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Posts Tagged ‘ADD’

On this journey, there is nothing quite like meeting someone on the road whose experiences have resembled my own. Whether we cross paths in person, through a computer or a book, the result is the same when their words resonate with my own feelings.

The affirmation that I am not alone in my situation, that my story is understood by another and to be able to relate to someone else’s story, is like balm to my hurting and confused soul.

The following statements came from a couple as they shared how their marriage has been (and continues to be) affected by ADD.

He Said:

“I felt that no matter how hard I tried I could never do well enough for my spouse, even when I was successful elsewhere, such as at work. It didn’t matter – I still felt like a failure at home.”

“I often responded with anger and defensiveness, when it was shame that I was really feeling.”

“I had to anticipate my wife’s response to every single thing I did. I lived my life trying to second guess her because I really did want to please her, but most of the time she was still mad.”

“I sometimes felt that the easiest way to deal with my spouse was to simply leave her alone.”

“Our marital issues left me feeling unloved.”

“Even if my ADD made me see or remember something ‘not right’, it still was my reality, and that was not respected.”

“I learned to lie to cover for mistakes. I learned to deflect criticism, to shift the blame to anything or anyone other than myself to protect my ego. I avoided being decisive, because in deferring the decisions to someone else, I could also defer the blame.”

“I have trouble planning ahead. I am notoriously late because I easily lose track of time and I’m often terrible at judging how long it will take to complete a task. I know this bothers my wife, but I don’t understand why it bothers her so much.”

“I felt the only reason my wife was insisting on treatment was so she could change me. I didn’t realize that what she wanted was the real me – without so much of the ADD baggage.”

“I don’t understand why we still have problems, even though I am now receiving treatment for my ADD . . “

“I don’t believe all of our problems are my fault . . . or the result of my ADD.”

She Said:

“There has been so much inconsistency living with my husband. I have usually been the one left to “clean up” from what was forgotten or not finished by my spouse.”

“I get so frustrated that my husband never seems to follow through on what he has agreed to do. He focuses intently on things that interest him, but never on me. I feel lonely and ignored in our relationship.”

“I am scared for myself . . .that my life will continue along it’s current path. I think about leaving my husband because the current path feels unsustainable.”

“The effects that my husband’s behavior have had on our marriage and family are much more than can be imagined.”

“At times, I become overwhelmed by sadness. And I mourn for the relationship I could have with my spouse, if not for ADD.”

“Life often seems depressingly up and down and out of control. I can not believe how many years we have dealt with the same issues over and over again.”

“I don’t understand my husband’s anger, stonewalling and defensiveness. If he is not responding angrily towards me or the kids, then he is ignoring us. I am constantly seeking any scraps of attention, respect, help and support I can get from him”

“He can be convinced that he is upset because of something I have just said, but he doesn’t recall that he was upset long before.”

“Understanding my husband’s quite different reality can be so challenging. I am exhausted and depleted. No amount of effort seems to fix the relationship.”

“I want to be able to love my husband unreservedly, without having to make as many of the horrific trade offs in my own life that responding to his symptoms has required.”

“He doesn’t see that deciding to get treatment is not the same as pursuing effective treatment that gives both of us relief from his
symptoms.”


“By the time we finally find solutions for our issues, I feel my life will be shredded beyond recognition – I have already been scarred forever.”

They Said:

Our marriage has been a progression from happy to confused to angry to hopeless.

There is more sadness than hope in their story, but it was good for me to hear the husband’s perspective. You see, although ADD is a topic I now know much about, this is probably the closest I will ever come to knowing what life is like for my own husband . . .

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Spending time with an adult ADD “expert” gave me more insight to my husband’s behavior than weeks spent reading books on marriage & ADD, months on the couch of my therapist, and years of unproductive conversations with my husband. Here is the advice she gave me over lunch:

ANGER

“Even though you may feel justified in being angry at your husband for the suffering he has caused you, the inevitable result is that both of you are hurt deeply and your indignation does nothing to help you deal with your anger.”

“You can address the root causes of anger in your relationship by giving back the responsibility for fixing ADD to the partner who has it. While at the same time, taking charge of your own happiness again.”

FORGIVENESS

“The cure for anger? – Forgiveness”

“Blame diminishes each partners ability to be empathetic – it impairs the ability to forgive – it sets up two people as adversaries rather than partners – it provides an excuse to not keep trying.”

“Forgiveness can only occur after anger and sadness have been exposed, expressed and validated.”

MOVING FORWARD

“You should allow yourself to experience sadness, because grieving for what you have not had in your marriage, up to this point, is one of the first steps toward building a new life together.”

“Both partners should grieve over what could have been, but wasn’t because of the unrecognized effects of ADD on your lives. You can’t resolve someone’s grief. Just acknowledge and empathize; don’t dismiss. Over time, grief that is acknowledged and validated will heal.”

