Reply To: Trying to do self care with an ADHD spouse feels impossible

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Hi – I know you want to ask the partners but I’d like to share from my perspective (ADHD male with female partner)

I will probably find it hard to conclude this post so it will probably just trail off. Anyway:

We have had many arguments about my sleep. I become anxious when I feel obliged to sleep when I know I won’t be able to sleep within 30sec of hitting the pillow, because I get lost in my thoughts and struggle to shove them away – this sounds harmless but let me tell you it is hell. There was a time where I was in the bed and I knew I had to get out; I decided to get out (decision took about 10 mins) and it took another 20 mins to actually get out. I was in tears the whole time and my partner was asleep next to me. Probably about 50 times I thought ‘maybe I should wake her to alert her to this’ then ‘no, what’s the point?’ then ‘what was I thinking about’ then back to the start, in a cycle. I told her the next day but she didn’t really get it, and it took many more times of me crying at night before I decided I needed to do something.

I cried on and off for a week about it. I felt paralysed in the bed and it has definitely affected me permanently. That time I went to bed cos she wanted me to go at the same time as her and I obliged her. So now I go to bed only when I can be sure I’ll sleep straight away, or have sex or read something I know will distract me for long enough that my eyes shut without my brain getting a chance to think in inconsequential threads.

Anyway I wanted to say it’s important in these situations to focus on what you can change within yourself to adapt to your environment, and do your best to differentiate his intent from his procedure – for example he may say he will come to bed in 5 min but won’t come for 40. I don’t know him but I can make a guess, with my knowledge of ADHD, that he fully intends to come there in 5 mins but he gets sidetracked along the way, or he has a poor sense of what 5 mins actually is, or for 8 times he forgot when ‘5 mins ago’ was – in either of these ways he doesn’t intend to do harm. Please remember it, and talk to him, but remember to avoid talking about what he is ‘doing’ – because to him he is acting in a natural way and it’s perhaps the easiest way for him to get to bed. Rather, I suggest, talk to him about the effects on you of his actions and how those effects interfere with your emotions or your routine. There you can meet on a common ground to discuss it, and nobody is being aggressive or defensive. This way he can separate his action from the consequences thereof, and perhaps then he will find a linked solution or compromise. But for him to alter his learned behaviour so that it has zero effect on another human being is almost impossible, trust me – and if he does manage it, it will take so much time and effort it would be much easier for the other person to make the amendment, logically speaking. It’s a pity but this is why so many people with ADHD end up living alone and get lonely. It’s just a pity but it’s reality..

All the best