Reader Question: Dealing with a Husband with ADD

Reader Question of the Week

Every weekend I like to answer a reader question. I’ll give my thoughts on a subject, and then I invite you all to comment and help this reader out, too.

Here’s one I received recently:

I don’t want to be a nagging wife, but my husband has ADD and it seems like it is sometimes called for.  We both work and have a set division of labor around the house (that we have both agreed to) because it makes life easier on us.  I have to be ‘on his case’, so to speak about getting his tasks done.  I am extremely conscious of the way we are in public and around other people, so this really is limited to everyday household things.  But I was wondering whether any other readers have had similar experiences or have any wisdom to share.

Excellent question!

Let me take a stab at it with just a few points, not in any particular order:

1. Remember that ADD has its Strengths

My husband is a pediatrician, and so he diagnoses a lot of kids with ADD (and he tells even more that they do NOT have ADD. Most kids who come in for that diagnosis do not actually have a biological basis for attention deficit).

When there is a genuine diagnosis, the parents are often really sad. “My son (for it is usually boys) will be hampered by this his whole life,” they think. We frame it as a disability.

But here’s what my husband says (and I’m paraphrasing):

A generation ago, when there was no such thing as an ADD diagnosis, these kids grew up just being called “hyperactive” or “distracted”. But they grew up without a label. And many of them did amazing things.

We think of ADD as a negative thing, but people with ADD tend to make the best salesmen. They make the best stockbrokers. They make really good company CEOs because they can handle so many different thoughts at one time. People with ADD have gone on to do amazing things with their lives.

ADD is far more a problem in school, when everything has to be regimented, than it is in adult life, when you can choose a career that’s actually suited for someone with ADD (for there are many), and start to run your home the way it works best for you.

His main message? This will always be a challenge, but remember to see that it can have its pluses, too.

So if you’re married to someone with ADD, don’t always see it as a negative. Figure out the positive aspects to it (they can be really fun people; they’re active; they’re not boring, etc.)

2. Encourage His Leadership in His Areas of Strength

If he’s a really fun, active guy, make sure your family is really fun and active. Go to the beach. Run to parks often. You don’t have to be a typical family that sits at the dinner table for long periods of time and has deep conversations. Maybe he’s better suited to picnic dinners in the summer (and kids love that!)

In other words, don’t try to fit him into a stereotypical family; your family is unique. And it’s great to do family in a way that he is comfortable with and that works to his strengths.

3. Involve Him in Strategy-Making and Finding Solutions

Don’t treat him as someone with a disability; ask him, “how can we best make sure the work that needs to get done gets done?”

Now, for some men, nagging may actually not be a bad thing. If they have to be reminded, they may honestly be fine with that.

I don’t like that, though, because I think it sets up a mother-son type relationship instead of a marriage, and in general that’s not healthy.

So figure out: how does he work best? With lists? With post-it notes? With rewards? (like if he finishes this one task he gets to do something he loves, like play video games or go for a jog or something). Ask him, and ask him to brainstorm about different times in his life when he had to get stuff done. How did he accomplish it? What did he put in place?

Part of the problem with marrying someone with ADD is that his mother may have compensated for him so much growing up that he honestly isn’t used to having to take responsibility around the house. But if he’s able to do it at work, he’s able to do it at home. So ask him, “what helps you get tasks done at work? How do you keep yourself focused there?” And see if you can replicate that.

4. Think of the CEO-Secretary Mix

Again, I’m not trying to reinforce a lopsided relationship, but if you picture a distracted yet active CEO, the ones that function best are the ones with secretaries who compensate. Maybe it’s time to think about compensating rather than about trying to get him to become you.

The thing about the work relationship is that the secretary keeping him on track helps free him up to do what he’s good at. So ask yourself, “what is he good at?” You may honestly want the housework split, but maybe he’s just not a housework kind of guy. But he may be a grocery shopping/errands kind of guy, because that’s more active, and there’s more going on. He doesn’t have to stay focused at a task as much.

In other words, it’s not so much about assigning tasks based on what we think is fair or on what we enjoy but instead basing it on “what are we both best suited for?” Maybe in the comments we could brainstorm about what some of those tasks may be.

Some of you readers have husbands with ADD (or children with ADD) have more to offer on this particular topic. So please, chime in, and let’s help others in this same situation!


  1. Bummer, I was hoping to find some suggestions in the comments when I got here, but I’m the first one! My husband has ADD and is bi-polar. It adds more struggles to our situation and had led to cheating and other difficult things. I get so discouraged sometimes; feeling like a mother instead of a companion. I look forward to other’s imput!
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  2. Thank you for the great post on this!! My DH has ADD and for the most part I don’t think of it, sometimes he has to remind me.. To me he just is who he is!! I find the biggest thing for me is when he is in a low I can easily fall into it with him and we both struggle with motivation. I love the pluses that you mentioned and I think your husband is dead on with his thoughts on ADD! My husband resolves issues that we talk about the night before in his sleep, wakes up and we’ve got a solution :) I try my best not to be a nagging wife, but every once in a while he has to remind me to stop 😉 I find that giving him a deadline when I want something done by usually helps, so he knows my expectations. Great ideas Sheila!!

  3. Carolyn says:

    I have ADD… CLASSIC symptoms but wasn’t diagnosed until I was 46!!! What works best for me is NUMBER ONE (emphasis added) POSITIVE reinforcement and encouragement.
    -short managable to-do lists. With ADD it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. I keep a chalkboard on my kitchen wall and list no more than 5 daily tasks I must accomplish. I get satisfaction crossing to-do’s off the list.
    -do not treat me like a child, although to a non-ADD adult it may be difficult. I am an adult who prioritizes differently.
    -I like organization as much as anyone, it’s just VERY hard for me to manage. I like to be able to see my things (otherwise out-of-sight-out-of-mind) Unfortunately I’m cluttered. I have to be very diligent having a place for things (keys, glasses, wallet, other essentials) and making sure I put things where they belong.
    -I use a program on my smart-phone called Evernote for reminders, lists, etc. I could not live without it.
    -I use timers and alarms on my smart-phone to keep me on-task. (and to remind me to take my meds!)
    -I tell my husband when I am feeling overwhelmed.

    I once heard ADD as described as having dozens of tabs open on your browser all at once. That is what my brain feels like. My meds do not CURE my ADD, but they help me manage it a little better. I am creative, smart, funny, and artistic. My whole life I was called “a chatterbox”, unorganized, a ditz, lazy, etc. I actually started to believe these things… but no more.

