Learn to Manage Your ADD; Enrich Your Relationship

ADHD Relationship TroubleIf you’re in a relationship and you have ADHD, Saint Valentine’s Day may not always be a fun day.  In fact, romance can be hard to come by any day of the year.  Your ADHD might be getting in the way of both of you thriving in the relationship.

My husband, Duane and I have always been very open about how his ADHD almost destroyed our marriage.  Today, we have an amazing relationship, but Duane and I used to have many fights.  I often felt I had three children instead of two; and that first child was very temperamental.

What was the most difficult wasn’t what he did, but the fact that I couldn’t rely on him to help me with anything life threw at us: financial problems, car accidents, illness, demotions, professional problems, and worst, relationship issues.  I felt exhausted most of the time because of everything I had to do: managing the budget, taking care of paperwork, dealing with the children’s schoolwork and day care, meal planning, school planning, car and home repairs and the list goes on.

Eventually I stopped fighting about it and became resigned that life with Duane was always going to be a burden. I’m glad things have changed and that our relationship has become one of love (which it always was) and support where both of us thrive.

When One is Hurting, Both Are Hurting

Whether it’s ADHD causing the struggle in your relationship or not, one thing is certain, when one of you is suffering, the other is suffering too.  My father is deaf, so when he watches TV, it’s loud, so loud that when we visit, we can hear the TV blaring from the corner of their street (their house is about 10 houses in!)  My father’s loud TV was making my mother, who’s a calm person who enjoys peace and quiet, absolutely miserable.

Finding a Solution for One Spouse, is a Gift for the Other

One Christmas, Duane and I gave my Dad a headset that connects to the television.  As a result, my father could control the volume of the TV through his earphones and suddenly, the household became quiet again; both Mom and Dad were happy.  My father’s deafness made my mother miserable until we found a solution for him.  She often tells me that it was one of the best gifts she ever received; and it wasn’t even her gift!

The same is true of ADHD, whether you’re an adult with ADHD or the spouse of an ADHDer, if you are struggling, both of you are hurting.  And when the spouse with ADHD learns how to manage life better, both of you (and your children, family, friends and co-workers) live a better life.

When Duane spoke to me about hiring a coach, I admit I was sceptical.  After all, we had spent a lot of money on numerous well-known Time Management Programs and even special programs for Goal Setting and even Financial Planning, but nothing worked.  What finally made me take a leap of faith was the belief that if we didn’t do anything, nothing would ever change and we would both be doomed, along with our children, to a mediocre (at best) life.  That may seem harsh, but we were in “survival mode,” and when you’re focused on simply surviving, it’s impossible to reach any level of self-realization.

It was only when Duane sought help with an ADHD coach that I stopped hurting.  As he learned new skills such planning, time management, focusing etc., he became a better partner for me and our relationship flourished.

If you have ADHD and you are struggling because of it, forget the flowers and the candy and consider getting help to manage your ADHD.  It’s not selfish… it will be a gift for your spouse as well.  And if your spouse has ADHD, make getting help your gift to them and your spouse will return the gift to you many times over.

I Need A Hero

adhd-heroYeah, I know, the Bonnie Tyler song is a little bit sappy. But it’s appropriate, because we all need heroes in life, people who inspire us, people whose victories we can celebrate as if, in some small way, they are our own.

Following the call for ADHD Heroes at the end of March, a group of volunteers stepped forward, inspired to help make a difference in the lives of people with ADHD and their families. Having worked alongside them, I realize that they are also ADHD Heroes and it’s been a privilege to spend time with them.

The ADHD Heroes project’s mission is to inspire and to help foster hope and courage for people living with Attention Deficit Disorder. We’ve already begun finding and capturing the exciting and untold stories of real live heroes, regular adults with ADHD who’ve achieved success in areas of their lives despite or because of their ADHD, and soon we’ll be able to share them with you and the world.

I’ve been so inspired by the courage these heroes show when they “come out” and reveal their ADHD to the world, given the unwarranted stigma still surrounding ADHD. Meeting and speaking with these amazing heroes is one of the best rewards I get participating in this project.

Marc Asselin, one of our heroes, is leading the charge on the ADHD Heroes Web site, so we will soon be able to sharing their stores with you as well. I am eagerly looking forward to announcing the Web site launch.

The Branding of a Hero

Superman wore a red, white and blue outfit (and tights, but somehow he made them look dangerous!) and had a secret identity as newspaper reporter, Clark Kent. Peter Parker, also a journalist (is there a pattern here?) was bitten by a radioactive spider and donned a mask and tight-fitting spandex, presumably to make it easier as Spiderman to swing from the spider webs he shot from his wrists. A hero is not just declared a hero; a successful hero becomes a brand, a recognizable identity that may include a name, sign, symbol, color combination or slogan.

We’ve created a team to help design the “brand” for the project. This has been challenging since none of us are branding experts (I’m not sure those long debates over whether the ADHD Hero should wear a cape were really productive!) Of course, we’re looking for volunteers willing to work cheap (anywhere between zero and free would be fine!), so if you are a branding expert or have a passion and talent for graphics, logos, and “image,” we’d love to count you as one of our heroes. Simply complete the form below…

You’re Not a Branding Expert? No Problem!

Even if you’re not a branding expert or a graphic artist, we are still looking for more ADHD Heroes who are willing to help us with interviews, videotaping of interviews (and possibly a seamstress, depending on how the debate about the cape turns out!), or if you’re an ADHDer who has experienced success in one or more areas of your life, because of or in spite of your ADHD, and you’d be willing to share your experience and pass along to a struggling ADHDer (someone who is now where you’ve been) what it took to achieve success.

What’s In It For You?

All our heroes have the opportunity to be featured, if you would like, in our Contributors’ page, with mention of your bio/expertise, where you’ve helped in the project and we’ll include links to your Web site. (This is an excellent way for an up-and-coming expert “anything” to begin to make a name for him or herself!) If you don’t have a Web site or prefer to remain anonymous, nothing beats the reward you get from that amazing feeling of pride you have knowing you’ve helped a worthy cause, and you can count on our undying admiration and gratitude.

We’ve already got promises of media attention around our launch, so we’d love to move even faster than we are, and we’d really love to have your help with this wonderful project. Will you step and be the hero we all need?

Related posts:
Wanted: ADHD Heros

Is Valentine’s Day a 3-Hour Fight Followed by 3 Days of Icy Silence

Duane-LindaMost people celebrate St-Valentine’s Day because they’re in love. But some people wonder what there is to celebrate! If you’ve ever felt like that, we understand. Duane and I have wondered what the fuss was about, and yes, that was while we were married!

When you hear about the challenges we faced, you’ll wonder why we’d want to remember them at all! And we would be more than happy to forget most of them, but recalling these challenges reminds us of how much better life is once you learn to overcome the many challenges that spring from the often-ignored third party, ADHD, in relationships.

Who would want to recall three-hour shouting matches followed by three days of icy silence? Unless we could also share how we’ve now learned to keep the communication channels open.

Fighting Stimulates the ADHD Brain

Your ADHD spouse likely enjoys fights because the big rush of adrenaline allows them to focus. It doesn’t help that they are likely carrying a lot of shame and guilt that makes any criticism or innocent comment feel like an attack. And as the non-ADHD spouse in our relationship, I can tell you that I was exhausted and resented carrying the entire burden of the household responsibilities.

I was so frustrated that Duane couldn’t remember what I’d asked him to do 15 minutes ago but he could quote me word-for-word on something I’d said five years ago… if it would help him win the argument! There was no way out!

How to Communicate When You Can’t Communicate

Of course, until you can communicate, you can’t even begin to address any other issues in your relationship. We couldn’t talk to each other because every conversation ended in a shouting match, but we desperately wanted to save our marriage because we still loved each other. Instead, we agreed to write to each other using rules you can apply in your own situation:

  1. Tell your spouse how you feel, not what he/she is doing wrong. For example, “When you commit to doing something and then don’t do it, it makes me feel as if I’m not important.”
  2. Write with the intent of being heard and understood, not with the intent of winning or being right.
  3. Beware of words like “always,” “never,” and “should.”
  4. Re-read and edit your writing, asking:
    a) Could my spouse interpret this as an attack? If the answer is yes, change how you say it.
    b) Am I saying this because I want to be right, or because I want to be heard? If the answer is, “I want to be right,” adjust it so that your intent is strictly to be heard.
  5. In each letter, state your love and reiterate your desire to understand and to be understood. Remember, the objective is always to improve your relationship.

Once you’ve finished your letter, don’t deliver it and then stand with your hand on your hips, tapping your foot while your spouse reads it. Give your spouse plenty of time to read it, mull it over and to respond in writing. The secret of this process is that it removes the lure of instant gratification and the adrenaline rush ADHDers get from a fight.

For Duane and I, this approach finally enabled us to communicate in a way that information was flowing in both directions. It wasn’t long before we realized that both of us were in pain, and that we both wanted exactly the same things… a better relationship in which we both could grow and feel fulfilled.

If you want to improve your relationship with an ADHD spouse, the good news is that it’s never too late to take steps (like this one) that will make a positive impact. You can have the partnership of your dreams, and even though it’s hard to believe when you’re in the middle of a shouting match, it’s rarely easier to start over than it is to rebuild the relationship you’re in, ADHD or not.

Related posts:
Taking Ownership of Your Life

Is Your Ecosystem Supporting Your Goals?

ADHD and Gender Roles