Breaking Out of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction — After Not Breaking a Fall

ADHD relationship dysfunction

Breaking out of ADHD relationship dysfunction — after not breaking a fall?  That sounds all kinds of painful, right? It was, but not as painful as remaining on an ADHD Roller Coaster gone wild.

I’ll tell you my personal story in a minute.  It might help shed some light on your own ADHD relationship troubles. But first some background.

ADHD Relationship Dysfunction Junction

Here’s how ADHD relationship dysfunction typically develops —and becomes entrenched:

  1. You’re several years into a relationship before discovering that one or both of you have ADHD.
  2. By that time, you both have developed misinterpretations of the other’s behavior and counter-productive coping responses.
  3. Not to forget: the lifelong misattributions and poor coping of the newly diagnosed ADHD partner, since childhood.

Once there’s a diagnosis and maybe medication on board, it can still take quite a conscious effort to overcome these entrenched patterns and emotional responses. Especially if you don’t know what they are or how to do it.

Moreover, how do you distinguish ADHD symptoms, which should respond to medication, from these entrenched poor coping responses?  This is often-overlooked essential challenge and, in my long observation, why even the best attempts at medication don’t create results folks are hoping for.

I’ve tackled this topic for years, in my writing and in my presentations to the public and clinicians, from San Francisco to Turkey–and now in my online training.  For more information: Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle

Could I Depend On Him?

Yes, I’ve hard-earned the status of “ADHD Expert” from my own original research and writing.  Yes, thousands of adults with ADHD and their partners or spouses, too, have shared their stories with me. But rest assured: I’ve had plenty of opportunity for “walking the talk” at home.

One particularly negative repetitive pattern involved my fear that my husband (the ADHD partner in our marriage) would be incapable—and even disinterested—in caring for me should I become sick or disabled, even temporarily.

I am not alone; this is a recurring fear expressed in my online group for the partners of adults with ADHD. And this fear has a basis in reality.

Was he incapable—or unwilling?  And at what point does it matter which it is?

In fact, there was an incident just yesterday.

Let me tell you about it. But first, turn on your speakers, because there are sound effects.

ADHD relationship dysfunction

Injured, Stranded, and Heartbroken

Over our 20 years together, I had plenty of “evidence” to support this not-so-irrational belief. That is, I’d be on my own if I were ever to become sick or incapacitated. He might mean to be attentive but, you know, distraction and disorganization.

For example, I had foot surgery a few years back. The doc issued strict orders to keep my foot elevated and move as little as possible. My husband, who worked at home then, swore he would be a regular Nurse Nightingale—the 6’2″ and 230# version.

His tenure started post-surgery: He steered my wheelchair careening through the hospital hallways and into the elevator. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-style. Whee!

A little bit fun, yes. But I was holding on for dear life, praying he didn’t knock my foot into the elevator doorframe—or catapult me out of the chair entirely!

Once home, I saw he had dutifully set up my bedstead with a land-line phone and his cell phone. That way, I could be sure of reaching him upstairs in his office, on the other side of the house, should I need him. Great start.

When I tried to use it, though, the land-line phone had a dead battery. The “pay as you go” cell phone had no more “go”.

I lay there marooned for too many hours, him out of shouting distance. He didn’t think to come check on me, either. Once he gets absorbed in his work, he tends to stay there.  As a result, I felt helpless, hurt, duped, and frightened.

“ADHD relationship dysfunction” patterns might have been clear to me—if we’d known about ADHD. Or what ADHD meant.

ADHD relationship trust

Warning To Self: Never Trust Him Again

I made a mental note made to my subconscious: Be very careful in trusting him again with your welfare. No matter how much he professes to trust him. And seriously ask yourself, why do you remain married to him? It was complicated.

Remember, this was early days in Adult ADHD awareness. We were on the “bleeding edge,” you might say. There were no books to guide us—especially none on ADHD relationship issues.

My first book, Is it You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? was only the third book available on Amazon about Adult ADHD, published in 2008. It broke new ground in detailing the importance of acknowledging the impact of ADHD on both partners and emphasizing the importance of teamwork with evidence-based treatment strategies.  This blog is the oldest continuing website of any kind of Adult ADHD, since 2008.

But we were dealing with ADHD—yet not knowing it—in the mid-90s. Adult ADHD had been made an official diagnosis only in 1994. Most professionals had not yet received the memo.

Our attempts at couple therapy were so disastrous they motivated us to double-down on cooperation. Anything to avoid facing that again. Besides, we were paying good money to, by turns, entertain and horrify the therapist. My memory of their faces always features a dropped jaw.

Only one mental-health expert I found then acknowledged the potential impact of ADHD on the spouse, and he was local to the Bay Area then: Daniel Amen, MD. Bless him.

In fact, happening upon his Change Your Brain, Change Your Life at the local library is how I first learned about Adult ADHD. I clung to Dr. Amen’s paragraphs of validation like a lifeline. Then I extended that lifeline to others in the ADHD Partner online group.  We were all feeling our way. On our own.

Gradually, our own “ADHD relationship dysfunction” improved. But it was often one step forward, three steps back. And I never knew when things would shift and I’d feel dropped on my head. Metaphorically.

Gina Pera

“Nurse NightinGoat” with Ice Cream—And Barbiturates

A few years after the foot-surgery incident, I had another outpatient surgery.  Dr. Goat (my husband’s nickname) accompanied me to the appointment. As we left, I was still groggy. The doctor gave the instructions to him. Once home, I staggered to the bed and fell asleep.

A few hours later, I awakened to Nurse Nightingoat plying me with two Vicodin pills and a bowl of French Vanilla ice cream: “The doctor said every 2-4 hours. The ice cream will prevent nausea.”

Like clockwork, he showed up with the pills and the ice cream every four hours—or was it 2?  I don’t know. I was in a semi-stupor. Finally, I said, “Stop! You’ll turn me into poor Marilyn Monroe!”

That was about six years ago. I updated my fear scenario around being unable to rely upon him in an emergency. But had not entirely forgotten.

ADHD Relationship Dysfunction: A Big Dip On the Coaster

Yesterday, I took a protracted, very ungraceful, and rather painful fall in the garage.

I tripped over a bicycle pedal and tried to avoid tripping over an air purifier.  In the process, I ricocheted myself in several directions and on several hard surfaces before finally landing with a thump on the raised kitchen doorstep.

It sounded like this:

 

My husband is working at home again these days, after 6 years of working in an office. He was right upstairs (at least I thought so).

Surely he heard the cacophony. If not that, surely he couldn’t miss my whimpering and calling out to him. Something like this, though not quite as energetic:

Lying there in a crumpled heap, my mind ran through all the likely scenarios: He had heard the calamity but figured “She’s okay. She’s the self-sufficient type.” Or, worse, he heard it and didn’t want to interrupt his work. But damn, I might have actually broken something.

I finally got to my feet and limped Quasimodo-like back to my office, calling out as I went. I held out hope that he might actually be elsewhere in the house, out of earshot during and after my fall.  Then, I discovered. He was in the bathroom.  On the other side of the house. Shew. That explains it.

“What’s happening!?” he said.

“Goat!” I called, “I just had a bad fall!”

Through the closed door, I heard it: profound annoyance at being interrupted. A sigh something like this:

He, however, recalls his sigh more like this:

 

My worst fear triggered: He was annoyed that something bad had happened to me that required his help.  Is it starting to sound like I’m “in denial” of abusive behavior?  I get it. But hang on a minute.

loves me deep down?

Caring “Deep Down”? Exactly How Far Down?

It’s hardly my first encounter with this scenario.

In more than a decade of leading the ADHD partners support group, I’ve heard it too many times. That is,  an ADHD partner seems to view a partner’s temporary illness not with compassion but as an….inconvenience. Among the many potential ADHD relationship issues, this is one of the most hurtful.

Yes, I can explain the range of alternate explanations—for example, how ADHD neurobiology can interfere with even the most compassionate person’s ability to organize appropriate responses. I explain this in my presentations and writing. ADHD relationship dysfunction issues present only one of the many sets of challenges that adults with ADHD face every day.

But we cannot ignore the fact: When you come against such from your intimate partner, it’s frightening. Your first response might be denial. You don’t want to believe that the person you fell in love with can be that cold, callous, or selfish.

You’ve heard that ADHD treatment can improve functioning. So, you hold out hope against all evidence.  You might tell yourself, “My partner cares about me deep down.”

The fact is, some intimate partners absolutely can be that cold, callous, or selfish—ADHD or not. If that’s the case, we better face it. Humans come with variable capacities, especially when it comes to higher-order brain functions such as empathy. There is nothing monolithic about ADHD, either.

The Gray Area of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction

How do we know, though, if it’s ADHD creating this undesirable response or something else?   Sorry, but there are no easy answers.

When we talk about the ADHD affect on marriage and relationships, we are talking a huge array of variable issues.  Not 10 easy tips and tricks. It’s for each person to assess and make the call.

We can get into real trouble, though, if we believe that with enough love and caring—and medication—a true sociopath can change. ADHD relationship strategies can go only so far in some cases.

The complicated truth, however, is this: Sometimes you know for sure what you are dealing with only after medical treatment for ADHD and any co-existing conditions, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression.

Yes, ADHD medication treatment often improves empathic functioning. To learn more, read ADHD, Empathy, and Dopamine.

Educate Yourself on ADHD—and Be Realistic

Granted, this is true for some; ADHD symptoms and poor coping strategies can stymie their ability to express or act upon what’s in their hearts. Psychoeducation is a must for both partners.

But we must be ready to tread the gray area.  There’s only one thing that the 10-30 millions of adults with ADHD in the U.S. alone have in common: variable aspects of this highly variable syndrome. Then there is the rest of “personality” and background.

We must consider the complicating co-existing conditions (e.g. conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, autistic-spectrum disorders, and more).

It’s easy to toss around “cookie-cutter” platitudes about people with ADHD. But, they don’t help anyone—and can do great harm. We must see people diagnosed with ADHD as individuals, not clones. The same is true for their partners.

So, I want to be very clear: With someone other than my husband, my story could have turned out very differently. The best decision might have been to leave.

There’s “we can work on this” relationship dysfunction. Then there is “impossibly toxic, destructive, and irreparable relationship dysfunction.” As you learn more about ADHD, especially the emotional baggage of late-diagnosis, you’ll be better equipped to know the difference.

ADHD relationship dysfunction

Beware the Professional Gaslighting

I feel I should mention an observation here: Many Adult ADHD specialists act very protectively toward their clients. I understand this, because I feel the same way toward the folks in my local Adult ADHD group.

Unfortunately, this too often means that these specialists feel little empathy for the partners. That’s putting it mildly, I’m afraid.

In fact, some specialists view the partners/spouses more as annoyances—perhaps even the core of their client’s problems—more than ADHD itself. They want them to “get with the program” and throw all their support behind their ADHD partners. NOW.  They also imply — and so does a plethora of websites by non-experts claiming expertise — that they are responsible for the so-called parent-child dynamic. In short, they shame them.

