How to help couples understand the destructiveness and intertwined nature of many of their interactions? I was reading a novel the other day about civil war (an apt analogy for many ADHD marriages!) and came across some ideas that I think can help describe why couples get into negative patterns even when neither one of them wants to.
I’m spending quite a bit of time these days thinking about how to get men with ADHD to realize that their ADHD affects those around them more than they think. At least two men I can think of who have ADHD say they wish someone (other than their wives) had “hit them upside the head” with information that would convince them that their ADHD was causing real problems.
While my husband reads most of the posts on this site as the administrator, he rarely weighs in. But yesterday he posted some heartfelt – and very wise - advice to a man with ADD whose wife is leaving him because she can’t take it anymore. George’s perspective as a previously badly behaving man with ADD who has successfully changed his life is worth sharing. Here’s what he says:
It seems as if a lot of non-ADD spouses at this site have been bending over backwards to accommodate their ADD spouse’s issues, often finding that doing so is exhausting and making them angry and miserable. I would like to suggest that while negotiating how to meet somewhere in the middle is a part of all marriages, many non-ADD spouses are giving (and giving in) way too much. Let me explain –
It has been my observation that people with in ADD marriages violate each other’s personal boundaries quite frequently, and in both directions. This becomes a huge issue for the relationship, as both partners become locked in an unwitting struggle for control, lose respect for each other, and often lose a sense of themselves as unique individuals in a way that diminishes them individually and as a couple.
I often hear the comment that non-ADHD spouses need to lower their expectations in order to be happy in their relationships. I would disagree. I think that all spouses need to improve their expectations. Let me explain my thinking, and how this might work in the real world.
Ned Hallowell likes to say that while ADHD can be a reason you did something in the past, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to do it over and over again. But before the non-ADD of you start to say “see, this is exactly what I mean!” let me clarify.
I spend a lot of time helping non-ADD spouses understand how to interpret their ADD husband’s actions (or, more frequently, inactions – a word I use without judgment.) I think it’s time to write a piece for the ADD male about what non-ADD women want.
There are a number of posts in our forum from non-ADD spouses who would like to blame their ADD spouses for the troubles in their marriages. I personally think “blame” should be considered a 4-letter word that is banned from all marriages. The fact of the matter is that we are all responsible for the state of our relationships. Or, to paraphrase Newton’s laws of motion, “for every action, there is a reaction”.