Research suggests that people with ADHD have more trouble reading emotional cues than those without. Often this means that ADHD partners are slower to respond to “under the surface” emotional cues than adults without ADHD. This leads to two specific types of misinterpretations of ADHD spouse behavior by non-ADHD partners:
- My ADHD partner isn’t responsive to me and doesn’t understand me
- My ADHD partner doesn’t care about my feelings or is self-centered
And then, if the non-ADHD partner makes this interpretation, every additional time that the ADHD partner misses an emotional cue, or is slow to respond as expected, it further reinforces these two ideas. Yet couples can avoid this unnecessary downward spiral with some simple changes in how they interact. Don’t expect your partner to guess your feelingd, and don’t ding him (or her) if he probes what it is you would like. Rather, be happy that he or she cares enough to try to find out and supply the answer.
One man with ADHD, who often can tell something is wrong for his wife, but doesn’t understand the subtleties of his wife’s needs, put it this way in my forum:
I experience it like this. I can tell there is something wrong with my wife. I’m pretty sure I know what’s making her feel bad. I understand her feelings and why she’s feeling bad. But I’m not certain what, exactly, what she wants or what I should do to help her feel better about it…in my mind I see so many possibilities for things I can do for her, and I can’t figure out which ones are the ones she wants.