Getting along when only ONE of you has ADD/EFD
Saturday, July 16, 2016 11 Comments
When you love someone who seems to respond in non-loving ways
Adjusting expectations of HOW to get to WHAT
© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
She is so selfish;
He never listens;
It’s like s/he disobeys deliberately!
At this point s/he’s just making excuses.
The blind leading the blind?
Whether you are a parent, a partner or a teacher of someone with Executive Functioning challenges, unless you truly understand the parameters of the problem you are, essentially, “blind” about how to interact with them to get what you want from the relationship.
And they are, essentially, “blind” to your expectations and why you are so frustrated when they don’t measure up to your standards.
Related Post: Executive Functioning Disorders – NOT just kid stuff
The hallmark symptoms of Executive Functioning Disorders (of which ADD/HD is only one) negatively impact what I refer to as attentional mechanisms. That can show up a number of ways in day-to-day behavior, but the symptoms that seem to be the most frustrating — the ones I hear about most often — include inattentiveness or forgetfulness, difficulty completing tasks, and impulsivity.
How ADD/EFD Affects Relationships
Alone or in combination, each of the hallmark symptoms can have a devastating impact on relationships. When responsibility for children are part of the puzzle, these issues become all the more complex.
Without the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, ANY of the implications of Executive Functioning struggles can destroy marriages and other relationships — needlessly.
Below are only some of the problems that have been reported to me most often when partners, children or students have Executive Functioning issues, interfering with their ability to direct attention at will.
- Seeming inability to handle responsibilities
Forgetting to turn in completed assignments, pay bills or put a toxic substance away from the reach of children, neglecting to clear debris or mend a hole in the fence that keeps the family dog from running into the street are only a few of the many complaints I have heard over the years.
- Difficulty listening and paying attention
Many tend to “zone out,” interrupt and talk out of turn, making communication a struggle for both of you. It can also cause the “vanilla” partner to feel as though what s/he has to say isn’t valued or important to the “EFD flavored” partner.
- Trouble remembering promises & completing tasks
Thanks to glitches in the short-term to long-term memory circuit, problems with Executive Functioning regulation frequently lead to forgetfulness, which usually shows up as poor organizational skills like: missing important events like birthdays and anniversaries, or repeatedly forgetting to stop at the store on the way home to purchase the ingredients for that very night’s dinner. What may look like a lack of willingness to do what they say they would do (or to finish what they start) may translate into an apparent lack of commitment when it comes to jobs as well as relationships.
- Impulsive behavior
Attempts to wake up a sluggish brain often leads to a craving for stimulation. With little attention to thinking through the consequences of their actions, this can result in irresponsible, even reckless behaviors (from experimenting with drugs to speeding and jumping from lane to lane despite the fact that there are children in the car).
- Emotional volatility
They may seem to simmer with chronic low-grade irritability, or temper tantrums may flair over things that seem inconsequential to you, leading to harsh words and major misunderstandings. Arguments can quickly spiral out of control because the person with “the problem” seems unable to talk through issues calmly. The truth is that conversational hot buttons are being pushed on both sides, inadvertently instigated by a frustrated “vanilla” partner.
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Putting the Pieces of Relationship Problems back together
Many of the same treatments that are used with ADD/HD children can also help adults with ADD/HD, TBI and other Executive Functioning struggles to improve focus and follow-through, which helps deal with many of the relationship issues and calms down some of the emotional volatility.
If there hasn’t already been a formal diagnosis, make an appointment with an ADD/EFD-aware psychologist, psychiatrist or neurologist (ask when you call to make the appointment).
Related Post: Ten Questions to ask to identify a g-r-r-r-eat ADD-doc
Ironing out the Wrinkles
Couples therapy or coaching can help both halves of the partnership better understand one another, and will set things on the pathway to help heal any rifts that have opened in your relationship as a result of Executive Functioning struggles. That handles only part of the problem, however.
The personal skills that most need refinement and assistance in Alphabet City are those that fall under the banner of the Executive Functions – neurological, not psychological – barely recognized or mentioned by most forms of coaching or therapy.
