Today’s post concludes my talk with Melissa Orlov, author of The ADHD Effect on Marriage. These are just a few of the topics we touched on.
ADHD in a marriage is complex; to find out more, I’d encourage you to pick up her book, or attend her upcoming seminar.
Zoë: Many people with ADHD earn less than their partners. This can create a power imbalance in a relationship. Can you address this?
Melissa: There have been articles lately about how women are starting to become the major household earners. … As a society, we haven’t come to embrace this yet.
So you actually have a double whammy: you have the fact that ADHD people statistically are more likely to have failures at work than non-ADHD people; and you have the fact that more men with ADHD are diagnosed than women. So…the most likely scenario is a woman is out-earning a man, and it happens to be a non-ADHD woman and an ADHD man. And that’s very complex.
Zoë: So what’s the solution to that?
Melissa: I would love to see couples unhook from the gender bias so that if you have somebody who is a really good wage earner, that both members of the couple can embrace that. That would be one of the first things.
The second is for the ADHD person to try to find jobs that fit their skill set and not just focus in on what earns a certain dollar amount. …They’re going to be more successful if they do something that fits their skill set rather than just try to jam themselves into what’s expected of them.
Zoë: A divorce is so painful, destructive, and damaging. I would think if it can be avoided, that would be a self-affirming thing: to be able to work through [the difficulties] instead.
Melissa: Even though I say that I’m an advocate for marriage, what I’m really an advocate for is [the couple] fixing their relationship. I’m a lot less interested in keeping them from getting a divorce than I am in helping them fix their relationship.
Thinking about fixing the relationship is more productive because it’s a personal thing. You’re not fixing a thing; you’re not requiring that your partner do X number of chores because that’s what you saw your parents do, and that’s what you envision as being part of a marriage. You’re doing what works best for you as two people, and how you two fit together.
Zoë: Many people with ADHD are unconventional, and have different priorities.
What works well for somebody who wants to have a successful marriage but who isn’t going to conform to some of the conventional marriage patterns?
Melissa: Many people with ADHD actually have a different biological clock than their non-ADHD partners. I run into this in a huge proportion of my couples.
The problem with the unconventional hours isn’t the unconventional hours, it’s that there are fewer hours in the day where both members of the couple are awake and available to attend to each other. In that particular instance, you do a creative solution that acknowledges that no marriage survives when you don’t have enough time to attend to each other and you create it.
Another is making sure that each of you is doing something that fulfills you. So, being a creative, a theatre person or an artist, or whatever, you treasure that. You want to be with a partner who will treasure that aspect of you and support it in whatever way. But again, as a couple, it doesn’t matter how much you treasure the fact that your partner is a thespian, it matters that you have enough time to connect with each other.
Often with people with ADHD it means scheduling it so that they don’t get distracted away from it. It means committing to say, okay, every Saturday afternoon we’re going to go do something together.
Zoë: When I think about committing to, say, every Saturday at three o’clock I think, what if this comes in? Or what if that comes in? If I were in a relationship what I would have to do is value that time together, understand why it’s valuable, why it’s necessary, why without it I don’t have a relationship at the end of the day.
This is why you schedule it. Because the temptation when you have ADHD is just to go for whatever is in the now, whatever’s coming at you.
Want more insights into what works and what doesn’t in a marriage with The ADHD Effect?
Thanks, Melissa, for taking the time to speak with me and share some of your insights and tips.
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Last reviewed: 23 Apr 2012