ADHD Relationship Tip: A Traveling Partner

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – June 6, 2022

Conflict and struggles can arise when one partner in an ADHD relationship travels frequently. When connection is lost due to being out of sight, out of mind, the challenge is to figure out how to handle this in a manner that suits both partners.

Taking connection a step further, what happens when the partner returns but is still completely immersed in work? He or she may finally be home but makes a beeline for the office to work on emails or process all the information just learned.

In any relationship, it’s important to invest time in each other; however, in instances like this and when ADHD is involved, transitions can be difficult – and a lot of this is about transitions, that is, the transition between two very different environments: working and being home. There are subtle things you can say, conversations you can have, and rituals you can practice to set expectations with your partner so they both get their needs met.

Travel can create an unwanted burden and anxiety in both parties. The key is honesty, understanding, and communication. If this scenario speaks to you, check out this video with relationship expert Melissa Orlov on Attention Talk Video for tips on how to open up communication to relieve that stress:

Jeff Copper: Welcome everybody to this edition of Attention Talk Video. I’m your host, ADHD and Attention Coach, Jeff Copper. And we’re here today with ADHD marriage consultant, Melissa Orlov. Melissa, welcome to the show.

Melissa Orlov: Thank you very much.

Jeff Copper: I love Melissa’s work, she’s got great material. And today, we’re here to talk about ADHD relationships and particularly, when people are married, or have a significant other, and the ADHD partner travels a lot, that can create some issues. You want to talk to us about that a little bit?

Melissa Orlov: Well, probably the biggest one of those issues actually, is when you’re traveling, you’re in the now and not now, and you’re out of sight out of mind for-

Jeff Copper: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: The person who’s not traveling.

Jeff Copper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa Orlov: And so, one of the challenges is figuring out how to handle that. So, some couples handle that by saying, “We don’t have to be in touch at all. You go off, do your thing,” totally that. And other couples try to set up a regular time to talk, say, right before bed or whatever, or they can text each other, or whatever and just stay in contact.

Jeff Copper: Okay. And you also talk about when they come back to town to reconnect. Can you talk to us about that a little bit?

Melissa Orlov: Yeah. So, we actually do this, my husband travels quite a bit. And when he gets out of town, he’s totally immersed in work, completely immersed in work. And if he just comes home, he’s still immersed in work. So, he makes a beeline for the office, he’s doing emails.

Jeff Copper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa Orlov: I’m really not there. And of course, I’m eager to see him, so that-

Jeff Copper: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: Doesn’t work very well for me. So, what we’ve figured out is that when he comes home, the evening he comes home we make a date to go out.

Jeff Copper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa Orlov: We catch up with each other. We get reinvested in each other. And that’s a very good way to transition. And a lot of this is about transitions, between two very different environments. Working 14 hours a day and then, being home.
Jeff Copper: And I think that is a key, because many with ADD really struggle with transitions when they’re doing that. And I think that’s a great ritual. Can you just talk to us a little bit too… I’ve coached a fair number of people, when the ADD person gets back from traveling, the bags come in, and they essentially never get unpacked until it’s going to… Can you just talk to us about that a little bit?

Melissa Orlov: Yes, that happens. Yeah. So, I mean, I have a subtle thing where I’ll say to my husband, “Gee.” The next day, “I’m about to do some laundry. Would you like to give me some?”

Jeff Copper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa Orlov: And of course, then that helps him remember to unpack. But, besides that, personally, I don’t care if he doesn’t unpack, because that’s his business, not mine. I’m not his mother, I don’t care whether his suitcase is sitting there and his clothes are getting wrinkled. So, what?

Jeff Copper: It’s funny, because a few people that I’ve coached, we actually have the unpack zone. So, it goes into a closet, or a room and that space is for them to sprawl their stuff where it stays just to keep it out of the way. Maybe, if the partner has a lot of visual clutters, but literally define a space for that to at least get to, to compartmentalize it a little bit-

Melissa Orlov: Yeah.

Jeff Copper: Just to help him a little bit.

Melissa Orlov: Well, and that would work great. I mean, in my opinion, the closet is completely-

Jeff Copper: Yup, yup.

