The parent-child type of relationship is seen frequently in marriages where one partner lives with ADHD. Typically, the non-ADHD partner takes on the role of the parent and the partner with ADHD takes the role of the child. It generally starts when the partner with ADHD does not follow through on tasks, such as paying a bill or leaving the laundry out in a pile. Naturally, the non-ADHD partner will step in to handle more of the household responsibilities.
This may work in the beginning and be viewed as helpful, but as time goes on, the non-ADHD partner tends to become resentful. It may be difficult to see your partner’s positive qualities and what they do contribute when you are frustrated. The partner with ADHD can usually sense this resentment and may begin to feel that they should not bother trying because the non-ADHD spouse is controlling and impossible to please. Don’t worry, there are ways to break this pattern.
Tips for the non-ADHD partner:
You can’t control your spouse, but you can control your own actions. Put an immediate stop to verbal attacks and nagging.
Encourage your partner when they make progress and acknowledge achievements and efforts.
When possible, try to focus on your partner’s intentions, rather than what they actually do.
Stop trying to parent your partner. It is destructive to your relationship and demotivating to your spouse.
Tips for the partner with ADHD:
Acknowledge the fact that your ADHD symptoms are interfering with your relationship. It’s not just a case of your partner being unreasonable.
Explore treatment options. As you learn to manage your symptoms and become more reliable, your partner will feel more trusting.
If strong emotions derail conversations with your partner, agree in advance that you need to take a time out to calm down and refocus before continuing.
Find ways to surprise your spouse. If your partner feels cared for by you, even in small ways, they will feel less like your parent.
Stop fighting and start communicating
When emotions are intense, it becomes difficult to communicate appropriately. This happens when one of you feels overburdened and the other feels attacked, which leads to a situation where you are fighting each other rather than discussing the issue at hand. If needed, take the time to cool off before discussing an issue to make sure that you are in a place to hear what they are saying, too. Try to think about what caused the fight and identify the underlying issue. After you identify the issue, it is easier to resolve the problem. Here are some communication tips:
Don’t bottle up your emotions: you have to discuss your feelings, regardless if they are uncomfortable. You should tactfully get them out in the open so you can work through them as a couple.
Don’t assume: you are not a mind reader. Try not to fall into the trap of assuming. If your partner upsets you, address it directly rather than automatically thinking the worst.
Avoid critical words: what you say has the ability to really hurt your spouse. Watch what you say and the way you say it. You can get your point across while preserving your spouse’s feelings.
Try to find the humor: when you learn to laugh over inevitable miscommunications, it can lighten the mood. Laughing together can help to bring you closer to each other.
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