Learning tools for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
When you are living with a partner who has ADD, there are additional challenges above and beyond what the average couple will encounter on a daily basis. You might feel like your partner doesn't listen to you or can't really "see" you. Because your partner has difficulty focusing and may have trouble with organization or forgetfulness, you are bound to encounter situations where you ask for something from the store and he forgets, or you need help with a project but he walks away half-way through. When a long pattern of this occurs is where most problems occur. It can be easy to take your partner's actions personal, even though they are the result of the ADD, and not a reflection on how much he cares for you. If you don't treat the underlying issue, the ADD, it's easy to build resentments over years of forgotten birthdays, impulsive behavior, or distracted conversations.
One thing that can make it more likely for your spouse with ADD to have increased chances of forgetting something, becoming agitated, or getting anxious, is a complete lack of routine. If there is an area where you have particular conflict, try to incorporate routines. For instance, set your meal plans for the week’s dinners every Sunday and go grocery shopping, without fail as much as is reasonable. When something is a part of the routine, there will be less of a chance that he will forget and less stress about doing it. Likewise, you might create nightly routines about putting the kids to bed or when you do laundry so that it’s easier for him to remember. Stick to smaller tasks for your partner with ADD when you can, so he will be less likely to get distracted. If there is one big job to get done, split it into several parts.
Write Things Down
Alleviate some of the confusion around instructions or requests by writing them down. If you feel like your partner doesn’t hear you when you explain something verbally, try writing down a list and going over it together. Then, give him the list or pin it to a visible place in a common room. When there is something to refer back to, your partner can be reminded about what you asked of him instead of just forgetting. It might also be helpful to create monthly calendars and go over them together.
Try to actively remember that your partner is dealing with a mental health issue which makes it hard to focus. Instead of just focusing on your own frustrations, place some of your energy on cultivating a sense of empathy for how difficult concentration can be for him. That doesn’t mean you have to totally push your frustrations aside. However, if you get caught up in your annoyance you are more likely to get into arguments or have communication breakdown than if you are able to try to see the situation from your spouse’s side. It might be helpful to talk to your spouse’s doctor about the disorder and what you can do to help — gaining an education on the ADD experience can help your empathy grow.
Open Your Communication about Underlying Emotions
When you’re annoyed about your ADD partner not remembering something, you’re probably not JUST annoyed about one specific incident. Instead, you might feel like he doesn’t care enough to listen or really “see” you, leaving you feel dismissed or disrespected. Get in touch with the underlying issue, not just the surface issues. Communicate these feelings to your partner so you can tackle ADD together, and the two of you aren’t trying to battle it separately and getting frustrated in your own ways.
ADD in adulthood can manifest in a lot of different ways. If you’re feeling frustrated with a partner who has this disorder, coming to see me may be helpful. Together, we can create a game plan for working with ADD in a way that it won’t destroy your marriage.
Share how you have handled ADD in Marriage!
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653