A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

ADD/ADHD and Abuse in Marriage

Recently I was talking to a survivor with adult ADHD, and it started me on a path of researching the difficulties in marriages where one partner has ADD or ADHD. My ex told me that he took Ritalin as a child, and he displayed some of the hallmarks of a person with ADHD. In the aftermath of our divorce, I was still reeling from all of the abuse and still trying to get a handle on WHAT exactly had happened to me.

I knew that some of his behavior was clearly abusive (like threatening to beat me), but it was all the “other stuff” that I wasn’t sure about. Now I can put labels on everything and say “yes he was emotionally abusive, a big gaslighter, blah blah blah” — but back then I wondered if everything was the result of a combination of my own flaws (naturally, since he pointed them out constantly) and his ADHD issues.

I won’t post the link here, but there is a website that deals directly with marriage issues related to adult ADD/ADHD. If you read through the marriage counseling articles, and then read the comments from people in these marriages, some really troubling trends jump out at you.

#1. A lot of the commenters describe behavior that is clearly abusive.

#2. A lot of the recommendations for “accommodations to the ADHD sufferer in the relationship” involve things like “let them pick the chores that better suit them” etc.

It looks like there is a community of people who are suffering in marriages with a partner who regularly “forgets” all of their promises and responsibilities. They also seem only capable of doing “activities of their own choosing” and neglecting everything else. Then the partner feels like a nag. And then sometimes, these ADHD sufferers will lash out and blame their lack of caring on their brain disorder.

It has been discussed on this blog in the past (link) that things like Autism are not an excuse for abusing other people. In the same way, a diagnosis of adult ADD/ADHD is not an excuse to ignore your family, disregard all of your responsibilities, lash out with abusive words, or demand that the entire family accommodate you in the same way that an Abuser demands his family to cater to his every (changing) demand. ADHD is not an excuse to scream at your wife for spending $100 at the grocery store, and then turn around and wipe out the savings account to buy an expensive “Toy” on impulse.

That sort of behavior is abuse, and should not be catered to.


  1. Brenda R

    There is no excuse for abusing those that you supposedly love. My X doesn’t have ADD or ADHD, but can conveniently forget things without having those disorders. He does have hearing loss and in the past year is now using aides. He never seemed to be wearing them when I had something to say. Using this disability or any other as a crutch for why they abuse is really stretching the truth beyond reason. There are plenty of people who ADD and ADHD who are kind, caring individuals who would not think of abusing another.

  2. Yes, Katy – it’s very confusing to have a partner that has a neurological difference AND is abusive. I suspect many, many abusers have different wiring – I don’t believe that it is a cause for or an excuse for the abuse. But it does complicate the already complex dynamics of toxic relationships.

    We’re encouraged all our lives to be understanding and accepting and accommodating. For some of us, that’s exactly what our abusers ‘loved’ about us.

  3. Lynda T.

    I recognized symptoms of ADD in my abusive ex, but only discovered a few years later that he met the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. I have often wondered if his ADD had been recognized and appropriately dealt with when he was a child, would he have developed the full blown personality disorder? It has now been more than 20 years since my divorce, and I view the divorce as one of God’s greatest blessings in my life, a true deliverance from bondage!

    • Hi Lynda, thanks for sharing, and welcome to the blog. 🙂

  4. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    I have dear friends whom both parents and all five kids have some degree of ADHD. They are not at all abusive and function, they get hard, boring chores done. Using it as an excuse is just that, an excuse.

    • That’s so great to hear that, SS. Both parents and five kids:— all have some degree of ADHD, and none of them abusive!

      Let’s sing that from the rooftops! Yes. In and of itself, having ADHD (or any other mental disorder) does not cause abuse.

  5. fiftyandfree

    I have a friend who’s married to a man with ADD. He’s definitely neglectful of his family and she’s suffered in this marriage. I really would like to know what that website is so that I could refer her to it. Would you mind posting it?

  6. Happy2bhere

    I realize this is an old post, but for whoever reads it I just want to point something out. These abusers will use anything as an excuse for not changing their ways! I do think that any mental disorder will make an abuser that much worse and in denial so it probably is a red flag. I say this because I was diagnosed with ADHD for inattention and memory issues. I’ve never done well on tests, trouble finishing projects, forgetting what I’m doing etc. I’m sensitive to medication so none have worked for me. However, I still take care of my children each day, keep a working calendar, and housework gets done. My husband does not have ADD/ADHD, comes from an intact family who were always involved in church, and is abusive. I come from divorced parents who sometimes went to church, have ADHD, and don’t have a desire to control everyone or think I deserve special treatment. I do however interrupt sometimes but I’m aware when I just did it and apologize and let the person finish. I do keep a private journal of his antics because I’m forgetful and one day when I leave I may need to remember clearly. Abusers seem to lack self awareness and of course their entitlement is off the charts. I believe if someone wants change and acknowledges their sin, they can shine a light on what they are doing by telling the truth to someone and if they just can’t help themselves they can choose to leave out of love. But they don’t because they don’t want to be caught and be held accountable, they choose themselves and their need for control nearly each time. I’ve noticed my husband has the capacity to turn it on and shut it off so he doesnt get caught which tells me he is aware on some level. And as you all know, if you give them an inch of compassion theyll take a mile and it just backfires on you as they continue to play the victim. So deceitful its like they have a sickness that hasn’t been named yet, well other than just plain evil!

  7. Needing Out

    So horrible! I have been on meds since I got married to him… ugh….. divorced, foreclosed home, two young children with autism….. plus irresponsibility backed by the patriarchal system. I need out and a safe place to bring my children to rebuild my life. So horrific

    • I changed your screen name for your safety, in case you’d used your real name. Welcome to the blog 🙂 You are not alone. We believe you.

      We have a Resources tab at the top of the blog. Under that tab you will find a section for Safety Planning and another for Hotlines.

      I encourage you to ring a hotline or contact you local women’s centre and ask for support. They ought to be able to arrange for you and the kids to go to a shelter or refuge.

      If you have more time to read, here is our FAQ page.

      And we always suggest that new readers look at our our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

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