Frustrated...please help!

I am so utterly frustrated. I've spent the past year in a relationship with a newly diagnosed ADD partner. Since his diagnosis, all he has done is use medication to cope with the results ADD can have on his life, work, and our relationship. I suggested in December of last year, in addition to using medication, that he should think about learning about ADHD, and understand it better. He said that he would definitely do some research to gain a better understanding, but until this day, he has yet to do any research. I am so frustrated because when we are on track, things are great. We've spoken about marriage, but I am not sure if our relationship will even be able to reach that point because he has not learned to manage his ADD. It has gotten to the point where its more and more difficult to remain patient. I've done alot on my part, and continue up until this day to continue my education so that I can manage how I react to things, and to him. At this point, I'm beginning to feel that I am wasting my time, as I feel that the success of our relationship will require both of us taking on the responsibility of learning how to manage the ADD in our relationship. He tells me that he wants to and knows that he has to do it, but wanting to do it and actually doing it are two different things. He doesn't take the steps to even start. I really don't know what to do. I can easily take control of the situation and think about the biggest issues in our relationship and brainstorm methods, then present the information to him to get his thoughts; but I feel that I am enabling him, or being a parent; it also leaves me feeling that he really doesn't have enough enthusiam or really WANT to do it at all. I'm frustrated because I do love him, I know we could have a successful future but what can more can I do?

Your Instincts Are Right

Your instincts sound very good.  You know how much you care for this man, yet you are frustrated in that you don't feel that he is being a good partner to you.  This is the classic issue at the heart of these relationships, and it is good that you have discovered your feelings before you have tied the knot.  You can, at least, deal with them pre-marriage and, if you can't resolve your unease, stay unmarried (you can stay unmarried and in a relationship with him...but things are harder after marriage because expectations change...not to mention financial issues.)

Your partner needs to understand now that you are having potentially relationship ending issues with his inability to follow through.  He should seek treatment (or additional treatment) for his ADD NOW before it is too late for the two of you.  This may mean coaching (an effective way to get someone else to do the "dirty work" of reminding him to follow through on his promises).  Think of a coach as an excellent personal secretary and behavioral therapist all tied up in one...

My husband's three-step approach to dealing with ADD (which he has) is 1.) understand you have it  2.) understand the degree that it affects those around you (i.e. much more than you think - the ADD person has to really open their eyes in this step) and 3.) decide that because you love those around you you must do something about it.  He says that by far the hardest step is step 2 - a person with ADD has to really work hard to internalize the impact that their behaviors have on their partners.

But, the truth is, if he can't get through this step, you may not be able to remain as a couple.  You've seen it already ("I'm beginning to feel that I'm wasting my time"), so you have very little to lose by helping him learn a bit more about his ADHD.  Consider reading about ADD to him at night for 15 minutes before you go to bed, or perhaps buying him the audio of Hallowell's Delivered from Distraction to listen to in the car on the way to or from work.  Also, it's probably time for the "You need to be making progress controlling your ADD symptoms because they are getting in the way" conversation.

Set yourself some parameters - what is "success" for you?  Do you just expect to see that he starts to make improvement, or are you looking for more?  Within what time frame?

Then, give yourself permission to bow out of the relationship if you find that it isn't all that you want...before you tie the knot.

Melissa Orlov

Thank you for your response

Thank you for your response as I feel I have reached a dead end. I can gaurantee that my partner hasn't reached step two, let alone even thought about step two; which is why I feel we have reached this stage in our relationship. Throughout our relationship I've devoted so much energy into improving the wrongs in our relationship, what we were doing to create the problem, and solutions to fix it. Problem was, I was the one realizing the issues, taking the steps to fix them, and he was only going along for the ride in an effort to please me. Hence why the improvements were only temporary. He didn't really feel that he needed to make these improvements, let alone want to do them. After the volume of frustration that has built in our relationship, I suggested that we make a list of the things that we dislike in our relationship and a list of the things we like in our relationship. I was impressed he actually made the list and showed him my gratitude. I had a slight shimmer of hope that we were on the right track. We were to then going to exchange that list via email, read it, think about it, then respond. We set a timeframe in which we were going to do so, and I replied to the list first by making suggestions on how I can improve the dislikes he had towards me and the relationship. He never responded to the list, or my response and when I approached him about how it made me feel; the result was NOT good at all. He blew up, and things escalated. I was so hurt that he couldn't make the time to work on responding, let alone follow through. I even told him that it didn't have to be an extensive response, simple and to the point. Knowing that it takes him a bit longer to do things, and think about things, I gave him an entire week to respond. I reminded him throughout the week about it, and he quite frankly told me he didn't want to do it at that time. Now, after that HUGE and what I feel was the final fight, we are barely speaking to eachother, sleeping in seperate spaces; and the times we have spoken, its been very tense. Due to the fact that I felt that our relationship has become parent/child and he was only agreeing to making modifcations to make me happy, not because he wanted too; I told him that he has to take the next step, and if he doesn't I can't continue to do this to myself anymore. I don't feel its fair that I invest so much time and energy into him, if he isn't doing the same. That was a week ago. I have told him what would prove to me that HE WANTED to make this work, I laid my expectations out on the table. He told me that he could only realize his wrong doings if we had space, and "minimal contact." I know that he hasn't spent a moment thinking about us, his behaviors, or ways to fix this. He doesn't seem phased that this relationship is on the verge of ending because he sits back and lets the problems fester. He said that it is too difficult to work on us when things are bad. That doesn't make sense to me, because if your house is on fire, you wouldn't let it burn down, you'd put the fire out. Instead he is sitting back and letting our relationship burn to ashes and the problems fester. I'm at the point where I think I've done as much as I have possibly could to talk to him about his ADHD, about the things WE need to do to turn this back around, but nothing has gotten him to the point where he needs to be, and that is step number two. He is doing everything possible to avoid it and that is by placing blame and making excuses. Another problem adding to this, is all of his time goes into work. He is a ticket broker and works at home. He sits on the couch, behind his laptop, ALL DAY. Trying to get him to take a ten minute walk with me and our dog is a struggle, and now I have to sit back and wait for him to pull himself away and deal with the life around him. He is consumed by it, if he could devote the 16 hours he puts into being behind his laptop everyday; you'd think he would be able to invest that energy into us. In regards to a timeframe, to wait. I don't know, because it is breaking my heart seeing him day in and day out invest into his own interests and what matters most to him; and unfortunately right now our relationship doesn't seem to be the priority. I don't want to give up on him, but I don't know what to do to grab his attention and show him that his life around him is falling apart. Any suggestions?

