Tag Archives: ADHD

Sorry You Asked

Achilles heel statue

(Image/Beth Clayton)

I took down the MBTTTR “Ask Me Stuff” page because someone email-yelled at me about a large amount of unanswered questions last week, and I think she’s right.

I am not discouraging questions moving forward, nor do I want to give the impression that I’d prefer that people not reach out. I hope people who want to will continue to in comments or by email.

But the pile of unanswered questions might be causing harm, and that’s something I needed to fix, because I could.

Here’s the strongly worded email I received which prompted me to make the change. (There are more bad words than even I usually say, which I’m guilty of liking.)

I wasn’t going to share it, but it’s pretty good, so I’m going to. Different people always react differently to things, so I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say.

I found your blog this past weekend like so many other women do…out of sheer desperation. I understand you have a day job and have your son 50% of the time. However, get ready, because you’re about to get your ass ripped.

You put this blog online and encourage comments. You say, “Ask me anything!” and then you NEGLECT to respond or answer your comments for MONTHS AND MONTHS AT A TIME!!! WHAT THE FUCK, MATT!!!!

What the fuck is wrong with you?! You have all these earth shattering realizations as a failed husband after your wife leaves you, and then you blog about it only to then NEGLECT the very women who reach out to you for help afterwards?! WTF DID YOU EXPECT TO HAPPEN AFTER YOU STARTED BLOGGING ABOUT SHITTY HUSBANDS?!

It is morally reprehensible for you to leave these wounded wives out there hanging FOREVER WITH ZERO ANSWERS bc you’ve just decided to abandon them like their husbands have. The second you took up your cause and ASKED FOR PEOPLE TO WRITE TO YOU, you owed them an answer back, even if you don’t have the answer to their specific problem(s).

Reading your blog initially gave me hope, but once I saw you left your small following hanging month after month after MONTH without responses to their numerous comments, I saw you fundamentally haven’t changed as a man. You really don’t care about these wounded, abused, desperate women calling out to you for help. You rarely reply to ANY comments on your blog and when you do it’s months after their desperate pleas for your feedback. It physically sickens me as a woman, a fellow Ohioan, and a wife of a shitty husband, although I must say my own husband puts you to shame. He’s a much better husband than you could probably ever be.

You should be fucking ashamed of yourself. I personally don’t give two fucks how busy you are, or what your excuses are for not replying to these comments in a more timely manner. You took it upon yourself to request feedback. You knew what that would mean.

Do these desperate women a favor and delete your blog because all you’re doing is disappointing and wounding these exasperated and desperate women more than they already are. These women, more so than anyone else, deserve more than to be simply ignored…especially by you, of all people. You’re exacerbating their pain by not replying to their comments. Asshole. As you would say.

Most Sincerely,

Wife of a “Shitty Husband” and former reader of a “Shitty Blogger.”

P.S. You’re an Asshole.

The “P.S. You’re an Asshole.” was a nice touch, I thought.

Because I AM kind of an asshole, my initial reaction was to respond with: “Thanks for the feedback. Now please go fuck yourself,” which is precisely the sort of instincts that will get you divorced and make strangers hate you. I DID NOT respond with that, which is a decision I’m pleased with.

However, I did go instantly into Defense Mode: Who the hell is this, and why does she think it’s okay to talk to me like this? I tend to get defensive anytime someone finds fault with, or takes offense to, something I did or didn’t do, as if I can’t make mistakes or as if all of my actions are somehow flawless and above reproach. It’s a bad habit that probably keeps me from growing into a better human being, and I know it’s a VERY bad habit for two people in a relationship.

If I’ve learned anything about what ended my marriage, and what ends many relationships, it’s that saying and believing “It’s not my fault!” a bunch of times will earn you a divorce, and you’ll probably deserve it EVEN IF the thing is really not your fault.

If your marriage isn’t more important to you than your ego, and if wanting your spouse to feel good and loved within your marriage isn’t more important to you than winning some meaningless fight, your relationship is going to be shitty anyway, and if it doesn’t end, you’ll probably both want it to.

I sat on the angry note for a day, and read it four or five times, because

  1. When you live in discomfort long enough, it loses its edge, and you can operate more effectively within it. Like weightlifting or yoga for your mental/emotional health.
  2. The truth hurts.
  3. Because the truth hurts anytime it’s inconvenient, I’ve learned to recognize the feeling, and I suspected she was right. After some reflection, I decided that she is. I shouldn’t solicit questions if I’m going to leave them hanging with no responses, PARTICULARLY if a lack of response could in any way be piling on to an already painful experience. In other words, I realized pretty quickly that just because I thought she was overreacting doesn’t mean she was.

