ADHD & Relationsips
The ADHD relationship hamster wheel: Forever revolving and forever evolving
Back to Basics
The relationship top 10 for most destructive ADHD behaviour:
- Single focus to the exclusion of others, perhaps seen as selfish.
- No focus on anything, perhaps seen as slovenly.
- Being genuinely easily hurt emotionally but wanting to hide this, perhaps seen as weak.
- A lack of ability to ‘do’ the things required, such as laundry, perhaps seen as lazy.
- A total inability to manage money and household finances, perhaps seen as reckless.
- An inability to hold down a steady job, perhaps interpreted as because they are so challenging to work with.
- Being a shopaholic, especially an online shopaholic, seen as wasteful of precious finances and uncaring.
- Never paying bills, returning library books and meeting important deadlines, seen as uncaring and wasteful.
- Not listening and hearing what was asked, often looked at as ignorance.
- Not caring about the relationship anymore, whereas they did at first, often interpreted as a lack of love.
Here is the fact: All of these are classic, and I mean classic, ADHD behaviours that should feature in a diagnostic manual if we are honest. Rather than asking benign questions about fidgeting and moving around, (which are actually relevant), we could / should ask more questions about real lifestyle and relationship challenges.
If we look at what ADHD actually is, we know that it is often referred to as ‘differences in the hardwiring of the brain’. Once explained to me as ‘just electricity and chemicals’ the brain is the most complex thing known to man, so when it isn’t built to its best, we notice but we don’t always understand. This is because it is extraordinarily complex.
No focus on anything
Emotionally easily hurt
A lack of ability to do the things that need doing
Inability to manage money and paying bills
Holding down a steady job
When we ‘couple up’ the thrill seeking behaviour that doesn’t last forever, and the challenges of communicating effectively about emotions and add procrastination, lacking focus and being easily emotionally upset, perhaps we start to understand how hard it is for someone with ADHD to hold down a job.
Not hearing or listening in conversation
This is an Olympic level challenge for people with ADHD. Being in a conversation needs focus, concentration and a capability to listen, think and process information and speak at the same time. That is a real challenge for someone with ADHD. In fact it is almost impossible. A common coping mechanism, and one that seeks to avoid being criticised for not listening, or to prevent being shown up by not following the conversation, is to dominate the conversation. Add in a sprinkling of impulsivity and we find people with ADHD taking over others, interrupting and being the loudest to ensure they are heard.
Not caring about the relationship
It is all too easy to determine ‘love’ and ‘passion’ by the first acts and activities of a new relationship, when things are exciting and addictive. Of course, we all know that over time these things change and although the love and respect are still there, the manifestations can be different. We may do different things together that are just as loving, but perhaps not as exciting. But what if ‘exciting’ is what you need due to your ADHD and as your relationship expands and settles, even becomes more routine, you are content, happy, and secure, but your ADHD requires constant excitement.
You may turn to a hobby, an addiction to TV, gambling, driving, Xbox, it doesn’t really matter what is turned to in this context, but we shouldn’t transfer that ‘change’ into insecurity over the relationship. Things change and evolve. It is also fair to comment that people with ADHD struggle to correctly read body language, and because that skill requires the prefrontal cortex to process what you see, what you feel and what to do simultaneously, it is often an opportunity missed. Again, that can be mis-read and instead of acting like we need a cuddle, we may need to start saying ‘I feel quite low, I need reassurance, can we have a cuddle?’
Coping and Succeeding:
Recognise the hamster wheel is real and here to stay
The greatest coping mechanism in a relationship with someone with ADHD is to understand. It genuinely makes your partner easier to love. But there are also more tangible things that can be considered:
- Learn to ask without nagging, maybe jointly make a list, agree what’s going on and stay true to that agreement.
- Listento your words as you speak to your ADHD partner, imagine you are also speaking to the third element of the relationship, the ADHD, you’ll choose your words differently.
- Get away from the blame game. Whether we are blaming the partner, or their ADHD, forget it, it is never going to help. Accept things are different, move on…
- If it is you with ADHD and you feel unloved, remember that isn’t true, but your symptoms may be challenging your partner, so let’s understand them more, together.
- Stay far away from anger, difficult as that maybe, stay clear. Learn to cope and divert things when they are brewing. Develop anger avoidance techniques, change the subject, agree to disagree, say sorry… it all works.
- Remember some basics. You fell in love, remember to work hard to stay in love, not just with your partner, but also with the third element, the ADHD. Look for the strengths, maximise on them, list them, remind yourself of them.
- Also remember, that our brain is complex and it lives. We need to nourish it. Our personalities change based on how much sleep we get, how hungry we are, intestinal bacteria could be the determining factor of our emotions. Eat well, together. Exercise frequently, together. Sleep well, together.
No matter what treatment regime the partner with ADHD is on, no matter how good that can be, you will be living as three. Embrace and understand ADHD, get to know the third element of your relationship, don’t try to exclude it.
The ADHD effect on marriage by Melissa Orlov
Is it you, me or ADD? by Gina Pera