ADHD and marriage can be hard. It can be especially hard if the ADHD is undiagnosed. ADHD symptoms present unique issues to almost any relationships. Due to the closeness and interconnectedness of a marriage, those issues only become magnified and all the more destructive.
No couple has a perfect marriage, and all marriages come with ups and downs. For marriages to survive, the couple must learn to face and resolve their struggles together. When ADHD comes in, though, the issues caused might disrupt the feeling of trust and unity in a marriage.
This leads us to consider how best a couple can address the most common pitfalls of ADHD and marriage. We want to go over what these pitfalls are so that couples can consider if they see these issues in their relationships. If you notice some or all of these pitfalls in your marriage, you shouldn’t lose heart, though.
No marriage is beyond reconciliation and healing. Talk to your partner and work towards coming up with a solution together and get input from a counselor, if needed. The first step towards finding a solution involves mutual understanding. By reviewing the common pitfalls of ADHD and marriage, you might find that mutual understanding with your partner helps to begin a road towards a healthier relationship.
#1 - Inattentiveness
The first common pitfall of ADHD and marriage involves inattentiveness. Spouses of individuals with ADHD often have this complaint against their partner. They say that their partner does not seem to care about their feelings and seems not to listen to them or pay attention to them. For the spouse, this apparent inattentiveness can make them feel lonely, insecure, and unloved. All of these feelings can lead to issues in a marriage and even eventual divorce.
Inattentiveness on the part of the individual with ADHD usually goes back to a lack of focus. Many people with ADHD tend to struggle with focus in general. The ADHD mind can quickly jump from one idea to another and move from one task to another. Since many with ADHD struggle with an inability to focus, others see this as they don’t want to pay attention or don’t care.
In reality, many people with ADHD do care about others and especially their spouses, but they feel at a loss as to how to show their care and attention. Their mind simply moves too quickly and they can’t get a handle on focusing on one topic. This makes conversations or listening to stories from their spouse difficult.
The spouse of the person with ADHD might compare their marriage to their courtship. They may feel that their partner paid special attention to them while dating, but now they seem not to care at all. What might be occurring is that the person with ADHD had hyper focus while dating, but now their mind has moved on to other pursuits. Their feelings may have not changed, rather their ability to intensely focus has shifted.
#2 - Impulsive Behavior
A second major pitfall of ADHD and marriage to be on the lookout for is impulsive behavior. Individuals with ADHD tend to act or react quickly and impulsively. This means that many times they make impromptu decisions without thinking through the implications.
For marriages, this can quickly take a toll if not dealt with well. For starters, marriages should function as a partnership. Two people should work together to build a household and make decisions that benefit that household.
When one spouse has ADHD, though, impulsive behavior may lead them to make important household decisions without consulting their partner. Furthermore, they might not even think to tell their partner until confronted by the decision. This can make the spouse without ADHD feel disrespected and as if their input didn’t matter.
Another issue this can cause is with communication, particularly arguments. The impulsive nature of many with ADHD can lead them to say things without thinking them through fully. In heated moments then, a spouse with ADHD might say hurtful things without considering how their words might affect their partner.
Impulsive actions can quickly damage trust in any relationship. In a marriage, both parties need to be extra sensitive for the effects of impulsive behavior. One way to limit its effects might be to avoid discussions that both people know will get heated too quickly. Instead of charging into the argument, take some time and get a third party to talk through the issues together.
Additionally, continually talk about impulsive actions and what drives them. Also, make a practice of routinely talking about one another’s emotions. In talking through each other’s feelings, you have to slow down the process. This way, you limit the chance for impulsive actions to arise and cause further issues.
#3 - Mood Swings
In addition to impulsive behavior, other common pitfalls of ADHD and marriage to be aware of are mood swings. Individuals with ADHD often have trouble with emotions. They react quickly to what they feel and sometimes their feelings move quickly from one emotion to another.
For a spouse in a relationship with someone with ADHD, they might sometimes feel like they have to walk on eggshells. They might not understand the mood swings, and what might cause a sudden switch from one mood to another. This can make intimacy within a relationship difficult, if not impossible.
Mood swings can be difficult to deal with especially if they happen on a regular basis. They don’t have to make intimacy impossible, though. First thing to deal with mood swings would be to make sure that the person with ADHD is treating their symptoms effectively. Many times, a proper regimen of medicine, diet, and exercise can help keep the mood swings in check.
If the treatment plan seems to be on track but the mood swings are still an issue, you might next want to talk to a marriage counselor or an individual counselor. These professionals can help mitigate the situation between a couple and help work towards solutions that make the mood swings manageable. Mood swings don’t have to mean the end to a relationship or even emotion closeness in a relationship. They might just mean that you will need to put effort into resolving them effectively.
