Undiagnosed ADHD in adults can impact marriage.

Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults: ADHD in a Marriage

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that ADHD is exclusively a childhood issue. Some theorize that 5% of adults in the US have ADHD. An even more startling statistic is that most adults with ADHD don’t know they have it.

With undiagnosed ADHD in adults being such a common problem, many of you might be wondering if someone you know has it. The odds are that you do, and it might be someone you never suspected, such as a relative or even your spouse.

Many people go undiagnosed because ADHD looks different in men and women.

We’ll discuss some of the symptoms of ADHD and how they might manifest in an adult.

1. Your Partner Doesn’t Listen

At this point, it’s practically a stereotype–the inattentive couch potato who drowns out his wife while watching TV or playing video games. While there are always going to be some relationships that are toxic and dysfunctional, ADHD might be at play in many cases.

Difficulty paying attention for extended periods is a classic symptom of ADHD. As a child, your partner might have been written off as a slacker, under-achiever or a troublemaker. They may have thrived in the classroom despite their issues, so nobody noticed.

There have probably been times when you’ve been deep in conversation with your partner, only to ask them a simple question and watch them get flustered. You then realize that you’ve been the one talking for most, if not all, of the “conversation,” and your partner hasn’t heard a word you’ve said.

This is a common issue with ADHD, because, after countless failed efforts to stay focused on conversations, the person might have decided that it’s easier to fake it.

2. You Do Everything

How many arguments have you had with your partner about chores and pulling their weight? Sure, they claim they’ll take out the trash, make the bed, do the dishes, or whatever it is you want them to do, but it never happens or happens inconsistently.

This is another way in which ADHD can cause marriage problems. The truth is that your partner does intend to do what they say, but they procrastinate, and then get distracted and forget the task altogether.

3. It Keeps Getting Worse

The longer you’ve been with your partner, the worse and more frequent your arguments get. If that seems to be true in your household, your communication problems could be the result of ADHD. The frustrating thing about ADHD is that nobody wins these arguments because neither side is right.

You’re frustrated and fed up with the way things are going, and you want your relationship back. Your partner, meanwhile, is sick of hearing the same speech they’ve heard from countless people about how they’re lazy and inattentive, and how they need to change. They’ve tried, and it’s never worked before, so they’ve given up trying.

They also doubt they’ll get anywhere by trying to explain that they don’t know how to change. Instead, they retreat into themselves and try even harder to block out the world. Thus, you end up in a situation where one of you is screaming louder than ever, and the other is hearing less than they ever have before.

4. Intense Interest at First

Chances are that your relationship started much more intensely and passionately than it is now. Your relationship tends to degrade quickly, with your partner going from borderline obsessed with you at the beginning of the relationship to barely noticing you now.

Though it’s not recognized by major psychological organizations, many have noted that people with ADHD have a great amount of focus on things that interest them. You might even describe them as obsessed or hyper focused. The reason your partner seemed so much more loving at the beginning of your relationship is that you were their subject of interest at that time.

Now, they seem uninterested in most of the world around them, including you, unless it interests or is challenging to them. The important thing is that you don’t blame them or yourself for this. The “honeymoon phase” hits hard for those with ADHD, and crashes just as hard.

Reframing the Issue

If you’ve recognized a lot of your situation in the paragraphs above, you might be wondering what steps you should take. The first step is to try to approach the problem differently. This isn’t an issue of you vs. them and it never has been.

Both of you are struggling with inattention and lack of organization but in different ways. You should talk to your partner and let them know that you understand what’s going on, and there’s no need to argue.

Couples Counseling

Sometimes, the difference between a horrible argument and a productive conversation is a third party who’s there to keep things from getting out of hand. Couples counseling provides a neutral space where you can say what you need to without the risk of a fight.

Counseling can help you get to a place where you can cooperate with your partner to fix what issues you can and learn to live with what you can’t. Keep in mind that psychological help might be necessary to manage certain ADHD symptoms.

How to Spot Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults

Recognizing undiagnosed ADHD in adults can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. We’ve listed a few signs that your significant other might have ADHD here, but remember that you’re not a professional, and nobody can make a diagnosis based on an article. It’s best to use this list as a starting point and consult a professional if you suspect ADHD.

Additional reading about ADHD:

Coping Skills You Need If Your ADHD Partner’s Inattentiveness, Distraction, Or Lack Of Focus Is Hurting Your Marriage

7 Ways Your Partner’s ADHD Affects Their Mood Swings & How To Best Address Your Worries

ADHD & Relationships

7 Tips For Improving Communication In Marriage & How PACT Therapy Helps


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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