    I could share more, but I hope those things are helpful for now. Good luck to you and your hubs! Encourage him!

    • Wow…reading you describe yourself is just like me. I would never have thought of myself as ADD, but I have to have places for things, have a bunch of open tabs (windows I call them) on my mind, get overwhelmed easily so I keep short lists and tend to put reminders/notes on my phone. I hate dealing with paperwork and used to be a teacher so I was always stressed out all the time. Glad I’ve quit that career to move into another. Now I’m going to have to look further into this…hmmm. ty.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      lol that’s exactly how I’d describe my brain! I possibly have ADD but maybe not. What I probably do have is ASD (aspergers) which basically is often in women is misdiagnosed as ADD in women due to the short attention span, extreme multitasking, disorganisation etc.

      The main difference (which I know because my daughter was wrong diagnosed by paediatrician untrained in developmental mental health with having ADHD at 5, until she was correctly diagnosed by trained developmental mental health specialists at 6 with having ASD) is that people with true ADD/ADHD tend not to ever be able to focus, while people with ASD do not totally lack the ability to concentrate – in fact when you get a person with ASD doing something they love or talking about something they love, they can obsessively do it literally all day.

      But other than that, the attention deficit in both ADHD and ASD can be very similar in women as ASD women often don’t have the shyness or severe social awkwardness ASD men do (hence the frequent misdiagnosis). ASD women tend to make a lot of social faux pas but don’t withdraw from social stuff as much as men with it.

  4. Your husband is one amazing doctor, Sheila! I am so sad about all the children, mostly young boys, being labeled with ADD and then put on drugs. My son definitely would have grown up with that label if he was tested. Now, he is married with 2 children and has a great career. It is extremely difficult for young boys to sit in a chair in a classroom the hours they have to in school. I sure wish more doctors were like your wise husband.
    Lori Alexander recently posted…Customer Friendly CostcoMy Profile

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Lori I went through the exact problem with my daughter. She was misdiagnosed as having ADHD by a paediatrician whose training was in physical health and not mental health, and all she wanted to do was cram medications down my daughter’s throat. Complicated story but had no choice in seeing that particular one as we were going through family court and actually neither of us (my exhusband or I) were allowed to change who she saw which was stupid since neither of us wanted our daughter seeing an amphetamine pusher.

      The two side of effects of the drugs they wanted to put our daughter on were insomnia and not wanting to eat – the two things that were causing me the most problems with my daughter! Her attention wasn’t a problem at all. She was still learning (tests over the following year by mental health professionals show she was actually absorbing what her teachers were saying even when she doing her own thing like lying on the floor in the middle of class pretending to be a cat). So yes, she had an attention deficit but it was not damaging her learning or her personality.

      But her refusal to go to bed at night to the point where I was sleeping all day while she was at school because I have chronic fatigue and was hugely sleep deprived, and her being underweight because of frequently refusing to eat (including throwing out her lunch at school as soon as the teacher stoppped looking no matter what I fed her). So giving her medications with a side effect of less sleep and less desire to eat would have seriously damaged her.

      But it didn’t stop the idiot drug pushing doctor. When I told her where she could stick her amphetamines, she then began pushing strattera – which is an antidepressant used to treat ADHD. Considering my daughter is not depressed (quite the opposite), and again the side effects were less sleep and less eating (due it being an SSRI medication) and bad reactions to SSRIs run in my family (I react seriously badly), it was even stupider suggestion.

      Thankfully around that time my daughter was referred by her counsellor to a child developmental specialist who diagnose ASD (autistic spectrum disorder/aspergers) and once we had a proper diagnosis, we could get proper therapy and tell the drug pusher where she could stick her stupid ideas.

      Yes I firmly believe some ADHD kids need medication,but only as an absolute last resort where therapy and diet changes and simple tolerance have all failed. Most of the problems with ADHD kids lie not with the kids but adults in their life who can’t be bothered giving these kids the extra attention their condition needs – it’s easier to drug them up than to give them attention. Which is incredibly sad. There are some exceptions – when it’s severe and nothing else has worked – but it’s definitely a very last thing to try, not the first thing like so many parents and sadly most doctors treat it.

      I can totally understand why young boys have issues. I had huge trouble coping with uni. I could just barely get through a 50 minute lesson – barely. But when we had doubles and lecturers broke the rules about ten minute breaks every hour, I’d go nuts. I couldn’t do it. I’d have to walk out because it was painful to try and sit still. There is on way I could focus on the words the lecturer was saying – it was like they began speaking a foreign language.

  5. I echo the suggestions given by Carolyn. I have a husband and two sons with ADHD. My best advice is to pray constantly for their hearts to be in tune with God’s and for God to bless their lives and continue to show them the path on which He is taking them. They have such a unique and precious way of seeing the world and I appreciate that. I have learned so much by having two sons with ADHD and their special education issues – I feel blessed by God to be a part of their lives :)

    PRAY and focus on their many wonderful attributes!

  6. Great suggestions Sheila! My husband has ADD, so I know that it comes with its challenges, but like you said people with ADD are typically more active, which he is, which sometimes actually motivates me to get things done. Honestly, I don’t treat my husband any differently because he has ADD — we just have learned to work together.

    Perhaps one of the biggest issues we have is that my husband will get many ideas for projects around the home and then gets overwhelmed or doesn’t know how to prioritize the projects. Sometimes, also, I think he honestly forgets some of the things that need to get done, which is easy for any busy adult to do. I will remind him of the projects when I know he has time to work on them (such as right before a day off of work), but I won’t nag him. I don’t make lists for him (unless he specifically asks for a list) because then he does feel like I’m being more like a mother to him than his wife. Sometimes, if he says “I should work on this project” I might say, “Well, I think we need to do ____ first because _______.” I always make sure I tell him why I think we should prioritize the projects a different way. Sometimes we go with my decision, sometimes we do it his way because he’ll then explain his prioritization and it’ll make sense to me as well. Also, I make sure I say “Thank you” and truly mean it when he does finish a project. I realize that my husband isn’t a carbon copy of me and I’m not a carbon copy of him, which is a good thing! I realize that he might not get things done exactly when I would really like them done, but on the other hand I don’t always do things exactly when my husband would like them done.

