One of the hardest things to do when in a relationship, or married to someone with ADHD, is to set and keep good boundaries. Yet I find so many non-ADHD partners complain about being exhausted and drained because of all they need to do around the house and in their relationships with partners who just don’t seem to step up to the plate.
I remember the days, not so long ago, when I would feel that way. And, I have ADHD myself as well, so for me, it can seem like a double whammy. Yet because my more inattentive form of ADHD isn’t as intense as my husband’s combined type, I am considered the non-ADHD partner. It took me a long time to recognize that one of the most important things I needed to do was to lower my expectations. Both for myself and for my relationship. What this has ultimately come to mean to me is to not take life, and the state of my house, all so seriously. So, I have become a reformed perfectionist. And this has not been an easy place to get to in my consciousness.
There was a time when a speck of dust on the furniture, or a pile of papers not filed would drive me crazy. I must admit, those things still bother me. I haven’t given up my ideals of what a clean and tidy home would look like. I just don’t get wacky on a daily basis about those kinds of things any more. And when the mess gets to me, I straighten out the piles, and clean up the floor, and move on. It’s been an interesting mental game I play with myself, because I’ve come to realize that nagging my husband, and being a borderline control freak just didn’t serve me and led to enormous frustration and fits of anger that really never got me anywhere.
And I had to come to realize that the way he is and isn’t is not his fault. His brain just works in a different way than others, and trying to change who he is will just cause me an inordinate amount of frustration, and is ultimately impossible, so what’s the point? I love him. That’s what I know to be true. So as a partner, and a Marriage Consultant, whose primary intention is to have a marriage that works, I’ve learned to choose my “battles”. Not a very loving phrase to use when describing marital interactions, I might add. The truth is, I’ve learned when to make something into an important issue, and when to let it go. I try to see it as a Zen perspective on marriage. Am I always great at it? Of course not. I’m human. So sometimes I step over those carefully navigated boundaries into his territory. Sometimes he lets me get away with it, and sometimes when it is into an area that he is sensitive about, he will say “ouch” fairly loudly, and I will know I’ve overstepped, and I will back off, acknowledging that I have ventured into his turf. And keeping an organized and tidy house is only one example of where, in our lives, this plays out.
In working with couples, as a Marriage Consultant, it seems important to encourage couples to become aware of their and their partner’s boundaries. So often, we have a way of looking at life through our own personal filters and wanting our partners to act and react in a particular way that lines up with our picture of what is acceptable. In an ADHD impacted relationship, we need to expand our view of the world and understand that our partner may be looking through a very different lens then we are. With compassion, and observation of one another’s boundaries, we can move towards more respectful partnerships.