5 Common Struggles Within ADHD Relationships - And How To Handle Them
Having adult ADHD - or an undiagnosed ADHD - can make things complicated. There may be moments when our mood swings, inattentive behavior, and impulsivity can fracture our relationship and create an unhealthy dynamic. Living with a partner can also create challenges, especially when it comes to home organization and cleaning. Whilst we might get by living in our own little ‘ADHD bubble’, it can be challenging for a non-ADHD partner to live with.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, ADHD impacts many dimensions of a person's life, including relationships. When it comes to romantic relationships, many people with ADHD encounter challenges with managing impulsivity, inattention, and maintaining consistent emotional dynamics.
Whether our partner has ADHD or not, having someone who truly understands and accepts us is crucial. This doesn't mean we stop managing our ADHD symptoms; instead, it creates an environment where we can handle our symptoms while nurturing a relationship. 🥰
But sometimes, this is easier said than done. There are a few ADHD symptoms in particular that can really get in the way of building and maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. Let’s delve into a few of them. 👇
How Symptoms Can Affect A Person With & Without ADHD
While many people in our lives may accept certain ADHD symptoms as part of who we are, there are a couple that can truly impact our relationships, especially with our partners. 😟
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), various symptoms can manifest differently from person to person. This makes it hard to predict which traits our partner might understand and which ones they might struggle with.
The good news is that, as there are certain traits and symptoms that have been shown to be sources of conflict and strain within relationships, we can be proactive in managing them. 👍
Here are just a few of the examples of which symptoms of ADHD can affect the ability to sustain a healthy connection between a non-ADHD partner and a person with ADHD. 👇
Getting Annoyed When Being Interrupted
People with adult ADHD tend to quickly process a million different thoughts all at once. While this can be an amazing trait to have, it can also mean we are prone to distractions. When a person (like a partner) interrupts us, we can easily forget what we were going to say or lose our momentum to continue what we’re doing. 😠
You see, a person with ADHD can sometimes have challenges maintaining their focus, so when they get the momentum, they try to do as much as they can. The problem is, when something interrupts that momentum, it might be extra challenging to focus again.
The bottom line is, some people with ADHD can easily get annoyed when something “breaks” their focus. So, when our partner approaches us about something while we’re in the middle of a task, we might become annoyed or ignore them to sustain our focus. This might make them feel neglected. 😭
The same can happen when we are having a conversation and we keep getting interrupted. The irony is not lost on us - we know we can be guilty of jumping in when you’ve not finished your sentence. But if we are interrupted during an important thought, it’s very likely that we will completely forget about it and move on to the next topic. This can mean that if we aren’t given the space to get everything out, important things can be unintentionally set aside. This interruption can also cause us a lot of frustration and emotional dysregulation, due to how difficult it can be to contain the thoughts in our head that we need to verbalize. 🤯
Struggling to Pay Attention
Our inattentive tendencies can hinder effective communication with our loved ones. During important conversations, we stop paying attention and become engrossed in our thoughts, making it difficult to pick up on our partner's nonverbal cues. This can lead to misunderstandings and leave our loved ones feeling overlooked. 😥
For most partners, it’s important that subtle changes in our body language and speech are picked up on. It usually indicates that our partner is tuned into our emotions and cares about our inner world. However, staying attentive enough to be able to regularly do this can pose a challenge for those of us with ADHD. There are moments when we might appear disinterested, but in truth, we’re likely trying to focus on five things at once. Alternatively, we might have initially noticed those little details but later forgotten them. 😬
Being forgetful can affect every area of our life, but this is especially true of relationships. When you struggle with executive dysfunction and poor memory, it’s easy to forget the small details and important dates that are important for our partner and our relationship. This can lead to hurt feelings within our partner, and guilt and shame within ourselves.
Impulsivity is another example of an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder symptom that may significantly affect our relationships and social skills. We may suddenly say something that would hurt our partner's feelings without even realizing, or engage in reckless behavior without considering the other partner in the relationship. Without meaning to, our impulsive tendencies can potentially make our partner feel emotionally unsafe within the relationship, as they have to try and predict what might come next.
For example, decisions that impact both people within the relationship should, generally, not be made solely by one partner - especially those of us who tend to be impulsive. 🙈 Making joint, considered decisions can help to avoid misunderstandings and instills mutual trust and respect.
One of the other symptoms related to impulsivity is anger. Anger issues can be one of the symptoms of ADHD that can manifest in an individual. A person who struggles with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can sometimes have difficulties with social skills and handling their emotions, especially if they relate to certain subjects or lead to sensory overload and feelings of overwhelm.
It’s important to note here that, whilst a normal emotion, anger should never be allowed to get out of hand in a relationship. Whilst we have the right to feel angry and have our emotions validated by our partner, we do not have a right to lash out at them repeatedly or verbally put them down. If you find yourself struggling with frequent outbursts of anger, it’s essential that you reach out to a therapist or mental health professional - not just for your partners sake, but for yours, too. ❣️
Adults with ADHD often have difficulty managing confrontations and conflicts because of issues with emotional regulation. If a non-ADHD partner has raised an issue regarding their relationship, instead of taking on board what they’ve said, an ADHD partner can feel rejected. This reaction to criticism is often referred to as ‘rejection sensitivity dysphoria.’
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Relationships Are A Two-Way Street… Especially When You Have ADHD
Being with someone with ADHD usually involves a little extra compassion, patience and flexibility than being with a neurotypical person. Of course, these things are helpful in any relationship - but for people with ADHD, they are a few of the key ingredients that are absolutely essential for a happy relationship.
For individuals with ADHD, the biggest challenge is often communication. By developing self-awareness and knowledge around how their specific symptoms affect others, they can effectively communicate with partners about how to navigate symptoms as a couple.
