Your ADHD spouse never really “gets you,” … and how to fix it – Part 1

This ADHD Couples challenge is jointly created by both partners. It requires both partners to adequately address and resolve it.

Quick outline:

  • Part 1: The ADHD Spouse's contribution:

    • What it's all about, in a nutshell.
    • How it evolves naturally, without anyone noticing.
    • It is not intentional on anyone's part.

    Part 2: The Non-ADHD Partner's contribution:

    • Declaration of a truth.
    • The past is a predictor of the future, right? or neuro-what?
    • What are my real choices?

    Part 3: Prevention - Stopping before starting

    • Neuroplasticity makes the correction on the ADHD side possible.
    • Looking at what they really want from the present and future, while letting go of the past makes the Non-ADHD partner's side possible.
    • Only team work, makes the team possible. 

    ADHD Partner's Side of the Top OOPS of ADHD Relationships

    This first part shares from the ADHD Partner's side:

    We've worked with many couples who, when we first meet them, are on the brink of disaster. There is often a lot of finger pointing and blaming going on.

    The Non-ADHD partner is trying to share how they feel, along with their perceptions, and their partner seems to tune into what they are saying on an intellectual level. But, the Non-ADHD spouse wants to be heard with empathy. They conclude that their marriage partner does not, has not, and never will have the ability to really hear, or feel what they are trying to say.

    It can be a deal breaker.

    It may make sense to the Non-ADHD partner, that this is the absolutely inescapable conclusion. But, I’m not so sure.

    Many adults with ADHD communicate intellectually about feelings, and about empathy, but not truly experience them. But, there are many adults, from within the group, that go on, later in life, to develop a full complement of rich emotions and true empathy. I should know. I am one of them.

    So, let's look at why an ADHD spouse may not seem to have a normal range of accessible emotions, yet can often develop them.

    Later we will look at why the Non-ADHD partner is also making what seems to be valid conclusions based on what they know.

    But together, the relationship can go south, because they don't really know what is going on or why. More importantly, they don't know what to do to correct the downward spiral before they get a path they cannot return from.

    How does someone with ADHD develop a low Emotional Quotient (EQ)?

    Some people with ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms have other issues and complications that make it far more difficult, or impossible to learn a full range of richly felt emotions. (Having Aspergers can make this even more difficult). This inability to feel and project feelings will not apply to everyone with ADHD.

    For the ADHD spouse, it typically begins very early in life. Usually within the first year or two. They will probably act a little differently than other babies their age. We know that the typical ADHD brain develops slightly differently, on the average, than neurotypical children's do. The natural tendency of babies, like most people, is to avoid things that are different than themselves.

    Left to their own devices, however, they seem to play less often with the children they see as different from themselves. For kids, this kind of discrimination seems both normal and natural.

    As the children develop, they play together, learn to argue, create games, negotiate, have fun, cry, disagree, get angry, and explore their feelings. Unfortunately, and usually unnoticed by others, the ones with ADHD are frequently less engaged with their fellow children. This pattern continues, and sometimes the socialization and emotional development gap seems to widen between them as they grow up.

    When the child grows into an ADHD adult, and interacts with others, they are usually less experienced in social norms. They are less sensitive to the queues in body language, and signals that indicate the inner states of emotion of others around them.

    Often, too, they didn't get the experiences that would have helped them gain as much understanding of empathy, the variety and subtleties of emotion, or the words to describe them. Similarly, they are often substantially less aware of their own inner states which creates difficulty describing and being compassionate with the feelings of others.

    Thus, the roots of their inability to connect with other in this way, goes back a long time.

    To step back and learn how a person with Adult ADHD could have emotional problems or social phobia and still not have any mental illness, read:
    "How do you prevent this destructive outcome in the relationship?"