I just found out that my boyfriend, who has narcolepsy, also has AD/HD. Many of our problems make so much sense now, and I'm kind of at a crossroads. Do I have what it takes to lead a happy relationship with this very, very dear person? Will I get used to the sacrifices and compromises I have to make?
In the beginning, his distractedness was endearing. His spontaneity was electrifying. His intense bouts of affection were flattering. His meanderings down random rabbit holes were hilarious. His forgetfulness and unresponsiveness was manageable. His sleepy face was adorable. His occasional need to be alone was expected. Instead, I was swept away by the flawed yet amazing, gentle-hearted person inside who accepts me unconditionally for who I am and miraculously sees my inner layers.
I still adore him to this day, but the circumstances are different.
He unintentionally hurts my feelings or makes me question him due to his forgetfulness, short attention span and low energy supply. He would walk off and wander sometimes when we're out and lose track of time, doesn't remember to return emails, calls, or texts, isn't naturally adept at being considerate of my needs big and small, he loses everything and anything at all times at all places regardless of all cautionary measures, isn't skilled at planning or thinking ahead (leading to scheduling conflicts and squelched romance), and gets sleepy at inopportune moments -- which makes me feel terrible for dragging him around. He is also not very romantic or good at expressing his feelings towards me. He blurts out a lot of things without thinking first. I'm often not the first to find out about things. For example, I'll hear about his travel plans or ideas when in group conversations with others. Just today, he forgot that we had hung out yesterday. He also makes promises he can't keep. He just doesn't feel dependable.
All this makes me feel lonely and isolated sometimes.
I don't dare compare my relationship to that of a friend's because it makes me sad to see some of the special things my friends' boyfriends do for them. I constantly feel pitted against his career, his friends, his health, his family, his hobbies, and his frustrations with not feeling large and in charge of his life as a young, unmarried guy in his late 20s. Sometimes I find myself taking on the role of an nagging authority reminding him to check for his belongings and trying to keep him on track. He says he feels extremely lucky to have someone as patient as me, but I am realizing that I am not a bottomless pit of patience.
What I have done so far:
1. When I contact him, I indicate how urgent it is using email subject line prefixes
like TYT (take your time), NRN (no response needed), etc.
2. I ask for what I need. If I need him to plan a date, I send him a calendar invite and I tell him I'm all his for the night. If I am starved for attention or insight on how he feels about me, I ask him to write me a thoughtful card (though it took him over a month last time, it was well worth it).
3. I try not to take things personally and I pick my battles. Instead, I try to use positive reinforcement to keep him encouraged. If I notice an unhealthy pattern, I gently point it out and we brainstorm together on ways to improve them.
4. I have also retained most of my independence and only ask for help with non-emotional things (i.e. errands, projects and such) when it's absolutely necessary. I feel like my requests would burden him (which is untrue), because I know he gets overwhelmed easily.
5. Every few days, I try to think of something nice he did for me and try to tell him what I like about him to keep my outlook positive and stay grateful.
I know his mind is utter chaos and he is doing everything he can. He is such a great guy otherwise with a high EQ and ability to lift me up. I know he can't help most of the things he does and he never uses his diagnoses as excuses. I want nothing more than for him to be happy, productive, and lead a fulfilling life. While I want to envision a future with him, I know that our responsibilities will only get more serious as we grow older so I am concerned about long-term viability. I grew up with a sister with a disability and a mother with a serious chronic illness, so a part of me feels like I can handle this, another part of me feels dread. How do I know if I have the right personality type to date someone with attention regulation issues? I don't know if I'm ready to take this lot, but I need to at least give it a shot.
What are some ways for me to cope with his AD/HD + narcolepsy and balance them out with my needs as a girlfriend?
Do you have personal experience with or observing any of this? Please advise.