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Dating someone who has AD/HD and narcolepsy - how do I cope?
August 13, 2014 4:48 PM   Subscribe

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.
posted by doctordrey to Human Relations (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is he doing to deal with his health issues, and to ensure that you're not harmed by his symptoms? You've listed a ton of stuff that you're doing to make his life easier, or to make sure his feelings don't get hurt by demands you're making, or to keep your expectations low. But what is he doing to make his life and yours better?
posted by decathecting at 4:52 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Great question, decathecting.

He tirelessly works on himself day in and day out to make sure that his life doesn't get thrown too far out of whack by his AD/HD and narcolepsy. He exercises regularly, cuts out all alcohol and eats very healthy, sets a slew of daily reminders and alarms, keeps painstaking lists, tries to meditate and clear his mind from time to time, reads books on how to manage his symptoms, and is constantly looking for ways to improve. I can't knock him for trying.

We also give each other trigger point therapy massages pretty routinely to relax and relieve stress. It helps a lot.
posted by doctordrey at 4:57 PM on August 13


Does he have any idea how much his issues affect you? One thing I'm learning is that it's important to recognize how much my health (mental and physical) affects my partner. It makes it doubly important to practice self-care because it's also relationship-care.
posted by radioamy at 4:58 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Also, how long have you been together?
posted by radioamy at 4:59 PM on August 13


Hi radioamy! We've been together for almost 11 months now and yes, he's aware of it. We were fighting pretty intensely about my unmet needs for a while until it all came to a head and I found out he had AD/HD. I am pretty communicative about everything and we talk about all things under the sun. He was really embarrassed about his diagnosis though b/c he felt narcolepsy was bad enough. Now that we have some answers, we're both in "let's make this work" mode.
posted by doctordrey at 5:03 PM on August 13


Ask yourself this: If he had no diagnosed problems but still acted the way he does, would you still want to be with him? Does that mean that his disabilities are the only thing keeping you around? It might be that you are staying in this relationship out of duty, a feeling of responsibility, or just guilt at the thought of leaving someone due to something they can't control.

I'm not saying break up with the guy (what do I know about anything?) but it's always a good idea to ask whether you are being fair to yourself. Your life goal can't be to take care of a grown man.

Sidenote: Narcolepsy and ADHD are both pretty treatable with medication, and in fact are often treated with the SAME medications. Is there a reason he's not on something like Provigil? Or are the medications just not working?
posted by Willie0248 at 5:15 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


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.

If several major early relationships in your life were also characterized by this same pattern of you-as-caretaker, them-as-care-receiver, have you dipped any toes into therapy just to check that you have no residual tendencies toward/ attraction to codependency? Ultimately, your own personal radar is going to be the best guide to whether this relationship is worth it, but you need to be very sure that radar is well-calibrated and in working order.
posted by Bardolph at 5:17 PM on August 13 [28 favorites]


Well, typically meds are one additional solution.

I agree with Bardolph, though. This situation seems difficult-yet-familiar and you maybe are trying to get someone who needs a lot of care to FINALLY! care for you. It's tempting to try to re-write history that way. It doesn't seem like it's very good for you in this case, though.

I have ADHD and all manner of issues and I feel like...I don't know, if you can't do most of what you want to do in a relationship, it sort of doesn't matter why. I've happily and unhappily been with people who weren't neurotypical, and it was often great. When it got to the point that I was working really hard to manage their issues, it was not great. Whether or not the relationship was working was independent of their disabilities, even though their disabilities contributed at times.

What I'm trying to say is that if he were adequately managing this OR you wanted a different kind of relationship, you would be a billion times happier. You're not happy, though. That's important data, much more important than what you're doing for him or what kind of problems he has. Almost a year of being unhappy is a lot of data.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:28 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


You're doing a tremendous amount of work to meet his needs as well as yours. It sounds like he's also doing a tremendous amount of work to meet his need, and maybe some of yours if you remind him enough and point out exactly what you need. You're also a person with a strong history of caretaking and are finding yourself slipping into what sounds like a parental role. This is not the best pattern in terms of sustainability for you.

