I have read Melissa’s book ( and several others regarding ADHD ) and have read many posts in this forum over the past few months. I still do not know some of the acronymns but decided it was time to throw our story out there to see if anyone had comments or could offer any insight.
I am the Non-ADHD spouse. My wife and I dated for five years prior to getting married and have now been married for six months ( 2nd for both of us ). Of course during that time I noticed certain eccentricities, in fact I used to tease her about being my “Fifty first Dates” girl. About 18 months ago she was diagnosed with ADHD, like many this came after her daughter was diagnosed and she recognized some symptoms in herself. She has been on medications since. I personally did not give it too much thought at the time as I recognized some of the eccentricities may be part of ADHD, and the medication would help her focus.
While our dating relationship was certainly not without conflict we always seemed to work things out cooperatively. What I was not at all prepared for was what one author calls “the big switcheroo”. Literally the day after returning from our honeymoon it seemed I was living with a totally different person! The somewhat absent minded, caring person I dated was gone. It was like Dharma had been transformed into the Tasmanian Devil! WTF?? It appeared to be a complete disconnect regarding our relationship. There appeared to be a seething rage and defensiveness lying just below the surface that is exposed at the suggestion that we have an issue for which she may be responsible. So I started reading and wound up here.
Some background … My wife was the valedictorian in her high school class, received academic scholarships that allowed her to graduate from a highly respected private college. During college she married and gave birth to two children. After graduation she took over a business founded by her father, while raising the children, coaching Jr., high sports, and successfully competing in international martial arts competitions. She later sold the business. Today she is a manager at a fortune 100 company and really does not struggle keeping a job like many with ADHD. Although she has to work to get there on time.
To say the least she is not lazy, and does a lot around the house. In my mind she is grossly inefficient as to how she does it but that is okay. For example, I was recently out of town on a business trip for a week. When I returned the vaccum cleaner was sitting in the same spot in the living room as when I left. She said she actually vacuumed several times while I was gone but just put it in the same place … in front of the closet door where it belongs!
She does, however struggle with most, if not all of the classic ADHD symptoms described in the books and on this forum. No concept of time, terrible with spending and finances ( bankruptcy 2 yrs. ago ), impulsiveness, clutter, losing things daily, etc. Given these symptoms and considering her accomplishments it is clear she has developed a fairly refined coping strategy. More on this to come.
Now for my part. I am certainly not OCD but have been called a neat freak a few times. Pretty much a place for everything, everything in its place kind of guy. I know, right, a match made in heaven LOL. We now live in my house, the same place I lived for six years alone. My space was like a Zen retreat. No matter how crazy things got I could always retreat to my place and recharge. Needless to say that is no longer the case. We manage to keep the living room, kitchen and dining room fairly organized but the rest of the house looks like a war zone most of the time. That drives me crazy. I created a TINY den we call “the man room”. Unfortunately the laundry area is off this room. Even though we have discussed many times that is my space she views it as a staging area for laundry, which is one of her chores.
Prior to recognizing the pervasiveness of ADHD we had some pretty awful symptom, response, response arguments. I have been verbally abusive to her on many occasions and self medicated with alcohol a lot. I have come to understand that I did this to try to stem the anger I felt but it got to the point it no longer worked!
The more I read about ADHD I came to realize that with the exception of perhaps two, every woman with whom I have had a serious relationship was most likely ADHD, including my ex-wife! So the anger that I felt was not just from this but had accumulated over the course of several relationships with no idea as to the root cause of the problems. Wow!
So with all of this background I wanted to share my observations and thoughts on ADHD. I believe the coping strategy my wife uses has served her quite well until I came along. All of the situations in which she has succeeded have involved short lived, somewhat disjointed, fast paced decision making. Her first marriage was a train wreck. She now has to deal with someone that will recall she said “ it was blue” last Wednesday and today claims she said “it was red”. This stupid little hypothetical is the very core of most of our conflicts.
I am not a therapist but it appears to me that my wife’s coping strategy is a sort of algorithm she runs her head. In her algorithm she does not look at the face value of what is said, but instead performs a kind of analysis regarding the other person. This includes the other person’s body language, attempts to discern their motivations … “Why are they asking this? What are the implications of this response versus that one? What do they expect to hear? What answer will serve me best? Etc.” this has led her to reply to a simple question or respond to statement from me that has absolutely nothing to do with the question or statement I made. It may also result in her making a statement that is completely contradictory to something she said as recently as a few minutes prior. As you might imagine it takes some time for her to run this algorithm so she employs delay tactics to allow it to run it’s cycle and cover up forgetfulness.
A hypothetical example of this would be if I ask a simple question, “ Was it blue?”
Her: Ummm, let me see … it was wet
Me: Yeah but was it blue?
Her: I saw it again yesterday.
Me: Look, I just asked you if it was blue!
Her: Why do you need to know if it was blue?
Me: I am curious, I just want to know if the stupid thing was blue for crying out loud!
Her: Stop attacking me!
She uses the words “ I don’t know” or “I forgot” all too infrequently. She would rather dive into an argument than admit either of those.
So now I am attacking her. Not because of the questions, but because I am asking her a question she cannot answer, or I am asking at a rate that is faster than the cycle of her algorithm. Furthermore the algorithm exists only to serve her as an individual. It does not allow for her as part of a functioning relationship. I get too close.
So here we are in argument … not about whether something was blue … but why she thinks I am attacking her. And why I think she thinks I am attacking her.
Me: I am not attacking you, why do you think that? I just asked you a simple question.
Her: You are attacking. You keep asking me the same question!
Me: That is because it is a simple question and you have not answered it!!! You don’t remember do you?
At his point the argument is in full swing and her pattern is as follows almost every time with various statements.
I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I am tired.
I have not slept well in two nights, I can’t think now.
I have not been to yoga in two days, I can’t think now.
I am sore from my workout …
I have not eaten enough today …
Me: Those are just excuses. Just answer the stupid question.
2. Attempt to shift the blame, make it my fault in her eyes.
I am upset now, how do you expect me to answer it? Maybe I could if you didn’t attack!
I only told you about this to try to be nice to you. Why do you want a fight?
You are just being selfish again!
You need to get over yourself!
Me: Look I am not attacking you. I asked a simple question. All it requires is a simple answer. This defensiveness you are showing is part of ADHD. Can’t you see that?
3. Divert the discussion.
I don’t want to talk about this. You don’t do this with X!
Don’t you care about X?
Me: X is 11 years old, you are 43, the expectations are a bit different!
You are such a hypocrite!
Why are you so inconsistent?
I am who I am, and I like it. You have a choice you know!
Me: I am a hypocrite because I expect different behavior form an 11 year old than a 43 year old? You should look in the mirror more instead of worrying about other people.
5. Passive Aggressive
I am sorry you have to put up with me.
I am sorry I am who I am.
Me: Passive aggressive. Nice!
Not everyone can be as perfect as you.
I can be perfect and never fail.
I am going to bed.
I don’t want to fight, I am going ….
So, once again the argument results in nothing. Once again I have gotten too close and been pushed away. Yet another day she has escaped facing her issue head on. Once again she has sidestepped any possibility of growth or self awareness.
This is getting really old, really fast. Any thoughts?