Long Distance, Long Term, ADHD

Hello all, 

I have been having a very difficult time. I have been with my partner for just over 4.5 years at this point. For the first 3.5 years, we had a very challenging and tumultuous, but a very rewarding relationship. Just this past August, however, he got a new job offer across the country, so we had to do long distance for the first time in our relationship. The long distance has been ridiculously hard, and with the exception of the first two months or so, when he missed me very much, it has felt like I have been doing all the work to make sure that we stay in communication, keep in touch, and make plans to see each other. By November/December, things got really bad--he didn't plan ahead to visit me in November, and I began to get very angry with him. He had promised to visit my family for the holidays, which he forgot about, and it wasn't until I put more pressure on him to make plans that he finally decided to come. We had a wonderful time, and it's like he remembered what it was like to be together once we were together again.

Come New Years, I told him how difficult long distance was, how being able to see each other was the most important thing, and that we shouldn't ever go more than 6 weeks without seeing each other. We thus decided we'd see each other around Valentine's day. He didn't make any plans, of course, and I ended up making plans for us to meet up. We did, and it was a wonderful Valentine's day--and it was like he remembered all over again how good it was to be together. At this point, I began losing faith that he'd remember how good we had it the more we spent time apart. I had to go abroad for research, and early April, which was my birthday, he was supposed to visit me to see me before I left for 3 months. He didn't make plans until the day before my birthday when tickets were too expensive. He wasn't able to come, and I had to leave the country just a few days later. 

A week or so later he got his dream job, and I was very happy for him, but the past few months have been terrible for me. I have been so angry, frustrated, and depressed with him, for (what looked like) his lack of effort in keeping in touch, for not caring enough, for not realizing what he needed to do on his end to meet me half way and keep what I believed to be a valuable long-term relationship going. He tried to do what he could to stay in touch, but things then got really busy, we got into a fight when he blew up over a moment of insecurity on my part and my needing reassurance from him (long distance has been very hard for me and his blowing up at little things or if I asked for the wrong thing, etc., was a staple in the relationship), blamed me for "repeating the pattern" of insecurity, and we stopped speaking. Since then, he would do little things to "keep in touch," but we haven't spoken for about a month now. 

He used to tell me he loved me every day, even at points during long distance, but he hasn't at all. I tried asking him recently about it, and he couldn't tell me he loved me. He said he was still in a "position of solitude," and that he was dealing with a complex emotional state about us--combining, to use his words, love, but also nostalgia, introspection, and guilt about my suffering. In fact, at certain points, there were times that I think he wondered if we should end it because I wasn't happy.

Just last week, I found out about adult ADHD and read up on it voraciously. I was stunned. Every single thing spoken exactly to every single issue that had come up in our relationship. All this to say, I realized that there is a chance that my partner has this, and it made me make sense of so much of what he had said--that he has "limited bandwidth" for being able to give attention to his dream job and attention to me, that he couldn't give me any of that attention, that this is large part because he's afraid because he doesn't want to screw up at this amazing job opportunity, his lack of being able to plan ANYTHING, his promises to keep in touch or to see me that were broken, his not being able to motivate himself to do anything about the fact that I was suffering more and more except shut down and feel like a failure. At this point, I have been working hard to give him space while changing my attitude--now that this is making a lot of sense, I am trying to understand more the situation he is in.

I am still suffering a lot, and luckily I will be seeing him next week, but in the meantime I can't help but wonder if the relationship has been damaged. I wonder if he still loves me, or if it is possible for him to shut off emotions, which I have sometimes thought, or if it is just a matter of not being able to give it attention. I am less angry on the whole--there are still times that I get angry--and trying to come to terms with everything. I plan to talk to him about ADHD at some point when I see him (this is something he has joked about having in the past, although neither of us knew he might actually have it--he's also joked that maybe he's brain damaged, or missing a part of his brain), but only after we patch up where we are in the relationship at this point.

