It has been my observation that people with in ADD marriages violate each other’s personal boundaries quite frequently, and in both directions. This becomes a huge issue for the relationship, as both partners become locked in an unwitting struggle for control, lose respect for each other, and often lose a sense of themselves as unique individuals in a way that diminishes them individually and as a couple.
At first, an ADD spouse (I’m going to use the male here, but this could also be a woman) might violate his partner’s boundaries (or personal rules, if you will) without knowledge that he is doing so. Examples of typical behavior include:
- Assuming that a non-ADD spouse will take over key responsibilities, such as housework, chores, finances, and child rearing without her consent
- Refusing to address specific personal issues relating to ADD symptoms, essentially forcing his spouse to “take it or leave it”
- Using/abusing the personal property of others in destructive, thoughtless or messy ways
- Not acknowledging that his actions directly impact others in his immediate circle, even when confronted with that fact from others
- Forgetting to celebrate his spouse’s unique strengths and individuality (often due to being too distracted to focus on her) thus aiding in a loss of her individuality
The non-ADD spouse is also guilty of treading across her spouse’s boundaries. Examples include:
- Taking over his responsibilities, often under the assumption that he’s incompetent
- Telling him how to live his life and/or control him
- Repeatedly trying to change him (sometimes into a non-ADD person)
- Interfering in work, personal and health issues
Unlike with the non-ADD spouse, these excursions into her partner’s “space” are thought out in advance – responses to what she sees as a currently untenable set of circumstances. Sometimes her rationale is that she is only supporting her spouse, but soon she resents what she “must” do and that support turns into anger. Sometimes the rationale is a different one – she doesn’t “want” to take on his responsibilities, but she sees no alternative as she perceives him as surprisingly (and annoyingly) incompetent.
The reasons these behaviors become such a big issue in the relationship are as follows:
- They express in action, (and also often in words), a lack of respect for the partner
- They encourage a growing lack of respect for yourself – that is by accepting repeated assaults on his/her own boundaries, each partner gives up part of who they are
- They actually change each partner
In other words, you end up not liking who you are becoming at the same time that you feel dislike for your partner.
What to do, then? I suggest a basic 5 step approach:
- Think about where your personal boundaries or rules used to be, and where they should be in the future (this process includes differentiating between good and bad boundaries, as well as thinking carefully about who you are and want to be). Inspirational reading, keeping a journal and talking with a therapist are all good ways to go through this process.
- Assess where you think your partner’s boundaries are so that you can respect them better. Talk with your partner about his/her thoughts on this. Assume at a minimum that any boundaries you set for yourself you should also hold for him (i.e. if you wish to be spoken to with respect because you feel that is a minimum requirement for a good relationship, you must do the same for your partner). Consider keeping a journal that tracks your changing thinking about how you are violating your spouse's boundaries (and your thinking will change!)
- Identify areas of struggle in your relationship related specifically to important personal boundaries. You might decide that you don’t think that messiness is an issue, but you do think that tone of voice in conversations is core to who you are, for example, because to you it represents “respect” you can't do without
- Once you’ve identified your most important areas, work with your spouse to make a plan to better respect your boundaries and his. Be open with him about what you are thinking and why, and solicit ideas. What will you do if your spouse ignores your need for respect? Can you agree that you can walk away from a disrespectful conversation without adding to bad feelings? Can you agree to go to a communications course? How will you change your lives so that you can respect each other’s unique spaces again?
- Watch how you both do. In practice, do the rules you've made suggest you've made “good” or “bad” boundaries (see below)? If the latter, reassess and reshape you approach.
Here’s how I go about the difficult task of differentiating between truly necessary boundaries, and “things I would like to have happen”. I think of desirable, or “good” boundaries as those that:
- protect and respect the autonomy and uniqueness (good and bad) of each partner
- allow positive growth for those who seek it
- are flexible, recognizing that a partnership of two is inherently different from a unique individual
- are focused around people issues rather than “thing” issues
I think of undesirable boundaries as those that:
- are created in response to an argument
- are intended to punish or hurt another person
- inhibit the growth of either partner
- do not recognize a partner’s autonomy
Upon reflection, you may wish to add to these lists of what makes a good or bad boundary.
When I finally got around to doing this exercise, I determined that my personal "rules to live by" (or boundaries) would be:
- Treat each other with respect, even in the most difficult times
- Take responsibility for living a life that lets me express my true self, as relates to optimism, willingness to experience new things, intelligence, happiness, honesty (the things that are most important to me personally)
- Let my husband express his true self without trying to change him
- Be willing to listen, negotiate and compromise (both directions)
- Be able to show and receive love without question or deceit
You’ll notice that all of these “rules” are standards to which I hold both of us, not just him or just me. It is through the expression of these things that I feel I show who I am in both giving and what I wish to receive. While my husband has not yet seen this particular list, he would not be surprised by it, for this is how I now live my life and he can clearly see it.
I came to the resetting of my own boundaries through desperation. I knew that I didn’t like how I was living my life and finally was so desperate that I simply decided to move on without input from my husband. In other words, I decided that it was time to be “me” – not some portion of an “us”. Once I had reflected on my most important needs, it was actually quite easy to start living my life as I wished to live it. My husband was free to join my journey or not, but chose to do so because these basic rules (or values) are why he fell in love with me in the first place. By rediscovering my boundaries I rediscovered (and reasserted) myself. And once I reasserted myself, he rediscovered the me he loved.