#4 - Poor Communication
A fourth pitfall of ADHD and marriage that many experience is the effect of poor communication. Some of this we have hinted at already. People with ADHD tend not to communicate well. The reasons for this are varied.
Sometimes, they fail to communicate because they simply forget about it. We alluded to this in talking about impulsive decisions. Due to their lower ability to focus, people with ADHD tend to act impulsively and then lose focus and move on to something else.
This constant moving from one thing to another leaves others out of the loop. Many people with ADHD simply don’t think or remember to talk through their actions or thoughts. This simply leads to poor communication and further distrust within a marriage.
Additionally, the emotional symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult for people with ADHD to talk about how they feel. Many people with ADHD struggle to understand and identify their own feelings. Since they don’t always know the source of their feelings, people with ADHD can’t tell others how they feel or why. This leads to others feeling as if the person with ADHD might be hiding things on purpose.
Finally, people with ADHD sometimes struggle with social interactions in general. This means that they possibly struggle reading other’s emotions and interactions. As a result, even in a marriage relationship, social interactions and communication can be challenging.
This doesn’t have to mean that communication is impossible, though. Work with your partner to identify ways in which they receive and give communication best. When you know the best communication styles for them, work together to employ those more in your relationship.
#5 - Failing to Empathize
Another pitfall of ADHD and marriage to be aware of is failing to empathize. As we’ve discussed, many people with ADHD have difficulties in general with understanding emotions. They struggle often with processing their own emotions and have issues even recognizing the emotions of others.
This failure to see or acknowledge emotions makes it hard for people with ADHD to empathize. Empathy involves identifying with the emotions of other people. In a way, you feel what they feel and can acknowledge and sympathize with those feelings. For many with ADHD, they can’t do this for others.
This difficulty with empathizing many times results in what appears as a cold response. For instance, perhaps you have a bad day at work and you almost want to cry. When your husband comes home, all you want to do is have someone listen to your feelings and identify with them. You tell your husband what happened, but instead of empathy, he shrugs his shoulders and tells you what you should have done in the moment to make things better.
As the wife, you feel like he doesn’t care or might even be condemning you. Since he struggles with empathy, though, he thinks that on some level he’s actually trying to help. One person ends up hurt worse while the other person ends up confused about the miscommunication.
Over time, this lack of empathy can make a marriage relationship thorny and distant. To prevent this, you need to work with your spouse with ADHD to help them see the moments that they fail to empathize. Anyone can learn empathy, but it takes time and patience. To help make this better in your relationship, you both need to commit to giving it time and getting professional help from a counselor, if needed.
#6 – Disorganization
A final common pitfall of ADHD and marriage we need to consider is disorganization. People with ADHD tend to have trouble keeping things organized. They typically struggle with managing calendars or doing multiple tasks at once. They can get overwhelmed and discouraged easily, and if faced with a task that seems too complicated, they might just give up.
Marriages bring together two very separate worlds, those of the individual spouses. Many times, newlyweds quickly find out rough spots in this union. Sometimes the rough spots involve small things like how one person puts the toilet paper on the holder. Other times it can be slightly larger things that threaten continued stability in the relationship.
One issue that you need to look out for is organization. Organization matters because even if we don’t think we have an organizational structure, we do. Humans are very much creatures of habit, and our routines and patterns matter. Routines define us in many ways as people. Our organizational structure helps us identify with our routines and how we define our daily lives.
The individual with ADHD tends to struggle with organization in many areas of life so their routine becomes disorganization. This happens with organization of items at home, organization of dates and events, and organization of time. Many of these things matter profoundly in a marriage relationship and when organization doesn’t happen well, emotions can be hurt.
Coming into a marriage with someone with ADHD, both parties need to recognize the potential issues with organization. A good solution might be to come up with a new ADHD daily routine together. Take in parts of both people’s organizational styles and work together to make a system that works for everyone. Try to think of and incorporate into your daily schedule ADHD strategies for organization.
Don’t Give Up When Faced with the Pitfalls of ADHD and Marriage
As we said when we started, marriage for everyone is hard. For most of us, no other relationship we have in life will come close to the intimacy and intensity of marriage. That makes marriage both rewarding and very challenging at the same time.
If you decide to get married, you decide to make a big commitment to your future self and to your spouse. You need to know that keeping that commitment means struggle and sacrifice on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean that all of marriage is difficult. It does mean, though, that you need to prepare yourself for dealing with issues that might arise in marriage.
ADHD can quickly threaten the bonds of marriage if you aren’t careful with how you understand and approach it. Get all the tools you can to help you face the common pitfalls of ADHD and marriage. You married your partner for a reason. You love them, and they love you. That relationship is worth investing in and fighting for, so make sure you have the right tools and resources you need to set yourself up for success.