You may encounter frustrations, misunderstandings, and resentments in your closest relationships when you suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is possible, however, to build a relationship that is happier and healthier.
How Does ADHD Or ADD Affect Relationships?
Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) suffer from distractibility, disorganization, and impulsivity, but these factors can particularly harm those closest to them. In particular, this holds true if ADHD symptoms have not been diagnosed or treated properly.
As someone with ADHD, you might feel continually criticized, nagged, and micromanaged. Your spouse or partner never seems to be satisfied with whatever you do. As an adult, you feel disrespected, so you avoid your partner or say whatever you must to get their attention. It would be nice if your significant other relaxed just a little bit and stopped trying to control every aspect of your life. You feel like the person you loved disappeared.
As a partner of someone with ADHD, you may feel lonely, unappreciated, and ignored. You’re tired of being the only responsible party in your relationship and taking care of everything yourself. You feel like you can’t count on your partner. Whenever they make a promise, they never follow through, and you have to constantly remind them and demand that they fulfill them or else do it yourself. It can sometimes feel like your partner doesn’t care for you.
Relationships can be damaged by both sides’ negative feelings contributing to a destructive cycle. A non-ADHD partner may complain, nag, and become increasingly resentful, while an ADHD partner may pull away feeling judged and misunderstood. In the end, nobody is happy. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
It is possible to build a healthier, happier relationship if you learn about how ADHD affects your relationship and how to respond positively and productively to challenges. Using these strategies can help you build a stronger relationship and gain a deeper understanding of each other.
The Impact of ADHD on Adult Relationships
Understanding ADHD is the first step toward transforming your relationship. It will be easier for you to learn better ways to interact as a couple once you identify how ADHD symptoms impact your interactions. It is important for partners who have ADHD to learn how to manage their symptoms. The non-ADHD partner must learn how to respond to frustrations in a way that motivates and encourages them.
ADHD Symptoms That Can Negatively Impact Relationships
- Difficulty paying attention
It is possible to zone out during a conversation if you have ADHD, which can make your partner feel rejected and ignored. A loved one may also be frustrated if they miss important details or mindlessly agree to something they later cannot remember.
Despite paying attention, someone with ADHD may later forget what was said or promised. It may start to seem like you don’t care about your partner’s birthday or that you are unreliable when you don’t pick up the formula you promised you would pick up.
- A lack of organizational skills
As a result, household tasks may be difficult to complete, or chaos may prevail. In some cases, partners may feel they have a disproportionate amount of responsibilities to handle when dealing with someone with ADHD.
- An impulsive personality
People with ADHD might blurt out things without thinking, which could cause hurt feelings. Additionally, this impulsivity can cause irresponsible behavior (such as buying something beyond one’s budget, resulting in financial arguments).
- Emotional outbursts
It is common for people with ADHD to have difficulty controlling their emotions. It may be difficult for you to discuss issues calmly, and you may easily lose your temper. To avoid blowups, your partner might feel like they are walking on eggshells.
Consider Your Partner’s Perspective
Learning to see things from your partner’s perspective is the first step toward turning your relationship around. Having fought repeatedly with your partner or have been together for very long might make you believe you know where they are coming from. But be aware that it is easy to misinterpret your partner’s intentions and actions. There are more differences between you and your partner than you realize — especially if only one of you has ADHD. You may have heard it all before, but it does not mean you have truly taken in what they have to say. Maintaining objectivity and perspective can be particularly difficult when there’s a high level of emotions involved, such as in ADHD relationship issues.
Asking and listening are the best ways to understand your partner. Schedule a time when you aren’t already upset to talk. Let your partner express how they feel without interrupting to defend yourself or explain. Reiterate your partner’s main points when they’re finished, and make sure you understood them correctly. Afterward, you can reflect on the points you wrote down. Once your partner has finished, you will have your turn. Similarly, ask them to listen to you with an open mind with fresh ears.
How to Improve Understanding In Your Relationship
- Read up on ADHD
It will be easier to understand how ADHD impacts your relationship once you learn more about the condition and its symptoms. Suddenly, you may see things differently. Your couple issues make so much sense now! A non-ADHD partner can take symptoms less personally if they remember that ADHD brains are hardwired differently. It can be a relief for a partner with ADHD to understand why some of your behaviors are happening—and to know that you can manage them once you understand what’s going on.
- Be aware of how your behavior affects your partner
In the case of ADHD, you must recognize how your partner is affected by your untreated symptoms. The non-ADHD partner should consider the impact of their nagging and criticism on the ADHD spouse. Despite the way your partner brings it up or reacts to you, don’t dismiss their complaints.
- Don’t let symptoms or behaviors define your partner
The best way to deal with your partner’s forgetfulness and lack of accountability is to recognize their symptoms as symptoms of ADHD rather than calling them irresponsible. It is important to remember that symptoms are not character traits. This also applies to the partner who does not have ADHD. Remember that nagging usually stems from frustration and stress and not from an unsympathetic partner.