What are the most important rules by which you would like to live?
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active or alone?
Submitted by internallyconflicted on
I found your post very interesting...and quite salient. I am also at a similar point in my relationship where I am making resolutions to redefine my boundaries and make more of an effort to get out & do things I enjoy doing... I feel strongly that if my partner wants to join, she is welcome to, and the reality is that many of these activities are more fun when we're together. The unfortunate thing I am finding is that, while I'm continuing to 'live my life,' I'm doing it alone, not within a partnership, which makes me sad. I feel alone, and can't deny the fact that I have to either be the motivator or initiator of plans in order for my partner to join me (and frankly, I have enough of a time motivating myself- it's just too draining to have to be the cheerleader for both of us) or resentfully feel like I'm not doing things because she's not in the mood or can't get her act together quickly enough for us to get to an activity (ie: 8:30am yoga class) on time. Another frustrating thing is that one of the things that initially intrigued me about my partner is that she had so many hobbies, talents, etc. But the more I get to know her, and the more comfortable she becomes in our relationship, the more those qualities fade away- she's become a creature of habit, which doesn't have that same challenging, fun, interesting draw for me.
I'm wondering how to best balance my partnership- so I am not missing out on the things I enjoy doing in life, but not creating even more space between us by going it 'alone.' Am I creating a boundary or a brick wall? I do enjoy my own space, but the great thing for me about being in a partnership is doing fun things together...and I can't always be the one with the ideas or initiative!
Initiating and ADHD
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
As you look at yourself and at your spouse, there are clearly things that each of you has as strengths and weaknesses. In my own relationship, I have come to terms with the fact that my husband is simply not an initiator, while I always will be. I can't change this part of him (probably related to his ADD) and I must choose to either live happily with the fact that most of the new ideas for activities come from me, or else live in a state of repeated discontent. I choose the former. Why, knowing that he tends not to initiate things, would I choose to ask him to do so? It would be like his expecting me to suddenly love (or even be interested in) technology and gadgets (which hold little interest for me). It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea that we are different in our desire to "motivate/initiate" but now that I "get" this, life is much more enjoyable. He'll never be like me on this score, and that's okay. I guess what I'm saying is yes, you CAN be the one with the ideas and initiative and that would be okay. If you put yourself into a mindset that says it's okay I think you'll find it immediately less exhausting. And, don't pin your feelings on whether or not she participates. Lots of times she might (yay!) but sometimes she might not be in the mood. That's fine. (Since she's not initiating much, you aren't experiencing the opposite effect, where she wants you to do something that you don't want to do because you're not in the mood, but you would resent it and feel it was a burden if you were constantly expected to do everything your partner wanted...)
In our case, while my husband would be happy to hang around the house "doing his stuff" all day (i.e. be in a rut all of his own making), when I do make the effort to motivate us both to get out and do things he's happy to go along and we do have a good time together, which ends up making the whole experience worthwhile for both of us. We are a better couple when I make the effort to keep us in a varied routine. Sounds as if you have the same thing going on at your house, as you say that activities are more fun when you are together. Perhaps, then, you can forgive her her lack of ability to come up with new ideas and celebrate the fact that you enjoy being together. I would be very open about the way these interactions might work - "I know it's hard for you to get going on a new thing, but I love being with you and know that we'll have fun, so let's make the effort to enjoy doing things together on a regular basis. This week I would love to do X...are you up for it?"
As for speed getting ready for things, she probably needs a longer lead time than you do (and may not be a morning person, in which case an 8:30 yoga class may be good for you, but not so great for the two of you together...) I can get ready for bed in 3 minutes...my husband takes at least 20. I can get dressed in the morning in 10 minutes, he takes 30. That's just the way it is. I've learned to plan around his lead times, and the two of us together have set up a system that works. It used to be that when I was trying to get him out of the door I would nag him...he simply ignored me and it was ineffective. Now we've agreed that he needs "transition time". I'll give him a 10 or 15 minute signal such as "we'll need to leave in 15 minutes" and go away (i.e. leave off the part about "so you need to shut down your computer and get dressed" bossiness). Then I'll give him another 5 minute signal. That's all. He's responsible for the rest. This system works for us because it acknowledges that he is still responsible for getting out the door (doesn't take away his autonomy) while giving him adequate time to transition from what he was doing to what will be the next activity. People with ADD aren't great at transitions, and need gentle ways to let go of what they are currently focused on and move into the initiation of the next task (initiating tasks being one of the things that ADD folks have trouble with).
I would ask a different question based upon your post - is your partner happy? People who are thriving often have varied interests and lots going on. Those who are a bit unhappy sometimes "hunker down", diminishing the scope of their activities. Talk with her to make sure that her getting into habits isn't a sign that she's having problems.
