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The Small Stuff Matters

          How micro-betrayals erode the very foundation of your relationship

Probably dozens of times throughout the day, your partner forgets to do something; breaks a promise, arrives late or leaves too early (or forgets an appointment altogether), or makes another big mess. When confronted with his (or Loving couple at homeher) actions, he thinks that by simply saying, “I’m Sorry,” (again) will somehow make everything magically O.K.  What the offending partner doesn’t realize is that it’s not the big stuff that usually destroys relationships, but rather the small stuff, little things that happen again and again, over a long period of time, which destroys the loving relationship.  We like to refer to these “over and over again” episodes as “mini-micro betrayals,” which seem at the moment, like no big deal.

But Nothing Could be Further from the Truth!

Those pesky little things add up, and while no single act is that big of a deal, when they start adding up and multiplying – Watch Out!

Over time, these little things start to feel like termites ferociously eating away at the foundation of your relationship. What’s left is a relationship filled with holes, destroyed one little termite-sized bite at a time. This leaves the disappointed partner feeling like, “Hey – if I can’t trust him to deliver on the ordinary, everyday stuff, how in the world can I count on him with the big stuff; the important stuff?”

Left untreated, your partner’s unreliable nature creates distance and resentment, and eventually the relationship could collapse or implode. Meanwhile the offending partner is oblivious to any problem whatsoever, thinking everything is totally “fine.” What an unpleasant surprise when he is confronted with a mad spouse who has finally had enough!

Remember in relationships the daily micro-betrayals really do have an enormous impact on the sustainability of your relationship.  You can’t change him or her (…if that were the case, you’d have done it by now!). So, what can you do to alter this destructive course?

Learn to talk to your partner every day. Accentuate the positive, telling him or her how much you appreciate his uniqueness, or the way he does something that you really do appreciate. Do not be condescending! Only tell the truth and express genuine appreciation.

In the same way, when something is done that sends you through the roof, explain those feelings, too. Leave out absolutes (you always do this or that); avoid negatives (why don’t you think before you do something?) and don’t bring up the past (you did the same thing last month!). Instead, tell him you need to talk about something that happened and then gently explain. The purpose of talking is not to condemn and bring up a laundry list of things done wrong. NO! The purpose is to bring awareness of the situation from your perspective and lovingly talk about the repercussions of the event.

For example, let’s say you come home from work to find that your wife started planting some flowers along the walkway in the morning, and then when she was about halfway through, decided to go into the kitchen and bake bread. The flowers she planted look like they may survive but the ones still in the cartons are hot and drooping and appear to be about half-baked from the blazing sun. Dirt is all over the sidewalk; and the shovel, rake, hoe, the hose (which is still on and spurting water), and fertilizer lie in the way all scattered about. It’s a mess.

In the house, the house smells almost wonderful, like the aroma of freshly baked bread, but with a hint of burn to it. Hmm…seems as though she may have forgotten to set the timer again. Your wife is tired but happy for all that she has done today, and she desperately wants/needs your approval and appreciation. Never mind that the yard and the kitchen (and your wife!) are a mess and the bread is burned. (“It’s not burned,” she explains with a grin and a wink, “it’s only a little brown on the edges.”) Dare you burst her bubble by saying something now? The results may not be what you really want or expect from an adult, but she really has worked hard all day and is eager to share everything with you. But you know from experience that it could literally be days or weeks before she gets back out to finish up the flowers. You groan inwardly as you ask yourself if this is going to be a repeat of last year when she left the same project unfinished all summer long?

What do you do? What should you do? How do you turn this into a positive?

Now is your time to express heart-felt appreciation.

Look at the things she did get done. Tell her the flowers she planted are beautiful and will be a wonderful, colorful addition to that little area. Tell her the bread smells good enough to eat, even the “brown edges” will be good with butter, and then smile at her and wink. And then suggest that after dinner the two of you could go outside and spend time together finishing up the planting. The positives are accentuated. Your wife is appreciated. The mess provides the two of you ‘together time’ and by the end of the day, it can be all nice and neat.

Will it happen this way every time? No. But every time you can use it to create something wonderful. Do you need to be her babysitter and take her by the hand every time to make sure things are done up? Maybe, but hopefully not. Let us reiterate to you: You Aren’t Going to Change Your Spouse. She is what she is. You are what you are. We all are what we all are.

Focus on how you react to each situation. Focus on you!

Learning to look at situations a little differently; attacking a problem with kindness and love, can make all the difference in the world regarding your marriage. However, if you think you may not be getting anywhere in your marriage, seek professional council so you don’t drive yourself crazy or give up on the relationship. You can get there; be patient with your partner, and be patient with yourself.

