Q: I’ve been with my partner “Tracy” for four years. I love her dearly and we enjoy so many of the same things in life. However, sometimes I feel like I’m raising a child, instead of having a partner. And it’s not because she is younger than I am; in fact, she’s two years older than I. She’s 34 and I’m 32.
Tracy constantly forgets things like stopping at the grocery store on the way home, paying the bills that are due, picking me up, doctor’s appointments, you name it. The other problem is that when we’re talking, just about anything seems more important to her than our conversation, like a car going by, the TV in the next room, or even a fly in the house. This makes me feel like she doesn’t think our relationship is a priority, or that my needs are important.
The weird thing is that when she’s involved with something like her computer games or playing with her antique train set in the basement, she can do those things for hours, while letting her other responsibilities go by the wayside. I don’t know if she’s just lazy by nature, uninterested in doing her share in life, or what. But I’m tired of toting the whole load. She’s always apologetic when she has forgotten something, but a little bit of “I’m sorry” goes a long way.
You are probably wondering why I would stay with her, and sometimes I wonder the same thing, but she really is a sweet person and I know that she loves me. She writes me wonderful love notes and I know that they are sincere; and otherwise, we have so many other things going for us. We have fun together, she’s smart and funny, and she lifts my spirits when I’m down. I love her.
I’ve talked to her mother about this and her mother said that she’s always been this way. Even an ex of Tracy’s said that was why she broke up with her. Her ex said that she didn’t want to be Tracy’s mother. She said it was hard because she, too, loved Tracy. I know that Tracy’s had several other relationships. I don’t know why they ended.
Tracy has lost jobs because of her forgetting and disorganization – disorganization is another problem for her. Now she’s got a job where, apparently, her boss has taken on being “mother” to her.
So often I end up angry either because Tracy seems to be unconcerned about problems we need to solve, or her lack of remembering things. I don’t want to feel this way and I don’t like being a nag. My mother nagged my father for years and I said that I’d never be like that in my relationship, but here I am!
I don’t want to leave Tracy, but how long can I go on like this? Do you have any ideas how I can cope better so I won’t end up feeling like I have to leave?
Not Her Mother
A: I understand your frustration and anger. You sound like you might be a partner of a person with Attention Deficit Disorder. In fact, your description of Tracy’s behavior sounds like a classic case of ADD, even the part where she can focus well in certain areas, like with her computer or trains. ADD people can what’s called “hyper-focus.” Certainly ADD impacts a relationship as well as the individual, just as you are describing.
I’m guessing that she’s never been diagnosed with ADD, or you’d have mentioned it. So, I suggest that she get checked by a psychologist or doctor to see if that is her problem. There are medications that can help, as well as behavioral strategies that will help her focus and cope with her problem. Couples counseling might also be beneficial to help Tracy understand what you have been going through, as well as helping you to understand her A.D.D.