September 27, 2022

ADHD and Relationships Part 1: Identifying and Meeting Your Own Relational Needs

Most ADHDers struggle with relationships, and I am no exception to this. In the last 3 years, I’ve done a TON of work in therapy and in coaching, and I’ve really changed the way that I view relationships. In this 4-part series, I’ll share everything I’ve learned about healthy relationships with you so that you can change your relationships, too.



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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 episode number 178. I am medicated, I am caffeinated. And I am ready to roll. I am ready, ready ready to roll it is a gorgeous September day here in Pennsylvania. And I hope that wherever you are listening from in the world, that you are experiencing some beautiful weather as well. I am a little bit anxious, like I want to get started right away, I don’t want to do any kind of like cute little intro, I want to get rolling right away with this topic. Because I feel like there’s so much that I have on my heart and on my mind that I want to share with you.

And so many perspective shifts that I’ve had, in the last couple years that I cannot wait to get into your ears, into your brain or whatever. Because a lot of my mind has been changed on how I view relationships and how I approach conversations and, you know, conversations with just my own people in my life, but then also conversations with clients regarding relationships. And so I really am so looking forward to sharing all of the things I’ve changed my mind about. And that is such an interesting thing as the leader of a large community to be someone who puts, you know, thoughts and opinions out into the world and then changes her mind. I don’t know if you can relate to that in any capacity. But it is a little bit uncomfortable to be you know, a leader of a large community and change your mind and go back and say, hey, you know, I said this that one time or that 20 times, but I’ve actually changed my mind about it. But as someone who really tries to get perspectives from a lot of different areas, I really want to be someone who is willing to change their mind.

And so I am here with you today saying this is pretty much brand new content that you’re going to be hearing from me. It’s all centered around relationships, I have been reading a ton of books, of researching, taking classes and courses, and I’m in therapy weekly, and I have been for the last year and a half. Actually, I graduated to going bi weekly, but I don’t feel like I actually deserve to be going bi weekly. And so sometimes I still schedule between our regular appointments, I’m like, actually, I need another session because I don’t feel equipped to be without my therapist for two full weeks. And maybe you experienced the same thing. You know, as adults with ADHD, we really struggle in our relationships we, for sure we don’t show up perfectly. And we often struggle to ask for what we need from the people who love us most. Because we know that we have so many flaws, and we were likely parented in ways that minimize our needs, if we’re being honest. And so it’s then very difficult for us to show up and ask for what we need within relationships. And our relationships can be really explosive and difficult and many ADHD years don’t feel like they are truly secure in their friendships and partnerships. I want you to know that I am like in it with you. I am right there next to you in the trenches figuring out how to show up authentically in my own relationships.

And I do not have it all together. I don’t have it all figured out. In the last two years, as I said, maybe maybe more than two years, I’ve really changed my mind about a lot. So here are the things that I’ve changed my mind about. I used to teach that relationships are nothing but our thoughts about another person changed my mind about that. I used to teach that no one can cause us to feel anything. Now other people can’t cause us to feel anything change my mind about that. I used to teach that the other person has to do nothing. All they have to do is exist and we get to love them unconditionally. I’ve just really gone ahead and change my mind about all of that. So I still believe these things to a certain extent, but I have a deeper understanding of humans and what we need. And so today I plan to add a lot of nuance to the conversation. When it comes to our relationships, so I used to think that relationships are nothing but our thoughts about another person. And sure, we can’t see or touch a relationship, it does exist in our thoughts.

