Unlocking ADHD contributor Shreya Jolly highlights the issues brought about by the impact of ADHD in a marriage or relationship and shares tips and strategies that can help to improve the situation between partners.
Common Issues Due To ADHD
A survey conducted by ADDitude has found that marital dysfunction and divorce is twice as likely for couples with one or both partners having ADHD, as opposed to couples not affected by ADHD.
According to Very Well Mind, these common issues can have detrimental effect on an ADHD relationship:
- Uneven distribution of household work because spouses with ADHD may seem disorganized and forget to do their chores.
- Individuals with ADHD can have a hard time complying to tasks, so their partner often feels the need to constantly nag and remind them.
- This leads to an uneven distribution of responsibility and “parent child dynamics”. One partner serves as ‘the parent’ while the other to serve as ‘the child’.
- Individuals with ADHD might suffer from hypersexuality or hyposexuality. Hypersexuality involves an unusually high sex drive while hyposexuality involves an unusually low sex drive. Such unusual sex drives can make it difficult for the partner to adjust, leading to sexual relationship breakdown.
- Constant, and sometimes meaningless, arguments – People with ADHD often fight with their partners due to rejection sensitivity. In some cases, the need to fight is driven by the craving of the ADHD brain for stimulation. This can make the argument appear meaningless.
Other Ways That ADHD Can Impact A Relationship
Having ADHD can make it difficult for an individual to keep up with daily tasks. This is due to executive functioning disorder, low motivation and poor working memory. Without the right support, this leads to feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.
Due to the inability of the ADHDer to stay consistent, it is easy for them to develop anxiety as they feel like they are constantly walking on eggshells and afraid of angering their partner.
On the other hand, the non-ADHD partner may face tremendous stress trying to shoulder most of the responsibilities if they perceive their ADHD partner to not be dependable.
The difference in ADHD brain wiring is often incomprehensible by the non-ADHD partner.
Individuals with ADHD tend to experience “racing”, “noisy” or “cluttered” thoughts, and are interest-driven. ADHDers that are hyper-focussed and too busy with plans, may fail to give attention to their non-ADHD partners and neglect them.
The inability of the ADHD partner to consistently take responsibility and comply with agreements can result in the non-ADHD partner feeling resentful and emotionally bottled up.
Likewise, when the non-ADHD partner is constantly upset at the ADHD partner, the latter may feel misunderstood and rejected.
When these behaviours keep recurring, both parties may believe that things will never change. There are also constant worries of what may happen next if fights continue to persist.
ADHDer: Identify ADHD Pitfalls, Improve Communication
According to Psycom, a mental health site, ADHDers can try to improve communication by:
- Using ‘I feel’ statements – This helps convey emotion and avoid blame. Eg. when you are feeling overwhelmed you can say – “I feel very overwhelmed and stressed. I need help”.
- Using facial expressions – This helps in non-verbal communication which is crucial to helping the other party understand you better. When you are feeling happy, give a comforting smile to your partner.
- Repeating and rephrasing – This helps you remember the important tasks your partner has communicated to you and ensure you are on the right track.
- Asking questions – If you feel that you are unable to understand why your partner is upset, ask and clarify with them.
- Talking about how your ADHD impacts your actions – Be honest and explain how ADHD affects your response to prevent your partner from misunderstanding you. ADHD 2.0 by Edward M Hallowell and John J Ratey is a good crash course on everything to do with ADHD.
- Keeping a fidget toy for long conversations – This helps you to keep your mind engaged. Eg. try keeping a fidget spinner with you when discussing finances with your partner.
Non-ADHDer: Avoid Parent-Child Dynamics, Be Empathetic
According to CHADD, it is important for you to be empathetic to your ADHD partner’s responses.
- Make requests, not demands. ADHDers can be particularly sensitive to being told what to do. They also tend to require more effort than usual to perform tasks. Try to use a neutral tone when communicating your requests and be empathetic to their difficulties.
- The non-ADHD spouse should take some but not ALL the responsibility. Ensure a fair division of labour and set up weekly goals. Setting up weekly goals can also remind the ADHD partner about his/her weekly responsibilities thereby minimising chances of forgetfulness. This can help ease the burden on the ADHD partner who may get overwhelmed when given too much responsibility.
- Set aside proper time to discuss important tasks with your ADHD partner and ensure that you have their full attention. Sometimes touching your partner while conversing with him/her can allow the same to refocus on you.
Understanding The ADHD Effect On Marriage and Relationships
Melissa Orlov is a marriage consultant, top leading expert in ADHD relationships and the award winning author of two books: “The ADHD Effect on Marriage” and “Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD“.
She is also the founder of ADHDMarriage.com and has been writing and speaking about this topic since 2007.
You can find useful articles about the effect of ADHD on relationships like Is ADHD Impacting My Relationship? Your Questions Answered and 9 Tips for When Non-ADHD Spouses Just Can’t Cope Anymore on her site.
Additionally, Melissa also conducts a premier seminar called Couples’ Seminar with Melissa Orlov – The ADHD Effect In-Depth to help couples to turn their ADHD impacted relationships around and thrive again in love.
You can view her recent webinar recording “In Conversation with Melissa Orlov: The ADHD Effect on Marriage” below:
It Takes Two To Tango: ADHD is Nobody’s Fault
In conclusion, it is important to realise that both partners have equal responsibility to put in effort to communicate better and save their marriage.
Recognise that ADHD is nobody’s fault, and blaming each other only makes reconciliation more difficult.
Understand the impact of ADHD in your relationship, be willing to step into each other’s shoes with empathy instead of judgment.
These simple yet powerful ways can help resolve the recurring arguments and issues that cripple a relationship due to the ADHD.