Regardless of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), falling in love is easy. A rush of biochemical euphoria comes with “new love.” Those of us with ADD/ADHD often hyperfocus on romance, not just for the sake of romance, but also to increase those pleasure-producing neurotransmitters (dopamine) that are in short supply in our brains. Highly charged emotions are not part of lasting love. They are just feelings -- strong and wonderful feelings -- but you need much more to make an ADD relationship last.
Relationships are hard, and when we accept that fact, we are dealing with reality, not the fantasy that “all you need is love.” All we need is love? I don’t think so. We need coping skills to compensate for our weaknesses. What tools should you have in your relationship toolbox? Glad you asked.
ADD Relationship Tool 1: Manage Symptoms
You and your partner must take ownership of your condition. Treat ADD/ADHD responsibly by using behavior therapy and/or appropriate medications to manage symptoms, increase dopamine, and help the brain work as it is supposed to. When you do all that, you should see a decrease in ADD/ADHD symptoms -- like the inability to focus when your partner is talking to you or to follow through on tasks, such as paying bills on time.
Not being heard is a major complaint of those in intimate relationships with ADD/ADHD partners. For many ADDers, listening to others is hard. To increase your listening skills, practice this exercise:
Sit down with your partner and let him talk for five minutes -- or longer, if you can manage it. Make eye contact and lean toward him, even if you’re not absorbing every word.
After five minutes of listening, summarize what you’ve heard. You might say, “ Wow, it sounds like you had a really hectic day. The lousy commute, the awful meeting. At least you got to stop at the gym on the way home.”
After the exchange, do something you want to do. Say, “Now that you’re home, would you mind watching Robbie while I go for a run?”
Your partner will probably be shocked, and pleased, that you have listened to him for a full five minutes.
This article appears in the Summer 2010 issue of ADDitude.
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