Relationship Strains as an Adult with ADHD

While systemic and general stigma adults with ADHD face undeniably constitutes a major concern, on a lesser but still, hurtful scale, are relationship problems they may often face as well. Any number of issues have the potential to complicate romantic relationships, but adults with ADHD tend to disproportionately experience certain strains that can make maintaining healthy and satisfactory relationships all the more difficult.

Without proper communication between partners and a legitimate understanding of the disability from the person who does not struggle with it, relationships, where one or more partners have ADHD, can become toxic. That does not mean that partners with the disorder themselves are toxic, or that they are to blame. Rather, relationships are a collaborative, mutual collection of interactions that require compassion and understanding on both sides in order to make things work. Having a relationship as an adult with ADHD can be difficult, but certainly not impossible.

Feelings of anger, frustration, and even emotional abuse tend to be common issues experienced in these relationships. Symptoms such as inattentiveness can create doubt and confusion on both sides of the relationship. The partner without ADHD may confuse lack of ability to focus as a lack of love and commitment expressed by their partner when that really is not the case. In addition, the rollercoaster ride of symptoms the partner with ADHD experiences may become overwhelming for their partner, which can cause relationship burnouts.

Common impacts on ADHD partners:
Feeling like their partner is constantly trying to “change” or “fix” them through continual nagging and/or verbal abuse
Not being able to recognize the impact of their symptoms on their partner
May feel more worn out over time

Common impacts on non-ADHD partners:
Confusing lack of focus for lack of love
Feeling as though ADHD partner is often withdrawing
Has misunderstanding of the disorder, which may lead to becoming annoyed by the cycle of symptoms their partner experiences

Respectful communication and understanding in relationships where one or more partner has ADHD are essential. There are certainly hurdles these relationships tend to possess more often than others and being able to recognize whether you’re ready to commit to honoring that upfront may be able to save a lot of heartbreak later on. However, it’s not always easy in the beginning to understand the strains the relationship may be more likely to face.

Checking in with one another regularly and communicating concerns or doubts within the relationship are important to ensure there is no avoidable hurt taking place, and that each partner can feel respected, heard, and understood within the relationship.