ADHD and Relationships

couple at therapy

ADHD and Relationships

When one person has ADHD in a relationship, and the other person doesn’t, unique problems can occur. The power dynamic can become that of a parent to child, which isn’t healthy. The non-ADHD person becomes the one with the power, guiding, reminding and helping their partner. When the ADHD partner has a chore to be done, their counterpart may remind them, indeed several times, until the ADHD partner does it. Or the non-ADHD partner may give up and do it themselves rather than keep reminding their other half. Eventually, too many chores or responsibilities are allocated to the non-ADHD partner.

The symptoms of ADHD unmanaged are permanent. Distraction, memory problems and other symptoms start to weigh on the relationship. The non-ADHD partner becomes the parent, the ADHD partner the child. The power dynamic in this relationship becomes off kilter, leaning only to one side. This leads to a lack of respect on the part of the non-ADHD partner as they begin to view their partner like a child, and a condescending attitude can ensue. The ADHD partner begins to resent their significant other.

Adaptation is generally considered a good thing. One partner sees an issue arising and both partners change to meet and overcome it. Some research has shown however that stronger couples see problems coming down the pike and counteract them before they become an issue in the relationship. For ADHD, this power dynamic increases over time. As more and more control is lent to the non-ADHD partner and the more they become the parent, the other the child, the more resentment builds. Both people in this relationship have their problems with the other. One doesn’t want to do all of the work of the other. The ADHD partner doesn’t want to be treated like a child. They get tired of constant reminders, general bossiness and nagging. And the non-ADHD partner gets tired of doing so. And this dynamic puts a strain on the relationship. The couple feels less inclined toward positive feelings of love, affection, physical intimacy and romance.

Child/parent dynamics will almost inevitably lead to relationship or marital dysfunction. ADHD should be treated with the help of a mental health professional. Both partners should be involved. But if you are married or seriously involved with someone who has ADHD or if you have ADHD make sure to talk about it in depth with your partner. Treatment should also be sought. For more advice read, The ADHD Effect On Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps by Melissa Orlov.

Science Helps with Breakups


Science Helps with Breakups

We’ve all been there: the week in sweat pants, balled up tissues on the couch, a book of bad poetry in our lap, gallons of empty ice cream cartons all around (wine bottles too) and tearful moments wondering how you’ll ever get over the loss. Breakups are one of the most painful moments in life. Certainly wallowing in misery is not one the most healthful thing you can do. Reflection on the other hand can help the healing process along. That’s according to one study published in the in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The difference between helpful reflection and wallowing is the point of your ruminations. How long has it taken place? Are your thoughts severe? If you are reliving moments over and over again, just making yourself sick then it’s time to stop and shake yourself out of this funk. If you are looking at it in a somewhat detached manner, to see where mistakes were made, learning about yourself and vowing to do better in the future, congratulations; you are truly helping to facilitate your own healing, and making sure your future endeavors in the realm of love will not be fraught with misfortune and peril.

Graduate student Grace Larson at Northwestern University conducted the study. She found that a period of asking one’s self questions and deep reflection as she told NPR, “…helped them develop a stronger sense of who they were as single people.” But this isn’t the only science-backed method to employ after a breakup. In fact, there is a rather impressive body of evidence on how to recover. We say we have a physical ache in our hearts and that’s literally true, according to one 2011 study. Participants underwent brain scans while gazing upon a photo of their ex and suffering a breakup. Neurologists found that the same areas where pain is received lit up when the person was longing for their lost love. Another study suggested Tylenol might help relieve such pain. A breakup affects you in other ways physically too, not just being heartsick. When people are in a long-term relationship their biological rhythms synch up. When you break up with someone and are living alone your heart rate, sleep pattern, appetite and even your body temperature is out of sync and must readjust. That means post-breakup, instead of letting yourself go you should go out of your way to take good care of yourself.

Once your body has readjusted, it’s time to take stock of your psychological state. After a breakup your sense of self and identity is in flux. Reestablishing a sense of who you are and what you want out of life is the key to moving on, experts say. Some calm reflection on the relationship is in order. But avoid dwelling upon it. Adaptation is the best route. But adapting to a new environment sans significant other is not easy. A good portion of our lives revolves around our partner. When they are gone a portion of our life goes with them. The good news is we also have a tremendous opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make plans for our future, one better suited for us. One study using brain scans likened breakup pain to cocaine withdrawal. This may be why some of us act a little bit nuts after we and our lover have split. Just ride it out. Most research finds that the first estimate of how long it takes to get over a breakup is far too long. In the aftermath, when the emotions have cleared most people feel they’ve learned something, that the experience helped them grow and made them more goal oriented. That’s according to a 2007 study. People who survive a tough breakup come out stronger in the end, find purpose in life and learn to move on their own power. What may feel like a painful extraction at first turns out to be liberating. For more pick up a copy of, Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott, JD Med.

