If your spouse is frightfully disorganized and extremely forgetful, they may have adult ADHD. About 4% of the U.S. population has this condition. Constantly being distracted, forgetfulness, seemingly ignoring one’s spouse, having an inability to carry through on promises are some of the more serious symptoms. ADHD can harm a marriage if left unmitigated. Before approaching your spouse with the prospect of seeing a mental health professional, and risking a fight, it may be wise to evaluate their behavior and see whether or not they exhibit the most common signs. First, there is chronic distraction. Marriage consultant Melissa Orlov, an expert on how ADHD affects couples, told the L.A. Times, “If you are trying to get your partner’s attention and they seem unable to give it to you, that’s a big indicator.” Does your spouse lack a certain self-regulation when it comes to their emotions? Gina Pera, author of, Is It You, Me, Or Adult A.D.D.? said, “They might get really excited about something and their partner will say, ‘Wait, let’s look into the details. Is this really a good idea?’”
Household and other tasks can end in broken promises and hurt feelings. Orlov said, “You’ll say, ‘Honey, will you do X?’ and he’ll say, ‘Sure, no problem,’ and then X does not get done.” People with adult ADHD are a whirlwind. Nothing seems organized. Sufferers get easily overwhelmed, have trouble prioritizing tasks and often miss deadlines. This happens in the work sphere and throughout home life as well. It becomes an entirely different relationship than you first imagined. Pera explains, “The partner says, ‘You are lazy and selfish.’ The adult with ADHD says, ‘You’re controlling.’ Both become resentful.” Luckily, there are moves you can make to help preserve the relationship and mitigate the effects of ADHD. Realize that it is a condition, no one’s fault. Pera says you should, “Acknowledge both of you were working in the dark and both of you were being undermined by this force.” The next step is to look for resources and support in your area. A therapist who specifically understands and has experience with adult ADHD is critical in managing the disorder’s influence on your marriage. There are medications available that work wonders for some. Many become far less forgetful, can arrive places on time, keep promises and more.
One resource is Children and Adults with ADHD, or CHADD, a national advocacy group that should have a chapter in your area. Why not visit their website and see what psychiatrists they recommend in your area, what advice they have and so on? Read up on adult ADHD and get to know a lot about it. Write down specific instances where your spouse has exhibited these behaviors and cross reference them to what symptoms these sources say they are exhibiting. If you have facts on your side, and use loving kindness to break the news to them in a supportive way, they will be more open to seek treatment and the marriage will markedly improve. There are also easy things you can do that will work wonders. Simply keeping a schedule and writing things down in some sort of graphic organizer, say a calendar or on a corkboard, can work wonders. Orlov says focusing on yourself and not your partner is also important. “Contribute your own best self to your relationship,” she said. “You can start on that immediately.” Don’t dwell on the past. It will poison the marriage. Though you might have resentments, you still have to move forward. Orlov says, “It’s a lot more relevant than stomping around in the undiagnosed ADHD portion of your relationship.” But even though you want to get somewhere Orlov says, “You don’t have to meet a certain goal, but you have to try your hardest.” For more on this topic pick up a copy of, The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov.