3 Potential Problems in Marriages When One Partner Has ADHD

Health Writer

Marriage is tough. Marriage takes work, commitment and love to survive. Today about one-half of all marriages end in divorce - and that statistic doesn't take ADHD into account. According to U.S. News and World Report, "the divorce rate is nearly twice as high for people with ADHD"as it is for other couples." [1] While every marriage is different, there are some common problems in relationships where one partner has ADHD. Being aware of these problems and understanding how ADHD can impact your relationship allows you and your partner to work together to make your marriage succeed.

The following are 3 typical complaints of non-ADHD spouses:

_"You don't ever listen to me." _

At first this seems to be a communication problem between you and your partner but it is most probably a symptom of ADHD. Distractibility and inattention cause you to seem like you aren't paying attention, even when you are, or cause you to forget what was said as soon as something else comes along.

What you can do:

Set up a specific time each day to sit down with your spouse. Remind him or her that it is hard for you to listen when you are cooking, doing the dishes or involved in a project. Find a time free of distractions, or create a distraction free time, where you can listen to your spouse. This could be in the evening, after dinner or after the kids are in bed. Make sure you set a reminder and include the together time on your daily schedule. Take notes if you need to so you can remind yourself later of what was said. This lets your spouse know what he or she has to say is important.

_"You don't pull your weight - I have to do everything." _

Running an household is full of boring tasks - taking out the trash, washing dishes, doing the laundry. And for adults with ADHD, boring, tedious tasks tend to be ignored for more stimulating chores or get started and never completed. Your spouse may feel that he or she is doing most of the work around the house while you simply do whatever you want.

What you can do:

Create structure and a schedule for those mundane household chores that need to be done. Work with your spouse to set up the schedule so both feel you are doing your part. Divide chores based on abilities and interests rather than typical divisions. For example, you might prefer to mow the lawn or do the gardening because you focus better when outdoors or you might like the creativity of cooking. Accept that there are some chores you are going to need to do that are boring. Use reminders, such as alarms on your cell phone, to help you remember when it is your turn to do the laundry or pick up the dry cleaning. Some couples finding planning chores at the same time helps, for example, while your spouse is washing dishes, you are folding clothes.

_"That was important to me"how could you forget it?" _

Forgetfulness is a hallmark symptom of ADHD and it doesn't just include the small details. The old saying, "if it is important to you, you would remember" doesn't mean anything to those with ADHD. Both meaningless and important details are forgotten equally. Birthdays, anniversaries, picking up the dry cleaning or even picking your child up from school are all forgotten on a regular basis.

What you can do:

Again, use reminders and structure to help you remember the important, and unimportant, details. One couple spends a few minutes together each morning talking about what needs to be done that day. Both create reminders in their cell phone of individual responsibilities to minimize forgetfulness. The wife, who has ADHD, also writes a list of her tasks and responsibilities and tapes it on the dashboard of her car before leaving for work. This way, she can remind herself, and mark off what she has done, throughout the day.

For more information on ADHD in relationships:

Tips for Success in Adult Relationships with ADHD

Can ADHD Enhance Your Relationship

ADHD and Relationships: When Opposites Attract

ADHD in Relationships: The Experts Speak Out: Part 1

ADD Relationships: The Non-ADD Adult Partner


[1] "Can Your relationship Survive ADHD?" 2010, Sept. 28, Angela Haupt, U.S. News and World Report