Mother, Husband, Carpool Driver: How Does Your AD/HD Affect Your Family?
Some adults say that they have AD/HD, but others say they are AD/HD. Personally, I prefer to see the AD/HD as just one aspect of a unique individual. Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why one might say, “I am ADD.” For better or worse, AD/HD can affect many areas of one’s life. This is particularly true when the adult marries and has children. The roles of parent and spouse add new dimensions of complexity to daily life. A woman with difficulty maintaining divided attention may blow up when her children start asking for things while she is trying to fix dinner. She may have difficulty providing the structure her children need to help contain their own ADD. On the other hand, her generosity, spontaneity and energy may make the household a Mecca for neighborhood children.
Sometimes, marriage between a spouse with AD/HD and a non-AD/HD partner, may work well. The wife may provide stability, structure and organizational skills. At the same time, her husband’s creativity, and quest for novelty may provide color to her life and help her explore new horizons. This complementary type of relationship works best when each partner has insight into his or her unique strengths and weaknesses. They learn from each other in a dynamic way, and do not allow their roles to become too rigid. The wife has periods of spontaneity, and the husband then becomes the stabilizer.
In other cases, AD/HD can strain a marriage. The non-ADD spouse may misinterpret the partner’s disorganization and procrastination as deliberate offences. If the AD/HD spouse goes on an impulsive spending spree, it may damage family finances. The urge for novel situations can lead individuals with AD/HD into repeated job changes or extramarital affairs.
Both partners should have a thorough understanding of the psychiatric diagnoses and how the behaviors associated with the diagnoses affect the entire family. Often adults with AD/HD have other conditions such as anxiety, depression or alcohol abuse. It is important to address these conditions too.
Many couples feel euphoric early in the treatment process when medication begins to have an effect. They are lulled into the belief that the diagnosis and the medication will be a panacea. A spouse may despair or even leave the relationship when old patterns and behaviors re-emerge. Family or couples therapy can be an important part of treatment for adults with AD/HD. Remember, it took a long time for each family member to learn their behavior patterns and it may take time to make lasting changes. The AD/HD may be an explanation, but neither spouse should use it as an excuse. Instead, understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you develop creative coping strategies.