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When Your Partner Has ADHD (And You Don’t)

0 2 years ago

When my wife, Kaitlyn, and I cook dinner together, I am in charge of mise en place. I wash and dry all the produce, chop the vegetables, unwrap the protein, and gather all the spices and sauces we’ll need. Then Kaitlyn takes over sauteing the veggies and seasoning the meat, cooking everything the way we like, and combining the ingredients into a delicious dish.

Our division of labor is about more than preference: Kaitlyn was diagnosed with ADHD more than a decade ago. The small but time-consuming tasks that lead to cooking a meal — washing, chopping, assorted prep — feel overwhelming to her but manageable to me. So I assemble the components of the meal, and she puts it all together, a system that works great for us.

“I used to think it was because I was lazy, but it’s not,” Kaitlyn told me recently. “I love to cook, and having everything prepped has allowed us to have a better partnership in the kitchen.”

There are other ways Kaitlyn’s ADHD takes shape that I’ve become used to. When one of us asks a harmless question — what kind of tree is that? What do we know this actor from? — she has to figure out the answer right then and there. When she’s working, she relies on background noise to stay on task, or she gets distracted easily. She uses timers and reminders to stay organized. It’s just how her brain works.

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity, particularly in children. But it’s not just kids who are affected; an estimated 4.4% of adults have ADHD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and it manifests differently for everyone.

ADHD symptoms like forgetfulness or inattentiveness can be burdensome in a relationship, especially when it comes to shared responsibilities like chores or keeping appointments. Sometimes, ADHD symptoms can come across as disrespectful, says Sabrina Romanoff, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist with five years of specialized training in couples therapy. “It is very common for partners of people with ADHD to infer symptoms to mean their partner does not care about them, isn’t invested in the relationship, or is purposely trying to hurt them,” she tells Bustle.

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