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Adult ADHD and Difficult Relationships

Adult ADHD and Difficult Relationships


Fictional Case Study:


Gerry met John five years ago. At first, he was warm and attentive, maybe overly so. However, she felt so flattered that she never questioned John's attention to her. She was in love with John and he with her. Things were going so well that they decided to move in together. Five years later, Gerry and John have broken up. As she soon discovered, John has ADHD which was diagnosed when he was a child. Once entering adolescence he refused medication because he didn't like the way it made him feel. 


How was John able to be so attentive to Gerry at first? Many people like John who have ADHD are able to hyperfocus. Highly motivated, they are able to give their full attention to something they want to achieve. Essentially, that is why some ADHD people are able to become doctors and lawyers. Once having achieved their goals, they run into difficult maintaining their focus, particularly without medication. However, it is in the area of relationships that ADHD people run into particular difficulties.


What provokes a lot of anger in the non ADHD person is that, having had lots of attention earlier in the relationship, that attention dissipates. What adds to the anger is that even mundane things like household responsibilities, cleaning out the garage and going to the car wash and other such things all get overlooked and neglected,. Nagging the ADHD individual does no good. Nothing seems to work. This is made even worse when the couple has children. The ADHD parent neglects important responsibilities for the children, provoking even more anger.


Because one of the symptoms of ADHD is impulsiveness, money can become a big issue. One couple, in which the wife had ADHD and the husband did not, had money problems because of the way she ran up their credit cards. In addition, when the bill arrived, she was so disorganized at home, that the bills got lost and went unpaid. The reader can imagine what this did for their credit rating. By the way, this is a couple that earned high income and should not have had these problems.


Another area is forgetting important dates and events in the life of the couple. Forgotten birthdays, anniversaries and even holidays, mark the lives of many of these couples. Promises to buy the groceries on the way home from work, pick up clothes from the cleaners, take the kids to the park and other things go completely forgotten. The non ADHD spouse often looks upon these as deliberate actions that reveal how they really feel. It can be difficult to understand what it means to have this disorder. 


In light of all of these problems it is important to couples afflicted with ADHD issues to get help. First, the non ADHD partner needs to learn all they can about the disorder. Second, marriage counseling is a good idea in this type of situation so that the couple can learn how to better communicate and resolve their issues. Next, if the ADHD partner is not on medication they should see a psychiatrist for evaluation and medication treatment. Finally, there are support groups for couples dealing with this frustrating issue.


Help is available. Dr. Schwartz has years of experience working with Adult ADHD individuals and couples. Dr. Schwartz has his practice in Southwest Florida but is also available via Skype. He can be reached at: [email protected] or by phone at: 720-470-2028.  


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