ADHD Couples Counseling & Coaching
Is ADHD Causing Problems In Your Relationship?
Have you or your partner been diagnosed with ADHD or experienced ADHD-like symptoms? Have ADHD behaviors brought about a sense of frustration or helplessness on both of your parts?
If ADHD has affected your relationship, you might have experienced one of the following:
Forgetting appointments or important events
Ignoring your partner or losing track of responsibilities
Putting off important tasks until the last minute—or not finishing tasks at all
Interrupting or having difficulty listening to your partner (or, in the case of the non-ADHD partner, feeling like you aren’t being heard)
Hyper focusing on escapist activities such as surfing the internet or TV watching
Impulsively making decisions without consulting your partner
Engaging in risky behavior that upsets your partner (e.g. aggressive driving, substance use, or gambling)
Trouble making time for romantic gestures, dates, or sex
You and your partner may be engaged in a pattern where the person with ADHD feels nagged and misunderstood and the partner without ADHD feels he or she is managing the household and family without help and participation.
The non-ADHD partner may feel hurt by a perceived lack of care and lash out. As a result, the ADHD partner may feel attacked and defend themselves. This can cause a severe rift in the relationship.
At its worst, you might not even feel like you can trust your partner. Being stuck in these patterns without knowing how to change can lead couples to consider ending their relationship. You likely don’t want to go down that path, but you may be uncertain about how you and your partner can move forward in a positive way.
ADHD Is A Major Cause Of Problems For Couples
About 4.4% of adults in the United States have ADHD. It’s hardly surprising, then, that there are a significant number of couples who have conflicts because of ADHD—especially when one or both partners don’t understand what’s going on.
ADHD is a neurobiological condition caused by the deficiency of a certain neurotransmitter, dopamine. Because of this, the ADHD brain is naturally drawn towards activities that will produce more dopamine—meaning it’s attracted to enjoyable pursuits, rather than mundane tasks. This is the reason it’s so easy for the ADHD individual to get distracted and procrastinate. Their brains simply aren’t wired to focus on unappealing tasks.
The non-ADHD partner may often think that these actions are due to their partner’s personal irresponsibility and laziness, and that can make them feel frustrated. The ADHD partner, on the other hand, may not be able to figure out why it’s so hard to follow through on tasks, and so they may feel hurt and unduly criticized by their partner’s reactions.
The good news is, there is a lot of potential for counseling to help those dealing with ADHD in relationships. By learning new strategies to effectively deal with these ADHD patterns in your marriage you can work through your relationship problems and discover the good things ADHD brings to the table.
Couples Counseling Is Just What You Need
Psychotherapy is typically very insight-oriented. Most ADHD individuals don’t need this; they need strategies that they can act on now. That’s why we focus on coaching and counseling, both of which are better at handling issues in the present.
Our couples workshop is very beneficial for anyone in an ADHD relationship. It can help you see that you aren’t alone, that you have support, and that something can be done about your situation.
One of the first things we try to illustrate to couples is that ADHD doesn’t define a person. The non-ADHD partner is taught that they shouldn’t take their partner’s blunders personally— it’s due to their ADHD.
From there, we can introduce some of the positive aspects of ADHD, such as:
We always begin our workshops by asking the couple to name three common ADHD behaviors they see in their relationships and then reframing these by encouraging them to talk about what’s good. By teaching both partners about ADHD, we can help them come to terms with each other and start working towards a better place.
It’s important to remember that a diagnosis of ADHD is an explanation, not an excuse. That’s why we provide a variety of practical strategies for couples to improve their relationships.
If you want more focused attention than the workshops can offer, we also provide individual and couples counseling. Here, we can focus directly on problems you—as a couple—may have and help you build skills to address those issues.
Carolyn Angelo, LICSW, and Marilyn Schwartz, Ph.D., who present the couples workshop at the ADHD Center of Washington, were listed in Washingtonian Magazine as “Best Therapists in the field of ADHD” and have presented at local and national meetings including CHAAD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) on adult ADHD
ADHD can be frustrating for relationships if either partner doesn’t know how to handle its impact. The good news, however, is that it doesn’t have to be. Once you learn more about ADHD, you can start taking steps to improve your relationship. We work with both partners to teach them how to appreciate each other’s strengths, support each other and to find ways to work together to solve the practical challenges of ADHD on the couple relationship and family life.
You may have concerns about couples counseling for ADHD…
I’m concerned about being criticized by my partner in a group setting
Participants in our couples' group often feel relieved and validated to meet other couples who are struggling with similar patterns of interactions. Our group leaders keep the focus on avoiding repetitive patterns of criticism and disappointment. Instead, we help you find ways to identify and improve your communication, connection, and household management strategies. We know that there are many positive aspects to ADHD, and we’ll emphasize these aspects to help you gain confidence and to help your partner understand ADHD. That way, you can tackle problems as a team with less criticism, disappointment and resentment.
I’m worried that I’ll stir things up by suggesting couples counseling.
The thought of engaging in counseling can be intimidating when you and your partner have been at odds for a long time. However, not attending to the problem can result in problems persisting or getting worse. Couples can become more angry, frustrated and resentful, or shut down and avoid talking. We aim to provide supportive care and guidance to help you create ways to connect and understand each other, and to help both you and your partner feel understood.
I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about the situation.
A big obstacle to overcoming your relationship problems may be identifying how ADHD is impacting your relationship, and how you can work together to be patient and to consistently support each other. We can help you work with the positive aspects of ADHD to mitigate challenging impacts. We have seen that counseling can work, and we are confident in its effectiveness in helping couples move forward positively.
Take The First Step In Improving Your Relationship
If you want to learn how our workshop can help you, call us today at 202-232-3766. Together, we can address how ADHD has affected your relationship and steer it towards more positive outcomes.