Divorce and ADHD
People with ADHD, known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, are more likely to divorce than those without. Similarly, people with children with ADHD are more likely to get divorced. ADHD is real and it can have severe and chronic impacts on your personality and your relationship. If you are facing divorce and ADHD, knowledge is power, and you need someone experienced with this neurological condition.
The Impact of ADHD on Relationships
When people are unable to follow through on their promises and plans, it can become difficult to live with. Even the individual will eventually start to loathe themselves, or at the very least get frustrated with their own inability to provide the same level of attention and dedication that they are getting from their partner. This can lead to serious issues that stem from feelings of inadequacy or a sense that one partner just “doesn’t care”, even when they do.
ADHD makes people impulsive and makes focusing on things difficult. It can make it hard to communicate with a partner who can’t focus on a conversation. It can add challenges to parenting and family life when one partner forgets things or can’t follow through on plans. There are so many different ways that it can go, but it never goes well.
ADHD can cause issues in relationships when:
- Someone has intense emotions and feelings as a result of their ADHD, but the feelings aren’t mutual or are too intense for their partner.
- A partner is hyperfocused on work, kids, or other aspects of life, taking away from the attention on their spouse, intimacy, and other areas.
- Inappropriate or angry outbursts interrupt otherwise “normal” conversation or behavior.
- The affected partner forgets important dates, or even just regularly forgets things as a part of routine tasks. Despite being a symptom of the condition, it can get frustrating for some.
- The lack of focus affects intimacy so far that it inhibits a couple’s sex life or keeps them from spending “alone time” together because one partner cannot focus on the other.
- One partner struggles with negative self-image and a lack of confidence from past “failed” relationships that carries over into the current relationship.
- The partner with ADHD is constantly questioning the love, trust, and commitment of the other, which can drive a wedge in even the best relationships.
When Focus and Follow Through Fail
Of course, these issues may initially be hard to identify because the ADHD partner will also use their hyperfocus and intense emotions to shower the new romance with love and attention, which is one winning quality for those struggling with this condition in relationships. Over time, the negative aspects of the condition will begin to appear, and that can often make some partners feel misled or lied to when the good turns sour.
These are just a few examples of how ADHD has an impact on relationships. Essentially, any and all of the symptoms of this condition can show up and affect people’s ability to relate to others. When it impacts the primary relationship and affects that trust and intimate connection, it can be irreversibly damaging.
Even when ADHD is properly managed, it can be a lot to handle. People affected by the condition are often open about warning potential partners of the condition, but some may be ashamed and take the former route of hyperfocusing on the good so that they don’t have to talk about the potential bad.
Even with the best intentions, the condition will start to affect relationships over time if it is not properly handled and understood. That’s why the best thing that you can do is to know what you’re dealing with and have a plan for how to handle the entire divorce and custody process, including the ADHD of you or your soon-to-be ex.
Divorce and ADHD
How Does ADHD Manifest During Divorce?
There are a few different scenarios that could play out here. In rare cases where ADHD is severe or becomes a central issue in the relationship, it could lead to divorce. For starters, if someone has impulse control issues, it could affect their spending habits, which are often a financial stressor in any marriage. Some people could struggle with intimacy because of their inability to focus or commit time to their partner.
There are many ways that ADHD can impact a divorce, be a factor in the decision, and even manifest during the divorce process and make things more difficult. ADHD affects relationships in several ways, and many partners report that sex and intimacy are at the top of the list, followed closely by explosive anger and the constant disruptions that lead to exhaustion, thereby limiting alone time, relaxation, and normalcy in the relationship.
In the divorce process, that explosive anger can become a serious point of contention if it is not controlled. The stress of ending a marriage and trying to move on with life is a lot for anyone, and for people who struggle to balance their emotions, it can be almost unbearable. During a divorce, ADHD can show itself in ways like:
- One partner’s spoken desire to improve things, but lack of follow-through
- When a partner says they will be less angry, but can’t control their outbursts because of the stress
- Being disorganized, losing paperwork, missing appointments, and even struggling to complete necessary forms and steps in the process because of procrastination and other symptoms of ADHD.
- Jumping around and losing focus in day-to-day activities, which can put further strain on the relationship.
- Some parents struggling with ADHD could lose track of time or get hyper-focused on activities and be late to pick up children or meet the other parent for custody arrangements or appointments. This could affect the court’s decision on custody if it happens too frequently as it appears pretty unstable.
Basically, all of the symptoms of ADHD are going to be 100 times worse during the divorce process. If there are custody issues at hand, the stress could be even greater, as could the impact of the condition on the outcome. That is why it’s important to have a qualified lawyer and a solid plan for managing your or your partner’s ADHD during the divorce process and beyond.
Divorce and ADHD has plagued celebrity Terry Bradshaw.
Terry Bradshaw is famously known for his relationship issues, although few people know the details behind the situation. After four marriages and a public fight with depression and ADHD, Bradshaw sought help through therapy and medication and then spoke out about his own struggles in an attempt to help others.
Bradshaw’s existing mental health issues were compounded by struggling relationships, and in 1999 his third wife sought a divorce after 16 years of marriage. That was what finally sent him into a total tailspin, where he reported constant anxiety attacks, bouts of crying, insomnia, and other struggles. His depression and ADHD led him to drinking and anger. He spent some time drinking so much that he told USA Today “I wasn’t sure if I was going to drink myself to death”.
Instead, he got help and now tries to help others. Despite his football success and the rest of his career and life accomplishments, Bradshaw feels that this is the lesson he was put here to teach– that the stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be removed so that people can get the help that they deserve. Like Bradshaw says, and as we discussed in the chapter on addiction, these people are sick, not “bad”.
Tools, Tips, and Management Resources for ADHD in Divorce and Custody Situations
For those not already in treatment, seeing a licensed mental health professional, psychologist, or psychiatrist will be first on the agenda. Failure to treat or control the condition could lead to a custody evaluation or loss of parenting time. Even outside of any relationship or legal issues, people need to help themselves by seeking treatment through counseling, medication, and other therapies that are available. If you need help finding a provider, check out CHADD, a leading resource for ADHD.
If you or your soon-to-be ex are dealing with an ADHD condition that isn’t being actively and properly treated, that needs to happen before anything else. Your lawyer can advise you on the best course of action, whether you’re the one seeking treatment or you are trying to get your spouse to seek help.
In some cases, the courts will want to see a psychological assessment, which can only be obtained by going to the right doctors and being diagnosed with ADHD and other mood disorders or mental health conditions. Make sure that you start the discussion right away if this is one of the factors impacting your divorce proceedings or custody situation.
If you are the one struggling with ADHD, it could result in difficulty dealing with the often overwhelming stress that occurs during separation and the legal process of divorce. Make sure that you keep your therapist on call during this process and keep track of your own moods and focus.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, ask for help. Another way to reduce your own stress is to hire a qualified divorce and family law attorney that will assure that you get a fair outcome and that you don’t have to worry about any of the details.
Get a lawyer experienced with Divorce and ADHD
A lawyer will take care of most of the stressful and laborious parts of your divorce or custody hearing. They will be able to educate you and reassure you along the way, and will make the entire process less stressful. This can help reduce the incidence of your ADHD rearing its ugly head and getting things off track. You can also make sure your parenting plan addresses any special needs of a child with ADHD.
If you have a partner who is battling ADHD, it could make communication and cooperation difficult. Their lack of motivation and inability to follow through on tasks could drag things out and make it quite difficult, in some cases.
You may need to work out an arrangement with them, and in serious cases, you may even need to get the court involved to encourage them to get it together so that you can get things taken care of and start moving forward.
Planning ahead is always the biggest and best tip when it comes to dealing with any kind of obstacles in divorce, and especially when it comes to mental and emotional issues. You never know what will happen and there’s no way to know what to expect, which is why having some plans in place is a must. You will want to plan for situations that come up unexpectedly, as well as use preventive measures to avoid as many issues as you can.
If you are willing to put in a little extra work, no matter how ADHD factors into your divorce or custody cases, you will be better prepared for whatever happens. You can’t prevent everything, but you can prepare for it.