Is ADHD the Third Wheel in Your Marriage? cover

Is ADHD the Third Wheel in Your Marriage?


ADHD symptoms can impact marital decision making in many ways you might not imagine.

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Conflicts that arise from differing viewpoints on decision making, parenting, finances, or work obligations that impede family time may all contribute to difficulties or disagreements in a marriage.

When one or both partners have attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), this can exacerbate the severity of typical conflicts as well as contribute to additional ones.

ADHD symptoms can impact marital decision making in many ways, including:

Trouble looking at all of the facts

Failure to plan ahead as needed

Lack of awareness of other people’s feelings (not because they do not care)

Difficulty conveying viewpoints clearly

ADHD symptoms can exacerbate or lead to conflicts in many ways, including:

Trouble following through on previously agreed-upon actions

Inconsistencies in enforcing rules with parenting

Frequent lateness

Difficulty completing household chores and general tasks

Here are several practical ways to better manage ADHD symptoms in a marriage:

Make sure both individuals fully recognize how ADHD symptoms (or any other ones, such as anxiety) impact them as individuals.

Have discussions about how ADHD symptoms affect the functioning of the couple.

Create set times to discuss issues. Keep meetings short when possible. Take notes, if needed. And set rules. Set limits on how long one person can talk at a time.

This will limit the chances one person forgets what was said or loses focus and does not fully process everything. If one or both partners tends to try to interrupt the other, rather than yelling to signal they are being interrupted, have an item that makes noise present and hit the button/activate it. Allow quick breaks to cool off, process, etc., when needed. Write out items agreed to and sign them.

Keep stress balls and other stress-reduction tools readily available when having discussions.

Delegate household tasks based on each person’s strengths.

Use a joint task list to keep track of what needs to be completed, by whom, and whether it was completed or not.

Use a joint calendar to keep track of family obligations. Send an invitation or email when scheduling an important event so each person knows it has been put on the calendar.

Be aware that issues with emotion regulation may be due to ADHD, and work on tools to help each other remain calm during discussions.

Find mutually agreeable ways to communicate when one partner is bothered by something the other is or is not doing.

Don’t let issues build up before addressing them.

Navigating life with ADHD is not always easy. Being part of a marriage when you and/or your partner has ADHD can be difficult, but it does not have to be.


While the tools listed above can help most any relationship, communicating in a calm and respectful manner is one of the best ways to reduce conflict and resolve issues in a marriage impacted by ADHD.

Issues are always going to arise, but it’s how you handle them and work to prevent future ones from occurring that matters most.

Finally, remember that you married your partner for a reason. Think about what drew you to them when you feel you are in a rough spot in your relationship because of ADHD-related issues.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland