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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Opposites attract... At first!

I am a 36 year old women who was diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago. I have struggled all my life with depression, eating disorders, learning disorder and everything else in between. Luckily for me… In between bouts of ‘lost-life-periods’, i have managed to build a career, find a husband and have a wonderful daughter.

If you believe in ‘opposites attract’, you will immediately know why my husband and I ended up together. He pretty much embodies everything ADHD does not. The problem is that what we once loved about each other, is now what dives us up the wall and is making us very unhappy and angery.

Before i knew i had ADHD, basically went between phases of almost OCD like routines to staying in bed depressed. Now i am on journey to find a happy medium, accept my limitations and embrace more creativity in my life. At the same time, i see my husbands disappointment in my moving away from believing I can be super women, like he thinks i am giving up on being something i now realize i am not. I feel like he is frustrated with me all the time. However, for my own sanity and happiness, i need to both manage and embrace my ADHD charcterisitcs, rather than FIX.

Has anyone managed to move through this stage in development? I would love to hear from some non-adhd partners.

Thanks

Replies

I don’t recall which book I read on romantic relationships that mentioned how often the same trait that you loved in your partner is now the one you detest.

I’m the ADD half but I can think of a few men I dated briefly and also some friends, co-workers with whom similar things happened from my end. What was interesting in the beginning, became like fingernails on a blackboard later. Perhaps simply with too much exposure.

It’s not clear to me here how what originally drew you together is now driving you apart. I read more that you are changing and the changes at this point in time are what frustrates him. More specifics?

Posted by Gadfly on May 06, 2014 at 10:39pm

I am a non ADHD partner ,myself and my husband met very young we got married after dating for six years and now are in the middle of a divorce after 24 year marriage . i realized very early on that he did not like to deal with stress or discord or to be told no so for about 10 years of our marriage i would shield him from any kid issues as he would blow up on the kids for the slightest thing ,financially he has ruined us over the last 5 years blaming it on recession ,cheap people competitors who out bid him, weather and of course me being a money hungry so and so Three years ago our 13 year old daughter wrote a suicide note and ended up in care for 7 days while we were in therapy it came to our attention that when she disappointed dad in anyway he would look at her with disgust and treat her poorly call names which when compounded with peer pressure normal teenage girl drama some mean kids and to top it off her older brother is a talented dancer whom she is a little jealous of our girl felt worthless enough to think and write about ending her life…..why did i not see this I was busy earning the money needed to pay bills getting my son college ready running a home and business and trying to keep my husband calm and happy ....i missed it i dropped the ball on her and i won’t do it again so for the past three years i have been trying to make my husband understand what his real role in our family should be .father protector provider carer ,husband respectful caring loving because IF he had been a better more caring father i believe our daughter would have not felt worthless .i get that we are not perfect and we make mistakes but when somebody like your daughter son wife doctors therapists friends tell you what your doing is wrong and even gives you suggestions what to do and how to do it to not keep making the same mistakes over and over again.he chooses to justify it with blaming it on everything and everyone mainly me and our daughter, including ADHD he is on vyvance but still drinks beer .its clear to me that he does not want to manage his ADHD he wants to wallow in it and feel sorry for himself and worst of all he gets other people to feel pity for him THEY don’t see him like we see him.What i have read on here is women with ADHD are much more likely to manage it than men

Posted by samm on May 07, 2014 at 3:46pm

Samm, I am so sorry to read about the challenges you and your family are going through. I hope that you and your daughter move forward stronger, together.

Gadfly,

My husband and I met just over 6 years ago, a couple weeks after I had turned 30.  He and I live a fairly unique lifestyle, in that we work for the UN, are from different countries and cultural backgrounds, and live internationally.  I had set myself up with a fairly high quality of life, with limited obligations and a routine that managed my ups and downs without knowing it was adhd. My husband saw me through lots of emotional ups and down, but also saw me like lots of other people did (and exactly how I worked hard for them to see me)—smart, great with ideas and setting up systems, and someone who liked adventure. He was definitely aware of many of my weaknesses, especially my struggles with lower self esteem and eating issues.  However, having met at a stage where I had got myself together, he saw someone who had overcome the struggles and was moving forward.

He, on the other hand, is an extremely controlled person.  Prides himself on his super focus and emotional detachment. When he gets an idea, he plods away until it is finished and when he makes a decision he sticks with it until the bitter end. He guards himself emotionally and can never be vulnerable.  All characteristics I wished I was better at.

In other words, if you were to look at adult attachment theory, I would likely be classified as preoccupied (low avoidance & high anxiety). My husband would be dismissing / avoidant (high avoidance & low anxiety). Literally polar opposites and neither being very capable of a positive adult relationship. After a rocky romantic start, our friendship finally turned into a serious relationship.  At first, his confidence and focus, motivated me to be a better person. My emotional availability and rapid fire thinking, pushed him to be more open in the relationship and think out-side the box.