Most concerning in your post is the idea that you are lonely. You need to address this right away, as relationships must include meaningful connection in order to survive. I was lonely in our relationship for some time, but as a couple we were only able to effectively address this after I had peeled away my anger over this and we could talk about it in a somewhat unemotional way, as in "in order for me to feel fulfilled by this relationship I need to spend a certain amount of time with you, and I'm simply not getting that right now. How can we plan to spend more time together?" My rival for my husband's time was his computer, which I used to call his "plastic mistress". He's (mostly) past that now...and when he falls back into old habits we've talked enough about it that I can say "gee, you've been spending a lot of time on your computer lately and I'm starting to feel lonely again...how about if we do something special together" and he addresses the issue immediately. You should assume that your partner is not aware that you are feeling lonely (even if you've mentionned it) and is not purposefully trying to leave you alone. Rather, she is caught up in the moment, focused on whatever she is doing in the now and not thinking about the other things going on around her. I don't say that in a mean way at all...but people with ADD have a wonderful ability to be immersed in whatever they are doing at the time. This means that other things sort of fade away and aren't thought about...including their partners. So you need to speak up about your feelings and actively seek ways to be together. (One of our favorites is cuddle time at the beginning or end of the day - a wonderful way to connect on many levels.)
Finally, I don't know how long you've been together, but you may be in a simple contraction period - like that which happens in years 2-4, during which the newness of the relationship wears off, people settle down to things that are more important, and both need to adjust.
Thanks for joining the forum and we hope to hear more from you.
Getting ready for things
Submitted by JAM (not verified) on
re: getting ready for things
Submitted by Steph on
I have the same problem only he YELLS at ME while racing around. I now tell him that we are due somewhere up to an hour earlier than we are actually due. For example, the party starts at 7...I tell him 6. Of course it doesn't always work because he knows the actual times we are due somewhere sometimes, but I do it as often as I am able to and I stress less!
I amazes me that he is NEVER late for golf, for his friends, etc.
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
If this is, in fact, a deal breaker for you in your relationship, then you need to let him know this. I used to tell my husband how unhappy it made me to wait for him all the time but he just brushed it off as more nagging. (How incredibly RUDE that he would wait until everyone else in the house was literally standing at the door until he got up and got ready - as if his time were so much more important than ours!) We got to the same point on the household chores - he did NONE. I finally put my foot down and told him that it wasn't the chores that were the issue, but his respect for me. After some haggling he agreed to take one on (one that I dislike - the evening dishes and unloading the dishwasher). It is the same about being late with you, I think.
I suggest that you reframe both your needs and your issue here if you haven't already. This isn't an issue of being late. This is an issue of his lacking respect for your feelings and needs. Maybe there is a fun system that you can set up - he takes $50 out of your joint account and puts it into a separate account that is just yours if he is late (so $25 is yours and $25 his in this transaction) for you to use as you wish...it's an "expense" for him to be late this way...and if he wishes to avoid the expense he figures out a system for not being late. Or perhaps he scores "points" if he is more than 10 minutes late...after 5 points he has to give up something he wants - an afternoon golf game with his buddies, etc.
If he doesn't think either of those sound fun, then I would be straightforward with him and tell him that you simply can't be late anymore. It may be inconvenient that you live so far away from everything, but if he misses a few things because you leave without him, then perhaps he'll get the point. (Question is - which is more important, Unity, or being on time??)
Unless I'm guessing wrong, being late doesn't particularly bother him - just you. Somehow you need to tell him that it bothers you so much that you are contemplating divorcing him because you can't stand the stress. (This IS what you mean by "dealbreaker", isn't it? Personally, I think it's a stupid thing to divorce over...or perhaps you just mean that it drives you crazy?? Or maybe that it represents something bigger to you that IS worth getting divorced over? Because, really, you COULD go without him to these places. You just choose not to.)
I also would work on what you think you must do when this happens. Nothing says that your reward should be to have to go get the car. You're already late...so let him get the car - a few more minutes won't make ANY difference. He's counting on you to "help" him by taking care of the less savory details like getting the car...but why should you? Also, you are stressed out about your lateness perhaps because you think it reflects poorly on you...but the only person it reflects upon is him. I have some dear friends who are always late to everything. They are happy, life of the party types and people love having them around. Nobody worries much that they are late to everything and you might be surprised to find out that YOU are the only one it bothers.
Next time you are stressed about his being late, sit quietly in a chair or on the floor and see if you can do some deep breathing exercises to relax yourself. Close your eyes, think about breathing deeply and finding a calm core inside you that you can draw from. Your stress doesn't do ANYTHING to make him faster (in fact my husband would argue that your stress would make your hubby go slower because he doesn't want to deal with you in that state) but your stress DOES hurt you (research shows it's bad for your health).
I'm sorry I'm not more helpful than to say "take responsibility for yourself, not him" and start leaving him behind. It beats divorce, at least for now.
On Being Late
Submitted by JAM (not verified) on
Submitted by Puckmania (not verified) on
Unity and Being Late
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
Thanks for the push back! Let me clarify on the unity thing - unity vs. time is one thing, but I firmly AM NOT for giving up everything for the sake of unity. At other places on this site I have referred to what was a real life-saving piece of advice for me that Ned Hallowell provided when I was very low. He said "stop thinking about your marriage and start thinking about your happiness. You may decide that you can find happiness in this marriage...or you may not...but it is your happiness that you need to be pursuing". For years I had been doing exactly what you are describing here...deciding that being together was more important than standing up for my own ideas and way of living. Ned's advice gave me the freedom to reassert my priorities. This is the process that I describe in this post on setting boundaries and it's incredibly important to finding the balance that is right for you.
