View Full Version : new- need help with ADD partner


sped_mom
02-24-14, 01:22 PM
Hey all! I'm the partner of a man recently diagnosed with ADD (he's 44 and was diagnosed two years ago). I'm also a special ed teacher who works with adolescents with ADD/ADHD, among other things. I understand the fundamentals regarding the root of the disability, and I know how to deal with it from a teaching perspective, but I am absolutely at a loss with my man.

First off, let me say that I love this gifted, caring, intelligent and truely exceptional person. I want a future with him (have been dating for 1.5 years. Living together for 6 months). I understand and accept who he is. But he's losing his mind.

He works in an incredibly high stress industry. He's at a new job six months, has health insurance (which he needs for non-related health issues) and he loves his job. He loves the high stimuli, which is not uncommon. But he has no positive coping mechanisms for his stress. He brings it home to our relationship and the chaos that ensues is going to end the relationship. He is medicated, which may or may not be appropriate in dosage/medication, and has been seeing a therapist versed in ADD.

There are a few issues at work here: He has an anger issue, and tends to 'act out' when he perceives he's being attacked. He has a habit of misunderstanding things that I say or do, doesn't ask for clarification, has a highly emotional ourburst of some sort, acts out, and then spends a week defending himself when I try to point out where the communication weny awry. He usually, after upwards of 5 weeks, will come to realize what happened and then transition into the guilt and shame of having caused such a ruckus. And then a week or so later, something else will happen. It's exhausting. I've tried to encourage him to learn to just ask for clarification, and he says he will, but then doesn't. I have recently been told by him that this is how it is with ADD, and he's always going to be like that and that it would be a huge waste of time to get clarification for EVERYTHING that causes an emotional reaction for him, because he's always having an emotional reaction. My point is that yes, this is how it is but he has to learn how to deal with it or he's going to drive me away.

He perceives that as a threat. And is reacting emotionally. He hears that I can't deal with the stress, and hears my asking him to try and learn new coping mechanisms as me putting pressure on him to fix it IMMEDIATELY or else. Meanwhile it's been a year and a half of asking him to learn new coping mechanisms...

My reason for coming here is to get some feedback from those of you, both with the disability and those who love them, to help me determine whether or not I am being unreasonable in suggesting that he learn how to deal with himself. He accuses me of trying to 'change him' and I dont think I am. I dont think what I'm asking is unreasonable. Ultimately what is going on is that I can see, not too far off in the future, where I am so overloaded with stress that I end the relationship, and I don't want that to happen.

VeryTired
02-24-14, 02:32 PM
Welcome, sped_mom--

You raised so many issues in your post, and almost all of them are intimately familiar to me. One thing that I have found extremely valuable about the Forums is the ability to see my own experience replicated again and again in other people's lives. It really helps to reframe these problems when I know that they are pervasive and not simply aspects of my own personal situation. I hope you'll find that to be so for you also.

The specific feedback I immediately have for you about the issues you raised is that one of the most important things that's helped my partner (and which very directly has helped me as well) has been his participation in group therapy for adults with ADHD. He wouldn't be able to do that if he weren't on medication--and it was an individual therapist who advised him to try. So everything fits together. But for him, the group is what makes it possible for him to understand my point of view when I raise issues with him.

He sees members of his group acting in ways characteristic of ADHD symptoms and doesn't like it, and suddenly can have empathy for me when I raise similar concerns with him. Attending the group makes what ADHD looks like visible to him for the first time. What he can see, he can work on. That group gets me off the hook from being blamed for everything and attacked for asking that he work on things. It's very, very valuable. I am so glad he attends.

I also just want to say that I really sympathize with you re: stress overload. Look at what my Forums name is--I'm sure I don't have to tell you why I chose it. This is a huge, huge issue. Self preservation is enormously important for us in these relationships, and it's not always easy to manage. I think it's helpful to remind yourself every single day of what the airlines always tell us about putting on our own oxygen masks first in the event of an emergency.

Anyway, welcome, keep posting and letting us know how you are--all good wishes--

Tmoney
02-24-14, 03:16 PM
You have accurately described me in my 30's and 40's. Especially the part about gifted, caring, intellegent. Just kidding.

I have always wore my emotions on my sleeve. I would be the nicest person in the world until I thought someone was attacking me! Then this terrible beast would come out. I would yell and get mad at family members over things that could have been dealt with in a simple verbal way.
Then I would feel so bad, I would isolate myself and convince myself that everyone hates me.

