If You Know About ADHD Before You Are Married

I recently read posting from a woman who has recently discovered her fiance has ADHD.  In a somewhat unexpected way, the post brings forward some real issues for those who are considering marriage to an ADHD person, so I thought it worthwhile to post it, and some thoughts on this topic, as a blog entry:

"Recently my husband-to-be has "come out of the closet" about his ADHD. I embraced his feelings of realization that he had a problem, and I dug into it and talked about it for days with him in hopes that seeking professional help would help us out. The last few months have been rough, especially before marriage!

Reading this passage (in the forum) had made me put a new perspective on things. I do not want my hubby to feel like I know he's broken, I want him to feel whole even though we both know he's broken. It would probably be best if he feels like I still think of him as a whole, and I'll support him no matter even if he goes through therapy for his ADHD."

My thoughts on this posting:

Danger alert here!  Go back and read what you wrote!  "I want him to feel whole even though we both know he's broken"...This is a recipe for disaster!

He is NOT broken!  He has a different way of thinking about things and going through life - a way that will make him hard to live with at times.  But a way that still deserves respect!

Do not kid yourself into thinking that if you verbally suport him, but secretly think he is broken, that you'll end up with a healthy relationship.  What you'll end up with is a large amount of resentment someday and wonder why you both didn't see it coming.

You fell in love with your fiance in part because of his ADHD - I'll guarantee it.  Probably you like his spirit and energy and creativity.  BUT, those things aren't going to load the dishwasher or change a baby.  SO, you need to decide before you get married what the power of the positive is, and whether or not you and he can create a positive environment for him to manage most of his ADHD symptoms (all, if you are really lucky, but DON'T count on this)!  You must decide that YOU (note I am not talking about him right now!):

  • love him for who he is - ADHD and all
  • are able to forgive him when he stumbles or does things differently, which he will (just like non-ADHD men, but perhaps more frequently)
    can see the positive in difficult situations
  • want to be his best supporter and friend
  • don't want to change him from who he is right now (it's okay to hope he ages well, but this is a bonus, not an expectation)
  • can respect him, even with a label of "ADD"
  • can accept that there is a good chance that some of your children will have ADHD and you'll be dealing with that, too

Here is another way to look at it.  Imagine that you discovered you were depressed, as many people are.  Would you want your spouse to think of you as "broken"?  Would you want him to put pressure on you to change in a certain way, or would you prefer that he support you on your own terms to find what might make your life better?

My suggestion is that you both consider some counselling about marriage, preferably with someone who understands ADHD.  You need to explore your expectations about marriage to make sure that you really are ready to support each other through thick or thin.  Marriage to a person with ADHD is not for the faint of heart - it takes lots of careful thought and communication skills, it takes patience and generosity, and above all it takes flexibility.  The rewards are many, but please make sure you are ready for the challenge.

More thoughts that I didn't post in the forum:

Relationship research shows that couples are easily able to read their spouse's body language.  So even if you say you are verbally supporting a spouse, if you "secretly" believe that he's broken, he'll "hear" that loud and clear.  Because the feeling is unspoken, though, he'll have difficulty responding to it, which means that you'll end up with some really big "taboo" issues and bad feelings.

And, if she thinks that he's broken (and she's not), then it will be all too easy for this couple to fall into the parent/child syndrome, where she "takes over" for him, and they both resent this.