Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

Breaking Up can be The Right Thing to do

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Sometimes a relationship needs to end

In today’s world it seems we are obsessed with couples counseling, relationship solutions and even medication that will make a partner behave better for the needs of another. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for improving relationships and finding the middle of the road that may help two people get their spark back, and recover long lost reasons for being together in the first place. And yet, there could come a point when we realize it just isn’t meant to be and we lose valuable time not admitting this.

I know, I have done it and I had a significant amount of emotional and mental investment, which I did not want to give up on. In the end it was the only solution that really, truly worked. To end it. It was the right decision, although one of the most painful and exhausting I have ever made. Today I am happily married and feel very fortunate for it.

Society has taught us that it is the absolute worst thing in the world to give up on a relationship. We are supposed to be together forever and ever, and well, ever and ever.

We are supposed to believe in happy-ever-after and sustained passion for a lifetime. The reality just isn’t typically that way. There are always going to be ups and downs, disagreements, unmet needs and irrational arguments, and, get this, it is not always the fault of the partner with ADHD.

Sometimes, you know, it might just be the fault of the other partner, even if they don’t have ADHD. Maybe they are too pushy, too correcting, and too perfect and want too much from any human being. It happens, believe it or not, and no type of medication or therapy is ever going to be enough to meet their needs or, much less, their expectations.

I am a romantic at heart, if you’ve been reading my articles, you know that. I believe that true love exists and it exists for everyone; however, it does not exist in every relationship. There are wrong relationships and we ADDers seem to find ourselves in the latter type far too often and stay in them for far too long.

In an upcoming article I will talk about the importance of meeting our partner’s needs and working towards understanding them better. I will not be contradicting myself, because, some relationships are way worth it. However, my point in this article is that some relationships just aren’t and the sooner we admit that, the soon we can find a relationship that is signifié pour être.

So what am I saying here?

Just throw in the towel?

Give up?

No, actually, I am not saying those things.

Sometimes, though, as I started this article out saying, there comes a point of no return and if we do not understand, or accept that this point does exist, then we not only take valuable time away from our own happiness and future, but we also hold back our partner’s as well.

There are also such things as toxic and abusive relationships and no one deserves to be stuck in such a relationship.  The relationship doesn’t have to be toxic or abusive either, it can simply be wrong due to different values, beliefs or chemistry mismatches, which may have been originally ignored, perhaps due to initial passion or such highly synced sexuality that sometimes exists without anything else of substance involved.

ADHD does not translate into:

 “It is all your fault, because you’re the one with ADHD.”

Now, let’s be perfectly clear here, I am not telling anyone to end any relationship at all, please don’t get that idea.

What I am saying is this:

All relationships have their difficulties. Everyone has differences and many relationships are more than worth it to salvage. ADHD can be a contributing factor in a difficult, or failing, relationship, even significantly, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is the only factor, or that the relationship will be fine if only the ADDer takes responsibility. It takes two to tango, after all. Undiagnosed ADD did contributed to the divorce of my first marriage, but an earlier diagnosis would not have salvaged it.

To be more precise, what I am saying is that ADHD does not automatically, categorically, equal total fault or total responsibility on our part to make a relationship work. And sometimes, certain relationships simply aren’t going to work out regardless of any diagnosis, treatment or counseling. 

What do you think?
 
~Bryan

PS: Remember, these are just my thoughts, I am not a counselor or therapist, just a blogger/author with ADHD!

Katy B. October 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Oh boy…I can’t wait to see what people say about this one. I’ve posted before about relationships being one of the great “struggles” of my ADHD life. I know I’m not alone, that’s for sure ;)

Bryan Hutchinson October 27, 2009 at 7:45 am

Actually Katy, looking at the number of views for this post, I would say most of us are too used to taking the blame for most everything, or, because of the ADHD label, the finger usually gets pointed in our direction a little too quickly – although I agree, ADHD does indeed play havoc in relationships. I would say all of us have had ADHD become an issue whether it was known or not known; however, that does not mean others should have a carte blanche over any responsibility, or, dare I say, fault?

NerdyMommy October 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm

You’re absolutely right on point, Bryan. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been there too… unfortunately, more times than I’d like to say.
Having to end relationships that were either toxic, abusive, or “just not right for me”, while not easy, has given me lots of practice in being able to recognize when it’s time to call it quits. I’m getting better at it… it was after 9 years the first time, 4 years the second time, and only 3 months this last time. Eventually, I’m hoping to be able to spot Mr. Wrong from a block away, and avoid him altogether!!!!

Bryan Hutchinson October 27, 2009 at 8:22 am

Oh NM, that’s not easy; however, I would hazard to guess in your case that perhaps ADHD is playing a role indeed – such as you may be getting blinded by an interlude, something shiny about these men that doesn’t allow you to see what you are getting into before it is too late?

Still, after you’re in, you’re in and if they have bad behavior or are jerks, their behavior is not your fault simply because you did not see it coming. Go ahead and nail the ADHD for being distracted by the shiny promise, but nail any wrongful behavior by them for what that really is too. Fair is fair, and it is not all our fault.

