How does A.D.H.D. affect a marriage?

Jay Dee

How does A.D.H.D. affect a marriage?

Aug 07, 2013

My last post about dealing with a non-neural-typical spouse discussed what ADHD was, the differences in the brain from neural-typicals, but I didn’t have the time to get into what behaviors one sees due to this difference, particularly those that impact a marriage.  I you

ADHD Marriage Issues How does ADHD affect a marriage?

My last post about dealing with a non-neural-typical spouse discussed what ADHD was, the differences in the brain from neural-typicals, but I didn’t have the time to get into what behaviors one sees due to this difference, particularly those that impact a marriage.  I you haven’t read it, or forget, I suggest you go back and read the section on ADHD to refresh your memory.

Non-marriage related weaknesses

So, this particular brain activity can lead to some distressing behaviors.  Most ADHD people are pretty clumsy, because the signal to say “look out for that wall”, or “you just touched the glass” goes missing, and so they hit the wall, or they continue to reach for the glass and end up knocking it over, or pushing it off the edge.  This doesn’t happen all the time, it’s not like they can’t grab a glass, or can’t walk down a hallway straight.  But it does mean they stub their toes far more than the average human, and you might want to up your budget for replacing broken items by a bit.

They also tend to be quite forgetful.  One of the best tests I’ve seen for adults with ADHD is asking them how often they lose their keys.  Most people lose their keys at some point.  Maybe once a month, once a week.  But ADHD people can lose their keys once to multiple times a day.  This carries over to remembering information as well.  This can sometimes make it seem like your spouse is not listening to you, especially if they are having trouble remaining focused.  Often, they are paying attention, they are listening, but their brain just can’t store the data well, because those neurotransmitters just aren’t getting where they need to.  And the less exciting the information, the less of a chance it will get to where it needs to.

Of course, the is also the behavior of being hyper- or hypo-active that is most commonly known about ADHD.  Some can’t sit still to save their life, sometimes physically, sometimes mentally.  They fidget, or pace, or just can’t stand to sit and do nothing.  Others can sit and do literally nothing for hours, they space out and miss entire blocks of time.  Both of these behaviors cause school marks to plummet, which leads to bad report cards, which leads to a belief that they are not intelligent, which leads to a lack of self-esteem.

Add all these behaviors up, and the most common symptom of ADHD is depression.  I mean, how would you feel if you were constantly knocking things over losing your keys and every report card told you you were not intelligent?

Their brains are also constantly on the look out for something exciting.  Most ADHD drivers tend to speed.  They also get excited by having new or upgraded things.  They tend to pick up new hobbies, or try our new business opportunities seemingly at every turn, get really excited about it, then, once you have to put some non-exciting work into it, it becomes dull and the new hobby or business opportunity gets dropped and neglected.

Relationship related weaknesses

You may be able to see where this leads to relationship problems.  ADHD adults tend to form romantic relationships very quickly and easily, because they are new and exciting, and so long as it continues to be new and exciting, they will be the most attentive, romantic, exciting partner in return.  This can cause physical relationships to accelerate much faster than advisable, because it keeps the relationship new and exciting.  If you grew up with Christian ideals of no-sexual contact before marriage, this can add to the excitement once you cross that line.  Now, you are doing something taboo, which is incredibly exciting.  This phase can last through dating, engagement (another exciting event), right up until the marriage.  Then, all of a sudden, sex is allowed, it’s no longer taboo, it lost that exciting edge to it, and what was the exiting activity, now fades into just another event.  For many spouses of ADHD, this feels like a bait and switch.  Here they had this fiancee who was always horny, always touchy, always excited to physical, and suddenly, it gets replaced by someone who could take it or leave it.  If you don’t know what’s going on, this can feel like it’s a malicious change, like they tricked you into marriage.  It can cause a lot of frustration, hostility, and a lack of trust, because the spouse can feel betrayed.

I should note that some ADHD spouses actually initiate sex constantly.  From my research, that seems to be more rare (about one in five, maybe), and I haven’t come across a relationship like that yet, so I can’t speak to that, but I did want to say, it happens.  If you have that type of relationship, this isn’t going to fit your marriage much, I’m sorry.  Please leave a comment below to let me know your experience so I can learn.

As I was saying, this drop off in sexual interest is exacerbated by other ADHD tendencies that come into play when things aren’t shiny and new.  People with ADHD have trouble focusing in normal situations.  Focus is needed to initiate sex.  One of the most common things I see is a spouse saying that their ADHD spouse likes sex, enjoys it, is fulfilled during sex, but they never initiate.  Focus is also needed to continue having sex.  You might be in the middle of foreplay, and all of a sudden, the spouse with ADHD asks you to remind them that we need red peppers, or that there is a dentist appointment tomorrow, or “what was that noise?”  They are easily distracted, regardless of what is going on.  Sex can also be boring to someone with ADHD, in fact, one trick some adults with ADHD learn is to fantasize about having sex with your spouse while having sex with your spouse.  For some reason, the idea of having sex is more exciting than the act of having sex.  Another trick is to internally narrate the action, verbalize (in your head) what is happening, where hands are, what is being kissed, etc..

Communication can be a large issue as well.  As I said before, the lowered ability to store information can seem like the ADHD spouse is not paying attention, or doesn’t care enough to remember.  They can also get frustrated with their own weaknesses, and go on the offensive just so they don’t have to be at fault.  Due to an inability to self-regulate, this can quickly escalate to a full out fight over where the keys are.  And this is a common theme with those who have ADHD, that they jump into a defensive mental posture and immediately retaliate at any real or perceived slight against them.  If you don’t know what’s going on, it’s easy to get sucked into it and it becomes a serious fight over something really insignificant both to the original conversation and to the relationship.  If you are both aware, it’s much easier to defuse the situation with a few words and get back to what you are really talking about.


