My boyfriend has ADHD. We have been together for several months and he was open about his ADHD from the beginning. I decided to educate myself as much as possible in order to understand him. In general I think we have a very good and loving relationship - he is one of sweetest, gentlest, funniest people i know. He has also always been very open about the painful childhood he had, as well as unhealthy relationships before he met me. The issue now is that I'm discovering these past experiences effect him more than he wants to admit. He refuses to address them, says he is not depressed, even though when he describes symptoms to a doctor the doctor suggests he is depressed. I think his ADHD is interfering with his ability to address other issues. Such as, perhaps, he cannot focus on what the problem really is/lack of interest in pursuing changes in his life.

For example, he complains he is tired all the time, his body "aches", and, even getting up off the couch to take the trash out is too much effort and he has to literally force himself off the couch. he says its not that he lacks motivation, he wants to get off the couch but he is literally just too tired.  So i suggest to go see the doctor, maybe something is physically wrong, maybe he is missing something in his diet, etc. And he responds no, the doctor will just tell me I am depressed and I know that I'm not. So I suggest trying another doctor. He responds, ugh, no, this is my 3rd doctor already! I suggest he excercise more - that could help his energy level. He retorts that he gets more exercise than most Americans since he walks to work (his only form of exercise, 2 miles per day, though he only does it "when the weather is nice"). I suggest that his occasional walking to work maybe isn't enough and he shuts down.

It is getting extremely frustrating to talk to him about things. I don't like to cause him any stress, so instead of pushing the issue, I drop it, but I want so badly to talk more about it. But the few times I've tried he gets upset, says he doesn't want to fight (even though I am not arguing with him or wanting to cause a fight at all, just gently talking to him about things, offering suggestions, etc).

We also live 2 hours apart and have talked for a couple months now about him moving to the same city as me (not living together yet though) and getting a new job here (even before I met him he planned to move to my city anyway; most of his friends live here). But weeks have gone by and he hasn't even finished his resume yet. I tell him if he's not ready its ok, but he should tell me if so. He says he wants to move more than anything, its just that the economy is bad and he's worried he won't be able to make the same salary. I suggest that he at least try, that he is worried about a situation that doesn't exist yet, since he hasn't even looked at what jobs are available. then he shuts down and says he doesn't want to be pressured. So, I give up talking about it, but inside I am going crazy. He says one thing but does another.

If I am ever critical of anything he says or does, even if he hurt my feelings unintentially, he immediately just gets defensive. Rather than addressing the issue that my feelings were hurt, he just gives excuses. I tell him I understand that he didn't say or do it with an intent to hurt me, but that I did get my feelings hurt. He has an excuse for everything and I am noticing more and more that he won't actually address any problem. There's always a reason, in his mind, for why he does something, or why he won't do something. He accuses me of starting a fight and I say, no, I am calmly talking to you about my feelings. and he just repeats his excuse and complains no one understands him. Apparently he doesn't see how hard I try to understand him.

i have suggested he try to put his past behind him. He says he has, that he never thinks about it unless someone else brings it up (I guess that means me). I suggest that maybe even if he doesn't think about it, it still can effect him emotionally. I suggest that he move beyond the anger he has towards his parents (and other bad relationships in his life) He retorts "I think after what happened to me I have every right to be angry". So I say, of course, what happened to you was horrible, but the negative emotions are doing nothing helpful for you. Then he gets upset again and says we are fighting and he doesn't understand how he can possibly think positive about what happened to him. So I stop because I can see that he is too frustrated to speak rationally with me.

In my mind we have never had a "fight" - we've had some discussions that ended up getting him upset or shut down, but it was more of an over reaction on his part to my bringing up a senstive subject.

Anyway, I am posting here, becuase first, I/we need help. and I think his reactions, lack of motivation, etc to the above situations have a lot to with his ADHD. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I really want our relationship to work and don't want it to get to a breaking point.

Boyfriend with ADHD

Has he been diagnosed with ADHD, and is he treating it in any way, or does he just think he has the characteristics of someone with ADHD?  You also don't say how long you have been dating, which may account for some of his reluctance to move right now.  The job market is also a big worry for everyone - very fair to say that he feels unsettled.

He sounds like a great guy when he isn't feeling insecure or threatened.  Unfortunately, life can be hard, and in order for you two to have a loving and thriving relationship in the future you need to know that you can both communicate with your spouse and that you can get through adversity.  Sounds as if you are having some trouble already, and that he is pretty effective at shutting you down.  If this continues I suspect that you will start to feel resentful that your ideas and needs are not being addressed or listened to.  (It's okay for the two of you to disagree or agree to disagree.  It's much harder to be in a position where your ideas don't get considered and he shuts you out...which is where it sounds as if you are going.)

You have a bunch of options here, but if you can just fill in the info that I asked for at the top, particularly the part about whether or not he is being treated, that would be great.

depression and adhd

thanks Melissa. He has been diagnosed, and was on medication for a short time (before I met him) - I think it was Adderol. But he didn't like the side effects so he stopped taking it. He doesn't really do anything else to treat his ADHD, beyond basic things like making lists and keeping a calendar so he doesn't forget appointments. I have suggested he start meeting with a therapist that is knowledgeable about ADHD, but again he has not pursued this and so far the only "excuse" is that he didn't know if his insurance would cover it. (I suggested he research that, but he hasn't done it yet).