And I have this thing about compatibility; if two people are simply not compatible one shouldn’t be forced to endure simply because they have ADHD and therefore is a target because s/he can be improved upon to get along. It’s a different story though, if that’s what they want to do and feel a connection that ADHD may be distorting. I know for a fact that I have been in relationships that it didn’t matter what diagnosis I had, I would only have ran away faster if diagnosed properly! Trust me, there’s far worse things than ADHD out there, when it comes to relationships. You know that, though ;)

Véronique St-Martin October 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Hello Bryan !

I agree with you : if a relationship doesn’t work, it is not necessary the fault of the ADDer person ! In my case, I think that me and my boyfriend are not just compatible… and I know that since a lot of time, in fact, since near of the beginning of the relationship !

Why I stayed there ? Because I though there always were difficulties in all the relationships and because, sometimes, we really had great time together !

Also, as you can know it, ADDers often have difficulties to have and keep a job (it’s my case), what it complicated things a lot, above all, if we have a child together… (what it’s also my case)

But I’m sure of one thing : I won’t pass all my life with this man…

Bryan Hutchinson October 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm

I am sorry to hear that Véronique St-Martin. I think sometimes when we constantly blame ourselves it makes making choices difficult and extends issues. Sometimes ADHD can make us want to try, try and try until so many years have passed and so much time is seemingly lost in vain… it’s not lost in vain, especially when trying to make a relationship work and with a child involved… it is time spent in trying to make it work and that should never be considered wasted.

NerdyMommy October 28, 2009 at 2:40 am

Oooh… you hit a nerve on the “…is a target because s/he can be improved upon to get along.” part of your reply, Bryan. In the relationship that I was in when I was diagnosed (the 4 year one), that became the theme post-diagnosis. Everything revolved around my “disorder”, my “behaviors”. He was constantly telling me how to do things better, how to make better decisions, become more organized, be a better girlfriend. It culminated with the line that ultimately led to our breakup “You need to go get your wack-a-doo meds so you stop treating me like this”. That was my wake up call, my realization that, ADHD or not, I WASN’T the problem in this relationship – I was the scapegoat.

You’re definitely right though… you know the saying “Love is blind”? In my case, it’s more like, “Love is blind if you’re shiny!”

Bryan Hutchinson October 28, 2009 at 6:34 am

Exactly NM, that’s what got me started. We’ve had so many discussions on our ADDer World Network where people are in relationships where the other partner continues to escape any responsibility by blaming the ADHD – that can be so frustrating! Go to counseling, get therapy, and take your medication… when all the while that person continues doing whatever it is they are doing without any concern for that behavior. Like Gina points out below, rightly so, we have plenty to work on and our ADHD does indeed need to be treated, but to use it as you are pointing out is not helpful, it’s even wrong or negligent in my opinion… in my breakup I was told to go see my therapist first and the interesting thing was, I had already been seeing him weekly and the breakup was delayed two years because I kept blaming and trying to correct myself and change my inner feelings – which just were not there…

Janice Adamson October 27, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Relationships @ the best of times are difficult to deal with and through. There are just as many stressors being in a relationship than not being in one. It’s not always necessarilly related to being AD/HD, either… if at all.
Some of us have different view points on what we want and why, some of us are hopeless romantics, some relationships were just never meant to be.
Some partners use the label simply as an excuse for blame or a reasoning for acting the way they do towards us with the disorder.
There are however who use the AD/HD to get sympathy “It wasn’t my fault, I have AD/HD.” Gimme a break. People need to be responsible for their actions and reactions. Everyone is responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, emotions and opinions.
Having severe AD/HD myself, even medicated is difficult. I am also a single parent. Four of my five children have varied degrees of ADHD, or AD/HD along with co-morbid disorders.
I have had relationships, long term and short term and never used the reasoning or thought that the AD/HD is or was the cause that the relationships ended. Actually most of the people I become involved with have or had ADHD,themselves.
There are many other things that factor into a relationship, such as compatibility, kindness, respect… you know the drill. AD/HD (or lack of it never seemed to fit in the cliche lines, or were ever a part of them.
My present partner knows of my AD/HD and of course, my childrens. People either accept out differences, or they don’t. It’s that simple. I don’t plan to waste my time in dead-end relationships. He, by the way doesn’t have ADHD… but accepts us for who we are. (Admittedly it can be exasperating, even for myself… especially in regards to the children.) However if a relationship has two people putting in equal amounts of effort, it can work. As my current partner told me recently… there are things about himself that he’s sure pisses other people off as well, and it really becomes an acceptance of each other. I will always have AD/HD, but I am sincere, have a good heart and truly do care. It really depends on the match of like-minded individuals… People with commonalities, but also with (enough )differences to make things interesting as well.☻

Bryan Hutchinson October 27, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Janice:

“It really becomes an acceptance of each other.”

I like that line and agree, equal levels of work and effort are what makes good relationships even better and last… also:

“I will always have AD/HD, but I am sincere, have a good heart and truly do care.” A lot of folks with ADHD do a lot of work on improving themselves seek and receive treatment and feel the same way you do. Now, if all (with or without ADHD) worked as much on themselves – that would be interesting… ;)

Gina Pera October 27, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Hi Bryan,

You wrote: “….even medication that will make a partner behave better for the needs of another.”

