What Is His Thinking? Please Explain

Hi Brains :). I have a pretty minor, but repetitive gripe with my Brain, and I’m hoping someone hear can maybe explain better what it is going on in his mind while this happens. I have brought it up quite a few times, and he can’t really explain. I’m assuming it’s a kind of hyper-focus, but thought I’d get some opinions.

Today was a good example of the “issue”. We had a dinner at my parents house with company who had to leave right after lunch to return home. My mom asked if one of us would make the gravy. My husband enthusiastically said he would and started work.
Twenty minutes later, the dinner was on the table, the three year old was starving and everyone was getting uncomfortable. My husband had JUST started the gravy, even though he had been standing at the stove for the past twenty minutes. He was looking up the “perfect gravy recipe”. We mentioned to him, multiple times, we just needed gravy and dinner was ready.
We ended up eating dinner before the gravy was done, because our company had to leave.

We got home after the dinner and my husband said he wanted to go on a long bike ride, which is fine. Our kids take a two hour nap in the afternoon and his ride is a 3 hour ordeal, so I planned an hour of activities with the kids in mind and said “have fun”. Over an hour later, he finally left our bedroom ready to ride his bike.

I have explained that his taking too long to prep often feels like he isn’t being considerate of others. He says “sorry”, but it’s a repetitive behavior. Most often (like today), it’s not a big deal, people are a little uncomfortable but it’s fine. However, because it happens often, it wears on me.

What is going through his mind? Do you have experience with this? Have you found a way to better time manage?

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Time management is often an issue, yes. But at the same time, that doesn’t usually make it an acceptable excuse.

What helped me and my wife a lot was that she came to a couple of my adhd counselling sessions: at the diagnosis stage, at the review a few months later and at the end. Knowing what kind of things I struggle with has helped us a lot.

She hasn’t been to any of my coaching sessions where I actually discuss planning and time management issues. She came to the psychologist sessions where my goals were to be kinder to myself and something else which I often forget. Basically, the being kinder to myself thing is like the answer to life, the universe and everything (and there was me thinking that was 42 or 43…:wink:).

I think your family / your husband could use some supportive help to be honest, but each person has to want that themselves. You can’t change your husband, only he can. You can change yourself though. If you got some support for you and changed from trying to make happen what you think should be happening to understanding why life is how it is and how you can deal with that, maybe that would solve a lot of your difficulties?

Just because your husband has adhd doesn’t make him the only one deserving of help! And you are the one actively seeking help right now, do it seems like that might be the place to start after all.

I hope this helps. I feel for you all, I really do. From your posts I see two people who want to do right by each other but one of them is fleeing to the hills on his bike and the other is fleeing to the Internet. A good psychologist is worth their weight in gold, I have discovered. I hope you can find someone good, you all deserve it!

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I used to do this while working on a tax return. It would take me a long long time to get started but once I got into it, I would hyperfocus on finding all the possible (but legal) ways of paying less taxes. And then miss the deadline and pay penalties. And as soon as April 15th passed, I would slack off. You can imagine how it drove my ex-wife absolutely up the wall! After we split up I just hired somebody to do the taxes and it was a huge load off me. I could kick myself for stubbornly trying to do my taxes every year, for years on end and failing.

So why did I do that? I think it was a) I didn’t really want to do them so getting started was hard, b) to convince myself I had to make it interesting, soI made it into a game of trying to find all possible deductions and c) the game was interesting and I lost track of time. But this is something I figured only much later.

I suspect something similar is going on with your husband. Finding the “perfect recipe” is a game that makes it interesting to him. Most likely, after the initial rush of volunteering he realized he doesn’t really want to make the gravy so he has to turn it into a game but once the game started he can’t let go.

What can you do about it? I think all you can do is to gently get him out of any activity on the critical path, where others rely on him or there is a deadline. I don’t have any magic solution to fix this but I hope my explanation gives a little bit of insight.

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With the gravy it sounds like the concept of satisficer vs maximizer might apply. He was trying to make the best gravy, and you wanted any adequate gravy. I’m not sure if it applies to the bike prep or not. It depends on what he was actually doing with that time. I know that I can get stuck at the step of making a decision. I sometimes ask someone else to make the decision instead so that I can move on to the next step. That might not work as well if someone else was offering rather than me asking. My spouse has decision algorithms for when they run into the same thing.

Thanks for the responses. I really think the satisficer/maximizer is something that goes on in his mind a lot. He was looking up gravy recipes while he was working, which makes me think he was looking for the “best” gravy.

Lustforlife, I appreciate your response but was taken aback by “fleeng to the internet”. We have been married for many years now and his ADHD is not a new thing. I have often helped him int he past. I didn’t run to the internet, I came for help to understand how his mind is working because after over half of my life with this man, my patience for the repeated offenses has grown thin. I’m certainly not escaping him, my life or responsibilities by posting here a couple of times a week or so. I hope that isn’t what you meant. I know your post was well intentioned but this just struck a chord I wanted to stop.
We are, for the most part, quite happy. It’s repeated small instances (I mean, come on, it’s gravy and one late lunch, not the end of the world) that I would like help understanding. He doesn’t communicate his needs regarding ADHD well so I’m looking for some people who can maybe shed light on that.
Yes, our lives have been quite busy but manageable. My hope by joining this site was to have some more insight into his mind, so that maybe I can help him be his best self, as well as maybe relieve some of the burden on my shoulders.

Thanks again for the responses. My husband is a perfectionist, which definitely played a part in the small example from Sunday :). I’m wondering if any other perfectionists here (or those who make perfection part of the game to keep it interesting [it is interesting to me that making gravy has to be interesting… I don’t mean that in an unkind way, that is just something I didn’t realize people thought!]) have ways to shift their thoughts when they start down the perfection tracks… is there a way you can stop yourself and redirect? I think my husband would greatly benefit from that. He definitely agrees (sitting beside me, lol)

OK, sorry. I apologise 100%, and it makes a huge difference to know that your husband is reading along. I guess my reaction was also influenced by years of participating in a different forum (not adhd related), where every now and again people would sign up to ask for advice on their relationship and it always felt a bit weird, like: what would the partner be saying if they were speaking for themselves?

As for beating my perfectionism, I am not totally there yet. What has really helped is making a weekly plan, reviewing it with my adhd coach (as well as by myself), and over time realising where all the time goes. (Jessica has a video on the time thing as well.)

Once I realised for myself that every time I spent longer than expected on stuff, I had a choice: allow more time and accept that this means other things will not happen, or choose to stick to the time I thought was available, and accept that this will have consequences for the quality. THIS IS HOW I SOMETIMES STOP MYSELF in the gravy recipe type rabbit holes😃

For a long time, several months, I tried to mostly go for the second option. Then I went to a Celebrating Neurodiversity Pride Day workshop and realised that my perfectionism is ALSO (sometimes) a good thing and that the real deal will be allowing that to flourish sometimes.

I have also done a lot of work (with both the coach and the psychologist) on trying to understand why some tasks seem to get rescheduled ‘for ever’ before I deal with them. What is it I am hiding from?

Oh! And the answer is often the same: it’s something new, out of my comfort zone. Now I have ALSO learned that everyone finds new stuff a bit daunting! I honestly didn’t know that!! I have had a whole lifetime of being embarrassed that I find ‘normal things’ difficult, I didn’t know that this bit was actually just normal :rofl::rofl::rofl:

And since I now know it’s going to be daunting whether I do it this week or in a month, I can now schedule a daunting thing on purpose, KNOWING that it will be challenging, and feeling proud that I got over myself and did it. What helped me to get over this was a pre-printed weekly planner that actually asked two questions in the top margins: ‘what will you do this week that is out of your comfort zone?’ and ‘what are you grateful for this week?’ The second question makes me feel more positive about the whole thing.

Good luck with it all!

Curious. Do any of the explanations offered here resonate with your husband?

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I’ll have to think about this one… I don’t get around to some routine tasks. Neither new nor out of my comfort zone. Almost always there is something else that is far more enticing. There are of course tasks that don’t get started because they’re overwhelming. But they’re more in the wall of awful category.

My new things are mostly wall of awful (also a great Jessica video, for anyone who hasn’t see that one yet).

The boring routine things I put off I can usually knock on the head ‘just’ by noticing that they’re being rescheduled and eventually thinking ‘just get rid of it’. I might reward myself with something more fun afterwards, or just make sure those tasks get sandwiched between more interesting ones.

It was the things that didn’t work for that led me to the ‘new=scary’ realisation.

