blog | Feb 2, 2011 | 7 Comments

Married to ADHD, What I wish I would have learned sooner ….

Loving someone with ADHD is kind of like juggling. You start out learning with three  little red rubber balls to keep in the air. It’s new, it’s novel, it’s cute. You can do it with a little practice.

After falling in love and marrying my guy I could keep my work schedule going, our social schedule managed and pay the rent and utilities. Sure, I could do some extra chores and laundry because he’s cute and I’m in love. There’s a few promotions at work, then we buy a dog and suddenly there are a few more balls to juggle. I work harder, I drop a few balls and begin to curse more. I buckle down with better systems and more planning. I am determined that I can control and manage this like I have everything else in my life.

In comes the mortgage and the babies and it becomes very clear, I am no longer juggling cute little red rubber balls that bounce when you drop them. Now I’m  juggling chainsaws. Big important stuff.  One little slip and the collections people are calling and you’re dishing out  $5 a minute to the daycare every time you’re late for pickup. That’s when things start to get dicey.

The true impact of ADHD in our relationship didn’t really hit me until I moved up to juggling chainsaws. Quickly the cute little nuances and nuisances of ADHD like little red bouncy balls were no longer cute, they were dicey and dangerous like chainsaws.

After more than a few dropped chainsaw moments, I began to realize that I had signed up to live a life that not even my mad time management skills could keep up with. The more I tried to keep it together, the more things were falling apart. The level of frustration was like compounding interest day after day.

I moved in for the kill. I was going to conquer this clutter, this chaos and ‘pity the fool’ who got in my way. Step back, I got this.

What I wish I would have gotten earlier was that I was the one that should have been stepping back. Stepping back to re-frame expectations, stepping back to gain perspective.

Because my man wasn’t really digging the idea of being managed. He had lived happily in a world where piles of socks lay conveniently at his feet each morning. Perfectly folded socks in a drawer gave him little uptick in life satisfaction.  This is a man that loved to grocery shop each night based on his preference of the moment. He’d never considered or had the desire to shop for the week with a detailed list. He shopped fresh and felt great about it. He was happy before I came along with my Snuggle fabric softener and my FranklinPlanner. In fact, he was suffocating on the rain forest scent of his socks and the constant demands that clean counters required.

He is a man, my husband, not a project to be managed. I had never considered that he might actually enjoy his life of sock piles and “in the moment” decisions.

I wish I would have learned that  lesson at least six years earlier. I was too busy working harder and doing process improvement on my chainsaw juggling skills to really notice that we were falling apart. Because I’m the one with the mad time management skills, it must be his messiness and lack of organization that was bringing us down. I’ve spent the better part of my career teaching others about relationships and skills of effectiveness. Clearly, I had all the answers. If he’d just get his act together we’d be OK. And on the other side of the slammed door, he was saying, if she’d just chill out and stop bitching we’d be OK. We were both right. But no one was seeing or listening.

This problem exists in many relationships or marriages. What makes it more interesting when you add a little ADHD to the mix is we are dealing with brain functions causing behavior, not character flaws or disrespect. Asking my ADHD husband to be more organized or remember details of things he doesn’t care about is like asking the blind guy to look both ways before he crosses the street.   You can ask that blind guy to try harder, you can be mad when he doesn’t ‘see’, but none of that changes the fact he is blind. Once I made the huge shift to realizing that his lack of organization and attention to my details were not a character flaw, it was a brain function, I began to see him differently.

These were becoming chainsaw moments because I was asking him to see the world through my values and expectations. He was busy telling me to relax and “just chill” through his values and expectations. My need for calm and organization is of  high value to me, but is it a value above the love and respect for my husband? Was my value placed on order and organization the right answer or just my answer?

When you stop seeing the person, and start only seeing their ADHD, you go from a wide angle lens to a laser that burns and destroys most things in its path.

I had become a laser, pointing out his so called flaws about organization. But I was destroying our relationship on the process. I had lost track of the man I had fallen in love with and married.

I remember vividly coming home from a long and grueling business trip. I entered the back door, stepped over a pile of laundry, rounded the corner into the kitchen and found this; shredded newspaper on the table, the chairs, the floor, a cardboard box opened and thrown to the side, dirty dishes covering the counter, open boxes of CheezIts, bags of pretzels, open two liter bottles of Coke and Dr. Pepper.

I also found; my husband at the kitchen table engaged in an intense game of chess with our son. Our daughter was hovered over them with the intensity and interest usually reserved for the latest episode of iCarly. They were smiling, learning, interested, together and happy.

Here’s what happened before I arrived; In the midst of cleaning up the kitchen and getting ready for dinner, Dude, our son, had stumbled across the marble chess set, long forgotten since we had moved. It was packed carefully in shredded newspaper. He was so excited to get it out and learn to play. He tore open the box and begged and pleaded with my husband to play chess until he finally caved  leaving dinner and clean up abandoned, replaced by CheezIts, Pretzels and Dr. Pepper. 

 I still look back so proud at my response. On many occassions I would have ranted and raved about the mess and the irresponsibility of no proper dinner and blah blah blah.  Instead I stepped back and appreciated that my husband could abandon all of that organization and “should dos” and just play. My kids will never remember the countless dinners of grilled chicken and brocolli served before 7pm. They will, however, remember that Dad was an “in the moment” kinda guy. I envy that. I also have to constantly remind myself that seperately we’re both quite annoying and together we’re the perfect balance.

