In my practice I see many couples with concerns around keeping the romance alive in their marriage. If I were to determine the the single most detrimental thing one can do in damaging one’s relationship, it would be to not pay attention to one’s spouse. I know that sounds too simple for many, but for those individuals with ADHD, the ability to maintain sustained attention on any person, place or thing can be extremely difficult. And yet, without this ability, there can be no true romance. It’s that simple. So, knowing this fact, how does one go about making sure that this difficulty does not become that fatal mistake that dooms your marriage.
Untreated ADHD is deadly to many relationships simply because the brain of someone with ADHD is wired in such a way that makes attention regulation extremely difficult. Although medication is the most efficient way to jump start treatment, it is only one of many treatment modalities that is helpful in sustaining and building a relationship of mutual trust, friendship and intimacy. When working with couples, the biggest complaint I often hear from the non-ADHD spouse is that they feel abandoned in the relationship. Their spouse is not attentive to them and their constant distractibility creates the feeling of being unloved. And since paying attention is the single most difficult thing for an ADHD adult to do, just making the effort to accomplish this behavior, means everything to the non-ADHD spouse. In fact, most non ADHD partners have told me that just seeing their partner trying, makes them feel loved and cherished, and feeling cherished, is the vital ingredient in developing and maintaining intimacy and romance.
So, in thinking of ways to enhance one’s ability to focus on one’s spouse, I came up with a list of suggestions. While some of these might work well for you, do experiment and discover what works best for you and your partner.
- Make a point of calling your spouse every day just to say hello and see how their day is going. ( And give them your undivided attention during the entire length of the call)
- Send a “love text” every day.
- Leave a note next to her or his pillow saying something sweet or wishing them a wonderful day.
- Tackle some chore around the house that you know means a lot to them.
- Surprise them with a gift. Maybe their favorite meal, some flowers, or an item that you know they will love.
- Make time to just cuddle or hold hands while watching a movie.
- When in their company, make eye contact with them the entire time they are speaking to you and respond back to them so they know you have really heard what they have said to you. This last one seems so easy, and yet…. it is the one thing that is often missing in many couple’s communication.
- Since you may need a reminder to do some of those things you have in mind, consider ways to help with this by perhaps setting a daily alarm on your phone or write yourself little sticky notes that you place on your desk at work or around your home. Find ways that work with your life style and comfort level using technology. Seek professional coaching or work with a counselor who is well versed in the problems that are associate with having ADHD, if needed.
Don’t forget that in the end, the greatest gift is your undivided attention and willingness to be completely present to them. So, consider ways to remind yourself when its time to call or do something important for them. It’s ok if you need to set a daily alarm on your phone to remind you or to write yourself little sticky notes that you place on your desk at work. Don’t allow your pride or shame to get in the way of your seeking professional help with ADHD therapist, if needed. Do whatever it takes to pay attention to your partner, and I can bet your romance will be greatly enhanced as your marriage continues to grow stronger.
Leslie is a holistic therapist working in South Florida.