I guess you’re trying to be provocative, eh? ;-)

At the least, my friend, with your opening salvo you betray a prejudice against medication as one option for treating ADHD as well as the rationale for it. And, I’m afraid, you’re perpetuating the dangerous myth that medication is a means to “subdue” or “control” a person with ADHD — ostensibly against the person’s will.

But to your point: I don’t know of any partners of adults with ADHD who encourage their partners to pursue medication treatment for their own selfish gains. If they do, it’s a bad reason.

In my experience (having met thousands of them), they typically are looking for any strategies that will help their partners with ADHD be happier with themselves, take better care of themselves, keep a job, have better relationships at work or with extended family and friends, keep some money in the bank, get better sleep, have more patience with the children, and be a safer driver. And more.

Sometimes, the “mirror” held up by their partner is one the adult with ADHD can’t or doesn’t want to see. They’re not thinking of tomorrow (money) or the consequences of driving dangerous (death or disability). Their partner is doing it for them, and often becomes the bad guy/gal for it.

Not surprisingly, when a person with ADHD starts better managing life issues in general, the ability to maintain a relationship improves, too.

For some, medication will be the linchpin to creating other strategies.

It goes without saying that ADHD isn’t always the sole source of relationship problems. No reasonable person would suggest that. That’s just black/white thinking.

But until ADHD is identified, it can be too easy to pin all the problems on the other partner’s reactions to their ADHD partner’s behaviors (anxiety about runaway expenses, nagging to remind of all the things the ADHD partner forgets, insomnia created by their ADHD partner’s “night owl” habits or Restless Legs Syndrome, etc.).

And given the high incidence of “denial” among adults with ADHD, they aren’t always aware that they are in fact the problem — and not everyone else.

If e-mail is any indication, the biggest fans of my book are 50-something men who’ve given up the denial. Many are on their second (or third) marriage (to the point of losing it), 20th (or 21st) job, and are finally willing to look at their role in their life problems.

Only when they get the facts about their own ADHD can they start clearly distinguishing between where they went wrong and where they might have chosen wrong (jobs, mates, etc.).

Identifying the ADHD is only one step in addressing a relationships’ troubles. But until it is identified, a couple can swirl in too much chaos, leaving them unable to separate the rest of the threads.

Identifying the ADHD can also help a person with ADHD who is drawn to the “can do” types (because they can’t manage their own lives).

“Can do” can morph into controlling — either because the person IS by nature overly controlling or because the adult who has ADHD needs the control (but doesn’t always recognize it or sometimes recognizes but resents it).

Having clarity about one’s strengths and weaknesses is good for everyone, and it’s the best foundation for any relationship, it seems.

It’s a good idea to know this before you have children, too, because that ups the ante.

Bryan Hutchinson October 27, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Hi Gina,

For what you are writing about, I agree with you. This article isn’t about the majority of those points. I’ve made many of those same points in other posts; they are valid for those relationships. Still, there are relationships that are not going to work out, that aren’t meant to be and isn’t necessarily the fault of the person with ADHD – might not even be the fault of the other partner either. Some people get together for the wrong reasons and simply are not compatible and/or just do not get along.

I wouldn’t worry about the medication line too much; the success rate of medication speaks for itself. I stand by the statement and it is not a knock against medication in the least… why would you think that? Besides, this post does not specify that the ADDer is not already being treated:

“ADHD does not automatically, categorically, equal total fault or total responsibility on our part to make a relationship work. And sometimes, certain relationships simply aren’t going to work out regardless of any diagnosis, treatment or counseling.”

That was my point :)

Denial is a two way street. There are many who blame the ADDer without looking in their mirror, can we even suggest that doesn’t happen? Heck, even many ADDer’s blame themselves relentlessly, take every treatment option and it still doesn’t work out and it’s not because they didn’t try or succeed in correcting some of their behavior, – maybe, just maybe, it was a compatibility issue to begin with or it was more the other partner’s issues involved?

Bryan

Gina Pera October 28, 2009 at 4:25 am

Bryan,
I’m talking about your opening sentence! :-)

“In today’s world it seems we are obsessed with couples counseling, relationship solutions and even medication that will make a partner behave better for the needs of another.”

As for the rest, that strikes me as a collection of straw men. No one with any sense would disagree with your saying that the person with ADHD isn’t always at fault or that their partners are sometimes at fault for a relationship’s troubles.