It’s not all bad.  There is good in the mix too.

ADHD people tend to have incredible energy when in new situations.  If you can learn to focus it, or be in an environment or job where that’s an asset, then it works out.  A lot of ADHD people fall into sales, because there’s always new an exciting people and businesses to approach.  They work best, of course, when all the execution, post sale, is handled by someone else.  They also do well at front-line customer service, or PR, for the same reasons.  Again, just don’t make them sit down and plan a strategy, I mean, get them in the brainstorming session of course, but after that, you’re probably going to get your moneys worth better with them in front of customers.

There is usually a large amount of creativity in an ADHD mind.  Because it can’t focus, their brain jumps from topic to topic and can occasionally connect things that no one else would have connected before.  Just keep throwing ideas at them and let them talk or think through them, connecting whatever they want.  As I said, brainstorming sessions are great.  But, once the idea is thought up, don’t expect to let them help you find out how to organize it and make it work.  That’s not their strength.

ADHD people tend to be very sensitive, they are very emotional.  This can often make them much more sympathetic and empathetic than neuro-typical people.  My wife is like that. She can make friends anywhere, because anyone who talks to her for a few moments feels that she cares about them, because she does.  She can’t help but do it.

Intuition is another useful trait.  This one baffles me, because I have no intuition.  But my wife makes these incredible leaps of intuition and often arrives at the same answer I do through meticulous logic.  It’s amazing to me.  I don’t know how it works, and I’m not sure other people do either.  But this is a trait that is often associated with ADHD adults.

Most ADHD adults also handle changing conditions well.  Because their brain is constantly on the move, an environment that constantly moves is no issue.   They are much better in situations where there is no established protocol or no rules to follow, just free-flowing living, whereas many neuro-typicals freeze in such situations, not knowing what’s expected of them, or what their next move is supposed to be.

And lastly (from my list, though I’m sure there are many more), ADHD adults tend to be very enthusiastic.  Because they are more impulsive, and feel very strongly, this adds together to give an enthusiasm for new and exciting things that is infectious.  They make excellent cheerleaders (of an idea or a project, I didn’t mean sports).  If you can get them excited about something, they will turn around and get 10 people excited about it.

Coping with ADHD Marriage Issues

If you can learn to recognize and explain what is going on, a lot of the weaknesses can be mitigated and the strengths leveraged.  Fights can be cut-off if both spouse understand that the ADHD spouse has problem self-regulating, and accepts that they can over-react and are willing to be told they are over-reacting.  Having specific places for keys, wallet, etc. can mitigate losing items.  Find ways to make life exciting for your spouse.  Find ways to make sex exciting, don’t let it fall into a rut, where it’s the same old thing over and over again.  Find new activities, new ways of pleasuring each other.  The more involved the ADHD spouse is, the easier it will be for them to pay attention and focus.

There has been a lot of research lately linking food to ADHD behaviors, particularly gluten, and in my household, this definitely rings true.

And of course, there is medication.  Now, 5 years ago, I would have read that sentence and said, “Here we go, another person trying to push drugs to solve a problem.”  Then we recognized that my wife has ADHD.  But we didn’t want do try drugs.  We tried diet and exercise, and yeah, they make a difference, but the more research we did, the more people said that nothing is comparable to a self-determined combination of stimulants and SSRI’s.  So, we did more research.  We learned what stimulants do, what SSRI’s do.  We learned the possible side-effects and dangers and the possible benefits.  I’m not going to tell you all of it, because I want you to go out and understand them for yourself if you decide to go this route.  I’m still not really OK with suggesting drugs to solve problems, but I have to say, after recognizing an adjusting to an ADHD spouse, meds will probably make the second largest impact.  There are different brands, they all have different side effects.  Talk to your doctor, change dosages if it’s not working.  It took us months to find a good combination, and the combination that works for my wife will not work for other people.

Your Turn

Did I miss anything?  Are there any ADHD adults or spouses that wish to share more information?  Does this help?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Looking for help?

34 thoughts on “How does A.D.H.D. affect a marriage?”

  1. ButterflyWings says:

    lol I must admit I had a giggle at this post. I lose my keys, or my purse or my phone just about every day, usually several times a day. I’ve always said I wish my keys had a ring tone like my phone to make them easier to find. And when the walls aren’t attacking me, it’s the floor. I had always put it down to genetics. It’s like my whole family were born with two left feet and ten thumbs.

    I wonder how much of the findinds for ADHD individuals also apply to ASD individuals. I guess with both those with ADHD and those with ASD both having issues with attention deficit (albeit in different ways, with ADHD it’s more constant, with ASD it tends to be in specific areas, or really anything the person with aspergers doesn’t have an obsession with).

    Hubby and I had some big fights when we first got married and when he was having a meltdown a few times, I accused him of tricking me into marriage, precisely because of the “bait and switch” you talk about Jay Dee. He was a horny person before we got married, always wanting to hold hands, kiss, even touch probably more than we should have. We got to our wedding night and had amazing sex, the whole first 48 was absolutely amazing sexually, and then after we head off overseas on our “real” honeymoon, it was like he’d totally lost interest. Kind of like “ok that was sex, it was great, what’s the next thing to achieve”. Which of course left me feeling like I’d been tricked big time.

    With counselling, it’s something we’ve worked on, but the first month after we moved in together (which unfortunately wasn’t until 3 months after the wedding) was absolute hell. He had trouble sharing “his” home having suddenly acquired a wife, a child and two furry creatures. While I battled feeling tricked about the whole sex thing.