Unfortuantely my wife would talk to me and try her hardest to keep my calm, but I was the only one that could change it. Same case with your situation. Until he realizes the seriousness of his disorder and behavior and that at some point it is just not acceptable, there may not be change.

Unfortuantely and fortunately for me it took incarceration and divorce for me to take a long hard look at my behavior and my disorder and to realize how my behavior affected others.

This is where my journey began. Taking my disorder seriously, being as healthy as I could possibly be both physically and mentally. I owed it to myself and to what was left of my family.
I had to modify my life to give me the best chance at being happy, Which meant a career change with less stress.

Once I got helathy I got lucky. Me and my wife got back together and have been married now for 10 years and we have never been happier!

I know men can be stubborn, but be there for him, let him know you care, but also let him know when his behavior is unacceptable.

We do better when it comes with love than with anger!

I wish goo things for you!

Uphillbothways
02-24-14, 03:44 PM
Sped_mom

Quick aside, then my experience.
Not sure disability is the best term - it raises hackles. I think condition has less negative connotations.

Regardless. Until the ADD partner recognizes the need for change, nothing is going to happen. Anger problems aren't one of my challenges, but I can describe the communications issues from the ADD perspective ad nauseum. The problem with confirmation, and I struggle with this issue, is that it puts a huge burden on everyone. I find myself rechecking countless tiny details because I have been burned so often in the past by misunderstandings and memory lapses. But this makes my wife feel like she makes every decision and has all responsibility. Even simple crap like checking to see what needs to be cleaned up or simple executive function ordering tasks - this changes the dynamic of the relationship and looks and feels like dependence. You want to be partners, not parent/child.

The other component to it is impulsivity, depending on the shape of his add. For me, I know I heard them right and I'll leap ahead to what I know they mean/want. Then I get there to find I'm in the wrong place, wrong time, and holding an apple and not the arrow they wanted. It kills me, and it's killing my marriage.

If it can work I suggest you try to talk with him when things are calm and try to lay out why you want confirmation and look for some way that you help him to communicate more effectively. It sounds like defensiveness will be the response, however.

Good luck

ToneTone
02-25-14, 11:31 PM
Speedmom,

The short answer is yes, you are completely reasonable to have the reactions you have. And the long answer is yes, you are being reasonable. The very fact that you are asking this question tells me that you've already compromised beyond what you feel comfortable with and that the relationship has you questioning your basic idea of what is reasonable behavior.

I have been on both sides of this issue. I have been an ADHD person whose functioning has interfered in a major way with my relationships. And I've been the high-functioning partner who was attached to someone with a major disorder that drove me crazy at times.

My view is that "understanding" a partner's condition is highly overrated and does not, in and of itself, contribute the betterment of a relationship. Nor does "understanding" the condition help a person figure out whether or not they want to be in a relationship.

Take the cases of former football players being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. People with brain injuries can be erratic, violent, and dangerous to themselves and to others. Knowing that the crazy behavior has "reasons" is important in some way. Of course, I can't grant that. But the partner of such a person still has the duty (not just the right--the duty) to protect themselves from a person with a dangerous condition. If being around someone like your partner is endangering your emotional well being, it does not decide the question to know that "he has a condition."

A male relative I love has a severely psychiatric disorder and now lives in a psychiatric facility. He hasn't worked in many years, and there have been times he was had almost engaged in violence. Well, occasionally this relative would leave his facility and show up on the door of another relative, a female. That female relative deeply loved and supported the male with the severe condition. But she would not allow him into the house. She would stand on the porch and talk to him at 4 a.m. in the morning. It simply did not seem safe to let him in.

We can and should have compassion for those we love who have serious conditions, but that does not mean that living with them is smart, and it certainly does not mean that marrying them is smart.

Bottom line: I say forget about the condition and ask yourself, whether this is a relationship that is likely to allow you to be happy. Or at least allow you not to be constantly miserable. People dating workaholics or people closely attached to their home families or who insist on living in a particular area--they all face the same issue.

BTW: I've never been happier, and my ex remarried within two years of our divorce. And she seems pretty happy. She found a partner who I think is fine with someone who yells and screams all the time. My guess is that once she found someone who could stay calm during her tantrums, she relaxed a bit more. Just a guess.

Good luck.

Tone

execfunc
02-26-14, 12:28 AM
Yes, you are being reasonable. And yes, in a manner of speaking, you are trying to change him, which means, as ToneTone said, you're at the end of your rope. He needs to change, because if he doesn't, he will not only lose you, but also any other woman who falls in love wonderful man that you did. It's really that simple, and, yeah, it's sad.

