ADHD spouse burnout refers to intense feelings of frustration that can result from continually dealing with the challenges involved in marriage to a person with ADHD. The problems stem from common symptoms of the condition, such as inattention, distractibility, and impulsiveness.

Certain strategies can help with making relationships work. These include engaging in self-care to promote optimal health. Setting boundaries and communicating effectively are also helpful.

This article discusses strategies for managing relationships in which a person has ADHD. It also offers support resources for people with the condition.

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ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Although people usually receive the diagnosis during childhood, it frequently lingers into adulthood.

A 2021 review indicates that ADHD that begins in childhood and persists into adulthood affects 2.58% of people worldwide. Symptomatic adult ADHD, which includes cases with and without childhood onset, affects 6.76%.

Potential effects of symptoms on relationships

The three primary ADHD symptoms include persistent:

These symptoms may appear differently in adults. For instance, hyperactivity may manifest as restlessness. In adults, they may lead to issues with relationships, home life, and work.

While all relationships have ups and downs, an ADHD-affected one may pose specific challenges. According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), a person without ADHD in an ADHD-affected relationship may sometimes experience increasing frustration with the symptoms.

This may continue to the point they become increasingly discouraged and feel they cannot continue the relationship. It states that the relationship breakup rate among people with ADHD is double the rate of those without the condition.

Learn more about ADHD.

Several approaches can help with managing challenges that may occur in an ADHD-affected relationship. These may include:

  • engaging in self-care
  • setting boundaries
  • communicating effectively
  • navigating obstacles
  • pursing peacefulness

Engaging in self-care

Self-care is essential. A healthy lifestyle can help give a person the wherewithal necessary to manage a relationship and a household if applicable. This may include:

Additionally, writing down any frustrations in a venting book may help individuals manage their thoughts.

Learn more about self-care.

Setting boundaries

Setting and maintaining clear, consistent boundaries may help. This can include:

  • Owning behaviors: It is important for people to apologize if something they say impulsively hurts another person.
  • Committing to plans: This might entail putting events on a calendar to try to ensure follow-through.
  • Taking individual responsibility for timekeeping: Each person takes responsibility for getting places on time and keeping appointments.
  • Refraining from making promises that may be hard to keep: Making more doable commitments means a person may be more likely to be able to complete them.
  • Having a code word for when an argument becomes heated: The code word signifies that it is time to drop the subject temporarily until emotions are calmer.
  • Speaking with respect: This helps people feel emotionally safe and may prevent disagreements from escalating.

Learn more about setting boundaries.

Communicating effectively

Principles of effective communication include:

  • Being explicit: For example, expressing clearly who is making dinner on a given night. Having a shared calendar can help.
  • Being direct and honest: A person may try saying, “I need this from you.”
  • Expressing love and commitment: It is important to assure each other of continued love and commitment to making the relationship work.

When discussing challenges and suggesting solutions, a quiet place with few distractions is an ideal setting. To reduce the possibility of forgetfulness, it may help to summarize the talk afterward with a concise email or text.

It may also help to speak in a caring, kind manner but with firm resolve. It is important to avoid blaming or using critical words or hurtful nonverbal expressions, such as raised voices, sighs, and grimaces.

Navigating obstacles

According to CHADD, certain behaviors a person without ADHD in a relationship affected by the condition may perform can be counterproductive.

These include overhelping, where the person without ADHD engages in patterns of excessive caretaking. Assuming responsibilities that would typically fall to the person with ADHD can lead to what experts call “learned helplessness.”

This can result in the person without ADHD feeling overburdened, anxious, or exhausted, and the individual with ADHD feeling overmanaged.

In some instances, a person without ADHD may also behave like a punitive parent toward the person with the condition. This can create defensiveness in the individual with ADHD.

Living peacefully

Relationships can weaken when dealing with ongoing issues and conflict. The below measures for pursuing peacefulness may help strengthen emotional bonds:

  • Rekindling love: This can involve scheduling private time, such as a weekly date night.
  • Accepting imperfections: It may help to remember that every person has flaws.
  • Prioritizing conflicts: It may be unnecessary and unhelpful to address every conflict. Instead, people may choose the most important ones to address.
  • Focusing on the positive: This involves looking for the good in people and giving compliments.
  • Being compassionate: It can be helpful for people without ADHD to become familiar with how the condition can affect many aspects of life. This may lead to the cultivation of more patience and compassion.

Below are some sources of support:

“ADHD spouse burnout” may result from relationship issues that stem from common ADHD symptoms, such as inattention, forgetfulness, and impulsiveness. Burnout may threaten a relationship, as the rate of relationship breakdown among people with ADHD is double that of those without the condition.

Various strategies can help reduce frustration and strengthen relationships. These include engaging in self-care, setting boundaries, communicating effectively, and living peacefully.

A person experiencing frustration related to ADHD in relationships may benefit from joining a support group. It may also help to read through support resources to learn the effects of ADHD and get additional ideas on managing ADHD-affected relationships.