Unexpected “demands”

I do not respond well when my wife unexpectedly adds something for my “need to do today” list. I often say in my head: “What else does she want from me?” I get annoyed: “Just leave me alone!”

Now my wife is not a nag, not a demanding person, but quite the opposite. She is kind, considerate, supportive, and giving (to me and everybody). We have been married 46 yrs. A good, solid relationship.

I am not a light-hearted, go-with-the-flow type. Change has always been difficult for me. Often quite anxiety producing. I take Prozac & Wellbutrin for depression. But, similar to my very strong startle respond, I’ve heard it said that ADHD people know only two types of time: It’s “NOW” or it’s “NOT NOW”. When I am asked to get something done, I assume that it must be done immediately [“NOW”]. When actually it could be expected by next week, next month, or longer. Unless the request includes: “Not now, but sometime in the next couple of weeks” . . . [for example], But I will automatically assume “NOW”!

So change, the unexpected, an added request that might be a “maybe” [which I assume is a “must”], these things annoy me.

For me, things are black or white . . . No gray (from my gray matter). I joke with and tease people, but almost never know when someone is pulling my leg. It’s “NOW” unless otherwise specified. It’s been decided, no room for discussion / negotiation.

Is any of what I am describing familiar to others here? How much is characteristic of ADHD?

Would appreciate any feedback you care to give.

NOW :joy:


Hey Brooklyn!

I’ll actually often put jobs into ‘not now’ especially if I’m doing something more interesting than the ‘job’, which can lead to things not being done! However it’s more of a problem if I’m already in the middle of something arduous when asked to do something else because it’s then difficult to not get distracted and zing onto the new task leaving the other one unfinished! I also struggle with prioritisation of simple tasks and a new demand can upset me especially if it’s repeated several times or made to seem urgent (assuming it’s not though, obviously I’d switch if it was actually urgent) because I’m trying so hard to stick to what I’m doing.

I do have a suggestion and it’s because I somehow do way better with getting many (many!) New demands throughout an already busy day at work and I have to prioritise and not forget any! And this is how… I have a jobs list, which I carry around with me everywhere. The items have boxes which I half shade through if the job is half done but can’t be finished currently (so in my case that could mean ordering a test for example) then I’ll either tick or fully shade the box depending on my mood (eg when I’ve checked the results and actioned on them). Or sometimes I’ll have a half done box then a completed lol. Anyways, then when a new demand comes I can pop it on my list, decide on it’s priority visually (which I find so much easier) and continue on (or stop everything and go to the new job if needed!) I’ll often star the more urgent things so I remember to do them more quickly.
Bit rambly but here’s an idea for you based on that: have a to do list. Either a piece of paper you carry around or could be on a whiteboard or your phone or a calendar or something. When you’re wife asks you to do something, you could ask her do you need this doing now or can it be saved for later? If later, you just pop it on your list so you don’t forget.

I am also not great at being teased! I get wound up really easily, even when I know they’re teasing (that’s even more annoying!! I still feel the need to defend myself for some reason!) I try to make my teasing to other people gentle and obviously teasing in the hope that’s how it’s returned lol. Doesn’t always work of course!
Good luck I hope you find solutions! Ps your wife sounds awesome <3


Both my spouse and I have a tough time with things like that in slightly different ways and situations. We pretty regularly tweak our household systems to try to make them a better fit for us and I think we threw the idea doing things the same way as other people out the window a long time ago.

Including a timeline in requests is something we try to do. (Thing X needs to get done, but any time in the next week or two would be good. Thing Y would be nice, but it’s not high priority). When we remember to use that it’s helpful

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Lucy1 - Thank you for your thoughts.

“<3” :question:

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Yeah! I need to interject the “timeline” question.

Just have to . . . Now what was . . . Oh yes . . . REMEMBER. :joy:


Oops just saw how much I wrote, sorry for the wall of text! <3 is a heart on its side :slight_smile:

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I definitely struggle with change. Routine is one of the ways that I manage my ADHD, so when things don’t go as planned or that routine is disrupted, it causes me a lot of distress, at least internally.

It can be different at work, though. Both jobs I work are relatively free flowing and chaotic at times, so you have to be adaptable. Somehow though I’m used to that, so the changing nature of my work is “predictable” and I’m able to tolerate that. Like you said, when there’s an unexpected demand or change it can make me irritable, scared, or overwhelmed.

I can also relate to the now and not now. For me, usually I default to “not now.” However, I realize that if I don’t do it “Now” then “Not Now” may never come. I forget to do too many things unless I do them immediately.


Remembering it is one of the big challenges, but if both you and your wife are trying to remember that will hopefully double your success rate

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Ah! :heart:

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Good thought . . .

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I tend to have an expectation for how a day is going to proceed. Do-nothing day? Great. Day we need to do chores? Cool.

