My spouse is constantly distracted. Does he/she even care about me?
Updated: Aug 18
Jordan and Sylvia had the courtship of a lifetime! Jordan surprised Sylvia at work with flowers and lunch, always brought home her favorite chocolate, and let go of many other interests to spend time with her. Jordan was attentive and listened intently as she shared her complaints about her colleagues. Their relationship had it’s stucks, but mostly felt healthy and fulfilling to both partners. After the courtship phase and the decision to get married things began to feel radically different. Sylvia began to complain of her husband “always being distracted,” and described him as “unable to manage his time.” All of these dynamics led Sylvia to feel like a parent and Jordan to feel controlled and being treated like a child.
One of the most destructive relationship dynamics is the parent child dynamic in which the non-ADHD spouse engages in parenting behaviors, feeling responsible and over functioning, and the ADHD spouse engages in child behaviors, feeling irresponsible and under functioning. Denial that undermanaged ADHD symptoms are negatively impacting the relationship can lead to divorce. Let me repeat, it is not the presence of ADHD that can lead to divorce, but rather denial that undermanaged symptoms are distorting the relationship is what leads to divorce.
Studies suggest the divorce rate among couples where ADHD is present is twice that of the general married population.
This communicates that couples likely struggle to identify that ADHD is an element impacting their feelings of anger, disconnection, and lacking sexual intimacy AND that even if they understand it is present in the relationship they do not acknowledge and deny that it is actually impacting the relationship. After working with many of these couples it is clear that feelings of fear, avoidance, and lack of psychoeducation prevent couples from getting the help that could change their lives.
It doesn’t have to be so scary! John Gottman’s research suggests that 69% of every couple’s conflict will remain unresolved, which means that every couple has their work to do in communicating about their 69%. For those where ADHD is present it means that’s just their work to consider. Engaging in consistent treatment, which could include individual therapy, medication management, and possibly executive functioning coaching can make a world of a difference. I see many couples who feel unloved and unappreciated, but when the ADHD spouse pursues help and their feelings are managed in a healthy way the couple can finally begin to work on fostering healthier conflict dynamics, deepening their intimacy, and having the fun they once did.
If you’re just exploring the possible impact of ADHD on your relationship, I would encourage starting with a simple read that illuminates the kinds of conflicts this relationship dynamic faces and some steps to take to work yourselves out of the unhealthy dynamic into a healthy one. A great resource to consider is The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov, linked here in our resource page: https://www.maverickmarriagetherapy.com/resources. If you are considering marriage counseling, feel free to schedule a consultation.