Bryan Hutchinson October 28, 2009 at 7:04 am

Gotcha Gina, I see what you mean, so please let me be clear: I believe in therapy and counseling on saving me in sooo many ways! I also believe medication is a God-send for many others that can take it. My opening sentence is not a knock on any of the treatments, no, sorry if it came across that way. It is a deliberate knock on anyone who suggests these remedies without any concern for their own behavior, or to put the blame solely on our behavior. We’ve had long drawn out discussions on our AW Network about this very issue. The person with ADHD, in our discussions, is doing everything they can to improve themselves, even taking medication and it simply is not enough and all the while the other person is just whistling along, sometimes getting away with things that are… I will point that out in a second…

As in NM mentions above and in my reply to her: some partners have, and are, using their partner’s ADHD as the one single cop-out and not looking in the mirror. It takes two, with or without ADHD. This is happening quite a bit from what I have been reading. I had an email from a reader a few weeks ago who discussed how they had worked on themselves for years while the other continued to live their life as they felt without any input allowed or correction, just went out with friends all the time, she worked late constantly and each time he said something he was told he wasn’t taking enough of his ‘treatment’ – but, in the end, she (the non ADDer) was having an affair all the while – an affair she had long before they ever got married or met for that matter, it was just someone she always ‘had’. Talk about a sucker punch!

There are so many discussions about similar situations and it upsets me when ADHD is being used as the cop-out so the other person can just go along their merry way doing what they do, for as long as they want… there is another side of the story going untold. ADHD makes headlines for its detrimental effect and sometimes these headlines seem to be a bright shiny sign saying “It’s their fault, blame it on them, they have ADHD!” In many cases ADHD is the issue – we know that, but this other situation is happening and is for the most part being ignored or in some way, shape or form, still being blamed on the ADHD person.

Sometimes, I tend to believe, the major role in such relationships, the type I am discussing here, is actually that we try, try, try and over exert ourselves to improve for something that simply can’t be improved, while blindly continuing without ever realizing, in certain cases, it just doesn’t matter what the ADDer does, especially if the other person has an ulterior motive.

Dana October 28, 2009 at 5:32 am

Bryan,

This was one “eye opener” that makes perfect sense!

The sad truth of the matter is that breakups, whether between a childhood friend, a short-term romance or a long-term commitment, everyone of them are heart wrenching. The longer you are with someone, the more likelier you are to having a long history together and the deeper the emotions go.

The longer the history, the deeper the emotions and the more we have put every ounce of our heart, mind, body and soul into salvaging the relationship, the MORE difficult it is to come to the realization that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that will save the relationship.

The one thing that really stood out to me was when you said, “There comes a point of no return and if we do not understand, or accept that this point does exist, then we not only take valuable time away from our own happiness and future, but we also hold back our partner’s as well.”

In todays society where divorce is at an all time alarming rate, how do couples honestly know when “enough is enough?” At one point is there NO RETURN???

Bryan, I totally understand what you wrote about breaking up can be the right thing to do, but I still can not grasp how a couple sincerely get to that point and they both go their separate ways?

To make matters more complicating and devastating is when there are one or more children involved. That is one thing to break up a dead end relationship, but it is definitely a totally different story when you add one or more children into the scheme of things.

Sure, ending a relationship that is not working out the way you planned is sensible, but once kids enter the picture, suddenly EVERYTHING CHANGES. Now there are innocent children involved who are confused, scared and emotionally hurting.

Ending a long-term commitment, such as marriage, may not be a day at the beach, but if no children are involved, it is definitely easier.

However, ripping a child away from his or her parents, due to an ugly divorce is tragic, traumatic and it is toxic enough to scar the child for life. The reality of divorce may be acceptable and common in our culture, but it is not necessarily for the “benefit” of the child.

I am all for resolving conflict, finding solutions to problems and honestly admitting that the relationship is not salvageable. If this is between a two mature adults, fine. It is best to not permit the painful relationship to continue struggling any longer than it has to. I believe that it is healthy for two adults to agree that “enough is enough,” end the relationship and simply go separate ways.

Adding a child or children into the relationship is the complicating factor that has a negative and lasting impact. There are many angles to view this typical situation in which many individuals in our society would suggest to terminate the marriage, regardless of how negative this lasting effect will impact the child’s life.

There is no easy way to end a relationship when kids are involved. Parents have to do what they believe is best, but I know from my own personal experience that what one parent may consider “the best solution” is not exactly the ideal answer in the long run.

The dysfunction and break down of America’s marriages has torn millions of families apart, has brought more poverty into homes, has left more children being raised WITHOUT the benefit of both parents and has led more children down the same tragic path to find themselves in the same exact situation when they become adults.

Generation after generation is contributing to this dysfunction within the home. Our nation is literally becoming DESENSITIZED by divorce.

As a child raised by only one parent, I can honestly admit that I never would wish that upon any child, especially my own. There is no easy answer when it comes to ending a relationship that does involve one or more kids.

I am not a Saint, I am not perfect, I have made many mistakes in my life and I have fallen into the same dysfunction that my own parents experienced. Having ADHD has contributed to many challenges in relationships, but I do believe that Bryan was exactly correct by saying, “It takes two to tango!’

Bryan, this was an excellent post and it brought up many issues that are worth discussing. As for me, I have mixed emotions about ending relationships that are involving marriage and children.

This situation is a tough one and I sympathize with anyone who has to endure the emotional & financial hardship of divorce. I applaud all single parents for striving each day to make a BIG difference in the lives of their children.