    But part of what you wrote also describes me. Thankfully things aren’t quite so bad with my husband, but definitely with my first husband I was often distracted by the mental lists (what do I need at the shops, what do I have to get done tomorrow, ooh I just had the perfect idea of a theme for an assignment, did I lock the front door, I wonder if I remembered to pay all the bills this week, etc). That is something I’ve worked hard on, but I do find it hard to ignore physical distractions.

    For those who struggle with that, there are ways to cope with it. You basically set things up how you’d like them before you start getting intimate. Make sure the light level is right, use a thermostat (or whatever you have) to make sure the temperature is right. If you’re like me and bothered by the feeling of certain clothes, make sure you and your spouse are both wearing clothes that don’t put you off from the touch of them. If you have phobic issues, take care of them (eg I have a germ phobia so I make sure hubby washes his hands before we start). I have at time been known to get out of bed after we’ve started and do things like go into the kitchen to turn off a dripping tap because I couldn’t block it out enough to enjoy what was happening. It’s definitely something that people with this problem can do things to stop most distractions being an issue. Thankfully my husband understands if I say “sorry honey I have to get up and stop that tap dripping, I’ll brb”. It’s important to have a spouse that understands that and doesn’t mind waiting a minute or two for someone to fix what is distracting them.

    One thing I discovered with my husband is like many people with ASD, he doesn’t like being touched. I know a lot of women with spouses with ASD feel like they’re being rejected because their husbands never touch them other than during sex. My husband tries to for me (things like hugging, and just in the last week he has taken to stroking my hair which I love) but he absolutely hates being touched himself. I know from being a member of a partner’s support group, a lot of women struggle when their spouses don’t like being touched and don’t touch them.

    I think in some ways this is where getting an official diagnosis helps. If people can understand why their partner doesn’t like touching/being touched, or that their partner is “normal” for wanting to be touched/wanting to touch you, you can start to work together to meet some where in the middle.

    BTW I can definitely attest to how much it helps to have a place for things like purse and keys. I started doing this around 4 years ago. At my old house, I’d always keep them on top of the fridge beside the door I’d always come into. It didn’t stop me from losing them, but it certainly cut down how many times I did. And even though I’m in a new house this year, I’ve picked up the same pattern. It’s my brain recognises there is now a set place for the keys. 70% of the time they are next to the door, if I’m a little distracted 25% of the time they end up in front of my computer, and 4.9% of the time they’re beside my bed (if I come straight in and crash for a nap). Again, I still lose my keys at least once every few days, but at least it’s not multiple times a day anymore.

    Jay Dee, I’m not sure if you’re tackling the same kind of post with ASD next, but if not, I just thought I’d add one major way in which ASD is different for sex which I’d thought I’d mention for other readers. One of the big things that has come up in a lot of research I’ve read up on for ASD and sex (after the disastrous start to my marriage sexually) is that people with ASD generally seem to prefer doing it the same way every time and hate change and tend to not be comfortable with anything new. I have discovered this definitely applies to my husband. I’ve also heard a lot of neurotypical partners grumble about this lack of willingness to try anything new. Personally I’m like “same, different, whatever – it’s all sex and I get it so little I’ll take anything” but I can imagine it must be hard for some spouses if their husband/wife wants to do it exactly the same way every time.

    I agree with you that medications may be necessary. But too, I wouldn’t be too quick to rush into them. My daughter was initially misdiagnosed by her paediatrician (who had no psychological developmental training at all) as having ADHD. She was seeing a counsellor at the time who said “Actually I think your daughter has ASD” – and as soon as she said, it was obvious and to this day I can’t believe I missed it. She was then referred to developmental psych specialist clinic and went through proper testing with about five different specialists there before they confirmed it was ASD. But what frustrated me is her untrained paediatrician kept insisting they (top government funded child psych specialists in the area) and that she was right and kept trying to bully us into my daughter on ADHD meds.

    I looked into the side effects – I had access to all the info health professionals use (half way through my nursing degree at this stage, having finished my science and psychology degrees a few years earlier, and pharmacology one of the final year disciplines I studied in science) and reading the very common side effects compared to what my daughter’s main issues at the time were, I said absolutely not. The meds the paediatrician wanted to put her on would basically guarantee she’d sleep less and eat less – and my two biggest struggles at the time was she was already only sleeping 6 hours a night and was waking up constantly, and she was constantly refusing to eat. I was burnt out and exhausted from juggling my own chronic fatigue and a daughter who never slept. Whereas for my daughter, attention difficulties were only a minor thing.

    I think it’s about making informed decisions. I’m not against medications. My sister takes dexamphetamine for ADD (no hyperactivity for her) and an SSRI for depression, and my best friend takes dex for ADD and for both of them, the dex is perfect – helps them focus, they both need to lose weight, and in particular for my sister (who has chronic fatigue syndrome) it helps combat her exhaustion.

    I’m just very cautious about medications because of the huge rate of misdiagnoses. Normal childhood behaviours are too often labelled as “ADHD”, and other things like ASD, generalised anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD and numerous other things are often wrongly diagnosed as ADHD. So I’m cautious.

    Although right now, I’m cautiously optimistic about medication in general. As of yesterday, my hubby finally agreed to taking medication (although I’m pretty sure he only decided to because his work forced his hand on it). Because of his aspergers he’s very prone to depression and low self esteem and he’s been deeply depressed for the last two months. I had asked him to consider it weeks ago but he saw it as somehow “avoiding problems”, whereas I just watched him spend the last two months actually avoiding problems and I hope medications will give him the ability to be able to deal with problems. I know he feels like his work pushed him to do it (because he’s barely been to work for the last two months because he’s been too depressed to go) but I’m hoping and praying it will pull him out of this depression. And at least he doesn’t feel like I pushed him to do it, which I was very careful not to do even though I really badly wanted to.

