I've been lurking around on this site for a few weeks now and finally decided to post something I haven't seen a lot of discussion about. Perhaps it's not an ADHD symptom itself, but the result of the feeling of being overwhelmed.

The back story...

Typical hyperfocused by my ADHD girlfriend beginning two-and-a-half years ago. Wonderful stuff. She told me early on that she was ADD, but I believe it was a self-diagnosis. I read a good bit about it and knew the relationship would have its difficulties, but what relationship doesn't, I thought. One day, six months into the relationship, and totally out of the blue, she asks, "If we were to break up, could we still be friends?" I freaked out! What a strange question to ask six months into a relationship that had had NO real problems and in which I thought we were both happy as could be! At the time, I had no idea about the hyperfocus followed by distraction. She was alarmed at my response and reassured me that she was just asking a hypothetical question. Obviously, I thought differently since I can remember that moment like it was yesterday!

Fast forward to January of this year (2011), a year and a half later. I tell her we need counseling because I can't take being ignored, feeling unwanted and alone, etc. any longer. If we are to survive, we need help. (Let me interject here that we are lesbians. I only say that because we don't have the Mars/Venus dynamic that sometimes blurs communication issues. When we're "on" we both communicate very well, in touch with and able to express our feelings. I would say that I am more than she is, but still, it was okay.)

We were in couples therapy (once a week) for three months, and I thought, were doing pretty well... actually had a wonderful four-day weekend at the lake right before Memorial Day, complete with talking, relaxing (as much as she is able) and affection. She had also started seeing a well-respected ADHD psychiatrist to get her medication on track. Four days later, out of the blue, she tells me she wants a break from the relationship. She won't say why, she barely talked to me for about two weeks. I was devastated, feeling totally blindsided by the sudden shift. 

During this time, I'm basically begging for understanding... what happened? what did I do? what is going on? what are you feeling? Over and over and over her answer was "I don't know." I can't tell you how maddening that is for someone to be on the verge of throwing away a relationship and the only answer you can get is "I don't know."

Immediately prior to the request for a break (like a week before), she had switched from Strattera to Adderall. She also had a couple of life issues (a nephew who lived with her who was not doing well in school and she was trying to help, as well as an uncle who was dying) going on that were overwhelming her. However, I and the couples counselor both felt these issues had been a point of hyperfocus for her during this time. She'd mentioned the uncle to me maybe twice in our whole relationship and never in a way that made him sound like they were bonded, then suddenly, while she never seemed to have time for me, she was making nine-hour round trips every weekend+ to tend to him. 

So where we are now... I bought and have almost finished Melissa's book, "The ADHD Effect on Marriage." Even though we are officially "broken up," there have been talks of a reconciliation. I've made it clear that I will not re-enter the relationship we had, and that I do not expect her to be "changed" if we come back together, only that I expect her to work with me on changing our relationship for the better so that we both get what we need. The advice in Melissa's book has been very helpful in my letting go of anger, in working toward being the person I want to be... with her or without her.

And so, to finally get to my point... she says she still loves me, but still just doesn't know what she wants. I don't want to be naive and keep hanging around where I'm not wanted, but this ambivalence sends such mixed signals. I start doubting the reality of everything she says... she loves me, I've done nothing really wrong in the relationship (she even told my friends on Facebook that I've done more than most people and put up with more than most people would have and that she needs to work on herself.), but she doesn't know what she wants?! 

Do any of you experience this maddening ambivalence, especially on major issues of life? Even the therapist has told her it's frustrating to hear "I don't know" over and over. It seems to bring any kind of productive communication to a grinding halt. 

Any thoughts on this being an ADHD symptom or being a reaction to feeling chronically overwhelmed? (Not proofing this, so I hope it makes sense. :)


Hi Logicalinks,

Wow.  Seems like there is so much going on that there's no way to know for sure right now. 

But...  the hyperfocus and sudden withdrawal sound familiar.  That's how I was in ALL of my relationships.  The most intense was when I was in college.  I started dating a boy, thought he was The One.  thought we'd get married.... met another boy in summer school thought he was awesome, but still thought Boy One was it  for me until one day I realized I had actually been dating Summer School boy...  so I broke up with Boy one.  Then 6 months into that relationship suddenly I got this awful feeling that i'd made a huge mistake and that Summer School Boy was NOT right for me.  It was very sudden and intense, this feeling of 'oh no!!! this is totally wrong!"  so i broke up with him and went back to Boy One.  Long story short, I kept going back and forth breaking up and reuniting with the two of them for 2 years.  It was miserable for us all.  The same thing happened when I met my husband.  After 6 months of dating I felt that feeling again.  We didn't break up, but it was a miserable time.

