The challenges facing a person who is married to someone with untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as ADD or ADHD) can be difficult to navigate.
These challenges may be completely hidden to the rest of the world. No one seems to understand what you struggle with. Your spouse is such a “great guy” and may appear “together” to everyone else.
This article attempts to address some of the predictable patterns that one may experience being married to someone with ADD and why it creates such difficulty.
Being married to someone with untreated ADD is often fraught with a predictable progressive pattern that goes from happy to confused to angry, and finally, to hopeless. How does this happen and why is this so predictable in couples whose spouses have untreated ADD?
In an attempt to answer that question let’s look at some of the patterns that typically come up in these kinds of relationships. It is important to recognize the symptoms of ADD, especially if you suspect your relationship might struggle due to this disorder.
In the beginning phase of the courtship between you and your ADD spouse, you may have been completely swept off your feet or ravished with both attention and affection, while being the primary focus of your partner’s life. His “hyperfocus” on the relationship probably felt intoxicating and romantic. But, this feeling faded over time.
When someone with ADD enters into a new romantic relationship, the initial excitement feels so stimulating to the ADD brain (which is being flooded with adrenaline and endorphins) that it causes the person to completely turn their attention to you. However, this kind of excitement diminishes over time, along with the adrenaline rush as the ADD spouse looks elsewhere for stimulation.
Of course, this is not conscious on his part, and he may not even be aware that this has happened. However, as time goes on, the non-ADD partner may experience the following seven feelings associated with his/her spouse’s need to find stimulation in places outside of the marital relationship:
1. A sense of rejection. Individuals with ADD may often be distracted and find it difficult to pay attention to their partner. This may lead you to feel neglected or it may be interpreted as disinterest on the part of your spouse.
2. Loneliness. If your partner seems disinterested in what you are saying or appears to ignore you, it would be easy to understand that one might feel lonely.
3. Feeling ignored. Partners of individuals with ADD often get the feeling that all their good advice and suggestions are not taken to heart. This may cause the non – ADD partner to feel ignored, disrespected or offended.
4. Frustration. The same kinds of problems keep presenting themselves over and over again. It is difficult to understand how you can have discussions around a problem, think that you are being understood and still the same problem persists.
5. Anger. Resentment and anger become pervasive when one feels disregarded, disrespected, ignored and often alone in the relationship. Some spouses will become irate and scream at their partner, while others will shut down and block all emotions. This will leave a partner in the cold. Either way, one can see how this pattern becomes increasingly destructive.
6. Exhaustion. As the non-ADD spouse tries to compensate for the lack of equal sharing or follow through in responsibilities, you can often feel depleted. As if no amount of effort seems to resolve these same issues that continue to plague your marriage.
Due to the inconsistency in your spouse’s ability to follow through and remember to do things, the feelings of being burdened with more of your fair share of responsibilities can create more feelings of stress.
7. A sense of hopelessness. When one’s best effort to resolve these problems go nowhere, the sense of sadness and lack of hope may pervade the relationship and lead to a separation or divorce.
There is hope. With understanding and knowledge, one can transcend these feelings and find a new way of being in the relationship. Learning all you can about ADD and how it affects your partner is vital. It is important to remember that even though your partner may no longer be hyperfocused on you and your relationship, that does not mean he does not still love you.
Since he probably isn’t even aware that your relationship has changed, he might not understand why you are always so angry and demanding. Your increasing frustration, anger and demands only further damage any chances of communication or intimacy, as your partner feels that he can never please you and that he is not enough.
He might feel unloved. Patterns of frustration and anger can be avoided when both partners understand the way the ADD symptoms are affecting your marriage. You must learn different behaviors to heal these kinds of wounds through education, communication and counseling.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Oct 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2012). 7 Potential Problems in Being Married to ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 9, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/10/17/7-potential-problems-in-being-married-to-adhd/