View Full Version : ADD/ADHD "only" when in a relationship?


PurpleGirlNYC
11-08-13, 10:35 AM
Has anyone ever encountered the situation where you presented to your boyfriend/girlfriend the possibility that ADD/ADHD may be playing a role in his/her life only for them to say that they only had any sort of difficulties because they were in a relationship and when they are on their own they can handle things just fine? Is it possible to have ADD/ADHD and have it only seriously be "noticeable" when in a relationship?

I recently discussed my breakup with my possible ADD/ADHD ex-boyfriend in another thread and mentioned how a lot of our problems issued around time management and his self discipline (or lack thereof) when it came to me in particular. A few days ago we finally talked and I finally brought up the issue of ADD/ADHD. He got really defensive and angry and said that he doesn't have ADD/ADHD and any sort of issues he had keeping things in order, being on time, being stressed out & angry etc. are resolved now that I am no longer in his life.

It is definitely possible that he just wasn't ready to handle having a relationship at this time in his life, but he definitely had said before that ADD/ADHD may be be an issue (now he says he only said it as another way to say that he "felt so crazy and overwhelmed" by our fights), he had also said that others had mentioned it to him before and lastly, someone that I had talked to about the problems we were having while we were together mentioned it as a possibility as well...so I really felt inclined to discuss it with him, but yea...total fail.

Thanks everyone.

kilted_scotsman
11-08-13, 01:15 PM
Yes... being in a relationship can knock out an ADDers coping strategies.... instead of just having to work out logistics for ourselves... we have to factor in the needs/feelings/commitments of another person.... which can overwhelm our logistical ability.

This is particularly the case if the people are not well matched.... and if you were fighting then I'd say this is likely to be the case.

kilted

VeryTired
11-08-13, 02:53 PM
I think people with ADHD often have a lot of trouble seeing themselves as others would, and can have unrealistic ideas about what coping consists of. So their vision of their successes when not in a relationship may be less than accurate by someone else's standards. (Of course, every individual gets to decide for him- or herself what constitutes a satisfying way of life.)

Before his diagnosis and treatment for ADHD, my partner often thought he was doing just fine when in fact he was digging himself big holes and getting into trouble with jobs, relationships, medications, money, and more. For him, being in a relationship could become awkward if his partner began pointing out less than positive realities that contradicted his rosier assessments. I give him huge credit that I when I began to play that role, he listened to me and responded, instead of pushing me away and saying it was just me and my point of view. He got a diagnosis, he's on medication and in therapy, he has transformed his life in positive ways.

His previous lives were all about fleeing from the reality of his disability and the chaos it caused in his life and those of his loved ones. It was agonizing for him when he began to see all this clearly. Facing up to it and learning to make better choices and master new skills has been a long, hard endeavor. It's not over yet, and sometimes I despair that he can do all he needs to. But he's been heroic in his efforts and courage.

I don't have ADHD and I'm not a doctor. But my understanding is that if you have it, you have it. A relationship can't cause it or bring it out. It sounds to me as though your ex is scared, and thus can't/won't hear what you are saying. You won't be of any help to him unless he changes his mind and becomes willing to listen. And as he's your ex, it might be better for you to let him go his way with your hopes that someday he is better able to face his need to get diagnosed and get treatment.

dvdnvwls
11-08-13, 03:05 PM
Obviously if he has ADHD he has it all the time, but it's very common to have one area of life (maybe relationships & home, maybe school or work) where it really hits hard, and less trouble in other areas.

phantasm
11-08-13, 05:48 PM
Absolutely! I think certain anxiety's come from certain people who want them to be/act a certain way. And if someone is always on them about acting a certain way, then yes.

I speak from experience. I am ADHD and the people I have this experience with are not. I know that I behave completely different when I am around them because they expect me to act the way they wish I could act. And when I am alone or with people who accept my ADHD, then I act differently. If I feel confined to other peoples expectation, than I feel hopeless and unsuccessful and unmotivated and beaten down.

sarek
11-08-13, 07:14 PM
There could be a variety of reasons why his ADHD is worse for him in a relationship. From my personal experience:

- stress is a huge factor. If i get blamed for my behaviour it gets a hundred times worse

- messed up coping strategies. If someone else rearranges my life for me or shoves their ways down my throat, all my learned methods fall apart.

ginniebean
11-08-13, 11:05 PM
I think people with ADHD often have a lot of trouble seeing themselves as others would, and can have unrealistic ideas about what coping consists of. So their vision of their successes when not in a relationship may be less than accurate by someone else's standards. (Of course, every individual gets to decide for him- or herself what constitutes a satisfying way of life.)

