“…adults with ADHD endorse failure as their most common maladaptive belief (Philipsen et. al., 2017). Not only do they view the glass as half-empty, they assume their glass has a permanent hole in it. Thus, when facing slip-ups after making some progress (particularly when others have noticed that progress), there is this strong sense of failure and hopelessness…approaching the problem as behavioral…rather than characterological…(is important.)…"
- Laura Knouse, Ph.D., and J. Russell Ramsay, Ph.D in The ADHD Report
Not Your ADHD
You are not your ADHD. But when you have ADHD, it is more likely that you will experience inconsistency. When I talk about accepting ADHD, what I mean is accepting that things are a bit different for those who have it. They will likely experience more setbacks and surprises. They will likely respond more emotionally than others. They may experience more shame than their peers. Perhaps they struggled in school, perhaps they didn’t. I’m not trying to smooth it over – having ADHD can be a real struggle.
But struggle is not the same thing as failure. And so it pains me to think that ‘endorsing failure’ as personally yours is such a big part of the ADHD experience. If you don’t have ADHD, try to imagine this for a bit. Not only is your glass half empty, but you assume it will remain so because you are broken (that permanent hole). Think about being so sensitized to your ‘failures’ that a single mis-step can erase all sorts of positive improvement somewhere deep inside you. (Compare this to an incident of failure being intrinsically seen as an aberration or learning opportunity, as many without ADHD see it.)
This quote provides one reason for why it’s so important to create a supportive environment at home in order to start to encourage long-lasting changes in your relationship. Be conscious of your ADHD-partner’s easy trigger towards shame and hopelessness. (And, no, as always I’m not suggesting you hide your own needs – only also be sensitive to the needs of your partner, as well, and this one may be hidden.)
People ask ‘why should I remain calm in the face of ADHD setbacks?’ My answer is because it’s the kindest thing you can do. It is also the most likely approach to helping your partner confront some of the inside demons that s/he needs to tame in order to succeed.
Yes, it’s hard to balance your needs and your partner’s. But it’s worth it. And ultimately, ‘partnership’ is what most couples I work with seek.
Non-ADHD support group series begins June 17, 2019
For those in marriages impacted by ADHD
You can find great resources for couples impacted by ADHD at adhdmarriage.com, including free: Online treatment overview; Downloadable chapters of my books; A community forum with other couples facing similar issues; A large number of blog posts on various topics; Referrals. Adult ADHD can have a huge impact on your relationship. ADHDmarriage.com can literally change your life!
Seminars and Groups
Is your relationship in trouble? Consider my highly acclaimed couples' course: ADHD Effect In-Depth Couples' Seminar - This 8-session phone seminar has helped many couples thrive in healthier, happier relationships. The Live session starts March 26, 2019.