Young people giving a thumbs up

Being in a relationship with a person who has concentration issues can be frustrating, emotionally draining, and expensive. It’s easy to feel more like a parent than a partner or lover. It’s also easy to assume the role of teacher while attempting to limit impulsiveness, stabilize mood swings and focus attention. Even in the most perfect circumstances none of these are easy tasks for the opposite partner. Many times the unique personality traits of a person struggling with attention issues creates a wedge in the relationship with their partner. These traits can be perceived as insurmountable which ultimately undermines the foundation of a relationship. Marriages often become strained or broken when a couple disagrees on how to address or worse, reject the condition is even an issue!

The partner not struggling often suffers from a lack of emotional stability from the other “adult” in the relationship. This can result in a view of their partner as a child who has difficulty controlling what appears to be childish behavior. Any attempt at correcting the “childish behavior” can result in startling responses that are unsettling and unpredictable. Frustration mounts when it appears that the partner never learns from their mistakes.

Frustration only increases when family and friends criticize both the behavior of the “distracted” half of the relationship as well as the other half for putting up with that behavior! This creates more tension and stress in an already stressed relationship. That type of criticism often results in both “halves” avoiding help for their lifestyle while thinking if they could only “try harder” they would have a better relationship.

Resorting to yelling, long-winded criticisms or threats rarely makes things better! What does work is a short description of what was done, what didn’t occur that needed to be done, and what to do next to improve the outcome.

A good rule of thumb is the fewer words used the better. It is important to understand that adults who battle this are very sensitive to what they perceive as criticism from others. They can often dish it out but are deeply injured when it’s their turn to “take it”. This can create a cycle of critical outbursts toward others along with the inability to defend against the pain of incoming criticism.

If you’re in a relationship with a partner like this, it’s common to wish for a set of instructions that teach how to do the “right” thing. There will always going to be times when you question if you’re doing the right thing or making the best choices. This is normal but here’s a good rule of thumb:

Most people come to view themselves as others see them. If you want to help your partner become the best they can be simply tell them what they are doing right! Focus on what they do better than anyone else. Partners who face  this struggle need lots of praise and in the end will only rise to the level where others see them. If you see your partner as broken and hopeless then you will probably get an adult who still does not know what to do with themselves or their life.

There are things you can do right now as the partner of a person stuck in this battle that will make this journey much easier:

  1. Connect with a support system. - There are support groups both online and in person. A good place to start is finding your local Children and Adults with A.D.D (CHADD) chapter.

  2. Find a psychiatrist that specializes in such diagnosis and treatment. - Medications are still the most effective treatment for relief from the symptoms of like this. Most medical doctors will not understand the changing needs of your partner’s battle over time.

  3. Take a few minutes to do something nice for yourself each day. Even a few minutes alone, listening to your favorite song, can help recharge your senses.

Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on conformity especially when it comes to what a “good” relationship looks like. The reality is a relationship that include these issues will never be your “normal” couple. Their relationship has a unique dynamic which will require a different approach in order to be successful.  Much of the trouble partners experience in a relationship like this is the result of comparing themselves to other relationships.  When you stop comparing, and start understanding and accepting your partner as someone who will probably find their own unique path in life, then you are one step closer to helping you, your partner and ultimately your relationship become the best possible.