    But anyway, I just wanted to finish my super long comment with a joke. For those who struggle to understand ADHD and ADD, this joke that has been going around the interent for a while is funny but so true:

    “Sometimes when I can’t sleep I try counting sheep, but my ADHD is a nightmare.
    One sheep, two sheep, dog, pig, old McDonald, Hey Macarena!”

    lol that’s exactly how attention deficit works!

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yes, I’m definitely planning on doing the same sort of thing for Asperger’s. I’ll try to include the typical Asperger’s info on sex instead of my own view, because, for me, sex is one of my “special interests”, so that modifies a lot of the typical Asperger’s behaviors.

      I agree, ADHD is highly misdiagnosed (I think I said that in this post or the last one), so you have to be very careful with it.

      You stunned me for a second when you talked about your husband going on meds for ASP (last I heard there were none), then you said it was for the depression, and that made sense. Sadly, it’s treating a symptom, not the underlying issue. And the issue isn’t Asperger’s, it’s being Asperger’s trying to fit into a neuro-typical world, that’s what causes depression most often. More on that in the next post I think.

      My wife told me that joke when we started researching ADHD a couple of years ago. I still think it’s funny.

      1. ButterflyWings says:

        From what I’ve seen here in Australia, a lot of people with aspergers are on meds. But as you said, it’s more symptom management. Some take dex/ritalin if attention deficit is a major issue, others take antidepressants if depression or anxiety is a major issue. I’m sure a lot of depression is the not being able to fit into a neurotypical world. I think the anxiety probably comes from being aware they are different but not understanding why and not being able to fix it. And it seems to be a big aspie thing to try to fix things, and not being able to fix it just makes aspies more and more anxious.

        I’ve been very lucky with my daughter that she’s never struggled with depression and anxiety, so far anyway. She doesn’t quite fit in, but she’s always had one or two good friends at school who have mothered her. Apparently this is a girl thing, with girls in general being more social, and you get “mother hens” who take a socially awkward girl under their wing. It’s apparently why girls in general don’t get diagnosed until much later than boys.

        Anyway, I’m just hoping and praying the antidepressants help my husband. It won’t change who he is (I wouldn’t want him to change), but hopefully it can help pull him out of this depressive episode he’s been in. Especially now, because I feel so bad that everything is going right for me (miracle baby on the way, job of my dreams, finally looks like we can afford a decent home, going back to uni) while hubby is just so sad.

        Anyway, I’ve raved enough about me. I’m interested in hearing other people’s experiences…

  2. Robyn Gibson says:

    This was a great article, so much research! I read it to my husband and with every paragraph it became more clear.

    His response, “So THAT’s what’s wrong with you.” Some wives might be offended at this statement, I wasn’t. We both laughed. I’m textbook!!

    Add into that 2 factors: We’ve been told by a couple of people that it’s actually him that’s ADHD, which we had already figured out last year that he’s not and your article helped confirm it for us. And the fact that I’m a clear, full on sanguine personality type. Which makes for a hootin good ride in our home sometimes!!

    On a more serious side, (but now humorous b/c it’s in the past). The school system tried to diagnose our son with ADHD and medicate him (6 years old) and when we wouldn’t do anything about it, they switched to autism. They wouldn’t leave us alone about it, so we withdrew him from school and educated him at home. He’s now in uni on his way to becoming an investment banker. All the symptoms were there, we knew it; but we weren’t prepared to medicate him. He’s 26 now, and back then it seemed that it was all the rage to medicate – good grief almost 1/3 of his classmates were on meds. I’m not condemning anyone who chooses that way, for sure! It just wasn’t what we wanted to do.

    Yeah, it was hard and we made LOTS of mistakes due to misunderstandings, I can not count the number of times I’ve had to ask my son to forgive me for crimes and misdemeanors.

    Question for you JD – I’m wondering if you’ve come across in your research, the ratio of girls to boys and women to men for the diagnosis?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Funny you mentioning that people thought your husband had ADHD. That happens a lot! Often, this is what happens (going to use wife has ADHD in this case, but it can be the other way too):

      Wife (with ADHD) is “on” outside of the home, because it’s exciting and there are interesting people to talk to and she’s “hiding” (consciously or not) her symptoms, so she’s really focused. Everyone think she’s amazing, almost flawless, because her brain is literally firing on all cylinders, and then some, she’s bringing all the ADHD strengths to bear and fighting to stave off the weaknesses.

      Then she gets home and goes “off”. Strengths are there, but now she’s exhausted by hiding the weaknesses. Home is boring, dull, normal, and ADHD symptoms go to an all time high, because the brain is no longer getting that excitement kick.

      Meanwhile, husband has to deal with this dual personality in his wife, and after a while, it drives him a bit crazy, he starts getting symptoms, because he’s trying to deal with an ADHD wife. He gets annoyed that no one knows what she’s really like (and the truth is she’s somewhere in the middle, but having to play “normal” creates the two personalities in a sense, so no one sees the truth).

      So, when they are in public, the wife is now “on” again, and she’s an angel and perfect, but the husband’s brain can’t do that, he’s still confused and depressed and losing sleep, and generally low on sex, so he’s a bit of a grump, and forgets things, and is inattentive.

      Thus, the mid-diagnosis. Happens all the time. It can happen with depression as well, or bi-polar people, or manic-depressive people.

