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Creating a Supportive Environment for Your ADHD Spouse and You to Thrive Together

If you've ever delved into the stories of successful individuals with ADHD, like Michael Phelps and Ty Pennington, you'll quickly notice a recurring theme: their ability to thrive is often attributed to having supportive loved ones who provide the necessary structures for success.

Let me share a personal story to illustrate the transformative power of such a supportive environment. My husband was never great at math. When he had to retake a required math course to graduate from college, he was very apprehensive. However, when he received the necessary support, which included my tutoring and extra time for tests and exams, something remarkable happened.

For the first time in his life, he achieved an "A-" in an algebra math course. He never expected such an outcome, but the pride and joy that he experienced were immeasurable. I was equally delighted and proud of his achievement.

As you can see, having a supportive environment provides positive outcomes that lead to both people in a positive state, allowing the relationship to thrive.

However, providing a supportive environment for your ADHD spouse is not easy. As a non-ADHD spouse, I had to overcome some of my own assumptions and logic before I was fully onboard with creating a more supportive environment for my husband. Here are just a couple of common challenges:

Neurotypical Logic: Everyone should know how to build their supportive environment

For the longest time, I resisted helping my ADHD husband create a supportive environment because, from my perspective, these are basic life skills that every person should know. Therefore, my husband should be able to do it himself. It wasn't until I realized that his limited executive skills often made it difficult for him to build a supportive environment all by himself. He put in lots of effort, but it just wasn't very effective. Once I overcame my assumption and realized the reality, it helped me change my perception and be more willing to help him build the necessary supportive environments for him to thrive.

Excuse: I am Busy

Another reason it took me a long time to embrace the idea of helping my ADHD husband create a supportive environment is the fact that I am very busy. I am a workaholic with a highly demanding and stressful job. After spending 8-12 hours working on a weekday, all I want is to decompress and relax so I can start again the next day. Besides, work provides a clear path for encouragement and rewards, making me want to focus on that. It wasn't until a light bulb moment dawned on me that my marriage is just as important as my job. If I don't spend time working on my marriage, it will not give me what I want from it. That's when I started to see creating supportive structures as an investment in my marriage.

Realization: The Supportive Environment is for me too

The final piece of resistance came down when I realized that the supportive environment is not just for him but for me too. If I could set up a supportive environment where it enables my husband to perform tasks without my supervision and without the need to redo them after he's finished, that's not only a win for him but a win for me too.

Once I changed the way I thought about creating a supportive environment as beneficial for both of us, the resistance faded, paving the path for me to willingly help my ADHD husband build the necessary supportive environment with him.

5 Steps to Creating a Supportive Environment for Your ADHD Spouse

Now that we've discussed some of the common resistance and how I overcame them, let's dive into the practical steps to create a supportive environment for your ADHD spouse. Remember, your goal is not just to help your spouse but also to strengthen your relationship.

Step 1: Identify Tasks that Your ADHD Spouse Struggles with

The first step in providing support is understanding where it's needed. Take some time to identify the tasks and activities that your ADHD spouse finds challenging. These could be anything from managing time and organization to handling finances or household chores. Remember, it's not about pointing out their shortcomings; it's about recognizing areas where they could benefit from your help.

Once you have a list, I recommend you pick a couple of tasks from the list and let your ADHD spouse choose one to discuss. This option provides your spouse with a choice, making it a collaborative experience rather than a forced conversation.

Step 2: Initiate Open Conversations

Engage in open conversations with a curious mind. Create a safe space for your spouse to openly express their thoughts and feelings about their struggles on that particular task. Ask questions and genuinely listen to their perspective. Try to understand why certain tasks are difficult for them. It's essential to approach these conversations without judgment or criticism. You might find out from your spouse that they simply have a different point of view than you.

Step 3: Share Your Perspective

Once you have a better understanding of their challenges or the possibility that they have a different point of view than you on what the finished task should look like, I recommend you ask for permission to share your perspective. This will help both sides understand the differences between both of your expectations or perspectives, allowing both of you to align on expectations.

Step 4: Collaborate on What the Supportive Structure Looks Like

Based on this alignment, working together to create supportive structures will come naturally. I find that asking my spouse "What is the best way to assist you?" reduces his defensiveness and empowers him to pinpoint where in the supportive structure that I could be the most effective for him.

Step 5: Observe Outcomes and Make Adjustments

As you start implementing the supportive structures, closely observe the outcomes. Pay attention to any improvements in your spouse's ability to handle challenging tasks. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, and acknowledge their efforts. If you notice that certain strategies are not working as expected, be ready to make adjustments and try different approaches. Flexibility is vital in this process.

Here's another example of how these steps helped us solve a challenge that bothered me for a LONG time:

My husband used to forget to put away all the clean dishes before he loaded the dishwasher with dirty dishes. That used to drive me up the wall because we had to keep redoing the dishes, sometimes up to three times. I told him multiple times, but it didn't change anything. Once a week, I would open up the dishwasher, finding both clean and dirty dishes. Through an open conversation, he shared with me that it was not intentional; he just didn't bother to check. In return, I shared with him how it made me frustrated because I didn't have clean dishes when I needed them. We agreed that a sign on the dishwasher would be a helpful reminder for him. Putting a sign where he could see it when he opened the dishwasher would be a good reminder. So we bought one of those Clean/Dirty signs and stuck it right on the top of the countertop space over the dishwasher. The result? Problem solved. No more mixing clean dishes with dirty dishes, and no more frustration from me.


Creating a supportive environment for your ADHD spouse is an ongoing journey filled with opportunities for growth and understanding. It requires patience, empathy, and a commitment to learning together. By following these steps, you'll not only provide the vital support your spouse needs but also enhance your connection and foster a thriving relationship. While it might not solve every challenge, it has unquestionably contributed to reducing frustration and improving our partnership in countless ways.

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