She was going to bat for a bunch of people scared and hurting as they feel their marriages and families falling apart, and might think there’s a lifeline bit of information out there that might save them. It doesn’t matter that they shouldn’t ask me. It doesn’t matter that I can’t help. It doesn’t matter that no one understands what my life looks like logistically. No excuse or reason I can offer matters.

  1. Someone hurts.
  2. When I did or did not do something that I could have to make it better, by default, I was making it worse. It doesn’t matter that my intentions weren’t to do that. It doesn’t matter that I might disagree with someone else’s opinions. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe they SHOULD be hurt. They still hurt anyway. Those with the ability to do something good, should. Always. It’s easy for me to rationalize that I don’t owe to blog readers what husbands owe to their wives. DOESN’T MATTER. I was wrong to provide an environment for people hurting from the very thing I’m trying to help reduce instances of, to hurt even more because when they called out for help, no one ever came.

In marriage and relationships, sometimes our spouses or partners call out for help. If we’re not going to, who will?

Inevitably, someone will think knee-jerk reacting to ONE complaint is a bad life strategy. That’s probably true. But before we all thought of him as a huge creep who drugs and sexually assaults women, Bill Cosby said something important once, that I now wish I could attribute to someone else. He said: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

And that’s my life right now. I’m trying to do many things well, and while trying to juggle them all, every one of them suffers.

But, guess what? No one cares. Nor should they.

Here’s something I KNOW from my work by day as an internet marketer who works with big data: If one person thinks and feels something, a bunch of other people do, too.

They may not be the majority. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter.

I’m Sorry to Everyone Who Asked for Help and Never Even Got a Ring Buoy Thrown Your Way

I really do owe them all an apology. Unanswered comments. Unanswered emails. I can’t even fathom a guess how many of those there are. Too many.

It’s hard to explain myself to other people. Maybe everyone feels that way about themselves.

I get upset when people tell me that I don’t care.

That I don’t really care about families and people who are suffering. That I don’t actually mean the things I say or write.

And that’s because I do care. Very much.

I’m just shitty at several facets of communication that are probably exacerbated by ADHD and trying to do too many things—trying to please everybody, instead of just saying no more often.

My nine-year-old and I were playing video games this weekend. A cooperative one where two strangers were playing with us thanks to the magic of the internet. While trying to defeat a giant robot monster together, our little digital fireteam kept failing because we couldn’t get all of the players to stick together.

Many people who play these games use headphones and microphones to communicate with each other. I don’t do that because I’m 38 years old and there’s no way I’m voice-chatting with a bunch of 10-year-olds or other nerdy dads and moms playing PlayStation, and also because I don’t want my little boy hearing strangers say all of the inappropriate things he probably already hears me saying.

My son said: “You know why they’re doing it wrong, dad? Because you can’t communicate. How can we expect them to know what to do if we can’t communicate?”

It was—seriously—the wisest thing I’d ever heard my son say, and I told him so twice.

Seems simple. Communication. So simple, I think, that we don’t always recognize how significant a failure to communicate effectively can damage us and our efforts in whatever we’re working on personally or professionally.

It’s easily my life’s biggest Achilles heel, and probably always has been.

I’m sorry to anyone adversely affected by it—especially those who reached out during times of intense pain and vulnerability, only to be met with silence which probably felt just like: “I don’t care about you or your life.”

The angry email asked me to delete the blog. I’m not going to do that. But I thought this might be the first step toward reconciling something that might have been doing more harm than good.

I hope, someday, I’ll be doing some of these things much better.

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Unidentified ADHD Probably Ended My Marriage

(Image/cognitivetherapysf.com)

(Image/cognitivetherapysf.com)

Okay. How do I explain this so people can understand?

Favor request: Please set aside any preconceived notions, biases or opinions you have about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD. Less than a year ago, I thought it was a bullshit, totally made-up thing drug companies used to sell pills to kids who were just being kids, or undisciplined, irresponsible adults who didn’t want to grow up.

But then I was introduced to other explanations.

For this post, maybe imagine that “ADHD” is a generic umbrella label to describe common behaviors you may believe to be nothing more than immaturity.

Is that too boring of an intro? Should I maybe just write about how I experience life? Probably. But I’m out of time. Dammit.

I write about marriage and relationships a lot because my parents divorced when I was little and I got a divorce a few years ago and it was all very bad for me. Because of how bad it was, I’ve worked almost as hard as someone like me can to figure out why it happened, because I never want to go through it again.

I look around and see things that should be better than they are: the political process and how elected officials conduct themselves (I’m American); our public education system; the insane economics of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries; silly rules at my job, or the inefficiencies I run into unexpectedly just living daily life. You know the ones I’m talking about. Like when a company screws you over with crap service or an accounting error, and then when you call their customer service line, you have to give your full name, phone number, and account number to the automated system only to have the person who picks up following 35 minutes of ‘80s-pop-song elevator music ask for your full name, phone number, and account number a second time.