Once the paradigm can shift to Not Wrong, Just Different, only then can we set out on a journey to discover  where chaos and calm can coexist in a place of love and respect..  Cliche’ as it is, this is absolutely a journey and not a destination.

My goal in writing this book is to give you a chance to be more proactive in your approach. Maybe you’ve fallen in love with a beautiful person that happens to be ADHD and you’re juggling the red rubber balls. This journey together will be like a class in perspective and a reminder to put down the chainsaw.  Maybe you’ve already dropped a few chainsaws and there’s been some injuries and a fair amount of mayhem. Don’t lose hope. This book could be your journey back to a loving relationship.Sometimes we need a little help to communicate about ADHD to others that don’t understand. I hope this book will help you have meaningful conversations. 

Make the shift with your eyes and your heart wide open. See and feel it differently. Actively choose the right paradigm and approach in your ADHD relationship. Plugging in the right point of view helps you to pick the right behaviors for yourself. I’m asking you to plug into your heart and into your brain that each of us is Not Wrong, Just Different. An ADHD person isn’t wrong. Their brains were formed by God too. My desire to have things stacked in order and color coded is also Not Wrong, Just Different.  Together you have the perfect recipe of living in the moment and paying the mortgage on time.


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Enjoyed your blog, Rebecca. It reminds me of when my mother would say to my father, if you just tried harder you could remember. He had Alzheimer’s. It was sad for both until the surrender and acceptance came. And then they could move on to a place where even though he didn’t recognize her, he loved her enough to ask her to marry him. Sweet.

Your Name


Thanks Nancy, that’s beautiful. Love overcomes all, if we just let it in.



Wow. I’m reading this right after I got the house straightened up for the night. My baby and husband are asleep. We have had a long and horrible day of arguing. This helps me soo much, I can’t even begin to explain. I never have even considered this perspective on my relationship (even though I’ve known for years that my husband was told he was ADHD as a child and was put on medication for it for a brief peroid & I’m an organizer). Thank you for this blog. It gives me hope!

Destiny Cox


So glad we’ve connected. I’m no stranger to the day long argument! It fuels my fire to know this was helpful. That was always the intent. I HIGHLY recommend you pick up Melissa Orlov’s book The ADHD Effect on Marriage – it’s been a real help to us – we’re doing her marriage teleseminar now



I have done this for 15 years,I am tired, under appreciated ,raising three children while working and feeling stuck with declining ADhD marriage… I don’t have much left, I am unhappy , exhausted,frustrated and sexually turned off from my husband … He refuses to acknowledge his ADHD, he is ” too tired” to help after children are sleeping … I want out or I want him to disappear for ever … He made my life miserable.

Bea Heczko


It is so difficult when someone refuses to acknowledge and invest in themselves and the relationship. I have met my share of frustrated spouses in this situation and it breaks my heart. Sending prayers your way.



I watched your TED talk on youtube and you spoke directly to my heart. Reading this did the same. I am 25. My husband has ADHD and our son who is now 6 was diagnosed at 4 but I had known since he was 2. We also have two daughters ages 3 (as of just a few days ago) and 7 months. My life for the past 8 years has been chaos. It is exhausting having to take care of almost everything. Between being the only one in the house who cleans up. To making sure I remind my husband multiple times daily of what he needs to get from the store or where he needs to be by certain times. Along with all the other daily chores while my son is running around and all over the place, being loud, and picking on his sister. The challenge of getting his homework finished. A toddler in her terrible twos getting into everything and throwing tantrums. All the while taking care of a baby. It’s a highly demanding lifestyle. But one that I have come to terms with and I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. My Son and Husband are absolutely brilliant. I am learning new things from them every single day.
What I really wanted to touch base with though is what you spoke about in the video. My son just finished kindergarten. Already in kindergarten he was being labeled as a problem and his teacher repeatedly told us throughout the year he would not pass kindergarten. That he was “behind”. But yet, she would never take my advise on how to teach him or what to do so he wouldn’t constantly be disrupting the class. He wasn’t fitting into that assembly line and the school wanted to force him into that line and “fix” him instead of looking at him differently. I will not medicate my son and I told them this when we were registering him for school. They still, almost every month, told me I needed to get him on medication. With my response always being the same thing. “He does not NEED medication. He would not be a problem, or behind if you would just take into consideration that he will never be able to sit quietly and do his work like the rest of the children. I’ve told you what you need to be doing, Why will you not even consider it?”
Anyway, they said he wasn’t going to pass and that he for sure was not going to if he didn’t pass the last major test of the year. The morning of the test day I had simply said to my son, “Hey Buddy, I need you to listen to me right now as much as you can. Your school doesn’t see how smart you really are and they want to have you do kindergarten all over again. This test you have today is really important. I need you to do one thing for me and for yourself today. I need you to show them how smart you are today. You need to focus as much as you can on the test questions, okay? I know you know the answers. You can do it. I love you and I believe in you.” Well, I waited and waited to find out if he had passed it when the last day of school comes and he comes home with a completion of kindergarten certificate and all his report card said was, “have a nice summer.” I looked at him so excited and proud and said “You did it! You showed them they thought wrong about you. I am extremely proud of you. I’m always so proud of you.” He stood 10 feet tall that day. I called the school to find out exactly how he did on that test. He got a 96%. The third highest score in his class with the top two having a 97%.
If only people would take the time to realize how amazing these kids with ADHD are. How amazing it is to witness them during their “deep sea dives” of hyperfocus. There is nothing wrong with them, they are just different.



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