But I want to add that I now understand that a relationship also exists in our bodies, our bodies, remember how it feels to be around certain people. And that’s really important. Our bodies know when we’re with safe people, versus Unsafe people and our bodies don’t lie. And what I am realizing as I am coaching more and more adults with ADHD, through a trauma informed lens now that I didn’t have two years ago, I am realizing that so many of us have been conditioned and groomed and taught to dismiss how our bodies feel. And so we end up in a lot of toxic relationships, because we don’t listen to our bodies. And that’s not our fault. It’s, we were conditioned to ignore our bodies. But what I really am looking forward to, as we get into this series is encouraging you that your body doesn’t know whether or not somebody in your life is a safe person or an unsafe person, or a good person or a bad person. Okay, we’re gonna have more on that. Let’s move on. I used to think that no one can cause us to feel anything. And I do stand by the need for self responsibility and for taking ownership over own emotions when it comes to every part of life, including relationships, okay, okay. But I want to add, like, scientifically, Neuroscience tells us that we are predisposed to sense and imitate, or they call it mirror, the attitudes and actions of the people that we’re in relationship with neurons in our brains fire when the people that we’re speaking to act or make faces or whatever, okay, so when they react, the neurons in our brains fire and our body feels something, okay, the neurons in our brain tend to mirror the behavior of the other person, it’s biological, this is very normal, it can be overridden. But that takes a lot of work.

And I would say that’s a lot of work in therapy. Okay. So this is work that you can do with a coach, but it’s also really beautiful work for a therapist, I used to think that the other person doesn’t have to do anything for the relationship to be good. Like, I can take full responsibility for this relationship being amazing. And while I still do believe that only I need to change in order to improve the relationship, sort of, I want to say that I believe that sometimes my changes, my healthy changes will often cause me to distance myself or even end relationships. Because mutual accountability and relationships is important. And boundaries, and safety and relationships are important. And mutuality in relationships is important. Okay, I had been taught, and I have probably said this on the podcast, or in coaching calls that maybe you’ve heard that, like, it’s my job to just love people unconditionally. And I do still believe that one of the best feelings in the world is love, and we can access it at any time. But I now know deeply that connection is the goal. In most relationships, you see how I said that like, so prominently, like I really wanted to get that across to you connection. That’s what relationships are about. And if connection is disrupted, that’s when problems arise inside relationships. And the goal is to restore connection or let the relationship go.

Okay. So as I sit down to record this episode, I want you to know that it’s coming from my own raw, excruciating, deep work, work that’s transforming the way that I engage with myself and other people that people in my life work that is informing who I spend time with and who I choose to love from afar. It’s coming from my own place of learning and me wanting to make sure that I am leading you, my listener into the healthiest, safest, most connected and fulfilling relationships that you can ever have.

So, a word on safety. I want to just remind you that I’m not a therapist. I’m not a psychologist, the information that I share here with you today and every day on this podcast. It’s been gathered from books, and from professionals and from research and from service providers and my own training and learning and courses and classes and all of the things my own experience my own therapy. But my job here is to relay information and it’s your job to synthesize it and apply it. And just keep in mind that I am a coach, not a therapist, okay, so if anything doesn’t resonate, no problem, just leave it, it may not be for you. Not all of the content here is for you, specifically, right. And that’s okay. As an autonomous adult who has agency in your life, I encourage you to just take the parts that resonate with you and just leave the rest. If you’re listening to this episode, or the ones that follow and you feel like dang, there might be some deep things that I’m dealing with, I really encourage you to find a trauma informed therapist, not just a therapist, a trauma informed therapist because they can help you understand your family of origin that your parents and siblings and caretakers, your traumas and why your body habitually reacts the way it does to certain triggers or certain people. Okay, I am a trained and very experienced life coach, I will help you understand how your thoughts lead you to your results. And I will help you create a pathway to accomplish your goals. And I will help you to have more awareness of your blind spots and remove barriers that hold you back from reaching your potential. I will help you to have more responsibility in your relationships and to create relationships that you love.

And I will help you to navigate now and move into the future. But a therapist is someone who is highly trained specifically on like why you show up in relationships now the way that you do and that might be work that you really want to to take on I highly recommend it. So we’re gonna start this podcast series with a theory. My theory is that most of us with ADHD did not grow up with securely attached and safe relationships. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that something horrific happened to us may simply mean that although our parents provided for us, we weren’t always connected to them. For example, maybe they were present physically, but they were emotionally unavailable. So maybe you had your physical needs met, but you were emotionally neglected perhaps. And if you weren’t believed, accepted, validated, nurtured, prioritize and emotionally cared for consistently by your primary caregivers in your childhood, you likely will struggle to create secure and safe feeling relationships for yourself now. After coaching over 1000 adults with ADHD, I’ve seen this to be true for nearly all of us might not apply to us specifically, but in my experience, it applies to most adults with ADHD. Now ADHD is highly inheritable. So that means that most of us ADHD ears were parented by at least one ADHD parented. So was your childhood chaotic, perhaps?

