"Now You Have An Excuse"

I've lived with my girlfriend for a year, and we've been together for almost three years - so I hope you don't mind that I'm in ADHD and Marriage forum, even while we're not married.  Too much of the book resonated with me - and to be honest, we're more committed than a lot of married couples.  And if you ask me, ADHD (and all the fallout) is the thing that's keeping me from taking that next step.  I'd marry the woman I fell in love with in those first 6-12 months in a heartbeat.  I've also been diagnosed with ADHD since childhood (and have been taking medication for most of our time together, including recently) - but this is the first relationships I've been that is evolved to this level of closeness - and thus where these problems are growing.

We have all the symptoms of the ADHD couple - parent-child relationship, constant nagging leading to resentment and lack of sexual energy, etc., etc.  "You don't care, you aren't trying" vs. "I do care, I'm trying so hard" vs. "You say you do, but you always take so many shortcuts" (and so on).  Her being embarrassed to bring me to social functions because I might blurt something out or be unable to sit still (I'm reluctant to bring her to visit my parents because she gets so upset about things I say without thinking).  "You never pay attention until I get really mad".  "Why don't you remember?!".  On our second date I told her "I love you" meaning "You're so cool/awesome" - but not thinking about what those words might mean that early in the relationship until after I said them.

Anyway after an ADHD event we went to on Saturday (by the totallyadd.com people), my eyes were re-opened to the idea that ADHD might be a big factor in our relationship - and that, furthermore, medication alone was not going to fix it (previously, if I felt I was "Too ADD", I'd talk to my doctor and try and get a stronger dose, or try a supplement, or etc).  As I thought back several days in the past week had been ruined by ADHD-type failures.  Most notably me itching, squirming, and just not sitting still at a lecture we attended together, much to her embarrassment.

Nearly all of our fights start with ADHD somehow.  Our first fights started out when I said something careless or impulsive.  We never have fights over fundamental issues.  We love a lot of the same activities and love traveling together (although that is sometimes a recipe for trouble; less sleep means less tolerance on her part and more ADHD on mine).   We always seem to want the same things, in other words - but still we fight.  We fight over nothing.  Yet we have so much love for each other.  

Sorry about all the back story, on to the meat of the problem.

When I talked to her about this, she seemed to think this wasn't such a great thing.  "Now you have an excuse", she said (if not those exact words).  How do I answer that?  "Getting upset with you is the only way to get you to pay attention and actually do it!" she said.  I don't have an answer to that.  And it's not the first time I've heard those words.

She is willing to work with me on some things, for instance, one of the things that came out of the Saturday conference was a schedule for picking up - one day, one place, at a time.  Small tasks.  She realized that if she puts "clean up my room" on the calendar, it'll never get done (except the very rare hyper-foucs binge).  

So really, I think she can be brought around and with lifestyle changes (and NOT just meds) things can be better between us.  But how do I get past that basic viewpoint - that ADHD is an "excuse"?  Not that she denies it, she believes it is real.  But in her mind that just lets me get away with even more - I can say to myself "oops, ADD did it!" whenever I let her down.  

I wouldn't be asking if I didn't kind of feel the same way too.  If I don't have her nagging how can I get things done?   It's one thing living by myself and staying afloat, another to live in a satisfying relationship. And what if this is something difficult she'll always have to deal with - and no amount of diet, exercise, and medication will ever cure it?

What happens when, say, we have a plan that's going pretty well and then "oops" - I "fall off the wagon"?  What if we make a nice, visible list of things to do - but oops, my horrible time estimation came in, and I spent way too long playing my game, on the internet, whatever?

It's enough that sometimes I think I should just be single forever. I could have a stream of new partners (satisfying my demand for novelty) without ever having them get close enough to me to expect a lot.   So they would never have to be let down.

I don't quite understand "lifestyle changes" - I am so poor at following through with things over a long time, how can I really expect to?  I've gone on organizational binges in the past (for instance I went on a "Getting Things Done" binge) but they don't stick.  I have visions of things like our cleaning calendar eventually getting ignored - one day, I'm too tired, the next I'm too busy, then it's just out of my mind and on with whatever else.

If it is not just a medication issue (which is how I always treated it), and at least a moderate amount of ADHD will always exist, how can we live happily - or how can I live happily with anyone?  It's great to tell her to stop nagging me - I hate the nagging - but really how does that help her out?    

Jon37! You're my ADHD brother!!

....oh wait... I already HAVE one of those....  :-)

Oh, man oh man have you hit the nail on the head.   So many things I want to say but I have to run now.  Hopefully can write more later today.

but let me say this:  you are WAY ahead of the game just KNOWING what the problem is now (and not 20 years from now!!)

