ADHD and Marriage: If You're So Unhappy, Why Stay?

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?

I can tell you that five years ago I was AT LEAST as miserable as many of the posters here who vent in our forum about their anger and frustration.  I was verbally abusing my husband, I didn't like him very much and I didn't even like myself much.  Friends wondered why we didn't just get a divorce and be done with it.  But figuring out that ADHD symptoms - and my responses to those symptoms - were what was tearing us apart changed our lives.  I'm not romanticizing the situation - you have the "aha" moment and then there is a lot of work to do.  But the outcome is SO WORTH IT!  We have an incredibly strong relationship now - in part because we overcame this together.  We know each other very well, trust each other, and find ways to show our love and caring each day.  Not to mention our family is still intact.

Not everyone who reads my book or posts at this site will save their marriage.  Some marriages were not right to begin with, and others may find that there is so much hurt in their relationship that they can't forgive and move forward to rebuild, even after treating the ADHD.  But for those who can, the happiness, wisdom, gratitude and joy you can find is worth all the hard work.

And all that venting in the forum?  For non-ADHD partners finding out that others share your experiences is an important part of the process. For ADHD partners, coming to the understanding that the experience your spouse is having isn't a product his or her anger and frustration but a product of living with untreated ADHD symptoms is also critical.  It helps him or her move past denial that ADHD is an issue and towards treatment.  Reading about it can be painful, but  it can also create empathy and begin some important discussions between the two of you.

Before giving up, I hope that couples will see what happens when they:

  • start multi-pronged treatment for ADHD symptoms so the ADHD partner can be more consistent and have an easier time of keeping his or her life pulled together

  • learn how to forgive their past hurts and move past anger

  • put better structures in place to get chores and other responsibilities completed

  • create time to really focus on each other, overcoming the natural distraction of the ADHD partner

  • learn ADHD-sensitive ways to talk about difficult issues without escalation into a huge fight

  • refocus on creating joyous moments together

These things, and more, are explained in detail in The ADHD Effect on Marriage.