My first clue that something was up: A higher-than-usual number of “Help, Please!” e-mails appeared in my in-box this morning.
Then my friend Doreen gave me the heads up on Facebook: MSN.com had featured a “When Your Lover Has ADHD” tag on its Valentine’s-themed homepage. It linked to an interview I’d done last year with Health.com: “When Someone You Love Has ADHD: Frequently Asked Questions About Helping Your Partner and Yourself.”
It begins this way:
When journalist Gina Pera married a man with undiagnosed Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) she embarked on a wild ride that took her from frustration and confusion to understanding and advocacy. Today she runs support groups for people with ADHD and their partners, and her book Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? was published in 2008.
“Wild ride” indeed. But our marriage started out more on the rainy side.
(That’s us at our outdoor wedding in 1998. Despite the huge two-person umbrella, my husband still managed to position the dripline right over me. Fortunately, that kind of center-of-the-universe tendency is a relic of the past—or neither one of us, not to mention our marriage, would have survived!)
Here’s a sample of the questions:
Q: How did you realize that your husband had ADHD?
Q: In the title of your book, you used the outdated term “ADD.” Why that instead of ADHD?
Q: What are the biggest issues that get in the way when one partner in a relationship has ADHD, based on your experience with support groups?
Q: Besides problems at work, how else can ADHD affect a family’s financial situation?
To read more questions (and answers), download the article here: Health.com – GINA PERA INTERVIEW – When Someone You Love Has ADHD_ Frequently Asked Questions About Helping Your Partner and Yourself
Here are two of the e-mails I received this morning. Identifying details have been changed, but the challenges and sentiments expressed are common to the communications I’ve received for ten years now:
From Helena in Georgia:
I just read an article on MSN.com on the above. It may be me. The MSN article caught my attention because it noted that your husband is a scientist, which is not the sort of occupation I would expect a person with this problem to have. I’ve always had difficulty with organization and time management as well as priorities, however, I am considered reasonably accomplished by most standards.
It takes a great amount of energy, though, for me to stay focused sometimes and I often run late and do miss deadlines, one of which nearly cost me my job. When I am focused I am far more productive than the average person, which is fortunate because when I’m not I spend hours getting nothing done.
I rarely check out a book or rent a movie that doesn’t go back late – even when I tell myself I won’t forget I always do. My two older kids (10 and 14) find it amusing. I’ve made great improvements on my own with my time and procrastination in the last couple of years, but still struggle to do better and to understand why it is an effort for me but apparently so easy for others. Mostly I’ve substantially reduced the things that are regularly on my “to do” list which has really helped. I have a history of taking on more than anyone could possibly do in a 24 hr day even without sleep – partly because, strangely, part of me enjoyed having to rush to get things done even though it is so stressful. I realize that this is actually a problem. As I’ve done less I’ve found that getting things done ahead of deadline, or even being early for appointments (wow), feels so much better. A no brainer for most I’m sure but it wasn’t for me.
I never would have thought of ADD as an issue because I always understood that to mean a person who can’t focus on any task and who generally doesn’t do well in life as a result. My sister is like that and is normally unemployed. On the other hand, I worked my way through college and law school, which took great effort. My ex once suggested I might have attention deficit which I rejected noting that I couldn’t possibly have become an attorney if I did. After reading your article I see that he might have hit the nail on the head.
If I could relieve the stress of wondering when I’m going to drop the ball again, and worrying if it will be one that sinks me professionally or personally, life would be so much better for me and my kids. One of my fears is that my children will have the same problems I do. I am going to look into this as a possibility in my life and hopefully will find answers and solutions that I so badly need.
Thank you for shedding new light on this issue.
From Russ in Iowa:
Wow, I just read your article regarding adult ADHD. I stumbled on it actually, but it immediately caught my eye since I have been married to a woman for over 20 years with (at least I am fairly certain) with Adult ADHD.
It has become much worse and has really taxed our marriage over the past few years. She is a great person, but just can not get her act together on so many fronts – organizing and teaching kids about daily routines and chores, social plans for us with friends, and on and on. The kids (we have a son, 9, and a girl, 13) are becoming more frustrated too as it is affecting them more as they get older. For example, if my wife says, “I will be there in a minute to help you” – she often gets back to them, if at all, hours later and after repeated requests. If she tells us to wait before starting dinner, she may not show up for 30 minutes, or longer if not constantly prodded. She gets lost in so many insignificant things on her way to doing what she is supposed to be at any given moment. But she seems to not realize that she’s doing it — or why we’re upset.
She is constantly getting times, dates and names wrong even when we have what I perceive as clear conversations with her. She often doesn’t remember entire conversations or issues we discussed and is adamant it did not occur. It drives me nuts.
She is always scrambling at the last minute to plan birthday parties and other types of activities. She often goes out for a simple errand (to pick up something at the store) and doesn’t come back for hours. I don’t know whether she’s taken ill or gotten in a car accident! And this happens when we have definite plans later in the day, for which she is then of course late. When she comes back, she has bags of items she really doesn’t need.
She does not work outside the home, and we have a nanny and maid. Still, she is scrambling to get the kids out the door in the morning because nothing was organized the night before, and she usually sleeps through the alarm – they’re always stressed and arguing because of it.
I love her and want to stay married to her. But this is not the kind of life I want for myself or my family. Our social life has suffered because she doesn’t understand the reciprocal behavior that creates friendships and social circles.
We’ve seen couples therapists, but it has been less than helpful. We really need some help since things are getting worse in a hurry.
Your article was so on point, and I will read your book. Please give me any advice you can. Thanks.