Strategies for Coping When You’re in an ADHD Relationship

Being in a relationship with someone who has ADHD can be challenging. The issues of attention, communication, procrastination, disorganization and impulsiveness that an ADHD individual must grapple with daily, can add significant stress to relationships. It can leave you feeling ignored, neglected, and frustrated,

Erin Nicole McGinnis, LMFT, a psychotherapist who has ADD, says, “People with [ADHD] can be very attentive one minute, and then not follow through the next. The partner can often feel like they aren’t cared about, filling in the blanks and making assumptions that aren’t true.”

ADHD in adults can show up as hyperactivity or inattentiveness.In the hyperactive scenario, the ADHD partner may exhibit fidgeting, impulsiveness, and talkativeness. In the inattentive case, it might come across as daydreaming and spacing out. In both cases, according to McGinnis, the ADHD partner may find it difficult to start a task or stay with it to completion. She explains that to have a functional relationship, you need to be able to complete tasks with your partner, and this is difficult when one person is very disorganized or not able to stay focused.

How to be a supportive partner to someone with ADHD? McGinnis offers these suggestions:

Learn everything you can about ADHD – Understanding the condition and the limitations it can impose on your partner is key to avoiding many of the frustrations that it can bring. Read as much as you can on the subject. Consult with professionals who work with ADHD clients. But most importantly, talk to your partner to better understand their experience.

Get help with tasks that are difficult for you and your partner to manage together – If your partner has ADHD, you may discover that you end up doing the lion’s share of tasks like cleaning and organizing. If that is the case, consider outsourcing these household chores. McGinnis suggests doing things like hiring a housekeeper so that you don’t feel like you’re the one always cleaning, or utilizing a grocery delivery service so it doesn’t always fall to you to make sure your fridge is stocked.

Set boundaries and stick to them – Communicating your needs is especially important if you’re in a relationship with someone who has ADHD. Create boundaries that help you cope with the behaviors that stem from your partner’s ADHD and then stick to those boundaries. For example, if your partner is always late, your boundary may be that you’re only going to wait for them for a certain amount of time before leaving. McGinnis recommends that when you talk with your partner about this, you tell them you understand and you don’t take it personally. You can explain how it makes you feel when they don’t show up on time, so from now on, you’re only going to wait for 10 minutes. The boundary-setting won’t necessarily change your partner. But they will understand the consequences to their behavior.

Take time to recharge – Dealing with these issues can be fatiguing. So give yourself time to to build up your compassion. Recognize that it is a finite resource that can run out. For example, this could mean spending time in nature. Whatever activity  it is, be sure to give yourself the time to do it and enjoy it.

Being in a relationship with someone who has ADHD can sometimes be difficult. But understanding, combined with strategies to help lessen the impact of ADHD on your relationship, can help you and your partner enjoy more of the time you spend with each other.

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