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ADD and Relationships; 5 Tips for Success!
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, characterized by significant difficulties with functioning in areas such as impulse control and motivation, is becoming a much more common diagnosis in adults in recent years. Research suggests that children who have ADD and ADHD do not simply "outgrow" the disorder, but rather become adults who may learn to control or hide their difficulties, in their work and personal lives. Relationships are never perfect, nor are they necessarily easy, and adults with ADD and ADHD often have additional challenges that, if not addressed, may lead to the proverbial relationship revolving door. Despite the difficulties, individuals with ADD and ADHD can and certainly do succeed in relationships. Here are some key points that may help increase your chances of success:
Work on YOU first
I tell clients time and again, finding a relationship isn't hard, but finding a healthy one that fits your needs (and theirs) is impossible unless you have solid knowledge of yourself. One of the most common problems in relationships is the feeling that once you find someone, the relationship should become all-encompassing. There are two glaring problems with this logic. First, people pick up on insecurity pretty quickly and that is at the core of much-too-fast relationships in which one person feels smothered while the other feels so insecure that they are literally afraid to acknowledge their own needs. Second, when someone ignores their needs for the (perceived) sake of a beloved, they end up harboring resentment towards the other person. These are characteristic of toxic relationships that are doomed, simply because someone isn't being themselves. If you can't enjoy the pleasure of your own company, you will create realistic expectations that someone else will have to be the source of that pleasure. Choosing to be single is hard, but if you're fresh out of a relationship, it may be the best time to enjoy your hobbies, interests, learn a new craft, or start an exercise program. The more comfortable you become with your own company and being single, the less you will feel compelled to seek out a relationship when you aren't ready.
Boredom in a relationship is NORMAL!
Sure, we'd all love to maintain that euphoric rush that is characteristic of a new relationship, who wouldn't? We are attracted to that feeling, which is a result of stimulation of our emotional and chemical systems. That feeling, however, is a direct result of novelty; as our minds and bodies work to assimilate the new information into our existing schemas. We can' reinvent novelty, and we can't force ourselves to believe a relationship is new when we've been together for some time. Think about this though, we can't make that cognitive change in ourselves when we become familiar with any aspect of our lives, including jobs, hobbies, and friends. What then, can we do to reignite a spark in a relationship; thereby lessening the chances that we will impulsively seek out that initial euphoria, perhaps in ways that are not healthy? One thing that seems to be extraordinarily effective, time and again, is to create change within the relationship itself. This reinvention of the fundamentals can often strengthen the bond within the relationship and can provide enough novelty to make you both feel like you've met for the first time again.
Relationships are a two way street, both individuals involved are just that: individuals. In the context of a relationship, two people are growing together in an evolutionary process of figuring out what feels best for each of us. At times, understandibly, we expect someone to whom we feel extraordinarily close to understand us, to realize that if we feel overwhelmed in our lives or work, we may choose behaviors that may hurt someone else. In these cases, we are choosing to act out our feelings on someone else who, in reality, can't solve the problem. Individuals who have ADD/ADHD may lash out impulsively, may choose to indulge their immediate need for self-gratification, and may choose to blame the very people closest to them. This is an easier risk, since the people who love us the most are perceived to be the least likely to judge us or our behaviors harshly. They love us after all, right? Unfortunately, this behavior is an easy way to defer one's own responsibility for choices they've made. Even after the fact, often under the guise of superficial guilt, we may continue to rely on the fact that we have ADD/ADHD as a means of explaining away what we've done. In many cases, once we've filed bad behavior into the ADD/ADHD folder, we feel that we've done enough so that when the impulse returns, we give in yet again. Keep in mind that patterns of behavior are just that, patterns and we all have the ability to identify them and realize when the temptation comes around again. Taking responsibility means making fundamental changes in our behavior that directly impact the pattern in a positive way. By doing so, we not only accept what we've done, but we learn from it and decrease the likelihood that we will resort to it again.
Make a real committment
Individuals who have ADD/ADHD have a wonderful ability to impart all their abundant energy to focusing on something. At the same time, we also seem to have a bit of difficulty when it comes to taking that step from being an active partner in a new relationship to being equally active once its clear that the relationship is moving forward. This tendency may be a result of earlier problems in connecting with others on deeper levels, it may be a sensitivity to rejection or it may also be a genuine fear of underachieving. It is important in any relationship to realize that both parties are new to the relationship, and are therefore at the same level of novelty. Most likely, both parties are also experiencing some level of fear along with the wonderful emotional fulfillment that grows deeper as the relationship progresses. If one person in a relationship puts on the brakes, out of fear, the relationship also stalls. Taking things slow is healthy, and helps each of us grow at a pace that fits our level of comfort, but there is also something to be said for walking into the face of fear. The one thing to ask oneself in cases of hesitation of commottment is "what is it that is stopping me from putting my personal 100% into this relationship?". The answer to that is a great way to gauge where the problems may lie. If we are experiencing something that upsets or bothers us, a deeper level of committment may be encouraged by discussing one's concerns openly, either with the other individual in the relationship or with a professional.
Change your perceptions
Taking charge of your life means making an effort to listen to what we say and considering what we think. With boredom often comes the lens of negativity and without thinking, we resort to making negative attributions. Its an easy habit to fall into, mainly because its a way for us to perpetuate our belief that things aren't going well in our lives. Its our unconscious way of saying "see, this isn't going right, this is proof that something is wrong". As I mentioned earlier, our partners/spouses are often the target of our frustrations, and also the target of our negative attributions. This behavior takes the blame (and the responsibility) off of us and places it on an external source. Getting rid of or rejecting the source is easier than doing the hard work it takes to solve the issue, but time and again, we'll find ourselves back in a similar situation because we haven't ever faced the real problem. I'm a big believer in seeing the positive side of things and people, even if we initially don't do so. One of the easiest things to do initially is to force ourselves to create a positive thought or comment and consciously add it to whatever negative thought or comment we produce. This takes some work, we often aren't aware that we've fallen into the negative zone. Over time, however, we can become more aware of what we think and say, how they effect the way we feel and also the effect they have on others. No one wants to stick around that person who continually points out the bad stuff, it brings us down. Positive people are infectious, very attractive, confident and fun to be around. Even if their lives aren't perfect, they will tell you whats great about the world. Positive perceptions change our lives in ways we can only begin to imagine. Give it a try!
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