Spouses & Adult Family Members with ADHD

Parent Q&A

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  • Are there any support or therapy groups for those of us who are in families, marriages, or partnerships with high-functioning folks who have some degree of neurodiversity?

    There’s also this group for parents at add.org

    These are all online, but do have local chapters. 

    Hope you find what you need!

    What a compassionate question, both for yourself and your loved one. If ADHD or similar behaviors are present, I have a book to recommend: Married to Distraction by Edward Hallowell, or any of his other books that may be applicable. Dr. Hallowell is a leading researcher and clinician with both lived experience and professional expertise. I have found his books very helpful not only in building compassion and understanding, but also in offering skills and strategies that I have found to be very effective.

    I can recommend the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) — www.aane.org. They have lots of online support groups & 1:1 support for families, including for partners. Very nice, experienced folks. 

    hi- my spouse has ADHD-- late diagnosed just this past year and it definitely impacted our relationship. there is a site called adhd and marriage that I found useful but also immersing myself in his condition. My son also has adhd and that is how we actually finally found out my husband did to. I didn't find a particular group but looked into a lot of information to find out how to be more compassionate and at the same time tolerant of our difference. Its still a work in progress but I am happy to discuss and provide any info I can in regards to my experience.

  • Good book on ADD in adults?

    Mar 2, 2023

    I'd like to read a general overview of ADD and its manifestations in adults, and how I can best support a relative's efforts to lead a stable life without being intrusive, or a doormat. We only see each other about twice a year, and our telephone/text communication is erratic. The person in question, now middle-aged, was diagnosed with ADD as a 30-something, and copes well enough to have a career and family, without taking meds--that I know of--but planning activities together can be stressful. Thanks for any help you can give me.

    I have not read it yet, but one book was highly recommended to me --  Divergent Mind by Jenara Nerenberg.

    For books (I think BPL has all of them available), I'd recommend: 

    • Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D.
    • ADHD 2.0: New Science and Essential Strategies for Thriving with Distraction–from Childhood through Adulthood  By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D.
    • Taking Charge of Adult ADHD: Proven Strategies to Succeed at Work, at Home, and in Relationships by Russell A. Barkley

    For other reading to understand your relative, I'd have a look at www.additudemag.com (e.g. www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-adults/). They have good info for both kids AND adults with ADHD. Also, CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) (www.chadd.org/for-adults/overview/). 

    You can also search Youtube for Russell Barkley or Edward Hallowell for nice bite-sized chunks of info.

    Your relative is lucky to have family like you who wants to understand them!

  • We need help. My husband has ADHD, anxiety and depression. He needed to move out of the house to be able to cope. We need an exceptional marriage counselor who specializes in ADHD (he won't go see anyone else). We have seen 2 so far and neither of them were able to help us. He wants to try to make our marriage work, we both do but he needs his own therapist and we need counseling together. We know a lot about ADHD but need someone who can help us differentiate between which behaviors he can change and what we both need to live with. HIs self-esteem has suffered tremendously in the last few years and his anxiety has sky rocketed. We are definitely in crisis mode and the whole family is suffering. Please send recommendations that have worked for you. Thank you. 

    Hi, Check out Robert Gorden in Berkeley. We've recently begun to see him and are pleased. Admittedly, he is quite busy, so it did take us a couple of months to connect and find a time available in his schedule that worked for us as well. Best of luck!

    If you are a Kaiser member, they offer group classes and guidance for people with ADHD.  If you're not a member, maybe you can pay a fee to take the class, or they can recommend something outside.

    Also, explore the idea of medication with a psychiatrist. Many people are ardently anti-medication, but the situation you describe is very close to crisis, and medication can sometimes provide the extra help to get things stabilized.  Serious stress and anxiety are likely to make things much worse.   I have had years of therapy, but medication is the only thing that has provided long-term relief.

    Phil Mansfield would be a very good place to start. Near Rick and Ann's, across from the Claremont. He is extremely skilled working with couples, using EMDR, which is indicated for PTSD.  He helped my husband overcome fear of heights and agoraphobia, both of which were affecting his functioning.  Then we went to him for couples work, which was extremely helpful. Best of luck to you!

    Call Cindy Blackett.  (510) 540-5409. Her office is in Berkeley and she knows a LOT about ADHD. When my partner and I went to see her we were just looking for a couples therapist but it’s because of her suggestion that my partner might have ADHD that we looked into that further and discovered that is exactly what he has and that this was the source of so many of our conflicts. Cindy was extremely helpful with just the thing you mentioned: figuring out what things we have to live with and what things can be changed.Good luck to you

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Communication with spouse: ADD problem?

