiations/discussions...and because books about negotiating discourage the use of "you always..."

Then I read your post all the way through. I have ADHD, so I do tend to be like your wife. I have lots of time on my hands because I am not in a relationship (and I have that ADHD thing) so I can spend hours (or days or nights) researching  (thanks Internet) what makes or breaks a marriage or negotiation. And what and why communication is so difficult...

And I have been doing just that. For me, I DO have an idea of something is wrong. And I do have a set of tools or approaches that I think might work. And I do need to feel that someone is 'on my side' not going to beat me up or berate me or my approach. And I DO take agitation as a personal frustration with ME. The kind words/looks/solutions in my mind evaporate in an exchange of ideas,words, gestures, facial expressions, or even topics that bear no resemblance to the balanced give and take I had in mind (which may sometimes be a mental counterbalance of the fears and apprehensions of displeasing...the other person).

Probably makes no sense to you because I'm not sure what to do with all the bits and pieces that are in my head just now.

The thing that DOES work, though, is to be able sit together and break "the subject" down into pieces that I can handle (or agree to)...for example: if we want to redo the living room, to create a list of priorities (this is how you would help, write the list as we brainstorm). And and then live up to them. If it gets too long, to say, it's time to take a break...BEFORE you get impatient. And to ask, once in awhile ... Is there something else?

I'm trying to find where I saved the behavioral research of married couples.. eyerolls, defensiveness, and what they called "repair actions," the things people say or do to make the situation safe again. The research was in "normal" marriages. And statistics were collected that reliably predicted the viability of a marriage: in even the first 30 seconds of interaction.  The upshot is that every couple has some amount of all of these 'markers' when they converse, that satisfied couples had more "repair" actions, in general and also relative to the number of 'negative markers. This seems straightforward--we all like to be around someone who is comfortable in their own skin, and we all feel distressed by someone who is not.

I know it is in the online this book:  Choices in Relationships: An Introduction to Marriage and the Family By David Knox, Caroline Schacht  but I cannot find the passage.

I'm suggesting this because I really struggle to understand which (words/gestures) I should not have been ignoring and why others are so good at ignoring some behaviors that send me into a tailspin. I wonder about the subtle clues I give and the subtle clues that I pick up and how I process them "differently" from someone who is better at people skills. (Aspergers is the inability to sense these visual cues... some "very bright" people have no ability to read situations... on the other hand, there are Ted Bundys who learned to use them nefariously.) In any event, we all have varying abilities of reading people.  I commend you because you ARE making an effort to bridge the gap. It is heartening to read that a man does want to share communication with the woman he cares about...even in non-ADD/ADHD relationships, that is not very common.

 Don't give up--you will find a way, eventually. And there is great advice on this forum for acknowledging your successes and framing them in joy.


wow sure seems hopeless

I seem to be reading from the pages of my life in these comments.   But I am unable to get my wife (whom I suspect is ADHD) to get a good evaluation.  Further (to the point of blame and turning problems around on me) my wife has taken an offensive perspective to my suggestions that she do some reading on the topic.


She now is convince that It is I with all of the problems.  That I have Borderline Personality Disorder.  Of course that is 70% of the time in women, and includes suicidal tendencies and self mutilation, none of which I am or have.


This is the epitome of blaming the other for ones problems.  I once asked her if there was actually anything in our problematic marriage, that she was willing to take responsibility for...  She replied yes, that it was her fault for marrying me.

It seems as if the solution is to end it, but we have a wonderful daughter, that I enjoy spending time with, not just love as a dad, but I really like her as a person too.

My anger and frustration is, I am sure contributing to our problems.  But I cannot help but think that there is such promise and hope, if only she would understand this disorder.

To top it all off she did get an evaluation by an inexperienced therapist (whom she trusts).  The therapist never asked me one question, and used an antiquated children's questionaire for the evaluation.  More I was given one, and the determination was that my answers were inconsistent, so I had to be lying.

My wife, cannot have long conversations, is not interested in sex, does not become aroused, has impulsive tendencies, (shopping and spending), and feels the pressure, or oppressive feelings almost always when I am around.  Today she told me I had to leave the house in order for her to focus on vacuuming a room.

She has a lot of coping mechanisms and is extremely attractive, so I am positive almost never has been made aware of her problems.  (because who would want to offend a beautiful woman?)

I traveled for work 30 weeks last year, and she told me I was home too much.  When I am home I try to stay out of her way, but she tells me I follow her around bugging her.

She has told me to leave her (in anger) before.  And when attempting to verify her directions, for validity, by asking her to paraphrase or confirm those thoughts, she refuses to answer or respond, walking out of the room most times.  If I follow, she tells me I am verbally abusing her (simply re-asking the same question to determine if she really wants me to leave...)

I am very sad and feel so alone.  

She does not work, and yet is soooo busy all of the time (doing nothing of consequence)  we joined a local yacht club, and she hates boating, but somehow has risen to the level of vice commodore (she even gets severe seasickness).   All from a hyper focus on the club.

She denies nearly every hurtful or hateful thing she has ever said, so I began to write them down.  She now tells me I have fabricated all of the events to fit my expectation...  I cannot seem to win.  All of my "reactive" behaviors, only seem to fuel her thinking that there is something wrong with me...


I say yes there is, I've secured a wife, and given her the responsibility to nurture me and love me, but she does not seem to want the job.

That hurts alot.  But she says it is my problem.  She cannot make me "feel" anything.


I am almost jealous of the lesser degrees of problems I am reading about.  I am 49 and only have one life...  do I get out, or keep trying to swim against the tide of a hurtful relationship?



Don't Stop Communicating!

Paul,  I have done (or still do) to my husband all the things you have listed.  And I will add one more.  If I don't turn it around and blame him, then I blame myself and begin to wallow in my own failures and incompetence, which then shifts the focus entirely from the subject at hand.  Then he ends up having to console me rather than either of us finding a solution to what was bothering him in the first place.  What has helped me is to REALIZE that I do this, and also to realize the effects such as when my husband gives up trying to tell me things or feels like he is walking on eggshells whenever he opens his mouth.  Now I am much more conscious of this when he begins a conversation so that I can try to avoid (or at least restrain!) my natural reactions and actively LISTEN first while trying to create an atmosphere that makes him feel safe to express himself.  For some with impulsivity issues, this may be impossible.  But I can usually manage it most of the time.

You should understand that her negative reactions often come from a serious low self-esteem issue.  We are so accustomed to failure and BEING the problem, that we immediately become defensive without really even hearing the issue.  Honestly, I don't know yet how to resolve that problem other than to try to work together as a team on the ADHD symptoms.  But your wife has to be willing--you cannot force that.  So, if you are looking for what YOU can do independently to help the situation, I would say to start working REALLY HARD on praising your wife OFTEN.  For every little thing you can.  Because what may seem like a small thing to you (like the fact that the breakfast dishes were washed when you get home from work) probably took a LOT more energy and mental effort than you can imagine.  And RESIST the urge to add any criticism to it (like why aren't the dishes back in the cabinet yet)!  I realize this can seem unfair.  However, I think if you can fill up your wife with compliments, you may be surprised at how willing she is to take responsibility when she genuinely needs to change something.  Make it a habit to LOOK FOR things to encourage her about, even if they seem silly.  A compliment is NEVER silly to me!

Another thing to remember is that usually when I have become defensive and resistant to criticism or his "helpfulness," I almost always keep thinking about it later and realize he was right and that I totally overreacted.  Depending on your relationship, she may or may not ever tell you that.

My husband and I are just at the beginning of how to figure out how to function in a marriage with ADD.  We (really, I) have just recently begun to understand its effects on our relationship.  So I am also looking for answers to these and similar questions too.  But at least maybe I can offer you a little bit of your wife's perspective.  Don't stop communicating!  When that happens, everyone starts making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling and their motives, and that can get REALLY BAD really fast!  Talk to her at a non-conflict time about the way she responds to you when you need bring up an important issue.  Ask her how she wants you to present problems in a way that will be less likely to hurt her feelings or sound like blame?  She may just simply need to understand that you really are not TRYING to upset her.  Good luck!

I realize this is an old post... but if you're still out there -

no, you shouldn't accept it!  I am the ADD girlfriend and we are dealing with exactly the same problems.  After 3.5 years I am finally starting to change my first reactions, but those are absolutely the same instincts I have.  I want to jump right past the hurtful part of apologizing, admitting fault in myself (when I already feel low 'cause I know I made him feel bad) - I just want him to feel better ASAP.  And that means I don't want to talk about why he was hurt... my first instinct is that he'll feel better as soon as I solve the problem.  It takes a long time and a good few repetitions, learning by seeing this theory actually work when put into action!  

Communication issue

I can hear my husband's thoughts echoing yours and I empathize.

For myself and my husband we have found that writing down our thoughts first ( especially me) helps us both to understand the other a bit better. It is still a struggle and sometimes we don't see eye to eye but I believe we have found a path to understanding and hearing each other.

Best of luck to you both.

Hi Paul, First of all I just

Hi Paul,

First of all I just want to say that you should NOT stop trying to communicate with your wife, because when you stop trying, you start to eventually feel disconnected from your partner and you drift apart. So too dangerous an option!

Secondly, in the hyper mind of someone suffering from ADD/ADHD the overwhelming impulse to reply as quickly as possible is driven by too strong emotional response to what other people are saying to you.  Also, you are her family unit, so you will be associated with the "safe haven"; if you question her behavior she associates it directly with all the other times she has heard criticism (and of course she has heard your comments before from others, it's unavoidable for someone that is so emotional and impulsive as a ADD/ADHD person).

