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Old 03-12-09, 02:33 PM
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Smile Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

This forum is an awesome resource.

I've spent several days going through 1000s of posts. While the numerous tales of woe could be seen by some as discouraging, all the advice and insights in response are quite a gift to those actively looking for hope!

For my own benefit, I compiled a list of some of the things that were meaningful to me as the non-ADD partner in a relatively new relationship. But other non-ADD partners who are in new relationships and scratching their heads might find this list helpful, too.

I'm sorry I didn't credit all the sources as I took notes. A good portion of what's on the list came from thoughtful members of the forum. Some of these things also came from books, other websites, suggestions from friends, and (limited) personal experience.

__________


THE STORY OF MY PARTNER AND I (NOT IMPORTANT; JUST IF YOU'RE CURIOUS):

I'm a 27-year-old female, with self-diagnosed high-functioning autism (HFA), which I consider residual at this point. But it's taught me to be sympathetic, to recognize when I'm creating or contributing to a problem, to test anything that I don't understand or absolutely believe, and not to take life too seriously. I think it's been an asset so far in having an ADD relationship.

My partner is a 29-year-old male, formally diagnosed ADD and on medication in recent years. Most intelligent, empathetic, intense, sexiest guy I've ever met. He's got some demons, but he recognizes a lot of them, owns them, and he's figured out how to work with them and around them and how to be self-sufficient.

My partner and I met on December 1, 2008. He was going stir crazy sitting still next to me and started playing with his paper cup. Being HFA, one of my social compensation mechanisms is to mimic what other folks are doing if it looks like fun, so I started playing with my cup, too, and our cups enacted a mini war/love drama together. No one had ever done anything like that with him -- other people always just told him to sit still. Later that night, we bonded over our cognitive abnormalities ("both a couple of social idiots who won the genetic lottery"), and he got impulsive and kissed me. Yowza!

My partner hyperfocused on me for 2 months, which made me feel like a starlet, and then he got a new job (hyperfocus shift, ENGAGE!). I started to get very insecure because the difference was so drastic. I wasn't seeing him or hearing from him much, and I got "stood up" on multiple occasions.

I had read a little about ADD in the beginning, so I knew it might not be me. Still, the relationship wasn't anything like a long-standing or established one, so I had no idea what was really going through his head. I know how much room there is for individual variation from the DSM-IV criteria, especially as we all get to be adults and start integrating strategies to hide or control whatever behaviors are atypical. So the answers I needed were not in a textbook -- they were in him.

But once in his new job, his stress levels went way up, his attention was definitely elsewhere, and communication became much more difficult for him. We ran into our first mutual meltdown: he lost his temper (ADD!), and I went into a panic attack (HFA!). I'd been at fault for pressing a subject he didn't want to talk about, and he had warned me to stop, too, before he lost his cool (I was testing a personal boundary and I knew it). What stunned me into realizing what an incredible person he is, though, was that he went to cool off for about 5 minutes, and when he came back and found me panicking... he tried to comfort me. What amazing strength of character, to be mad at someone but still be able to show that you care about them!

So, I was still very interested in him, but the worry that I had become boring to my ADD partner persisted, along with my insecurities. HFAs aren't known for being fun-bringers, but we can be terribly nice and nonjudgmental, so sometimes a partner will be reluctant to cut us loose just because they don't want to hurt us. I wanted to know that that wasn't the case and that he genuinely wanted me to hang in there.

That's when I turned to the internet and other sources for information and inspiration, since communication had become so tough for him. I started teasing out his reactions to subtle stimuli from me, in ways that wouldn't ask him to verbally define how he was feeling but would still address my insecurities. I have such a strong need for directness, though, that subtlety just wasn't getting the job done.

My insecurity level finally went through the roof, and I hit the "let's just be friends" panic button. But something in the sad resignation of his response told me that the things I'd been taking personally were not intended to be taken that way. He was hurting and he was tired of making people feel the way I felt. So I immediately began thinking of alternatives that could satisfy us both. And, fortunately, ADDers are quick to forgive, so when I came up with a crazy idea, he said he liked it and took me up on it.

The crazy idea? He's someone who has found the right career path for himself and is very successful in it, but he had been thinking of hiring a personal assistant, and I had been thinking of getting a second job... so I applied!

He still isn't ready to commit to a boyfriend/girlfriend-type relationship, because there's so much else on his plate and we're still in the process of sizing each other up. For the time being, however, I get to stay involved in his life in a way that satifies my need for attention, even when he's in "work mode," and the fact that he allowed this tells me that he wants me to be involved.

The relationship is still young and quite unconventional, but I'm enjoying it as it is and am hopeful that it will continue to be fulfilling for us both.

Even if things don't work out romantically, I enjoy his company immensely, find him utterly intriguing, and will always be happy to be his friend.


Anyway...

I was so happy that so much information and advice was available, but it was an awful lot for a newb to sift through. So... in the grand tradition of HFA, I compiled a list!

__________


SOME OF MY FAVORITE RESOURCES AS A NON-ADD PARTNER IN A NEW ADD RELATIONSHIP:

- The forum, of course!

- Experience distractions for yourself:
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=64413

- 151 Positives of ADD:
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58715

- Things Adults with ADD Would Like Their Partners To Know:
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10798

- When my ADDer hurts my feelings: 7 things I tell myself:
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35001

- ADD and Intimate Relationships:
http://www.adders.org/partners5.pdf

(Love how it's organized, short with bullet points, to make it easy for the ADD partner to read, too... and he did!)

- The "Driven to Distraction" audio CD

(Better than the book if you want your ADD partner to get into it with you. This was actually his idea!)

__________


THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND AS THE RELATIONSHIP IS DEVELOPING...


WHEN HE DOESN'T WANT TO TALK:


  • Communication can be complicated for the ADD partner. There can be so many thoughts that he wants to express, that sometimes it will just be easier to deal with the pain and frustration of not talking than to try and verbalize what he's thinking. FightingBoredom explains it in a brilliant way that's easy to understand - http://www.addforums.com/forums/show...20&postcount=4
  • Take inspiration from him and think outside the box about how to talk when you need to. Pick a different time, reduce stimuli, write an E-mail or communicate via an instant messenger (written media can help him organize his thoughts), form less-open-ended questions.
  • Remind him that you're trying your best to compromise on the point of communication -- that you've read a lot about ADD, and that's answered a lot of your questions, but you need his help with questions about his individual values and feelings. Letting him know that you're trying as hard as he is to meet in the middle can increase a sense of understanding and cooperation and diffuse some of the frustration.


WHEN YOU FEEL HURT BY SOMETHING HE SAID:

  • Sometimes the ADD partner will say things he doesn't mean. Literally. It's a thought, and he may just be voicing it to see how it sounds, and it may be true in the split second that he thinks it, but he may decide it's totally invalid once it's been said.
  • The ADD partner may have learned to externalize blame as a way of protecting his self-esteem. It's not an attack on you. It's a way to defend himself. He just doesn't want the blame to always fall on him. So never dwell on who's to blame -- that's not healthy in ANY relationship.
  • Listen with your eyes, too. Give his actions weight. If they contradict his words, there's a reason for that.
  • If it's something that's going to eat at you, ask him if he meant it, and believe him if he says he didn't.


WHEN HE BEGINS TO OR SUDDENLY LOSES HIS TEMPER:

  • Look at what you're doing and own your part. Have you disrespected a personal boundary? Is there something you do that always seems to set him off? If leaving it alone is not an option, then find some other way to approach that boundary. There may be a way in, but there's no sense in beating your head against the same wall over and over. Be creative in your problem solving, like he is.
  • Don't feed it by losing your own temper, unless you enjoy the conflict (and some people do -- nothing wrong with it as long as it isn't hurting anybody). Otherwise, it could become a stimulation activity.
  • Think about why you're having the argument. You don't have to win it in the traditional sense, but if you can convey why you're worried or upset in a calm way, then he'll have it in mind, which is all you really wanted in the first place.
  • It's not necessarily personal. Remember that the medication can stress him out. Other concerns may be causing him anxiety. Give him space to cool off.
  • Unless it's really important to you, let it go. He'll let it go as soon as you do, because he's unlikely to be mad in the venomous, grudge-bearing sense. It's an intense emotional reaction to the situation, not a reflection of how he feels about you.


