Working with your ADHD spouse: The once-a-week divorce rule
It was a great week when Mike and I had a week without thinking about divorce.
And we don’t have that very often.
The last time was probably three years ago when we traveled to France.
Now, you might give me a look like my grandmother when she did not approve of something I said.
But hear me out …
We have to deal with the number of things ten times more than three years ago.
Of course, there is Covid-19. And we sure all got better at dealing with these pandemic challenges.
But still, it is a challenge. And the fact we got used to Covid does not mean it does not wreak havoc on our wellbeing.
Cyprus, where we live, still has high numbers of infections. It is the same in Germany, where Mike & I were born and had many customers.
Some coaching clients want to continue the habit of traveling to Cyprus in the winter to enjoy the sun while mapping out the next business year with us.
But is it safe?
Can we invite them to come, go for a hike and be sure they will return safely?
We don’t know.
We know we need to continue life, not to become crazy.
And that is not easy because some activities are not safe, like being around too many people. Or to be around people when it is not 38 degrees.
But there is more that adds up …
The challenges of a long-term marriage.
In the last year I realized, how many long-term relationships and marriages fall apart after 19, 20, 25, or even 27 years.
Why is that?
I’m not an expert on relationships. But I feel that people divorce when the number of things worth fighting for is insufficient.
When the “I” is more significant than a “Why.”
And I don’t mean it is terrible to put oneself in the center—au contraire. If you haven’t done this enough – for whatever reasons – you may feel the urge to do it while there is enough time left in your life.
There are always sacrifices in a marriage. And that is probably even more true when ADHD is on board.
So, the question is, how can we make that possible while still being in the relationship?
The mistake-trap with ADHD.
It is easy to get caught in the habit that everything that is not perfect, every mistake, each misfortune … is on the one who has ADHD.
And it is even more tempting as the people having ADHD usually don’t argue with you.
They are so used to the story of being a failure, of doing everything (or most of the things) wrong, that they buy into it. They don’t give you that look that would be appropriate (you know, the one from my grandmother) when being accused.
They don’t say: Shut up, you made mistakes too!
And this can make people with ADHD perfect victims.
As a partner of someone having ADHD, life can be so challenging that we fall into black-and-white thinking. Guilty – not guilty. Responsible – not responsible. This thinking seems to give some relief.
Is the number of mistakes with ADHD higher?
But from our experience, it often takes only some adjustments to eliminate 50 to 80% of the things going wrong.
So, taking the time, looking at bottlenecks, and taking steps to fix them is not that hard.
(And from my experience? It’s fun.).
Working with your ADHD spouse.
Working together is not only a challenge when one partner has ADHD. It is always a challenge.
Because you have been together for such a long time, and you are naked. Think of going on a safari, understanding where the actual limitations are. (Turns out spiders are not a problem. Not having enough food is!)
The challenges are more significant compared to not working together. And – your life depends on it.
Together with your dreams, hopes, and goals.
And all your communication strategies go down the drain when you see your partner wants to do something, really … stupid.
Mike & I found the frameworks we use for nearly everything helpful (you see two of them for free on the start here page). Because it automatically puts a halt between the thinking process and the actual doing.
And that pause, that break, makes sure that what we are going to do is the right thing to do (at least in most cases).
In her book “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” author Dr. Anna Lembke describes:
“This book is about pleasure. It’s also about pain. Most important, it’s about how to find the delicate balance between the two, and why now more than ever finding balance is essential. We’re living in a time of unprecedented access to high-reward, high-dopamine stimuli: drugs, food, news, gambling, shopping, gaming, texting, sexting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, tweeting….
The increased numbers, variety, and potency is staggering. The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation. As such we’ve all become vulnerable to compulsive overconsumption.“”
This description says it clearly.
We all fight a daily overdose of things that our grandparents did not know, nor could they imagine having to deal with it. And usually, we don’t even know what we have to fight.
We didn’t know that habitually opening our emails can lead to a lack of focus.
We did not know that we put our health in danger when eating certain foods.
We only start to understand how our brain works.
What can we do?
What worked for me may not work for you. But maybe it gives you some ideas.
#1 – Humor. And asking 20 Questions to strengthen your relationship.
I know you saw that coming—the humor thing.
Not the 20 Questions to strengthen your relationship.
Check it out below in case you need a good laugh.
#2 – Be friendly to me.
I think I am on my way to understanding this self-compassion thing. For me, it’s not the ultra-sweet, never-giving-myself-a-kick-in-the-back, always sugarcoat everything thing.
But it is also not the opposite of it.
It’s more this: O.k., another bad hair day. Fine. There probably was a time when this was sexy …
Or this one: O.k., mentioning divorce is not good. But maybe I get something out of thinking about it that points me in the direction of a solution?
Being o.k. with myself in a relaxed way is probably my goal.
And here comes the once-a-week-divorce-rule into play:
I thought I was a bad person thinking about divorce so often. But then I realized two things: I have a lot to carry myself, which I did not know I had. Some of this baggage made me ill. Seriously ill.
But still, I was always there. I did not stop supporting Mike.
I was not perfect, but I was loyal.
I was mad at him, but I was there.
And of course, I was angry, but I always came up with new ideas to get better at this neuroatypical challenge life offered us.
I never had the goal to be perfect. But I had the goal to be there in good times and bad times.
And I think the thought of starting all over again gave me the spark to still cope with the sometimes troubling consequences of unmanaged adult ADHD.
# 3 – Be friendly to Mike.
For me, ADHD is much like having diabetes. If you don’t know you have it, it can be terrible.
If you know you have it, you need to adjust your lifestyle.
But even with reasonable adjustment, some things stay difficult. We can only laugh about it and move on because someone who has ADHD tries very hard.
As partners, we try hard too. But sometimes, it does not get through because of all the noise ADHD makes.
(Remember? Having ADHD is like your brain is a TV and someone else holds the remote control.)
So, to repeat that we are on their side can be very helpful. A little touch, even if we don’t feel well ourselves. A smile. A gesture.
I try to be nice to Mike when it’s tough, even if I don’t feel like it.
Just like I try to be with myself.
A long-term relationship can be challenging, especially these times. Dealing with Covid-19 and working with your ADHD spouse is not a simple task.
The many distractions from outside don’t make it easier. Something wants our attention constantly. Not to speak of the wounds we all have and tend to feel more profound when we get older.
Acknowledging the situation, being compassionate about ourselves and our partners while keeping up our humor definitely helps.
And planning that trip to France 😉
What could you do now?
Hop to our Work Together page and see … how it would be to work together 😉
Or browse our Start Here page to see what we have to offer.
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