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Navigating the Dynamics: Decoding Non-ADHD Spouse's Intentions

Updated: Apr 9

ADHD spouse trying to decipher his non-ADHD spouse behavior.

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Receiving an ADHD diagnosis can be a profound and complex moment for an individual with ADHD, often marking a crossroads between fear and liberation. Many non-ADHD spouses, with the best of intentions, may dive in headfirst, ready and willing to assist. However, these actions can sometimes be misinterpreted by the ADHD spouse. My own ADHD spouse and I experienced this, and it wasn't until years later that he decided to share his feelings, unraveling the assumptions about my behavior before we both realized how wrong we were. Today, I share our journey to help you decipher some of the behaviors you might be witnessing in your marriage, in the hope of guiding both partners towards a path of better mutual support.

1. Too Eager to Help:

Why is your non-ADHD spouse so eager to help

When we received the diagnosis, it was a surprise, but it was at least an answer to our question of what was causing challenges in college for my ADHD spouse. While it wasn't what we expected, it was an answer, and the doctor provided the next steps of getting treatment, which is typical. As a neurotypical, this all makes sense, making it easy for me to accept the diagnosis and move swiftly into the next step of helping him find treatment. To me, helping my ADHD spouse find and get treatment ASAP is the natural next step, and I didn't think much about it. If it were reversed, and I received a diagnosis, I would behave exactly the same way. I saw that treatment as a positive for my spouse and nothing else. The diagnosis did not change my view of my spouse as I looked at the fact that everyone has shortcomings, regardless of whether you have ADHD or not. The sooner he gets treatment, the better quality of life for him.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis was harder for him to accept. It touched again on a sore spot for him, that he is not as good as everyone else out there. That caused him to sink into a depression for a few months while he grappled with the diagnosis.

Solutions to slowing your non-ADHD spouse down a bit on eagerness to help

  • Express Appreciation: Acknowledge the efforts of your non-ADHD spouse. Let them know that their support is valued and plays a crucial role in managing ADHD-related challenges.

  • Define a Check-In Schedule: Establish a check-in frequency where you could share your progress on diagnosis acceptance and share the ways you like your spouse could support you.

2. Constant Nagging:

Why is my non-ADHD spouse always nagging at me?

ADHD symptoms like time blindness, forgetfulness, and distractions often lead an ADHD spouse to miss deadlines and commitments. I was brought up with the firm belief that you always deliver what you commit. However, as my ADHD spouse and I got married longer, I started seeing him miss more and more of his commitments to me and us, regardless of how big or small the commitment. For example, getting laundry done became a nightmare, adding stress and anxiety for me when I expected clean clothes for work and found none. This chipped away at my ADHD spouse's reliability and dependability to me. Being someone who always honors commitments, especially for my loved ones, I just didn't understand why he couldn't deliver what he promised. To prevent further erosion of reliability and dependability, I resorted to taking on the responsibility of becoming the human reminder for my ADHD spouse.

However, the constant reminders often come across as nagging and micromanagement for my ADHD spouse, and he hated that. Over time, the nagging and micromanagement stopped working. For my ADHD spouse, he felt that no matter what he did, it was not good enough, and hence he tried less and less and missed more and more commitments.

Solutions to stop the nagging from your non-ADHD spouse

  • Ask for clear and concise communication on tasks: Ask your non-ADHD spouse to clarify the ask, make sure you get the reason, specific requirements, and deadline upfront.

  • Mutually agree on an acceptable standard: Both agree on what completion of the commitment looks like.

  • Use Aron Croft's 3S framework: Leverage Aron's external motivation framework of Soon, Someone, Stakes to help you stay motivated to deliver the commitment.

3. Offering Advice or Solutions:

Why is my non-ADHD spouse always offering solutions to me?

During one weekly check-in session, my ADHD spouse finally mustered up the courage to ask me why I kept offering up solutions on his tasks when he didn't want it. I was so glad he asked. It is because, as a neurotypical, I have a much better grasp of time when it comes to deadlines, as I don't have time blindness or forgetfulness that comes with ADHD. Furthermore, offering up solutions is a way for me to be helpful and not nag at him. When I see he will miss the fast-approaching deadline, suggesting solutions might help unstuck him. It took a few minutes for him to digest what I said, but then a light bulb went off in his head because he realized what I was trying was true. He realized that my intention was to help him become even more reliable and dependable, instead of picking on him.

How to effectively get your non-ADHD spouse to provide you the right support?

  • Share ways you would remind yourself to stay on track: Take ownership of reminding yourself.

  • Share how your non-ADHD spouse could support you: Enlist help that would make you feel empower and supported.

  • Try out your non-ADHD spouse suggestions: Sometimes, their suggestions could really help you complete your task better, faster and easier.


Understanding the motivations behind non-ADHD spouses' behaviors and actions is pivotal in creating a supportive and harmonious marriage. By appreciating the intentions behind eagerness to help, nagging, and solution offerings, both partners can work together to navigate the complexities of an ADHD-affected relationship. Communication, empathy, and collaboration are the keys to building a resilient connection that stands the test of time.

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