5 Ways ADHD Can Tank A Marriage

ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) can be hard on any relationship, and can take a big toll on long-term commitments.  I was married for twenty years; for the last seven I was aware I was living with ADHD.  What didn’t occur to me was that if I was living with it, then so was my partner. When our marriage ended several years ago, it never occurred to me that ADHD had played a part in it.  Now that I know a whole lot more about ADHD and the executive functions it impacts, I see it differently.  In hindsight, here are a few of the ways that ADHD affected my marriage.  If they seem familiar, then it’s time to find some support.

#1   I Received an Assessment of ADHD – But Forgot To Educate Myself and My Partner

The consequence? I didn’t even see the possible ways it could make a relationship more difficult. I thought ADHD was mostly about attention, and I didn’t believe I was all that bad at paying attention. If I’d known that ADHD affects a whole range of executive functions – such as planning, organising, physical and emotional sensitivity, time management, impulsivity – I might have been on the lookout for other issues.

#2   I Didn’t Understand Why I Was Bored

ADD’ers crave novelty. We get the  energy and ability to focus on mundane stuff by doing a variety of activities that stimulate us.  But in marriage, there’s a tendency for couples to settle into a routine.  It was an ongoing struggle for me to live in a world where everything was predictable and there was little novelty, but I didn’t know why it was such a struggle.  A neurotypical partner is inclined to look at their ADHD spouse and question, “Why can’t they just settle down and grow up?” And as ADHD spouses, we look at our partners and wonder how they got to be so … dull.

#3   My Need to Be Independent Created Distance

Like many people with ADHD, I am fiercely autonomous. And I’m also somewhat introverted, so spending time alone on creative or outdoor activities is necessary to my well-being, no matter how much I care about the people in my life. But if you’re married to someone with ADHD, this might look more like rejection than your partner’s need to spend time alone. As a very independent ADD’er, I didn’t intend to tell my partner, “I don’t need you”, but there’s a good chance he interpreted it that way.

#4   I Lacked an ADHD Framework to Understand (Or Explain) Why I Did What I Did

ADHD makes people more sensitive to their physical environment.  For me, trying to get anything done in an untidy or cluttered space is akin to trying to meditate in a room full of screeching cats.  My ex, on the other hand, was way more comfortable with mess and clutter. My attempts to explain that if things were out of place it interfered with my ability to concentrate just made me look like a neurotic neat freak.  If I’d been able to explain this in an ADHD context to my partner, it might have led to greater understanding and cooperation.

#5   I Didn’t Connect My Bad Habits with ADHD

In the early years of our marriage, a big bone of contention was my weakness for addictive substances – like  caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. I had no clue I was constantly trying to boost the dopamine level in my brain.  I just looked like someone out of control. If I’d known the strong connection between addictive behaviour and ADHD, my ex and I might have focused more on seeking solutions and less on blaming.  As it was, I just learned to hide my bad habits to avoid the glare of disapproval from my spouse.  And secrecy is tough on a marriage.

Fortunately, having children made these habits much less appealing to me. (It’s a simple equation: hangover + toddler = very bad day.) But as a couple, we never quite escaped the “good parent/bad child” dynamic we’d set in motion early on.

Recognising and Addressing the Challenges…

Six years later, I don’t regret ending the relationship. Ultimately, it was the defining challenge of my adult life that allowed me to grow and finally become comfortable in my own skin. In my own case, there were compelling reasons besides ADHD that my ex and I are better off apart than together.  

My intention, however, is to emphasize that if you’re in a relationship you value and one of you has ADHD, you need to understand how that plays out if you’re going to make it work. It’s important to seek out information about ADHD, and possibly professional support, from someone who understands the territory and can help you navigate. As someone who has experience both as a relationship coach and as an ADHD coach, it won’t surprise you that I believe coaching is the most positive step you can take for your relationship.  But there are resources in addition to coaching.  For instance, Melissa Orlov, one of the few experts on ADHD and relationships, used her personal experience to write a very insightful book, The ADHD Effect on Marriage. And my perennial favourite, TotallyADD.com, has some great videos about relationships on their site.

The bottom line is – if you’re in a partnership that includes ADHD, it’s critical to recognise and address the challenges, so that ADHD doesn’t get a chance to tank your relationship. What you may discover is that when it’s under control, ADHD has the possibility to bring as many joys to your relationship as it does challengesCreativity, humor, lightheartedness, honesty, youthfulness – these are just some of the gifts that ADHD often offers in exchange for what it takes.

