Mental health experts recently reported that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or A.D.H.D., may be unknowingly taking a toll on many adult relationships. Studies suggested that at least 4 percent of adults now have A.D.H.D. and that as many as half of all children diagnosed with A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with the symptoms in adulthood. In a marriage, the common symptoms of the disorder, such as distraction, disorganization, and forgetfulness, can easily be misinterpreted as laziness, selfishness, and a lack of love and concern.
Adults with A.D.H.D. often learn coping skills to help them stay organized and focused at work, but continue to struggle at home, where they have a tendency to become distracted from household tasks. Some research suggests that adults with A.D.H.D. are twice as likely to be divorced, where another study found high levels of distress in 60 percent of marriages in which one spouse had A.D.H.D.
In these marriages, one spouse can be left with 100 percent of the family responsibility when the other spouse forgets to attend to certain tasks, leaving the responsible spouse frustrated and the spouse with the disorder confused by their partner’s anger. Long to-do lists or messy homes feel overwhelming to a brain with A.D.H.D., causing the spouse to retreat to a friendly distraction, such as a computer or video game. If the other spouse does not know that distraction is the issue, he or she may start to think that the spouse simply does not care about the problem at hand.
Although treatment for A.D.H.D. often starts with medication, it does not always solve a couple’s problems. Talk therapy is recommended to break down years of accumulated resentments. Behavioral therapy and education on other coping strategies for both partners are also essential.