Bryan Hutchinson October 28, 2009 at 7:26 am

Dana, thank you, very good, well thought out points and yes, children must be considered. I think one of the issues involved is that people are simply not getting married from the manner we did in ages past, where two people usually know each other from their ‘town’ for a long while and through courtship get married and live a long life together – those days of our grandparents are long past and although some of those relationships didn’t make it, they had a far better chance… now ‘a’ days is soo different, people know each other for much shorter periods before getting married and have children too quickly without fully knowing their partner. There are many scenarios and reasons, but one thing is clear, the way people are meeting has changed and changed too fast, in my opinion and divorce is one result, although there are those who are making it just fine, perhaps even fabulously.

As for when a couple know it is over? That’s between each couple and if children are involved, I agree it is far more complicated and there is much, much more to consider, but that doesn’t mean both parties are going to agree on what is best. It can be argued that it is even more detrimental for children to grow up in a broken home that is kept together simply for the benefit of the children…

Dana October 29, 2009 at 1:30 am

Bryan, I ABSOLUTELY agree with you! Couples should NEVER stay together for the “children’s sake” because the truth is that the children are not fooled by the little make believe act that everything is fine. Kids are MUCH more aware of what is going on between parents then what adults give them credit for.

Therefore, I personally believe that it is rather foolish and hypocritical for adult couples to use this excuse to salvage the broken relationship. In addition, I believe that it may do more harm than good to stay in a miserable marriage.

Here is a logical and realistic view of a family that stays together for the sake of the kids:

1) Mom & dad are fighting and arguing so much that they accidentally wake up the children who were sleeping or they are screaming loudly enough that the kids are aware of the heated dispute.

2) Mom & dad are not fighting, but they are never together. There is NO hugging, talking, kissing, laughing or family time. Dad is always working, busy, golfing, watching TV, fixing the car or occupied with something. Mom is so wrapped up in her own job, she is out with her girlfriends, she is busy doing volunteer work for the church or she can be found crying in the bathroom.

3) The kids do not hear any fights between their parents, but the tension in the home is so thick that you can cut it with a knife!

4) The worst scenario is that dad is drinking too much, behaving very aggressive, swearing, calling mom some very rotten names and he is very combative. When mom asks dad a question, he flips out and starts physically pushing her around. This is the worst situation, especially since the children are aware that mom is being abused both emotionally and physically.

5) Basically, what the children are learning is TOTAL DYSFUNCTION. The problem with this is that children are learning negative and violent behaviors in which they may grow up thinking that it is “normal & acceptable” to have a man push around and beat up his wife.

6) This learned behavior is unhealthy and could lead all the children to grow up to fall into the same types of unhealthy relationships. Yet, this is ALL that they knew……This unhealthy lifestyle was the most damaging.

If anyone thinks that they should SAVE their marriage ONLY because of the children, they need to re-examine the harmful and psychologically traumatic impact that this will ultimately have on each child involved.

Here is a logical and realistic scenario of a family in which the parents divorced and they have shared custody:

1) For the 1st week of each month, the children stay with dad. Their father is responsible for driving the kids to school and after school activities. In addition, the father is responsible for cooking, cleaning, supervising and spending quality time with each child, while they are in his care.

2) Dad loves his children and enjoys spending time with them. He takes responsibility to get involved with his kids and he keeps communication open between each child. His kids grow up knowing that their dad loves them and they can depend on him.

3) For the 2nd week of the month, mom has custody of the kids. During this time, mom is responsible for taking her kids to school, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework and taking the kids to after school activities.

4) Mom feels sad about the divorce, but she attempts to make up for this loss by spending even more time with her kids. Mom literally sacrifices time and money to be available for her children. She is openly affectionate and the kids know that their mom would do anything for them.

5) For the 3rd week, the kids are back at dad’s house and eventually they will adjust to this new way of living. It may not be easy at first, but in time, all the kids will accept that mom and dad no longer love one another.

6) Suddenly, dad is smiling much more and the kids are suspicious about how he is so happy all the time. Dad discusses with his kids that he met a new woman and is dating on a regular basis. One of the kids flips out screaming, while the other two say, “Wow! That is so cool, dad!”

7) During week 4, mom has the kids at her house and she takes the kids out for pizza and a movie. While at the restaurant, the youngest child mentions that daddy has a new pretty girlfriend. For the next hour, mom is crying in the restroom, outraged that her ex-husband replaced her so quickly.

8) Mom forces herself to enjoy the pizza and movie, but the rest of the night she is secretly fuming with anger. Her kids do not say anything, but they are aware that mom must be upset about dad having a new girlfriend.

For months and months, both parents continue taking turns with the child custody routine that is hectic & stressful, but becoming a natural part of life. As the children grow and mature, they see that both parents do move onward to start a new life.

Each child within the family acknowledges that both parents are loving, affectionate, supportive and actively part of their lives. Although, the divorce was a very unpleasant and sad experience for each child, as they mature, they come to realize the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship.

The make believe story ends on a happy note because the kids each formed strong bonds with both of their parents. Dad eventually marries and has more kids, while mom chooses to casually date for companionship.

The end result is that the kids are able to successfully heal from their parents divorce because both parents are actively a part of their lives. A negative situation is overcome by both parents balancing responsibility of parenting.

Bryan, I could very easily go off on another scenario, but I will stop before I get too carried away!

