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ADHD and The Marriage

ADHD and The Marriage

It is not uncommon for parents of a child with ADHD to have a strained relationship with each other. Oftentimes, one parent also struggles with the symptoms of ADHD, whether it has been diagnosed or not. I've often had a parent tell me in my office, "My son is just like his father. They are both so scatterbrained that I have to do the thinking for both of them."

In these situations, parents with ADHD may develop feelings of guilt and blame themselves for their child's difficulties. On the other hand, the parent with ADHD may take the attitude, "There is nothing wrong with my child. I was just like him and I made it okay." In other words, these parents may be experiencing a mixture of relief, blame, guilt, or denial. This sometimes leads the other parent to feel that he or she must "parent" both the child and the spouse. This can really place an undue strain on the marriage relationship.

Feelings of resentment also may surface, with spouses asking each other questions like, "Why do I always have to be the one to (fill in the blank)?" or "Why are you always telling me what to do? You are NOT my mother!" These feelings may lead to arguments and fights. Each parent then may begin to withdraw emotionally from the relationship. The result is isolation, loneliness, and being overwhelmed by the task of parenting a child with ADHD with no perceived help from the spouse.

One of the biggest hindrances to a healthy relationship, whether it is with your spouse or your child, is the blame game. Much mental, emotional, and physical energy is spent trying to figure out who is at fault and who is to blame for the situation. The result often is defensiveness by the person who is being blamed and resentment from everyone else. When the issue is not resolved, feelings are hurt and relationships are strained.

It doesn't really help the situation for the wife to remind her husband that he is forgetful, does not pay attention, or is impulsive. A better approach is to communicate with each other to come up with solutions to the problems.

Here are some tips on how you and your spouse can work together more closely to not only parent your child with ADHD but also strengthen your relationship with each other:

  • Remind yourself why you married your spouse. Those endearing qualities you found so attractive when you were dating are still there. They may be veiled by the daily frustrations of parenting and everyday life, but they are there just the same. If you focus only on the problems and bad times, you'll drown out the joys. Every time you feel like blaming or complaining to your spouse, recall a good time you've shared or something you love about him or her. Keeping your marriage strong is important for you and your kids.
  • Take time to discuss parenting strategies together so you're both on the same page. You and your spouse need to be in agreement on a parenting philosophy and a plan for putting it into action. This requires a constant discussion (outside the presence of the children) on your thoughts about parenting. Remember that whatever ideas you both have about parenting probably came from how you were parented. And because you were each raised differently, there may some disagreements on what you each believe is best for your children. The best approach is to lay everything out on the table and then work toward a middle ground where you both can be consistent in your parenting approach and strategies. It doesn't hurt to write down some guidelines that can serve as reminders for what you agree to do so your parenting can be consistent and effective.
  • Show at least as much (and preferably even more) patience with your spouse as you do with your children and your co-workers. Remember that you're both in this together. Each partner has to give a little and show empathy for the other. Patience truly is a virtue when it comes to rearing a child. Being short with each other and constantly bickering won't accomplish your goals. Also remember that your children will grow up and move out of the house one day. Your spouse is your lifetime companion. Cultivating and nurturing a loving, healthy relationship not only will benefit your children but also prepare you for spending lots of time together during your empty-nest years!
  • Maintain a sense of humor. The fact that your child has ADHD is not funny. But being able to see the humorous side of whatever life throws at you is one way to get through the difficult moments. Everyone makes mistakes – including you! Sometimes, life's problems can be so daunting and so absurd, that all you can do is laugh. The ability to laugh at ourselves can relieve stress, help us relax, and give us a more positive view of what might at first appear to be an insurmountable challenge.
  • Work together as a team. In your quest to be good parents for your child with ADHD (and all of your children), there can be no sides. If you have begun to feel like you're on one side of the battle line and your spouse is on the other, it is time to work this problem out. Ignoring it will only make it grow bigger. If you and your spouse cannot work it out alone, seek professional help. A good marriage counselor who is familiar with the effects of ADHD on a marriage can guide you to a healthy resolution. Your whole family will be the winner!