- updated: Jul. 06, 2023
So you’re hurt, angry, frustrated and confused in response to your partner’s unwelcome behavior. In the past, you’ve taken his or her behavior personally. But, in an attempt to find a reason for the behavior, you’ve looked online and discussed your dismay with friends. Eventually, what you learn leads you to believe that your partner has undiagnosed ADHD. You mention your observations to your partner who is probably offended by your suggestion that s/he has a stigmatized mental condition.
Or, you determine that your partner’s grandiose, exploitative, and attention seeking behavior, besides lack of empathy, convince you that he’s (too) narcissistic and maybe even has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You’ve also learned that he’s not going to change, and he doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with his behavior. Moreover, he agrees with the following statement, which has diagnostic value: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.).”
Whether your partner is truly narcissistic or ADHD-probable, you have several options for the future.
With an ADHD-probably partner, you may want to remain in, and improve your troubled relationship, since you know that his or her behavior could change in positive ways with proper treatment. You behave as “the best you that you can be” as you try to persuade your partner to explore the possibility of ADHD with a professional assessment and treatment. If you partner agrees, you will probably end up with a better relationship than you’ve ever had.
However, if your ADHD-probable partner remains unwilling to explore the possibility of ADHD, even after you’ve been truly knowledgeable, non-critical, sensitive and assertive in trying to convince him or her to explore the possibility of ADHD, you have several other options. You might consider couple counseling. Hopefully, the professional would be able to discern possible ADHD in your partner as well as help you both with the unhealthy dynamics in your relationship. Perhaps observations from the third party would convince your partner to explore ADHD. At the same time, you would learn how what you, yourself, think, feel and do contribute to your unsatisfactory relationship.
If the results of couple counseling are unremarkable, Discernment Counseling, a short term, five session counseling method to clarify both partners’ intentions might be helpful. That would help you decide whether to leave things as they are, try a different form of couple counseling for 6 months, or dissolve the relationship in its current form.
Deciding to remain in the relationship, in spite of your partner’s unwillingness to consider having ADHD, means you will have to change your expectations of your partner, and depend on your problem-solving skills to create a life – within the relationship – that works for you. Self-sufficiency and pride in your increasing independence are crucial. If you decide to disband the relationship, however, mediation (if your partner will participate) would probably be a less contentious alternative than hiring an attorney.
With a truly narcissistic partner, your options are different. Although you may have good reasons to remain in the relationship, at least for now, don’t expect your narcissistic partner’s behavior to change. But, you can change your expectations of your partner and create a life that works for you. You can strengthen your independence and self-sufficiency and accept the choice you’ve made, hopefully without rancor. Of course, when and if you decide to dissolve your current relationship, your “partner” will not take it lightly. Conflict is predictable; you’ll probably need an attorney.
So, from what you’ve learned about ADHD and narcissism so far, you understand that both have a brain-based, often genetic basis. Fortunately, however, the unwelcome behavior of an ADHD-probable partner can change remarkably with the right treatment. Unfortunately, a narcissistic personality is more resistant.
In the end, blaming or retaliating for your hurt just perpetuates conflict and misery. A problem-solving approach, social support and utilization of other resources as needed are a much healthier and smarter response. Besides, that’ll make you stronger, more resilient and self-confident – not a bad outcome.