Bryan Hutchinson October 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

Ah Dana… if we lived in a perfect world :)

Good information, though, and I have heard of successful relationships such as this and caring for kids; however, when it is a disastrous breakup…

Jacquelyn October 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Dana,

Thank you for your post. Bryan’s post, and yours, resonate strongly at this point in my life.

You wrote “The longer the history, the deeper the emotions and the more we have put every ounce of our heart, mind, body and soul into salvaging the relationship, the MORE difficult it is to come to the realization that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that will save the relationship. ” True for me, and I’ve put EVERYTHING into this relationship.

But then you talk about the agony and trauma caused by splitting when children are involved. For the last year and a half, I’ve been dating/living with/affianced to/unaffianced from/dating again a man who has two children who call me Mommy. So even though dissolving my relationship with him would be best for me, I have been torn in half, due to the children, and have experienced that struggle for the past year. This has begun to affect my mental and physical health.

Your discussion about the affects on children, whom I dearly love and wish were my own, has helped me understand why I’ve been unwilling (it feels like UNABLE) to move on. I have blamed myself intensely for my “inability” to move on from a situation that is bad for me, and my inability to make a decision. Thank you for pointing out that part of my ambivalence may be an unconscious realization of what my leaving would do to the children. (I don’t mean to toot my own horn or sound arrogant, but at this point, I think the children believe they need me more than they need their own father.)

I knew I loved them, but I didn’t realize my concern for their future welfare, plus my own abandonment issues from being adopted, plus my desire to have a family after the late point in life when my biological clock finally kicked in, and the affect these things have had on my ambivalence about staying. Or leaving. Or staying. :)

Still, maybe I should not stay mostly for the children. The more I consider this, the more I believe that I need to remove myself before we grow closer. I don’t want to hurt them more if I do end up leaving.

Would love to hear your thoughts. I’ve been pulled in two by leaving or not leaving for so long. I truly don’t know what to do, and would benefit from the insight of someone outside my situation who isn’t a close friend.

Thanks in advance.

Bryan Hutchinson October 29, 2009 at 9:57 am

Hi Jacquelyn,

I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you and I sure, quite certain in fact, that you are not alone with this struggle. The fact that they are not your biological children adds an additional twist that they have already lost one mother. It’s not their fault, but who knows what their perception will be and how this will affect their future. It’s a dilemma beyond any advice and is truly something only you can possibly know. However, with that said, if the relationship is truly over for you and you are only staying for the children, I can admire, but what is this doing to you and your opportunity to meet someone you can truly live with and care for? What about Jacquelyn?

When I divorced I lost something extra special in that I was very close to her sister’s kids. They were about 6 and 8. I was very close to them and although, they have parents and I was only an uncle, it is the saddest and hardest part of the divorce that I never saw them again and even if for some reason I would see them now, I don’t think they would remember me the same way. It’s so sad. I know this is much different than actually raising children and having them call you ‘mommy’, but in a distant way I can feel your concern and, this factor did play a role in my consideration of getting the divorce because I didn’t want it to affect them or hurt them etc… Perhaps you can still see them from time to time? It won’t be the same and perhaps you need a clean break?

Personally speaking, if you’re in it for the kids’ welfare alone, and that’s clearly it, then perhaps finding a way to still ‘see’ them is an option?

Bryan

Dana November 3, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Jacquelyn,

After reading what Bryan wrote to you, I agree with him that ONLY YOU can make the final decision on whether to break up or stay together in your relationship. Nobody likes to be in your shoes, but the truth is that many of us have been in very similar situations as you.

Breaking up can be so hard to do! Why do we spend so much time agonizing over it, feeling so frustrated, confused, angry, sad and torn into a million little pieces?

Jacquelyn, there may not be an easy and simply answer, but the one thing I want to suggest is this: WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOT MAKE ANY FINAL DECISIONS.

What I find extremely helpful for me is to literally write down or type the pro’s & con’s of breaking up and staying together. By writing or typing all of the good, bad and ugly scenarios, it will provide you a clearer picture of the facts.

Do not force yourself to make up your mind by a specific date because this serious decision should not be rushed. On the same token, are you willing to spend one additional year in limbo and not make any decisions?

The most important question of all: Do you love this man? Does he love you? Have you discussed with him how you are feeling about your relationship and about his children?

If this stressful situation is truly affecting your mental & physical health, I recommend that you consider some form of stress reduction, such as yoga, exercise, relaxation techniques, professional massage, quiet time in prayer/meditation or professional therapy. Take better care of yourself and look for ways to seek peace of mind.

Take one little step at a time to address a concern of yours and to look for helpful ways to resolve it. Think about which concern is the most urgent issue and allow yourself to focus on that one concern.

By prioritizing your concerns, from the most urgent to the not very urgent, you will be able to gradually work on finding solutions and answers to make the necessary changes in your life. Take a deep, long breath, relax and take one day at a time!

Katy B. "Miss K" October 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Yeah, debate, debate!

See I was right, I’m not alone…BUT, it is true, as many others have said, that the troubles can come from many other directions, not just the ADHD direction.

