Yours, Mine, and Hours: Understanding Your Partner's Time Style

Is a skewed sense of time causing stress in your marriage? Ease time management tension by "borrowing" your spouse's perception of time.

Married to ADD, Part 2

Try This On

The ADHD and FAD styles each have advantages, but what happens when you put them in the same room? Whether it's a romantic relationship, a parent and child, or even an employer and employee, different time styles can lead to conflicts. The linear thinker may feel that her ADHD partner doesn't care about her priorities, or may be forced into the role of organizer. The person with ADHD might see his partner as controlling, or caring too much about little things.

"Sometimes it feels like I'm his boss and his secretary at the same time," said Helen McCann, a participant in the Davises' workshop, whose husband has ADHD. "I do all the scheduling, and when I ask him about planning, he stresses out about it. And then he sometimes forgets what I plan anyway." Missed appointments and incomplete tasks may seem unimportant to someone with ADHD, but they matter a lot in a relationship.

You can't just wave a wand and change anyone's perception of time. But the Davises hope that, by understanding the difference in the partner's brain, couples can smooth out time-management differences — or at least reduce the stress over them. This understanding makes it less likely that a person will attribute their partner's behavior to other reasons, like disrespect or hostility.

"If I had a nickel for every time we've started off an argument with, 'What were you thinking?' I'd be a millionaire," says Tim Hanley. "Now I try to adapt to her thinking about time and tasks. It may seem obvious to someone who doesn't have ADD that a person can do only one thing at a time, but I needed to learn how."

Tim has borrowed planning skills from Tammy and applied them to his work. "I approach each task in its own time," he explains. "I may have several tasks going at once, but now I can remain focused on each task individually — and switch to another without anxiety or concern about when I'll return to the first, or how much time is left, or what new task is on the horizon."

The Other Clock

The borrowing goes both ways. The Davises urge people with linear time styles to try on their partner's time style, too. In doing this, they can learn to be more spontaneous, or see the big picture, or find newly creative ways to do things, or remember to enjoy what they are doing, or change their plans to suit new opportunities. They might even experience some stress relief.

"Sometimes my husband calls me at work on a beautiful day and says, 'Now it's time for you to borrow my time style,'" reveals Helen McCann. "Then we go to an outdoor restaurant instead of cooking. He helps me remember that a plan is just a plan and you can change it. We also schedule free time for him, and he doesn't have to decide what to do with it until it arrives. He can choose to do everything on his list, or nothing, if he wants."

For each person in a relationship, understanding their own time style as well as their partner's can help every aspect of their life. This became clear to Tim Hanley, who says that borrowing his wife's time style has cleared his mind of clutter and increased his productivity. "My talent can now shine through my work, and my home life is positive and fulfilling."

Have you been late to one too many important dates? Download your free digital Better Time Management with Adult ADHD, and learn how to get things done before the deadline. Plus, receive more e-mail tips for ADHD adults.

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Do you handle time differently than your partner? To connect with others in your shoes, visit the Couples With One ADHD Partner support group on ADDConnect.


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TAGS: ADHD Time Management, Deadlines and Procrastination, ADHD and Marriage

 

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