“Why don’t you already know this, Call Center Person!?” God.

In many industries, there are accepted “best practices.” After trying something a kazillion different ways, the people with the most knowledge and experience conducting a particular process or task compared notes and settled on a mostly universal “best way” of doing whatever they’re doing.

Because there are—forgive the expression—multiple ways to skin a cat, there are sometimes many very good ways to do something, which is great. All good ways are probably good.

I feel like with today’s technology and global mobility, we should be able to easily figure out what those good or best ways are.

Take the United States for example. Our biggest and most-debated problems are what? National security. Government debt. Illegal immigration. Public education (including the insane and financially unworthy cost of higher education). Health care. Environmental policy. And all the social issues people scream about.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at national security.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at managing finances.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at handling immigration, or the education system, or achieving high citizen satisfaction in (insert thing you care about here).

And at the risk of oversimplifying complex issues, I’m always dumbfounded by the deliberate choice people or organizations make to NOT do things in a way proven to be successful. Why not just round up the five leading experts on any given subject, or study the five most successful governments or organizations at whatever problem you’re trying to solve, and model solutions after them? I don’t get it.

Good God. Look how long this ranty tangent was! Over 350 words! Just so I could make a silly point about marital best practices which wasn’t even the main reason I’m writing this! People sometimes complain that I write too much. Maybe this will help them understand why. No. They probably stopped reading already, or ignored this altogether. I wonder if the people who called me fat, boring and pathetic this morning are reading. They probably still think I’m boring and pathetic. Fine. But, fat? I only weigh 173 pounds fully dressed with stuff in my pockets. I wanted to tell them, too, because: Screw those bastards, but then even more people would see how defensive I am. Which is what’s happening right now. Dammit.

There is a “best way” to behave in marriage. Just like there’s a best way to manufacture corrugated polyethylene highway drainage pipe, and a best way to design emergency stairwells in high-rise buildings, and a best way to prepare and bake angel food cake.

There is—taking into account the differing needs of our partners, children, and lifestyle—an optimum way to treat those we love, and give our relationships the best chance for success. Best practices for dating and marriage, if you will.

I think it’s worthwhile to try to figure out what those best practices are. That’s why I write about this stuff all the time. I don’t know anything, so I try to write in the first-person to make it clear that I KNOW I don’t know anything.

I just think things.

And I’m mega-ADHD! Are they getting this? I can’t believe how long this is getting. That’s what she said.

Because I write a lot about relationships, people sometimes ask me questions I don’t have answers for. I created the Ask Me Stuff page because I thought it might be a cool way to interact with readers and generate good writing topics, not because I actually know enough about anything to help people. But still, people ask me stuff. One frequently asked question in comments and emails following the new and unexpected attention this blog received from a recent popular post focused on to what extent I thought my ADHD behavior contributed to my divorce.

I didn’t even know enough to ask that question before last spring when I was diagnosed.

The most honest answer I can think of is: No matter how real ADHD is, I exhibit a series of specific behaviors consistent with the ADHD diagnosis which I believe not only doomed my marriage, but also damages many of my other relationships. I tend to have great relationships with people I see regularly, people who love me unconditionally, people who exhibit patience and don’t take personally my erratic and infrequent communication, and everyone who totally relates because they’re the exact same way.

Everyone else gets inconsistent attention from me, and that sometimes causes friction and hurt feelings for some people, and sometimes that ends with me never talking to them again, which isn’t ideal.

I think if my wife and I had more knowledge about, and respect for, ADHD (along with everything I’ve learned about relationship dynamics in the past four years), I’m pretty sure our marriage would have survived, and maybe thrived, with fewer fights and headaches.

We’re 1,000 words in, and I haven’t done what I set out to do. Maybe some of the people who don’t think I’m fat and pathetic and boring will keep reading. Do I really look THAT fat in the photo? Maybe I should have a new one taken. I totally should. Maybe I’ll look skinnier. Probably not. Dammit.

Does Your Partner Have ADHD?

Here are some things that have always been true about me, and because I didn’t know there was another way to experience life, I never wondered whether it was weird that these things happened.

Through the prism of hindsight, I remember all these little moments where my wife must have thought I was a stupid moron, but since she can tell by things I say and think that I’m sometimes smart, certain ADHD moments must have felt to her like I was doing them intentionally, or at best, mindlessly as if I didn’t respect her. You know—like leaving a glass by the sink, or forgetting about some event on the calendar she had mentioned three times, or putting off a home-improvement project she wanted me to do or help with.

You can be talking directly to me and I can be paying attention to you, and then you’ll see my eyes sometimes wander off because something you said triggered another thought, OR something weighing heavily on my mind overpowered your story for a second and I accidentally thought about it instead. She used to say: “Please look at me, and not through me.”