Turn a Do-nothing day into a chore day? … Wait. What? Hold up, what?
It’s like I can’t shift gears in my head, and I get very very frustrated that things are not going as anticipated.
My wife will decide to clean today, or the she (read, “we”) is going to get X project done, and she needs my help.
Well, my little Kerbal’s are on a mission to the Mun right now, and if I have to save, stop, go do things for an hour, come back… and… what was the mission again? Very aggravating.
Change a chore day to a do-nothing day, and I have no idea what to do with myself.
Change sucks.
I have starting having to check in the morning or the day prior and asking “Hey, do we have a plan for Today/Tomorrow/Tonight after work?” I have to go out of my way to set or get an expectation.
It’s gotten better, she knows it really throws me for a loop. Still happens though.
Mainly I need to have the self awareness to self-talk “It’s ok, something came up, talk to her and make sure we can come to terms so you can get some downtime for you soon.”
Communication with my wife is a huge key, and she will often try to work around my needs for some downtime.


Expectations . . . change . . . shifting gears . . . frustration “throws me for a loop” . . .

We things in common.

Do you take meds for your ADHD? Do they help with these issues?

What about meditation? Aerobics?


I take 70mg Vyvanse, once daily. It helps pretty much all around. The emotional disregulation is better, presence of mind is better, I can actually get work done…
Sometimes the struggle is that I don’t have the distractions pulling me away any more, and I don’t stop working on a thing, separate issue from hyper focus. I’ve gotten better at coping skills though.
I need to work out, but that is more due to health issues (I’m fat).
Meditation, not so much. I struggle with clearing my mind.


Thank you for your candor . . .

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One thing Dr. Gabor Mate’s book “Scattered” taught me, about the to-do-list annoyance, is a bit different from the rest of the take in this thread. Sure, because I have ADHD, I get annoyed at irritations like that and I lack some degree of self-control about expressing my annoyance. That much is generally true, I don’t disagree. But there’s another factor.

If you’re typical of most ADHDers, you’ve had a childhood in which you were raised under often inattentive or harassed parenting. Mom and/or dad were either genetically ALSO ADHDers (stands to reason that you inherited it from SOMEONE, no?) or were engaged in the types of behaviors which would, eventually, lead to your own ADHD (and if you didn’t inherit it genetically, well, you got it the other way instead, right?). Their actions were, as Mate explains, rule-giving designed NOT to help you feel secure and learn your place in the world. Rather, they were rule-giving designed (probably unbeknownst to your parents; don’t blame, just describe and understand) to exert a feeling of control in situations in which they did not feel in control. They made demands, that you jump to doing a chore, NOT because they needed the chores done. Rather, they demanded that the chore get done, because they felt like they couldn’t control the world, and felt a sense of security whenever they noticed a frayed edge and then made a command that the edge be cleaned up. Generally, then, you learned, that the commands of task-givers were not tasks which would cause benefit to the household or the group if the tasks were performed. Rather, they were, you learned, make-work tasks, tasks which did not IN THEMSELVES need to be done, but which created for the task-GIVER a greater sense of power and therefore security, a sense that because they’d made someone else jump at the needed action, therefore the uncontrollable and overwhelming world out there felt a little bit less uncontrolled and little less overwhelming.

Once I got my head wrapped around this understanding, I really noticed it operating in my life and my house. The next “please do this now!” thing shows up, I get annoyed, I wonder why my time and planning are not better respected by the people around me. Why am I required to jump immediately, why must I do a job that doesn’t matter, why must it be done the opposite way we always did it before (never use a dishrag if you can use a paper towel! later … never use a paper towel if you can use a dishrag! … later … never use … etc.). The changes and rules and demands are being made, NOT, because the change needs to be done (the dishrags AND the paper towels are in plentiful supply, geez!). Rather, the demands are made, so that the demand-MAKER can feel that he or she has gotten someone, ANYONE, to JUMP, and can feel that this big ol’ cluttered distracting overwhelming world is not going to EAT THEM UP RIGHT NOW. And I realize, as I see it go by, “Oh, I’m annoyed because I know the task doesn’t need to be done, and because I feel that I’m being ordered around for the sake of being under-thumbed and humiliated and pushed around, not for the sake of having an orderly house.” And I can sort it out better, now that I know what it is. I might ask, nicely, in a calm tone of voice, “Well, does it really matter? What’s the reasoning behind picking dishrags instead of paper towels? Because you see, I was thinking the other way around, that paper towels would be better because …”. I might just do it anyway, realizing it’s not worth all the emotional energy I had been expending on it. (Who cares. OK, paper towels, dishrags, I don’t give a hoot, won’t even try to bother with learning the reasoning behind it, since, duh, it’s going to be different next time anyway. It’s no big whoop.) I might confront if necessary – “You’re telling me to use this one, rather than that one, for the wrong reasons. You’re telling me to do so, not because it matters which I use, but because you need to make me do something which I otherwise wouldn’t do without your intercession and command-giving.” I have a handle on it, better, and can therefore defuse my own annoyance better, and then choose a sensible way to interact with the other people involved. Of course, I might not choose so sensibly, but might explode in annoyance at the very fact of my understanding. “Hey, I figured you out! And it’s STUPID and RUDE for you to do me that way!” Not the best choice … but then, at least I got one step in the right direction.

