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What communication styles work for you and your ADHD partner?

Walk and talk

In many ways, I have felt last in line with my ADHD spouse. I don’t need us together all of the time. In fact, I wish we were together less, but the quality of our time together was greater. In the beginning, I was disappointed on several occasions when we had planned time together, but then he was invited to do something with a new friend. “Of course, go ahead, make new friends,” I would say. He didn’t remember we had plans at all. Apparently, this is normal for the ADHD and non-ADHD relationship to experience.

My ADHD husband and I talked about a grand idea to put together an event for the community. Everyone would enjoy it, and especially, my ADHD husband. It was a new, novel experience, and he could use his creative skills. We discussed the time and cost involved. I expressed how fun it would be to do as a family, but I didn’t have the time and thought his efforts towards looking for work should come first. He did agree.

At first, it seemed he was just doing a few handy festive things around the house for the holiday. I didn’t think much of it. I even offered to help a few times. Then I noticed he would stay up until entire nights. I thought he was looking for work at night. He was not. Then I saw some of the bills coming in. The amount spent was f-i-v-e times more than we agreed to. The thought of addressing the issue of time or money with my ADHD spouse echoed flashing red warning lights in my head.

The formula of the conversation was my feelings and view, and a reverse example:

I feel alone as a spouse and parent right now. We agreed on the time and money spent on this event. I feel resentment because those boundaries we agreed to were not honored. There is a heavyweight on my shoulders to be extra responsible. I see it is my job to make the money for our family. It’s my job to make sure bills are paid. It’s my job to keep up with the majority of the household chores. It’s my job to be concerned about our family’s financial future and our child’s well-being.  I am jealous of the time you take for the more fun activities, while I do mostly chores during my time off.

Imagine if I decided not to go to work anymore. I decided I wanted to work on some paintings. I don’t tell you, I just stop working and I paint. I’d likely get fired from my job, but no worries because I know you have a salary and benefits. I would paint most of the day and tend to our child if she’s hungry, but mostly I would paint. In the evenings, after your long day of work, you can take care of the house chores, child, and dinner because I need to paint. And on the weekends, I don’t really have time for family adventures, grocery shopping, or anything else because I’ll be working on my paintings. Painting can be an expensive hobby, but the cost doesn’t concern me at all.

The wheels turned. There was no list of reasons. There was no blowup. I repeat, there was no blowup. One more time… no RSD reaction. This was a good method to communicate. I will try it again. Do I expect him to change? No. Am I hopeful he will see the impact ADD has on our family? Yes.

What communication styles work for you and your ADD partner?

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