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Find Friends and Flourish with ADHD with Melissa Orlov

Is it common to struggle to develop friendships with ADHD? Let's just say, if you're struggling yourself, you're in good company. Struggles to manage time for friendships, develop close, meaningful ties, are made all the more difficult thanks to the bouquet of ADHD factors. Relationship expert Melissa Orlov returns to help us all to find friends and flourish!

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Is it common to struggle to develop friendships with ADHD? Let’s just say, if you’re struggling yourself, you’re in good company. Struggles to manage time for friendships, develop close, meaningful ties, are made all the more difficult thanks to the bouquet of ADHD factors.

This week on the show we’re thrilled to welcome back the fantastic Melissa Orlov. She’s a leading expert in how ADHD affects relationships. On top of that, she’s an award-winning author of books including The ADHD Effect on Marriage, and The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD. She’s founder of ADHD & Marriage where she writes regularly alongside a cast of incredible contributors and hosts a large community of adults learning about ADHD in their relationships.

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Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody, and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
Oh, hi Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hi.

Pete Wright:
It’s a fine week. We had a week off last week.

Nikki Kinzer:
We did, Memorial Day.

Pete Wright:
Impromptu Memorial Day holiday week off. I know you were vacationing. I hope everything was fun and relaxing and rejuvenating.

Nikki Kinzer:
It was a vacation, and I prepped for my son’s graduation, so it was a working vacation.

Pete Wright:
Oh, so not really.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, but my son graduated. He’s on to, I hope the university, if plans go the way that they’re supposed to, but we’ll see. But he’s done with high school. That we know for sure.

Pete Wright:
That’s fantastic. Graduations, mom.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
We are going to be talking about ADHD and friendships today, and we’re very excited to have our guest back after much too long to help us muddle our way through this conversation. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com. Get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @takecontroladhd. If this show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better with your ADHD, head over to patreon.com/theadhdpodcast.
Your dollars each month help us to continue to grow this show and do new things. We just released the ADHD Resource Library. If you’re searching for past resources that have been mentioned and discussed on the show, you can find them there, but the thing that I’m most terrified about is we’re going to start a new members-only podcast just for Patreons, and it’s going to be all Pete all the time. Okay, and also community voices. I’m really excited about this. We’re going to talk about tech and all kinds of systems and workflows and shortcuts and all kinds of fun things that might help you be a little bit more speedy with your ADHD. So, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast.
Consider joining up. If you’re thinking about it, thank you in advance. If you’ve already done it, we love you so much. We are talking about friendship and ADHD. It has been since 2017 that our guest was last on the show. I can’t believe it, Melissa Orlov is back. Welcome back, Melissa. We’re not talking about your love life anymore. We’re talking about your friends. Are you ready for this?

Melissa Orlov:
I am ready for it. Absolutely. And I’m delighted to be back by the way. I agree with you, it’s been way too long.

Pete Wright:
Way too long.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m going to start with the first question that got popped up in our discord channel, because it really starts the conversation, and what it was is somebody had asked, is it normal for ADHD people to struggle making lasting long-term friendships?

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah, absolutely. Actually for a lot of people, if you think about [inaudible 00:03:15], long-term relationships versus sort of superficial ones. It is, and some of that has to do with the symptoms of distractability and this now, not now, time zone thing, the joke that Ned Hallowell likes to say is, two times zones with ADHD now and not now. When you aren’t … I know it’s great, right? So, when you’re not with somebody, that person is in the not now and you tend not to be thinking about them. Then just the sort of regular follow-up that you might do with a friend, where you might go, oh, I haven’t seen so-and-so for a long time and I think I’ll give them a call.
ADHD symptoms might get in the way of that, either remembering to do that, because again, they’re in the not now or following up on it, even if you think about it, you might get distracted and go off and do something else. And then the thing, again, the thought goes into the not now. So, it can be a challenge to keep those relationships going. I think it’s easier if you have a really big common interest, perhaps. Yeah, go ahead. Sorry, Pete.

Pete Wright:
No, not a problem. I think for me it’s like what happens when you grow beyond the developmental stage when object permanence is a question. It’s what it looks like when, if I close my eyes, you no longer exist, right?

Melissa Orlov:
That’s not now.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, it’s not now, and that’s kind of what it looks like. Please don’t play peek-a-boo with me. As an adult, I still struggle. Not only that, not only is it the now not now, but when it becomes now, again, I went to my 30th high school reunion recently, and for about a week straight, all I could think about was my relationships with a couple of these people that I ran into. It’s so easy to hyper-focus on that commonality. So, the swings can make friendships really hard to maintain consistently.