A year after meeting, we ended up posted in close, but different countries. We were still very close emotionally and seemed to be moving forward in a positive way for both of us. We started talking about marriage and babies. In the end, everything happened a little faster than planned, and I got pregnant.  We decided to get married before our daughter was born.  I set up the family house in the big city and he lived and worked in refugee camps a few hours away. We saw each other ever few weeks, but lead fairly separate lives.

The process of transitioning to being a parent has been very difficult for me personally and was hard on our marriage. I could no longer rely on rather self-centered ways to manage my life and its increasing obligations. My husband struggled with feeling responsible for two other people. I felt even more isolated and alone, falling more and more into depression. He felt left out of the family, but at the same time was frustrated with my increasingly obvious struggles to manage the mundane tasks of family life. His ability to perform at an insanely high level and his demanding expectations of others, indirectly effected me.  I placed insane expectations on myself to meet his standards and then would get paralysed when I could not.  Our physical distance meant that I could hide a lot of my struggles and that we could focus on the more fun aspects of our relationship. 

After a couple years two things happened. First, I finally admitted to my doctor that I was in the darkest place of my life and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and adult ADHD. At the same time, my husband had been going through his job rotation process and was moved across the continent. I stayed behind with our daughter and ended up taking over a year to reunited permanently in the new country. The logistics of the move, emotion toll of change and our limited communications meant that we both were pushed to our limits personally and as a couple.

I didn’t deal with it well, with my depression relapsing and feeling more resentment towards him for his lack of understanding and support. He lost all faith in me and felt that he could not trust me emotionally. This meant he put all the pressure of the move on himself, closed-up even more and never talked to me about his issues. As you can probable guess, this meant that I only pulled away more, was more resentful and fell further into my depression—continuing the cycle.

Right now, I am focusing on getting myself into a better place.  This means managing my medication and learning practical tools, but also includes changing my mindset, reevaluating who I am vs what I am, and embracing some (not all) of my eccentricities. I am learning to change and work on the things that are within my control, get help from others when I need it, have a sense of humour about my many weaknesses, and also try to embrace a wee bit of the chaos (in a non-judgemental way).  In other words, looking for long-term results in quality of life, rather than just day-to-day task completion. I think adult women with ADHD tend to have more OCD and perfectionist tendencies when dealing with undiagnosed ADHD symptoms. For me this has never been sustainable and I always end up crashing. So I am learning to embrace shades of grey and small wins!

As I go through this process, I feel like there is a lot of push back from my husband. I think he thought I would just fix myself by becoming good at my weaknesses and learning how to ‘fix’ who I am. I feel like he is in such an angry place and that all he wants is for me to go back to trying to be super woman. In fact he has told me a number of times that I just need a stronger character and more will power. Deep down, I think he is really struggling with investing in my emotional journey right now and that he feels hurt by the one person in which he started confide and that he doesn’t want to be vulnerable again.

As you can imagine, his lack of positive support (although he is financially supportive), frustrates me and makes it harder for me to be the forgiving and loving partner. My increasing confidence means that I am less willing to be the one who gets lost or consumed in the relationship. I am also less willing to put him on a pedestal, realising that it takes two to tango and that we both need to change. I feel like I am putting really trying to change. No doubt this process is fraught with ups and downs, mistakes and new challenges. However, not having any support from my best friend and partner only leads me to move further away from the relationship. In fact, it isn’t just a case of no support, but rather he is slightly negative by focusing on my likely failures and setbacks. Maybe it is hard for him to see a positive outcome. Honest, my track record isn’t great and reading the posts in this group don’t exactly give me much hope that tomorrow will be better. I guess that’s way I think it is more important to adjust to goal post (and maybe the game), rather than just the technique.

At the moment, I am actually not angry with my husband. Sad and disappointed, yes—but not angry. He thinks that if I get myself together, both personally and professionally, he will see the good again and be more loving toward me and that this will in turn make me happy, solving a majority of our marriage problems. I worry that if he only becomes more supportive once I get myself into a more financially independent and emotionally confident place, I will resent his fair-weather feelings and that I won’t be able to trust him. Maybe this is where he is right now…

So… back to original question about how the problem is related to opposites attract. It feels like the characteristics that made us such good friends at first and
the pushed the other personal to improve, are now working against us.  That the external stressors that come with our complicated lifestyle, along with a bunch of our own actions/decisions, have reversed the fragile process of building a loving and supportive adult relationship. All we see now are the negatives of each others personalities and how hard it is to adapt to living with someone else. In the past, even when we were dealing with challenges and problems, we were able to have fun together.  Now, most of the time, all I feel it the huge chasm between us. Sometimes I just don’t understand how things could have changed so quickly. Other times it just seems so obvious that this has been happening for a long time.

