When Beloved Has ADD

HOW COME I’m the only grown-up
in this relationship?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Another adorable Phillip Martin graphic.

I get a lot of differently phrased questions from spouses and partners that, essentially, all boil down to the a similar frustration:

How do I deal with ADD
when it’s not my ADD?

Their words are different, their issues are slightly different, and their frustration levels can be anywhere from hopelessness, to exasperation, to panic, to RAGE.

When posted on one of the ADD bulletin boards I try to support, there is usually embarrassment tinged with a light sprinkling of shame in the tone of their posts – as if they should be able to figure it all out without help or information.  So THAT’s a good place to start here.

Your FIRST task is to stop being so hard on yourself –– for your frustrations OR for posting them on “ADD sites.”  I promise you that those sites are are frequented by a lot of other spouses desperate for information before they commit Hari Kari – or worse!

Most people, myself included, admire your willingness to use that safety valve and the honesty with which you post your frustrations.  It IS frustrating to be “forced” to deal with an Executive Functioning Disorder as confusing as ADD/EFD, especially when it isn’t even your own!

One of the things I always need to remind the ADD half in couples coaching is that the non-ADDers deserve extra credit for sticking around rather than running away screaming!  Being pre-frontal cortex backup is NOT an appropriate part of the “standard” deal.

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Help is On the Way

In my own unique ADD Poster Girl approach to writing (more like juggling than anything else), I am working on a book and developing a series of TeleClasses designed to help ADDers by supporting those that love them: When Beloved Has ADD . . . alternatives to murder and divorce.

Neither are ready for “publication” at this time, but a few recent posts on ADDerWorld that brought me to tears have encouraged me to begin to add some of the Beloved content to the blog NOW rather than waiting until I have something more “official” to announce.

SOME of the content you will find in the these posts will be excerpts from the upcoming Beloved book, some will be “out-takes,” and some will answer questions sent by email or posted in the comments section at the end of any of the Beloved articles — this one, or those to come.

So check out the “from my books” option from time to time, or sign up for notification of new posts, and dump your frustrations and your questions here.

Thanks, but what do I DO about it NOW?

While there are LOTS of parameters to even the simplest of the questions I receive, my answer is usually some flavor of the following comment:

If your marriage is to survive, you need to come up with some solutions together that will allow the multi-flavored ADD/EFDer (neurodiverse) to feel lovingly supported and the more “vanilla-brained” partner (neurotypical) to feel appreciated for his or her competency and support, and not like “the only grown-up in the room.”

The good news is that if you do the work, your marriage will not only survive, but will result in a relationship that is stronger and closer than the relationship of your fondest hopes and wildest dreams.

The not-so-good news

Whether you stay together or ultimately decide that you simply must move on, if you aren’t up to doing the work in your current relationship with your current partner, you still won’t get off scott-free. I’m not speaking only of battle-scars here. Stay or go, you will recreate the same struggles and frustrations over and over until you handle them.

Your leading man or lady may change – perhaps many times – but you will continue to bang your head against the same walls with each new change of cast.  That, by the way, will be the case whether you are the ADDer or the non-ADDer in your relationship.

I have come to embrace the Imago concepts of Harville Hendrix. I have had the benefit of a front-row seat to The ADD Circus™ long enough to observe, in many different arenas, what Hendrix articulates so clearly in his books: we are subconsciously/unconsciously attracted to our partners FOR the very qualities that will drive us crazy over time.  Because that’s where the work is!  We come together to heal together.

“You don’t heal childhood in therapy,” says Hendrix, “You don’t do it with a book; you don’t do it alone. You have to have somebody who’s significant to you respond to your needs in a specific way, because your unconscious mind responds primarily to a particular kind of person who is similar to the people you were around in childhood.” [Source: see Whole Again link below]

Whether we realize it consciously or NOT, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Male or Female?

It’s interesting to note that most non-ADD/EFD women seem to have an easier time with the “life support” role than do most non-ADD/EFD men.  For a similar reason, most ADD/EFD women seem to have a much tougher time in a relationship with a non-ADD/EFD male.

Unfortunately, a “standard expectation” of women in most cultures is some sort of “woman’s auxiliary” function.  Since far too many men still take it for granted that wives handle “this kind of helpmate stuff,” he can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with his Beloved that she can’t?  