This is a rather short version of Mate’s entire thesis. But it’s a central point to his entire book, and I probably didn’t do it justice. I strongly recommend Gabor Mate’s “Scattered” (in earlier or more recent editions) to get a handle on this childhood hurt that we all probably experienced in some manner or other. Don’t blame your parents, they did their best! But do understand and describe, so you can move forward from the hurt.

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It is exactly how I feel. Startle included. Most difficult is when I have scheduled chores and my own plans in my head, e.g. training, and New requests or “needs to be done” are added. Why mentor extra chores it is not to be done right now?!?

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Mention :confounded:

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Can you elaborate on: “Startle”!

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This rings true with me also medicated i have a much easier time with derailing requests i still get the uncomfortable initial WTF now feeling but my external reaction is more conducive to not acting like someone has kust asked me to chop off a finger.

My Wife who is like your own is loving and empathetic for lack of a better word knows how to manage me. This used to wind me up also because my reaction when i realise what she was doing brought on similar feelings because i would think i am a grown ass man and can manage my own time. And lets be honest in many of is ADHD kids thats just not true.

Now she will bring up her wish list when we are removed from the situation that it could be detailing. Or she will email me her ides and wishes. That seems to work well for me because I understand that if i am at work or in a position to check emails that she obviously doesn’t expect an immediate action.

I automatically prioritise what she asks of me because she is my wife and i am one that believes that she is deserving of almost anything she desires because of how hard she works for the happiness of our family so i will slip in her list between other tasks.

But i still priorities my own workload so the way it works now with her understanding of the stress shifting focus can cause for me she knows that her wishes will be dealt with but i will need to complete the current task i have going on before her jobs will get started.

I will also set aside a few hours now and then and go to her and let her know i have a bit of time right now and ask her if she wants anything done. The best part of doing that is often she will have nothing for me so suddenly i have a block of spare time that i can do whatever i want. I can go sit at a caffe and have coffee or watch a movie or move onto a project that tickles my brain. And she gets to validated that i care about her needs and i am making time to put her first.

Sometimes what she needs will require immediate action. But i know when she uses that card its valid and it makes it easier to deal with the mental recoil and with a few seconds of thought i can get over the frustration.

So in dot point take aways from this are

  1. Find a way that you both understand that the job isn’t urgent email, text message, a note left for you that you will come across organically. Whatever works for you not to feel she is being unreasonable even though in her mind she isn’t.

  2. Prioritise her wishes when its practical. And find a way to communicate the fact that disruptions can trigger an emotional response in you that from the outside can come across as hostile and unreasonable. And that its not that you don’t value her wishes but your brain sometimes is a bit of a bastard.

  3. Set aside what time you can that is devoted to her and her needs. So you can mentally ready yourself that that time might be far from what is your ideal use of that time. This is a big one because the women in our life often need that validation that we do care about their needs even if that time is used do the most boorish mind numbing tasks.

  4. As has been said already. Keep a list this is where a detailed email or text message or note from her helps. And if she wants a job done in a certain way that needs to be communicated at the same time not half way through the job your working on with or for her. Because in our ADHD brain this might cause the same difficult emotional response.

  5. Let her know that some tasks are just beyond you no matter what mental gymnastics you perform to try get through them. One example for us was we got a cleaner in once a week to do the jobs that she wanted done but i just could not stop avoiding because in my mind my time was just to valuable to me to do them. I still force myself to do these pet hate jobs on occasion because it makes her feel that even though I despise them i am willing to do them because they are important to her.

  6. Find out what jobs she dislikes and currently takes responsibility for Have a look through them and take on or help her do them even the poor neuro-typical types have negative reactions to some things its just that they don’t have the same problems dealing with doing whats needed that we do. And if your in the position to do so outsource the few tasks that cause you both discomfort. The few $$ spent to relive that burden can eliminate the animosity and creeping resentment that both of you can feel being coerced into dealing with the feelings of thinking that the other person is just hiding behind excuses to not pull their weight. But the key here for us is open honest discussion about why that task is so hard for either party

We used to have some quite heated arguments around her needs vs mine but with a little bit of planing and admission of my feelings and consideration of hers we seem to have a working strategy that is working for us.

Good luck there is always a path forward.


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Interesting how we all feel that irk when the task gets dumped on us. And yet, I’ll bet, we’re all rather very generous about volunteering to do lots of other tasks, including many that we aren’t asked or expected to do at all! I am always helping the neighbor rake his yard, for example, just because it’s a bit simpler to run both yards into one large conglomerated area for raking.

But to the contrary, when mom suddenly asks me to rake our yard? Hoo-ee am I annoyed! Same task, different source, different implications, and it all means something different.

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