ADHD and Relationships: Four Strategies to Support ‘Relationship Admin’

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

"What do you want to watch?"

You glance at your significant other as they flick through the movie channels. "I don't know, nothing boring," you say, scrolling through your phone.

"You always say that, but everything is boring to you," they respond; "I'm just going to pick something!"

You ignore their teasing and check your messages. Scrolling down, you see one from a friend you were confident you'd already responded to. Dammit, not again. You check the timestamp, two weeks. Ugh, no, she's going to think you'd totally ignored her. Anxious now, you hastily compose a response complete with an apology, ignoring the movie as it starts to play in the background.


Living with ADHD can be a struggle in relationships. As ADHDers, we bring many positives to our relationships, such as open-mindedness, out-of-the-box creativity, and many original ideas! [1]–[4]. However, trouble with executive functioning and emotional regulation can make it harder to manage what we at the Unconventional Organisation often refer to as 'relationship admin' [5]–[7].


To help support your connections, I've outlined four ways to alleviate our struggles with relationship admin below.


1. Set Up A Specific Time To Respond To Messages

No matter how much you'd like to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, you'll often find yourself not responding to messages. There are several reasons for that, including struggles with working memory (e.g. remembering you have a message to read), transition time struggles, and dopamine regulation. If you're struggling with messaging, set up a regular time of the day to check and respond. Good options include when you're sitting on the couch after dinner or during the afternoon. Set yourself a time limit, turn on a podcast or music, and respond to messages from the past day. You might even feel inspired to write a few yourself.


2. Choose The Time Management System That Suits You Best

Often because we struggle with time management, we can find ourselves using an organisational system someone else has set up. If that person is neurotypical, often their system doesn't take into account struggles with visualisation, transition times, or working memory. So, next time you find yourself using the family planner, check if the set-up is really ADHD-friendly. You can use this article on ADHD planners to help you get started.


3. Know Your Transition Times

Some research has found ADHDers can take more time to move between tasks than their neurotypical peers [8], [9]. If you've ever found yourself longing for just five more minutes between meetings or a chance for a cup of tea before you head out, this might be your transition. To help support you when organising events with friends and family, make sure to take those transitions into account. Examples include leaving time for travel, having a cup of tea between work and your social event, or making sure your family knows that you can't just get up and go with no warning.


4. Remember Your ADHD Strengths

When confronted with the numerous difficulties related to ADHD and relationships, it can be hard to remember why we make such great friends and partners in the first place! As I mentioned at the start, ADHDers are known for their strengths, including open-mindedness, creativity, and original problem-solving. So if you find that a friend or partner is struggling with a tricky problem or needs someone to understand what they're going through, step into those situations knowing that you're uniquely suited to solve and support these parts of your relationship.


Hopefully, this article reminds you of the strengths you bring and provides you with ideas to tackle relationship admin. Struggling with relationships is a common experience for many ADHD adults, so if that's you, don't be afraid to reach out, talk to people and seek the help you need.

Talk to you next week.


Skye.


Feeling overwhelmed and want to develop effective ADHD strategies?

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References

[1] A. Abraham, S. Windmann, R. Siefen, I. Daum, and O. Güntürkün, ‘Creative Thinking in Adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)’, Child Neuropsychol., vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 111–123, May 2006, doi: 10.1080/09297040500320691.

[2] N. Boot, B. Nevicka, and M. Baas, ‘Subclinical symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are associated with specific creative processes’, Personal. Individ. Differ., vol. 114, pp. 73–81, Aug. 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2017.03.050.

[3] J. W. Lee, K. Seo, and G. H. Bahn, ‘The Positive Aspects of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder among Famous People’, Psychiatry Investig., vol. 17, no. 5, pp. 424–431, May 2020, doi: 10.30773/pi.2020.0036.

[4] W. Ten, C.-C. Tseng, Y.-S. Chiang, C.-L. Wu, and H.-C. Chen, ‘Creativity in children with ADHD: Effects of medication and comparisons with normal peers’, Psychiatry Res., vol. 284, p. 112680, Feb. 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.112680.

[5] T. E. McKee, ‘Peer Relationships in Undergraduates With ADHD Symptomatology: Selection and Quality of Friendships’, J. Atten. Disord., vol. 21, no. 12, pp. 1020–1029, Oct. 2017, doi: 10.1177/1087054714554934.

[6] G. A. Overbey, W. E. Snell, and K. E. Callis, ‘Subclinical ADHD, Stress, and Coping in Romantic Relationships of University Students’, J. Atten. Disord., vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 67–78, Jan. 2011, doi: 10.1177/1087054709347257.

[7] C. A. Robbins, ‘ADHD couple and family relationships: Enhancing communication and understanding through Imago Relationship Therapy’, J. Clin. Psychol., vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 565–577, 2005, doi: 10.1002/jclp.20120.

[8] A. Alport, E. A. Styles, and S. Hsieh, ‘17 Shifting Intentional Set: Exploring the Dynamic Control of Tasks’, 1994.

[9] N. J. Cepeda, M. L. Cepeda, and A. F. Kramer, ‘Task switching and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’, J. Abnorm. Child Psychol., vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 213–226, 2000.



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