Does couples coaching work for ADHDers? How?
'Does ADHD coaching work and what difference does it make?' is one of my most popular blogs, so I asked ADHD couples therapist extraordinaire Julia Wallace to write something similar about the impact of couples coaching on her clients. To preserve anonymity these stories are composites from multiple couples and all names have been changed.
Meet Greta and Ben
Greta and Ben have been married for 25 years. Ben is a go-getter. He’s started a number of business, some of which are successful. He knows that he likes the challenge of starting a
business, not of maintaining them and has smartly sold each of them, some for enough profit that they are able to own a home. Greta works at the university. Greta is a writer who likes lots of alone time and a quiet, organised domesticity. Ben loves coming home to the calm modern home Greta created.
Greta used to love the way Ben expanded her life—living internationally and meeting lots of new people. But now that they are settled and have kids, she wanted more stability.
They found that the same old disagreements they’ve always had (spontaneity vs dependability) were making them feel sad and distant. They wanted to get back on the same team. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, check out Joyful connected relationships.
During couples counseling became emotionally closer, partially because Ben began being more present for the family and partially because Greta stopped feeding the idea that Ben would “always” disappoint her and allowed for solutions that Ben could do instead of wanting the solutions she thought he should do.
After a few months of therapy, Ben's behaviour changed. At an event where he would normally have lost track of Greta, he found Greta at the right moment. He knew that their child was going to read a poem about Greta’s recently deceased mother. He went to be with her before the recitations and found that she had kept a seat for him! They were able to hold hands during the poem.
This moment began a much larger turn around, allowing them to solve the problems of chronic lateness, division of labor, and tensions about travel plans.
The skills that changed Ben and Greta's relationship (and perhaps yours)
Understanding Ben’s attention style, which he called Busyness
Understanding that Ben’s behaviour didn’t indicate a lack of love, respect or consideration for Greta
Understanding that Greta wasn’t wanting to nag or be like Ben’s mother
Greta accepting that to have hope wouldn’t make her a fool
Greta putting down her worries about behaviours (cocaine, etc) that Ben had stopped doing years ago
a system of meetings I’ve put together from John Gottman’s work, Recovering Couples Anonymous and others
Talking regularly to know what is important to each other-- For Ben and Greta what worked was going on a daily run together and he would talk one way and she would talk on the way home. (Gottman’s Stress Relieving Conversation). This meant Ben knew how important the poem was for Greta.
Reviewing schedules weekly and keeping a shared calendar. This meant that they had a plan for getting to the event and a plan b so that if Ben was running late Greta wouldn't be resentful.
Scheduling Naked Bed Time- a time when they would be alone in their bed with the sole purpose of being naked and cuddling and if sex happened, cool and if not, cool. But both of them showing up.
Meet Rachel and Neil
Rachel and Neil are trying to get pregnant. Before this point, Neil hadn’t minded Rachel’s independence, the way she would start projects or make purchases without checking with him. She earned her own money and she kept her projects in her room, but now Neil is feeling like Rachel impulsively makes decisions about how to approach their fertility choices without him and he worries about what will happen when Rachel’s room becomes the baby’s room. He wants them to have a way to act together as a team. Rachel wants to be a team—but she’s always made decisions intuitively and in the moment.
They came to therapy and realized Rachel has ADHD. She began stimulant medication and felt: amazed, relieved, but also regretful that it wasn’t until now and scared to give up meds for pregnancy.
Together they made a plan to make their home life easier by moving out of the city and to a less expensive area where they could afford a house with a room just for Rachel’s projects AND professional cleaning.
They started taking notes at their decision making meetings so they could refer back to what was agreed upon and Rachel also agreed to not make purchases after 9 pm.
They have two children now and were able to navigate a scary diagnosis for their oldest child with grace and love.
Meet Carla and Joanne
Carla and Joanne have a son Adam who was recently diagnosed with ADHD and this led to the realization that Carla also has ADHD.
In therapy, Joanne is rethinking all sorts of assumptions she had made about Carla being “inconsiderate” or “not wanting” an organized and clean home. Carla is also relieved—it’s not that she wants to make the house messy and full of piles, it’s that she doesn’t know how to create order.
In therapy and at home, they reviewed ADHD organization books, websites and hired an ADHD organizer to re-design their home. The larger bedroom was turned into a work space and the smaller room was made into their bedroom so that they could more easily fall asleep (less indications of the to-do list, easier to keep clean). Carla took responsibility for more of the childcare but Joanne had to accept that it wouldn’t be the way she wanted it done. For instance Carla made 20 lunch bags at once-- paper bags with boxed and bag items in each one and then only added a fresh apple and a sandwich the night before. Joanne really wishes the sandwich were made in the morning so it would be fresh but has accepted that it makes Joanne the head of the household and Carla less than her equal if she holds onto higher standards all of the time…
Would you like to increase connection, joy, and team work in your relationship just like these people did? Join Julia Wallace in Joyful, connected relationships https://www.grantacoaching.com/couples