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.

ADHD Can Harm a Marriage

Young couple not communicating after an argument

ADHD Can Harm a Marriage

If your spouse is frightfully disorganized and extremely forgetful, they may have adult ADHD. About 4% of the U.S. population has this condition. Constantly being distracted, forgetfulness, seemingly ignoring one’s spouse, having an inability to carry through on promises are some of the more serious symptoms. ADHD can harm a marriage if left unmitigated. Before approaching your spouse with the prospect of seeing a mental health professional, and risking a fight, it may be wise to evaluate their behavior and see whether or not they exhibit the most common signs. First, there is chronic distraction. Marriage consultant Melissa Orlov, an expert on how ADHD affects couples, told the L.A. Times, “If you are trying to get your partner’s attention and they seem unable to give it to you, that’s a big indicator.” Does your spouse lack a certain self-regulation when it comes to their emotions? Gina Pera, author of, Is It You, Me, Or Adult A.D.D.? said, “They might get really excited about something and their partner will say, ‘Wait, let’s look into the details. Is this really a good idea?’”

Household and other tasks can end in broken promises and hurt feelings. Orlov said, “You’ll say, ‘Honey, will you do X?’ and he’ll say, ‘Sure, no problem,’ and then X does not get done.” People with adult ADHD are a whirlwind. Nothing seems organized. Sufferers get easily overwhelmed, have trouble prioritizing tasks and often miss deadlines. This happens in the work sphere and throughout home life as well. It becomes an entirely different relationship than you first imagined. Pera explains, “The partner says, ‘You are lazy and selfish.’ The adult with ADHD says, ‘You’re controlling.’ Both become resentful.” Luckily, there are moves you can make to help preserve the relationship and mitigate the effects of ADHD. Realize that it is a condition, no one’s fault. Pera says you should, “Acknowledge both of you were working in the dark and both of you were being undermined by this force.” The next step is to look for resources and support in your area. A therapist who specifically understands and has experience with adult ADHD is critical in managing the disorder’s influence on your marriage. There are medications available that work wonders for some. Many become far less forgetful, can arrive places on time, keep promises and more.

One resource is Children and Adults with ADHD, or CHADD, a national advocacy group that should have a chapter in your area. Why not visit their website and see what psychiatrists they recommend in your area, what advice they have and so on? Read up on adult ADHD and get to know a lot about it. Write down specific instances where your spouse has exhibited these behaviors and cross reference them to what symptoms these sources say they are exhibiting. If you have facts on your side, and use loving kindness to break the news to them in a supportive way, they will be more open to seek treatment and the marriage will markedly improve. There are also easy things you can do that will work wonders. Simply keeping a schedule and writing things down in some sort of graphic organizer, say a calendar or on a corkboard, can work wonders. Orlov says focusing on yourself and not your partner is also important. “Contribute your own best self to your relationship,” she said. “You can start on that immediately.” Don’t dwell on the past. It will poison the marriage. Though you might have resentments, you still have to move forward. Orlov says, “It’s a lot more relevant than stomping around in the undiagnosed ADHD portion of your relationship.” But even though you want to get somewhere Orlov says, “You don’t have to meet a certain goal, but you have to try your hardest.” For more on this topic pick up a copy of, The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov.

Helping your Spouse Cope with Bipolar Disorder

together

Helping your Spouse Cope with Bipolar Disorder

If your spouse or long term partner has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, helping them cope may seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. They are the same person you fell in love with. They merely have a disorder. We all have our health issues and this is there’s. Some people’s first reaction is to distance themselves from their partner. Instead, get closer to them. Show them how much you care for them. Be supportive. Make them feel good about themselves. Nothing helps lift someone’s mood like a little love. It should improve both of your lives.

Don’t hold your tongue. Ask your partner to take their pills or ask if they did take them. They might forget from time to time. Consider too being in on a session with their psychiatrist or counselor. Write down any questions you might have and get them addressed. It’s good to be conscientious. It will really pay off in the end. Recognize that there are some banal, everyday tasks that compound, enrage and frustrate someone with bipolar. Paying bills and filling out forms are some examples. Handle these things for them.

People with bipolar disorder go through manic and depressive episodes. Go with your partner when they are in a certain mood. If they are manic and excited go on adventures with them. If they want to have a sex marathon, or lock yourselves away and adore one another all weekend, why not go with it? Realize too that some medications decrease sex drive, and make accommodations if necessary. When they enter the depressed stage, be there for them. Support them as best you can. If they are irritable and lash out at you, understand that it is the condition talking and not your spouse. Don’t distance yourself from them at these times, be there to talk, to embrace them and to do what you need to do to make sure everything else runs smoothly.

Understand that they may not get better, though medication can control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Love and accept them for who they are, condition and all. Understand that they may embarrass you publicly here and there. It’s just the disorder coming out. They aren’t doing it on purpose.  It is not a simple relationship when married to someone with bipolar disorder. It is quite complex and can be difficult at times. But if they are your spouse, love them and accept them for who they are. They’ll do the same for you in return. For more advice read, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding & Helping Your Partner by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, Psy.D.

