ADHD and Marriage: How ADHD Affects Relationships

Does your husband or wife constantly forget chores and lose track of the calendar? Do you sometimes feel that instead of living with a spouse, you’re raising another child? Your marriage may be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Is ADHD affecting your marriage?  Mental health experts note that attention problems can take a toll on adult relationships.

In a marriage, the common symptoms of the disorder — distraction, disorganization, forgetfulness — can easily be misinterpreted as laziness, selfishness, and a lack of love and concern.

It is estimated that at least 4 percent of adults have ADHD; about 10 million U.S. adults, with only about 1.2 million of affected adults in treatment, and with many adults having never received the diagnosis as children.

As many as half of all children with A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with symptoms as adults.

Symptoms can include trouble with maintaining employment or completing schooling, marital difficulties,  financial challenges, repeated driving violations/tickets,

Adults with attention disorders often learn coping skills to help them stay organized and focused at work, but experts say many of them struggle at home, where their tendency to become distracted is a constant source of conflict.

Some research suggests that adults with ADHD are  twice as likely to be divorced; another study found high levels of distress in 60 percent of marriages where one spouse had the disorder.

Spouses of adults with ADHD often feel they cannot count on their partner. They may feel that the spouse is not dependable such that the unaffected spouse must take responsibility for everything.

Sometimes the unaffected spouse can become chronically angry, frustrated that they dont help around the house, that they are inconsiderate, or that they cannot count on the spouse to complete simple tasks such as running to the bank, paying bills on time, or picking up the kids. They may feel they have no choice but to constantly nag to make sure things get done.

Spouses with attention deficit, meanwhile, are often unaware of their latest mistake, confused by their partner’s simmering anger. A lengthy to-do list or a messy house feels overwhelming to the A.D.H.D. brain, causing the person to experience paralysis, and they accomplish nothing, which further infuriates their spouse. This does not happen due to laziness or selfishness, it happens due to the difficulty with task planning and organization.

Although treatment often starts with medication, it typically doesn’t solve a couple’s problems. Talk therapy may be needed to unpack years of accumulated resentments.

Behavioral therapy and coping strategies — for both partners — are essential. Long, to-do lists given to the spouse with ADHD will not be productive. instead, asking that one task at a time be targeted is more helpful.