Mary comes home from a busy day at work to find her unemployed husband Joe glued to the TV playing video games. The groceries he bought are sitting in bags on the kitchen counter. Mary becomes so upset she begins to cry. Joe reassures her that it is not as bad as it looks. He says he just sat down to play ten minutes ago. He explains that he had done the grocery shopping, put in a couple of loads of laundry and sent out some resumes. That did not calm Mary. As he follows his wife to the kitchen, Joe notices that he had not put the groceries away and begins to do so now. Mary asks “Where is the car?” Looking surprised, he replies that he had left it in the driveway when he drove back from the grocery store three hours ago. Mary says, “I found it in the driveway – still running and the keys were in the ignition. I left it that way so you could see for yourself. Go take a look!” Joe goes out and comes back with the car keys shaking his head and says, “I can’t believe I did that!” Mary angrily replies, “What do you mean? You do something careless like that almost every single day! You are so clueless!” Joe looks down at his feet, ashamed and hurt by the truth of his wife’s accusation says, “I am sorry.” Mary feeling bad says, “I’m sorry too. I am very sorry. I love you Joe, but you are making me crazy. I do not like who I am becoming with you. I feel like an angry parent, trying to reign in a little boy who cannot get his act together. But you are my husband!” “But I love you Mary. I need you! “Joe replies. “Yes I know you need me, Joe. You need me too much and that is the problem.”
Sometimes your spouse stops feeling like a partner, an equal. Sometimes, like Mary felt, your spouse becomes more dependent, almost like a child. This problem can be due to an unequal division of labour and responsibilities because one of you (usually the woman) is highly organized or responsible and the other, (usually the man) is distracted, a procrastinator or depressed. The other reason your spouse can begin to feel too dependent, as in Joe and Mary’s marriage, is because your spouse, like Joe has undiagnosed ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).
Characteristics of Adults with ADD
If you are wondering if your spouse has ADD, the following summarizes some of the characteristics according to Edward M. Hallowell in Married to Distraction.
- Unexplained underachievement due to inconsistency – some days they are brilliant – other days the opposite.
- Easy distractibility combined with an ability to concentrate intensely – this wandering attention, going to where curiosity takes them is a hallmark symptom of ADD, but the hyper focus of attention to what engages them is a characteristic which counter balances the distraction
- Trouble with time management – there are two times: now and not now- so they often put things off until the last
- Tendency to be impulsive and creative – spontaneity, dis-inhibition and impulsivity can produce creativity for those with ADD.
- Search for high stimulation – boredom must be relieved immediately.
- Insistence for freedom and independence – constraints of any sort are resisted vehemently.
- Tendency to be impatient even when the conversation is pleasant like a romantic one: “So you love me, what’s your next point?”
- Tendency to be stubborn – like to be rid of whatever is in their way.
- Problems with organization, planning, and prioritizing.
- Tendency toward compulsive activities like gambling, sex, spending, electronics, eating, drinking or drugs.
- Unstable mood can often change rapidly without any apparent cause.
- Needless worry results when they hyper focus gets on a concern and cannot let it go.
- Low self esteem – is a consequence of experiencing disappointments, inconsistent performance, reprimands, and
lectures on their poor follow through. Eventually they believe themselves to be fundamentally flawed.
- High energy – not always hyperactive, but tend to have lots of energy
- Intuitive – can see into people and problems and have a knack for solving problems where intuition has an important role.
- Sensitive- often they feel what others feel and can be easily hurt themselves.
- Generous –sometimes they are so big-hearted they have trouble looking out for themselves.
- Trouble listening – and in particular and following sequential instructions.
- Involved in many projects simultaneously – they like beginnings but not middles and ends.
- Family history – there is usually a genetic background of ADD, or related conditions like depression, bi-polar
disorder, anxiety disorders or substance abuse.
- Co-existing conditions – like depression, anxiety, learning disabilities
- Life challenges – until there is a diagnosis, acceptance and treatment they usually have difficulty holding a job, maintaining a marriage, keeping friendships, following up on obligations.
What to Do
If you or your spouse see yourself in the traits listed above, then it would be really wise for you to get help. Learning whether you have ADD and getting the appropriate treatment for it.
- Educate yourself by reading Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell or other books that teach you about adults with ADD.
- Get treatment from a professional that won’t just give you medication.
- Evaluate your talents and strengths,
- Seek out coaching on career and lifestyle changes
- Counselling may be helpful for dealing with the many emotions the diagnosis brings up
- Couples counselling to help you each learn more about the traits of ADD, shift expectations and learn to accommodate and support each other better.
Undiagnosed ADD and the problems that emerge from misunderstood people with ADD can ruin lives. Once diagnosed, understood and accepted, the positive aspects of ADD can soar to the surface and turn a miserable life into a happier one. It can really help a partner or spouse to adjust their own expectations to reduce disappointments and frustrations. If you are like Mary feeling your spouse is more dependent, almost more like a child than an equal, knowing the strengths and challenges can help a great deal. With this knowledge and appropriate expectations and with their improved self knowledge of ADD changes into a good satisfying relationship are possible.