If you put unity ahead of all else, then you lose yourself.
You already know what I think about your husband's point of view "I have ADD, I can't help it, case closed". WRONG!!!! If he can't take responsibility for something as basic as his ADD symptoms, do you have a responsibility to stay with him? (Okay, that's being too extreme, but you get my point). You have one life. You've chosen to live it with him (so far) but that doesn't mean that he has the RIGHT to take advantage of the fact that you are more flexible than he is. Perhaps it's time to start holding him accountable for his ADD symptoms...which is why I suggest you need to start heading out of the house without him. That said, it is ineffective to hold someone accountable by nagging them (you get the opposite response from what you wish).
We will continue to disagree (cordially - it makes me smile!) about whether or not his late arrival reflects badly on you when you get there on time. In my opinion, that suggests that you are responsible for him...which you AREN'T. He is.
Finally, you've used a couple of examples above about letting him get away with things to promote unity that I'm thinking are inconsistent. Don't see how having him ignore you all night in favor of the TV promotes unity...rather it promotes loneliness. So does his sleeping elsewhere, as does letting him use a harsh tone of voice and hurt you. EVery couple has a different balance point with which they are comfortable, but I would suggest that you haven't really found yours yet. One or two of these things might be okay if the others didn't happen, but I'm wondering whether or not this pattern of you not standing up to him and demanding more respectful or thoughtful behavior isn't hurting you. Yes, it's scary to stand up for yourself because the initial reaction to this kind of change from a spouse who has been disrespectful and getting away with it isn't positive. To prepare yourself for a change, consider reading "The Dance of Anger"...it will give you some tools that could help.
What you are thinking about is very, very hard...and I don't take it lightly. Please don't consider my comments here as critical for they are not...they just provide an "outsiders" look in on ways you may be sabotaging yourself without realizing it.
I am like Both yourself and your husband
Submitted by oh look a shinn... on
Lateness is always an issue for me. I use to care much less of if i was on time or not. Its not that i disrespect the people who may be waiting, but that there was "always something important" that was keeping me. I use to think that if i was late meeting with one friend that if not that particular event any others i would spend more time with that person running late into someone else- so that it kind of balances out.
It wasnt until everyone around me in university started caring and that i had grades drop because i was late that it started to bother me. No reward or anything could make me get there on time. It didnt matter if i left 30 mins early i would still somehow be late - perhaps its because i thought i had time to stop and get a snack or see a friend.
I always rush around like your husband and yell at my partner to help me get things, or to get certian things ready. To me it makes sence. She is not doing anything. I would hope that she would tell me if she rather just take a few mins to her self. If i was ready before her- i would be just constantly doing this that helped her get ready - or that needed to get done in the house. But perhaps thats just because thats the way my mind works. I am a very driven service person. What can i do that can help... (this bites me in the bottom alot)
The reward systems sooooo did not work. - I lost 20% in one course because i was late a significant amount of times. Im not talking 20 mins late, im talking anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 mins. The most frustrating thing was that these were rules that as a class we made up. Clearly my voice was not heard. This drove me so nuts that after university - when starting my normal life i became OCD about being on time(which clearly im not OCD if im NEVER on time). I knew i was loosing all these marks, I knew that i was apparently disrespecting other classmates, friends and even my ex when we were going to the bars.. I use to take pride that the one thing people could count on for me was that i would always be there (and be there for the person) but would just be late. People would tell me that the party started earlier somehow i arrived later. Some people told me that I over commit (understatement of my life) and thats why im always late.
However upon graduating i took lots of time for me and for me and my partner. If anything i was not commiting to enough. I found my adhd symptoms got worse. This is also when i had worse mood swings and anxietys and periods of depression. I realized that when on my own and away from school - everyone else thought that i was horrible to for always being late. I would get so worked up to go to an event (and work even) that i would be later than normal because i was so stressed about being there on time and or looking disrespectful.
I wish i could go back to the old way where i thought i was ok, and i had accepted that me and my add ways may make me late for things, I also thought it was a cultural thing am from the east coast of canada where typically we are known for the slow, relaxed lifestyle vs. the fast past ontairo lifestyle that many of these other students were accustomed to.
i think (after writing all this i am kinda lost in thoughts) that it was the people in my life who were anal and made it so that i got 70's (%) in courses when all my work and contributions (aside from being there on the dime) entitled me to deserve 90's (%). There went scholarships - here came larger student debt that i will have troubles paying off.
So in some sort of scattered conclusion (i can tell that my meds have warn off) - I am totally the one who runs around and screams and gets frustrated when my lover isn't helping - but - i am totally internally at wits end over how 'horribly disrespective' i must be, and how it will only be a matter of time before my lover tells me its a deal breaker
- perhaps its because i already gave my self the deal breaker and told my self that i have lost
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
I'm not totally sure I understand what you wrote...but I think I read that the "reward system totally didn't work for me" but that the stick sytem works even less well and now you are afraid that your mate will leave you on account of lateness or that your lateness will make you fail in your relationship? I know that fear can be paralyzing, but you need to deal head on with this with your partner...and also take responsibility for it (no saying that "the people in your life were anal and made it so that I got 70's when I deserved 90s...YOU made it so you got 70s - take ownership of your ADD and its symptoms so that YOU can do something about it...don't blame others!)
