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  • Holly Sullivan

Navigating the Impact of ADHD on Relationships


couple embracing

Do you or your partner– or both of you–have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Is ADHD impacting your relationship and you don’t know how to get help? You are not alone. Research shows that more than 366 million adults worldwide have ADHD as of 2020. Many couples struggle with ADHD and its effects. While ADHD can create relationship conflict, there are ways to help couples not only cope, but thrive together. Here, we will explore how to improve your marriage or relationship when ADHD is a factor.


Seek Understanding


Education is a powerful tool for navigating the impact of ADHD on marriage and relationships. Both partners should strive to learn more about ADHD, its symptoms, and how it manifests in adults. Understanding the challenges that come with ADHD can foster empathy and open communication between partners.


In adults, ADHD may manifest as difficulty with focus, impulse control, and hyperactivity. While the symptoms may vary, common challenges include disorganization, forgetfulness, impulsivity, and difficulty sustaining attention. Recognizing and understanding these aspects of ADHD is crucial for both partners. Otherwise, it’s easy to misinterpret and make meaning from behaviors. For example, if your partner forgets to load the dishwasher again, you might mistakenly think that he or she is lazy, or doesn’t care about you. But knowing that ADHD is a factor can help you reframe and have more compassion for your partner.


Talk to Me


ADHD can introduce unique communication challenges. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with maintaining attention during conversations, leading to misunderstandings and feelings of neglect. It's important for both partners to be aware of these challenges and work together to find effective communication strategies. For example, consider talking with your partner about how you both can be more mindful during conversations. You might decide to have regular, scheduled conversations dedicated to the relationship, where you put aside distractions and focus on each other for a set time period. Regular check-ins about how ADHD is affecting the relationship can provide valuable insights and prevent resentment from building.


Individuals with ADHD may experience feelings of guilt or shame related to the impact of their symptoms on the relationship. It's crucial for both partners to foster an environment of understanding and support, where the individual with ADHD feels comfortable expressing their challenges without fear of judgment.


Let’s Collaborate


Initiating and completing tasks can be a struggle for someone with ADHD. This can affect responsibilities ranging from household chores to long-term goals. The non-ADHD partner may find themselves taking on a more significant share of responsibilities, leading to feelings of imbalance. The non-ADHD partner may feel like a parent figure in the relationship. This is a set up for relationship woes. After all, no one wants a parent-child dynamic with their partner.


Try approaching challenges as a team and break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Together, identify the issues at hand, brainstorm potential solutions together, and implement strategies that work for both of you. This fosters a sense of unity and shared responsibility.


Consider creating routines and systems with your partner. This might include setting regular schedules for tasks, using organizational tools, and establishing clear communication channels for shared responsibilities.


If you’re struggling with ADHD in your relationship, you might also consider reaching out to a skilled couples therapist for support. You can learn ways to improve your relationship and conquer the effects of ADHD by participating in couples therapy. ADHD can present unique challenges in a relationship, but with understanding, open communication, and collaborative efforts, couples can navigate these challenges successfully. To learn more about ADHD in relationships, check out the book “The ADHD Effect on Marriage” by Melissa Orlov.


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