In my heart of heart, I still don’t feel like all love is lost and that we can still find those two people who loved each other and listened to each other. It’s like there is some magic piece of the puzzle that is missing and all we need is that one single thing and then we can move into a place of positivity. Unfortunately, knowing it is theoretically possible and being confident that the two of us can both commit to the process are two different things.

Sorry for such a long and rambling response to your request. I guess trying to explain a 6 year relationship is way too complicated for short group discussion threads.

Posted by LeslieC on May 08, 2014 at 6:41pm

LeslieC,

Being quite verbose and rambling myself, no need to be sorry for a long and detailed response. My reply is long and wordy!

My sweetheart has some of the same qualities you describe in your husband. And in some ways my sweetie has the useful ADD traits without the deficits. He has ‘control’ of his hyperfocus, rapid thoughts, can switch back and forth from one subject/thought to another most of the time, work around distractions—he ran a tv newsrooms for a long time—one time not to interrupt is when he is writing and on deadline. He can connect the dots of many seemingly unrelated bits, is creative. But he has good time sense, disciplined, and been successful in many ventures. He can be very perfectionist re work and personal performance but accepting of his own untidiness and my own—within reason.

Being significantly older than you and your husband, and in unexpected late in life romance, knowing we found something great at an age this is rare, and mostly retired, we can look at things differently than the two of you. And while on the surface, we might seem quite different, we have some core similarities. His background re education, work, world travel, was far broader than mine. Some of his experience has included being in places such as refugee camps as well as living internationally. I spent decades living in a fairly remote mountainous area as well as several quite different places in the US. But we both rubbed shoulders with a broad range of people between work, places we lived, exercise—gym rats come in a wide range of backgrounds, and other entertainment or hobbies and interests. We both have endless curiosity, need exercise, mental stimulation and adventure within certain limits that have changed with age. No more protection dog training for me, no more whitewater rafting for him.

We’re both originally from midwestern, liberal families, have very similar egalitarian, liberal and spiritual beliefs—religious zealots of any flavor and all dogma make us nervous, we don’t know who/what is running the universe or if it truly runs itself, just don’t want it to stop. He’s emotionally more stable but has strong emotions and is now freer than he’s ever been to show them in a safe way. Our differences compliment each other perhaps better than yours. And with a few extra decades of life, more hindsight and examples to accept differences in each other and others. Perfectionists have a big problem, so few situations or people ever measure up to their standards and they are usually dissatisfied. It’s useful to have high standards in many ways but there is a need to be realistic about how good is good enough and when does it get to diminishing returns.

What I sense here and could be wrong, is not so much that you were attracted to each other for being opposites as much as you each had qualities the other values and find attractive. The opposite sort of traits might be part of the attractive ones—if we were exactly the same we wouldn’t need each other, but more that you each had good amounts of traits you find attractive. The other stuff was simply there, not attractive perhaps but in the early stages not so noticed for the downsides.

And this seems more like what many relationships are like, ADD or not. And also that in situations where one partner is in flux, I was and had been myself to some degree with my late husband’s traumatic death, much moving and other stress in between and rebuilding myself personally and working on some health issues, menopause hit at the same time as adrenal stress and made my ADD symptoms worse, finally cleared enough other stuff to get to the ADD a few months ago. He’s been supportive and warns me if he sees something going awry but not trying to ‘fix’ me or enable me. And this may be part of your relationship issues. Often with people recovering from abuse, addiction, depression, or trying to climb out of a limiting background, people close to them either directly or inadvertently hold them back. I’ve known families who were pissed their children went on to college degrees—hey I did well enough with an 8th grade education logging, what is this kid so uppity for? Pa isn’t good enough? smack that kid upside the head! or friends, family, co workers, who want a recovering alcoholic to have a beer with them and get pissed if refused.

Perhaps your husband is somewhat disturbed that you are changing and perhaps not in a way he is comfortable with. Or his perfectionist side has an expectation of how fast you should change and you have not measured up.

Your backgrounds in coming from different countries alone can lead to communication or cultural friction. My parents had a fair share of that and both came from the US but with as the daughter of Polish immigrants and first of their children born in the US growing up in Chicago during the depression and the adopted son of an overseer for a share cropping plantation in the South, they were an odd couple in some ways. My father wasn’t a heavy duty bigot, she would never have stood for anyone who was, he would have been upset had I brought home a date of another race. Their differences did clash at times. She’d had enough of a patriarchal male dominated family and while he was more egalitarian, still wanted a wife and homemaker and didn’t think she was capable of learning to drive or play golf.

