Blog Post | Marriage and ADHD Four Key Moves

Marriage & ADHD:
Four Important Moves To Keep Your Relationship Together

By Robin Nordmeyer, ADHD Coach

Marriage Uncomplicated

Being married for anyone has its ebbs and flows, ups and downs. It’s just a natural part of the commitment we make in a relationship.  When you add one or more partners with ADHD into the mix -- let's just say life together gets very interesting. 

I know this because I have experienced it first-hand with my husband of 32 years. And I am the one with ADHD.  I have also coached with many adult clients who fear they will lose a spouse to separation or divorce if they don’t pull it together.

In fact, the reality suggests that couples impacted by ADHD could be two or more times likely to end up with failed marriages. You start out in love, excited to create your new life together, and then boom the struggles start to surface and reoccur.  Then the couple begins to question the viability of sticking it out to work on the challenges and unhealthy relationship dynamics that come into play.

Does this story sound familiar? Before throwing in the towel, let me share a little good news and the hope that there can be better days and a healthier relationship ahead.

Start Here:

Always first, acknowledge and develop your understanding and awareness of ADHD. This means both partners. You can’t deal with something you won’t try to embrace and understand.  This can feel a little scary to dive into but it pays off. You can eliminate a lot of character sabotage and resentment when you really get what’s happening.

Second, agree to start fresh. You can’t change the past, but you can influence and impact the future. When you are always looking at what’s behind you and dwelling on the past, it’s hard to move forward and focus on what’s possible. Agree to hit the reset button. Learn how as a couple to forgive and work together to leverage your strengths, build new skills, and find better strategies that work for the two of you as a team. A counselor may be needed and a coach can help you develop goals and integrate some new strategies and actions to create the marriage you hoped for.    

Learn Effective Ways to Communicate

Third, ramp up the positive communication. A marriage thrives when there is a healthier ratio of positive to negative feedback. In an ADHD-stressed marriage, the opposite is more so the case.  There is a higher ratio of negative feedback versus positive. No one is encouraged by constant negative feedback to try harder. It’s the positive feedback that builds on hope and potential.

Here’s a strategy that can help with the reset and positive –and remember it works both ways too. We call this strategy 'Shine the Light on What is Right' at our Center. Each partner starts their day with five coins or tokens in your left pocket.  No pockets, no problem, you can use something like bracelets too. As you go throughout the day, find five opportunities to communicate your genuine appreciation for one another. Just five times.  Can you do it?  Each time you do, physically move your coin, charm, bracelet from your left pocket to your right pocket.

When we focus more on what is right and minimize the negative, we are encouraging and offering more hope for getting through this together. The interest and energy to keep trying is reinforced. In contrast, too much of the negative and what is wrong will result in shut down, avoidance, and checking out of the situation and relationship.

Fourth, find better times for more effective communication. Many of the areas of concern in our couple's workshop and research study are often related to weaker working memory and emotional outbursts. Both can wreak a lot of unnecessary havoc in the couple's ability to attend to one another’s requests and to engage in complex conversations. 

With ADHD, there are times in the day when we are more prone to forgetting or with tracking complex conversations.  There are also times when we are more easily triggered and prone to reacting emotionally.  Notice when you and your partner are able to communicate well and effectively. Be curious about what makes that work for you. Those become your recipe for success.  Based on what you discover, set up routine and preferable times to enjoy one another in conversations, to communicate what’s important, to ask for support.

Most importantly, don't let ADHD defeat your marriage and the hopes you had for your life together.  The challenges related to ADHD can be addressed in productive ways.  

If you like these strategies, consider joining our next Marriage Uncomplicated Couple's Study and Workshop.