A Bad Marriage can cause Depression

marital-stress-depression

A Bad Marriage can cause Depression

Lots of studies have linked marriage with good health. But new research out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that the opposite is true; a bad marriage including high stress can cause depression. 116 participants, divided evenly by gender that were married or cohabitating adults, took part in this 11 year study. The experiment began when participants filled out a survey asking how often tension entered their relationship and how often they felt let down by their spouse or mate. Nine years after the first survey they took one again. Depression and marital stress were again tested. After two more years respondents were asked to come in and take an “emotional response test.” In this sort of test 90 pictures move across a computer screen and the viewer is assessed for their emotional responses. This test revealed that those who had been suffering with marriage stress for years had difficulty responding to positive stimuli, or positive images, a telltale sign of depression.  Dr. Richard Davidson the study’s author wrote in a press release, “This is not an obvious consequence, if you will, of marital stress, but it’s one I think is extraordinarily important.” This study appeared in the Journal of Psychophysiology.

So how can you tell if you suffer from depression? Stomach pain or stomach issues can be caused by depression. These issues include indigestion, queasiness, even diarrhea and nausea. Colitis, ulcers, Crohn’s Disease and other digestive problems can become worse due to marital stress. Dull headaches, usually not in one specific area but generally all around, can be a sign of depression. Usually these headaches are more pronounced in the evening or morning. These are tension headaches caused by the muscles in the neck and scalp becoming taut due to stress. What happens is one gets upset tightening that group of muscles for so long and for such a prolonged period that you create a tension headache. Sleep issues are often a sign of depression. Some can’t fall asleep. Others wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. It’s normal for it to happen to someone once in a while. But if it persists for longer than two weeks the problem may be depression. Back muscles and joints often hurt more. People are also less apt to take care of themselves, eat right and exercise when depressed. Fatigue and utter exhaustion are classic signs of depression. Appetite changes can occur, either hardly ever eating or using food to combat stress. This is usually followed by gaining or losing weight dramatically. If you think you are suffering from marital depression, seek help. For more on overcoming marital stress and the depression that can ensue, read Treating Marital Stress: Support-Based Approaches by Robert P. Ruge.

How to Avoid OCD Related Divorce

OCD

How to Avoid OCD Related Divorce

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can seem like a stranger getting between you and your spouse. Of course a spouse with OCD can limit your comfort level in your own house, play with the balance of power and limit your lifestyle. OCD rules can seem confining, even smothering. So how do you avoid OCD ripping your marriage apart? How do you avoid OCD related divorce? The first thing to do is to learn all you can about your spouse’s condition. OCD is a brain disorder that distresses and can even disable the sufferer. According to the World Health Organization OCD is one of the topmost causes of disability across the globe. OCD doesn’t just affect your spouse, it affects everyone around them. 60% of family members get involved to some degree in the rituals of someone with OCD. Often slowly an OCD person’s habits, rituals and opinions will take over your life. It can start to feel as though you are being criticized constantly, or as your spouse might see it, re-corrected. Further, they could make you late to engagements say making you go a certain route to avoid potholes. They may curb your good time out by refusing to let you use a public restroom. Of course, making any marriage work can be difficult. But OCD can look like a boulder size stumbling block, especially if the condition has worsened over time.

One way to put things into perspective before you call the divorce lawyer is to see things from your spouse’s point of view. How hard is it for them to live with OCD? Though they do these habits compulsively they may secretly feel guilty about say driving friends away with their difficult behavior, making outings less interesting by interjecting their needs or demands and so on. They may struggle between trying to control their behaviors in order to make you happier and being compelled to fulfill their compulsion or compulsions. OCD sufferers usually take part in these rituals because they are scared of what might happen if they don’t go through them.

They believe deep in their hearts that these rituals keep themselves and the ones they love most, namely you, safe and protected from harm. Now it’s time to do some research. Look on the internet and find local support groups in your area. There are some great books out there about OCD. Contact the International OCD Foundation for more information and see if they have any workshops, symposiums or other resources or events in your area. Be sure to discuss the problems you are having with your spouse. Convince them to go to therapy with you. Tell them the truth. Don’t sugar coat it. If there behavior is driving you to think about seeking out a divorce attorney, maybe this information will provide them with the wakeup call they need to get a handle on their condition.

Offer to help them find a counselor and to go to counseling with them. Make sure this is a therapist they can connect with and that has some experience or background in dealing with OCD conditions. Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of Louisville Monnica Williams, Ph.D. writes in an article for Psychology Today, “Ask yourself, Am I going to let my spouse’s rituals ruin our marriage, or am I going to find strength to be supportive and compassionate so that we can have the marriage that we have always wanted?’” A supportive therapist may be required to help keep the relationship together and cope with the situation depending upon how serious your spouse’s symptoms are. If your spouse is going to therapy, it’s a good idea to go with them so you can get a new perspective on the issue, how to handle them, get knowledge you didn’t have before, and perhaps you can even ask the counselor for some strategies to help you cope with your spouse’s behavior. Being married to someone with OCD isn’t easy. There may be many times you want to throw in the towel. But if you truly love this person and think you can support them through this difficult time you and your spouse should come out better and stronger than ever before. For more, read Loving Someone with OCD: Help for You and Your Family by Karen J. Landsman, Kathleen M. Rupertus and Cherry Pedrick.