ADHD and Marriage: Saving Your Relationship

By Edward (Ned) Hallowell, MD

Posted on | By Edward Hallowell, MD

Millions of marriages suffer needlessly due to undiagnosed adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Ninety percent of adults who have ADHD do not know they have it! How can you tell if you or you spouse might have undiagnosed ADHD? Look for the following symptoms:

  • Trouble sustaining focus and mental clarity in work or conversations, coupled with an ability to hyper-focus at times
  • Trouble getting organized, tendency to have many piles around the office and home
  • Trouble managing time, being punctual, tendency to procrastinate and get things done in a panic at the last minute
  • Tendency to act impulsively, without reflection or forethought
  • Tendency to have many projects going simultaneously; trouble with follow-through
  • Tendency to be a maverick, liking to do things their own way
  • Tendency to be impatient
  • Tendency to argue needlessly, often drawn to conflict
  • Tendency to seek high stimulation, excitement
  • Often highly creative, original, intuitive
  • Often entrepreneurial, inventive, hardworking
  • Often warm, generous, giving to others
  • Often sensitive and deep, but also tend to cover this trait
  • Often under-achieving, not making the most of one’s talents

If you or your spouse has some of these traits, it may be due to undiagnosed ADHD. You should see a professional and get treatment if it is needed. If you or your partner has undiagnosed ADHD, the marriage may feel like a big struggle with nothing but conflict all the time. In addition, the spouse who does not have ADHD may feel as if their ADHD spouse is like another child, rather than an equal partner. Such an ongoing struggle can lead to each partner avoiding the other, which only makes matters worse. Distance develops and warmth and intimacy wane, as each partner resents the other more and more.

However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, all this can change. The marriage not only can be saved, but life can become better than it’s ever been. With proper treatment, the person with ADHD can start to achieve at a high level, seeing dreams come true.

Treatment begins with education. As someone who has struggled with this personally, I would recommend my book Delivered From Distraction for learning about ADHD, as well as the book I wrote with my wife, Married to Distraction, for help with relationships. 

Treatment also should include restructuring, including developing routines and habits to help get life organized. Working with a coach can help in this regard. You can find a coach via the Internet, as ADHD coaching has become a bona fide service. 

Treatment should also include attention to sleep, diet, exercise, and meditation or prayer. All of these have been proven to impact the symptoms of ADHD. Sufficient sleep is an amount of sleep that allows you to wake up without an alarm clock. Proper nutrition is key to brain health. The closer to following a vegan diet you can come, the better. A daily supplement of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids are also good for your brain. One can’t stress the importance of physical exercise and its ability to confer both mental and emotional health benefits enough. Additionally, recent studies have shown that mindfulness training is an excellent treatment for ADHD in adults.

Finally, medication can help. Stimulant medications, like Ritalin or Adderall, when used properly, are safe and effective. We use the same medications for adults that we use for children. When the medications work, they work like a pair of eyeglasses, enhancing mental focus and clarity. Speak with your doctor to get all the information you need.

Remember, the diagnosis of ADHD in an adult can save a marriage, a family and a career. This is really a good-news diagnosis, because once you know you or your spouse has ADHD, life can only get better. But you have to get the diagnosis to reap the benefits! If you see a bit of yourself or your spouse in the symptom profile listed earlier, read up on ADHD and go see your doctor to get a referral to a specialist. 

It is time for all the adults out there who have this condition to learn about it and enjoy the huge benefits proper treatment can confer.

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