New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Couples With One ADHD Partner

Just distribution of responsibilities?

my wife has ADHD and I have a normative functionality. We fight a lot about household chores, time and responsibilities and we both have a really hard time finding out what´s fair and not in a society where I am given a lot for free becase the society is built for people with my functionality. At the same time I am scared to take too much responsibility for my wifes needs and forgetting about my own. I am writing to ask how you do this in your relationships? And do you know of any info, articles or such that discuss this issue of just distribution in this kind of relationship?
I will be thankful for what ever you can tell me!


• How we do it?—Not well.
• How we should do it?—There’s definitely at least one better way (read about it in “The ADHD Effect on Marriage,” by Melissa Orlov).  It is a Must-Read book!

Posted by BC on Mar 25, 2014 at 6:53pm

My husband has ADHD I do all the finances, have steady employment, shop, cook, all the things that must be done. I have found no way to split up chores as even if on his list it does not mean it would get done. I have become very used to picking up the pieces. I often wonder what I would really be like were my personality not have been shaped by his ADHD. God luck.

Posted by Lila on Mar 25, 2014 at 7:11pm

Well, first of all, we’ve never had success in “talking about it” because the first thing that my ADHD husband does is get defensive and engage in all or nothing speak - “You say I do NOTHING around the house” attributing the accusation he is making to me of course.  That is the fight or flight response to any kind of stress.  I don’t know how volatile your spouse is but its best I’ve found to try to not trigger that whenever possible.  Sometimes it is impossible to avoid.

Is there ANYTHING she will do on her own without you prompting?  If you don’t know, stop prompting her altogether and see.  Whatever she will do absolutely step aside and let her!  Don’t comment on how she does it or when, etc.  Just let her.  And I don’t know about your spouse by my husband has a heaping portion of oppositional defiance disorder so if I even praise and say “thanks for doing that, looks great” he then will stop doing that thing altogether but not before denying the praise - “Naw, I didn’t really do a very good job, I missed that spot” Totally incapable of taking positive feedback and usually when I say anything at all negative or positive, again that all or nothing comes in, “you think I’m a total loser!”

Now, once you discover what she will do on her own then let that be her responsibility permanently.  You will have to see if it is OK to acknowledge this for her, if she is ODD then it might not be wise, but you’ll decide.  Then if you want to have her take on more you have to specifically ask for the specific thing - assume nothing, like talking to an alien who just landed on planet earth - “Can you take out the trash from under the sink and put it in the bin outside every night after the dishes are done? Can that be your job from now on?”  And then get ready to remind and remind and remind.  And there will be fighting about it but just know that it has to become a habit.  Habits are the friend of ADHD so help her to create the habits that will serve you.  And by the way, one thing at a time until it is a habit.  This cannot be done on your timeline!  It has to be you working to help her to make taking out the trash a habit until it is - whether it takes a week, a month or a year.  DO NOT introduce another task until it is a bonafide habit.  This takes patience for sure.  But the alternative is what you are experiencing now.

And if you want one off things done, like take the car to get washed you are also going to have to be specific.  And let them know WHEN you want it done!  My husband keeps this impossibly long list of things that he is supposedly going to do everyday but of course he looks at it and gets overwhelmed.  I used to think I could just ask him to do something ‘today’ and he’d remember.  No way.  Then I’d ask him to put it on his list, but that impossibly long overwhelming list, naw uhn.  So I figured out I have to ask him when I want it done.  “What are you doing right now? Can you vacuum right now?”  And usually doing something right now is the only option otherwise it gets forgotten.

This all means, unfortunately, that you have to overfunction for her.  But that is never going to change, that is a fact of life for you and me and many of us.  You have to be the part of their brain that will not function properly.  But stop fighting about it for sure because that leads to only one place, and it sounds like you don’t want to go to divorce court.

And forget those words - just, equitable, fair - they do not exist in an ADHD marriage, they just don’t.

