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Decoding the Language of ADHD: A Guide for Non-ADHD Spouses

Updated: Mar 20


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Reflecting on the past 15 years of my ADHD marriage journey, I often ponder how I could have made the experience smoother. Here are a few crucial insights I've learned, both on my own and from my husband. While there are no do-overs in life, for those just started embarking on this journey, I hope these hard-earned lessons can help you better understand your ADHD spouse and help you thrive together for years to come, especially during tough times.


1) Your ADHD Spouse Blames Themselves More Than You Realize


I've discovered that my ADHD spouse conceals many feelings from me, including self-blame for not being as quick or accurate as I am on many tasks. For instance, when he struggled to set up an online business account for four weeks, I stepped in to help. In just 30 minutes, I guided him through the entire process, answered all the questions, double checked all the settings, and submitted the account for review. Though he appreciated my assistance, he silently blamed himself for needing help. I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't overheard a comment he made under his breathe afterward. This situation is not uncommon, and over time, I've realized that each time I intervene before he seek help, he internalizes blame.


Self-blame can escalate and influence other behaviors, like reducing initiatives, not willing to commit to task completion, which will cause more damage in the long run for the relationship. Being able to recognize those subtleties and figure a way to approach them is important. I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of my husband's feelings, realizing that when he gives up on a task after multiple attempts and becomes frustrated, self-blame is often at play. Now, we have develop a framework that he could openly ask for help without feeling defeated. As a result, he is more open to ask and accept help and allow me to unstuck when he needs and it help us build back some of the trust that he lost with me.


2) Your ADHD Spouse Wants To Take On More Responsibilities Than You Think


Often, non-ADHD spouses overwhelm ourselves by taking on too much, leaving ADHD spouses feeling unable to contribute. Despite this, ADHD spouses often desire to help but struggle to find their place, especially when their non-ADHD spouses make things look effortlessly. That's why I advocate for periodic discussions about task division. The Fair Play Game is an effective tool for initiating these conversations. When we played, my husband eagerly took on many tasks, rebalancing the load for us and fostering a sense of mutual contribution to our marriage.



Check out my Fair Play Game review here.


3) Your ADHD Spouse Loves You More Than You Realize


Expressions of love can differ greatly between individuals. While I grew up in a family where helpfulness and promptness are ways to show love, my husband shows his love through small gestures, like saving receipts from all our trips to sharing all our little moments that I have forgotten a long time ago.


We often expect our loved ones to express affection in ways similar to our own, but ADHD complicates this dynamic. This is why knowing what is important to you is absolutely critical. When you understand what is important to you, you can more effectively share that with your ADHD spouse the importance of certain action. For example, sharing the importance of financial freedom and what does financial freedom entails for me, opened up a conversation of how my ADHD spouse can support my goal and need for financial freedom. Now, he show his love for me by doing his part of helping us get to the financial freedom goal. It is no longer a goal that I carry just by myself.


Conclusion


It's natural to find your ADHD spouse's behavior perplexing, especially when it contrasts with your own tendencies. However, it's crucial to remember that your ADHD spouse is exerting considerable effort, even if their actions seem unconventional. With the right support and understanding, all ADHD spouses can unlock their potential, leading to mutual growth and fulfillment within your relationship. By acknowledging their efforts and providing the necessary support, both partners can thrive and create a stronger, more resilient bond. So, as you continue on your journey together, approach it with empathy and patience, knowing that with the right guidance, your ADHD marriage can flourish, just like other marriages.

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