Here’s how ADHD partners usually feel:
- Different. A person with ADHD experiences the world differently from others because their brains are often racing.
- Chronic stress caused by ADHD symptoms overwhelms them, secretly or overtly. Many people don’t realize how much work it takes to keep their daily lives under control. A person with ADHD can feel like they are drowning, even if it isn’t always apparent.
- Their spouses are their superiors. Their partners often correct them or run the show for them. Their reprimands lead to feelings of incompetence and often contribute to an imbalanced parent-child dynamic. In some cases, men report feeling emasculated by these interactions.
- Humiliated. Many of them hide a great deal of shame behind bluster or retreat.
- Unwanted and unloved. It reinforces that they are unloved as they are when spouses, bosses, and others constantly remind them that they must “change.”
- Afraid of failing again. The potential for punishment for failure increases as their relationships deteriorate. This partner, however, will fail eventually due to their inconsistent behavior caused by ADHD. The fear of failure causes a reluctance to try.
- The desire for acceptance. The biggest emotional desire of people with ADHD is to be loved regardless of their imperfections.
A Non-ADHD Partner’s Experience:
- The feeling of being unwanted or unloved. There is a misconception that inattentiveness is due to a lack of interest rather than a distraction. The dream of being cherished by one’s spouse and receiving the attention that comes with it is one of the most common dreams.
- Emotionally blocked and angry. It is common to encounter anger and resentment when dealing with an ADHD spouse. Anger can sometimes manifest as disconnection. Non-ADHD spouses sometimes bottle up their feelings in order to control angry interactions.
- Overwhelmed with stress. Family responsibilities often fall on non-ADHD spouses, and they cannot let their guard down. The ADHD spouse’s inconsistency could lead to disaster at any moment.
- Disregarded and offended. A non-ADHD spouse may not understand why ADHD spouses don’t take more advantage of their non-ADHD partners’ experiences and advice when the solution is “clear”.
- Experiencing exhaustion and depletion. There are too many responsibilities for the spouse who does not have ADHD, and the marriage does not seem to be able to be fixed even with dedication.
- Frustrated. Non-ADHD spouses may feel that the same problems are recurring (a boomerang effect).
Be Responsible For The Role You Play
The first step to accepting responsibility for your relationship is to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. The first step toward progress is recognizing how you contribute to the problems that you have as a couple. It also applies to the partner who does not have ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD may trigger a relationship problem, but they aren’t the only cause. It is up to the non-ADHD partner to decide how to respond to the annoying symptom. It can either lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings or provide a springboard for cooperation and compromise. As a partner with ADHD, you are also responsible for how you respond to their concerns. You can either validate and hear your significant other, or you can disregard and ignore them, depending on how you react.
The Parent-Child Dynamic Must Be Broken
A majority of couples feel trapped in an unsatisfactory parent-child relationship, where the non-ADHD partner assumes the role of parent and the ADHD partner assumes the role of a child. ADHD is often the result of a partner not following through on tasks, such as not paying the cable bill on time, leaving laundry on the bed, or simply forgetting to pick up the kids after promising to do so. Household responsibilities are increasingly taken on by the non-ADHD partner.
A lopsided partnership leads to resentment between the partners. As a result, any positive qualities and contributions of an ADHD spouse become more challenging to appreciate. This is evident to the ADHD partner.
It becomes pointless for them to even try, and they dismiss non-ADHD spouses as controlling and difficult. Is there anything you can do to change this pattern?
Partners without ADHD can benefit from the following tips:
- Your spouse is beyond your control, but you have control over your own actions. Stop nagging and verbal attacks immediately. Neither produces results.
- Recognize your partner’s achievements and acknowledge their progress.
- Rather than focusing on what your partner does, try to focus on their intentions. Listening to you, for instance, may cause them to lose concentration, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested.
- Your partner doesn’t need your “parenting”. Your relationship will be damaged, and your spouse will be demotivated by it.
A few tips for the ADHD partner:
- Admit that you are having difficulty in your relationship due to your ADHD symptoms. You can’t just blame your partner for being unreasonable.
- Find out what treatments are available. Eventually, your partner will become more relaxed as you learn how to manage your symptoms.
- You may need to take a break from your conversations if strong emotions derail them. Plan ahead and take some time to calm down and refocus before proceeding.
- Spoil your spouse in any way you can. When you feel that you are caring for your partner, even in little ways, they will feel less like your parent.
Start communicating instead of fighting
You’ve already seen how ADHD can impede communication between partners. It feels as if one partner is overburdened. The other person feels attacked. Instead of addressing the problem, they fight each other.
Try to defuse emotional volatility in order to improve communication. Before discussing an issue, allow yourself to cool off if necessary. If you are having a conversation with your partner, pay close attention to what he or she says. You should ask yourself what the real issue is when you argue. Is there a deeper problem?
