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:
Get out of parent/child dynamics. The chances that your partner is going to cover up increase exponentially if that partner thinks he or she might ‘get into trouble’ for not following up, forgetting, being late, or doing something impulsive. Since these things are common when you have ADHD, the impulse to cover up is great. But take away the ‘getting in trouble’ part of this dynamic, and the urge to lie diminishes. Reward ADHD partners for transparency by being empathetic to ADHD symptomatic issues, while continuing to seek the best ways the two of you can structure your lives to minimize the impact of ADHD on you both.
Learn ‘conflict intimacy’ skills. In my self-study seminar, Recovering Intimacy in Your Relationship, I help couples develop the ability to converse about difficult topics non-aggressively and listen non-defensively. This skillset, called ‘conflict intimacy’ is critical for building trust and strengthening connection and intimacy between you. The stronger your connections, the less likely lying will occur in your relationship.
Optimize treatment for ADHD. There is a good deal of research available about the most effective ways to manage ADHD symptoms (find out what they are in my free chapter downloads for The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD). When the ADHD partner better manages ADHD, he or she becomes more reliable in the relationship – relieving pressure to cover up or lie in order to ‘please’ the other partner. In addition, managing ADHD rebuilds self-esteem – another factor in the fight against lies. Furthermore, it helps to line up ‘target symptoms’ with areas in your life that lead to lying (for example, lying around impulsive spending.)
Keep a lying journal. For the person who is lying and trying to move beyond lying, it can help to keep an online journal (password protected!!) to reflect on when you lied, and why. This can help you track patterns. Note when you were not completely truthful, and why, with questions such as ‘what did I fear when I lied?’ ‘Who was I lying to?’ ‘What was the topic?’ and more. Alternately, an individual therapist can help you explore these same questions.
Make failure a positive in your relationship. Set up your relationship so that it’s GOOD to fail when trying something new to manage ADHD or learning how to manage symptoms. Failure is often both proof of trying and a way to learn how to improve in the future. If failing is okay, and ADHD is simply an open (not heavily ‘loaded’) topic, then the urge to lie lessens dramatically.
Take charge of your financial planning. Lying around money is common in relationships impacted by ADHD. Be proactive in setting up a financial system that works for you both. Often, that means a non-ADHD partner takes charge of bill paying, since this requires repeated drudgery! Some couples use multiple accounts to regulate how much money is available for an impulsive ADHD partner to spend.
Check for, and treat, addictions. Some lying is actually about addictions, and rates of addiction are higher in those with ADHD than those without. Lying about gambling, alcohol, drugs, spending, pornography, sex, and more can really be more about addictive lack of control. If this is what’s going on in your relationship, get appropriate addiction help from a professional and, perhaps, by joining a 12-step program.
Work with a professional. Even if addiction is not an issue, it still often can help to work with a professional counselor to rebuild the trust that has been destroyed through lying.
Trust, but verify. To recover from really big lies (affairs, financial malfeasance, etc.) it helps to really stay on top of the lying partner for a transition period. Talk with a counselor and/or your partner about ways that you might be able to verify that the issue is cleaned up and stays cleaned up.
Want to read more about lying? Here are three more blog posts on the topic: