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I HAVE ADHD PODCAST - Episode #240

December 5, 2023

A Beginner’s Guide to ADHD, Part 4: Relationship Dynamics

Have you noticed that your relationships look different than other people? Friendships and partnerships are harder for adults with ADHD, largely due to the fact that we’re highly sensitive to rejection.

Research has shown that ADHDers have experienced more rejection than their neurotypical peers. This results in several relational tendencies that can lead to toxic dynamics.

Because they know how awful it feels for people to be upset with them, they constantly say yes to other people, even when their plate is already full. They spend time with people who don’t fill their cups. They exhaust themselves by overcommitting to avoid the feeling of rejection.

Adults with ADHD also tend to dismiss red flags and not hold others accountable for their flaws because they know they’re also hard to live with (they’re often late, they talk too much, they’re impatient, etc.).

These tendencies can result in some truly toxic, boundaryless relationships. But there are things you can do to change the dynamic and put yourself in the driver’s seat of your relationships.

In this episode, I’m giving an overview of relationship dynamics with ADHD. You’ll leave with several immediate steps you can take to create a healthier view of relationships.

And, if you want an in-depth look at how ADHD can impact your relationships, be sure to check out my four-part series (starting at episode 178) on relationships and ADHD or my series on rejection-sensitive dysphoria (beginning at episode 204).

If you’re feeling really inspired after listening today, I encourage you to join my group coaching program, FOCUSED. In 2024, I’ll be teaching brand new content on how to have self-trust even when you have ADHD. You don’t want to miss out!

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Kristen Carder

Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain, unlock your potential and move from point A to point B.

Hey, what’s up, this is Kristen Carter, and you are listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated and caffeinated. I am regulated. And I’m so ready to roll.

Let’s go. Let’s get started. Let’s get moving. Glad you’re here. Glad I’m here. I do have to admit that I’m recording this on the day before Thanksgiving. And my brain is hyper focused on a turkey right now. That’s where my brain is. That’s where my brain is. By the time you listen to this, you’re not going to care at all. Because it’s going to be two weeks past Thanksgiving, you’re like, why does this pertain to me? Let me tell you something, it doesn’t pertain to you.

Okay, it pertains to me. In order for me to actually get myself to do this podcast, I just have to be open and honest and vulnerable. And say my brain is thinking about Turkey. And the fact that I followed the directions to a tee of defrosting a 13 pound turkey. And it’s still not fully defrosted. So now it’s sitting in a pot of water. And apparently, you’re supposed to change the water every 30 minutes to an hour. And so my husband is on water changing duty. I just don’t even know like why. Why would someone with ADHD ever offer to host Thanksgiving? That is the question of the hour. But the truth is, I’m not doing much cooking, I’m just gonna make the turkey and I’m buying mostly all of the other things from farmers markets, and then people are bringing so anyway, my life is good. My life is easy. And it has nothing. This story has nothing to do with this podcast. Other than this is the way that I’m trying to get myself to just comply and do the work of recording like Kristen, it’s okay, we can talk about it a little bit. And then we can move on and do what we need to do because today we’ve got some business to take care of. We are in part four of our Back to Basics series.

And we’re talking about relational dynamics that are common in ADHDers. And I want you to know that this is just a very brief overview. This is a back to basics episode, it’s going to be short and sweet. If you want an in depth look at relationships and ADHD. I recorded a four part series A little while ago. It starts at episode 178. So just scroll back in your feed, find episode 178. It’s a four parter on relationships and ADHD and your you’re gonna get so much wisdom, I think each of those episodes are about an hour long. So it’s a much deeper dive today is just an overview. The reason why I’m recording these back to basics episodes is so that those of you who are new or need a refresher, can just pick up a really short, sweet episode and get kind of like the broad overview on the basics of ADHD. And as we talk about relationships today, I hope it sparks your interest and helps you to kind of be motivated to dig in and do a deeper dive. And if you’re really inspired, I want to invite you to come join my group coaching program called focus because in January, well, first of all, because it’s great, it’s wonderful, we have the best time ever, and people’s lives are changing.