      Moving on..
      Good for you for pulling your son out of a system that wasn’t designed for him! That can take some guts. We get a fair bit of flak for home-schooling, particularly when our church has a private school…

      Do I know the ratio of girls to boys? According to the CDC, 13.2% of boys have been diagnosed with ADHD and 5.6% of girls are diagnosed with ADHD. So, that’s just over twice as many boys as girls, and way too high of a ratio in total I think. I would bet there are many that are false-positives, and probably a few missed kids as well.

      For adults, it’s harder, I can’t find a statistical report on it. The best I have is that 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD will still have symptoms as adults (which to me says that probably 40% of them were false-positives and just being kids).

      The other stat I found is that between 4% and 5% of adults have ADHD and that it seems about even, but nothing specific, and no access to the data.

      To me, I would guess it would be about even in reality, but boys tend to be more active, and so they get misdiagnosed more often. But that’s just my opinion, I have no proof to back it up other than the above mentioned stats.

      1. ButterflyWings says:

        Even when people know something is different about your spouse, they don’t always realise what it’s like being their partner.

        My mother in law is fantastic, she knows her son very well, and has been great for advice when I haven’t understood something about him. The only downside is because she knows him so well, there is a small part of him she doesn’t know and has said a few times “oh I’m sure he wouldn’t do that”, like when he swears for example. Something he doesn’t do often at all, but comes up during a meltdown. Thankfully aspies are usually pretty honest people and he actually said to his mother when I spoke to him about his mother not believing me that yes he does swear sometimes.

        Also, even his family who grew up with him, knowing exactly who he is (strengths and weaknesses) and are extremely supportive, there are just a few times when they don’t understand being a spouse is different from being a parent. For example, if he decides to quit work/study or just not bother going til he gets fired/failed out, as parent it worries you but doesn’t effect you personally. As a spouse it terrified me when he stopped going to work. I haven’t been able to find work since I moved to states to be with him, and even now I have, I can only work part time (in a much lower paying job too) because of health issues. Also things like financial decisions. If he made gigantic financial mistakes, his parents would worry but said it was his life and they couldn’t tell him what to do. And while I can’t tell him what to do (lol wouldn’t even try as he’s the most stubborn person I know), it effects me greatly any decisions he makes.

        All in all though, it’s things we’ve either worked out or are working through. And I am just really grateful that his mother has been such a support and understands him so well and it’s natural that mothers miss a few things, especially supportive ones who only want to see the best in their child. I don’t see it as a bad thing. I’d love to have had a mother like my mother in law.

        1. ButterflyWings says:

          Jay Dee does it say in the stats you found whether it’s pure ADHD or do they include ADD?

          It’s hard to find stats on adult ADHD because 20+ years ago they only diagnosed the worst of the worst, so most adults with it are undiagnosed until they hit a crisis and end up seeing a professional for some other reason (depression, anxiety etc). Also I think it’s partially to do with that many adults lose their hyperactivity. My sister has severe ADD but isn’t hyperactive. The whole “one sheep…” joke is EXACTLY what it’s like having a conversation with her. I don’t mind because my mind is the same (just not as bad), but she struggles with study because she can’t focus. Dex helps but it doesn’t “fix” it.

          I’ve met a lot of adults who aren’t diagnosed purely because they lack the hyperactivity and even though they have an attention span of a gnat, they have found ways to function very effectively with it. They take up careers where jumping from one thought to another quickly is beneficial, not a bad thing. They surround themselves in friends who either think like they do, or like the way they think. And the learn socially acceptable ways to deal with it. They HAVE ADHD or ADD but they don’t “suffer” from it, but it does mean they are often undiagnosed and it only becomes an issue once they get into a relationship.

          I have watched that all too well with my ADD sister and her ASD on/off boyfriend. When they fight, you can hear the explosion in another state for example. But what I’m trying to explain to them, is it is something two people can work through and grow through. What can be seen as a weakness can be turned into a strength with just a few changed.

          Anyway, yeah, I wonder what the statistics for adults with ADHD would be if they included ADD with the acceptance that many children with ADHD grow out of the hyperactivity but not the attention deficit.

          1. Jay Dee says:

            ADD is now considered an out-dated term. Instead, everything is classified is ADHD, and is divided into the 3 sub-types:

            So, to say someone has ADD get translated into they have ADHD, primarily inattentive type.

            The stats were from recent data, so they would be including all sub-types.

            That said, as you mentioned, inattentive sub-type is harder to recognize, and thus gets diagnosed less, so there is probably a higher mix of primarily hyperactive ADHD in the stat than you see in the general population.

            Hope that helps clarify.

            1. ButterflyWings says:

              Thanks. Is that the DSM IV classifications or the new DSM V ones? I haven’t been able to get my hands on a DSM V yet. Now I can claim it as a tax deduction I plan to asap 😉

              1. Jay Dee says:

                I believe when I first read of the change in nomenclature, it was referencing the DSM IV, but I could be wrong. I have neither, so I can’t verify.

                But, I have seen this new naming convention in many places,.

                1. ButterflyWings says:

                  I’m keen to get my hands on the new one to see the changes. I know there is a major controversy around autism and aspergers being combined into “autistic spectrum disorder” but I don’t see what the big deal is. Most practioners have been calling ASD for years, at least as far back as when my daughter was diagnosed.

                  1. Jay Dee says:

                    That one I didn’t know of (Asperger’s being combined into ASD) before you mentioned it.

                    I new there was still a fight over whether or not Asperger’s was the same as High Functioning Autism. In fact, many doctors still believe Asperger’s is a child’s syndrome and no adults have it. So when you are an adult, they just say “oh, you don’t have Asperger’s, you are high functioning Autistic!”

