It’s the catch-22 of ADHD-impacted relationships (and many non-ADHD marriages, as well!) For many couples impacted by ADHD, distraction, disengagement and retreat from conflict leave non-ADHD partners feeling ‘stranded’ and lonely. Their natural response is to pursue their partner for attention…and disaster results. What do you do?
Many non-ADHD partners want to connect at night with a meaningful "goodnight, honey," a kiss and hug or with some sexual intimacy. Yet disappointment follows when their partner is too distracted or too tired to shine the spotlight of their attention in the non-ADHD partner's direction. (Conversely, I sometimes hear complaints from ADHD partners who say that the demands of their non-ADHD partner to come to bed at a certain time are obnoxious...but that's for a different post.) What to do?
One of the major points my wife, Sue, and I stress in our new book, Married to Distraction, is the critical element of time. People take time for granted. But without time, there is no attention, and with attention there is no communication or empathy, and without communication and empathy there is no connection, and without a connection there is no play, and without play there is no fulfilling intimacy, romance, or love. We often say that play is the main action of love. But it all depends upon the previous steps, starting with time.
Our research about how ADHD affects marriage also illuminates the specific ways in which non-ADD spouses are frustrated in their relationships. The responders in this section are, once again, non-ADD spouses who have officially diagnosed ADD partners. The themes these people write about are incredibly common. If you are an ADD spouse and you hear your non-ADD spouse comment on these traits you should assume that they are being truthful – these REALLY ARE problems in your relationship – not a figment of your spouse’s imagination. The question asked here? What do you find most frustratin
It seems as if a lot of non-ADD spouses at this site have been bending over backwards to accommodate their ADD spouse’s issues, often finding that doing so is exhausting and making them angry and miserable. I would like to suggest that while negotiating how to meet somewhere in the middle is a part of all marriages, many non-ADD spouses are giving (and giving in) way too much. Let me explain –
I spend a lot of time helping non-ADD spouses understand how to interpret their ADD husband’s actions (or, more frequently, inactions – a word I use without judgment.) I think it’s time to write a piece for the ADD male about what non-ADD women want.
I am reading the posts of a woman who is about to get married to a man whom she adores who happens to have ADD. She is frustrated and confused by his inability to pay attention to wedding planning. This seems like a great time to elaborate upon what lack of focus means for people with ADD – and for their spouses.
Being a person who does not have ADHD married to a person who does have ADHD can be wonderful. It can also be intensely frustrating. I am a non-ADHD spouse married to a man who has ADHD. Dr. Hallowell has the opposite - he has ADHD while his wife does not (part of the reason we are teaming up to write a book on this topic - we balance each other out!) If you are a spouse without ADHD, you may well recognize much of what I am about to describe in your own marriage, for without a doubt I have experienced the "classic" ADHD-affected marriage.
So, what does it feel like to be married to a person with ADHD when you do not have it yourself? What are some of the basic patterns?