So like that’s, that’s reason number one. But Reason number two is because I am teaching brand new content starting in January. It’s a course called How to have self trust, even when you have ADHD. How do we build self trust, even when we have ADHD when we have so much evidence that we do so many things, quote unquote, wrong, that we’ve made so many mistakes? How in the world can we build the ability to trust ourselves and make good decisions, even when we have ADHD, so we’re going to dedicate an entire month to it highly recommend you come check it out, it’s going to be amazing. And if you are listening to this, you know, months or years afterwards, this course will always be available within the focus program. So I will be recording it. It will be in tier one. It’ll be available to you immediately. So if that sounds delicious to you, come in, it’s there for you whenever you need it. Now, last week or the week before I shared with you that every fall I’ve been getting sick and I have really been working so hard to not get sick this year. And one of the things that I have purposed myself to do in order to not get sick which knock on wood. I have not gotten sick. Do you hear that and like literally li knocking on my desk. One of the things I’ve been doing is drinking ag one daily, as recommended in the morning before I do anything else. And if you’re a longtime listener, you might know that I’ve been taking ag one for a couple years. But I just recently. And what I mean by that is like within the last six months, started doing it very consistently and per the recommendations of the company. And it has made such a big difference, including I have not gotten sick, which is amazing. And when I started drinking ag one daily, it has helped me with my energy with my digestion and with my overall immune health. And that’s because ag one is foundational nutritional supplement that supports your body’s universal needs like gut optimization, stress management, and immune support what ADHD or does not need that, am I right? Since 2010 AG one has led the future of foundational nutrition, continuously refining their formula to create a smarter, better way to elevate your baseline health. Ag one is the supplement that I trust to provide the support my body needs daily. And that’s why I’ve been drinking it for years, and they’ve been supporting this podcast for so long. If you want to take ownership of your health, it starts with a G one.

Try ag one and get a free one year supply of vitamin d3 k two and five, free ag one travel packs with your first purchase. I love those travel packs. They’re amazing, especially for holiday travel, go to drink, ag one.com/i have ADHD, that’s drink ag one.com/i have ADHD, check it out. Today we’re talking about a couple relational dynamics that are very commonly seen with people who have ADHD. Now this podcast is for adults with ADHD and I think you’ll probably be able to pick up on a lot of these patterns in your own life. So I’m really curious if these are things that you’ve noticed. First, people with ADHD are highly sensitive to rejection, like so sensitive to rejection. And this is for a lot of reasons, including the fact that people with ADHD have experienced way more rejection than their neurotypical peers. And this has even been researched and documented that kiddos with ADHD are rejected much more often than their peers. And what is the consequence of that?

What is the Fallout or the outworking of rejection? It is terrible pain, first of all, and secondly, it sets us up to really want to be protective. It sets us up to want to make sure that nobody dislikes us. And nobody rejects us because we have so much pain incurred from all of the rejection that we’ve experienced as kids and teens and young adults. If the topic of rejection sensitivity, or maybe you’ve heard it described as RSD rejection sensitive dysphoria is interesting to you. I have several podcasts on this topic. So I’ve done a deep dive on it multiple episodes, you can look back to Episode 204. And I think I’ve for episodes 204 through 207 are all dedicated to rejection and how it impacts adults with ADHD. One of the way that it impacts us is it turns us into people pleasers, because of so much rejection that we’ve experienced and the pain that that has caused us. adults with ADHD will often become people pleasers. That is we will become people who want to make everyone in our lives happy, who want to keep the peace, who want to just make sure that nobody is upset with us, because we know how awful it feels when other people are upset with us.

And because we didn’t make that it’s not a really pleasant experience for us. Many of us have developed into people pleasers, meaning we say yes. When we really want to say no. We laugh at things that we don’t actually find funny. We pretend to like people that we don’t actually like we agreed to do things that are outside of our capacity that we’re really not able to do but we don’t want to make anyone upset. And so we say yes, in the moment, just to make the person happy. People pleasing is not great. It’s not a very easy way to live. It sets us up for overextending ourselves. It sets us up for living outside of our capacity. It sets us up for a lot of chaos. And if you notice this in your life, I want to bring your attention to it and say many people with ADHD experienced this. Now of course there are people on the other end of the spectrum who have actually gone full oppositional and just do not care about anything. And I kind of envy Are those ADHD years, I envy people who are just able to say no and not care about the Fallout or the outcome of it. And I know you do exist out there. And I just want to say, I commend you. That’s probably also not an extremely healthy way to be. But I think that maybe you sleep better at night than I do. I’m just a suspicion there. Another relational dynamic with people with ADHD is that we often will dismiss red flags. Oftentimes, we’re going to dismiss red flags and other people because we know that we’re hard to live with, we know that we’re often late, or that we talk too much, or that we interrupt or that we are impatient. And so because we’re so aware of our own flaws, it can make it really hard for us to hold other people accountable for their flaws.