                    Makes sense to me to call it all the same thing, as it is, just varying degrees.

                    1. ButterflyWings says:

                      Yep. It’s been a big deal on the mums of kids with aspergers sites I’m a member of. It was ” oh no, they’re removing aspergers from the DSM, my kid won’t get funding”. I’ve lost track of the number of mothers I’ve explained that it’s recognising that aspergers is a type of autism and it should theoretically be easier to get funding for therapy for your child.

                      I forget where you’re from, but most of the doctors here are the opposite, and haveconsidered aspergers to be the same as high functioning autism for as long I’ve been dealing with them, particularly the specialist ones. I think especially with the new change to it being “autism spectrum disorder” it’s no longer a scale from low functioning to high functioning, but also covers people that don’t quite fit one end of the spectrum. It also covers what used to be pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and a few other things.

        2. Jay Dee says:

          Yeah, my mother-in-law would always just laugh off my wife’s weaknesses, while I sat there and thought, you have no idea how this plays out, or how much this affects our lives.

          Now she’s coming around and realizes she might have ADHD as well.

          1. ButterflyWings says:

            Thankfully MIL doesn’t laugh hubby’s off. I think too, she especially understands as he definitely gets some of his traits from his dad. But there have been a few really tough times when she hasn’t understood the full impact. Ironically, my mother (who is one of the least understanding people on the planet) is really understanding about my husband because my dad is VERY similar too. Actually my dad and my father in law are extremely similar. Both maths teachers, both absent minded professor types, both introverted and not liking big social situations etc. They say you marry a man like your father, and I think at least this time it’s totally spot on. It could be worse – my first husband was/is just like my mother and that was so destructive.

      2. Timothy Baird says:

        I have adult ADHD, (mine is the absentminded professor type). I was not diagnosed as a child because I test very well, usually top 1-2% on standardized tests. I can read a book and take the test on it and usually score 80-90% without very much effort. But ask me to do a homework assignment and listen to someone talk about that topic for an hour…. please just give me a hammer and let me beat myself senseless instead, it will be less painful for me (yes I’m exaggerating a bit).

        I have to be almost compulsive about where I put important items, phone, keys, etc. or I will spend all my time looking for them.

        The ‘firing on all cylinders and then some’ is called ‘hyper focusing’, my personal experience its the only time I feel ‘normal’, calm, etc. I’m reminded of a movie scene (Driven I believe) with Stallone where he’s a formula one driver and he’s traveling at 150+mph and he starts humming….something about the speed, the intense concentration, the massive amount of information being processed by the brain in nano seconds, the adrenaline….maybe the hyper stimulation causes the body to produce more neurotransmitters and levels the brain out.

        One note about meds. If u understand ADHD and the use of stimulant medications to treat it. a ‘false positive’ is basically impossible, why???? Because if u give a normal child stimulants they become more hyper, less able to focus, etc. If u give a ADHD child stimulants they become calmer, more able to focus and pay attention. Its about the increase in neurotransmitters from the stimulants that level out the ADHD brain and help them function in the environments that normal brains do with out meds. this is not to say the meds are the only solution, but nothing else I know of will show the kind of night and day improvement that meds do for someone with ADHD.

        I have 4 kids, youngest and oldest both have ADHD, and very much like their father. the difference between them on and off their meds is night and day. It’s almost scary how much easier it is to get them to help clean, etc when they take their meds, how much better they behave, etc. I have been on the the same medicine and I feel much better when I am. I am much more productive at tasks that I normally cannot do because I find them too boring and with out some kind of stimulus (deadline, threat of doom, etc, lol) its almost impossible for me to muster the concentration to do them. with the meds I just do them, its almost efffortless.

        Honestly I think meds for ADHD get a bad rap, and even if someone only tries them, I can say that for me just from using the medicine for a few months, I gained insight into my ADHD. It helped me realize how much it was affecting me when I was not on the medicine. That alone was a huge revelation to someone who had to struggle thru school that moved too slow for them, expected them to be normal and penalized them for not being so. Who got fired from really good jobs that were a very poor fit for someone with ADHD, (desk jobs where showing up was more important than what u could do when u were there).

        The intuition is sort of a double edged sword sometimes. I understand that it comes from the ADHD brain constantly operating on less than all the info that ‘normal’ brains do. I think its about the info overload from the lack of ‘filters’ that a normal brain has. but I am sure its where I get my intuitive ‘creative’ problem solving from. why I almost always guess the ending of the book or movie. I seem to be tuned into the foreshadowing and reading between the story lines. Its why I can see patterns where other ‘normal’ people do not. why I test so high on standardized tests. I can eliminate the 2-3 clearly wrong answers very quickly, which usually leaves only 2 possible choices. if I have any idea of the the subject matter its quite easy to score above 80%, and if I actually know the info well 90%+ is almost a given.
        Now the other side, I tend to jump to conclusions with people much more than is healthy, and with my wife it has led to many problems in our marriage since I often do not verify my conclusions. I think she feels one way, or did something for this or that reason and I am totally wrong. Lack of effective communication and confusion tend to abound and after 16 years I have done great harm to our relationship, by assuming things that were not correct. It also goes both ways, she doesn’t have ADHD but has taken things I have said completely wrong, things that I have just assumed she understood the way I meant them. That I may have left out part of my thoughts or feelings because I was already moving on to another chain of thought etc.
        We are working on it, but the damage is extensive and our patterns of behavior very entrenched. I wish I would have pursued more help with my ADHD sooner, learned more about how it affected me and gained some of these insights earlier in our marriage.

