Coping With Burnout When Your Spouse Has ADHD

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If your partner has ADHD, there are times when you may feel confused, discouraged, or even frustrated because you don't understand their symptoms. While having a spouse with ADHD doesn't automatically mean you'll burn out, there may be unique challenges that couples face when one partner has ADHD.

This article discusses some of the things that you can do to prevent burnout if your partner has ADHD. It also explores how symptoms of ADHD may create challenges in relationships and some of the ways you can respond to limit stress and improve communication.

How ADHD Symptoms May Contribute to Burnout

While there has been a considerable amount of research on how ADHD affects the lives of people who have a condition, there has been less attention devoted to how the disorder may affect their partners. 

Parents of children with ADHD may be prone to caregiver stress and burnout, but you may also be affected if your spouse has the condition. Like other chronic health conditions, ADHD can have an impact on the entire family. However, it is important to remember that every couple is different, and the condition's impact will vary.

The hallmark symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can impact an individual's ability to fulfill their daily duties in some cases. This can affect their relationship and their partner in a variety of ways.

People with ADHD often struggle with tasks that involve executive functioning. Executive skills are those that allow people to:

  • Pay attention
  • Manage time efficiently
  • Organize information
  • Stay motivated
  • Monitor behavior
  • Regulate emotions

If a partner who has ADHD forgets to complete chores, appears to ignore their responsibilities, or doesn’t follow up on the things that they promised to do, it can create stress for the person who has the condition. It can also be a source of stress for their partner.

When household responsibilities become unbalanced, it can lead to burnout.

It is not uncommon for people to have untreated or undiagnosed ADHD in adulthood. This can be particularly frustrating if you don't understand what is causing your spouse's symptoms.

How You Might Be Affected By Your Spouse’s ADHD

Every marriage is unique and has its own challenges. Your partner having ADHD doesn't mean that your relationship will be negatively affected. However, some couples do face unique situations related to a partner's ADHD symptoms.

Maybe you notice that you take on more than your share of household responsibilities. For example, if your partner struggles to remember to clean the house, you might end up cleaning the house more often. Or, if your partner struggles to focus on finances, you might end up doing the finances yourself. In some cases, you might organize your partner's schedule and end up doing their personal tasks for them.

If you feel too involved in trying to manage your partner's life, you might feel isolated in your relationship, while your partner ends up feeling criticized and rejected. It's a potentially frustrating dynamic that can leave both of you feeling lonely and overwhelmed.

While you might be operating with good intentions, your partner may feel that you don't trust them to take on household responsibilities or to manage their own life. Instead of being equal partners in the relationship, you may end up micro-managing your spouse, taking on too many responsibilities, and treating them more like a child than an adult partner.

Some studies have found that partners without ADHD experienced dissatisfaction with the relationship and their level of intimacy with their partner. Some emotions that a partner may experience that relate to their spouse's ADHD symptoms include:

  • Anger 
  • Frustration
  • Stress
  • Feeling neglected
  • Feeling ignored
  • Tired
  • Overworked
  • Unwanted 

Recap

Trying to micromanage your partner or take over all of the things they may struggle with can lead to frustration and burnout. In addition to leaving you stressed and overworked, such actions may cause your partner to feel shamed, criticized, or guilty.

How to Cope With Burnout

If you're struggling with relationship problems and signs of burnout, you can take steps to find relief. These strategies can help you feel better, and they can also promote better communication and boundaries with your partner.

Avoid Excessive Caretaking

The first step is to evaluate your current dynamic and figure out what’s contributing to stress and burnout. Are you taking on too much responsibility in your relationship? Do you avoid letting your partner manage their responsibilities? 

While it can be challenging, it is important to let your partner take care of things themselves. While you should be supportive, you also need to give your partner the space and freedom to find the strategies that work for them.

There might be frustrations along the way. Your partner might forget to finish a project or miss an appointment. Instead of nagging or berating them, work on praising efforts and consider incorporating adaptive tools that can help, such as visual timers, daily planners, and digital apps. 