Has he tried medications? It sounds like he's cobbled together a number of hacks and work-arounds, and he has you, but is he getting more intensive treatment for the two disorders? If he's also medicating as part of his treatment strategy and you didn't mention it, fine. But, if he's unwilling to take medication and prefers to rely on you at the expense of your needs, I'd really question that approach.
posted by quince at 5:28 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


It does sound like he's trying, but it doesn't sound like he's succeeding. I think the best way to try to balance his needs with yours is to give him a trial period of staying with him and supporting him if he's willing to seek professional help for his diagnoses and to continue to work on things with his healthcare providers until the issues are under better control. I think that will give you the information you need to judge whether your relationship can be successful or not (and any relationship where you have to act like his mom doesn't sound like something that will be successful). If he can't or won't do this, I think that would also give you the information you need.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:41 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


You might find the ADHD and Marriage blog and forum a useful place to think about ADHD in the context of a long term relationship. One thing that can be hard about ADHD is that some of the behaviors associated with it aren't perceived as value-neutral in our culture: forgetting to call, arriving late, leaving the kitchen messy, leaving projects undone, not budgeting money. Another thing that can be hard about ADHD is that it can generate sort of a honeymoon effect-- it's pretty common for the first few months or years in a relationship to be amazing, when your partner is a bright shiny object that is amazingly fascinating and treasured. Later on, your partner may be just as beloved, but the new circular saw in the garage is much brighter and shinier and gets the attention. A combination of the honeymoon effect wearing off and accumulated resentment over relatively minor slights can make for a really rough "phase two" of your relationship.

So I'd say, take the days as they come, do not assume that "bad habits" are permanent, but do assume that it will take a really concerted joint effort to change things about your relationship. (And that it will be changing your relationship, not your partner, because that's even harder.) Maybe it would be helpful to try joint counseling, because counseling should definitely be in your future as you guys settle into a comfortable long term relationship.
posted by instamatic at 6:20 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Unless this guy was into occupational therapy and meds, I'd be taking a walk. I'm all about playing the hand you're dealt, but you have to do EVERYTHING possible to be as independent as you can be.

Here's the thing. If you think about breaking up, what do you feel? Will you miss him and his sweet nature? Will you regret giving up a guy who really loves you deep down? Or will you be relieved that you don't have to think about all the permutations of HIS life in addition to your own.

Do you see yourself partnered in the future? What does having children with him look like? Would it be a blessing, or would you resent the fact that he can't contribute 100%?

It's okay to admit that this is too much for you. You're just dating and you have NO obligation to stay. Even if there is a diagnosis, this may be too problematic for you.

On the flip side, what if he decides that he wants to break up...for whatever reason. Would you feel ripped off that you stuck it out with him if he decided to leave?

At eleven months most people decide if it's a long haul thing, or not. Maybe think about what you want in a relationship. What's non-negotiable. Talk with your BF and see what he's thinking. If HE'S not 100% in it, then there's your answer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:22 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I'm very much like your boyfriend, and I've played through this pattern of caretaking & dependency many times.

You don't need to be his mom or leave a sticky note about his car keys. If he forgets them, so what? He'll deal. He's a grown man. He existed fine in the world before you.

Many of my exes -- people I loved, who were emotionally generous and giving of time and service, like you -- ended up squashing my very best qualities by trying to force me into patterns of future planning and material stability that didn't suit me. They loved my energy and spontaneity at first. Then they wanted me to pick up bananas at the grocery store, keep my phone on ring all the time and commit to party plans three months in advance. That tedious level of domesticity was never going to be me!

But I always wanted to accept their help and their very sweet, thoughtfully worded sticky notes -- because I genuinely wanted to be that reliable person! And I didn't want to disappoint my partners, because I knew they valued those things.

When the by-and-large world doesn't value your particular means of navigating through it, you tend to cope in one of two ways: by being appeasing (adaptive, if we're being nice!) or resentful. Unfortunately, leaning into the first one often creates the second.