Stop Blaming ADHD

Couple have fallen out over a disagreementFor people in relationships where ADHD is involved, these five words are often one of the biggest sources of rage because Nobody Appreciates Someone Else Making Excuses for His or Her Own Behavior. Although the excuse may be right-on, “I’m sorry; it’s my ADHD,” is usually seen as a self-serving, hollow and (very annoying) pathetic excuse.

Apologies which seem more like an excuse than something someone is sorry about is viewed as shallow and insincere. Saying these words can have the effect of someone throwing gasoline onto an already raging emotional bonfire.

If you blame ADHD for your shortcomings, then you are blaming something outside of your relationship. Given that we are powerless to control things outside of our own behavior, your partner is left feeling helpless to solve the problem. And, in essence, you are saying that you are also powerless against the problem.

You may be powerless to change the way your brain works, but you are not powerless to control and sensor your actions!

Blaming ADHD can leave both partners feeling as though they are fighting an invisible enemy which cannot be reasoned with. If the ADHD is the only thing at fault, then the relationship must certainly be doomed because there’s no way to solve a problem rooted in an incurable condition.

However, healthy, enjoyable relationships with ADHD people are quite possible!

The key is for both people to commit to not blaming the condition. They must accept each other as they each are and choose to see the best in each other. And again, this is true in every relationship, no matter what the outside issues are. Yes, ADHD can make a relationship more difficult, but that is certainly no cause to say it is doomed. If the partner with ADHD does something foolish, then he or she needs to take responsibility to better manage the ADHD. On the other hand, part of the responsibility also lies with the non-ADHD partner by making the effort to genuinely try to respond more appropriately to daily situations. Undoubtedly as in all relationships, sometimes expectations will not be met, but blaming ADHD is not helpful and as we have already stressed, it can actually be detrimental. Individuals are the absolute, only thing able to mess up any relationship!

By recognizing this, couples are empowered to take actual steps to begin solving these challenges and enjoying their partner, their life and their home.

Stop Chasing Your Tail and Focus On Your Relationship.

If miracle natural wonder cures for ADHD really worked,  rich people would not need medication just like everyone else.

Tips to Help Your Marriage

American pharmacist with senior woman in pharmacyProvide feedback instead of criticism which makes your partner defensive

Take responsibility for how ADHD has affected your relationship

Stop blaming your ADHD and treating it like something that is outside of your control. ADHD itself doesn’t destroy relationships, unmanaged behaviors do.

Communicate so your partner can understand you Avoid communicating to discipline your partner or make them wrong.

Be Careful Making Assumptions In Your Relationship!

The only way to get a handle on your situation is to REALLY be sure you know what your problem is. Take a minute to ask as simple question – you might be surprised by what you hear.

A good relationship takes time and lots and lots of practice!

The best medication in the world won’t teach you the skills you need to overcome a lifetime of ADHD habits. They don’t make a pill for perfect yet.

Always Alert Your Partner When You Start A New Medication.

This is why they call it “Staring” medication, not “great now your done” medication.

Healing A Relationship Negatively Impacted By ADHD Takes Time, Work and Practice.

We give people with a broken leg more courtesy than we do those with attentional differences, at least the leg will heal on its own, not so with ADHD.

Information Overoad is Real!

Give Yourself a break if you find yourself overwhelmed by today’s technology.

There was no ADHD when I was a kid, yeah and you only had to answer one phone, go to the library for information, and didn’t have 14 email accounts, texting, and talk on demand, call waiting, and instant messaging.

Resist the temptation to Play Doctor With Your ADHD Medications.

Don’t put your mind in the hands of an amature. It’s the only brain you will ever have.

If you really do have ADHD you are going to need a LOT of help in LIFE!

Why is my ADHD Life so Damn Hard?

Robert Wilford, Ph.D. and Sarah Ferman, Psy.D., L.M.F.T.
Having treated thousands of people with ADHD, I find one question that comes up over and over again. That question is “Doc, why is my ADHD life so damn hard?” Now there are variations of this question, such as “I thought the Stressed out Mom with fighting kidsmedication would take care of all of this ADHD stuff” or “Shouldn’t I have outgrown all this?” This is when I remind my patients that ADHD is a life long condition.  It requires a lifetime of learning and managing from many different angles in order to be successful.  Just because we get some relief from our medication, we still will always have to battle against those three primary traits of ADHD we have been dealing with all of our lives.

The good news is you’re probably familiar with the “Big 3” ADHD traits.  You have just probably forgotten how they look when you are older.   Remember those of us with ADHD tend to be: 1) Impulsive, 2) Inattentive and/or 3) Hyperactive

If you think you are going to outgrow these traits, or they are going to disappear now that you are taking medication, that just is not the case for most of us with ADHD.  I usually find that most of what is making ADHD life hard falls into three categories:

Being too impulsive:

“The Inability to Hold back, or think before making a decision…”

-We tend to make quick decisions.  Later those quick decisions only come back to “haunt” us.

