Married to an ADHD Adult?
“[My wife and I] will be having a conversation, when suddenly her next sentence will come from a previous conversation we may have had several days or even weeks ago – as if it were still part of the present conversation,” says Kris Girrell of Boston. (Girrell’s wife, who asked to remain anonymous, has ADHD.)
“The ADHD adult brain sorts information differently,” Orlov explains. “Your partner experiences the world differently.”
For example, it may seem as if your spouse isn’t listening to you, but he’s really just lost track of what you’ve said. Maybe he doesn’t know how to tell you he can’t keep up with the conversation or doesn’t know how to describe the way his brain jumps between topics.
Solution: Be empathetic – and clear. This can help your partner improve listening skills, says psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, M.D. He co-authored Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption (Ballantine Books) with his wife, Sue George Hallowell, and Orlov.
“Make sure you have his attention before you start talking,” he says. This may be as simple as having him look you in the eye.
“Be brief and to the point. Don’t go off on long monologues,” he adds.
Create an open dialogue. Let your partner know you won’t judge him if he can’t follow and encourage him to speak up. If you have to repeat yourself often, know inattention is simply one of the symptoms of ADHD, and try not to get angry or frustrated, says Orlov.
Girrell and his wife developed some effective communication strategies to improve listening skills between them. When Girrell’s wife jumps rapidly into a new conversation that doesn’t make sense to him, he simply says, “Context?”