It sounds like you're both forging strategies to deal with the ADHD -- but what about your end? He's learning your strengths, are you learning his? Rather then picking up his messes, why don't you leave them be and ask him for what he's really good at... which is surprising you, being buoyant and emotionally giving, and bringing out your fun shiny new side?

My dates are all way better at dependability than me. Some of them like helping me with planning skills -- it fulfills them. Others don't, so we don't interface about it. We organize those parts of our lives independently. All of them, however, know that my attention is a prize tunnel. How do they stay in that spotlight? They act like they deserve it! If they want my time, they ping me on the spot so I can whisk them away. Look, now I get to show off my sweet skills!

When I'm feeling good about myself and our relationship, I'll try extra hard to remember that important thing they want. (Even if I do think it's silly that doing taxes beats out talking about this new book with them.) Later, when I need help with my sock drawer because I can't figure out whether to sort by color or stripe pattern, they're all glowy and happy! Cuz I just made them feel like the only girl in the world! I can go "What do I do, I'm so overwhelmed?" and they'll laugh and say "Fritillary! Just toss them in the drawer!" instead of being upset that I'm struggling with this small, easily surmountable problem that could have been avoided if I had just folded them up right when they came out of the dryer.

It's clear you love him dearly, but your everyday lifestyles and relationship values aren't in line. And maybe your affection is more conditional than you think -- most of what you say here suggests you want him to be someone he's not.
posted by fritillary at 7:58 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Thank you guys for your responses and private messages. I feel very supported.

Bardolph: Yes, I've gone to therapy for a few years and I'm well aware of how these issues may be a reflection upon me as well and, if not handled correctly, could lead to codependency. I have a healthy amount of self-awareness now. I was in a toxic relationship before as a fragile teenager and I never want a repeat, which is why I'm being extra cautious -- deliberately shining a harsh light on my boyfriend.

Fritillary: he has so many brilliant, respectable aspects that I am constantly reminding him about and that I briefly alluded to, but I am purposefully omitting all of those in the interest of brevity and because I mainly wanted to find a way to deal with his "non-value-neutral" behavior (not merely subjective character/personality differences or lifestyle preferences, but rather issues of dependability: promises, important details, losing valuables). Reason being is that when you date for the long-term and start to think about being responsible not only for yourself but for others' lives (each other, kids, mortgages, employees...what have you), these things can't always be excused just because he has a dazzling personality when he is "on". Ultimately, I'm not trying to change him. But his AD/HD diagnosis is news to me so I need to re-process what this might all mean. So you're right in the sense that I think I'm quietly grieving a small loss of hope that there was a lot more room for improvement than I realize there is now.
posted by doctordrey at 8:24 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Why isn't he medicated? These are major, life disrupting issues that basically require medication to be effectively managed. I'm not suggesting one couldn't learn to live with these disorders without meds but I can't imagine how difficult that would be.
posted by krakenattack at 8:56 PM on August 13


Willie0248, krakenattack, and quince: currently he does not take meds because he struggled for multiple years with horrific experiences. He has made vast improvements with lifestyle adjustments and systems implementations over the past few years and generally seems happier, but I hate to watch him stumble occasionally. He's not against CBT/neurofeedback/etc, but they are currently cost-prohibitive because his health insurance is the pits. Though he's trying natural supplements and other remedies, I'm still trying to nudge him to explore traditional treatment options again.

Also, for those reading this and feeling the same, here are a few resources that were kindly thrown my way via private messages. Someone indicated that it might be great to share them and I agree:

Non-ADD Partner Forum

ADHD Partner Nonfacilitated Yahoo Support Group

A previous AskMefi thread on support groups and another similar question met with lots of fantastic, practical advice

What should I know to date a guy with ADHD? (Reddit)

A discussion (albeit politicized) on drugs and ADHD. Comments contain some insight on what it's like for the ADD person.

