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ADHD Marriage and Professional Help Part 3 - Effective Treatment in the Eyes of a Non-ADHD Spouse


In the last blog, we talked about some of the key lessons on finding the right therapist for ADHD treatment. Remember, while ADHD might look like any other illness out there, but it is not. It is a mental disorder that require some level of treatment. For most, it is a combination of therapy, medication and acquiring new skills to help them with executive functions.


As a non-ADHD spouse, your role is pivotal in supporting your partner through their treatment journey. In this final part of a 3-part guide, we'll explore the key elements, expectations, and strategies that can help you and your spouse navigate this challenging terrain and discuss what constitutes effective treatment.


1. Patience is Key: Don't Expect Immediate Medication


One common misconception is that therapy sessions will lead to immediate medication. However, many professionals prefer to spend several sessions getting to know the patient and their history before prescribing medication. This initial phase is crucial as it allows the therapist to gain valuable insights into your spouse's specific needs and challenges before prescribing anything.


In our treatment journey, it took an average of 3-4 months, with a minimum of 2 therapy sessions per month, before any of his therapists prescribed any medication. Once he was on medication, it took multiple months, as they start with a low dosage, test for response before increasing it or considering a change. Patience is key during this phase, as it lays the foundation for a more tailored treatment plan.


2. Observe for Positive Changes


As a non-ADHD spouse, you have a front-row seat for observing the effectiveness of treatment, which can significantly impact your marriage. It's not just about your ADHD spouse attending sessions; it's also about observing changes in their behavior. These changes could include improved communication, better organization, or increased emotional regulation. The key, from my perspective, comes from your observation and your spouse's feedback. If both of you feel that positive change has occurred, then it is effective treatment.


In our journey, my spouse experienced a noticeable shift after a few sessions. He felt understood by his therapist, who provided practical exercises, such as playing calming music when feeling distracted. Over time, with medication, he became calmer and could focus for longer periods. Not all changes are immediate or visible, but monitoring key aspects of behavior can indicate progress.


3. Encourage and Communicate: Support Matters


Encouragement is vital in motivating your ADHD spouse. They require consistent validation and acknowledgment of their efforts. Effective communication within your relationship can strengthen your bond and help both of you navigate the challenges together. Individuals with ADHD thrive on encouragement, no matter how small the achievements may seem. Frequent affirmations reinforce their sense of achievement and motivate them to persevere.

In our journey, every time I provided encouragement, it brightened his day. I found him paying more attention to my requests and focusing more on receiving validation for a job well done.


4. Assist in Therapeutic Techniques Practices


Therapists often employ various techniques to help individuals with ADHD, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, or psychoeducation. Understanding these techniques can help your spouse determine more quickly which ones work for them and turn them into positive behaviors.

In our experience, practicing these therapeutic techniques together is essential. Regularly reinforcing what was learned in therapy and finding opportunities to apply them in daily life can accelerate progress. Each individual's adoption of techniques may vary, but as long as it aligns with positive changes, it's a step in the right direction.


5. Seek Support and Care for Yourself


Caring for an ADHD-affected spouse can be emotionally taxing. Building a support network for yourself is crucial. You may find yourself experiencing a range of emotions, from frustration to anxiety or even burnout. It's vital to acknowledge these feelings and understand that they are entirely normal in the context of an ADHD-affected marriage.


For me, I dedicate time once a week to step outside my home, away from my husband. During this time, I meet with my friends and engage in subjects outside of ADHD and my husband. If I have to stay home, I let him know that I need my alone time, just like when he needs his. This allows me to recharge my batteries and come back a little fresher to handle the curveballs that ADHD can throw at me. If I'm short on time, even a 10-minute meditation at home or a 10-minute stroll outside the home helps calm my mind.


Care could also include therapy for yourself. Having your own individual sessions to talk through your thoughts and feelings with a therapist, specializes ADHD, could help you adopt strategies to better improve your ADHD marriage.


6. Advocate for Your Spouse


Being an advocate for your ADHD partner is crucial, especially regarding their treatment. As you observe behavioral changes in your ADHD spouse, sharing those changes, both positive and negative, with the therapist from time to time could be of high value. This could help the therapist address the challenges and provide solutions and strategies that your ADHD spouse can try, further enhancing their treatment's effectiveness.


7. What Constitutes an Effective Treatment Plan?


To me, an effective treatment plan must work for both of us. I must experience positive behavioral changes, and he must feel that life is getting easier, even if only slightly. I find that answering these three basic questions with my husband every three months helps us determine if he is still on an effective treatment plan:


a. Has his (or her) ADHD symptom-caused behavior, such as emotional dysregulation, shown up less or more?

b. Has his comorbidity (i.e., anxiety, depression, etc.) shown up less or more?

c. Do we have more or fewer unhappy communication exchanges?


If the answers are "less" in two out of the three questions, then to us, there have been positive changes. If not, it is a topic of discussion for both of us.


For me, professional help, both in therapy and medication, has improved our marriage tremendously. It helped him concentrate better and reduced emotional dysregulation to a minimum. Remember to be patient, observe positive changes, and offer unwavering support to your ADHD spouse. By doing so, you can create a path towards a healthier, more fulfilling relationship for both of you, where love and understanding can flourish.

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