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The Easily Distracted Partner

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Let's talk for a moment about distractibility. More specifically, let's talk about how attention-deficit symptoms impact relationships. This is a very under-studied topic, yet it seems to impact up to 30% of the couples who come to our San Francisco couple's clinic. Could attention-deficit symptoms actually be the root cause of problems in your relationship? Take a look at this simple checklist/quiz I created:

  • Does your partner pay attention perfectly well to new, novel, highly-stimulating, or frightening things, but has a short attention span for less stimulating ideas?

  • Is your partner hypersensitive to the environment? Does he or she need earplugs or a fan to provide 'white noise' in order to sleep? Does he or she not like being touched, or react negatively if touched the wrong way?

  • Does your partner take on a haphazard approach to chores/tasks, increasing the amount of time it takes to get them done?

  • Does your partner have a hard time with follow through, getting 50%-80% of the project finished, and then moving on?

  • Does your partner lack forethought in certain situations? Is he or she "in the moment" a little too much, not thinking about the consequences of one's actions?

These are some of the main symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, and they cause havoc in relationships. They leave one partner to be excessively responsible for tasks and household oversight, often feeling resentful over time.

These symptoms also leave the person who has attention-deficit issues feeling nagged, treated like a child, and defensive.

Most couples experience a dramatic improvement once they both become more skilled dealing with attention-deficit symptoms. Supplements and medication no longer cause addictive dependence as once feared, and there are behavioral changes both can make in order to improve life at home. I've included some great reading below, if you'd like to learn more:

  1. ADD in Intimate Relationships: A Comprehensive Guide for Couples, by Daniel Amen, MD

  2. Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD, by Daniel Amen, MD

  3. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, by Judith Kolberg, PhD

  4. Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, by Edward Hallowell, MD

  5. Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood, by Edward Hallowell, MD

  6. 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD: How to Overcome Chronic Distraction & Accomplish Your Goals, by Stephanie Starkis, PhD

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