“Seek help! A good counselor will help you focus on today’s issues rather than the past.”

HOPE

“When couples learn about ADD and work together to address problematic symptoms, life can improve dramatically.”

TREATMENT

“Deciding whether to treat ADD is the sole responsibility of the person who has it. How to respond to your husband’s decision about treatment is up to you.”

“If the your husband decides against treatment, you will be left with only unpleasant choices:”

1) force treatment
2) force change without treatment
3) give up on change but stay in the relationship                                                (which often results in depression and anger)
4) leave the relationship

MOVING ON

“Your husband might refuse treatment for ADD symptoms, essentially forcing you to “take it or leave it”

“At some point, the situation may become untenable for you and if your husband remains uninterested in treatment, expressing your own needs very clearly in the form of an ultimatum is all that will be left.”

. . . There may be an ultimatum in my future.

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Every second Tuesday of the month,” I read. “OK, I can do this”, I thought . . . “I need to do this.”

I have been receiving prayer and amazing support from my Christian friends for two months now, but in dealing with the ADD behaviors of my husband, their empathy came with no personal experience of how difficult it can be. Even my therapist had not encountered patients with adult ADD. It was time for me to attend a support group.

I walked into the meeting on the second Tuesday of the month and listened as the handful of people went around the table introducing themselves and talking about the challenges they faced, living with a loved one who has adult ADD.

The moderator, a well-known author on the subject, interjected a comment occasionally and answered questions. When it was my turn, after introducing myself and giving a brief history of my situation, I asked her this question, “How much of a person’s behavior is rooted in their character, how much can be attributed to their ADD . . . and how do I separate the two?”

Her answer: It is difficult to separate the two because they are tightly intertwined. When a person has been living with ADD all their life, at some point, their ADD-driven tendencies become part of their character. There is hope, however, for the person who acknowledges their ADD and pursues effective treatment. Only then will you be able to know what behaviors are the result of ADD . . . and which are not.”

Since my husband was far from even considering adult ADD to be contributing to the problems in our relationship, was there any hope for a better future? I needed more time with this “expert” (G.P) than the evening’s forum provided. She spoke from her own personal experience as well as from years of researching adult ADD and counseling those affected by it.

When we met for lunch the following week, this is what I shared and learned:

Me: “I am suffering from a chronic, toxic case of anger.”

G.P: “Most of the anger and problems in the non-ADD spouse are really and truly a reflection of dealing with ADD symptoms.”

“It’s easy to be angry that life has been so much harder than you had expected it to be because ADD is present. “

“Anger is a warning sign that things are not going as they should. The anger itself is not the issue, it’s how you act on your anger that’s important.”

Me: “My anger is what he blames as one of the real roots of our problems.”

G.P: “It’s not uncommon for an ADD spouse to convince himself that his wife’s anger is the real cause of their problems. (instead of his behavior) Yes, it is a factor that needs to be addressed, but it’s also a response to specific ADD symptoms.”

Me: “There are definitely times when the last thing I want to do is spend time with my husband, but for the sake of the marriage, I make an effort anyways. When he does not respond, I inevitably feel hurt and disappointment.”

G.P: “It can be much easier to blame or withdraw rather than take the difficult step of trying to connect when anger is present. But when the response of an ADD spouse is unpredictable, the non-ADD spouse will likely experience disappointment or lose faith in a positive or consistent outcome.

Me: “I often feel my reactions and expectations are considered unreasonable. It takes time for me to put words to my feelings and to identify the actions that caused them. When I do, my husband does not acknowledge his behavior, comprehend the effects of it, or even remember the event long enough to not do again.”

G.P: “A person with ADD may have trouble remembering what you recently talked about. It may seem like you have the same arguments over and over, because you do.”

“People with ADD lack a hierarchy filter in relation to ideas, memories . . . there is difficulty prioritizing . . . Because they don’t receive and process information in a hierarchical way, your suffering enters his mind at about the same level as everything else he perceives.”

Me: “I take his behavior personally and think, if he loved me, respected me, valued me & our relationship, these things wouldn’t happen. But he says none of what I consider ‘bad behavior’ is done with the intent to hurt me.”

G.P: “A non-ADD spouse doesn’t understand why her ADD spouse is so unwilling to consistently be responsible or responsive. She personalizes his behavior, figuring it is rooted in a basic lack of respect for her, her needs, and their relationship. (rather than from fear, shame, or hopelessness)”

“It’s important that the ADD spouse consider impulsiveness as a symptom that needs treatment. ‘Not meaning’ to hurt someone is not enough.”

“An ADD spouse should not equate good intentions with good outcomes. Actions are important and if one spouse says the other’s actions are inadequate, they likely are, regardless of the intent.”

