Getting Unstuck

One of the most common problems in couples in general and in couples where there is ADD in particular is the inability to make changes.  This is vexing because, as they say in AA, if nothing changes, nothing changes. 

Before the couple gets help, what usually develops is a process of mutual blame.  The minute a conflict arises, each member of the couple hunkers down in a self-protective, defensive posture that says, “It’s your fault, not mine.”  Soon the phrase gets added, “Why bother even trying?  This situation is hopeless.”  Each member of the couple feels isolated, lonely, misunderstood, angry, and at a loss for what to do next other than separate or simply muddle miserably on.

The step I advise is to get help.  You need a referee to help you get your feelings out on the table, to help you listen to what the other person is saying, to help you discuss options for change before you shut down and say it’s hopeless, and, not least of all, to inject some positive energy into your world.

Some people dismissively call such therapy cheerleading.  I call it loving.  It is the most powerful therapy there is.  I try to offer the people who come to see me the kind of love I can offer, as a therapist.  This means I try to find what’s good in each person and what’s good in the relationship.  I try to find ways of helping each person develop understanding for of the other person’s point of view.  I try to rekindle the respect and affection that once suffused the relationship.  I try to help each member of the couple laugh and relax, untighten their jaws, let go of their hunkered down posture, and find a safe place to begin to initiate change.

In a crucible of forbearance, respect, honesty, and open talk, people rediscover love.  It is magnificent to see.

-Ned Hallowell


Stuck is right

This is where we're at. My husband was diagnosed with ADHD at age 59, after having returned to college (Physics), struggled in a way that he didn't struggle in the work world, and found out that his oldest daughter (from a prior marriage) has ADHD.

Meanwhile, one of my older sisters and one of her daughters were diagnosed with ADHD and had started on meds. We suspect another sister and a brother (and maybe our dad) also have ADHD, but no official diagnoses.

So, when my husband got his diagnosis from a therapist who specializes in ADHD, I also started going to a specialized therapist to see if my ADHD tendencies were real or coincidental. So far, the decision is that they're coincidental.

My biggest complaints are around his impatience, anger, sarcasm, and ridicule. He's constantly asking me to be honest with him, and it hurts because I have always been honest. He just doesn't believe me. I think the ADHD is deforming reality, and he's believing that.

I want to do couples counseling - he won't ("counselors cause divorce"). He refuses to try meds. We're both hunkered down, and I don't know what to do.

re: Getting Unstuck

My wife -- who brings the ADD into our relationship -- wanted me to go to couple's counseling for years, and I refused. Why? Well, this was before she agreed that ADD might be causing problems in the household. I needed to draw a line, so I told her after she addressed the ADD I'd be more than happy to go to counseling. Since this was before she received help for the ADD, I felt as though I was already holding the household together, which took a huge level of effort, and this was with me holding down the full time job (guess what happened to my wife's?). I didn't feel I had room on my plate, nor did I feel I needed to add anything. I suggested a compromise: we would find a couple