ADD/ADHD and Marriage

There are ways to make marriage work when one (or both) of you have ADD

Couple chatting a dinner table
Simon Winnall/Taxi/Getty Images

Attention Deficit Disorder is a neurobiological based disorder. It is actually quite common in adults. Over half of those diagnosed as children will go on to have the disorder as adults. It will continue throughout that individuals life as well. A large percentage runs in families. If one parent has ADD, there is a strong likelihood that your children will have it as well.  

An individual must have several symptoms present to meet criteria for either the inattentive type or hyperactive/impulsive type.

 There must also be impairment as a result. For example, under-performance at work, in school at home, or socially. There would have been presence of the disorder during childhood. The symptoms must not be better accounted for from something else. For instance, drug use, another neurological disorder or a different mental disorder. 

Spouses, when one or both have ADD, can still have a good marriage. You must keep the lines of communication open and you should not try to coach, fix or enable one another.

ADD Does Impact a Marriage

You may find, after you have been diagnosed with ADD, that your regular coping mechanisms no longer work. This can be a shock. This can trigger other problems, such as depression. In fact, there is a higher degree of co-occuring disorders with ADD such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. 

The symptoms of ADD and certain behaviors you may create hostility. A messy house could become a major frustration.

Procrastination can become another source of irritation. Having a partner constantly tun out can be extremely frustration. Constantly loosing the key or forgetting things may drive each other up the wall.

Tips on Coping with ADD/ADHD in Your Marriage

  • Get help! You must be responsible for effectively managing your ADD.  Because it is a biological based disorder, you will likely require a biological based treatment, such as medication. There are several available to help you and you must be under the care of a psychiatrist while taking these medications.
  • Get counseling with a therapist that specializes in ADD. 
  • Designate a "clean" room. Some couples find that agreeing together to having one room in the house that is designated as the "clean" room, helps eliminate the frustration about leaving unfinished projects or piles of papers around. The "clean" room is off limits for these projects and piles.
  • Do not nag.
  • Accept that changes won't happen right away.
  • Affirmation and praise are important messages to hear from each other.
  • Appreciate your differences.
  • Set realistic expectationstogether.
  • Keep working on your communication skills with one each other. Make a point to communicate assertively and respectfully.
  • Agree that you both need patience.
  • Be supportive of each other's treatment strategies. 
  • Do not leave little "to do" reminders around the house for your spouse.
  • You both need to keep a sense of humor.
  • Read some of the high quality books on the topic of ADD (see recommendations)

Focus on Your Own Behavior Changes

  • Do not think you can coach or help your spouse as he or she deals with the ADD issues. You will only create hostility or resentment in your relationship if you try to take on the role of coach.
  • Pay attention to changes you want to make in your own behavior, not on what you wish your spouse would change.
  • Back off and allow one another to make his or her own decisions on how to cope with the ADD/ADHD.
  • Some people will make lists. Some people will take medications. Some will create other ways of dealing with ADD/ADHD in their lives. Remember that none of these approaches are necessarily wrong and that none of these approaches are necessarily right. This is an individual decision.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON: The ADHD Affect on Marriage, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? ,Scattered Minds: Hope and Help for Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder

You may also like to read: How to Cope With a Mentally Ill Spouse

*Article updated by Marni Feuerman