It is very easy to fall in love with someone who has ADHD. We are fun and spontaneous. We will take you along for adventures you’d never imagined you would be a part of. We open your eyes to everything that is beautiful about this world. And we make you feel alive! To top it all of, we just GET you. We can make you feel understood and appreciated, and ?its glorious. We make you feel like you have met the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life with! We are your soulmate!
And then you marry us….and its a whole different story.
Everyday life gets in the way…and sometimes we suck at every day life.
That crazy, charming, free-spirit, that you fell in love with, seems to have hit an off-switch. Figuratively…Definitely not literally. Getting an ADHDer to?actually remember to?turn off a light (or a flat iron, or the television) is like asking them to walk a tightrope….over the Grand Canyon. In fact, you’d probably be more likely to accomplish the latter.
So, things can get messy. (literally and figuratively) You may begin to carry some resentment. One partner feels unfairly burdened with all of the household and financial responsibilities, while the other may feel belittled, or that they are being treated like a child. If these issues are not addressed, the problems can begin to snowball; and that once euphoric, whirlwind of a romance, becomes an angry, bitter, living arrangement, leaving both partners feeling alone and misunderstood.
So, how do we prevent this from happening?
How can YOU as the non-ADHD partner help to make your relationship work?
Well for starters, you are probably thinking that you already do EVERYTHING to make the relationship work. You are the ONLY one trying to make things work. And, I understand where you’re coming from. The non-ADHD partner may feel like they are always picking up the slack of their ADHD counterpart. It gets old. You become frustrated. Your partner becomes defensive. It becomes ugly.
However, you may want to try to see things from another perspective. Chances are, your partner DOES realize just how much you are doing and the fact is, they?desperately want to contribute as much (and even more) to the relationship as you do, but they literally lack the ability to do so on their own. Believe me, those of us with ADHD are well aware of any and all short-comings we may have. We’ve been hearing about them our whole lives. So much so, that sometimes we feel that we would be lost without you, but you would carry on just fine if we weren’t around. Sad, I know. We don’t need another critic; what we are longing for, is some acceptance.
This does not, however, mean its hopeless for you. In fact, given the right tools, a person with ADHD can achieve incredible heights. And you can help to provide them with those tools. But first you have to do a little research. Read up on ADHD and its symptoms. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. (They may look like an old beat up pair of Converse, but they fit like a pair of 8-inch Louboutin’s that are 3 sizes too small.) Once you understand what you’re dealing with, you may have an easier time accepting some of the frustrations that are an inevitable part of loving someone with ADHD. Now you can try some of these suggestions to help?both?of you recapture the passion of your earlier days together.
Find and Celebrate the Good Qualities
I like to think of those of us with ADHD, as orchids. In the proper environment we can blossom into a rare and beautiful flower, but if the conditions are not kind, we very easily wilt. This just means that we thrive when we feel appreciated. With a loving support system and people who believe in us, we can really accomplish a lot. So rather than remind us of everything we are doing?wrong, why don’t you try to help us to see what we are doing?right. ?Remember those qualities that made you fall in love with us? Well they are still there, we just may need some help drawing them back to the surface.
Take some time together to decide how to distribute the household responsibilities so that you don’t feel like you’re carrying the weight of the entire household. Some chores may seem like no-brainers or are a second nature to you, may seem like an impossible feat to someone with ADHD. Don’t try to make sense of it, just try to accept that this is the way our brains work. ?Maybe you can come up with a way to outsource some of these duties. Having a cleaning lady was something I laid out on the table from the very beginning. It is just not something that I can do and keep up with efficiently. It makes more sense for me to work a couple extra hours at the hospital each week to pay for the service, than to actually try and perform the service myself. ?Maybe you’d like if your partner helped out with making dinner. I asked my husband to write me a list of what he’d like me to make for dinner along with the ingredients and cooking instructions. (or to print them up from a cooking site) then its much easier than worrying about what I am going to make for dinner all day. (this is just the way my brain works)
Make a Budget Agreement
My husband and I have several different bank accounts. Part of our paychecks are automatically distributed to each account. Some of it automatically goes into accounts that I never even look at. (The kids college, IRA, 401K etc.) Some goes into a savings and the rest goes into our checking. We came up with a number that we both agreed on, so that my husband feels secure in that we are consistently socking away towards our future and I have the freedom to do what I want with the rest. (I do have to be careful of the amount of online shopping I do, because when the amount of Amazon packages becomes excessive, we always end up re-evaluating our contributions!)
Try Not to Take Anything Personally
Loving someone with ADHD can sometime feel like a one way street. Please know that you are appreciated. I live in my own head. It is not that I don’t?want?to hear about your day, it is that the tangled wires in my brain are trying to separate your words from my own thoughts, and that task is number one on my list of “things easier said than done.” Patience is key here. And maybe a gentle request for us to repeat back what you just said. (This may be frustrating for some, but for me, asking me to repeat what was just said brings my focus to the surface, in a way that reminds me of those colorful glass balls of electricity, when you put your hand on it.)
Think Outside of the Box
Going back to household contributions, another way for both partners to feel that the ADHDer is doing his or her part, is to consider non-traditional ways to contribute. For instance, I am awake for hours after the rest of the house goes to bed. I figured that instead of trying to fight it by tossing and turning, I may as well use that time productively. So it is during this time that I will manage our schedules, fill out school forms, register the kids for their activities. I have also used this time to paint the the entire basement, put together furniture, create wall art, and attend grad school classes online. (and people have actually accused us of being lazy!)
Learn to Laugh
The one key to keeping your relationship on track, when your partner has ADHD, is to find the humor in those ADHD moments. ?Fine, at the time, it may not be so cute when you have to cancel your credit card for the 17th time, only to find it in the dryer three days later….however, you have to admit, there really is never a dull moment when you love someone with ADHD. Cherish those little quirks that break up the monotony of the every-day. Learn to laugh at the imperfections that keep life interesting. Learning to laugh together in these moments helps to ease tension and keeps you connected through the stressful situations. Admittedly, those of us with ADHD often require some space or time alone, we also very much love to be a part of a team.
Once you understand the way your ADHD partner operates, and can reframe the way you manage your relationship together, you will see that you really did hit the teammate jackpot, and that whatever challenges life throws your way, whatever obstacles you may face, you’re in on them together.