Okay. So this means that sometimes we will dismiss red flags, or we won’t even notice red flags will see them as pink, we’ll just be like, that’s cute. That’s not a big deal. They probably didn’t mean it. It’s no biggie. And sometimes that’s appropriate, especially when you have a long history of a healthy relationship with somebody. But when we first meet someone for the first time, we can often dismiss red flags that we see. Because we know that we are also flawed. This sets us up for some really toxic relational dynamics, when we don’t hold other people accountable for their own flaws. Because we’re so hyper aware of our flaws, it can set us up for toxic relational dynamics, which is not great. This is not what we want. We want to be in healthy relationships with healthy people. And if we are dismissing red flags, if we’re ignoring red flags, if we’re being overly forgiving, and not holding other adults accountable for their actions, that can set us up for a lot of toxicity. And toxicity is not fun. Toxicity makes it really hard for us to deal with our ADHD, it really does. Because we are so distracted by drama. And so if the people in our lives are full of drama, if there’s a lot of red flags everywhere, if there’s always relational fires to put out, so to speak, that is such a distracting way to live, we are never able to just be grounded and focused and see a project through to completion, because we’re so distracted by the people around us. Now, of course, forgiveness is beautiful. And I’m not saying don’t forgive if you feel compelled to forgive, but sometimes we forgive to a fault. Sometimes we’re overly forgiving, because we know that we are hard to love. And so it’s important that we are thinking through.

Now I spoke about this recently in a podcast called How to Be proactive instead of reactive. People with ADHD often live boundary lists lives, meaning we’re not so good at boundaries, we don’t really understand boundaries, we don’t even feel empowered to have boundaries as autonomous adults. We’re not really sure what a boundary is. And we feel really guilty when holding boundaries. Of course, I’m painting with a broad brush here. I’m just speaking in general, adults with ADHD struggle with boundaries. This is because we have a very reactive brain, our brain is just drawn to the drama, we also just want to respond right away. So if I get a text, I want to respond if there’s a question I want to respond, if somebody pings me on Slack or on Instagram, I want to respond my brain is wired to respond immediately and slowing down and pausing and thinking through Is this the best thing for me? Do I want to do this? Is this within my own capacity? Do I have the ability to get this done for this person? That stop and think moment is so hard to access? And so so often we are saying yes. When we don’t have the capacity to say yes, we’re agreeing to things that we don’t really have the desire to do. We are double booking appointments. We are letting people come to our house when like we’re working in the middle of the workday, because we just really struggle with boundaries.

This can also be connected to dismissing red flags, because a red flag in another human being is that they cross our boundaries. And so when you have someone in your life, who pushes your boundaries, who doesn’t hear the word know who thinks that like when you set a limit, that you’re just being silly or petty, that can make it so hard because it’s difficult for us to set boundaries in the first place. And then when we have these red flag people in our lives who are just like not listening to us, not able to receive our know, it can be a really tricky dynamic. So in order to quote unquote fix this aspect of our relational dynamics, it’s a two fold process. First, we have to recognize that we need boundaries. And we need to begin to set limits and say no and kind of mark off the edges of our capacity. But then secondly, we need to make sure that we are welcoming people into our life who are safe, that we are spending most of our time and effort with people who are kind, who understand limits, who do not dismiss or demean our boundaries, who are willing and receptive to hear feedback, who are open to hear like, Hey, I didn’t love that, and are willing to say like, oh, sorry, didn’t mean to, won’t do it again, right. And so this is a two fold process, it’s us working on our own ability to recognize our limits and set our limits.

And then it’s also making sure that we’re spending most of our time with people who are as healthy as possible. This is not a fast process, this is quite a slow process, because it kind of requires us to take stock of all our relationships and to kind of do a relational audit. What are the people in my life? Like? Are they kind? Do they make me feel bad for who I am? Do I always feel like I have to apologize or walk on eggshells? Or do I feel like I can be myself? And then also, we have to look at ourselves? What am I bringing to the table? Am I being someone who’s clear about what I can tolerate? And what I can’t tolerate? Am I clear about where my capacity edges are? About what I need to say no about? Am I clear when I am people pleasing? And am I working hard to stop? Am I working hard to just be honest, one of the things that struck me as I was doing the work to improve the relationships that I had, and really, I was doing a lot of work on myself, making sure that I was becoming a healthy person, one of the things that I realized was that I was doing a lot of lying in my relationships, I was not honest. I was often pretending to be okay, when I wasn’t, I was often pretending to want to do something when I didn’t. I was often saying yes, when I really wanted to say no. And I was often just like putting on a happy face when I was feeling like I was kind of dying inside. That is not being honest, that’s not being authentic. And that was my own work that I had to do. Nobody else in my life was responsible for changing that that was on me to change.