As for the problems on top of it all, the uncle etc....  who knows?  Is she telling the truth?  are her lengthy trips really to see the uncle?  You can't drive yourself nuts trying to figure it out if she won't tell you.  BUT  what you CAN do is be strong and let her know that you're not going to take any bull$#!t.  What woke me up was my partner basically saying, "Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn." when I was going back and forth over whether or not he was right for me and whether or not I was going to stay.  You have to get to that place and mean it.  SHE is responsible for managing her ADD, but you need to set your boundaries early on.  If you are going to stay with her long term and if either of you want to have a child etc.  you need to set boundaries.

good luck

Thanks for taking the time to

Thanks for taking the time to respond, Ellamenno and Hermie40. I do believe she is telling the truth about the uncle. Lying hasn't been an issue in our relationship. As a matter of fact, compared to some descriptions of spouses here, we've treated each other very respectfully, but we just felt more like roommates than partners after a time. That's not what I want out of a relationship. I want intimacy, to trust the desire to have a future together, to not worry about how her impulsivity leaves me out of the decision-making process and yet impacts both of us, etc.

She knows that she will lose me if she doesn't make a decision soon about how to proceed, but she just seems "stuck." Perhaps it's her passive way of letting me go for good, then again, perhaps she really doesn't know. Either way, it has me in limbo as well.... not wanting to stay when it's time to go, but not wanting to give up on her either. I just wish I could say I didn't love her and could walk away easily. Unfortunately, that's not the case.


(I don't know why my name is showing up below this. I've tried to edit it out. Anyone know why this is happening and how to delete it?)

Hi. Welcome to the site. Im

Hi. Welcome to the site. Im sorry you have reached this painful point, but there is much to be learned here and plnety of hope since your girlfriend seems to be willing to try to get her sysmptoms under control.

"Chronically overwhelmed" is the best description I've heard yet regarding what ADHD seems to do to a person. ( Im the nonADHDer in my traditional marriage so Im only speaking from what I've learned and witnessed.) There are ADHDers in here, so maybe they can corroborate what Im trying to say. If you read some more about ADHD, you'll probably find a description that equates ADHD to having 50 tv or radio channels going on in your mind at once. As many other posts attest, the channels are filled with fear of failure, deep almost panicked need to hear words of approval, and each channel has equally loud volume for each task needing to be done in a given time. "Chronically overwhelmed" seems to be the reason many ADHDers don't listen well, unless they are able to focus on the speaker pointedly. It seems to be the reason others appear lazy because the need to do anything is quickly lost in the 50 channels, or they hear them all and can't decide what to do first. Watching my husband be easily overwhelmed was one of the things that tipped me off to the fact he might have adhd. Doing the dishes AND going to the post office in a day was a dramatic, stressful agenda for him.

You said your girlfriend switched meds shortly before your parting. It seems highly likely that had something to do with her decision. It may take time to know exactly how they will affect her and get the right dose.

I hope you'll continue to engage this site for the kinds of struggles we all go through. I think its been said a few times the happy couples don't usually come here, but I believe it is possible to have a great relationship when ADHD is a factor. In my case its not working out, but it doesn't mean its impossible. That said, if you read some more in here, you can see it can be a long lonely exhausting road. I don't know I would choose to marry my husband all over again if I knew what I know now. So I encourage you consider long and carefully before you continue pursuing her.

Circling Back: Two years, two weeks later

I wrote a long post (see above) in 2011 about my partner's ambivalence about wanting to be in our relationship or not. We took a break (asked for by her), and then worked with a couples counselor and read books while we worked on our relationship. We had a few times where I felt connected with her, but frankly, the last two years have been much of the same frustrations and disappointments... feeling unwanted, invisible, and a very low priority in her life. 

I hung onto the relationship and invested a lot of time and energy into trying to make it work, because I believe in commitment and because I did love many things about her. Rather than sharing my feelings of being ignored directly (trying to avoid making her feel badly), I would express numerous times and ways how I wanted to spend time with her, making it as easy as possible, and doing most of the "giving" most of the time. Usually, I would end up feeling like a chore being worked into her long list of things that HAD to be done. Very little spoken affection, even less physical affection, and most hurtful of all, while knowing all I wanted was time spent with her, she would find/create project after project... both work-related and personal. And before you say, "well you can share the personal projects" no, I could not. She created a very time-consuming project with her family five hours away in another state. And knowing how she is, while it is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER in her life right now, in a year, it will be forgotten, just like every other project. It was just one more insult added to injury.