I, along with most people with an ADHD diagnosis, have a superpower. We can sometimes “hyperfocus.” It happens a lot when I’m writing. It happens when I’m meeting a girl for the first time. It happens when I’m reading a good book or article. It happens when I feel particularly motivated to finish a project or am up against a deadline. And because we can demonstrate competence, attention to detail, and the ability to complete complex tasks successfully, it must appear to some during other times as if we are bored, disengaged, thoughtless, stupid, high, mean, or neglectful. Maybe even some other bad things. Sometimes I’m awesome at stuff. And sometimes, I feel overwhelmed in ways hard to describe.

But I wanted to try (and totally failed) in this post! I guess I’ll try again Monday. Maybe if I can accurately capture how I experience a day, or an event, or life management tasks, something will make sense to someone.

I’m sometimes awesome at idea generation but bad at execution.

I misplace things.

I sometimes forget a portion of a set of instructions, making something harder than it needs to be, or failing altogether.

I often avoid things requiring sustained mental effort (long conversations I am not motivated to have, reading and answering email, making phone calls for personal or professional reasons that will take a lot of time, including my parents and other family).

I talk a lot.

And the most interesting (to me): I have trouble estimating how long something will take. I struggle with time perception. People with ADHD often do not develop the ability to accurately gauge the passage of time. Like, moving from task to task at an appropriate speed when getting ready for work or my son ready for school. Or mapping out a future schedule where I block out time necessary to accomplish something (like writing a book). Or remembering to make restaurant reservations or doctor appointments with sufficient time clearance.

I read one neurologist say: “To an ADHDer, there are only two types of time: NOW or NOT NOW.” And yeah, that sounds about right. I procrastinate in ways I imagine most people could never believe or understand. (My navity set is still out from the holidays, and just this morning I found some unopened Christmas cards in a stack of mail in my kitchen. Seriously.)

Maybe it’s the way my brain naturally works. Maybe it’s just a lifetime of bad habit formation. I won’t pretend to know.

But ADHD behavior is commonly interpreted by people who don’t understand as self-centered and/or narcissistic.

And it makes sense to me why spouses dealing with those behaviors without information they need to manage it effectively can find their lives and relationships spiraling out of control and ending in painful, messy failure.

In my experience, having an explanation or reason for why things are a certain way can make all the difference in the world in my ability to deal emotionally or psychologically with things that suck. Maybe if ADHD is affecting you or your relationship, and then you connected those dots, you’d feel better and maybe as if you now have some control and the power to make things better.

They say knowledge is power. So, if any of this makes sense to you? Get powerful.

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‘Got any suggestions for this exhausted wife?’

exhausted-mother

Exhausted Wife wrote: “So I recently read your open letter to shitty husbands, and actually got my husband to read them too. It is like you are writing about our relationship. Completely accurate. A little scary actually and makes me feel sad for us because I can see the same end result happening. We’ve been together for five years, married for less than one, have a 2-year-old and one on the way.
He said that reading your letters was eye opening, and seemed to be making some solid changes… yet here we are a couple of weeks later and the same patterns resurfacing. Leaving all ‘tough’ stuff on me regarding taking care of our son, sitting on his phone/laptop constantly; myself and my son being ignored while he’s watching videos, playing video games, etc. He also has ADHD and knows these distractions cause problems, yet continues to do them. Recently began taking medication to help his ADHD, however I don’t believe that it’s making much difference.
I am at a loss for what to do. I’ve tried everything I can, begged him to change his priorities, tried to make deals with him so he gets some ‘down time,’ given as much as I can, withheld and distanced myself, gotten mad, threatened to leave, left and came back. It’s the same old story.
I’m 7 months pregnant, take care of my son full-time, work part-time and spent an hour and a half the other night trying to get my son to sleep while my husband watched videos in bed. Afterwards, because I was upset, he offered to put him to sleep the next night and give me a break, but it doesn’t change the fact that I needed him the night before but his need to relax was more important than mine. I don’t know how to get through to him. I don’t know if I can even.
Got any suggestions for this exhausted wife? I am afraid that things are never going to change and I’m wasting my time and energy with a man who is more selfish than I can handle.”

This is what the average marriage looks like and why so many are creeping toward divorce.

The classic reasons a husband drove his wife to leave him (or to become seduced by another man giving her attention) tended to be some combination of infidelity, abuse and neglect. Behaviors we all looked at and universally thought: “Wow. What an asshole!”

The majority of modern divorces aren’t like that. They’re just two regular people we all know and believed were a great couple until one of our mutual friends tells us over lunch: “Oh my God. Did you hear that Katie and Mark are getting divorced? They seemed so great together!”

Most broken marriages today fall into the generic silo of “Irreconcilable Differences.”