Melissa Orlov:
Well, and it’s interesting that you say that because I was thinking about this and thinking one of the benefits is that you can go back to people you haven’t seen for a long time, and assuming that they are also willing to do this, you can jump right back in and really, really get some intense time in with them, like you may have at the reunion. Friendships are about two people. If the other person is all up for that, you’re in good shape. If they’re not, not so much.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m curious, when you have friendships, how important is it to share with them about your ADHD so that they understand that, you know, I may not get back to your text right away, or is it important to mention?

Melissa Orlov:
It’s an interesting question. I mean, I think that your friends, if they know anything about ADHD, may suspect you have it in the first place.

Nikki Kinzer:
Have it already, right.

Melissa Orlov:
But you have to be careful. There’s a very fine line between using ADHD as, I am going to get back to you, but it might not be within the next 30 minutes. Of course, it might be because the text comes in and it’s in the now at that moment and you might respond right away. But it can also sound like an excuse. I’m not going to be a very good friend to you because I have ADHD, is not something you want to be communicating. I think that it is on the person who has the ADHD to figure out what that relationship needs.
Some relationships, I was thinking about one of my husband’s best friend relationships is with somebody he’s been friends with for 50 years, and they’ve been riding bikes together. That’s how they met., and they both are big enthusiasts or riding bikes. They’ve been riding bikes together for 50 years. There was a long period of time when they lived in different parts of the country or whatever, they didn’t keep up with each other very often. Now we’ve moved closer back together and they’re with each other all the time.
These relationships can actually be very long in duration. On the other hand, you have the, oh my gosh, what do I … I missed that text or I haven’t talked to that person for a month. Can I still talk to them? That’s a question. But I think you have to be really … It’s not that you should hide the ADHD. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying, don’t take the next step, which is, because I have ADHD, I might not respond to you as a friend should.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Melissa Orlov:
Take that on as something that you should be thinking about how to manage.

Pete Wright:
Well, I think about my longest relationships. They exist not as with ADHD as an excuse, but with ADHD as a thing that sets context for expectations, that when there is an issue, there is generally an understanding because of our just affinity for each other, that they get it. It’s not that it’s an excuse and I have a past, it’s an excuse and they understand that’s about Pete, and that we’ve had that conversation before. So, we understand each other.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, there was a friendship, I remember meeting somebody at a sports event where both of our daughters were playing, and I could tell that the relationship was going to turn into a friendship. She doesn’t have ADHD, but one of the things she said to me when we first started to make like lunch dates and breakfast dates and things like that, she said, I want you to know I’m really busy with both of my kids’ schedules and with working.
I am not going to always be able to do things when it may be convenient for you, or I may not always be able to get back to you right away, but I like you, I want us to continue this friendship, but she really did set the boundaries of, I kind of knew that she wasn’t going to be somebody I would talk to every day, but that we would see each other once a month or whatever for that breakfast and be able to catch up. So, it was nice to just be able to know going into it that I didn’t have to take anything personally, like it wasn’t her or me.

Melissa Orlov:
That’s the perfect way actually, particularly if you’re starting a friendship or even if you’re in the middle of one and the person is saying, gee, why don’t I see more of you? And one of the answers to that is now and not now. You have to be careful. If it’s that, you also just are bad at following up, you may want to think about what strategies could you use, or do you want to say to the person, hey, I’m not very good at reaching out, but I really would like to hear from you, please feel free to reach out. Don’t take it personally, feel free to reach out to me at any time because once somebody suggests an idea, I’m usually all ready and raring to go.
That’s another option. People get stuck in this idea of like, have I done this well enough? Is it okay if I actually contact this person or not? It’s been a while, whatever. I think if you reach out to somebody and say, hey, it’s been a while, but I’d love to get together with you and go to the park or whatever it is, what do you think? If they don’t have time for you or whatever, you’ll know. Otherwise, you shouldn’t toss out a relationship or feel like, oh, I haven’t paid enough attention to it. Just ask, and then if the person’s like, no, I don’t have time, then you haven’t lost anything.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s True. That’s a really good point, right? Because if that’s the case, then it’s not a friendship to pursue.