For what it's worth, I just want to add that he has made so many inroads since I first met him. They may not be rock solid consistent efforts, but I know he cares and is giving it his all.
posted by doctordrey at 9:08 PM on August 13


Another confirming perspective to add to the chorus regarding proper medical help:

I have ADHD. I did not know this for years and years, mistakenly believing that ADHD was not a real thing. And yet, all through the first 30-ish years of my life I experienced almost the exact same conditions and episodes you describe.

I can't count how many times I heard the phrase "how can you be so thoughtless! what's wrong with you?!" yelled at me as a child. I misplaced EVERYTHING. I forgot so many trivial, trivial things that nobody else had a problem remembering.

As an adult many of my relationships suffered because of this. My job suffered. My life suffered.

In my late twenties I began to suspect that perhaps this ADHD thing was actually a really real thing (despite the 'received wisdom' of so many people in my life that is was made up) and perhaps, just maybe, I had it. I did a ton of research (thank you MeFi) and started talking with counselors and Doctors.

I was extremely hesitant about taking any medications. I'm not a big medicine person, preferring to endure the pain of a headache over popping an aspirin. I was very wary and struggled with the choice for two years. Finally, last year, I decided to do it. I spoke with my primary care doctor about my diagnosis (previously obtained through separate work with a psychiatrist) and we decided on a low-dosage prescription on a trial basis. The idea was that if I didn't like it or if it didn't seem to help I could just stop and we'd look for other ways to treat.

Obviously everybody is different and everyone has a different reaction to these things, which is why working with health professionals trained in these areas is critical. So please, please don't take this answer as an unqualified commendation to 'get medicated'. I'm not a doctor, I'm not your boyfriend's doctor.

All that being said: deciding to get on medication for my ADHD was the absolutely the best decision I could have made for me. In the course this one year on my low-dose, I've experienced the following changes:

- I was finally able to stick to a diet and exercise plan, after years of struggling to do so.
- I lost 35 pounds and have kept them off (see diet reference above)
- I did my first ever endurance sport, a 100-mile bike race
- I finally finished my undergraduate degree
- I received two promotions at work and rose to the top of my team (this after YEARS of being bottom-rung/barely hanging on)*
- My moods are much more predictable and regulated
- I'm more patient with others
- I'm more attentive in meetings
- I don't fidget at movies anymore
- My mind isn't constantly wandering from thought to thought
- I'm still spontaneous, I'm still creative, I'm still whimsical...it's just more of a controlled drip instead of a raging unpredictable torrent


*Before medication, I would do this thing at work where, if I was handed a really big project with no real direction of how to start I'd just get SUPER OVERWHELMED and then I'd mentally check out. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't do the things that everybody else around me seemed to be able to do. I got very poor performance reviews because of it and was constantly afraid of losing my job. After medication: same type of big project, completely different outcome. I didn't get overwhelmed. I just hunkered down and started working. Recently I received a recommendation from the CIO of my company. I have it in writing in my LinkedIn profile for all the world to see. He said "Doleful is extremely competent, he can accomplish in 6 months what takes most people a year".

In all my life I never expected such a thing to be said of me. I always thought I was a lost cause, forever that goofy, spontaneous, but ultimately absent-minded and unreliable kid.

Medication may not be the answer for your SO. Overcoming past bad associations would be extremely challenging and that is understandable. I do think that talking about these things with the right medical professionals will be invaluable for him, and for you. It is worth considering; many people with ADHD can attest to the benefits of proper medication.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:56 PM on August 13 [8 favorites]


"Reason being is that when you date for the long-term and start to think about being responsible not only for yourself but for others' lives (each other, kids, mortgages, employees...what have you), these things can't always be excused just because he has a dazzling personality when he is 'on'."

I think what you said here shines a lot of light on the situation. From the sounds of it, this is the kind of life you want- financial responsibilities, children, being successful. And you want a partner who can really be your partner in those endeavours. All your turmoil about this relationship is coming from a basic incompatibility, where you have this future vision with the type of partner that you will want/need, but the person you are currently with is really not that type of partner and seems unlikely to ever be. Maybe you can take some hope from Doleful Creature's response, and medication might turn your boyfriend into a high-functioning and -achieving person. Maybe he'll continue to progress using other methods. But could you be happy if that never happened? What would you feel like if you knew that he would be exactly as he is now for the rest of your relationship/your lives? Would that be ok with you? Or are you banking on a change that may never come about? I think hanging on to a relationship in the hope that something will be different in the future is unfair on both of you.

