Relationships: Turning Toward or Away

I know relationships from both a work and personal perspective. What I want to share as a level-2 certified PACT therapist (https://thepactinstitute.com/dividedpage/what-is-pact/) applies to intimate relationships with or without the influence of ADHD. PACT stands for Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (fancy, I know).

When a couple enters into troubled territory, its members can turn to each other for solace and connection, right? Even when the trouble is each feels hurt and misunderstood by the other.

Right? Yes, some couples can. The secure functioning ones. The ones who understand that their relationship depends on this.

Many couples, however, do the opposite. They turn away. Each member feels too hurt, misunderstood, blamed, and afraid. Afraid of more of hurt, more of the same. Too caught up with thoughts of how the other one should know. Should know what I’m feeling, what I want. My hurt and mind. So the members turn away from each other and toward others and other interests to meet his/her own needs. One goes out with friends. The other delves into a creative venture. One joins a club. The other travels alone. Again and again looking outside the relationship for more and more. Each, little by little, turning away, and forgetting how to turn toward, each other. Until…it’s over.

If this is your relationship and you want to turn it around before you and your lover/partner/spouse kill it, try turning toward. Start by doing this physically. Get face-to-face, eye-to-eye with your partner, close enough to see each other’s pupils. Hold for a few minutes. Keep your faces soft and friendly. It may sound simple but can be really hard for couples to do. So no judgments. Of yourself or your partner. Approach it playfully. Then rinse, wash, repeat, as Stan Tatkin, the developer of PACT, likes to say.

My hope is that, for each member, this may be a start to turning toward, and getting to know, the person you once loved fiercely and may find yourself loving fiercely again.  

ADHD Effect on Divorce

In my last post about ADHD and Relationships, I mentioned The ADHD Effect on Marriage.  The author, Melissa Orlov, wrote the book after her husband with ADHD was unfaithful to her, and she began to examine the dynamics of their relationship.  Their relationship survived.  But, as Ms. Orlov points out, many others die.  She writes, “Research suggests that rates of marital dysfunction and divorce are about twice as high for people with ADHD as they are for people without it” (here).

And there are no books or research (that I can find) on the ADHD effect on divorce.  So how might ADHD come into play during a divorce? I hope there will be more research on this, but what I can say is that it makes sense to expect that the ADHD will show up.  The impulsivity, procrastination/lack of follow-through, aversion to low-interest/boring/tedious tasks, disorganization, etc. that the ADHD label describes will be present through a divorce just as through a marriage.

This likely will look different ways.  Impulsivity may show up as an unexpected announcement by the spouse with ADHD that s/he is leaving and wants a divorce (as one with ADHD might at work say, “I quit!” without having thought it all through).  Aversion to tedious tasks along with procrastination may show up as unfinished divorce paperwork and missed deadlines.  Disorganization may appear through lost paperwork or reliance on the spouse or others for reminders of events, etc.  I hope you get the idea.

Just as ADHD affects marriage (see ADHD and Relationships link at the top), it affects the end of a marriage, too.  Maybe, one day, we’ll know more about how, so that both parties involved know what to expect.

 

ADHD and Relationships

We know intimate relationships are hard.

When you have ADHD, they’re even harder.

How so?

Research suggests discontent and disloyalty among the reasons, but, hold off on nodding knowingly.  The discontent and disloyalty may be on a different side than you imagine.

Research suggests that it’s the partner with ADHD who’s likely to be unhappy.  Again, the one with ADHD (the opposite of what many might guess).

One study found that adults with ADHD had more negative perceptions of their relationships and families than their non-ADHD spouses did.  These perceptions were also more negative than members of couples where neither had ADHD (see here).

Research also indicates that ADHD’s associated with a higher rate of infidelity.  One study delved into this a little and found that “relational alternatives” were of “greater interest” when adults’ inattentive symptoms were high (see here).  (This same study found that when either inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were high, adults showed “less constructive responses” to a partner’s “bad behavior.”)

There’s more, but the picture painted is that relationships are harder.  Namely, harder to sustain (versus start).

So does this mean couple therapy early on? Probably a good idea.

But choose carefully.

Some couple therapies depend on out-of-session assignments, and this could be a set up for failure.

Fights might become about who does the homework and how much of it.

Some couple therapies, however, focus on experiencing useful ways of relating during the session.  When my group members ask me about couple therapy, this is the kind that I suggest.  One of these is Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT).

There’s no research-tested ADHD-specific couple therapy of which I am aware.  Instead, there are therapists who understand ADHD and offer couple therapy/counseling.

One of these is Melissa Orlov, the author of The ADHD Effect on Marriage.  Her book describes common patterns of relating between partners when only one has ADHD, and she offers couple counseling through her website (here).

Whatever you choose, I wish you happiness.

It’s nothing personal.

This is for the loved ones of those with ADHD.

Yesterday, I sat with my husband and tried to just talk.  We are so busy doing things, we hardly ever just talk.  Ten minutes into it, I could tell his mind was elsewhere.  I let him know it looked like he was somewhere else mentally.  He said he was.  I asked what was going on, and he said he was “bored.”  “Ouch,” I said.

Then I remembered something.  It’s nothing personal.  I know hong-kong-1990268_1920what I tried to share with him would be quite fascinating to another psychology-lover.  But my husband has ADHD and becomes easily bored with things less exciting than a book such as The Martian.

He also prefers action to talk.  It’s hard to keep his attention.

As Thom Hartmann, author of The Edison Gene, points out those with ADHD constantly monitor the environment for what’s of high stimulation, with a swift ability to turn to these things.  If this high stimulation or need to act is lacking, they may shut down on you.  Kind of like your computer going into sleep mode.  When this happens, breathe and begin breakdancing (attention-getter!) or relax and remind yourself it’s nothing personal.  Really.

Their brains may be tuned to a different frequency.

 

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