What makes a successful relationship?
Some may report the ability to demonstrate interest in each other, attentiveness to relationship maintenance and active listening as a few important factors. If one partner is struggling to be consistent in these areas, the relationship as a whole may begin to deteriorate. In some cases, signs of disinterest may be the result of one or both partners preparing to end the romance, but that is not the case for all.
Common symptoms of ADHD are forgetfulness, inattentiveness and difficulty maintaining structure and organization. Partners of individuals with ADHD may not fully see these as symptoms of a diagnosis but rather interpret them as purposeful actions of detachment. This misinterpretation can lead to resentment and sometimes even termination of the relationship. How can we better understand this?
Our brains naturally sort through and remove stimuli that is non-threatening in order to allow us to focus on the things that need our response in the moment. When entering a new relationship, the excitement and newness allows individuals with ADHD to fully focus on the relationship, just like most other people. This results in each partner feeling seen, cared for and secure in the relationship. But also just like most people, as the freshness of the relationship begins to fade away, the attention placed on the relationship will also begin to shift.
For example, the smell of their partners shampoo may not be as striking as it was in the beginning. These are natural shifts, it just happens quicker for those with ADHD, which can lead to a misconception of disinterest.
Along with this, partners of individuals with ADHD may sometimes feel disregarded or forgotten about. For example, Sally is the partner of Tammy, who has ADHD. Sally asks Tammy to get her a glass of water. When Tammy gets up to grab the glass of water she also noticed dishes left in the sink and begins to clean them. She then remembers she needed to finish sending an email, so she opens her phone to finish that task. Once she puts the phone down, she hears the dryer go off and runs to grab the clothes. Sally is still waiting for Tammy to return and when Tammy returns with no water but clothes to fold, Sally is left feeling like her request was not important enough for Tammy to remember and is frustrated constantly having to remind Tammy of things she has said.
What are some options to help couples struggling due to these challenges?
A great place to start is to seek support from someone outside of the relationship, such as a mental health professional who is trained and specialized in ADHD treatment and works with couples. A therapist will help educate the individual with ADHD and their partner to understand the problem at hand and discover appropriate solutions.
Couples will begin to understand the feelings experienced in these situations and grow to differentiate the feelings from the facts of what is actually occurring. This can lead to empathy from each partner, an increase in communication and the development of skills for each partner to bring into the relationship.