As an ADHD coach, people come to me to get support to live their best possible life, something that ADHD often gets in the way of. Often they already have some support which is great as long as it is a healthy kind of support. Unfortunately, especially in romantic relationships support can turn in to something that is not healthy. The most common case is when the romantic partner or spouse becomes more of a parent than a partner.
This can happen quite easily. The non-ADHD partner loves the ADHD partner and wants to be helpful and supportive. This is good provided the help doesn’t turn into a form of parenting. Then the relationship ceases to be one of equals. The ADHD partner becomes the child in the relationship. The non-ADHD partner becomes responsible not only for his/her life but also the life of the partner. This is unfair and can damage the intimacy within a couple.
There is a difference between being supportive and taking responsibility for someone else’s life. When a couple’s parent/child relationship develops a lot of resentment arises. The parent/partner resents losing a full partner and getting the added burden of being a parent to their partner. The child/partner resents being treated like a child and not a full partner.
The problem lies in each partner not understanding what their role should be in the relationship. The child/partner allows the parent/partner to take responsibility because it is easier than taking responsibility themselves because of the ADHD. The parent/partner is often frustrated and figures it is just easier to take responsibility for things so that balls don’t get dropped.
The key is to figure out the best division of labor and how each partner can support the other. This means the ADHD affected partner must not decide that because somethings are hard for them to do and so they don’t even try. This also means the non-ADHD partner should not have unrealistic expectations of their ADHD affected partner. Each couple plays this out differently. Constant communication is important so both parties are clear about what their needs are and that their expectations are realistic.
It is important to remember there are many different ways to do most anything. There is more than one way to load the dishwasher so that the dishes will get clean. Your way of doing it might seem to best way but it isn’t always better. Done is better. I have worked with many couples through my ADHD coaching services and often couples get stuck because the way the ADHD affected person does things may not be the most efficient way to do them in the eyes of the non-ADHD partner. This can be frustrating. It is important to remember there is often more than one way to do something. If it gets the task done one way or another isn’t better or worse just different.
Most important is that couples find ways to balance their relationships so that neither partner feels the other is taking complete charge – becoming the parent in the relationship. Also that neither partner is completely abdicating responsibility – becoming the child in the relationship.
ADHD impacts both the person who is affected by it and that person’s partner. ADHD is not easy to live with but it is doable.