ADHD or just a jerk? :-)

My boyfriend and I dated 19 years ago for a year.  We reconnected in late 2011 and discovered we still feel the same way about each other.  We had a tumultuous 2012 due to his entanglements with his ex-wife (divorced 8 years). After a 9 month separation (he's east coast, I'm west), he called, and we've had the most amazing last 2 months.  Long talks about everything we've been through.  He calls me the love of his life, his best friend, the woman of his dreams, etc.  He told his friends, neighbors, and co-workers I'm his girlfriend.  He had me talk to some of them on the phone.  He texted every day.  He made sure I knew I was his girl.  

We've discussed my moving there.  We had every challenging conversation a couple should have before making big decisions (money, past relationships, habits, trust, friends, faith and values, on and on).  He booked a trip to come here, and I booked a trip to go there.  7 hours before he was supposed to get on the plane, he picked a fight and didn't come.  He emailed me the next day to say he would call, he just needed to calm down and clear his head first but loves me.  That was 2 weeks ago - I sent him 1 very benign "hey do you still want me to come visit you?" email a week ago which he ignored.

His life-long coping mechanism has always been avoidance (and secondarily lying because he always feels he lets everyone down so he'll say things like he broke his phone if he forgets to call).  Neither of these has been a deal breaker for me.  I've had some challenges in my life, and I understand having not-so-great coping skills - although mine are a lot more functional than lying and running! :-)  But he's the love of my life, too.

So, advice from those with more experience . . . . could this disappearance be an ADHD thing, or is he just a jerk?  Could he really have just been overwhelmed by the idea of making our relationship "real" by coming here, meeting with my counselor, and having dinner with my friends (both of which he said he was happy to do) that he panicked?  Could he be overwhelmed by something else in his life, and he knows he hurt me and can't deal with me AND whatever else is happening so he is ignoring me?  

I know he loves me.  That's not the issue.  And I know he'll eventually call - he always does.  I just don't know if his actions can really be attributed to ADHD and therefore I can learn to understand and cope, or if I'm just fooling myself into thinking he's a good man with issues when he's not.

Thank you!


The first part sounds like

The first part sounds like hyperfocus, but could also just be falling in love or infatuation.  But the way he is acting now to me does not say ADHD.  It says he is having second thoughts, or he was lying to you about something and realized the jig would be up once you were together.  I know it will be hard, but I would try to move on without him in your life.  So sorry.

thank you

Thanks, Amy, for taking the time to reply.  We've known each other a long time, so I don't think it's the falling in love or infatuation stage anymore.  We're past all that.  I do wonder if you've hit the nail on the head with the "caught in a lie" thing, though because that sounds plausible - like maybe he forgot to tell his ex wife he was going out of town for 4 days and she needed him to watch the kids or something.  So instead of admitting that to me and disappointing me, he picked a fight then avoids me to avoid conflict.

I also read a post in another thread by a man with ADHD who said as soon as his relationship started to be "real" he panicked.  He knew he couldn't even rely on himself, and it scared him that this women he loved would start to rely on him and he would disappoint her. 

Avoidant is tough

I've been married to a man with ADHD for 20 years. He is the love of my life, and he's a wonderful man and I know he loves me very much. He is also very avoidant, which makes for a lonely and frustrating relationship. He compartmentalizes different aspects of his life and then hides from me the ones that aren't compatible with marriage (usually by lying and/or running away, but he has a lot of very sophisticated ways of avoiding me and hiding bad behavior). From what I've read and heard, I believe this kind of compartmentalization is an ADHD coping mechanism. He has low self-esteem, which contributes to the problem. However, I don't know how much of his avoidance and lying are ADHD related. 

In addition to Melissa's book, I highly recommend the book "Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment" by Levine and Heller. The authors describe three different ways that adults tend to attach to an intimate partner: secure, anxious, and avoidant. People who have a secure attachment style tend to have good, healthy, long-term relationships, whereas those with anxious and avoidant styles tend to have difficulty in relationships, tend to break up and divorce more often, and tend to have these viscous cycles of love/hate drama. When I read the book, I immediately identified my style and my husband's style, and the book very accurately described our marriage. I can tell you from experience that being in a relationship with someone who actively avoids intimacy is heartbreaking, and for us it has not gotten much better with time. Every time I get close to my husband, he runs away (the closer we get, the further and longer he runs). 

I wish I had read the book years ago. Good luck.

thank you

Going Thru,

I appreciate your thoughtful comments and the referral to the book on adult attachment.  I'll definitely get it.  I've read so many posts here in the last couple days, and yours gives me a lot to think about.  His coping method has always been to avoid the conflict, so I don't think that will ever change.  I just need to decide if that's something I can live with or not. 

From what I'm reading, it

From what I'm reading, it sounds like hyperfocus and now that the hyperfocus has worn off (his goal of getting to reconnect with you has been satisfied), it seems he's gone on to the next stage, conflict producing. The relationship no longer provides the euphoria, therefore he is no longer focused and feels overwhelmed and quick to temper. The conflict producing does something for him, I think (just like it does my dh), it seems to give him the rush he needs to regain his focus, but at the cost of the relationship.

thank you

Thanks, Coping, for your honest reply.  He has always been a conflict avoider, so I don't think he's intentionally creating it.  However, the hyper-focus part gave me pause.  We've known each other for 19 years, and we both say it's pretty amazing that despite all the crap we've been through, we still feel the same way about each other.  But he has an ex-wife and 2 sons, and I wonder if after 8 weeks of focusing mostly on me (he still spent time with the boys, worked full time, and had other things going on in his life), he suddenly realized he was missing his boys and is now focusing on them.  Doesn't mean he doesn't love me anymore, but as you said, his focus has shifted to something else.  Hmmmmm . . more food for thought.

My honest opinion is that he

My honest opinion is that he is a man with a hell of a lot of baggage and some very troubling ways of (not) dealing with issues in his life.  He's got an ex-wife and 2 kids, and those aren't going away.  What he has with them now, he will have with them all through your life together (I hope you don't go any further with this relationship).  Look at it coldly, I know it's hard to keep your emotions out of it, but what would you tell your best friend if she came to you with this situation?  Would you tell her to go ahead, or would you be honest and tell her that this man has some real problems and she should let him go?  Now be honest!  Do you *really* want this kind of thing to become your life?  Lying is not something you should just toss off and say you understand.  You can't trust someone who lies to you.  "Trust me, I'm not lying this time!"  Yeah, right!

He gave you an opportunity to get off the ride when he flaked out and didn't come to see you.  Use that opportunity and run in the other direction!


Thank you, Tornado, for your

Thank you, Tornado, for your honest feedback.  You're right - it's very hard not to let emotions get in the way.  My head says I deserve better and he is a mess, and my heart is just having trouble catching up.  There is so much more to the story than I shared here because, well, it would take 30 pages and bore you all to death.  The hardest part has been saying, "he's the only man I've ever loved, and he feels the same about me, but this can't ever be". I say it to myself for a few days then I go back to , "but what if . . . ".   He has made so much progress in the last year, and I was truly hopeful that things were finally going to work out for us.  Honestly, if one of my girlfriends were going through this I would support whatever she wanted to do.  We all have to live our own lives.  But yes, I'd be very worried about her.