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He Said, She Said: How ADHD Impacts My Marriage

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By Sarah Ludwig Rausch

When you have ADHD, you know how crazy-making it is sometimes not being able to get away from yourself? Between the daily deluge of distractions, a mind that’s always running at a full-on sprint, and the constant battle with time blindness, there are days when I’d love to unplug my brain, even for just a few minutes of relief. If it’s this difficult for me, it’s got to be hard on my husband to get caught in the whirlwind. I mean, I’ve known on some level that my ADHD affects my marriage. How can it not when it involves basically every aspect of my life? What I didn’t realize was exactly how much it actually does impact our marriage until my husband and I sat down to discuss it for this article.

My Marriage Challenges

Far and away the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to my marriage is my poor time management. I juggle my own business, family and community obligations, household chores, bookkeeping, and kids. Translation: I’m frequently overwhelmed and treading water. It feels like I hardly ever have time to relax because I’m always, always busy with something. Time is my biggest enemy. The second biggest challenge for me is the tendency to be in my own head. There’s so much going on in there, it takes real effort to consciously pull myself out and be aware of the other people living in my house, especially my husband. And when I’m continually battling both my to-do list and the chunks of time that seem to disappear into the ether, it’s doubly hard.

My Husband’s View

Before we chatted, I gave my husband a list of the 20 ADHD symptoms that I struggle with the most. I asked him to mark the ones he thinks affect our relationship. I was surprised—and a little dismayed—that he picked most of them. “Well, let’s go through these and you can explain how each one affects you,” I said, turning on my digital recorder and settling in for a long discussion. Here’s a rundown of the symptoms I have that challenge him the most.
Interrupting
He says: “It’s frustrating to feel like you think your thoughts are way more important and what I say doesn’t really matter.” My view: I didn’t realize — until he started pointing it out recently — that I do this. And I definitely didn’t understand how it makes him feel. Unfortunately, he’s right. Listening back to this recorded conversation, I noticed I interrupted him several times.
Disorganization
He says: “I think that’s more your mind. I see it more as clutter than disorganization.” Me, interrupting: “Yeah, it’s kind of both.” He says (graciously ignoring my interruption): “It seems like we continually pack too much stuff into the house and then we organize and make more space, and then we just pack things in again.” My view: Yep. (But really, “we” means “me.” He’s just being nice.)
Poor time management skills
He says: “This leaves me feeling like last priority a lot. It seems like I’ll ask for time and you’re constantly running behind because things just took longer than you thought.” My view: See first paragraph under “My Marriage Challenges.”
Difficulty coping with stress
He says: “To me, it all [points to list of symptoms] just piles on top of itself. One thing on its own isn’t a big deal at all. When something I think is relatively minor comes up and you’re…” Me, interrupting again: “Overwhelmed?” He says: “Yes. It just gets frustrating.” My view: It’s frustrating to me too.
Problems prioritizing
He says: “I know you work very hard up here [indicating my office, where we’re sitting], but it seems like you do get sidetracked on things a lot, and then…” Me, interrupting yet again: “I do. I won’t deny that.” He says (without missing a beat): “And then it gets late, and we don’t have time to go out or do something.” My view: This one was particularly eye-opening for me. It didn’t occur to me that my time management problems could be a matter of prioritizing. Hmmm.
Talking excessively
He says: “Obviously we talk, and I notice it.” Me, after momentarily spacing out and not processing his words: “And what?” He says (patiently): “I notice it.” My view: That I talk more than I need to has never been more clear than when I saw the transcription of this conversation. Huge paragraphs of my rambling responses covered the paper, exposing my penchant for excessive talking in black and white. To be fair, I did pause occasionally for a few seconds to let him talk. When he didn’t, I kept going.
Easily distracted
He says: “This would be the same as prioritizing, I guess. Loss of time, all the time.” Me, going on a long-winded spiel about struggling with both lack of focus and hyperfocus, and ending with: “I’m not sure what that had to do with what you’re saying. Oh, you were talking about the distractions. Oh my gosh, yes, this is a serious problem. I get distracted by everything. It’s so frustrating.” My view: It didn’t dawn on me how comical this example of my distractibility is, even when I listened to our recorded conversation. But seeing my rambling words in the transcription highlighted exactly how off-tangent I can get.

The Takeaway

After a fairly long conversation about how my ADHD impacts our relationship, we learned several new things about each other. That’s saying a lot after 20+ years of marriage. I nailed down an area or two to work on that will hopefully improve every aspect of my life. He was reminded not to take what seems like rejection so personally. And we laughed together as we read this article over and saw some of my ADHD symptoms on full display. We both recommend taking some time to do this exercise with your partner, if one of you has been diagnosed with ADHD. Talk through which of your ADHD symptoms challenge each of you the most. You might be surprised at what comes out of it. Are you wondering whether you or your child might have ADHD? ADHD Online offers a way to get an expert diagnosis quickly and easily.

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