I am trying to be strong and patient as I wait out the time I have left before I see him--we are still not talking--but I am wondering, for persons with ADHD out there, if the urge to break off a valuable relationship is strong when things get difficult like this, and where love fits into all of it. Namely, if, in the long-winded but still-not-quite-complete-enough situation I've presented, at this point I need to worry about whether he even still loves me at all, whether there is hope on his side and in the way that he thinks for this relationship to work. As upset, angry, frustrated, and depressed as I have been, I am still trying to hold out hope; especially after finding out about adult ADHD, I am trying to be more optimistic about things since it may be there is an explanation for all the misunderstandings. But I'm at a low point currently, and just wondering if there's any way to get the relationship back to where we were, or if at this point, in the way that he thinks, things are hopeless?

Sorry for being so long-winded and not even knowing what I'm asking for. I guess I just want to know if there's hope, or whether he's lost his love for me, and whether that kind of emotional blocking can happen with ADHD at all, particularly with the added hurdle of long distance...

Hope springs eternal

Hello. I'm very sorry to hear your distress. If it is ADHD, the disorder is manageable, but your relationship will never be what it was. All relationships evolve and rarely resemble the early phase as the years pass. Unfortunately with ADHD there is usually the hyper focus stage where your newness keeps his attention, followed by the, I've got her stage, where the neglect begins. You are probably still awesome, but it's the same awesome, so it doesn't hold his attention. Stress adds to the severity of the ADHD symptoms, making executive function, such as planning visits, nearly impossible. The immediate present stimulus gets the attention. This is not personal. It is not about love, or lack thereof, it's about symptomology. 

Take some time to figure out what you need in a relationship. Be honest with yourself. There are many happy ADHD impacted marriages but they don't resemble a fairy tale at all.  In order to be happy you will need to match expectations with reality. A quote I heard at an ADHD relationship seminar boils it down well. All unhappiness is the result of unmet expectations. The happy ADHD relationships I have observed are ones where the partner did not have set notions about what partners are supposed to do and not do, so did not miss what they didn't have. And they were able to go with the flow. 

Good luck

Coming to an understanding

ShelleyNW, thank you so much for your response. I have been having panic attacks from the anxiety, but with some help I have been trying to find some peace and calm and to come to an understanding of what is going on. I think you are spot on about the stress adding to the severity of the ADHD symptoms, and it explains a lot about the promises of planning visits that end up broken because he ultimately was *not* able to plan any visits. The "now/not now" perspective of time that those with ADHD have is something I have been thinking a lot about and has been revelatory for me, and I am seeing how I am "forgotten" because--particularly with long distance--I'm very decidedly "not now" for him. Just as you said, the immediate present stimulus gets the attention--you articulated that so well. I am trying to understand that it isn't personal--I had taken it so personally for months, and only with the knowledge of ADHD symptoms have I come to realize that it's a part of the symptom-response-response cycle that we'd been victim to, not knowing about his possibly having ADHD.

Thank you for the advice. I think that I will take this time to figure out what I need in a relationship. I see now that I had so many expectations of the "normal" (for lack of a better word) or the "usual" script for how relationships work, and the fact that all of those expectations were being broken or not being met in ways that didn't make any sense to me at the time had taken a toll on me and left me feeling incredibly hurt and confused. He now no longer tells me he loves me, but he says that I'm "an incredible person" and that I "deserve the best." I'm set to be seeing him next week for the first time in months, and I guess I will have to see how it goes. I think that he wants us to have an exploratory conversation about the state of his feelings at this point; meanwhile, I've been doing all this research (I've purchased and read four ADHD-related books already) and feel like I know now the "why" behind all of our dysfunctional misunderstandings and the difficulty (beyond usual) of our being able to stay in touch while I've been so far away--this is something that I plan to gently approach with him hopefully in the course of whatever conversation we have about the state of our relationship. I am trying to stay calm, to continually stay in a state of understanding and empathy, while another part of me is very sad and scared about how salvageable or not salvageable our relationship is at this point, having gone through so many times of hardship due to mishaps that we didn't know stemmed from symptoms and the misinterpretation of them. I am trying to keep an open mind about this and not let my fear and anxiety paralyze me. I hope I'll soon be able to figure out how I feel about going with the flow and having to dismantle or readjust any and all expectations I had about relationships.

