How To Manage Your Relationship When Someone You Love Has ADD

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

How are you going to respond when you find out that your partner or someone close to you has ADD?

In today’s episode, we’ll focus on this topic and we’ll share with you our personal experience and our insights on how you can gracefully overcome ADD in your relationships.

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Donny Osmond: Hi, I'm Donny Osmond, and welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way, hosted by my friends Daniel and Tana Amen. Now, in this podcast, you're going to learn that the war for your health is won between your ears. That's right. If you're ready to be sharper and have better memory, mood, energy, and focus, well then, stay with us. Here are Daniel and Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: Hi, I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: Today, we're going to talk about one of the most interesting subjects of my life, ADD and intimacy. So, what does having ADD do to relationships?
And I often say I know more about it than I want to. People who've read my book, Healing ADD or ADD and Intimacy know that my beautiful wife has ADD-
Tana Amen: Which I did not believe.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... as do three of my four children. And so I know a lot about this. I've thought about a lot this at Amen Clinics. So, we've seen well over 50,000 patients over the last 25 years. Half of them had ADD.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so, any issue you can imagine, we've dealt with it. But intimacy is actually one of the most important.
And if you just think about it, the hallmark symptoms of ADD, short attention span, so you can see how that's going to affect a relationship in a negative way, distractibility, disorganization, often... I often say Tana never met a cabinet door she actually wanted to close. But since people with ADD are really smart, she taught our dog [Aslan 00:01:40] to close them after her. It's hysterical. Short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, procrastination and impulse control. So, saying or doing things that you might not think all the way through.
Tana Amen: But you don't have to have all of those and/or you may not have them all equally.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. Not everybody does.
Tana Amen: Because there's different types of ADD.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, disorganization, you bet.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's not late.
Tana Amen: I'm never late.
Dr Daniel Amen: A lot of people with ADD tend to be late because they're not organized really well for time.
Tana Amen: Well, and, for example, I don't procrastinate because I have anxiety.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. So, she has one of the subtypes. In my work, I talk about seven types of ADD, and one of them is anxious ADD, but excitement-seeking... She worked as a neurosurgical ICU nurse.
When it is left untreated, it is often that irritation between couples that people don't really understand. It can devastate relationships. People who have ADD get divorced more, there are more affairs, there are more issues with money and there are a fair amount of sexual issues. Because when I lecture I often say, "So, what does it require? What does an orgasm require?" Focus. You have to pay attention to the feeling long enough in order to make it happen. So, there are a lot of sexual issues between couples that if they just get the ADD treated, it'd be helpful.
Tana Amen: In addition to that, you're talking about people with ADD who are excitement-seeking. So, let's be very clear. I'm excitement-seeking in a different way. So, I practice martial arts, I like working in a trauma unit.
But when you're talking about intimacy and relationships, so if people are... Because you talk about... You treat a lot of sex addicts. So, if they're excitement-seeking and this is showing up in their relationships, it's not all about just being able to focus on having an orgasm. Sometimes this excitement-seeking behavior can show up in the bedroom and it doesn't work for the other person.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. In fact, sexuality, really successful sexuality, is a match-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... between two brains. So, unfortunately, what tends to happen is the low-frontal-lobe person who is excitement-seeking tends to gravitate toward the over-focused-
Tana Amen: Who balances them.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... person who's not excitement-seeking at all. They like ritual.
Tana Amen: That gives them... It grounds them.
Dr Daniel Amen: They like it the same way because that's comforting to them, and that can cause some real sexual friction, not in a good way.
Tana Amen: Right. And one thing I think we should point out is this isn't a show about judgment. I mean, this isn't about what's right and what's wrong. It's not a good thing. It's not a bad thing. It's a thing. So, we're just here to help maybe sort out why sometimes there's friction. And it's really about finding that match or understanding, if you're already matched, how to make things better.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and one of the things we learned early on, because we're not a perfect match... I mean, I adore you, is it's really... It's not about, "Oh, she's right or wrong for me. It's about alchemy-"
Tana Amen: And if you want it to work.
Dr Daniel Amen: "... which is can we create, together, what is awesome and amazing."
Tana Amen: Right. And the bigger question is, do you want it to work.
Dr Daniel Amen: And are you willing to work for it? Because there's just no question. Being married... Be one of the hardest things you ever do, but if you do it right, it's one of the most satisfying.
Tana Amen: Absolutely. Well, let's talk about some practical tips really quickly that help with intimacy. So, I have to say, I mean, I'm actually very blessed. I'm very fortunate because I have a partner who is very understanding about this topic. First of all, I didn't even believe I had ADD. I didn't even believe in ADD when I met him.
Dr Daniel Amen: Like it's a religion.
Tana Amen: Right. It's just, for me, it was an excuse for people to not do well in life or fail or whatever. But as I got to know him, I'm like, "Hey, wait a second. That explains my whole life growing up." Right? So I started understand some of the chaos in my family and my life growing up, and it made sense to me.
But one of the things that I really gravitated towards you, just like we alluded to a minute ago, I often refer to Daniel as my rock because he's solid, he's grounding, he's got that very soothing kind of personality. I'm intense. I mean, I'm an intense person just all the way around. That's just my nature. So, I like that about him.
I also have to realize in choosing someone like that, he's going to be different from me. So, you have to come into this with a little bit of maturity, I think, knowing that it's like, "Oh, I want this stability." Does that mean that... Am I going to get him to go hike Machu Picchu or go skydiving with me or... It's not going to happen, okay? So, that would be unreasonable for me to assume because I picked him because of his ability to be grounding and calming and soothing.
So, there are times where I'm like, "Ah, I want to go do something really exciting." But I know that that's not going to be what I do with him. And you need to-
