The ADHD Marriage, Part 3
“Controlling finances and controlling clutter go together,” says Dr. Orr. “Couples who have the greatest success in overcoming financial disagreements are those who are good about logging their expenses and checking their log at least once a week.” Dr. Orr offers a simple strategy: Keep all bills and receipts in a notebook. Once a week, the partner who is more diligent about money goes through the book, reviews the expenses, and pays the bills.
This strategy has worked well for the Shattucks. “I used to buy without thinking,” Lori confesses. “And I’d sometimes forget to pay the bills. Scott taught me to be more conscious of what I buy, and we switched the bills I handle to be paid automatically. Scott pays the rest of our bills, balances our checkbook, and generally makes sure our finances are under control.”
Strategies for communicating, controlling clutter, and managing finances work best when they become routine. Yes, routines can be boring—especially to ADDers—but they’re necessary in order to meet daily responsibilities, at work and at home.
In the case of Darcy and Eric Abarbanell, routines extend to taking care of one another. “I tend to stay up too late and become really hyper,” says Darcy. “Eric can get so hyperfocused on projects that he forgets to eat. He makes sure that I get to bed at a normal time. I make him a smoothie first thing every morning and check in to see that he’s eating throughout the day, so that he stays healthy.”
Routines have enabled Bob Ball, of Farmers Branch, Texas, to enjoy career success for the first time in his life. After years of watching her husband hop from job to job, Bob’s wife, Julia, finally helped him get organized. “Every Sunday night,” she says, “I make him his lunches for the week. We set his cell phone to buzz twice a day, when he needs to take his medication. Once each weekend, he gets out his calendar and his practice schedule for the Dallas Symphony choir, I get out my calendar, and we write out a schedule for the week. Talking about what to expect ahead of time really helps.”
No matter what strategies they choose or how well they establish routines, ADHD couples need a sense of humor. That’s not always easy. “Marriages in which one or both partners have ADHD often involve years of disappointment and built-up resentment,” says Dr. Orr. “The non-ADHD spouse will say, ‘I feel like I have another child rather than a partner.’ And the ADDer may feel like she’s being nagged.”
Julia Ball is able to laugh about the dual role she plays in Bob’s life. “I’ll say to him, ‘Honey, this is your coach talking to you now: Don’t forget your doctor’s appointment today.’ At other times I’ll say, ‘Your wife would like you to throw some chicken breasts on the grill.’”
Julia appreciates Bob’s strong points. “My husband brings the fun into our marriage,” she says. “He’s the reason we have so many friends. He’s the one who says, ‘Let’s get season tickets to the opera,’ and he’s the one with the energy to run around with our grandchildren. I’m good on paper—he’s good in real life.”
Perhaps more than “normal” marriages, those in which ADHD plays a role require compassion, patience, understanding, and unconditional love. But then again, isn’t that the recipe for success in any marriage?