Barb’s Story

I am the wife of a dentist who denies he has ADD. We are an older couple and when my husband is focusing on dentistry, this is where he shines. He becomes hyperfocused. His patients love him. They have no idea that when he is smiling at them, he is not really listening.

I have worked in his office (having to learn dentistry from knowing nothing about it) for 10 years. We in the office have had to set up some pretty creative ways of dealing with ADD: when he sees a new patient we seat the patient in the room where my husband will have his back to the mirror, or otherwise he starts getting distracted by his reflection and forgets the patient.

I see first-hand that there is a difference in him in his professional life and at home. I have jokingly called myself “the smoother” at the office, because he tends to hurt the staff’s feelings without knowing it. I have learned to go behind him, remembering things for him, reminding him to phone other doctors when he owes them a call, reminding him when he has a treatment letter to write, etc. This is very tiring, and believe me, I am not doing it from a standpoint of “I’m superior and you’re not.” I have asked him to write things in a notebook, to make lists, to wear a wristwatch–no luck.

At home he goes very quiet. Often we do not talk at all during the evening unless I capture his attention by talking about dentistry.

I am a retired mental health counselor, and you would think this would help me have at least a tolerance and sense of humor about ADD, but I feel as though I am living my husband’s life instead of my own. When I try to talk to him about how frustrated I am he zones out or gets defensive. I feel as though verbally I’m volleying tennis balls over the net and he lets them land at his feet without making an attempt to volley it back at me–we end up with one-sided conversations. I’m not looking forward to 20 more years of this and I do love him. Maybe you can sense that I don’t know the right approach to get him to look at this problem. Are there any spouses out there going through this? I feel quite alone