I'm not saying that anyone else's life or situation is like mine but maybe other people can relate or maybe it will give a new perspective? I don't know. I hope this is helpful. I'm still FAR from perfect and have A LOT of work on but I'm so much happier in my life now so I just wanted to share a bit of my story with you all. I am 25-year-old (F) who has been with my ADHD partner (M) for 10 years.
LESSON #1) He is not broken and I don't need to fix him.
My hubby and I have been together since we were teens so his messiness, irresponsibility, laziness, etc. etc. pretty much went unnoticed by me or I noticed it but thought it was just funny/not a big deal at that age. But as we got older I, of course, expected more from him. I have to say, though, that as a teen boy my hubby DID make efforts to clean his room whenever I would come over to his house. To me, it wasn't my personal definition of clean but I knew it was clean for HIM and I thought it was really sweet and cute that we would do that for me on his own accord and I liked his room just fine.
Once we moved in together, though, living with a messy person was tough for me. He was a person who kept used dishes around all around his room and even under his bed (too lazy to put his dishes in the sink) while I was a person who is/was obsessed with keeping things clean and smelling nice. I need my environment to look pretty in order for me to be happy. This is a big deal for me!!! I tried everything I could think of to get him to change his messy ways. We talked, we split the chores, (and when that didn't work) we argued, I threatened to leave him a few times over it...
Safe to say that none of it worked.
He would usually clean up after we got into big arguments over the mess and he would tell me that he wants to be clean and he wants to have a clean home but it was difficult for him. Every once in a blue moon, he would clean up on his own once the mess got really big, (at this point I wasn't willing to do more than my fair share of the housework) but it wasn't enough for me. I was still unhappy even after he would take out the 4,5,6 bags of trash from the outside hallway and even after he washed the mountain of dishes in the kitchen sink because I knew that it wouldn't be long before there'd be brand new mountains of trash in the hallway, stacks of dishes in the sink, piles of clothes all over the house etc. etc. all over again. I was desperate for CONSISTENCY.
It hurt him a lot that his efforts were not fully appreciated by me. Even though oftentimes I would smile and thank him... there were still this underlying feeling of NOT GOOD ENOUGH and he could feel that even without my saying hurtful/discouraging words. And of course, many times I would still give him an attitude and/or tell him things like: keep it up, don't let it get so messy next time etc. etc. etc. (i.e lecture, complain, nag)
I had to go through a lot of embarrassment along the way as well....flies in the hallway because of the trash, not wanting anyone to come over to see the mess - at one point my mom and sister came knocking on my door and they could tell that we were home but I just tried to play it off and I tried to make it seem like nobody was home because I was too ashamed to answer the door. I knew they would just barge right in as soon as I turned the knob. If I knew they were coming ( I lived a little over an hour away from them) I CERTAINLY would have cleaned everything but it was a surprise visit. My mom actually got so scared that I didn't answer the door that she went to the police station in tears worried sick about me! OMG! That was a very very bad decision on my part I felt so bad about that.
Eventually, I decided that If I wanted to have a clean home I would have to do it myself. So, many times, I did everything and instead of building mountains of trash together...
We built mountains of RESENTMENT instead. </3
I didn't realize it at the time but I defiantly thought that (and I was acting like) Miss Clean Girl (me) was better than Mister Messy Boy (him), and he either needed help from my BRILLIANT-BEYOND-BRILLIANT AMAZING SELF or he just needed to figure it out and get his MESSY LAZY SELF together. (OMFG RUDE MUCH???)
It took me years to realize that I was thinking and acting this way. I had to realize that being a messy person is not a crime. Tidy people are not better than messier people. If I want to be with him and live with him, I cannot be with him thinking about "I'll be happy with him when he changes." I realized that if I could not be happy with him the way he is RIGHT NOW and if could not accept and appreciate him the way he is RIGHT NOW then we probably shouldn't be together. I always thought that if he loved me he would do something so "SIMPLE" as to clean up after himself (even if it was hard for him) and he wouldn't force me to do all the work either....I thought I was asking for something so simple and reasonable, but I didn't think so much about his perspective through all my efforts to "help" him. I was really thinking about me and what I wanted and how I felt - which is OKAY but it's not okay to ONLY think about myself or to MOSTLY think about myself or to pretty much dismiss his side of the story.
He deserves someone who will be happy with him regardless. He should not be with someone who would make him consistently feel NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Even if he wanted to be with me while I made him feel so bad about being messy/irresponsible -
I did not feel comfortable with MYSELF treating him this way even if I thought my requests were reasonable.
