Coping Skills You Need If Your ADHD Partner’s Inattentiveness, Distraction, Or Lack Of Focus Is Hurting Your Marriage
The beginning of most romantic relationships feels like a rollercoaster of fun and excitement. You look forward to spending time together, enjoy going to new (and old) places together, and are excited to learn more about each other. But after a few months, some things might shift: for example, you may notice that your ADHD partner actually sometimes forgets things or stays glued to his phone a little too long for your taste. Still, you don’t say anything.
Symptoms Of Your ADHD Partner
Although every case of ADHD manifests slightly differently, you should understand the symptoms of ADHD:
- Difficulty attending or focusing, Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves a seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting their turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others
There are 3 types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive.
Dr.Russell Barkley, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, found that many adults remain undiagnosed with ADHD because of the misconception that ADHD means you have signs of hyperactivity which end in adolescence. This mistake can lead many ADHD individuals to blame themselves for difficulty with “focusing, organizing, planning and follow-through” and think, “I’m just not good enough” or “What’s wrong with me?”
What’s It Like To Be Married To Someone With ADHD
You may find yourself wishing that your partner wasn’t so forgetful or inattentive; you might even feel frustrated about having to nag or remind your ADHD partner about your plans and needs. Perhaps you have reached the point where you simply feel helpless about your partner’s behavior. Alternatively, you may think that if you would just keep reminding your partner to take the medication, then things would change, or if you would just keep encouraging your partner, then he would take the situation more seriously and seek treatment or learn methods to manage this issue. Or you may believe your ADHD partner is lazy and doesn’t care about the relationship, which could lead to your becoming hurt, angry and resentful.
In Comprehensive Psychology, Drs. Barkley and Murphy “reported that patients with ADHD had a higher mean number of marriages, and that they and their spouses reported lower levels of marital satisfaction than did people without ADHD”.
You can find more information and resources about how ADHD affects marriage and relationships on my blog post, 4 Ways ADHD Affects Marriage (Plus How To Insulate Yourself From The Stress).
Coping Skills You Need If Your ADHD partner Is Inattentive, Distractible, Or Lacks Focus
You might have tried different tactics to help your ADHD partner remember things or follow through with an activity, but the situation still has not changed or improved. This can be a difficult fact to face. Another, related situation that many couples can find especially challenging is the realization that the lack of attention, distraction and lack of focus is a lifelong issue and something that really impacts couples’ relationships.
5 coping skills to help you improve your relationship with your ADHD partner:
1. Communicate, communicate and communicate-Take time to learn about “I statements”; listen to understand your partner instead of listening to respond; learn how to read your partner’s non-verbal cues; and work on other communication skills. Effective communication creates connection and closeness instead of criticism and defensiveness. Here’s another tip to improve communication: try to avoid holding in your feelings or avoiding necessary conversations, because over time this leads to resentment or anger.
2. Self-care-It will take energy and understanding to address the issues between your ADHD partner and you, so make sure you are performing self-care on a regular basis, such as mindfulness, walking or reading for pleasure.
3. Remain Calm-Taking breaks if things get heated or performing yoga or meditation will help you remain calm. Since your ADHD partner may have difficulty self-regulating (calming down), you want to make sure that you have techniques to self-soothe so that at least one of you is thinking rationally.
4. Your Problem-When you are in a relationship, you and your partner are individually responsible for the “baggage” that each of you bring into the relationship. Everyone has baggage (past issues that have not been addressed), and ADHD might be one of those issues. Don’t wait until the bills are a year in the rear, you are about to be evicted, and the IRS is knocking on the door to address your issues; in other words, don’t allow the problem to spiral out of control before you turn your attention to it. ADHD is an issue that needs to be addressed, and you have choices: you can decide to deal with it as a team, or you can choose to go it alone. When you work together to develop a plan to deal with your issue more effectively, you will feel happy and more connected.
5. Help-You may need to speak to an ADHD professional for support and guidance around household tasks, family management, chores, organization, intimacy and many other topics…You can find professional resources on this site: https://www.adhdmarriage.com/resources/professional-help-support-groups
As you better understand your ADHD partner and learn how to cope more effectively, you will feel more like a team and more connected. The steps will take time, and change may be slow, but each step is one step closer to a healthy relationship.
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a licensed counselor in the state of Maryland. She works with couples who desire to improve their relationship with an ADHD partner. She is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist and PACT Level 3 Candidate. Please feel free to reach out for a 30 minute free private consultation today.