Medication was one of the first things that occurred to me as I started to read your post. This happens with me when my medication and/or dose is not optimal. I'm still in my first year of treatment, so I've been hammering it out. I'm doing very well now after a recent medication change with my psychiatrist. One of the most glaring signs that I needed a change was getting defensive over nothing and snapping at my fiancée. Same with my mother. (For me, this particular ADHD issue always seems to manifest only with loved ones.) When my medication is right, I get a brief pause that allows me stop and think before I act or react. This makes all the difference – with practice (I try to take a quick, but substantial breath to emphasize the pause and buy some more time to think) – in the situation that you describe, and countless others for the adult with ADHD. (It also works when you might have decided to stop doing a boring task, when you might have intruded upon someone's conversation, talked over your conversation partner, bought something you can't afford and don't need, etc. …)

I have a very fast recovery time when this happens, thankfully, but I've been practicing at it for a while. My fiancée has been beyond patient as I've made incremental improvements. I hope your guy can get have this addressed with his prescriber (hopefully a psychiatrist experienced with ADHD).

Regarding therapy, is he bringing stuff home to do? I mean, at least something he'll mention along the lines of, "This is what I'm going to try to be working on until we meet again." I'm always bringing homework home and enthusiastically explaining/showing it to my girl. She usually laughs and rolls her eyes, knowing there's a 50/50 chance of the same homework being "assigned" next time. I can't overstate the importance of the therapy. The meds put some gas in the tank, but then you have to actually drive the car places.

Also, if it comes down to it, could you do some therapy with him? Taking him out of the environment in which he feels comfortable to act this way could help him to see things with some more clarity.

These are just some impressions, ideas, and experiences I have. We're all different. I want him to succeed, because I know how he feels (more or less). It's awful. It needs to change, though. It's not fair to you, particularly as you seem to be making accommodations already. I mentioned in another thread in this area of the forum that my girl will give me all the patience, understanding, love, help, and support I could ever want and need, but only if it's clear that I'm doing everything I can to earn it. Because, seriously, it's a lot harder for her to be in this relationship than it is for me. She doesn't agree with that, but I know myself. Anyway, I hope this works out. This could be the catalyst for change that's been waiting for.

sarahsweets
02-26-14, 06:56 AM
Therapy is good for everybody, especially in relationships.

sped_mom
02-26-14, 12:43 PM
Thank you so much for all of your help. This is a very complicated situation, as I know they all are. I am going to try to post with specific replies to everyone, but in case I don't get a chance to (single mom here) know that I've taken a good point from each of your posts.

The bottom line for me is that my understanding his condition ISN'T enough. If he can't stop/modify the behavior (or at least learn to identify that stress is causing an emotional reaction and then remove himself from potentially indindiary situations) that is damaging to US, then I can't stay. I have two small kids; he has anger issues... I can't allow that to EVER impact them.
I believe that I have some work I can still do to help my own negative reactions to him. But he really has to start to learn more how his ADD affects him, and what do when he's about to fly off the handle.

sped_mom
02-26-14, 12:57 PM
Also, he is in therapy with a woman who is versed in ADD. I'm under he's been seeing her for months, but has only recently started to work out the ADD issues as he's had some pretty serious and pretty immediate other issues to work out. He has not bought home 'homework', as far as I know. I do know that while she is concerned that the stress of our relationship might be too much for him right now, she does support couples therapy. I am open to doing so. I am a pretty big proponant of therapy, and will willingly begin with him. I think I have to. I'm pretty sure it's our last chance.

sped_mom
02-27-14, 10:02 AM
Im pretty pleased to update that bf and I had a good talk last night, and we worked it out. All previous communication had been via text, and there were some information that was misconstrued. He is totally aware of the work that he wants to do, and is of the mind that he has to do it to help in all areas of his life, not just with me.

I also suggested that he come here. (Hi Honey! Love you!) There aren't any Adult ADD groups in our area, and I think this forum will be an invaluable resource for him.
Fingers crossed!

TLCisaQT
03-02-14, 07:04 PM
First off, let me say that I love this gifted, caring, intelligent and truely exceptional person. I want a future with him (have been dating for 1.5 years. Living together for 6 months). I understand and accept who he is. But he's losing his mind.

He works in an incredibly high stress industry. He's at a new job six months, has health insurance (which he needs for non-related health issues) and he loves his job. He loves the high stimuli, which is not uncommon. But he has no positive coping mechanisms for his stress. He brings it home to our relationship and the chaos that ensues is going to end the relationship. He is medicated, which may or may not be appropriate in dosage/medication, and has been seeing a therapist versed in ADD.

