A few weeks ago, a couple I was seeing for therapy mentioned that the husband might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”), although he had never been officially diagnosed. I was not surprised by this observation but until they mentioned this, I hadn’t given it much thought. I took the couple’s initial assessment of their issues at face value…they came to me to work on communication problems, shared values and intimacy issues. They weren’t sure if they should remain together. But when they mentioned the husband’s possible ADHD the wheels in my mind started turning. Could their difficulties be a result of undiagnosed ADHD rather than relational or communication problems? I began reassessing each of the relationship problems that they had mentioned…
They didn’t have many shared interests. His main interest was video games. He would play all day on the weekend, but when the wife asked him to join her in an activity that she liked, his attention lagged. She felt that he just wasn’t interested and that her needs and wants didn’t matter to him.
He frequently lost his keys and other important items. She saw him as scatterbrained and said things like, “If he didn’t have his head attached to his body, he would lose that too.” This created the dynamic of the wife acting like a parent and the husband behaving like a child who needed mommy to keep track of his things.
He dazes out when she talks. She interprets this as he just doesn’t care about her anymore. This wasn’t how he behaved when they were dating. This also led to lots of communication problems. Was his spacing out possibly due to the inattention and difficulty maintaining focus that are symptoms of ADHD?
He scrolls his phone whenever they are just hanging out together. Again, she views this as his lack of interest in her, but could it instead be due to hyperfocus, and the stimulation and dopamine dump his phone provides?
He overcharges on their credit cards even when they have discussed and agreed upon a budget. She views this as his selfishness. She thought, “he doesn’t care about us, only about his needs”. This also creates trust issues, and the ADHD partner perceives his or her mate as controlling.
He is “always” late and misses important appointments. Sadly, the wife interpreted this as he just doesn’t care about anyone’s time but his own. Perhaps this is the ADHD characteristic of having difficulty with executive functioning.
He doesn’t stick with any of his jobs. He loses interest after a year or so and then moves on, which means he isn’t getting promoted or moving up. He is stalled in his career and the wife is angry that he isn’t helping her work towards their shared financial goals.
You see where I’m going? Many symptoms of ADHD like hyperfocus, difficulty directing and maintaining attention, lack of impulse control, scheduling issues and various executive functioning issues, look like relationship issues and actually become relationship issues when the attention disorder isn’t identified and treated. If you or your partner are struggling with any of these issues you may want to talk with a therapist or doctor knowledgeable about ADHD to see if this might be a contributing factor in your relationship struggles.
Remember relationship problems and ADHD are very treatable! You don’t need to despair or just learn to live with the problems. Help is available for you and your partner!
If you have enjoyed this article and would like more relationship tips and thoughts on how to build your best life visit my website at kimscottmft.com.