ADHD and Marriage

When adults with ADD/ADHD get into long term relationships or get married, certain things can happen (because of the ADD/ADHD). There is a pattern of behavior and interaction that can develop which can undermine the relationship.

This can be very hard for the adult with ADHD, and also for the spouse or partner who doesn’t have ADD/ADHD.

The good news is that by understanding the nature of the challenges, and by developing the right strategies, things can improve significantly.

Watch the video below to see how ADD Coach Lynne Edris, ACG explains the problem, and gives you some ideas to get you started on improving your relationship:

(just click play to start the video:)

Click here for the iPhone/iPad version of the video

The coaching call will be live on Monday February 13th at 9:15 pm eastern time. Members of the ‘Insiders’ will be able to participate live, or get the recording after the call.

If you find this information helpful, and you’d like to join us for the live coaching call, click here to join the ‘Insiders‘.

Please share any thoughts or comments below.


Dr. Kenny

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  1. I forwarded the video of this to my boyfriend of 13 & 1/2 years. I hope he will now understand how I feel & understand my patterns and behavioral problems. We are on the verge of splitting up. This video put me to tears…..I am beyond words. Thank you so much for all the material that is put on your website. I read everything that is posted through here, just to help myself understand. It’s very hard for him to cope with me & I am at my witts end…..this gave some great insight as to dealing with ADD/ADHD. I have been diagnosed with symptoms of both. My boyfriend and my son both have problems with me, they also had to see my doctor in order for her to explain to them the type of person I am.
    Thanks So Much, Linda

    • Linda,
      I’m so glad this video helped you. I hope it helps your boyfriend to understand better. This topic is often a very difficult area for adults with ADD and their partners and it has only recently been getting the attention that it needs. Good luck!
      Dr. Kenny

  2. I watched this and it is the same thing I’ve heard. Do I sound jaded? Married for 13 years to an ADD man who was diagnosed at 37 and is now 41. It is frustrating when the non-ADDer (me) HAS tried and STILL tries all kind of tips. My ADD husband has turned extremely worse from when we first got married. We have defiiance, oppositional behavior, maverick tendencies, serious ANGER and frustration over little things, keeps making same mistakes, financial issues (even though I’m a professional), tax issues (his, but are dragging me down), etc. and none of this seems to phase him. When people are calling you for money, it’s serious. He doesn’t open mail, never checks the messages, doesn’t make his own dentist/doctor appts, doesn’t physically pay any bills (when I advise we have bills and are behind, he gets angry to deflect having to talk), and the list goes on. He is on Vyvanse now, but the problem is that that medicine “jacks up” all of the traits – even the unwanted ones. So, that said, I’m at a breaking point and trying to hang on for my girls (one of which has ADD and is on Daytrana patch and in a study with a children’s hospital). I am seriously getting tired of hearing about everything that I can do to help him by making sure we’re in a place, where there’s no distractions, to talk; doing the executive functions (which means everything); taking in the names he calls me; and the list goes on when he is NOT trying at all. I just want to see some sort of effort. Is there (and I’m being serious) a camp I can send him to for 1-2 weeks? ADD is not his fault but it is his problem. Someone also needs to let the ADDer know that, ADD or not, some behaviors are unacceptable as a parent. I feel like I have a 15 year-old child. He even argues with the girls and then calls me at work to ask me to settle their argument – you should hear it. I’m dumbfounded and it’s not getting better. I have read Delivered From Distraction (he won’t even crack it open), I’ve been to a psychiatrist with him, I have been to a counselor, and he acts TOTALLY different in there. You may consider him going but those were ultimatums because I cannot let my young children live in this much longer. I don’t even know what normal is anymore and I don’t do anything for myself, buy myself anything, etc. I am so depressed myself and I’m ready to end the marriage. There has to be some place he can go for a week or two for some type of treatment – class-wise.

    • Definitely feel your pain as a husband to an ADHD wife. I certainly don’t enjoy doing the dishes and the laundry either, but it along with other strategies needs to be done. I’m also working on being clearer with my communication though it is easier with her being willing to take some responsibility herself.

      One camp that helped me years ago and which I want to take my wife to is Harv Eker’s Warrior camp. Some of the big take aways were “I act in spite of my mood” and “Just frickin do it”. (I’m not affiliated and he does push the sales hard for his other courses, but this one is golden in my book)

      Smiles and hugs your way and I hope you will prioritize some time for yourself before you break too.

      • Mike,
        Thank you for doing the dishes and laundry and I mean that. I’m not sure what your wifes habits are, but if I exercise for even 15 minutes it takes a way some of the wrestless feeling and allows for a clearer more focused thought process to do what needs to get done. I know this may sound counter intuitive, but by getting rid of some of the tention that has been building up from not mving enough will help immensly. I feel like it reminds my body what it’s suppose to do. Also invite guests over every now and again. At least for me it seems to be a wake up call for a little bit and I SUDDENLY start to see a mess that I sware wasn’t there before :D! Also, use post it notes as reminders and put them everywhere to do the dishes or whatever needs to get done. It always amazes me how often I forget to do something when I’ve passed by it 10 friggen times.

        Good luck and have patience it will be appreciated!

    • I can totally relate to you. I have been married for 16 yrs. to a man I know has ADD but not has been clinically diagnosed. Our son, who also has Type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed 2 years ago with ADD. We now see common symptoms in my husband as we become more educated. We are having marriage trouble as well as he becomes more distracted and doesn’t want to help himself. I finally got him to have a psychology test done which we had to pay for ourselves. Still waiting on the results and see where we go from here. I am only discovering this website after getting an email about a professional development opportunity for teachers with Dr. Handelman which I will definitely be attending. Thinking that my husband needs medication, I am curious to know what the difference would be. However after reading your post , I realize that there is still a lot of work that they still have to do themselves, and then maybe medication isn’t the key. Maybe they do need councilling or somewhere to go to receive good treatment where they can learn more about their condition and give it that’s much attention as they can around others that have the same conditions. For me that would mean removing them from their regular environment. Does this type of councilling exist in Canada?

      • Nancy, Thanks for your post. The ideal treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy/strategies. When the psychologist gives you feedback, he/she should be able to make specific recommendations to you about which treatments will help and which are available in your area. I look forward to seeing you in Nfld!

  3. HI Barb, you sound totally fed up and at the end of your tether. I am an ADD counselor in Australia, and have heard your side of the story many times. You can cope with the diagnosis, and educate yourself about the manifestation of ADD in your marriage, and do what you can to deal with it, but what you want is some evidence that your partner is also making an effort. And when that expectation is not met, your resentments rise. In the end, it is the resentments that destroy love. Sometimes, when you have lost the love you once had for your partner, you have to end the marriage. Yes, it will be hard, yet some have told me not as hard as staying – after all, there is one less child to deal with! However, the dilemma with separation is that some wives feel they need to be present at all times to protect their children from the consequences of the ADD partner’s behaviour. That is not possible once there has been a separation and a shift to “other parent” or access visits. It may be worthwhile seeing a counselor again but this time for YOU, to discuss whether or not it is time to go. If the contempt you feel currently is displayed in your marriage, it is unlikely to improve. For all their foibles, ADDs are very quite sensitive and will react badly to criticism and the cycle continues. Take control of the things you can be in control of and let go of the things you cannot.

  4. Another great educational video and I am sure Lynne Edris will have a lot more to add in the call tonight. As as older ADD’er still married all these years and only recently diagnosed and prescribed more appropriate medication, everything you both shared is so right on ! I do believe that nothing happens by accident and I had to hear this message, repeatedly. First it was on Facebook and reminding me about tonight’s call [even though written in my Organizer], then your e-mail reminders and again following your blog I listened to your video and was able to hear something I missed or wasn’t focused on the previous time. I also know that it is not by my will alone or my non-ADHD spouse, that we are still married, but we have to act on what we learn and I will listen to you both a 100 times if it takes that for us to improve our life together. You know the expression, “it works because you work it”. So I continue and being an “Insider” is well worth it ! Thank you again.

  5. Simple trick I discovered that works MOST of the time: Post-It notes. Keep it simple (Please throw trash); one message/task at a time that he can dispose of and feel a sense of accomplishment. Leave the same message(s) on the bedroom door, bathroom door, by his plate and inside front door (just before he steps out). Be sure to thank him and give him a kiss for it. Simplistic, but it seems to work for me, so I hope it will for all of you,too.

  6. Thank you Karen, and the rest of you. I want you to know that I have not always been like this. I don’t want to come across snotty or like I’m indifferent. However, living w/an ADDer that goes undiagnosed or is diagnosed wears away at the non-ADD spouse until we have no coping mechanisms left. I don’t like how I feel at this point. In most marriages, one would simply say, “We need to look at the bills as we are having issues” and most partners would look at them. With my spouse, there’s a promise and nothing. Then, if I can get him to listen (while I walk on eggshells), I’m just a negative person. Then I have to hear how he wants this or that (that’s the retort I get – that he isn’t getting anything either). Further, we’ve been the post-it route, planner route (he’s had 3 planners – one that cost 120$), Blackberry, etc and nothing… I am sitting here tonight and he was supposed to be working on a truck. The kids saw him for 1 hour yesterday and nothing today b/c he hasn’t gotten home yet. This is happening every weekend w/him deciding to work an extra job (futile job towing that brings in nomoney really). So, my biggest concern is that we do get divorced and he gets visitation (I’ve and he’s always known I would want custodial care for dtability) then never follows through with seeing the girls or picking them up b/c his pattern is to start out strong and then fizzles. I couldn’t bear for them to be crushed anymore. They didn’t want to call him tonight to say good night b/c they’re upset. He must have hyper-focused (for 19 hours now) and forgot to call his kids all day. Wow. Also, we went to a pschologist in 2009 – my husband was on no meds. It was a 90% improvement for those short few months. I asked my husband why he did so much better on no meds going to this Dr and he said he didn’t want to show up there and face the Dr and have nothing to report on the task lists he was given each week. That tells me he has it in him. Further, when he wants to go away for a man wkend, everything is packed, remembered, etc and he checks off a list – yes, a list. No list any other time. He does the man weekend at least 3 times each summer, goes to a few more races, we attend a few with him, and then he literally sneaks out to attend more……….oh, and did I mention that my girls have never been on a family trip and most summers don’t get to go anywhere unless I take them myself. I’m more afraid they won’t see him at all if I leave. They are also 10 and 8 – the kind of age where “I just want my dad”. That is what makes me so sad. All of my hugs can’t help that void. Does an ADDer who says they love their chikldren need to be reminded to call them once in 19 hours – EVERYDAY???

    • Barb,
      I understand from the other side of things what you are going through. I just started medication for ADHD this last summer after having a few anxiety attacks and speaking to a doctor and a therapist.

      Barb, you’re right when you say some behavior is unacceptable. I’ve been with my Husband for 9 years. There have been times I have yelled and screamed in rage and I couldn’t stop myself. it turned into this impolsive hatred over absolutely nothing, and I had to leave the house completely in order to calm down. I’ve noticed when I am upset or stressed a part of my brain just feels numb and I can not think. By the end of the day I feel exhausted from the force of trying to pay attention for long periods of time. If the conversation or argument has gone on for a while YOUR WORDS MEAN NOTHING, they are no longer heard that does not mean he’s not trying that just means there’s to much info and regardless of how hard I try all I hear is “Blah”.
      My solution was: After I got back I made a conscious effort to keep my voice lower and to force myself to stay calm and if and when my husband started to yell. I would ask him to lower his voice and I told him that I don’t want to be yelled at it’s not solving anything ( this was not easy, but after trial and error it has become more of a habit. Also, make sure to stop and ask if he understands and ask what it is he understood, so that way if you need to word something differently then you can. Tone when doing this is important to not make them feel stupid, but to allow them a chance to have a better understanding and ask questions with out being attacked.