If you don't fit into the speed of life where you are, consider finding friends or another place with a tempo that better suites your lifestyle. This is going to be a long-term issue for you...so start dealing with it openly now...no hiding and worrying (anxiety makes things SO much worse than just taking action!)
SO - stop yelling at your lover (NEVER helpful), start addressing whether or not your tardiness or his/hers is really a problem or that you just perceive that it is (it is quite possible that it isn't a problem except for the fact that you are running around screaming, which IS a problem).
Start thinking in terms of rewards again - seems to work better for you if I read this correctly...as long as you are at the same time taking charge of your symptoms.
Initiating and ADHD
Submitted by mushtodo on
In our 30 year marriage, we have finally had diagnostics done in February of this year 2010 of Neurobehavioral disorder (alcohol exposed) of Severe ADD-combined type, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, including PTSD, and OCD. It was a relief. My first thoughts were of FASD and ARND. My spouse was finally relieved to know the answer all these years and for me it explained many things as a little girl growing up. We had three boys and 1 daughter who are in their 20's. The initiating and the ADD has been a roller coaster of a ride. I must choose my words carefully out of respect for my spouse. For the most part all that you said above describes me to a T. Both of us now are very much alone. There are no coaches where we live so we can speak freely. So my non-ADD spouse (I'm learning vocabulary here) is quite burned out as my caretaker and exterior brain. We both cannot see ourselves without each other, even though there have been a few times in these years that I just wanted to end the marriage. My spouse has too, but we both know that our spiritual lives deep down in our hearts know that we could not go down a divorce road. Prior to the diagnosis, counseling was given but it was not t"t Program course, I discovered this is an answer for me. I kept saying the light bulbs in brain lit up. Others say the fog cleared and "I'm not in left field anymore!"
So prior to the testing, initiating came to a standstill. It is still at a standstill. I quote my spouse as he says of "raising the fifth child!" I hated hearing this. I've gotten over it mostly because when you are married to an editorial cartoonist you learn to laugh more. Then at times you look at your spouse with strange looks because you couldn't process what he just said quick enough. Recommendations of Concerta sustained release were recommended and have now balanced out. I walk Wed with a group for one hour. I tutor typing with a young person who has Down Syndrome. I volunteer for the Cdn. Cancer Society, and will now stop in at the Golden Age Society. Not quite the age yet, but get to be an associated member. Oh, and I am five years older than my spouse. To go back to work now is important to bring structure and routine. Maybe, just maybe there will be more initiating with ADD. Please feel free to comment. We both want help and we know it will be a slow process but we have 30 more years or more to achieve it with help on earth and heaven. Thanks, mushtodo.
I can relate!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Submitted by psych on
I understand what you wrote EXACTLY! I've tried to explain it to my husband, but he doesn't get it.
Until I found this forum
Submitted by spouse (not verified) on
Submitted by AdeleS6845 on
Whats the point in being married if you don't do anything together, and live separate lives?
Thank you for the great post.
Submitted by Becky (not verified) on
I relate a great deal to your
Submitted by Lynn222 (not verified) on
So what do you do when they "forget?"
Submitted by CanDoGal on
Your post was very pertinent to what's going on in my marriage. We both have AD/HD, as do both our kids. My husband has had some hard personal stuff going on (to make this shorter, let's call it a midlife crisis). The effect is that he has very much violated my boundaries. I feel like I've needed to hold things together while he falls apart. Leaning on one another is a part of marriage, so it was OK for a while. But it's gone on a long time - several years. What most bothers me is that my husband hasn't done anything to move through/past what he's going through. He plans on it (making lists of therapists, for example, but never calling any.) If he was actively trying and it was hard, I've have so much more patience! But AD/HD is no excuse for staying stuck in a hole.
Meanwhile, I'm expected to not only pick up coping with stuff (life in an all AD/HD household can be both zany fun and crazy chaos), but also to excuse his constant forgetting (promising to fix something, or not stay late at work yet again, or do something with the kids, or...). He does do things around the house - he loves to cook - he's not a total jerk or anything. I know he means well. But I feel like I live with a random chaos machine - I can't make any plans, and there is no routine in our lives. To manage both my symptoms and the kids' symptoms I really need to be able to keep some sort of routine going. I feel like he's "allowed" to have AD/HD, and I'm not!
I completely agree that this sort of behavior ends up being about a lack of respect both for your partner and for yourself. I go through periods where I try to let things slide off my back, figuring that he must be feeling badly about himself, and that he views my frustrations (incorrectly) as not respecting/valuing him. That doesn't work, or at least he hasn't gotten to the change stage yet with that approach. On worse days, yelling and freaking out don't work any better, of course.
I can't imagine my husband being able to fully participate in a conversation like the one you describe. (Sounds dreamy!) He's in a place where he's not tracking his behavior or feelings - not very self-aware. And he's not making any steps toward getting better at that. Some days I think I'm going to lose it, but I'm not in a place where I want to leave him or anything. A conversation like you describe has too high a risk of becoming toxic. And even if we did make it through that healthfully, it just sounds like one more thing for him to forget. And consequences, even ones we agreed on together, would no doubt seem like me being "angry" and "punishing" him.
