DistanceHere are a few common issues and potential challenges within marriages or other relationships that may happen with an ADHDer (someone who has ADHD) and a non-ADHDer.

The most important thing I think in a marriage or relationship where ADHD is involved is knowledge and understanding from both sides. Just as it's difficult for the non-ADHD spouse to understand and relate, it's equally difficult for the spouse with ADHD to do the same. This is because we all 'judge' each other's behaviour by our own experiences and perceptions, so 'misjudging' is inevitable.

For example the non-ADHD wife may have learnt from young that interrupting people when they are speaking is bad-manners, so when her ADHD husband constantly interrupts her when she's speaking she judges him as 'rude' and gets infuriated when after years of 'telling him' he still 'insists' on doing it! What she doesn't KNOW is that he does try very hard not to but can't help himself, and resents being judged as 'rude' and 'not trying' because it is untrue. (He is either doing it because of impulsivity and distractibility which are known symptoms of ADHD, or because he knows if he doesn't say it while it's in his mind, he won't remember it by the end of the discussion). As you can see this is a small, silly issue that can become a major obstacle in a marriage, and unfortunately there are many!

Another issue that can cause trouble is when the non-ADHDer steps into roles/gaps that have been created because they are areas of weakness for the ADHDer. (For example poor money management). This is a natural subtle thing that happens over time, but the danger is that the ADHDer may start to feel more and more inadequate and become increasingly dependent, and the non-ADHDer increasingly resentful.

CoupleThe cycle can be broken (if the issue has become a 'problem') through the ADHDer being empowered to get help in these areas (if he/she has a desire to) with the understanding and support of the non-ADHDer. (It's important that it is initiated by the ADHDer and not forced by the non-ADHDer, as this causes other problems!) The non-ADHDer may find this a difficult adjustment as she/he is used to being 'needed', but the rewards are worth the effort and energy.

As you can see neither partner is 'to blame' here, but without understanding and knowledge a lot of damage can be done! Opening up discussion about these issues is vital and can transform a relationship. The key is maintaining mutual respect and a desire to understand how ADHD affects your spouse.

I think I must mention the area of parenting as well because if one spouse has ADHD there can potentially be children in the family with ADHD as well, and this can put a strain on a relationship. Parenting for ADHDers can be very challenging (with or without children with ADHD) and there are many issues that come up that have the potential to cause major conflict in a marriage. The ADHDer parent often battles with the same things the children do, and feels inadequate to help them because it is something they are incapable of doing themselves (for example - the teacher constantly tells me my child needs more structure and routine at home, but I'm not able to give it to him). If the non-ADHDer parent is expecting the ADHDer to 'get it right' as well, or is 'misjudging' the reasons behind it, this ADHDs to the feelings of shame, failure and inadequacy in the ADHDer and causes a rift in the relationship.

A word of advice to teachers - if a child has ADHD be very sensitive to the fact that one/both of the parents may have it as well.

To sum up: Knowledge, understanding, acceptance, mutual respect, honest communication and unconditional love = strong marriage.

All of these issues and much more are covered in our comprehensive Living ADDventure ADHD Online Parenting Course.