Pete Wright:
Well, again, yeah. I mean, if you’re setting context with somebody with the aspiration of becoming friends with them, which means there’s some give and take, and you’ll know very quickly if they’re willing to give.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Wright:
Let’s talk just a little bit about the value of friendships, because one of the things I hear so often, and I hear from two camps. One is the ADHD camp, which is, I have ADHD. It’s impossible for me to make consistent friendships. I’m constantly letting new people down in my life. I’m not able to live up to even the earliest expectations of deadlines and meaning for lunch. I’m always late. I can’t it so I don’t try. The other camp is hashtag adulting, right? Which is, I’m too busy. I don’t know where to meet new people. Everybody I come across … They’re not going to be friends. I don’t have time to meet friends. When do I go? I just don’t have time to bring new people in my life. What are we missing when we get to that place and we decide, ugh, I can’t do friends right now?

Melissa Orlov:
Well, I mean, connection is vital to one’s mental health. If you are isolating yourself, either by saying, you’re not going to be successful at making new friends, or you’re too busy to make new friends, you are missing out on one of the greatest parts of life. I mean, it is so important to our mental health and our physical well-being, that Ned Hallowell, one of my favorite ADHD professionals calls it, the other vitamin C, the connect vitamin C. It’s just really important to our health.
Unfortunately, if you have that opinion of like, I’m just not going to be good at this, therefore I shouldn’t do it, friendships isn’t going to be the only place you’re going to have that opinion. You’re also going to say, I’m not going to be good at this job, therefore I’m not going to apply for it. I’m not going to be good at this long-term relationship, therefore I’m not going to work at it. And you’re going to end up feeling as if you just can’t function. It’s just not true. Most adults with ADHD can learn how to function really well, or at least well enough to really enjoy their lives.
That’s really just going down a rabbit hole that you don’t need to go down, even if it feels impossible right now, there are a lots of strategies for getting help. The other folks who are way too busy, that’s easy to see. All this stuff is coming at you. You want to do it all. Making priorities isn’t a great characteristic for some people with ADHD. I have trouble focusing in on one thing to the exclusion of others. And yet, our lives are so much richer when we have input from others, you have joint excitement to do things together. You have a buddy to go out and try the next fearless thing you want to try, whatever it is. And you miss out on all of that.
Can you survive? Yeah. Can you be as happy as you possibly can be? Probably not without some good friends. You don’t have to have a lot, but a few is fine.

Pete Wright:
We’re not talking about starting a baseball team.

Melissa Orlov:
No, I think, Pete, if you have one or two really close friends, or five, you’re in really good shape.

Nikki Kinzer:
For sure. Going on to that ADHD memory, because you were talking about finding the strategy that you need to keep in touch. I’m thinking of like birthdays and special events. I have a lot of clients who fear that they’re going to miss those things or they do miss those things, or they’re late to getting the card in the mail. What are your thoughts on the memory connection with ADHD friendships? What are some things that people can possibly do?

Melissa Orlov:
Well, I’m a big believer in electronic reminders. Just because they’re easy, you put it in once and it goes on forever. You just do annually on X date and then it’s done. I mean, actually, what I do because I’m terrible at remembering birthdays. I don’t have ADHD. It’s not just about ADHD. I put the birthday in annually forever, and then I put with the birth date, so I know which birthday it is, it doesn’t change from year to year. Then I put, one week ahead of time send a card or whatever it is, also forever. Then a week before that, get the card.
I don’t do 150 birthdays, otherwise my calendar would be full of this stuff. I’ve got a couple of different reminders that come through. They’re even in a different color, so it really stands out. I think that’s probably the best way. Whatever the reminder system is that you use, get one that you don’t have to interact with repeatedly. You don’t have to go in every year and go, oh yeah, it’s birthday. It’s just going to automatically come up.

Nikki Kinzer:
That reminds me, Pete, of a gal that we interviewed earlier in the year. She used, was it to-do list? Yes, it was to-do list, I believe. And that was exactly the system that she had very similar. She would have, get the birthday card, sign the birthday card, address the birthday card, send the birthday card. So, it was broken up in so many pieces, and it wasn’t all at once. So, it was like a week here. This is my task for this week. I’ll tell you, she feels great about the connections that she’s had in the last year and a half since she’s been doing this, because it does put it on your radar and you just feel good about it. You feel good that you’re able to reach out and do it on time of what they expect. Yeah.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah, and your friends appreciate it as well. I did another thing, a similar kind of thing, which I didn’t do last year, but I used to send out an annual letter to everybody just to catch up with everybody. It was interesting. I mean, that’s kind of a pain because it’s a lot of people, and I used to mail them. Now I send some of them by email when I do it. But a lot of people said, I really looked forward to hearing from you. Now, those aren’t your deepest relationships, right? I think the friendships, the deep friendships are really the ones that are worth focusing in on, though there’s also the issues around dating and meeting new friends.
One of the issues there has to do with the pressure in the dating apps to respond in certain ways, in a certain timeframe, all of that, which is hard.

