Coping With Your Spouse's ADD/ADHD

Couple Holding Hands
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Marriage is hard work. It requires good communication, mutual respect, compromise, empathy, and an understanding of your partner’s feelings and needs.

For individuals with ADHD, these requirements may be difficult. Relationships may become strained. 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 his or her emotional or physical obligations. For example, a spouse with ADHD is far more prone than the average adult to:

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

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

Potential Outcomes of ADHD Behaviors in 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 a load of 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.

Maintaining a Good Relationship When Your Spouse Has ADHD

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.

How do you make all this happen?

  • 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 his or her 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.
  • 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. In other words, 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 his or her responsibilities. Avoid events or activities that are likely to be stressful for your partner or are likely to tempt her 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.
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