It goes against all reason, against all of what they should understand about ADHD. But it’s there.  I sometimes get that reaction by proxy. Simply by talking or writing about our evidence-based model of ADHD couple therapy. Not from preeminent Adult ADHD experts, who fully grasp this, but more at the clinical level.

The truth is, some clinicians and certainly the non-experts online routinely “gaslight” the partners of adults with ADHD.  I’ve seen a marked difference in the last 5 years online. I could explain why, but I’ll leave that for another post!

“You must be more compassionate,” they say. “You must understand what your ADHD partner is struggling with.” No matter if that’s how they started out, 20 years ago, with them being understanding and helping. Now they are exhausted.

They need legitimate help, not platitudes. Moreover, their ADHD partners deserve better, too.

Gina Pera

Learning to Draw On Newer Memories

After almost 20 years together, I’m clear that there is a “deep down” kindness in my husband.

Too often in the past, poorly managed ADHD obscured or sabotaged his innate empathy. He’d fail my expectations—and his own. Instead of reacting with contrition, he’d react with anger.

Later, he could say, the anger was directed at himself (“I failed again!”). But that came as cold comfort to me,  caught in the cross-fire.

Happily, Things Are Different Now

That morning, as I limped to the back of the house, seeking solace, I decided to momentarily ignore my husband’s put-upon-sounding sigh. I put aside all the old painful patterns around it. Instead, I drew upon the more recent memory with Nurse NightinGoat and the reliable Vicodin/ice-cream routine.

With that memory in mind, I mentally stepped back and gave him a minute or so to “transition”—not to mention finish whatever he was doing in the bathroom. Something like this:

I flopped on the bed and finally said, “Hey, I hurt and I need some comfort.”  At that point, he hepped to—speedily fetching a selection of cold packs, sitting with me on the bed, petting my head, kissing my banged-up wrist, and saying, “Poor you.”

This was a much better outcome than we both might have experienced in years past. To wit:

  • I’d react with hurt and anger to his imposed-upon-sounding sigh, accuse him of being the most selfish man I ever knew—”and I was stupid enough to marry you!”—and storm out of the room feeling horrible about my marriage and plotting my escape.
  • He’d react by withdrawing to the safe confines of manipulating databases, feeling stunned that he screwed up again, that his intent so badly translated into actions, and, finally, in perhaps a subconscious effort at ego-protection “what the hell is wrong with her anyway?”

Will this strategy help your relationship? Are you learning how your challenges might be common ADHD relationship dysfunction patterns?

Will stepping back and allowing for your ADHD partner, now on board with treatment strategies, to have a moment’s transition help to heal past counter-productive patterns?

Will you be able to build enough new patterns,  enabling you to let go of some old ones?

I can’t promise it. But it might be worth a try.

Postscript: This morning I went to load the clothes into the washer. What did I find? An absolutely clear and wide path, free of bicycle, humidifier, and other flotsam and jetsam. Thank you, Dr. Goat!

We Hope Our Story Helps You

We both believe in sharing our story—and our lessons hard-won—so that other couples can better enjoy the ride on their own ADHD Roller Coaster. To help heal your ADHD relationship dysfunction, you might find these resources helpful:

Thank you for reading this long, but important, post. I’d love to hear your experiences in ADHD relationships.  

ALSO:  I am entirely self-funded, with no outside support of any kind, including pharmaceutical industry.

A version of this post appeared May 24, 2015

—Gina Pera

87 thoughts on “Breaking Out of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction — After Not Breaking a Fall”

  1. Hi Gina,
    I’m writing this as an adult with ADHD. I really don’t know what to do anymore.

    I’m ruining my marriage, and tonight I thought I might’ve drawn the last straw. Everything you’ve described about your husband and his motivations/struggles sounds similar to my own.

    Everytime I read stories about people with ADHD, it does little but to reaffirm that “yep, that’s me”.

    But you said something very interesting that I’ve not seen anywhere else in an article. The idea that therapists and coaches have a tendency to protect their clients. I have seen a couple therapists, and I’m currently seeing a coach.

    The feeling of being caught between the advice of my therapist and the feelings of my spouse is enough to drive me absolutely crazy. I fully understand what you mean when you say that they can gaslight my spouse. So I guess I have two questions.

    1) How can I best handle the situation if I feel that my coach/therapist is becoming more of a protective friend than an objective councilor? It doesn’t help that I am naturally a friendly and charming person to most people.

    2) How can I provide my spouse some comfort and stability when she has been through this cycle a hundred times throughout our marriage?

    Apologies, commitments, moments of clarity, and calls to action no longer hold any water. They have failed far too many times to provide comfort.

    I am seeing a psychiatrist in a couple months to talk about possibly starting medication for the first time, but as you said in your post, that is just part of the equation for treatment. I’m feeling pretty hopeless, ashamed, and increasingly detached from my wife as I continue to let her down, miscommunicate, fight with her, and lose her trust.

    Thanks for any helpful thoughts you might have.

    1. Dear William,

      I am so very sorry to learn of your situation. My sympathies to your wife, too.

      It comes as no surprise to me, unfortunately. As you noticed, I warn about trusting any random mental-health professional to understand evidence-based ADHD treatments.

      Some people don’t understand my reasoning. One person said to me, “You’re just trying to protect your brand.”

      After I stopped laughing (marketing has never been my forte; I’m all about content and service), I realized that’s how it might appear to more people.

      The Internet has changed everything. Self-promotion is easy, cheap, and often effective — even when based on the slimmest of credentials. It confuses people who are stressed and confused. Then there’s this “Death of Expertise” trend.

      As for the mental-health professionals who fail to recognize ADHD — or know what to do about it — I write about that in my first book (You Me ADD). Including a chapter called “When the Wrong Therapy Is Worse Than No Therapy”. Last I checked, there was ONE masters-degree program in mental health that covered ADHD. ONE.

      To combat all this confusion and misdirection, my co-author and I spent five years developing and writing a couple-therapy model for ADHD. Endorsed by legitimate, preeminent clinical researchers.

      https://adhdrollercoaster.org/adhd-and-relationships/qa-adult-adhd-focused-couple-therapy/

      If I were you, I’d read that book together with my spouse. Especially the medication chapter. More about that in a second.

      FINALLY, the fact that you are only just now starting to think about medication means you have either intentionally ignored good advice or never received it.

      Does everyone with ADHD HAVE TO take medication? Of course not. But when nothing else is working, it’s time to remember, ADHD is a diagnosis, and ADHD is potentially the most impairing outpatient mental-health condition.

      I would not wait a couple of months. I would get on the horn NOW to a prescriber that you and your wife have vetted (after reading You Me ADD’s chapter on medication).

      Don’t take a gamble that another mental-health professional who doesn’t understand ADHD will play fast and loose with your life.

      Do I sound hyperbolic? I imagine so. I also speak of widespread reality. You can take my word for it —or not. 🙂

      I wish you luck. You and your wife deserve better.

      take care,
      Gina

  2. The medical issue is one of real concern to me.

    I had surgery for cancer when I was 25, and while I was still in the hospital, my ADHD husband went to go play golf with his dad. Then, when I was 27, I had an ear infection that turned into meningitis. It’s a much more dangerous situation when you’re hallucinating and completely incapable of expressing your medical needs.

    He knew I was out of my mind when I told him I thought we were in Denver (we lived in Memphis). So rather than calling our regular doctor’s office, he called his ADHD brother, who was a general practice medical doctor at the time (he’s since left the medical profession to become a blueberry farmer – something much better suited to his ADHD).

    It was Friday, and his brother came over and said it would be fine to just take me to my regular doctor on Monday morning. After a feverish weekend of sleeping, throwing up and hallucinating, he took me to my doctor on Monday morning, who told him to take me directly to the hospital. I spent 5 days in the hospital.

    It just never occurred to him (or his brother) that I could be having a serious problem that needed immediate attention. That would require stepping into the adult role. Considering that he dismisses half the things I say when I’m fully in control of myself, it’s not surprising that he would dismiss my needs when I’m not.

    1. Oh Erin. That is exactly the fear….the nightmare.

      Your dh and a blueberry farmer (medical doctor or not, it seems that didn’t work out so well for him), deciding if you should live or die.

      Horrifying.

      I’m glad you got help when you needed it.

      Gina

    2. I get it. Most of the time when I am sick, I am in my room the entire day, [days]. He never checks on me. I have no food or water even, unless I call my 20-year-old son.

      I was very sick a few years ago, thought it was the flu until I was bedbound, shaking uncontrollably. My 16-year-old son came in and put his sleeping bag on me and laid across me to get me to stop. Never saw my husband until I collapsed on the floor. He took me to urgent care and they could not get my blood pressure. They insisted on an ambulance, but my husband said, “no, that’s no problem, I’ll take her”, and walked me to the car.

      I got to the hospital and came to. I heard a doctor say he was from the CDC. He said, “You are a very lucky lady”. I didn’t realize until later that I had a life-threatening bacterial infection, and had almost died. My husband never really mentioned it, he just moves along. He never told me if the doctor or nurses told him anything! I have to be the one to tell my 5 kid’s, that I am sick and cannot help them. My husband doesn’t advocate for me in any way. You feel crazy, like your all alone in this bizarre vortex, of whys.

      Right now I am recovering from Covid. My husband doesn’t ask me how I’m doing and then I feel stupid when I have to pipe up and tell him, “I’m too weak to do this or that or that I cannot walk as fast as him. I’ve told him some of the pretty bad ongoing symptoms I have, [I don’t think I complain too much] , and his response is usually NO WORDS! How can someone just say….nothing? Or, the big “Oh”. “I just don’t think” is the answer. “Oh”, I respond, What can you say?

      Lastly, My Mother died.. I was in shock and panic. I needed to get out of the hospital. We had brought separate cars. I rushed to the parking lot, [apparently], not realizing I hadn’t fully explained what I was doing and HE was so upset, frightened, or whatever that he yelled at me across the parking lot, in front of estranged family, [thank you]. “What are you doing?” Furthering the, I’m crazy scenario. I don’t remember what I said to him, got in my car, and started driving. He called while I drove and yelled at me some more, “where are you going? What are you doing….. I could barely speak and he hangs up on me. I go to my Mothers house, to be close to her, he followed me and yelled at me some more in her driveway.

      Later, I told him, something like. I was in shock, you idiot. The worst time in my life and he can’t figure something out! I cannot and will not trust him again. I have spoken to my 24-year-old, very responsible daughter about who to contact and what to do if I am incapacitated. It’s my only hope.

      It’s been 40 long years.
      I am either very strong or very foolish.
      Probably both.

    3. Dear Hope,

      I find your story heartbreaking. You have all my sympathies.

      Are you strong or foolish? Yes, maybe both. Or maybe, as with many other people in similar situations, you are the “frog in the pot.”

