"It’s not all lost keys ... His ADHD enriches us more than it holds us back."


"It’s not all lost keys ... His ADHD enriches us more than it holds us back."
Lost and Found -- Liz Ross

Sneak peak from the up-coming issue -

Life with an ADHD partner is like a broken record that you keep replacing because someone else lost it. The album is a beautiful symphony when it’s playing smoothly but is not without the constant repeating and replacing. Mostly, we look like any family of 3. Our favorite activities outside the house are camping, hiking, and traveling within the US and to other countries. We have a busy schedule during the week, full of gymnastics, swimming, tennis, homeschooling, Zooming, tap dancing, girl scouts, and lots of DIY activities and home projects. We don’t have to look very hard to find ways to fill our time, probably because we have to look hard for just about everything else.

My husband is the kindest, most ethical, caring, and thoughtful man. He is an amazing father, as solid and dependable as a family could want. He also loses things at a faster rate than our six year old. Every evening, after coming home from a 10 hour work day, I’ll spend another hour looking for things that have been misplaced, relocating items that are in the wrong locations, and conducting a house-wide sweep picking up the 20 or so things he genuinely does not see on the floor. But I also find things when I’m not looking for them. That’s why every room has a box labeled “Does Not Belong Here,” which I can toss items into and then replace all at once later on, when I have the time or energy. Some items in our house are mine alone and kept in my own space, so I can find them when needed. There are entire tool sets with screwdrivers, measuring tape, and socket wrenches that are off limits to him. We have four pairs of scissors; when we are down to our last one, I search the house to gather all of them and we start over. And while I’m looking for all the scissors, I’ll preemptively rummage through every drawer in the house to recover things I didn’t yet know were lost. Still, I have not been able to locate my favorite shirt in years. Sometimes I have found missing clothing in my 6 year old daughter’s closet and visa versa. Fortunately, my daughter and I fit in the same size socks, so I have at least eliminated that as an issue.

My husband’s favorite inspirational motto is “It’ll turn up.”

After 14 years of being together, I have learned some systems that work and some that work at least well enough. The house is full of labels marking where things should go, but I usually find items in the wrong place, anyway. All over the house there are lists of everyday tasks that need to be done, things like finding and picking up five items off the floor, doing the laundry, or refilling the toilet paper and soaps. These lists of reminders are easily forgotten, though. He needs reminders to check the reminders, and I have alarms set on my phone to remind me to remind him to check those reminders. I have learned not to expect him to plan or organize any of our finances, vacations, house projects, homeschool planning, extracurriculars, or other responsibilities. I’m generally a calm, tolerant, patient person, though I do have my moments after the twentieth time I’ve said or done something to find/tidy/relocate items in the house. I have learned that he needs to put in three times the effort in order to get to 100% and we continue to learn together to figure out where our respective 50/50 is.

Living with a partner who has ADHD is also expensive. Early in our relationship, before I knew to look out for these things, he lost out on about $3000 of financial aid for school because of missing a deadline. We now don’t miss any deadlines, his credit report is cleaned up, and everything is back on track—but it’s work to stay on track. Once or twice a month, I have to buy a replacement of something—not because it’s at the end of its use, but because it is lost. We’ve had to spend more than $500 to replace lost smart keys for our cars. I could have saved my money and looked for them a 50th, 60th, or 70th time. Instead I chose to save my sanity and just buy new ones.

It’s not all lost keys and missing scissors, though. His ADHD enriches us more than it holds us back. He’s fun and spontaneous. While I’m ready to plan out the day, he is ready for the moment. We complement each other; I plan and manage and he makes things happen. If I get stuck in the weeds with planning, he gets things moving forward. I’ll plan out the activities and time and packing list for a snow day, but we’d never leave the house if he didn’t take charge to implement the plan. Along with forgetting where he put something, he also forgets that he’s mad and easily forgives people. He never holds a grudge because he can’t remember he has one to hold. He is tolerant of my faults and my personality quirks. Even at his angriest, he is gentle. He tries hard and I know the intentions are there.

He may forget where he put the screwdriver, but he can remember every single hiking location we’ve been on and take us back there. He knows exactly which part of what beach is the best for boogie boarding or paddle boarding with our daughter. He has an internal map and without using navigation can take us almost anywhere. He is an economics and political science buff, a walking encyclopedia, and the answer to almost any question I or my daughter may have is somewhere in his brain. I have seen him spark conversations with anyone, no doubt knowing something about their country or favorite hobby and having unending curiosity about it. He is our family chef and knows what all of my and my daughter’s favorite dishes are. I am grateful for a husband that is egalitarian and chips into all our shared responsibilities; if he’s not helping it’s only because he forgot he said he would. I am grateful that we hold the same secular parenting ideals and are very closely aligned on political inclinations. Although we don’t agree on everything, our approaches to life and bringing up our daughter are usually on the same page.

In the hardest times of our relationship, and in contemplating the challenges that can come up in relationships in general, his ADHD doesn’t even register as an issue for me. It’s a big part of what makes him who he is; there’s no one I’d rather be with than my husband. Every time I find myself searching for something he lost, I’m reminded of how happy I am to have found him.