With close to 60% of relationships impacted by adult ADHD classified as “dysfunctional”(1) it’s all too easy to focus only on the problems that can be caused by unmanaged ADHD symptoms. But ADHD adults are NOT just a conglomeration of negative symptoms, and with proper treatment the majority of ADHD adults can get their ADHD under control (2), allowing the more positive aspects of ADHD traits to shine through. This often helps get their relationship back on track.
While couples are doing the hard work of turning their relationship around, it’s good to remember the positive. At the end of my marriage seminar for couples impacted by ADHD, I ask partners to write three things they love about their ADHD partners. It’s worth sharing some of their comments as they provide insight into some of the appeal of ADHD characteristics:
“He is adventurous, carefree, creative & fearless, making for great foreign travel. It stretches me & I’ve had so many cool experiences I would have never had without him. Ok, maybe that’s four!”
“I love my ADHD spouse because he is a totally focused father, makes romantic dreams come true for me – from boutique hotels in Paris to private yachts in the Caribbean to a sweet family dinner at home with all our children. I love him because he’s the funniest guy in the room.”
“She is caring and kind to others. She is loyal to me, has a good sense of humor and loves music. And she’s pretty hot looking, too!”
“He has taught me to think outside the box. There is more than one way to do something! And I NEVER suffer from boredom. Plus, when I get myself into a “pickle” he always rescues or helps me and does not say anything to make me feel worse than I already do.”
“I love that he is my best friend.”
“She has a zest for first-hand experience of the elemental things of life – she cuts through the crap. She has a passionate concern for the sacredness of childhood. She cares, and I know I can count on her for that in our own family. And no matter how wacky things get, she comes back, not giving up.”
“I love the heart of this man…and his effort to become the master of his ADHD.”
“I love the way he lights up when he is in his zone, like when he gets a new idea that excites him, he attacks it with strength, commitment and passion.”
As you can see, the same qualities that may cause problems, like hyperfocus, being easily distracted, “going with the flow” and being easily attracted to stimulating things are all described above in their more positive light. The quotes here give you a glimpse of the funny, adventurous, loyal, easy-going and creative side of many with ADHD. In short, these characteristics can make one’s life more lively and interesting and the appeal of these traits is one reason these couples fell in love in the first place. Remembering these traits and emphasizing the effectiveness of treating ADHD so the traits can shine through in their best light gives these couples hope and something to look forward to.
(1) See ADHD in Adults, What the Science Says by Russell A. Barkley, Kevin R. Murphy and Mariellen Fisher, The Guilford Press, 2008, pp. 380-384 for more details about divorce and dysfunction rates and ADHD.
(2) Barkley, R., & Benton, C., Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, The Guilford Press, 2010, p. 16
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