Several years ago I met two women dealing with relationships in which one spouse had ADHD (or was suspected of having ADHD) and the other spouse did not. In both of these cases, it was the woman that was the non-ADD spouse. Together, they talked, supported one another and came up with a plan to try to resolve the issues in their relationships. These two women gave me the plan they had developed, allowing me to share it with others.
It is important to note that this plan was not developed by a psychologists or psychiatrists. It is not based on anything other than two women’s experiences and insight into their own marriages. But it is also important to note that several years later, these women were still married and felt their marriages had survived a turning point. They both believed their marriages were stronger.
Jane had been married for 10 years. She had a son, aged 8. He had been diagnosed with ADHD and Learning Disabilities. Jane spent a great deal of time learning about ADHD in the hopes of helping her son. She read about behavior modification and did her best to incorporate behavioral strategies at home. While reading about ADHD, she began to realize that her husband showed many of the characteristics and symptoms of Adult ADD. As she talked with his parents about his childhood, it became more apparent to Jane that her husband probably had ADD. He was adamant that he did not. He did not want to hear about it and would not discuss it. He felt that he had managed this far. He was self-employed and was fairly successful.
Jane, on the other hand, was sure that he did have ADD. She had been the bookkeeper for his small construction business since it’s inception, she took care of the house, worked a part-time job and managed her two children’s activities. She felt she took the brunt of the household work on herself and with her bookkeeping duties managed to keep her husband organized. Jane was overwhelmed with the amount of work she tried to accomplish each day but wasn’t sure she would be able to give any of it up. She was afraid that if she let go, her husband would go back to missing or being late for appointments with customers and lose important papers.
But Jane loved her husband; they shared many of the same interests, enjoying antique shopping, going on picnics, watching movies and many other activities. They laughed together and enjoyed each other’s company. Jane wanted life to be simpler, to be the way it used to be. She wasn’t sure if she could keep up with life the way it was now. She was sure that if her husband went to the doctor for ADD and began to manage it, that he would be able to take more of the responsibilities around the house, not need her to manage his schedule and would be more responsive to her children’s needs.
Betty had been married for 30 years. Her children were grown and her two sons had discovered they had ADD as adults. The diagnosis of ADD wasn’t really around as they were growing up. Betty had been a stay at home mother and had worked hard to keep her home running, her children in school and her husband happy. But now, she felt, was time for her to pursue her own interests.
Communication between her and her husband was not very good and he still expected her to keep his life organized, even if he didn’t say it. He was constantly losing things, and she was always finding them. He was not good at paying bills, they tried that once and had the electric shut off, even though the money to pay the bill was in the bank. He started household projects and left them unfinished. He changed careers several times in his life, always ending up getting bored and starting over. Betty felt like her time had been spent looking after him, helping him find his way in life, and now, she wanted something for herself.
But Betty wanted this together, with her husband. She didn’t want to start out on her own. They had a history together and often laughed together. They enjoyed each other’s company, enjoyed their life together. But Betty knew something needed to change.
After her two sons were diagnosed with Adult ADD, Betty talked with them and the more she found out about ADD, the more she felt her husband also had it. He agreed, although did not feel it was important enough to go to the doctor or find ways to manage. He thought their life was fine and he didn’t really want to make any changes.
Jane and Betty
Together, these two women worked to find solutions to their problems. Step by step, they found ways to cope with everyday issues and slowly they began to incorporate strategies for managing Adult ADD and finding ways to make small changes in their relationships. Jane and Betty had an advantage, as they supported one another through this process. They exchanged notes and progress, they gave each other encouragement when it wasn’t working and they celebrated together when they had successes.
Jane and Betty are friends still, their marriages intact and although there are still rocky times, just as in all marriages, there is common ground and cooperation. Some marriages may need the help of a counselor and some may need more intense help. The plan that Jane and Betty came up with is their blueprint. Your marriage may be different. But hopefully, you can take some of what they have learned and improve your relationship.
Understanding Denial Accept Yourself, Accept Your Spouse, Accept Your Relationship Accept Your Responsibilities Taking Care of You Understanding Adult ADHD Decide Where You Want to Go From Here Talking Together Setting Goals to Improve Your Relationship
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.