I Can't Understand My ADHD Husband!


"When I sit down to talk with my ADHD spouse, he jumps from one topic to another, and I can’t follow him. When I ask him to explain what he means, he hits the roof. What can I do?"

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

First, have a conversation with your attention deficit husband, and go with the flow of his thoughts. Try to follow the drift of his words without worrying about point-by-point specifics. After he’s done, repeat what you think he said. Say, “So you’re saying X.” If you misunderstand, he’ll correct you without feeling that you’re attacking him.

Second, point out to your spouse that people without ADHD think more linearly than those who have it. These differences lead to misunderstandings between the two of you. Remind him that your questions are meant to clarify what he said, and that you are not criticizing him. Or, if you find this difficult to discuss with him, write a short letter explaining why it’s important that you and he respect each other’s ways of processing information. Your goal is to defuse his anger by helping him understand that the communication breakdown is due to the fact that his ADHD brain is wired differently from your brain. I’m sure that this approach will result in more productive talks.

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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