I am engaged to a man with moderate ADHD. I don't know if that really counts because we haven't been married yet, but after reading Melissa Orlov's book, I felt like my life was in print. I love my fiance more than words could ever say. It is the first time I have been in a relationship where I feel respected and loved unconditionally. Everything started out GREAT at the beginning of our relationship but then we started fighting all the time. I mean ALL THE TIME. Our days became measured not by how happy we were each day but if we didn't fight. And if we did fight, did we fight really hard or for very long? I couldn't understand it. Vacations suffered. We went to bed arguing almost every night. I had never been so in love and so frustrated all at once. My fiance was diagnosed with ADHD when he was very young. He underwent treatment while he was growing up and then his parents dropped the ball and stopped getting him help. His mom was a selfish alcoholic with what I suspect could be bipolar disorder and his father was just passive and didn't care. I knew about it when we first started dating, but I never thought that it actually had any effect on him. I always just thought of his ADHD as the energizer bunny behind his optimism and energetic personality. I will admit that I blamed his inattentiveness when I was speaking to it, but that was it. Then one night about two weeks ago when we were arguing, for the first ever, he blamed his actions on his ADHD and said to me, "I have ADHD, okay? I can't do everything perfect, but I am trying!" And I said something to him about not blaming his actions on his ADHD...
...but then it really started to nag at me. What if I wasn't giving him enough of the benefit of the doubt? Why couldn't it be just as much if not more my fault than it was his? So I did some research, found Melissa Orlov's book, and within the first 10 pages, I was crying. This was my life. The Parent-Child Dynamic and then nagging and the frustration. The Symptom-Response-Response model. It was me to a "T". So then I dove into the section about how the ADHD partner feels and I had to keep a box of Kleenex with me. I felt so horrible. I was also greatly to blame for the direction our relationship had gone in. I grabbed a pad of sticky notes and a yellow highlighter and I assaulted the book, marking things that I wanted to remember or that matched me perfectly, and sections that addressed my fiance's possible feelings and attitudes about our situation. I sat down with him and did just what Melissa said to do... I asked him to just tell me how he felt. I wasn't trying to fix him or correct him or give him pointers on how to make it better. I just listened. Things that I had suspected he was feeling came out and things that I hadn't even known he was feeling came to light. I couldn't believe how open he was being with me. The man who would never talk about how he was feeling was speaking to me about his emotions. He asked me to do the same and tell him how I was feeling. And I did. I told him about the frustration but also the realization that it wasn't just all his fault. It was just as much mine. We decided to read the book together and talk about it as we went through each chapter.
I have decided not to talk to him about getting treatment yet. Maybe if our behavioral changes together can't make enough of a difference for us, we can talk about it in a pros vs. cons way and ask how he feels about it. But my fiance from the very beginning has always been so committed to doing things to make this work. We have had many talks in the past about his impulsive spending because I told him I couldn't trust him with his finances if he was doing that. Or his inability to control himself from eating junk food, because I want our future kids to be able to see him as a role model and be healthy. I had told him earlier on in our relationship that I didn't want to be the parent and take charge of everything because that wasn't a partnership, and I wanted him to feel like he had the reins too. All of these talks resulted in changes being made (even if very slowly) immediately. It didn't matter to me that a switch hadn't been flipped. He was trying!
Now, he is eating healthier. The "C Student" is now kicking butt a the top of his class at the fire academy (he found a career that would be a great use of his energy and passion for helping people) to get into a career that he can support us with. He is actually PLANNING out his expenses! He saves his money and is talking about opening a savings account that he puts money into every month and never touches until we are ready to buy our house before the wedding. We are making plans to get out of the house and do a little bit of traveling as something to do together without the stresses of being home. He's saving money for these trips without me even saying anything. He is actually advising his little brother on how to be smarter about his money! I have learned to stop the nagging, share the load by giving him a little bit at a time, and just throw the Parent-Child dynamic in the trash all together. I ask for him to explain why he is doing what he is doing instead of just assuming he is blowing off what I ask him to do. Cause sometimes he did just forget (take a breath, it's okay!) but other times, he actually thought about it and what he is doing (in his mind) needs to be done first.
It's still hard. I give a couple minutes everyday to the worry that he will end the "hyperfocus courtship" after we are married. But I know that thinking about it and worrying about it right now isn't going to make things better. This is the first time that I have KNOWN without a doubt that I was meant to marry this man. I can be just as frustrating on the other end of the spectrum as he is. I know I am stubborn and scheduled and super-focused. He reminds me to relax and enjoy life. He encouraged me to be more flexible and roll with the punches. He reminds me not to let the things I can't change bother me. Anytime I am struggling or feeling down, he is there to make me laugh and feel loved and whole again. He tries so very hard to make his ADHD affect us less and I notice it... and I appreciate it so much. I know that I have some behavioral changes to make, too. I will leave it up to him to pick where he wants to go on a vacation so that he is super focused and excited about it. His excitement helps him to focus on tasking and I hand off the planning to him so that when the trip is all planned and we are there having a great time he looks back at it and say "Heck yeah, I made this happen." I've learned the relax, take a breath, and stop assuming that he is being thoughtless or inconsiderate. I give him the benefit of the doubt and let him share some of the load... because he wants to, he just struggles with it.
I know we have a lot more time before we have this down pat... but I know we can do it. Whether he chooses to take medication or makes it work without it, I know we can have a great marriage. One day, one patient moment, one conversation at a time. I have so much hope for our future now. Having a partner with ADHD wasn't exactly in my childhood dream of marriage, but I never pictured being married to someone who is so optimistic and energetic and situationally flexible, either. I don't think that I would love him as much if he didn't have ADHD!