At the beginning of your relationship, your partner gave you all of himself. Now you find yourselves constantly fighting about who’s doing chores, picking up the kids, or not giving the other enough time and attention. The evolution might have been subtle, but ADHD affects your marriage more than you realize.
At this point, you’re not even sure how things got so bad. You always knew your partner had ADHD, so why does it seem like it’s suddenly become a problem for your marriage?
Where he used to devote hours to devising fun things to do together, now he uses all that time playing his favorite game or getting deep into his work.
While you used to collaborate on family schedules, meals, or chores, now he seems to forget half of your commitments and leave dishes in the sink more often than not.
You might feel frustrated, ignored, and lonely (Orlov, 2012).
Perspectives on how ADHD affects your marriage
If you are with a partner who has ADHD
You might find yourself constantly nagging. Even though it feels like you have to stay on top of him to make sure he gets things done, you don’t like having to do it.
Underneath that nagging and frustration is a layer of stress, not knowing if you can rely on your partner.
Additionally, you might feel forgotten, and unsure where the love the two of you used to have went.
If you have ADHD, you may perceive your partner as
Constantly blaming you for things you aren’t doing or the ways you approach your life and time management.
The blame and nagging might make you feel like you are the problem. It’s like you can’t get it right no matter how hard you try.
In fact, you may be incredibly successful at work or in your hobbies but failing at home. In the end, your partner is always angry at you.
12 common ways ADHD affects your marriage
Author Melissa Orlov, herself married to a partner with ADHD, describes ways that ADHD affects your marriage and can disturb an otherwise great relationship. Her book The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps (Orlov, 2010) describes the following predictable patterns in relationships with ADHD as a confounding factor
1. Misunderstanding of ADHD symptoms
You may feel neglected when your partner is simply hyper-focused on something that has captured his interest. Or you may feel like he’s being lazy or forgetful with scheduling when distraction and trouble staying organized are simply part of ADHD.
2. How you respond to ADHD symptoms
If your partner forgetting to do a chore or showing up late makes you feel hurt or angry, you might nag or storm away in anger.
3. Overly attentive dating
The courtship phase with a partner who has ADHD can be intense and infatuating. Someone with ADHD is likely to give intense focus to new and exciting interests, like their new relationship with you!
4. Parenting a partner with ADHD
You might take on the role of “responsible” parent, thinking that you’re unable to rely on your partner. The partner with ADHD may also feel resentful and hurt that you don’t treat them like an adult.
5. Fighting about chores
Household responsibilities may become the sole responsibility of the partner who doesn’t have ADHD. The unbalance here can leave one partner exhausted and angry, to the point of leaving the relationship.
6. Blaming each other
While you blame your partner with ADHD for being unreliable or disorganized, your partner blames you for being critical and unreasonably angry. And when partners play the blame game, nobody is taking responsibility for their problems.
7. Emotional rollercoaster
Sometimes, ADHD can lead to difficulties with impulse control and volatile emotions. tablets. The partner who doesn’t have ADHD may be living on high alert, afraid she may trigger sudden anger or tantrums.
8. Chase and dodge
When you feel like your partner isn’t there for you, you chase after them and get louder. This type of aggressive pursuit leads to your partner retreating. The more he retreats, the louder you get, which starts the cycle all over again.
We’ve said it before, but it’s one of the most prevalent ways ADHD affects your marriage: the partner who doesn’t have ADHD spends all their time nagging the other about what hasn’t been done or how they’re doing things. She feels like it’s the only way to motivate you and get things done.
10. Losing confidence in yourself and the relationship
After a while, the partner with ADHD feels like they can never meet expectations, and the partner without ADHD feels like an angry, over-worked nag. You both feel dragged down and unhappy with the person you’ve become, not to mention unhappy with the relationship.
11. No physical intimacy
With so much anger and shame, sex has become a distant memory.
12. Pretending ADHD doesn’t matter
Perhaps you know that your partner has ADHD, but neither of you admits that the ADHD affects your marriage in a variety of ways.
ADHD and high rates of divorce
Studies suggest that divorce rates in marriages affected by ADHD are twice as high as divorce rates in the general population (ADDitude Editors, 2021). It’s just so easy for couples to get stuck in negative patterns.
The good news is that if you understand how ADHD affects your marriage, you can address it.
Couples therapy can help when ADHD affects your marriage
Working with a therapist can help you stop the blaming game. It creates space for you to see each other in new light and understand it’s not your partner’s fault but how you both respond to the effects ADHD has on your marriage.
By taking the time to really see the patterns ADHD has created in your relationship, you can uncover the root of the issues.
Then, by being vulnerable about how you’re feeling and truly listening to your partner, you can begin to heal what’s been hurt by the patterns you’ve both found yourselves in. Understanding leads to empathy and patience.
Of course, it can be hard to break well-worn patterns, and scary to be so vulnerable. That’s where the guidance and support of a therapist is key.
Finally, both of you must work together to identify and overcome the patterns you’ve fallen into now that you know ADHD affects your marriage and not just your partner.
EFT is effective in treating couples who are stuck
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an approach to couples therapy that focus on helping the couple regain emotional connection. And, according to the American Psychological Association, 75% of couples who use Emotionally Focused Therapy see improvement in the quality of their relationships—and that includes couples affected by ADHD.
About Dr. Irena
Dr. Irena uses Emotionally Focused Therapy to help couples find emotional connection and learn to support each other in new ways. She offers online therapy for women and couples in Houston, the Woodlands, and New York City.
If you would like to schedule a session, email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: [email protected] or call (281)-267-1742.
ADDitude Editors. (2021). How ADHD Impacts Sex and Marriage. ADDitude. Retrieved 4 Nov 2021, from https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-marriage-statistics-personal-stories/
Orlov, M. (2010). The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps. Specialty Press/A.D.D. Warehouse.
Orlov, M. (2012). The ADHD Effect on Marriage. The A.D.D. Resource Center. (4 Nov 2021). https://www.addrc.org/the-adhd-effect-on-marriage/