Why Isn't My Non-ADHD Partner Supportive of My ADHD Therapy?

Not long ago I got a note from a woman with ADHD who asked this question:  How do I respond when my husband rejects my revelations about myself as I'm going through therapy?  It's a question I hear in multiple variations with some regularity.  An ADHD partner discovers what ADHD has mean to him or her, which brings up all sorts of emotions and revelations about the past and present.  Some non-ADHD partners welcome this learning, while others seem to reject it.

Non-ADHD partners carry around a lot of baggage about past experiences with ADHD partners. This means that it's possible that when the ADHD partner starts to talk about her discoveries about ADHD the non-ADHD partner may think "yeah, right..." or "that just sounds like an excuse."  This is logical - in the past that partner has heard many good ideas that then quickly fizzled out.

Skeptical partners are likely to remain skeptical for some time.  This is a form of self-protection.  If s/he becomes hopeful, that also makes him or her vulnerable to disappointment if the ADHD partner can't follow through.  The real changes start coming after the ADHD partner shares not only what s/he is learning intellectually, but also the changes in actions they are making.  Measurable, noticeable, long-standing, consistent actions. When the ADHD partner can say "I know you think I'm consistently inconsistent when it comes to (fill in the blank) but for the last three months I've been quite consistent and effective because I've been focusing on managing my follow through..." then non-ADHD partners start to listen. Noticeable changes might be around remembering things better, no longer losing things, getting a reminder system in place, getting angry less often, being late less often - making measurable progress against whatever the things are that are have been getting in your way.

The person who asked why the therapy revelations weren't as moving to her partner as to her was at the beginning of the process - you learn about ADHD, you get treatment into place that helps you focus better, and you start behavioral therapy that helps you change your actions.  At which point resistance and disbelief can turn into relief and partnership.  I've seen it happen over and over again.

If you are an ADHD adult with a skeptical non-ADHD partner, don't focus on your partner's resistance or take it personally.  Instead, focus on moving down the path of turning your newfound knowledge into objectively measurable gains in your everyday ACTIONS.  This is where the rubber hits the road for you and for your relationship.