Pete Wright:
The algorithm has demands.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah, it does. That can be a real challenge. I’ve known some folks who just say, I don’t want to do the dating apps because it makes me too anxious. They have to do it within [crosstalk 00:18:29].

Pete Wright:
I want to talk more about that, but I need to give a hot tip. Please, even if you are not … If you are a person who lives inside of Facebook, one of the gifts of Facebook for the long time was people put their birthdays in it, and that is what we relied on for birthday notifications. Go into Facebook and take a half hour, make a test. Take a half hour to find your closest friends if you don’t know their birth dates, and put their birth dates in your own personal system so that you’re reminded outside of Facebook, because our relationship with Facebook ebbs and flows, and we don’t want to miss birth dates for important relationships because you don’t like Facebook right now. I am saying that, I’m saying you, but really I’m talking about me.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re talking about, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Absolutely projecting here. I own that. I just want to make sure that, and that was a huge thing for me. I found I was writing personal notes, emails, texts to people outside of Facebook, and that was a thing that was even more appreciated by those people, because it wasn’t just piled in with the …

Nikki Kinzer:
With everybody else.

Pete Wright:
The massive notifications that they get and feel like they, oh, thumbs up, thumbs up, thumbs up, scroll, thumbs up, thumbs up, thumbs up, thumbs up. Right?

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. Those are very superficial [crosstalk 00:19:48] on Facebook, any of that stuff is very superficial.

Nikki Kinzer:
I have a question about the dating and what also Pete was mentioning about not having time, because I just got done with an appointment with a gal who just signed up for one of those dating apps, but what she’s nervous about is that she’s not going to have the time in her schedule to even go on a date. So, there’s this like balance of, how do you strike this balance of, and it’s not specifically just going dating, but with friendships too. I mean, how do you wrap your head around making time for it?

Melissa Orlov:
The reality with dating is, if you can’t make time for dating, you’re also not going to be able to make time for a relationship. Maybe it’s not the right time for you to be thinking about getting into a relationship, but you can do it in different ways. With friendships also, you can, for example, set aside your weekends and say, okay, I’m going to do one thing every weekend with a friend whom I like, whatever that is or whatever the number is that you would choose. Then you reach out and you try to figure out which friends want to do what, are you going to go to a baseball game with somebody and go for a beer afterwards?
Or are you going to go for a walk in the park? Do you want to go to the farmer’s market together? Do you want to go to visit a museum? Whatever it is, but just something that’s fun and different and gets you away from your house as best as you can these days. Those activities are particularly appealing, both for your friends, because it’s not just, hey, let’s just hang out, but also for the person with the ADHD, because it’s active. And the more active, typically the better for many people who have ADHD.
I think you have to sort of be willing to set aside, if not any evenings or whatever, then at least a day on the weekends, and do it, if you can, in chunks. One of the things I talk about with couples when they’re starting to get back into dating, which is the same thing, making time for it, so sort of have some dates, is set aside a block of time. You don’t have to know what you’re going to do ahead of that time. With your partner, that’s easy, because you can both say, okay, Saturday afternoon, we’re going to do something together. And then you can figure out what it is later.
With your friends, it’s a little harder, because your lives aren’t as intertwined, but you can still say to yourself, I’m going to do one thing every weekend with some friends. If you do that, you will end up with some good friends.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, and you’re happier. I mean, I think it goes back to what you were saying too. It’s like, if you’re … It’s so good for your spirit and your soul after you have that connection. A couple of weeks ago, we got together with a family that are friends with our family and we just randomly went to the park and had a picnic. I can’t remember the last time I had a picnic, but it was so fun just to be connected and be outside, and kind of spur of the moment, which is good for ADHD, for sure. Yeah.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. We did something like that yesterday. Now, this was with my husband, but you could also do this with friends. In fact, we have done this with friends, where you just go, you know what? Let’s do something this afternoon. How about if we go to the local craft brewery that has a Sunday afternoon act on stage or go for a drive down by Lake Erie, or whatever the thing is. And just go, see what happens.