“A non-ADD spouse must understand that it is not spitefulness, laziness, meanness, or lack of desire that keeps her husband from doing what she requested . . . but at the same time, ADD is not an excuse for continued incompetence.”

Her advice? In my next post . . .

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I’ve been taught there are two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace.
You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
Grace doesn’t try to please itself.
Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked.
Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself.
Get others to please it too.
Likes to lord it over them.
To have its own way.
It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it.
Even when love is smiling through all things.
I’ve been taught that no one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end.
I will be true to You.
Whatever comes.
(taken from the movie, Tree of Life)

My husband has stopped speaking to me. He is angry. Feels disrespected that I would question him. Believes he is completely justified in ignoring me and giving me the “cold shoulder”. But who should really be indignant, here? . . . Me or him? . . . I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

***

Tax time. I wasn’t completely clueless. I knew our refund was usually a big one, but that was about all I knew. In the past, I would usually drop by the local H&R Block office just to sign our tax forms after my husband had spent the hour with our tax preparer pouring over W-2’s, bank statements, and 1099’s. We usually filed early, so the refund could be used to pay the property taxes . . . and the remainder of the refund went directly into my husband’s bank account. My requests for a portion of the refund to be spent on helping pay school tuition or to lower credit card balances were either ignored or not deemed “do-able”.

This year, I decided to join my husband at the appointment. As the tax preparer began filling in the form with numbers from our W-2’s, a sick feeling swept over me.

The total amount of our income was more than I imagined.

Much more.

I was aware that we received a large refund check every spring, but never realized how much we earned throughout the year.

“How could this be,” I wondered. “Where was the money going?”

Our lifestyle, in no way, reflected an income of that amount. Working part time, my salary paid the monthly bills and the kid’s expenses. My husband paid the mortgage and the groceries.

It didn’t add up.

Our combined salaries minus our expenses left sooooo much money unaccounted for . . . so much of my husband’s money.

I questioned him. Was there a secret savings account? An addictive or spending compulsion? Did he even know where the money was going? He had no reasonable answer, became defensive . . . evasive, and has not spoken to me since.

He has added this incident to his list of the ways I have “wronged” him, and yet seems incapable of acknowledging any of the ways he has done wrong to others.

Whether due to his personality, ADD, or childhood scars, life for him is viewed as a victim. He needs someone to blame in order to justify his behavior; because to accept responsibility would also mean admitting he is wrong and unreasonable for reasons having to do with his own character.

He has a fragile ego . . . I get that, but demanding authority without taking responsibility is a warped way of fulfilling Christ’s command for his role as head of our family.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

5:22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

5:25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. (the Message)

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As I have been considering the boundaries (values, characteristics, behaviors) I want to have in my life, I am compelled to look in the mirror with honesty, and face the person I have become over the course of my marriage.

Angry – Pain and anger abound. Even when my husband has done nothing (recently) wrong, my anger is still there. Just below the surface. Anger over every unresolved conflict, every hurt feeling, every bad behavior, and every time I’ve felt disrespected and disappointed.

Disconnected – “Anger and disconnection permeate many interactions with the ADD spouse. Sometimes the anger is expressed as disconnection . . . Some claim that disconnection is the only way to bear the pain, the downside is, the pain is still there . . .” (author unknown)

Discontented – Not being satisfied with what God has already provided. Looking for people or circumstances to bring me happiness. Forgetting that He is more interested in my holiness than my immediate, temporal happiness.

Conscious Blindness – During those times when things are going “well” in my marriage, it is usually because I have chosen not to “see the elephants in the room”. I ignore all the issues that need to be addressed for the sake of momentary peace. A fragile harmony that gives the false perception that we are OK, when in reality, I deem him unsafe, unworthy of reckless abandon of my heart, my trust . .

Manipulative – Instead of being assertive and emotionally mature, I have resorted to manipulation. “As frustration and anger build, the non-ADD spouse may start making less empathetic decisions, sometimes abdicating responsibility. This serves the dual purpose of punishing the ADD spouse and proving the non-ADD spouse correct. The non-ADD spouse is subtly and unknowingly sabotaging the relationship by doing this. And at the same time, complaining that the ADD spouse cannot change.” (G. Pera)

Frustrated – That we’ve gotten to this point and incredulous that we haven’t been able to make things better. The same issues come up over and over again and I am convinced that every bad behavior my spouse has done only proves his incompetence, inconsistency or inconsiderateness.

Hopeless – While anger, disconnection, and manipulation have been a result of my frustration, at times, I am just hopeless. My dreams have been put aside and profound grief pervades the daily difficulties of my life.

