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Kathleen Steinbrecher was irked by her husband's inconsiderate behavior during the eight years they dated. But she had reached her boiling point -- after three years of marriage -- when we met her in February 2002. Mike would disappear for hours on end, forget to call when he was running late, and procrastinate on household projects and paying bills. "He's broken so many promises that I don't believe anything he says anymore," Kathleen told us.
A customer-service representative for an educational media distributor, Mike admitted that he'd struggled since childhood with time management and follow-through. In fact, he was frustrated with himself for not being able to make a career change, a move he'd been talking about for years. Still, he expected Kathleen, now 32, who works for a Web site and video-producing company, to be more understanding. "I do try to keep my promises, and it's not like I'm doing these things on purpose," he said then. "It's just the way I am. Kathleen should realize that by now." Mike, now 33, was also annoyed by his wife's growing anger: "She lets her emotions get the best of her, and she can scream and hurl insults longer than anybody."
Unable to resolve the conflict themselves, the couple sought counseling. Catherine Marshall Bean, LMFT, their Philadelphia-based therapist, suspected Mike had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Bean referred Mike to a psychiatrist who officially diagnosed him with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. Meanwhile, Bean helped Mike learn time-management skills and recommended techniques to improve the couple's communication. How has their life changed? We checked in.
Mike: Last spring, I completed a master's degree in education. And this fall, I started a full-time job as a high-school English teacher. Kathleen: I'm so proud of Mike. It's difficult for anybody to work and go to school at night, but it's even more difficult for someone with ADHD. Mike: I've turned my life around, and I'm so much happier.
Kathleen: Mike is a new man! He now does his share around the house, and he's more goal oriented and responsible. Mike: In therapy, I accepted that I had to change and then learned how to get organized and manage my time better. Ritalin, which I'll probably take for the rest of my life, has improved my concentration. Kathleen: The new Mike is much better at communicating, so we argue less than we used to. Mike: Kathleen has changed, too. She has accepted that I have an actual disorder and that sometimes she needs to adjust the way she talks to me. Kathleen: I've learned to be more patient and to adapt my communication style. I used to become frustrated when he asked me to slow down or repeat something. Changing wasn't easy, but it's been worth it. We continue to work hard at our marriage because we love each other so much.