Pete Wright:
Spontaneity is good for relationships.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s good. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
I think we forget that.

Melissa Orlov:
It is.

Pete Wright:
This goes into those stories that we tell ourselves, that I will often find myself in that language of, I have three hours right now. I could call my friend who lives down the street and I can say, hey, do you want to go to a movie? But he’s busy. He would never have time to be able to do that, right? I tell myself that before I pick up the phone, before I send a message.

Melissa Orlov:
Right. Let him tell you he’s busy.

Pete Wright:
How easy is that, that negative self-talk? That’s where that rears its head.

Nikki Kinzer:
It does, and I got to tell you, that was definitely one of the things I want to touch upon here, is the shame attached to friendships because they feel … Well, we know a lot of ADHDers, they blame themselves because they don’t see it as a two way relationship. So, they feel like they’re the ones that let the person down or haven’t been great at keeping in touch, and so there’s this shame of, well, I guess I’ve just lost that friend, or I can’t reach out because I’m embarrassed, or it’s been too much time or they’ve texted me a couple of times now and I haven’t responded.
I do think it’s the, how you’re talking to yourself about this. Not really knowing what the response is going to be. Melissa, I’m just curious, what do you think about that with the shame that’s attached?

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. I mean, the shame is pervasive, not just about friendships, but about a lot of other things, the sense of failure or the sense that adults with ADHD have, that somehow they’re letting other people down, but just like with primary relationships, you don’t get to define whether you’re letting somebody else down. The other person does. For you to assume you know how they’re feeling is one step too far. I mean, that is all about your shame, but I’d like people who have those feelings to be willing to at least ask, say, hey, would you like to go for that walk?
I have half an hour. Would you like to spontaneously go for a walk? If the person is working at some corporate job somewhere and you know they’re busy all day, they’re probably won’t even respond to you because they’re not available. I mean, do have to choose somebody who might be available to go for a walk at the time that you’re available. I guess there’s a fear of rejection, that it feels … If somebody says, gee, I can’t go for a walk right now. You feel like it’s a personal thing. Where actually, it might just be, oh, I’d love to go for a walk. I just, I’m not free right at the moment.
That’s a different thing. In which case, you have told them that you’re thinking about them by offering the invite.

Pete Wright:
Right. That has already come up as a comment in the chat room about rejection. I don’t reach out to people because I live with RSD. I don’t like that feeling very much, so I don’t embrace these new opportunities.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. I think one of the options that you have in that case is this idea of scheduling something that then has spontaneity inside of it. I’ll give you an example. I have just recently scheduled a Wednesday morning, before everybody gets going, 7:00 AM walk with a bunch of people, some of whom I don’t know very well. It’s very open. You either come or you don’t. We just meet at a certain place at 7:00 AM and people will walk, right? I used to be part of a hiking group, same thing, Friday mornings, whatever. That regularity means that you’re not going to get rejected. Once that gets established, and it takes a little while for everybody to get it onto their calendars.
If the first day only one other person shows up, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure, it just means people haven’t adjusted yet. But once you do that, then you have a regular way to get together. You just leave it on your calendar. You make yourself schedule it so you show up a little early so they don’t leave without you because they will leave at some point. But then, you have that opportunity to solidify those relationships without putting yourself out every single week to these people that you think you might care about. That’s one option. It’s not the only one, but it helps with resolving rejection fear.

Pete Wright:
I think for me, that spins into the other bit of regularity, which is, if I have any concern about not being able to be spontaneous, I have to be less spontaneous. Emerging out of the pandemic was, let’s … I have a couple of dear friends, and we have re weekly meetings on the calendar that we’ve agreed to, we’ve invited and accepted. And within that hour of our lunch hour, we can do all sorts of different things. We can eat on Zoom together, we can talk about technology, whatever, but sometimes, we don’t really say anything at all, but it’s the idea of making sure that we both have that connection.
At one point, we both had to say yes, and that is momentum building in and of itself. Now we’re to the point where we’re starting to say, hey, maybe this week we actually meet for lunch, maybe we come out of our shells and see what happens when we’re face-to-face. That’s actually really exciting too, and I think for a lot of people, my hunch is we’re all struggling with, how do you rebuild friendships after the last year that we’ve had? What are some strategies for dealing with the social anxiety that has come up that is now magnified by, I don’t know how to be a grownup in public anymore?

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. My version of that is pick something really fun, get two tickets, whatever, and then find somebody to join you. Whether it’s a concert or you decide you’re going to a bar on Friday night, or whatever the hell it is.