For that matter, what’s wrong with his Beloved
that she can’t even manage to handle her own stuff?!

Equally unfortunately, a “standard expectation” of men in most cultures is that they will be able to provide a steady stream of cash to fund the family dreams, as well as function as the jack-of-all-trades handyman.

Many a neurotypical women is beside herself when her ADD/EFD Beloved seems to expect her to be responsible for bringing home the bacon as well as “frying it up in a pan,” to loosely quote a lyric from a song equating “woman” with Super-Woman  – and, by the way, why can’t she keep the stove spotless and in working repair while she’s at it?

But whether the question is from a harried male who feels like his Beloved is not holding up her end of some sort of “standard” expectation, or whether it’s from an exhausted female who feels the same way, I know that the situation has moved over into the red-line zone long before I read their questions.

If I’d only KNOWN, I never would have gotten involved!

I’m willing to bet you a lifetime of free coaching that whatever it is that’s driving you bug-nutty NOW is an offshoot of something you  “ignored” when you were falling in love (or something you rationalized, or saw as a WONDERFUL quality) — right up until you hit the relationship wall.

EVEN if Beloved’s recent ADD diagnosis is the straw that’s breaking your camel’s back, he or she didn’t develop ADD behaviors only after diagnosis, right?

Even if you had known before, your inner dialogue might now be relanguaged to, “If only I had understood what an ADD diagnosis meant, I never would have . . .”

But nothing you tell yourself now or might have told yourself then is actually true.
We choose our Beloveds FOR their qualities, ADD affect and all.

Now that you are in the relationship pool, you’re ready to kill because you’re scared to let go of the side!

I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that Beloved’s behavior is ten times worse right now because you are both approaching getting what you need in ways that scare the other one to death.

So you both dig in and defend – which looks an awful lot like purposely making the life of the other a living hell!

We’ll work on finding healthy and effective ways for you BOTH to get what you need and deserve, but for right now, take a d-e-e-p breath and do your best to simply believe me when I tell you that THIS is the gift – where the work is, where your transformation is blocked.

ALL the relationship goodies are beyond that “wall” of “I can’t deal with this another minute!” – as is your own inner healing, the need for which is bringing everything to the surface in this manner.

The relationship you dreamed of is right there –  behind that wall of pain, rejection and reaction. As awful as it feels (and I promise you I DO know how awful it feels from personal experience), there is a shiny silver lining to this blackest of clouds, whether you work it out with this Beloved or not.

Don’t give up yet!  ADD Beloveds can provide the spark that will keep you young and your marriage exciting. One short year from now you can be in an entirely different place – which isn’t much time at all to invest in a relationship that can remain loving and vital for an entire lifetime!

Start by clicking through to Ten Tips to help you Handle Beloved’s ADD.

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Stay tuned . . . MUCH more to come in this series.

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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

Related articles around the ‘net

Some GREAT ADD content links

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

8 Responses to When Beloved Has ADD

  1. Bernadette says:

    It isn’t always easy being married to an ADHD spouse but you are right he does add sparkle and color to my world. Sometimes the ride has been wild and crazy but always more exciting than it would have been with someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Madelyn, your insight is absolutely awesome.


  3. Pingback: Domino Problems | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. mysterycoach says:

    I really didn’t care for ADD being referred to as a disability… I prefer personality quirk. Deal with it. While it may be true, I never viewed it as a “disability” just something to work around.


    • mysterycoach says:

      Oh, the “deal with it” is as to others. It wasn’t intended to be at you. Thought I should clarify !

      Liked by 1 person

    • I actually agree with you, for the most part. ADD becomes a “dis-ability” when we are required to accomplish things in ways that are “non-native.”

      Thom Hartmann reminds us all that the folks who have what I refer to as the “vanilla” brain-style (before the “mix-ins”) are in the majority. ONLY because they are do those of us with the ADD brain-style show up as a having a disability. If WE were in the majority, those vanillas would have Overfocusing Disorder – OFD. And they would be similarly “disabled” in ways that would force them to struggle to adapt to the manner in which we would create systems, etc.

      The power in accepting the term (besides being legally part of the American’s with Disabilities Act), is that we are reminded that we are NOT “Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy” – but that we DO need our work-arounds if we expect to “fit in” with a world we would have created in a different manner.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment.


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