Allow yourself to imagine a future with a person who is organised, who would be an excellent co-parent, who can keep track of bills, the car keys, their careers, without your help. Someone who can support you, too, in a relationship where you both build each other up instead of this current lop-sided dynamic. There are people out there who have all the qualities you are having to "excuse" your current boyfriend for not having. There's nothing inherently wrong with how he is, but how he is does seem to not be right for the kind of future you want. Like someone else said, 11 months is a good time to make these kind of long-term goals a priority in your decisions. It sucks to say goodbye to someone you truly love and who is awesome in many other ways, but you really do have some good reasons to say "thanks for the memories, but my future husband/life partner needs to be someone else".
posted by mymbleth at 12:43 AM on August 14 [5 favorites]


Here is another private message I received from someone who wished to remain anonymous:

Hi. I have narcolepsy, plus (although not formally diagnosed) inattentive-ADD-ish stuff. So I'm a lot like your boyfriend. But in behavior...I'm you.

Your boyfriend has got to go on meds at the very least for the narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is not treatable with exercise and meditation, eating your veggies, anything like that. Something is wrong in our brains and we need drugs to control it. It can't be fixed by being a good person with good habits. Medication is nonnegotiable. If it's a concern, Provigil and Nuvigil have rare/no side effects, are not addictive, don't build tolerance, technically aren't even stimulants. They can be pricey with crappy insurance, but doctors have samples, and the manufacturer has programs in place if he looks them up. And Provigil (modafinil) now has a lot of generics to drive the price down.

Most of my ADD stuff can be managed behaviorally, which is why I haven't bothered getting a diagnosis yet. I never lose anything, because I have developed the habit of patting myself down for essentials about every minute, and because all my stuff at home and work has defined places. I never find my keys in the freezer, because as soon as I unlock my door, the keys go in their place (not the freezer). I never lose my phone, because it's in one of only 3 places (one per room). I absolutely have to plan ahead -- usually well in advance -- because otherwise it's not happening because I won't be ready for it. I'm sometimes late, but I never ever ever miss plans because I have a bunch of reminders set up plus I developed the habit of checking my calendar a few times a day. If he absolutely positively cannot develop these routines at all, then meds are the only other way to handle it. One way or another, handling tasks, remembering obligations, and not losing everything are skills everyone needs.

But the biggest element is, unfortunately, giving a shit. I don't wander away, because I want to be with you. I don't ignore e-mails or texts or phone calls, because I want to talk to you, and even if I can't do it right away, I can see the number of unread messages every time I pick up the phone. I do a million spontaneous little gestures for you because I love to make you happy. If I can't remember your preferences, your favorite color or something you mentioned you'd like, I write them down as soon as possible, because I care and I want to please you. I let plenty of stuff slide -- I couldn't begin to guess the last time I vacuumed, or cleaned up my computer. But the people I really, really care about -- ignoring or forgetting them is unthinkable.

So unfortunately there are a couple conclusions I've come to from reading about your situation. This isn't an either-or thing; I think all of them are true at once.

1. He is not taking care of himself, which is forcing you to take care of him as well as yourself. He won't be able to have any healthy relationships (and probably shouldn't date at all) until he can function on his own. Being the caretaker for something like this is not fun or fair, and it's easy to fall into. When he's forcing this pattern (and he is, even passively), you can't say he's a great guy or he has a high EQ. If that were the case, he would be handling his own chronic, solvable issues instead of putting them all on you.

2. Some of the problems that you mention aren't even related to his conditions. He isn't romantic, he can't express his feelings, he doesn't keep promises, he doesn't tell you about his plans. These aren't features of narcolepsy or ADHD. This is just him. Someone is using his conditions as excuses here.