      As for bills don’t tell him to just write them. It might be to much at first and although he will probably never admit to it. A small amount of anxiety and pressure build up that you may not recognize. At that point, I walk away. That small thing has become a huge weight and overwhelming, and the idea of doing it wrong versus not doing at all; well, he may feel as though both are just going to disappoint you, so why not just let you do it. at least the bills will get done right if you do them.
      My solution: I have certain bills I am solely responsible for. Make a detailed list: bills that need to go out, when they should be sent out pick a date a couple days before the due date (not the due date, I focus to much on that date and it wont get sent out until then for me that’s why it ends up being late) and amount and to who the check needs to be written out to. Leave this list where you keep the bills so that it can be referenced.
      As for the book, read back through it. Pick some interesting points and ask him if. He will sit down with you and help you better understand what it might mean. He may think the book has nothing to offer him that he doesn’t already know. But by making it to help YOU understand, he should be more open to the idea and maybe a few of those things will chime in. If he does start to read it after that; don’t Say anything about it not a word unless he says something first. He may stop reading it out of spite or because he’s embarrassed.

      Someone with ADD has no excuse for not calling his kids, but if he does forget from time to time it’s not because theiy’re not important. sometimes onething comes up after the other and next thing you realize its 1030 at night and it feels like 7pm. He also may not be want to here your disappointment, after all would a mouse eat the cheese in the trap if he knew it was going to snap. I know you only want the best for your kids. My parents were divorced and I saw it all. although I hated them being apart. I hated them arguing even more. If he is really being distant and using other things as an excuse. It may be time to talk to a councelor or therapist to see what would be in the best interest for you and your kids. Just because he can say he has ADD doesn’t mean he can be calus and disreagard you and your children.

      I hope at least something out of all this has helped. I know every circumstance is different.
      I don’t allow myself to use ADHD as an excuse. Better understanding it has allowed me to find better tools to overcome this obsticle to the best of my ability, but it is never an excuse.

  7. Barb W,

    Your story sounds literally almost identicle to my mothers. She has dealt with my father with his ADHD (although he cannot even find the time or organization to be actually get tested) he without a doubt has ADHD as I also do and don’t even exhibit a fraction of the behaviors that my father has. Long story short, my mother has been unfairly treated by my father, over the years he has really made their life a sometimes living hell and I blame this mostly on his disorder and the fact that he has remained with the bad habits that lead him to cause the major problems. However as an outside source with ADHD that has gone to couple’s counseling myself for ADHD, I have noticed that my mother in over 30+ years of marriage has very little understanding of how this disorder affects my father and just how much her negative reactions also affect their relationship. I am not trying to blame you or anyone living with an ADHD patient and the mess that can come along with this irritating disorder. I am only trying to say that as an individual who had gone through the formal diagnosing of this disorder, been treated with medication and been through marriage counseling regarding ADHD that the state of the relationship can see a dramatic positive result and change by not only the affected person being treated, but by both husband and wife going to counseling ( or by going by yourself if you have to) and patiently working towards a healthier relationship and happier home. I only wish my mother would listen and do the same.

  8. To: Barb W continued,

    I also wanted to say that I also have noticed that my own mother has very little empathy for my father it seems, something that I feel counseling would help them with. It may sound unbelievable, but as a patient with ADHD myself and someone who has truly struggled with this disorder her whole life, NO ONE can be more frustrated and discouraged at times than the one actually afflicted with this disorder. I truly hope everything works out for you both and you all find a way to find peace and happiness again.

