9 Ways ADHD May Strain Relationships

“The most destructive pattern in an ADHD relationship is when one partner becomes the responsible ‘parent’ figure and the other the irresponsible ‘child.'” 8 more unhealthy ADD mistakes, and how to remedy them.

ADHD Relationships: Marrige and Friendship Help for Adults
ADHD Relationships: Marrige and Friendship Help for Adults

ADHD and Relationships

Relationships in which one or both partners have attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) range from successful to disastrous. Partnerships affected — or should I say, distorted — by ADHD symptoms can bring “the worst of times.” Pain and anger abound. You can barely talk to each other about problems affecting the relationship. When you do, you rarely agree. You’re frustrated that you’ve gotten to this point, and you’re disappointed that you haven’t made things better.

Can ADHD Cause Divorce Or Other Relationship Issues?

ADHD can be a contributing factor in a wide range of marital problems. If your partner has ADD, you may feel ignored and lonely. Your partner can focus on things that interest them, but not on you. They never seem to follow through on what they agree to do. They may seem to act like a child instead of an adult. You nag them, and you’ve started to dislike the person you’ve become. The two of you either fight or clam up. Worst of all, you are stressed about being saddled with the household responsibilities while your partner gets to have all the fun.

If you have ADHD, you may feel your partner has become a nagging monster. The person you loved has become a control freak, trying to manage the details of your life. No matter how hard you try, you can’t meet your partner’s expectations. The easiest way to deal with them is to leave them alone.

Either of these scenarios can ultimately result in the end of a relationship. If the above descriptions sound familiar, your relationship is suffering from what I call the ADHD effect. ADHD symptoms — and the responses both of you have to them — have damaged your partnership. The good news is that understanding the role that ADHD plays in your relationship can turn it around. When you learn to identify the challenges ADHD brings to relationships, and the steps you can take to meet them, you can rebuild your lives. That’s exactly what my partner and I did.

Signs Undiagnosed ADHD Is Causing Relationship Problems

We didn’t know that my partner had ADHD. I had fallen in love with his brilliance, sharp wit, and his appetite for adventure. His intense focus on me was surprising and flattering. He was warm and attentive. When I got sick on our first date, he tucked me under a blanket on the sofa and made me hot tea. I was touched.

[Self-Test: Could You Have ADD?]

Not long after we got married, our relationship began to fall apart. I couldn’t understand how someone who had been so attentive could ignore my needs, or be so “consistently inconsistent” helping out around the house. He was equally confused and annoyed. How could the woman he had married, who had seemed so endearing and optimistic, change into a fire-breathing dragon who wouldn’t give him a break and wouldn’t leave him alone?

By our tenth anniversary, we had considered divorce. We were angry, frustrated, disconnected, and unhappy. I was beyond sad. We stayed glued together only by our desire to raise our children well and by a feeling, deep inside, that we ought to be able to do better. Around that time, our daughter, who was nine, was diagnosed as having a learning disability and ADHD. In time, my husband was also diagnosed with ADHD.

Learning to Treat and Cope With ADHD to Avoid Relationship Problems

Discovering that one or both partners have ADHD is just the beginning. Medication is an efficient way to jump-start treatment, but behavioral changes need to be made. What you do once you’ve started treatment is crucial to your relationship.

If inability to follow through on tasks makes you unreliable in your partner’s eyes, use a smartphone reminder system or another organizational plan to get the task done. Coaching and cognitive behavioral therapy can also help.

[The ADHD Symptom Test for Women]

Understand that such changes must be voluntary. No matter how much a non-ADHD partner may want to, they can’t force their partner to get organized or become more attentive. Both partners must change. Often, an ADHD partner sets up a system that works well for the other, yet seems inefficient or strange to the non-ADHD partner. Their criticism or suggestions about how to do it better demoralize them. My husband and I learned this the hard way, mostly at his expense, as I kept trying to force him to do things differently. The harder I pushed, the more he resisted, and the worse our relationship became. Sound familiar?

Rediscovering romance and joy in your relationship again after years of hurt is a journey. Each partner works at reframing the challenges that ADHD introduces into their life. They work on systems and treatments for managing ADHD symptoms. And, one day, each finds that the good things about their partner are what they notice most.

The rewards are worth it. My husband and I moved from dysfunctional to happy. We thrive in our careers, and our relationship is stronger now than before. My husband’s ADHD symptoms are under control, and I understand and appreciate the effort that it takes. We recognize and accept — and laugh about — each other’s faults, and rejoice in each other’s strengths.

You can do this, too. You can move past unhappiness and create something better, if you recognize how ADHD affects your relationship and make adjustments in your attitude and behaviors.

9 Ways ADHD Affects Relationships

Many ADHD relationships are affected by similar patterns, especially when the disorder is under-managed. When you recognize these patterns, you can change them.

1. Hyperfocus Dating. The biggest shock to ADHD relationships comes with the transition from courtship to marriage. Typically, a person with ADHD hyperfocuses on their partner in the early stages of a dating. They makes them feel like the center of their world. When the hyperfocus stops, the relationship changes dramatically. The non-ADHD partner takes it personally.

My husband stopped hyperfocusing on me the day we got home from our honeymoon. Suddenly, he was gone — back to work, back to his regular life. I was left behind. After six months of marriage, I wondered if I had married the right man. The non-ADHD partner should remember that inattentiveness is not intentional, and find a way to forgive their partner. Feeling ignored is painful. Address the issue head-on by establishing ways to improve your connections and intimacy, and allowing yourself to mourn the pain that hyperfocus shock has caused you both.

2. Walking On Eggshells. Tantrums, anger, and rude behavior often accompany untreated ADHD symptoms. One man with ADHD described it to me as “having to anticipate my partner’s response to every single thing I do. I live my life trying to second-guess her, because I want to please her, but most of the time she’s just mad.” Changing behavior in both partners is critical to turning around a relationship. Don’t assume that anger or frustration in either partner is part of ADHD. Chances are good that you can get these things under control.

3. Believing ADHD Doesn’t Matter. Some partners with ADHD don’t believe that ADHD is a factor in their relationship. They say, “I don’t need treatment! I like myself just the way I am. You’re the one who doesn’t like me, and has problems with this relationship.” My husband was in denial. The good news for us was that, about a month or so after diagnosis, he decided he didn’t have much to lose by considering treatment. He discovered it made a world of difference.

So here’s my plea to all ADHD partners who are skeptical: If you don’t believe the disorder affects your relationship, assume that it does, and get an evaluation and effective treatment. It could save your relationship.

4. Misinterpreting Symptoms. You and your partner probably misinterpret each other’s motives and actions because you think you understand each other. For example, a partner with undiagnosed ADHD may be distracted, paying little attention to those they love. This can be interpreted as “they don’t care” rather than “they’re distracted.” The response to the former is to feel hurt. The response to the latter is “to make time for each other.” Getting to know your differences, in the context of ADHD, can clear up misinterpretations.

5. Chore Wars. Having a partner with untreated ADHD often results in a non-ADHD partner taking on more housework. If workload imbalances aren’t addressed, the non-ADHD partner will feel resentment. Trying harder isn’t the answer. ADHD partners must try “differently,” if they are going to succeed — and the non-ADHD partners must accept their partner’s unorthodox approaches. Leaving clean clothes in the dryer, so they can be easily found the next morning, may seem odd, but it may work for the ADHD partner. Both partners benefit when the non-ADHD partner admits that their way of doing things doesn’t work for their partner.

6. Impulsive Responses. ADHD symptoms alone aren’t destructive to a relationship; a partner’s response to the symptoms, and the reaction that it evokes, is. You can respond to a partner’s habit of impulsively blurting out things by feeling disrespected and fighting back. This will cause your ADHD partner to take up the fight. Or you can respond by changing your conversational patterns to make it easier for the ADHD partner to participate. Some ways to do this include speaking in shorter sentences and having your partner take notes to “hold” an idea for later. Couples who are aware of this pattern can choose productive responses.

7. Nag Now, Pay Later. If you have an ADHD partner, you probably nag your partner. The best reason not to do it is that it doesn’t work. Since the problem is the ADHD partner’s distractibility and untreated symptoms, not their motivation, nagging won’t help them get things done. It causes the ADHD partner to retreat, increasing feelings of loneliness and separation, and reinforces the shame that they feel after years of not meeting people’s expectations. Having a partner treat the ADHD symptoms, and stopping when you find yourself nagging, will break this pattern.

It Takes the Two of You

8. The Blame Game. The Blame Game sounds like the name of a TV show. “For 40 points: Who didn’t take out the garbage this week?” It’s not a game at all. The Blame Game is corrosive to a relationship. It is happening when the non-ADHD partner blames the ADHD partner’s unreliability for the relationship problems, and the ADHD partner blames the non-ADHD partner’s anger — “If they would just calm down, everything would be fine!” Accepting the validity of the other partner’s complaints quickly relieves some of the pressure. Differentiating your partner from their behavior allows a couple to attack the problem, not the individual, head-on.

9. The Parent-Child Dynamic. The most destructive pattern in an ADHD relationship is when one partner becomes the responsible “parent” figure and the other the irresponsible “child.” This is caused by the inconsistency inherent in untreated ADHD. Since the ADHD partner can’t be relied upon, the non-ADHD partner takes over, resulting in anger and frustration in both partners. Parenting a partner is never good. You can change this pattern by using ADHD support strategies, such as reminder systems and treatment. These help the ADHD partner become more reliable and regain their status as “partner.”

[Free Download: Manage ADHD’s Impact on Your Relationship]

Excerpted from The ADHD Effect on Marriage, by Melissa Orlov. Copyright 2010. Reprinted by permission of Specialty Press, Plantation, Florida. All rights reserved.

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54 Comments & Reviews

  1. My husband and I both have ADHD and are not getting any treatment for it and things are going surprisingly well. We’ve been married for 11 years and have a 6 year old son with ADHD, which is where most of our struggles come from, but the only big fights that we ever had were in the 4 years that we dated (and yes, we hyper dated… which my parents hated). I had a lot of struggles with my parents, and my husband felt like the first person to ever really understand me.
    We go through periods where we ignore each other, sometimes for weeks at a time, but that’s fine with us. We also have times when we hyper focus on each other. We have bad habits (I laughed when it talked about leaving the laundry in the dryer…. that’s where our laundry is now). I constantly make schedules, but since I never follow them, it’s hard to get upset with my husband for ignoring them too. At least the house gets cleaned once a week when my mom comes over. When I was growing up, the state of my room was a constant battle, now i feel like I have to prove that I can keep my house clean without the constant nagging.
    I’m not saying that my husband and I agree on everything, because we don’t, but we understand each other. I read this article hoping there would be more tips for when both partners and kids have ADHD. It can be a bit chaotic sometimes. Happy chaos.

    1. Lucky for you that you married someone like yourself. Be happy. I did no realize what add was until I had been married awhile , now with an add son. I am lonely and fed up. Second marriage, second divorce. I really see no punt in relationships with someone like this. They don’t even know you are in the room.

      1. I do understand. I stuggle with my ADHD partner but the more Im learning about the ADHD the more understanding I Have for him. Its still very frustrating most of the time but it requires contstant work. Hopefully in time we can find ourselves in a good spot. If you have patience to invest itll all work out. The ADHD parter should seek treatment and maybe you guys could get some therapy together…I hope you find peace

    2. Great article. My ADHD was undiagnosed until I was 73. After 30+ years of struggle in our marriage we developed all 9 of the destructive patterns. Giving truth to the old saying, knowledge is power, we have radically changed our dynamic. The past 2 years are so much better. It is tempting to mourn over past losses but we are instead focusing on enjoying what we finally found.
      As a retired family nurse practitioner, I have the time and energy to engage in helping others deal with their ADHD through CHADD. This author writes with such clarity that I will be recommending her work to others. Thank you, Melissa Orlov

  2. TO MELISSA ORLOV: Please start using gender neutral pronouns. This article was riddled with “him” and “he”. As a woman with adhd I found it bothersome to read this article always assuming men had the problem. Wound you mind using word like “they” or “them” or “your partner” and “their” please?

    1. I actually scrolled down to the comment section for the sole purpose of making the same request. I have a difficult time getting through some of these articles as it is already. When they throw in having to switch every pronoun, well let’s just say it was extremely unpleasant. Working memory is one of my major issues. I would NEVER BUY a book that would frustrate me in such a manner. I truly hope that the author reads these comments.

    2. Are you kidding??? There are people that have real issues because they are on the verge of losing a family they dearly love because of their AHD and all you have to contribute is gender pronouns??? I would kindly ask you to take your feminist propaganda elsewhere. This is a support community and not a centre for your propaganda.

      1. It’s not just about gender pronouns. I’m one of those people having real issues and looking for help. Repeatedly referring to the male as the one with ADHD made this article extremely difficult to read and relate to. I quit reading it because because I constantly had to swap who the ADHD person was in my head. Why do you need to attack people for their comments and opinions? Propaganda? Really?? There are people with real issues here trying to get help from an article and you’re using this as a platform for your anti-feminist whining. You’re the one who’s completely missing the point.

      2. Should it REALLY matter if the author says he or she???? No just quit crying and take the information and put it to use where/if you see fit……geez people!

    3. I noticed the pronoun issues too, but I quickly realized it was just errors in the writing. It took me about a nanosecond after the third instance to figure that out — so I replaced any pronoun with something generic on my own on the fly. It’s not complicated people. Not everything gender issue has an agenda or is meant to trick or confuse.

    4. I’ve read (and loved) Melissa’s books and the truth is, the limits of this article required her to edit down her work and pick a perspective. I’m with you, I am a woman with ADHD and I was hoping that this would speak to me and my relationship, but it doesn’t quite. For example, it is NOT true that my non-ADHD partner does more than half of the chores. Melissa covers this somewhat in her books. There is a gender component that makes non-attentive ADD in women a separate category. In short, changing the pronouns in the first paragraphs is therefore, not accurate. It just doesn’t “swing both ways” in the same way. If anything, I think there is room for a follow up article when the relationship is between an ADHD woman and a non-ADHD man. Also when both have ADHD. However, Melissa talks partially from her experience, which I respect.

  3. I was getting positive feedback from this article until I got to the feminist comments and then it became very negative. I was appreciating the pronouns that we’re informing me as to which partner it was with different situations. I felt enlightened to know that my problems occurred from different perspectives and not have to guess if it was the woman or the man for each of the circumstances. Please refrain from the distraction of your sensitivity and let us focus on POSITIVE results from these fine articles that are intended to help us. You have distracted me from the point of this article. And now I must all over again. Thanks.

  4. RUN… do not walk away from any marriage to a person with ADD.

    Especially if you’re young.

    Don’t get involved with them… ever ever ever ever.

    The non-ADD person will eventually feel so very miserable, trapped and completely ignored by the ADD person that they will eventually be constantly trying to figure out how to abandon the marriage at an older age when things get even more amazingly difficult to change.

    It’s not that the ADD person is bad. Not at all. In fact, they have really, really good intentions and it is oddly charming. And the non-ADD person DOES NOT wish their ADD partner harm in any way. It’s just that if a non-ADD person wishes to enjoy living and loving it cannot be accomplished with an ADD person.

    Do NOT trust an ADD person to handle money. They will spend and spend and spend based on the whimsey of the moment and when all Hell breaks loose and life surprises the relationship with an emergency or crisis, they will point at the non-ADD person and blame them, or their boss, or the world or their friends.

    With age, the ADD person will become an even more reclusive shut-in who doubts their own abilities due to the constant criticism of others and the world at large. They will be so very frustrated to see that everyone around them raises kids, keeps a home, has a job, takes vacations, enjoys social events… but they can’t, or more succinctly, REFUSE to. They will lock themselves in a house or room and only go out for brief periods when absolutely necessary. The non-ADD person in the “marriage” is told “go without me” ALL THE TIME.

    This is absolutely no way for a non-ADD person to live and they should never have to. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO ENDURE THIS.

    1. I have to agree with this. I married a man with ADHD. It was not the first marriage for either of us and I didnt get to know him well enough before marrying him.

      Our 12 years of marriage have been a disaster and the biggest problem has been he cant hold a job. At least half the marriage I have been the sole provider and I’m extremely angry and resentful. I come home from a long days work and find him sitting in front of the tv, nothing done around the house to help out at all. And when he does do something, that maybe took an hour or two of his day I’m expected to make a huge deal of it. We have had constant financial problems because of his reckless spending and inability to keep a job. In 12 years he had over 50 different jobs and the longest was for a little less than a year.

      I feel like his mother, like I’m taking care of a child, and he is angry because I’ve become a control freak. Its a mess and I dont know how to fix it other than to leave the marriage. He admits he has ADHD but says it no longer affects him. He has a very bad temper and is offensive and rude, not just to me but to everyone. He has no friends and yet says he’s a people person and always wants to go out and do things where there are lots of people. But yet he has no patience with people therefore making a scene and causing an embarrassment everywhere we go.

      He is an adult and I can’t force him to get help. I feel like I’ve lost the last 12 years of my life, not to mention most of my life savings trying to keep our heads above water.

      1. Thank you! I am so tired of reading about all the things that I need to do to support my husband because he has ADD. I’m exhausted! What about what HE needs to do?? I understand that he has limitations. But I’m tired of reading articles about my responsibilities to try to help him. He seems to get a free pass at not remembering our anniversary once in 16 years, not acknowledging Mother’s Day (he said, “Why would I tell you happy Mother’s Day? You’re not my mom.” The irony is that I’ve bought the cards and gifts for his mom for mother’s day for the past 20 years.), and forgetting to show up on nights when I’ve gotten a babysitter. I’m so tired!! I’m incredibly jealous of people with typical husbands. He has totaled two cars, put us near bankruptcy twice, withdrawn all the money from my life insurance policies, and lost his job. He refuses to file for unemployment because it’s too difficult and only applies for jobs that I’ve found for him. He’s been unemployed for 6 months despite having two masters degrees. And article after article here talks about how I need to be more patient and understanding and not nag him. I’m ready to walk away from this relationship and am only staying because of our kids and because I have type 1 diabetes and am afteaid to be a single parent. But I can tell his behaviors are hurting the kids too so at some point I’m going to need to get up the strength to walk away.

      2. Wow! I am worried my nephew with ADHD will never be able to have a life companion. I hear your frustration and maybe your spouse is a jerk who happens to have ADHD. While I grew up my mother was a major nag and she nagged her husband right out the door. She had certain beliefs about how her life should be and when things fell short she was indignant. It is hard to feel loved on the other end of that. As you go through your day imagine how life really would be if your spouse no longer was there. You would be doing all the housework you currently do and probably more – do you mow the lawn now? You probably will when he is gone. You would be doing all the childcare and worried about whether to take a second job to make ends meet. YOur children will be living in a world of emotional chaos and hurt missing their dad. You will need more support from family and others. If he loves you, things can be better between the two of you. However if you are the point of resentment it will be very hard to get there. You might look into attending a spousal support group for family members of people with ADHD and look for ideas to try. I need to caution you though, how you approach the problems going forward will be a large factor in your success. You sound like you want a do over. If he is sadistic person that is something else–but if he is a loving person with ADHD, there is hope.

    2. I really have to say that the focus in these articles for couples with ADHD in the relationship are not that helpful. I understand that you are trying to help and I appreciate it, but the reality is that ADHD creates chaos and chaos in the most fundamental places of the relationship. I live under the poverty line, even though I have a University degree, because I refuse to allow my ADHD partner to do nothing in the relationship. I used to work and run the home and take care of the kids and do all the paperwork, and file the taxes, and arrange the social events, and plan and pack for all the trips and vacations, and do all of the parent/school interactions, and you name it! I decided that I was not going to continue to watch my spouse sit on the couch while I did everything anymore. I told them that I was going to stop working and that from now on it would be up to them to earn the money for our family. I’ve not earned a dime since and we have had some really rough times, but at least now there is one thing that my spouse does for the family, and although they don’t earn much, they do earn the living. They take pride in that fact and I am proud of them too. It was a huge leap of faith on my part to do that, but I knew that I had to stop doing everything and that they would never do any of the other things well enough to let them take those things on, so I gave them the job of being the provider and the pressure of not having any money (I cut up all the credit cards and they had already ruined their credit rating so they had no choice but to earn some money) was finally enough to get them to get employment. It nearly cost us the marriage, but it was worth it.

      I continue to do absolutely everything else alone. It is hard! Even with my spouse earning the living, it’s up to me to make ends meet and keep us financially afloat. We have very little, and it’s not much fun, but at least my spouse has something that they can do that they can be proud of.

      ADHD is a disability. If you marry someone with it, think of it like marrying a blind person. There will be things that they simply will not be able to do – just as a blind person will simply not be able to drive a car. Those individual things may vary from person to person becausd ADHD is quite personal in its effect, but they will be there! If you decide that you can handle life with a disabled partner, then carry on. Maybe you simply can’t and that’s okay too, but I’ve just finally decided that it really is a disability and realized that I will never have a normal marriage. I will always be the “way over-contributing spouse” who does the lion’s share of the work. My kids know it. They really appreciate what I’ve done and in some ways that makes it okay. I don’t need to have my partner become neurotypical, I just need to have someone appreciate my sacrifices and let me know that it didn’t go unnoticed.

      I hope that those with ADHD in their relationships who choose to stay, find as much help as they can and find a way to make peace with the things that will never be helped. I believe in a life after death, and I hold onto the hope for better times for my spouse when they no longer are saddled with ADHD. I believe we’ll all be made “whole” in heaven, and I’m kind of looking forward to meeting my spouse as they really are – undisabled by ADHD – when I get there.

      Good luck to us all!

    3. It’s disgusting how hateful and hurtful you are. You DO realize that most of the people reading this article are diagnosed with ADHD, right? You are saying that nobody should want a relationship with me, my son, or my daughter because we have ADHD??!! You’re saying that we will all become like whoever you married and have come to despise after decades of nagging, chastising and whining?? Go figure!! I’d crawl into a hole after being around you, as well!
      Here’s what I’ve learned after decades of marriage – it takes two. I’m not perfect, neither is he. He probably has ADHD also, but stubbornly refuses to seek treatment or implement strategies to help with his symptoms. That’s his issue, I can only worry about things that I have control over. So, lots of things fall to me to handle – and it’s easy to resent someone who refuses to help themselves. But, I have to keep telling myself that I’m doing the best that I can with what I have to work with – and as hard as it is to admit, so is he. He’s doing the best he can. It’s not up to me to judge whether it’s enough or not, I married him and have chosen to stay with him. Therefore, it has to be enough. He makes up for his shortcomings in other ways, although when I see the socks on the floor, it’s hard to remember that he’s a rock solid provider, a hard worker and a great Dad. If I can just keep my mouth shut until the moment passes, then we’re ok, and then I remind him again to pick up his socks – if I can remember.

      1. As the person in my marriage with adhd, I actually kind of agree with this post. The op clearly isn’t made to be in a relationship with an adhd partner. Although the way it has been written is a bit hateful and hurtful, I would say there is probably some resent built up there.
        Me and my wife struggle, and we try our best to accept and understand each other. I wasn’t diagnosed when we met and never would have been if it wasn’t for her. And part of me feels that she won’t be fully happy unless I am completely neurotypical, which as we both no just isn’t possible regardless of meds and therapy. And if she can never be happy with me, then I don’t want her to be with me, I don’t want to be the person that can never make her happy and would rather she could find someone who can. I want my wife to be happy, even if that’s not with me.

        But from a guy with adhd there are definitely a few things I feel need to be highlighted for a non adhd partner and a few things that need to be accepted.

        Your adhd partner will never become 100% neurotypical. Our brains just don’t work that way, and forcing your adhd partner to be neurotypical will likely result in your partner being extremely unhappy and likely lead to depression, or worse. As a couple it is important that you are able to meet in the middle with expectations and work together. If you expect the adhd partner to change only, you are fighting a losing battle.

        “but I’m neurotypical, why do I have to change?”

        Because your adhd partner has lived with thier condition all thier life so to them, they are the neurotypical one in a sense.

        Another point I’d love to highlight from the article is the nagging. We don’t expect you not to nag, it happens, we all do it, even normal couples do it. So we don’t expect you to praise us all the time. But it’s useful to know that nagging or telling off doesn’t work for us in the same way it would for a neurotypical. It doesn’t make us want to work harder or better, it makes us not want to try again and makes us more anxious, or we completely forget and end up doing the thing we are not supposed to do again without realising. We don’t expect to be praised all the time or given a gold star, but you will get a better response from us if you are more understanding, or even learn to laugh at our mistakes and we are more likely to make the change.

        I could go on for hours but I won’t, but I’m happy to give my point of view as the adhd partner as constructively as I can for anyone that has any questions.

  5. I’ve been married 33 years to a man with ADD. It was undiagnosed for the first 20. It’s all that I can do to survive. It grates on me to read articles to tell me how to behave. “Don’t nag” in my life would mean accept whatever he actually accomplished regardless of what he promised to do. Don’t have a parent-child relationship. Don’t I wish!!! If only it were that simple when the ADD spouse thinks taking medicine and “wanting” to change is enough. Any article that focuses as much more on the non-ADD spouse just gets my ire.

    1. I would like to give a constructive opinion if I may as an adhd partner.

      I can understand how hard that is for you both. I see it everyday, I see my wife struggle with it all the time and it is hard. But in an adhd/non adhd relationship, there has to be teamwork. You both have to meet in the middle with things like nagging and praise. Your adhd partner has to accept that not all of his actions deserve praise and deserves to be nagged at, but at the same time the non adhd partner needs to accept the fact, that nagging won’t lead to a positive change in behaviour in someone with adhd, we just don’t process it the same. To us nagging just isn’t constructive and causes more frustration, so in a way all you are doing is passing on the frustration to your adhd partner, which will likely lead to an outburst or argument or defensive behaviour.

      The best way to get your frustration out to us is calmly and constructively, not necessarily praise. Almost constructive nagging if you like. We expect you to get frustrated with us more than others. And if your adhd partner doesn’t expect this, then that needs to change.

      As for praise, why wouldn’t you praise someone for good behaviour? OK so your adhd partner finally did that job he said he would do 6 months ago and you are annoyed that it took them so long. If you put them down or nag about that, then the chances are they just won’t bother next time. If you praise the good behaviour, the the adhd partner feels good about doing it and will do it again, better!!

      Unfortunately, we have a less developed brain than neurotypical in the working memory region. And as said in one of Dr Russel barkleys seminars on adhd, the brain stops developing in this way when we hit our mid 20’s with a development age of around 40% less than a neurotypical. So what this basically means is, an adhd executive functioning age will completely stop when it reaches around 18 years old. So to put that into context, someone with adhd will think like an 18 years old for the rest of thier lives. That doesn’t mean they won’t become more intelligent, they can still learn, they will just think like an 18 year old and meds won’t cure this.

      So there has to be understanding from both sides, there has to be changes from both sides. I believe the article is quite tailored for both partners in this case as I can ralate to the whole article from both mine and my non adhd wifes point of view. I am aware that everything in this article is exactly how she feels being with me. But understanding that it has to be a chance from both sides equally is the most important thing in my eyes. If either one of you is expecting a change only from the other partner, the relationship will always be toxic.

      Please don’t take any of this personally, just a generalised response using the points you highlighted as an example. I just wanted to give some constructive points from the adhd perspective

      I hope this helps anybody reading

  6. Hello, I am a 35 years old and I have been married 3 times now and I just started receiving treatment this past year along with both of my children. I have been reading these comments in hopes of seeing how others feel about us. I see that some feel like maybe they shouldn’t get in a relationship with someone that has ADHD and before you read the rest, I just wanna say I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes or make anybody upset. The truth is we are hard to be with and it’s not only frustrating to the ones that have to live with us but it’s a real struggle living in your own skin. We are just as miserable as we make others. It’s not that we don’t try, but our brains think differently and the majority of the time we feel like an outcast and not loved.

    1. Oh honey, believe me… DO WE LOVE YOU which IS the problem. The rest comes with what Jesus taught us… to forgive. But forgiving doesn’t mean owning the problem. And we want to get the Hell away from you. We don’t wish you any harm. We merely wish you AWAY. We can love you for what you are just as easily as leave you for what you are.

      We also understand that you’ve endured a complete lifetime of criticism for the problem, but that isn’t on us, either. It is totally yours. Like the person above indicates, we should completely avoid… run.. don’t walk away from somebody with ADD. But how to recognize the problem early in the relationship? Easy. You are “fun” and impulsive. You are parent-dependent. You live with your Mommy and Daddy. You never have any money saved. You change your mind by the hour. You can’t put supper on the table every night because that is just far too much responsibility. You shop and shop and shop and shop. Your checking account is perpetually overdrawn. You are liberal with regard to politics (because responsibility is someone else’s). Pay back a debt? Never heard of that. Interrupt someone every three words? Hard for the outsider to have a conversation with you because you just can’t possibly shut the Hell up? The list goes on and on. Others refer to you as “flakey.” Got the picture? If not… it’s because you REFUSE to behave.

      We all want a shared relationship. We all want a loving, equal-contribution relationship. We all want to enjoy our time together, because life is short. You, Mr or Miss ADD make that impossible.

      1. Congratulations for making a series of comments so outrageous that I just had to register and reply.

        You make it sound like people with ADHD are incapable of love in the sense you deserve. I get that.

        So then what is a person with ADHD supposed to do? Are you suggesting to avoid romantic relationships at all cost? Do they seek treatment in order to better themselves or will that still not be enough.

        You’ve shared what the ideal state is for people without it (don’t get into a relationship with a person who has ADHD). So now, share what you consider to be the ideal state for the person with ADHD.

      2. Amazing how many hateful, unhappy people come here to post nasty comments and vent. You chose of your own free will to have a relationship with someone who has ADHD. They may or may not have even known their issues when you met. What if they had developed Celiac disease instead of ADHD? Would you tell them to “Just shut up and eat your bread, you know how to eat like everyone else, so just do it THIS way!” You’re blaming them for something that they just can’t do. Not WON’T DO, THEY CAN’T. At least not consistently without driving themselves insane. IF they could, they WOULD. But, they CAN’T.

        I got to the end of my rope as an at home Mom to a 3 and 7 year old and my husband (probably ADHD, not diagnosed) was working 14 hours a day. I actually had the audacity to tell him that I couldn’t keep up with everything that needed to be done, no matter how hard I tried, or how many planners I kept, notes I wrote or lists I made. I COULD NOT KEEP TRACK OF APPOINTMENTS AND KEEP THE HOUSE SPOTLESS AND MAKE DINNER ON TIME AND READ STORIES TO THE KIDS AND FIND A MOMENT TO GO TO THE STORE FOR MILK. He wasn’t understanding at all. He was hateful and mean. He was angry and disappointed. He was blameful. Does anybody honestly think that if I could have done the things that needed to get done, that I wouldn’t have?? If I had the capability to take care of everything, to please my husband and maintain my good standing with him, why wouldn’t I just do that?? Because I COULDN’T. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t keep it all together. It’s a terrible feeling, to know, day after day, that you’re going to disappoint someone whose esteem and regard are intricately tied to your own feelings of self worth. Believe me, if they COULD, THEY WOULD.

        Don’t make a person with ADHD live up to some arbitrary standard of ‘normal’ functioning that you deem they should aspire to. You’ll only disappoint yourself and discourage them. I’m not saying to just let them off the hook, either. But, try to meet them where they are. If they can’t remember to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer, then remind them or just do it yourself without uttering a nasty comment under your breath. Allow them some grace. Allow them some dignity. Because that person who you fell in love with, they aren’t going to remember the laundry. They won’t suddenly be able to finish the project that’s due next Tuesday by the weekend. Know that they’ll probably be working late on Monday to finish it. And it will be stunning. So, pick up a little something to celebrate on the way home.

      3. So to be fair this reply did start off quite well. And the points you put across are all very much true and common in adhd. However the biggest thing I feel the need to point out here which others have also said is “They can’t help it”

        We don’t mean to be this way, and some of the things we do annoy us too.

        I interrupt people often, or zone out during a conversation, but I don’t mean to do it and I can stop myself from doing it. Usually by the time I realise Im interrupting someone it’s far too late and I have to shut up and apologise because I’ve realised I’ve done it.

        I don’t realise I’ve zoned out of a conversation until I zone back in. It’s like when your so tired you can’t remember falling asleep.

        My point being, the way you have worded it, makes it sound like we mean to do it and we just don’t want to do it differently. We would love nothing more than to be able to 100% concentrate on what someone is saying without interrupting or noticing that cyclist going past with the hi vis vest on. I had a bike one time, it as rally nice, nice shiny pedals and blinking lights, used to go off roading on it all the time in this nice forest area…. Hang on what was I talking about again?

  7. I found that it was not the symptoms of undiagnosed ADD that were the biggest issue. It was the ones associated with the long-term depression and the total lack of self-esteem that has ruined at least 3 long-time relationships (including an ill-advised marriage).

    And I would agree with others here and say that my passage through life has made me a very difficult person to be around or to deal with on a daily basis. I have no real long-term relationships of a romantic nature and do not consider myself to even have friends anymore. We are at best baffling to others outside of this condition as our ability to organise and plan is pretty well non-existent. Often in spite of the ability to cope in work situations or at tasks that are discrete or time-related.

    I can say I feel that my existence now is a fairly loose series of interactions with others that may, or may not, meet their expectations. It rarely meets my expectations anymore and I have had to adopt a world-view that does not involve any long-term goals. I have no confidence in my ability to undertake them or be able to follow-through on them. I would not expect anyone would want to commit to me as a partner due to those factors.

    1. Hey BlackADDer – no one needs to live like this. Remember you are not your brain. You have a heart and a soul and God-given talents. Life is a struggle but there are people who will love you and support you.

  8. I would love to see a comment for the spouse that doesn’t believe that ADD even exists and when I ask for help with very simple things (asking which task I should do first because I was juggling 3 and couldn’t make a decision), he said “Come on, you know what you have you have to do…you just don’t want to do it”. He also said “If I told you, you needed to watch hours of a baking show, you would be able to do it with no problem.”. SIGH! I asked him to pleeeease educate himself. We have an amazing marriage and he is my best friend for almost 25 years, but when he makes a comment like this, I want to hit him with a nerf bat! He also doesn’t believe that my son has it. I don’t get it! Thanks for listening all! Lori

    1. The adhd brain will always always prioritise the most stimulating task over the most important (which is usually the most boring to us)
      fighting with our brain to do what’s needed instead of what it wants us to do is very hard and very exhausting. Having to almost promise your own mind that you will do the fun thing if you let us do this very important thing. It’s a constant battle in our brains that neurotypical people can never understand.

      Don’t want to do it? We would love to do everything.

      Your relationship is going to be very hard if he is not willing to at least understand you

  9. I find the hardest thing to deal with in my marriage to someone with ADD is that he thinks I am going to turn in him because of how people have treated him in the past. And from what I read people with ADD suffer with these same expectations of people. From an ADD/ADHD perspective how can I guarantee my devotion and love for him? I mess up and say the wrong thing and I feel like I have to swear the whole world before he believes I am in his team and not against him like everyone else. How do I prevent this or deal with this scenario? I want him to trust me, if anybody. I see the value of his ADD and the sweetness in his heart but he’s in so much pain, like many of you.

  10. 5. Chore Wars
    7. Nag Now, Pay Later
    9. The Parent-Child Dynamic

    I am interested in others who have ADHD marriages but find that the above issues are flip flopped. For example the ADHD spouse is the one who feels responsible for every thing. I was the oldest of 3 girls living with a single mom who (in retrospect) had ADHD. Our life was pretty chaotic. There was no routine and we “just never knew” what our day was going to be like. The older I get the less I can handle chaos.
    I have ADHD but I am very type A. My husband is very passive.
    It works until he gets tired of me being a bossy control freak,
    or I get tired of him not taking initiative or responsibility without my prompting.

    I have ADHD a condition I always thought was BS.
    When my incredibly intelligent son was pretty much failing 2nd grade we discovered his gifted verbal IQ along with an extremely slow processing speed. ADHD primarily inattentive type.
    As life got more complicated for me as a mom with 2 kids it slowly dawned on me that I too have ADHD and it explained so many things in my life.

    1. CLARIFICATION: when my son was diagnosed that is when I no longer doubted the existence of ADHD
      the more I learned the more I realized I as well as my mother had ADHD.
      So sad I was 50 before I was diagnosed.
      So sad she never had a diagnosis and spent her life feeling like she could “never win”

  11. These days, my former wife and I get along well, and mainly because we do not live together any more.
    She says “You are a great person and I like you a lot, I just cannot live with you”

    The Transactional Analysis of Parent-Adult-Child was explained to me by a psychologist. Apparently I thought I was talking Adult to Adult, but my wife thought I was a Parent talking down to her as a Child.

    1. Unfortunately this seems to be often the case in adhd/non adhd relationships. And from research I have done over the last few years it could be due to our low executive functioning age. In context we basically think like a 16 – 18 year old, and always will. So your non adhd partner will essentially grow up, but the adhd partner never will. So the non adhd partner ends up feeling like your parent rather than your partner. Then the issue is because of the way we are wired, growing up will make the adhd partner very unhappy in life.
      I know this because I am the adhd partner, and I try my best to become the responsible adult so my wife doesn’t have to feel like my parent. But doing so and trying to become more grown up, makes me really miserable and unhappy. But then being the “adhd child” makes me really happy, but makes her really unhappy

  12. For those commenting that the author is using “he” when referring to the ADHD partner…
    It was probably easier for her to write it this way because she is married to a man who has ADHD.

  13. I just started researching adhd I was diagnosed ten years ago but didnt do anything about it my son just started dealing with his adhd but seriously if I have to read crap about gender neutral references I will go somewhere else

  14. Shanemag85 I am stunned I have always felt the same age around 20 I am sixty now I always have trouble tellings peoples ages except for children and seniors I could never tell anyones age that was my age even now I do not thnk like a 60 years old I still thnk I am 20 birthdays never bothered me as most women including my mom who told people she was 29 for four years. growing older never bothered me cause I guess I was trapped in this wierd thing you talked about this is my first day investigating all this for myself but I have read myself in most of this stuff for marriages, I am terrible with money my husband is the penny pincher thank God or we would be homeless anyway I have taken in alot of nfo and will be calling a psychiatrist tomorrow to schedule an appt I thought I was suffering from dementia also cause of my memory I also have fibromyalgia which screws with the memory and attributed most of my ills on that

  15. I am at my wits end. 16 years of a horrible marriage. It has begun to affect my health and my kids (constant contention in the home). My husband is the one with ADHD and although I recognize it is a disability and not his fault, I still feel completely sad and hopeless all the time. I look at the relationships of my friends, neighbors, etc. and all I wish is that I had married someone different. I have stayed all these years bc of the kids, but I wonder now if that was wise. I wish I would’ve left before there were kids or at least when they were too young to notice. Marriage is already hard as it is when nobody has ADHD, but with it, it seems IMPOSSIBLE to ever be happy again. I feel miserable and hopeless.

  16. For those people responding that the pronoun use bothers you – please ignore those people who are attacking you because you’ve expressed your feelings on this. Those who have attacked you for being petty when there are “real people looking for help” obviously need to understand ADD/ADHD better… as they’d know that getting “hung up” on something seemingly so “simple”… is all a part of ADD. I hope you all find the answers you’re looking for.

  17. It is sincerely amazing how those with ADHD come on here and become the martyr. For the person asking just what, exactly ADHD people are supposed to do to carry on a relationship: Just as you insist to non-ADHD people that your brain isn’t wired to behave like or accept the behavior of a non-ADHD person… neither are non-ADHD people’s brain wired to accept YOUR behavior. So stop insisting that the “capable” party come to YOUR way of thinking/behaving. This is manipulative. Any sort of relationship based on manipulation is doomed to fail, be it ADHD/non or any other combination of issues.

  18. I noticed the pronoun issues too, but I quickly realized it was just errors in the writing.

    It was not an “ERROR” in the writing. Melissa Orlov was writing from her own experience. Her husband has ADHD, she does not. I don’t think its a big deal to “flip” it in your head while reading, from he/she to they, or whatever.
    Also, if you go to her website and look at the forums, you will see the overwhelming majority of “Non” spouses/partners are female. Statically, women more than men read self help books, and look for solutions on sites like hers. Also, more men then women have ADHD…
    Stop making a big deal out of it. The book was published 10 years ago, before gender neutral pronouns were a “thing”. I’m sure it didn’t occur to her to use them, as she was writing based on her own experiences.

  19. Ljs4adhd

    Whether you are married to someone with ADHD or not, do not merge finances. Keep three accounts, Yours, His and a third account for paying the bills. If both partners are working, the amount each contributes to the third account would be based on a percentage of their salary. (A person making $40K /year cannot be expected to contribute the same amount as someone making $80K.)

  20. “robincole3346155
    September 10, 2019 at 1:57 pm
    5. Chore Wars
    7. Nag Now, Pay Later
    9. The Parent-Child Dynamic

    I am interested in others who have ADHD marriages but find that the above issues are flip flopped. For example the ADHD spouse is the one who feels responsible for every thing.”

    I’m not sure why the reply button disappeared when I logged in, oh well. I agree with this previous comment, a lot of this feels very flip flopped of our dynamic of me the wife with assumed ADHD (still need to see someone about it) and my husband presumably being neurotically. I know I definitely dont meet his expectations on housework and other stuff, but that’s more of a physical disability thing, and even an anxiety thing, and less so the ADHD. Some is still the ADHD, but most is not. I still feel like the naggy parent asking him to do his fair share of the chores a lot of the time, and even the walkig on eggshells and the him ignoring me when I try to talk to him. Like 80% of the list is flipped, and the ones I do are mostly for other reasons.

  21. I love the way this article mentions “nagging” and then always refers to “she” or “her.” What is it called when a man does it? Requesting? And if we want to gender role this and if there’s no name for it, then women usually do the request before it can GET to “nagging.” There you have it. You’re welcome.

