Miscommunications, un-kept promises, impulsive decisions, late arrivals -– these are just a few of the challenges that can arise between couples when one of them has ADHD.
These challenges are often rooted in differences in vantage points and communication styles. People with ADHD make sense of the world differently than others. For example, have you ever noticed that your partner hyper-focuses on things that truly grab his attention, and may tend to show up late because he got lost in time? Or that he tends to breaks promises to you, despite the fact that you have expressed your disappointment in this habit?
If patterns like this repeat themselves, you are likely to take it personally and feel disrespected. But these annoying traits typically don’t mean your partner doesn’t love or respect you. Face it: you both simply focus and experience time differently (and by the way, have you ever considered that some of your traits may annoy him too?).
It's easy to understand how symptoms commonly associated with ADHD (hyper-focus, impulsivity, distractability, inattention and hyperactivity) can affect relationships. To complicate matters, most people with ADHD are not diagnosed until they are adults – if at all – and even fewer receive treatment.
Once you commit to developing an understanding of these differences, you and your partner with ADHD are on your way to a much more fulfilling relationship.
In light of some of the discord they experience, frequently the partner without ADHD wonders “why was I attracted to someone with ADHD in the first place, and why am I still in love with them despite the challenges?” Their responses frequently indicate that their partner with ADHD also has many positive and endearing qualities:
- Authentic – perhaps to a fault
- Risk Taker
For better or worse, here are seven tips that can help you and the one you love to live happily ever after.
- Seek a professional diagnosis. Get a diagnosis to determine if your loved one actually has ADHD.
- Educate Yourselves. The most important thing for an adult diagnosed with ADHD and their partner is to educate themselves. While an ADHD diagnosis may initially be a relief, it is a very complex diagnosis and the symptoms don’t disappear or become any less hurtful simply because one receives a diagnosis.
- Work closely with your doctor, psychologist and/or ADHD coach to create a treatment plan. Your partner should find out not only if he has ADHD, but also if he has any co-existing conditions - for example, anxiety, depression, substance and/or alcohol problems – that can impact his treatment (and your relationship).
- Determine what behaviors prevent you from being a fulfilled couple. If you love someone with ADHD, you can probably easily name at least one of his behaviors that seems to be interfering with the relationship. But relationship problems don’t develop in a bubble. Be humble enough to recognize that you may need to work on being more tolerant and identify your own blind spots or challenging traits. Work together (and with your ADHD professional, if possible) to find solutions.
- Look at your household chores and determine if they are divided according to your respective strengths. As strange as it may sound, I’ve found that household chores tend to be a sticking point for couples dealing with ADHD. If one partner is more organized or adept with finances, then the chores they focus on should reflect that (e.g., balancing the check book). If the other spouse is more energetic, their chores should be those that require more movement (e.g., doing yard work). Instead of trying to get him to change, a better solution is to divide chores by strengths. This will increase the chances of them getting done consistently and fairly, as well as reduce stress.
- Set aside quality time to spend together – make sure you date your spouse. Find someone to watch the children and do something fun together. Make a list of things that you both enjoy and spend some time each week on one of those things.
- Sex. Could your sex life use a pick me up? Have you ever considered that challenges related to ADHD, including reactions such as lowered sex drive due to medication, could be preventing you from keeping your sex life as lively and fulfilling as it could be? The good thing is, with open communication with your partner and therapist, you should be able to get your sex life back on track relatively quickly. Talk about it!
All couples view the world differently and communicate uniquely – this fact may just be heightened for couples with ADHD. If your partner has ADHD, I encourage you to use these seven tips to turn potential challenges into creative ways to grow closer to them and get the love you deserve, when you deserve it!