ADHD in Relationships: The Experts Speak Out: Part 4

Health Writer

Today, we continue to hear from experts on how they believe ADHD impacts relationships and suggestions on how to help manage ADHD symptoms and improve your relationship.

Our experts in this installment include:

  • Marie Paxon, Immediate Past President, CHADD
  • Kate Kelly, co-author of "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy

To read all of this feature:

From Marie Paxson:

I am the parent of two children with ADHD who are now young adults. My husband with ADHD was not diagnosed and treated while my children were young and required active parenting.

Our biggest challenge as a couple was the effect of raising children with the disorder. They required a lot of assistance with schoolwork and other activities, in addition to needing a lot of supervision due to their impulsivity. We were also determined to promote their strengths whenever possible and this meant some professional appointments and tutors in addition to activities for fun like Scouts, music lessons, etc. So our days were packed with appointments and activities and each week I wrote out several checks.

The main effect of all of this is that we spent too much time discussing our children's needs and problem-solving. At times we were more like "professional co-parents" than a couple. And the stakes got higher when the children became teens complete with adolescent attitudes and some risk-taking behaviors.

We found a talented therapist who helped us realize the importance of retaining our identities as individuals and as a couple. We did practical things like restructuring our time and some of our house rules. We had a friendly penalty for the spouse who discussed the children or workplace issues or financial issues on date night. While no solution is 100% effective, it was important for us to view each other as a mate instead of just the other parent.

Marie Paxson, Immediate Past-President, CHADD

From Kate Kelly:

People with ADHD have challenges with focusing, shifting and sustaining attention. These issues with the executive functions of the brain lead to problems in completing tasks, but they also cause trouble in relationships. It is hard to stay present with a partner when your mind is wandering all over the place. Your partner, however, can read your distraction as disinterest in them. Over time, they begin to believe that you just don't care about or value them. Especially when they see that you can focus really well on certain things (the basketball game, the grocery list, the spreadsheet for work, etc.). Both people in a relationship need to understand that this behavior is due to a neurological difference, not a lack of love. Forgiveness and laughter are the best medicine when it comes to healing relationships impacted by ADHD.

Kate Kelly and Paul Ravenscraft ADHD coaches and life partners
Kate is also co-author of You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? and The ADDed Dimension