3 Coping Steps to Living with a Spouse with ADHD

Living with a spouse with ADHD

Do you ever feel your spouse is easily distracted, doesn’t give you full eye contact, you catch their eyes wandering to the TV as you’re talking or their attention quickly moves to a squirrel that just ran through your yard? Do you then internalize this behavior as believing your partner doesn’t care, never listens or gives you the attention you need?

Do you have suspicions your partner may have ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a medical condition that affects how well someone can sit still and pay attention. People with ADHD struggle focusing on their tasks and subjects. Symptoms of ADHD can be similar to other issues such as anxiety, having too much caffeine or a medical condition such as hyperthyroidism.

See a doctor to rule out any medical concerns and then take the following three steps toward a path of healing.

Step 1- Obtain an accurate diagnosis

Make an appointment with your PCP or a mental health provider about having ADHD. Once an accurate diagnosis has been made you may learn your spouse has been functioning undiagnosed for many years and learned to adapt but as a spouse, it’s easy and understandable to come to the conclusion your spouse “Doesn’t care”, “Doesn’t listen”, “Doesn’t remember anything I tell them”, “Can be so irritable out of the blue”.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s frustrating and can cause a breakdown in communication and result in conflict. Once you have a better understanding of ADHD and that many of these areas of frustration are a result of it and not your partners love or interest then you can begin to heal. Your spouse may or may not want to try medication to improve focus but make sure to get all the education and information you need to make an informed decision.

Step 2 – Laugh about it

Now that you know your spouse is not intentionally ignoring you and these issues stem from symptoms of ADHD, something out of his or her control. Humor is a valuable asset. Reframe certain traits to be endearing – being armed with the knowledge and being able to put a name to the behavior helps you to understand your spouse better. What was once negative traits can become humorous ones because it really is out of his or her control unless your spouse decides to try medication to treat the ADHD.

Either way, you can find a new way to coexist in more harmony. Or if you want to distract him from the shoes you just bought online or new golf clubs, yell “Squirrel” and point elsewhere and simply walk away giggling to yourself. Seriously though, humor will set you free in many ways.

Laugh about it to ease the pressure

Step 3 – Communicate with one another

Read more about ADHD and how it affects a person and relationships.

Talk to one another about how it affects both of you and come up with ways to accommodate your marriage. You could start making lists or written reminders on a wall calendar or bulletin board. Know that even if you told your spouse something Tuesday, you’ll most likely need to remind him or her prior to the event or activity.

Tell your spouse you need to leave 30 minutes sooner than you really need to and you’ll be walking out of the door when you really wanted to leave, not 30 minutes later.  If you need assistance improving communication and understanding, find a mental health therapist near you to assist with these concerns.

Noemi Mendez-Hyams
Therapist, M.A., LPC-S
Noemi is a therapist who specializes in working with adolescents, families, couples and individuals. She has worked in mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities treating depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injurious behaviors and substance abuse. Noemi has provided crisis assessments for those at risk of suicide, psychosis, mania or needing detoxification services.