Seeing ADHD as one contributing factor in my loooong, saddddd love life (lol) is a new thing for me. One facet of understanding that has been polished for observation…but probably many more left to be discovered. If anything, I would say that not trusting myself, and being too self-critical are two of the things that really screw me in relationships, and my ADHD status is probably only ONE of several factors that created that condition.

One way that I believe ADHD does affect me in relationships? Just to be clear, I don’t have a history of physical or sexual abuse, or pathologically sadistic parenting…but if there’s no chaos in the relationship I get bored REAL FAST and then spend the next year or two or however long, telling myself I shouldn’t be, and I should get over it…which makes me think so much about over-riding my own judgment that I then am not noticing OTHER things that really ARE a problem.

Like…oh geez, my bipolar boyfriend isn’t taking his medication…maybe THAT is a problem. Or geez…this person doesn’t seem to like women very much, hmmm…or wait, did my boyfriend just tell me that he’s a serial cheater…or oh look, this is a person that gets their high off of “taking care of” other people but is totally ignoring their own passive aggressive stuff that’s hurting my feelings all the time…uhhh…yeah my hindsight is WAY 20/20…I ignored a lot about myself that way for a long time too. So consumed by my own boredom, and stimulation seeking that I wasn’t even paying attention…blah. I am very assertive about my interest in someone and tend to just jump IN in the first place without a of of thought too…oops…I like FUN, is that so WRONG…haha…

I seem to NEED excitement…dammit…how to find THAT, without finding and helping to create toxic relationships…me and the therapist are working on that one.

Bryan Hutchinson October 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

Katy: huh? lol – whew, I don’t even know where to start on this one?! Maybe your definition of excitement will help… I used to have a problem (uhm long ago, you know) I used to describe myself in a certain way to myself (silently, of course) and finally, after revealing this to my therapist, he asked me to define it, what this term meant to me, so I did and then he prodded me to ask me what else it could mean, etc, etc, etc and then at the end somehow (don’t ask) I came away with a whole new, empowering definition and felt much better about myself – a good therapist can do some amazing things! All I am saying is, that you may have a certain definition of what excitement should be (trouble / chaos / going out and kicking trees?) I don’t know what that definition is, obviously, but, more importantly, do you? It is possible to change it, start defining it? Write out what else it could mean to you and find out what is more empowering and, well, healthy. I am not a therapist, but make a game of it…. have fun!

Bryan

Katy B. "Miss K" October 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Yeah, debate, debate!

See I was right, I’m not alone…BUT, it is true, as many others have said, that the troubles can come from many other directions, not just the ADHD direction.

Seeing ADHD as one contributing factor in my loooong, saddddd love life (lol) is a new thing for me. One facet of understanding that has been polished for observation…but probably many more left to be discovered. If anything, I would say that not trusting myself, and being too self-critical are two of the things that really screw me in relationships, and my ADHD status is probably only ONE of several factors that created that condition.

One way that I believe ADHD does affect me in relationships? Just to be clear, I don’t have a history of physical or sexual abuse, or pathologically sadistic parenting…but if there’s no chaos in the relationship I get bored REAL FAST and then spend the next year or two or however long, telling myself I shouldn’t be, and I should get over it…which makes me think so much about over-riding my own judgment that I then am not noticing OTHER things that really ARE a problem.

Like…oh geez, my bipolar boyfriend isn’t taking his medication…maybe THAT is a problem. Or geez…this person doesn’t seem to like women very much, hmmm…or wait, did my boyfriend just tell me that he’s a serial cheater…or oh look, this is a person that gets their high off of “taking care of” other people but is totally ignoring their own passive aggressive stuff that’s hurting my feelings all the time…uhhh…yeah my hindsight is WAY 20/20…I ignored a lot about myself that way for a long time too. So consumed by my own boredom, and stimulation seeking that I wasn’t even paying attention…blah. I am very assertive about my interest in someone and tend to just jump IN in the first place without a of of thought too…oops…I like FUN, is that so WRONG…haha…

I seem to NEED excitement…dammit…how to find THAT, without finding and helping to create toxic relationships…me and the therapist are working on that one.

Katy B. "Miss K" October 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Yeah, debate, debate!

See I was right, I’m not alone…BUT, it is true, as many others have said, that the troubles can come from many other directions, not just the ADHD direction.

Seeing ADHD as one contributing factor in my loooong, saddddd love life (lol) is a new thing for me. One facet of understanding that has been polished for observation…but probably many more left to be discovered. If anything, I would say that not trusting myself, and being too self-critical are two of the things that really screw me in relationships, and my ADHD status is probably only ONE of several factors that created that condition.

One way that I believe ADHD does affect me in relationships? Just to be clear, I don’t have a history of physical or sexual abuse, or pathologically sadistic parenting…but if there’s no chaos in the relationship I get bored REAL FAST and then spend the next year or two or however long, telling myself I shouldn’t be, and I should get over it…which makes me think so much about over-riding my own judgment that I then am not noticing OTHER things that really ARE a problem.