      The water wasn’t so hot when you climbed in. It might even have been comfortable.

      But over time, as it heated up, your ability to get out of the pot diminished.

      Maybe you also stayed together for your children. Some do that, fearing shared-custody situation that would be truly dangerous for their children (e.g. forgetting to put on their seat belts, leaving dangerous medication out, driving dangerously, etc.).

      I hope that you can find some peace and comfort now in life. You deserve it.

      take care,
      g

  3. Thank you so much for this article! I look forward to reading your materials.
    My husband has had ADHD since he was young and has not been medicated since his dad took him off meds in high school.

    We are at a near breaking point in our relationship, to the point we have temporarily separated in order to 1: cool off and 2: allow me to organize the house so that we can both tolerate living here.

    We’ve been married for 8.5yrs and we both have other issues as well. It was so assuring for me to read your story bc I’ve been feeling like there’s no way to make it work. I definitely understand how hurtful it can be when they respond as if you’re a pest.

    So a little on my story bc it helps to explain the complexity of my situation. I was raised predominately by my narcissistic mother with a younger and very troubled sister. For a portion of my younger years my mom was married to my sisters dad who was also physically and emotionally abusive. There were no stable adults that were reliable (my dad was stable, but I didn’t see him very much due to his living situation) and life was traumatic.

    In my early teenage years my mom did a role reversal on me where she (after finally choosing to leave her 2nd marriage) put all her weight and responsibility on me including my younger sister. She put her emotions on me and expected me to carry her, her job was to earn a paycheck and pay bills and that’s all she was interested in doing.

    Then once I was old enough to work, I got a job and she handed me a bunch of bills too, more than I could pay and she was intermittently working, but not enough to make it. I was the peacemaker type of kid so I took it on without complaint and the more I did the more she gave up.

    When I met my husband my mom got insecure and started doing a bunch of really mean and unreasonable things so I had to move out and in with him fairly early in our relationship. I went into my new relationship still accustomed to being a caretaker so when my husband didn’t act responsibly I’d just take care of it.

    It set up a bad habit first thing and it worked until I just got too tired to do it anymore. When we moved into our house we didn’t take the time to set it up properly in the beginning bc he had convinced me to allow us to move in with my mom (he thought she’d changed bc she started going to church and was behaving a little better) to help her not lose her house while we saved money on rent to buy our own. Well, that turned into a situation where we needed to leave in a hurry and so we didn’t set up our house at the beginning.

    He also has a tendency to hoard things (materials for projects he never starts etc) so we’ve been living in near complete chaos for 7 years with my ocd tendencies making it more like hell. I’ve spent the last 7 years trying to get him to be an equal partner with me, sharing responsibilities and working as a team, but I’ve been progressively destabilizing the whole time trying to combat the anxiety from the mess and all the things that were never done.

    As a result he has created a lot of distance between us and has become even more irresponsible to the point that we are in a financial crisis over missed work and unpaid bills. He would hide in a room and play video games all day or watch anime. I couldn’t get him to help me with anything, he wouldn’t even take his trash and dishes to the kitchen, I’d have to go hunt for them. I was truly starting to wonder if he was doing it on purpose just to tick me off and I was just so angry and frustrated all the time.

    It was hard for me to validate those feelings even though I clearly knew that a measure of it was unacceptable. So now we are doing a trial separation where he’s living with his mom (who won’t take care of him like I did bc she doesn’t do it for herself, idk if that’s better or worse) and I’m at the house alone.

    We are trying to get into counciling, each to deal with our own issues first and then as a couple once we make some individual progress. The financial part of that is hard at the moment, but since he’s left he has been forced to actually see the disaster we are in and he’s starting to address it at least a little bit. It took getting him out to address his escapism.

    He has the capacity to be a very loving, kind and generous person, that why I fell in love with him, but I’ve seen none of that for years now so I just have to trust that somehow we can bring that side of him back.

    He sees me as overly negative and if his utterances are any indication, a pest. I have battled with the question, when he tells me that he can’t do something or isn’t able to motivate himself, whether it’s true or an excuse.

    I’m still not entirely sure, but I will learn more especially now that I’ve found your page and have some confidence that I’m not the only person facing these challenges and that they truly are hard and it’s not just me being over sensitive. Thank you again so much, and if you have any insight into my situation that you think will help please share.

    1. Dear Amanda,

      I’m glad you found my blog, too. You might want to check out my first book.

      It will give you a deep and broad education as to what ADHD is and isn’t, how living a few decades without diagnosis and treatment can result in very unhealthy patterns, and how living with another person’s ADHD can affect you.

      Your background sounds so difficult. I’m sorry you had to endure that…and now this.

      It’s true that some people with ADHD can be “loving, kind, and generous,” as you write. Especially in the beginning of the relationship.

      But as time goes on, many things can happen: “loving, kind, and generous” turns out to be an act (or at least short-lived), ADHD-related challenges and fallout interfere with expressions of these qualities, and — lacking insight as to their challenges — the pattern might be to blame others who are in their vicinity. That is, you.

      I urge you to take care of yourself. That might be more easily done if you find a partner who can act as a partner in a more equitable way.

      g

      Maybe counseling would help. But too often, it does not. Counseling is not typically the treatment for ADHD symptoms and problematic behaviors as you describe here. Medication typically is the most effective strategy. Once that’s on board and optimized, the other issues can be addressed one by one.

    2. I’m 6yrs into the chaos & I am at my breaking point.

      I’ve been telling him I am lonely for the last year and a half.

      We have two small children both with special needs one with asd & adhd. My ringtone for him is literally the Peter pants song and I just referred to him as Peter Pan because it seems like he wants to live in never Neverland and just do whatever he wants to and never come home and help me with the kids or anything.

      I now have to carry the load for three people + myself I feel like I’m raising three special needs children. I’m sick of being the only adult I need a partner not a problem maker.

      I was very ill and had surgery if I ask him to feed the children but also means clear plates they used to eat & and putting them in the sink not leaving the food to on the table to rot and help me clean up later leaving soda cans everywhere trash goes in the trash cans it makes me feel like he disrespects me like I’m his slave.

      He has the complete inability to recognize and understand the needs of others literally if I was on fire I would have to tell him to get a bucket and fill it with water and then pour it on me! I have to handle 100% of the finances or everything will be paid late or I have to nag him constantly easier to just do myself. I cannot rely on him I cannot trust him with anything!

      This is not a partnership I feel like I’m his mother. We have lived in our house for two years and despite making a place for everything in this house he won’t put his stuff there! Despite having a garage full of tools I bought my own small toolbox so I can find them he stole them when I need them well he stole & lost them all because he couldn’t find his.

      In six years I have probably bought 50 phones that’s how many times he has broken and lost his phone lost his wallet at least 20-30times. He has been ADHD since a child that refuses to take any medication got him to go to a counselor for about a year who also suggested he take medication but he won’t do it!

      I have my own emotional issues and I have needs and not one of them are met. Complains he doesn’t get enough sex but I am not attracted to someone I have to mother and if you spend your whole night out in the garage playing with your cars and no attention to me then you will not get any. Not to mention the amount of resentment that has built up has completely turned me off from him
      Then he throws a tantrum like a little child Breaks thing On purpose and breaks everything else by being irresponsible.

      I have done tons of research I am trying to be very understanding but I can only express my needs so many times that this family needs him to be here and his attention on us, Not helping his buddy out not starting projects.

      Clean clothes are hung or folded and put in the closet or drawer not just dumped on the floor in the corner of the room. It’s just insanity!!!! Chaos in my house is chaos in my mind and I’m about to lose my mind.

      How can I get him to hear me??? I have feel like I’m invisible I have no voice I’m not being heard, At this point I feel like he will never get it until he comes home and one day me and the kids are gone.

      Why the hell does he get to keep living life like a free spirited child while I shoulder the immense amount of responsibility of running a household caring for two special needs children 99% alone …and he also insists I make his lunch otherwise he will spend $20 a day on food what?

      I am not his mother! But he can’t even identify what he would want me to make him? Just seems like everything he does is some way to make my life more difficult! And it feels malicious I know it’s not but the fact that he won’t get help makes me feel like this is his choice To make my life as difficult as possible…..And I have spent so much time and effort trying to understand and help him and I feel like this man understands nothing about me and doesn’t even know me And isn’t even interested in doing so

    3. Dear Julie,

      I hear you, and I’m so sorry you’ve found yourself in this situation.

      I guess you really know that it doesn’t matter how many times you tell him or ask him for something. It’s not going to register.

      It’s up to you now. You have the power to take control of your life. You are obviously strong and have been taking care of so much. Imagine what life would be without the constant sabotage, however unintentional.

      Medication can be very helpful. But with the habits and attitude that you describe him as having, medication will likely only go so far. Having all that freedom to do what he wants — while you pick up the pieces — isn’t something he’ll give up easily, I imagine.

      Perhaps that’s even why he rejects medication. He knows/fears that it means then he’ll have to become more responsible.

      Sometimes when you’re in the middle of the vortex, it’s hard to see straight.

      You’ve made a strong first step, in voicing your feelings here. I wonder if there’s any way you can get some time to yourself, even for a weekend.

      COVID-19 probably makes that impossible. But if you could just start detaching in your mind a bit and focusing on what you’d rather see in your life, it might help you to feel less dependent upon him “doing something” that it seems he is not inclined toward doing.

      I wish you peace and self-care.

      Gina

  4. Gina,

    Thank you for a great article. I was diagnosed last year and my wife and I have been married a bit over ten years. She is the complete opposite of ADHD, as sharp as they come, and a Clinical Social Worker as well.

    I just happened on your site because we’re struggling greatly; it’s difficult to find resources for the spouse with ADHD to work on how to improve themselves in the marriage; how to understand and respond positively to the non-ADHD spouse. Too many times I think it’s one thing, go all out on that, but completely miss the boat on what she really needs.

    I look forward to learning more of your experiences as the non-ADHD spouse.

    Marc

    1. Hi Marc,

      COVID is hitting many ADHD-challenged adults and couples very hard, and it’s easy to imagine why.

      I encourage you to read my first book: https://amzn.to/3oNiRz6

      You’ll find the range of degrees and ways in which ADHD can affect the adults who have it and their loved ones. Moreover, it details treatment strategies.

      Truly, optimizing ADHD treatment can improve all of life, including relationships, health, happiness, and more.

      Thanks for your comment,
      g

  5. I am sorry but your article is full of shit. It is hard enough to find someone to spend time with.. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole Hill and get on with your life.

  6. Hi
    This is so helpful as my marriage is quickly unraveling. I’ve only recently considered that a good portion of our challenges are caused by undiagnosed ADHD. Unfortunately while these scenarios are exactly what we experience he’s uninterested in considering that this could be a basis for our problems.

    He remains angry at me (almost always), spins scenarios and words often and rarely owns up to his part of a situation. I often feel like I’m crazy with so many inconsistencies and constant navigating of either the mine field of his emotions or the newest version of a scenario. He’s largely not interested in counseling or any consistent help.

