Falling in love may be easy, but staying there? That can be a whole other challenge, especially when one of you is forgetful, impulsive, and inattentive. In other words, when one of you has full-blown adult ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) -- or even a mild case.
If you have ADHD (or maybe if you're just an obsessed multitasker), you might not realize how deeply it can affect your relationship. Here are some ways to minimize the effects. With a little extra self-awareness, some mutual accommodation, and the right information, you can help your love thrive.
Communication breakdowns. Feeling distracted and fidgety in difficult, emotional moments makes it hard to hear your partner and express yourself. If either of you sometimes feels misunderstood or resentful when the talking gets tough, these simple moves can improve your heart-to-hearts:
- Turn off all electronic devices. No TV, no Pandora, no texting beeps, no e-mail dings, no digital distractions. Can't give up your mobile? Here's help for cell phone addiction.
- Make eye contact. Look directly into your partner's eyes when you're talking. It makes clear that what's being said is important to you AND also helps you absorb the conversation.
- Play it again. If your mind wanders, don't pretend it didn't happen. Be upfront. Admit you had a little trouble focusing, and ask your partner to repeat what was said because you really want to be sure you understand.
- Take a time-out. If you start feeling overwhelmed or angry, ask your partner for a little time to collect your thoughts. It's smart to take a break when you need it, then resume the conversation when you're more focused. Take a break for a hug. Here's how it can help reduce stress.
Trouble getting things done. Adults with ADHD typically have difficulty planning, organizing, managing, and remembering details. For instance, paying bills, doing household chores, and monitoring the kids' TV time may fall through the cracks, straining your relationship. Here are some ways to stay on top of your to-do list and maintain domestic harmony:
- Set up systems. Use file folders, calendars, and lists to keep track of bills, due dates, errands, and chores. You'll be less likely to forget important details (like paying the electric bill!) when you have reminder systems, and critical paperwork is in a designated, uncluttered place. Declutter with these four easy steps.
- Plan ahead. Break up your daily to-do's into chunks, and plan out which to do when. Make meals ahead of time. Lay out your clothes the night before. Organize your briefcase or tote bag then, too. Do home improvement projects in incremental steps. Spacing out the things you must do helps you feel less pressured.
- Ask for help. Agree on a way to share tasks and chores, but don't be afraid to ask for help when you feel swamped. Your partner will prefer your honesty, especially when it helps foster a happier, smoother-running household.
Acting before you think. Being impulsive can lead to addictive behavior, like overspending, and to dangerous acts, like driving too fast. Here are ways to rein in your impulses:
- Breathe. Anytime you're about to do or say something that you might regret later, walk away, take some deep breaths, and count to 10. Return to the situation when you're steadier. Simply getting into the habit of stopping and thinking before you act or talk helps head off volatile situations.
- Set a budget and stick to it. Sit down with your partner and agree on how much you each will spend on shared living costs. Then -- important! -- shop with cash, and take only the amount you'll need to the store. Leave the plastic at home.
- Deal with excesses and addictions. ADHD often goes hand in hand with overeating, overspending, gambling, smoking, and other addictive behaviors that will seriously sabotage your relationship and your health. Overcoming these on your own is difficult; you'll likely need a doctor or counselor and a good plan. Try this doctor-proven program for a cig-free life.
Trouble in the bedroom. ADHD can make your sex drive higher than normal, and ADHD medications can make them lower. In either case, you and your partner are likely to have different levels of desire (what's known as "frequency discrepancy") -- something many couples have even without ADHD. Three steps to resolve it:
- Talk it out. Have an open, honest conversation about what you both want. Avoid blame games. Just express your needs and desires in a calm way, and try to find a solution together.
- Talk to your doc. If your ADHD meds cause a lack of desire, talk to your doctor about adjusting your treatment to minimize this side effect.
- Consider talk therapy. If despite your efforts you're still having trouble between the sheets, get help from a qualified sex therapist. Don't let ADHD take the fire out of your love life.
How have you managed your ADHD on the home front?
Get more health tips from RealAge:
- Is your body younger than your years? Take the RealAge Test and find out.
- Should you rush your kid to the ER? Here's what to do in an emergency.
- Is diabetes sneaking up on you? This test will help you spot it.
- Give yourself a smile check. Take this tour of your mouth.
- Do your achy joints mean arthritis? Answer these questions to find out.