It can't be all about the ADHD

I found this article on the net. I thought it might help both the ADHD and non-ADHD spouse when they are angry and trying to understand. There are some great points, yet they don't diminish the frustration on either side.

It can't be all about the ADHD!

“Bruce” (not his real name) was desperate for help: his wife had demanded he find a doctor to diagnose his ADHD … or else. He had emailed me for a recommendation, but I knew there was a lot more going on/wrong in his marriage than either of them realized.


“My wife is becoming less and less tolerant of what appears to be my ADHD symptoms. They are more noticeable since the births of my precious two-year-old and 8-month-old children. Sleep deprivation is probably contributing but right now there is a great strain on our marriage. My wife wants me to find better coping strategies and maybe ADHD medication, so things will improve.”


Red flag alert!


Relationships that thrive are based on mutual respect as well as love. When one partner “blames” the other’s ADHD for problems, the balance of power shifts to the non-ADHD partner. Because the ADHD partner tends to miss deadlines, show up late for dates, forget to change the oil and lose the tickets to the big ball game, the non-ADHD partner is forced to pick up the slack.


In the early days of their relationship, Bruce’s wife probably didn’t mind going back to the store for the eggs he had forgotten. But with two small children and a full time job, she needed Bruce to step up to the plate, take on more responsibility and act like an adult. She had become resentful and demanding, which unfortunately, increased Bruce’s ADHD symptoms.


ADHD brains are easily overwhelmed. Bruce, like his wife, is coping with the increased delights and demands of living with an infant and a toddler. He, too, is getting less sleep and his ADHD brain is, sadly, more distractible and less focused.


Stress increases ADHD symptoms. When his wife demands his participation, the extra stress can push him into complete inaction. This infuriates his beloved, beleaguered and bewildered wife. Why can’t he get it all together for the sake of their children, their marriage, for her?


Bruce loves his wife; he loves his children. If he had a magic wand that would transform him into the responsible adult his wife wants he wouldn’t hesitate to use it. Since magic wands are out of stock right now, his best alternative is an accurate diagnosis, treatment for his ADHD (medication, coaching, support groups, professional organizer) and immediate intervention for his relationship.


An ADHD diagnosis won’t save his marriage, despite his wife’s insistence. Bruce and his wife have established an elaborate pattern that makes Bruce the “bad guy” when something goes wrong. Until Bruce’s wife takes a look at her own part in their marriage woes, there’s little hope for longevity.


Bruce is now attending an ADHD support group. He has an appointment to see a psychologist who can assess ADHD. He talked to his wife about ADHD couple’s coaching but she declined. She said it was too expensive; but divorce costs far more, in real dollars and emotional fallout. She has also declined to join an ADHD support group, which is free. So money really isn’t the issue; she simply doesn’t want to deal with Bruce’s ADHD.


Bruce is pragmatic about the situation:


“The good thing about all of this is that it has steered me to learn more about myself and learn how I can better cope and interact with the world around me as far as ADHD goes. Although I’ve been getting by, I need to learn more about how others perceive me and how to handle it.”


With luck, Bruce and his wife will discover the truth about strong relationships: they aren’t created by pointing fingers at each other, they’re enriched by joining hands and remembering that the two people involved are on the same team – even when one of them has ADHD.