The following guidelines might be helpful in dealing with issues of concern to couples in which one partner has ADD.
The best way to use them is to read them out loud, together. Pause over each suggestion and discuss whether it might help you.
As you do this, you can begin to set up your own way of dealing with ADD in your relationship. The keys to it all, as is the case with most problems in couples, are improving communication and resolving the power struggle.
- Make sure you have an accurate diagnosis. There are many conditions that look like ADD, from too much coffee to anxiety states to dissociative disorders to hyperthyroidism. Before embarking on a treatment for ADD, consult with your physician to make sure what you have is really ADD and not something else.
Once you are sure of the diagnosis, learn as much as you can about ADD. There is an increasing body of literature on the topic. The more you and your mate know, the better you will be able to help each other. The first step in the treatment of ADD - whether it be your partner's or someone else's - is education.
- Keep a sense of humor! If you let it be, ADD can be really funny at times. Don't miss out on the chance to laugh when the laugh is there. At that psychological branch point we all know so well, when the split-second options are to get mad, cry, or laugh, go for the laughter. Humor is a key to a happy life with ADD.
- Declare a truce. After you have the diagnosis and have done some reading, take a deep breath and wave the white flag. You both need some breathing space to begin to get your relationship on a new footing. You may need to ventilate a lot of stored-up bad feeling. Do that, so you won't lug it with you everywhere.
- Set up a time for talking. You will need some time to talk to each other about ADD - what it is, how it affects your relationship, what each of you wants to do about it, what feelings you have about it. Don't do this on the run, i.e., during TV commercials, while drying the dishes, in between telephone calls, etc. Set up some time. Reserve it for yourselves.
- Spill the beans. Tell each other what is on your mind. The effects of ADD show up in different ways for different couples. Tell each other how it is showing up between you. Tell each other just how you are being driven crazy, what you like, what you want to change, what you want to preserve. Get it all out on the table. Try to say it all before you both start reacting. People with ADD have a tendency to bring premature closure to discussions, to go for the bottom line. In this case, the bottom line is the discussion itself.
- Write down you complaints and your recommendations. It is good to have in writing what you want to change and what you want to preserve. Otherwise you'll forget.
- Make a treatment plan. Brainstorm with each other as to how to reach your goals. You may want some professional help with this phase, but it is a good idea to try starting it on your own.
- Follow through on the plan. Remember, one of the hallmarks of ADD is insufficient follow-through, so you'll have to work to stick with your plan.
- Make lists. Over time, lists will become a habit.
- Use bulletin boards. Messages in writing are less likely to be forgotten. Of course, you have to get in the habit of looking at the bulletin board!
- Put notepads in strategic places like by your bed, in your car, in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Consider writing down what you want the other person to do and give it to him or her in the form of a list every day. This must be done in a spirit of assistance, not of dictatorship. Keep a master appointment book for both of you. Make sure each of you checks it every day.
- Take stock of you sex lives in light of ADD. ADD can affect sexual interest and performance. It is good to know the problems are due to ADD, and not something else.