Pete Wright:
Melissa Orlov’s rip the bandaid off, solution to social anxiety.

Melissa Orlov:
Well, but seriously, it’s not like … I mean, you could do it more slowly than that, but that fact that it’s active and it’s fun, takes away some of the worry, because you’ll know, like I just got … So, this is what I like to do. I live in Arizona in the winter, and they have the Desert Botanical Garden which is an amazing place. Was getting outdoor in the cactus’s ballet with the Phoenix ballet. I thought that sounded really cool. I’d never seen it, whatever. So, I got two tickets and then I just looked around for somebody to go. The people who couldn’t go because they were busy or whatever, were like, “Yeah, I’m so glad you invited me. That sounds really cool.”
So, they knew I was thinking about them, the person who went with me, and it was fabulous. Even if you’re feeling socially awkward, there’s something really fun to do. That eases you, in some ways, eases you back in. To me, ripping the band-aid off, it’s going like, okay, now we’re here together at lunch, now what do we do?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, and we have to stare at each other.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, Pete, we have a couple of questions that came from Patreon. I can’t say that correctly. Do you want to read them so that Melissa can answer?

Pete Wright:
Sure. Here, let’s see. These are some that are good to pick up from, I think. First, I’ve found that I cannot see someone for five years and pick right back up where we left off for someone I knew when I was younger or with whom I’ve done an activity, but I struggle to build new connections with people that I just meet, but don’t have a reason to regularly see. Any advice?

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. I mean, that’s hard. As an adult, it can be really hard, because to your point before, Pete, we’re all so busy. And you have to get a certain number of connections before you really start to feel close to somebody. I would say again-

Pete Wright:
Do you know that number, Melissa? What is that …

Melissa Orlov:
No, I don’t.

Pete Wright:
Is there a number I should be shooting for?

Melissa Orlov:
There’s a magic wand that you can wave-

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I would like that. Is it three? I do three.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. No, I don’t know. I mean, again, I think part of it is, I think of it as enlisting a friend, which is maybe strange language. This shows you sort of how I do things because I like to be active, but these walks, for example, or … Because I’m meeting some new people on that, right? Maybe you want to try to go a couple of times, like you go to the local brewery and you like it, so you’d go like, oh, that was fun. Okay, maybe there’s another thing.
The hard part is the reaching out, because obviously, you might go to the brewery with somebody, and they might go, ah, maybe I’m not so interested in this relationship after all. And you’ll know, if you invite them to do a couple of really fun things, and they say, no, I really don’t have time for that versus, hey, I would love to do that, but I’m out of town or I don’t have time for that right now, but how about if we do something another time?
Then you know that they like you. If they’re just going like, I don’t know, I might be too busy. You can ask them a couple times, and if by the third time you’ve heard, I might be too busy, that’s a good indicator that no, actually, maybe this isn’t going to go anywhere, and you just try somebody else.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s like dating. You’re dating.

Pete Wright:
It is. I feel like what you’ve just done is effectively like, will you go friend with me? Check box, like yes or no.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Melissa Orlov:
But it is like that, because the reality is, as adults, you don’t have room for a lot of friends. I mean, even as kids, you don’t. The number of really close friends is two hands or less. So, it is sort of like dating. You’re trying to figure out like, if this person kind of simpatico, can we go have a lot of fun together? Is it worth taking time out of my busy schedule? Yeah. Then there are a lot of people who are sort of at the next level down, which is people that you know for a while on Facebook or you know around town, or whatever.
But yeah, it’s okay. You’re investigating to see like, are you simpatico for having fun together and just being friends and supporting each other and not having sex or any of that?

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s interesting too, because I find that like my friends that I grew up with in high school, we can pick up, but it’s different. It’s all about memories. Oh, I remember this, I remember that. It’s like catching up with, okay, what are you doing with your life now? But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it becomes a consistent friendship going forward. It’s more of just a catch-up kind of thing. Then you’ve got friends that I’ve met through most recent years that have stack. I mean, it’s just interesting. It’s like, it all depends on the relationships and the people and what you have in common and what you’re doing at the time, because I mean, friendships can come and go, right? Depending-

Pete Wright:
Oh, that’s the reunion paradox, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
I love you for who you were when we were together 20 years ago. I’m not sure I like you that much now. Let’s go ahead and agree. I’m going to celebrate who we were for five days and then we’re going to move on.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. But some of those also, I’ve had an experience with some of my own high school friends, where staying connected on social media, specifically Instagram, is what I use, because I hate Facebook. A few people where I’m watching their lives and their lives are fascinating, and the things that they’re talking about or whatever have … And we go back and forth and we have developed closer relationships just by almost the intensity of, it’s like often. It’s daily or weekly interactions. That can be one part of cementing that friendship, particularly if you’re worried about being rejected in person or whatever. You can solidify some of it or build some of it electronically, as long as you’re careful.
I mean, obviously you don’t want to be saying things that are inappropriate on social media, where everybody in the world can meet them.