    I feel lost. I love him but our relationship is largely unhealthy. He’s in the church circles and does well managing all of this outwardly.. only within the home does this often come into play .. making it hard to seek support as everyone knows him as the funny godly guy.

    Would love to hear your thoughts..

    1. Hi MF,

      I appreciate your situation — he’s the “funny Godly guy” while you are the little bag of frowns. 🙂

      You are not alone. This is all too common a phenomenon.

      Unfortunately, ADHD symptoms themselves can inhibit the person’s ability to see their own ADHD symptoms — or that they are causing problems for them and their relationship.

      So, it is rare for the spouse to say, “Hey, I figured it out — ADHD!” and the potential-ADHD spouse to say, “Great! Where do I sign up?”

      It’s not fair. But many times it is up to the “partner of” to be the first to self-educate. The more you become educated and the more you validate your perceptions, the more clear you will be about the extent to which ADHD is interfering with your marriage and your husband’s life.

      I wrote my book for people like you….who need a comprehensive course in Adult ADHD, including its potential effects on the partners and the range of evidence-based strategies. Including “getting through denial.”

      I encourage you to read or listen to it. Getting validation for your perception might help you to care less what “everybody else” thinks — and to know that being in this “largely unhealthy” relationship” is not how you want to spend the rest of your life.

      Please take care of yourself and invite the “church circle” people to spend a week at your house, with your husband in charge of everything. See what happens. 🙂

      g

    2. Hi MF,
      I have been married to a man with ADHD for 44 years. All along he has and still tries to make everything harmful that he does, my or someone else’s fault. He seems mortified by accountability. We did lots of therapy. He gave constant promises and lip service but in the end he said he felt phoney if he had to try and work on some of his behaviour issues and find new ways of communicating or working with his problems. He said he is who he is and should just accept it. (Lying repeatedly, drinking too much, cheating while travelling, being clued out and “not bothering” (his words) when he needed to care in important situations, gaslighting, back stabbing, coming on to my women friends and trying to gossip about me, being an unengaged parent so I needed to do it all.) I could go on and I have left out the worst of it.
      Has it been worth it? I can’t believe I believed for so long that it could have been worth it, if he had truly wanted to work on his issues, perhaps get meds, but he didn’t and doesn’t . He is an expert at eliciting sympathy from those who don’t know what he is like at home and this seems to be enough for him. If I was giving advice to my younger self, I would say “Go! and don’t look back.”
      I have accomplished things in my life in spite of the sabotage and chaos from his mind, actions and inaction, but I feel I have wasted at least half of my adult life dealing with his dysfunctional issues. If the person with ADHD does not do the work and realize the harm they cause, it will only get worse. Sorry to say this, but after all these years of patience, responsibility taking, loving and proactive work on myself, nothing has changed because he doesn’t want to and that has made it impossible. We now live in separate parts of the house and if I can figure out how to leave financially I will, ( I’m 67) to have a decade or two of peace would be great.

  7. Hi Gina, thank you so much for your book. It’s definitely in my library. My husband and I have been coping poorly with his ADHD and addiction(s) for 7 years; and just finally found respectable help for the past year.

    Through my research, I realized I was coping by trying to “control” him – aka co-dependent behaviors – in a misguided attempt to feel safe. When in reality self-care made me feel safer. Further learning taught me to stay in my own “hula hoop” (S.M.A.R.T) – his decisions, behaviors, etc are his responsibility; and my decisions, behaviors, etc are mine – and get out, and stay out, of his hula hoop. (e.g. am I doing something for him that he CAN & SHOULD be doing for himself?) Which I do all right with for the most part.

    However, the times where I start to lose it is,

    1) we are caregivers for my parents, and he occasionally makes decisions that put my family’s safety at risk.

    Take last night as an example: he stays up late in their house to watch TV and when he comes back to our fifth wheel to sleep, he forgets to close the garage.

    As he comes in, and in my half asleep state, I’m thinking “get up and check the garage.” I fell back asleep and woke up around 1:00am to find the garage open. I’ve used the “I feel” statements to handle that in the past. But the high alert I feel I need to be in to protect my family is exhausting.

    2) I finally moved back into my parents’ office instead of their kitchen – I was keeping an eye on my mom; but couldn’t get any work done in there. I just set it up Tuesday, my husband is in there last night and uses up the toner printing an inordinate amount and then says “That’s not even what I wanted.” (Ummm… Couldn’t you look at the screen to determine that BEFORE you hit print? )

    So before I can work, I now need toner (probably paper, too) and for him to clean up his mess. I plan on asking him to do both. Which should be fun, because he hasn’t been working (unless you call building forts and training dinosaurs, work ), and has maxed out his credit cards.

    But just like he finds a way to buy two brand new pairs of British Knights, I know he will find a way to buy me toner.

    Why am I telling you all this? Venting, maybe? I can usually sit back and not let his maxing out credit cards, for example, affect me cuz it doesn’t impact me as much – cuz I’m not going to pay that balance for him; that’s his responsibility.

    But when his decisions impact me, like my job, and disrespect my space & belongings, and doesn’t protect my family, the hairs go up. I guess I just need to set boundaries…

    Again. If after reading this, you see anything I can work on or try differently, please let me know. Thank you, Gina!

    1. Hi Danielle,

      I understand the inclination to address our own “codependent” behaviors rather than trying to change our ADHD partner’s problematic behaviors. Especially when ADHD is neither diagnosed or properly treated.

      This inclination is reinforced by many in the mental-health field. But it’s a problem, and I made sure to address the problem in my book. So, definitely look for the pages about Codependence.

      The thing is, trying to mind your own responsibilities and let him manage is…..typically catches up with us. It’s a very tenuous partnership, never knowing when you will really need your ADHD partner to cooperate.

      So, I never advise that as a long-term solution.

      Also, check the passage in my book about “setting boundaries.” It’s one thing to set boundaries. It’s another thing for our ADHD partners to remember and be able to respect those boundaries.

      It’s another “therapy trope” that typically works against us when it comes to dealing with ADHD.

      Venting is important. Keep reading and learning!

      Thanks for writing.
      g

    2. Hi Danielle,
      Please read my reply to MH. I spent 30 years working on myself, learning to accept, staying in my own lane etc. but as you said, if your loved ones are at risk, your credit score, your belongings are not respected, you can’t always stay in your lane when he is ripping into yours. If he hasn’t made any progress within a couple of years of diagnosis and uses adhd as an excuse, I would say maybe cut your losses. I feel I wasted so much of my adult life dealing with someone who refused to face their problems and tried repeatedly to make their problems mine. No more.

  8. Any advice for severe RSD? I can generally handle my husband’s ADD symptoms (he’s an inattentive type), but where I am really struggling is the RSD symptoms. He gets so “in his feelings” as I categorize it, that he becomes immobile for hours on end. This morning what set him off was “would you mind cleaning the bathroom today?” To him this was a personal attack of me asserting he should have both known it needed to be done and me criticizing him for it. I, obviously, didn’t intend it that way. But now, the bathroom isn’t cleaned and while I’m trying to work full time and manage our kids, he is laying in bed all day furiously scribbling notes likely about how overbearing I am to discuss with his therapist. I just don’t know how to even talk to him at this point without getting yelled at and then without consenting, getting stuck with all our shared responsibilities until he can self soothe enough to participate in our life. It is starting to interfere with me doing my job, which I am the only one employed right now. I am exhausted!

    1. Hi Leah,

      Unfortunately, a for-profit magazine has acted very irresponsibly in its highly circulated information on “RSD.”

      The phenomenon is more complicated, and it bears almost no relation to the parameters that the MD writing about it claims—much less the treatments.

      You say that you can “generally handle” your husband’s ADHD symptoms, but what you are describing ARE ADHD symptoms. (By the way, there is no ADD anymore. There is only ADHD with three presentations: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined. Most adults are combined and often misdiagnosed as inattentive.)

      Please read my first book to learn more about emotional dysregulation and other ADHD symptoms — along with the evidence-based treatment strategies.

      His therapist seems to know nothing about ADHD.

      This probably isn’t about you. It’s about his untreated ADHD symptoms.

      I’m thinking no one needs this especially now during these stressful COVID times. Everyone needs to be operating on all eight cylinders!

      Please take care of yourself and know that this isn’t something that either of you have to live with.

      best,
      g

  9. We really couldn’t get anyone with ADHD treated if they themselves won’t let us help them. Hard thing to do I guess even if how much we wanted them to cope up.

    1. Hi Amber,

      Unfortunately, that is too often true.

      Yet, the loved ones of these “in denial” adults with ADHD often have more influence than they think they do.

      But the approach must be strategic. I write about “getting through denial” extensively in my first book.

      https://amzn.to/2RUOQR3

      best,
      g

  10. I am married to my love 20 years, 4 children
    Career 15 years law enforcement, 25 years military and currently LCSW rural Nevada
    diagnosed 4 time ADHD, have pre-occupied/disorganized attachment; my wife is more dismissive/disorganized
    She has said recently, she knows I am an emotional abuser, she is done with me, because I will never change. I have effectively destroyed all trust she has. She is unwilling to read ANY resource I present. She believes she is well regulated and I am the one to change.
    Being a therapist I have much information to show WHAT we could do different/better, yet she is unwilling to pursue.
    She is committed to staying married and raising our children together, basically roommate. She wont even let me see her (4weeks and counting) she changes in the other room. Affection is tolerated when I touch, but only allowed to a very small way.
    She feels that we individually work and
    we don’t need “them”
    I feel like I’m floundering.
    My bride doesn’t see the importance of making our marriage priority.
    She tells me most of everything is me and the ADHD. I try to explain that either way me or her we are in the proverbial Fox Hole together and we need to work together… My wife expressed I need to make the changes
    How? Especially when I get “punished” from long history of things “I have no hope it will be different….”
    She feels no need for affection or intimacies until friendship, yet expects the friendship to be like she had with friends outside of our relationship…. girlfriends or affiliates in church callings etc
    I know a bit long but felt to give a bit of set up
    I adore my lady, and recognize I have beyond fare share of flaws. I would like my life learning companion to turn toward and do US/WE together
    I feel she is avoidant tendencies or disorganized and I preoccupied
    ANY guidance would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Curious about RSD/post sex irritability

  11. OMG Gina, thank you, thank you so much. Even for the sound effects…lol. Describes my life with my spouse to a T!!!! I am so glad I found your online articles. I pray my spouse gets the tests done and gets treatment.
    Cheristina

    1. Hi Christina,

      I’m happy that this post resonated for you. Even the sound effects. haha.

      I’d never knock prayer, but there are active things you can do to help your husband leaves behind “denial” and starts taking his ADHD (if that’s what he has!) seriously.

      Read my book’s three chapters on ADHD & Denial. https://amzn.to/2MqWk7p

      cheers,
      g

  12. This information is so so helpful! My husband is not “hyper ” but must have ADD…. I discovered your book on adult ADD in trying to help my 12 yo son. I am worn out from 25 years of marriage and 6 kids, one w ADHD and one w Downs. My husband is recovering from years of bad sex addiction. He is doing well and happier than he ever was. But my being “invisible ” for so many years and being neglected, has taken its toll. How do I really forgive and live a good life now that he is doing better?

    1. Dear Lori,

      As the youngest of seven children, I know full well the kind of work you have been doing. And with one child having ADHD and the other Downs, with all the special assistance both conditions require…I can’t imagine.

      If your husband is doing better now, it’s time for him to step up and do all he can do make your life easier and happier. Unfortunately, this might not come about unless you take the lead.

      The last chapter in my first book (Is It You….) details some couple strategies. And my latest book, with psychologist Arthur Robin, details more elaborate strategies for ADHD-challenged couples. The book is targeted to couple therapists, so they can learn how to help these clients, but it is written so that the clients themselves can benefit.

      http://amzn.to/2AexrsT

      Good luck to you!

      g

    2. Hi Duff,

      Thanks, I am very familiar with narcissism.

      I would not call it, however, a “heavy pathology from childhood.”

      I would call narcissism a “bucket diagnosis” that until recent times has described a wide variety of behaviors but hasn’t explained their genesis, other than the usual speculation about “childhood” and “blame the mother.” 🙂

      As we learn more about the various types of empathy and their underpinnings in the brain, we learn that this is a very complex subject. There are no one-size fits-all answers.

      I’ve written a few posts on empathy and dopamine-transmission — and one post in particular about a friend who feared she was “raising a narcissist” until her child was finally diagnosed and treated for ADHD.

      https://adhdrollercoaster.org/tag/adhd-and-empathy/

      Thanks for your comment,
      Gina

  13. This is a great story with a ending that is unfortunately uncommon from my experience. It is very true about counselors gaslighting. In my experience, I truly was convinced that my spouse did love me but didn’t know how to show it. I felt that she was self centered and icy at times, but I continued to feel frustrated in our loveless marriage. After 7 1/2 years, and opening a business together, my spouse left town to care for her mother and refused to return. She abandoned our business, left all the household bills for me, and started a new life without a single explanation. I have been blamed for every problem we had in our marriage, and for the duration of separation she has threatened me, verbally abused me, and still denies that she ever left in the first place. I feel like I’ve stepped into a universe where reality has no baring. She detached from our friends, our neighbors, all responsibilities, and refuses to acknowledge any of these actions. I have been existing in great distress and trauma. Even as I try to file for divorce, it is difficult to accept that my spouse is someone I really never knew.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Yes, this story’s ending is uncommon.

      Your story can have whatever ending you like. Perhaps your wife did you a favor by leaving. She made it very clear.

      I definitely appreciate the bewilderment you must be feeling.

      We somehow don’t imagine that “normal” people can behave in such aberrant ways. We expect that the signs would be more clear, and if we didn’t see the signs, something is wrong with us.

      But now you understand more about the vagaries of the human brain, how there can be a mish-mash of impulses, and sometimes the incredibly selfish ones win out. You probably did know a part of your wife, but another part won out in the end. Perhaps as responsibilities overwhelmed her and life wasn’t as “fun” anymore.

      I wish you luck going forward. If it’s any consolation, I hear from many folks like you who have gone on to have very happy relationships. They say, “I didn’t know it could be this easy.”

      best,
      g

  14. Pingback: ADHD and Relationships: 3 Simple Strategies - ADHD Roller Coaster with Gina Pera

  15. Gina, In reference to this….

    ..Postscript: This morning I went to load the clothes into the washer. What did I find? An absolutely clear and wide path, free of bicycle, humidifier, and other flotsam and jetsam…..”

    I never understood on any level why ADHD hubby would put things right in the way of where people walk!! I’ve tripped and bashed my toes many times on crap laying around or had to move something out of the way to squeeze through.
    The answer is….they need their OWN large room!!!
    (as one poster said).

    And be hyper vigilant about
    “Crap Creeping” into the rest of the house!
    Yes…. I peek in there once in a while to see him happy in a tangle of computers, instruments, amplifiers and WIRES strung everywhere like Spider on LSD.

    I chuckle and close the door, ahhhh the peace of an orderly home!

    Save your sanity and beware of the
    Crap Creep!

    Joy

    1. Hi Joy,

      Crap creep! 🙂

      I’m afraid I’m the one more likely to be guilty of that in our house.

      I’m a bit of a pack rat, with regular purges.

      My husband calls me a bi-phasic pack rat. 😉

      g

  16. Kidlet Who Cooks

    Sigh – I started a reply, found I’m in another site that doesn’t have a draft/cache feature, so I lost it. I had a couple of insights/points to make, but they can wait for now. Mostly I wanted to thank you for compassionate response. Everyone needs to be heard, especially the disenfranchised, so thank you for listening and responding.

    Now I need to call an ADHD program to ask about a dozen questions . . .

    Jeannine

    1. Hi Jeannine,

      How frustrating! That’s happened to me before—losing a carefully crafted post. I didn’t know that blogs could have a draft/cache feature. I’ll ask my consultant about it.

      Meanwhile, I don’t publicize this because I’m pretty busy right now, but I do offer limited phone consultations.

      http://adhdrollercoaster.com/private-consultations-with-gina/

      I’m grateful that my work is helpful to you.

      g

  17. Kidlet Who Cooks

    Gina, reading your story in this post really resonated with me, powerfully, painfully.

    I don’t have the energy to tell the story of how much I can relate to this experience. Except to say that seven years ago, I had an epiphany about how I could – or couldn’t – depend on my husband, and I made a decision about my plans in the event of terminal or serious chronic illness. Many, many things have happened in the time since then to only reinforce my decision.

    I have been reading this blog, some of the posts on the ADHD partner group, books, online articles, forum comments, etc. That is, when I’m not working on everyday life tasks and continuing to rebuild the energy/functioning that I lost three years ago in my breakdown.

    learned early in the research that living with/managing ADHD would be a lifelong proposition – for my husband AND for me. That was a daunting discovery, but I was cautiously hopeful that the chaos and destruction that has permeated every area of our lives could be turned around, that there was enough left of what used to be good that could be rediscovered and redeemed.

    Now, after digesting the details of many other people’s stories, and reading how powerfully this disorder continues to invade, even control, marriages, I feel more overwhelmed and in more despair than ever. I have a long list of prior loss and trauma, and I know that factors somewhat into my perspective. But one can go on fighting battles, one after another, without sufficient recovery time, only so long.

    I observed years ago that I didn’t have any more fight left in me, and the best I could manage was to rebuild from past setbacks, not unearth myself from the rubble of a new one. And from the beginning of my exploration of ADHD, this feels more and more like a Big One on the Richter Scale. One that I don’t have the resources for.

    Jeannine
    Kidlet who weeps

    1. Dear Jeannine,

      My heart aches for you, to find yourself in this position. If we only knew, when we first step into the quicksand, what we would be up against.

      By the time we learn, however, we are often so exhausted and depleted, with our own motivation, initiation, and cognition decimated, it can feel like a paralysis.

      As the youngest of seven much-older children, born when my parents were 46, I’ve always been aware that life is short. We really must take responsibility for our own health and happiness, because no one is going to do it for us.

      For my husband and I, we are at a much better place now. It took a while, and lots of immense, IMMENSE perseveration on my part. (I am gobsmacked mentally when I look back on it sometimes). I try to help people quick their learning curve, so they don’t suffer what we did.

      But every person is different, including every person with ADHD.

      It might be that, when you and your husband are a bit further on your ADHD education and treatment journey, you’ll start feeling better. Or, if your husband is not on board with seeking to improve life for the both of you, maybe you will feel worse. And what you will have to do is take care of yourself.

      Good luck to you,
      g

  18. Hello Gina, thank you for this post. It takes me back two years ago, during the week of our wedding. Four days before our special day I had a VERY serious food poisoning episode. We are both from Panama and the wedding was there.

    After 4 years, this was his first time home and visiting his friends (he just LOVES the all). The day I got sick he was out with his friends. My dad and sister had to take me to the hospital and I remember calling him (this was around 12 am) in a very bad condition to let him know what was happening. HE WOULDN’T BELIEVE ME! He was too focused in his friends while I was feeling like crap, pale, almost green, vomiting my life out… After a while, my sister calls him, and says “Hey, this is serious, you should go to the hospital”. He finally went and when he saw me then he actually realized I was very very sick.
    He stayed with my dad in the ER until around 5 am and then we went home. Just after actually seeing me he reacted accordingly.

    Many many times, when I have had a cold or 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with a neck/back condition as a result of an accident, he behaves as I am exaggerating and does not show “interest”, just until he sees me feeling really bad.

    I have had connected this with ADHD way before he was diagnosed, not because I knew about this sort of things, but because I knew it was not normal. Now I know.

    What I have done is also wait and not paying a lot of attention to the initial reaction as “you saying you are sick is a problem for me” and then he would slowly land into reality.
    So this was my way to cope. Now that he is taking medications (since the day before yesterday) I have to see if something will improve in that respect. I am trying not to expect much, just to see what happens day by day.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi Gina,

      I am sorry that happened to you.

      Medication might not create improvement in this area right away. But over time, things should improve, if the medication is properly prescribed and taken. And it won’t have to take you being green and laid out in a hospital bed for him to know you really feel badly. 🙂

      Good luck!

      You might also want to read my other blog: http://www.YouMeADD.org

      g

  19. I met my husband through an online dating site, and right on his profile he stated amidst all the cute wit that he “probably had ADHD or some such condition” that rendered him a “man-child”. Yet he came across incredibly self-aware and compassionate, as well as brilliant and adventurous, so this didn’t scare me off. We dated for a year and had lived together for two more years without any significant trouble. Those three years were spectacular: we fell deeply in love, we had great communication and intimacy, and we had a lot of fun together. I’d never experienced such an intense connection that also seemed to come with natural compatibility: conflict was rare and easy to resolve. Prior to this I’d always bought into the idea that relationships were either peaceful and boring, or passionate and riddled with drama (I certainly have my own issues, formerly diagnosed BPD but was no longer fitting the criteria after years of hard work prior to meeting him). Somehow I’d scored this jackpot of both passion and peace.

    One of the very things that powerfully bonded me to him was his ability to handle crisis and show care when I (and others) were in need. I’m a very nurturing person myself, and I had found my match in this. I certainly saw his ADHD traits, particularly after living together, but his compassion and caring nature smoothed out the rough spots. His socks could never quite make it into the hamper. He’s not an impulsive spender, but he won’t look at his finances, so winds up setting up everything on autopay and just blindly wanders about with his debit card, often overdrafting by small amounts. He can ramble on in conversation and get off track. He gets lost in rabbit-holes when working on a task. None of this was a big deal because he checked in with me constantly, listened to feedback, took steps to try to solve these issues, asked for help, apologized easily, expressed regular gratitude for my understanding, and found any annoyance I displayed understandable. I found this all to be workable, even if it never got any better than that.

    He demonstrated compassion and caring, as well as an ability to nurture, through the time I had swine flu, and again through my cervical cancer. His caretaker ability was the stuff dreams are made of. I watched him nurse his sick pets, and I’ve seen him be a damn good shoulder to friends & family in need.

    In year 3 the compassion & nurturing that I had come to count on as the salve for the rest of the ADHD hardships failed spectacularly. No slow creeping loss, either, it was a big BANG!

    I had decided to visit family that had abused me as a child and I hadn’t seen for 15 years. As other family members aged, I didn’t want to have to confront this at a funeral some day, so I aimed to just make it to where I could share a space with them. My husband was fully on board with his support, we had a plan, we discussed what I needed from him, we had exit strategies, and we planned to spend the first half of the trip tackling the heavy visit while the second half of the trip we would decompress together, just the two of us, at a bed and breakfast in the woods with our own private hot tub.

    The rough portion of the visit went as well as these things can go, no major incident or upset with my family. My husband received a text from a friend to confirm plans they had made while we were sitting in heavy conversation with the very people who had abused and neglected me, and he was worried about having put off this friend too long. So right in the middle of this tense scene, he texts me while sitting right next to me and asks if we’ll be back in time for him to go to this event with this friend he felt guilt about having cancelled on.

    I was a little shocked by this bizarre action, obviously feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment, and hurt that he wasn’t fully engaged with what was happening in the room. Later when I talked to him about it privately, it was like we were in two different realities. He was still just super concerned about seeing this friend, and couldn’t seem to understand why I was upset. He made some comment about how I wasn’t showing gratitude for all the support he’d shown thus far on the trip, and how he just wanted to confirm plans with this friend for when we got back, and how that was reasonable for him to expect. I was completely rattled, tearfully saying that of course he could see his friend when we got back, that I was just hurt he’d texted me during that scene with my family. He sort of grudgingly apologized that I’d been hurt by that, but could I at least acknowledge that he couldn’t be expected to have predicted that would set me off? Just….what??

    We wound up dropping it by my stepping in and saying we were both fatigued from the intense situation we were dealing with and not thinking clearly. He eagerly seized on that and we dropped it. But I went to sleep feeling hollow and unsafe.

    Once we got to the decompression portion of the trip at the bed and breakfast, things had warmed between us again and I did lots of talking and crying about my family while he held me. One night over dinner, he discovered to his sheer horror that he had, in fact, gotten the dates wrong on the plans with his friend. The event they planned to attend was happening on the last night of our reservation at the B&B. I knew how worried and guilty he felt about this, so I expressed a lot of compassion, and tried to reassure him that his friend would understand. That I had no trouble if he shared the reason for this trip to explain why he needed to reschedule yet again. My husband got silent and I could tell he was angry. Then I got hit with a tirade about how everything wasn’t about me, and he wanted to cut the trip short in order to see his friend, that his needs and his life was important too, that he was exhausted and needed to get away from me, that he was afraid I was using the abuse I went through just to have my way.

    It hurt like fire, but it also made not a lick of sense. We’d planned this trip and discussed it at length, and he’d been fully engaged and supportive. Now he was acting like I’d dragged him out here and I was forcing him to cancel on his friend…I tried to explain this. Can’t he see that we had made these plans together first, and that in fact he was cutting our plans short to see this friend, that this was really important and I needed him to be there for me? How on earth could it make sense to prioritize not seeing a friend for over six months he wasn’t terribly close to as opposed to taking a trip with your wife to confront her childhood abusers?

    We never fully recovered from that fight. Every time we tried to talk about it we’d just fight again. Within a month we were sleeping in separate rooms. It took a year of marriage counseling to make sense of it, but only since he got officially evaluated for ADHD and on medication were we able to begin untangling the resentments that stemmed out of both that original incident and the subsequent patterns we slipped into. I’d felt lost and abandoned. Where did my compassionate nurturing partner go?

    After he got on medication, I asked him to read a book about Borderline Personality Disorder (Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder by Shari Manning). While I had recovered to the point that I was no longer in treatment in the beginning half of our relationship, this sour turn in our marriage had torn me up so much that I was back in treatment for returning BPD traits, and I wanted him to understand BPD the way I had come to understand ADHD. Part of that book covers the concept of validation in depth, and he finally understood what I had been trying to ask him for all along: that whatever happens, if he can just listen and show empathy I can feel safe enough to work through nearly anything. On the flip side, being invalidated is my kryptonite. So if he does something that hurts me, even if it doesn’t make sense to him, nothing triggers me worse than not being listened to and told that my feelings are invalid somehow…the way he told me that I was being selfish and ungrateful for being hurt and disappointed with his behavior on that difficult trip.

    So he’s on medication now and things are so much better, but he still has ADHD and it still trips us up in hurtful ways. However, these events are much more manageable for me because he’s really grasped this tactic of validating me even if he can’t see how his behavior was a problem. We’ve still had incidents where he struggled to understand why something hurt, but he’s let go of judging if my feelings are “fair” and embraces the idea that feelings always matter. It is possible to express empathy and communicate what he doesn’t understand at the same time, and it works.

    One demonstration of this change in our patterns involves a recent nasty incident when I had the flu again about 3 months ago. I woke from a nap feeling like death, and hadn’t been able to keep any medicine or much water down. He was at work only half a mile away, and I suspected my fever was too high and our thermometer had dead batteries. I could hardly move and I only had tunnel vision. I texted him that I needed him to come home and that I might need to go to a hospital. If he hadn’t answered, yes, I would have called him or someone else or 911…but he texted back immediately with concern and the claim that he was on his way out the door. In the meantime I went about trying to crawl to the bathroom to get a cold wet rag or something, but collapsed and passed out in the hall.

    By the time he arrived, I was still passed out in the hall on the floor but my fever had broke and I was drenched in sweat. He was all nurture and got me back into bed, with ice to suck on, and he magically produced a new thermometer. I felt frustrated…he had clearly stopped at the store first. I expressed this, that I couldn’t believe he didn’t come straight to me. He started apologizing, really genuinely, full of remorse, about how he was just trying to finish up and he couldn’t believe the time got away from him like that. That in some ways the medication made his hyperfocus worse. I was confused…I was just talking about the stop at the store… I looked at a clock and it hit me that he worked FOUR MORE HOURS AFTER HE SAID HE WAS ON HIS WAY. I had been passed out on the floor for that long.

    I couldn’t address it for several days, being too weak.

    He wasn’t defensive, but he still didn’t get the gravity of the situation. After all…I had said I “think” I “might” need to go to the hospital. He figured if it was serious I’d poke him again to hurry up, but I never texted back. Because I was passed out on the @#$%ing floor.

    I was a wreck. I was so horrified and in despair. I felt so abandoned, again, even more so. I cried and I went off on him, but I kept it controlled. I didn’t call him names and I owned my feelings. I said a lot of stuff about how I could have died, about how I knew it was the ADHD, and I know he loves me but it’s just so scary and painful, that I grew up being neglected and this was also neglect and how that rips me to the core, that this would freak anybody but it really really freaks me, that I didn’t know how I’d feel safe again. And he held me and listened and validated me. And when he broke down from the shame I held him and listened to him and validated him right back.

    These things are still just awful, but the ability to maintain closeness throughout makes all the difference in the world. He’s working on so many things, like his bad habits, procrastination, organization, punctuality, etc., but when it comes to our relationship he’s got this one thing he can do in any situation: validate. The simplicity of it has been a great help to him. Instead of juggling a million balls (how everything feels to him) whatever happens between us he’s got this one response. It’s something he did naturally in the early part of the relationship, and now without the “new love” hyperfocus he has to do it consciously, but it clicked for him and he finds it easy because he knows it will take the sting out. Then he in turn will be comforted as well, which he needs since these things make him feel ashamed (which he used to cover up with defensiveness).

    So this pattern change has locked in well for both of us, since the benefits have been so rewarding. I do still have surges of anger when I see socks on the floor sometimes and find myself returning to the mindset of that dark period where I began to believe he had stopped truly caring about me, but I can take a breath and remember that if I expressed those feelings to him, he will do his best to understand and even if he can’t completely relate, he will give me the benefit of the doubt and tell me that he cares about how hard things can be for me. The feeling then often passes without even needing this, just knowing I can have that if I need it. I used to feel tender when I saw those socks on the floor, and now I’m starting to feel that again.

    1. Hi Chloe,

      Thank you for detailing your experience, so eloquently.

      It can be extremely challenging for some people with ADHD to manage their own emotions, much less meet a partner’s emotional needs, especially in the intensive ways you describe. Kudos to your guy for all that you describe. (Well, except for the text, I guess. 🙂 But even that, I was sort of empathizing with him….how could he maintain such intense, emotional focus for so long? It might not have been the importance of seeing this friend so much as just needing a break, and maybe he couldn’t articulate that.)

      You two obviously have a deep bond of love, and practice great intentionality. I wish you both all the best.

      g

    2. Chloe wrote: “and he finally understood what I had been trying to ask him for all along: that whatever happens, if he can just listen and show empathy I can feel safe enough to work through nearly anything. On the flip side, being invalidated is my kryptonite. So if he does something that hurts me, even if it doesn’t make sense to him, nothing triggers me worse than not being listened to and told that my feelings are invalid somehow…”

      Wow that part really hit me hard. And probably the reason BPD is one of the misdiagnoses I went through – it’s the trait of it I have very strongly (I don’t come anywhere near the criteria dating 2 people in a year and not getting super serious while separated from my to-be husband with no intent on either side of getting back together was “overly promiscuous” according to the person who diagnosed me, as an example) and overlaps with PTSD. PTSD is the right diagnosis for me and when you put someone with PTSD through DBT the results can be ugly…

      Bullying is a part of my PTSD and invalidation, especially when there is a power imbalance (as is the case in abuse), is my single biggest trigger. Yeah sometimes I have to close my eyes in the car to avoid jumping out of my seat and grabbing the wheel or dive behind (almost under) a parked car in a parking lot (parking lots alone are triggers) when someone decides to set off an M80 in said parking lot because it’s early July but when those happen they’re over when they’re over.

      But have a cop lie to me and I know it not just because I know more than the below average little kid he made me out to be but because it was so obviously a lie anyone would know? The story gets long with this same cop repeatedly intimidating me and telling more lies. Until the day he pushed a little too far, ok, a lot too far. It was in shared jurisdiction and the cop was not NYPD.

