More and more, adults are discovering they have had ADHD their whole lives. Many are surprised, when they take in their child for an assessment, to hear about ADHD and realize it all sounds very familiar.
Alternative strategies to being medicated are being discussed as a first line approach, strategies such as therapy, meditation, ADHD coaching, ADHD-friendly organization, exercise/movement, better sleep. In fact, in countries other than the U.S. these are usually the first stop, before medication. More research studies are focusing on adults and women in particular, so we are learning more of what is truth and fiction.
You may have been trying and trying. You may feel you are not measuring up to your own potential, and not up to your your spouse’s expectations. It’s time to try differently, with first steps I’ve outlined below.
Together, find out what’s happening.
Adults who are in a committed relationship where one has ADHD will have had difficult times, especially if the diagnosis is recent. If you believe one of you may have ADHD, talk to your naturopath or primary care doctor, but the diagnosis should come from a psychologist or neuropsychologist. This is the professional who can sort through everything you are dealing with and most objectively tell you the likely causes. They will include recommendations for what to do next. Coaching around ADHD friendly strategies is known to be a strong solution.
You both need to know what you’re dealing with so you can carve out your path forward, together. Take your partner or spouse with you. If you do have ADHD, you likely do not have a high level of self awareness around your symptoms, how often they interfere with daily life, and their impact on those close to you. This is part of the ADHD at work.
Talk openly about ADHD. Educate yourselves.
Learn about the brain and how ADHD symptoms show up differently for each person who has it. Discuss how ADHD plays into your daily life. For the partner with ADHD, get to know how this affects you, so you can figure out strategies, best practices – ways to manage it. It is very possible!
For the non ADHD partner, listen, listen, listen. This is a different way of processing, thinking, and doing things. There is never one right way to do things. Please look for change and improvement and comment on it. The habit change doesn’t have to be perfect; it needs to be better than yesterday.
A favorite resource is Melissa Orlov’s site. She has dealt with this personally and professionally now for some time. Blog, books, webinars; I hear great things and have read one of her books (so far).
Figure out systems together to manage life together.
The person with ADHD often initially has difficulty managing the various parts of life: spending enough time with friends, keeping work at work, household management, children and or aging parents, etc. It’s using a lot of those executive function capabilities that are the essence of the ADHD effects in your brain: organizing, prioritizing, emotional regulation, initiating, sustaining once it’s not new, etc.
The one who is organized in the classic, non ADHD sense, could be the one to get your lives set up on a Google calendar, as several couples I’m working with have decided on and are working with very well.
Or perhaps the one with ADHD is great at using reminders for important things. The non ADHD partner is great at juggling the finances: money in/money out, the bill paying process, taxes, investments. Use those strengths as work on finances together. Communicate about finances, but let each do his or her best piece. [The link is to “Your Money Life,” my Pinterest Board .]
Divide up the work & be accountable each other.
This is a tough one, particularly for the non ADHD partner. You may think that by doing it all yourself or taking charge of everything that life will be smoother.
It won’t. Eventually, you will be frustrated that you have to “do everything.” You’ll resent your spouse. Effectively, you could be enabling your partner and then change will never happen, the change you’ve been hoping for. Set limits. Divide up responsibilities. Let go.
Lay out the responsibilities, chores, projects, etc. together. Find ways to keep these visible for each other. Sit down and talk them through once a week or for a few minutes each day. It takes more work and it is worth it.
I often hear the ADHD partner say something like “I’m not living up to my potential. I know I’m smarter. I know what I need to do. I keep failing.” Both of you need to understand that this internal language and thinking is very common. And that means we have a long way to go to feel good again.
Practical strategies are one of the best ways to prove to yourself that you are capable of running your life. The small things you do each day add up to a proven track record.