Thoughts On Midlife Crises, Growing Pains & Opportunity

“Midlife – when the universe grabs your shoulders and says “I’m not effing around! Use the gifts you were given!” – Dr. Brene Brown 

Is midlife – that vague phase that happens sometime after the age of 40 – a time when we are most likely to face a crisis? Or are our mid-life crises, really wonderful opportunities in disguise?

I see midlife as a time that opens up completely new possibilities in our lives –  when the career is established, the kids are growing or grown, the home is purchased – in short, all those things that consumed us for so many years are established, and a nagging voice inside us starts to ask, “Really…. is this all there is?”

Sure, some people never get that call – or maybe they just don’t bother to listen, and they’ll cruise right on past. Others will buy the red convertible,  go on the trip, or the diet – make outward changes.

But many of us start to search for something more substantial. Some of us realize we have arrived at a crossroads and want real, lasting change.  Still others are forced to change when their circumstances alter – thru job loss, or a divorce. They just might not be too sure how to go about it.

This is where a coach can really help. A good coach will support you in seeing your possibilities through fresh eyes and discovering the new opportunities you might otherwise miss.

As a coach, I  see my coachees’ crises – midlife and otherwise – as a signal that someone is suddenly open to seeing possibilities that they never really considered before. Life has a way of forcing our hand.

So keep your eyes open and look for the amazing opportunities that might be presenting themselves in your own crisis. And if you aren’t sure how to negotiate the path, consider what a great travelling companion a personal coach could be.

We all Have Dating “Baggage”

It’s amazing how many times people who we meet, especially when we are dating, want to assure us they have no baggage…and it’s absurd. We all have baggage. And it’s not a bad thing. What is important is how you deal with your baggage. Do you shove it under the bed and pretend it’s not there? Or are you ready to take a good hard look to see what your baggage is trying to tell you about what you might need to change?

Let me tell you how I learned to deal with my baggage.


In my mid-forties, I found myself newly single and eager to move on to the next phase in my life. New house, new career, and maybe a new relationship.

It was a bit scary, but I looked forward to starting over in the dating world. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t going to get to date as a mature woman in her forties. I was going to have to pick up where I left off before I escaped into a nice safe marriage some 20 years earlier.

The young woman who was coming along for my early steps into the world of dating was very familiar. She didn’t know how to create boundaries. She avoided commitment. Yep, she was me at 27. I recognized her all right. What I didn’t know how to do was get rid of her.

One of my favorite quotes is by author Marianne Williamson, talking about how life is a series of growth opportunities. She says, if you don’t learn a lesson when it’s up for you, that’s not a problem. It will just sit there and wait for you til you are ready for the lesson. And that was me – I’d postponed some lessons for 20 years but there they were, just waiting for me to be ready for the journey.

It actually took me 3 long years of searching for answers before the lightbulb finally went off. And when it did, guess what happened to the 27 year old that had been hanging on? She faded back into the past, where she belonged.

If you are carrying some baggage from past relationships, that’s to be expected. We all do. As a coach, I can help you open those bags, and look inside for some key information. Once you understand the message inside that baggage, you will be able to approach new relationships in a healthier way.

Assumptions Vs. Requests – What’s Your Dating Language?

Recently, I saw this question posted on a fellow’s profile on a dating site…”Is it reasonable to assume that if you have met someone for coffee a couple of times and seem to have a good connection, that they would take their profile off or at least stop being active on the site?”


Well, in a word, no.

And the word that’s causing the problem here, is the word “assume”

A lot of the complications in dating arise, very simply, from when we choose to make assumptions about how people should behave, instead of making an actual request.

There are lots of reasons people don’t take their profile off but it pretty much boils down to the fact that there has not been any agreement, or even conversation, about exclusivity. The point of dating is to meet people and find out more about others and yourself. That doesn’t assume any kind of exclusivity.

Here is the leap our thoughts often make: “Ouch! If you really liked me, you wouldn’t still be online talking to other people.” But without a conversation about exclusivity, there’s no reason to expect otherwise. There’s certainly no reason to take it personally….

Exclusivity comes about, when two people agree to exclusivity. Sounds simple, yes? But it means that a request has to be made by one of you, and we seem to be uncomfortable making these requests. The fear of rejection looms large….

But think how many problems could be avoided if we all could be straightforward and say, “Hey, we seem to have a connection and I would like to explore it further without distractions. What do you think about taking our profiles down from the dating site while we get to know one another better?”

If you haven’t made your wishes clear through a request, you are on pretty shaky ground when you complain when someone doesn’t comply with your wishes….

Finally, if you need some support in understanding how or when to make requests or any other language act, consider coaching. As a trained ontological coach, I can help you understand how using acts of speech correctly can transform relationships.