By Leslie Rouder, LCSW

The challenges facing a person who is married to someone with untreated ADD can certainly be difficult to navigate, especially because these challenges may be completely hidden to the rest of the world.  No one seems to understand what you struggle with.  She or he is such a “great guy” and may appear totally “together” to everyone else.  So what’s wrong with you? Maybe you are even beginning to doubt yourself.  This article attempts to address some of the predictable patterns that one may experience being married to someone with ADD and why it creates such difficulty.

Being married to someone with untreated  ADD is often fraught with a predictable progressive pattern that goes from happy, to confused, to angry, and finally to hopeless. (Orlov, 2010) How does this happen and why is this so predictable in couples whose spouses have untreated ADD?

In an attempt to answer that question let’s look at some of the patterns that typically come up in these kinds of relationships;

In the beginning phase of the courtship between you and your ADD spouse, you may have been completely swept off your feet, ravished with both attention and affection, while being the primary focus of your partner’s life.  His or her “hyperfocus” on the relationship probably felt intoxicating and romantic, but somehow seemed to fade over time. When someone with ADD enters into a new romantic relationship, the initial excitement feels so stimulating to the ADD brain that is being flooded with adrenaline and endorphins, that it causes the ADD spouse to completely turn his or her attention to their partner.  However, this kind of excitement diminishes over time, along with the adrenaline rush, as the ADD spouse looks elsewhere for stimulation.  Of course this is not conscious on his or her part, and he may not even be aware that this has happened. However, as time goes on, the non- ADD partner may experience the following list of typical feelings associated with their spouse’s need to find stimulation in places outside of the marital relationship.



  • A sense of being unloved or rejected by ones ADD spouse

Individuals with ADD may often be distracted and find it difficult to pay attention to their partner.  This may lead to the non-ADD partner feeling neglected or it may be interpreted as disinterest on the part of their ADD   spouse or partner.  In addition it creates a sense of

  • Loneliness

If your partner seems disinterested in what you are saying or appears to ignore you, it would be easy to understand that one might feel lonely. In addition, it leads to feeling

  • Ignored

Partners of individuals with ADD often get the feeling that all their good advice and suggestions are not taken to head and this may cause the non ADD partner to feel ignored, disrespected or offended.   It also leads to an overwhelming feeling of

  • Frustration

The same kinds of problems keep presenting themselves over and over again.  It’s difficult to understand how you can have discussions around a problem, think that you are being understood, and still the same problem persists.  This also leads to a feeling of

  • Anger

Resentment and anger become pervasive when one feels disregarded, disrespected, ignored and often alone in the relationship. Some spouses will become irate and scream at their partner, while others will shut down and block all emotions leaving their partner in the cold.  Either way, one can see how this pattern becomes increasingly destructive as the non -ADD spouse may begin to feel

  • Exhausted

As the non ADD spouse tries to compensate for the lack of equal sharing or follow through in responsibilities, she or he often feels depleted, as no amount of effort seems to resolve these same issues that continue to plague the couple.  Due to the inconsistency in the ADD spouse’s ability to follow through and remember to do things, the feelings of being burdened with more of their fair share continues to create more feelings of stress and burn out in their partner. This leads to a sense of

  • Hopelessness

When one’s best effort to resolve these problems, go nowhere, the sense of sadness and lack of hope may pervade the relationship and lead to a separation or divorce.

There is hope, however and with understanding and knowledge, one can transcend these feelings and find a new way of being in the relationship.  Learning all one can about ADD and how it affects one’s partner is vital.  It’s important to remember that even though your partner may no longer be hyper- focused on you and your relationship, that does not mean that he or she does not still love you.  Since they probably aren’t even aware that they have changed so much toward you,  they really don’t understand why you are always so angry and demanding.  Your increasing frustration, anger and demands only further damage any chances of communication or intimacy, as the ADD partner feels that he or she can never please you and that, who they are, is not enough.

Patterns of frustration and anger can be avoided when both partners understand the way the ADD symptoms are affecting their relationship and learn different behaviors to heal these kinds of relationship wounds through education, communication and counseling.


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