5 Things You Can Do When Your Partner Has ADD
5 key things to keep in mind that will help you, your partner and your relationship, better manage ADHD, together!
Whether your spouse grew up receiving treatment for ADHD, or was recently diagnosed, you probably have some questions. The more you know about ADHD/ADD, the better you can help yourself and your spouse through the inevitable challenges that all marriages face.
Here is a list of 5 key things to keep in mind to help you, your partner and your relationship better manage ADHD, together!
1. Acknowledge your differences. “I can do it, why can’t you? Why would you ever act like that? Why are you being difficult?” Comparing someone to how you feel they should be is isolating and can trigger feelings of inadequacy and defensiveness. Instead, acknowledge that your partner operates differently than you, without making you right and them wrong. Not necessarily better, or worse, just different! Encourage your partner and yourself to be open about expectations, and where each of you tends to responded to perform at your best. The more you learn about each other’s abilities to perform in different circumstances and situations, the more you’ll set expectations with knowledge and understanding.
2. Stay calm. Your spouse may appear to be fine one moment, then shift gears to an emotional reaction to a simple, everyday occurrence. They may staunchly refuse to talk about an issue, then suddenly hyper-focus on it and discuss everything all at once! These emotional downloads can be hard on those who love someone with ADHD, and can make you feel that you need to walk on eggshells to avoid triggering an eruption. It’s a good idea to establish a practice with your partner of calmly telling them that you want to talk when you’re both feeling calm and communicative. Creating a little distance allows your partner to recognize that their ADHD is coming into play, and helps you both move forward with mutual respect and acceptance.
3. Separate who your partner is from their ADHD. If your loved one forgets something important you told them – doesn’t show up to a date you arranged, interrupts you in the middle of an explanation, or exhibits a sudden emotional flare-up, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care! With ADHD, your partner is battling inconsistent attention-regulation. And since attention-regulation occurs outside of willful consciousness, can overwhelm one’s best intentions. As difficult as it is, you need to separate your partner from any atypical reactions. They likely want to exhibit behavior that shows you they care about you, but ADHD can swoop in and take the reins. This is not to suggest that you try to be impervious to your partner’s chemical imbalances, but that you hold the perspective that the ADHD symptoms are only a small part of who your partner is.
4. Recognize the difference between nagging and thoughtfully reminding. Take a moment to imagine how it would feel if no one thought they could rely on you. Your spouse is likely used to constantly being told to just remember things, to just behave like a normal person, or to get something right for once! Over the years, these comments foster the belief that they really are somehow inadequate, and that trigger can make them more likely to forget, or to leave something unfinished again. Talk openly with them about it and how they many want your support in remembering appointments, completing tasks, or prioritizing. Placing trust in your spouse to do their best, and only asserting reminders when and where they’re asked for, will help prevent your partner from feeling talked down to, and encourage you both to focus on strengths, and what’s going right!
5. Most importantly, listen. Even if your spouse has known about their condition for years, and is receiving effective treatment, ADHD can still make a person feel powerless to explain themselves. Sit down and allow them talk about the ways they’ve been affected by their unique live experience. How do they feel ADHD has affected them and their relationships in the past? What can you do to create an environment where they feel safe being open about it? What conditions have they felt their best in? Everyone’s ADHD is different, and rather than assume you understand it, ask your partner directly about the impact ADHD has on their life, and what you both can do to work through the challenges. After all, isn’t that what all relationships are really about?