ADHD's Effect on Marriage

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

In this lesson, we will explore the negative effects that adult ADHD can have on marriages and relationships. In addition, we will discuss strategies for minimizing those effects.

Adults and ADHD

It's a common misconception that only children can have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a chronic condition marked by difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. But adults can also have ADHD, though their symptoms may be difficult to detect and different from those of children with the disorder. When one or more adults in a marriage or romantic relationship has ADHD, issues may arise. However, by understanding ADHD, its symptoms, and its effects on a relationship, adults may apply strategies to diffuse these problems.

Symptoms of Adult ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD

Adults with ADHD don't always tap pencils incessantly or run around uncontrollably. Their symptoms tend to be much more subtle. In fact, most adults with ADHD don't even realize that they have it - they may have learned to adjust their symptoms to function in adulthood, or they may have become so used to their symptoms that their behaviors are simply second nature. Below is a short list of symptoms that adults with ADHD often display and discussion of how those symptoms can affect a marriage:

1. Hyperfocus: When adults with ADHD are focused on something, whether it's a task, object or daydream, they have a tendency to become absorbed by it. For example, a man with ADHD reading a magazine may tune out his surroundings completely - so much that he may not even hear someone right in front of him calling his name. This can be maddening for the partner in the marriage, who may misinterpret this behavior as ignoring or neglecting him or her.

2. Difficulty concentrating: On the flip side of hyperfocus is trouble staying focused, particularly when it comes to mundane, everyday tasks. An adult with ADHD might zone out in the middle of a conversation, have trouble remembering instructions, and generally have a short attention span. It's not difficult to see how such tendencies can take a toll on a marriage. People with this disorder may also have a hard time completing tasks. For example, a woman with ADHD may be on the way to take out the trash, but after becoming distracted by the dog, abandon her task and take Fido on a long walk.

3. Impulsiveness: A person with ADHD often has trouble inhibiting behaviors. That may mean the adult makes rude comments, responds to situations outrageously, and generally acts without a filter or censor. Impulsive behavior might include finishing people's sentences, grabbing items out of people's hands, or having short bursts of anger - all of which can lead to frustration within a marriage. But impulsiveness can bring on much more serious problems: It may lead to issues with drinking, drug use, and gambling, all of which can do great harm to a relationship.

4. Disorganization: People with ADHD may have trouble staying organized. Their desks may be overrun with piles of paperwork, their closets may look like a tornado swept through, and time management may seem like an impossible task. This doesn't mean their unclean or careless, but that they find it challenging to staying organized.

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