Thursday, March 1, 2012

Married to ADHD

If you think marriage is hard, try marrying someone with ADHD. Forgive me if I start stereotyping, because I will, but men forget important dates all the time and having ADHD just increases the odds even more.

Important dates are just the tip of the iceberg. What about forgetting to pick up some milk? Or forgetting to get his own dry-cleaning? So you adapt. You send reminders through e-mail or text, but not too many because then (God forbid) you are nagging. And then when you think you have a system going, you find out he forgot his smart phone and has not gotten any texts or read any e-mail (even if he could check from his work computer) because he was too busy at work.


But stop!! Don’t go for the rolling pin or the cast iron pan just yet.

You may ask, ”what is ADHD, and why does it affect marriage?”

Let’s start with the first part of that. What is ADHD?
According to CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), ADHD it is, "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by developmentally innapropriate impulsivity, innatention, and in some cases, hyperactivity".

Usually diagnosed in childhood, it is difficult for most people to understand the difference between a regular kid (active, rambunctious, with a short attention span), and one with ADHD. The quick answer is that for someone with ADHD is "so pervasive and persistent that it interferes with their daily lives at home, at school....and in social settings".

Let’s continue with the second part of the original question. Why does it (ADHD) affect marriage?
Let me quote CHADD once again and state " without appropriate identification and treatment, ADHD can have serious consequences, including school failure, depression, conduct disorder, failed relationships, and substance abuse".

Evaluation is the first step.

I have been approached by several women that know my husband is ADHD and ask for advice. Most of them suspect their spouse has ADHD as well, but the spouse doesn't acknowledge it and/or refuses to get diagnosed. In a majority of cases, the spouse takes offense at the idea of blaming their marital issues on something like ADHD. I partly agree. I DON'T blame ADHD, but knowing my husband is ADHD and understanding more about what ADHD is has helped me understand him better.

I have to say that I am a very lucky woman because I married a great man. He puts great effort into doing what he can to mitigate the effects of his ADHD. He was diagnosed very early in life, but we didn’t know then what we know now about ADHD, and he really didn’t go beyond taking medication. Medication is a great tool, but it almost always fails to yield significant results in the long run if taken alone and no other efforts made. Because of that, my husband stopped taking medication in his mid-teens, continued to struggle in school and at work, not to mention our own relationship. He started back up with treatment about 5 years ago, after 10 years of being together, over 6 years of marriage, and when we had 2 kids under the age of 3. A very crucial point in our lives.

He has made great strides since he went back for treatment. His doctor had him try a few medications since the first ones were not a good fit for him. We have moved a few times, and have changed doctors a few times as well, and he has now been on one particular one, Vyvanse, for close to 4 years now and has little to no complaints. Still, we have taken other steps to insure success, and we are still on that road.

Some rules we try to follow to make every day life easier:

  • We follow certain routines to reduce forgetfulness – a few examples:
    • Always check what groceries are needed on certain days and write them down on a list (writing them down as you noticed has proven to be too difficult as little distractions step in between him and the piece of paper).
    • Always have dinner at a certain hour, so there are no complaints that he is too busy to come to the table.
    • Always place car keys in the same spot. In the house it’s on top of a bowl on the front door table. On his person, always in his right front pocket of whatever jacket or pants he is wearing (no back pocket, no inside pocket, no left side pocket).
    • Use electronic calendars and smart phones with set reminders (multiple reminder for the same task if needed) of important and/or repeating tasks.
  •  We have separate checking accounts to reduce disagreements about expenses –examples of how it works.
    • Shared expenses are split, like mortgage, groceries, car payments. He pays me for his half and I make sure I make the payments – ON TIME.
    •  We agree on a budget for savings, outings, other agreed expenses (like a family computer). He gives me his half, and I allocate it appropriately.
    • Reduce the number of credit cards or credit lines, and agree to pay off balances monthly.
    • Any remaining amount in his account he can spend at his leisure.

  • Some concessions:.
    • I have learned to be OK with the occasional jacket on a dinning room chair or living room sofa.
    • Clean dishwasher dishes don’t have to be put away immediately if there are no dirty dishes to put in it.
    • He doesn’t fold laundry, as long as he makes an effort to put it away once I’m done folding it.
    • He has agreed to keep my kitchen clean ALWAYS.
    •  I have agreed to not nag about keeping the rest of the house clean until the weekend.

  • Arguments and temper issues - This one is more of an Art than a Science, and we disagree more often than I care to count, so I have become of a Master in ARTS (and his name is Art…so pun intended).
    •  When we disagree…which we do and will continue to do so…we keep our volume low. Once we start raising our voices, argument is paused and we take a break or postpone our discussion for another time.
    • Sometimes emotions are hard to contain, and this applies to me as well. When emotions run high, it is OK to say, “I am getting very angry, and I need to go to my room to calm down”. This is a hard one because sometimes you don’t want to admit your got to that level. It is also hard to stop in the middle of your argument.
    • We agree to a “clean fight” and no “low blows”. Once a low blow is thrown, we stop.
    • When all else has failed and outbursts still occur, remember to give as much space as possible, walk away or even walk out for a good amount of time. Also keep in mind that outburst was not intentional and if it could be taken back it would.

The above are suggestions of tools that have worked for us after a lot of trial and error. Some things I didn’t list because they didn’t work for us after trying them out.


Don’t be afraid to get diagnosed
Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion
Get treatment
Ask questions – about medications, about tools and routines
Don’t be afraid to ask for help –from your spouse, from your kids, from your parents.
Try everything at least once, and keep what works well for you.
Give yourself a break – don’t get discouraged. No one is perfect, but at least you try, and continue trying.

We have a long road ahead, and now with our 7 year old daughter having been diagnosed about a year ago, much more motivation to lead by example. It’s a hard road, no doubt about that, but a rewarding one. It’s not perfect for everyone, but it is So Perf! for us, because they are who they are, and I love them just so.

Rossana G-A

FTC Disclaimer: I am not compensated to write this post.

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