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ADHD And Relationships: How You Can Make It Work

Young couple looking into one another's eyes and smiling while coping with ADHD and relationships.

All relationships require work to thrive. This can be a challenge at the best of times. Throw in one, or both, of the partners having ADHD, and the challenge starts to become even more daunting. This can quickly feel like a significant strain on a partnership. 

However, coping with the prospect of ADHD and relationships doesn’t have to be as daunting as you first think. By understanding what ADHD is, the effects it can have on your relationship, and some coping strategies to deal with it, you’ll have the opportunity to build a happier, healthier, and longer-lasting connection with your partner.

So, what exactly is ADHD, how does it show up in relationships, and what can you both do to minimize its effects on your partnership? We’ve tackled all this, and more, below!

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a mental health condition that typically affects a person’s self-regulation and self-control, causing unusual levels of hyperactive, impulsive behavior. Self-regulation and self-control are behaviors we commonly use to interact with others, which is why ADHD and relationships can be tricky.

There are three main types of ADHD:

  1. Inattentive type: Usually involves trouble following instructions, focusing, and finishing tasks.
  2. Hyperactive-impulsive type: Typically shown through hyperactive and impulsive behavior like fidgeting or interrupting.
  3. Combined type: This is the most common type of ADHD and is shown through a display of symptoms from the inattentive and the hyperactive type.

Are You Dating Someone With ADHD? Signs to Look Out For

Spotting and diagnosing ADHD isn’t always straightforward. While it’s more common among children, around ten million adults in the US have ADHD. There are some ways that it can show up in a relationship and a few signs that you can look out for which may indicate the presence of ADHD in a partner. We’ve laid these out below.

  • Inattention: They appear to lose focus during a conversation or mindlessly agree to things that they later forget.
  • Forgetfulness: Even when they’re paying attention, they still forget what you talked about together.
  • Impulsivity: They interrupt you during conversations or blurt out their thoughts and opinions without thinking about how their words will affect you. 
  • Disorganization: They struggle to stay organized, whether it’s getting things done around the house, tidying up after themselves, or staying in control of their time. 
  • Explosive temper: They struggle to regulate their emotions which often leads to angry outbursts.

How Does ADHD Affect Relationships?

ADHD can affect a relationship in several different ways. Affects will also be felt differently depending on whether it’s you or your partner with ADHD. However, there are some common trends to look out for. Below, we’ve laid these out in more detail. 

If you’re the one with ADHD

It’s common to feel like you’re constantly being criticized or nagged by your partner. Nothing you do feels good enough, which can lead to you avoiding your partner altogether, or saying anything to get them to leave you alone. You would love your partner to ease up a little, relax, and not feel the need to control everything all the time. 

If you’re dating someone with ADHD

You might feel lonely, ignored, unappreciated, and regularly hurt by your partner’s actions and behavior. Sometimes it feels like you’re not a team, and you’re the only responsible adult holding things together. You can’t rely on your partner, and it’s tiring having to constantly remind them about things that you often end up doing them yourself instead. 

ADHD and Relationships: 6 Coping Mechanisms to Try

If you have ADHD or are dating someone with ADHD, there are some steps you can take to improve your relationship and make it work. Below, we’ve put together six of our top suggestions. 

1. Educate yourself and your partner

First things first, it’s important to understand what it is you’re dealing with. Do some deeper research into ADHD so that you can better understand the condition. The more that you and your partner are aware of the symptoms and how to best manage them, the better you’ll both feel when conflicts arise. 

The internet can be great when it comes to researching pretty much any topic. But, be sure to use a trusted and accredited resource, like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), and avoid unverified content.

2. Understand how symptoms affect the relationship

A person with ADHD can often feel inadequate, anxious, ashamed, and misunderstood. Their partner might also feel disrespected, unheard, ignored, and over-burdened. 

When you both understand how ADHD affects the other person in the relationship, you’ll then be able to spot problems and patterns as they arise. This awareness is the first step to resolving these issues. 

3. See things from the other person’s point of view

When one or both sides of the relationship feel frustrated or misunderstood, it can easily lead to arguments and even spiral into a love-hate relationship. To avoid this, try and maintain perspective and empathize with your partner. 

Ask them how they’re feeling and listen to what they say without interrupting. When they’re done, repeat back what you’ve heard and check you’ve understood. Reflect on what came up during your conversation together and use this to move forward and resolve the issue. 

4. Develop positive strategies

There isn’t a magic solution when it comes to ADHD and relationships. But, there are some steps you can take to reduce the severity of the symptoms. 

This includes taking prescribed medication from your doctor, engaging in another form of therapy, getting enough exercise each day, eating a balanced diet, practicing positive interactions, and becoming more aware of your triggers. Try these out to discover which strategies work best for you and your partner. 

5. Work on communication skills

So many issues in relationships are the result of poor communication. And when someone has ADHD, it makes communication even more challenging. You may slip into a parent-child dynamic where the non-ADHD partner feels like they’re always looking after the ADHD partner. 

Here are some strategies to help you communicate more effectively with your partner:

  • Say “I” when sharing how you feel to avoid placing blame.
  • Communicate face to face, so you can see each other’s body language and expressions.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you’re both clear.
  • Ask questions.

6. Seek professional help

If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to seek professional help sooner rather than later. ADHD undoubtedly makes relationships more challenging, but finding solutions to the problems you’re encountering will significantly improve the health of your relationship.

Work Together With Your Partner as a Team

ADHD and romantic relationships can be tricky to deal with. Whether it’s you or your partner with ADHD, there will certainly be challenges that lie ahead. But, the key thing is to face these challenges together as a team.

By working together and understanding the views, feelings, and concerns of your partner, you’ll be able to create strategies for coping with ADHD in your relationship. In the end, this extra support and understanding that you both create together can actually make your relationship better, stronger, happier, and longer-lasting.

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