Edited to add a disclaimer: in this last year I have learned to ace the planning, pretty much, but this does not mean that I function at this level all the time! Luckily I have also learned to be kind to myself and accept that I will not be the perfect planner and doer all the time. Plus, even in a bad week, I understand what’s going on much better than before which saves me a lot of grief. But I still managed to miss a deadline last month that I totally forgot about and this has cost me literally €2,500 :flushed:

In case I was starting to sound too with it🙄

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As I said earlier, the maximiser /satisfier (on my phone so I’m not sure if those are the exact words, but that seems to explain my husbands typical thought process. He leans heavily into perfectionist. I am still not sure I understand how it works that after we have gently told him he needs to hurry his priority still doesnt change.
I’m just trying to more understand the adhd brain from those who live with it so I can better understand my husband, who has never been able to explain what’s going on or why.

Maybe I’m not communicating effectively in this thread as there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding which is unfortunate.

Dealing with perfectionism is a work in progress for me, so my ideas are still patchy, but so far I’ve found that noticing that I’m doing it helps. When I’m doing this I’m usually quite intense, so anything that helps me pause and mentally step back is helpful. Setting limits for myself can also help (amount of time, number of repetitions), though sticking to those is quite difficult. I think this often correlates to how intense I am being/feeling. I have some phrases I use to try to convince myself like “good enough is good enough” or “perfect is the enemy of good”.

My spouse has a strategy that is interesting but that I find hard to describe. It compares continuing on the same path (in some senses doing nothing) to the other options. Often the “doing nothing” or “continuing as is” option doesn’t get thought in the same way as the other available options, but not making a choice is a type of choice and sometimes it’s worse than the other options.

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Hi Blythe, sorry if you’re still feeling misunderstood. I thought I had apologised and thought we could move on?

In answer to your very specific question, how come I can gently tell him about time limits or priorities but nothing happens? (sorry for paraphrasing but I am not that brilliant at the technical quoting stuff):

I have this from both sides and I get it. When someone tells me, however nicely, to get on with it, often this has the opposite effect. Jessica’s ‘wall of awful’ video explains this better than I can.

Equally, one of my children has this reaction too and it was a long time before I realised it was the same thing going on. Plus I believe my wife when she tells me (very calmly!) that it drives her up the wall. She doesn’t even say it like that, she says something very polite and calm like finding it frustrating.

What @Ion says about choices is also spot on.

The other day I found a print of a notice that I took home from work and hung up by my desk, years before my adhd diagnosis. It says ‘Do your work! Do it now!’ In colourful letters. It was aimed at schoolkids with trouble getting on with self study at exam time, but I have tried this kind of notice many times and sometimes they help a bit. The really interesting thing is that it had accidentally been printed double sided with one of the other motivational posters someone had selected to hang up. Back then I found the other one pointless or meaningless but now it’s that one that resonates with me:

Your life.
Your choice.

And that is what 6 months of coaching and a year of therapy has finally taught me. I think when I go home I might hang that one up after all :sweat_smile:

It wouldn’t work if anyone else hung it up for me though. Irritating but true.

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Thank you for the response, again. I just really want to be clear that I’m not here to complain or go after my husband, I’m trying to find helpful ways to make these repetitive problems better for us :). They aren’t marriage enders, but they have led to arguments and hurt feelings.

I have watched her wall of awful video. Her videos have been very helpful in understanding things. But my husband has watched a few and sometimes agrees and sometimes says he doesn’t know if that’s how it is for him. A lot of things are “hard for him to explain” regarding his ADHD.

Like you said, a lot of it has to be done by him because it won’t work if I do it. Unfortunately, that means I am stuck just dealing with these things until he takes initiative. We are 12 years in, so I guess I’m just finally starting to get a bit impatient in him taking that step.

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Yes, a lot of it has to be done by him, but I think there are some things you can do. It varies from person to person what sort of responses they are happy with. Some possibilities include helping him notice when this is happening, asking him to make a decision/plan for the thing he’s in the middle of or offering to talk it through and brainstorm together. I think the most successful approaches phrase things as a request and it’s often helpful to describe how your feelings and needs factor into the current situation. He might have different suggestions than the ones above, but hopefully that gives you a starting point for discussing it. It takes some trial and error but I’ve found it extremely helpful to agree on some approaches in advance.

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He doesn’t communicate his needs

“hard for him to explain”

I can relate to both of these. It’s definitely a challenge in my marriage as well.

