ADHD adults often carry a lot of hurt and shame with them. Learn what these shame triggers are and you can significantly improve your interactions. A recent conversation with five adults with ADHD and their partners highlights some of the issues.
Your partnership includes too many lies – big and small. In three previous posts I’ve written about why this is happening, and how this hurts your relationship. ADHD – and responses to ADHD – can certainly play a role. So what to do? Here are 9 strategies for ending in your relationship:
When I talk about lying problems in relationships, I'm not just talking about partners with ADHD. Either partner can lie...and lies also exist in relationships in which there is no ADHD. But there are some ways that the presence of ADHD increases the chances that one or the other partner will lie. To be able to chart the best course to move away from lying in your own relationship, you must first understand why the lying is happening. Choosing to lie is a decision that is made – not typically a beneficial one for a relationship, but often a logical one at some level. Understanding the logic really helps. There are at least 7 common reasons partners choose to lie, which include:
Is lying a part of your relationship? Are you eager to move past the lies to a more trusting partnership? This is the first of several posts that will deal with lies and rebuilding trust in relationships impacted by ADHD.
It’s the catch-22 of ADHD-impacted relationships (and many non-ADHD marriages, as well!) For many couples impacted by ADHD, distraction, disengagement and retreat from conflict leave non-ADHD partners feeling ‘stranded’ and lonely. Their natural response is to pursue their partner for attention…and disaster results. What do you do?
Have you ever gotten flooded during an interaction with your partner when you felt so overwhelmed that you couldn’t seem to see straight? It can happen when it seems like the same material is coming up in an argument that you’ve been over and over again and again and you just can’t handle it any more. You know you should disengage, but somehow when you get to this point, it just seems impossible. Everything seems out of control. This is flooding. Flooding is defined as:
I've read so many comments on the Forum recently about ADHD partners/spouses who seem to have problems with anger, and in some cases..rage. I can certainly appreciate how difficult it is to live with someone who seems to get triggered into this kind of reaction without a substantial reason. Melissa recently wrote an article on just this topic in EMax Health. Research done in Feb. seems to suggest that those with ADHD may be genetically predisposed to what is called "emotional lability." This is just a fancy term for moodiness, ie. irritability, or a short fuse...anger responses.
Are you tired of having your partner point to your ADHD as the source of your marital problems? I heard this today from a frustrated ADHD client, and it's a common refrain. Does the label actually matter? Is the ADHD the source of the issues? If you are working with a counselor (like me) who specializes in ADHD, does this put too much emphasis on ADHD? It's a legitimate concern that I would like to discuss here.
Yes, that sounds like a sales pitch...but it's not. Happiness is good for our brains and good for handling stress better - in marriages, if you are feeling upbeat you are more likely to be able to take some bumps in the road. If you're feeling down, pretty much everything seems grim. Here's a link to a UTube TED talk on happiness that will not only make you laugh out loud, it also has a very important message about happiness. I urge you to watch it...and also to try two exercises. Some of my clients have done these and all but one have found it helpful in diminishing their struggle. First, take 2-3 minutes a day to write down three new things about which you are grateful. These don't have to be about your relationship - anything at all for which you are grateful. Then, take 5 more minutes (or more if you like) and journal about one of those things in a positive way. Do this for three weeks straight and see what happens. I think you'll like the results. (For more tips, see the video...!)
In a recent class I was asked this interesting question by a non-ADHD husband (who also happens to be a therapist) - "All couples experience anger - so how do you tell anger that is related to ADHD apart from normal anger?" Great question!
He is right, some anger is normal for any relationship between two adults. In fact, a relationship in which no anger at all is expressed is probably not healthy - it is an indicator that someone is stifling him or herself. Creating a good relationship isn't about getting rid of anger, it's about learning how to fight productively.