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I married a stranger

Dear ADHD Doctor,

My husband has ADHD, had it all his life. I knew it getting into the relationship – I had my eyes wide open. He was actually amazing when we were dating; spontaneous and attentive. It was wonderful.

Now that we have been married a little over a year, it’s like he is a different person. I know he loves me but what happened to the guy I married?

Signed Married to a Stranger
Dear Married to a Stranger,

Your not alone; this often mystifies many couples.
Remember: anything that is interesting, new, novel, competitive or compelling is going to keep an ADHD’er actively engaged.

Like so many couples experience, during the initial courtship, your ADHD partner is super tuned in to all of the new and exciting things happening – the world looks fresh and life is fun! Dating and being engaged has an air of novelty about it.

Once married, that new excitement begins to wear off and is slowly replaced with mundane details. Then the ADHD brain begins to appear to be less and less interested in the day to day details of the relationship.

Remember, it is not that your partner has neccessarily lost interest in you or your relationship. Instead what is happening is that his ADHD brain is starving for new and exciting things that will maintain his interest leval. This is again something that we ecounter quite a bit in couples where one or both partners has ADHD.

To have a successful relationship with an ADHD’er, it is important to keep life somewhat mixed up. I am not saying that routines should go by the wayside; indeed routine is very important as well and helps to keep us all grounded.

But be sure to make time for fun: Have a spontaneous date night once a week and do something out of the ordinary. (Make it a different night each week so it’s not predictable.) It doesn’t have to be expensive and might even be free.

For instance, take a camera and go for a walk and take pictures of each other in silly as well as serious poses. Or pack a few sandwiches and tell him you’re going on a date, then jump on your bikes and ride someplace for a picnic. You get the idea? Just mix it up and have fun.
This will help to keep your partner happy and engaged in the relationship, and it will provide an outlet for you as well. (Sometimes people who do not have ADHD can be somewhat stuffy and sticklers for details. This exercise may help you become more flexible, if that is a problem for you.)

FInally, let me share with you one final thought that was given to me by my own mom when I asked her what was the secret to being joyously married for 52 years.

Here was her ultimate marriage secret:
Try thinking about each day of your married life as if it were your first date together. Each night as you head off to bed, as yourself “IF this were our first date, would my husband invite me out for a second date based solely on how we interacted together today?”

It is a powerful question, and one that I think might be helpful for each of you to consider.

Thank you for writing.
Dr. Robert Wilford