There are a few issues at work here: He has an anger issue, and tends to 'act out' when he perceives he's being attacked. He has a habit of misunderstanding things that I say or do, doesn't ask for clarification, has a highly emotional ourburst of some sort, acts out, and then spends a week defending himself when I try to point out where the communication weny awry. My point is that yes, this is how it is but he has to learn how to deal with it or he's going to drive me away.

My reason for coming here is to get some feedback from those of you, both with the disability and those who love them, to help me determine whether or not I am being unreasonable in suggesting that he learn how to deal with himself. He accuses me of trying to 'change him' and I dont think I am. I dont think what I'm asking is unreasonable. Ultimately what is going on is that I can see, not too far off in the future, where I am so overloaded with stress that I end the relationship, and I don't want that to happen.

Hi Sped-Mom,
Glad you found us and found a place where you can get information and suggestions and also some support :) Sounds like life for you all right now is a roller coaster of emotions and there is a lot going on, especially in the last 6 months!!
As I was reading your post, I noticed that there were a lot of NEW stressors for your bf in the last 6 months - new job, moving in together, which also seems it meant not just you, but two younger kids as well. With new added stress, usually that can tax someone with ADHD more and can increase their symptoms. So their usual coping skills or even medication may not work as effectively as it may have before. Also, sometimes if he it is taking ALOT of his energy to maintain "control" at work, sometimes he may not even feel able to keep it together at home. So he may need to look at his medications and dosages as others have suggested.

Also, my husband when he went on ADHD medication, it helped, however it didn't fully help with with his anger outbursts, and other things, until he went on a mood stabilizer, which then made a tremendous difference. SO he may need to see his psychiatrist or whoever prescribes the meds and see if there is something else that needs to be considered.

I think that is wonderful that he is seeing a therapist. I think my husband could use that, but he won't even go, now that he perceives we are out of "crisis" state in our relationship and family. I'm even wanting to go to couples counseling but he doesn't want to. So I see that as a BIG strength.

So, are you being unreasonable? No, of course not, nobody wants to live like that, nobody really CAN live long-term like that, I know from personal experience; however are you asking him to change? in a way - yes you are. For him, it's the same as asking a left-handed person to use their right hand to write - it feels that impossible. And if they tried, it is so frustrating, they don't want to do it and don't even want to try!!! I guess it's about finding out a new "normal" and how you can work together to make your home one that is acceptable and a home of appropriate behaviors and safe for all of you.

sped_mom
03-04-14, 10:17 AM
Hi Sped-Mom,
Glad you found us and found a place where you can get information and suggestions and also some support :) Sounds like life for you all right now is a roller coaster of emotions and there is a lot going on, especially in the last 6 months!!
As I was reading your post, I noticed that there were a lot of NEW stressors for your bf in the last 6 months - new job, moving in together, which also seems it meant not just you, but two younger kids as well. With new added stress, usually that can tax someone with ADHD more and can increase their symptoms. So their usual coping skills or even medication may not work as effectively as it may have before. Also, sometimes if he it is taking ALOT of his energy to maintain "control" at work, sometimes he may not even feel able to keep it together at home. So he may need to look at his medications and dosages as others have suggested.

Also, my husband when he went on ADHD medication, it helped, however it didn't fully help with with his anger outbursts, and other things, until he went on a mood stabilizer, which then made a tremendous difference. SO he may need to see his psychiatrist or whoever prescribes the meds and see if there is something else that needs to be considered.

I think that is wonderful that he is seeing a therapist. I think my husband could use that, but he won't even go, now that he perceives we are out of "crisis" state in our relationship and family. I'm even wanting to go to couples counseling but he doesn't want to. So I see that as a BIG strength.

So, are you being unreasonable? No, of course not, nobody wants to live like that, nobody really CAN live long-term like that, I know from personal experience; however are you asking him to change? in a way - yes you are. For him, it's the same as asking a left-handed person to use their right hand to write - it feels that impossible. And if they tried, it is so frustrating, they don't want to do it and don't even want to try!!! I guess it's about finding out a new "normal" and how you can work together to make your home one that is acceptable and a home of appropriate behaviors and safe for all of you.


Thanks for typing that out. I appreciate it.

I did realize that I was asking him to change. I was putting a LOT of pressure on him to try and change. I stopped, and we are working on finding a different way to address our issues.

TLCisaQT
03-10-14, 12:54 AM
good luck and keep us updated. I hope you find something that really works. If you need us, we are here :)