Finding out that ADHD is impacting your relationship is actually good news. You’ve had the symptoms and patterns for a while now, and may have wondered why the same things keep happening over and over. Once you know more, you can make huge shifts in how you interact with each other. So let’s start…here are answers to questions couples ask when they’re just finding out about ADHD and relationships:
How do we know if ADHD might be present in our relationship?
There are some telltale signs which, if you have them in your relationship, suggest you should learn more about adult ADHD. Read my blog post Six Signs that ADHD May Be Part of Your Marriage for more information.
Is it all about ADHD? It seems as if my partner is often angry and has their own issues!
No, it’s definitely not just about ADHD. It’s about the presence of ADHD symptomatic behaviors plus the other partner’s responses to those symptoms (as well as anything else you each bring to your relationship from your childhood, etc.). These interactions create surprisingly predictable patterns between partners when ADHD is present. Read my post The Surprising Ways ADHD Symptoms Affect Your Marriage.
I’m taking medication for ADHD. Isn’t that enough?
There is a saying in the ADHD world that ‘pills don’t teach skills.’ Medications have some of the best effect sizes for managing ADHD, and most adults can find medication(s) that significantly improve their symptoms. But research shows over and over that medication alone is not optimal. Not only are the additional ways to help manage your unique ADHD brain (such as better sleep hygiene and exercise) what you do with improved focus is important. You want to use ADHD-friendly strategies that allow you to apply your improved focus and calmer demeanor to your everyday life and behaviors. That is what improves your life and your relationship.
Partners have an important role to play, too, with how they respond to ADHD symptoms that persist, manage their frustration and anger, and more. Download a copy of my free treatment guide from the home page for more information about how to optimize treatment of adult ADHD using all three legs of treatment, and find information about the effect size of specific treatment options, including medication at The Best Treatments for ADHD and What Doesn’t Work.
I feel I can’t trust my partner to follow through, which I hate, and which makes me feel resentful. Is that part of the impact of ADHD?
Yes. I call that parent-child dynamics and write about it more extensively in both of my books (The ADHD Effect on Marriage and The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD). In a nutshell, the more organized partner takes on too much responsibility in the relationship (over-functioning), while the less organized or reliable partner becomes a ‘less than’ partner (under-functioning). It is a highly destructive pattern that lessens connection, increases resentment and anger, puts one partner above the other one, and kills your sex life. When I work with couples, it’s one of the first things I ask them to tackle. If you have (or suspect you have) ADHD, you might want to read What Does the “Child” Role Look Like in Parent/Child Dynamics? For both of you, here are some Tips for Becoming Independent of Parent/Child Dynamics.
My partner doesn’t want to think about the possibility of ADHD right now. What do I do?
It still makes sense to learn more and start to work on those things that are in your own side of the relationship. For example, learning how to correctly interpret ADHD symptoms is always better than not doing so. Eventually, you both definitely need to engage with this issue to succeed in turning things around. As you learn more, perhaps you will find a compelling way to engage your partner productively.
Where can I learn more about how ADHD impacts relationships?
This website has an extensive resources about how to deal with ADHD in relationships -probably the most extensive in the world. Take a look at the offerings, including:
- The ADHD Effect on Marriage and The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD, my two award-winning books on the topic
- My highly regarded 8-week couples seminar, given live by Zoom. The next seminars will start on March 16, 2022 and in the Fall of 2022. There is also a self-study version for those who don’t wish to take it live.
- Support groups for non-ADHD partners
- My blog (start in ‘start here’!)
- A suggested reading list for issues couples face, such as codependency, anger, sex and more
Note that I also host a forum, about which I will provide a warning – there are many distressed people who post about their experiences in this forum. It can be a difficult place to traverse, particularly for ADHD partners. However, it does provide a place to get the online support and input of others, as well as learn more about the daily experiences of people struggling in ADHD-impacted relationships.