“It is not me nor my spouse that is broken. It is the relationship that is broken.” These wise words were posted in the forum not too long ago. A breath of fresh air and some great perspective – so much clearer than blaming your partner!
Melissa once asked her husband for his perspective as the ADHD partner on their experience turning their relationship around. At another time, she also asked him if he was glad he went through finding out about his ADHD. Both answers were very enlightening.
What’s it like when both partners have ADHD in a relationship? Is it different from when only one has ADHD? Are there other resources we need to know about? Are there different challenges? These are questions I get regularly and would like to answer here.
I was giving a talk last night outside Boston and, once again, was asked “How do I get my spouse to stop denying that ADHD is a factor in our marriage?” Here are some specific suggestions for anyone who is struggling with this.
Frustrated non-ADHD spouses will often say to me something such as "It's so obvious that my partner should do X. I don't understand why he/she won't!" While a solution to the problem at hand may seem obvious, it's often really not quite so straightforward and here's why:
For a non-ADHD partner, it is SO frustrating to watch your spouse struggle without result. You want her to do well. You can see HOW she might improve things. If you were doing them, it would be EASY. Yet nothing changes. How does a non-ADHD partner remain empathetic in this situation, rather than become angry?
I recently finished reading a book by William Ury, "Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations". This is not a new book (originally published in 1991), but the subject matter is timeless, and is applicable in all aspects of life. Although my purpose when I purchased this book had nothing to do with ADHD, I was simultaneously amused and astonished at how much of the material that the author covers is exactly what I figured out in adressing issues with my ADHD spouse when we were having serious problems.
One of the major points my wife, Sue, and I stress in our new book, Married to Distraction, is the critical element of time. People take time for granted. But without time, there is no attention, and with attention there is no communication or empathy, and without communication and empathy there is no connection, and without a connection there is no play, and without play there is no fulfilling intimacy, romance, or love. We often say that play is the main action of love. But it all depends upon the previous steps, starting with time.
Both ADHD and non-ADHD spouses have a tendency to feel as if their own vision of the world is the way that the world really "is" - this feeling is human nature. We have many years on earth, we've learned certain things about how the world works and who we (and others) are in relation to what's around us. So it can be a revelation when we have the courage to step outside of our own view and try to see the world through our partner's eyes. Doing this can be very healing for a couple because in so doing you validate your partner.