All over the internet you will read strategies to help with EFD-related relationship problems like the following – and every single one of them is a great idea that will never be actuated without some specific EFD-related understanding of what’s in the way:
- Making daily to-do lists: everything from responsibilities to items you need to purchase or make sure you have with you. In addition, keep a calendar of important dates and deadlines.
- Simplifying your life: clean up clutter and reduce the number of tasks expected each day or week to a small, easily manageable number.
- Developing routines into habits: plan or review the weekly menu (or homework assignments) on a certain night each week, and pick a different night to review finances or cleaning to-dos, for example.
- Communicating with power: make sure you repeat back any requests and agreements, to make sure you both have the same understanding what is expected.
When “EFD-flavored” lives are struggling with foundational elements that people with “vanilla-flavored” brains can take for granted, it’s difficult to follow-through with even the most basic advice.
Reasons, not excuses
In ADD/EFD Relationships, we’re Sherlocking reasons for behavior, not excuses for it. We want to start by identifying the real elements at the root of the problematic actions, for a couple of reasons:
- To mitigate the emotional effect on our relationships that comes from personalizing the behavior, and
- To find a solution that allows both people to get what they want and need from the interaction and the relationship, despite the challenges of EFD.
Finding a better way to relate
In ADD/EFD Relationship Coaching we consider first the troublesome dynamics that can be explained by looking at the implications of struggles with Executive Functioning.
BOTH partners need to have enough ADD/EFD information to change the paradigm before attempting to change the behavior.
When one partner in the relationship is struggling with one of the types of Executive Functioning Disorders, it’s critical for BOTH of them to understand just how EFD effects the person struggling.
With a kludgy sense of time, for example, the inner prompts for regular and recurring activities go haywire. Unless there is an agreement in place about what kind of assistance is welcome – no matter how necessary – even gentle reminders come across as nagging and censure.
When there is little awareness of a tendency to drift off, asking a partner or a child to repeat his or her understanding of what was said is likely to make them believe that you think they’re stupid.
Survival Tactics in ADD/EFD Relationships
Even more important, is understanding how Executive Functioning struggles effect relationships with those who are struggling.
Check out an earlier article for my ideas of what is more likely to work with ADD/EFD Beloveds: Ten Tips when the ADD/EFD is Beloved’s
If you’d rather be HAPPY than “right”
The functioning of the ADD/EFDer is likely to be less organized and less attentive, which may require more than a few work-arounds, but if both partners are willing to give up being “right” to be able to focus on finding a solution that meets both of their needs, I’ve never seen a relationship that couldn’t find a satisfactory middle ground.
The BEHAVIORS are the problem, not the people or the relationship —
so that’s where the focus needs to stay.
With the assistance of an ADD/EFD-knowledgeable relationship expert, you will be able to slow down, disconnect from the same-ole’-same-ole’, and discuss specific problems and behaviors so that you can, together, make some changes in how things are done.
Any relationship, with or without ADD/EFD, has to do that same kind of work. The difference is no greater than having to accommodate job demands that impact the relationship, or working out new ways to relate once you start a family — or any one of a hundred things that partnerships must negotiate — except for one not-so-insignificant detail: the implication of the ADD/EFD information you BOTH need to consider.
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You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.
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— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —
Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above or below)
- ABOUT Alphabet Disorders
- TYPES of Attentional Deficits
- Body doubles-101
- ABOUT Executive Functions – a brief introduction & overview
- What ARE executive functions? – several experts attempt to answer
- Executive Functioning, Focus and Attentional Bias
A Few LinkLists by Category (to articles here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com)
- The Optimal Functioning (Challenges) Series of articles
(about the Inventory & articles from each category)
- The Help for Couples Series
- Back from Boggle™ Series
- The TaskMaster™ Series
- Time & Time Management articles
- The Transition Tamer™ Series
- The Stuff and Nonsense™ Series (clutter management)
- Top Ten Reasons to Reframe Procrastination