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Decoding the Point of Performance in Supporting Our ADHD Spouses

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Decoding the right point of performance in supporting our ADHD spouses is a journey all non-ADHD spouses embark upon. After attending Dr. David Nowell's ADHD training from PESI last year, I decided to reassess some of the challenges we have and make some adjustments. In today's blog, I share some of my insights on my approach to finding the right point of performance.

What is Point of Performance?

According to Dr. Barkley (1), my favorite ADHD educator, the point of performance is...

...that place and time in the natural setting of the person’s life where they are failing to use what they know – they are failing to engage effectively in Executive Functions (self-regulation).

This is a common definition that many ADHD experts, like Dr. Nowell, use. Sometimes, the point of performance is easy to spot, like putting today's dinner at eye level in the fridge for my ADHD spouse so he will eat it first, or putting laundry that needs to be folded on his side of the bed. However, sometimes finding the point of performance consistently is not as easy as it seems. Like using the example of putting laundry away, how could I get my spouse to fold the laundry sooner then just before bed time?

Realization No. 1: What is simple to us is often complex for them

Thinking back on Dr. Nowell's training, he used a common example to help us understand what is the right point of performance - at 12 noon, one needs to notify their ADHD loved one to pick up a few items from the grocery store before returning home from work. He asked the audience what the right point of performance is. Answers like "send a text now with the list" or "set a reminder to call the ADHD one just before he leaves work" quickly flooded in. The reality is that for someone with no ADHD, those answers work well because neurotypical people like me can string together multiple tasks and treat it as one big task without a second thought. But for our ADHD spouses, with weak executive functions, it becomes super challenging. Therefore, this leads to...

Insight No. 1: Most tasks we ask for our ADHD spouse to perform have multiple steps and multiple points of performance.

Going back to the grocery example, you can see there are actually two points of performance:

  1. When the person leaves work (to remind him to stop by the grocery store) and

  2. When he enters the grocery store (to provide him a list of items to purchase).

Without figuring out those two points of performance, given the same task again, the individual with ADHD might not perform it right every time, and this hit-and-miss is where it drives a lot of non-ADHD spouses, me included, crazy.

Realization No. 2: We do not need to figure it all out all by ourselves

Breaking down the different points of performance for a task could be painful for non-ADHD spouses because it is like making things simple complex, very unnatural. Furthermore, when life gets busy, one might not have the time to figure it all out. This can become a point of frustration for non-ADHD spouses, and many, like me, often decide to take it upon ourselves to get things done, which quickly overwhelms us because they feel like they are now doing 90% of the work.

Insight No. 2: Share the reason for the desired outcome and the task at the same time.

That's right, I realized I don't need to be the one to have all the answers, processes, or organizations, especially on tasks that I know my spouse is fully capable of. I decided to share the desired outcome and the task together and ask him to share how he "wants" to go about completing it. Once I started doing that, he began sharing how he would go about it, and I can now figure his point(s) of performance quickly and ask how I can support him at those points of performance.

Realization No. 3: They are all very smart and capable of getting things done the way we want

I admit, when you live with someone with ADHD long enough, you will develop some bad habits. One of the bad habits is increasing nitpicked his finished tasks. I got into the habit of checking his work and finding things that I don't approve of almost at every task. For example, when he cleans the house, I always find things that he didn't clean to my standard. As I reassess my approaches, I realized that my nitpicking is because I never properly communicate to him what a successful task looks like. So here comes...

Insight No. 3: We can share how they could check their work themselves

One day, when I was standing in my kitchen, looking at my black granite countertop and was just frustrated about how dirty it was.

Hard to see the dirt on the countertop.

No matter how many times I ask my ADHD spouse to clean it, it is always dirty. I started thinking out loud on how I can show him that even when he has wiped, the countertop is still dirty. It then dawned on me to look at the countertop at eye level, and I saw all the dirt. I then showed my husband to look at the countertop at eye level instead of above, and as soon as he saw it, the light bulb finally turned on for him, and he understood how to check his work. Now my countertop is much cleaner because he remembers to check his work (which is another point of performance) to help him complete the task successfully.

At eye level, all the dirt shows up! Not just the countertop, but the oven and the microwave!


Decoding the point of performance in an ADHD marriage is not just about understanding the challenges but also about finding practical solutions. By recognizing that tasks for our ADHD spouses often involve multiple steps and points of performance, we can alleviate frustration and build a more supportive environment. It's crucial to share the reasoning behind tasks and involve our spouses in the process, empowering them to contribute their strategies. Additionally, acknowledging their capabilities and providing guidance on self-checking can lead to more successful outcomes. As non-ADHD spouses, let's navigate this journey together, embracing insights and fostering stronger connections in our ADHD marriages.

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