Couple arguing in an article by Lisa Rabinowitz, MA on narrative therapy interventions.

3 Narrative Therapy Interventions When You’re Worried About ADHD Wrecking Your Marriage

You may not recognize how you construct stories in your mind about your partner, making negative assumptions about their actions and intentions. Narrative therapy, developed by Michael White and David Epston, helps you separate yourself from your narratives and problems with the use of narrative therapy interventions.

As part of this model, you will learn that ADHD may be a challenge, but it does not have to define you, your self-image and your relationship.  Narratives, such as “I’m not good enough”, do not have to continue to impact your perceptions and beliefs and shape your life.

How Can Narrative Therapy Help Couples

Many couples are unaware of the  stories they replay in their minds about each other and events that took place in their relationship. Usually the stories about your partner are unhealthy and “see” the partner in a negative light or focus on what’s wrong with the relationship. Frequently, these relationship narratives have existed for many years and are destructive and unhealthy. 

Narrative therapy helps couples break down their stories to understand the problem and clarify any overgeneralizations. You also learn how to retell more satisfying, empowering  stories about your relationship and explore the benefits of the alternative story.

How Narrative Therapy Interventions Can Help ADHD Couples 

After counseling couples for close to fifteen years, I have listened to many negative narratives by both partners about themselves or their partner. Oftentimes the ADHD partner has unproductive narratives from childhood about themselves. Sometimes these narratives begin in childhood because the ADHD child was told, “Why can’t you be like your brother and listen?”.

Teachers work so hard in school to provide a non-judgmental environment, but some ADHD children hear at school, “If you just tried harder or focused more, you could actually achieve good grades.” Then as the ADHD child reaches adulthood, the narratives are so ingrained in their mind, they believe the stories are actually who they are. ADHD clients have shared that no one has to tell them they are an “idiot”, “awkward” or “not good enough”, those words reverberate in their thoughts about themselves. 

Unfortunately, the non-ADHD partner could fall into the role as the “parent” or “controller” of the relationship, and start sending the identical messages that the ADHD partner experienced from their parents and teachers.These stories do not need to wreck your marriage, if you understand how they impact your relationship and learn how to retell alternative stories. It can be quite healing for both partners to work together on these interventions. 

What Are 3 Narrative Therapy Interventions That Can Help Couples?

These three narrative therapy techniques provide couples with the opportunity to become aware of, explore and reshape the stories they tell themselves about their relationship. 

1. Reframing the Shared Narrative :

This intervention involves examining the narrative that focuses on blame or resentment. As you learn to identify these patterns of thought you can then begin to reframe the stories into more positive stories or see the story from another angle or perspective, leading to a more constructive story. 

For example, if a couple wants to address  communication challenges, I might suggest that they reframe the narrative from “We always argue and never reach any resolution” to “We are learning to bring compassion and empathy to each other and discuss issues more effectively.” This narrative shift’s the thoughts from helpless and hopeless to growth oriented.

Couples navigating a relationship with an ADHD partner can examine how blame, shame and resentment play a role in their marriage. For instance, when the ADHD partner experiences feelings of shame for forgetting things, being late and missing deadlines, the couple can learn how to explore this internalized message of “I’m not good enough”.

In these moments,  the ADHD partner needs to learn how to feel empowered, and rewrite their narrative and commit to showing up, doing their best and putting forth their best effort.

Couples are encouraged to rewrite their shared story and have agency over their relationship. 

2. Externalize the Problem : 

Externalizing the problem moves the problem from within the couple or one partner and separates the problem from the partnership so they can understand how the problem affects their interactions.  

Often the ADHD partner feels that they are the problem and they can not do anything to control it and feel blamed for the impact on the relationship. I guide couples to explore how metaphors can represent their relationship dynamics, or desired relationship dynamic to provide space from the emotional intensity of ADHD or other issues. 

For example, a couple struggling with their communication styles and ADHD can use the metaphor of a neglected garden to understand how the weeds have destroyed the garden (trust issues) and how new seeds can be planted to renew the relationship (rebuild their connection). Externalization provides you with the chance to view your relationship from a new perspective and more objectively and collaboratively.

3. Co-Constructing Future Narratives :

Co-constructing future narratives provides the couple with a sense of hope because they are envisioning and planning their future together. This intervention encourages couples to identify their shared goals, and fosters alignment around their collective aspirations. When you describe your ideal future together it helps you clarify your expectations and needs, and creates a shared vision. 

This narrative therapy intervention can use different modalities such as art, journaling and other mediums for couples to co-construct and envision their future. For instance, when a couple has challenges with work-life balance due to ADHD, we may identify that they want to focus on quality time together. Part of our work together would be discussing which modality they would prefer to use, and then addressing and developing steps to reach this goal and implement it into their lives. 

This intervention focuses on a collaborative mindset and the couple creates a shared sense of purpose and vision for their future. 

Narrative therapy interventions can offer you an effective tool to reshape your inner dialogues and transform yourself and your relationship. These three narrative therapy interventions can change your old destructive stories into positive narratives that pave a new future filled with connection.

By learning these interventions, you can move towards a more enriching partnership and write a more loving relationship story together. Feel free to contact me for a 20 minute free consultation to learn how your narratives are shaping your relationship. 


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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