Spouse wants to manage things now that I’m diagnosed with ADHD

A woman recently diagnosed with ADHD hopes to get her spouse to back off a bit with managing her life.



February 26, 2024 - 1:58 PM

Photo by Pixabay.com

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m a woman in my 40s who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Cool. Explains a lot. Since receiving my diagnosis, I’ve had a major shift in how I perceive myself, mostly for the better. I recognize that there are a lot of arbitrary societal expectations that I simply don’t conform to and that that’s society’s problem, not mine. I am not a bad person because I struggle to complete tasks a certain way, and there is no shame in needing additional clarifications around how long a task should take to complete.

This has been very freeing, and giving myself a break to do things the way that works best for me has improved my life all around.

The problem is that my spouse seems to think it is their job to manage me now, and the ADHD diagnosis is a sign that I can’t manage myself. This includes how I complete certain chores and getting upset when I am working (successfully, in my high-paying job) with the TV on. This one particularly irks me, because I feel as if how I do my work is none of their business.

Unfortunately, my work is remote, and my home office is in a shared space, so they are privy to how I work, whether I want them to be or not. How do I get my spouse to back off or, better yet, respect me as an autonomous adult?!

— Recently Diagnosed

Recently Diagnosed: 1. Ask spouse directly: “How do I get you to back off or, better yet, respect me as an autonomous adult?!”

Have the conversation about what is and isn’t in bounds for expressing concern. Ideally, “Zip it, we’re both adults,” would suffice, but your ADHD may have led/almost certainly led/absolutely led to extra work for your spouse up to now, so creating a new dynamic and distribution of labor is fair conversational game. I suggest both of you talk specifically about what would be productive for each of you — and not productive, like nagging and infantilizing. Role-play it, so it’s clear.

2. If the intrusions don’t stop after this conversation, then you go all verbatim on it until Spouse makes the adjustment: “Thanks, I’ve got this.” “Thanks, I’ve got this.” “Thanks, I’ve got this.”

It’s no way to conduct a marriage for any stretch of time, but as a temporary retraining tool, it is extremely effective.

Re: ADHD: While I’m not saying OP’s spouse should be trying to control how she lives or works, I would find it incredibly annoying if my spouse had the TV on in a shared home workspace.

— Also WFH

Also WFH: Fair — but that would be: “Would you please turn off the TV? I can’t work with the distraction. Thanks.” I.e., nothing about ADHD.

READERS’ thoughts:

∙ I have learned a lot from my sister who has ADHD. It is important for YOU to be in control of managing your ADHD and its impacts on you and those around you. Because that’s part and parcel of having ADHD and learning management tools, so that you CAN be an autonomous, independent individual. If you offload a management task to Spouse by choice — then that’s your choice. But if your spouse assumes it, your spouse is actually STANDING IN THE WAY of your adjustment and progress.

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