Every relationship presents its own challenges, and relationships where one or both partners have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), can present extra and quite specific challenges. Here we explain some of the more common difficulties faced by people with ADHD in relationships and some suggestions for how to handle them. There’s no reason why adults with ADHD can’t have successful relationships, but symptoms of ADHD can be stressful within a relationship if they are not properly managed and addressed. Our top tips will help you to understand the effects ADHD can have on people’s relationships.
Impulsivity is a core ADHD symptom. Examples of impulsive behaviour might be interrupting conversations or blurting out inappropriate or insensitive things that might upset people unintentionally. If you have ADHD, it’s important to be aware of the impact that your words may have on other people. If you suspect you’ve said something inappropriate to your partner, make sure you ask them about it; you need to make it clear that no offence was intended and work together to ease any similar future situations. In our Essential Mindfulness Course, you can learn some really helpful techniques, like the 5-second pause. This can really help you to learn how to control these impulsive tendencies that may be having an adverse effect on your relationship, as well as other areas of your life.
Acting impulsively by impulsive shopping can also be a source of tension. Managing money can be difficult for an ADHD adult and you may need to develop a way to do this together. Our blog 6 Ways To Manage Money With ADHD has some suggestions you might find helpful.
ADHD can make it hard to focus your attention and you might struggle to keep up with conversations. If someone feels they aren’t being listened to, it can make them feel devalued.
However, if you have ADHD, you may not even be aware that you aren’t paying attention! If you find your mind wanders when your partner is talking to you, it’s important you talk to them about it and explain that you find it difficult to follow everything they say.
Communication is key for all couples and you might have to consider if there are circumstances that allow you to focus more on an important conversation. For example, it’s wise to have the most important conversations in quiet, calm places rather than somewhere where you will be distracted by the environment. Is there a time of day when you focus better? Does it help you if the information is repeated?
When you have ADHD, it’s quite normal to forget conversations you’ve had, things you’ve done and arrangements you’ve made. This can lead to someone with ADHD feeling inadequate and for their partner to feel frustration and resentment. It’s important to accept this ADHD symptom and to learn not to let it cause you stress.
If you have ADHD, you’re more likely to remember to do something if it is part of your routine. Any appointments, social events etc. need to be written down somewhere you both look, for example on a calendar or a wall planner. This is an important habit to get into and saves issues with you forgetting to be somewhere or double-booking yourselves. Also, don’t assume that just making a note somewhere is enough; you need to talk about arrangements and both partners need to be in the habit of checking their plans together regularly.
It’s common for people with ADHD to struggle with emotional regulation and control. Emotional lability refers to sudden changes in mood with heightened emotions. This can cause uncontrollable emotional outbursts or inappropriate laughing or crying.
Unpredictable emotions can cause tension in a relationship when one partner never knows how the other will react; they may feel like they’re walking on eggshells all of the time.
If you’re struggling to control your emotions, it could be a result of ADHD and you might want to consider using medication to reduce incidents of emotional lability.
In our Essential Mindfulness Course there are specific mindfulness techniques that you can learn and practise to help gain more control over your emotional lability.
You can also work with one of our expert ADHD Relationship Coaches to learn to identify specific triggers and how this affects your behaviour. One such behavioural coaching technique is known as identifying and working with the ABCs. This is the Antecedent, Behaviour and Consequences of a particular repetitive and often ingrained pattern of behaviour.
Disorganisation is another classic ADHD symptom. This may mean that someone has difficulty in completing tasks, organising events or they might leave piles of clutter around that they fully intend to sort out – one day! Meeting deadlines is also challenging and an ADHD adult can be prone to last-minute hyperfocused working spurts as they try to get a task finished on time. This can be difficult to live with. However, being organised is not impossible for someone with ADHD. It takes time, practice and the right techniques. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 33 ADHD Friendly Ways To Get Organised
Top tips for ADHD relationships
Learn About ADHD
Even if you think you know all you need to about ADHD, remember it’s a complicated condition. Learning about ADHD symptoms and their impact on relationships may bring on a lightbulb moment when you realise some of your challenges as a couple are due to ADHD. The more you understand ADHD and accept it as part of your relationship, the sooner you can put strategies in place to lessen any negative effects it might have.
Working directly with an ADHD Specialist Relationship Coach can really help to support and enlighten this process.
If you take medication for ADHD, remember that symptoms can change over time and make sure you get it reviewed regularly.
Be Honest And Communicate
Honesty is essential in all relationships but in a relationship that can be strained due to ADHD symptoms, it’s particularly important to admit if you think there are problems. Communication is crucial. If you know there’s an issue, make sure you sit down and talk about it. If communication is difficult, set specific dates and times to talk things through.
Learn To Accept Each Other’s Imperfections
This is essential for any relationship to survive. Neither you nor your partner is perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfect or effortless relationship and all relationships change over time. The key is to accept each other’s imperfections, be open and honest and face challenges as and when they arise. For a relationship where one or both partners have ADHD, there is a need for understanding from both partners for the relationship to thrive.
Further Help and Advice
If you or your partner has undiagnosed ADHD, you may be missing out on valuable support that will drastically improve your quality of life. Please get in touch with The ADHD Centre to find out more about our ADHD Assessment Process , Specific Relationship Coaching Services and other evidence-based treatment options that we offer. You can contact us directly by email [email protected] or by phone 0800 061 4276