What's a baby-step that might come as a prelimary, for folks who aren't ready yet?
What to do When They Forget
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
You are doing some important things right here - for one thing, you are experimenting with how to live with what is going on around you. The more you experiment, the more likelihood that you find some combination of things that works for you day to day. You are also picking up during a hard period for your spouse, which we all do (in both directions) and you have been doing so generously. But you are right, it's time for him to become accountable again...you can only be in crisis mode for so long before the stress it creates for you is worse than the stress that he himself is experiencing. Only the two of you can figure out where those line cross...
A couple of things that I would like you to think about. First, a couple of the things that you mention that you resent are directly related to some of your husband's ADD symptoms - they aren't willfully things that he is doing to hurt you but they do need to be addressed. Specifically, these include planning but not following through (this has to do with the executive function area of his brain) and not being self-aware or tracking his behavior. (or, since he's making lists, he may be more self aware than you think, just not acting on it which is different).
He's probably aware of your frustration (yelling and freaking out are good indicators) but feeling overwhelmed by life, his challenges, and the fact that he isn't taking full control of his ADD. This last is the key to initiating changes for him. Setting boundaries for him and you is probably the key for initiating changes for you (you'll feel better about yourself).
The tricky thing about setting boundaries is this - you do this because YOU need it, not because you think setting boundaries will encourage a change in his behavior. Take a close look at my blog post again...what isn't said specifically is that I spent many years experimenting, as you are doing, with ways to "put up" with his behavior and see if I could impact him with my own changes. If I was nicer to him, would he be nicer to me? If I "didnt' care" about the house, would he start to be driven mad by the mess and start to pick up? In the end, I learned that you can't change someone else. Period. You are only responsible for yourself. If you are lucky, and if you married for the right reasons, changing to be more yourself will result in increasing the appreciation your spouse has for you, but this is not the reason to make the change. The reason to make the change is because it is what YOU need to do for you.
You don't need to have this difficult conversation with your spouse...but you do need to have it with yourself (the alternative is to continue living your life as you are doing - for if nothing changes...then nothing changes - and that sounds as if it is becoming untenable for you). Figure out what is most important to you, then start living by that and respectfully explaining why you are doing it. I'm not saying don't be flexible. I'm not telling you to dictate what life in your household should be like. I'm saying find out what's most important to you - distill it into some meaningful ideas, then start living your life as you feel is right and caring.
Though this is a big step for you, it will (at least at first) be a baby step for your spouse because he won't be very involved in your exploration (at least not at first). Hopefully, you will start to be happier with how you are living your life, and that increase in happiness will rub off on your days and your relationship. As topics naturally "bubble up" (when you insist on respect during a conversation, for example, or when you hire a babysitter so that your kids keep their schedule even as you give yourself a break) you can cover some of your ideas and thinking in small chunks that are less threatening than a full blown "all at once" conversation might be.
Eventually, though, if you are to get out of a rut he is going to need to get treatment for his ADD that works - that is helps him move his life forward again and helps him become more self aware so that the two of you can live together more happily. ADD can be a reason that he isn't naturally self aware...it doesn't mean that he can't LEARN to read signals and think more deeply. In other words, this isn't just your job alone. It belongs to the two of you.
P.S. Some day, you WILL be able to have that conversation, even if you can't have it now. Treatment will certainly help.
Melissa, Thank you for being
Submitted by rebecca on
Melissa, Thank you for being there and being a voice of sanity in the midst of the chaos. I read the book, The Dance of Anger, but I am not sure how this is going to help diffuse my anger. I already use "I" statements (a by product of years of what was suppossed to be couples therapy.) My problem with setting boundaries is that the only core value I have left is to validate my feelings by taking my concerns seriously. By far the most frustrating part of my marriage with my ADD spouse is that when I bring a concern to him, or a problem I am having in our relationship (or even a problem that is all me, "I'm feeling neglected"), I get empty platitudes and promises, but nothing ever changes. I can take responsiblity for myself and my feelings but how do I fix this? How do I do what Dr. Lerner suggests in her book, when it is not with in my domain to fix it?
On a different note, I have finally come to understand (I think) what you are talking about in this entry. For the longest time, I spent my time "fixing" the problems he created and taking responsibility for all of it. I resented it tremendously. Lately, I have stopped doing that. When he creates a problem now, I say, "you created this problem by___(acting impuslively, not consulting with me, forgetting to take care of...) and I am not going to fix it. You created the problem, it's your responsibility to fix it." Then, I walk away and let him deal with the problem. This way, I don't resent him, and hopefully I am teaching him to be responsible for things. It's been working for me so far, I don't know how sound this is, but I am trying to focus on living my life in a way that supports my happiness. Being resentful and angry does not do much to stimulate happiness.
By the way, my husband was continually late for everything and we fought about it constantly. A friend gave me an idea which I put into practice that seems to be working. Now, when we have to be somewhere, I tell my husband (without rancor) "I am leaving at 6:00. If you are home and ready, you can go with me, if not, I will meet up with you there." When I say it, it is not an idle threat, but I think that he sees that I am serious and that leaving on time is a priority for me, also, that he really does want to go with me. But I must confess that I sometimes resent having to speak to him this way, like he was a little child. I know I should just be glad it works and let it go, but....
