Being Bruce -: How to Manage Impulsiveness in an ADHD Relationship

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How to Manage Impulsiveness in an ADHD Relationship

Love at First Sight



It’s the spring of 1970. I’m feeling amazing. The end of my first year of teaching high school English is in sight, I’ve made new friends with the other young teachers in my school, my red MGB sports car is running well, and I just splurged on a new, yellow Suzuki motorcycle. With no social prospects for the weekend, I decide to ride my bike to my former college campus and ask one of my fraternity brothers to find me a blind date. I’m sure to impress the brothers and my blind date with my bike!

When I get the name of my blind date, I check out her photo in the yearbook. She looks a little round in the face – I hope she’ll fit on the back of my small bike! Whew, when she finally appears, I’m relieved to see that she weighs about 100 pounds, and she’s ready to ride!

Little did I know at that moment that I just met my bride of 46 years, and that I would propose to her 13 days later. What happens when a young couple finds love at first sight, and one of them has undiagnosed ADHD?

My marriage proposal to Marge after 13 days of meeting was certainly a sign of my ADHD impulsiveness. In our case, after that whirlwind beginning, we waited four months to get married. My inclination was for us to run off that night, but I didn't even suggest it - which is one sign that my ADHD isn't extreme.

That four-month period between our engagement and wedding - excruciatingly long, from my perspective - was a compromise that still seemed hasty to many people, but it was deliberate on our part.

If we both had ADHD? In that case, I have no question we would have headed to the closest state with the shortest waiting time, which I think at that time was New Jersey. However, Marge doesn't have ADHD, so we compromised.

Note: Even my parents thought we were moving too fast. Marge stayed with my parents for a month before our wedding, I already had an apartment. Without my knowledge, they advised her against such a short engagement. Marge told me later my father tried to talk her out of it. Thankfully, she didn’t listen to him.

ADHD + Marriage is Challenging



No one ever said relationships are simple or easy. With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the mix, POW! an additional multi-faceted dimension joins the relationship.

When one or both partners have Adult ADHD, figuring out what's really going on for both people can be tricky. One common issue with Adult ADHDis impulsive behavior. Impulsiveness and restlessness are how hyperactivity, the "H" in ADHD, often shows up in adults with the disorder.

As carefree and impulse-driven as most new relationships are, acting on the moment usually tones down in time. In adults with ADHD, however, it's the way we're wired and can be difficult to control.

Approximately half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. According to the Centers for Disease and Control (www.CDC.gov) reports, the divorce rate is even higher when ADHD is involved. The odds are against lasting ADHD marriages. The reason for that is that the clear majority of adults with ADHD (about 80%) have not been diagnosed or treated, so a couple with undiagnosed ADHD in the mix are at a huge disadvantage from the very beginning of their relationship. If you suspect you might be one of those adults, then click here to get the link for the free assessment test.

I am entirely grateful that Marge and I have learned early on in our marriage that we had to compromise and we continue to do so, because we want to keep our marriage going. I was diagnosed with ADHD right before my 70th birthday. Marge and I now realize how much ADHD affected our relationship, starting from the night we met. We have compensated for my ADHD during the decades of our marriage.

Conscious Compromise



So, a major factor in making an ADHD relationship work is the willingness to compromise. If a couple can't agree to compromise, even the smallest decision can turn into conflict.

The best strategy for compromising is to make it overt. It's much better to be able to say to each other, "OK, so you want X and I want Y. How can we compromise so we can meet in the middle?"

Our first big compromise occurred when we were planning our wedding. We both wanted a small affair. I wanted to get married at dawn in the woods beside a stream with Beatles music. I didn’t care who officiated. Marge wanted to get married in a Catholic church by a priest. So, we were married in the church at 9:00 a.m. by a priest, who didn’t object to Beatles music. To this day “Here Comes the Sun” is our favorite song!

When you make the act of reaching compromise a conscious, agreed upon strategy, and you work at it, that's a healthier path than if one or both people felt they lost out. You're working together for something you both want.

Sometimes all that's needed is to add some time. Compromise can be time-based. Rather than deciding on the spot to buy a new car or spend money on a time-share, agree to hold off decisions for a specified period. Agree to wait overnight, for a week or a month, or possibly in some cases, even a year. If you still want something as badly after time passes as you did originally, then it's likely not a result of ADHD-related impulsiveness.

In some instances, it might work out where you can each give a little to reach a middle ground. Other times when the choices are mutually exclusive, like moving or not moving, for example, it might seem that one person wins and the other loses. Keeping score isn't a great idea, but when you view a relationship over the long term, there can be plenty of time for things to even out.

So, from the perspective of long-term relationships, conscious compromise is one way to express love in support of your relationship.

And I can't stress enough how important it is to a healthy marriage to find out early in the relationship if Adult ADHD is a factor. Take the free assessment test to be sure.

I look forward to reading your comments on this post.

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