Is ADHD affecting my relationships?

Updated: Feb 4

Relationships are challenging for everyone, but this can be especially true for people with ADHD. Read on to find out how ADHD might affect your relationship, and our suggestions for how to cope.

While people with ADHD are just as capable of having happy and healthy romantic lives, they can encounter some unique challenges as they navigate relationships. Without adequate communication and understanding, ADHD can easily create problems between partners.

How can ADHD complicate relationships?

  • Inattentiveness/distractibility - People with ADHD struggle to stay focused during conversations and may quickly become sidetracked by external stimuli. This can be misinterpreted as a lack of interest, leaving their partner feeling ignored or overlooked.

  • Impulsivity - A person with ADHD may have trouble controlling their impulses, which can manifest in impatience, interrupting others in conversation, or acting without thinking.

  • Forgetfulness - ADHD can interfere with a person’s ability to remember things. The partner with ADHD might forget significant dates or plans that were made, which can come across as careless or unreliable.

  • Disorganization - This can lead to missed bills, clutter all over the house, or a struggle to keep up with household responsibilities. If the couple lives together, disorganization can easily become frustrating to the non-ADHD partner.

  • Emotional dysregulation - People with ADHD have difficulty regulating their emotions. They are prone to mood swings and emotional outbursts, which may unnerve their partner and make them feel as if they’ve done something wrong.

If ADHD is undiagnosed or unacknowledged, the non-ADHD partner might feel confused or hurt. They may feel like their partner won’t pick up the slack or has no interest in what they have to say. If problems persist, it can develop into feelings of resentment.

On the other hand, the partner with ADHD suffers in a different way. They might feel inadequate, like they can’t meet the expectations of being a good partner. Additionally, they could feel misunderstood by their partner because they operate differently.

Advice for couples in relationships with ADHD

  • If you are the non-ADHD partner, educate yourself on ADHD and your partner’s lived experience with it. Understanding ADHD and the way it affects your partner will give you more insight into how their mind works and will allow you to support them better the next time problems arise.

  • If you are the ADHD partner, put effort into managing your ADHD. Find treatment options that work for you and be aware of how your ADHD tends to trip you up. Think of managing your ADHD as an investment in your relationship.

  • Make honest communication a priority. Reserve time each month when you can talk about your relationship and any frustrations you may be having.

  • Set aside time regularly for the two of you to spend together, completely free from distractions. The havoc of daily life combined with ADHD can make it difficult to truly connect with your partner.

  • Have a sense of humor. ADHD can cause misunderstandings. You’ll both feel much better off if you’re able to laugh off some of the slip-ups.

Most importantly: have compassion for yourself and your significant other. Having ADHD can be a challenge when you're in a relationship, but it is possible and can be immensely rewarding. With communication, patience, and a commitment from both partners to make it work, your relationship can thrive.

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