Melissa once asked her husband for his perspective as the ADHD partner on their experience turning their relationship around. At another time, she also asked him if he was glad he went through finding out about his ADHD. Both answers were very enlightening.
Turning the relationship around, in his eyes, consisted of three basic steps:
- learning you have ADHD
- finding out how much ADHD impacts those around you
- doing something about it.
Of those three steps, he felt that the second was by far the most difficult step. When you have ADHD – and have always had ADHD – that is your world. You experience the world with your ADHD and learn to deal with it as best you can. It’s really hard to put yourself into the shoes of your partner to understand his or her more linear point of view. And it’s harder to see the impact your ADHD has on your partner, particularly when your experience in the relationship is that someone is bossing you around a lot and is exceptionally unhappy with you. That makes it look an awful lot like your problems are the unhappy non-ADHD partner’s fault.
Melissa and George went round and round about the impact of ADHD in their relationship for years. Melissa felt the impact was significant, while George felt the issues had to do with Melissa’s anger and controlling (parenting) behaviors. Finally, George had the benefit of working for someone with wildly uncontrolled ADHD. The experience of being, essentially, in the role of the more organized partner really taught him about Melissa’s daily life. He got to see first-hand the impact of wild behavior swings, tremendous inconsistency, last minute scrambling to beat deadlines, never knowing when the other shoe would drop, and impulsive changes of mind. He eventually left that job, but his perspective was forever shifted. And his takeaway was this – once you understand just how much your ADHD impacts those you love, there is no other choice than to do something about it. What that ‘something’ looks like is, of course, is the topic of this book and others.
Is he always happy about the hard work he must do to be a better partner? Honestly? Not always. He likes the outcome – their family has stayed together and his marriage is much happier than it was. He’s back in love with his wife again. But there is a side to it that leaves him a little sad, too. Before, he was blissfully ignorant of the impact his ADHD had on others. He felt invincible and wonderful about himself. Once he got a more accurate view of the impact of his ADHD, he was forced to realize that he, like everyone else, has feet of clay. He knows himself better now, and likes himself fine, but he no longer has that master of the universe feeling. Every once in a while he mourns the fact that it is harder work to stay on top of ADHD than it was in that blissfully ignorant state. The results are better (his first wife divorced him) but it’s not quite as much…fun.
George and Melissa saved their marriage. The fun – or at least most of it – got put back in once the boundaries were strong, the bad behaviors on each side were under control, and they started to like each other again. He’s accepted that he won’t ever find that ‘masters of the universe’ feeling again…and that’s an acceptable side effect of getting his life back in order.