3. He just doesn't care as much as you do. This is really awful, and I've been there too, and it's so hard to realize. But look at your question. You're catering to him, adapting to his needs, arranging everything around him, wondering what more you can do for him and how. I guarantee he isn't putting this kind of thought and worry into his own problems, let alone into you or into your relationship. You're all "how can I adapt to fit him better???" while he doesn't even care enough to reply to an e-mail or schedule a date or choose a card. He could literally e-mail you back while he poops, but he can't give you even that much time and attention. You can't depend on him. You don't even feel like you can ask him for help unless it's absolutely necessary. That is not a normal or OK relationship. We're not talking about your tragically suddenly paralyzed husband of 20 years here. This is a guy who could and should be stepping up, but isn't.

So here's the bottom line: this particular guy and this particular relationship are hella dysfunctional. There are people with narcolepsy and ADD *who will still be sweet and caring and attentive and dependable and thoughtful*, like you and like your friends' boyfriends (a comparison you should absolutely be making at this point). And, obviously, there are people without either condition who will meet you on a level playing field -- or even take care of you a little bit. Wouldn't it be amazing to have someone treat you pretty much the way you're treating your boyfriend? Like mindblowing, unthought-of, how-can-life-be-this-good? Well, you deserve it, and it will never happen while you're with this guy. I'm really sorry.

I know this is super hard to hear. AskMe probably told me to DTMFA about five times before we actually split. I'm not expecting you to do this right away, but I hope once you see -- despite all these big conversations -- how little he changes and how little he cares about everything, you'll remember this and start considering it more seriously. Good luck.
posted by doctordrey at 8:31 AM on August 14 [4 favorites]


So many thoughtful private messages -- sorry I haven't taken the time to personally respond yet. It sounds like a lot of you have experience with this, thanks so much for sharing.

At the risk of sounding like I'm backpedaling, I'm going to say that I realized a few things after reading all of your stellar, gracious advice:

I need to give my boyfriend a lot more credit for the thoughtful things he does do. I made him out to be more aloof and terrible than he really is. He is not forgetful, distracted, inconsiderate, or unresponsive 100% of the time. After reading a lot of others' accounts, I see that he does still take complete ownership of how this affects me and makes tweaks within weeks. Scheduling has gotten so much easier, he rarely forgets to respond to a text/email now (it just sometimes takes a while), he tries to inform/include me, makes plans, keeps a date idea list that we pick from, and he's always checking in on me to make sure I'm okay. It's just that things inevitably get botched or fall through the cracks once in a while due to some other buggy element of his disorders. He misfires a lot and there's some inconsistency in how he fires, but the gesture and thought are almost always there, so it's not a question of whether or not he cares. (Like with the card: turns out he actually bought the card while window shopping and was planning on writing me something thoughtful, but kept putting it off until I coincidentally asked him to write me a letter. That's sweet, right? ...but then he takes one month to actually give it to me.)

So, you could say that now I'm recognizing the pattern from a macro-level and how they add up, and I'm struggling with the sum of all these parts. Ultimately, it's up to me to determine if I can stomach being with someone who is may always be improving/progressing but will -- due to the impossible certainty of AD/HD and narcolepsy -- continue have this negative effect on me, say, 10% of the time. I don't think I'm making excuses for him (though there is probably a teeny bit of that), but I do mainly need to make sure this can still be healthy.

He says he feels lucky to have him and I make him a better person, and I take this with a grain of salt. (Ten years ago, I would've swelled with unhealthy validation at that compliment.) Now, I know that it's just very simple: he does what he needs to take care of his baggage. I do what I need to do to take care of mine. No excuses. Then, we come together, and we work on it in relation to each other to bring out our best sides. We each, on our own, have to hunger to be a better person more than the other person wants us to be a better person.

Thankfully, I know he wants this badly for himself whether or not I'm in the picture. So I'm trying to do what I need to do to process this all. Because not only do I deserve to feel good about himself, but so does he -- with someone who won't harbor resentment in the long run. Hearing from you all is really helping me leave no stone unturned.
posted by doctordrey at 9:48 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


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