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Couples With One ADHD Partner

Request suggestions to help my relationship w/ ADD partner

Hello All,
This is my first post, please forgive me this got pretty long.

I’ve been with a wonderful man for over 2 years, been good friends for over 4 and now we are now engaged to be married sometime next year. The reason I joined this sight is to seek support for myself and in the relationship and to learn how to cope with his ADD symptoms. I knew pretty much right away that he had ADD (I’m a therapist) but he denies it (even thought he went to a psych to get ADD meds to help him in college).  My goal here is to request your support /help in coping with his disorganization and distraction. I’m open to suggestions/ideas.

Since we met, his home environment has been very disorganized, I’d classify it as a 8/10. The kitchen counters are cluttered with random stuff, his shoes are everywhere on the floor, bunch of old magazines are laying around, and there is food in his cabinet from 2008. He was married for 10 years, divorced in 2009. Further, he has a 4 bedroom house w/ a 2 car garage and all 3 bedrooms are packed with stuff rendering them uninhabitable. He can’t park the car in the garage or use the other 3 rooms for guests.  On the positive side, he cleans the living areas *(with my prompting) and does his dishes/ laundry regularly. We don’t live together (thankfully) if we did I would have hired someone to do a clean sweep already.

On the distraction side, he loses things constantly, is chronically late, and cannot plan in advance on his own.  The most bothersome part of the distractability is communicating with him, I can be having a conversation with him and he seems that he is somewhere on another planet (eyes looking around, getting up from his seat while I’m talking, and butting in to make jokes about something I’ve said/adding an anecdote or story from his life).  I feel so frustrated having a conversation with him b/c he cuts me off to add his own comments that are mostly about his ideas and not what I’ve said.

I’ve read several books on the topic which were somewhat helpful.  But I’m still stuck.  How can I help my partner understand the impact of his ADD on our relationship w/ out blaming him?  He is very sensitive about having ADD, maybe b/c he was diagnosed with Dyslexia as a child.
Thank you for reading.


If you are a therapist then you must understand that this is a real disability, not a character issue.

I have struggled with this for many years.  My husband and I have been together 18 years so the territory you are entering in is very familiar to me.

Bottom line, if you want to hear it, is you will end up doing everything.  He will do those things he really likes to do - the things he can hyperfocus on - my husband will do laundry and dishes at any moment, any day, but god help me if I interrupt him, that is his quiet time.  Even when he was unemployed for two years he never took up any slack at all for me.  Now, I can either be pissed about it or I can look at it realistically.  Was he playing me, yes probably a little, because we have never set up a system to deal with his ADHD.  And he is totally resistant to a honey do list.

My point is, if he is resisting, particularly meds, you have an uphill slog.  If, and only if, you can be with him and not get stressed, groovey.  But otherwise, I would say DO NOT marry him until and unless he gets medicated if he can find a med that will work (he will feel much better too by the way with the right med), and if you have systems in place to remind him of things and to organize your home.  That said you will STILL have to do everything, the difference being that it will be relatively stress free.

I’ve been suggesting this a lot lately, but go on YouTube and find a Dr. Russell Barkley video lecture and both of you watch it.  You have to understand exactly what you are up against otherwise there will always be difficulty.

If you have any sway in his emotional department you might urge him to seek therapy about why he is so sensitive about his ADHD.  It is a disability but society and doctors have been treating it as a character flaw for many years so he needs some education about what is really going on and why it is not his fault.  And he needs to mourn.  If he is resisting treating it, that is like a diabetic resisting being treated, his life will be worse.  Treatment only helps…  Making him aware of his impairment without subsequent treatment is futility defined!

I feel for you.  If I’d known then what I know now… I dunno, I hate to say I wouldn’t have married my husband because we have wonderful children… but I certainly would have saved myself a lot of aggravation and strain it took on my health with educating myself better… and I wouldn’t have married him so quickly before having some ground rules in place, that’s for sure!

Posted by YellaRyan on Dec 07, 2013 at 2:07am

Hi YellaRyan:

I appreciate all of your feedback. It helps to hear from others who have experienced similar situations and to get advice/suggestions on how to cope.  I’ll check out the Youtube videos you recommended. I’m not sure how I will bring this up to him.
I’m curious, what “ground rules” would you have put in place for your marriage? 

Thanks again!

Posted by Zara001 on Dec 07, 2013 at 7:02am

I can say that yes- ADHD people are not organized by the normal definitions out there, nor are we the best people. As YellaRyan so clearly points out.
I left my wife of 11 yrs- 10 yrs ago and it was only 2 yrs ago that I found out about ADHD and realized with the help of some limited testing that I have it full blown.

As I have the hyper I was working full time doing shift work, owned a full time retail store and maintained a good relationship with her, her son and around the neighbourhood. Then we moved to an area with a house that was basically move in ready, with little to do. I left her as I felt inadequate about keeping the house clean (to her standards), picking up after myself and a few other things you’ve both mentioned. I needed to be busy, keeping my hands on the go; working out and wanting to build or do repairs around the new place as my store had closed and I was working in the computer industry. She wanted to slow life down as much as possible and could not understand that I could be as active as I was (am). She tried her best to get me to sit still, do nothing plan nothing but it didn’t work. I couldn’t slow down when she wanted me to. This struggle turned into arguments and even though I still loved her I realized it was best for me to walk away from the woman I loved so that she would not turn into someone bitter and angry at me and then the world. Walking away was the hardest thing I’ve done.

Since then I’ve struggled to get into or maintain any relationships and now find myself looking long term at the road to being single. After all they do say that no matter what you are alone when you die.

Hearing both yourself and YellaRyan speak and looking at the other posts commented on; I sadly can see that I made the right decision. I am fortunate that my ex is still on speaking terms with me and we see each other once or twice a year. I know she always wonders what happened to the “US” and maybe I can send her your stories so she can see me in them. Up until recently I couldn’t tell her because I didn’t know why I walked away other than my gut was telling me it had to be so.

Since I was diagnosed I’ve wondered quite often where I might be had I been diagnosed earlier. Perhaps she would have had the love in her heart and for me to have continued to work with me and love me. I’ll never know because I never gave her the opportunity. Then again, hearing the resentment/concern here….

I wish both of you the best in whatever direction you move forward in.

Posted by Benevolence on Dec 11, 2013 at 5:33am

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