Coping With Your Spouse's ADD/ADHD

Couple Holding Hands
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When one partner has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can sometimes create challenges in a relationship. A spouse can easily become frustrated with their partner’s disorganization and inattention. Feelings can get hurt when the individual with ADHD is unable to follow through on their emotional or practical obligations. A spouse with ADHD is far more prone than the average adult to:

  • Behave impulsively rather than thinking things through
  • Blurt out thoughts without tempering them
  • Get distracted by their partner’s conversations
  • Have difficulty controlling their negative emotions
  • Forget important events
  • Neglect to follow through with promises

When these issues arise—and are not addressed constructively—it can be easy for a spouse to feel like their ADHD partner is deliberately causing them harm and pain.

How ADHD Behaviors Affect Marriage

As a result of their ADHD partner's behaviors, spouses may feel like they are being forced into a parenting role in their marriage. The non-ADHD partner often ends up being the one to provide structure and reminders. They end up feeling frustrated, disappointed, and fed up when their ADHD partner does not comply.

Rather than sharing responsibilities with a valued partner, they feel that they are shouldering the load alone—while also helping their partner through difficulties and crises. Spouses may end up taking care of the tedious home tasks that are difficult for the ADHD individual: paying the bills, scheduling appointments, cleaning and organizing the house, keeping the pantry and refrigerator stocked. It can be exhausting.

How to Maintain a Good Relationship

ADHD is a disorder, but people with ADHD have great strengths as well. It's important to understand the disorder and its symptoms while also remembering the wonderful things about your spouse that brought you into the relationship in the first place.

Learn About ADHD

It is important for spouses to have a good understanding of ADHD and the way symptoms can affect the marital relationship. Read up on adult ADHD, and ask your spouse to describe their symptoms. Consider joining a support group (online or in-person) where you can safely discuss and learn more about the challenges that go along with marriage to a person with ADHD.

Show Empathy

Try to see things from your partner's point of view. Holding it all together and trying to control one's ADHD symptoms at work or with the children can require an enormous amount of energy and effort. Your partner may be more irritable with you because you are safe. That is not to say this behavior is excusable, but it helps you to see where the behavior may be coming from.

Set Yourselves Up for Success

Build on your partner's strengths while avoiding potentially difficult situations. Together, determine what your spouse is good at and enjoys doing around the house. Set up clear agreements so that each of you understands your responsibilities. Avoid events or activities that are likely to be stressful for your partner or are likely to tempt them into impulsive or poorly conceived choices.

Rediscover What You Love About Each Other

What was it that brought you together? How can you rekindle the spark? Spend time together—alone—doing what you both love.

A Word From Verywell

Encourage your partner to seek treatment. Medications and therapy can be life-changing for someone who is struggling with symptoms of ADHD. Talk to your partner and encourage them to talk to a doctor or mental health professional to find the best course of treatment.

If you or a loved one are struggling with ADHD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.