Marriage Tips for People with ADD

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and marriage can be a difficult combination, but it doesn't have to be. Learn how ADD can affect a relationship and discover ways to help you and your spouse get through tough times in your marriage when one partner has ADD.

What Is ADD?

Attention deficit disorder is a neurobiological disorder that affects millions of adults. Symptoms include

  • trouble concentrating
  • difficulty staying focused or over-focusing
  • forgetfulness
  • disorganization
  • impulsivity
  • emotional difficulties
  • in some cases, hyperactivity (called ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)

Some people with attention deficit disorder also develop problems such as depression, substance abuse (e.g., alcohol abuse), poor job performance and trouble managing finances. Any and all of these can strain a marriage relationship.

How ADD Can Affect a Marriage

Situations at home are hardest when ADD is neither recognized nor treated. If you are married to a person with ADD, you may feel:

  • what you say does not matter because your spouse has a hard time listening and paying attention
  • things are out of control because your spouse loses his or her temper easily, leading to fights
  • unloved because your spouse forgets an important day such as Valentine's Day or your wedding anniversary
  • neglected because your spouse appears uncaring and irresponsible when he or she can't hold a job or forgets important things like paying the bills or picking up the kids

Often the spouse loves their partner, but attention deficit disorder prevents him or her from showing it. Recognizing symptoms of ADD and getting a professional diagnosis can help put present difficulties into perspective.

Getting the Help You Both Need

A combination of medical therapy and psychotherapy can help both you and your ADD spouse cope with symptoms and difficulties that may arise.

Medications can be helpful for some people with ADD and can help improve certain symptoms, such as inattention and difficulty concentrating, but they are not a cure. Medications are generally more effective when combined with other treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help your ADD spouse identify and change negative behaviors and beliefs that cause problems. The therapist can also address problems, such as disorganization and poor job performance.

In marriage counseling a therapist can help you and your spouse explore issues, (e.g., forgotten commitments and responsibilities) and deal with them constructively, and learn to communicate with one another in an effective manner.

Support groups also can be helpful. Talking to others in the same situation can help you and your spouse feel that you are not alone, and find ways to deal with symptoms.

Self-Help: Taking Care of Body and Mind

Healthy lifestyle habits can make a big difference to how well your ADD spouse handles difficult times. Eating a healthy diet, limiting sugary foods, eating smaller meals, decreasing carbohydrates and increasing protein intake may help ease stress levels, mood swings, distractibility and hyperactivity.

It’s also a good idea for him or her to exercise on a daily basis, preferably outdoors and while doing something fun, to help work off excess energy and aggression from ADD. Set a sleep-wake schedule and foster a good night's sleep, which makes it easier to focus and manage stress.

Other self-help measures include managing stress, planning daily activities and developing skills to interact better with others. Adopt relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing or yoga, to reduce symptoms and allow better control of impulses. Add structure by organizing bills, making a list of scheduled tasks, setting deadlines and not procrastinating, to combat forgetfulness. Make an effort to listen actively and not interrupt to help improve communication; your therapist can help.

In summary, you and your spouse have a variety of strategies at your disposal to better manage ADD and your marriage relationship. By using these strategies, demonstrating patience and love, and gathering support, your marriage benefits.

Written by:
Diana Cooper

Sources: Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2011.

Help Guide. Adult ADD / ADHD. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2011.

Help Guide. Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child? Available at Accessed July 22, 2011.

Help Guide. Self-Help for Adult ADD / ADHD. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2011.

Help Guide. ADD / ADHD Treatment and Help. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2011.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 24 Jul 2011

Last Modified: 27 Aug 2015