How do I tell my husband he needs therapy?

ama ask me anything effective communication healthy relationships marriage relationship tips relationships Jul 27, 2023
couple therapy

Dear Dr. Julie: My husband continually forgets things we have agreed on, has little motivation for doing household chores (but is totally happy to go do something impulsive that seems like fun for him), and can't seem to take my feelings into account before doing something he knows will upset me. I'm beginning to think he has ADHD. I've asked him about it but he dismisses my concerns. How do I talk with him about this? I need help. I'm starting to feel like our marriage might not last.

--Can't Take Much More

Dear Can't Take Much More: I get it! That would be incredibly frustrating. People with ADHD are a lot of fun to be around, but when the routines of life have to be attended to, it is difficult for many of them to stay focused and be supportive. 

Many people with ADHD have a history of knowing (sometimes unconsciously) that they are different and they feel a lot of shame around being different. It can be hard to admit they have a problem in this case.

He also might have a running thought stream about how he "should be able to" do what others do easily.

Even if he doesn't have ADHD, he may have another emotional or mental issue that should be addressed.

When you approach him I'd suggest that you come from a place of understanding how hard it can be for a person to be different and to be unable to do what seems like easy, normal things. He's likely going to be a bit defensive or dismissive. A compassionate perspective and understanding will help him listen to you.

He needs to know how it FEELS for you to be dealing with these behaviors. To make it more than a gripe session* be sure to ask him to help you by being willing to talk about it and get some help. 

*One thing to keep in mind when having this conversation is not to get too specific with recent incidents of what you are talking about. It will give him an opportunity to argue the details and shift it into a gripe session, rather than sticking to the point--how you FEEL. 

Because you sound desperate, the two of you are long past the stage of just trying to do things differently. The two of you need some professional help. There needs to be acknowledgement on both your parts that this problem is bigger than either one of you and it is going to take the two of you working together to address it. 

I suggest going into the conversation with the idea that the two of you need help dealing with this issue--you can't do it alone. He may just want to commit to changing his behavior, but hold firm and return to how you are feeling and what you want.

Be sure to stay calm and listen to him throughout the discussion. The minute either one of you gets angry, any progress on addressing the issue will come to a halt. You may need to bring it up later and make it an on-going conversation because it may take some time for him to accept that something needs to change.

In summary,

  • Keep his perspective in mind
  • Tell him how you FEEL
  • Ask him to help you by agreeing to get some help
  • Stay calm and if you can't, take a break
  • Listen to him and reflect back what you hear (even if you don't agree)


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