Keep from Breaking Up?

Some random thoughts:

First, if your guy works at home, don't interupt him during working hours unless you have specific invitation from him to do so.  Working at home doesn't mean that someone gets to take more breaks...pretend he's at the office.

Second, you can't make him want to make these changes.  From how you've described it, it seems as if you have put a huge amount of effort into trying to get him to change...and there lies the rub.  What you need is a man with whom you are happy in the first place.  The biggest marriage mistake that people make - ADD or no ADD - is thinking that things will change after they get married.  This leads to almost inevitable unhappiness.  You cannot make someone else change.  He has to decide that it is in his best interests to be a certain way - in this case that would be a certain way that complements your own style and makes your relationship work.  You've seen with his dedication to work that when he sets his mind to it he can do things - he just hasn't set his mind to "fixing" what you think is wrong with him because it just doesn't bother him that much.

One of the strange dynamics in these relationships is that the harder you try to change him, the more resistant to change he will be.  Also, the "meaner" and more "unreasonable" you seem.  When you try to change him, you communicate to him that he isn't good enough, that you don't love him, and that he is lacking.  Not good!  You also build up a reserve of frustration that then turns into anger and disappointment.  Now, think about when you were a kid.  Did you want to be with your parents when they were either angry or disappointed with you?  Not likely.  Not a big surprise that he doesn't want to be with you right now, either.

It is a common misperception that it is the non-ADD partner's job to "change" the ADD spouse...after all, it's "for their own good".  Not so.

You DO have a job to do in this relationship, but it isn't the one you've been doing.  First and foremost, stop trying to change him.  You can't change him, or even force him to change, and the fallout of trying hurts everyone, including yourself.  Accept that if he is sufficiently motivated by love he will make the effort to change himself...if not, then he won't.

Second, stop defining success as staying together.  Redefine success for you as being happy.  That means - start acting like yourself again (instead of a mother or a nag - which is definitely not a happy place to be).  If he responds to you and decides that you're more fun than working, you'll find he's back in your life.  If he doesn't respond to the "good" you, then you'll know that the two of you are not a good fit.

Third, start thinking "carrot" rather than "stick".  Or, if you prefer, "honey attracts the bees".  It doesn't surprise me he doesn't want to have contact with you right now - you are demanding and insistent about his inadequacies....But what if he perceived you as "fun" and "wonderful" and "interesting" instead?  Just like the old days?

If you find after all of this that you still aren't a good fit, then it's time to let this relationship go.  At that point, he can either make it a good fit by changing his behavior, or you can move on to something else.

Melissa Orlov

I appreciate your thoughts

I appreciate your thoughts and I agree with the majority of it. I do not know how I can maintain a relationship with him if he is working from 8am until 2am in the morning, seven days a week. If I wait until he invites me to interup his work, well then, I'm going to be waiting a while. He even said before that he has a difficult time seperating his personal life from his work life since they are both in the same place...home. We haven't even had sex in months because of his work hours, because as he said "I need to find a way to fit it into my routine." Our relationship isn't a part of his routine, work is. I do agree that I can't change him, or force change upon him. I am not trying to change the person who is, I am just trying to help us mesh together better than we are, and that includes modifying my actions towards him. Maybe I am trying too hard. The more I try, the worse things get; but how am I suppose to find a middle ground on my own? I can tell you I have been spending a lot of time thinking if I can accept him at face value. Yes I can, but that doesn't mean I can accept constant disappointment when he doesn't follow through on a promise he makes, I can't help but feel unloved or unwanted when he doesn't even realize that I am around. He can't even "fit" me into his life regardless if our relationship is on an uphill climb or if its going downhill. How do I love someone, accept who they are, and forget about the things that are making me unhappy, is it wrong for me to expect him to follow through? I find it very hard to pretend that I am not unhappy. I will say, that a part of me feels that your thoughts are on target. Example. I always used to get frustrated that he wouldn't help me around the house. I'd feel taken for granted, and constantly point that out on top of the fact he wasn't helping. One day, I decided to just do it and not complain; I just didn't "care" if he did or didn't do it. Suddenly, he now straightens up the house everyday and I clean on the weekends. It all just fell into place on its own because I stopped caring so much. Also, once I noticed that he was helping, I'd point out my appreciation, rather then my disatisfaction that something wasn't done. Maybe, I should just stop caring so much how he handles this relationship, and let things be. Like you said, if it falls into place it will. Maybe if I focus on me being happy, we can be happy. I spend so much time trying to improve things, that I'm draining the life out of us, rather than enjoying it. Maybe I really need to stop trying so hard. I guess the struggle is finding a balance between letting things go and not being bothered by certain things in the relationship without feeling as if you are sacraficing yourself, your needs and your own happiness. I don't want to feel that I am backing down to EVERYTHING. Both people have to have their needs met somehow. There has to be limits. How do you set them so that everyone can be happy and ensure both parties agree to those limits?