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Navigating the New Normal: A Guide for Newly Diagnosed Couples in ADHD Marriages

Newly Diagnosed ADHD Couple searching learning together.

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As I reflect on the journey of the past 6 months with this blog, my primary goal has been to support couples in thriving within their ADHD marriages by helping them connect the dots faster. During this time, I've had the privilege of engaging with many newly diagnosed couples seeking guidance, all grappling with the same question: "What should we expect, and where should we focus next?" It's an honor to offer support, drawing from my experiences and aiming to guide these couples away from the pitfalls that I, too, once stumbled upon. In this post, I share three key insights for newly diagnosed couples embarking on their road ahead.


Dedicate Time to Truly Understand ADHD Individually and Together:


Investing time to learn and understand ADHD, both individually and together, is essential for both spouses. While reading books is a good starting point, truly understanding how ADHD manifests in your spouse's behavior requires connecting the dots. Dedicate time to learn and discuss your findings, enabling both of you to navigate the intricacies of ADHD symptoms and behaviors.


As these discussions unfold, you'll often uncover assumptions about each other's responses. This revelation is an opportune moment for the couple to discuss whether those behaviors align with their desires and take collaborative steps to find mutually agreed-upon solutions. For instance, my misunderstanding of why our cat's bowl was always full revealed a deeper issue – my husband's forgetfulness. Open communication sooner could have led to a solution like an automatic cat feeder, avoiding unnecessary frustration and over feeding our cats.


Chose Information that Speaks to You


Over the past 15 years, I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of ADHD content. While they might all share similar information, the way it is presented might or might not resonate with you. For example, Dr. Edward M. Hallowell and Anita Robertson's books resonate with my ADHD spouse because the tones of the books are much more positive, given that both Dr. Hallowell and Anita have ADHD. On the other hand, Dr. Barkley and Melissa Orlov's books are more my speed because they are neurotypicals, and their tones are more straightforward. If the content resonates with you more, it will help you connect the dots faster and take action. To aid you in this journey, I've compiled a shortlist of recommended books and YouTube channels for both ADHD and non-ADHD spouses.


For ADHD Spouses:

Driven to Distraction by Edward M Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey M.D.

Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Dr. Russell A Barkley


For Non-ADHD Spouses:


When an Adult You Love Has ADHD by Dr. Russell Barkley

ADHD & Us by Anita Robertson


Importance of an Effective Treatment Plan:


Beyond understanding and open communication, establishing an effective treatment plan is paramount in a thriving ADHD marriage. A well-crafted plan, tailored to the unique needs of your spouse, can significantly enhance the quality of your relationship. In my previous blogs, I have shared how medication has helped my spouse and ultimately helped us get back on the right track in our relationship. While I know there is a small percentage of individuals with ADHD for whom medication is not effective, it can help improve focus, attention, reduce depression, reduce anxiety, and more for many. These improvements can help put your relationship on the right track if it's rocky.


To find the right treatment for you, collaborate with healthcare professionals to explore medication options, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments that align with your spouse's ADHD profile. Regularly reassess and fine-tune the plan as needed, ensuring it evolves alongside your spouse's changing needs and the dynamics of your marriage. A thoughtful and comprehensive treatment approach not only aids in managing ADHD symptoms but also provides a roadmap for both partners to actively contribute to the well-being of the relationship. By prioritizing a strategic treatment plan, you lay a foundation for a more harmonious and fulfilling partnership, empowering both spouses to thrive in their journey together.


Check out this post on how to judge if the treatment plan is effective or not.


It Takes Time to Understand ADHD-Influenced Behavior:


As you start learning about ADHD, you will begin to connect the dots between ADHD and your ADHD spouse's behaviors. While some are easily recognized, like distraction and forgetfulness, some could take months and years before you connect the dots. For example, I didn't understand why my ADHD spouse abruptly stopped driving me to and from the airport for my business trips back some 10 years ago. At the beginning, he just would not tell me the reason. It wasn't until 5 years ago that I came across research on ADHD and driving together could be bad, and it took a couple more years that I finally understood how the traffic noise, other drivers on the road create an immense sensory overload for him that I truly grasped the effort he was putting in and potentially the danger it would cause both of us. Often, many odd behaviors from my ADHD spouse often have an explanation; however, the neurotypical logic sometimes takes time to truly grasp why it is because we or others won't expect it. Therefore, be patient with your spouse. If a certain behavior truly bugs you, use a learning conversation to have your ADHD spouse share how that behavior came to be.


What are the fundamentals in a learning conversation?

Check out my learning conversation example in the post here.


Conclusion


Whether the ADHD diagnosis is anticipated or a surprise, thriving in an ADHD-affected marriage is possible with the right attitude and collaboration. It's essential to recognize that every marriage faces challenges, and comparison to others often overlooks the shared difficulties. An ADHD diagnosis often brings a couple closer together if both partners are committed to CONSISTENTLY putting in the necessary work. Stay tuned for the next two posts, where I'll provide focused advice tailored for each spouse.


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