There it is. The person I have become after all these years of marriage. It’s an ugly list. I say this not with judgement or self-condemnation, but with resolve. Resolve that the boundaries I will now establish will not depend on the behavior or needs of others. They will be values, characteristics, and behaviors that I must absolutely have in my life as the person I wish to be. And I can think of no better list than the one already written in Galations . . .

Love          Joy          Peace          Patience          Kindness          Goodness              Faithfulness              Gentleness              Self-Control

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Boundaries have always been an elusive concept for me to grasp. In raising my children, it came as a natural part of parenting. But in my marriage, I have never understood the purpose or proper maintenance of them. As a result, they have proved useless to me.

My husband and I recently had a few “good” weeks. But because of our history, I’ve been forced to finally acknowledge that “today’s” behavior will not predict future behavior – despite any “boundaries” I’ve put in place. While I’ve been thankful and appreciative for his thoughtful attention, I no longer have any reason to hope for long-lasting change.

And even with the psychological self-protection this acknowledgment brings to my mind, it provides no protection for my heart. I have come to doubt whether there really is any way to truly guard one’s heart from a spouse, and I rebel at the reality that I need protection from him.

Then, as I was reading about ADD, I came across this chapter written by Melissa Orlov:

Autonomy – a way of setting and respecting personal boundaries.”

“A personal boundary is a VALUE, CHARACTERISTIC, or BEHAVIOR that we absolutely must have in order to live our life as the person we wish to be, in any situation.”

“Boundaries protect who you are.”

Finally, the lightbulb came on. Boundaries were so foreign to me because after many years of being married to a man who showed no respect for my boundaries, they eventually became pointless. But without boundaries, there was nothing protecting who I was. Consequently, I lost my identity and felt invisible, believing it was only his approval that validated my existence. I was no longer the PERSON I once was before this relationship.

With this concept now being illuminated, I went on to read,

Boundaries should be enduring and effective rules that will lead you back to the person you want to be and how you want to live your life in the future.”

“The best boundaries protect and respect. Less effective boundaries are created in response to an argument, or are intended to hurt or punish.”

“In identifying your most important boundaries: “

1) “Think about where your personal boundaries or rules used to be when you were happiest. What was important to you? How did you behave?”

2) “Think about where your boundaries or personal rules are today. What has changed? What boundaries do you wish you had in place, but are currently missing or being ignored by others?”

3) “Where do you want to be in the future?”

“Once you have defined your personal boundaries, create a plan for change and act on it. Begin behaving in ways that are consistent with the person you wish to be.”

“. . . the person I wish to be . . .” Ahhh, another reason why boundaries may have been so baffling to me. So much of my behavior has become based on what I thought was expected of me . . . But now I understand that boundaries have nothing to do with my spouse, my family or my friends. They are completely about ME and MY behavior. This realization demanded I answer the question, “What kind of person do I wish to be? . . .”

Change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

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I am guilty. Of many things, be assured. And in thinking about the ways I have contributed to the issues in my marriage, I acknowledge that I have been desperate in seeking the affirmation of my husband. I have been driven to gain his approval, thinking, if I could only improve myself in some way, I would stop being invisible to him. But because of the state of dysfunction I have been in, it has taken much time to realize that no amount of affirmation would ever be enough. I was letting his lack of attention determine my worth, and fell for the lie that without his approval, I was worth nothing.

“One of the most common actions of an ADD spouse is that he stops paying attention. A wife will then feel abandoned and ashamed that she is no longer attractive to her husband. But what is really occurring is the defining symptom of ADD – distraction.”

Regardless of whether a husband is intentionally ignoring his wife or being ‘distracted’, the results are the same. His actions are speaking louder than his words. The hurt caused by his behavior elicits a series of bad feelings and behaviors on her part which compound the problem.”

“Loneliness is a key component for the non-ADD spouse. It comes from many things:
1) the distraction of the ADD spouse which makes the non-ADD spouse feel ignored and unloved
2) a sense of never being heard since so many patterns of bad behavior are repeated
3) the fact that few people outside the marriage ‘see’ what is going on

After so many years of living with this cycle of behavior in my marriage, my self-worth has inevitably become a casualty. Only through this blog have I been able to realize that. And through the information that I’ve learned about ADD have I gained an understanding I did not have before. But having realization and knowledge is not where I want to stop. While I don’t think I could have reached this point without realization and understanding, I now want to heal. And as I heal, I want to become stronger, I want to move forward, not in circles, I want the realization and knowledge that my worth is given to me from God and not from man to become my reality.

I John 4:9-10 God showed how much He loved us (me) by sending His only Son into the world so that we (I) might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we (I) loved God, but that He loved us (me) and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our (my) sins.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not calamity, to give you hope and a future. In those days when you pray, I will listen.”

Psalms 139:17-18a How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!

(Excerpts taken from ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov and Is It You, Me Or ADD by Gina Pera)

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