In Part One of our series, you discovered the problems that can outweigh the passion and pleasure of loving someone with attention deficit disorders.
Now you’ll learn some coping skills and creative delights of loving an A.D.D. partner in my discussion with Melissa Orlov, a marriage consultant and author of the 2010 book, The A.D.H.D. Effect On Marriage.
Earlier, Melissa had revealed that she and her husband with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder “A.D.H.D.” each had had affairs because they’d each felt unloved and miserable in their marriage for 6 to 7 years. They had reached the brink of divorce when they decided to turn things around.
What coping skills helped you rescue your marriage, Melissa?
I realized I had treated my husband badly and caused him to stray. So I started learning about A.D.H.D. and how to deal with my husband’s attention problems, anger and frustration and how to change my response to it.
Since the partner without attention problems often assumes the role of parent to their irresponsible partner, the coping strategy for this is to stop taking over the responsibilities of the A.D.H.D partner and give it back to them. Their role is to grab that responsibility and manage their symptoms of attention issues.
Another coping strategy is to use verbal cues to stop arguments before they escalate.
First you both agree that you have a repetitive pattern that you want to stop. You identify the harmful pattern and then choose a word to signal that you want to stop a negative conversation.
Your verbal cues are used to signal a time out to regain your emotional clarity, not to avoid discussing important issues that need your attention. One couple used the word, hamburger, as their verbal cue to stop a negative conversation. It’s not your choice of word but honoring your verbal cue that matters.
Since you’ve lived in an A.D.H.D. marriage for 20 years, what dating advice would you give singles who learn that their date has an attention disorder? Would you advise them to run the other way rather than enter a relationship?
I would not advise them to run. There’s a lot of wonderful energy, creativity and passion that a partner with A.D.H.D. brings to a relationship. That’s part of what makes them so wonderful and attractive.
What should single men and women be aware of while dating someone with attention issues?
You should get through the hyper-focused courtship phase and see what your potential mate is like once the dopamine rush of infatuation drops off.
Since impulsivity is an issue, a person with A.D.H.D. may suggest a quick marriage. If you marry during the dopamine rush of initial infatuation, you may wake up with a complete stranger once the dopamine drops off and reality begins.
You want to make sure you and your partner know each other well and have good negotiation strategies in place before you decide to marry anyone, not just a partner with A.D.H.D.
Some experts claim that A.D.H.D. doesn’t really exist. They argue that it’s giving a disorder diagnosis to poor behavior and performance in children rather than blaming parents for a failure to inspire better behavior in their children. What’s your reply to that argument?
It’s being made by those who believe pharmaceutical companies are pushing their drugs to treat A.D.H.D. It is a reckless argument because of proven dangers in not treating the person and symptoms of A.D.H.D, including low self esteem, low performance in school or at work, and an inability to organize your life or create a happy relationship as an adult.
Studies prove that A.D.H.D is highly inheritable, like hair color. If you have A.D.D. chances are high that your children will have it, too. If you have symptoms and behavior patterns of attention deficit disorders, it is important to be evaluated, seek treatment and manage your symptoms so you can live a productive life.
If you have attention issues, I encourage you to assume more responsibility at home and set aside just a few minutes every day to listen to your partner with all of your senses focused on them. Listening without interrupting is a great act of love that makes your partner feel heard and appreciated.
If your partner has attention issues, I suggest you avoid criticizing their behavior and find qualities to compliment everyday. What you focus on grows, so focus on the positive qualities like sunshine on roses.
Consider walking in each other’s shoes and telling each other how it feels to be you so that you add some empathy to your interactions.
Since adults with attention issues crave excitement, you can plan surprises and weekly dates to do something you each enjoy. Suggest new positions and locations to make love and keep sex interesting and fun. Creating a foundation of fun in your relationship is a good idea for couples with or without attention disorders.
Get all the happy, sexy love you desire,
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