“Just because you can do it (or feel that you should be able to do it) doesn’t mean that you are the best person for the job”
-ADHD coach, Robert Pal
Here are some phrases I would love you to pay attention to: “should be able to,” “ought to” and “have to.” Whenever I hear someone say any of them in my consulting practice, I ask the speaker these sorts of questions:
Why should you be able to?
Who says you ought to?
Why do you feel you have to? Do you really have to? Who says so?
What asking these sorts of questions often reveals is that feelings of obligation, social pressure and a misunderstanding of the boundaries leads to paralysis and unnecessary feelings of shame and resentment.
Examples from my practice:
An ADHD partner says “I should be able to clean out the basement on my own,” even though the task feels completely overwhelming to her…so she has left it sitting there for 3 years and feels great shame about that. Her husband is furious, too.
A non-ADHD partner says to his husband, “you ought to be able to remember to call me if you’re going to be late getting home,” even though that ADHD partner doesn’t have a good scheduling system in place. Both partners are frustrated by the miscommunications.
A non-ADHD woman says, “if you don’t call your parents to talk with them about this family issue, then I will have to.” She harbors great resentment about her husband’s lack of action, while he resents her insistence he do something he does not wish to do.
The questions to ask yourself and your partner are, as Pal indicates, ‘given your current situation - and all that you know about ADHD - are you the best person for the job?’ and ‘’should I/we use our knowledge of ADHD to make this thing happen?’
The resolutions for the three couples above were as follows:
The woman hired a trusted cleaner to work with her. She decided what to keep, while the cleaner managed getting rid of it. This solution used the expertise of both individuals at their best.
Both agreed that it was desirable to be in better touch around this topic, so the ADHD partner created a more robust reminder system. The ADHD partner was the best person for this job.
I advised this couple that the relationship with the ADHD partner’s parents was primarily the responsibility of the ADHD partner, not the spouse. In this case, the spouse was over-stepping her bounds and was not the best person for the job. She needed to acknowledge her partner’s rights, and stop nurturing her resentment that his opinion did not align with hers.
You may be the right person for the task ahead…or you may not. It’s always helpful to ask this of yourself.
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