        PS I apologize in advance if some of this post doesn’t make sense. I am getting tired and having a hard time focusing on trying to make sense of all the thoughts competing for my attention and committing them to writing before they disappear.

  3. Caleb Suko says:

    I never really thought of all the strengths that could be assoicated with ADHD but I think it’s important that you regonized them. In a way I think many people can relate to the strengths and weaknesses of ADHD even if they don’t have full blown ADHD. It’s important that as spouses we recognize these strengths and weaknesses in order to better understand each other.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

      So many people focus only on the negative. When my wife read my post, she said “I always forget about the strengths”, and she’s the one with a lot of them. Thanks for commenting Caleb, welcome to the site. Going to go check out your blog now, haven’t seen it before.

  4. Chris says:

    I was diagnosed when my son was in first grade. As I filled out the questionnaire for him, I realized I was scoring as high or higher than he was! Some things I’ve learned over the years… Most women with ADHD present differently than the classic things most associate with it. Love that you pointed out the zoning out… That is totally me! So much more cool and interesting things happening in my brain than what’s going on around me!!

    I wasn’t aware I was ADHD growing up but my parents created a very structured environment. I think that really is important. I have in no way been able to recreate that in my own home so my son and I struggle more that I like.

    One thing that I have found in talking to the many ADHD friends I’ve managed to pick up along the line… Every single one has this trait so I’ve adopted it as an ADHD litmus test… What does caffeine do to you? Please note… Not saying sugar, sugar is different. All the ADHD people I know can drink a double shot from Starbucks and immediately go right off to a peaceful sleep! The ADHD brain reacts to stimulants as relaxants. Give a normal brain a stimulant and they are wired. Give an ADHD brain a stimulant and they slow down. I hear so many people say “I think I’m ADHD” simply because they are trying to do too much. When I ask them about caffeine it usually takes them by surprise. That’s why most of us are hooked on soda I think! It’s a way to self medicate without prescriptions!

    I can say that ADHD gets a bad rap. Yes it’s challenging, but I personally feel its the out if the box thinkers like most ADHD are that makes such impact on the world!

    My husband just smiles, shakes his head, and holds on for the ride! He’s my biggest fan and biggest support. He may not know how I’m gonna get from point a to point b but he says its always an adventure! And so is sharing the life with an ADHDer!

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yeah, that happens a lot, parents getting diagnosed because they are trying to diagnose their children.

      As for the caffeine, I had not heard that for ADHD, but I have heard it about people on the autism spectrum. I can take caffeine and fall asleep no problem, my wife, who has ADHD won’t touch it in the evening, because she won’t sleep (she has ADHD). So, in my own marriage, that pattern doesn’t hold, but it may be true for the vast majority.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. The Man says:

    One aspect you barely mention is the side effects of medication for ADD (my wife is definitely not hyper active). Once on here medication she becomes the absolute model employee (works from home). This has been a struggle that we have fought over and fought over. We don’t agree so I simply remove myself from her presence while she works. If that means we don’t get near each other for the entire day…so be it. I am not exaggerating, work often extends to 12 hours a day. Hyper focused, non-sexual, totally disheartening to have married a very affectionate, loving, willing partner, and having it devolve over a decade and a half to a mere functional, domestic and financial partner.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I get what your saying that your wife is not hyperactive, but ADD is no longer in the DSM as of version IV, it’s no longer considered a valid classification. The proper name is now ADHD-I for the inactive sub-type (the one without hyperactivity). Much of the world, including doctors, have not caught up to the new terminology.

      As for the medication, that must be very frustrating, I know how you feel. My wife had a similar change when she went on birth control pills. Completely took away the fun, careful, sexual woman I knew.

      Now, I’m not a doctor, but have you talked to her doctor about switching medications? Not all have the same effect on every person. As well, changing dosages might help, or changing whether they are fast acting or slow release, or what time of the day she takes them. Perhaps it’s making her too focused for too long. If so, a slower, faster acting dosage might let her be focused during the day when she needs, but still relax afterwards and be more affectionate and loving. Might be worth experimenting with (with the doctor’s supervision of course).

      1. the Man says:

        This is a decade old issue that I have pushed (in good and poor ways I confess). I have ceased trying and basically given up improving this aspect of my marriage, since we don’t even agree there is a problem. The whole CS Lewis quote abt marriages resembling a crucifixion and all. I can’t change the will of God for my marriage, only my attitude abt it.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          I can’t say I agree that it is God’s will for marriages to be strained like this, though I do agree you cannot change your wife, only yourself. Have you read my wife’s recent post? It may be able to offer some insight.

          1. the Man says:

            Well, I simply meant that neither of us is wrong, we have just evolved over our 15 yr relationship to want radically different things and it is God’s will that we remain committed to each other, a non performance based love and all. She can’t lose my physical presence but there has been a decrease in my feelings for her a bit. But, we have 2 nine yr old children who I will not be apart from, no matter what. Were they not part of the equation it would be much harder to stay. I have prayed over and over (in the past) to lose my desire. Hasn’t happened.

            1. Jay Dee says:

              I’m not sure that’s the right approach. God designed marriage to be a sexual relationship. To ask Him to “turn that off” seems a bit like telling Him He designed marriage wrong.

              1. Robyn says:

                I think it could possibly be the answer that might be needed for a time. It could be a coping mechanism used to grow long-suffering or endurance. Not getting a sexual need met is no different than not getting any other need met in marriage. It doesn’t make the refusing spouse right. But it’s up to the more mature spouse to come to the aide of the weaker one. A wife that is denying sex is obviously the weaker one.

