My partner has ADHD and I need ways of understanding/coping with his behavior so I can maintain my sanity.
posted by anonymous to human relations (30 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
We live together, are in our mid 30s, no kids, and have been together for four years. My boyfriend was diagnosed with ADHD about a year later. He was on meds (Ritalin) for about a year, but stopped taking them because he felt like he was weak for needing drugs, and because he didn't like the side effects. We had a major confrontation where I insisted he go back on them or go back to the doctor to get a different prescription. He occasionally takes them now, but mostly "forgets," and he's "forgotten" to make an appointment with the doctor despite many reminders. He's also "forgotten" to make an appointment for couples counseling (I don't have insurance and I don't know which doctors are on his plan, so I can't make the appointment.). I suspect that some of this forgetfulness is passive-aggressiveness. I've been as supportive as I know how to be; I've read up on ADHD, I've assured him that I don't think less of him and I have tried to be patient with his distractedness, forgetfulness, and irresponsibility.
But sometimes I just reach my limit and I don't know how to handle this any better than I have been. He pays the rent, because his income is much more than mine (I pay the utilities and many other incidentals). He is late with the rent EVERY SINGLE MONTH despite my reminders. Our landlord is pretty passive and hasn't insisted on late fees, but we're planning to move at the end of our lease and I'm afraid he won't give us a good reference. He's late with other bills and has completely destroyed his credit, so that any major purchases must be made by me. He's tried various organizational tools such as financial software, but doesn't stick with it. He has most of his bills set up on auto-pay, but they frequently bounce.
Then there's the housework. I won't say he doesn't do anything, because he can be extremely helpful in short bursts, but if we've planned to clean the house on a given day, it's like pulling teeth. I accept that he'll always be naturally messier than I am (and I am far from a neat freak), but I don't know how to deal with the constant promises of "Oh, I'll clean that up tomorrow" only to have the mess sit there for weeks. He plays video games and watches TV instead of doing his laundry, and then has no clean clothes to wear. This kind of stuff bothers me the most because he fails to plan or procrastinates and ends up stressed out, and doesn't seem to learn any lesson at all from this. He loses his stuff constantly (phone, keys, wallet) and can't learn to put it in the same place every day.
I'm sensitive to the fact that people with ADHD have been called lazy and stupid much of their lives, and he is a pretty classic case, having dropped out of college numerous times, bounced around different jobs, etc. His mother is a rescuer, and probably would still do his laundry if I wasn't in the picture. I refuse to be a parent to him and refuse to clean up his messes (literally and figuratively). He is extremely sensitive to what he perceives as nagging or accusation. 95% of our fights begin with me saying something like "Hey, did you get a chance to do task X yet?" and him spiraling into "I can't ever do anything right, can I?"
His ADHD seems to affect his work and he's frequently very stressed out because he's behind due to his inability to focus (his boss is also certifiably insane, but that's another issue). I've tried to get him to exercise, to meditate, to do anything to relieve the stress, but it seems like all he wants to do is watch TV and play videogames, which don't seem to do anything as far as stress relief because he's still up half the night fretting.
Despite all this, I really do love him. He's sweet, generous, intelligent, funny and he absolutely adores me. I do believe he tries his best to make me happy. I really want to stay with him - this is not a "should I leave" question. However, I won't stay "no matter what" - I've already threatened to leave because of his temper (verbal, not physical), and he's completely changed in that regard, so I know he can control at least that much. I just want to know if there is any better way to approach a partner with ADHD.
It should be said that I am not the most easygoing person in the world. I have an anxiety disorder as well as issues with abandonment. I know the ADHD feeds into these things, as I often feel like I'm not exciting enough for him. Because of the distractibility, sometimes I don't even feel like I'm there. (Example: if we go to a restaurant with a TV in the dining area, he becomes fixated on the TV to the exclusion of our conversation.) I have worked on these issues in therapy on my own (and I'm on medication), but I haven't figured out a way to reconcile them with the ADHD.