Joy in Marriages with ADHD

A personal story from arwen about dealing with stress and making adjustments with ADHD as changes occur in a marriage.

Recently, a poster in the forum asked the very good question - if you are all so miserable in your marriages, why do you stay?  I'll give you my own answer - George and I stayed together because even though we were really miserable, we couldn't believe we couldn't do better.  The intractability of the issues we were dealing with didn't make sense.  We had chosen each other as partners for good reason...then things fell apart...but couldn't we make them better again?

Over the last couple of years 416 people in marriages affected by ADHD have answered our survey about their experiences and feelings.  One of the questions we asked was “What gives you the greatest pleasure in your relationship?”  I share these responses because too often worn-out posters suggest that there are no positives to be found in ADHD-affected relationships.  Next week, I’ll share pleasures from the perspective of the ADD spouses married to non-ADD spouses.

There is a very interesting conversation going on around my “Learning to Like Yourself Again” post of 7/30/09.  A number of readers relate their stories about the relief they have felt as they have started to “become themselves” again and let go of some of their struggle.  The question for some, though, is “how do I rekindle the warmth/affection in my own heart for my spouse?”

Ned Hallowell likes to say that ADD is a “gift that’s hard to unwrap”.  Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about the “gift” idea – instead I tend to think of ADD as something that can be “sweet and sour”.  When a person with ADD is in what I think of as “good alignment” (or perhaps their “sweet spot”) life can be very sweet.  But when it’s sour everything can be awful! 

There have been quite a few comments lately on this site suggesting that people should avoid marrying someone with ADD.  This advice makes me very uneasy and I would like to weigh in on it.

If you are in a marriage in which one spouse has ADHD and the other does not, I will guarantee you that you are both even more different than you think.  Your brains works differently, you experience the world around you differently, and you interpret information differently.  By understanding how, you can avoid common communication errors that lots of “mixed” couples make as well as learn to treasure your unique abilities.

I often hear the comment that non-ADHD spouses need to lower their expectations in order to be happy in their relationships.  I would disagree.  I think that all spouses need to improve their expectations.  Let me explain my thinking, and how this might work in the real world.

I have read a couple of posts recently that have noted that reading all of the posts in the forum makes people frightened for the future of their relationship with a person with ADD.  “Do we have a chance?” these people ask.  The answer, unequivocally, is YES!  Let me share one of these posts, which I think really clearly states many of the issues in ADD relationships, and then tell you why and how I think this couple can (and will) succeed.

I've been reading an interesting forum posting series from non-ADD spouses about the kinds of things they say helps them navigate their relationships.  I would love to hear from more of you.  What works for you?  What tips would you give others?  You've seen lots of what I it's your turn to "dole out the advice"!  And, if you want to read that forum, go to this link.    (But please put your ideas attached to this blog post so that others can easily find them!)