How to be Healthy throughout a Divorce


How to be Healthy throughout a Divorce

It’s estimated that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce today. Though many are civil, they are all uncomfortable, draining and even painful. Then there are the problems of moving, adapting to a new financial situation, transitioning to being single again, and, for many, single parenthood. Helping children to get used to a new lifestyle is tumultuous as well. Depression, loneliness, misplaced anger, insecurity and anxiety can envelope you at this time. Lots of people let themselves go when they are going through a divorce, and wallow in these negative emotions. A recent Gallup poll found that those who are divorced scored lower on well-being measures including physical and emotional well-being. Keeping yourself healthy throughout a divorce and afterward can feel very challenging. This is especially true for women. Even after a divorce women have a higher risk of suffering from depression, making it crucial to know how to cope with negative emotions in a positive way. So how do you stay healthy throughout a divorce and in its aftermath? First, don’t wallow in isolation. Lots of people feel that they want to be alone. But then they spend too much time alone and this isolation begins to wear on them, or exacerbate their problems. Sometimes it has to do with pride. But there is no shame in reaching out for help and support. It takes a really strong person to do so actually.

Reach out to friends, family, mentors and other people who are close to you during this period. They will be there for you with open arms, advice, and comfort. Sometimes we just need someone to listen and validate how we are feeling. Let them know what form the comfort should take and they will be more than happy to oblige. It can also be beneficial to reach out to divorce support groups in your area. DivorceCare is one such group, but there are many others. When you get divorced it seems that so many priorities get in the way that your needs settle way down at the bottom of the list and hardly ever get addressed. Getting enough sleep should be a priority however. Preparing and eating healthy meals, getting enough exercise and making sure your emotional needs are met should also be on the docket and not at the bottom of the list, but near the top. You, your children, your coworkers and your family and friends are counting on you to be the best you you can be. They can’t make it without you. You are an essential part of their lives. But don’t just do it for them, do it for yourself. The healthier the lifestyle you commit to, especially during a divorce, the better off you will be and feel in the long run. Lastly, don’t perpetuate the feeling bad cycle. Everyone needs a chance to mourn. But if you are going to be sullen all the time people at first will be sympathetic, but if too much time has passed they will begin to put space between you and them. Find the positives in your life. Look for moments of joy. Laugh. Be lighthearted and find the positives in situations. Choose to be happy. It won’t be easy but it will be right. For more help with divorce recovery read, The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John W. James and Russell Friedman.

Divorce Often Produces What Are Called “Chameleon Kids”

chameleon kids


“Chameleon kids” are children from divorced families that act a certain way around one parent and a completely different way around the other.  It’s theorized that they are adapting to each situation, attempting to please each parent according to what they think will make each one happy.  They are searching for approval from both parents by agreeing with everything they say, even with negative things that are said about the other parent.

A “chameleon kid” will likely tell each parent different stories or versions of how he or she feels in order to make them both happy.  This is considered a normal level of adaptation to divorce, however, there can be a more extreme scenario.  For instance, if a child has a completely different persona around each parent (i.e., a shy and quiet demeanor with the mother and a very loud and vivacious one with the father) then this is an extreme example of what is called the “chameleon effect”.

It’s common for children to want to make their parents happy, especially after a divorce.  Considering the stress and negativity associated with the breakup, it’s important to be mindful of what you say about your ex in front of your children. They might agree with the hurtful things you say about your ex in order to feel accepted by you, or out of fear of being abandoned.

It’s essential to establish the importance of individuality with your children, so they don’t take on a chameleon-like persona that becomes permanent.  Being overly adaptable to the wants of others could make your children more vulnerable to peer pressure, which can be hazardous if they get involved with the wrong crowd.

If you see your children agreeing with the negative things you might say about your ex, or hear them speaking poorly of your ex in a way that seems untrue or extreme, do your best to intervene and reinforce your love and acceptance of your children for who they are as individuals.  Encourage your children to express themselves openly and honestly, and try your best to keep negative comments about your ex to yourself or among your less suggestible adult friends.  This will benefit your children greatly in the long run.