ADHD and Relationships

Deborah Health Guide
  • I used to drive my ex-husband crazy. Actually, I think what used to drive him crazy was my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I'm not sure what else about me drove him crazy, but that was definitely an irritant.


    I was diagnosed with ADHD a few years after my first marriage broke up, so at the time, although I was beginning to realize that I had a short attention span and could be hyperactive, I didn't know why. My ex (who did not have ADHD) and I both had computers and would often be sitting side by side working or playing a game or whatever. But I had always had either laundry, tidying up and cleaning to do, so I usually didn't stay in my chair very long. I'd jump up after fifteen or twenty minutes at the computer and put a load of laundry in. Then I'd sit down for another fifteen or twenty minutes, until I felt the need to get up and do some dishes or pick up the apartment. My ex-husband, during this time, would not have moved. One day he roared at me, "Can't you just sit down for longer than five minutes?!" Well, yes, actually. I was sitting down longer than that, but to him it seemed like I was up and down like a jack-in-the-box.

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    And then there was my attention span problem during our "discussions." We argued the entire first year of our marriage. Even though I obviously disagreed with whatever he was saying, I tried to participate in the argument. After about (you guessed it) fifteen or twenty minutes, without noticing that I was doing it, I would get up and start cleaning or straightening up, sometimes even going into an adjoining room. This really drove my ex-husband up a wall, but I honestly didn't notice that I had left my chair or the room until he called me on it. My attention span is what it is, and once it's exhausted, distraction takes over.


    My mom also has ADHD (which is presumably where I get it from). If it's particularly bad, she'll interrupt a lot when someone's speaking. I think her listening mode just goes off the track and she doesn't even realize the other person's still talking. Occasionally, my dad will say to my mom through slightly gritted teeth, "Could you just let me finish?" She always says, "Oops, sorry." Like I said, I don't think she's even aware of what's happening.


    In general, I feel that a relationship where both people have ADHD tends to be less fraught with friction than one in which only one person has it. My second husband has ADHD. Although he's not as hyperactive as I am, he does have a problem with distractability. Since I have ADHD, it's pretty easy for me to understand when I ask my husband to do something, he starts it, and I find him twenty minutes later doing something else. I know that he probably got distracted and forgot that I had even asked him to do something.


    So it's probably lucky that ADHD tends to run in families. We tend to be more patient with each other than someone without ADHD would be. There are limits, however. When my stepson was younger he'd forget to take his ADHD medicine most mornings. After 119 minutes of him zooming around the room and talking a mile a minute, I'd calmly say, "Please take your medicine or I'm going to have to kill you."

Published On: January 28, 2010