Separate the person from the condition. If your spouse can't remember to run errands or forgets your anniversary, remind yourself: It is a medical condition. Look at it objectively. People with ADHD are bombarded with messages like just try harder, focus, and figure out a way to get it done. "The non-ADHD spouse needs to understand that [he] is asking for something impossible," Sherburne says. "The more pressure you put on, the more they'll feel like they're failing, and the more their confidence will sink."
Consider joining a support group. The non-profit CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) has chapters in nearly every city. When unaffected spouses attend support group sessions, they often feel relieved, says Sherburne. For the first time, they may realize the challenges they're facing aren't unique to their family.
Change the way you communicate. "Instead of pointing your finger and saying, 'You always forget to take the garbage out,' restate it with an 'I' message," Matlen says. Try: "I get really frustrated when the garbage piles up. What can we do about it?" That style of communication will lessen your partner's defensive reaction, and turn an obstacle into something you tackle together.
Break tasks into pieces. "If someone without ADHD needed to clean the garage, they might be a little overwhelmed, but they'd get to work," Matlen says. "But asking a person with ADHD to clean a garage is like asking someone to move a mountain." A solution? Make the project more manageable by tackling it one step at a time. Start, for instance, by buying garbage bags,then isolate and focus on one corner of the garage. The more a task is broken down, the more likely it will get done.
Get by with a little help from a digital assistant. People with ADHD have two time zones, says Matlen: "now," and "not now." Using a BlackBerry or a similar device is a way to set reminders that brings you back into the "now" time zone.
Invoke the help of outside resources. If your partner has trouble keeping the house tidy or remembering to mow the lawn every Sunday, hire a cleaning service or a lawn-cutting service. The cost may take a lesser toll on your wallet than another argument would on your marriage.
Embrace the good parts. People with ADHD are often fun-loving, high-energy, and exciting to be around. "If someone is impulsive, they usually come up with great, spur-of-the-moment ideas," Sherburne says. "Be open to the spontaneity."