“For each of us there comes a time to let go. You will know when that time has come. When you have done all that you can do, it is time to detach. Deal with your feelings. Face your fears about losing control. Gain control of yourself and your responsibilities. Free others to be who they are. In so doing, you will set yourself free."
- Melody Beatty, in Co-Dependent No More
Beatty is not talking about separation or divorce here. She is talking about letting go of the illusion of control, and setting strong boundaries around what is our own responsibility vs. what is our partner’s responsibility. Many couples impacted by ADHD don’t have great boundaries – in fact, it’s quite possible you have the parent/child dynamic going in your relationship. That’s an excellent example of disordered boundaries.
The idea of freeing others to be who they are is particularly scary for many non-ADHD partners, who may fear that their ADHD partner is not capable of adequately managing ADHD…and for some (certainly not all) this is the case. So non-ADHD partners tend to spend too much time trying to control their situation - and their partner - in an effort to affect change and move that partner closer to what the non-ADHD partner hopes for. Sadly, the most likely ADHD partner response to that pushing or parenting behavior (sometimes called codependence) is defiance, escape, and digging in. Sometimes depression, anxiety or chronic anger may set in, too. The most likely outcome for the non-ADHD partner is frustration, anger and hopelessness.
The healthier and more effective approach would be for both partners to take control only of their own issues, and support the other partner’s efforts to rise to their potential. In other words, dramatically improve their boundaries. Life will still have ups and downs, but your relationship will be significantly healthier with better boundaries in place.
Focusing on your own needs, and better enacting your own boundaries, can free you both to love each other based upon who you both truly are. Or, once you are viewing each other based upon accepting your amazing parts as well as your imperfections, you may discover that you aren’t as good a fit as you thought you were. In which case it frees you to move away from a relationship that ultimately wasn’t going to work well for you.
News and Events:
➤ Registration for the non-ADHD partner support groups opens up Dec 5 and dates and times of the groups are already posted. NOTE: these fill up very quickly!
➤ International Conference on ADHD - Top ADHD experts. My virtual presentation: Communication Techniques that Work for ADHD-Impacted Couples - December 6, 2023, 12:00 - 1:00 PM.
In-Person: November 30–December 2
Online: December 5–December 6
Resources For those in relationships impacted by ADHD