Marriage & ADHD: 3 Common Conflicts & How To Solve Them

Marriage & ADHD: 3 Common Conflicts & How To Solve Them
Love, Self

ADHD causes behaviors that can frustrate the other partner in a relationship. Here's how to deal.

Many people don't understand the many impairments of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, which create difficulties in life management and goal attainment. It's also not commonly known that ADHD doesn't disappear in adulthood — a relatively recent revelation. Given these facts, imagine how marriages and relationships can be affected when one or both partners have ADHD. Information and communication become important when dealing with symptoms, because knowledge strengthens the relationship.

Symptoms of ADHD — which affect both men and women — include disorganization, time management issues, altered working memory, inattentiveness, distractibility, and fidgety behavior, to name a few. Let's talk about some possible scenarios between an ADHD-impacted couple. 

1. The problem: You are attempting to talk about an accomplishment at work. ADHD partner's potential response: no or intermittent eye contact, fidgeting, looking at his iPad, interrupting.

Your response: Anger!

Better response: Reflect back on your observation that he does not appear to be listening to or focused on you. What's keeping him from doing so? Talking to him could determine that you're speaking too fast, your speech contains too many details, or that there is something else on his mind from the day that is creating hyper-focus; an ability people with ADHD have that can work to their advantage at times. Once you've determined what's keeping him from listening to you, perhaps you can schedule another time to talk about the topic you want to discuss.

2. The problem: Clutter! You assume that he expects you to pick up his dirty clothes, papers, dishes, etc.

Your response: Anger!

Better response: You could discuss the cues needed to get him to pick up the dirty underwear, put that milk away, and take out the trash. The problem is that his physiological boredom and distractibility gets in the way of doing those mundane things. But cues from you, as well as positive affirmations when the act is actually completed, can really help. Also, once you understand that what he's not doing is not an attack on you, you can even let some of these things go. Yes, for the sake of the relationship, let it go sometimes!

3. The problem: He slights you in one of the following ways, which you (understandably) can't help but take personally.

a) He goes to work and leaves his wedding band on the nightstand. 

b) He forgets dinner plans you made with mutual friends on Friday night, stopping by a favorite bar after work instead.

c) He comes home late on your anniversary night... without a gift for you to heal the wound.

d) For weeks, he promises — but continually forgets to do — a couple of odd jobs.

Your response: Anger!

Better response: Of course, any of the above can create stress, but ADHD is not an excuse to fuel a fire and blow up a relationship. Your partner has so-called executive functioning deficits, which are part of the medical diagnosis of ADHD. These issues can be dealt with in a positive manner. It's not easy, but maintaining the "disability perspective," as CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) dictates, is necessary. Understand and communicate!

Karen K Lowry, R.N., M.S.N.
Parent2parent ADHD Family Trainer
Support group facilitator

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