    I have also learned to “let things go” a little bit. For example, I like to make sure my clothes get hung up every day. My husband, on the other hand, really doesn’t care. So, instead of nagging him to hang up his clothes, I do let him pile it up — I let go of the need to make him live exactly like I do. The pile is out of the way, nobody but he and I will see it, and it’s not hurting anything. Same thing with his workroom/toolbench — it’s not organized and tidy like I would make it, but that’s okay because it’s his area and tools and doesn’t affect anybody else. If he can’t find something and asks me where it is, I’ll tell him where I last saw it, but that’s it. I don’t then “lecture” him about how he needs to be more focused and put things away where they belong, etc. I just let it go (he does eventually find things).

    If you truly think that a lot of your husband’s “tasks” aren’t getting done, talk to him about it, but in a nice way. Ask him how you can help him. Ask him if he would like to “switch up” the tasks and trade some with you (sometimes people with ADD need to “change things up” at times). Make sure you’re talking to him and treating him like your spouse and your partner in life when talking to him about this, not like he’s a child.

    I guess my point is that I don’t really treat my husband any differently because of the ADD. I don’t make him conform to my “schedule” just as he doesn’t make me conform to his schedule for tasks. We constantly strive to find each other’s strengths and make sure we take full advantage of those, while we each also compensate for the other person’s weaknesses, like most married couples do.

  7. My husband has ADD and we joke that he’s an 85%er. He does well starting and progressing into a task and then when he’s allllllmost done, he walks away and starts something new. This can be super frustrating, but I’ve also had to stop and turn my thinking around and say to myself – hey! I only had to do 15% of the work! Number 3 is a great point because my husband is a champion grocery shopper! As long as I make him a list he will go to the store for me (usually early in the morning). Not only does he get that task (which I LOATHE!) done for me, he usually does so under budget! He can think on the fly about price comparison in the store MUCH better than I can – oh, and he doesn’t have the toddler with him when he goes. :) He’s also really great at helping move my tasks along. Say I start laundry before I go to bed – as long as I have the next load or two sorted and ready to go – I will often wake up to several clean loads of laundry ready to be folded! It’s the monotonous tasks like sorting, folding, and putting away that he doesn’t seem to have patience for. He’s more driven by progress. Hope this helps! My guys has never been diagnosed. He’s in the generation right before they started diagnosing and treating ADD. His symptoms are so strong though, it’s virtually undeniable. Never a dull moment around here!! 😀

  8. My DH has ADD as well, and I’m a special education teacher, so I work with ADD children every day. We’ve definitely learned to compensate at home. I’m super-neat, and he is not. He’s the “fun” in our marriage and I’m the practicality. Yes, sometimes things don’t get done and that annoys me. I often use emails as reminders, and sometimes, I end up nagging. But he’s so creative and we have completed projects in our house that are super-cool and unique. I have found that if I want to get something done, sometimes I just need to do it myself. That being said, DH is great about doing the housework that I hate. He remembers to vacuum, takes out the garbage, and cooks for us (granted, he uses every dish/pot/pan/utensil in the kitchen, but dinner is REALLY good!).
    My husband does take medication for ADD, but that is by his choice. He has found that he does better at work when he takes meds. At home, he has learned to compensate by trying to put his keys, cell phone, watch, and wallet in the same places every day. I try not to move his things because then he can’t find them again. I am a list-user, and he has started to depend on my lists to remember things (especially for groceries and errands).
    As for children – I’ve found that some children with identified ADD really do need medication in order to be able to learn compensatory strategies, and some do not. It depends on the severity of the ADD, parental support, and often, whether or not the child has other learning difficulties. Personally, I’m an advocate of medication, but on a case-to-case basis. I’ve worked with students with ADD who definitely needed medication, and their confidence and abilities soared once they started taking it, and I’ve worked with students who made excellent growth and were able to learn strategies without the medication. A diagnosis of ADD doesn’t mean medication.
    The brain research behind ADD shows that the disorder is actually slowed firing of the neurotransmitters in the portions of the brain that controls attention. This is why the medication is a stimulant – it speeds up the brain. It often drives me crazy that people will willingly treat other disorders and medical diagnoses, but write off ADD as something the medical field made up. This tends to be one of my soapboxes, so sorry if this isn’t relevant.
    I agree with some of the other responders – as a married couple, you learn to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Sometimes, you just need to ask how you can help and what you can do. There are some good books out there on living with Adult ADD, and it might be a good idea to read a few. They provide some perspective and support for the spouse of someone with ADD. There are also many websites that provide strategies that the spouse can use to help and that the person with ADD can use as well.

    • Yes, Amanda, I agree. Some need medication; some do not. The difference is whether it is a neurotransmitter based condition, or whether it honestly is a learned behaviour/parenting issue. The vast majority of consults that most pediatricians get are of the latter kind. But that does not mean that the former does not exist. And for many, medication is a godsend, just as glasses help people with poor eyesight or blood thinners help people with high blood pressure.

      • ButterflyWings says:

        I personally am considering ADD medication after my baby is born (because my struggles with attention annoy my husband and because I LIKE the side effects – I need to sleep less and the less desire to eat would counteract my hormonal condition) and because dex has been proven to also treat depression (although not licensed for that use here in Australia yet) and helpful with chronic fatigue.

        My best friend takes it for depression and as a side effect has lost a heap of weight (something she desperately needed before it killed her) and my sister takes it for ADD and it has helped her attention deficit immensely, helped her to not gain weight despite her atrocious diet and helps somewhat with her depression.

        So yes, medications can make a world of difference to some people, hence why I’m considering it after I have baby and stop breastfeeding. But it’s definitely a last resort. Unfortuantely I’ve tried everything else and nothing works. But I fought strongly for my daughter not to be put on medication – because quite frankly in my judgment as both her mother and a medical professional, she doesn’t need it. all she need is social skills therapy and understanding adults in her life. Since her abusive father left her life, her attention improved immensely, and social skills therapy has greatly improved her other issues. medications would have actually made her most troubling symptoms worse and done little for the ones they are supposed to treat.

  9. My hubby has severe ADHD, undiagnosed until we had been married for almost four years. One thing that has really helped us avoid the nagging factor is me making a list. He prefers I make a list so that he knows what needs to get done that day without me telling him verbally. For some reason, the list is the difference between helpful and nagging for him and that’s just fine with me!