Six Secrets To A Harmonious Relationship With ADHD
Yes, some struggles and difficulties may be experienced, but there are ways to overcome them and make the relationship work. 💏 It is important to discuss matters with your significant other: what do you truly feel, and what do you expect them to do? Here are some tips for an ADHD relationship to thrive:
Although those of us with ADHD can face a few extra hurdles along the way, successful relationships are not out of reach. Here are six tips to building a healthy, loving connection between a non-ADHD partner and a person with ADHD. 👇
Maintain Honesty and Communication
Open communication is the foundation of any strong relationship. When issues arise, speaking your truth with compassion can help resolve conflicts.
Maintaining eye contact and focusing on the other person during important conversations shows you value them. If you’re struggling to focus, don’t be afraid to communicate this to them. Tell them that you are trying to listen, but you’re feeling distracted. Together, you can find alternative ways to communicate - like putting a pin in the conversation until you have enough mental space to give them your undivided attention.
Sincerity is also key. Recognize when your actions may unintentionally hurt your partner. If you struggle with a behavior like chronic lateness, acknowledge the problem, apologize, and actively work to improve. Your willingness to grow will be appreciated.
Work as a Team
Recognize your strengths and weaknesses - including the positive aspects of your ADHD traits - both as individuals and as a couple. When you are aware of the areas in which you excel vs which you need support with, you can learn how to complement each other. Remember that you are a team.💏 Learn more about each other's assets and shortcomings, whether it's about household responsibilities or important decisions in your daily life. Usually, one partner is good at something that the other may struggle with.
Celebrate Efforts and Good Intentions
Appreciate extra efforts and acknowledge good intentions. When your partner makes a genuine effort to understand your ADHD traits and cater to your needs, be sure to appreciate it. 🥰 If you feel your partner gets something wrong, try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Assuming that they are acting from a place of carelessness or maliciousness can be damaging for everybody involved. Trust that you are both trying your best with the tools you have.
Be Mindful Of Small Things
Take note of small details and important events. Although having ADHD can mean we are easily distracted and forgetful, we can still try to make a conscious effort to remember important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. Set reminders on your smartphone and write down notes if this is difficult. This will show your ADHD or non-ADHD partner that you are paying attention and want to make the relationship work. 💌
Recognize that life with ADHD can be unpredictable, and sometimes plans may change or go off course. Embracing flexibility in your relationship can help both you and your partner navigate unforeseen challenges more smoothly. Be open to adjusting schedules and adapting to new situations as they arise. This willingness to be flexible can reduce unnecessary stress and allow your relationship to thrive in the face of unexpected twists and turns.
Don't Forget To Have Fun
Find ways to have fun with your ADHD or non-ADHD partner. Spend time together and find activities that can help you bond and maintain a healthy relationship.
For example, being impulsive doesn’t always lead to negative consequences; it can also create opportunities to explore new and exciting activities. Similarly, people with ADHD often cycle through hobbies and interests - which is a great opportunity for their partner to join them. 🥳
It's Okay To Ask For Help
Any romantic relationship can involve conflict and miscommunication.
But when we live with a partner with ADHD, it can be especially important to address issues before they can impact your relationship. 🙌 And it’s just as important to ask for help when you need it.
If you struggle to understand your partner's actions, want to improve communication with them, and create mutual acceptance, seeking professional help is always a good idea. Aside from talking to your mental health professional and asking them to provide medical advice for you, a therapist specializing in ADHD can help manage emotional outbursts, solve a deeper issue, create coping strategies to maintain honest communication, improve your intimate relationships, and better understand ADHD's effect on your dynamics.
It is important to remember that for a relationship to work, it requires both parties' patience, effort, and understanding. Having ADHD doesn't mean that the relationship won't work out well. It just means that both parties need to make a conscious effort to understand ADHD and make the relationship last. With a positive attitude and approach, you can make it happen!
While ADHD can present challenges in romantic relationships, with open communication, teamwork, and compassion, these hurdles can be overcome. By developing self-awareness around how your ADHD traits manifest and impact your partner, you can take steps to minimize any negative effects. Don't be afraid to ask your partner for the support you need, whether it's help staying focused or remembering important events. And remember to regularly express appreciation when your partner makes efforts to understand and accommodate your needs.
Though it requires some extra work, a fulfilling relationship is possible when both people are committed to growth. With patience and by focusing on each other's positive intentions, an ADHD and non-ADHD partner can build a healthy bond rooted in trust and mutual respect. While there may be bumps along the road, embracing flexibility and finding fun activities to do together can keep your relationship thriving. Most importantly, maintain open and honest communication - this is the foundation for any strong and lasting connection.
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5 ADHD Relationship Struggles: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can ADHD ruin relationships?
As ADHD or attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, the symptoms can sometimes make dating a little more challenging. However, with teamwork, communication, and understanding between partners, people with ADHD can absolutely have healthy and fulfilling connections. The key is finding strategies to manage ADD symptoms like inattention and impulsivity, together.
Is it hard dating someone with ADHD?
Adult relationships are hard, whether you have a partner with ADHD or not. Just like within neurotypical dating dynamics, open communication, empathy, and a willingness to work together as a team is key. The parent-child dynamic should be avoided, as both the ADHD and non-ADHD spouse or partner are equals. Focusing on each other's positive qualities and finding activities you both enjoy can also help strengthen the bond.
One partner often chooses to stay at home and avoid social gatherings, while the other one loves going outside and enjoying social settings. How do you solve things like that?
Some people with ADHD may not be comfortable with social gatherings, especially big ones. If your partner loves going out and you’re not comfortable with it, you can communicate your thoughts and feelings and maybe find a middle ground.