May I Have Your Attention

The ADHD-impacted marriage

6 Big Relationship Busters — Are You Doing Them?

Making one of these common relationship mistakes? If so, time to hit "reset!"

If you are struggling in your relationship, you may be making one (or more) of these "big 6" relationship mistakes:

Justifying your own bad behavior:  It does not matter how angry your partner makes you or how frustrated you are…you should treat your partner at least as respectfully as you might treat a stranger.  Too many people let loose and yell and scream at their partners, then feel that this behavior is justified because “I just really needed to get that out!  She made me so mad!”  You may need to let it out, but yelling and screaming are not the way to do it!  Express your frustration and anger in constructive, not destructive, ways.  These might include intense but calmer conversations about what’s bothering you, or working with a couples’ therapist who might help you express yourself better.  No one “deserves” to be the recipient of a spouse’s worst anger and tantrums.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Always retreating:  Though disengaging from the most difficult interactions can be a useful way to protect yourself in the very short-term, retreating from conflict all the time hurts you badly.  You have to engage in a relationship in order to have a relationship even if it means being uncomfortable some of the time.  Who wants to “parallel play” in their most important, committed relationship?

Bossing and nagging:  If you’re always in charge (or conversely, never in charge) in your relationship then the lack of balance of power will diminish your chances of happiness and partnership.  Key indicators that things are out of whack include bossing, nagging and chronic frustration.  In ADHD-impacted relationships in particular, it is very common that one partner “takes charge” because he or she feels the ADHD partner cannot be relied upon – becoming a parent figure in the relationship.  Very unromantic!

Forgetting—or refusing—to listen:  You may not like what your partner is telling you about your role in any marital problems, but your partner has a right to his or her opinion as well as to your attention.  Put another way, if you are in a committed relationship and your partner has a problem, you have a problem - by default.  Listen well.  Discuss your own feelings and reactions.  Act like the partner you wish you had and negotiate your differences in good faith.  Don’t confuse negotiation with giving in.  Good negotiation is when you are respectful and search for meaningful and creative solutions to your joint problems.  One of the top indicators of whether or not a couple will stay together in the long haul is whether or not they work hard to negotiate their differences.

Not taking charge of yourself:  All of us have things we could do to be a better partner.  Some of us have a lot of things we could do better.  But rather than look at ourselves we blame our partner, our job or our bad luck for our relationship trouble.  Blaming your partner and asking them to change gets you nowhere, since you can’t change someone else.  Focus on yourself.  Do you always treat your partner respectfully?  Are you warm and attentive?  Do you carry your share of the family responsibilities?  Is your partner happy?  If you can’t answer yes to all of these question you have work to do!

Giving in to feelings for another:  It’s not a surprise that we continue to be surrounded by interesting people, even after we’ve committed ourselves to our partner.  Best estimates are that 30-50% of all adults cheat on their spouse.  If you’re even beginning to feel a romantic pull towards another person, get help FAST!  Your relationship might survive your infidelity (think President Clinton) but your partner will never trust you in the same way again.  And, at a minimum, you’re in for a really bumpy ride at home once you’ve been discovered (think General Petraeus whose recent description of how his wife was taking the news was “furious doesn’t even begin to describe it.”)  Affairs are a matter of choice, not destiny.


Great relationships are the result of thoughtful cultivation and care.  If you or your partner have fallen into one of the behavioral patterns above it may be time for some self-reflection and an enthusiastic  hitting of your "reset" button.  With work you can always find a constructive way to voice your feelings and issues.  And if you have a partner who is unreceptive to working through your concerns, lead by example.  You'll quite possibly find that your attempts to engage constructively disarms his or her defensive posture...making it possible to finally connect.

Melissa Orlov is the author of The ADHD Effect on Marriage which won the gold medal for best psychology book of 2010 from ForeWord Reviews.

more...

Subscribe to May I Have Your Attention

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?