The Effects of ADHD on Your Relationship

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No matter who you are or what your background is, healthy and successful relationships require time, effort, and attention. If you, or your partner, has ADHD, it can be even more challenging to build and maintain a healthy and happy relationship with your partner or spouse.

Effective communication, listening, and the simple act of spending time together can be even more difficult with the additional factor of ADHD. Even when you want to be the best partner possible for your significant other, why does it often still feel like you’re falling short?

ADHD doesn’t just make schoolwork difficult for children and adolescents. ADHD impacts adults, as well, and can cause problems in your relationship. 

Consider the following…

1. Impulsivity Can Be a Double-Edged Sword

One effect ADHD has on your relationships is connected to impulsivity…it’s one of the classic symptoms of the disorder. You’ve probably been told that you act first and think later; this can be a double-edged sword in relationships.

On the one hand, being impulsive can be exciting for your partner. (“Hey, let’s go to the lake today!”) It usually feels great to be with someone who likes to be spontaneous and have fun.

However, it gets problematic when you’re acting on your impulses almost all the time. This is especially true if your partner already has made plans for the weekend and feels hurt because you didn’t consider them when you made another plan.

2. Feeling Distracted Causes Frustration

Another typical symptom of ADHD is being easily distracted. If you have ADHD, you likely find that it’s hard for you to stay focused on a particular task for very long. Instead of working with your partner on the household budget or planning out the calendar for the next three months, your mind begins to drift.

The ADHD mind is very much wired towards your interests. Someone with ADHD has the capacity to stay focused and on task if it is something that interests them and they enjoy doing. In fact, they can become hyper-focused on what they find interesting. If the interest isn’t there, then attention will often drift.

This can be very frustrating for someone in a relationship with a partner who has ADHD. Frustration can cause irritation and can ultimately lead to your partner feeling like they aren’t a priority.

3. Forgetfulness Damages Trust

Anyone who has forgotten an important date (such as a birthday or anniversary) will know how hurtful it can be and how that negatively affects a relationship. Imagine something like this happening to you frequently, and you can see how forgetfulness can harm your relationships.

If it happens constantly, your partner may get exceedingly frustrated or angry when you forget to follow through with a request, such as running an errand. Regardless of your intentions and desire to follow through, you will struggle if you do not use tools to help you remember.

Being forgetful can easily make you seem unreliable, making it tough for your partner to trust that you “have their back” when it’s important.

4. Hyperactivity Can Be Exhausting

Being hyperactive can have its strengths and weaknesses. When combined with something that interests you, it allows you to sustain energy while doing something you enjoy.

Early in a relationship, having a lot of energy can be exciting and captivating for your partner. It may be one of the qualities of your personality that attracted them to you.

Over time, that same energy can be draining and exhausting for your partner. Especially if you don’t have an outlet for all that energy.

5. Changes in Mood and Outlook Strain Connection

One of the symptoms associated with ADHD, but not always considered, is changes in mood and general outlook.

People with ADHD may struggle with depression, anxiety, or mood swings. It’s often frustrating for them to struggle so much and to be misunderstood by others, especially if it’s their partner.

This too can have a negative effect on your relationship. Your partner may not understand how ADHD and mood are connected. And your constant ups and down can be tough on their emotional health, as well as your personal connection.

Do you recognize any of these issues in your personal relationships? If so, be quick to forgive yourself, or your partner who has ADHD.

Use this information to create a better understanding of how you interact with others—in particular, your partner. But if you need more help with working toward finding effective solutions to the effect ADHD has on your relationship, seek out professional support.

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Janie McMahan is a marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas. She is also an adult with ADHD and understands professionally, as well as personally, how ADHD impacts our daily functioning and relationships! If you and your partner need help navigating the special challenges ADHD brings to your relationship, contact Janie at 512-739-2494, or request an appointment with her by completing the form here.