      MONTHS later I couldn’t hide my difficulty crossing that jurisdiction line OUT OF primarily NYPD jurisdiction and usually I can hide it from anyone, even the police, but that day I couldn’t and was approached carefully by an officer. I was completely honest about what was up. After we just stood there talking for a bit, his (lieutenant or captain) came over and I mentioned I felt safer with them standing near me (yeah unusual to hear I know), that got me an NYPD escort for 20 minutes while I had to be in that shared jurisdiction to get from where I was to home and there was no going around it, period. To be honest, I’ve never felt safer in my life than next to that particular officer… I knew from his demeanor and our conversation (and his size!) he wasn’t going to let ANYTHING hurt me that day, especially that cop if I had even SEEN him. It’s kind of ironic when you think about the fact that their job is actually the same – just one abused his power and that led to the other one going above and beyond his duty to REALLY make me feel safe.

      You are so not alone in this and you may have BPD and revert to BPD behaviors and I have PTSD and revert to a different set of behaviors, but the sting of invalidation is more like the sting of a scorpion for us both than the sting of being slapped and it’s hard for others to understand we just can’t shake it off like they might be able to.

      I’m sorry you had to go through what you did and I’m glad you shared your story. There are others who can relate with and without BPD and I want you to know that sharing your story helped at least one person. I’m sure many more as well. I’m happy that things have improved and that you’re both working on your own issues and your issues as a couple. I hope things continue to improve for the both of you. It sounds like you guys are doing the right things. Thank you so much for sharing.

    3. Thanks for that honest description of a relationship between people with BPD and ADHD. I too have BPD and am beginning to suspect my husband has ADHD – he has an appointment in a couple of weeks with a psychiatrist to find out. This post gave me a lot of insight into our dynamic. For me too, when he doesn’t validate my emotional needs it feels like teeth being pulled. It’s taken a lot of years, a lot of insight on my part and a lot of explaining to him that getting validation, even when he doesn’t agree with me, is very important. Feelings are very important.

      We had a disagreement a while back about whether the holes in the backyard fence were big enough to see through or not. I want absolute privacy in the backyard but he felt that the knotholes were too miniscule and that no one would look through anyway. I just didn’t feel safe in the backyard with that many knotholes in the fence. It may not have been logical, but I needed to feel safe and I needed his help in covering up the knotholes with boards. It took several months for me to realize, and for him to understand, that he was being a jerk by refusing to help me with the boards. That even though to him, there was zero chance someone would see through the holes, it was important to ME that they get covered up, and I needed his help. I finally got the clarity that MY emotional needs were important even in the face of his logic.

      Anyway, thanks again for your post.

    4. Dear Carol,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I am glad that my post was helpful to you.

      I suspect that couples in which one person has ADHD and the other has BPD can be very difficult indeed.

      What I am describing in this post are some of the common dynamics in a relationship when one partner has poorly managed ADHD and, as part of that for some people with ADHD, a difficulty expressing or feeling empathy.

      You might be interested in these blog posts on ADHD and empathy: https://adhdrollercoaster.org/adhd-and-relationships/adhd-impaired-empathy-and-dopamine/

      Were you diagnosed with BPD prior this relationship, or is this something that developed after entering this relationship?

      Many times, ADHD in women is misdiagnosed as BPD. But BPD also commonly has an underlying component of ADHD. It’s a very tricky diagnosis.

      At any rate, I’m glad you could convince your husband that filling the holes was important to you.

      best,
      Gina

  20. Oh my gosh! Hope you’re feeling better!!

    I love this: “There’s only one thing, truly, that millions of adults with ADHD have in common: variable aspects of this highly variable syndrome. ”

    So true! I’m afraid my partners in the past would probably say I can be “cold.” I know it. My focus is either 10% or 200%, and so I’m either wooing them or forgetting to call for a week at a time. Working on it!

    Take care of that ankle!

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I’m good. Fortunately, I had enough physical padding to break my fall!

      One of my best friends is an ICU nurse. She is the soul of compassion with her patients, and harangues the MDs and other nurses to focus on patient comfort.

      If her husband is sick…..”Oh God, he’s being a big baby,” she’ll say, rolling her eyes.

      It’s true. He gets little of the Nurse Nightengale treatment.

      She loves him, of course, and is lovely to him in many ways. I guess that, compared to her ICU patients, his discomfort doesn’t ring her bell.

      And yes, there’s lot of ADHD in her family. 🙂

      g

  21. Oh my, yes. Often, though, he doesn’t seem put upon by my latest malady, but more like he doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s never really been around someone that was ill or had just had surgery. He didn’t know that I expected him to come to the hospital and sit with me. He doesn’t drive and had no way to get to me without help, but I still wanted him there.

    I’ve had recovery periods where he’s handed me a bell to ring when I need him that he can’t hear from across the house….or in the next room. The heater is right next to his computer desk and so when it is on, he really can’t hear much. I can’t really blame him, but does he think to come check on me? Of course not because he hyper-focuses on his computer game or writing or whatever the magic screen has on it. I’ve often wished for some kind of joy buzzer to give him a good zap when I need him.

    It took me a really long time to break him of wanting to have sex when I was sick or recovering from surgery. Sex makes *him* feel good. He wants to make me feel good too — when the absolute last thing I want to do with 16 staples in my abdomen is move….at all. No, an orgasm would not help. Really. Trust me.

    As the years have gone by, things have gotten better. He’s learned. Now he tries to remember to keep one earphone off in case I need him. I make him go to all my doctor appointments with me so he not only sees what happens, but listens to what the doctors say. It helps. He has short term memory and is more impressed when a doctor says it than when I do since he has also developed “husband’s ear”, which is not limited to ADHD husbands, where what I say goes in one side and out the other without pausing.

    Still, I couldn’t have made it without his help, no matter how I have to get it and he does love me and I do love him so we do the best we can for each other. And that’s good enough for now.

    1. Hi Penny,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to relate your experience.

      You offer a great example of a “good heart” that gets lost in the symptoms of short-term memory and distractibility.

      The “joy zapper.” Sounds like a great invention. Get on it! 🙂

      tx
      g

  22. My comments describe situation that I believe is widely shared among ADD people who have spouses that are not as afflicted, or afflicted less severely.

    I have ADD, but I can “hyperfocus” and get specific tasks accomplished (usually) and am fortunate enough to have a level of intellectual acuity that tends to make my symptoms less obvious to casual observers, particularly at the beginning of a relationship.

    ADD figured prominently in the loss of a relationship that I valued so highly that even eights years later, I still have not completely recovered. But the aspect of my ADD that most negatively impacted the relationship was the fact that I live almost entirely in my head (an occupational hazard for a scientist like myself even without ADD) and pay little attention to the physical environment around me or many of the people in it.

    The most obvious sign of this was (and still is) that I am highly clutter-prone. I evince a behavior pattern that I call “furniturization.” If I don’t put an object away immediately after I use it, or don’t clean up the mess after some activity (cooking, home repairs, container gardening) the objects become “furniture,” —parts of my environment that I accept as “permanent” and simply work or move around them with little or no further concern.

    My new wife was not a “neat freak,” but was an orderly person who needed a much more organized environment than I did. So, SHE did the cleaning up, while I went along happily making messes, unaware that my behaviors eventually generated serious resentment. My wife interpreted this as inconsideration, self-centeredness and/or co-dependence. I was having career issues at the time as well, but instead of dealing directly and effectively with them I simply stayed in my old pattern of working with my own, well-internalized priorities, (unconsciously supposing, I think, that excellence in my chosen areas would compensate for mediocrity in the areas important to others) and my spouse interpreted this behavior also as a manifestation of extreme self-centeredness.

    Counseling was of only minimal help, for my behaviors were so internalized (a biologist would even say “canalized”) that I lacked the ability to recognize and change them effectively. I began taking Concerta at that time,and it did help, but major damage had already been done, and it was not reversible. In 2009 I lost both my marriage and my career, and have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. My ex-wife was not concerned that I would or could not care for her in an emergency (I can hyperfocus enough to do that), but was frightened by a pattern of what she saw as self-willed inattention, laziness and failure. She was concerned that she would be picking up after me, physically and financially, for the rest of our lives together.

    1. Dear Bruce,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      As you can imagine, with my husband also being a scientist, this hits close to home for us. The public largely cannot imagine how an intelligent scientist can experience such problems in the rest of life.

      I am so sorry to learn of your job and marriage. My husband and I both extend encouragement in getting your life back where you’d like it to be.

      best,
      g

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I so needed to hear this. I’m glad i’m not the only one who’s gone thru the same thing.

  24. Sometimes I wonder if maybe my own husband has ADHD. I lost my ability to organize my environment around me due to an injury. The nature of this is that I need a well-organized environment with as few visual distractions as possible. When I FINALLY figured out if giving him the master bedroom in a huge house as his office and he could make as much of a mess as he wants in there but keep it to his room left us with a hole he cut in the floor in another bedroom with the promise to make a hatch within 2 weeks and that room empty the entire time we owned that house (a friend fixed the subfloor for us lol) and in the end, his clutter gradually spread until I was begging him to JUST KEEP HIS CRAP OFF THE COUCH. So our next house, with much much higher real estate prices and less income, I gave us both our own rooms, his being the bigger one because sometimes he had to work from home. I wish he told me all he really needed was a walk-in closet but before this injury, I’m impressed by how much crap I crammed into this tiny room and it was neat and everything was in a place that made sense and no one was allowed in without permission. I even had room for a small mat for the dog in there!

    So, when I started having issues with an undiagnosed lifelong problem, his parents blamed me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and I had serious DIAGNOSED injuries, while he had seemed to have been growing more and more distant, letting me sit on the couch and cry alone while he sat across the room the day before I got hurt when my uncle died. But he wasn’t always THIS bad… And THEN he caught his parents disease.

    I was starting to finally find myself right before this happened and got into Hip Hop and longboarding. These aren’t things he’s anywhere near being into. I was exploring art including photography, the thing I have a degree in and when we first met, he liked that I wasn’t “just another computer person” and that I was different from the engineers he was with all day but I became an imaging engineer when I graduated. NOW he doesn’t understand all this artsy stuff. I showed up to my freshman dormroom with skateboard in hand… He’s never been critical about my skating, a bit concerned when I started using my longboard to get to the train when he was uncomfortable with me having a bike because it’s dangerous here. Until I um the first official diagnosis was “you jacked up your knee” and when I asked how I’d get myself to the train station, the doc asked if I have a bike. Nope. Could I sit on my ass all weekend and keep all weight off it? Must’ve been about a year ago cuz I was like it’s playoff season and 3 of my teams are still in ummmm yeah. I got waited on hand and foot and hockey was a constant. I made it just fine with the right knee brace and my longboard.

    I’d already had a close call where I had the signal at a dangerous intersection and after finally getting used to pushing a button again, as I’ve had to do most of my life, I knew this one car was going to be a problem no matter what I did. I just knew. I happened to be using my iPhone to film my first trip to the train station on a new board for the person who built it. I learned about using a camera as a weapon for self defense that day, putting myself in an awkward position turning away from the car and looking at the screen as I captured the countdown timer and then attempted to point my iPhone at the car, since staring the driver down was NOT working and lo and behold the driver didn’t care about running me over but did care about the event being captured on video and as I prepared to dive into the grass and let him run over my new board, he decided to use the very very empty lane for oncoming traffic. I chose to skate because I couldn’t have moved that fast on foot due to a lifetime of injuries. I stepped up my efforts to learn the opposite stance so I could always face traffic and experimented with just holding my phone like I was filming. Eventually I invested in a GoPro so I could just record what I was looking at.

    I guess after a doc suggested a bike and I demonstrated it’s dangerous no matter what and I could take care of myself on the street, a bike he didn’t want me to buy with my spending money sounded better than skating (I had more injuries walking than skating too), and he bought me a bike, which I didn’t get to use much, unfortunately. I can’t deal with fluorescent lights so skating naturally became my life.

    A friend who I didn’t know very long really pulled me into the skating community and made sure I got introduced to everyone I needed to meet. He saw my passion for skating before anyone else (I was likely the last to see it). He brought me out of my shell and gave my life purpose. He gave me something made me fight the idiot who thought skating was dangerous and my board was a toy that could be taken away. I was already being cautious and really using it as a mobility aid and between the injury and diagnosis, and during that time I built up a solid track record that was indisputable. I had the support of my doctor. I gave up the bicycle because it made sense but never the board never for good I know when I can’t skate and I don’t and I WON. With a lot of help like someone who had seen me make good on “I’ll walk away before I give it up or lie about it” and seen what I skate on… I went to every event I could go to, whether I was capable of skating or not. These days I show up with a cane….

    Someone in my life for such a short time made such a difference and he passed away from CO poisoning due to a gas leak last December. And my husband didn’t know much about this guy, but he hugged me. I had to ask for what I needed and that happened earlier when I was able to tell him I couldn’t understand why he just let me cry when my uncle died. He didn’t know what to do..

    When I couldn’t design a desk and shelving system and asked for help organizing things in the place he’s renting for me so I can get treatment more easily, he replied “I don’t know anything about organizing things.” I was shocked. My reply: “you’re a software engineer. You do high level design work! How is that not organization?”

    And he hasn’t showed much “support” for my art and musical interests. But looking back, I ALWAYS have had what I needed to pursue those interests. He’s made sure I have had everything I need, no matter what. He’s not good at showing affection but I can see through his actions and providing me with whatever I needed even if he had no interest and no interest in faking interest..

    This wasn’t supposed to be how my life turned out. Sometimes I have a hard time with it myself. He’s likely still in denial and we’re both too stressed. We deal in different ways. ADHD has been a hurdle but this on top of it is a mountain. I’m still figuring out the things I’ve lost and gained. This, once again is forever.

    My husband has a lot of traits of ADHD. He has a hard enough time accepting my reality. I don’t think he could accept that he might have a himself. Maybe someday there will be a time when I can plant the seed in his head and we can find out.

    Yes, he cares very much. He just doesn’t show it the way I’d like and I can’t expect him to. It often seems like he doesn’t care. But really, he just doesn’t show it the way others do. He rented an apartment so I could have better access to treatment. He’s stuck with me through everything including changing psych diagnoses ending with a set including ADHD that finally seem right. He makes sure I eat. I now have something that’s like ADHD on steroids and more. And he’s been cured of his parents illness… He is protective of me on the sidewalks and I see HIM doing things he said were “out of control” when I’ve done a little less in the past. He’s starting to get it, and when he sees some of the things I deal with, he becomes very protective. He isn’t accepting things as fast as I am but he will go at his own pace and I have to accept him as HE is too. He may have undiagnosed ADHD and it may never be diagnosed.

    But he shows he cares and if we can learn to communicate with each other and accept reality and appreciate each other for who we really are, I think things will be just fine.

    1. Hi Danielle,

      A hole to make a hatch in the floor!? 🙂

      I’m glad your husband shows that he cares.

      best,
      g

    2. LOL the entrance to the crawl space was at one end of a long one-story house. There’s just dirt down there, no floor (Radon isn’t a problem there), and the people before us tried to do some things themselves. When we had cable installed, the guy wasn’t fat but he wasn’t tiny either and the mess of pipes you had to crawl through to get in the entrance from the garage wasn’t pretty. He accidentally broke a water pipe.

      One thing about where we lived in Idaho – HOLY CRAP AWESOME NEIGHBORS! I didn’t know anything about well water and there IS no shutoff valve that’s why the guy couldn’t find it lol. A call to my husband told me there’s a circuit breaker for the pump (of course they were improperly labeled). The guy was going to get the cable company to take care of everything and get a plumber in there etc. etc. but these people I was meeting for the first time ABSOLUTELY INSISTED on fixing everything and they did it mighty fast too! We found some wiring and a switch box or little breaker box just laying on the mud when the water was pumped out. The cable guy was kind of lucky he didn’t get zapped too. These guys even attached that stuff to the floor beams so there would be no more risk of that happening (I think it was them or if not they recommended it and figured out which of the main breakers THAT was attached to – it may have been too wet to fix right then).

      My husband wanted access to the other end of the crawl space AND a bigger access point. I was mildly opposed to the hole, KNOWING his habits lol. I wouldn’t agree to it unless he properly covered hole (and making a hatch for it so he could use it again was fine) AND GAVE HIM A REASONABLE DEADLINE. If he had the tools to CUT A HOLE IN THE FLOOR, he had the tools to cover it up or could get them. I was actually all for better crawl space access but um yeah I kinda knew what was gonna happen and made him PROMISE to meet that deadline before I was ok with it. Well that came and went, the flooring he was gonna put down in the whole house and the colors I selected for the walls got applied to HIS ROOM ONLY until my back surgery when my dad decided to paint the room with the hole in the floor and my dad never worked for a painter before but is kind of a perfectionist so he TRIED to do a really good job but compared to professional work, well you could tell the difference. And the rest of the house was the old paint and just the subfloor with Kilz primer applied because between the walkthrough and us moving in, they let their dog pee all over and we had to rip up the new carpet they had installed. Eventually I was able to get my husband to agree to some office-grade carpet for the living room, which I had tried to claim as mine but um yeah… And that was just laid down like a rug lol… That was the second house in a row that needed some work and said work got done when we moved out so when we bought the yard for the dog, I insisted we NOT DO THAT AGAIN. And the whole deal with buying this house was weird but it was really good for the price and didn’t have to be fixed up we didn’t think so we had money to renovate it… Kinda good thing a lesson was learned about doing business with friends (who have been brainwashed I swear after looking at this thing he said changed his life and he wanted me to do it) before we got too far along but um half the house has REALLY NICE HEAT and the other half has none … well the master bedroom has some heat now, in combo with the A/C but the kitchen still has nothing. But the basement is now free of the black mold the contractors we hired to take care of the water problem (it literally rained in the basement whenever the central A/C came on lol that one took some time to figure out) unwittingly let into the rest of the house when they took down some walls and at least recognized it and we went in debt to get that stuff fixed and all the ductwork ripped out and a completely different kind of heating system installed but not in the part of the house that was going to get ripped apart for renovations that never happened because well the family friend wasn’t a partner he was a pion allowed to think he was a partner and the guy who ran the company for real was a um the words that come to mind aren’t even PG-13 rated and the planned work never got done… Turns out neither of us really like living there and we’re probably going to have to sell the dog’s retirement yard because I can’t even take the train anymore. My dog went on and on and on about “his yard” on his facebook page. I’m glad I insisted we break the lease (knowing we’d just hear “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out” and lose a month’s rent security deposit – turnover is good for that landlord) because I was afraid Kenny wouldn’t make it to the end of the lease to enjoy his yard but I thought he would and he didn’t. He missed it by a exactly a week. And the renovations we would’ve done first weren’t going to be done anyway in the end because we were quoted half the price at first and thought we could trust the guy (well my husband was the one who knew people) and I thought he knew the area he insisted we move into considering THAT’S RIGHT WHERE HE GREW UP but he didn’t really… So my deceased dog’s facebook page nailed it. He GOT HIS YARD AND LOVED IT and I have to say as much as I bash FB they were very considerate when I requested his account be memorialized and recognized the size of that loss and when Kenny signed up he wasn’t 13 yet so he lied about his age and “proof of death such as a link to a news article or online obituary” was first and foremost his timeline lol he’s a DOG and a couple other places online where people had responded and some of them had when he was born and not only did I receive a very nice email from them and NO CRAP WHATSOEVER, they even fixed his age… I have to say I was shocked. It was a nice surprise that they were so sensitive when there ARE NO HUMANS when it comes to my tech support request that’s been there for like 5 years…

      Sooooo yeah that’s the story about the hole and I am quite sure I did not take my Concerta like I was supposed to a couple hours ago cuz just lol look where I ended up….

    3. lol! Cracking me up, Danielle. I think the Concerta pooped out right after the second paragraph.

      You’re never boring, though. 🙂
      g

    4. Haha ya think, Gina? I was scrolling up looking for the second paragraph and yeah I didn’t take my meds…

      Worst part is I’m supposed to be working on something else and putting off the next set of meds now because I did everything BUT that. Hopefully I can do that now that I’ve given my meds time to work. And I’ve asked my husband to YES go to the gym and if I’m not done when he gets home, please help me just DO it… He made sure to put food next to me before he left 🙂 I’m learning to appreciate those things.

      I am incapable of being concise. Hearing my husband say that to someone else made me know he understands this and oh crap he’s home… better stop HERE lol… I’m glad I’m not boring at least!

  25. Hi Gina,

    This is a great post and one that I can really relate in both ways ; as someone with ADD and having a partner with ADHD.
    I really appreciate your candor and I imagine that being this transparent as well as trying to sort out your feelings about your partners responses have been eye opening and really difficult.

    I recall watching my soon to be partner as one of his coworkers was falling through a roof at his garage! It was really hard to make B pay attention to the emergency as B was so focused on showing me around his shop! This scared me and yet I knew and know B to be a loving caring man who once you get his attention it’s like being under a warm light.
    There were many many incidents like this where I would get hurt and need his help, or a friend of his or one of his animals would be suffering and B seemed to see it as a major inconvenience…similarly to how you describe your partner at times…
    I also know that B is as bad or worse at tending to his own health and welfare. The work that he does or the things he is thinking or talking about seem far more important to him than say the deep laceration on his leg ..,
    As for me I think with B I felt I had to be hyper vigilant and careful especially with our animals..
    Yet I do recall times previous to B where I too was uncaring and unsympathetic or at least once anyway !

    1. Hi Lara,

      Oh, that makes so much sense. His attention was focused on showing you around the shop, and he couldn’t “transition” to the guy falling through the roof.

      In my book, I talk about stimulant medication in some ways being a “WD-40” for the brain; it can help lubricate the “gears” for making transitions more easily. 🙂

      And yes, exactly to this: “I also know that B is as bad or worse at tending to his own health and welfare.” Which is a whole other can of worms. But at least indicates something other than “selfishness” or “lack of caring” can be in play.

      Thanks for your comment, and good luck to the both of you! 🙂

      g

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