WHEN HE SEEMS TO IGNORE YOU:

  • Ask yourself if you're OK with being moved around on the priority list a bit. Yes, you were "ooo... shiny" in the beginning, but he can't give that level of attention to everything all at once! Sometimes work will come first, sometimes friends will come first, sometimes you'll come first. Just remember that his deeper feelings for you don't change -- his focus just shifts.
  • Sometimes, if the ADD partner feels like he can be distant around you, it's basically the same as saying he feels like he can be "real" with you. That's a compliment!
  • Sometimes the ADD partner actually forgets to stay in contact. Not because he doesn't care. He's just wrapped up in the stimuli around him. Try reminding him of your presence in noninvasive ways -- short and sweet little text messages once every few days, for example, to let him know you're thinking (positively!) about him.
  • The ADD partner sometimes needs alone time. It's not easy to be bombarded by stimuli. He might need space to organize his thoughts on one subject or complete one task before he can move on to another one. That's another compliment, by the way -- you're stimulating to him!
  • The concept of time is different for ADDers vs. non-ADDers. The ADD partner doesn't feel it passing in the same way, especially when he's hyperfocusing. So while you may be feeling the minutes or days dragging by, he might be feeling as though time outside of the present does not exist.
  • Sign that he stills wants you: If he hasn't made time for you in days, but he's still responding to your messages, with even just a single word or sentence, that's a good sign. He's just focused elsewhere.
  • "Not being noticed is not the same as being ignored" (crime_scene).


WHEN HE PUSHES YOU AWAY:

  • It might not be you. He might just be scared. He's probably had a lot of relationships go south in the past, and numerous insecurities and defenses have been built up from that.
  • He might be trying to protect you from being hurt, or he might think he's not good enough for you, especially if you've been having a lot of drama that he feels at fault for. Gently reassure him that you want him, acknowledge that nobody's perfect, and tell him all the wonderful reasons why you like him.
  • If you like the guy and want to hang in there, test his resolve. Tell him gently what you honestly want for yourself and ask him to reconsider. Because he might just be testing how serious you are about him, hoping you will be the one to hang in there.
  • If he pulls away, give him time and the reassurance that you'll always be there for him as a friend. He may just need time to think. If he comes back, and you still want him, don't argue the matter -- celebrate it.


WHEN YOU CATCH YOURSELF FEELING INSECURE:

  • If you know what he's up to -- busy with work, for example -- remind yourself that at least you know where his mind is!
  • Think about why you're together. Write a list of the things you like about him and the way that you interact. Examples: He's energetic, fun, wild sense of humor, creative, empathetic, intuitive, great problem solver, when he's with you he's REALLY with you, keeps things interesting, crisis controller, quick witted, quick to forgive and forget, impulsivity is a pure form of honesty, all the crazy things he's done to get and keep your attention when he wants it, etc. Now weigh your list of reasons to stay together against the reasons you're feeling insecure, and see which feeling starts to win out.
  • Think of yourselves as puzzle pieces and see if there are better ways you might fit together than just in a strictly romantic sense. Again, have yourself an ADD moment and think outside the box. The current relationship not working? Not getting enough face time? If he's not thinking of hiring a personal assistant (*grin*), try taking a class together in something that interests you both, like dancing (very sexy!), so that you can be goal-oriented and accomplish a task together.
  • Something else to do together: Play the "Driven to Distraction" audio CD on a day when you're just hanging out or on a long drive together. It will help you regain perspective, he'll appreciate that you're informing yourself about ADD, and you can both talk about it and laugh together at everything that strikes a chord while you listen to it.
  • In ANY relationship, before you walk away because of a sense of hopelessness, tell your partner how you're feeling. If you're about to give up the relationship anyway, what have you got to lose? Just be mindful of blame. Begin sentences with "I feel" instead of "You don't." View problems as differences in relationship needs -- your needs aren't matching his, and that's no one's fault. But tell him what your needs are, reassure him that you want him to compromise with you on them, and give him the chance to respond. Allow him time to do so.


