Blog Articles

Relationships & ADHD

Relationships are inherently challenging. They require patience, compassion, understanding, and open communication to develop and grow. When a diagnosis of ADHD is a factor in a partnership, it can lead to additional relational stressors. Adults who suffer from ADHD may have myriad symptoms, with some of the of the most common being varied levels of distractibility, disorganization, and impulsivity. ADHD can make everyday life difficult, and can become amplified when attempting to maintain a close, personal relationship.

Communication is key to navigating any relationship obstacles, and yet, is often one of the first things to break down in any partnership. Additionally, when ADHD is a part of the relationship, it can make these communication challenges feel insurmountable. However, with the proper information and a commitment from those involved, a close and reciprocal relationship is achievable.

5 Ways ADHD Impacts Your Relationships

  1. Attention fatigue
    • Patients with ADHD may find it easy to dote on a “new love” and make their partner feel truly special. Just as this attention can feel laser-focused initially, it can shift to another subject without warning. When that focus changes, a partner may begin to feel ignored or lonely.
  2. Shame & Denial
    • Feelings of shame surrounding ADHD are not unusual, and therefore may lead to minimizing the effect it has on your life. Blame for your symptoms may be thrown around and feelings of defensiveness can come to the surface. If a patient is told time and again that they have a “problem,” then the more likely they become to displace the “problem” and the symptoms on those around them to feel validated.
  3. Misalignment of priorities
    • Many miscommunications and misunderstandings come from the changing focus that accompanies ADHD. Often, the things you thought were important to both of you are no longer of interest to the individual who is diagnosed with ADHD, and therefore you are not focusing on the same priorities.
  4. Uneven distribution of responsibility
    • Everything from daily chores, to making sure the bills get paid, to showing up to appointments on time – it can often feel like all these responsibilities fall on one person alone when the other person is dealing with ADHD.
  5. Building resentments
    • No relationship is one-sided and after weeks, months, or even years of being in a relationship with someone who has untreated and undiagnosed ADHD, the symptoms may begin to strain the relationship. Eventually, something will give and this may lead to an emotional outburst.

What Can You Do About It?

The presence of an ADHD diagnosis in a relationship can prove to be challenging, but there are two approaches that are independently effective, and often implemented in tandem for best results. It is important to manage the symptoms of ADHD and learn how it may be affecting your relationships. A great first step for you and your partner is couple and family therapy. Therapy can guide you through difficult conversations and illuminate each other’s internal experiences while developing coping strategies and improving communication skills. Utilizing therapy early is key component in ensuring the longevity of your relationship. Additionally, medication is an often-useful supplement to the management of the mental and physical manifestations of ADHD symptoms.

Listen, Laugh, and Learn

When you are in a relationship affected by ADHD, these three reminders may prove useful.

  1. Listen
    • Work on your listening skills. Listen to every word your partner says. Let them talk for five or more minutes and summarize the highlights of the conversation back to them.
  2. Laugh
    • Be willing to laugh at yourself. While working on your communication skills and symptom management with professionals, be willing to laugh at some of the unusual things that can happen. This way, laughter may become your first response mechanism.
  3. Learn
      Keep learning about ADHD and its symptoms. Learn to recognize a certain behavior for what it is and how it can influence your relationships. The more you know, the more you can master your behaviors and impulses.