Your partner’s attention deficit disorder (ADD) may not seem like a big deal at first, but eventually, the dynamics surrounding his or her impulsivity, forgetfulness, distractibility, and restlessness can really strain your relationship. You don’t want to act like a parent, yet you may feel like you can’t rely on your partner to get things done. Loving Someone with Attention Deficit Disorder is your guide to navigating a relationship with someone with ADD so you can create healthy boundaries while remaining sympathetic to your partner’s symptoms. An essential resource for every couple affected by ADD, this book will help you:
• Understand medication and other treatments
• Recover quickly when your partner’s symptoms frustrate you
• Establish personal boundaries to avoid excessive caretaking
• Identify and take care of your own needs so you can feel more relaxed
Thanks to Cassie Kolias at New Harbinger Publications for providing this review copy!
This book is an addition to my AD/HD shelf. Having read work by renowned author Gina Pera, I was eager to see what this author had to say.
The first chapter was golden. Tschudi’s style is very simple, easy to understand, and speaks to the reader in an understated tone that seems comforting somehow. I especially was affected by the part where she states that ADD is a neurobiological issue—you cannot change your partner no more than you can expect a paraplegic to walk. Obviously you can assist your partner in managing his life better, but first and foremost, he must see the issue and want to do something about it.
That is where the book begins to break down. Much of the rest of Tschudi’s advice is partly helpful, but not relevant to some situations. I did feel that this work would be most helpful to couples whose communication skills are either minimal or non existent. Many ways to broach uncomfortable subjects are offered, with scenarios detailing “real” couples and ADD-related problems.
Example: Due to the husband’s procrastination, both Clark and Marilyn were always late to church. Marilyn hated this, and was upset that nothing seemed to work; not nagging, not threats, etc. So they both sat down and tried an exercise that Tschudi puts forth: brainstorm and come up with solutions to the problem, no matter how outrageous. Write them all down and discuss each one.
This couple did just that, and came up with the idea that Marilyn would take her own car to church, thereby arriving on time and avoiding the stress and arguing that inevitably occurred. Both parties were happy.
Now for my problem with this: I’m sure there are a lot of situations where the woman would take herself to church and grow old waiting for her ADD husband to show up. The only thing changing here is the woman’s behavior. No one is helping the ADD’er to manage his issue. And this seems to be the tone of the rest of the book: to save yourself from anguish, realize that the ADD’er is suffering from neurobiology and may never be able to live a “normal” life. You must learn to live with it, and the sooner you realize this, the better.
I showed this to my resident ADD’er, and he was nonplussed. He said that just because the woman made it to the church on time, that didn’t address the man’s procrastination, and possibly even rewarded it. His take on it was this:
“When you tell someone that you no longer expect of them something that you have expected of them in the past, you may be relieving them of a responsibility, but you’re also taking something away from them. That person can feel the respect you lose for him, and he see the chance to repair it vanish when you take away the opportunity for him to get it right. Strong relationships are built upon respect. We fight for that respect when we think we can win it, but when we think that we can’t, the motivation to do anything may be gone. Obviously, both parties have a stake in the husband getting out of the house on time, but if our solution is going to be for nobody to expect anything from anyone, then these people might as well just break up. That would be even better because it would eliminate all of the conflict. Problem solved!”
Another scenario was a do it yourselfer leaving his unfinished projects in the garage, forcing the wife to park on the street. The “solution” was to have her say to him, “In 3 days I’m going to move your stuff so I can park in the garage”. (Apparently the man hated anyone touching his stuff.) Then she was to say. “In 2 days I’m going to park in the garage, so please move your stuff.”
If the project was not moved, the “solution” was to have the WOMAN MOVE IT HERSELF. Sure, Mr Fix It was mad that his things were touched, but that seems to be adding insult to injury to his wife. Not only did her request go unheeded–but she had to clean up his mess to boot! Not acceptable in my house. My resident ADD’er said this:
As for the matter of the garage that needed cleaning, the author concludes her tale by describing the worst possible outcome. Spoiler: the wife cleans the garage herself. She solved the problem by telling the husband to clean the garage by such-and-such date, or else “I’ll clean it myself.” What did this solve? This husband is being dealt with as if he were a particularly indolent 5th grader. I personally felt embarrassed when Kyle read this passage to me. I said something to the tune of, “I would like to think that this is not a highly recommended way of dealing with me.” We talked about it, and we decided that this book is probably meant for couples with poor communication skills. However, if this is the case, then the book still commits the crime of teaching couples with poor communication skills to deal with each other by acting in antisocial, dysfunctional ways toward each other.
As I continued to read, it seemed as if the only advice being offered me, the non ADD’er, was to understand that this is how the brain works, and the only solution is for ME to change, by not being bothered by the distractability, the mood swings, the unfinished projects, and the empty promises.
This disturbed me. I felt this was akin to putting earplugs in your ears to avoid hearing your child’s tantrum in a crowded restaurant. Yes, AD/HD is neurobiologic in origin, but that doesn’t mean you can try to make your life the best it can be, by taking your meds, listening to those around you, making lists to help you remember, and knowing your triggers. Sure, spouses of ADD’ers need to take care of themselves too, but hiding your head in the sand about problems and offering a bandaid solution is kind of no solution at all.
So, a mixed review on this one. The sub title does say “improving communication and strengthening your relationship”, and I agree that it accomplishes this task well. Many ways are offered for partners to talk and get the lines open for a meaningful dialogue. However, I do feel that eventually, after the talking is over, the bottom line is that the non ADD’er is supposed to feel better about the improved communication but will still be dealing with the issues. The non ADD’er will have developed healthy personal boundaries and the ability to forgive, but that (to me) only goes so far.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, considering my communication skills are excellent; but I was also hoping for more advice than “Your partner has ADD–forgive him for what he does, as he cannot help it”.
Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.