Living With Your ADHD Partner
Post by Anne Farmer – a mother and writer, who has worked in business management and healthcare industries after studying literature. She indulges her love of writing through various freelance work. Anne has written on a wide variety of subjects and is a contributing writer to this site.
Around eight million adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If your partner has ADHD it can bring additional challenges to your relationship. Divorce rates among couples with ADHD are almost double that of the general population given that symptoms can cause misunderstandings. It is important, then, to make sure you know what to expect and how to approach problems before you move in or tie the knot.
Short Attention Span Could be Mistaken for Disinterest
The short attention span in ADHD could easily be mistaken for disinterest or plain boredom in what a partner is saying. This is already an issue in heterosexual marriages due to differences in male and female behaviors. Women generally like to de-stress by talking about their day, whereas men will typically withdraw and go ‘into a cave’ to enjoy some ‘me’ time. This difference can lead women to feel as if their husbands don’t care about them and men may feel ‘nagged’ and put upon by their wives in spite of trying to show them love. This same scenario is amplified when one person of the couple has ADHD and suffers with distractibility.
Forgetfulness and Anxiety
Another two symptoms associated with ADHD are forgetfulness and anxiety. This can make life tricky if you are trying to divide up chores or parenting responsibilities. Chores may fall by the wayside accidentally, although this can be interpreted as laziness or immaturity. Parental tasks, too, can be a source of anxiety, as the ADHD parent struggles to retain information or organize schedules. As many have a history of poor grades at school, they might find it hard to help their own children with homework. This can mean that the other parent ends up taking on most of the housework and childcare tasks in the marriage and feels resentful over it.
The ADHD partner is typically impulsive and quicker to anger and this can be a challenging combination when you add in the other partner’s struggles with distractibility.
Adults who have had ADHD since childhood are three times more likely to become addicted to cigarettes and twice as likely to report alcohol dependency or abuse. There is concern that exposure to stimulant ADHD medications during childhood can hardwire a person to rely on drugs due to their chemical similarity with cocaine. They look and behave the same way and both increase the level of dopamine in the brain – a pleasure seeking neurotransmitter. Marriages with an ADHD partner are therefore more likely to encounter problems caused by drug or alcohol addiction.
What You Can Do to Have a More Positive Relationship
Know the Symptoms
The number one thing you can do before making your relationship permanent is to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of ADHD. That way, if your partner doesn’t listen to you, you’ll know they aren’t ignoring you on purpose. Knowing why things happen will give you a greater level of understanding and tolerance and will help you avoid shouting at each other.
Use Electronic Prompts
To help your partner improve their memory, get them to compile ‘to do’ lists on their cell phone, with alarms to remind them. This way you won’t have to keep reminding them and it won’t be perceived as ‘nagging’. You can also make lists for parenting duties such as parent teacher evenings at school.
Set up Automatic Bill Payments
If all bills are paid automatically via a direct debit or standing order, you don’t have to do it or chase your partner about whether they have. It is also easier and less to remember.
Only Shop in Cash
If your partner has problems with impulse control, suggest that they make lists and shop in cash only, so that they do not overspend. This avoids arguments about costly purchases and debt.
Focus on Strengths
Adopt roles within the relationship that complement your individual strengths, so if your partner isn’t great at helping with homework, but is great at sports, you could be in charge of supervising homework and your partner could take the kids to sport practices.
Take Up Exercising
Take up running or another type of physical exercise, provided there is no medical reason why not. Exercise triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, similar to ADHD drugs, thereby sharpening focus and clear thinking.
Get More Sleep
Making sure sleep routines are regular and that you both get enough sleep will stop you snapping at each other. It also means your partner will produce more melatonin, an anti-inflammatory hormone that reduces depression and anxiety.
There is some evidence that a ‘western’ diet high in ‘junk’ and low in fruit and vegetables contributes to the symptoms of ADHD. Make sure to include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and good fats like omega 3 oils, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and seeds (if not allergic).
Meet Other Couples with ADHD
There are organizations and groups for couples dealing with ADHD. By joining, you can forge friendships with others going through similar issues and increase your support network. You might also gain some new tips for improving the way you communicate.
If your partner is struggling with addiction, the law allows for time off work to seek rehabilitation treatment without loss of a job. You will also be able to discuss your situation privately with a specialized recovery advisor if you’d rather not talk to your own doctor about it.
Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that can help you and your partner explore your feelings around certain situations and help you take control of your thoughts, learning how to think in a more balanced way. You will be shown techniques that assist you in changing the way you perceive things. You can also be taught to split current problems into tiny chunks to make them less overwhelming.
With the right tools, having a relationship with a person with ADHD can be a loving and satisfying experience.