Nature, the ADHD Relationship-SaverJuly 1st, 2012 by admin
If your relationship has gotten rocky lately, the key to saving it might actually be getting rocky – climb a mountain, hit the trail, walk the beach, go outdoors!
Relationships in which one or both participants have ADHD can be fraught with misunderstandings, annoyances, and disappointments. Poor impulse control means that the ADHD partner will rush out to do something fun on a whim, and forget to include the other person. Lack of focus leads to zoning out during drawn-out conversations about feelings, or lectures about chores around the house. And when the mounting hurt feelings come to a head in an argument, those with ADHD might have panicky flashbacks to shaming experiences at home or at school and take the criticism very personally. When dicey issues like this are robbing your relationship of all its fun, take it outside.
Power of Nature
A well-publicized study in the UK showed compelling evidence that time spent in nature – even idle time, just walking around in a field or near trees – resulted in a remarkable increase in feelings of well-being. Yet nearly any person can attest to that fact without the help of scientific research. Stepping outside “for a breath of fresh air” or “to clear my head” is an automatic reaction in moments of tension, with emotional, mental and physical benefits that are hard to put into words but impossible to ignore.
Nature’s healing benefits aren’t just for stressed office workers on their lunch break, or chronic writer’s block sufferers – they can be just what the doctor ordered for an ailing relationship. In any relationship, the conflicts of everyday life can put a strain on attraction, love and partnership. In an ADHD relationship, it’s almost a guarantee. Bickering couples lose focus on their special bond, and instead get caught up in making the insignificant into something significant. A small mistake or discourtesy irritates one person, the other takes it personally and snaps back. So begins a chain of overreaction. The negative communication patterns build up and roll on, and the accumulation of hurt and frustration takes a toll.
The relationship can be saved by taking a stand to fight for it. I often encourage my clients to set aside time each week for a date. It is a non-negotiable block of time (no canceling!) and the atmosphere must stay positive (save the bickering over next week’s schedule for tomorrow or have a business meeting about issues that have come up during the week, apply some resolution, and then celebrate). Cell phones go off, kids go to the babysitter, and each person makes an effort to help the other have a good time, start to finish. Even if just for an hour, both people pretend that they’re back at the beginning, enjoying this special person’s company, trying to make a good impression and have fun. After a while, the ease and positivity become contagious, and spread from Date Night into every part of the relationship. When that time is spent in the beauty of nature, a happy outcome happens even faster. Just choose the setting that suits your personalities best.
A shared activity can be especially meaningful if both people are experiencing it for the first time together. If you’re a curious couple, head out and explore. Think like a tourist and do things in your area that visitors always do, but locals never seem to get around to – you’ll see your town from a completely new perspective. Seek out trails, river walks, parks you’ve never spent time in because there’s another closer to home. Hit the road and seek out national parks, nature reserves, and natural wonders like waterfalls or scenic vistas. Take advantage of local festivals and fairs, which are often free, feature interesting local craftsmen, and allow for a full day of sunshine.
You can also tap into an adventurous spirit in your own back yard by trying a new hobby together. Pick something that you’ve both always wanted to try, or maybe try a new activity every week like bird watching, rollerblading, yoga, cycling, watercolors, white water rafting, or rock balancing. If you need more ideas, just ask – a simple Google search on the topic yields over 5,000,000 results. Clearly others have benefited from this relationship-maintenance method! The key to sharing this learning experience together is to support each other. Cheer each other on. Console each other and laugh it off when things go wrong. If one has a knack for something, teach and encourage without being bossy. If one needs help, ask and be open to instruction. At the end of the day, compare notes about what the experience had to offer, and the positives of trying it – even if everything went wrong. Sometimes surviving disaster can be better bonding than anything else!
Adrenaline junkies need little encouragement to rush out the door and take on a new challenge. When both members of the relationship are go-getters, that shared zeal for life and fearlessness was probably a huge part of the initial attraction. It’s no secret that the drudgery of daily life can stifle that passion. It’s hard to justify an impromptu three-day bungee jumping trip when the kids have after school activities and the lawn needs to be watered. Date night (or morning, or afternoon) is the perfect time to work that wildness back into the routine. Sure, it may feel less devil-may-care when it’s scheduled, but enjoying a little recklessness in small, regular doses is more realistic and will always provide something to look forward to during laundry, traffic, and PTA meetings. Even just a weekly bite-sized portion of youthful abandon will reignite the spark for a couple that first bonded over cliff dives or roller coasters.
If only one member of the relationship is a wild child, the real test is not to leave the partner in the dust. Choose the activities together, and be fair and kind to each other about it. There might be more conversations about safety, rules, and ‘what ifs’ than the adventurer would prefer, but this is an exercise in communication and support. The whole point is for both people to have fun, loosen up, and push the comfort zone. Accommodate each others’ needs, and you’ll get a lasting bond in addition to an adrenaline rush.