Relationships and ADD

“Please give me some tips that couples can use for creating better relationships when one of the partners has ADD.”  This is what I said to my friend, Ingrid Melenbacker, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in couples counseling and who has counseled many couples where one partner has ADD.  Ingrid is the founder of Masterful Couples of Northern Virginia and is a certified  Gottman Method couples therapist.

She immediately brought up “blaming” and “criticizing” as things to be avoided if you want to have a successful relationship.

Let’s say that the ADD partner failed to meet the non-ADD partner at the time they agreed upon.  The non-ADD partner berates the ADD partner by saying something like, “You’re so selfish!  If you cared about me, you would show up on time.”  There is pretty much no good place to go from here.  Ingrid described a way to handle the situation that is better for the health of the relationship.

She explained the “softened startup” approach used in the Gottman method.  In this approach, the non-ADD partner would state the fact, “You didn’t show up on time,” in a nonjudgmental way.  Then she would state how it makes her feel.  For example, “This makes me feel disrespected.”  Notice that she doesn’t blame the partner for her feelings, but simply states what her feelings are.  Finally, the non-ADD partner asks, “How can we make sure that the next time we are supposed to meet at a certain time, it happens?”  This approach turns the partners “toward” rather than “away from” each other so that it is possible for them to create solutions.

Ingrid explained that sometimes the non-ADD partner becomes a parent to the ADD partner.  She added that the ADD partner is not really looking for a parent, but to be in an equal relationship.

In case you are wondering whether using this method will make your ADD partner show up on time every time for the rest of his life, it won’t.  The ADD will always be there so you work on making things better moment by moment, day by day.  It is true in every relationship that when partners give up “blame” and “criticism,” and look for more constructive ways to relate to each other, the relationship is far more likely to be satisfying and successful.

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Have a fabulous 4th!




Don’t Beat Yourself Up!

I have been coaching adults with ADD for over twelve years.  One thing that surprises me again and again is how many of them are perfectionists and how hard they are on themselves when they experience a “perceived” failure.

Let’s say that a person with ADD puts ten things on an “action” list for the day.  At the end of the day, they have completed seven of the items on the list.  Most people, including me, would simply conclude that 7/10ths of the items have been completed and add the uncompleted items to tomorrow’s list.  However, many ADDers would proclaim that they “failed”  to accomplish the goal they set at the beginning of the day because three of the ten items were not completed.

These folks have fallen into what I call “all or nothing” thinking.  Either they achieve goals at 100%  and regard themselves as successful, or they don’t and regard themselves as having failed.  For them, there is no such thing as partial success.

If “beating themselves up” resulted in success, a reasonable person might conclude that “beating oneself up” is a useful strategy for getting things done.  However, when I ask clients if “beating themselves up” helps them to get more things done, nearly 100% say it does not help; in fact it tends to result in them getting fewer things done.  I say, “Would working for a tyrant make you more productive?”    Most of them say it wouldn’t.  Then I point out to them that they have become the tyrant they are working for.

They turn things around when they are able to recognize and celebrate each and every thing they accomplish, however small it might be.  When they begin to do this, they feel better and begin to pile small accomplishments upon small accomplishments to achieve some pretty amazing results.

If you’d like to comment on this blog or share it, click on the title to go to the page where this is possible.  Fill your next week, and the weeks after it, with small accomplishments.  If you’re going in the right direction, the results will surprise you.






What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Almost everyone, even younger people, have seen the TV episode where Lucy (Lucille Ball) and her friend Viv are working on an assembly line in a chocolate factory.  The chocolates keep coming faster and faster.  No matter how fast Lucy and Viv work, they can’t keep up.  The TV episode is funny, but there’s nothing funny about feeling overwhelmed when real life throws things at you faster than you can handle them.  Everyone experiences these feelings, but people with ADD experience them more often.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by the number of things you have to do, by the amount of information coming at you, or by a task you have no idea how to begin because you’ve never done anything like it before?

First, take a few slow deep breaths, fully in and fully out.  It’s important to exhale completely so that the deeper places in your lungs can be refilled with oxygen-rich air.  The more oxygen your brain receives, the more clearly you are able to think.  Do this breathing with your eyes closed and turn your eyes up just a bit to slow down your brain.

Second, acknowledge the feeling you are having.  Notice where it is located in your body.  What is the color, shape, and size of the feeling?  Just becoming an observer of the feeling in yourself can bring a measure of relief.

Third, ask yourself if there are a few small things you could do that would result in in an improved feeling.  For me, this usually involves clearing a space to work in or assembling whatever items I will need to complete the task at hand, or removing some piece of distracting clutter.

Finally, notice the difference between focusing your attention on what you are doing or experiencing versus focusing your attention on your negative thoughts about what you are doing or experiencing.  When you are able to focus your attention on what you are doing or experiencing, rather than on your thoughts, the feeling of being overwhelmed will begin to fade away.

Have an awesome week.