Studies have shown this to be true up until around 25 yrs of age, after that people with adhd get just as realistic an idea of their performance as those without. Self awareness develops later, as has been shown in these studies, but it very much does develop. What's likey happening is two incompatible people.

BellaVita
11-09-13, 12:07 AM
Studies have shown this to be true up until around 25 yrs of age, after that people with adhd get just as realistic an idea of their performance as those without. Self awareness develops later, as has been shown in these studies, but it very much does develop. What's likey happening is two incompatible people.

Whoah really :eek:

Makes me think....

VeryTired
11-09-13, 10:10 AM
Ginniebean--

That's fascinating. But what I am wondering, based on what I observe of my partner (and what he tells me about himself) is whether it might be possible that some people establish lasting habits and assumptions during the pre-25 period, and don't develop beyond them later, when the self awareness capability has become present.

You will find a lot of NT partners of people with ADHD who talk about being surprised by their partners seeming to respond like teenagers or kids in certain situations, or having a view of themselves in the world more typical of that of adolescents. Sometimes my partner tells me that he absolutely cannot do or understand something ... and then after a little time passes, he does indeed do or understand it. Similarly, he will often tell me he's doing a great job at something although a quick look reveals that he hasn't finished the job, or forgot some element of it, or has assumed that trying is the same as succeeding, without worrying about quality control.

So he and I often see his abilities differently. He's in his 50s, so his self awareness potential should be there by now. But if it hasn't been used much or effectively over the last quarter century, maybe it's a little rusty. What I am trying to say is that if some cognitive abilities develop unusually slowly, it would be easy for him to to miss using them when they do develop, because of already having established other patterns and presumptions, or coping mechanisms.

Does that sound at all familiar or possible to anyone?

ginniebean
11-09-13, 11:52 AM
Ginniebean--

That's fascinating. But what I am wondering, based on what I observe of my partner (and what he tells me about himself) is whether it might be possible that some people establish lasting habits and assumptions during the pre-25 period, and don't develop beyond them later, when the self awareness capability has become present.

You will find a lot of NT partners of people with ADHD who talk about being surprised by their partners seeming to respond like teenagers or kids in certain situations, or having a view of themselves in the world more typical of that of adolescents. Sometimes my partner tells me that he absolutely cannot do or understand something ... and then after a little time passes, he does indeed do or understand it. Similarly, he will often tell me he's doing a great job at something although a quick look reveals that he hasn't finished the job, or forgot some element of it, or has assumed that trying is the same as succeeding, without worrying about quality control.

This is a bit different from self awareness tho it is related. When people (NT and ADHD) use self appraisal there is a thumb on the scales so to speak. We all judge our own performance as better than it is in reality. For people with ADHD their self appraisal is much better than it is in reality. The gap is wider or the thumb is pressed harder on that scale.

This suggests that we do not see those missing elements and I can attest to that. Both task initiation and task completion are impaired along with organzing a task into it's component parts. So for someone with adhd to perform a task, they often literally do not see the missing steps.

For years I could not understand why when I cleaned it looked different from when my sisters cleaned. I couldn't see what they were doing that I wasn't. They were not only cleaning they were organzing and putting things in an aesthetically pleasing way as well. I can't visualise in those ways but have developed over time habits where when I find what looks good, I NEVER EVER move it.

I moved to a new home a year ago and I'm giving up, this space doesn't work for me, I don't know where or how to put things. I wonder when you mention 'quality' if this is not in good part what you mean?

Self awareness, as I understand it to mean in a clinical sense (which often differs from how we might use it colloquially means) Being able to anticipate the reactions of others and correct for that. (for those of us with social impairments not being able to understand all the social rules, facial and body expression) It can take time to learn them. When I'm excited (emotional dysregulation) whether happy or frustrated I get louder. I don't notice that I'm getting louder but the people around me let me know very quickly. I am aware that my expression is affecting them (this is self awareness) as I understand it.


When it comes to task performance.. that's a whole can of worms of clinical jargon that interweaves. It always amazes me how much adhd doesn't match up with common sense of what I'd think the problem is. It's often a mix of functions going haywire.

It was important for me to discover how to make my cleaning look good like my sisters cleaning, it had a lot of value to me. For your hubby, he may sincerely want to please you, but that internal value isn't going to be there.

So it's like a language he doesn't even notice, you tell him we're going to learn multiplication. You get 2x3 is 6. He gives you the right answer, he's memorized it. You ask him what 3x3 is and he says six, you know he's not learned multiplication. (if that makes sense)

dvdnvwls
11-09-13, 12:08 PM
Ginniebean--

That's fascinating. But what I am wondering, based on what I observe of my partner (and what he tells me about himself) is whether it might be possible that some people establish lasting habits and assumptions during the pre-25 period, and don't develop beyond them later, when the self awareness capability has become present.

