Relationships are tough — especially when one or both partners have ADHD. ADHD symptoms can appear as indifference or often interfere in personal relationships, even when you deeply love the other person. You might have heard statistics such as the one reported in U.S. News and World Report that people with ADHD get divorced at much higher rates than people who do not have ADHD. Despite all the ups and downs, it is possible to have a happy marriage or long-term partnership with someone who has ADHD. Here are changes you can make to improve your relationship.
Schedule together time
For someone with ADHD, scheduling time together might sound boring or monotonous but it is vitally important in a marriage, especially when one person has ADHD. It is easy to become hyperfocused and be inattentive to your partner. When you become distracted during a conversation, your partner might think you just don’t care. Scheduling a specific time to be together, without distractions, helps you connect with one another. You can schedule short bursts, such as 20 minutes every evening or plan for one weekend afternoon together. The important thing is that you unplug from electronic devices and focus on being together.
Monitor and manage ADHD symptoms
Which symptoms are causing the most difficulty in your relationship? Think about times when you and your spouse or partner had problems. Were ADHD symptoms to blame? Talk to your partner about patterns of behavior that are creating stress. Focus on one or two areas that you can improve by coming up with strategies to help you manage that particular symptom.
Exercise helps improve mood, lowers anxiety, and reduces ADHD symptoms. Make sure you build exercise time into your daily routine. Not only will you be better able to handle daily stressors, you will find your mood improves, you enjoy your day more, and you are better able to focus. Try taking a walk each night with your partner. This gives you a chance to connect while getting outdoors and exercising.
Talk about what you need from your partner
Just as important as discussing how your partner feels about your ADHD symptoms is figuring out what type of support you need. For example, are mornings particularly difficult for you? Many people with ADHD find getting organized in the morning to be an impossible task. Maybe your partner can take over getting the children ready for school and you can take over getting them ready for bed.
Work on your communication skills
Many people with ADHD find communication breaks down because of problems with emotional regulation, impulsively jumping into conversations, or saying something hurtful without thinking. If some of your relationship woes stem from communication issues, take the time to work on developing better communication skills with a therapist or ADHD coach.
Meditate each day
This gives your mind a chance to slow down. People with ADHD often spend their days in a flurry of activity, moving from one task to another. Your mind might be on overdrive most of the time. Take the time to slow down your body and your mind. Spend 10 or 15 minutes each day meditating to allow your mind a chance to focus.
Review your household tasks
In many marriages where one partner has ADHD, the other partner feels she is the sole adult, taking care of most of the household tasks. This can cause resentment and bitterness. Make a list of common household tasks and decide which ones can be shared and who should be responsible for the balance. Make sure to set aside time each week to complete your part of the chores. You might want to put reminders on your schedule.
It’s easy to focus on all the things that go wrong but research has shown that people who actively practice gratefulness are happier. Each day, write down three things that make you grateful. Better yet, make it a joint project and ask your partner to join you in looking at life in a more positive way. You might find that you begin to appreciate one another more and are more likely to overlook the small irritations.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.