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Married to a Fun Wife

Dear ADHD Doctor,

Help! I feel like the last guy on my wife’s to-do list. She has ADHD but says “she only needs medication when she is paying the bills, or doing paperwork”. She says she “likes not being too serious as well as her ‘off the wall’ way of thinking.”

Sure she is lot of fun, but I swear I don’t know what she does all day. When I come home from work, it seems as though my second job is just beginning! It takes quite a while to tie up all of the loose ends around our apartment doing cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. When I ask her what she does all day, she gets angry and tells me that I have no idea how much she does every day. After that, she wants little to do with me.

The next morning, however, she wakes up and acts as though nothing is wrong. I want to make things better, but I am lost what to do.

Signed, Married to a Fun but Unproductive Wife

Dear Married to Fun,

This is a touchy and somewhat common scenario.

ADHD folks are notoriously poor self-reporters. They tend to over report their level of activity and under report their ‘down’ time. On proper medication, they are often able to accomplish great things, but if they are off meds, or if meds are improperly dosed, they can definitely be ‘under-achievers.’ Unfortunately, ADHDers have a difficult time distinguishing being busy and being productive.

A few things that may help:
1. A calendar on which you each note your daily tasks and the steps needed to accomplish the goals combined with a morning, mid day and evening check-in (text, IM, or phone call) to talk about the day’s progress.
2. Create andid discussions regarding medications and their effectiveness.
3. Chunking: that is breaking bigger jobs into bite-sized pieces.
4. Making it safe to talk about total time killers like TV, Internet or coming up with “new and great” ideas that were not part of her task list .

As for your wife waking up in the morning, feeling great and acting as though nothing happened, it is not uncommon for those with ADHD to not hold grudges and quickly recover from disagreements. Some would say this isn’t a good thing, but I believe it is actually a positive and you should relax into it. You two do need to work through some of the conflicts, but enjoy this one quirky side benefit!

Remember: ADHDers often seek to connect through conflict. If your wife feels disconnected from you, she may actually try to provoke a small fight as a way to increase her feelings of connection. Believe it or not, this is common.

Dr. Robert Wilford