Like…oh geez, my bipolar boyfriend isn’t taking his medication…maybe THAT is a problem. Or geez…this person doesn’t seem to like women very much, hmmm…or wait, did my boyfriend just tell me that he’s a serial cheater…or oh look, this is a person that gets their high off of “taking care of” other people but is totally ignoring their own passive aggressive stuff that’s hurting my feelings all the time…uhhh…yeah my hindsight is WAY 20/20…I ignored a lot about myself that way for a long time too. So consumed by my own boredom, and stimulation seeking that I wasn’t even paying attention…blah. I am very assertive about my interest in someone and tend to just jump IN in the first place without a of of thought too…oops…I like FUN, is that so WRONG…haha…

I seem to NEED excitement…dammit…how to find THAT, without finding and helping to create toxic relationships…me and the therapist are working on that one.

Scott Hutson October 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Bryan,

I agree about ADD can’t be blamed for every bad relationship. Some women are just….ooops I better be careful! HA HA.

Seriously though, I’m not real sure, but ADD may have had some affect on my decision to marry my first wife.

But I did’nt know I had ADD at the time, and maybe if I had treatments and medication at a younger age, I would’nt have jumped in so quickly to get the stimulation of getting married the first time(to that woman). Just a thought, by an over-thinking guy.;)

Gina has helped me so much with her advise and her book, and I use it now to guide me away from trouble, that may occur with my obvious ADD symptoms.

Good article Bryan! It touches on a very touchy subject for me!

Scott.

Bryan Hutchinson October 31, 2009 at 9:08 am

Hi Scott,

That’s a good point; our ADD nature does seem to get us in trouble by jumping in a little, or a lot, too quickly without getting to know someone. You’re also right about Gina’s book, absolutely outstanding, as a matter of fact, her latest article on BlogSpot hits on another point about our ability to ‘listen and hear’ … whadya say? Need to get that fixed before ‘jumping in’ lol!

B.

Scott Hutson October 31, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Yes Bryan! I had no doubt, you would see the point I was trying to get across in my ADD way of……thinking.

I have also been interested in Gina’s blog, and the way the brain can affect our audio reception.

Sometimes it can be very funny, and let me laugh at my self, when I realize how silly I must have sounded, when responding to a question,statement,etc,,,. But funny may not be the word my wife if thinking…lol.

Scott.

Scott Hutson November 2, 2009 at 2:04 am

Bryan,

Here’s something that I just read this evening, that sparked my memory about this post. …I just, by chance, noticed how this may apply to me.

Gina was writing the words of Harvard Medical School professor and psychologist:”Novelty is much more exciting to people with ADHD, so they can remain much more focused during courtship,” Brooks says. That is, the excitement can act as a sort of medication that boosts brain function.

Whatcha think?

Bryan Hutchinson November 3, 2009 at 6:25 am

Hey Scott,

Yes, I agree. Novelty is beautiful and delicious, gets our attention and is blinding. I tend to think we are a bit more primal during new relationships for a few particular reasons, but yes, the novelty is paramount, next to, dare I say, the S word? I don’t know, though, if it boosts brain function in a good way, because it sure seems we are more blinded than what is usual… caught up in the moment, led by instincts etc… just my thoughts, but, here again, we lead ourselves back to blaming ourselves, even if the relationship difficulties aren’t necessarily our fault, we in-turn blame ourselves for getting in the relationship in the first place, that we didn’t see it coming. Yep, hindsight is 20 / 20! However, I think we all can look back at situations and say “Should have seen it coming”, but wasn’t it good?! Yeah, until reality set in and we are saying “Who are you and where did that person I have been dancing in the clouds with go???” lol

Kirsten June 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

Bryan
It’s two years afteryou wrote this blog, but thank goodness I found it this morning. I was diagnosed with ADHD a couple months ago. I went on meds and am a much calmer, less reactive person now. In the past no matter my husband’s behavior, my reaction became the focus. I have worked my a– off in this relationship for 4 years. I am a better person as a result. But now it seems he is upping his behavior to try to get a reaction from me. It feels so good to not have that sense of being less than and to be clear it IS him not me. This diagnosis and treatment have been a blessing for me. I feel hopeful that in the future it will be substance, and not just the short-lived shiny characteristics in a relationship that will draw me to someone. I did make several last ditch efforts just to “make sure” this relationship was at it’s end….but I already know it is. He won’t change. He hasn’t yet and there is no medication that is going to change his personality.

Bryan Hutchinson June 10, 2011 at 10:53 am

Hi Kirsten,

The good news is that the relationship compelled you to seek and find help, that’s fantastic! Good for you. Unfortunately, not all relationships are meant to be and sometimes there’s nothing that can be done to save them, even if ADHD is the fault or is to blame or whatever.

Sometimes, and more often than not, a bad relationship is just a bad relationship and ADHD is used as a release for anger as if that would help, which it doesn’t. However, some relationships could be saved with proper treatment, but not any relationships I have had lol! I am happily married now and she’s more likely to laugh than get upset or angry. A good relationship is just, simply, a good relationship too.
:)

Bryan

Peg July 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Bryan,

I agree with everything you wrote. And I am one of those ADHD people that stayed in the wrong relationships for far to long. Reading your article is like breathing a breath of fresh mountain spring air!

:) :D
Peg

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