I wanted for us both to feel happy, loved, cherished, accepted, appreciated...I wanted us both to feel like a CATCH. I wanted us to feel MORE THAN GOOD ENOUGH. I wanted for us both to feel as though anyone would be lucky to have one of us as their lover/partner/friend etc. And I wanted us both to feel that way about one another. We both said horrible things to one another, we both made huge mistakes, we both treated each other like dirt so many times.
(All of this drama might seem quite dramatic over someone being "messy" but as I'm sure many of you all can imagine, this "messiness" and my taking on more than my fair share of the work didn't only come with household chores. His work life was messy, his finances were messy, we had children at a young age as well and I felt that I did most of the work there too unless I wanted to argue and "force" him to do his part. Everything I am saying about the messy of the house applies across the board if that makes sense. The trouble between us just STARTED from the messy house and grew from there in my eyes.)
So I thought what should we do? I can only be responsible for myself and I cannot use him and his lifestyle choices as an excuse to be rude, mean, disrespectful etc. etc. etc. I can't expect him to change for me and I realized that I didn't even want him to change for me or for my happiness. I wanted for him to be happy with himself. And changes he did make, I wanted for him to change on his own time and at his own pace for himself as he saw fit. I realized that I didn't even want him to change at all. I just wanted him to be himself and give him room to GROW into the person that HE aims to be.
Aha! Finally starting to learn what love and respect actually is.
I had to realize that he was genuine when he told me his wants - "I want to be more responsible. I want to be clean. I want to be an amazing father. etc. etc. etc." <-- If this WASN'T the case, if he really didn't care about these sorts of things I couldn't be with him. If I honestly FELT like he didn't care about any of these things I had NO BUSINESS being with him. I made it seem like and I made him feel like HE DIDN'T ACTUALLY WANT THOSE THINGS. Huge mistake on my part. I had to realize that his wants were REAL and TRUE and I had to treat him accordingly. I had to realize that his ADHD and the stress/pressure that I put him under in his life made it SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT FOR HIM to achieve his goals. I was actually harming and not helping.
I no longer wanted to be a person who made his life harder. I didn't want him to feel like a bad person or make him feel as if he and his efforts were not good enough for me. Those were never my intentions. I really thought that I was helping. I thought I was doing the right thing but I was just doing it in the wrong way. I honestly thought that if I repeated myself enough times, or found just the right words and explained it in just the right way, if I "helped him" enough, a magical change would happen (WRONG!). But even my "talking nicely to him", making "plans with him" and all my other brilliant ideas didn't work and it didn't help. Without meaning to, I made it seem as if I was the good one and he was the bad one. I made it seem as if I was the helper and he's was the unappreciative jerk who needed more help that I could give...I felt like my heart was in the right place but I was VERY WRONG. I'm not a religious person but as the saying goes:
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
DAMN! I felt like a hideous monster at this point. By basically painting him out to be a horrible monster I actually made a monster out of MYSELF. My goodness! At this point, I couldn't even understand why he stayed with me all this time. I felt that I had so MUCH more growing to do as a person than he did. I realized that he is the person who was actually teaching and INSPIRING ME to be a better person. He did this by being HIMSELF not by FORCING ME or by trying to get me to change or having "nice little talks with me". I mean, he did try to defend himself many times (in NOT NICE WAYS) and called me out on my bad behavior - but I wasn't hearing it because I justified my hurtful words and cruel behavior by blaming it on his "poor" choices and lack of action that caused me so much pain, frustration, and hardship.
I broke my own heart when I realized what I had done to him.
Then I thought well, WHAT SHOULD I DO THEN? I realize that he is his own person, he is an adult, he has a good heart, he has good intentions, he loves me, he loves his family, he has the right to make his own choices, he deserves to feel good about himself, he deserves to not feel judged by his partner, he deserves love, happiness and respect. BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?????????????????????????????????????????????????????
I wanted to feel SECURE in my life (financially and with our children), I wanted to have a clean home and to keep a certain standard of living, I wanted to be with someone who was there for me emotionally and physically, I wanted to share my life with someone and have FUN with them. I felt so much stress and pressure to do everything and to be everything to everyone that I couldn't have fun anymore...I lost myself. I wanted to be HAPPY and to feel good TOO. I am IMPORTANT TOO!!!
This is the story of the start of MY OWN personal breakthrough. The first steps were realizing MY OWN PERSONAL MISTAKES. Recognizing the love of my life as THE PERSON HE IS and not as the person that I painted him out to be just because he wasn't doing WHAT I PERSONALLY WANTED him to do or what I personally thought he SHOULD be doing. This is the beginning of me recognizing that we are BOTH good people with FLAWS who deserve LOVE, HAPPINESS, SECURITY, and RESPECT! And that's all we were both really looking for - not just me - both of us. Duh! c:
In a new post, I will write about the changes that I have made in myself that have helped to create a better relationship and better environment for my hubby and me to grow in our relationship!