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what that meant. I was raised in a conservative Catholic household where divorce was considered sinful. So, mom, why did you leave dad and move us 500 miles away when I was in preschool? I often wondered.

It scared me that I might one day learn that dad cheated on mom, or hit her, or was a neglectful prick (which would have been super-inconsistent with my experiences with him).

And it turns out, none of those things happened. They just “couldn’t make it work.”

My parents were really young and poor. We lived in an Iowa trailer park.

Two kids in their early 20s trying to raise a kid and do the right thing.

I was married four years before my son was born, and my ex might disagree, but I have predominately fond memories of our pre-child marriage. The adjustment from two people doing whatever they want, to everything we do now has a “is this okay for our child?” backdrop to it, is dramatic.

I can’t even fathom how hard it must have been on two young people who knew each other for less than a year.

Historically, mothers bear the greatest burden when children are conceived. They carry the child, deliver the child, try to figure out what the shit is happening inside their minds and bodies as their hormone levels and body chemistry freak out without warning while they also secretly worry about their sexual desirability with their post-pregnancy bodies, and—oh yeah—have a new human being to raise from ages 0-18+ with no instruction manual, and it’s absolutely terrifying at first.

More things change in a permanent and scary way for mothers following the birth of a child than they do for fathers.

So many of the child-rearing responsibilities in our kids’ first year of life fall into the category of what chauvinistic and sexist men overtly or secretly consider “women’s work.” Things like feeding, and clothing, and bathing. Our grandmothers and mothers did it, so we just grew up thinking it was “the way” and ended up dumping our wives with more responsibilities without ever wondering whether it was fair, actively volunteering to help, expressing our gratitude, or providing the emotional and spiritual support necessary to help them not break down.

We men hold our babies and we feel the intense love we have for them. That’s real. But we’re often daydreaming about when they’re bigger three or four years from now so we can start doing all the “dad” stuff with them we remember doing with our fathers. That’s the stuff that really gives us the feels.

We look at our wives caring for our children and we feel the intense love we have for them. That’s real. But we’re often daydreaming about spontaneous weekend getaways, and spontaneous sex against the bathroom vanity, but most importantly—the way things used to be when she was totally into me.

Little known secret: Men often feel neglected and abandoned when their children are born and take all of their wife’s attention from him. But because, A. We love our children above all things, and B. We’re prideful and consider whining for the attention and adoration we crave a sign of weakness, we never tell anyone about it.

New fathers leave an unfair amount of work and responsibility to their wives because that’s often the arrangement they saw play out in their family, in other families, and on TV while growing up.

New mothers resent it, and when they finally break emotionally and say something about it, it comes off harsh and overly emotional, and us husbands—already tender from the radical and unexpected transformation in our relationship with her—react with prideful defensiveness, and withdraw emotionally, because that’s what we do when we feel shame from our partner’s disapproval.

The husband doesn’t understand how much he’s failing her emotionally, and that his cultural examples of mom taking care of everything was some seriously unfair bullshit, or that it’s an ineffective model for making relationships work in 2016. He’s just obliviously derpy-derping through life.

The wife doesn’t understand that his emotional abandonment and failure to meet her needs are NOT the actions of someone who doesn’t love her and can’t be counted on as a lifelong parenting, sexual, and financial partner. They are the actions of a self-centered, oblivious, entitled, immature guy who—with effective communication techniques and the right information—can become marriage-centered, reliable, thoughtful and empathetic.

‘It is like you are writing about our relationship. Completely accurate. A little scary actually and makes me feel sad for us because I can see the same end result happening.’

Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Stuff happens, then we all have a natural reaction. That needs to be okay, even when we don’t always understand one another.

However, I think the statement above is the wrong (and unecessarily cynical) way to think about it.

I had spent months sleeping in the guest room while my marriage inched toward doomsday before I started to get serious about figuring out how to save it. I began having lots of conversations with other married people, praying for miracles, and reading any books or articles that seemed like they might help. I read this book, then had the same realization that millions of other marriages are going through the same cycle and breakdown as mine. While sad, it wasn’t scary. It was a REASON. I felt joy and hope for the first time in months: Holy. Shit. This is happening to EVERYBODY. Not just us.

That means, in general terms, these marriage problems are universal.

It means YOU ARE NOT WEIRD. YOU ARE NOT FREAKS. YOU GUYS ARE NOT ANY MORE FLAWED OR DYSFUNCTIONAL THAN ANYONE ELSE.

These are profound realizations.

And unless you’re someone who believes in unsolvable problems, it means these universal marriage problems have universal solutions.

It also makes it completely illogical to assume that divorcing your spouse and eventually replacing him or her with another person will eliminate these “universal” relationship dynamics. It’s one of the reasons I’m so against divorce of the “irreconcilable differences” variety. Because unless you’re going to remain single forever, this EXACT same stuff in slightly different sizes, colors and shapes are going to crop up with the next partner.

