ADHD may have undermined your last relationship, but it doesn’t have to destroy your future. Here are 10 tips to keep your future healthier and happier:
- Your past relationships have been impacted by undiagnosed or unmanaged ADHD but now you know about it - so your future relationships can be quite different. Understand the common patterns outlined in my award-winning books (start with The ADHD Effect on Marriage.) Even though you aren't married, you need to understand the patterns so you can interrupt them before they become a problem in any future relationship. Knowledge is power!
- Optimizing your ADHD treatment is critical. Need information on this? Download the two free chapters from The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD at my free online treatment guide. This has the latest on treating adult ADHD.
- You will want to make sure you have good communication interactions with any future partner - that means an ability to speak non-aggressively (on the part of both partners) and listen non-defensively. If you have anger management issues, make that a target symptom RIGHT NOW and consider both working with a doctor and exploring mindfulness training to manage them. Big, Big issue that you cannot ignore if you want your future relationships to be happy.
- Look for a partner who exhibits a sense of humor, flexibility, and affection. Also, if you can find someone who is not easily triggered by surprises, that will also help. Living with a partner with ADHD is full of surprises (both good and bad, I would like to point out, but surprises none the less!)
- 'Play' is a big part of sustaining a relationship. Find someone you have fun with and who shares your hobbies and passions...all sorts of research supports the idea that ‘play’ is one of the more important intrinsic motivators in humans (a fancy way of saying that if you can play with someone, you are likely to want to be with them!)
- Date for at least 2 years before getting married, to make sure it's not just about extra dopamine you each have while in that initial infatuation stage. Once that dopamine boost ends (around 20-24 months) you will be able to see if you still love to be together and really are compatible
- Create a life that you like - if you are stressed out, you will find that your symptoms (and your life) are worse. Joy is an important part of any good relationship
- Get enough sleep. Less sleep means more symptoms. Make it a priority to get a MINIMUM of 7 hours a night. 7.5 is supposedly the sweet spot as we age
- Exercise very regularly (minimum 5 days a week.) This will help with all sorts of health issues, including controlling ADHD symptoms.
- ADHD will come up at some point - don't advertise it but do be open about it. ADHD encourages many positive qualities that can shine through when the symptoms aren’t out of control – creativity, empathy, the ability to feel things deeply, high energy and imagination and more. There are numerous adults who love these qualities. I am one of them. I can think of nothing worse than dating a staid, very reliable, but very boring person.
Remember that there are many great qualities about you. Going through a divorce or a bad break up can be hard on the ego and definitely make you question yourself and your attractiveness. Don't. There are lots of people out there who are looking for a partner who is interesting and can stand on his or her own feet. I bet you have your own (very interesting) opinions, and may be smart and creative. You may be seeking answers and joy in life. You may or may not be an extrovert, but there are potential partners for both.
Still wondering if your next relationship can be better? I would like to 'assign' you some homework to get going (I do this regularly - one of my most irritating traits!)
Homework: Start a journal (hand written or on the computer) and set a reminder to start writing a few ideas a day about these topics (choose at will):
- why you are loveable (qualities, actions, who you are on the inside)
- what you are grateful for (in life, in general, specific people or actions...anything you are grateful for)
- what gives you joy
This reflection will help you get a ‘brain reset’, even rewiring it for the positive, if you keep it up. (I'm not kidding here.)
And, of course, work on the ADHD symptomatic behaviors that you feel most get in your way. Get a coach if you need one to get 'well enough organized' or set up ways to remember things.