Was there financial insecurity in your home? Where your parents sometimes explosive or unpredictable in the way that they interacted with you? Yeah, I get that. When connections in our childhood are not safe and secure. There are some issues that we may bring into adulthood. Okay, let me say it again. Because before I read this list, I want you to understand that it’s because of childhood connections. When connections in our childhood are not safe and secure. There are some issues that we may bring into adulthood such as fear of being left behind or abandoned, inability to form healthy relationships, low self esteem and feeling of self worth, anxiety and insecurity, depression, feeling of helplessness, checking out of relationships or friendships, holding on to a relationship, even if it’s unhealthy, maybe some self harming behaviors, maybe fear of conflict within relationship, maybe people pleasing or avoiding relationships. And lastly, an excessive and pronounced need for control. Fascinating. A lot of these applied to me, and if they apply to you, too, I get you. I’m here with you. So we’re going to talk about some of these things today.

But again, I want you to know that when I show up here on this podcast, I am showing up as a coach and an educator, not a therapist. So if you do feel things coming up in your body and you are realizing like wow, there may be some deeper issues here. I encourage you to elicit the help of a therapist, a trauma informed therapist, to help you understand your attachment style, your childhood losses, your past traumas, the disruptions and connection that you experienced and why you show up in your relationships. Now the way that you do. Now, side note here on therapy because I think this is important. I’ve heard a lot of ADHD errs, say that finding a good therapist that specializes in ADHD is really hard. And I my personal opinion, and you are free to disagree with it. But my personal opinion is that your therapist doesn’t actually need to know about ADHD. If your therapist is trauma informed, if they understand attachment styles and family internal family systems, you can do so much healing with them, your therapist doesn’t necessarily need to be an ADHD expert. Look for a therapist who specializes in trauma and triggers and relationships. I’ve got you on the ADHD part or find a coach to help you with the ADHD part. But you don’t always have to have a therapist who’s amazing with ADHD. Okay, this is gonna be deep.

That was kind of the preamble. That was just the preamble. Okay. Now,

here’s where we really get rolling. Not to be annoyingly cliche, I know it is going to be a little bit annoying. But the most important relationship that you have is with yourself. Which is like let’s just all grab hands and do one big fat eye roll together. Because I know that’s really annoying to hear. But it’s true. The most important relationship that you have is with yourself. Your relationship with yourself determines how you experience the world, your relationship with yourself informs all other relationships. Your relationship with yourself determines how you allow other people to treat you. And your relationship with yourself determines how you treat other people. In my opinion, your relationship with yourself is pretty much everything. So I want to pause here and ask you a question. And I really want you to just take a brief minute and answer it. Do you like you? What thoughts and feelings do you have about yourself? Now I’m guessing that most of you listening, really struggle with this? And I get it? That’s okay. But I am curious, like, what is that relationship that you have with yourself? Like? Are you holding yourself to standards that are unrealistic? What are you telling yourself that you need to accomplish before you can like yourself? I like myself when fill in the blank. I’m wondering if you’re withholding love from yourself. Now one of the things that I have done is a lot of research on like, basic relational needs.

