Ahh Valentine’s Day. A whole day traditionally devoted to celebrating love. And as it is quickly approaching, my thoughts turn to relationships, all sorts of different ADHD relationships, and how ADHD can be a test for even the strongest connections.
When I work with adults, often the focus of our coaching sessions turns to a request for the best ways to handle conflicts with partners. I often hear these concerns:
“I’m tired of always being late. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get there on time. I feel awful and he gets so disappointed and angry with me.”
“We got into a huge fight last night. She says I don’t listen to her and zone out in conversations. It’s not that I don’t care, but the problem is – she’s right.”
“I can’t believe I did it again. I missed our anniversary. I had it on my calendar, even left myself a note, but I completely spaced out about the date again.”
When one half of a relationship has ADHD, small adjustments in communication and expectations can make a world of difference. Here are some strategies and tools to try so your Valentine’s Day and everyday is harmonious and loving:
1. Post it, post it, post it. Lists can be a valuable time and relationship saver. You can use the basic post it note, sync your phones so they share messages and reminders or use dry erase paint on the kitchen wall – just make sure the list and reminders are in a prominent place so they can be seen and updated often.
Side notes– For non-ADHDers – Stay calm and caring if you verbally cue your partner to do something. ADHDers – remember, reminders are not meant to be nagging nor judgmental. They are merely attempts to help keep everyone on track and aware of what needs to be done.
2. Be clear and concrete in your communication. Don’t just say you are going to work late. Try to set a time range that you plan to leave the office. Then set your watch to go off ten minutes before that time so you can wrap things up or call to say you will be later than expected. It may save many dinners from being cold or tossed in the trash with an angry hungry spouse waiting for you.
Side note – for non-ADHDers, ask for clarification. If your partner says they will come by after work, ask what that means…right after they get out at five, after they go home and change, sometime around dinner, etc. That way you both clear on the expectations.
3. Schedule planning meetings. Whether you connect in the morning to review the day’s events or sit down on Sundays to map out the week, make sure you review the list and calendar together, updating what needs to be done and cross checking any scheduling conflicts.
4. Before you launch into emotional discussions, ask if the other person is available to listen. This ‘availability’ means that the other person is in a place to focus and attend to what is being said. Limit other distractions and keep the conversation short and to the point. Ask the listener to repeat what he/she heard to determine if what was heard and absorbed is correct.
5. Know each other’s love language. Each one of us has a way we show and experience love. If your spouse feels love through your helping around the house, then start a conscious practice to finish that to do list. Or if they feel connected to you when you spend quality time together, schedule dates and attention. If feeling appreciated means giving your Valentine a thoughtful gift, be sure to keep a stash of paper and bows for those occasions. Your conflicts may not even be ADHD related, but merely misunderstanding of how you express and feel loved.
Each of these tips can be applied to any ADHD relationship to increase connection and reduce misunderstanding, whether that is professional, personal, parental or romantic.
I wish you all a wonderful, loved filled ADHD Valentine’s Day!