How To Support Your ADHD Spouse With Their Mood Without Being A Nag
Many people associate ADHD with symptoms like disorganization, forgetfulness, and impulsivity. What people may not realize is that another common symptom of ADHD is moodiness. You can better understand your ADHD spouse with their mood, if you take into account a number of factors, such as medication, low self-esteem, and common co-morbidities like anxiety or depression.
As the spouse of someone with ADHD, you may feel resentful of what you perceive as a lack of mood management. These mood swings might add strain to your relationship. You want to help, but it’s difficult when the mood swings impact you so directly.
It’s particularly difficult to help with mood management when your spouse perceives this help as nagging. Yet, doing nothing isn’t helping, either. What can you do?
Read on to learn more about supporting your spouse’s mood management without coming across as a nag.
Don’t Invalidate Every Emotion Your Spouse Feels
Once you understand the link between ADHD and mood swings, it can become easier to stop taking these mood swings so personally. However, it’s still important to recognize that the emotional response is real, even if it seems disproportionate or misplaced.
Resist the impulse to frame your spouse’s moodiness as nothing more than a symptom of ADHD. This framework is useful for treatment purposes and for bolstering your patience, but it shouldn’t be used to invalidate every emotion your spouse feels. Doing so may put them into a defensive mode or increase their feelings of isolation.
Create a List of Boundaries
Recognizing that mood management can be difficult for someone with ADHD doesn’t mean that you have to accept all related behaviors. It is important to set boundaries, which can protect your emotional health.
Keep in mind that boundaries are not instructions for other people to follow. They’re lines you draw in the sand that, when crossed, will warrant a consistent response from you. For example, you might set a boundary that when your spouse starts blaming you for their mood swings, you disengage and calmly leave the room.
Take the time to consider the boundaries you need to protect your emotional health and discuss them with your spouse. Use clear examples of behaviors that would cross your boundaries and clear expectations for how you will react in those situations.
Encourage (But Don’t Force) Your Spouse to Take a Breather
Mood swings paired with impulsivity can lead to troublesome or problematic behavior. When your spouse has ADHD, they don’t always have those built-in mental stop lights telling them when to stop and think before reacting.
If something has triggered a strong emotional response in your spouse, you may want to remind them to take a breather. Pausing and waiting for the mood swing to pass or lessen could prevent some regrettable actions. However, you can’t force them to do this, and in many cases, they will simply have to deal with the consequences of their impulsive behaviors.
Practice Naming for Taming
When your spouse’s mood suddenly shifts, you may feel confused or frustrated. It’s tempting to say things like, “You’re not making any sense,” or, “This response is irrational,” but as discussed earlier, invalidation isn’t helpful. If you want to help your spouse navigate mood management, try the approach of naming for taming.
Naming for taming is the process of identifying both the trigger and the emotional response. Ask questions like:
- What is making you upset?
- What emotions are you feeling right now?
- Did something occur (or occur to you) that made your mood change?
Remember, these aren’t accusatory questions. Identifying the trigger and emotional response can help to diffuse their emotions or make it easier to find a solution that would calm them down.
Avoid Taking on a Parental Role
Oftentimes, non-ADHD spouses unintentionally take on a parental role when their spouse has ADHD. You might over-assist them with completing tasks or even take on task completion for them. You might find yourself telling them what to do, scolding them, or coddling them when their ADHD symptoms get them into trouble.
Remember, you are not your spouse’s parent, and trying to parent them introduces inappropriate power dynamics. Remind your spouse that while you are willing to help, he has to take some responsibility for managing his mood. Without granting this independence, you will both grow resentful of one another.
Create Time for Self Care
Your spouse isn’t the only one who needs your attention. You should also create time to tend to your own needs, assess your own emotional state, and unwind in a meaningful way.
Self care isn’t limited to one or a handful of activities. Yes, taking a bath or getting a pedicure can be self care, but so can spending time with friends, going to a movie alone, or sitting in a quiet room reading a book. If you feel both prioritized and replenished by an activity, it’s worth carving out time for it–and making sure that your spouse knows that it’s your time, not shared time.
Attend Couples Counseling Sessions
In my couples counseling sessions, you will learn how to work as a team to deal with your ADHD spouse with their mood.
Being in a relationship with someone who has ADHD isn’t always easy. Being in a relationship as someone who has ADHD, again, isn’t always easy. It’s better to acknowledge the difficulties and find mutual coping mechanisms than to pretend as though your shared life is smooth sailing.
Couples counseling is a safe space to discuss your feelings, perspectives, desires, and needs in a productive way.
Consider enrolling in couples therapy or couples intensive retreats with a counselor that specializes in relationships and ADHD. That way, you get all of the typical benefits of couples counseling while also receiving guidance catered to coping with ADHD.
Rabinowitz Counseling Can Help
Learning how to support your ADHD spouse with their mood without being a nag isn’t easy. With this guide, you can start to take steps toward better spousal mood management.
Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for ADD-focused couples therapy and healing:
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a licensed counselor in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Vermont and Florida. She also works with international couples and expats. With her support, you can learn how to reduce issues in your relationship through an intensive marriage retreat or couples counseling. Reach out to Lisa for a 30-minute free private consultation today.