What Ellamenno said...

Holy moly... I have to go too, so I can stay on schedule, but one of things you said is exactly what my DW has said to me as her reason for "To me" and attack from out of nowhere. "Getting upset with you is the only way to get you to pay attention and actually do it!" I have heard this a thousand times... I did not get diagnosed until age 43, so I had many married years in this pattern.

I'll try to say more later...



You have to know what you want

...which is very difficult with this condition.  I know that if I had a 'stream of partners' I would be lonely and miserable and feel yucky and used.  Relationships - no matter how brief - will always end with someone getting hurt.  and If you are always looking to move on, you may have a lot of angry ladies who know where you live.   Just sayin...

I need a relationship - or, rather, I WANT a healthy relationship, but always seem to mess it up.  I didn't get diagnosed until a few months ago and since then it's been such an eye opener how much $h!t is because of this.  Indeed:  what's in it for the non add spouse??  I've been terrified of my husband leaving me for over a decade. I've known all my life something was wrong with the way I think, read, (dis)organize, work, etc. etc. etc.  I just had no idea it all stemmed from the same neurological disorder.

the slip-ups are hard.  every day I struggle to get it right.  Some days are worse than others and yeah, I'll f*ck something up and my husband will be furious.  It seems that now that we know WHY i'm f*cking up, he gets even more frustrated because...well... I don't know why.  but, yeah.  I wonder too:  what's in it for him.

Maybe for you it's a question of dosage etc?  Also, you need to try some organizing routines (tiny tiny things to start:  I started by putting an alarm on my phone that went off 15 minutes before I was supposed to go to ANYTHING.  The 'event' would be titled, "LEAVE NOW!!!"  and it takes me 15 minutes to ACTUALLY leave.

hang in there,


What I want...

Is the woman I had the first 6+ months, not the nag I have now!

As you probably know, it's a lot more than just the chores.   Cooking is a constant issue.  She really wants to see me cook; food matters to her.  It's a chance to show her I'm competent and capable.  But I fail at it often.  A lot of times she builds it up in her head (perhaps because I am putting so much effort into it) and she gets really upset that some critical step missed ruins the meal.  For instance I spend hours getting all the ingredients and focusing on the fish… but don't make any sides!

When I try something new like that and really pour a lot of effort but still fail (and she gets really upset/disappointed), I want nothing to do with it any more.  The pain of the experience is something I don't want to repeat. That's how it is with cooking, but she keeps pressing me to do it more, most recently on Monday, when I overcooked some shrimp for some very ADHD reasons - leading to a big fight!  More a major disappointment than a big fight, but once questions like "Why did you ____!?!" start coming out, nothing good will come of it.  That it's more sad than angry is a minor detail.

These little failures add up.  She just sees that I'm incapable and need to be watched more.  What I see is her hovering over me and watching my every move and making me crazy.  What I realize is that trying new things brings a high risk of failure (and not just failure but a whole night of hurt feelings, fighting, and resentment) and I shouldn't do it.   Why would I pour hours of effort into something just to have a pretty good chance of it blowing up - or worse, causing a fight?

But I need novelty to keep going.

So I wind up thinking, wouldn't it be great if I could have her to nag me and whatever, and have someone else to actually be fun with?  Now there is no woman or etc I'm thinking of, but the idea is seductive sometimes. 

I associate her with all the negative, the upset with the failures, of not being able to try anything new.  It's either her or me to blame and neither is good.  The bottom line is when I try new things with her it creates anger and hurt feelings.  If I'm by myself, I can fail without it being so bad.  When we were first together it was like that.

All of this baggage winds up in the bedroom more than anywhere else; the parent/child dynamic is NOT a turn-on for either of us, her in particular.   In the always-increasingly rare event that she is turned on, there is still that same fear of doing something wrong if I deviate from "the script"… not exactly a recipe for passion!  Just like everywhere else she wants and pushes me to try something new, I screw up sometimes (I never know when I will).  And when I do, there's a big chance for her to get really upset.  I get frustrated and just don't want to be there any more.  Of course I desperately want to try new things but I hate all the hurt feelings that seem to result whenever I do.

So while emotionally I want to be with her, I desperately need this space where I can be free and try new and different things.  It's all wrong, it shouldn't be that when she is gone it's like a weight is lifted.  But it's how it is.  When she is around she might find something I did wrong - like I didn't realize the fridge wasn't fully shut (yesterday).   I didn't roll up the bag of chips in the way she likes.  SOMETHING.

