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Couples With One ADHD Partner

How do you make big decisions?

Short Version: How do you make big decisions with your spouse that stick?

My wife has been recently diagnosed with ADD (no H). Looking back, I think this explains a lot of her most frustrating behaviour. The diagnosis has been a huge boon.

One thing we’ve struggled with a lot in the past is making decisions. She waffles a lot over every choice, and in the event that she does take a decision, it’s often reversed within 48 hours (or much, much sooner).

This can be small things, like whether or not she likes a new pair of earrings. Or bigger things—deciding to take a driving vacation to meet relatives, and then waking up late at night to buy plane tickets. These are annoying, but not life altering. What I really have trouble with is when I need her input on very large decisions. Things like: should we buy this house; should I keep my job here, or quit and move to Australia.

Our most recent decision has been ongoing for just over two years (yes, two years) now and it’s driving me mental. We did take that job in Australia with the agreement that we stay for 12 months and move home. 12 months came, I was looking at flights and she told me she wanted to stay. OK - it’s pretty nice here. So at 18 months I asked again and she said it was definitely time to move. Lining up job opportunities takes a bit, so I started networking and after a couple months found a great new opportunity. I came home to tell my wife and she tells me that maybe she actually wants to stay. After all the work trying to get an offer, it was absolutely humiliating to have to retract my interest; but I did. Repeat this scenario 4 times - line up a job, rescind interest; line up a job, rescind interest, etc. The net result is a life of constant indecision. People at my office regularly ask me if I’m staying, going, changing roles, whatever and I never have an answer that I feel is safe to give. At some point - probably already - I’m going to find it very difficult to be taken seriously when I talk about relocation.

So flash forward a bit. She now tells me that with her new meds and treatment she is *sure* that she knows the right decision (two weeks ago, it was stay, I got an offer, and she switched to go). I can’t trust her at this point, but it’s a big enough that I very much need her to have input.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to get your ADD partner to take a decision and stick with it? Or any other tips. This is an ongoing daily stress for the both of us that we’d really rather settle.


I should probably add that in our current situation, no decision is clearly better than the other. Staying or going isn’t the issue; it’s making a decision and sticking with it.

Posted by dnh on Aug 02, 2014 at 10:25pm

I suspect that she will not change. You may need to change the process. If staying or going is not a big issue then you might as well sign on for five years.

The other piece of this is that you would be wise to stay away from decisions that do not matter to you simply to reduce your frustration, unless you really are concerned about her earrings.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Aug 02, 2014 at 11:05pm

Trouble making decisions is common with ADHD individuals. Often, it’s a fear of making the wrong decision. To me, your spouse is showing that she can support either decision, stay or go, and it truly might be easier for everyone if you have the ultimate say.

I find writing pro/con lists very effective in decision-making. Sometimes seeing a longer list in the pro or con column can reduce the anxiety and solidify the decision as the “right” one.

There are some strategies for decision making when you have ADHD in these articles too:

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Aug 04, 2014 at 2:04pm

I suppose that is better than the opposite - what I deal with - which is NO conversation about decisions.  So my husband will agree to something, then absolutely not follow through, then claim that he thought the decision has already been made.  But when I want to sit down and decide something together he will give no input whatsoever but will say things like “We’ll have to work something out”  But then of course that “something” never materializes.  And he never initiates conversations about big things, only the minutia of daily life will he address and only sometimes.  He is absolutely not going to contribute if he does not already have an answer.

So be thankful you still have communication!  It is reasonable to change one’s mind.  What is not reasonable is to change one’s mind capriciously in a way that also affects someone else’s life - like yours.  It sounds like you have tolerated this a number of times and now she may think this behavior is OK. But obviously it is not if you are bothered and embarrassed by it.  You might just give her a choice of whether she will take part in decisions or not, but not all of them.  In things where it doesn’t really matter much to you let her decide and be fine with it.  In these big life changing ones, especially where your reputation is on the line, I would tell her you will decide with input from her but you will have the final say.  You have to be clear which decisions are which though.  You can’t muddy waters with ADHD people (everyone has the H by the way, it just becomes internalized as adults in things like restlessness, not being able to make decisions, racing brain, etc).

In the scheme of things you are not doing too badly so work with reality and what is instead of “hoping” for something else.

Posted by YellaRyan on Aug 11, 2014 at 8:35pm

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