Pete Wright:
Remember that time you got drunk with that one person who’s now the mayor of our city, remember that time? That was fun.

Nikki Kinzer:
Remember that? I have a picture of it somewhere.

Pete Wright:
Remember that time with the cow? Oh, God. What a hoot. I think that gets back to something that I think I’ve really cherished over this last year, which is the smaller bespoke communities that we’ve been a part of. I think our ADHD community is one of those, but just friends and colleagues, people from long ago who come together in a smaller, a platform that isn’t Facebook, like maybe it’s a Facebook group, maybe it’s another discord group, maybe it’s just a messages chat group with just like eight or 10 people in it.
Those have been really special because it’s the same vibe. You get the same sort of community like reconnection electronically, but you don’t have quite so much fear of public disgrace, I guess.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. Well, and the other thing that the pandemic actually has enabled is neighborhood groups, along the same line. It’s a smaller group. We had one that started up, which was wonderful because we got to know our neighbors. We happen to live in a pretty new neighborhood. It’s like three years old, something like that, so a lot of people are interested in getting to know everybody. We went outside every Saturday night, whoever was available, brought our own chair, brought our own drink, brought our own food, stayed 10 feet apart, but got to know some people in a very low key way.
That’s another thing. You can physically pull a group of geographically located people together on a regular basis. Maybe it’s first Fridays, it’s not every week, but first Fridays or something where you say, hey, let’s get a group of people together out and bring your chairs out to the street or somebody’s yard and make everybody feel welcome.

Pete Wright:
Well, and I think a lot of communities are starting to come back around. If you don’t have a community that does a first Friday or first Monday, or whatever they do, check it out and see what it’s like. There’s a lot of the businesses who’ve been struggling during the pandemic and food trucks in our area. There are food truck communities that are really trying to engage that social muscle. It’s really easy to be outside and be separated, but sort of feel what it’s like to have a community again, which is really fun.

Nikki Kinzer:
Face-to-face thing.

Melissa Orlov:
Those are low risk ways to meet people.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Pete, this last question I think is really a good one about communicative miscues, because I know that’s something that, that anxiety is built up if you feel like you’re …

Pete Wright:
Huge.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. You want to read the question?

Pete Wright:
Yep. I struggle with communicative miscues constantly, even when I’m on my game, I forget words that get in my head, and I notice myself struggling to keep up with those social cues that help move conversations along. I’ve noticed this has gotten, especially gotten worse since the pandemic. Before that, I’d sort of trained myself to go out regularly and get exposed to social situations so I could exercise those social cue muscles, but now they’re extra week. Anyone else have trouble in that area?

Melissa Orlov:
Yes, and I also wonder if anxiety might be playing a role there as well, where anxiety is adding to a wariness of trusting whether or not you’re reading things correctly. One of the interesting things about some of the ADHD research has to do with the ability to read the cues coming from others, particularly emotional cues when you have ADHD. That isn’t always a strong muscle for people who have ADHD. There are some sort of conversational tricks that you can use. For example, so do I hear you saying [inaudible 00:40:00], whatever it is, right?
So, a sort of a repeat back without being too obvious about it, to make sure you’ve understood. That’s one, or something like that. I think what you’re saying is X, Y, Z. If the person says, no, no, no. What I was really saying was something else then you know it was good that you did that. Another is that there are people who are particularly patient with people taking time, for example, to collect their thoughts. There are, and this sounds very strange, and I don’t want this to sound the wrong way, but there are actually a lot of potential friends out there.
If you find that you’re with somebody who is really impatient about how long it takes you to pull your ideas together or to understand what’s being said, maybe you need to be looking for somebody else who’s less concerned about that. Again, another good way to do that is in a shared interest group. If you ride bikes, maybe you join a biking group or something like that so that there’s at least a common language to start out with around the activity that you’re doing, and then it takes some of the pressure off.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, like that.

