The Impact of ADHD on a Marriage 

Many people mistakenly believe that people outgrow Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, ADHD doesn’t go away when people reach adulthood. Many adults with ADHD report that their symptoms have changed over the years, but haven’t gone away. If you or your partner has ADHD it is important to learn about how it is likely to impact your marriage.

If you or your partner has ADHD it is important that both of you educate yourselves about adult ADHD. Learn about symptoms and treatment options. It is also important to learn how ADHD impacts relationships so that both of you can have realistic expectations.

Household responsibilities can be an area of conflict for many couples, but especially when one partner has ADHD. Often, the partner without ADHD feels their spouse isn’t holding up their end of the chores. Sometimes people with ADHD think they are doing their share but their symptoms may be interfering. It’s important to uncover which symptoms are getting in the way. Sometimes chores aren’t completed due to the person forgetting to do them. Other times it is due to starting a chore and then becoming distracted and not finishing. Often people with ADHD start many projects but have trouble finishing any of them. Once you uncover the symptom that is interfering, it is important to decide on a course of treatment.

Communication can be impacted by ADHD. Sometimes the spouse assumes their partner doesn’t care “because he doesn’t seem to be listening.” Other times a spouse will feel like “she just doesn’t give me her undivided attention, ever.” People with ADHD are easily distracted by nature. So it is important to have conversations when they are able to listen. If you yell from the other room, they may not hear you. If they are watching television, they may tune you out. However, these behaviors are part of the ADHD and don’t have anything to do with their feelings about their spouse. It is important to work on a plan together for communication and learn how to best communicate with one another, given the symptoms.

ADHD can lead to an unequal partnership in some marriages. Sometimes people treat their spouse who has ADHD more like a teenager than an equal adult. They may nag their spouse and constantly remind them to do things. They may describe their spouse as irresponsible and feel frustrated when things don’t seem to change, despite their nagging.

This sort of dynamic can make someone view their spouse as dependent on them and they work toward “fixing” their partner. It can also cause them to blame everything on their partner and on ADHD. This can lead to the non-ADHD partner starting to view their spouse as incompetent.

Nagging doesn’t fix ADHD. Instead, it often reminds people with ADHD of their childhood when parents or teachers may have nagged them about getting their chores and homework done. It’s important to identify the problems that are caused by the ADHD and then identify the underlying symptoms. For example, are the bills not getting paid due to disorganization? If so, work together to create an organized space so the person with ADHD will have an increased chance at success. Also, consider a reminder calendar or other ways the person can be reminded of important tasks.

ADHD treatment can include a combination of strategies. Medication is often an option. Although some adults with ADHD are not interested in medication, possibly due to bad experiences with medication as a child, medication has come a long way in treating ADHD. There are now non-stimulant options available and many people report medication successfully reduces their symptoms.

Therapy can be another option. Individual therapy can teach the person with ADHD new skills to manage their symptoms. For the spouse without ADHD, therapy can also be helpful to learn strategies to help their partner and improve communication skills. Couples counseling can be an option as well to help the couple learn how to function effectively and work through any barriers caused by the ADHD.

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