There are no magic partners.

There are only partners willing to give the love needed to keep things together, and those who are not.

And the entire premise behind my writings on marriage and divorce is that there is a HUGE percentage of men who, when they have all of the information (Doing A = emotionally and mentally damaging your wife’s heart and mind, and will lead to divorce and you missing out on at least half your children’s lives, or Doing B = Wife feeling safe, secure and desired, knowing she can trust him to be her steady and reliable rock in good times and in bad, and will lead to a lifelong marriage where you get to grow old together and he gets to feel loved and respected instead of shame from failing at his most important job), will begin to institute changes needed to have a secure and predominately happy marriage.

‘Got any suggestions for this exhausted wife?’

Yes. Thank you for asking.

Allow yourself to question your beliefs about him. About what goes on inside your husband’s heart and mind when you don’t understand him. Question whether the ability to mine every bit of information in there might radically change your perception.

Trust that you weren’t a stupid moron when you married him. Trust that all of the positive things you once identified in him are still true and real. He’s the same man.

Believe in him. Support him. Encourage him. Doing so will fuel him as he works to overcome his selfish habits in favor of new ones which make you feel good instead of bad. He may never understand why these lifestyle changes radically change the way you feel every day, but so long as he understands that they do affect you, and that they are necessary to keep your marriage and family together, he will do it IF he genuinely loves you and your children.

Suggestions:

  1. Try to always speak kindly so that he won’t tune out what you’re saying. This is important, because him TRULY UNDERSTANDING in his mind, heart and soul how critical what you’re saying is to the survival of your marriage, and your health and wellbeing, is the only way he can learn what he currently doesn’t know. Try not to make him feel like you don’t believe he’s good enough. Try to make him understand that you KNOW he’s good enough, which is why this is all so important.
  2. Find information that makes sense to him. While I’m flattered you wanted him to read my blog posts, there is much better information out there, but he must WANT to learn it. He will only WANT to learn it once he grasps the idea that not learning it will lead to divorce and horribleness. He does not get it. Most men don’t. He thinks your mind and body work like his does. We all think everyone does until life proves otherwise. So when you try to explain to him how something made you feel, it makes no sense to him, because he would never have the same reaction. This misunderstanding is essentially the root cause of every male-female relationship breakdown in history. You don’t need to understand how one another feel. You only need to believe it’s real that you don’t understand one another no matter how many times you discuss it, and that it’s BAD. Then, because you love one another and want to stay married, you reprioritize after learning how to share thoughts, feelings and ideas without fighting.
  3. Educate yourself and him on how ADHD commonly affects marriage and relationships, and strategies for overcoming it. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until more than two years after my divorce. Sadly, I never knew how big of a factor the condition was in my habits and behaviors that drove my wife away. Your husband will not have the same excuse.
  4. Wake up in the morning and decide to love him. Expect and demand the same in return. And then, knowing there will always be emotional ups and downs through the rollercoaster of life, continue to make that same decision every day for the rest of your life. As long as both of you do that, Forever After happens.

Kindly ask him if it’s fair for you to expect him to list “Husband” and “Father” at the top of his Things I Want To Be Great At list. Ahead of his hobbies. Ahead of his job. Ahead of his competitive pursuits.

“Is being the best possible husband and father—ideologically—at the top of your life’s priority list?”

If he says no, there’s nothing left to discuss.

If he says yes, it’s time for him to figure out what to do before it’s too late.

And with the right combination of words, behavior and information, he will. I’ll be rooting for him, you and your children. Very much.

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A Blog Vacation

(Image/fpchiro.com)

(Image/fpchiro.com)

I try to explain how it works in my head but most people don’t or can’t understand.

It’s probably really hard for a working mother to empathize. After all, she’s a superhero. Raising children. Managing calendars and balancing them against the scheduling needs and wants of the family. She is often working harder around the house than the rest of us, doing the things I spent the first 34 years of my life taking for granted. Keeping bathroom mirrors and porcelain shiny and spotless. Keeping floors swept and vacuumed. Keeping caught up on laundry. Keeping countertops and home offices uncluttered. Keeping the pantry and refrigerator appropriately stocked. They do all that AFTER working 40- to 50-hour weeks.

I sometimes come off undisciplined. Forgetful. Irresponsible. Unreliable.

I’m not proud of it. I’m even a little ashamed. Unless other people are relying on me, I am unlikely to meet a self-imposed deadline. Unless someone (probably a girl) is going to come over and pass judgment on the way I keep my home, I am unlikely to keep it as clean and organized as I’d prefer.

To be sure, I DO like the feeling of a clean and orderly home. I DO like the feeling of accomplishment following completion of a job well done.

But if there are competing interests? Even ones that matter less? I have an amazing capacity for procrastination. And despite my self-awareness, I’ve never found a way to overcome it.

I was diagnosed with ADHD. If I’m remembering the data correctly, about 5% of people’s brains work like mine. It has its advantages. It does. But the effective management of too many things suffers when I don’t have help.

My young son keeps me busy, even though I only have him at home half the time.

Me and two partners launched our start-up company in recent months. We even have clients now. It means that all of the extra professional work I do, errands I run, and housework I (sometimes) complete, is squeezed into nights when my son is with his mom. I try to stay socially active, too, because it’s really important. But that’s usually the first to suffer when life beckons.

I spend 40-plus hours per week at my full-time office job.

I’m trying (somewhat poorly) to write a book.

I’m trying to maintain good exercise and eating habits.

And I’m trying to keep this blog active, and God-willing, interesting to a few people.

Because I’m me, EVERYTHING suffers when the task list gets long. I do good work when I channel all of my focus and energy into one thing. I can do that, one project at a time.

But I’m kind of a disaster when life demands more than one thing from me at once. And in the real world, being an adult—especially a parent—requires that I be on top of more than just one thing at any given time.

In addition to the emotional, spiritual and physical (giggity) balance having a partner provides, I’ve really learned the value of having someone who helps and supports you each day (and whose mere existence motivates me to provide return help and support).

I was an emotional disaster in the aftermath of my marital separation and divorce two years ago. And that—BY FAR—is the worst part of divorce. Feeling dead inside.

But once you get back on your feet and find the internal balance, peace, confidence, hopefulness that had been missing, what you’re left with is this realization about—for lack of a better phrase—the logistics of being an adult. Especially one with parental and professional responsibilities.

Two years later, that’s the hardest part now. No question. If I could fire myself as manager of my life, I totally would.

I’ve been feeling—I don’t know—overwhelmed?—for a while now.

I’m doing a bad job staying in touch with people. My kitchen counter is an emergency of the cluttered variety. I have a bunch of projects that need finished for our growing small business. The book isn’t progressing as I’d like. My email inbox is piling up. And I have to leave town this weekend.

Again, to virtually any mom, or probably any woman (okay, or responsible guy), I probably sound like a dumb, whiny loser. I don’t care. I don’t know whether all the chaos I feel is real. It’s probably something I just manifest in my head. But my brain can’t tell the difference.

I’m not saying I won’t write. I’m not saying I’m going to intentionally post less often.

I’m just saying, I need to slow down in certain areas so I can put more energy into others, just to make sure I don’t totally lose it.

Maybe I’ll post again soon. Or maybe I’ll post again in three weeks. I don’t know.

I just know I need to reset, and I won’t know when it has happened until I feel it.

I hope I see you whenever that happens.

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ADHD is Real and I Have It

(Image/medscape.com)

(Image/medscape.com)

I’ve always been this way, so I never bothered to consider something might be wrong.

It’s not that I procrastinate ALL the time. Often, it’s just because I forget. Sometimes I mark the calendar and write reminder notes and set alerts on my phone. And I still forget.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill.

Sometimes I forget birthdays.

Sometimes I forget to return a phone call.

Sometimes I schedule two things on the same day at the same time.

Sometimes I don’t remember to do the same thing for several days in a row.

Sometimes I put things off and forget about them and then something bad happens, like my natural gas gets shut off or my auto insurance lapses.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think I was intentionally trying to self-sabotage. As if I prefer when my life is a stressful emergency.

I always thought it was something I’d outgrow. I believed natural maturation would work out many of these little incidents that sometimes cause much bigger problems.

Why I Think Know I Have ADHD

A clinical psychologist several states away was reading some of the stories I write here when it became clear to her that I most likely have ADHD, and like many adults, have gone through life undiagnosed.

You see, when the only thing you know is what goes on inside your own head, it’s impossible to understand how others think and feel and experience life. But this doctor has spent her entire professional career talking to, and working with, people like me. So she knew right away.

She just wanted me to come to the same conclusion on my own. She sent me a few things to read.

This ADHD test for adults was one of the first things to get my attention. Answering “yes” to 15 of them is a big ADHD red flag. I said yes to all but one. And even that’s a maybe.

  1. I have difficulty getting organized.
  2. When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
  3. I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
  4. I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively — like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
  5. I get bored easily.
  6. No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
  7. I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
  8. I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.
  9. I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
  10. I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
  11. My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
  12. I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
  13. I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
  14. I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
  15. I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
  16. I can feel suddenly depressed when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
  17. I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
  18. Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
  19. Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
  20. I make a lot of careless mistakes.
  21. I have blood relatives who suffer from ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse.