My mind kind of goes off and does it’s own thing. Sometimes it leaves a piece behind for me to tag along with, but a lot of the time my thoughts come and go and I don’t remember them. So… if I can’t remember my own mental process how the hell am I going to describe it or understand it.

It kind of makes me think of those movies where somebody goes on a bender and wakes up in the strangest places not knowing how they got there. Sometimes I ground myself with the moment and wonder ‘what got my brain on this track? How long did I spend here? Oh well, I’ll just go with it and try and get back to where I was going’.

(Edit: Sometimes I have to do this every 2-3 minutes. And sometimes I'm just like "fine brain... go play since you're not going to cooperate and we'll try again later.")

Then my wife wants a script for situations. Throw in some emotional dysregulation and it really depends on how I’m feeling that day as to how I’ll react to that feedback. What might work one day won’t work the next.

If he becomes aware of the impacts in his life, you may be able to just ask him… “Are you ADHDing again?” It may be enough to make him pause to evaluate where his mind is at.

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While my husband doesn’t understand my brain, he has always understood (even before my diagnosis) that it just works a little differently than his (like everyones brain actually, no two people are exactly the same). He knows me very well and he knows my strengths and weaknesses and has always supported me in my weaker areas and played to my strengths. He of course has weaknesses and strengths, too and I try to do the same.
This does not mean, that we’re not both working on ourselves to overcome our weaknesses and be better versions of ourselves.

The gravy for example would have been the same challenge for me, too. Always wanting to be helpful I would have agreed to do it, too without actually having a plan for the whole process. My brain would have jumped into gravy-focus mode (which for my brain is not narrow like you would expect for focus mode but more like gravy-super nova mode) spending all it’s energy coming up with the ultimate gravy and not just the ultimate gravy but the ultimate way to make that ultimate gravy and so on and just like a super nova the explosion would have been so big that in the end my brain would have kind of collapsed (meaning no gravy in any useful amount of time).

So how could we have avoided that?
Well, ideally I would have been aware of what’s going to happen and stated that I need some help from someone that has an exact plan for making gravy or at least some more information about what exactly is expected from me (e.g quick and easy gravy, take the first recipe you find, needs to be ready in thirty minutes, timing is more important than the perfect taste)
Unfortunately my ADHD brain runs into tasks way to quickly and by the time I realize what’s happening it’s already happening (and it’s hard to stop a super nova). That’s something I’m working on with Coaching, because in the end it’s my responsibility not anyone else.
That does not mean my husband can’t help. He actually can. And that’s what we do in our relationship, we support each other and help each other to overcome or make the best out of our weaknesses.

What would he have done in this situation? Knowing me, he would have known, that I don’t really know how to make a gravy. If he knew how to make gravy, he would have most likely offered me his help and we would have made it together. But I know he does not really know how to make gravy neither.

In this situation, he probably would have asked me if I plan to make gravy from a package or if I have a recipe for it. My answers would have been “No” and “No, I first have to find one”. Huge red flag here, if you plan to have gravy on the table in the next 20-30 minutes.
At this point, he would have either offered to find a gravy recipe, while I prepare the pot or given me more tangible information (e.g just take the first recipe you find and make sure it’s ready in 10(!) minutes).
In the end he feels great, because he knows how much his intervention helped and he is happy he could help me and I feel great, because I managed to put gravy on the table in time and I am happy because I do know and appreciate, how much he helped me.

This is of course just one example. Time management being such an omnipresent thing
probably needs more work. It’s something a lot of brains struggle with and coaching would definitely help.
I think communication is important here, too. Him not being able to manage his time is one thing and something he should definitely work on, but for that he also needs to know when time management is necessary and what you expect of him.
From what I read, you planned a 3 hour bike ride in your head (starting now). In his head it was probably something like “I will get ready and then I go for a 3 hour bike ride”. No need for time management, since there is not really a time, when the activity is supposed to end for him (except the one in your mind.) If you need/want him to be back in three hours from now, tell him. And emphasise the importance. Even better, give him the exact time. “I need you to be back at 6 to spend time with the kids while I do …”. If he then looses 1 hour with getting ready that’s on him, you still expect him to be back at 6. A gentle reminder while he’s leaving never hurts (at least not for me). “You will be back by 6, so I can do …, right?”

Not sure if this is helpful for you, but it’s what works for us. Clear communication is the
key.

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