Truth be told, any individual trait or attribute will affect our relationships. Therefore, it only makes sense that if one or both partners are struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there will be impacts. ADHD is a neurodevelopment disorder typically diagnosed in childhood.
We’ll go into some of the dominant symptoms in the next section. From there, it is easy to see how ADHD can cause strain within a relationship. Also, since many adults remain undiagnosed, ADHD can create strife because it gives the impression that at least one of you is not fully invested in your connection.
What Does ADHD Look Like?
For the most part, people with ADHD present with one of three kinds:
- Combination of both
Possible signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling distracted and unable to focus on tasks
- Beginning a new task before you’ve finished the first one
- Always losing things
- Talking a lot, interrupting, and having trouble staying on one topic
- Taking unnecessary risks, unable to resist temptation
- Appearing to be careless or simply not being attention
- Easily stressed or agitated
- Prone to angry outbursts
This list is just a sampling but it’s enough to highlight the potentially divisive role ADHD can play between two romantic partners.
How ADHD Affects Relationships
Misinterpretation and Conflict
The person with ADHD, as the above symptoms imply, may often:
- Seem detached
- Not holding up their end of chores, responsibilities, and financial agreements
- Appear to be indifferent to their partner’s needs
- Lash out in anger when confronted about it
Such possibilities create fertile ground for misinterpretation and conflict. If one partner has undiagnosed ADHD, this cultivates a scenario in which trust feels broken. It also leads to finger pointing. Negativity lays heavy in the air and when feeling frustrated, it’s not unusual to seek someone or something to blame.
ADHD requires diagnosis and treatment. One of you may have ADHD. If you don’t know it or don’t do the work during therapy, your anger tendencies remain unchecked. In such a setting, there are some likely outcomes:
- Constant conflict
- One partner tiptoeing around the other
- Confusion, resentment, and distance
- Lots of hurt feelings
Creating a Parent-Child Dynamic
When one partner is daydreaming, forgetting responsibilities, and throwing a tantrum when called on it, the other partner may slip into playing a “parent” role. The ADHD partner may get treated like a child. They get scolded and have to have things explained to them over and over. In turn, they resent this “parent” and may become more likely to incite conflict. Left unaddressed, this dynamic is very counterproductive for your relationship.
First Step: Communication
Without this foundation, you may remain at odds indefinitely. Commit to regular, calm, respectful, and face-to-face discussions. If you are fully aware that one partner has ADHD, that’s your starting point. If neither of you has been diagnosed with ADHD but is displaying symptoms, part of your communication must be about getting clarity on this.
Talk openly about your feelings. Use “I” statements to convey how the situation is impacting you. Practice communicating without slipping into a pattern of blame and conflict. With or without an ADHD diagnosis, this commitment to steady, honest interactions will be essential. Even so, you will need professional guidance.
Let’s Connect and Talk
Working with an experienced therapist is a proven path toward managing ADHD. The partner with ADHD can certainly benefit from individual sessions. However, couples counseling can be your collective workshop. It may serve as the safe space you both need to vent, explore, discover, and learn.
I invite you both to reach out at your earliest convenience. ADHD is not insurmountable but you will need steady support. ADHD Counseling can be what you need to improve your lives.
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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.