Want to know what success looks like when you've pretty much lost hope and then turn things around? Here is a letter that came in to me this week that describes it so well that I thought I would share it. Of particular interest, I think, is the connection between the two partners as they progress - they create an upward spiral of positively reinforcing behavior that really helps them succeed.
My husband and I took your “Couples Seminar” this January. It’s been more than 6 months since we finished taking it, so I decided to report how we are doing.
A few months before we decided to take your seminar, our marriage reached a low point. I was seriously depressed, my health was threatened. We both agreed staying together this way was not a healthy solution, so we even set the date to start a separation process. For me, it was a sad decision after trying so hard to work it out for 22 years, but was somehow relieved to know that soon I won’t have to deal with his ADHD symptoms. I thought I have done everything I could do and the best I could do for this relationship. I failed and I couldn’t find anymore hope. After I read your book, I realized there was one more thing I haven’t tried for our marriage. “Try differently” with learning about ADHD. My husband also read your book and we both decided to take your seminar as a last ditch effort.
In the beginning, it was about small tasks in the kitchen. He said “Don’t worry, I will take care of it”. “Yeah sure”, I thought with no expectation that he will come through. To my surprise, he did it immediately without delaying. It was refreshing to me, but I was happy to see it done nonetheless, so I thanked him. I thought it was a temporary exception. I could use that exception more often. Soon I noticed his word “I will take care of it” was actually followed by his actions more often. I was delighted and thanked him each time and expressed how much it is making my daily life easier. But I still wasn’t in the state of fully relying on his word. After all, I lived more than 20 years with his empty promises. The bitter experience kept me on guard as a survival skill. Expecting sometime soon, he will go back to his usual state and the symptom will take him over again. It was the routine that I was too familiar with.
“Strange” I thought. By this time, he should be going back to his “not follow through” cycle. Yes, he still forgot things time to time and sometimes he couldn’t follow through what he promised. But it didn’t bother me as much anymore . Partly because I stopped judging him every time he didn’t get things done and I understood why he was distracted this time. This was possible because what I learned about my reactions to his symptoms from your seminar. Another big reason was that I could see his effort to manage his symptoms continued. Seeing him trying to manage his symptoms reflected how much he cares about us. About me. He has inattentive ADHD. In the past, to get him motivated to do something, convincing him how capable he is, was the hardest thing and I miserably failed. I believe he cared about us/me back then as much as he does now, but he didn’t know how to get himself into actions that reflect his care, nor could he motivate himself to try. Later he told me that if he tries something and ended up failing, he will feel worse. The fear of failing was so strong, so he ended up not trying. Hence, he looked like he was doing nothing and displayed the give-up attitude until this time. Now, with your seminar, he learned what exactly the targets are and he has nothing to lose by trying to improve. When I was faced with his symptoms, I was pulled right back to bitter past and felt my anxiety build up. I told him each time how I felt. He understood what his symptoms were doing to me. I felt happier. As long as he tries, the result really didn’t matter to me. I just felt “he cares” and sometimes that’s all us women need to feel the “happiness”.
But the results did follow. The more he tries, the more things got done and he gained self-confidence. Not only was he managing his symptoms better, he started taking initiative to do other things before I asked him. Gradually and cautiously, I started to gain my “hope”. I started laughing and got back my sense of humor as before. When I see he has done something without me asking, I would say “Who are you? Or, more importantly, where have you been all these years?” I’m so proud of him and tell him so. He sees his effort and result is making me happy. Positive circle continues. This summer, we decided to skip our little get away and used that money for fixing our long time neglected house by painting the walls. Our teamwork finished the walls very nicely and we went on to updating other parts of our house. What a nice feeling to accomplish projects together!
He had an business trip at the end of August. Rather a long one this time-2 weeks. I noticed that he started preparing his trip much earlier than usual. He even made a “To Do List” for the trip. Despite his busy trip preparation, he even finished mowing the lawn, cleaning the dish rack, changing the light bulb in the kitchen, buying groceries for me and even fixed the bathtub faucet the day he was leaving. If it wasn’t enough, he apologized for not having enough time together and that couldn’t clean his den before he leaves.
Really, I could not ask more. I had my happiest summer. I wasn’t even half as happy when I was a newlywed. For the first time in our 22 years of marriage, I can feel that we are building our future together. Thank god we tried your seminar!
It was painful for us to find out that the family Dr. can diagnose ADHD and prescribe the medicine for it, but the Dr. won’t tell us that medicine alone is not going to fix the problems in the relationship unless you take the appropriate lesson/seminar/training to learn how to manage it from both ends (husband and wife). We wasted 2 years to find it out. When we found out that we needed training, we started searching who could help us. Unfortunately, there were no ADHD specialists where we live. We came across one who is specializing on training ADHD in a larger city relatively close to ours, but we were not convinced he could help our relationship. We didn’t want to waste our time anymore. We needed someone who REALLY knows about ADHD and more importantly how to help a ADHD affected marriage. When we both read your book, it was clear that you really know what we are experiencing. We checked your blog as well (Boy, there were so many stories of me! I cried) and when my husband found out that you have a couple’s seminar on line. We jumped to it. It made it much clearer for us what we were dealing with all these years and what exactly each of us had to watch out for and do it differently. It is remarkable that our marriage situation changed from the worst to the best in 8 months! We will continue our effort to improve, but I can say confidently that our marriage is “happily staying”. The key is that both parties have to care enough about each other to be willing to put in the effort. I hope many of the other couples who attend your seminars will turn their marriage around.
We decided that every January or February, we would go though the seminar contents together to review how we are doing. Oh, before I forget. Last, but not a least, yes, our sex life that was equivalent to something like a 80 year old couple when we were younger got better as well (^0^).
Thank you again for such a life changing seminar. It was the best and most effective money and time we ever spent.