“Giving to and doing things for and with people are essential parts of healthy living and healthy relationships. But learning when not to give, when not to give in, and when not to do things for and with people are also essential parts of healthy living and healthy relationships. It is not good to take care of people who take advantage of us to avoid responsibility. It hurts them, and it hurts us. There is a thin line between helping and hurting people, between beneficial giving and destructive giving. We can learn to make that distinction.”
-Melodie Beatty, Co-Dependent No More
Giving is Essential, But...
What Beatty is talking about here is creating good personal boundaries. Knowing what your values are, and acting in accordance with those values. If you must have respect in your relationship, for example, then it’s not ‘okay’ to be disrespectful to your partner. Further, you would not wish to be treated disrespectfully and might choose to refuse to interact with a disrespectful person, instead.
Parenting and child-like behaviors in the parent-child dynamic are great examples of disordered boundaries. Non-ADHD partners typically ‘give too much’ rather than ‘learn when not to give.’ ADHD partners in child roles ‘take advantage’ of their partner’s skillset rather than take responsibility for finding an ADHD-friendly way to engage responsibly. Parent-child dynamics hurts both partners as it engenders resentment and hurt, and diminishes you both.
The issue is hard to overcome, but must be addressed to have a healthy relationship. That means:
Recognizing your part in the dynamic and vowing to take responsibility for not giving or taking too much
Seeking each partner’s strengths and finding ways to utilize them in partnership
Optimizing treatment for ADHD
For many non-ADHD partners, letting go of having most things (but not all) just as you imagine they should be – creating space for a new, ADHD-informed approach, too
Are you giving too much, or taking too much? If so, there are two books I can recommend for creating healthier boundaries - Boundary Boss (general) and Codependent No More (a greater focus on addiction and alcohol). Both are written with women in mind, but provide useful information for both genders.
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Resources For those in relationships impacted by ADHD
ADHD Effect In-Depth Couples' Seminar - Is your relationship in trouble? My highly acclaimed 8-session Zoom seminar has helped many couples thrive in healthier, happier relationships. The next live session STARTS January 11, 2023.