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The Power of Taking Breaks from your ADHD Partner

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Almost every year, my ADHD spouse and I take a holiday break from each other at the end of the year. Initially, we decided to spend the holidays separately because his desire to see his parents once a year, who live out of state, clashed with my responsibility to stay local to support my aging parents. Over time, I realized this was a great idea after reading the recommendation from Dr. Barkley's book, When You Love Someone with ADHD (Read my book review here). He suggests that ADHD loved ones take a break as well. Now, this is a core part of my self-care practice on an annual basis, where I take breaks from my ADHD partner by either having him visit his family or taking a solo vacation + staycation myself. As my ADHD spouse just returned from his family trip this year, I share with you the benefits I get from taking these breaks and hope that you can find a way to do so.

The Snowball of Frustration Throughout the Year:

Both of us often handle unexpected challenges in our day-to-day lives that contribute to growing frustration and resentment throughout the year. For example, my stress level increases when my ADHD partner misses mutually agreed deadlines. Conversely, my partner gets frustrated with me because I often make multiple impromptu requests for mundane tasks. Over the course of the year, this wears on both of us. When I spoke with other non-ADHD spouses, they feel the same way. The snowball of resentment starts to build, and we get short with each other. That's why taking breaks from each other is a great idea.

Here are the benefits I glean from taking these annual breaks:

Putting a Pause on Chaos:

Non-ADHD partners often build up resentment towards their ADHD partners over time. For instance, I feel chaos creeping in throughout the year when I notice an untidy home that doesn't meet my standards or get interrupted when focusing on a work deadline. This makes me short-tempered, and when patience runs thin, I say hurtful things that I can't take back. During my annual breaks from my ADHD partner, the chaos often dissipates because I can reset my home to the state I prefer without interruption. I become calmer, happier, and lighter.

Rediscovering Contributions:

Absence truly makes the heart grow fonder. When my spouse is away with his family, I step into roles that he typically fulfills. It is during these moments that I gain a newfound appreciation for the myriad contributions he makes to our marriage. The absence becomes a poignant reminder of the value he adds, showcasing that his involvement extends beyond what I could remember.

Recharging My Batteries:

Taking a break isn't just about creating physical distance; it's about refilling one's emotional and mental reserves. This time apart becomes an opportunity to indulge in self-care practices that may take a backseat in the chaos of everyday life. Whether it's meditation, yoga, exercise, or simply reveling in the blissful silence of solitude, these moments allow me to rejuvenate. As I immerse myself in these activities, I find a renewed sense of patience and appreciation, creating a positive ripple effect when my spouse returns.


Now that he has returned from his holiday travels, we are both happier to be with each other. For me, I find that I am much more appreciative of his help and often remember to thank him for completing any tasks. I found myself to be more patient with him when things don't go the way I expected, and he is more open to taking my feedback and trying again. Furthermore, we are more appreciative of each other, as being away doesn't just have a positive effect on me; it also has a positive effect on him.

In the realm of self-care practices for non-ADHD spouses, taking breaks emerges as a powerful tool. It not only provides a respite from the daily challenges but also offers a fresh perspective on the contributions. As someone who has experienced the transformative effects firsthand, I wholeheartedly recommend incorporating this practice into your routine. Taking a break isn't a sign of weakness or a lack of commitment; rather, it's a proactive step toward nurturing oneself and, by extension, strengthening the bonds of an ADHD marriage.

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