    Another thing that really helps him feel less difficulty with symptoms is to go to the gym every morning. Even if he needs to get up super early, if he goes to the gym, he focuses better the rest of the day and sleeps easier at night. Plus, he can avoid the medication because the exercise manages the symptoms for him.

  10. Oh my, I’m IN THIS. My husband also has ADD and is bi-polar. Medication is a big help, but not a magic bullet. Though he’s never been diagnosed, I suspect there is also some Fetal Alcohol Affect in the mix, too. He struggles with managing his time (chronically late), space (clutter!), and money (where did it go?). He is prone to moodiness, and to making mountains out of molehills.

    Charyse just mentioned the thing that helps him most – regular exercise. Without it he is bouncing off the walls and a bundle of stress. Encourage your ADD husband to exercise regularly and he’ll probably be more focused. He’ll certainly be happier and more relaxed.

    I’m a detail person, and it can be hard for me to step back and see the big picture, but Sheila has already helped with that! I see two main things:

    1. Look for the positives, and not just the liabilities.

    While I can (negatively) see that my ADD husband is disorganized, chronically late, and often forgetful, I can (positively) see that he is creative (and architect), fun (always has stuff to do with the boys) and very social.

    2. Distinguish between behaviors that are merely irritating and those that are actual sin.

    The second point is a little trickier to work through, and a counselor – an impartial, godly advisor – has been a huge help. I’ve had to evaluate things very carefully.

    While his cluttery tendencies drive me nuts, it’s not actually a sin issue, so we’ve compromised: the house is mine, and his office and the garage are his. I rarely even go in there, if I can help it. It’s something I can let go of (mostly!)

    His distraction and forgetfulness is kind of a gray area. Certainly it’s not a deliberate sin (!) but it can hurt the rest of us as well as himself. He needs a “secretary”, as Sheila said, but I don’t want to feel like I’m parenting him and nor does he. One thing the counselor suggested to us is to give him ownership of that. For instance, if he needs to pick up one of the kids at a certain time (and I’m concerned that he’ll forget, and leave the kid stranded) I can say to him, “Are you ON IT, or do you want me to remind you?” That way, he can acknowledge his need for a reminder, but he’s in control of it.

    On the other hand, there are things that he definitely needs to acknowledge and amend, like keeping his word. A man of God keeps his word, and this (may or may not be related to ADD, or maybe unique to my husband?) is a big challenge for him.

    I think that to him, everything in his world is fluid and in motion, so how can anyone nail down anything solid? If he says he’ll be somewhere at 8, well 8:45 is close enough, right? Wrong. Clutter may drive me nuts, but it’s not a sin issue. Not keeping your word is a huge character issue. Our counselor has been helping hold him accountable for this.

    But further, if I were to add one more…

    3. Look to the future.

    I don’t know the biology of ADD (genetic?) but it seems to run in families, so consider your children. For the sake of our sons I want to do everything I can to help them succeed. Primarily that means setting up a very structured and orderly home – not rigid, but predictable. I do my best to make my expectations (along with any consequences) clear and consistent. Homeschooling has been a HUGE blessing in this regard. My boys do NOT have to sit quietly at a desk for hours on end 😀

    Hope that helps 😀

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  11. No ADD advice from me. My husband shifts between distraction and hyper-focus, but ADD and ADHD run strong in my family so for me it is just normal life :) What I wanted to ask is whether or not highlights of answers to the question of the week could be posted as a separate post another day. I usually read the question before there are many answers and forget to come back even when the question would be useful to me. (Perhaps disabling the comments for the day and posting the best responses would help the problem of inappropriate comments or fights for more controversial subjects.) Take it or leave as you like it. Thanks for all the great work you do!!!

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Jenny could your husband have ASD? that is shifting between attention deficit and hyper focus is a very strong sign of ASD.

      It’s interesting in my household as both my husband and daughter (not his biologically) are diagnosed ASD and I am undiagnosed but nearly definitely have it. So when you have a household of people who are easily distracted but can get hyper focussed on something, it can lead to a wild and interesting house. But we get there in the end.

    • Jenny, thank you for that idea! I like it. Let me think about how best to do it.

  12. My hubby has untreated/diagnosed ADD (well, probably ADHD), and it occasionally causes problems simply because he can’t sit still. Constantly drumming or shaking his leg or something like that. Which I understand, but when we’re out at dinner or something it’s a bit of a problem.

    But I wanted to ask, is ADD/ADHD something that makes people act childish as well? I swear my husband is not 24, he’s 12. And it’s getting to be a problem. I constantly feel like his mother, not his wife. “Honey, don’t do that at the table.” “No, that’s a bad idea.” “Why are you washing the car in the rain?”

    I’m probably going off on a tangent, but I need some opinions besides my parents, because my mom is so worried that I’m going to grow resentful and divorce him that I’m afraid to tell her anything wrong. And I don’t try to complain to her, but I don’t know how to approach some situations. I’ve tried being very gentle and saying, “This is working, how can we fix it?”, but he gets all defensive, and it’s always about his job. He works in a factory, which is 100% fine. He loves his job, and he’s good at it. But he works every Saturday (by choice usually, for the overtime pay), and I know he can do so much more. I feel like he’s taking the gifts God has given him and tossing them out the window. He’s got the mind and the curiosity to be and engineer or even more, but he “doesn’t like school” and doesn’t want to go to school. So he just stays the bottom-of-the-rung guy because it’s enough. With us both working we’re making it just fine, but some day I want children, and I very much want to stay home with them, and I don’t see that happening. Any advice? Help?

    Wow….this had almost nothing to do with the actual post. Sorry about that. But I’m sure his ADHD is part of his school-related hatred….

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Hi Katie, I just wanted to say something that I hope doesn’t offend.

      Can I ask why his shaking or drumming when out to dinner is a problem? If he had parkinsons would you find it a problem too? people with ADHD (and ASD and a bunch of other neurological conditions) can control that little more than a person with parkinsons can. Is it a problem because he knocks things over? I can see that would be a problem. Or is it just a problem because other people looking at him funny? Because honestly if that’s the “problem”, it shouldn’t be a problem for you. It is only a problem for the rude jerks staring at him.

      Having an 11 year old with special needs, I quickly came to realise that she is not the problem, that the problem isn’t mine either – if people are uncomfortable with her autistic behaviours, then honestly – the problem lies with them! People need to far more tolerant of people who are different and have special needs.