Submitted by slc18 (not verified) on
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
The Boundary of Respect
Submitted by MelissaOrlov on
I would suggest, very gently because I know how hard this is, that you have also let your boundary about respect slip. People with ADD often have a very poor sense of how they come across (low ability to read the reactions of others - this is part of their wiring). In this case, it doesn't matter if your husband thinks what he has said is okay - what matters is what YOU feel is okay. The onus is on him to communicate with you in a way that reflects respect (provided your requirements for this are reasonable and you aren't confusing "slave" with "respect"). By acquiescing when he says you "just need to live with it" you are letting him diminish you as a person.
Furthermore, it is in your best interests as a couple that you understand what he is saying. How he feels he communicates with others is irrelevant...for your marriage to work, he needs to figure out how to communicate effectively with you. By taking some responsibility for this he vastly increases both the chance that you will understand him AND the chance that you will take steps to change how you "hear" him (because you'll be less convinced it's just his problem if he tries lots of different things and you still don't understand him).
For what it's worth, my husband and I used to have this exact communication issue. We have found that now that our conversations are depoliticized - that is now that we are less interested in protecting our respective positions because we both feel under attack - we both communicate better and when we don't, we have more patience for getting to an understanding.
It is your responsibility to make sure that he understands just how important "how" he talks with you is (vs. what he says) and it is important because, as his wife, you deserve his respect. This is a good boundary to keep intact...please make sure you aren't giving in too much.
Claiming back boundaries
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
claiming boundaries; gaining understanding
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
claiming boundaries; gaining understanding
Submitted by Cherokee Rose on
This was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL reply!
Submitted by vcalkins on
When my husband was first diagnosed, there was such relief for me. He had me thinking I was the "crazy" one.
ADDers who don't work
Submitted by Sueann on
I understand I should not take over the responsibilities of my ADD husband. But what if he won't do it? If he won't work, should the other partner just let the rent go unpaid, and get evicted? My responsibility to the world is to honor contracts I've signed, such as the lease. Where does not crossing the boundries end and irresponsibily begin?
What's up with ADDers not working? There are a lot of successful ADD folks out there, like Richard Branson. Why do so many with ADD feel they don't need to work? It seems to be a common theme on this site.
In my opinion, these are good
Submitted by FabTemp on
In my opinion, these are good guidlines for the long-term health of any relationship. I'm just not at the point at which I can see these working with anyone who has an attention-deficit disorder or acts as if they do.
I was a boundary crosser in taking on some 95% of household duties - regardless of my or my husband's employment status - because my husband simply refused to do them. I say "refused" because that's how it comes off, as an utter refusal. Suspending my initial disbelief in this disorder at all, I know I'm supposed to regard his procrastination as something other than the passive-aggressive refusal and work dumping that it seems.
So let's suspend that disbelief and say he can't help it. It's the disorder that leads him to do next to no work that disinterests him.
The work still doesn't get done unless I do it. He says he doesn't know why he acts this way. I say I do, housework is tedious and boring. It doesn't hold MY interest at all. I just do it because it has to be done. And my husband does not do it regardless of what has to be done.
I have asked for respect. I have cried. I have screamed. I have calmly sat down with lists. I have calmly sat down without the all-terrifying lists. I have bargained. I have set up charts. I have set timers. I have asked and asked and asked.
You know what? It's not happening.
My peace of mind came from setting my initial set of boundaries - meaning those that existed before I met him. I stopped being hurt repeatedly the minute I convinced myself that I am actually a single mother on the nation's highest paying public assistance program. There's a guy who lives in this house who plays video games 10 hours a day, 16 hours a day on the weekends. He goes to work - in front of a computer - and gets paid a good salary to do that. That check gets desposited into a joint account. I pay the bills that support us all before he can spend it all on DVDs, computer parts and more computer games.
I also hide money from that guy so that we don't spend it all. I need savings for my and my son's financial future. That's a boundary I'm crossing, but in my opinion, it's one I must set for the sake of my son. Without that boundary of mine, a stint of unemployment will leave my son eating rice and butter for weeks.
These are the only kinds of boundaries that work around here. All other talk of boundary setting, respect, rules, schedules, systems is useless. Sometimes these talks prompt tears and mea cuplas that I am supposed to accept as "sincere" when they happen. After ten years of the very same negligent behavior repeating the moment the tears stop, I'm unmoved by their presence as well.
If ONLY I could be in a relationship with someone who would comprehend the word "boundary". The reason I'm here at all is because my spouse is either unwilling to respect anything resembling a boundary for me or he is "incapable" of doing so and therefore, unwilling to alter that incapability.
The result is the same.
As much as I'd love to gain some sort of help from this kind of approach, it only brings more despair.