Each of those little things upsets her and makes me either sad with myself or angry with her.

The sad thing is she really likes trying new things too.   She still wants me to try to cook for her.   It's one of the things I love about her.   But now?  She gives me one bad look and I back off - if I notice that bad look!  It's a look that says why are you even trying that?  What are you thinking?  Don't you know that I don't like that? 

One thing I didn't mention is that she's… mildly ADD.  Not treatable, I'd say, but on the borderline.  She has a temper (which does not go well with my ADHD!) and problems with money - the two areas I'm strongest with.  So we work well as a pair in that area.  I'm there to tell her that buying that purse isn't really the best idea.   I can remain calm when she's going crazy (though sometimes that makes it worse).  Neither of us are very tidy (she hates the mess because she grew up in a cluttered house), but I'm worse.  

But a clean house won't keep her from getting upset when she makes dinner for me but I'm too out of it to show her proper appreciation.  

As far as medication goes I can ask my dr. about raising Vyvanse from 50 to 70 (I haven't had problematic side effects at 50), and ask if there is some way to get a small boost for after work (obviously i still need to sleep though!).  Still, I feel like I'm  getting on a tolerance treadmill sometimes.   How do I know if the dose is right?  Or is it losing its punch because I've been on it a while? I don't want to constantly escalate the dose to get the effects I need.

Oh I know that look...


man.... I am right where you are, except I'm married with two small children.  The stresses of raising kids will raise the stakes exponentially.  You can't just say, "ok i'm outa here"  ok - well... some people do, but... it's way more complicated.  Neither of us get enough sleep, we're overtired over-worked.  (although very underpaid!)  It just gets harder and harder.  I used to believe (years and years ago) that something was wrong with my relationship and thought that my husband just wasn't my soul mate and that someone else must be.  I now know that if for some reason we did get divorced, or if he left me one day I would not try to find someone new.  It's too hard, and I know now that if there ever WAS a 'one' that would be my husband.  I don't know why he's stayed all this time after all the stupid $#!t I've done (and yes, it was caused by the ADD but the guilt is still there because it still was ME that did those things).  I don't know if he regrets staying when he could have left so many times (we were together 14 YEARS before having kids.)

The dinner thing. Oh man....  don't get me started.  For my bridal shower I got an apron that said, "Kiss the Arsonist"  because of my tendency to space out and forget things on the stove.  Tonight my husband was flabbergasted when he went to turn the oven off only to find that I'd actually REMEMBERED to turn it off.  He said, "Yay!  You turned the oven off!"  I said, "Yes, I did... very funny.." and he said, "No... really... that's great... I'm... astonished."  *sigh* It's so sad that i need a cheerleader to boost my ego for turning the f*cking oven off!  but... there it is.  My husband will from time to time forget something.  leave a box of crackers on the counter, leave dirty clothes on the floor... But instead of pointing these things out to him, i just put them away.

I guess for me, the thing with the hyperfocus in the beginning of a relationship was, that - I wanted so badly to actually BE that person.  but then.... after i'd cycled through all the recipes I knew how to cook without burning something, or it was revealed that i didn't know the first thing about finance, the stock market, politics... I'd feel like a fraud, or just ... worthless.  I'd be 'found out' and the easiest thing to do is leave and start over.  You can always put on a new face for a new person.  But - a lot of stress and pressure comes with that too.

I dunno Jon37...  You need to have some serious conversations with your girlfriend about how to manage this before you take the leap into marriage and CERTAINLY before you have any kids.  I put off having kids until the last possible moment (I was 39 when i had my second daughter).  I could NOT have dealt with it when I was younger.

well - i have to get off this computer now and do something useful.  Like get some sleep!

"The Look"... Ellamenno

The problem with "The Look", after diagnosis and Adderall, is that I "See" them all and there are more of them than I thought. I think the Roller Coaster really began after my diagnosis. Trying to develop the proper reaction to these looks is taking a lot of time. It's a good thing our brains are fast, because after the benefits of Adderall we now see so many other things that need to be done. Ugggggg...

You said something that really hit home for me, like you are a Girl Version of YYZ 2.0... "I now know that if for some reason we did get divorced, or if he left me one day I would not try to find someone new.  It's too hard, and I know now that if there ever WAS a 'one' that would be my husband.  I don't know why he's stayed all this time after all the stupid $#!t I've done (and yes, it was caused by the ADD but the guilt is still there because it still was ME that did those things)"

This is something I have decided long before my ADD diagnosis. If my beautiful DW left me or I ran away and there was a divorce, I would never marry again. If my DW cannot put up with me, then there is nobody who could. I am at my best when I am loaded with responsibilities, but when too many items are added the wheels start to shoot off, like a train wreck in slow motion. We have two stressful jobs, two kids, expenses that we barely keep in control and both of us are the designated "Peace-Makers" for our families. Everyone thinks We are the Rocks O' Gibraltar, if they only knew...