  22. Odd, the page told me to log in to post comments, but as soon as I logged in, the reply buttons vanished. So I can’t get in on the conversation. Oh, well.
    SO my hubby told me from day one he was ADD. Diagnosed as a child with wires on his head and everything. They gave him ritalin which he and his parents said made him mean. So they noticed he was paradoxical in his response to medicines so they put him on coffee and beatings. That worked. Fast forward to him at 39 becoming the Pastor at my local Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. He did tell me , but I didn’t know what that meant. We married 17 years ago, I was 41 he was 40. Lucky for me, he is very possessive, so no worries about being ignored. I understood Men are From Mars and Women are Form Venus so I knew he would need time zoning out in his cave. (Cartoons )He had forced himself to be in the Navy 10 years but he worked in the easiest job he could, turning down better and more interesting and better paid positions (electronics) because he swore he couldn’t do the math, not that he could learn it. But OK. SO he was stuck in low wage jobs once out.
    Never picks up after himself, leaving the house a pigsty. Looks like a cyclone hit it. At first I stopped picking up after him because normal women told me leave it there and he will get sick of it. Well…. that never happened. It just got worse. Clothes on the couch, clothes on the floor, clothes on the lamp, clothes just wherever he sat after work and would strip off his clothes and leave them there. Mind you, he didn’t get paid for his Pastor duties, so it’s not his suits he leaves around, well not usually, he does hang those up, but his ties are all over, but he got a secular job to pay the bills. I was finishing my nursing license so I ended up working many miles from home because he didn;t want me to go 200 miles from home for 6 months to finish my RN, so I ended up 150 miles from home working and not being home most of the week. SO backfired on him. There are no local jobs for LPN’s.
    So I was accustomed to doing all the chores because I was in the Baptist culture and that’s what the women did. Asde form my quiet personal cursing him out for his extreme sloppiness, I doubled down and did everything so he could focus on his sermons, which were very good because at those moments, he had the holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit truly took over. Then, he would revert to the child he is. Which makes me laugh a lot and can be a break to my serous nature. …..We were mostly happy and enjoyed each other. Until I got perforated bowel and was in the ICU for 2 months and he thought I was going to die. But he had over 100 people praying for me in churches all over, and even the housekeepers in my hospital prayed for me. I was in rehab in the same hospital 3 months. So 5 months. I was off oral food (4.5 months), which was replaced by TPN (total Parenteral Nutrition, AKA artificial milk in the vein,they don’t get all the nutrients right so I suffered some setbacks from that like fatty liver – using PUFA oils in the formula and high 160 gram glucose, which is famous for causing diabetes. ) So while ai was helpless in the hospital and he was supposed to be building me some safe back stairs, (I had been nagging him for years on those stairs) he didn;t get it done and made every excuse and rather than taking me home, took me to his sister’s house (with her hubby 4 boys and mom), for 2 months. It wasn’t until almost the end of the tow minths he still did;t have those stairs done. I had his mother nag home. ANd he got it done in one day. Beautiful , nice stairs but he still after two years has not finished the handrail.
    fast forward 2 years. I was much better last thanksgiving 2019, well enough to cook a Thanksgiving dinner or the church and be off he walker and off the canes. I have a colostomy and a fistula right nest to it, a reminder of the tunnel through my gut, that won’t allow me to stand up straight, it feels like a corset strung inside and someone is pulling it tight. I still have vertigo, a combination of damage from the multiple organ failure that is common with sepsis in the ICU, and also anemia from blood drainage from the fistula. Also lung scarring from ARDS, another aspect of the sepsis cycle. SO run out of breath. Got worse all of a sudden during the covid, so I got covid and my abilities I had gained were all gone, and I was stuck in bed for 8 weeks with oxygen again, at home, but helpless. It has taken me 8 months from then to get my oxygen levels back into the low 90’s. So needless to say, I am not able to do housework yet, or cook much, a little , but not much. Also our running water is two garden hoses shoved into the kitchen wall and the bathroom floor which I did when I was sick but didn’t have a colostomy yet. So our hot water is the sun heating the garden hose. Now in winter, everything is frozen. So no dishes are getting washed.

    And this hs shown me how his ADD affects him. I go in the kitchen and things are stacked, trash, dishes, serving utensils, knives, paper towels. And I make an effort to clean this up while calling him names under my breath. He’s at work so he doesn’t hear it. In the living room, I have been begging him for a shelf I can put my stuff on next to the couch , as it is just piling up. He likes to say it is all my fault. But when I got home from the hospital I found a paper bag that looked like trash , only I went through it and found plated silver utinsils in the bag, that he was evidently going to throw away with the trash, because he evidently can’t tell the difference. Also when I got home, I found a 3 gallon bucket (which I would use for my milking tools my set up for the goats)and there was a bunch of paper towels, and some of our home eggs from our chickens and at the bottom, a bare whole chicken, which had to be a chicken I butchered right before going in the hospital that I had out in the fridge to age. Because our chickens are large, much larger than store chickens and we NEVER buy whole chickens from the store. We buy a pack or thighs or a pack of drumsticks. So this HAD to be one of mine, and he NEVER butchers. WHY it was outside of the fridge, yes, with maggots all over it, he denied knowing anything about it. So I suppose the Keebler Elves butchered a chicken and left it out for him. And that tells me that chicken was in the house at least for 5 months. Uknown when he took it out or WHY he put it in a bucket. Also, many of yh things I had set up to organize my little shelves were off the walls, and my thermometers were off the walls. He had no idea where they were. I had a voltmeter on the bedroom wall so I could check the voltage of the batteries in the pumphouse (we are off grid), and that was gone. The trouble is I have neuropathy in the feet and legs now, and can barely walk, I can’t stand with any ease. I can’t clean, I can’t do laundry, I can’t do my normal chores. I’m pretty helpless (especially a leftover from covid, , it’s very horrible). I hope I can get well but it doesn’t look too good. I was able to tolerate doing all the chores when I was fairly able bodied but now I’m disabled and dependent in HIM and I can’t depend on him. A couple of months after I got home, he called me very apologetically as he was notified my property was going on the auction block, because he didn’t pay the taxes. He got this taken care of on the phone and I was able to pay online on his next paycheck. That was a close one. See, I found and paid for that property from the age of 20 working my hiney off as a CNA in a nursing home. He is owner by marriage, but he has no skin in the game. It really doesn’t mean anything to him. But without this property, we would have huge utility bills and it is money we can use in other areas. It is paid off, from my 23rd year. So taxes is all we have on it.

    So pray for my health that I can get back on my feet fully and completely because I can do it if I am able. But I need to be able.

  23. One of the things that bothered me slightly about this article is the comment about the ADHD partner getting to have all the fun while the other partner has all the responsibilities. I think something that needs to be kept in mind is that the ADHD partner is probably not having fun. All that splashing and “playing” in the water is most likely them trying not to drown or actually drowning.

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