Strategies for Couples Living With ADD


Here are some strategies for living sanely with Attention Deficit Disorder.


Strategy for Understanding

Read, check the Web, talk to others, learn which ADD behaviors affect your marriage.  Separately, take notes of the repetitive situations that cause anger or hurt. Then share your observations. Have you listed the same behaviors.  By doing this together, you replace the child/parent atmosphere with a marital predicament that requires help from you both.


Strategy for Disorganization

To avoid moving from one uncompleted task to another, out loud verbally repeat your primary task.  If you start to wander off, tell yourself, “Nope, I can do that later.”  Or, make a note to remind you to get back to it later.  Then, get back to the task.


Messy rooms become formidable?  Books tell you to break tasks into smaller pieces. But, “organizationally challenged people” can’t do that.  So, ask your partner for help. Use his skills in areas where you are weak.


Strategy for Forgetfulness

You already have tricks for helping you remember things like leaving notes on the bathroom mirror, or putting things by the front door. Most of your tactics are probably so automatic you aren’t even aware of them.  Identify what you do and use them consciously.  Ask others how they remember things.

She says, “If I don’t brush my teeth the minute I get up, I forget, so if I can’t do it immediately, I open the medicine cabinet door as a visual reminder.


He says, “When I need something from the other room, I repeatedly say the item out loud until I have it in hand.


Strategy for Hyper-Focusing

Do you ever get so involved in what you are doing or watching or thinking that you tune others out?  Joyce, a client from years ago, describes to her husband what happens.  “It’s as if my mind is an electrical cord and only goes in one plug at a time. If you want to get my attention, you have to pull the plug out from wherever I am, and plug me into you.”


Together they strategized he would put his hand or whole body between her and the computer and say, “John to Joyce; can you hear me?”  They had to use this a lot.  Since John didn’t personalize it, he was able to say his phrase humorous, and Joyce heard the humor and didn’t get angry at being pulled away.


Strategy for Clutter

“It seems so simple, just clean up; take one pile at a time.”  But anyone with ADD will sigh, “But, it’s not simple.”  If your room is unmanageable, don’t be heroic, insisting you can straighten it. You probably can’t.  Ask your spouse or friend to do it or help you. Or hire a clutter expert.  Starting with organization makes you feel more in control; you’ll keep it that way at least for a little while.  When it starts to get messy again, repeat whatever you did before.  Only, don’t wait so long this time.


Strategy for Not Personalizing

The partner with ADD must remove any internal message that says things such as, “I’m dumb.”  “There’s something wrong with me.”  “I’m just lazy.”  Replace them with “It’s hard to be me.”  This is less negative and more accurate; it is hard living with ADD.


The non-ADD partner needs to be reminded her husband (or wife) is not intentionally doing these things. Together, they need to help her not personalize his behaviors.


Humor and empathy for each other’s positions are great salves.  Remember the strengths you have individually and as a couple.  Explore the option of medication, of joining a support group for people with ADD and their partners.  If you are still having trouble, seek a couples’ therapist who specializes in ADD.


(While writing this, several times I wandered to the piano, the kitchen, the desk, and kept having to repeat, “Nope, I can do that later.”)


If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

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