Many of us have been trained to look to other people exclusively to meet our needs, without learning how to meet them for ourselves. And I promise you, this never ends well. Yes, there’s mutuality and relationships where we meet each other’s needs willingly and that’s beautiful. But unless you’re also willing to meet your own relational needs for yourself, you will always be operating out of a deficit. And you’ll probably need more from the people in your life. And they’re able to give you and they’re even capable of giving you. So I want you to think about yourself, your relationship with yourself. As I list out these basic relational needs, okay? affection, acceptance, validation, autonomy, security, trust, empathy, prioritization, connection, space. I’m curious, are you showing up for yourself and meeting your own relational needs? Now, one thing I see often is my client’s unwillingness to meet their own needs, coupled with a desire for other people to meet their needs. So it kind of sounds like this. I don’t like me, but I expect that you will like me. I don’t accept me. But I demand that you accept me. I don’t prioritize myself. So you must prioritize me. Or maybe it might sound more like this. I don’t want to do the work of learning how to validate myself. So I’m going to go searching for people who will validate me or I don’t know how to feel connected within myself. So I’m going to pull people into connection with me in order to fulfill that need. I’m wondering, does that feel familiar? Like, perhaps a pattern in your life?

If so, I promise you, it does not work. When we’re looking to other people too. Meet our relational needs without being willing to participate and meet those needs for ourselves. We’re constantly insecure, constantly unsafe, constantly frustrated with other people. And when this happens, we’re also really, really confused. We think other people are the problem. And this leads to a lot of blaming other people for the way that we feel, which is truly just a distraction from the real issue. We have relational needs, that we need to take responsibility to meet for ourselves. How’re you doing? You’re still with me? I hope so. So one of the things that I teach my clients within my focused ADHD coaching program is how to become a relational adults. And I really think that this could change your life forever. So if you’re hanging with me, if you’re hanging with me, I’ll give it all to you. Okay? Becoming a mature relational adult means that you’re able to identify your own needs, meet them for yourself, and surround yourself with people who are willing to meet those needs for you as well. So if we go back to the basic list of relational needs, and you can ask yourself, if you are meeting that need for yourself, such as affection, are you kind to yourself? Do you like you? Do you love you? Does your self talk feel affectionate? Now many of you have habitual self talk that is just plain mean. And I encourage you from today, moving forward, set an internal boundary with yourself right here.

Draw a line in the sand, no more being mean to yourself, the end done, only speak to yourself in the way that you would speak to someone that you adore. When you catch yourself being mean to you. pause, take a breath, switch into affection. Have a do over okay. Remember, affection is one of your basic relational needs. So don’t withhold it from yourself. The next need we’re going to look at is acceptance. Do you accept yourself? Are you able to see your flaws without berating and hating yourself? Why or why not? Are you able to admit your flaws without pretending they’re not true and defending yourself? Now I’m going to say something that might be a little painful to hear. But I think it’s really important. And so I’m going to say it.

It’s really unfair to expect or demand the people in your life to accept you, when you refuse to do it for yourself. Growing into an emotional and relational adult, means being willing to do the hard work of accepting yourself and not delegating that responsibility to anyone else. So are you willing to begin to work on accepting yourself? It’s a basic relational need that you have. So please don’t withhold it from yourself. The next need we’re going to chat about is validation. Validate validation is the recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings are worthwhile. And humans need validation. And I just want to scream this from the rooftops, y’all. Humans need validation. I used to constantly deny myself validation. And then I found a coach who also thought that validation was frivolous. And that fed into the belief that I shouldn’t need validation. Hot dang, I am ready to let this dysfunctional pattern go. Of course, you need validation. You’re a human, human rely on themselves and others and maybe their spiritual practice as well, in order to meet this very basic relational need. Validation sounds like it makes sense that you feel that way. Or that must be really hard for you are completely understand or you’re not crazy or your strengths are incredible. If you are a person, you need validation, your soul craves it. So don’t withhold it from yourself.

Okay? Give it to yourself as a beautiful gift. The next need is autonomy. And this is really interesting. This is one that I am still working on. For myself. Autonomy is the freedom that you have to think and to act independently from others. It’s your ability to self govern. So autonomy can look like maybe making decisions that are right for you, even when someone else that you love disapproves or disagrees or spending your time the way you choose to instead of the way someone else thinks you should. Or having a different political perspective from a friend and being okay with it. Knowing that they are allowed to have their opinion and you are allowed to have yours or eating and drinking what you want to at a meal without worrying about what other People think or expect, or buying something that a loved one thinks you shouldn’t buy, or not buying something that someone else thinks you should buy. Autonomy is loving and respecting the humans in your life and still seeing yourself as separate from them. So I’m curious, if you empower yourself to be an autonomous human?