If it's not her, it's not anybody.

Yeah I resolved that sort of thing long ago.  If it's not her...  I don't know who it could ever be.  If we break up, I'm not going to settle down again.  I'm going to travel to new cities (as I currently do with her) and meet new people and leave town the next day.   Her and I, we're both travel junkies... I have the financial means to do some crazy stuff (and we also know how to work the airline system). 

Sometimes I wish I could have a few years to "get it out of my system", and then come back to her.  But I realize now, it's... not that I never had it, it's that pull to novelty that's always in me.  And when things become a stale routine of me being pushed back in my box by her nagging or my failures, I really yearn for it.  My brother lives the promiscuous life, and he isn't happy, not at all.  I'm kind of jealous sometimes.  I want that rush of meeting someone new, of not knowing if they're interested or not, all those feelings.  That energy, that excitement.

But I want her too.  And I could have a lot of that with her, too.  Like I say, she's a travel junkie too, and loves adventure.  If only we could get out of this damn pit.  The deeper we get in the further I want to go out, if you know what I mean.  

She  completes me in a lot of ways that... I would never want to lose.  Not the nagging, but, just the crazy ideas that we share, the stuff I feel like nobody else would ever want to do with me.  We want to start a business and a family together, and it means so much to me.  Nobody else ever could mean that much to me.

So frustrating!

PS -  I always thought my theme song was "Lazy" By X-Press 2 feat David Byrne...   Friends would tell me I'm not lazy, but even with medicine I couldn't believe it...  I was always looking for someone to be there, to be that nag I felt I needed.  I can't live with it or without it, it seems.

Jon37, I want the guy I knew the first 6 months

He loved me, he put me before anything else, he made sure my needs were met. I thought no woman had never been loved so much.

Then I come to find out it's hyperfocus, and once we were married he didn't care about me any more. Now I've got a room mate I've got to support.

So don't say you wish you had the girl back from the first 6 months. You'd probably get her back if you could be the guy you were the first 6 months. But you can't, because the novelty has worn off.

What Changed

In my mind what changed was not hyperfocus.  What changed is that I moved in, and she saw more of the ADHD me.  

Every now and then I build up the energy and passion for her that I used to feel, and she pushes it away.  I want to bring that passion and energy back, but I'm so burned out from being shot down, from screwing up, from "Why didn't you _____?"  "Why would you think I would like _____?"  Eventually I just want to retreat.   How many huge efforts can I get chastised for and still want to do them?  

Jon, can I tell you how

Jon, can I tell you how painful it is to read your post? I am on the receiving end of that blame- those "stop hovering, get the f away from me" comments. But we are many many years down the pike from you both, and I have no idea how to fix it. I am alone as usual on this Friday night...well not really kids are asleep. Me, I'm alone as my partner is probably somewhere in a bar having fun w the boys, or feeling desperately sad while he looks into his beer about what a b I am, and how he is a victim of my evil ways. So later, when he walks in, if I am awake- what will happen? The look, my look will be perceived as that nagging controlling b, here she goes again. But on this side of my eyeballs is the : 1) Fear, that I will make the wrong expression that will elicit the mean attitude or comments, 2) the sadness that my partner with whom I missed, and hoped I could spend grown up time with, chose once again to hang out with anybody but me, because IM A NUISANCE, not the person whom he loves and wants to spend quality time with, as I do him. Can I make a suggestion? Streamline and facilitate your efforts- cook for her your meal if choice, but BUY the sides. Or ask if she will cook those while you concentrate on the fish. Compromise not blame. Get a cleaning lady. Be in charge of what bugs you most and vice versa. Make life easier without prerequisites. Facilitate and let go. Encourage her to do the same for both of your best interests. Dont let the apathy and distance go so far that you stop seeing her as a loved one with feelings to respect. Trust me, its horrible on both sides.And being tbe grown up in charge of everything oncluding the welfare and happiness of the kids, while he goes out drinking and partying...sucks bigtime. I am so lonely, and feel like on the receiving end of what you describe- as being Perceived as tge nag who takes care of everything, while he goes out and has fun. I feel very worthless and unappreciated. Is that what you want for YOUR loved one?!