We have only been together for about 6 months. So I totally understand if he's not ready for that "next step" as far as moving to the same city, it's just that his actions don't match his words. And as I said, from the day I met him he talked about that he'd been planning to move anyway since most of his friends are here. I guess I feel that a lot of it is just his ADHD that is preventing from actually sitting down and finishing his resume, searching classified ads, etc.

I know 6 months isn't much, but I'm hoping we really can make this work; there are many positive aspects to our relationship, so I really want to help him/help us, address these issues before it becomes too much to handle.

thanks for any advice/input you can share with me.

Long Distance Relationship

It sounds as if some of the issues you are having are related to ADD - initiating and completing tasks, such as creating effective resumes, can be very difficult for people with ADD for example (difficulty initiating tasks is a symptom, as is having a non-hierarchical brain, which makes putting together such an hierarchical document as a resume particularly challenging.  Finally, staying on task is also difficult for people with ADD).

Your language suggests that you are falling into the territory of the partner who becomes critical of her ADD spouse and starts to "shut down" his willingness to extend himself to the degree necessary to make important changes.  To make things work, you have to stay out of that territory, but to stay out of that territory, he has to make some progress towards communicating whether or not you two really, really share the same goals.  That communication should likely include:

  • further pursuing ADHD treatment.  These medications are all different and act quite differently.  Before he gives up, he should try several others and see what they do for him.  He may be willing to do this if he understands that you have certain expectations for your own life (NOT his) and they include being with a person who can follow through on his word (i.e. can be trusted to try at least).  You know that medications often help people with ADD do just that, and you're hoping he cares enough about your relationship to give it another try.  Note, this isn't suggesting that you blackmail him into taking medications - that's his choice.  Rather, it's setting your own boundaries.  Relationships succeed when people communicate clearly, positively and resectfully about their expectations and their needs to people who care about them.
  • more education for both of you.  Continue your education about ADD and communication skills.  Bring him to this site, if he's willing, and have him get a better understanding that ADD can be managed in relationships provided both parties are interested in participating
  • let up on the pressure to move.  You can't force him to move.  You can offer help ("You say that you want to move.  Are there things I can do at this end to help you do that?") but that's about it.  Do you know his friends?  Perhaps when he comes to visit you can both hang out with them.  He may simply find that it's too enticing there to stay away...and you'll make some new friends.
  • Focus on yourself.  If you put too much pressure on him the likely result is that he will pull away from you.  Instead, focus on what makes you happy there in the life that you already have.  It's much more interesting to be with someone who is happy and independent than it is to be with someone who is nagging you to move or change or...

Keep us up to speed...


Would anyone give me some advice?

Dear Melissa and all, I just want to say that this forum is an eye opener. I have been dating my boyfriend for three years and we have been best friends for more. He is such a sweet, fun, and loving guy. I fell in love with him because of his "energy." Prior to reading the posts on this forum, I had no idea of how much of his ADHD contributed to his personality. Melissa, you are so right. I love and dislike so much about him because of his ADHD. The positive things in our relationship: he is fun, genuine, loyal, intelligent (he has one very incredible memory), and he is very cultured. He is such a sweetheart. He really appreciates and loves me for who I am and he loves my family. He is my first love. The bad things about him -(common to many of you): he is very disorganized, he is late, blurts out things, forgets things, and I often feel IGNORED and NEGLECTED. (Melissa, until I read your post about feeling neglected, I had no idea his ADHD contributed to this. Like you said, he tells me he loves me more now then ever. I was hard for me to understand that until your post connected me to see it. I questioned why does he never have any complaints about me when I have so many about him?) My boyfriend is an attorney and he is very busy. However, I, too, am waiting to be a lawyer and am just as busy. This is why I often nagged, got angry, and got very upset at him for not making enough time for me. I often asked myself, "I am so busy but am so willing to make time for him, why can't he?" Like you said, I connected being "ignored" to "him loving me less." This was really hard for me. . . because until I met him, I hardly ever agrued with anyone. I am not confrontational. For past several years, I tried to keep it all in. However, I've hit my max when I was studying for the bar exam. I really needed him and I felt so alone. (I know part of it has to do with that we are in a long distance relationship). All I needed was a phone call but sometimes he even forgot that due to his very hectic work schedule. However, after our serious discussions, he has been making an effort to be better. I can see that. I can feel it. He fully acknowledges his condition and he is on medication. Also, he doesn't have spending problem (rather fruggle) and he works very very hard. My question to you is: could we have a succcessful marriage? I am so scared. I've been reading more on this so that I can be better aware of ADHD. However, the more I read it. . .the more nervous I get. I feel so horrible because I knew it all along, even from the start, that he has ADHD. I have a feeling that he is going to ask me to marry him. I am sure it is coming. Could we do this? Is it possible? Can we be happy? (Despite our troubles , we've been doing great in our relationship. We have been committed to each other and we are battling through our long distance relationship. I am worried about our children . . .and whether I could be a good supportive wife. I am also ashamed that I haven't told anyone in my family due to a fear that they may judge him somehow. Could someone get back to me?

Can This Relationship Work as a Marriage?

The short answer is YES, absolutely you can have a great marriage if it gets to that, and really thrive.  I was intrigued by your post, so I'm going to write a blog post in answer to it (today).  Check the main page....