Feb 2013

I need some advice on how to deal with a communication issue that is driving me out of my marriage. Here is the issue: I seem to constantly forget to tell my husband about upcoming events, such as birthday parties with the family, until he hears it from someone else, usually shortly before the event. I always think I told him, but he assures me that I didn't. I think most of the time, I mean to tell him, then I forget, and in my head, I am sure I did at some point. When he hears about the event, he says: Why didn't you tell me (or why didn't you tell me before?). It makes him feel non-included, and thus really bad. It is not my intention not to include him, so I wonder what is going on. He really takes it personnally, and thinks I do it subconsciously because I don't include him in the family. A little history: when our first child was born, my husband worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. So I took on all the child-rearing, and was pretty much on my own everyday, including week-ends. I learned to organize my time without him. However, 5 years ago, his work situation changed, and wanted to take part of all the family outings, finally!

I know I am not the best communicator in the world. I was raised by persecuting parents, so I learned to become silent, and absent, so I was left alone. My sister is another example: she hardly talks at all, and will take off on her own without letting anyone know where she is going (during outings, for example). I try my best to write things down on our calendar in the kitchen, and to CC my husband on emails, but keep falling back to old habits and forget to copy him. I know it is not intentional, but my husband wants me to correct this bad habit, or he says he can't do it anymore and is going to force me out of the relationship. BTW, we have 2 children now. I also think it is somewhat normal, esp. with children: I definitely think I am much less focussed now than before kids, and having to deal with thousands of different things during the day makes it challenging to be organized. I have started to think too that I may have ADD. Would anyone have any insight on that problem? How did you tackle this? Is it just me?

Oh gosh, I feel your pain! I have an ADHD diagnoses, and this kind of thing is SO hard for me. One of the best things we did as a family for this kind of thing was buy a huge calendar from Office Depot and hang it in our kitchen. Each month my spouse and I each write all of our meetings, appointments etc on the calendar. For me it's become a daily practice to look at the calendar and add whatever I need to. ( I do it in the evening when I'm cleaning up the kitchen... but find a time that works for you.) Now that our kids are a little older they add things too... even if it's just a little drawing or doodle. It's really helped us keep up with who needs to be when and where. ADHD with love

Me and my partner both have trouble communicating family dates and events. It seems pretty normal with kids--but not ideal. (I also think trouble focusing is normal with children.) It doesn't seem like there should be such a big ultimatum for these oversights. That would make me very nervous. Could he help you out? What if he made time to ask you about upcoming plans every Sunday and Wednesday nights, for example? Calendar challenged too

There is some resemblance in the story you tell to my own problems with keeping dates and appointments straight, and I have come to believe that I have some form of ADD. There could also be some underlying resentment of your husband's former unavailability in play. But I think that a good way to deal with these issues is to treat them not as huge emotional dramas (which they can easily be) but pragmatic problems. Get a big calendar and post it in a prominent place in your home (near the phone would be a bonus). Hang a pencil from the calendar so you don't have to hunt for one (one issue with ADD is getting sidetracked... you start looking for a pencil and suddenly remember that you need to take the meat out of the freezer and then you start working on the time-line for dinner and then... wait, what was I looking for?) Every time you make an appointment, write it on the calendar. If you are not sure about it yet (and some of these maybe require consultation with the hubby?) write it in pencil with a question mark. If you are away from home when you make the appointment, carry a calendar (my phone is my calendar) and when you get home each evening, the first thing you do after entering the door is go directly to the calendar and transfer all info. If you can develop these stupid little habits, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary drama in your life. I thought I would never be able to improve, but the development of iCalendar technology has allowed me to synch calendars, which has revolutionized my life. Good luck with it! also afflicted

My partner and I used to have a similar problem. We set up a weekly time (for us, Friday evenings) when we ''calendar.'' This means we both pull out our calendars and go through them together. We end up with joint activities on both our calendars, and a sense of where we'll both be in the week ahead. Hope that helps

We had the same problem, only for different reasons. We are both very organized and ''in charge'' types, and we were constantly scheduling conflicting events, which we wouldn't find out about until the day of.

Two words: Google Calendar. As long as you check in every morning, on your laptop or phone or whatever, it could change your life. It takes a little while to set up since you will both need to transfer everything to a google calendar. You will each have your own calendar(s) that you share with each other (or not), and then you may have one or more calendars in common, like for your kid(s). You can both see and edit the same events. You can set up email reminders for the day or week or hour before. You can post recurring events like family birthdays and tax reminders. You can have it email your husband an alert when you add a new event to the calendar or vice versa.

We have 4 calendars that we share - we each have our own work calendars, and we have a separate calendar for our son, for doctor appts., playdates, school events, camps, etc. We also have a separate calendar for his school calendar, which the school provides. When I'm looking at the calendar, I can turn off my husband's work calendar and not view his daily meetings, or turn it on to see that he's not home yet because he had a late meeting today. I have a couple of my own private calendars, for my hobbies and for tracking weight loss, and I think he has a couple private ones too. Last summer we even made a separate ''vacation'' calendar that we shared with my sister, who went on a 3-week trip with us, so we'd all know where we'd be on which day. Try it out! Organized person

My wife and I use google calendars to coordinate schedules. If one of us adds an event to the calendar, we can both see it. So easy! Of course, this only works if you are both regularly using a computer or smartphone... Good luck! Jonathan

I think this is one of those things where therapy might be appropriate. I had my own issue (in my case, not wanting to go to bed because of negative experiences with my previous husband). I would drag my feet and putter around the house for hours, in a way avoiding my new partner who was the nicest person and only wanted to hug and say goodnight. It was old habits and I had forgotten all about that behavior until I read your post. So the good news is, you can move beyond that. I must have stopped doing that five years ago, very gradually. You are already aware that this behavior is probably related to important survival skills you developed in response to your parents. I've seen those same behaviors in my foster children, so I get it. Now you need some help untangling this with a good therapist. I don't think it's all about memory. I forget to tell my husband about events too, but not to the level you're talking about. with insight you can heal much

As I was reading your post I thought I'd give you some advice about using a ''family calendar'' pinned to your kitchen wall, but then I got to the part about your husband saying this was going to lead to him leaving you! It sounds a lot more serious than just event notifications; either there are other things going on that you didn't mention, or he is overreacting. Marriage counseling, perhaps? Good luck!

I suggest that you put aside 15 minutes everyday at the same time to talk about the calender with your husband. Get out a paper calender, put it on the table, and add the activities that you have added to the calender that day. Take that time to go through your emails, notes, and conversations so that he is informed of all plans. Ask him to do the same. Anon 

Husband with ADD laid off, aimless

Nov 2012

I'm kind of at my wits' end with my husband. I love him and don't see us ever parting, but our situation is driving me crazy. He has ADD and has cycled through 5 or 6 jobs in the 10 years we've been together, beginning with a failed business partnership and including a couple of years of unemployment. He does web programming, which I think he just can't stay focused enough to do well. The only job that went well was a limited contractor position that he was also very bored with; the jobs that challenge him all end with him getting fired or laid off because he doesn't produce enough, quickly enough. He's a super nice, kind, personable guy and a real Renaissance Man in terms of being very well educated and able to do many things (from brewing beer to handyman projects to raising vegetables), but he's approaching mid-40s and if he doesn't get settled in a career soon, our hopes of sending our kids to college and ever having any kind of retirement are unlikely to happen. I run my own businesses, which do reasonably well, but can't support us beyond subsistence level in the bay area. We are looking into organizational coaching for his ADD and career counseling for a possible career shift, but my main problem is that he is extremely lethargic about making changes. He says he's willing, but then does almost nothing each day - between making meals, posting on facebook, surfing the internet, organizing his Magic cards (not to mention long stretches in the bathroom playing sudoku), there seems to be little time for tackling these issues. He makes endless lists, but makes little progress on checking off tasks. His office looks like a hoarder's haven because he can't sort through paper and it just stacks up. I work at home and witness this every day and think ''no wonder he can't keep a job!'' I feel awful saying that but need to figure out how to motivate him. HELP! starting to panic

Try medication. It's working wonders for my husband. Don't give up yet

I am an adult with ADD and also married, so I can really understand both what your husband is going through, as well as why you are beginning to feel panicked. I think it's great that your husband will be getting ADD coaching and career counseling -- I hope they will both help to generate some motivation and clarity for him.

I can't help wondering two things -- has he tried ADD meds before? I had a LOT of resistance to taking meds, but noticed a huge improvement in my symptoms once I finally got on the right ones (dexedrine CR and later adderall really helped me -- controlled release was the key for me). The other is it sounds like your husband may be experiencing depression -- compulsive list making and game playing can be a form of escape but also a way to self-soothe, and I notice I tend to do stuff like that when I feel anxious and like my life is totally out of control, and when I am becoming depressed. Talking about all the life changes he is undergoing, therapy and/or meds may help with that, as well.

It sounds like you are an extremely loving and supportive partner. I know looking in on ADD from the outside must be confusing and frustrating at times -- as someone who has it, the biggest thing for me would be to feel like my partner never loses faith in me, even when I am struggling with my ADD. I also think from your standpoint, that you don't have to mollycoddle someone who is not rising to their potential just because they are having a hard time, especially when their choices impact you. Gentle but honest statements about how you feel (not criticisms of him) and how you are affected by what he is going through, along with offers to support and stand by him through the changes he is undergoing may go a long way.

Are you guys familiar with CHADD? They are a support group for adults with ADHD and may have additional resources for you. www.chaddnorcal.org

Wishing you both the best -- sounds like a tough time, but one that you can definitely get through together... Anon

Seems clear my husband has ADD; drives me crazy

Jan 2010

It seems pretty clear from my husband's behavior, and online diagnostics tests, that my husband has ADD. He functions pretty well - holds a job, etc. But, it drives me crazy. He can't find things, our garage is a mess because of him, and more. I find this so frustrating and feel that it's now at a point that it affects how I relate to him.

He gets this too, and would like to fix things, which is wonderful. Where do we start? We are not interested in drug solutions, but rather for him to learn some new ways of doing things and being more organized.

Does anyone know a coach or someone who works with ADD people to help them learn better organization skills? Other options? We're in the North Berkeley/Albany area, and would love something close by.

Thanks! Thankful he wants to change

My husband has ADD too. I would recommend that he get a real evaluation to actually see if he is truly has ADD. My husband has only recently been diagnosed with ADD. Living with his destructive behavior has severally affected our marriage. I wouldn't rule out medications. When my husband actually takes his medication I see a completely different person...a reasonable man! If his clutter and disorganization skills are affecting you I know there are coaches out there that can help with those skills. I am personally not looking for coaches yet. I am looking for a therapist who specializes in adult ADD. There is a great book that really helped me understand and live with someone with ADD is a book called, ''Is it you or me? or adult ADD:, the author is Gina Pera. Good Luck Dianna

My spouse gave me the book Driven From Distraction, saying I needed to read it since it's for Adults w/ ADD/ADHD. Caveat- ''wrecking our marriage'', said the spouse. Anyway, haven't read the book by Holloway (who wrote Driven to Distraction for kid-related issues) but am trying Adderall. What is good about the meds in this class is that:
1) They either work or don't work very quickly - in matter of days you will (everyone else,too, if it works) know if it's helpful.
2) There are a lot of choices of both stimulant and non- stimulant meds.
3) Don't make you gain weight.
4) Can take only one dose for part of the day.

P.S. My spouse can always tell if I've taken my dose or not and I can't tell so much but seem to be less scattered.

P.S.S. Her untreated issues are wrecking our marriage. We're trying the live in the same house but divorced status.

Husband diagnosed with ADD, I'm doing all the work

June 2007

My husband was diagnosed with ADD a month before the birth of our 2nd child (now alomst 2). It was a relief to hear it b/c I no longer took his ''stuff'' so personally or intentionally. I actuall y have a lot of compassion for him as I see ho hard he struggles. He does not want to take stimulants but has tried 2 other meds with slight results (moslty a lift in depression/hostility)-however he is presently not taknig anything b/c of side effects. I keep encoruaging diet changes, fish oils but he forgets. I get frustrated b/c I feel like I am doing all the work , cleaning up after him and a nag for asking/reminding him to do stuff... Thoughts? I deas? Books? We are very very tight on money... Also, of course, I am worried about our kids. What should I be on the look out for? frustrated

For loads of information and support go to www.CHADD.org It stands for something like children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I've worked with a number of ADD people as a coach and have not found medication to be necessary. DS

You are fortunate that your husband has been diagnosed. It's much better to know the devil you are dealing with! The best weapon for your husband is information, and he can get straightforward, scientifically validated information at www.chadd.org. Thanks to the efforts of this national organization and our local group of volunteers, he can attend support groups that meet weekly at Alta Bates Herrick Campus (on Dwight Way, between Milvia and Shattuck). They are open to non-members and cost $5. It's a great place to get ideas and enjoy the company of those who also deal with the disorder. As you can tell, I'm an enthusiastic supporter of CHADD! For a schedule of the meetings, visit www.chaddnorcal.org. He'll be welcomed and appreciated. LL