      If your husband’s behaviour becomes an actual problem (eg the tapping leads him to be noisy in a hospital waiting room for example where quiet is required), then there are ways to deal with it. You’ll never be able to force a person with neurological conditions to stop this repetitive behaviour, but they can get professional help to guide it into something that is less bothersome when they are stressed. I personally am a tapper – when I’m stressed, I’ll tap things without even realising. It used to drive my parents absolutely nuts, so I learnt to do it in a quiet way – if I’m stressed, instead of tapping a table with my hand, I’ll tap my thigh instead – it’s totally quiet, and if I’m at a table, no one can see it unless they are practically standing close enough to touch me.

      I’m sure he does do some childish things, maybe more so than the average person, but maybe some of the things he perceives as childish are just that his brain is wired differently and they make perfect sense to him. the washing the car in the rain comes to mind – I know someone who ALWAYS does this. Does it seem crazy? on the surface, yes! But if you stopped and asked him (as I did one day) he explained…. we have had strict water restrictions for years, he believed in water conservation, so what better way to wash his car than take advantage of the time God gives us glorious rain? I think he is a little weird, but so am I – everyone is at least a little bit weird, nobody thinks exactly like anyone else in the entire world. We are all unique.

      Maybe don’t assume he’s being childish and just outright ask him why he’s doing something that seems illogical when in reality, he’s just thinking outside the box. Then again, maybe he is just being childish… some guys can be immature. But while I honestly believe we all do some immature things, if genuinely has ADHD, he may genuinely not be being childish, he may just do things different from you (and from most people). My husband has ASD, and while sometimes he does the weirdest things, 90% of the time when I ask him why he is doing it, it makes perfect sense – it’s just not how anyone else would do it. And even I do that a lot – I used to drive my school teachers nuts because I’d get the correct answer but they could never follow how I got the answer – when I was in my final year at school, I got zero on an assignment because my maths teacher thought I was wrong because I’d tackled the assignment a different way from everyone else in the class and anyone he had ever taught. After getting my mum (who is a maths teacher too) to go in and explain my work, he gave me an A+ and said it was one of the best assignments he had ever seen. He had marked me wrong, because my work was so far advanced that he needed explaining it and he’d never had another student who had been advanced enough to attempt it that way. (and he was a smart guy, don’t get me wrong about that – once my mum explained to him what I’d done, he did understand it).

      Maybe your husband is like that – his brain works in totally diffrent ways from most people. It might seem like his actions are wrong and childish and failing, but when in reality if you give him a chance to explain, they might actually even be a better way of doing things.

      Or maybe he is just childish. But work with him, talk to him, get him to explain his reasoning (which might not be easy for a person with ADHD sometimes), and you might be surprised and find he’s not being childish at all.

      And finally, why do you feel he’s wasting what God has given him? Sure he could be engineer or more, but what if he hated it? what if it turned him into a grumpy bitter person who hated getting up every morning because it would mean going to a job he despised? God gives us lots of talents that we can’t possibly hope to squeeze into using them all in our working life. Have you asked your husband how he feels? what if he feels God has honestly led him to the job he is now in? Work isn’t about earning the most money or having the most prestigious career possible. It’s about being willing to be where God wants us. If your husband was an engineer but the heavy workload and his employment meant he never had an opportunity to bring a non christian to Christ, wouldn’t it be better to be in a low paying factory job if that job meant lots of opportunities to evangelise? And how does one determine waste?

      12 years later, my mother still attacks me because according to her I am “wasting” my talents by being a nurse and not a doctor. But I know beyond a doubt, God wants me to be a nurse not a doctor – and I was shocked when I realised this. I had spent the first 21 years of my life thinking I was going to be a doctor. Even at 25 when I began studying nursing, I only saw it as a temporary thing before getting back on with my “real career” but when I began nursing, I realised it was exactly what God wants for me. Yes my friends who I did my undergrad degree with who went on to do medicine (which is a postgrad degree here) are all earning $100K a year now and have very prestigious positions and yes they do help people, but nursing is what God has called me to. You don’t meet many nurses with three university degrees, who gave up a place in medicine and have an IQ that easily gets them into mensa, but do I care? NO. I am doing what God wants me to do.

      Nursing helps people as much as doctors do, and nurses get to do what doctors don’t – they get to spend real time with people instead of seeing people briefly for a few minutes. Nurses are the ones who get far more opportunities to share their faith. And for practical reasons, I fell ill after my daughter was born, and my first husband had a mental breakdown. there is no way I could have studied medicine (which, when you include group assignments etc, involved 12 hours a day, 6 days a week on campus plus home study time) while dealing with that family stuff. And nursing has allowed me to follow my true calling – of being a mother. Yes some of my old classmates who are now doctors have kids, but they have to work 40 hours a week and are on call for much longer. they are exhausted and barely see their kids. whereas with my nursing, my study was all while my daughter was at school, and I’ve at times been able to drop down to working just one day a week – something a doctor would never be able to and expect to keep their job. And with my ongoing health problems, I could not handle the stress involved in being a doctor. Yes I grow tired of mother still attacking me at every opportunity for “wasting my God given talents” but I feel I am using my God given talents far better as a nurse than I ever could as a doctor

      Maybe your husband stays with his job because he feels that is the place where he can do the most for God. Maybe he stays because he realises he’s not cut out for the stress of a high impact job like an engineer (I have family members who are and it can incredibly stressful and working very long hours, far more than he is working now). Maybe he just feels like me, he can do more good where is now. Or maybe he knows just how much he’d bitterly hate being something like an engineer and doesn’t want to risk becoming an angry bitter person doing a job he hates. Or maybe it’s a sensible solution in a financial climate where high paid jobs are often the first ones to be cut, maybe it’s hard for engineers to find work where you live and he’d rather work a low paying job than gamble with being unemployed trying to find a higher paying one.

      The solution is to be honest with him and outright ask him why he doesn’t want to change careers. Ask him directly what he believes God is telling him he should do. If he answers he b elieves God is telling him to stay where he is now, pray over it with him, and accept it.

