Living with a Mate with ADD/ADHD
I want to address a very specific niche in a marriage partnership. This niche is not as small as you might think. There are many marriages that contain a partner, usually male, who was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or totally went undiagnosed in school years. And when you said “I do”, you did not have a clue. But several very predictable dynamics can emerge out of this combination. The most dangerous one is where the wife becomes the mother in the relationship. You don’t need a professional to spell out the pitfalls of this. But when, for example, John is constantly forgetting his agreements, his duties, and responsibilities, Sue will begin to lecture him, chide him, and ultimately shame John for his constant failures. She will become impatient, superior, and at the same time feel abandoned and lonely in the relationship. John, continuing to go undiagnosed will in the beginning, try harder. This is the American way after all. He will be so sorry and apologize. But eventually Sue doesn’t want his apologies. She just wants him to grow up. She may even use this demeaning language eventually. Why don’t you “be a man”?
As you can easily see, without intervention, diagnostics, and treatment, this couple are quickly entering the downward cascade identified in John Gottman’s research. This is the critical cascade that leads to contempt. The problem is, without diagnostics, these people get labeled as lazy, dumb, or irresponsible. And for sure, there are people that earn those labels. Well, we’ll have discuss “dumb” at another time, but you hear what I am saying. Even in school, this was once the case, and still is for those kids falling through the cracks. The ADD/ADHD brain is lacks a sufficient tracking system. Getting “off-track” is what they do. These people are also gifted, usually in one main area, and they may be extremely gifted in that area.
Living with a partner with ADD/ADHD can be a big challenge. It will demand as number one, UNDERSTANDING the problem. Agreements to prompt without shame will become a way of life, but the payoffs can be great. None of us want to be mistreated for our handicaps. Hopefully none of us want to mistreat our mate for theirs. I highly recommend the book, Driven to Distraction, by Hallowell and Ratey if you suspect this may be a problem. There is a chapter for mates in the book titled, “Living and Loving with ADD”. Do your homework. Be diligent to understand and how to come alongside a mate and set them up to win in this area and especially relationally.