So one possible factor there. Just background differences. Then add in that you both are in a unique and demanding lifestyle with living as strangers in a strange land in an area with a refugee camp and what that indicates with economic, social, political, cultural problems and instability. Add in a child, long distance relationship to that stress and I think even the most compatible couple from similar backgrounds would have a lot to deal with.

Life for me has always had an emphasis on personal development, exploring many different things and I’ve been able to indulge virtually everything I truly wanted to try. Done well at most and some I’ve realized I don’t have the ability for, a few I don’t have time for now. Not having children made this easier, My husband and I never wanted children, were not going to have for anyone else’s belief that we should and would have been less than wonderful parents.

With exploring though how life is a journey and trying different things, both my late husband and my sweetheart and I all went through quite a few changes. My husband and I tended to develop interests and hobbies that were compatible. When he hunted for the table, I hunted with him, usually with a camera instead of a gun. I had my share of challenges with anxiety, depression, un dx’d ADD and my husband at times could not understand this. Also he was an engineer and they tend to have their own oddities. Social finesse is not usually among them. My sweetheart in doctoral program was at one point involved in a project to try to help engineers develop some social skills. Compared to the same skills development for other fields, the engineering students needed some very different approaches.

Your husband seems closer in mindset about ‘shoulds’ to my husband than my sweetheart. His attitude towards your personal development appears to lack empathy. He can’t step into your shoes enough to wear your experience at all. And can’t understand it. None of us can truly understand another’s experience unless we have one very similar. I was hit hard with after effects of a virus 2 years ago. Didn’t realize I had very low blood pressure. Until my sweetheart got it a few weeks after I did, he thought I was being a hypochondriac and atypically for me, not doing anything to get better. I just didn’t have enough brain function to track down what was wrong. He apologized after he was laid low.

You are wise to focus on making yourself the best you can be. I hope for you and your husband both that he will be able to see your best as what he desires in a partner to share life with. He could use some personal development with empathy, compassion and experience the world from other’s perspective. He will be richer for it.

May you find your journey rewarding and productive and reach your goals.

Posted by Gadfly on May 08, 2014 at 10:03pm

My wife is ADHD and we are totally opposite! It’s only because of our faith that we are together. Your statement that you want to “manage and embrace” your ADHD is significant. My wife sees her doctor regularly, takes her meds according to a timer, even tells others that she is ADHD openly. But she doesn’t want to learn about ADHD nor about how it affects others. In this she is still stubbornly in denial.

I see it as a control issue. She can control the Dr appts, the taking of meds, even speaking about her condition, however, when people complain about her iriritations, monologues, bursts of anger, etc., she defends by saying, “anyone would react this way in that situation, it’s not ADHD!” She refuses to embrace her illness.

You mention your husband’s disappointment. Yes, if you look at me you might see a similar face.
If ONLY my wife could say—without anger—“I’m sorry, I think my ADHD was reacting,” I think I would be much less disappointed and more compassionate.

Separating the iillness and it’s symptoms from the person is very important. But if the ADHD person won’t do that, then anything the non-ADHD spouse says becomes a personal attack, resulting in defensiveness and denial.

Embrace it by learning about it together and he will see hope

Posted by Blues on May 10, 2014 at 3:44am

Rather than judging it as a “control issue” (because it is her “refusing to embrace her illness”) there IS another plausible explanation.  In all your studying about her “illness” have you ever stumbled upon one important fact—that it is frequently accompanied by what is known as “lack of insight”?

Only someone who REALLY knows what’s going on and fully understands the CONDITION (a much less negative term than ILLNESS) would be able to CONTROL the situation by remaining ignorant—well, claiming to be ignorant.

It would be a very compassionate thing for you to do if you were to simply take it on FAITH that what you are seeing is closer to NOT being very self-aware.  (That’s another way this phenomenon is described—lack of insight or lack of self-awareness).

Posted by BC on May 10, 2014 at 4:22am

Of course i know about lack of self awareness. But one can have lack self awareness and still want to learn about ones own condition.

Posted by Blues on May 11, 2014 at 2:30am

wow I hope you can find a way to make things work out.

Posted by not2day on Jun 22, 2014 at 9:25pm

Thank you all for your wonderful replies.  Magical things can happen when the depression lifts and inspiration is all around.  I can actually tackle ADHD.  I have even motivated my husband to re-engage with his life, take up music and be more connected.

Getting over the resentment I feel toward him for turning on me during some of my darkest days will take longer.  I am sure he felt the same way when my depression made it impossible to connect, but it is still something I need work through.  Knowing the ADHD and depression are up and down struggles means there is still a nagging fear that he will turn again during my next stumble.  I guess this is what they mean by building back trust!

Thanks again

Posted by LeslieC on Jun 23, 2014 at 3:27am

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