      I know you are worried about being able to afford kids, but God will make a way. When my daughter was born, my first husband was only working around 10 hours a week in a minimum wage job and I was too sick to go back to work. A few months after she was born, he was fired and was totally unemployed. We were very poor, but I made sure my daughter never went without (despite him having a huge drug habit that meant I went without a lot). But if it weren’t for his drug habit, we could have made ends meet on government assistance without going without essentials. It means sacrificing a lot of things worldly people see as “essential”, but in western countries, unless you have complicating factors (for us it was his drug use and for me massive medical costs), basically anyone can afford kids. Even in the lowest paying full time job for dad, and mum staying at home with the kids – it is possible to have all the essentials as long as money isn’t being squandered on addiction or mismanagement, or needed for expensive medical costs. and even then, you find a way to survive.

      I know you’re worried. I’m pregnant and my husband has the same fears as you – that unless I find work (and I’m trying to ease his mind although he’d rather I was able to stay at home too), we’re going to have financial difficulties with two children and my medical costs – but I have faith in God that since He has miraculously provided us with this pregnancy (I thought I would never be able to conceive with all the health problems I have including my womb being badly scarred from complications of my daughter’s birth), that He will also find a way to provide for us. And my husband has full time job, we will have the essentials even if we won’t have any luxuries at all, and we will survive and we will be thankful to God for it.

      I know the tendency to worry – I’m a huge worry wart most of the time. But with the miracle of this pregnancy, that worrying about everything has passed for now (hopefully forever). We follow the God of miracles, the God of the universe who is big enough to be bigger than the whole universe but also knows every single subatomic particle in the universe.

      Talk things over with your husband, pray together, try to find understanding of how your husand thinks, find out if he believes he is following God’s will for his life particularly when it comes to career, find someone within your church – your pastor or a women’s ministry leader or female elder if you feel more comfortable with a woman – and talk over with them about your worries and fears. And pray, pray, pray on your own as well. If you honestly feel God is calling your husband to something more than he is doing now, gently tell him this – but only after huge amounts of prayer and speaking to a pastor or leader within your church to make sure you’re not mixing up your own desires with God’s voice.

      And remember – there is a season for everything. Maybe this is your husband’s season to stay where he is. He’s only 24 That’s only a wee young thing. I didn’t start my nursing degree til I was 25 and didn’t start paid work as a nurse til I was 29. Maybe if you leave your husband alone and don’t nag him about the issue, in several years time when he is more mature and more confident and less fearful of studying, he may want to go to college and study engineering. But he might not feel that way if constantly pushed. Sometimes we have to step back and let our husbands mature on their own without trying to force them into the mould that we see for them

      Anyway, sorry about the super long post. Your post touched something in me and I felt it was important to share all this. I hope some of it is of at least some help. I know how hard it is to be married to a man who doesn’t earn much (my whole first marriage was like that) and I know the frustations being married to men who are “different”, who have neurological differences like ADD and ASD. It takes great patience and great love. And it takes great self control not to try and force them into being more like us and more like what society decides is “normal”. It’s not easy at all, and it’s something I struggle with, especially when those close to me mistake my husband’s autistic behaviours for rudeness, it can be incredibly painful. Yes we can gently guide them, especially if their behaviour isn’t socially acceptable, but we cannot change that our husbands are different to the averager person. And I’d rather take my husband as he is now than change him to being just like an average man.

      I’ll be praying for you and your husband tonight. The only other thing I can say is maybe consider seeking a christian counsellor together to raise the issues that he gets defensive about in a “safe” environment. Counselling is finally starting to help my husband’s and my marriage but it may take trying several counsellors to find one you both feel comfortable with. Even good marriages can benefit from counselling.

      Good luck and God bless.

      • Wow…That’s a lot to ponder on. But it is what I needed to hear. I take offense to none of it, and I really appreciate that you were willing to give me such a fantastic answer when it was mostly nothing to do with the actual blog post topic.

        I’m going to try and respond to each section so I don’t miss anything. When I say I think he’s ADHD, what I mean is he was on Ridalin (or however it’s spelled) as a child, but it stopped working. He has this weird ability to become immune to medications after a couple of weeks if he wants to. So after that nothing was done. So he has this constant need to be moving, thus the leg shaking/drumming, etc. The reason it’s a problem at the table (mostly out to eat rather than at home) is because he’s a big guy. Like muscle-y big. So if he’s shaking his leg up and down, the whole floor shakes with him. Same with drumming on the table. But I really like the idea of drumming on his thigh or something. That might actually work. Thanks!

        When I say he “washed” the car in the rain, I mean he took a washcloth (a good one, but that was my fault) and wiped all the dirt and mud off of it, and it seemed crazy because after it rains here with pollen and dust it’s just a dirty car again. But it’s mostly just the part of my brain saying “That’s idiotic and people will talk.” What people? No people will talk, I just need to get over it. A personal struggle I’ve fought for years. Working on that.

        His brain absolutely works differently. He was the same way in his math classes. In fact, he used to look at the board, figure the problem in his head, and then pretend to be asleep at his desk so they’d actually call on him for once, but he always has done math problems in a totally different way from everyone else. He had a teacher tell another teacher “His method is weird but he always gets it right, so just let him do it.”

        About his talents: I know that whenever (whether in Bible class or small groups or a sermon) if the passage about using your talents for God comes up, he does sort of feel guilty and ask me what I think he needs to be doing with his mind he was given. Anymore I can’t answer him because I know it will probably just upset him. And he does try and evangelize while he’s at work. And I love him for that. I am proud of him for doing that. And I don’t think he has to be an engineer specifically, but any time he’s had a dream of what he wanted to do, he’d back down. I’m the kind of person that once a decision is made, I will start taking steps toward that decision to make it happen. But then he sort of freaks out and is done.

        As an example, he had mentioned wanting to join the National Guard. When he first told me (and the next few years after that whenever he brought it up) I was adamantly against it because I was scared. I didn’t want left alone that long, and what if the worst…..? But last year something stirred in me, and I decided to get on the website for the Guard and do some research. I felt God was telling me to let go and give him this chance. So I told him that if he still wanted to do that, I would stand by him 100%. And he was really excited! He started working out like crazy to get ready for the test and everything. But 1 obstacle came up and he backed down. It was a simple thing, he just had to wait until a certain requirement for the Guard changed (which happens all the time according to the recruiter), but he was done. He had told me he always wanted to help people and that’s why he wanted to join. Now his reason is “Well, I just wanted them to get me into my top physical shape, and that’s not a good reason to do it so I don’t want to”.

