Some studies suggest that the divorce rate among couples where one of the partners has ADHD may be almost double that of the general population. Why? A big part of the reason is related to the nature of ADHD itself and how it manifests in someone’s behavior.
If the non-ADHD partner doesn’t have a good understanding of how the ADHD brain works, or if their ADHD partner hasn’t been diagnosed and treated, the marriage can quickly run into problems
How ADHD Symptoms Can Affect a Marriage
The symptoms of an ADHD partner that can plague a marriage include:
- Inattention – Adults with ADHD can lose focus during conversations, which leaves their partner feeling devalued. Inattention can also lead to mindlessly agreeing to things that they later forget. This can cause frustration and lead to resentment.
- Forgetfulness – Even when someone with ADHD is paying attention, they may later forget what was promised or discussed. This can make the non-ADHD partner may start to feel like their spouse doesn’t care or that he or she is unreliable.
- Difficulty with organization – This can show up as difficulty finishing tasks such as general household chaos. Partners may feel like they’re always cleaning up after the person with ADHD and shouldering a disproportionate share of the family duties.
- Impulsiveness – If you have ADHD, you may blurt things out without thinking, which can cause hurt feelings. This impulsivity can also lead to irresponsible and even reckless behavior (for example, making a big purchase that isn’t in the budget, leading to fights over finances).
- Emotional outbursts – Many people with ADHD have trouble regulating their emotions. They may lose their temper easily and have trouble discussing issues in a calm manner. The non-ADHD partner may feel like they have to tread carefully to avoid blowups.
Both Partners Can Feel Stressed
The person with ADHD may feel they are constantly being criticized, nagged, and micromanaged. He or she ma not feel respected as an adult, and start avoiding their partner.
The non-ADHD partner may begin to feel lonely, ignored, and unappreciated. They can become tired of taking care of everything on their own and feeling like they are the only responsible party in the relationship. They may begin to feel like their partner is unreliable and / or doesn’t care about them.
It’s easy to see how the feelings on both sides can contribute to a destructive cycle in the relationship.
Making It Work
If you are in an ADHD marriage, there are many specific things you can do to help strengthen your relationship. We have provided several resources which contain excellent suggestions below. However, there are several keys to making an ADHD marriage work:
- Developing understanding – For both partners in the marriage, this means getting educated on what ADHD is and how it affects each of you. For the ADHD partner,it means getting diagnosis and treatment, if necessary.
- Taking responsibility – Each partner has to accept responsibility for their role in the relationship. Progress starts once each becomes aware of their own contributions to the problems they have as a couple.
- Communicating – This means learning to defuse emotional and volatile situations. Once you identify the real issue underlying a disagreement, it’s much easier to resolve the problem.
- Working together – This involves learning to work together as a team, having some give and take with both individuals participating fully and looking for ways to support each other.
None of these is necessarily easy to do. Counseling can help with the process, but it takes understanding and willingness from both partners to make it work.