ADHD in Relationships: The Experts Speak Out: Part 2

Health Writer

Yesterday I shared with you two persepectives of adult ADHD in relationships from Terry Matlen and Digna Dreibelbis. Today, we have two more views on how ADHD impacts relationships and suggestions on managing ADHD within your relationship. Stay tuned tomorrow for even more perspectives.

To read all of this feature:

Today's experts include:

  • David Giwerc, Founder and President of the ADD Coach Academy
  • Steve Peer, Current President of CHADD

From David Giwerc:

The biggest challenge that ADHD causes in relationships is every one's lack of understanding of how each person's ADHD shows up in different situations. Every one's brand of ADHD shows up differently.

It is the paradox of ADHD that fools people. For example things can easily be misperceived by people in a relationship. One person with ADHD can do something exceptionally well in one situation and in another one they are extremely challenged. When they are inconsistent with their ability to perform, something well, especially when it is boring like domestic activities, they are perceived to be lazy or uncaring. It is really just very difficult for them to focus on a boring, mundane but necessary task in the home. There are so many other reasons but generally it is a lack of understanding and a lack of everyone involved understanding and being aware of how the other person's ADHD manifests. Everyone needs to take responsibility for the process of discovering how each person's ADHD shows up so they can be aware of it when it kicks in and so they can also explain it to others.

One simple example that comes up with many of my clients with ADHD who are what we refer to in coaching as "verbal processors." They think their thoughts by expressing them out loud which lets them hear what they are thinking. Their non-ADHD wives, without knowing their husband is a verbal processor, makes an erroneous assumption that whenever her husband spontaneously says something out loud he is changing his mind with things they have already agreed upon. If both of them knew, he was a verbal processor who needs to hear what is swirling around in his mind it would significantly reduce her anxiety every time he verbally said something. She could learn to ask him: "Are you thinking out loud or are you changing your mind." Most of the time, he would tell her he was just trying to gain clarity with thoughts swirling around in his head. This would reduce most of the anxiety his wife was feeling created by her lack of understanding about how his ADHD shows up via his verbal processing.

This represents one of many situations where assumptions are made and there is a lack of understanding and awareness of how an individual's ADHD manifests in different situations. Education and awareness, facilitated with a well-trained coach, can significantly reduce much of the anxiety caused by ignorance and assumptions.

David Giwerc, Founder and President of the ADD Coach Academy, ADDCA, is also a Master Certified Coach, MCC, with the International Coach Federation, ICF. ADDCA is the world largest and leading comprehensive ADHD Coach training program in the world and the only ACTP,Accredited Coach Training Program granted by the ICF.

From Steve Peer:

One characteristic of adult ADHD I experienced was 'Always wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else'. This can be a problem on the dance floor, in a discussion, or just about anywhere or anytime in a relationship. Being present in a relationship means more that just being present to a moment; plenty of folks with ADHD can be present to a moment (e.g. videogames, hobbies, music, etc). It means being present to the very ongoing nature and continuity of a relationship. Even before my diagnosis, I could write and produce lengthy technical manuals - but only by doing it 15 minutes at a time. Relationships, on the other hand, can't be broken into 15 minute segments. Regarding compensating for this, there was no compensating for this one. A multi-modal approach to my own ADHD helped me address it cognitively, behaviorally, and neurologically. This included attending (and later running) CHADD meetings, staying true to any prescriptions, starting/attending a men's group, and more. We still have good days and bad days; good years and bad years. But then, so do the 'neuro-typical' folks.

Steven Peer, Board President, CHADD President, Emotional Mastery, Inc