ADHD and relationships

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Ramblings
Tags: ,

Usually, it’s a good thing to know you’re not alone.  However, yesterday I found out how that’s not always the case.  Take, for example, ADHD people and relationships.  Yesterday alone, I read two blogs by ADHD people about problems within their relationships.  I only read three or four people’s blogs yesterday, so that’s a pretty high percentage.

What is it about ADHD that seems to make relationships so damn difficult?

Here’s the take of a now 40 year old man who has been married for 13 years now.  Part of the problem is that the ADHD person needs a certain type of partner.  First, they have to be understanding, obviously, but they need to be more than that.  They need to have their own crap together to such an extent that they can easily help keep our own crap together as well.

There aren’t a lot of people out there like that.  This is especially difficult because we often have a very difficult time constructing our thoughts and voicing them in ways that truly conveys what we are thinking and feeling.   I can’t tell you how many times I have asked what happened in the kitchen, only out of curiosity, and have it come across like I’m criticizing the fact that my wife decided to surprise me by cooking supper.  Or, the time she cleaned part of the living room and my response was, “OK, what about the rest of the house?” (For the record, I do believe it’s both of our responsibilities to clean up in the house…but I’m not sure my wife agrees.  She seems to think it’s mine apparently)

I didn’t handle those situations well at all.  I know it and admit it.  However, I know I’m not alone.

ADHD adults have a much higher divorce rate than non ADHD adults.  Part if is probably because we’re “irresponsible”.  I put that in quotes because I honestly believe there is a difference in irresponsibility and the symptoms of ADHD.  Irresponsibility exists in someone who has the capability to keep things straight.  If you are incapable, you’re not irresponsible.  The problem is, the impact on those around you is the exact same.

The type of significant other an ADHD person needs is someone who has to balance a line that is razor thin.  On one hand, they have to treat us as adults.  After all, we are.  On the other hand, they have to manage our schedules like we are kids to some extreme.  After all, in some regards, we’re not that different from kids when it comes to our ability to stay focused.

My own marriage hasn’t been pretty.  Part of that is that I think at times my wife might be ADHD.  She exhibits some of the same symptoms, though she has never been diagnosed as such.  She might also be what so many of us have been accused of being: lazy and irresponsible.  However, the result for me is that I don’t have that stabilizing influence in my life.  I don’t have it, just like those bloggers I read don’t seem to have it.

I know how much it sucks, and I wish no one else was dealing with it but me.  I love my wife, but I also know how infuriating my relationship can be.  I would be a lot happier if I didn’t see other ADHD folks going through the same thing.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want.

  1. messymarissa says:

    As we’ve spoke of before, I certainly don’t have that stabilizing influence either. I do feel bad that he has to “babysit” especially since he was not aware of this condition when we first got together, he didn’t get fair warning. But it’d be nice to know that he cares enough to help me through it, rather than being critical and judgmental..

    • Tom says:

      He might not have known going in what the deal was, but how is that any different than finding out that the reason the significant other is sick all the time is some medical condition? The truth of the matter is, this is a medical condition as well.

      I only hope your boyfriend will wise up and realize that a lot of the problems could be dealt with if he would listen to you and read the literature you’ve asked him to.

      • messymarissa says:

        Well unfortunately I’m pretty sure I already know where the relationship is going. It seems to just get worse and worse. But maybe that’s what I need, to learn how to be alone. I’ve been in steady relationships since I was 17 and moved out, therefore I’ve always had someone to depend on.

      • Tom says:

        That’s a shame, but I understand it completely.

        At least if you’re alone, you know it’s all on you and it may spur you to find ways to work with the condition that you don’t really have any incentive for right now.

        Or, at the very least, you can at least know you are ADHD without someone making you feel bad about it 🙂

  2. SirBrass says:

    Just found this blog since you (the author) and I both like to read Larry Correia’s blog. I was diagnosed ADD when I was 10 (I’m 30 now). Put on medication which has helped immensely but the same kinds of issues can still arise. Ritalin helps me focus, but it’s sure not a cure-all.

    As to relationships, I know what you’re talking about. I’ve had zero luck in the past 10 years even getting a girlfriend, but in thinking about what kind of person I need in my life, it’s just as you said: someone who is understanding, willing to treat me like an adult, but has their crap so well together that they can help me keep mine together as well.

    The really frustrating part I think to relationships, but moreso to life in general as well is that as an adult I WANT to be self-sufficient and responsible. I want it just like I want liberty and freedom. Yet, I can’t. Simply can not without lots of help. That is what I think (for me) the worst part of having ADD/ADHD is.

    • Tom says:

      Yep. You nailed it. It’s not easy to “act like a grown up” when you’ve got ADD/ADHD. People think it’s immaturity, but it’s not. It’s never that simple. Not for us.

      The kicker is, who are we asking for help? If it’s our friends and loved ones, then we’re doing it right. If we’re expecting the world to bow down because we’ve got a condition, then we’re doing it oh-so-wrong.

      • SirBrass says:

        I actually find it hard to ask for help, even from my friends. It’s embarassing. Why the hell would I ask the world for help?

        Then again, I’m a conservative libertarian-leaning kind of person.

        My dream girl isn’t just attractive and a fellow nerd, but also someone who will help me keep our life together while also helping me be responsible for myself and her. I think the phrase God used in Genesis 2 was “a helper suitable for him.” Helper is dead on accurate in my case. And if she is that, I’ll love her all the more for it.

      • Tom says:

        All I can say is that I wish you the best. As a libertarian type myself, I suck at asking help as well. It’s something I need to get over. It doesn’t help that my wife doesn’t really understand the concept of helping me. She means well, but it’s just so far out of her understanding that she just doesn’t get it.

  3. SirBrass says:

    Notice I said “dream girl.” I’m sure that whenever I meet the girl I’ll eventually marry, she and I will both have some adjusting and changes to do in our lives to help each other.

    Till then I’ve got a pretty good support system in the form of friends, coworkers, and church. Seeing people who are doing alright in life in various “levels” of success just motivates me more to keep on keeping on, ADD or no ADD. I can either rule my life with ADD as part of that, or I can let the ADD take control and watch everything I value and own fall apart (including my Subaru BRZ, which I absolutely love owning).

    • Tom says:

      Understood completely.

      However, my wife and I recently celebrated 14 years together, and that’s despite the problems I talked about in this post. I say that in an effort to say that it can be done.

      With your support system, you’re in good shape. It might not be a bad idea to find a potential mate from within those systems as it is. Church especially. Faith is always a good starting point, IMHO. 🙂

      However, I sincerely hope you find that someone! I know she’ll be worth the wait.

      • SirBrass says:

        Well, you two are doing something right if y’all have lasted 14 years and are still happy. And yes exactly as to where to look for that mate. A Christian coworker and friend of mine is trying to set me up with someone who he thinks is a pretty good match. We’ll have to see.

        If my strike outs with girls were to be converted into baseball statistics, I’d either be the most successful pitcher in baseball history, or the worst batter ever to step up to the plate :P.

      • Tom says:

        I’d be right there with ya on the stats.

        As for being happy, that comes and goes. However, I’m not really looking to trade her in on a newer model any time soon 😀

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