I understand your
Submitted by rebecca on
I understand your frustration. I have lived through this as well with my spouse. Not having a spouse understand the meaning of your own personal boundary is frustrating beyond belief. Maybe you need to pick one boundary, and not one that has been a hot button issue for you. Someone else on this site suggested that she would not continue to pick up her husband's socks from all over the house. Any not in the bedroom or bathroom would go in the garbage. I imagine that letting her husband know this would happen, and then following through helped her regain a little control over her life. It probably made her feel like she has some of her old boundaries back. I have recently tried the same thing by not 'cleaning up my husbands messes' This was a boundary for me, and I have found that it works...so far. when he makes a decision impulsively, and then says to me,"What should I do now?" I say, "You created this problem it's your responsibility to fix it." then, i step back, and let the chips fall where they may. However he resolves the problem may not be the way I would have fixed it, or liked to see it completed, but at least it was one less thing on my plate, and I told myself, "It is not worth being resentful about this. It's over." Good luck, I hope you find boundaries that you can beign working on. Don't give up yet.
you are so right the approach
Submitted by flora on
you are so right the approach sounds all good but unrealistic in my case also. I've already tried!
"Have" to get done
Submitted by Onederc1 on
I've had to specify which household chores actually "have" to get done. Luckily we're both clean/neat freaks but sometimes his clean and my clean are different. When he does the dishes out of kindness to me (and I show my gratitude!) some of them may not be clean enough to put away. So I have to gauge the circumstances each time. Do I ask him to clean them again? Politely, of course. Or just add them to the dishes I am washing tonight?
Each boundary is predicated on battles; which ones are worth fighting. If your partner truly values you (and you value your partner) then fight for the relationship. But if your partner does not value you, keeps making excuses and says "I'm sorry but--" and shows no willingness to contribute, maybe it's time to make some hard decisions. I am responsible for ME. If I set a boundary, it's not his responsibility to uphold that boundary, it's mine. I'm not very good at it because I tend to cave. But the stronger my boundaries are, the better our relationship and actually, the better I feel about myself. I have more hope for Us. Find a someone who can help you through this.
Hey, is there a Zoom support group??? I don't want a "complain" group, I'm looking for people who have the same issues and are walking successfully through this issue. I search for this topic on this blog and I feel souch better just seeing that there is hope.
Hyperative boundary voilations
Submitted by rpayton1215 on
When you add working together with denial of ADHD, accussations, shrewed perceptions, with lack of change, and working together, it becomes extremely difficult to focus on work and peace of mind. When my wife gets something in her head that does not match reality, she justifies crossing my boundaries. She says its just a question, but it is really the same accusation. She is the one who takes off and I don't know where she is and cannot reach her. I work and dance at the same place and have the same routine. Yet, she follows me around the house, when i am trying to work and repeatedly asks the same questions that i have already answered. When i ask her to stop and respect my boundaries, she does it more, aggressively and louder.
She does not want her friends or family to know how she is and will not go to a family counselor who specializes in ADD. Her denial is strong that we cannot discuss situations honestly. She will say and make up anything to hide her spending, impulsiveness, double standards, and other actions. Yet, she accuses me of cheating, which i am not.
She fears the marriage is ending and is therefore insecure. She does not want it to be about the actions associated with ADD, and wants it to be my fault. She wants others to thnk it ended because i cheated. Not because we canot control our finances, and her taking off for weeks without planning.
I am okay with tolerating the ADD symptoms, but it is impossible when the person is in denial. She is experience at turning the tables on anything and is not honest about facts. If she comes in the house talking at the top of her lungs and not really hearing anything, she accuses me of not communicating. If i get irritatated from the activity and impulsive decisions, then something is wrong with me. I become the abuser for talking about or expressing my feelings. I can't say anything that directly or indirectly relates to an ADD syptom. Even if I don't say anything, and look like I am not happy, she has to create a situation to change my perception, so it is about me and not her.
Yes, I am wrong for becoming a co-dependent, enabler for all these years. For trying to help her focus and backing her up when she cannot pay attention long enough to complete important tasks. Yet, all the caring i have done over the years has become a bad thing, because we are getting too close to revealing her ADD. When denial is so strong, it can affect character and integrity to protect its survival, but she does not see it, because she does not have it.
I am trying to focus on saving the business, so we can survive and recover. But she wants actons now. Either I admit that I am cheating or we get a divorce. Now is not the time to spend even on divorce, but she cannot sit still. Something has to happen and there has got to be a decision now. Even if we decide to save the business and deal with the marriage later, she forgets tomorrow and starts the whole process over.
I was successfully in business when I marriaged her, her two grown kids and two dogs. I learned how to set boundaries to stay focused. Now I am in a situation with ADD and someone who does not understand or respect boundaries. It destracts from my focus, especially when you i have to deal with it both day and night.
To her, she is just asking a question. My answering it does not change her perception or her bevavior. When you cannot get to the right type of counseling and cannot get peace in your own home, where do you go?
Coming to this site only reinforces what I already know and the problems I am dealing with. It does not help my situation, if she is not trying to get help and thinks she is normal.
I doubt she really thinks she's "normal..."
Submitted by Nettie on
...unless she grew up insulated by people just like her.
If she won't accept the fact that you are not cheating, why not temporarily step around that issue? If she gets help dealing with broken trust (or hyper-sensitivity, but I wouldn't phrase it that way to her) and learning self-calming methods, it may help with other problems.
As I've written before, you can't force someone to get help. Protect yourself and her environment as you are able, and keep researching and experimenting as much as you can take it and stay healthy.