Consider Roles and Responsibilities

Dividing up household tasks based on who is best equipped to handle them can be a great way to reduce the stress and frustration both of you experience. By both of you taking on the chores and duties in the areas where you excel, you can work together as a team and ensure that both of you are contributing in ways that are moving you forward.

For example, have a conversation with your spouse in which you discuss what both of your strengths are. Maybe you agree to keep a chore calendar on the wall where you can easily refer to your duties week by week. If your spouse prefers mowing the lawn and you prefer doing the dishes, for example, you can create a schedule that reflects your preferences.

The key is to remember that it isn’t your job to do it all. Taking on too much responsibility doesn’t do you or your partner any favors.

Work On Communication

Communication is an important part of any successful relationship. Respecting your partner's journey with ADHD means understanding that they may have a different way of communicating and processing information.

The first step in improving communication when your partner has ADHD is understanding their condition and how it affects them. Recognize that they may have their own way of doing things and their own way of communicating.

Being able to talk about the challenges you are both facing is essential. Bottling up your frustrations is a recipe for resentment, but you also don't want to constantly vent your anger to your partner. Instead, work on being open and honest with one another. Share your thoughts and needs, and listen to what your spouse says.

Focus on treating your partner how you would also like to be treated. Avoid language that is shaming, blaming, or threatening.

Using "I feel" statements that express how you feel without blaming your partner can help prevent arguments and help engage your partner in finding ways to resolve different issues. 

Create Boundaries

Boundaries are important in any relationship and serve to communicate your expectations, including what you are willing and not willing to tolerate. Think about the things that are important to you, including what's acceptable and what isn't. 

Are there certain behaviors that make you or your partner feel disrespected, hurt, or ignored? Once you are aware of each other's boundaries and recognize how your spouse's ADHD symptoms may conflict with these boundaries, you can come up with strategies to treat each other with as much respect as possible.

For example, if your partner regularly makes impulsive decisions without consulting you, think of what you can do to create and enforce a boundary in this situation. In this case, you might agree to check in with each other before making certain decisions.

If these boundaries are violated, it is important to follow through with the consequences that you've both agreed are appropriate for a given situation.

Care for Yourself

Self-care strategies that can help if you are feeling burned out include:

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can be a great way to cope with feelings of frustration and burnout. 
  • Mindfulness or meditation: These mind-body practices can be helpful for combating stress, building self-awareness, and focusing on the present moment.
  • Sleep: You’re bound to have a short fuse if you are overtired. Focus on getting enough sleep each night to be better prepared each day.
  • Social support: Having loved ones that you can turn to when you are feeling burned out can be restorative. 

Talking to a mental health professional is also an important step if you feel like you are overwhelmed or stressed.

A therapist can help you identify problem areas and come up with solutions you can work on with your partner. They can also help you develop new coping skills and communication strategies that can prevent or alleviate these feelings.

A therapist or support group can also help you learn more about the symptoms of ADHD and how to communicate and set healthy boundaries with your partner.

Manage Your Expectations

Ask yourself if your expectations are realistic for how you want your partner to behave. While their ADHD symptoms may be challenging in some situations, their condition doesn't define them. It's important they feel they are being seen and heard in the relationship.

Instead of holding your partner to a standard they cannot meet, it may be time to find different ways to handle it. Understanding your partner’s needs and capabilities can help you work together to find solutions that will work for both of you.

Recap

There are strategies you can use to help minimize the risk of burnout and strengthen your relationship. This includes avoiding a caretaker role, dividing up responsibilities based on your individual strengths, and creating boundaries. Caring for yourself is also essential. 

A Word From Verywell

If your spouse has ADHD, the symptoms of the condition may create challenges in your relationship. This can also contribute to stress and burnout.

If you're struggling to cope, taking steps to improve your communication can help. Understanding your spouse's condition is also important. Look for ways to help your partner utilize their strengths, but make sure that you are also taking care of yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help either by leaning on your social support system or talk to a mental health professional

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