Do you let yourself show up as separate in your relationships, many of us who grew up in dysfunctional families struggle to be independent from other people. I’m curious, if you identify with that, if you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you may need to learn how to accept the discomfort that comes from making independent choices. For me, this involves a lot of self soothing and self validation. Autonomy is a gift that you can give to yourself and to others. So I’m curious, in what ways do you want to improve your ability to be an autonomous person?

Security is the next one we’re going to chat about. Remember, we’re talking about basic relational needs that every human has. Every human wants to feel secure and safe. And I want you to know, right off the bat, that it’s actually your job to make sure that you are safe. Are you safe, in your own mind? Are you safe within your own body? Security is a basic relational need that you have. And if you haven’t learned how to validate yourself, and encourage yourself and calm down, when you’re activated and set boundaries with yourself and others, then I would really encourage you to do some work in this area. Okay, trust is what we’re going to talk about next. And I want to let you know that Dr. Russell Ramsey is coming back on the podcast in a couple weeks. And we’re going to do a whole episode on self trust. So don’t get too bogged down with this one. But I want to at least say here that self trust is not trusting yourself to know all of the answers. And it’s not believing that you’re always going to do the right thing. Obviously, we can’t just be like, Yes, I always make perfect choices.

That’s not at all what it what it is. self trust is knowing that you’re going to be kind and respectful to yourself, regardless of the outcome of your decisions or actions. Let me say that again, because I think it’s real good. self trust is knowing that you will be kind and respectful to yourself, regardless of the outcome of your actions or decisions. It’s a commitment to being nice to yourself, no matter what, as an adult with ADHD, I know you’ve made so many mistakes. I know it. And I know that you’ve like let yourself down and you’ve got this big evidence bank that you can’t trust yourself. But if you’re going to have a healthy relationship with yourself, there needs to be an element of trust. If this is something you struggle with, remember, I’m doing a podcast on this. If you’re not listening in real time, if you’re listening like a year later, just go ahead and click right over to the podcast with Dr. Ramsey. And we talk all about self trust. Just know that it doesn’t mean that you trust yourself to be perfect, okay? It means you trust yourself to forgive yourself. When you’re not perfect. You trust yourself to not hold it against you and not berate yourself, and you will provide a soft place for yourself to land when you don’t show up perfectly, which is going to happen often. The skill of self trust marries the skill of acceptance and affection and validation and security all together into one beautiful pile of trust.

Next, something that we’ve been talking about in my house among my family members a lot is the skill of empathy. This is a basic need that we all have. And it’s also a skill that we can develop. It’s the ability to recognize, understand and share the thoughts and feelings of another person. And this is a skill that I think is so important, and it’s very similar to validation. So empathy can sound like I can tell that you are so upset and I think it makes a lot of sense what you’re struggling with. This must be so hard for you. I can tell that it’s so hard for you. Or I feel this with you right now I am here with you. Here’s what I know about adults with ADHD we often lack self empathy. When we’re sad, we usually judge ourselves and we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be sad when we mess up. Instead of being nice. We berate ourselves and we actively hate on ourselves. Empathy is so important because it helps us to build connection and in my opinion, connection is like the primary need in goal In a relationship, empathy is one of your basic relational needs. And I wonder if you withhold it from yourself. Because it’s really hard to empathize with someone that you don’t accept. And it’s hard to empathize with someone for which you feel no affection.