        I sound like I’m complaining again. No trying to, just making an example. And this has happened repeatedly since then. He’ll say “I’ve thought about doing XYZ, but I didn’t think you’d like it” and then I do a little research, give him info, and he gets upset like I”m forcing him to change jobs again, when I’m just trying to help him with something he said he’d like to do. It’s very confusing…

        I also have family pressure with having kids. My mom (whom I’ve always been very close to) is constantly telling me we’re not ready because he’s still a kid. And it’s hard fighting my own desires, wanting to defend him, but still feeling like she’s right. Especially when I work with my parents. I’m scared of having kids whether I keep working (daycare prices…eek!) or not because maybe were are too immature, unprepared (is anyone ever prepared for that?).

        I do need to get my own relationship with God back on track. I reached a point where reading my Bible was difficult and he always says our night-time prayer, so I’ve stopped praying every night. I think I need some time just me and God to help.

        I’ll try and hold back my frustrations with his (probable) ADHD, and try the thigh-drumming thing. I may also get him a stress squishy ball thing to fiddle with.

        Thanks again for all your input. And your prayers. I feel blessed that someone saw my post and had familiar issues and felt compelled to share.

        And I do want to make it clear, I love my husband very much. We were together nearly 4 years (all of college) before we got married, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Are there things I wish were different? Yes. (A suit and tie that fit are very attractive after all ;D) But I know there are a lot of things I need to fix in my heart too.

        And sorry to everyone for two long posts in a row!

        • ButterflyWings says:

          I totally understand the career thing. Maybe encourage your husband to see a counsellor about it. It sounds like there is definitely some anxiety to it. I know how he feels – I cancelled a job interview last week after a panic attack. It can be so hard when you lack confidence.

          My husband used to be like yours before I met him. He’s an incredibly smart guy, started at uni and then tossed it in because he lacked the self esteem. It annoyed his parents no end because they knew he had the capability of doing so much more than the job he started doing instead. Not that there was anything wrong with the job he was doing, and honestly if he had continuing doing it, it wouldn’t change what I thought of him or our relationship (only where we are living now as he moved interstate for his career change). But he really wasn’t using his talents.

          But I do know his mum was very wise in not pushing him. Instead she built up his self esteem, encouraged him, let him know what a great person was and if he wanted, he could do something more advanced than what he was doing. And with lots of encouragement and prayer and no nagging or pushing, he eventually returned to uni and finished his degree and got a great job.

          I think there are always costs – for us, the cost was he moved interstate less than 6 months after we met, had a long distance relationship for several years, and now we both live far away from our families and friends which can be tough.

          I know it can be tough when you can see that someone can do so much more with their life (I feel the same about my youngest brother and sister in particular), but all we can do encourage and pray. Even when we know God wants our spouse to do something and they aren’t prepared to do it (yet), it’s the same as introducing someone to God… all we can do is gently tell them, encourage them and pray – we can’t make the decision for them. God will push them, but it’s not our job.

          Do you go to a women’s bible study group at all? Or can you go on a women’s retreat? Maybe those might help you with getting some you and God time.

          I know the desire to have kids. After my daughter was born, I longed for another child but my first husband couldn’t handle the child we had, let alone another. There were times I’d cry the longing for another child was so big. I honestly believed I’d never have the chance to have another child. I knew biologically having another was going to be extremely hard at best, but I thought I’d never even have another chance to try as my first husband got more and more abusive after our daughter’s birth, and I knew I could never bring another child into that. I never thought I’d get divorced, and I never thought I’d date again, and certainly never thought I’d remarry. But now we’re expecting our miracle baby – after being told I probably couldn’t conceive naturally, I am still amazed even now a month after finding out.

          I know when you long for a child and circumstances seem to look like it won’t happen any time soon, or even at all, but God can change things for us in a blink of an eye. Maybe your husband will reach the point where my husband and did just wake up one day and realise that he wants to change career paths. Allowing things to change for you to feel ok to have children with him.

          But if it helps… I don’t think anyone is truly ready for a baby until after they already have one. My poor husband was terrified that after we got married and he became a father to a 10 year old in one day that he was going to make a mess of it. But I think actually becoming a father (and a mother) instantly matures most people. My first husband was an exception, but my second husband has just gone from strength to strength in becoming a father. I don’t know if it’s because they both have aspergers and are so very similar in personality, but I think he has far more patience with my daughter than I do. I had plenty of faith he’d be an adequate father, but he instantly became a fantastic father.

          As long as his heart is with God, I’m sure your husband will make a fantastic father when the time is right. Even if he seems a little immature, sometimes the seemingly childish dads make great dads because they are the ones who can play with the children on that kind of child level which can be a welcome break from us super serious mums.

          And trust me… all throughout your posts people can see you love your husband very much. I adore mine even though he can drive me absolutely nuts sometimes. Marriage is always a work in progress. We’re only 8 months in and we’ve had our major arguments and needed counselling and we do still struggle in certain particular areas, and we both have habits that drive each other up the wall, but with counselling, great support from our church and simple dogged determination to make things work, we both love each other very much and hope to spend a very long time together.

          One final suggestion, maybe search around to see if there are any support groups near you for partners of people with developmental conditions. I found it helpful to join a support group for partners of people with ASD. Just make sure the group is truly about support and not just about tearing the partners down. There is a fine line between seeking support amongst people who understand, and badmouthing a partner. I’ve been lucky to find a group that is supportive and are open without it being attacking of their partners.

          Thinking of you mate 😉

          • Thanks so much for understanding. I don’t think I’ve found anyone who has the same-sounding problems/difficulties as I’ve had with this before. I think I will try and make my focus to be lots of prayers for neon signs of direction (which got us to the place we are now!) and trying to encourage him in whatever he does.

            I don’t really do any women’s Bible studies, because the one that my church has is at like 10am on Tuesdays, so of course only retired women and SAHMs are able to go. When I was in high school I went to a weekend retreat called Chrysalis, and it really set me on fire for God. I even worked the next “flight”. It was amazing. And they have an adult version called “Walk to Emmaus”, and they have a men’s walk and women’s walk (so spouses don’t go together and distract each other). I might try and look into that.

            As for kiddos, I’m actually at a place now where I’m not in “Super Baby Fever” mode anymore. We bought our first house a month ago, and I’ve enjoyed just having the freedom to go do whatever with my hubby without worrying about kiddos (just our dog, and she’s lazy anyway). But we are in a place right now where we’re running 100 miles per hour just to do everything with Vacation Bible School and Youth Camp that we’re active in. So now that those are over, hopefully things will settle down soon.

