Why Won't My ADHD Wife Change Her Ways?

Q:

"My wife has adult ADHD and changes her ways -- of distraction and disorganization -- only when I pack my bags and threaten a divorce. Why do I have to go to such lengths to get her to change?"

Melissa Orlov, a frequent ADDitude contributor with Dr. Ned Hallowell, writes about ADHD and marriage and offers relationship advice to adults with ADD.
A:

Your extreme actions seem to hyperfocus your wife’s attention on working with you to meet your needs. Unfortunately, such intense focus lasts only a short time, which is why she reverts to her distracted self when things settle down.

I’m sure this emotional rollercoaster is painful and disappointing for both of you. Your marriage will succeed only if your wife takes responsibility for treating her ADHD symptoms more effectively, and you learn to meet her halfway. Her doctor may be able to reduce her distraction by adjusting her treatment plan -- by introducing a different ADHD medication or behavior therapy, or recommending an exerciseregimen, for instance.

And you should weigh your own priorities: Is it more important for your wife to be a neatnik around the house or to be emotionally available to you? Compromising is a win-win situation for both of you: Some of your needs get met, and she will appreciate that you’re acknowledging and working with her ADHD symptoms.

Melissa Orlov is a marriage consultant, specializing in helping ADHD-affected couples rebalance their relationships. She is a cum laude graduate of Harvard College and the author of the award-winning books: The ADHD Effect on Marriage and The Couple's Guide to Thriving with ADHD. She blogs for adhdmarriage.com and Psychology Today and has been interviewed by The New York Times, CNN, Today, US News and World Report, and CBS, among many others.

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