Lack of attention

I wonder whether these behaviors are about transitioning into a Long Distance Relationship

LDR issues exacerbated

Leonardis, that's true, I had at first attributed it all to transitioning into a Long Distance Relationship--and this is what I had actually been prepared for. I had already thought of systems in place for how to keep in touch that I would let him know about, and they were things that worked for the most part in the very beginning. It soon started going drastically downhill, though, and I felt like I was getting to the place where he was constantly forgetting what we had agreed upon regarding systems of keeping in touch and I was continually nagging him and reminding him. I was approaching it as if he was, well, someone who did not have ADHD, since I hadn't any idea of it at the time, and so it was frustrating and confusing for me that he kept forgetting, and frustrating, I'm sure, for him to have me nagging him all the time reminding him of what we agreed upon. I think the main thing about the lack of attention was his continual insistence that he was so stressed and it was such a high stakes time for him that he kept saying that he didn't know whether he was "even capable" of giving me attention because he had "limited bandwidth." My response had been, well if the relationship is important, you make time, and we can schedule it in, etc. The usual kinds of things. I didn't understand how someone could have "limited bandwidth" and not be able to adjust between focusing on work during work and then spending even just 10 minutes in the evening touching base, or something along those lines. I didn't understand why he couldn't manage that kind of flexibility, which I felt wasn't asking much. Now that I've been learning about ADHD, it makes so much more sense to me, even the term "limited bandwidth" which was the only way he could find to articulate his inability to give attention to both work and me (far away). And so now what I think I'm realizing is that our ignorance of what seems very likely to be ADHD symptoms exacerbated the normal issues that would have come with long-distance relationships--and that long distance relationships might be the death trap of relationships in which ADHD is involved because of the whole "out of sight, out of mind" & "now/not now" way of perceiving. 

Hey there. I am not sure if

Hey there. I am not sure if he has been diagnosed as ADHD, but that should be one of the first things. Making sure that it is ADHD is definitely the first step. Secondly, he mentioned having issues with being able to focus on work, and paying attention to keeping in touch with u. What we have found to work in our relationship is to set a specific time each day for both of us to cut off from work, and focus on talking or playing games or just relaxing together. Even if its only 2 hours, it does wonders. Be flexible tho, if he does have ADHD adjusting to change is harder for him than for you. Tho it may take you one week to "get with this new program" it may take him 3x as long. Gentle reminders help, (no nagging!) And remember, all relationships require nurturing and participation from both persons Good luck :)

adhdfinance, thanks so much.

adhdfinance, thanks so much. He hasn't yet been diagnosed--we haven't seen each other in person for nearly five months, and I am making a trip out to see him in a few days. Needless to say, I'm anxious and exhausted. At this point, he wants to have an exploratory conversation about the relationship and its issues, and I am hoping that this is when I can gently talk to him about the possibility of getting him evaluated for adult ADHD. I am hoping that it proves to be a productive and fruitful conversation, and that he will be willing to get it checked out. We will see...it's so hard because I'm trying to anticipate how the conversation will go or will not go, something I probably shouldn't do, particularly because I cannot predict what he'll say or how he'll react, not to mention that our relationship is already on the rocks because of the added burdens of long distance and a whole assortment of related communication issues (possible ADHD + long distance is just a nightmare) that have not made it any easier. I am hoping that he will be open to seeing how it is to have me back in his life in the flesh and that he'll see that it's really not so bad after all (it was great when we were together before the distance--he seems to have forgotten it, having now gotten very used to being on his own, and I think he's seeing me coming as a kind of "change" he's not completely ready for, ironically much like his going away without me was a change he didn't think he was ready for at the time). Once that's established, I think your idea of setting a specific time to reconnect is a great one. I really do hope we can manage to get to that point, and I do have to remember that it is that much more difficult for him to adjust than it is for me. Nurturing and participation from both persons...terrific point, and I want to remember that as a point to make. There's so much to be repaired...