Posted by YellaRyan on Mar 25, 2014 at 9:58pm

Well, if you keep in mind that “just” does not equal “fair” you will have a better time dealing with things in a relationship with someone who has ADHD. My husband has ADHD, OCD, PTSD and generalized anxiety and the best thing I ever did for our relationship was understand that things will never really be “fair”. But they are “just” if both partners do what they are able to do to the best of their ability. I happen to be able to do more than he is, and if we were to make a side-by-side list of what he does vs what I do, it would be extremely “unfair”. Considering, however, that the objectively “limited” amount of tasks he is able to do is truly a lot, for him, things happen to be just, IMO. While I may be the sole breadwinner, work full time in the legal field in a high stress job, go to school at night to further my career, take our kids to all of their athletic activities, and keep our household organized and rolling smoothly and keep myself fit and healthy and that seems “normal” to me…. He just isn’t able to do that much. But he does do what he can do. He does the grocery shopping, takes our kids to school, picks them up, makes sure they have a healthy snack and start their homework after school until I get home, and he maintains our acreage. When he has a good day, he does more, but he can’t always do that, and there are some days he can’t do his regular stuff and I have to step in and help with those too. The challenge is not enabling someone to not do what they can do but just taking everything over. We communicate often about what needs to be done and I don’t hesitate to ask him to do things. Specific things, and they go on a specific list in a specific place, so he can keep track of them. He knows that he can tell me if he can’t get to it that day or is feeling overwhelmed, and I know that he will do it if he can; he’s not a slacker and he doesn’t take advantage, but we are realistic about his issues.

Posted by ijustwannahelp000 on Mar 25, 2014 at 11:47pm

I find myself fighting this same fight repeatedly.  Or more accurately I should say ‘I find myself giving up on this fight’.  I have made the side by side lists of household responsibilities (my list trumps my ADHD husband’s list by a mile!) and that has not helped.  I ask for help in the moment I need it.  For example he’ll be sitting on the couch watching TV and I will ask “Can you please run the vacuum on the next commercial?”.  Even though he’ll respond ‘Yeah, sure’ I know full well that I will inevitably end up doing it myself.  Even if I remind him in a kind, gentle way “Hey, don’t forget about vacuuming” he will snap and accuse me of nagging him and being too bossy and he’ll walk away.  I have tried giving him regular responsibilities, like picking up the kids from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  But I can pretty much guarantee that he will get stuck at work because time got away from him, something else will come up and he won’t be able to pick them up or he’ll just flat out forget and show up at home with no children in tow.  The only thing I can say that has worked for me is doing it all myself.  I run myself into the ground on a daily basis working, caring for our family, our home, our finances, etc.  But I’d rather run myself ragged than fight.  Best of luck to you.  I hope you find something that works.

Posted by fertie01 on Mar 26, 2014 at 11:01pm

First of all, it would help if you defined what you meant by “just”.  If “just” is being related to “fair” then it will never happen.  What is “fair” in one person’s mind is not “fair” in another’s. 

You do not provide an example of what you would like for your wife to be doing and what you would like to be doing.  So, if this is a matter of “woman work” versus “man work”, then you are talking about gender related goals and those are no longer as divided along gender lines as they used to be.

If you married with the frame of mind that you could dump all domestic chores onto a wife, then you have a problem.  If both of you are working, then you need to find an equitable way of splitting tasks so that whatever is needed gets done.

Here are a couple of ideas.  Write down a list of the things that need doing with a timetable of how often they should be done.  Next, without hostility, the two of you need to review that list and determine which tasks each of you will do simply because one of you is better at that thing than the other.  Take the remaining tasks and simply split them.  Schedule everything so that there is a time to do them.  Do this for a minimum of four months, switching the task out each week so that the other person is doing them..  At the end of that time, both of you need to review to see if the original premise still holds true.  Which of you does the better job at < whatever > than the other? 

Who was managing which tasks before you married?  Were you living together?  If so, who was handling which things and how well were they done? 

The vows were, “To love and to cherish; for richer, or poorer; in sickness and in health…”  This is not something that needs to be fought about.  This is something that needs to be worked out and only the two of you can do that.

Posted by Dianne in the Desert on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:12pm

I am an ADHD wife in a very similar situation.  My first piece of advice is make sure she takes her meds.  If I take my anti-depressant and my vitamins everyday - everyone will benefit!  I always remember my stimulants but struggle with the other meds.  If she is not taking anything, well, I would suggest checking into that - I don’t think it’s possible to not be depressed when you struggle with ADHD.  I also suggest setting aside time to work on projects around the house together.  I can get so much done with help to keep me focused and make decisions.  If you don’t have the time or patience to be that person - find a family member or friend or hire someone. Another idea that hasn’t been suggested is to try to make the mundane tasks of life more interesting for her.  Make things competitive, exciting or more fun - plan meals with a theme - see who can keep their side of the closet cleaner - spice things up when possible!  I commend you for being informed about this condition and asking for help because as much as you hate the way things are - she hates it more.

Posted by LesGC on Apr 01, 2014 at 4:22pm

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions