The View: What It’s Like to Be Married to an ADHD Husband

One woman describes her journey learning to cope with her husband’s ADHD behavior quirks, and the condition’s impact on their family.

Illustration of rollercoaster with ADHD couple in car
Illustration of rollercoaster with ADHD couple in car

My ADHD husband of 31 years is a wilderness first responder. He can climb mountains and hunt like nobody’s business. If I need a tourniquet, he’s the man. If we’re in a shootout, he’s my guy.

However, these skills offer little solace when, with a master’s degree in accounting and being a former employee of Deloitte, I have been instructed to wait patiently for 27 years to see our taxes filed. Or, as a young mother of six struggling to make ends meet, you’re notified of $946 in bad check charges. It’s about this time that you realize that someone is close to needing a first responder!

I had three children with my husband. The two youngest boys, born a little more than a year apart, challenged every parenting skill known to man. By age three, the oldest of the two had arranged all of his plastic furniture on our house roof. This was the beginning of many appointments with a psych doctor, and an evaluation and diagnosis. Tears streaming down my face, I said, “I don’t care which of us leaves here with meds, but I’m not leaving without a prescription!”

[“What I Wish My Partner Knew”]

It was the dawning of the Internet era, so my ability to gather valuable, helpful information on ADHD was limited. Though my first two children were the birth children of a different father, I considered myself proficient at motherhood — until my new husband, with undiagnosed ADHD, passed along his ADHD genes to our kids.

More than three decades have passed. I have been on, at times, a crippling, emotional roller coaster ride. Experts thought at the time that adults grew out of childhood ADHD. Perhaps some do. It wasn’t until last year that I realized that my husband’s reaction to our lives together was a result of his own dysfunctional ADHD vision.

There is little written these days about the person without ADHD. It seems all the information and advice is aimed at the one with ADHD — how to set up a better to-do list, how to manage time better, how to avoid boredom.

Through the years, I have taken various mood-stabilizing medications, including tranquilizers, and spent time in a hospital. While ADHD is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the severe mood disorders it can lead to in a spouse and/or parent is not. Here are some of my perceptions about being married to an ADHD husband:

[How Learning to Listen Might Save Your Marriage]

> Some people with ADHD think they are living a normal life. There is nothing normal about reading 350 action novels in three years while your finances, house, and life fall down around you.

> Some believe that they are telling the truth when they assure you that a one-month kitchen remodeling job (or some other task) will get done. Yet they accuse you of being unreasonable when it is still unfinished after three years.

> Some people with ADHD say, “I’ll do it later,” which often means there’s not much chance in hell that it will get done.

> Some with ADHD call the non-ADHD spouse a nag or an unyielding parent. You are most likely not a nag or an unyielding parent. For those with ADHD, so many people in their life, both past and present, has (or will get) this label.

[An Open Letter to My Husband]

> Many without ADHD turn into screamers. Life with an ADHD spouse is a constant ride on the Matterhorn. It’s thrilling, but you also have weak knees and white knuckles almost every day.

Just remember, non-ADHD spouses, that you are not crazy! Don’t put a pill in your own mouth thinking it will cure your spouse’s ADHD.