Several years ago, when my relationship with my now-fiancé, Mike, was still fresh and new, he confessed to me: “I have ADHD.”
“So what?” I said to myself, hearts where my pupils used to be.
It only took a few months for me to realize what that actually meant for me, for him, and for our relationship together.
In the spirit of “love” month, I find myself looking back at the good, bad, and the illuminating of what it is like to love someone with ADHD.
The man is transparent. Sometimes people with ADHD have tics or little involuntary movements. For my fiancé, these manifest under stress. Racing wide eyes, rubbing his gums on a glass, pacing back and forth — these are all signs that Mike is under pressure. For him, that means he can’t get away with brushing anything under the rug. For me, it means I’m keenly tuned in to when something is bothering him. And to make for an even playing field, it encourages me to be as honest and transparent as possible.
He only remembers what’s truly important. The challenge of being with a partner with ADHD is the short-term memory, or lack thereof. This reveals itself in the little things like forgetting to buy paper towels, missing the birthdays of loved ones and sometimes never responding to a text message or email. This can be incredibly frustrating—but it helps to remember that it’s not intentional, it’s not within his control, and if he could remember every little thing he certainly would. When something truly important comes along, he writes himself emails, calendar reminders, post-its, leaves himself voicemails; he never forgets what matters. I know he’ll certainly make it to our wedding, even though he keeps forgetting what time (and sometimes date) the whole thing starts.
Coffee helps. I still find this amazing — coffee helps calm him down. Mike can easily polish off two, three, four, five cups of coffee without bursting out of his skin. Post-dinner espresso may keep me up all night, but it causes no such issues for those who are hyperactive. When the ADHD symptoms kick in, he has a cup. It puts him at ease to the point where he is no more hyperactive than I am (without coffee). Side perk: He’s become a total coffee snob (and yes, I used to judge him for this), which means our kitchen is always stocked with San Francisco’s finest beans.
Focus isn’t guaranteed. Mid-conversation, when his eyes wander off to dreamland, people take notice and wonder why he isn’t engaged. Mike’s brain works so fast, he moves on from the conversation and onto the next problem to solve in his head before others are even done completing a thought. Snapping my fingers in front of his face helps--sometimes.
Man, can he clean! Do you know what some people do when they can’t sit still? They clean. Meticulously so. No corner undusted, no throw blanket unfolded. And it is glorious.
We can’t choose our battles, but we can choose to see the good in the people we love and in the situations with which we are presented. I wouldn’t change a thing about Mike’s ADHD. It gives him character, humor, and even some elbow grease.
Renata is Healthline’s Director of Integrated Product & Program Marketing. When she isn’t dreaming up revenue opportunities, she practices joyful, healthy living by going on San Francisco runs, wine tasting in Sonoma and cuddling up with her white fluffy mutt, Odie.