If you grew up with ADHD, there’s a good chance you’re used to hearing your parents, teachers, and bosses tell you over and over again that your performance was not good enough. They may have said that if you don’t improve, you’re going to fail, fall out of favor or lose your job.
Faced with these awful consequences, yet knowing you’re still going to make mistakes, many children with ADHD become very fearful of failure, because they believe really bad things are going to happen.
If you are an adult ADHDer who is in a relationship, you may find it easy to fall back into that old pattern of thinking. If your partner indicates you’ve done something wrong or inappropriate, it may feel as though your entire relationship is in danger, or that she is going to kick you out, or hate you.
One way some people deal with this is to become defensive whenever they say or do something they are unsure about. This is rarely helpful in a relationship. If your partner raises an issue with you and you immediately begin defending yourself — instead of considering what he or she has to say — your partner will become frustrated and may actually give up eventually.
However, if you can learn to hear your partner’s concerns without assuming that they hate you or that you’ve ruined the entire relationship, then there is hope for your relationship. Openly accepting feedback from your partner, even when it’s negative, will allow your relationship to grow.
Sometimes, it’s not about you at all! If your partner has an idea and you shut them down by assuming they’re attacking you, then you’ll both miss out on much of the joy that a relationship has to offer.
As the non-ADHD partner in a relationship with someone who has ADHD, you also need to recognize the way your partner might react. When you have an issue to raise, make sure he or she understands that it’s not about them personally, and that your relationship with them is not at stake. Focus on the issue itself, not on blaming or attacking him or her. And, if your partner does feel attacked or get defensive, recognize that it’s not about you either. You don’t know everything he’s been through, so don’t assume the worst about him.
For a relationship to succeed, both individuals need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and assume the best about each other. Remember, it’s not always about you!