            God has a plan for my family, and I’m just going to have to figure out how to give up my strangle-hold on everything and let Him handle it.

            Thanks again for your encouragement. It’s a welcome change from most people not really understanding or looking down on my hubby for his childishness. :)

  13. I like the CEO-Secretary split idea! My hubby will make 5 extra trips to the dollar store & work on my car & fix something broken….before he’d ever put his clothes away or empty the dishwasher. Yet that’s when I get frustrated…when he doesn’t do THOSE things. I guess it’s because I HATE doing them, so I want help or at least someone to take their turn so I don’t have to do it as often. I’m learning…slowly, to give him jobs HE likes…even if it’s not getting rid of one I don’t…and either way, I have LESS to do! The kids are getting in on it too! My 11 yr old will do any laundry related task, while my 9 yr old likes the dishes. Well, they dislike those chores the least, let’s be honest! So it’s working. The 4 yr old just wants her room clean, so it’s one less room! She’ll trash the kitchen or living room, no problem though! This blog keeps me going some days. Gives me food for thought when the hubby has just driven me bonkers & I want the kids to just sit & twiddle their thumbs rather than speak to me! Thanks!

  14. My husband has ADD and it has been a learning process for me because he is a high energy extrovert while I am an introvert. I have found that it helps to go with what he wants to do. For example, he is great at washing up dishes and fixing breakfast . He is also the timekeeper for me. And he is really motivated when he has a project to do. I am kind of bad about nagging about somethings, especially bills, but it helps a lot if he puts reminders in his phone. Also, when he continues to chat and chat with people and I am ready to go, we have come up with a signal: a pat on the back or arm and he knows I’m ready.

  15. Just skimming some of these responses makes me think there must be degrees to how ADD a person is because my husband’s ADD is leading us to a divorce. Being married to a person with ADD is like being married to a teenager … they are capable of being helpful but often cannot think beyond themselves to be of assistance unless being told to do so. I resent my husband very much. When he was working I tolerated things better because he had a legitimate excuse for not being as helpful and when I didn’t have a regular job I saw it as my duty to use my time to do things around the house that needed to be done. I started my own business 10 yrs ago and it didn’t make money for the first 6 yrs. I am a biomechanical engineer and he is a textile engineer. I last worked as an engineer in 2005 when I was laid off. But I kept working flipping houses and growing my business (which is not related to engineering). I couldn’t get another job as engineer but he nagged me about that as if I wasn’t trying hard enough. I still made money and worked very hard. He’s been laid off several times in the last 5 yrs. When he was laid off 4 yrs ago my business only had $35K per year in sales. He proceeded to become an alcoholic while he was out of work for 1.5 yrs and I worked my but off to make the business grow. Four yrs later and my business now has 1 million in sales. It took lots of hard work and calculated investments into the business which honestly my husband was against as he doesn’t like change. We had to add a 1200 sf garage and buy some expensive equipment, which he was against even though we had the money to do it … just afraid of change. Now he doesn’t question what I want to do anymore as I have more than proved myself. He is no longer an alcoholic because once I discovered it I told him I would kick him out.

    I pay for a maid to clean once a week and do the laundry. I have a chef cook meals for us each week to take the load off of me. My husband doesn’t work anymore. He tries to help with the business but can’t keep track of inventory very well and causes arguments with that. I’ve had to nag him to do yard work and just organize his stuff. I begged him for over a year to clean and organize the garage and when I finally decided to hire someone to do it, he ran them off because he didn’t want to pay them $40/hr to do it. So I ended up having to do that too because his idea of organizing is to dump everything into one large bin to get it off the table. He basically just creates piles of stuff that he moves around but never actually organizes anything where you could find it.

    He constantly wants to go to school events, or coach the kids in a sport, or take the kids places, or go swimming with them, etc but doesn’t realize that because he won’t help me in just the everyday chores around the house, I don’t have the time to spend with the kids. I would like to but someone has to be the ADULT. I’ve threatened to divorce him which he didn’t take seriously until we went to a counselor and she told him she sees divorce as likely. He believes her but not me … like he didn’t see a problem until someone else acknowledged that they saw it too.

    I’ve begged him to write a daily to-do list. I’ve given him audio tapes on how to keep on track and organize. He starts things but NEVER finishes them. I will work all night if I have to finish something. I’m to the point now where I want him to get a job somewhere else … even if it is stocking groceries… just so that I don’t resent him. I’ll just use the money he makes to pay for yard maintenance, etc. But he doesn’t want to get a job and he is refusing to give me a divorce. He keeps saying he’ll do better but I have little patience for him now.

    Had I known then what I know now, I never would have married him. I want a partner … not a grown kid. He takes medication but it doesn’t seem to help much. He is so absent minded that it has actually been dangerous. He recently helped me back the truck up to our enclosed trailer so that I could go to Lowes to pick up some building material. He hooked the trailer on but didn’t think to hook the wiring and the safety chains on. I found out after a person behind me came to a screeching halt as I stopped at a red light at night and the trailer had no lights on it. I was infuriated. There really is no excuse for how oblivious he is to what he needs to do. I consider him lazy and self centered with ADD being used as an excuse.

    I didn’t go searching for this thread on ADD but a friend forwarded it to me. I’m not posting this asking for advice but just to let others, who may have it as bad as I do, know that they aren’t the only one. There is nothing more I can do to help him. I can do something to help ME but after 12 yrs I know that only he can decide to change. I’m fairly confident if he doesn’t get a job elsewhere we’ll end up divorced and it will be a mess because he won’t make it easy. It’s not about the money. It’s about him doing his fair share so that I can relax too. He can get a job to pay for people to do the work around the house that he should do. Maybe I sound spoiled because we do make a lot of money but I work constantly it seems and I don’t want to work all the time. If he won’t help me do the work then he should earn some money to pay for the help I need that he COULD do but won’t. Otherwise I would rather he get his own place and keep it as messy as he wants it. He can be as lazy as he wants to be on HIS OWN. Being on my own will be better than now because at least I won’t be picking up after him or enabling him.

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  1. […] I hear you. I can just imagine living in that chaos! I wrote a while ago about husbands and ADD, and this may help: When Your Husband has ADD […]

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