Slipping Backwards in ADHD Relationships

For those of you who have learned new tools and had been doing better but are frustrated that things have gotten worse again, you are not alone!  I am embarrassed to say that even in my own relationship it took a recent shocker of a conversation to get us back on track again.  I write about it here because I think many of you will find the story and its outcome reassuring.  Couples have setbacks, even those who have learned new techniques for finding happiness in their relationship.  But don't despair because you can get past the setbacks, just as you did the original issues.

As brief background, my husband started a different job two years ago that means that he travels significantly more than he used to.  When he's home, he is also often thinking about work, even during times when I believe he should be engaged with me.  The constant effort needed for this demanding job also means he is exhausted much of the time.  As you might imagine, this scenario hasn't made me very happy, and without realizing it I was sliding back into complaining, nagging and criticizing.  Really, it was an expression of my frustration.

Lest you wonder, I really DO know that these actions are not good for a relationship...I felt I was "expressing myself" and my discontent at the changes in our lives.  He felt I was on his case again - and this is something to which he is very sensitive and does not react well to.

After a significant amount of time of this slowly mounting frustration we had "reset" our interactions without even realizing it - something like the old frog in the water that slowly rises to a boil, we didn't really see what was happening.  But I was complaining about these relationship changes and not as happy as I was.  He was avoiding me and focusing intently on work.  It was one of those negative cycles that just keeps reinforcing itself - the more I complained the more he avoided me.  The more he avoided me, the more I complained.  Finally one night something finally set him off and he asked "Look, if you just don't like me, why are we together?"

Since I DO like him (love him, in fact) this comment took me by surprise.  And, because of our past history, I also knew exactly what he meant.  In communicating my frustration in the many tiny (and not so tiny!) ways I had been doing it, I had been telling him I didn't love him.  Just like old times when the same thing had happened!  Needless to say, I immediately stopped the nagging and complaining, which helped calm our relationship considerably.  BUT it is only part of the solution.  I can calm myself so that I am expressing my love for my husband, but I cannot "solve" the larger issue (he is so distracted by work that he doesn't give me enough of his attention.)  We can only get part way there on my efforts. 

This is like many problems in ADHD-impacted relationships - the solution takes two people.

I am happy to report that we are doing better again.  We haven't solved the problem completely - the job still takes more of his "brain space" and time than I would like.  But he is paying more attention to the fact that he needs to communicate he cares about me in meaningful ways - and I am doing the same.  I appreciate the time and effort he is taking to be with me more.  He appreciates that I am not picking on him any more.  Disaster averted once again, thank goodness!

If you find yourselves sliding backwards, just remember that you CAN pull yourselves back on track!