Dr Daniel Amen: So, and I'm the same way. Because she's not organized, it doesn't bother me, is I just help set up systems so that the cabinet doors get closed, the wrappers get thrown away. I'm not harping, because when you harp, there's nothing good that comes from that, is I just understand. We both have strengths, she has many, focus on the strengths and just have work-arounds for the things that are challenging.
Tana Amen: In fact, that's a really good point. And I love this because my martial arts master actually taught me this. Spiders bite and writers write. And when I learned that concept, I'll explain what that means, it was very liberating.
So, we really do appreciate each other's strengths and we try to minimize what bothers us in the weaknesses. Of course we get irritated with each other. I mean it's just not possible for a married couple to not. It's how you handle that irritation, I think, that's more important.
But when I realized... I used to try to feel like I had to try and do everything and do it right because I'm a recovering perfectionist. So, when I figured out that that's not how life works best, so I figured out what my strengths are. I'm really good at writing, I'm really good at teaching. I'm really good at teaching people how to live a healthy lifestyle. I'm not good at closing cabinet doors because I don't really care. So, I can't get done what-
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, you actually don't see them [crosstalk 00:08:25].
Tana Amen: I don't care. There's just too much to do in a day.
Dr Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:08:28]
Tana Amen: So, when I figured that out, it's like, "Oh, okay, set my life up so that I can really get a lot done in the areas on the things that I'm really good at." And at the top of that list is really taking care of my family. So, I want to take care of my family, I want to do all these things. If I'm not good at these other things, let me get help over here.
And that's where I have a partner who's really understanding. When I go to him and say, "Look, I want to focus on writing books, on teaching people in our clinics, on spending quality time with you and my daughter. But I just can't do it all and I'm not good at these things. Can you help me out?"
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. So, it's the communication part. Communication is just absolutely critical. So, don't hold in, otherwise it'll come out and it'll explode. And then look for solutions.
And I always say where you bring your attention determines how you feel. And so, if I brought my attention to all the things that she did that I didn't like, then I'm going to be anxious and irritable and unhappy. But I like the verse from John 8:32, know the truth and the truth will set you free. And the truth is there's so many amazing things about you that the other things we just figure out, work around.
Now, in my practice, where I consult with couples, often they both sort of get into their own corners and they have their huge buckets of smelly fish, hurts from the past, and they take them out and throw them at each other repeatedly. And you have to stop that because that's not going to be helpful.
And the most helpful exercises I do with my patients, "So, let's talk about why you fell in love. So, let's go back."
Tana Amen: I like that.
Dr Daniel Amen: "What were the things about that person that you just adored? You felt like you couldn't live without?" Because if you focus on the good things, you feel good. If you focus on the bad things, you feel bad and you're infectious.
But it's important. So, if we talk about physical intimacy, I think one of the things we do is, "What do you need?"
Tana Amen: Oh, yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because we're really good about talking about it. So, I'm not macho, like, "You should just accept whatever I do."
Tana Amen: But, see, I think there's-
Dr Daniel Amen: There are a lot of guys like that. Their egos are really fragile-
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and they're not good at paying attention. "Tell me what turns you on. Tell me what you like. What's the right atmosphere?" And because many women who have ADD are easily distracted, the atmosphere, the environment, is really important. If you have a child banging on the door, it's probably not going to be a great time.
Tana Amen: Right. I actually really like what you're saying there because I think that this is critical. I think a lot of couples actually get into this place of, "Well, I don't want to say anything because I don't want to hurt the other person's feelings."
And over time you end up really hurting the other person's feelings because you hold resentment. And if you think that resentment doesn't leak, you're wrong. So, you are in love with this person and you've been intimate with this person for a long time. They're reading your cues, and if you're really unhappy and resentful, it leaks. So-
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and then you're more likely to say no more often-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... which is going to really hurt his or her feelings. So, I think you want to be masterful students of each other. This works, this doesn't work.
Tana Amen: And then one of the things that I think is helpful is-
Dr Daniel Amen: And where are they at in their cycle? Because that's really important because things are easier at certain times and harder at other times. It's just... I love this... I came up with it, so I'm always happy about that. Be curious, not furious. Be the student, be the scientist, not just the subject of the situation. So if something doesn't work, it's like, "What happened?"
Tana Amen: Right. So, what I wanted to say about this is be... Instead of maybe approaching the person and saying, "You know, I'd like you to listen to what I have to say," and trying to talk about it like that, I think a good way to approach it is we've actually talked about it in advance.
And I mean, you're very psychologically-minded and very open and I like that, but he just said, "Look, I don't know. I can't read your mind. I don't know what you want. I just need you to be always willing to talk to me and I'm always going to ask you." And vice versa. So, if you go into it ahead of time knowing, "Look, I'm going to set my ego aside, this has nothing to do with me, this has to do with pleasing the other person," tell them that you need them to tell you, tell them that you're going to ask and don't make it about you.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, faking it is actually-
Tana Amen: Stupid.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... short-term deal with the issue, but it's causing a long-term problem because you're not teaching the other person what you need.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm.
Dr Daniel Amen: If this has been helpful to you, write a comment below. We'd really be grateful. Or send us a little video. If you're really struggling with ADD in your relationships, come to one of our clinics. I mean, we probably do that better than anything else. We're so grateful for your attention, of course. We're talking about ADD, so if you stayed with us this long, we're even more grateful.
Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, The Brain Warrior's Way. Why don't you head over to, that's, where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the show.
And when you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen Clinics. I'm Donny Osmond, and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.