You will find a lot of NT partners of people with ADHD who talk about being surprised by their partners seeming to respond like teenagers or kids in certain situations, or having a view of themselves in the world more typical of that of adolescents. Sometimes my partner tells me that he absolutely cannot do or understand something ... and then after a little time passes, he does indeed do or understand it. Similarly, he will often tell me he's doing a great job at something although a quick look reveals that he hasn't finished the job, or forgot some element of it, or has assumed that trying is the same as succeeding, without worrying about quality control.

So he and I often see his abilities differently. He's in his 50s, so his self awareness potential should be there by now. But if it hasn't been used much or effectively over the last quarter century, maybe it's a little rusty. What I am trying to say is that if some cognitive abilities develop unusually slowly, it would be easy for him to to miss using them when they do develop, because of already having established other patterns and presumptions, or coping mechanisms.

Does that sound at all familiar or possible to anyone?
If I've got your meaning correctly, that would be "Is it possible that an ADHDer gains mature capabilities but might not realize he has gained them, or his old rigid thinking patterns (including old coping strategies) might prevent him from making use of those new capabilities?"

I think that may have happened to me, and it certainly sounds reasonable in general. I would add that any situation or task that is a constant source of stress is the most likely place for me to maintain a rigid thought pattern or wrong coping strategy. Sadly, that means the places where I really need my new capabilities the most would be exactly where I would not be using them. :(

ginniebean
11-09-13, 12:22 PM
If I've got your meaning correctly, that would be "Is it possible that an ADHDer gains mature capabilities but might not realize he has gained them, or his old rigid thinking patterns (including old coping strategies) might prevent him from making use of those new capabilities?"

I think that may have happened to me, and it certainly sounds reasonable in general. I would add that any situation or task that is a constant source of stress is the most likely place for me to maintain a rigid thought pattern or wrong coping strategy. Sadly, that means the places where I really need my new capabilities the most would be exactly where I would not be using them. :(

Yes this is what it can mean. Most of these things aren't learned in the educational sense but rather are product of insight or an ahah! If the ahah is so gradual you may have an ability you don't even notice until you're using it and actually noticing that you're using it. Conversely you may simply assume you have a faculty you don't have because 'everyone has it'. Or there's the whole knowing what to do and then finding something inexplicably interfering with application. You can tell there's something wrong, something missing but you just can't figure it out.

RedHairedWitch
11-09-13, 03:01 PM
This could also be a result of the fact that ADHDers often develop a different set of standards than most folks. Our concept of "good enough" is not the same. This isn't so much do to a lack of self awareness, as a lack of awareness of the world around us.

Not unlike Ginnie and her kitchen, I'll use my bathroom as an example.

For years as a young adult, I would visit people's houses and see that the soap thingy was classy and matched the toothbrush holder, the towels matched each other. The tissue box existed. There was art on the walls.

I thought these people were odd. Who the heck hangs art in a bathroom? The layered, attractive, matching towels freaked me. I figured it was something laid out the impress guests. Or possibly a sign of having to much time on your hands, or maybe they have OCD, or read too much Martha Stewart. I assumed this was going above and beyond normal, to some slightly crazy obsession with having a fancy bathroom.

People who put holiday themed objects and towels in their bathroom especially freaked me out. It was just weird.

Eventually I noticed that most people do this. I think I was around 26-28 when I made this connection. I realized that my personal standards of bathrooms was lower than most people.

This was partly due to a lack of attention, focous and awareness. I didn't pay enough attention to really notice that most peopel has bathrooms like this. I didn't connect the dots. Each "fancy" stood alone, until one days it hit me that most bathrooms are "fancy". They are the norm.

Part of this was due tot he fact that getting a bathroom to "serviceable" was difficult enough for me.

The bathroom was clean. The towels were clean but did not match and most were threadbare. There was a soap thingy (from the dollar store) and the toothbrushes had a holder (a random cup from the kitchen) and there was an extra roll of toilet paper on the counter should I need to blow my nose (why buy tissue, especially tissues in a box with flowers on it?)

Just achieving a clean bathroom was hard work. Going the extra step of making it pretty seemed like climbing a mountain for no good reason. Ergo, having a clean but not "fancy" bathroom was normal, was good enough. As it took a great deal of effort.

People with matching towels must have had something wrong with them, or possibly lots of time and energy to go to the extra trouble of making it look good, not just clean.

