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There is a lot of information out there on parenting a child with ADHD or being an adult with ADHD. Surprisingly, however, it is rather difficult to find information on dealing with the frustrations and exhaustion associated with being married to someone with ADHD.
Partners in this kind of relationship can easily become overwhelmed and end up with ADHD spouse burnout. Today, we are going to talk about this and learn how you can manage or avoid burnout.
What is ADHD and How Does It Affect Adults?
ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that presents itself in childhood. In the past, it was thought that people with this disorder outgrew it, but we have learned that this isn't the case. Kids with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD.
The symptoms may present themselves differently, but they still cause problems, including relationship issues. An adult with ADHD can exhibit many symptoms that are frustrating to others, especially those who are very organized and practical.
Although the disorder shows itself differently from one person to the next… most people with ADHD have difficulty with organization, time and money management and often lack focus because they are easily distracted. Forgetfulness is also an issue.
Other symptoms of ADHD that can cause problems are hyperactivity, emotional volatility, impulsivity and risk-taking. There can also be a lack of motivation that is sometimes mistaken for laziness but is often just boredom or a lack of focus.
These traits can range anywhere from mildly annoying to outright frustrating.
How is ADHD Treated?
ADHD is often best treated with a multimodal approach. The first course of treatment is medication. ADHD is an imbalance in the brain and medication is often necessary to slow down the thought process so the person can readily access their thoughts.
Traditionally, stimulants are used as the ADHD brain is actually slowed by them. Recently, a number of non-stimulant medications have been approved.
Once the medication is at an optimal level, counseling and skills training can be started. Talk therapy and CBT are the most often utilized. The person needs to learn things like how to manage time and money, the best ways to improve focus, and emotional regulation.
Counseling also helps the person learn to think before acting.
What is ADHD Spouse Burnout?
ADHD burnout is the overwhelming feeling you get from constantly picking up the slack when it comes to chores. It is the feeling that you are being ignored or that you aren't important.
The frustration of trying to prevent fallout from impulsive actions and always having to be the responsible one can wear a person down. The spouse without ADHD may feel that their partner doesn't care because they never seem to notice the stress that is caused by their partner disregarding requests.
They also may feel that their needs and wants aren't important and it may often seem like their partner is only half present as their attention is so easily caught by other things.
In the end, resentment and anger that result from all this can create a situation where the marriage is in grave danger.
Read on to find some things you can do to help prevent burnout or alleviate the situation.
11 Coping Strategies for ADHD Spouse Burnout
Strategy #1. Stay Calm and Don't Take It Personal
It can be difficult not to take it personally when your spouse always seems to avoid doing what they are asked to do. Their angry outbursts can be stressful and leave you wondering what you did to deserve that kind of treatment. You may wonder if they really don't care when you try to express your frustration.
The person with ADHD isn't doing this just to annoy you. In some cases, they never had an official diagnosis and assume this is just part of their personality. They may find it easier to let you take care of the things you do better than them, and not realize how stressful that is on you.
It isn't that they don't care, so try to stay calm and tell yourself it is not personal.
Strategy #2. Lower Your Expectations
A person with ADHD may need those daily reminders you feel shouldn't be necessary. They may need help learning how to manage a budget or keep track of schedules. Instead of giving up in frustration or anger, stop and think about how you can help them help themselves.
You may get frustrated if something isn't done as you would do it, but credit them with trying. If they get distracted in the middle of a task, try to redirect them back to complete it. If it takes them three hours to complete something that would take people without ADHD an hour, tell yourself that at least they did finish it.
Lowering your expectations of perfection will help relieve stress on both of you.
Strategy #3. Don't Parent Your Partner
It can be tempting to constantly nag at your partner to get things done. It can be even more tempting to simply take over the tasks they should be doing rather than deal with the frustration. Don't give in to temptation!
This is your partner, not your child. Insist that they do their part. Be willing to help them set up a system or plan of action where they can be successful, but ultimately let the responsibility be theirs.
If you fall into the parenting mode, you will end up resenting them and they will end up resenting being treated like a child.
Strategy #4. Make Time for Self-Care
You not only deserve self-care, but you also need it. Make sure you aren't spending so much time involved with doing everything that you forget about yourself.
Take time to eat properly, get exercise, and spend some time relaxing. The world is not going to fall apart if you decide to run a hot bubble bath or take time to enjoy a hobby. In the end, you will be able to approach interactions in a better frame of mind.
