Marriage

The Honeymoon’s Over. The Marriage Ain’t.

ADHD has soured many relationships — that is a fact. But separation is hardly a forgone conclusion. Here are 12 ways to mitigate the ADHD effect on marriage, and reconnect with your spouse.

A rollercoaster is a good metaphor for the effects of adhd on marriage.
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Find the Fun

Marriage is a partnership in which two people depend on each other for support, intimacy, and companionship. A person with ADHD can be undependable and unpredictable, which complicates this partnership but hardly makes it impossible. When you understand what goes on in the mind of an individual with ADHD, you are better able to develop systems for healthy functioning — together. That’s when you can enjoy the thrilling, scary, fun roller coaster ride of loving a person with ADHD.

A couple argues in the kitchen about the effect of ADHD on their marriage.
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#1: Let Go of Your Ego

Value your marriage more than you do your desire to be “right.” Make peace a priority. In a healthy marriage, there is no room for reprimand, rebuke, and rudeness. Emotional situations can sweep you away from your marriage and into your ego. Attempting to prove you are superior makes your loved one inferior. Is that how you want to treat your soul mate? When I find myself blurting out, “How could you do this to me, after all I do for you,” then I know I’m in the danger zone. Everything isn’t about me; it’s about my marriage.

A meal for 20 that a person with high energy from ADHD could prepare in a few hours.
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#2: Accept Each Other's Flaws

Everyone has flaws, and wants to be loved in spite of them. Acceptance without judgment is an act of love. No one is perfect. Happiness happens when you accept each other’s negative traits and resolve not to try and change your spouse, but to live better with those traits that drive you nuts. People don’t change each other; life does. Most negative flaws have a positive aspect. My high energy and rampant procrastination are the same traits that allow me to prepare a family meal for 20 in a few hours (and enjoy every minute). Work to see the silver linings in your spouse’s character.

A high speed train: a good metaphor for the mind of a person with ADHD.
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#3: Ask for Help

I’ve got no brakes. I lose track of time. I forget to make dinner, or make a deposit and end up with an overdrawn fee. My husband brings me to a halt when I cannot shut down my own engines. He also knows and accepts that I’m in charge of emotional maintenance, family peace, food, directions and fun. Whether it’s travel arrangements, social events, or paying bills, assign the task to the one who does it best. Each partner has an area of expertise. Compliment each other. Fill in each other’s blanks. Be the strength to your partner’s weakness, and be sure to thank him or her for a job well done; a little recognition goes a long way!

His and hers divisions, like towels, can help avoid conflict in an ADHD marriage.
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#4: Let There Be Space

Space: Something a person with ADHD never has enough of. No matter how much space I have, I fill it until it overflows. I am collector of unusual items I might need for future use. I don’t believe in waste. Everything has another purpose. To manage this tendency, His and Hers divisions are the best way to go, when possible. Whether it’s bathrooms, bedrooms, closets or refrigerators; keeping separate sections can prevent unnecessary disputes. Section off discrete areas for the ADHD spouse to keep her things, without cutting into your space or making you stressed about cleaning.

A woman with ADHD relaxes and reads a book on the couch, taking some personal time in her marriage.
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#5: Take Personal Time-Outs

Emotional space is also important. A little solitary peace gives you time to re-adjust. Life with ADHD can be exhausting. I love my husband’s company but I also need to hibernate in my creative cave where I write, knit, read, and exercise. Personal time-outs allow each partner space to do what makes him or her happy. Take time to do what you enjoy, then come back to each other feeling refreshed. A happy partner makes for a happier marriage, so carve out a schedule that allows both partners the time they need each week.

A person with ADHD at the grocery store.
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#6: Practice Forgiving

People mess up. Individuals with ADHD mess up more. I forget to call the plumber and pick up dog food. When I remember, I don’t want a medal, but I also don’t want rolling eyes when I forget. I don’t want my husband to look at me and see an irresponsible wife who can’t pick up prescriptions at the drugstore. So I force myself to get the job done. Then I text him to let him know he will have the medication he needs for his trip, because better communication never hurt a marriage, after all. When I forget to prepare my husband’s lunch, I appreciate that he doesn’t get mad.

A couple embraces and discusses the ADHD effect on marriage.
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#7: Remember That Compliments Matter

It’s easy to become complacent. Take time to appreciate the good qualities in your partner. Say something nice, like you did when you were dating. As the years pass, your vision can become tainted. It’s easier to focus on the negative traits rather than it is to see the positive ones. A compliment benefits the person who gives it, as well as the person who receives it. It’s a positive antidote to the harmful trap of complaints and criticism that marriages sometimes fall into. Compliments are magical. Women enjoy them, and men need them, too.

A wife with ADHD holds the hand of her husband with ADHD.
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#8: Live Your Vows

“I, Jane, take you Jon, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” These are words of commitment, devotion, loyalty, and love. Repeat them to yourself—often. Remember the love you felt the moment you spoke those words. Your heart was bursting with love. Go back to that moment. Strive to love like that again.

A couple with ADHD invests in their marriage with a walk on the beach.
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#9: Be Intimate

Our days are busy, and so are our minds. Partners forget to pay attention to each other. I’m constantly checking my phone or spacing out, and forget that my husband is standing in front of me. Be lovers again. Take time to unwind together. Walk the dog under the moonlight before bedtime. Shut off the TV. Get close. Hug. Touch. My pre-marital dating profile said: “Looking for someone to walk on the beach with, for deep conversations, and quiet moments together.” If you got what you hoped for, then live according to it. Breathe new life into your old ways.

A woman with ADHD looks through a zoom lens camera.
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#10: Respect Your Differences

No matter how symbiotic your marriage, disagreements happen. Are you a Democrat married to a conservative, or an introvert married to the life of the party? I like my opinion. I consider it valuable. I want to express it. I want to be heard — as in honored and respected, not in volume. My husband feels the same. An opposing opinion brings another valuable perspective to the situation, like a photographer taking several camera angles until he chooses the right one for the shot. Disrespectful beginnings don’t have happy endings.

An illustration of a pause and a play button, a reminder that sometimes you need to stop and think in an ADHD marriage.
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#11: Pause

The inescapable theme of ADHD is poor impulse control. My passionate desire to verbalize every thought influences my actions, thoughts, speech and emotions; it also causes unnecessary problems. Impulsivity affects my conversations. My thoughts are rarely edited before they are spoken. Regrets, isolation, and distance are the result. My intense emotions cause problems that a simple pause would cure. Two impulsive people can’t hear each other. Take time to taste your words before you spit them out.

A couple in an old movie dances, a reminder to stop and enjoy life in your ADHD marriage.
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#12: Strive to Be Better

It’s never easy, but behaviors can change. Like algae in a swamp, ADHD is a breeding ground for excuses. The challenge is in knowing what to change and what to accept. Denial and avoidance combined with daily trials and tribulations can lead to the destruction of a relationship. The goal of any healthy marriage is for each partner to constantly strive for self-improvement. Marriage is a dance that can’t be done alone. Is your marriage a jitterbug, tango, or a waltz? It takes practice to synchronize your moves so that you flow harmoniously united through life. Just dance.

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