When I realized that most people go through the trouble of having a nice bathroom, not just a clean one I had to adjust my standards.

But I also had to do it in a way that was ADHD friendly. Sorting through the linen closet to find matching towels was more work than my ADHD brain was willing to do. I'd be setting myself up for failure. And with my new understanding of the standard, I'd only wind up feel defeated and beat myself up.

So after a nice sized paycheck, I donated all the old bathroom towels. And bought only matching ones (ya for places like Winners where you can fancy stuff on the cheap). I still only buy towels for the bathroom that match each other (with the exception of a couple of ugly beach towels that I prefer for my baths, which I hide ina cupboard)

I bought a pretty bowl and filled it with rocks and keep some of the nice handmade soaps in it (I make soap as gifts now and then). The ADHD part: I never touch those soaps, I use the soap from the soap dispenser. The fancy soaps in the fancy bowl with the river pebbles is for show only and for guests to use. I'm faking it. This means I don't have to replace the fancy soaps in the bowl more than once a year (when I've made a new batch for gifts). Though sometimes when I clean the bathroom I now have to rinse the dust off them. lol

I bought a matching soap dispenser and toothbrush holder at a thrift store.

I cut some nice images of pretty ladies from an art book and put them in simple black frames from the dollar store and hung them on the wall.

I bought my first real shower curtain set from a department store. Boy did I feel like a real fancy grown up when I bought a shower curtain and the thingy you hang with the shower curtain (there's one that's cloth and has a print on it and one that's plastic, for some reason I still fail to understand?) To replace the random clean plastic one I bought at the dollar store. I even bought the little hang-y hooks to match the color of the curtain. Because for some reason this matters.

I bought matching toilet rugs thingies and a bath mat. Still to this day do not understand the need for fuzzy rug things on the toilet or why putting down a towel is inferior to a bathmat. But whatever. This is what people do for some reason.

I made sure everything was the same shades of blue and green.

My bathroom now looks like everyone else's bathrooms. I have managed to achieve, or at least fake convincingly, the world's standard of bathrooms.

What a freaking bother.

ginniebean
11-09-13, 05:59 PM
I do not think it is "lower' standards, and I'm guessing you'd agree with me witchy.

ADHD forces us to have different values. When I hear 'lower standards" I feel judged, my guess is there needs to be an adhd friendly and adhd postiive articulation. Mostly we get defined by NT's who don't have ADHD and can't see why our values might be different.

RedHairedWitch
11-09-13, 08:18 PM
Yup. Then you get into a relationship with someone who doesn't understand why don't have a bathroom with nice matching towels and decide it's because you are lazy or slovenly etc.

ToneTone
11-10-13, 01:11 AM
Wow, some incredibly thoughtful answers to a complex and vexing topic.

I will just TRY to speak for myself. I say "try" because I realize it's hard to see yourself accurately, and I realize that human memory and perception is fallible.

I believe I did have "lower" standards of organization and life before I got diagnosed with ADHD.

I liken this to my middle-aged and very receding hairline. I can look in the mirror at home, and truly I don't see the receding hairline. But the moment I step in a convenience store or a cleaners with a mirror and I see myself, Ouch! … I'm bald! …Somehow through most of my life, I could see my problems with structure and deadline and routine and attention, but as with my encroaching baldness, I somehow graded my coping and life management on a generous "curve."

To answer the original question, I think yes it is possible for person to feel totally overwhelmed in a relationship in part because of ADHD. For many years pre-diagnosis, it took all of my energy to just function and keep my job. I didn't have energy for sustaining a good intimate relationship. I remember nearing the end of college, when I looked out into the world, I realized I was going to have a bit of a struggle with things---because I absolutely needed aerobic exercise to function at a decent level. I KNEW that on some level, though I didn't have a theory for me.

I think I stayed out of a lot of relationships because I feared giving up the freedom of time I had as a single person. I knew deeply in my heart that having children would overwhelm me. Again, I didn't have an explanation for this at the time.

Ironically for me, it was AFTER my diagnosis that I felt emotionally safe enough to honestly see my ADHD problems. I guess part of the process of seeking a diagnosis was owning up to and facing all the ways ADHD had made my life tougher.

One element of ADHD, in my case, is that it blocked me from reading certain social cues and thinking clearly in real time, so I think it stunted my relationship skills. Combine ADHD with another condition (in my case depression), and yes, it's fully possible for someone to be overwhelmed by a relationship. But this doesn't mean that the person is functioning "normally" outside a relationship. It's more that the person can "manage" (and feel like they are managing) their lives outside of a relationship better. At least that's my take on myself.

Tone