How do you prevent this destructive outcome in the relationship?
This is what often happens with the Non-ADHD Spouse
A little history:
The couple is in partnership. And they have been for a time, Whether the partnership has existed for months, years, or decades, they’ve developed a past with one another. Throughout much of the latter part, usually for years, the Non-ADHD partner has seen promises broken, time and time again.
The wife, (in the majority of cases we’ve seen, the Non-ADHD partner is the female), has usually tried to help her partner in every way she can think of. She has tried to support her partner to overcome challenge areas, find work arounds, and to lighten het partners load because it often seems impossible to get him to take on more responsibility beyond his immediate concerns. And even those seem monumental sometimes. She takes on what feels like more than her fair share of the work in the relationship; the household chores, everything. Why has she done all this? Because she loved her ADHD partner.
Back to the present:
By the time the couple gets to us, the Non-ADHD partner is usually pretty exhausted. She is tired of the extra work every day. She would love it if she could just give us her partner so we could, “fix,” him.
But it doesn’t work that way. She may not want to do any more of the hard work it can take to get the relationship back on track.But she has an essential role to play in the rebalancing and recovery of their marriage. If having the relationship survive is an objective, full participation by both parties is required.
Back to the challenge at hand:
The Non-ADHD partner is in partnership every day with a person who may be less connected to their own feelings, and less able to empathize with her, their Non-ADHD partner. The ADHD partner can usually quite easily understand what the Non-ADHD partner is saying.
But the Non-ADHD partner is not getting from the ADHD partner the body language, the “signals”, that would indicate to her that her partner can really “get” what she is feeling.
What does this mean for our couple?
Here is our couple, and this gaping hole is exposed. We are working with them to make the communication better. But the Non-ADHD partner realizes, that her spouse can’t hear her feelings when she expresses them. And sometimes he thinks he’s doing just fine. But…
Here’s where it can all come apart in the heart and mind of the Non-ADHD partner.
The logic may look something like this…
Since the Non-ADHD partner, has correctly understood that her ADHD partner could not empathize with her, and feels that this is what she has been saying all this time …
She could easily jump to the conclusion that since the past has been pretty consistent, the future will look just like the past. Her ADHD partner will never be able to deeply understand and “get” her, or have any empathy.
If she has irrevocably made that decision, Game Over. Or at least it can be.
If we have not been able to stop it before this point, our next step is clear. To help the Non-ADHD partner understand:
- The ADHD partner’s seeming inability to feel feelings is likely a lack of education, training, and practice during their upbringing, and a result of having ADHD, but it is not an impairment.
- It’s probably not a brain deficiency or mental illness.
But it will take some work to get the ADHD partner on board with what needs to happen here.