Marriage

A Study of ADHD Marriages: Division of Labor from Both Perspectives

“You don’t appreciate anything I do!” “Stop nagging me!” “Please take some initiative around here.” Whether it’s paying the bills, buying the groceries, scheduling doctor appointments, or all of the above and much more, couples fight about their division of labor. If the breakdown doesn’t feel fair, arguments and “disruption” ensue. This is particularly true in marriages touched by ADHD. Here, our readers share their insights and frustrations with day-to-day responsibilities.

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ADHD, Marriage, and Labor

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly a quarter of all marriages will face some kind of “disruption” — a separation, divorce, or death — within the first five years. After 20 years, that number jumps to 53 percent.

In ADDitude's own survey of married couples living with ADHD (average length of relationship: 16.1 years), only 31 percent said they’d never considered or been close to divorce. In other words, ADHD places an undue strain on relationships. This is not news to most of our readers; nor is insight that an inequitable distribution of labor (real or perceived) is a major source of marital strife.

A hand in a yellow glove cleaning a shower wall, division of labor in marriage concept
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How Our Readers See It

In our survey of 1,256 partners with and without ADHD, we asked specifically about respondents’ marital division of labor in managing household finances, housework, parenting duties, and social engagements. To no one’s surprise, every spouse thinks they do more than their counterpart thinks they do. This is true on both sides of the ADHD coin.

The biggest such discrepancy existed in the realm of household tasks and chores, where non-ADHD spouses said they did 71 percent of all the work — but their ADHD spouses said they did just 40 percent of the work. A similar gap in perceptions existed in parenting duties, suggesting a communication breakdown about all the not-so-small, daily things we all do to keep life running smoothly — and a gap in understanding about what tasks are most arduous and straining. Here is what each group had to say.

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Finances from the Non-ADHD Perspective

“I pay all the bills and keep track of when things are due. But he is a part of making decisions on purchases.”

“He makes the money but I pay the bills, set the budget, and reconcile with the IRS.”

“I have learned it is best if I manage everything financial, but my spouse has his own checking account and pays his own bills — although I keep the calendar to remind him and make sure they’re paid on time.”

“My spouse is great at saving money. I track and pay the bills.”

[Free Resource: 6 Ways ADHD Sabotages Relationships]

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Finances from the ADHD Perspective

“He makes 98 percent of the income, and I spend 95 percent of it!”

“We realized very early that I'm terrible at managing money, so she handles the details of the budget based on our discussions about priorities.”

“We both manage to bumble along and try to make sure it all gets paid on time. We each have our own area of responsibility so one person doesn't have to deal with it all.”

“We both know everything happening with the money, but my husband makes out the budget. I always get to have complete input on it.”

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Running the Household from the Non-ADHD Perspective

“He will help if prompted. He wants to keep up with his own stuff, but I don't like to remind ('nag') — so he’ll just let things accumulate because he's ‘too busy’ or ‘forgets.’”

“He's eager to help but, other than dishes or laundry or yard work, he has to be given specific tasks to do. He doesn't take initiative.”

“She handles more of the household chores — a trade-off, as I support the household financially.”

“He gets hyperfocused on cleaning and chores. He’s much better at them than I am — I tend to procrastinate.”

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Running the Household from the ADHD Perspective

“Even with my ADHD, I’m still expected to be superwoman!”

“My husband is able to complete more tasks than I can without distraction.”

“Since I have ADHD, I suck at all of this and it's extra hard, but I seem to be the only one doing the majority of it.”

“I am often overwhelmed and tired. My husband does all the cooking and grocery shopping and most of the cleaning of the house. I do the laundry.”

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Parenting Duties from the Non-ADHD Perspective

“She seems to have more patience than I do with the kids. She is really always there for them.”

“She helps with homework more than I do. I usually try to help with discipline and rules.”

“This is where we struggle the most: co-parenting our children — especially our child with ADHD. My husband tends to go from 0 to 60 and explode in anger at our son, who admittedly can be VERY oppositional.”

“Pretty equal. I tend to do more keeping of routines, making appointments, etc. He is really good about relating to our daughter — because he understands how she thinks!”

["I'm Not Trying to Drive You Crazy, Really"]

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Parenting Duties from the ADHD Perspective

“My husband takes most of the parental responsibilities with our ADHD daughter — she and I are too similar.”

“I am home more with the kids since he works out of town, but I involve him in a lot of decisions since I struggle making them without him.”

“We handled different parts of parenting. I was better at handling medical issues and doctor’s appointments. I began to struggle emotionally as the kids got older, and my husband handled emotional things with the girls better — he is far more even-tempered.”

“I deal with education and daily interactions. He does discipline.”

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Social Lives from the Non-ADHD Perspective

“I always have to be prepared for the unexpected!”

“My partner is a bit of a hermit and would never do anything socially with others if I didn't organize it.”

“My wife seems to attract invitations. It’s problematic, as she always wants to attend them all — even if we’re busy.”

“My partner would like to do more, but our life is always so chaotic that I’m often too overwhelmed to put much into our social lives.”

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Social Lives from the ADHD Perspective

“I am usually the one who schedules/organizes things for us to do, but sometimes my partner initiates outings or get-togethers.”

“I don’t always do ‘social’ well. When we are out, I say things that embarrass my wife. I take Wellbutrin for that reason and it helps — but dumb things still slip out.”

“I don’t like to initiate social activities. My husband loves social interaction, so he is always planning things.”

“What social life?”

["What I Wish My Partner Knew"]

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  1. How incredibly degrading towards people with AD(H)D. This article implies that the other half of the couple, the one without AD(H)D, has no issues, is never lazy,is good at planning and structuring households, and on top of that is so kind that he/she takes it all on. In real life this is not the case I can tell you. It also implies that everyone on this planet is normal apart from people with adhd. There are many pesonality disorders, and many people have one or more or both or a bit of this and a bit of that.
    In my own experience and I have ADD, my two exes never did a thing. I did all the cooking,cleaning, groceries, money business and helped them with their personal problems, also working full time . Totally neglected myself. Glad all that is behind me.
    Please next time before writing an article think! What sort of a ‘study’ is this? By the way, probably way more than 31% of ALL married couples have ‘considered’ divorce, since in the United States around 50% of marriage end in divorce. I only subscribed to ADDitude because I HAD to post this reply. Its Just offending to all those hard working people that give it their all to make it work.

  2. Thank you again, my husband has no issues, he does allot while supporting me with ADHD. I do allot too, we work hard to care how the other feels but we all know that someone always FEELS overwhelmed at some time. What I love about seeing this in writing is opening my eyes to what I could be missing in all my husband does for me. Thank you. ❤️

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