relationships + college + work + ADD = bad news
February 1, 2012 10:09 PM   Subscribe

How can I better manage and balance and save my relationship, college, and work along with my ADD?

I'm having trouble managing my relationship with my SO, college, and working part time. Also I've been officially diagnosed with ADD within the past year or so and have been taking medication (Adderall XR) for it.

My SO and I have been living together since the beginning of my fall semester this year in college. While it's great spending time with my SO, I've been slacking off on my part of doing the housework [cleaning, dishes, cooking, laundry] which is causing a rift between us. I'm currently a full time college student and working part time at my university [at school for 35 hours a week], so usually when I return from classes/work, it's been at least 8 hours, I nap for a bit before starting my assignments.

SO has been constantly reminding me that I am not doing my share of the work, and while I'm trying my hardest and SO acknowledges that, it's not enough for my SO.

I believe part of the problem is having ADD/ADHD inattentive, which comes the procrastination, forgetting things, getting frustrated easily and being impulsive and being irresponsible for my actions, which in turn makes SO frustrated at myself because SO needs to pick up my slack and most recently, lost my SO trust because of an impulsive action that occurred.

What can I change or do differently that will be more effective in being a more useful part of the household my SO and I share? Any tips in managing my ADD besides medication?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Is your SO working as much as you do (college or otherwise) and are you doing as much as he does (and vice-versa, is he matching your housework)?

Honestly, it's hard to tell from your OP, but as long as the house is being cleaned at all (that is, you're not a slob), then he ought to cut you some slack. Even without ADHD, full time studying plus part time working can be very stressing to say the least, so have you tried to explain this to him?
posted by Trexsock at 10:21 PM on February 1, 2012

I am in a similar boat (28 hrs/week work, school, lots of commute time, ADHD) and, honestly, purlguy just accepts that he will do more housework than I do. My main responsibility is to prep dinner and leftovers at least 5/7 evenings/week. We both acknowledge that my schedule would be difficult enough for someone *without* ADHD to manage. Purlguy says that he is okay as long as he can see that I'm trying my best, and following through on promises (he would rather that I limit my commitments to him and actually follow through, as opposed to promising more that I won't necessarily be able to do). Feel free to memail if you want.
posted by purlgurly at 10:22 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does your SO actually "believe in" ADHD? You may need to do some gentle education if not.
posted by purlgurly at 10:28 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get a checklist. Mutually agree on the checklist. Do the checklist.

Can't really make any internal or external excuses then.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:29 PM on February 1, 2012

"Get a checklist. Mutually agree on the checklist. Do the checklist."

Just wanted to point out that a checklist is not always useful. I've tried using them several times in the past and even with a list on hand, I eventually end up getting sidetracked and not doing what I should: which also means that when I go back to the checklist, I have spent too much time doing something else and don't have enough time to finish my proper tasks.
posted by Trexsock at 10:51 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

when I return from classes/work, it's been at least 8 hours, I nap for a bit before starting my assignments.

I'm a little concerned about this. If 8 hours of work and school make you tired enough to require a nap in the evenings, I think that's unusual and worth looking into as a possible issue. How's your sleep in general? Because inadequate rest can really, really exacerbate ADD and disrupt all kinds of things in your life.
posted by decathecting at 10:54 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have anxiety and ADD, so am in a somewhat different situation, but seeing a therapist has really helped me with staying on top of things in general.

Also, my Adderall frequently makes me not be hungry (and therefore forget to eat), and not eating can really really really take a toll on my ability to get shit done. Could this be exacerbating things for you too?
posted by naturalog at 11:11 PM on February 1, 2012

If your partner is working on the apartment while you're napping, that could be part of what's bugging them. It drives me up the wall when I'm cleaning/doing chores while my partner is playing video games/procrastinating on his chores.
posted by spunweb at 11:58 PM on February 1, 2012

One thing I've found to be really helpful is to have both partners clearly state what their expectations are, and to (if possible) invest in the tools to make it work. Like, I'm not good at planning to cook on days I'm working -- so we got a crock pot with a timer. I prep a veggie meal, program it to start and stop at a particular time, and go do whatever I need to do for a couple of hours.
posted by spunweb at 12:01 AM on February 2, 2012

getting frustrated easily and being impulsive and being irresponsible for my actions, which in turn makes SO frustrated at myself because SO needs to pick up my slack and most recently, lost my SO trust because of an impulsive action that occurred.

Can't really comment on that, because there's such a broad range of things it could include, but it's possible the housework is not so much the main issue as it is the thing your SO is choosing to channel his/her frustrations into. If your behaviour actually is impulsive and irresponsible to the level that it's significantly damaging to relationship trust (by which, I mean 'hooked up with a stranger'-level, not 'promised to take out the recycling and then forgot'-level), then that's what you need to get a handle on first.

On the specific issue of housework, though, there might be ways to make things go better:

- Being clear about expectations. There is no objectively correct level of how clean/tidy a house should be, and it sounds like your SO's mess-tolerance threshold might just be different to yours. There's a difference between you not doing your share of the housework you've both agreed needs doing, and you not doing your share of the total amount of housework your SO believes needs doing. Put your cards on the table and find out what you can both agree is a reasonable level to reach, and work out a fair way of making compromises in areas where you disagree. (In my house, my SO thinks the floors should be cleaned more often than I do, and I want to eat home-cooked food whereas he's happy with microwave meals - therefore, he's in charge of floor-cleaning, I'm in charge of cooking.)

- Being specific about things that need doing. If you get in after a long, tiring day thinking only 'SO wants me to do more around the house, I must do housework tonight', you're quite possibly never even going to get started. If that becomes 'I need to clean the bathroom tonight', you have a better shot. Your SO can help with this by agreeing specifics with you.

- Reminders and lists and schedules. Just as getting in from work thinking 'It's my turn to clean the bathroom' is more useful than getting in from work thinking 'I've got to do some housework tonight', so is 'From 7.30 to 8 I'm going to clean the bathroom' more useful than 'At some point this evening I'm going to clean the bathroom'. I use iCal and electronic reminders for everything, so not only is the scheduled whatever-it-is on my home and work computers and my phone, but my phone's also set to beep and remind me that I need to do whatever-it-is in 10 minutes.

- Try not to get stuck in loops of self-flagellation, thinking 'I should be able to remember this, everyone else can!' or 'I should be able to do my share of the housework, I'm a useless SO!'. It won't help. Instead, accept that you're going to forget and procrastinate, and be willing to do whatever it takes to deal with that. I mean, to the level of a Post-It on the door handle saying 'Check you've got your wallet!' or 'Go and get your lunch from the fridge' (I do this, but other things might work for you). It might help you to have a check-list for a specific task, breaking it down into manageable chunks - 'Cleaning bathroom. Step 1, carry towels to laundry basket. Step 2, get cleaning things (bleach, mop, cloths) from kitchen cupboard. Step 3...' etc. Don't worry about whether you should need these aids, or whether your SO can manage without them; just go with whatever works for you.

- Cut yourself some slack on your schedule. You need downtime and rest too, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with scheduling particular chores for days when you're working fewer hours.

- Get your SO to assist you with finding methods that work for you, rather than just telling you that you should be doing more and that what you're currently doing is 'not enough'. Evidently, that's not helping either of you.
posted by Catseye at 3:12 AM on February 2, 2012

There is give and take in all relationships, is it balanced in yours? It sounds like housework is a bigger "take" on your side, do you then "give" more in terms of finances or in some other way? If you can't handle it all then you must reduce your responsibilities instead of expecting your SO to pickup the responsibilities you are ignoring. Make a plan for what you will drop without adding to your SO's load (so don't quit your job in order to do more housework and then expect to pay less rent). Maybe your relationship would be better if you moved out and tried again when you have a bit more stability and less opportunity to lean on your SO as much.
posted by saucysault at 5:46 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's some language here that suggests you think your ADHD means you're not responsible for your actions: "irresponsible for my actions," and "lost my SO trust because of an impulsive action that occurred." (I would be really curious to know about this trust-losing episode especially, because you can't possibly blame making out with a stranger at a bar on your ADHD. On the other hand, if your SO "lost trust" because you forgot to take out the recycling, then your SO is a jerk and that is the real issue here.)

