I hear from too many non-ADHD partners who say they have been working really, really hard to ‘compensate’ for ADHD in their relationship, only to end up frustrated and resentful. This outcome makes total sense – you can make changes in yourself and improve things somewhat, but you cannot address the issues that your partner contributes.
I like to visualize it like two people whose feet are stuck in gooey mud. They are holding hands. One partner, who starts working on his or her issues, is able to start to float up out of the muck by improving what he or she contributes to the partnership. Perhaps that includes a gentler approach, or improved ADHD treatment and behavioral control.
But they are still holding hands. So if one partner doesn’t do any work to change the fact that s/he is standing in the muck, the floating partner can only rise up so far. After that, that second partner’s continued progress is held back by the lack of progress of the still stuck partner.
The floating partner will either remain ‘stuck’ or will have to choose to let go or disengage. But, of course, a disengaged relationship is no longer a partnership. So that’s not a great option, either.
There is some good news in all of this. it’s always a good idea to contribute your best self to your relationship. Taking that first step to start ‘floating up’ often has a positive, encouraging effect on the partner who is moving more slowly out of the muck. Furthermore, you can be proud of your ability to change your input into the relationship for the better, which is a lot more desirable than looking back from some future day and seeing yourself as an angry partner or someone who had a chance to manage ADHD symptoms and chose to deny the need to do so, instead. (Eventually, once you know about ADHD, you are likely at some point to want to manage the symptoms better…why not make that NOW, before your partnership becomes a casualty of the delay?)
So, if you are a non-ADHD partner who has unsuccessfully labored under the idea that if you just work hard enough, you can ‘make’ the relationship change, take a breather for a moment. Rather than work alone, make a plan for how to gently and non-aggressively approach your partner to request assistance. This can take some lengthy lobbying, but your best bet for progress is when both of you are involved.
Need help convincing your partner managing ADHD symptomatic behaviors is important? Consider my live couples seminar, given by conference call. Let me do the heavy lifting for you.