-We make quick decisions without giving ourselves adequate time to carefully consider the possible effects or results of our actions.

-We sometimes don’t think about the possible alternatives which could serve us better.

Inattentiveness or Zoning out of life:

“Difficulty staying present and focused on what is right in front of us…”

-Inattentiveness can cause us to act on a quick decision without taking adequate time to look at possible negative results of our quick decisions.

-To some people it looks like we “just don’t learn from our mistakes.”

-We tend to operate on the principle:  Ready – Fire – Aim!

If, all your life, you have been told that you underachieve, sometimes it just feels better to shoot the gun now and aim later. This is akin to “acting without thinking”.  So, we miss our designated target and set in motion, a series of results that we did not foresee and do not want. This is where our impulsivity, not paying attention to what is around us or thinking about other positive possibilities or options becomes really clear. Often those of us with ADHD prefer to just spring into action without thinking.  This causes us to miss out on other aspects of the situation. Not taking a minute to think about those other possibilities means we miss out on many less obvious options.  That is the rub about ADHD. We may have wished we could have taken the time to think things through, but without some sort of assistance, like that which medication and proper nutrition provide, that option is simply not a possibility.

Battling our own inner Hyperactivity

“That feeling that we just need to keep moving, or are driven by our own motor that just won’t turn off. “

-As kids, we ADHD hyperactive kids got into heaps of trouble for being so hyper and impulsive. We did not see ourselves as others saw us. We felt excessively criticized and put down for just being who we were. Inside we felt happy and “normal’, and in a rush. The constant criticism took its toll on our self-esteem. We saw others as “too slow”. We felt very unique, loving and happy, but often our teachers and parents did not appreciate us for who we felt we were.

-We tend to grow out of the gross, physical, hyperactivity.   This obvious hyperactivity changes into more fine motor hyperactivity: i.e., jiggling our legs, swinging one leg over the other, tapping or drumming etc.  Adult hyperactivity can evolve and make an appearance in a more subtle way such as blinking, raising eyebrows, shrugging our shoulders, etc.  It’s as if the childlike hyperactivity moves more into a feeling of inner restlessness.

This is what I remind myself and my patients to be reminded of anytime they ask the question “Doc, why is my life so hard?”  These core traits are part of the hardwiring of the ADHD brain.  They require monitoring and management even when you just want to give in and let everything in your already overwhelmed brain just fall apart.  Resist that urge, as it usually just makes things worse. Instead, there are things that we can do to offset these “Big 3” ADHD traits.  Here are just a few suggestions to help get your ADHD life back in control:

  1. Give yourself a break and expect to feel overwhelmed and plan for it. The question is not if you get overwhelmed, but when you get overwhelmed. If you know that it is just a natural part of a brain that is built like a Ferrari, then you can go easy on yourself.  Setbacks and misfires are just a part of what makes us human. Even people without ADHD feel overwhelmed sometimes. Give yourself a “get out of jail free card” every own and again. You might find it is just what the doctor ordered to help you stay on track.
  2. Get enough rest. Sounds simple, but those of us with ADHD know just how difficult this can be.  Your ADHD brain just needs all the energy it can get. A sleepy ADHD brain is a useless ADHD brain.  Try to limit the amount of stimulation you have the 2 hours before you go to bed. This means no heavy talks, no super activating television shows, or thought provoking discussions two (2) hours before bedtime.
  3. Eat enough protein!!  The same chemicals that your ADHD brain craves and gets in medication are made from the building blocks found in the protein you eat.  Without enough protein in your diet, all the medication in the world won’t help.
  4. Drink enough water. Did you know that people who are dehydrated actually look a lot like those of us with ADHD? Dehydration can really cause you to not be able to think clearly.  If you find yourself heating up during the day, or have a dry mouth, reach for the H2O. As much as soda and coffee may taste good, soda leaches precious calcium from your body and coffee actually dehydrates you. So remember to drink two waters for every soda or coffee you drink.
  5. Take your medication and your supplements. Many of us with ADHD think we are better or more free when we are off our medication. That may be how we “feel”, but that’s not usually the time when we make our best decisions and are in fact least effective.  If you are supposed to take medication or you are able to take supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids, do it! Omega -3 fatty acids really do impact the way in which our brains work. Anything that we can do to improve our ADHD brains is usually a good thing.

Next time you find yourself chasing after a life of what feels like out of control ADHD, remember that you can get control of your mind, and you can get control of your ADHD.  Take a minute and remember to keep an open mind. If something feels too extreme and out of balance—move on and look elsewhere. Find that place where your mind and your heart guide you to your best choices.

Take a moment to post a comment and tell me about how hard your ADHD life is and share any tips or strategies you found that have worked for you.

Till then—God bless.