Relationships

Building and maintaining a strong marriage is challenge enough, but when adult ADHD renders one spouse a poor listener, a distracted parent, or just plain forgetful, even the most loving partnership can falter.

ADHD relationships may be characterized by angry or inappropriate outbursts by the ADHD partner, producing ugly scenes that can traumatize their spouse and children. Although these fits of anger may pass as quickly as they appear, cruel words uttered on impulse may increase tension in the home environment.

ADHD and Marriage

Although every spouse brings baggage into a marriage, an ADHD spouse often arrives heavily laden with negative self-image, a lack of self-confidence, and shame from past “failures.” This may at first be masked by the ADHD partner’s ability to shower their beloved with romance and attentiveness—a quality of ADHD hyper-focus. However, once the hyper-focus phase passes, the non-ADHD partner may wonder if they are really loved by a partner who now barely seems to notice them.

As time passes, the non-ADHD spouse finds that they have to carry the lion’s share of parenting, financial responsibility, and home management, which can make them view the ADHD partner as a child, rather than a mate. If the marriage morphs into a parent/child relationship, the sexual dynamic suffers. The non-ADHD spouse may interpret their partner’s behavior as a sign of lost love. It is little surprise that adults with ADHD have high rates of divorce.

Sometimes, the breakup comes as a complete shock to the ADHD spouse, who was too distracted to notice that the relationship was failing. In an effort to escape feeling overwhelmed by housework or demanding children, the ADHD partner may mentally and emotionally withdraw, leaving the non-ADHD spouse feeling abandoned and resentful. This dynamic is worse if the ADHD partner is undiagnosed and not in treatment. However, the knowledge that ADHD is at work in their marriage may not be enough to curb anger and resentment.

Couples Therapy for ADHD

If a couple coping with ADHD wants to revive their marriage, they must recognize that ADHD is the problem, not the person with the condition. Blaming one another for the side effects of ADHD (lost sex life, messy house, financial struggles, etc.) will only widen the gap between them.

At a minimum, the ADHD partner must get treatment through medication and counseling. Couples therapy with a professional who specializes in ADHD can provide support for both partners and help the couple navigate their way back to productive, honest communication. Managing ADHD as a couple can help partners rebuild their bonds, adopt healthy roles in the marriage, and, in turn, rekindle their sexual relationship.

A relationship involving someone with ADHD is never easy, but by no means is it doomed to failure. With medication, therapy, concerted efforts at communication and consideration, and commitment to a fair division of responsibilities, an ADHD marriage can be both strong and healthy.