Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect the way a person interacts with others, and this can cause challenges in relationships.
Depending on the person and the relationship, familiar ADHD-related difficulties may be present or new ones may arise.
However, a person with ADHD and their partner can use a range of strategies to work around these challenges. Also, many characteristics of ADHD can be strengths in a relationship.
Below, we explore the challenges, techniques that help, and possible benefits of having a partner with ADHD.
Some symptoms of ADHD can make forming and maintaining relationships difficult.
For example, people with ADHD can be easily distracted and have trouble with organization. As a result, they may forget to do important things, such as paying bills, or have trouble with everyday tasks around the house.
In response, a partner without ADHD might take on the majority of chores and household responsibilities. They may feel overwhelmed and as if they have stepped into the role of a parent. The partner with ADHD may feel frustrated. They may feel as if they have too little control over their environment and are being treated like a child.
Below, learn about other symptoms of ADHD that may challenge relationships:
Difficulty paying attention. People with ADHD may seem spaced out during conversations. This could cause a partner to feel ignored and unimportant. The person with ADHD may also miss key details or agree to things without fully taking them in.
Impulsivity. This characteristic of ADHD might cause a person to make inconsiderate remarks or expensive purchases without first considering the cost, for example.
Emotional outbursts. People with ADHD may be more prone to these outbursts, which can lead to hurt feelings and arguments. They may also struggle to discuss issues calmly and be more likely to lose their temper.
In addition, ADHD can lead to:
- excessive talking
- losing things
Someone with ADHD might feel continually criticized or micromanaged by their partner, which could lead to:
- feeling unloved
- feeling unwanted
Any partner, family member, or friend of someone with ADHD may need to keep reminding them of responsibilities and agreements. If a person has to do this, they may feel:
- unable to rely on the person
- responsible for too much
- judged and misunderstood
Some traits that are common in people with ADHD may be beneficial in relationships. One study highlights the following traits:
- Positivity: People with ADHD tend to have a positive outlook, which can help navigate the difficulties of any relationship.
- Sociability: People with ADHD are often talkative and sociable, and participants in the study said that this helped them form and strengthen relationships.
- Openness: People with ADHD tend to be open, and so they may be happy to speak about topics that others may avoid or ignore.
- Empathy: People with ADHD may be more willing to help and see things from other people’s points of view.
- Resilience: Actively working to overcome the challenges of ADHD tends to make a person more resilient. In the context of a relationship, a person with ADHD may persist when others give up or have extra coping skills.
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association emphasize that people with ADHD can have lasting, loving relationships.
To have a strong, successful relationship with someone who has ADHD, everyone involved should have a good understanding of the roles that ADHD can play in challenges, and feel equipped with management strategies that work.
Below, find some tips and techniques to try.
Understand the role of ADHD in the relationship
The first step is to understand that some symptoms of ADHD may be causing relationship problems. Acknowledging this can encourage the person with ADHD to manage the symptoms more effectively and the person without it to offer more effective support.
It can help to research the effects of ADHD. The more people know, the better they can recognize the impacts on their relationship.
See things from the other person’s point of view
As in any relationship, when partners feel frustrated, ignored, and unloved, it can lead to arguments. The best approach may be to stay objective and try to keep things in perspective.
Some strategies include:
- asking the other person how they are feeling and really listening to what they say
- not interrupting
- not trying to defend any actions while the other person is talking
- when the person has finished, repeating their main points back to them to check understanding
A person might also find that it helps to write down the main points of discussion and reflect upon them later.
Get a diagnosis
ADHD may play a bigger role in relationships if people are unaware that they have it. Only 10% of people with symptoms of the condition have received a diagnosis.
A diagnosis can be the first step toward receiving care and learning successful management strategies.
The best ADHD treatment and management plan varies from person to person.
Doctors might recommend medications, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall). These can help some people with attention and concentration.
However, medications often do not help with the symptoms that can cause relationship problems, such as challenges with:
- time management
Below, learn about other ways to manage ADHD symptoms.
Low levels of exercise can be a symptom of ADHD.
Regular exercise can improve motivation, concentration, memory, and mood. It can also reduce impulsivity while boosting the hormones that affect focus and attention.
It is important to find an enjoyable form of exercise, such as going to the gym, cycling, swimming, or walking. This will make the activity easier to stick with.
Getting enough sleep
Trouble sleeping is a symptom of ADHD, and it can make other symptoms worse. People might try:
- going to bed and getting up at the same times every day, even on the weekends
- keeping the bedroom dark, cool, and free from electronics
- winding down with a warm bath or reading for an hour or so before bed
Having a healthy, balanced diet
Impulsivity can lead to unhealthy dietary choices and nutritional problems. A person might try:
- scheduling regular meals or snacks
- taking a daily multivitamin
- avoiding junk food
- cutting back on sugar and caffeine
Research indicates that mindfulness techniques can support intimate relationships in a range of ways, including by regulating emotions and helping to resolve conflicts.
The same source cites other scientific evidence that mindfulness can also boost concentration and memory.
The goal is to be the moment, to dial down the pace of thoughts and refocus attention on the present.
It might involve meditation, guided imagery, yoga, body scan exercises, or breathing exercises. It may simply involve sitting still for brief periods or regularly checking in with oneself.
Anyone who may have undiagnosed ADHD should speak with a doctor, and so should anyone with the diagnosis who feels that the condition is interfering in their daily life and relationships.
A psychologist or psychiatrist with experience working with people who have ADHD can give advice and support and suggest effective ways to manage the condition.
People with ADHD may forget things, be easily distracted, and struggle to stay organized.
These and other symptoms of the condition might lead a partner, family member, or friend to take on more responsibility for the relationship, the household, or both. This can result in feelings of anger, frustration, and rejection on both sides.
It is important for all involved to understand how ADHD symptoms are affecting the relationship. This can be the first step toward seeing things from the other’s point of view and adopting effective strategies.
By taking certain steps, people with ADHD can have long, healthy, and successful relationships.