Wondering if your marriage problems might be explained by the presence of ADHD? Here are six signs that you should look for:
1. There is a seriously unbalanced distribution of responsibility in your household. A partner with ADHD often has trouble following through on tasks that are boring or need full attention. To compensate, non-ADHD spouses often "pick up the slack." But after a while, this leads to resentment and lack of partnership, as the non-ADHD partner feels he or she shoulders the vast majority of the "scutwork" and responsibility, while the ADHD partner gets to do whatever he or she wants.
2. You hate to nag or be nagged, but it happens all the time. In an attempt to get an ADHD partner to complete unfinished household chores or change habits, it's easy for non-ADHD partners to feel they are forced to nag. But unless the spouses have agreed that specific types of reminders are necessary and acceptable, nagging always hurts the relationship. The issue isn't one of "willpower" on the part of the ADHD, but rather "brain wiring." A better choice is to set up ADHD-sensitive structures and habits to support better distribution of chores and timely completion.
3. You were the sun, moon and stars during courtship. Now you feel like chopped liver. You haven't been courted until you experience the amazing hyperfocus a person with ADHD can deliver! Unfortunately, hyperfocus inevitably ends, often abruptly. Distraction once again becomes the norm. The non-ADHD partner is left feeling confused and alone.
4. No matter how hard you try, things never seem to change - except for the worse. Until couples know ADHD is part of their relationship they tend to choose ADHD-unfriendly solutions to their problems. One example - asking an ADHD partner to "just try harder" and expecting a better outcome. Another example, trying to suppress non-ADHD partner's anger because there is no obvious way to express it without incurring defensiveness. Once you know about ADHD, though, you can choose different approaches known to be effective when ADHD is present.
5. You have a child diagnosed with, or suspected of having, ADHD. ADHD is highly heritable. Adults with ADHD have approximately a 50% chance of having a child with ADHD. When a person actually has ADHD, about 80% of the expression of it is inherited, vs. about 20% due to environmental factors - putting the heritability of ADHD up there with eye color and hair color. So if you have a child with ADHD, chances are good that at least one of the parents has it, too. If you already know one of you has ADHD, then just assume it's impacting your marriage. Once you learn more, you'll see that it is.
6. One spouse feels as if the other is more like an extra child than a partner. Unfortunately, one of the most common patterns in marriages affected by ADHD is the "parent/child" pattern. One adult is the "responsible" one, while the other one is carefree or considered irresponsible, and often finds him or herself being told what to do. Usually, the ADHD spouse is not actually carefree or irresponsible, it just seems that way because he or she can't follow through easily on daily tasks. The imbalance of power the parent/child pattern creates engenders resentment in both partners that often leads to disrespectful interactions.
If you see these patterns in your marriage, I recommend you pursue the possibility that ADHD may be impacting your relationship. Find out all you can about ADHD by reading Delivered from Distraction or similar books. Read my blog posts (start in the favorite posts sections) to see if you see your marriage there, and ask questions in our forum. Discovering ADHD is causing relationship troubles is actually good news. Now you'll be able to start learning how to turn your troubled relationship around.