Surprise! Accommodating the Non-ADD Spouse

If, like me, you are a non-ADD spouse, it’s easy to dwell on the aspects of ADD that are inconvenient and troubling.  But what about those things that an ADD spouse might find inconvenient about a non-ADD spouse, but which often don’t get voiced?  I came up against this last night when in a conversation with my husband about how quickly the ADD mind works.

I had been thinking about the idea that an ADD spouse might feel it difficult to “slow down and wait” for his non-ADD spouse – in conversations, in how things get done, in how lives are lived.  I mentioned this to my husband, who answered all too quickly for my taste “Oh, waiting for you to get through an idea in a conversation drives me nuts!  You get there so slowly!”  I know him too well to be offended by this, though the immediateness of the confirmation took me aback.  There is great irony in this statement, as the most frequent criticism I used to get when I was in advertising was that I got to “answers” too quickly for my co-workers and clients and needed to slow down and let them catch up!  If a woman who is deemed too fast a thinker is still too slow for my husband, what about other ADD couples?

No doubt some of our experience have to do with my inclination to repeat myself if I sense he’s not paying attention – a trait that I have learned in the last couple of years to minimize – if he’s not listening, I usually move to something else.  But still…it made me think!  In what ways would my “slowness” be a problem for him?  What adjustments might he be making that I might not even notice because to me they are “normal” while to him they take a ton of effort?  Food for thought…and it turns out here are some of them:

I can’t always follow his logic – his mind moves fast and skips around, sometimes in ways that are hard for me to follow.  He has to double back to communicate clearly.  Over the years he’s learned how to do this without feeling resentment at my slowing him down.  At first, I sometimes felt he equated “slow” with “stupid”, particularly in the arena of technology, where I don’t catch on quite so fast (in part because I’m not much interested in it).  But it turns out that it was just me that was equating his responses this way – he didn’t think I was stupid…he was just frustrated I got there more slowly.  The solution?  He lets me be slower when I need to, and when it comes to technology, he takes care of it all (all the way down to the t.v. remote control!)  No hard feelings!  (Isn’t acceptance wonderful?!)

He often reaches a conclusion about something long before I do.  As he has learned the importance to me of my “talking things out” he has learned to let me ramble on a bit about my feelings so that I feel better about the process…but it’s not a process he needs at all, so his willingness to take the time to let me go on is a gift he chooses to give me.

He lets go of difficult issues faster than I do, particularly in emotional situations.  Because of the speed of his mind and the ADD tendency to live in the present, he can “move on”, while I am likely to hold a grudge longer or ruminate.  This is my way of looking at an issue from all angles…he’s already been able to do that.  It takes a great deal of effort for him to participate in the process of rumination (about financial issues, about child rearing issues, about emotional issues in our marriage – big stuff) so that I feel good about how he has participated rather than feel he has abandoned the conversation before it is completed.  His instinct is to move ahead full speed.

Before we reached our current level of happiness, I remember lots of times when I felt I just couldn’t seem to connect with him in conversations.  In retrospect, I think some of that is that it took time (and internal motivation) for him to decide to slow down for me so that we could connect.  Before he learned to slow down he would just get bored and move on.  I say "learned" but that's not quite the right way to express it.  He needed to decide that connection with me was desirable enough to make a commitment to slowing down and accepting my pace.  It’s a humbling thought to me, and good to realize that I’m not the only one adjusting.  Typical of his personality, he never mentioned it to me until I asked him about it.  (It's no surprise to me that this commitment came after I had decided to stop hounding him all the time and he found me more desirable to be with.)

I will say that I have learned, through observing what he does well, that the fast "ADD way" can be simply another path to success.  Sometimes the right thing to do is to follow your gut instinct, or to let go of something that you’re holding too tightly or too long.  If you "let go" and it comes back, then you know you need to deal with it.  Otherwise, you've saved time by letting it go. 

Part of our success, I think, is that he’s learned to slow down, and I’ve learned when to “speed up” or let go.  But until last night I had never considered the hard work it takes for him to slow down his mind enough to accommodate my needs as a non-ADD person.