There is hope in ADHD-impacted relationships

I just replied to someone else's post and thought I should share my story here in the Joy in Marriages ADHD section. My wife and I have been married for 20 years, together for more. Her ADHD and symptoms did not really get heavy until after childbirth around 15 years ago. She was diagnosed around 10 years ago. 

We have 2 girls and both also have been diagnosed with ADHD. Needless to say my life has been impacted by ADHD. So have their lives. It's this simple observation that has been the baseline of our successful relationship.

Along with this general realization that both partners are negatively impacted by ADHD, in my case I have found certain mission critical things to focus on that break down relationship management into bite sized chunks.

It is easy to take on the role of the victim and surround yourself with so many little negative things. Try not to do that. If you find yourself slipping into that victim role, recognize it, and stop.

Educate yourself and promote education with your ADHD spouse as well. We chose to both read Melissa's ADHD & Marriage book as well as virtually attend her couples seminars. I did not experience too much reluctance on her part to embark on this educational journey, and perhaps that was because I was not reluctant. However if one partner is not willing to take this first step then I would say stop, clarify your desire to self improve along with them, and hopefully that will get you over this initial hump.

Empathy is powerful, and while unfortunately it is one of those critical characteristics that is usually absent from a racing ADHD mind, as the non-ADHD partner I can say it is critical to have empathy. Sometimes my empathetic advances are rewarded with empathy in return, but most of the time it is a one-way street. If you can't handle that, but truly want your relationship top work, you are going to have to accept it. Setting realistic expectations and seeing all the other positive characteristics in your ADHD partner helps with this.

Anger management is something I have personally always had issues with, and it is exacerbated by ADHD symptoms. However once my wife learned how to recognize those symptoms and act on them more appropriately, I was able to more easily work and mitigate my anger. Nothing good ever comes out of an angry conversation. You can be "angry" without yelling or throwing out low blows. Use a calm voice, don't use words like always, never, impossible, etc, and really try and calmly explain why you feel angry.

Take care of yourself first. Sound selfish? I thought so for many years, but if you are not good with you then how can you be good for someone else (a therapist taught me that simple fact). 

Don't run away, but do give yourself space. I have had many moments where I wanted to run away, and I have told her this thinking it would make it all stop. That is a mistake. If you think distance is the only solution, and sometimes it is, clarify that by perhaps prefacing with "I love you, but I am so frustrated, I need some time to calm down and gather my thoughts, I am going to ___________." Fill in the blank with whatever experience you can have that focuses on you, not your spouse, and make that clear, that you are taking some ME time. 

Throughout all the turmoil and melt downs there comes a renewed strength, and in our case, an elevated sense of not only love for each other, but self love as well. She is comfortable in her own skin, so am I.

It ain't always butterflies and roses but that is the case in any relationship. If you truly want to make it work then you absolutely have to dig in and commit...through thick and thin. Like my late PE coach always said...practice, practice, practice (thanks Mr. Marks!).