“My friends say I have an intimacy problem but they don’t really know me.”
- Garry Shandling - As quoted by David Brooks
Many couples impacted by ADHD complain about no longer being close. And as with Shandling’s humorous quote, they often blame their partner for this. I would posit, after having worked with many couples, that both partners contribute to the problem. Bear with me here…
Yes, ADHD can get in the way. Those with ADHD are often ‘inwardly focused’, meaning that it takes lots of energy to organize that very active brain of theirs, and that work is largely ‘internal’, as well as largely invisible to their partner. Further, some with ADHD who head towards the autism side of things, have genuine difficulty making connections – not because they wouldn't want to, but because it’s hard for them to interpret and act on social cues.
And then there are non-ADHD partners. I can’t tell you how often I hear some version of “I just can’t interact with my partner any more. I’m too angry/frustrated/hurt/sad…” Yet deciding not to interact leads inevitably to disconnection.
If you are feeling disconnected, you are both struggling, and I get that. But you can’t be more intimate if you don’t at least try to connect. That usually means both managing ADHD distractibility and addressing anger issues so you can make an extra effort to connect around positive things.
One little exercise that helped my husband and I reconnect was both of us writing down “50 things that I like.” Write 50 sentences starting with the words “I like…” They don’t all have to be about your partner or relationship. One of mine, for example, was “I like the sound of the rain on the roof.” (Hilariously, my husband wrote the same thing!) But some will inevitably be about your partner and that will feel good to you both.
At the end of the exercise, my husband’s comment was “Huh. I guess we have a lot more in common than I was thinking we do.”
Need a little help getting back the closeness you once shared? My Recovering Intimacy self study course was created to bring couples together again. We recommend that struggling couples who have not done so take The ADHD Effect In-Depth Couples Tele-Seminar first in order to calm your relationship. Learn more here.
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;
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 next live session begins September 26, 2018.