I think that first of all you should get information on line from forums about how things normally are challenging between ADD spouses and non ADD spouses, especially with regard to communication. Then tell your wife that you have read up on ADD because you want to understand her better and show her all the things people in the same situation mention as common struggles and the potential solutions for this. I think it will help her to see that you two are not alone, and to see that you care about her challenges and how you can try to tackle it together. I think that you need to decide whether your are ready to accept the reality of her symptoms and if you are, you will have to demand that she accepts them as well. That means that it cannot be ignored, denied, or explained as something else. It should be dealt with as facts, without judgement, and the coping mechanisms for dealing with her symptoms will have to be worked out by you two together.

Since communication is a two way street, you need to realize how non ADD partners tend to misinterpret ADD responses and how to stop doing that and chose other ways, while your wife needs to (wo)man up and accept her tendencies and read up on how that tends to work and alternative ways of dealing with her struggles. You are BOTH the problem since neither of you seems to be able to take a step back and say to yourself, ok what I've done so far has not worked, so I need to STOP doing that, become more objective, get some information, look at things from another angle, and try again. If you two want to be married and ADD is in the picture, your communications cannot be about who is right or wrong, because that will eventually destroy your communication, it needs to be about: so how do things seem to happen when we communicate, how do we trigger reactions in each other?

Common causes for non-constructive ADD/ADD communication are:

- the person with ADD/ADHD is already mentally exhausted by the working day and has done nothing to re-gain energy since coming home

- or has not eaten properly for their brain's need (nutrition adapted to ADD/ADHD is really key) so has brain fog/mood swings/ and mental exhaustion

- is not applying daily relaxing techniques to help buzz levels in the brain come down before talking

- is not physically active on a daily basis and is constantly building up internal emotional and mental pressure that will make it impossible to be balanced with a partner

- is not prepared for the conversation and goes into the routine super-emotional response by default. 

What you can do next time you want to talk about something important with your wife is to take her out for a brisk walk. wait until you have walked for about 30 to 40 minutes before you start talking though. By then her brain has gotten the help from the exercise, to bring out some hormone production in the body that serves to compensate for her imbalance in hormones that is initially causing her ADD and then becomes more similar to a non ADD brain function. I.e. you should get more "normal responses"!

However if you want to change things, start to read up on ADD/ADHD, you need to read a lot of stuff before you find the information that seems to apply to your specific situation. But if you make the effort, you will find out how to deal with things better.

I wish you the best of luck!!




re: Women with ADD - Constant Communication May Miss Target

Just last week my husband said to me: "For someone who talks so much, you really don't know how to communicate!" At first I was very shocked and hurt by this statement, but later I thought about it and agreed I had trouble sometimes. After reading this article, there is no denial left- I have a huge communication problem. I am actually excited he said something because that means 1. he noticed and 2. he apparently knows what "real" communication is . . . so there is hope after all!

re: Women with ADD - Constant Communication May Miss Target

I know what you mean, by it being an adventure for you. I find that for so long, my friends just bared with me while I got lost on my own very long, very windy, and scenic route of story telling. This was not always tolerated. It hurt my feelings too, but now I just know better, and know that even though I may be tempted to give all the details and get derailed...I know now that my partner doesn't always appreciate that kind of communication. I can now understand what he means. I can also empathize with the need to just get to the point for my sake and the other persons. I know though, it's hard when the point seems so obvious to someone who thinks more directly then me. I tend to get overwhelmed or caught in the storm of many many words that need to be said, so that the other person actually understands me. And because as a child and growing up, not a whole lot of people understood where I was comming from, all the more reason to feel the need to have to repeat myself...so to make a long story even longer...I get you.

re: Women with ADD - Constant Communication May Miss Target

This is beautiful! If someone doesn't get my drift the first time, I do say it differently the second. However, I do notice I sometimes answer people's questions in a round-about way. I call it "chain-talking". I know how each sentence or topic connect. If people could see inside my head, they could probably see the dots connecting; however, when I see that quizzical look on their faces, I realize I have "missed the point" and need to get back on task. Sometimes it's an adventure to the answer!

talking in circles

You call it chain talking. I call it talking in circles. I can't talk in a straight line. Its painful. I realize the circles are painful or tedious to others so I work to limit the circumference (ha!) of the circle, I promise I will connect back to the main point asap, I ask people to remind me if I stray too far off.

You said "when I see that quizzical look on their faces, I realize I have "missed the point" and need to get back on task". Maybe you haven't "missed the point" - maybe you're enhancing the point and giving it wonderful rich context that linear thinkers just can't appreciate as they impatient waiting for a punch line!


Talking in circles

That is a wonderful way of looking at it! Thank you for the smile you gave me.

My very long windy storytelling...

...me too, Nichole!

Just yesterday someone asked me to 'sum it up in 10 words or less' and after giving me a few seconds, nodded and smiled, thinking I knew nothing. Lordy. I was stuck on "10 WORDS..."