Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can struggle with symptoms that interfere with having a happy marriage. Maintaining a happy marriage can be even more difficulty if both partners have ADHD.
When most people think of ADHD, they think of children. A national parents survey in 2016 indicated that the estimated number of children ages 2 through 17 with ADHD was 6.1 million.1 That’s a lot of children with ADHD. However, a NIMH study in 2017 of adults ages 18 through 44 indicated a current prevalence rate of 4.4% with ADHD.2 The 2020 census counted 258 million adults in the U. S.3 If you assume that this rate is the same for all adults in the U.S., then there are 11 million adults in the U.S with ADHD. An article in JAMA Psychiatry in 2019 indicated that only 11% of adults were getting treatment.4 Thus, the odds are such that the partner(s) in a marriage with ADHD are probably not getting treated for it.
In a marriage where one or both partners have ADHD, predictable patterns are found. A person with ADHD will often promise to do something and later forget about it. Their non-ADHD partner, or the partner whose ADHD interferes less with their functioning, eventually stops believing the other’s promises. This occurs because we generally interpret another’s behavior based on how we would behave in given situation.
The non-ADHD partner thinks that they would keep their word if they were to make a promise. They assume that their partner with ADHD did not mean what they said when they made the promise. When this happens over and over again, the non-ADHD partner feels that the other can’t be trusted. This often contrasts with the intense focus that the person with ADHD gave to their partner in the beginning of the relationship. The partner without ADHD winds up believing that their partner doesn’t love or value them. They now feel that there is a void that never used to exist in beginning of the relationship.
Sadly, the patterns continue. Too many arguments ensue. The partner with ADHD might not listen well during a conversation. They get distracted and later don’t remember some, or a lot, of what they and their partner said. At times, the partner with ADHD fills in the gaps of what they don’t remember and gets caught lying. This leads to anger for both and grief at the loss of the expectations they had about the relationship’s progress.
The partner without ADHD begins to see their ADHD partner as not able, or willing, to shoulder their responsibilities in the relationship. This person winds up doing more and more to manage the home, bills, and care of any children they have. This person comes to regard their ADHD partner as less competent and often loses respect for them. But there is only so much one partner can do and eventually they wind up being and feeling overwhelmed.
At this point, either partner may look for comfort outside their relationship, whether it be with someone else or an activity that takes them away from the marriage. If an affair happens and is discovered, it can break through the denial as to how unhappy one or both of them are with each other.
However, another possible response to their unhappiness is that the couple can each realize the destructive effects caused by the untreated ADHD behaviors. They can decide to see those behaviors as what is driving them apart and then unify in working against those behaviors with the ADHD person getting treatment to increase their control of their unsuccessful behaviors.
Treatment for the person with the ADHD can include several types of intervention. The pharmaceutical industry is coming up with new medications that are helpful in reducing ADHD symptoms. These medications can also have side effects, though. The Functional Medicine approach in partnership with Specialized Therapy offers an alternative to medication. This is designed to restore the components of the brain chemistry that are required to maintain good focus and concentration. The Functional Medicine approach is also designed to remedy the root cause of the problem. In addition, it helps to reinstate normal functioning of that part of the brain’s chemistry.
In conjunction with STA, FxMed Centers also uses brain-based interventions to empower the person with ADHD. WE help our patients redirect and maintain focus and improve recall. This process suggests an alternative approach which identifies the biochemical factors producing the ADHD symptoms. In addition, it recommends natural substances that are the precursors to the neurotransmitters involved that help with eliminating ADHD.
Treatment on the biological level could be supplemented with helping the person with ADHD make behavioral adjustments to minimize the impact of their symptoms on their functioning. They can be helped to improve their focus, memory, organization, time management and emotional self-control. They can be helped to replace negative attributions about their lack of success with the expectation of being able to meet their realistic goals. These improvements generally lead to an improvement in their self-esteem.
Individual treatment can also help the non-ADHD partner. It can help them develop a realistic evaluation of their partner’s and their own strengths and weaknesses.This helps them clarify their own goals for self-improvement and enjoyment. Hopefully, helping them figure out how to develop a better work-life balance makes things better.
A person performing more successfully and feeling better about themselves is likely going to have a better attitude. They also have a better attitude towards working on their marriage problems. Thus, each partner can be helped to improve the marriage. The communication with each other can improve. They can be encouraged to find and use a more equitable distribution of the work to be done in the home and move away from unhealthy roles that they may have taken on as time passed. They can be encouraged to see each other again in the positive light that existed when they were first attracted to each other. Eventually their intimacy will improve, and each will have a clearer picture of the kind of life they want to have for themselves and to share with each other.
If you’re interested in reading about marriage and ADHD, you can check out www.ADHDmarriage.com. Knowing somebody with ADHD, please call us for help if needed. please call us! If you are determined to make changes to regain your happiness, we can help! Call STA at 201-488-6678 or call the Functional Medicine Centers at 201-880-8247.
- Danielson, Melissa et al. Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis and associated treatment among U.S. children and adolescents, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47:2, 199-212.
- Kessler, RC et al. The prevalence and correlates of adult ADHD in the United States: results of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2006 April: 163(4), 716-723.
- Ogunwole, Stella et al. Population under 18 declined last decade, 8-21. Census.gov
- Chung, Winston et al. Trends in the prevalence and incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder among adult and children of different racial and ethnic groups, JAMA Psychiatry, 2 (11)