Two weeks ago, the final straw happened when I'd confirmed with her on four separate occasions that she could be with me for a medical procedure on a certain date. A few days later, she just happened to mention that she'd accepted another work project out of state on the date we'd agreed upon. I lost it. I told her what I'd known all along, that I can't depend on her.

She knew how furious I was, and it made her feel badly. She asked for another break. I told her that I couldn't go through that emotional meat grinder again, especially when 1) she's not taking any medication for her ADD, 2) she says that the way she behaves is just "who she is," and sees no reason to change, and 3) I was exhausted.

I finally said goodbye for good. I wept like a baby on the floor for quite a while, then picked myself up and decided to move forward. It hasn't been easy, and I miss many things about her, but after a week and a half of "no contact," I feel soooo much better, like I've finally jumped off the crazy train I was on.

I don't know what my future holds in terms of another relationship, if any, but I do know the red flags to watch out for, and I do know that I do NOT have to settle for being ignored, no matter the cause. We have the benefit of not having children to consider, thank goodness, so I could make a clean break, but I should have done this two years ago. One good thing that came out of those two years is that I know I left everything I had on the battlefield of trying to make it work, trying to help her, trying to understand, trying to apply structure, trying to not need anything, trying every thing that every book offered as help, trying, trying, trying.

It feels better now to just be alone than it does to be alone in a relationship.

This site helped me through those two years, helped me know I wasn't alone, nor crazy, nor needy. Thank you, Melissa, for this site, and to all of you contributors for your input. More power to those of you who choose to stay or who have to stay for one reason or another. I wish you well.

Best Wishes

I'm very sorry you had to go on this roller coaster for so long. I wish you the very best on your new path.

Thank you

for the well wishes!



Better Alone

Very well written.  Thank you for coming back to let us know how you are doing and what you have gone through.  You have described the situation so well. The similar accounts of others are helpfull in putting a clarity to our own situations which feel unreal at times.  The question, "Am I just too picky?" turns to the statements "I do not feel loved." and "I am not loved" by this person.


"It feels better now to just be alone than it does to be alone in a relationship."

I have wondered if that would be true for me.  Because being alone in a relationship carries with it rejection on a daily basis.  A person is left behind for things that seem to be so pointless.  It makes the person who is left in the dust feel "less than" the pointless distractions. 


Your final choice is a good one it sounds.  When her temporary focus comes back to you, you will be tempted to believe the promises and attention again.  Remember that it is only for the NOW.  When you feel remorse for leaving and the pain of wondering if she is happy with someone else, remember that her attention to her new persuit is only for the NOW. 

I wonder too, if another type of personality would make my dh keep focus on the relationship/family.  There probably is a dynamic, demanding, game-playing, energetic, vocal, hilarious person who would be able to keep my dh wanting to engage in the confines of family by keeping him entertained.  But we can't change totally who we are.  I am just a loving, intimate, confidante wanting a trustworthy partner to walk through life hand in hand with with pride and dignity.  Maybe that introvert/extravert component is the thing that separates us as much as his ADD.  He is "out there" wanting everyone's attention...I am "in here" wanting his connection. 

Keep being strong. Trust yourself and your own feelings.   Don't be like me.  Once you have spent a lifetime filling someone else's bucket with your support and love, you find that your own bucket runs out and it is difficult, if not impossible, to fill your own bucket.  I now spend my thoughts trying to re-kindle my own ability to feel the love and passion for life I once had.  It is a struggle to do that alone...married to an ADDer or not.

I wish you love and happiness.

Thanks for the insight

Today was my first counseling session post-breakup. I felt strong, confident, and totally believing that leaving was the right decision for me. I mentioned some of what you wrote to the counselor: Because being alone in a relationship carries with it rejection on a daily basis.  A person is left behind for things that seem to be so pointless.  It makes the person who is left in the dust feel "less than" the pointless distractions.

Exactly! I always felt "less than." Less than her work, less than her blood family, less than her projects, less than her pets, even. It's maddening, and so sad to feel that way in a relationship. I'm sorry for you that it is still your reality.

As to the personality differences, I'm the one who's more the extrovert, silly, fun/funny, etc. It's some of the stuff she said she loved about me, but didn't seem to be enough to keep her involved. I'm not sure it would make a difference for you either, but you certainly sound like you have plenty to offer someone if you ever have the chance to share it with someone who would appreciate and cherish it.

BTW, she texted me today. First contact in 11 days. It was regarding tickets for a concert we'd planned to attend months ago. On both sides, it was brief, cordial, revealing nothing. I deleted it almost immediately. It feels good to move on.

Again, thank you for your reply. Love and happiness back to you.