When Someone You Love Has ADHD: Frequently Asked Questions About Helping Your Partner and Yourself


Gina and her husband at their wedding


When journalist Gina Pera married a man with undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she embarked on a wild ride that took her from frustration and confusion to understanding and advocacy. Today she runs support groups for people with ADHD and their partners, and her book Is it You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? was published in 2008.

How did you realize that your husband had ADHD?

My husband is a brilliant scientist, and I had never dated a scientist before I met him. You know the stereotypical absent-minded professor? At first I figured that he must be it.

When we first started dating, he used to miss our exit all the time when driving down the freeway in San Diego. Then he had two fender benders in probably the first three weeks we were dating. ADHD tends to create problems with driving because it involves concentration on so many levels. The first time he said it was because he was so excited to have me in the car with him. And I made logical excuses for him: He grew up using the subway; he’d learned to drive, in Paris, only the previous year. It’s not that there weren’t little red flags everywhere; I just didn’t know what they were.

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Does your partner have symptoms of ADHD? How has it affected your relationship?

But those red flags soon became bigger problems. Promises were ignored and not even acknowledged. He was doing really thoughtless things and I knew he wasn’t a thoughtless person. We tried counseling, and the therapists just loved to hear our stories: They could tell we loved each other and they were thoroughly entertained by our problems, but they just couldn’t give us any good suggestions.

One day at the library I came across the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel Amen, MD. I was fascinated by his description of ADHD and the way it physically affects the brain; it really seemed to describe my husband all the way back to his childhood. I took the book home and said to my husband, “Do you think this could be you?” And he said, “You know what? This really makes sense.”

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