Melissa Orlov:
I don’t know if I answered that question.

Pete Wright:
[crosstalk 00:41:28]. Well, at least for me, I mean, it’s just a reminder that I think I would like to add as a reminder that we’re all struggling with this right now. We’re all coming out of this cave syndrome and it’s hard, and it’s just hard. So, recognizing that the person you’re talking to might just be feeling a little bit of this too. In so far as you might be in your own head about forgetting words, just remember there’s double occupancy in their head too.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah. And sometimes just, and again, this depends on the person, because I know if you’re experiencing a lot of shame or whatever, you might not be able to do this, but just say, wow, I’m struggling to find the right words here, hang on or something. That can help as well. It means that you don’t have to fill in all the spaces. Actually, for someone who has those issues, somebody who is comfortable with silence for a while might be a very good friend. People vary on that spectrum.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, I just want to say too, before we wrap up, is I think it is important to see what is a good friend for you. What are you looking for with somebody being patient or somebody who has similar interests like all of the things that you’ve recommended with these different groups and organizations and thinking about those things and figuring out what you need? Because it is a two-way relationship. It doesn’t just go one way.

Melissa Orlov:
Well, it’s interesting because you … If you think about, what do I want in my friends and what will my friends see in me? I mean, I think about one person I know in particular who is a real explorer. That’s what her ADHD does for her. She’s constantly learning new things. She’s very distractible when she is not really tamping that down. And she’s kind of everywhere, and her friends who have stayed her friends love that about her. That is one of her great qualities. For her, a good friend is somebody who really enjoys seeing things in a new way, learning new things, going on adventures together, being willing to walk down the street and suddenly have her go off and look at some cool new book that just showed up or whatever the thing is.
She may or may not always be in touch with those friends, but they still love that core part of who she is. If you are somebody who has a strength like that, whether it’s creativity or exploring or something else, fearlessness, for example, all of which can come easily with ADHD. Look for friends in those arenas. If you are fearless and you love, whatever it is you love, skiing or mountain biking on racing, or whatever, go find friends there.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, makes sense.

Melissa Orlov:
Take advantage of your strengths and really build on those, and that’s where you’re going to find the strongest connections in any event.

Pete Wright:
I can play Pokemon Go with my son from time to time. We meet some of the most amazing people. We were in a parking lot on the coast here of Oregon in Cannon beach, and we run into some people in a giant RV. They are clearly in their ’80s. They’re playing Pokemon with us, and they turned to us and say, we both retired the same year and fell in love with this game, and it has led us three in our RV all over North America, meeting the most amazing people, and all we do is drive from rest stop to rest stop and play Pokemon Go, and we sold everything. We just live in our RV. That is a great example, right? Find the community that finds you. I think that’s really inspiring.

Melissa Orlov:
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, no judgment.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. Well, and I have to say too, just going back to the number of friends, I’m under that five for sure. Lots of acquaintances, but under five who are really people that I would get really deep with, or I know I can depend on, or I want to see on a frequent basis. It’s definitely not the number, it’s not a number issue at all.

Melissa Orlov:
No, and you cannot sustain a lot of friends, and even the sort of next tier down, I don’t remember what the number is, but it’s not as big as you would think it is. And you have to be careful not to think like, oh, everybody else has got all those friends. Yeah, I see them all on Facebook or whatever it is. That’s not what it’s about. It is about having a few people that you really enjoy being with, who really enjoy being with you, that you know you can count on.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s it.

Melissa Orlov:
That’s what you’re looking for.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, great.

Pete Wright:
This is fantastic stuff. I hope a good reminder for those listening about just maybe it should be inspiring as you come out of the cave and look to rebuild and rejuvenate some friendships. Thank you so much, Melissa, for hanging out with us and helping us through this. Can you update us on your work, your writing, where would you like people to go learn more about you?

Melissa Orlov:
Well, so my website is at adhdmarriage.com, and I have a huge website as well, as information about treatment. I give a seminar for couples. I give support groups. I am working on a really exciting project that I can’t … If I told you about it, I have to kill you. No, that’s not true. But it it’s a professional training project, which I’m excited about, so that will be posted as well at some point in the future.

Pete Wright:
Called ADHD hunger games, bring a bow. Well, thank you everybody for hanging out with us and listening to this show. Thank you for your time and your attention. Don’t forget, if you have something to contribute, head over to the show talk channel in our Discord server, and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Melissa Orlov, I’m Pete Wright, and we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.