It’s Valentine’s Day on the ADHD Relationships Roller Coaster. Are you celebrating—or crying? I used to dread the occasion. Now I look forward. How did this happen?
Let’s travel back in time. Back to the “bad old days,” before my husband and I started happily traipsing through the woods singing “I Got You, Babe” (see video at the end of this post).
Back when we were getting ferociously whipped around on the ADHD roller coaster—but had just discovered ADHD. By chance.
Back when we desperately needed better strategies—fast! The year was 1999, and almost no one was talking about Adult ADHD—much less Adult ADHD relationships.
As for Valentine’s Day, we were lucky it wasn’t the Valentine’s Day Massacre.
How did we break the downward trajectory? We both learned about ADHD and my husband started taking medication. (See How Can ADHD Medication Help Relationships?)
But that went only so far to counter entrenched patterns developed not knowing that ADHD was in the picture. There was literally nothing for us in books or online. So, I got to work.
This is a major theme of my online training—each partner examining dysfunctional interpretations of each other’s behavior and creating more positive interpretations. (Estimated delivery: early summer, 2020.)
Avoiding the Dreaded Downspiral of Despair
One particularly pernicious pattern I call the “Dreaded Downspiral of Despair”. It’s that feeling of futility each time the roller coaster dropped again.
In the early days of ADHD diagnosis and treatment especially, progress sometimes means two steps forward and one step (or even three steps!) backward. It’s tough to keep believing that the situation will ever improve and stabilize.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I offer one tool I wish we’d had then. It alone won’t take you to the finish line. But it does emphasize the importance of “environmental supports.” That is, tangible tools to make the abstract concrete.
A Jar Of Positive Memories
When caught up in the heat of an argument or disappointment, it’s easy to forget all that’s good in the relationship—and the other person. Yes, this is true for humans in general. But it seems especially true in ADHD-challenged relationships, especially before the diagnosis.
Reacting “in the moment” means forgetting the Big Picture. If a trove of positive remembrances sits prominently displayed, it just might help break your freefall.
Even single adults with ADHD often find themselves losing sight of the Big Picture. That old adage about two kinds of time for folks with ADHD, Now and Not Now? It can leave you stuck in Now, with no conception that things might look different in Not Now.
Consider It Safety Rails on the ADHD Roller Coaster
What goes in the jar? Whatever you like. For example:
- Jot a note to thank your partner for a kind word or deed—or record a compliment.
- Note successes large or small (“Remember: We actually worked together and finished that bathroom remodel! Miracles can happen!”)
- Simply express an appreciation or brief memory of a lovely time together.
There the notes remain—colorfully visible—just waiting to be retrieved in case of emergency.
For another of Gina’s first-person essays on ADHD and relationships: IBreaking Out of ADHD Relationship Dysfunction — After Not Breaking a Fall
Wishing You a Happy Day
I wish you much love and happiness, especially this weekend but always. And, I welcome below your “Adult ADHD Relationship Valentine’s Day” stories, whether horrific, hilarious, or heart-warming.
Closing now with a little musical number from my husband (aka “Dr. Goat”) and me.
This is a revised version of a post that first appeared Feb 13, 2015