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Calming the Chaos

Calming the Chaos is a podcast by Licensed Mental Health Counselor Tracy Kenela. She uses profound and often humorous stories from her own life to illustrate how chaos can show up, and how emotional it can be! Anxiety, depression, fear, worry, shame and overwhelm can be managed using a variety of simple tools, skills and techniques. Tracy uses her experience as a counselor and her own personal work to provide you with hope…as well as some simple coping techniques, support and encouragement... that will help you move toward a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

Jun 1, 2020

Episode Title: “Relationship Chaos” By Tracy Kenela, M.A., LMHC, CRC, CEDS, ACHT of Lokahi Counseling


Intro: Tracy Kenela is the founder of Lokahi Counseling and Calming the Chaos Podcast. In this episode, Tracy interviews Psychologist Jared DeFife of Dynamic Counseling and Consulting in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. DeFife offers help to those who are struggling with being in a relationship where one or both partners struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Jared and Tracy discuss ADHD, how it can present as chaos in relationships, and how the relationship chaos can be effectively managed.


  1. About Jared: He’s a psychologist in Atlanta Georgia, “Recovering Academic” and has been doing private practice for 6 years now. He struggles with ADHD himself, and specializes in offering help to those who struggle with ADHD.  


  1. What is it like to have ADHD?  
    1. Driving a car through a rainstorm without windshield wipers
    2. Operating online with a thousand browser tabs open (and one of them is playing music)
    3. Navigating a grocery store without having a plan
    4. “The Runaway Brain”  (when you lose your train of thought!) – Hopefully it will come back! Or… may just run away and it’s more difficult to put the brakes on.


  1. What is ADHD
    1. It’s NOT about a deficit of attention (it is an over-abundance)
    2. May or may not include hyperactivity
    3. Can include inattentiveness
    4. Symptoms fall in 3 realms
  1. Inattentiveness (concentration problems)
  2. Hyperactivity or restlessness (internal OR external), mind racing
  • Impulsivity (verbal and behavioral) i.e. driving a car too fast, spending, overeating, etc.)
  1. It’s a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects executive functioning center of the brain; the self-managing, conductor of the trainof the brain, and carries through the lifespan
  2. It is a “heritable” condition – one of the most genetically heritable conditions (so you can inherit it)



  1. Relationships, ADHD and Chaos: Some of the signs
    1. Chris Rock: “You’re not dating that person, you’re dating their representative!”
    2. A lot of excess drive, stimulation, motivation at the beginning of a relationship
    3. “I met this charming guy who was wonderful when we first dated, but then we moved in together and he disappeared!”
    4. A lot of hyper-focus on the relationship at first
    5. When regular life sets in (paying bill on times remembering an anniversary, buying gifts, planning a dinner date, figuring out what to watch on TV, making the bed, doing the laundry, etc.)
    6. Forgetting important things, being overly focused on things that are not important, or cannot make decision.


  1. Problems that can occur with ADHD and Executive Functioning:


  1. Activation and Organization: “The ignition switch in the car” that helps you get going doesn’t work properly.
  2. Focus: An Inability to focus on homework, but they CAN focus on a video game where there is a lot of action and many rewards.
  3. Alertness: It takes more effort to be aware. There may also be sleep problems, and problems waking up. “The driver in the car is awake at night and asleep during the day.”
  4. Emotion: Difficulties regulating intense emotions, especially frustration and irritation
  5. Memory: Remembering to remember member
  6. Action Monitoring: Difficulties monitoring self to do and finish tasks, hard to manage time and monitor action in relationships.


All of these can impact relationships!


  1. Common problems that can occur in relationships when one or more partners have ADHD:


  1. Partner forgets to pay a bill – it can affect the other partner’s credit score
  2. Partner feels chaos and extra stress / overwhelm
  3. Partner feels like ADHD feels contagious to the non-struggling partner “It’s catching!”
  4. Substance Abuse
  5. Verbal abuse when emotions are high
  6. Frustration on both parties
  7. Divorces are more common with those who struggle with ADHD
  8. Partner has to be in a car with ADHD Driver with Road Rage
  9. Raising the kids may be problematic
  10. “It’s like I’m living with a child.” Partner thinks they
  11. “He’s an insuffering narcissist who doesn’t care”


  1. Techniques for couples who have one or more partners with ADHD
    1. Think of ADHD as a gift: There are some benefits, such as being able to focus for prolonged periods of time, charisma, divergent thinking, ability to be direct in communication)
    2. Having an awareness of what ADHD is, and how it can present in relationships
    3. Bringing the struggling partner’s awareness to the problem
    4. Going to therapy (visit someone like Jared!) and setting boundaries and limits
    5. Increase awareness of the complexity of the brain disorder
    6. Think like a behaviorist (using planners, reminder methods and skills)
    7. Emotional Management: Awareness of beliefs and constructs and self-limiting or overly optimistic beliefs about self and the world
    8. Education: Helping the one who struggles realize the complexity of ADHD
    9. Communication and interpersonal strategies
    10. Theory of mind, mentalization, the ability to take the perspective of the other person
    11. Medication – This is a decision between person and doctor. It can be highly effective, especially if used when learning emotional / cognitive coping skills.
    12. Nutrition (See “Helping the Hangry” Podcast Interviews with Katie Hart)
    13. Get an evaluation with a qualified ADHD Evaluator
    14. Support – Very important to have understanding, knowledge and education
    15. Notice irritation, breathe and use skills to manage
  2. Contact Jared or visit his website: @atlantapsychologist. On his website, he has interviews, resources and information. In the future, may have some courses, so stay tuned!


Listen to “Calming the Chaos” Podcast by visiting, or visit my Website: at

On my website, there’s a link to a mindfulness CD I created called “On This Day.” This CD teaches you how to practice mindfulness in less than 10 minutes throughout the day. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and increase clear thinking in times of chaos.

You can purchase the CD on Amazon at or in digital format at

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Thanks for listening, and take care!