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Living with AD/HD: A lifespan disorder


Marriage and Partnerships

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Aug. 6, 2010: See former CHADD national board of directors member Rob Tudisco discuss how ADHD can affect married life on NBC's Today Show
Conflict and discord are common in marriages and partnerships involving an individual with undiagnosed ADHD.

Due to the deficits in executive functioning, inhibitory control, and attentional processes associated with ADHD, individuals with ADHD are often forgetful, disorganized, distracted, irresponsible, and communicate poorly and over-react emotionally.

And when the ADHD is undiagnosed, neither partner has a context in which to understand these characteristics, and such behaviors can invoke negative reactions and blameful attributions from the partner without ADHD.

The partner without ADHD may interpret the poor communication, the emotional outbursts, and the failure to carry out commitments as evidence that the partner with ADHD does not care for or love the adult without ADHD.

Likewise, the adult with undiagnosed ADHD does not understand what is going on and externalizes blame on the significant other or others to protect his or her self-esteem.

Both draw negative conclusions about each other's motives and behaviors, which fuels endless conflict, negative patterns of communication, and ineffective methods of conflict resolution, eventually threatening the relationship.

The additional responsibilities of a home and a child further overwhelm the inefficient executive brain functions of the adult with ADHD.

ADHD behaviors with the greatest impact on relationships:

  • Doesn't remember being told things
  • Says things without thinking
  • "Zones out" in conversations
  • Has trouble dealing with frustration
  • Has trouble getting started on a task
  • Underestimates time needed to complete a task
  • Leaves a mess
  • Doesn't finish household projects.

Resolution and healing begins with the couple's awareness to separate the disorder from the person. The individual with ADHD may need to seek an evaluation and/or treatment from a mental health professional. Marital/couples therapy may also be helpful.

References

Robin, A. (2002, October). Snapshots of an AD/HD Marriage. Attention, 21-27.

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