IN GENERAL:

  • Your ADD partner is living in a neurotypical world by a set of atypical rules. You can't carry forward old ideas and associations from past interactions with non-ADDers. Try imagining yourself as a pioneer charting new territory, and keep an open mind.
  • Remind yourself that speed bumps can be fun! Not if you try to slow down or go around them, but if you aim for them head on, speed up and try to catch some air.
  • Have a friend you can talk to who understands ADD. Discussing relationship problems with friends and family who don't understand ADD will generally make problems seem worse.
  • Always assume the best. Example: Maybe it bothers you when you're trying to be affectionate and he swats your hand away, but maybe he has to push you away or he won't stop thinking about sex! That's a compliment!
  • EVERY problem has a solution. A perfect one that can satisfy everyone. It's just not always obvious. Keep learning and looking from other angles and perspectives until you find the perfect solution.

__________


This list is not exhaustive. It's just the things that have been meaningful to me in the short time I've been in an ADD relationship. I hope other folks looking for answers will be able to find some of those answers here.

If you have other insights, stories, or feedback that you think could help me and other non-ADD partners make good and healthy decisions in a new ADD relationship, please share.
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  #2  
Old 03-12-09, 03:29 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

One More Resource:

- twistedself's description of what it's like to be ADD:
http://www.addforums.com/forums/show...1&postcount=63

Thought it was very insightful and easy to understand and just now remembered it.
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Old 03-12-09, 03:48 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

Woops! Sorry if your first reply is an ADDer! I came here looking for ways to understand my wife's NT (neural-typical) perspective! Great stuff, thank you!
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Old 03-12-09, 04:01 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

firstdesserts, I'm so pleased that you found this helpful! It's nice to hear that this list has applications beyond what was intended!

And I'm particularly flattered when my perspective passes for neurotypical. Good luck understanding your NT -- they're pretty complicated, too. There's just more of them!
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Old 03-12-09, 10:31 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

Taisa, I truly hope that this is not your last post. I can't begin to tell you the healing effect it had for me. I absolutely MUST commend you for some brilliant work at understanding your own relationship and passing along your very careful research and understanding.

I am the ADHDer in my relationship. My NT partner has never put this level of understanding and compassion into our relationship. Significantly less, actually. Very honestly, had he ever tried a tenth as hard as you have, I would not be looking at ending the relationship now.

I hope you know that you are welcome to post to any thread in the forum. I know that your compassion would mean so very much to us as we try to manage a disorder that can truly baffle us.

Mods- can this OP be stickied? I honestly believe that it should be. I will be saving it, regardless.
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Old 03-13-09, 12:03 AM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

Wow, ADHDTigger... thank you! I think that's the highest compliment this thread could have possibly received! *blush*

Actually, it was my partner who started trying to understand me before I made any effort. After I told him I was HFA, the next time I saw him he said, "You know, you don't fit the criteria for high-functioning autism." No one had ever tried to educate themselves about HFA just for me before. I was completely flattered and decided to return the favor.

But reading the material during the honeymoon phase vs. reading it after we started hitting the inevitable speed bumps was a TOTALLY different experience. Even when I knew what was coming, I had NO idea how I would react to it. And everyone is going to be different in that way, I suppose.

Reading and writing about ADD has ended up being one of the ways I stay close to him when he's distant. This forum is an absolute blessing.

Something else I'd like to do or see someone else do is make a "positive DSM-IV criteria" list for ADD, like the one speedo posted on this forum for Asperger's syndrome (http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28574). I think that would be AWESOME, but I don't think I'm well-informed enough to pull it off.

I'm sorry to hear that things are rocky with you and your NT. They can be frustrating.

Maybe it's time to casually start playing the "Driven to Distraction" audio CD while you guys are at home together? Too bad there isn't an "Understanding Your NT" audio CD. I'm sure he'd be touched if he realized how hard you try to make things work.
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Old 03-13-09, 12:13 AM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

LOL Taisa.......after looking at the way you compiled and formatted all that data, I can only say that if he doesn't hire you as his assistant, I will! LOL

Welcome!
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Old 03-13-09, 05:49 AM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

FinallyAnswered, don't joke with me like that! I could use more employment, and I very much enjoy domestic, organizational and "go-fer" type tasks. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a housewife, but it turns out I'm a terrible cook, and it's just not feasible in today's economy!

But thank you for the warm welcome.
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Old 03-13-09, 10:58 AM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Taisa View Post
FinallyAnswered, don't joke with me like that! I could use more employment, and I very much enjoy domestic, organizational and "go-fer" type tasks. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a housewife, but it turns out I'm a terrible cook, and it's just not feasible in today's economy!

But thank you for the warm welcome.
You're very welcome.

You know what? Perhaps you can create a new niche in the job market. Your skills would be the perfect compliment to any ADD-challenged executive! Maybe we can create a new status for you......say, an "Executive ADDsistant"?

(we all know that executives are only where they are because of their assistants...)
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Old 03-13-09, 11:17 AM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

I like it! That's too funny.
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Old 03-13-09, 12:17 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

I have to say I love the post. It is very enlightening. Sorry another adder here but I am going to send this to my wife. I have a feeling this will help my relationship. Thank you so much.
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Old 03-13-09, 12:59 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

cdub998, thank you for your kind feedback. I really don't know much about ADD yet and feel terribly unqualified to impose my thoughts on a married couple... but I guess things can get so complicated in a long-standing relationship that sometimes it helps to hear the simple stuff from a fresh perspective.

If your wife has any feedback -- things that she would add to the list, for instance -- please consider posting her suggestions here.
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Old 03-17-09, 09:23 AM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

Additions:


WHEN HE DOESN'T WANT TO TALK:
  • Think outside the box about how to talk. Show him brief/summarized information that you've found on ADD that seems to address what you don't understand, and ask him if what you found feels true for him.
  • Choose a setting that makes him comfortable. "Don't have a serious 'sit down conversation' with an ADDer, especially one not on meds. Having one when driving or walking is far better." (Howard_C)

WHEN YOU FEEL HURT BY SOMETHING HE SAID (OR DID):
  • All people do things that they don't necessarily "see" themselves doing. In any relationship, if a behavior is causing you concern, you have to tell him. Don't wait for him to consult his crystal ball. It might be broken. (ADHDTigger)

WHEN HE BEGINS TO OR SUDDENLY LOSES HIS TEMPER:

  • View arguments as constructive. In any relationship, arguments give you the opportunity to demonstrate acceptance, commitment, fairness and concern for your partner. (firstdesserts, in a very humorous post: http://www.addforums.com/forums/show...04&postcount=5)
  • Address the possibility that he is hypersensitive to a low blood sugar and that hunger is making him exceptionally irritable. "Have yummy (healthy is best) snacks kicking around the house. Something that he just can't resist. When he is starting to hyperfocus on a negative thing, just set out a plate of the yummy snack in his path, or better yet in front of the couch with a favorite movie or CD on. Stand back and hope he takes the bait." (RedHairedWitch)

WHEN HE SEEMS TO IGNORE YOU:
  • Bear in mind that medication can make him feel: more complacent, more obsessive / too driven to deviate from his plans, less interested in socializing, zombie-like, personality/"personal spark" numbed, reclusive, like he wants to "sit on his computer for hours and read Wikipedia," irritable or jittery as it wears off.

WHEN YOU CATCH YOURSELF FEELING INSECURE:
  • More examples for your list of why you're together: His tactile nature makes him an interested lover, he puts the "life" into living, he's quick to laugh, he retains the ability to "play" into old age, he's spontaneous, he has a strong sense of what's fair, he's willing to take a risk, he's a great improvisor, he can always be depended on to provide a different perspective. (Ian & http://adhd.kids.tripod.com/50great.html)

IN GENERAL:
  • Part of any successful relationship is being able to recognize the impact of your own behaviors. Not all of your differences are about the ADD or the ADDer (mADD mike). ADD and the coping strategies he has developed for it are a causal factor in some things, but not everything (ADHDTigger). There's a point at which the ADD ends and your interaction as individuals begins. Learn where that point is, and earn his respect by being respectful towards him.

Hm. I wonder when I should start pestering admins to let me edit that original post... I don't want this to become too disjointed, but it seems like the sort of thing that will be constantly evolving.
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Old 03-04-11, 09:33 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

This post is so amazing and helpful, I had to bring it back to the surface with a new post.
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Old 12-11-14, 08:21 PM
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Re: Best inspirations and advice I've found for my ADD relationship

I know this is an old thread but this was really really helpful. I'm having a tough time trying to understand my new boyfriend (as of September) ADD. He also got a new job 2 weeks ago. Things have changed a bit. He's getting less sleep because of the adderall, eats less, smokes less (which is great!) and we've had some unnecessary arguments.

Gonna check out all the links. Thanks for putting that all together.
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