So I want to just illustrate like, how developing each of these skills helps to bolster the other skills, like we need all of them. And they all work together to allow us to have a healthy relationship with ourselves. The more that you like yourself, and you’re willing to meet your relational needs, the easier it will be for you to empathize with yourself, and then with others, okay, three more, I’m going to breeze through them because even I’m getting bored here. Okay, so stick with me, because I do believe this is so important. prioritization. We need to prioritize ourselves. And we need others to prioritize us. This is a basic relational need. Just showing up and listening to this podcast, it is demonstrating that you are prioritizing yourself. So that’s beautiful. Well done. And now I want to ask you in what other ways do you want to prioritize yourself? Next connection. As I’ve said, in my opinion, connection is the whole point of relationships. And by definition, relationships are connections. They bind us together, they show our brains that we’re not alone, and they make us feel safe. So I wonder, do you feel connected to yourself. And if you struggle with the other skills and needs that I’ve talked about already, like affection, validation, acceptance, blah, blah, blah, then it’s very likely that you will feel disconnected to yourself. And so I encourage you to figure out how you can build connection with yourself.

One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself questions, and then actually answer them. Just like in relationship, when you’re getting to know somebody, you ask a question, and you wait for the answer. So what if you were to ask yourself, What am I feeling right now? Why am I feeling it? And then actually answer that question, or, What’s the best thing about me? What am I proud of myself for today? And here’s one that I love, what do I need right now. asking and answering these questions for yourself is a beautiful way to build connection. Okay, the last one we’re gonna chit chat about today is space. Space is a basic relational need all relationships needs space to breathe, including relationship you have with yourself. And in my opinion, rest and play. That’s how we give ourselves space to breathe from the relationship that we have with ourselves. Rest allows us to stop hyper focusing, or thought looping on what we want to change or what we don’t like. And instead, it gives our mind space to breathe and play and just be space is a basic relationship need that you have in the relationship with yourself and with others. So I encourage you not to withhold that from yourself, allow yourself to rest allow yourself to play, allow yourself to breathe and just be this can look like time alone, or any form of self care that feels good to you. Playing sports periods of rest, or anything you think that will provide you the space that you need, in order to allow yourself to breathe a little bit.

As relational adults, we must learn to identify and acknowledge our own needs, and then meet them for ourselves. Yes, we’re going to get into like, needs with other people and having them meet our needs. Yes, yes, yes. But first we need to start with Am I willing to identify and begin to figure out how to meet this need for myself. And as we do this, as we start to notice what we need and give ourselves what we need, we’re going to naturally surround ourselves with people who are willing to show up and meet those needs for us as well. And it’s also going to start to weed out the people who were simply not willing to meet our needs. That’s it’s just going to happen. Meeting your own relational needs, it will change your entire life, I promise you, it will shift how you feel it will shift how you experience the world and it will shift what you tolerate from other humans. So as we bring this episode to a close, I want to answer this question. And the question is, excuse me, what if I suck at meeting my basic relational needs? What if I’ve listened to this entire episode? And I’m like, Yeah, none of these. I don’t do anything. I am not meeting any of these needs.

If that’s you, if you’ve been awakened to the fact that you kind of suck at meeting your own relational needs, I just really encourage you not to panic. Don’t panic. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t judge yourself. That’s that I promise you, it’s not going to help, I promise you just notice. Become more aware and ask yourself daily. Hey, what do you need? Like, wouldn’t that be so nice? To be asked that question, hey, is there anything you need? Anything I can help you with? Ask yourself that question and wait for the answer. Okay, do your best to meet your own relational needs. I encourage you to begin to put supports in place for yourself, whether that’s listening to a lot of podcasts on relationships, if you’re able to find a trauma informed therapists to help you build your relationship with yourself. If you’d like to join my ADHD coaching, program focused, I would love to support you in this, but begin to acknowledge and identify like, Yeah, I’m a human. And humans have basic relational needs. And that doesn’t make me a problem. It makes me normal. Okay. And as we move forward with the rest of the episodes on relationships, they should be very helpful to you in how to tweak your thoughts and emotions when it comes to showing up within relationships, whether that’s relationships with other people or the relationship that you have with yourself.

But lastly, I want to encourage you that there is no rush, you’ve had decades of programming up into this point, we’re not going to switch it with one podcast episode, or one coaching call or one workbook or whatever, we’re just not going to be able to do that. And so what I want to encourage you to do is just breathe and allow this to take a little bit of time because the process is completely worth it. And love you I adore you. I can’t wait to talk to you next week. 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/focus for all details

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