Keys to Loving a Partner with ADHD – Part I
Tara and Trevor MacKenzie are the dynamic duo behind the MacKenzie Blues Band.
The group recently returned from competing in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where they advanced to the semi-finals. For a young band who’s just released their first album, this was quite an accomplishment.
To me, an even more remarkable achievement is the balance, joy, and respect that Tara and Trevor have achieved in their personal relationship as wife and husband of 13 years.
Trevor’s been described by CBC Radio’s Tim Tamashiro as an “incendiary, virtuoso electric guitarist.” I can vouch for that. I’ve seen him; he’s riveting.
And, to the trained eye, his intense, over-the-top energy is a definite sign that it’s Trevor who’s brought the magic of ADHD to the marriage.
Here, I’ll share Part I of my conversation with Tara, who graciously offered to share some of her personal approaches and insights into living with a spouse with ADHD.
I was stunned the Tara’s depth and wisdom; her words echoed many of the suggestions offered by Melissa Orlov in her book The ADHD Effect on Marriage. Through her own volition (and her deeply loving heart), Tara discovered these Keys to Loving a Partner with ADHD on her own. Here is some of what she shared.
ZOË: When you first started dating Trevor, did you know he had ADHD? Did he talk about it?
TARA: The first thing I noticed about Trevor was that he wasn’t like anybody else that I had met. I noticed that I would say something to him and I needed to say it probably eight times, like it wasn’t grabbing; it wasn’t hooking sometimes.
ZOË: What did you think about that?
TARA: I wasn’t really sure. He wasn’t behaving in the way that somebody who just isn’t paying attention to you behaves. He would literally change gears.
We would be talking and then he would see a stick bug (he’s very interested in nature), and then the stick bug is all the focus now.
ZOË: How did that make you feel? Like, the first time it happened?
TARA: It was charming actually. I could see that he was genuinely excited about this new thing.
I thought it was really childlike and special, you know? Because he certainly wasn’t like, “You’re boring, I’m not listening to you.” It was as if this new thing had become the focus of everything.
ZOË: So how did you manage to communicate in a way that he heard you?
TARA: I would switch gears with him. I’d say, “Okay. That’s really interesting. Tell me everything you want to say about that.” And then I would come back to what we were talking about before.
I’m really comfortable with people that can switch gears so quickly. I think it’s a magical gift almost, I really do.
ZOË: You’ve said to me that you feel that Trevor’s ADHD helped you both in your business [the MacKenzie Blues Band].
TARA: Of course it does. I am a really linear thinker. Trevor does not have that capability, but he has insights that I never could have come up with because he has many ideas all at once.
ZOË: So, practically speaking, can you give me an example of how that would help?
TARA: Sure. Because we have a creative business, and Trevor is a recording engineer, he can see what is going on with 14 channels at once. He understands and he can dig deep down the rabbit hole of each situation, each channel, each thing, and they can all be functioning at once in chaos which drives me crazy. It’s so unnerving for me, it’s so stressful.
But for Trevor it’s the Zen zone where he’s totally operating on this amazing, happy level. There’s all this chaos happening, to me it’s chaos, but to him it’s organized universal creativity.
ZOË: He assimilates it…
TARA: That’s exactly the right expression, yeah. That’s the essence of it. Trevor has an ability to manage multi-tasks all at one time effectively but he can’t stay with one single task for a long period of time.
He can go for hours and hours mixing [music tracks]. But he can not go for hours in a grocery store.
He can’t watch a television program for more than 20 minutes that is peaceful. There needs to be different things rapidly happening, whereas I need stationary silence to de-program and relax.
ZOË: Is that one of the ways that your marriage and your partnership work for you, by acknowledging the differences?
TARA: Yes. We worked to get the money to build me this space we’re in that is totally silent and peaceful for me to de-program in [referring to her music studio where the interview took place].
ZOË: Many adults with ADHD have anger issues and moodiness.
TARA: He somehow channels it through music. He doesn’t express his feelings verbally, but he has to have time with his guitar.
ZOË: You mentioned nature earlier. Can we go back to that?
TARA: Sure. I watch Trevor get completely captivated by the smallest thing.
He can notice a bug sitting on a tree that I would never see. He would notice an animal the size of a blade of grass. He would zoom in and say, “Hey! Look at that amazing thing!” He can see foxes, he can see wolves, he can see hawks, owls, everything that I just wouldn’t notice. He sees them in Technicolor immediately and points them out to me.
I had to learn how to slow down with him, while he’s having the amazing moment. Normally I would just be doing something else, thinking something else, and he’s like, “No. Stop. This is the good stuff.”
For more good stuff from Tara, stay tuned for Part II of Keys to Loving a Partner with ADHD.
To see the affection (and talent) of these two in action, enjoy the video:
Kessler, Z. (2013). Keys to Loving a Partner with ADHD – Part I. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2013/02/keys-to-loving-a-partner-with-adhd-part-i/