Left unchecked, there are a handful of pretty normal bad habits that can turn into relationship killers.
The patterns of communication listed below can start innocently enough. You probably just don’t know any better. And for a while these cycles let out some tension and can be laughed off later. But given enough time, these bad habits can corrode the bond between spouses to the point of disrepair. See if your “harmless” habit made the list, and if so, start working towards a healthier and more respectful union today.

1. Putting Words in Each Other’s Mouth
It starts with silence. There is tension, but one partner – or both – won’t break it. Someone needs to say what he or she is honestly feeling, but instead there’s a stalemate. Both parties feel hurt, and no one is owning up to what they’re thinking, or what they really meant by that. The other person will just twist the words around anyway. So each one makes a guess at what is going on inside the other’s head. It’s human nature.

Putting words in each other’s mouth is danger, as is making any blanket assumption about the other person’s motives or emotions. In an aggravated situation when communication has failed, you will start to fill with doubts, and the worst-case-scenario fills the void created by your partner’s silence. But you’re getting ahead of yourself! Find out the real motivation for all of this tension, and don’t just assume the worst. Don’t build up these false assumptions into an even bigger problem. Hear your partner out, and hold back your negativity until you really look at the situation from both perspectives.

2. Cycle of Nagging
The hen-pecked husband is an old stereotype, but some might call it a truism. In ADHD relationships the nagging-nagged dynamic isn’t restricted to gender lines but rather ADHD/non-ADHD lines, or the roles can flip flop between both ADHD partners depending on who is in a better state of self-control.

ADHD Management tackles the topic in “5 Signs ADHD May Be Hurting Your Marriage.” “You hate to nag or be nagged, but it happens all the time. In an attempt to get an ADHD partner to complete unfinished household chores or change habits, it’s easy for non-ADHD partners to feel they are forced to nag. But unless the spouses have agreed that specific types of reminders are necessary and acceptable, nagging always hurts the relationship.”

As noted, nagging can actually be a helpful tool if it is a mutually agreed upon tactic. Too often, nagging is not planned or consensual. One person becomes the dominant yet guilty task master and the other becomes the incompetent victim/troublemaker. It breeds a constant level of friction that can eventually knock a relationship off course.

To kick the nagging habit, a couple should set aside time alone. Start with a fun shared activity, to get the energy into a more positive place. Then have an honest conversation with each other. Keeping as neutral as possible, say what you do, why you do it, how you want the other person to react, and how the other person actually reacts (in your opinion). You might be surprised by the conclusions you’re jumping to, like in bad habit #1. Collaborate to find a new way to deal with the problem issues, so they assimilate as part of a healthier routine and the sound of nagging becomes a distant memory.

3. The Same Old Fight
People who swear that they love each other can still fight about the silliest things. In my role as a couples counselor they often want me to play referee over these petty arguments, but I limit that as much as possible. Because in essence, it’s always the same fight with a few details changed, isn’t it? More often than not the root issue is that being right has become the most important thing to each spouse. Getting the last word, saying “I told you so,” is more important than being kind, sensitive, thoughtful, or supportive. Marriage is a complicated relationship, with layers of friendship, guardianship and even competition, so it’s only natural that people aren’t “lovey dovey” every second of every day. But chronic bickering makes your partner start to feel like your adversary.
As in habit #1, a good first step is to clear the air and hear each other out. And as in habit #2, put your heads together to find a work-around that puts the central issue to bed for good. This pattern of communication is particularly damaging, so consider enlisting a counselor to work through the deep issues. ADDitude Magazine’s “Bad Vibrations” article recommends other drastic steps to break the cycle of negativity. If household mess is the central issue, “ask him to create a system for putting things away that works for him… agree to a certain time each week when both of you clean up, or designate a place where you can leave his mess… [Or] if you can afford it, hire a housecleaner.”

4. One Spouse Becomes the “Extra Child”
I’ve written about this topic before in other ways, but this particular mindset is a real relationships killer. In general it is more common in marriages between an ADHDer and a non-ADHDer. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, and the routine of holding the ADHD partner accountable with his or her share of the chores starts to slide. The non-ADHD partner thinks, “It will just be faster if I do it myself this time.” Soon enough, one partner is carrying all of the mundane burdens while the ADHD partner seems to be having all the fun. To be fair, the ADHD partner might not be as lazy as the non-ADHD partner seems to think. He or she might just be ashamed by constant criticism and failure to meet expectations, and may be giving up or shutting down.
When that mental shift occurs to thinking of the ADHD partner as an “extra child” instead of a partner and parent, there needs to be a serious redistribution of responsibility. Have an honest conversation, where both parties explain their emotions in very specific words. This isn’t about settling the score, it’s about finding a new system that works for everyone involved.

Can You Spot the Pattern?

What do all of these tips have in common? At their core, each one comes down to a power struggle, not a partnership. And I’m not picking on my fellow ADHDers. These situations can – and do – occur in any marriage in this world. Even the two most mild-mannered people have to recommit to their union emotionally and mentally over and over again. Egos get bruised,
doubts creep in, courtesy goes out the window. But at the end of the day, remember all of the great reasons why you have chosen this person to be your partner for life, and find a way to get back on the same team.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Gignoux, M.Ed., is Boston’s longest-serving ADD/ADHD Coach and Coach Trainer and the founder of Live ADHD Free (formerly ADD Insights). Her approach is focused on the individual, with tailored strategies for long-lasting success. Carol serves her client base of children, teenagers, students, adults, couples, and executives with sincerity and support. Combining her four decades of experience with cutting-edge research, Carol is also available as a business consultant and family counselor, bringing out the best in an ADHD group. Nationally recognized as a public speaker, Carol conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, spreading her message: ADHD is not a handicap, but a different learning style that can become a valuable asset. She also provides her expert advice through her popular blog (http://liveadhdfree.com/blog/) and newsletter (http://addinsights.com/newsletter-archives/). Reach Carol today at 617-524-7670 or carol@liveadhdfree.com.