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Unspoken Assumptions: What ADHD Partners Need to Hear from Non-ADHD Spouses



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When you spend so much time with a person, it is very easy to assume they understand how you feel about them, even when you don't say a thing. Many people assume that because they are your spouse, they should be able to read your thoughts and finish your sentences. While for neurotypicals, that often applies, it doesn't quite apply for ADHD couples. While I thought my ADHD spouse understood some of the fundamentals of our marriage, his insecurities and self-doubt proved otherwise. Therefore, I share three key unspoken assumptions, especially for recently diagnosed ADHD spouse, in hope to help you smooth the journey ahead of you.


3 Key Unspoken Assumptions


1. Your Non-ADHD Spouse Is Your Biggest Supporter


While this seems so obvious, it was not so obvious to my ADHD spouse. While all non-ADHD spouses would agree that we will and are their biggest supporters for our ADHD spouses, often, our actions say otherwise, causing our spouse to doubt. For me, my tone changes when I am busy and that makes my ADHD spouse feels like he should not brother me for support. Also, just look back on our ADHD spouses' lives, all of them have lived through loved ones and close friends who said they would support them, but the communications or actions are completely opposite. This is why it is super crucial to not only verbalize that we are their biggest supporter periodically but also to recognize the impact of our responses and actively strive to provide patient and understanding support, even in challenging moments.


2. ADHD Diagnosis Does Not Change the Love We Have for Them


For some reason, the ADHD diagnosis really put some fear into my ADHD spouse. It wasn't until years later that I realized that he thought the love I had for him changed to having pity for him, but the reality is that it was not true at all. While ADHD is challenging to live with, I really didn't think less of him after the diagnosis. Knowing the diagnosis actually helped me connect some of the dots of the challenges he experienced when he was a kid (for example: criticism and being misunderstood by parents, siblings, and others), challenges I saw him go through, actually made me want to love him even more because he was a genuine, kind, and gentle person inside with a rough exterior.


3. Your Non-ADHD Spouse Believe in You


Even when I am frustrated with my ADHD spouse from time to time, I still believe he can live a full life even with ADHD. I firmly believe everyone has an opportunity to live a rich and full life. For example, we had a friend who has cerebral palsy, he is confined to a wheelchair, but yet, he lives a full life by holding down a job, has a great group of friends he hangs out with, and even drives and lives on his own. To me, ADHD, compared to cerebral palsy, is just a small blip. Everyone in life will have their own challenges, but it doesn't have to beat you down. If you can find your purpose in life and find your way to stay focused, anyone also have the life he/she wants, including my ADHD spouse.


Lesson: Speak the Unspoken Assumptions


While we all desire that our other half to know us so well that they can read our minds without us saying a word, the reality is that is very hard to accomplish without expressing our some of our thoughts verbally. In my marriage, not saying the obvious created challenges in my marriage and it actually took a lot longer for me to undo my ADHD spouse's thinking and assumptions about me. Furthermore, with ADHD's forgetfulness, ongoing, clear and repetitive communication of those unspoken assumptions to my ADHD spouse prevent him from falling back into his old thinking and assumptions.


Here are a few things I now do on a regular basis to my ADHD spouse to remind him that I am here for him and love him.


  • Say it out loud periodically: When my ADHD spouse comes to me and shares his deepest thoughts, I always let him know the unspoken assumptions above. By letting him hear it out loud, it helps undo his own assumptions about how I feel about him, allowing him to remember to open up to me more often.

  • Apologize immediately if I act unsupportive: When life gets busy, I get impatient and I often get short with my husband. While I have done a good job of holding my tongue most of the time, sometimes, there is still a slip-up. After all, I am human. I would immediately apologize for my behavior share the causes by my inappropriate behavior. This helps eliminate any negative impact of the bad response he heard from me.

  • Set up time to work on improving communications together: We leverage our weekly check-in and take turns practicing key communications exercises. As we practice the exercise, it allows both of us to express things that often go unspoken, allowing us to deepen understanding for each other. As we get more get comfortable with the exercises, it then became second nature for us in our daily lives and use them as framework when we need to communicate with each other. Check out this blog post where I shared 4 awesome communications exercises recommended by Melissa Orlov to try out and build an even closer bond in your relationship.


Conclusion


If there is one takeaway from my post today, it is the need to communicate the unspoken assumptions with your ADHD spouse regularly. By doing so, you can strengthen your relationship and provide the support and understanding necessary for both partners to thrive together.




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