And it it is a two fold process. It’s working on myself to change it. And then it’s also making sure that I’m surrounding myself with people who are willing to hear when things are hard, who are willing to hear when I’m upset. It’s a difficult process, especially when we circled back to the idea of rejection sensitivity. I, Kristen Carter, and very, very sensitive to rejection. I think I put on a good front most of the time, but in general, I am squishy on the inside. And I’m very sensitive to rejection, especially with the people in my real life that I see on a regular basis, you know that I have real life relationships with very sensitive to rejection. And so that makes it very difficult for me to be straightforward to say the truth, to be honest, to express when I’m upset, like it’s a really interesting transformation. And for me that took having a coach that was walking alongside of me it took having a therapist that was walking alongside of me it took a lot of support. And I feel like I’m still in process. Yeah, I really do feel like I’m still in process. I’m definitely not there. And I am definitely still triggered by like people on the internet, saying things about me or people in my DMs on Instagram like it, silly things still get my body activated, I am able to calm down so much better, cool myself off and just like really self soothe in those ways. I think it’s a lot harder when it comes to the people in my real life. That’s hard.

That is not easy. So if relationships are something that you struggle with, I just want to validate that this is very common for people with ADHD. It’s very common to be highly sensitive to rejection. It’s very common to become a people pleaser in order to kind of pad yourself and protect yourself from rejection. It’s extremely common, that we dismiss red flags for a multitude of reasons. But one of the main reasons that we dismiss red flags is because we don’t feel that we can hold people responsible for their behavior when we know that our own behavior is less than perfect most of the time. I had a client that used to say I know that my side of the street is not clean. So how can I hold someone was accountable for their side of the street. And I think that’s such a great analogy. It’s such a good picture of what it’s like to be somebody with ADHD because as an adult with ADHD, we know we have major flaws. We know we don’t get it right all the time, we know that we’re messing up, and that we’re an inconvenience to be around sometimes.

And so it’s very hard for us to then turn around to other people and point out something that we need to hold them accountable for, when we know that like, yeah, we’re not perfect either. But I think having that conversation in a really vulnerable way, is the way to go about it. Listen, I know I have flaws. And I am not saying that I need you to be perfect. But this thing that you do really upsets me. And so I’m wondering if you are open to a conversation about that. See how, quote unquote easy that can be? It’s so much easier what I’m giving you the script, rather than me trying to do it, because it is a lot harder. For me. It is a lot harder. It’s a lot. It’s hard. It’s hard. But I think having at least a script of like, I know, I’m not perfect, and I’m willing to talk about that. But right now when I need to talk about is this thing that you have done that has hurt me.

Or when you say this phrase, it’s offensive to me, or when you dismiss or make fun of me for this, it hurts my feelings. Yes, I know. I’m not perfect. We can have a conversation about that. But in this conversation, I need to chat about the way that you’ve heard me. Okay. It’s not that we’re closed off to feedback. It’s just that when I’m bringing up something, that’s not the time for you to bring up the things about me. Okay, that’s a whole different conversation. Again, I highly recommend my podcast on rejection sensitivity that starts at 204. The podcast series on relationships starting at 178. I’m so glad we started numbering again, I don’t know if you notice, but we were not numbering podcast episodes because apparently that was not the cool thing to do. But then I just realized like it’s really hard to reference podcasts and have you scroll through to find them without having number so we’re numbering podcasts again. And listen if you want help with relationships, I coach people every day on this in my group coaching program focused so join focus and especially take advantage of the how to build self trust course, was just starting in January, okay, so you can go to Ihaveadhd.com/focused To learn more, and I’m gonna see you next week. Can’t wait.

A few years ago, I went looking for help. I wanted to find someone to teach me how to feel better about myself and to help me improve my organization productivity time management, emotional regulation. You know, all the things that we adults with ADHD struggle with, I couldn’t find anything. So I researched and I studied and I hired coaches and I figured it out. Then I created focused for you. Focus is my monthly coaching membership where I teach educated professional adults how to accept their ADHD brain and hijack their ability to get stuff done. Hundreds of people from all over the world are already benefiting from this program and I’m confident that you will to go to Ihaveadhd.com/focused for all details

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