You know I’m gonna be honest about what it takes to make a marriage work when one partner has ADHD.
It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not as much fun as watching those valentine themed movies on the Hallmark channel.
But quality relationship are important, particularly when you and I often feel misunderstood and overwhelmed with our lives.
According to one study, people in fulfilling relationships have better immunity to the flu. Seriously. No wonder I have never had the flu. My husband is awesome!
Many of you have emailed or DM’d me asking how I have such a healthy marriage. While it is flattering that people would think we have a healthy marriage, I’m not sure we are very different from other married people. We have our squabbles but we really do not have any ongoing conflict.
I annoy him all the time, and he annoys me. But the key to our success is probably humor. Even when we agree to disagree we are usually laughing about it.
The thing is we both have the same mindset about marriage. Being married is a full time job under the best of circumstances. When one partner is living with ADHD you both have to be willing to work even harder.
what it takes to make a marriage work
(When one partner has adhd)
The Non-ADHD Partner needs to understand ADHD
You have to talk about ADHD with your partner early and often.
I don’t mean you have to buy them books on it, they are helpful, but what you really need is to describe how ADHD shows up for you. YOU are the person they are in the relationship with.
To make it simple, you and I have trouble being self-directed adults. We struggle to identify our needs and assert them, we have trouble with planning and prioritizing and taking action – and we often deal with anxiety and depression as a result.
ADHD makes relationships even harder than normal, and relationships are NEVER easy.
If we do not explain to our partners how ADHD works and how it affects us personally, they will have no frame of reference for what seems like bizarre or frustrating behavior.
I highly recommend you tell your partner if you take medication. If you see a therapist, bring your partner along so they can ask questions and start to understand.
talk about money openly
If there is one thing that will get you in trouble with your partner, it is impulsive spending.
Money is always a sticky issue. Some people are spenders, while others are savers. Personally, I am a little bit of both. But that has not prevented me from making mistakes along the way.
When we first got engaged, I told my husband that I had some credit card debt. What I didn’t tell him what that it amounted to $4,000! When I eventually came clean, we were able to come up with a plan to pay down my debt quickly.
If you aren’t disclosing your financial stuff, and you are doing it deliberately, it will bite you in the ass later.
Talk about sex too
When your first get into a relationship you always have energy.
You can stay up all night talking, or having sex, or watching Netflix. Inevitably that feeling wanes and you go back to the baseline level of dopamine and oxytocin in your brain.
As ADHD’ers we love our dopamine. We also love the feeling of being in love because it feeds us a sweet, steady stream of dopamine.
But things like kids, and finances, and LIFE have a way of taking over the ADHD brain. We don’t filter very well, and we don’t know how to manage the mental/emotional energy we have available to us.
You and I can actually forget to be intimate with our partners.
Not because we don’t care about them, or we’ve lost interest, but because we have trouble with consistency. The best way I’ve found to deal with my inconsistent mid-life libido is to talk about it openly.
My husband knows this, and at this point I have told him that it has nothing to do with him personally. He does not turn me off, or annoy me, or anything. He tries really hard to make me laugh with his advances, and it works.
Divide and Conquer
Don’t even try to tell me you and your partner have the household chores down perfectly. It just never happens, ADHD or not.
Usually one partner does most of it, and ends up feeling resentful.
Early on in our relationship, it was easier to divide household chores based on strengths so that is how I’ll approach it here.
The Hubs is good at organization. He stores and sorts important paperwork like mortgage, life insurance and passports. His office has a set of filing cabinets where I have access to the paperwork, but I very rarely look at it.
This is the key though: when I have an important piece of paper in my hand I immediately hand it over. I know that I will lose it so it is easier for me to turn it over. Some would argue that I am helpless, but the truth is we have determined that he is better at this particular job.
I know that I am better at doing the laundry than he is, so I do that. I have a ton of cleaning hacks that I share in this ADHD at home article, as well as several others.
Figure out your strengths and the strengths of your partner. Divide household tasks according. There will always be some things you do together.
Which brings me to the topic of parenting.
Parent on the same page
Having children changes every relationship. When you have ADHD it throws a huge curveball into all an already challenging situation.
Parenting is rewarding – but if we’re being honest it is also frustrating and stressful.
Whenever you have a situation with your child, make sure you are on the same page as your partner. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is for the Hubs when we agree about how to handle something, and then I forget less than 24 hours later.
If you are going to create a new rule or start a new habit, discuss it ahead of time and then present it to your child together. That way if you struggle with the details (as I often do) your partner can back you up.
Approach parenting the same way you do money, talk about it often. Take notes if you need to or schedule it into your planner.
This is what it takes to make a marriage work.
Marriage comes down to respect. You have to have enough respect and self-awareness to share all the part of yourself or it’s just not going to work.
Do the work. Celebrate your partner and work with them. It is possible to have a successful marriage and ADHD at the same time, it just requires effort and openness.
Here is a video interview we did together. It is a bit long, but it gives you a window into our relationship.
Check out the resources available through CHADD. You’d be surprised how much info is out there if you look in the right places.
Here are some books that get decent reviews: (Affiliate links, see my full disclosure)