                1. Jay Dee says:

                  I’m not sure how taking away the feeling for the needs builds long-suffering or endurance.

                  I mean, if you aren’t suffering…you can’t practice long suffering. If you aren’t working at it, then you aren’t enduring.

                  1. Robyn says:

                    The enduring is in the process of asking God. The suffering is in the journey. God will replace the desire with increased faith. It’s a bit by bit process not that you pray for the desire to be gone and ‘boom’ it’s gone the next day, week, or month; it’s a faith to faith journey. When I was praying for Darrell to be saved, it didn’t matter how hard I prayed — you cannot make another person believe (do something you want, something that you know would be good for them) … the praying is more about accepting, through faith, where you have to live in that particular season of life. I didn’t pray for God to take away my desire for my husband to be saved; but rather to accept if, how, and when it did happen.

                    1. Jay Dee says:

                      Sounds like we’re on the same page: Don’t pray for the desire to be taken away, rather, pray for it to be met, in some way.

  6. DWVJr says:

    I am a 43 Year Old Single Dad of 1. And I have ADHD. I never knew the aspects of this. Plus with me having a Learning Disorder as well. I have had rushed and jumped in relationships in a fast passed manor. Now that I have been Single for 7 years and being Born Again in Christ. Now I can see when in God’s Time that when I get into a relationship that leads to Marriage. I Hope and Pray that It will be a Healthy Relationship between My Future Wife. Thank You so much for this information.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I’m happy to have helped in some small way.

  7. jdGurl says:

    I’ve been married twice. The first time was for 12 years but I had to leave the dreary town and move on and get more education and my husband was against all of it so I went alone. During my post-graduate schooling, I met my current husband and we’ve been married for 30 years. After 6 years of the current marriage my husband’s mother died and when he returned from her out-of-state funeral, he announced to me that he couldn’t ever have sex again. I thought he was simply upset about his mother’s death but after 6 months of no sex I tried to talk with him about it (was he now seeing me as his “mother”?), but he said that was not the issue. He just refused to talk about it further and he refused to have sex. For 2 or 3 years everything stayed this way but then he began to stay up nights on the computer and I discovered he was spending hours watching porn almost all night, every night. I told him that we either had to see a marriage counselor or else I was leaving. I felt betrayed and it felt the same as if he were cheating in person with other women. We saw a doctor and she thought he may have a brain tumor which now I see as a laughable diagnosis. Perhaps a brain tumor would have been a plus. There was no improvement in our relationship but we both had interesting jobs and long commutes and I was the perennial optimist. “Someday, when I have more leisure time, I will figure out what is going on and fix it” I told myself. I subsequently learned that my husband was asking himself why I stayed with him. In the meantime, I fell in love with another man but I kept it to myself and never acted upon it. I was the loyal, faithful “wife” and the knots in my stomach and aching for someone to love me back was at times almost unbearable. Skip forward to year 28. We had both retired, downsized somewhat, and were waiting to sign papers for a new house when I decided to watch PBS during a fund drive one afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the names of the two men who were touting their book(s) and CD’s but they were talking about something I knew nothing at all about and I listened. After the first hour, suddenly it clicked and I realized what was wrong with my marriage. I was married to a man with ADHD! As my husband walked by I asked him to sit down and talk for a moment. I told him that I knew what was wrong with him and announced he didn’t have PTSD from fighting in Vietnam but that I had diagnosed him with ADHD after listening to the TV program that was still playing and”he said that he knew it!!! He said nobody had ever diagnosed him correctly but that he had known it for a long time since medical school and that he had learned to hide it from the outside world and trained himself to study in certain, secret ways. He even hid it from his parents and I was the only one who knew the other side of him. After watching the TV program, I read up and studied as much as I could about the ailment (what does one call it”sickness, affliction, absence of part of the brain???). I think I’ve learned many ways to cope with him and his inattention, selfishness, forgetfulness, carelessness, destructiveness, self-centeredness, and put up with stories that begin in the truth and end up somewhere in fantasy land since he doesn’t know how to stop at the end of a tale but is compelled to keep going and going. I’m worn out and unhappy and again, after 30 years, feeling completely betrayed. I realize now that he chose to marry me not because he was in love with me but because he was seeking someone to take care of him and I was the organized and loyal person with a brain that could do that for him. If only he had told me 30 years ago who he really was I don’t believe I would have married him. I’m too old now to do anything but stay or leave”there’s no future with anyone else and I resent him for keeping me in the dark and continuing to ruin what is left of my life. I actually feel as if he has preyed upon me, sucked me dry, and left me with nothing. He still refuses to talk about making changes to improve the marriage and I have recently learned that it wouldn’t do any good anyway. He feels no empathy for me and he isn’t capable of understanding my loneliness. I can’t tell friends or family about it and I now see it as a form of spousal abuse which keeps me isolated. I have no companionship. He has worn me out taking care of him like I would a child between the ages of 7 and 12. I handle all the business and have all the responsibility of the household. I’m worried to realize that he could outlive me and he hasn’t the brainpower to take care of any legal and medical problems for himself. Now that he is retired and since he only uses the computer to keep track (ad-nauseam) of his college football team he sleeps until lunch, eats breakfast, checks his stats until 2PM and goes back to bed, gets up at 6PM, eats dinner and then stays up until 4AM on the computer talking to strangers and writing about all aspects of his team which writings apparently are quite entertaining because he has quite a following. When I asked him just the other day if he is happy, he said yes, he’s really happy. I might as well be living by myself and talking to myself for all he cares.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I always wanted sex and always got told that’s the only reason I married her

Share your thoughts