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ADHD Adults

Any tips on not soaking up my wife's stress.

As a person with adhd I have lived for years with a ducks back as my coping skill for stress and depression. I’m now stuck, I’m having a hard time dealing with the stress that my wife brings home and pukes all over our life. I can help you find an answer to your problems but I can not handle your ways of dealing with them. enough is enough. It has gotten to the point that I have been finding things for her to do or friends for her to hang with after work just so I don’t have to deal with my emotional vampire sucking all the happy out of the house and me.


The best suggestion I have is to read the book Men are from Mars Women are from Venus.

Your response is typical of men, they want to put on their Mr. Fixit hat and fix whatever the problem is. And women use a tend and befriend way to cope with stress. Venting and having someone listen is the way to help them ‘fix’ their emotional state. Learning to ‘grunt’ in the appropriate places was what my late husband and I called having him listen just enough to make a few noises or insert a brief comment that made me feel he had some idea of what my stress was about. And as I wound down from bitching about stupid customers or whatever had me fuming, he could gauge when I was ready to switch gears and start a real conversation.

If she can get it out of her system with some other women it may indeed work better for you both. She’ll get more of what she needs done by women who can do it better than you can and you’ll be ready to help when there are times you truly can help fix what is wrong. But learning ‘reflexive listening’ is a good skill to have in other social situations. Some good tips on how to do this are in the book. The best way to help her ‘fix it’ is to help her release the steam. To do so in a way that you don’t take it in really can work. If my engineer husband could learn to do so with his typical engineer’s limited social skills, you probably can also. He could grunt uhum, MMM? ah, is that so? sounds bad, must have been frustrating and such on semi automatic and be doing something else with most of his attention. We’d usually end up when I wound down by having me make some outlandish statement that he didn’t really hear and I’d laugh at his response. That I knew he was trying was enough when my steam was released to keep me satisfied.

Another way to burn off my frustrations without burning off anyone’s ears is for me to spend some time punching my heavy bag hanging off the clothesline in the yard. A bit excessive for most people but punching pillows or the sofa cushions is an option.

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 28, 2014 at 3:06am

I am supposing that your wife is working outside the home and that her job is making her more than a little anxious.  It might be a good time to look for a different job.  If the job is causing that much stress by overflowing into your home life, then she has to look at things and decide where to draw the line.

Job hunting is never easy, but this kind of thing can just suck you dry emotionally and nobody should have to endure that. 

For the present, buy her a nice journal to write all of this stuff down in so that she is not hammering at you with it.  Tell her exactly what you told us.  If she does not see the problem with all of this, then you may need to find marriage counseling for some help.  You cannot fix things for her.  she has to fix what is wrong with her work world.

There does come a time when “enough” is too much.

Posted by Dianne in the Desert on Aug 28, 2014 at 3:29am

Business as usual is not working for either of you. You might try changing the script.

It could be useful to try doing the opposite what you have been doing, even for a few days.

It seems as though your being there means a great deal to her.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Aug 28, 2014 at 3:00pm

Have you communicated to her how it makes you feel when she behaves in such a way? Its hard enough dealing with the ADHD symptoms. Im sure she would understand and she would “take it down a notch” for you.

Posted by Lbrinley on Aug 28, 2014 at 4:36pm

This discussion and several in the relationships with one ADD partner have an interesting contrast and common fact. The ADD’ers complaint vs the non ADD’ers.

This post by the ADHD half in which the repetitive venting is sucking him dry and the ones with the non ADD halves venting the same song different complaints over and over about how their ADD half is sucking them dry. Most of the latter, all? appear to be from women venting about their husbands. My question to the latter of does the repeated venting really help or simply remind you of what frustrates you and so makes it worse, has pretty much gotten the reply of we need some place safe to vent and feel understood.

I don’t believe that is related to the partner/spouse AD/HD but the gender specifics of women tending and befriending. Myself, I try not to vent on the same thing repeatedly as that does only make me more aware of it. A basic principle of behavior modification—I trained dogs and horses for many years, is that what you permit, your reinforce.

If the venting truly helps, do some. But be aware that repeating the same sh!t different day doesn’t take long to smell really bad to those you dump it on. And may be reinforcing your own frustration to the point that it takes less and less to get you more and more frustrated.

Myself if I can’t fix a problem, from a physical pain or annoyance, going on to things that distract me works much better than repeatedly moaning woe is me! From physical pain to the pain of losing my late husband, just enough acknowledgment to validate my feelings to myself and letting them go so I can go on to other things. What can not be cured must be endured. Poking at a thorn in my backside that I can’t get out only makes it hurt more. Pointing it out to others may help just a bit in that it may help me dissociate a bit or distract me from feeling it when I describe it. But very short term and I’ve found not worth it to me.

While much of this may be gender specific by nature and nurture—worldwide women do seem to do the tend and befriend more than men but how this is done is cultural—I also wonder how much is that ADD’ers may have an alternate approach to problems. Those who have learned to cope with ADD better may have had enough practicing choosing what to be attentive to so that they have indeed come up with an alternate and effective strategy of fixing what you can and paying attention to other things when you can’t. Perhaps the non ADD’ers could learn something from ADD’ers for a change rather than repeatedly venting about how ADD makes them vent. I’ve not read of any issue vented about that seems totally due to ADD but common enough in many more couples than the percent of ADD’ers could account for.

How much is ADD, how much is gender and how much is learned/cultural? Much of the time I don’t think the cause matters as much as can it be fixed, and if so how and if not, either deal with it or get out. If you can’t get out then by default you have to deal with it. Does venting help? have you considered how your venting may help you short term and be damaging long term? how toxic and energy sucking it can be to others and possibly yourself?

Posted by Gadfly on Aug 28, 2014 at 5:32pm

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