Melissa Orlov: That anyway-

Jeff Copper: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: Right? You’re just like, “Not my business.”

Jeff Copper: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: Okay. So-

Jeff Copper: I think, really one of the interesting things about, I wanted to do this video, is just talk about these types of things and acknowledge that this happens out there. And I think the real challenge really, is to co-engineer a way that you deal with that stuff, just expectations in front. Is that accurate?

Melissa Orlov: Yeah, I think it is. I mean, the expectation, is one of, “Gee, when you’re with me, you’re going to be with me.”

Jeff Copper: Yup, yup.

Melissa Orlov: “You’re going to be present.” And I think the mindset change that you go through, if you’re gone at a conference for a week, or something like that and you come back, your mind is on the stuff you’ve got to do coming back, your mind is not present for your partner. And so, I think just acknowledging that, that’s the case.

Jeff Copper: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: And then, setting up some little ritual, or understanding. I mean, some people also say, “Okay, there’s going to be a window of transition time, where I’m not going to expect you to be present for me. But then, after that I will.”

Jeff Copper: Yup, yup.

Melissa Orlov: So, some marker or something like that works well.

Jeff Copper: Excellent. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the tips and really, talking about this. And Melissa, thanks so much for coming on video.

Melissa Orlov: We haven’t talked about packing lists yet.

Jeff Copper: Oh, that’s right-

Melissa Orlov: Come on.

Jeff Copper: Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s interesting, I’ve actually coached people where it takes the whole weekend for them pack on a business trip. It’s amazing to me. So, you want to talk to us about that?

Melissa Orlov: Yeah. So, very simple thing that you can do, which is you create a written packing list and it can be sorted by season, if you need to, or by business and pleasure, or whatever, but something that’s pretty comprehensive. And then, when you get ready to go, you just print it, you have one in your drawer, or whatever, but you take the list and you use it to remind yourself to bring your PJs, or whatever the thing is that you normally forget. And that makes the packing a whole lot easier.

Jeff Copper: We have another video where I talk about my experience in Boy Scouts, where my son and I had a list of every piece of camping equipment and we had printed it off and we’d cross off everything, we didn’t know. If you’re going to go backpack in our car camp, it’s different and cross off everything you didn’t know, and then throw it all in a pile and pack it. And it was phenomenal, because it relieves you the burden and anxiety, because it’s on the list.

Melissa Orlov: Right.

Jeff Copper: You don’t actually have to recall it. So, I really like what you’re talking about there.

Melissa Orlov: Yeah, absolutely. I could actually use this. I don’t use it and I should, because I go through, “Oh wait, I got to leave myself a note.”

Jeff Copper: Yup, yup, yup, yup. Any other tips we can think of?

Melissa Orlov: No, that’s good.

Jeff Copper: All right, all right, all right. Again, Melissa, thanks for coming on this video.

Melissa Orlov: Enjoyed it.

Jeff Copper: Take care.

2 thoughts on “ADHD Relationship Tip: A Traveling Partner

  1. Kate Klingensmith says:

    I very rarely have trouble packing. I always have a list in my calendar book and as I pack something I cross it off. I used to be really good at unpacking but this year has been a mess. In January on very little notice and taking just a weeks worth of necessities, I went to stay with my niece (1500 miles away) as her dad had taken a turn for the worse while in hospice for brain cancer. Then he rallied for a while. Long story short I stayed with her for four months. It was very disorienting to not know when I could leave, be in my home, or have my dog. I had to buy stuff that I had at home but needed there. I came home a week and a half ago and the unpacking is going so slow. Where do put stuff that ordinarily I wouldn’t have purchased? I need to figure out what’s the hardest thing to do, and break it down into small tasks I can cross off when done. Paper is a nightmare and I’ve been doing it for me and my brother. I have a good system that I use but there are the stragglers. The visuals are adding to the stress of unpacking. BTW my super powers kicked in when I began helping my brother. I always knew what to do, who to call, and it went as smoothly as it could have. I wish my packing was as surefooted as the caregiving.

    1. I don’t know the details of your situation; however, I’m sensing that having things you don’t typically buy is stressing you. There is a cost to that. What would it be like to just toss the stuff? If it brings you calmness, it might be worth it. Thanks for ypur comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.