First, if I were your SO, that would bother me. It isn't accurate. The issue is that your ADHD makes certain things more difficult, not that it is responsible for your actions. If I were your SO, this attitude would bug me as much or more than you not getting your share of the household stuff done.

Second, it's an unproductive attitude. Yes, you are more likely to be forgetful and lose focus. But by shifting the responsibility for your actions outside of yourself, you make it easier to not do things -- and to not even try to do things.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:31 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Catseye has a lot of really good advice above.

"being irresponsible for my actions"

How are you managing the confrontations when your SO asks why you haven't done X? The way your post is written it sounds like your SO comes across very aggressively with his/her "corrections". Do you blame your ADHD?

The key will be not to respond with "excuses", which "Oh, it's my ADD" begins to sound like with repetition. Make more effective apologies and show your apology by changing the behavior. There are a lot of people out there who think, "Saying 'sorry' is just words - you can show me you're sorry by not doing it again."

It's important to remember that you're responsible for your actions.

"lost my SO trust because of an impulsive action that occurred"

Not sure what you did, but this sounds a lot more serious than a by-line in your list of issues. Trust is important in a relationship's health.

As with Catseye above, this sounds like housework isn't the "real" issue. It's what your SO has latched onto as the "correctable" issue, which is why there's a lot more frustration behind it than the situation necessarily warrants.

If you're this exhausted, you may not be capable of dealing with this effectively right now. This just lets the situation simmer. It's an easy trap to fall into to put off the larger confrontation for just another day; meanwhile, the situation festers. You need to decide what's important - and the order of importance - and take responsibility for your own decisions ("agency" is a key word here).

On preview: J. Wilson keyed on some of the same wording as I did.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:37 AM on February 2, 2012

One small thing that can end up being very helpful is simply setting a timer for just 15 minutes--no matter how busy you are, you can probably find 15 minutes--and spending that whole 15 minutes cleaning. Just do one thing at a time.

It seems so tiny, but it really will make a huge difference. You can empty a dishwasher and fold a load of clothes in fifteen minutes. You can sweep and mop a kitchen in fifteen minutes. You can clean a litter box, take out the trash, and get rid of some nasty fridge leftovers in fifteen minutes.

This helps with a problem that I have (and I am also ADHD and think this is related) where in my head things like household chores can become CLEANING THE WHOLE HOUSE or doing homework can be LEARNING ALL THE THINGS EVER rather than just one simple task after another.

Seriously, fifteen minutes. Don't spend so much time processing this and thinking about it. Just find simple ways to step up and do more stuff around the house to make things better between y'all.
posted by hought20 at 6:54 AM on February 2, 2012

Even without ADD, if you have 35 hours a week of just work + class, plus they say that you should expect at least two hours of outside-of-class work for every hour you're in class so we'll say that's another 30 hours for a standard 15 credits, essentially you are "working" a 65 hour week, and it is not normal or reasonable to expect to work a 65 hour week plus do half of an ordinary household's housework very well. It is also not, however, really normal or reasonable to expect a SO who is either also a full-time student or working full time to do *more* than half an ordinary household's housework.

Consider, at that point, figuring out ways to cut down the quantity of time you both are expected to spend on it. Usually this is going to cost some money, although through careful shopping and a bit of ingenuity it doesn't have to be a lot more money. Plan for dinners that don't need prep time. Buy a dishwasher if you don't have one--start using paper plates if you have to! If the money can be diverted from anywhere at all, find someone to come in and do deeper cleaning every couple weeks. Your brain might make it harder to get stuff done, but you're in a situation where it would already be tough, and reducing the actual workload is the one thing you can do where you *know* your SO will never have to do more to compensate.

Sometimes it requires thinking less about "how can I get over this hill" than "how can I get around it".
posted by gracedissolved at 7:11 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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