Happy Valentine’s Day to ADHD Roller Coaster Relationship Riders

Valentine's ADHD Roller Coaster

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.

ADHD Relationships & Valentine's Day
This is an image. See the video below.

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 program, Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle. It’s critical for each partner to get seriously educated in how this complex syndrome called ADHD might be creating challenges for you, not a stereotype. Also invaluable: De-constructing dysfunctional interpretations of your own and each other’s behavior and creating more positive interpretations.

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.

ADHD Relationships & Valentine's DayA 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:

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  • 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:  Breaking 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.

—Gina Pera

This is a revised version of a post that first appeared Feb 13, 2015



6 thoughts on “Happy Valentine’s Day to ADHD Roller Coaster Relationship Riders”

  1. Jo Ann Casso

    How comforting to know someone really gets it!!! Thank you so much Gina ! I do believe without you I would be in the nut house or worse! God Bless You!!!

    1. Dear Jo Ann,

      I get it…boy do I get it. 🙂 So does Dr. Goat, my husband.

      Very happy to know I’ve saved you from being carted away. 🙂


  2. Thank you for these practical “gifts”. Having come home from a Valentine’s dinner, with my husband capping the evening by blowing up (there’s no excuse space on the Apology form for “I was tired”), this is the perfect peace offering.

    1. haha, write in “I was tired!” on the form, Marilyn!!

      Happy Valentine’s!


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