Living with someone who does things differently to you can be frustrating, but in many cases you can negotiate and figure out a system where you’re both happy. What happens when your loved one has good intentions but never seems to follow through with their end of the bargain? It is not unusual to see both individuals become completely frustrated and argue when patience has run thin. Resentment may even follow. I can appreciate that is a reality for couples who deep down love each other but are trapped in a cycle bouncing between hope, disappointment and frustration. I’ve been in that cycle. I can tell you confidently, there is a way to move beyond the cycle and into a relationship that feels equal and easy.
I’m not going to lie, even me, an EXTREMELY patient person has been fed up with asking, reminding, nagging and even using the silent treatment to try and get my dearly beloved to follow through. Things that seem so simple to me like putting dirty clothes in the laundry, dishes in the sink, mowing the lawn, closing the cupboard door or drawers all became the subject of very tiresome debates. And this was before kids! Throw some young children in the mix and those jobs that need doing right now, not in two days time, become massive hits to the relationship. Life with young children is already stressful, so when your partner does not seem able to meet you where you need them the relationship can quickly come to an ugly head. How did things get to this new low?
Well, for us, it was our lack of understanding that we were not accommodating for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It was the root cause of our disorganisation troubles, yet it was overlooked for years. I was expecting my husband who has ADHD to live and function in a non-ADHD environment and way of life. My husband was trying to ‘fit’ into a lifestyle and society at large that was designed around a non-ADHD experience. Uninformed and unaware, the only understanding I had was that my husband ‘had ADHD’ as a child and teenager. We both had a misconceived idea he had ‘outgrown’ it so it didn’t occur to either of us that it was affecting our lives. You, like me at that time, might associate ADHD with the kid in class with ‘ADD’, usually a boy, who is easily distracted, a mischief-maker and hyperactive. It’s a big stereotype, and not very empowering one, but it’s one that most people understand to be what ADHD ‘looks like’. It’s funny how ADHD stands out in a classroom, but when we all enter the adult world it can be much harder to identify.
So what were the signs that we had missed in the first decade of adulthood? I am going to list them for you to make it as clear as possible, as it can be confusing. Not all the signs listed might appear and there are others. And I must say, try to read these without judgement as these are signs the person with ADHD is struggling, and so it’s not seeing them in their best light. To me, these signs seem a consequence of living in a way that is not entirely aligned with their gifts. In fact, since we have nailed how to manage ADHD in the home, we rarely see any of these traits, only the character and joy that ADHD brings to our home.
Your partner may have ADHD if:
- They seem keen to do an activity, say all the right things (what you want to hear) but then either don’t follow through or start but don’t finish. Yet occasionally they do accomplish what they set out to achieve and your faith is restored. You’re confused by the inconsistency.
- There is a history of unfinished tasks around the home.
- They have trouble regulating their emotions. A simple request might trigger a harsh and uncalled for response. They are overwhelmed and stressed by the request.
- They create clutter in their workspace or home, often from getting distracted and putting things down in a non-sensical place, over and over again.
- They do not appear to listen to all instructions. In fact, too many instructions seem unhelpful because it causes them to stress.
- They are forgetful and misplace things often. They have a pattern of losing things and not having everything they need for appointments, tasks, jobs etc.
- They have trouble keeping up with bills and may not seem particularly worried when overdue. There is not a lot of concern about future consequences.
- They sometimes ‘lose their cool’ when driving. They notice everything other drivers do and have a tendency to speed.
- They may engage in risk-taking activities. Again, there may be little concern about future consequences.
If you feel this may apply to someone in your home, don’t be alarmed! Be excited that you have just had an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. It doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. In fact, even if your loved one is not interested in finding out if they have ADHD they don’t need to be pressured about it. You will not get very far trying to convince them and can put your energy elsewhere. There are tips and tricks that can get you past this challenge. The challenge isn’t really that they may have ADHD, as in our home it has been about understanding how we experience the world and our individual reward-seeking behaviours. When you begin to understand how the ADHD mind works, you will be far more forgiving of the things that annoy you and be equipped to make life more harmonious for both of you.
If this has prompted you to start learning more about ADHD there are resources online and at your local library. I recommend you look at the work of Russell Barkley, Ph.D, a reliable source who is dedicated to educating and researching on ADHD. I am available for consult about how to make positive and simple adjustments to your home that your loved one will find easy. In one session you will be equipped with new strategies that make you home life run more smoothly. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and schedule at time to meet on Zoom.
Please note: I offer strategies and alternative ways of thinking about issues you may be experiencing as someone who has lived experience. This does not take the place of seeing a doctor, counsellor or professional dedicated to identifying, diagnosing and treating ADHD or other conditions. ADHD often has co-morbidity with other conditions. The information presented in this blog should not be used to ‘diagnose’ any person. If you have any mental health issues or concerns, you should always seek advice from a licensed professional.