Set aside some time every day to think about only you. Do what you want during that time, not something you think you should do. If necessary, place that time on your calendar or to-do list.
Strategy #5. Don't Take on All the Responsibility
It may seem easier at first to simply do what needs to be done. There is less time spent asking your partner to do it, less feelings of being ignored, and everything gets done. This ends up being a mistake for a few reasons.
Your partner may end up with what is called learned helplessness. They get the subconscious message that you don't think they can do something, and they eventually believe that themselves. Rather than try, it is easier for them to sit back and let you do it for them.
It also doesn't teach them to grow and take responsibility for their own actions. Throughout life, your partner will face situations where someone isn't going to step in and take over. They will have to deal with the consequences, whether it is a lost job or lost opportunity.
You can help them learn how to succeed, but don't take away the responsibility that should be theirs.
Strategy #6. Educate Yourself and Your Partner
Taking time to understand ADHD will go a long way toward dealing with the symptoms. As mentioned earlier, your partner may have never been diagnosed. If both of you take on learning together, you both will have a greater understanding of the issue.
This will allow you to understand what the next steps are in making things a lot smoother. You both learn to work with the disorder, and not against it.
Strategy #7. Seek Out Support
You don't have to deal with this situation alone. There are many people out there with ADHD and many partners who experience the same frustrations as you. Both of you could benefit greatly from a support group.
Talk with your partner about joining a group composed of other people with ADHD. They may learn new tricks for getting things done and navigating the waters of life in an easier manner. Seek out a support group for friends and families of people with ADHD.
You will get the support of being around people who understand and can help you get through the day easier.
Support groups can be found in person or online. Keep looking until you find one that meets your emotional needs. If necessary, seek out marriage or family counseling with a therapist who understands the situation.
Strategy #8. Have a Conversation About Managing Symptoms
One of the first things that you need to do is sit down with your partner when you are both in a fairly good mood. Explain how you feel without accusing and then practice actively listening to them. You are bound to learn that they also feel frustrated and maybe even have anxiety or depression because they can't seem to manage.
Get an official diagnosis if one has never been gotten and then decide as a couple what actions can be taken for your partner to begin getting control of their ADHD. Keep in mind that you can support them in this, but it is up to them to do the hard work.
As long as your partner is actively trying, don't expect perfection. Remember, it is probably just as frustrating for them, especially when they understand how it is affecting you.
Strategy #9. Divide Chores According to Strengths
Does your partner prefer physical activities like mowing the lawn or fixing things? Let those be the chores they are responsible for, and you take on the chores you don't mind. There are no rules that state chores have to be rotated.
Maybe your partner is great at playing with the kids and taking them on outings while getting them to settle down at night is too frustrating. Let them give you a break by entertaining the kids and you take the bedtime routine.
The point is to go through the chores and assign each the ones they are best at. You can even help create a chore chart so that your partner has a reminder each day and you don't need to keep nagging.
Strategy #10. Work on Communication Skills
Communication skills are a big part of any relationship but may be even more important when dealing with a person with ADHD.
Learn to get your point across in as easy and calm a manner as possible, but also learn to actively listen to them. Counseling can go a long way in teaching you both how to communicate better.
Strategy #11. Create and Maintain Boundaries
As with any relationship, clear boundaries are necessary. You not only need to set them, but you need to maintain them as well.
For example, if your partner is constantly overspending, you could set up a system that allows enough money for the bills to be paid. Your partner and you will both have personal spending money. Should they blow all theirs in a day or two, don't give in and lend them any. Let them deal with the consequences of not budgeting.
If they are responsible for certain chores, refuse to step in and do them if they fail to do so. State your expectations in all areas and maintain the strength to stand your ground.
Final Thoughts on ADHD Spouse Burnout
It can be frustrating to be married to someone with ADHD if you don't set some limits and take time to think of yourself. On the other hand, once that is done, you can begin to see the good side of being married to that person.
Those with ADHD are spontaneous and can help you see when your worry is overdone. They really do care, it is just a matter of being on the same page about this person trying to gain control of their less-than-desirable behaviors and becoming more aware of your needs.
Check out these affirmations for successfully dealing with ADHD to help you through the day. It can be done, you just need to be patient!
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.