In self-help resources on adult ADHD (including this blog), we usually focus on the people who have ADHD, and their struggles and experiences. How, for instance, does ADHD impact their work? Home life? Relationships? What we don’t talk much about are the others in the intimate relationships. The partners, spouses, and significant others who are also impacted by adult ADHD but who don’t happen to have it themselves. When it comes it ADHD in their lives, what are their thoughts? Experiences? Concerns?
These partners don’t actually have ADHD, but they’re still surely impacted by it. Because of the way we conceptualize and address mental and behavioral health concerns in this country though, we don’t often think for long about the other people in these relationships. And yet they play an integral role in the relationships that are so impacted by ADHD.
Understanding and addressing the needs of non-ADHD partners in ADHD-impacted relationships have thus far received little attention. In 2008 journalist Gina Pera drew on her own experiences as the non-ADHD partner in a marital relationship with the publication of her book, Is it You, Me, or Adult ADD? California therapist and author Susan Tschudi published Loving Someone with Attention Deficit Disorder in 2012, which also provides a great deal of information for the non-ADHD partner in the relationship. Ms. Tschudi is similarly the partner of someone with ADHD, and so she draws on both her personal and professional experiences in her book.
Even with these helpful and informative resources though, the non-ADHD partner has been a neglected part of the adult ADHD equation. This may be due to the fact that only recently has adult ADHD been given much attention at all. For much of its history, ADHD was seen as a condition of childhood and adolescence. As we recognized that ADHD persists into adulthood, our focus has naturally been on those who have the disorder, rather than close others who are impacted by it.