For Example, two people fight over an hour’s delay in dinner. The non-ADHD husband has more on his mind to be upset over than an empty stomach. As a result, he becomes frustrated by his wife’s inability to be reliable and pay attention to him (I do my best to support and provide for her! Why am I not getting any attention? She should make an effort to see me if she cares about me). For the ADHD wife, it’s difficult to keep up with everything around the house. How can that be called being a bad wife?)
It is much easier to solve a problem once you identify the real issue. In this case, the husband would be less upset when he understands his wife’s chronic issues with organization and punctuality aren’t personal. It’s a sign of untreated ADHD. As for the wife, once she understands how much her husband appreciates a timely dinner, she’ll feel more motivated to cook one.
- Feelings shouldn’t be bottled up. Don’t be afraid to admit your feelings, no matter how ugly they are. You can work through them together if you get them out in the open.
- You can’t read minds. Make sure you don’t assume too much about your partner’s motivations. Do not fall into the trap of thinking “if my spouse loved me… “. Rather than stewing silently, address your partner’s actions directly.
- Watch your words and your mannerisms. Your partner may become defensive if you ask questions or use critical words (“Why can’t you ever do what you promised?” or “How many times do you need to hear me?”).
- Take a humorous view of the situation. Laugh at miscommunications and misunderstandings that will inevitably happen. When you laugh, tension is relieved, and you become closer to each other.
The Importance of Communicating Well When You Have ADHD
Communication can be affected by ADHD symptoms. Here are some tips to help you have a more satisfying conversation with your partner.
- Face-to-face communication should be used whenever possible. A person’s body language, tone of voice, and eye contact communicate a lot more than just words. The best way to understand the emotions behind your partner’s words is to speak to them in person rather than by phone, text, or email.
- Don’t interrupt while listening. Make an effort to keep eye contact with the other person while they are speaking. You can follow the conversation by mentally repeating their words if you find your mind wandering. Keep your interruptions to a minimum.
- Be sure to ask questions. Try asking a question instead of launching into anything else that is on your mind. They will know you are paying attention to them if you do this.
- Repeat the request. Immediately after realizing that your attention is wandering, ask the other person to repeat what they just said. When your mind is elsewhere, you will have a harder time connecting if you let the conversation go too long.
- Emotional management. Practicing mindfulness meditation may help you avoid saying things you later regret when discussing certain topics. In addition to helping you control your emotions and prevent the emotional outbursts that can damage relationships, regular mindfulness meditation can also reduce impulsivity and improve focus.
Teamwork is Essential
Having a balanced, mutually satisfying relationship doesn’t have to be impossible if one partner has ADHD. Teamwork is the key to success. In a healthy relationship, both partners are fully engaged in the partnership, supporting one another and giving each other support.
You should spend some time identifying what you excel at and what you find challenging. It may be possible for your spouse to take on a responsibility that you are weak in, and vice versa. There should be a sense of equality involved. If you both lack expertise in one area, brainstorm ways to get outside assistance. The two of you may need to hire a bookkeeper or research budgeting apps if neither of you is good with money.
- Delegate tasks and adhere to them. While you manage the children and cook, your non-ADHD partner can handle the bills and run errands.
- Make weekly sit-downs a priority. Every week, meet to discuss issues and assess your progress.
- Analyze the division of labor. If either one of you is shouldering most of the load, make a list of chores and responsibilities and reassign duties.
- Automate, delegate, and outsource. Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Children should be assigned chores if you have them. In addition, you may want to hire a cleaning company, have groceries delivered, or set up an automatic bill payment system.
- If necessary, split up tasks. For the sake of avoiding resentments, account for the non-ADHD partner stepping in as the “closer” if the ADHD partner has trouble completing tasks.
Plan A Practical Approach
The chances are you aren’t very good at organizing and establishing systems if you have ADHD. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t follow a plan after it is developed. Partnering with someone who does not suffer from ADHD can be extremely beneficial in this regard. It will be easier to stay on top of your responsibilities if you have a system and routine in place.
Take a look at the most common things that cause you to fight, such as chores and chronic tardiness. Consider practical solutions to these problems. You may want to use checkboxes beside the daily tasks of each person on a big wall calendar if you are prone to forgetting chores. Using a smartphone calendar and timers can help you keep on top of upcoming events if you’re chronically late.
The best way to help your ADHD partner
- Establish a routine. It will benefit both of you if you add structure to your relationship. Consider setting meal, exercise, and sleep times depending on the tasks you both need to accomplish.
- Create external reminders. Make a to-do list on your phone, on a dry erase board, or with sticky notes.
- Manage clutter. Clutter contributes to the feeling that people with ADHD are out of control because they have trouble getting and staying organized. Set up a system to deal with clutter and keep your partner organized with your help.
- The ADHD partner should repeat requests. If you have agreed on something, make sure that your partner repeats it so there are no misunderstandings.
Following these guidelines can go a long way in helping your marriage or relationship thrive. There is no reason you can’t enjoy a good relationship with the right treatment and methods to avoid misunderstandings. Has your child been diagnosed with ADHD? The best way to help your child with ADHD is to learn about the different types of ADHD therapies for children available today.