  9. Again, thank you all so much. One of my biggest issues is that I cannot find a support group in Columbus, OH. I used to work in behavioral health (on the business side) for a large hospital – this is how my husband was diagnosed. I happened to be reviewing a payable for a clinical trial for Concerta. In any case, I did visit a psychologist for myself to see what else I could do to help, understand, etc. She couldn’t believe some of the things I mentioned and wanted my husband to come in to speak to her with me there. She also wanted to go through some items in a book which she advised should would relay to him verbally because he would probably never (or never be able to) pick up the book and read it. That said, the hours were not convenient (only between 8-4p). To have to miss work 1-2 times per month adds extra stress on everyone. I looked in the back of some books for support groups and cannot find anything for non-ADDers nor where we can both go. If anyone has any information, I would love for you to let me know. I apologize to whomever if this comment section was just supposed to be about the video. I think it is so helpful to be able to talk to others because I feel so alone. I also start thinking I have a problem until I read others’ posts. (BTW, not that I don’t have something to do with this a little b/c of the conditioning all of these years. Sometimes I, of course, don’t handle things the best way. I do, however, make an effort.) It is invaluable to be able to talk about this with someone who understands from the non-ADDer perspective. When I read Wendy’s, Julianna’s, Karen’s, and Michael’s (to name a few) posts, it helps – to hear both perspectives. I try so hard. I asked my husband if he wanted to open some mail with me last p.m. as our home loan was sold to another lender and I wanted to see to whom. I did my pile and asked if he wanted help with his pile (very small one – about 10-12 pcs of mail). I took care of about half of the pile. I then went outside for a bit and when I came back in, he was just sitting there watching TV, nothing done. Now, that can be ADD, distracted, etc. However, when I initially asked him if he’d help me (nice, on eggshells, remember), he asked me what I did all day. Wow, what the heck. I felt like saying, “I could vomit out about 35 things that I’ve done all day, and none for me.”, but I didn’t say that. I mean, you have to care about your appearance, your teeth, your health, etc. I wanted to ask any of you that live with an ADD person or that are one if you feel this aloof sometimes. ??? I mean, do any of you (or witness the ADDer) feel (or just not think) that bills are your responsibility? What about fixing something in the house or anything? I’m just wondering about that. It seems that some are more functioning than others – is that true? I have no problem doing executive functions but lately I have been doing all of those and then all of the more “laborious, no thought” tasks that he used to do. Am I enabling?

  10. Hi Barb,
    It sounds like he needs to be reminded that your home is just as much his responsability as it is yours. As I think I previously mentioned my husband and I were having problems with how we did bills. He was getting mad at me because he was doing everything and I didn’t understand why. He had more time than I did during the day. He worked swing shift and didn’t have to go to work until 3 in the afternoon. It only made sense…right? Sit him down. Explain to him that you work too, and when you aren’t working; cleaning the entire house and taking care of all the financials is overwhelming. Regardless of who has more time. Those resposabilities are just as much his and it’s not fare for him to expect you too do all of it. Tell him what you did during the day, and explain to him what you did and that you’re just as tired. I know it sounds stupid and inconsiderate of him to think you don’t do enough, but if on a daily basis you down play your work. Especially if you enjoy your work. Afterall, how can you possibly be tired after doing something you enjoy?.. :/ After a while it should give him a better understanding. If not then he may not care… We will assume he does :).

    This is actually my first time to this site or any other site regarding ADHD. I saw the title ADHD and Marriage and I became curious.
    I’m glad you posted. It makes me remember that it affects him aswell.
    Good luck and take care.

  11. Where can I get a recording of the Feb.13th call??
    I just happened upon this site and would like to hear what was said in the call. It would greatly help the relationship I am in.

    I have ADD and it has caused constant problems every day in my long term relationship I have with an amazing man.

    Also, What are some good books to read on ADD & Relationships? It helps to read the info. and be able to go back to it later as well.

    I hope to get some responses soon. Thanks!

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