Chad wants to say a few words on video (then the rest below is all me)…
We’re still in the middle of this journey. We still have arguments about lost iPods and about late bills. We still have discussions about “time management” and about the chaos of unfolded laundry. We are still walking together, trying to learn how to be married and not kill each other.
But I’ve learned a few things about how to live with a spouse who suffers from, in Chad’s own words, “raging” ADD.
1. Don’t Parent.
My husband does not need another mother. He has one and she lives about four miles away from us. I am not her. So I have to struggle against my own nurturing tendencies to do those “parenting” things that will, in the end, stunt my husband’s growth. I can’t try to control him. I have to resist the urge to take over everything so it gets done right. I also can’t lump him into the group with the kids. If I’m frustrated that NO ONE in the house has picked up their dirty clothes, I must ask him privately to do so, not in front of the children as if he is one of them. And when I do ask him, it should be in the tone of a wife and equal, not the same tone I might take with my daughters when asking them to complete chores.
2. Defuse Chaos.
Remember the Cheerios? If that had happened today, this is what I would have done: I would have asked him kindly to leave and allow me to clean it up while he sits in the other room or helps me with some other, non-chaotic task. This isn’t because I want to parent him and do things FOR him, but I know how and where he functions best. And it is not with a billion pieces of cereal in piles around his feet. So I help him by removing him from the situation, if possible. This also comes into play when he is disciplining the girls and they are particularly unruly. If I notice, I try to intervene by quietly asking him to allow me to finish while he leaves the room. We try to avoid crowds, I try to keep our bedroom clutter-free (doesn’t always happen) and I try not to overwhelm him with a bunch of questions or requests all at once. I will email or text him rather than ask him over the phone because at the rate his brain moves, he won’t remember what I asked him to do 2 minutes after we’ve gotten off the phone.
Another thought here: when I sense Chad might begin to become frustrated, I try to head off the frustration myself because frustration can breed chaos in his mind. Example: “Sarah, where is Hope’s cold medication? I can’t find it anywhere.” he might yell from downstairs. Instead of calling back down to him, I might get up and physically find it for him, knowing that if he searched for it he would become frustrated trying to find it.
3. Expect ADD.
Your spouse or your friend has ADD. Expect that and don’t act surprised. I used to expect him home at 5:30 for dinner and I’d call him at 5:25 to see if he was on his way.”Yeah, I’m around the corner!” he’d tell me. So I’d plate the meal, pour the milk and sit down at the table. And wait. And wait. Twenty minutes later he’d walk in the door. “What happened to ‘around the corner’?” I’d demand. His estimation of time, even now, is, well, different than mine. So now, I don’t ask him how SOON he’ll be home, I ask him WHERE HE IS. That way I can estimate when he will be home. I expect him to have difficulty remembering certain things, so I send him reminders, I call him and I make sure he knows what’s coming up in the week on Sunday night. But even though I expect him to have ADD and exhibit the symptoms, I can also gently encourage him to change. I might ask him, later on in the evening after he’s made me late to a hair appointment, to call me as soon as he knows he will be late. I let him know how his delay affects me and how it makes me feel. I tell him that I will help him change for the better.
4. Encourage Treatment.
This may be the hard part for an adult ADD sufferer who has never wanted help before. Seeing a therapist or a psychiatrist can be vulnerable and scary. But it has been the best thing for Chad. A therapist or life coach can help with the day-to-day functioning and life skill issues. A psychiatrist can also help with this but also prescribe medication [note: a regular physician can prescribe ADD medication but may not have a focused skill-set in dealing with ADD sufferers. Our suggestion is to receive an Rx from a psychiatrist and follow up with a therapist or coach. Although most psychiatrists will require a physical from a regular doctor before he/she will start with medication]. As a spouse, be supportive of him/her receiving proper treatment for ADD. Help your spouse by reinforcing new habits he/she might be learning in therapy at home.
5. Recognize Success.
Everyone responds to positive reinforcement. When I notice how well Chad is doing at something that he previously has had trouble with, it means everything to him. It makes him want to do better in the future and it helps to motivate a man who struggles with motivation in the first place. When I focus on his failure it just blows up for both of us. But living with Chad for the past almost 14 years, I understand that he flourishes when I praise him for things he’s done well.
Thank you for providing for our family. Thank you for remembering to take your medication this weekend. Thank you for being a good father.
Chances are, someone who has struggled with ADD has heard a lot of criticism and negativity in their lifetime; maybe more than most.
You’re lazy. You don’t apply yourself. You never remember…. You always forget…. You never listen.
So, as a spouse of someone who has heard those things their entire life, you have the unique opportunity to pour love and acceptance into your husband or wife.
This is not an inclusive list. I’m sure there are many more things I can add or you can add so let’s open it up.
For those of you WITH ADD, how do you cope?
For those of you who LIVE WITH SOMEONE who has ADD, how have you learned to work with it?
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