How can attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affect my marriage?

Sue Hallowell
Social Work

Social worker and couple's therapist Sue Hallowell discusses how the symptoms of ADHD can affect one's marriage. Watch Sue Hallowell's video for tips and information on couple's health and ADHD.

Psychiatrist and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) expert Dr. Edward Hallowell discusses how the symptoms of ADHD can affect one's marriage. Watch Dr. Hallowell's video for tips and information on mental health and ADHD.

Because the symptoms of ADD read like a checklist of complaints, it’s easy for a partner to throw up their hands in despair and wonder – “can this ever work?”. Once you know the symptoms of ADD you can realize that these symptoms are differences – not behavior meant to annoy you.

Just realizing that these symptoms are they way your partner works may help you to set expectations that won’t keep you constantly in a state of disappointment or anger. One way to keep the passion alive is to see the gifts in these “symptoms.”

 When you focus on your partner’s gifts, you make them more likely to cooperate with your desire for them to pay attention to you and follow through on commitments. If you love someone with ADD, you need to focus on the gifts of ADD to keep the passion alive. The biggest benefits is that the real problems will be resolved not by scolding but by unleashing the motivation in your partner to cooperate with you.

When you focus on your partner’s problems, you make them less likely to cooperate with you.

Why is that?

1) You get more of what you focus on. By constantly bringing your partner’s symptoms front and center, you bring more attention to them, creating more problems.

2) Reactance is a fundamental law of human nature. It means that if someone is trying to control you, most people feel a natural tendency to buck the control and demonstrate that they cannot be controlled. This is a common human tendency, BUT IT IS MUCH STRONGER IN PEOPLE WITH ADD!!! The more you try to control you partner’s symptoms the more they will buck you.

Have you ever heard of “reverse psychology”? It is not a real psychology term but most people understand that it means if you want something from a reactant person you need to ask for the opposite. If you have ever tried to get a 2 year old, a teenager or a person with high levels of reactance to do anything, you may have discovered yourself that “reverse psychology” works.


So, You need to know the gifts of ADD to create a Passionate Partnership.

The Gifts of ADHD include creativity, emotional sensitivity, interpersonal intuition, exuberance and being connected to nature among many other gifts.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

If you or your spouse has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, it can really put a damper on your marriage. The ADHD adult often forgets to carry out important responsibilities like paying bills, has trouble keeping scheduled appointments and can exhibit unpredictable or hot-tempered behavior.

If you’re both unaware that one partner is suffering from ADHD, a parent-child dynamic can develop. The ADHD spouse may feel like a misbehaving child who is always getting reprimanded, whereas the non-ADHD spouse may feel like a nag. These roles are highly unpleasant for each spouse to play.

This content originally appeared on

Continue Learning about Living With ADD/ADHD

Adderall Abuse: A Growing Risk for Young Adults
Adderall Abuse: A Growing Risk for Young Adults
You know a prescription drug is widely abused when it becomes the main character in recent movies! A is for Adderall is a documentary in production ab...
Read More
What roles must I avoid playing if I have a partner with ADD?
Lara Honos-Webb, PhDLara Honos-Webb, PhD
If you have a partner with attention deficit disorder (ADD), below are a few predictable roles y...
More Answers
What social skills interventions help adults with ADHD?
Douglas E. Severance, MDDouglas E. Severance, MD
Social skills interventions to improve specifically identified attention deficit hyperactivity d...
More Answers
Coping With ADHD Frustrations
Coping With ADHD Frustrations

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.