Another Eureka Moment

I was reading a book about male-female relationships when I had my first major Ah-ha! moment. I was reading stories about common fights and communication breakdowns between spouses, and I realized it wasn’t just my wife and I that have these problems. It was EVERYBODY. It makes you feel better when you realize you’re not the only one. Moreover, this book was explaining to me the evolutionary reasons why men are as they are and women are as they are, and how the two styles (when both parties are unaware of them) cause friction in relationships and often lead to divorce.

It fundamentally changed me on the inside. I finally knew something important and believed I could be the spouse she needed. But it was so broken. I couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This ADHD thing? It’s EXACTLY like that all over again.

Everything I read screams at me: THIS IS THE REASON.

It’s been hard to stomach as I consider the ramifications.

What if I’d known at a much younger age?

What if I’d begun to manage it years ago?

How much better might my marriage have been?

How much further might my career have advanced?

How many more friends might I have kept?

People with ADHD have trouble managing friendships and staying in touch with people.

When my wife first left, I latched on to all my friends because I felt like dying and I just wanted to be around people I cared about and who cared about me in return. As time went on and I went through several stages of healing post-divorce, I lost touch with many friends. When you’re in your mid-thirties, everyone is busy and many have kids. You have to plan several days, often weeks, in advance if you want to see certain people.

I have never planned anything weeks in advance in my entire life. I used to think I preferred spontaneity. But really it’s a stress trigger. I can barely handle everything that needs done today. How can I possibly think about four weeks from now? Four weeks from now is a figment of my imagination.

People with ADHD have trouble with marriage.

Being pleasant and kind-hearted isn’t enough when your spouse thinks you don’t love or respect her because you forget everything, or mindlessly do things that suggest her feelings don’t matter. People with ADHD have trouble with time management, with organization, with financial planning and management, and cleaning the home.

I was reading this article in ADDitude Magazine, and this quote from a frustrated wife totally hit home, because she could have said it about me and my ex-wife.

“We would be late for an appointment, and he would be leisurely doing things when we should have been rushing out the door,” recalls Patricia, who lives with Chris and their three-year-old, Gabriella, in West Chicago, Illinois. “He could walk right by a pair of dirty socks on the floor and not notice them, even if the laundry basket was just a foot away. If the house was a mess, he’d say, ‘Write me a list, and I’ll do everything.’ But I resisted. Why should I have to write a list? He should know what needs to be done.”

My wife thought I was childish and immature. (And I AM childish and immature!) But there was always more going on. Over and over again I’d try to explain myself.

I would NEVER do this to you on purpose! Why would I want you angry with me? Why do you think I want to disappoint you? Why do you believe I want to fight with you?

There were so many things to do when our son was born. I was totally lost, and I wanted to be helpful. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, and then I would do it well and I’d be useful. She always felt like I was too hands-off. Like I wasn’t assertive enough to figure out on my own what needed done and just do it.

Maybe I was supposed to do that. Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe this is all bullshit.

But then I read this:

“The Whites, it turns out, are typical of couples in which at least one partner has ADHD. In a survey of such couples, conducted recently by Wayne State University in Detroit, respondents indicated that their spouses ‘don’t remember being told things,’ ‘zone out in conversations,’ ‘have trouble getting started on a task,’ ‘underestimate the time needed to complete a task,’ ‘don’t finish projects,’ and ‘leave a mess.’”

Is this me desperately searching for answers in an attempt to apply meaning to things that have happened to me?

I don’t think so.

If my ex-wife read all these ADHD stories I’ve been digesting the past week, I suspect she’d draw the same conclusion.

I have all these things I want to do with my life.

Career and relationship goals. Financial and physical goals. Social and spiritual goals.

What if this teeny little part of my brain working just a little bit different than most other people is the primary reason I have some of these issues?

What if it’s the reason my marriage ended?

What if it’s the answer to the ever-nagging question: WHY?

Treatment begins Thursday.

And maybe after things will never be the same.

Just maybe, I’ll be unstoppable.

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A Funny Little Thing

kevin hart

Because of work stuff, I can’t write today.

Soon (tomorrow?) I’m going to tell you about the time a clinical psychologist befriended me via this blog and asked me whether I’d ever looked into the possibility of having ADHD.

I scoffed at first. No way! I’m totally normal! Everyone lets their auto insurance lapse and has trouble planning ahead! Everyone sucks at keeping their house clean and forgets things all the time!

And then I read about ADHD. About how it impacts your day-to-day life. What the common traits are of the people (about 5% of the population) affected by it.

I thought ADHD was a bullshit label people used to drug hyper kids. Kind of a fake, made-up thing.

But then I read what undiagnosed ADHD adults experience at home and at work.

Whoa. That’s me.

Then I read some more. That’s me too!

And some more. Goodness.

And even more. HOLY SHIT.

Another Eureka moment.

Why have all of these things happened to me? Why do I do the things I do the way I do? Why can’t I fix this?

Now I think I know why.

And just maybe, this will change everything.

More to come.

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