What Personality Type Might Be a Good Match for My ADHD Sons?

If you know you have ADHD, and could choose anyone in the world to be your partner, what characteristics might you seek out?

I got a wonderful note today from a mother interested in the issues her two sons (both with ADHD) face in the dating world.  She asked the question "What personality types work best with ADHDers?"  While falling in love is complex and, it seems, often inexplicable, it's still worth taking a stab at an answer.

Patience, compassion and flexibility would be my top choices, I think.  Patience because a partner with ADHD often doesn't get from point A to point B in a straight line.  If you area partner who is always pushing to 'go, go, go' and place a very high value on efficiency, then this characteristic might cause conflict in the relationship.  Compassion because there are many struggles that a person with ADHD faces.  Some are obvious - underachieving in school or in the workplace, for example.  But other struggles are harder to see.  Self-esteem issues that develop after years of inconsistency or having other people comment on how you could 'do better' are common.  Someone who has the ability to imagine - and empathize with - the emotional toll that having ADHD can take (while still treasuring that partner) would be a big plus.

Flexibility would also be a huge benefit.  In a life impacted by ADHD things come at you unexpectedly all the time.  Sometimes there are warning signs that the ADHD partner doesn't see.  Sometimes an ADHD partner hides or retreats from bad news that feels too overwhelming to deal with ...letting it fester until it suddenly comes into view.  The person who secretly runs up credit card debt or fears losing their job but doesn't tell a partner about their concerns are examples of these.  Eventually the 'surprise' shows up.  I must point out here that not all of the surprises are negative - you decide spur of the moment to take a quick weekend away, for example, and have to quickly rearrange your schedule.

Finally, I think I would add that someone who has a strong sense of themselves would be useful.  Marriage research done by John Gottman Ph.D. suggests that partners (particularly female partners) who are clear about their needs and don't compensate early in their relationships for another person's poor behavior end up with healthier relationships.  This makes total sense to me - negotiate around your problems early, before resentment and hard feelings set in, and you will have a better relationship overall.  Choosing a partner who has the strength to stand up for herself early on ends up being a long-term plus.

What characteristics would you choose as good companion characteristics for a person with ADHD?



partners for us?

these are good attributes.  my wife says the main thing needed is the patience of a saint.

(in my experience, the question is somewhat questionable - your sons are going to partner with whoever they're going to partner with)

Resigned2B's picture

Son's realize their ADHD is an issue.

Well Doug, 

Speaking as someone with two adult sons looking for wives they have seen 30 years of messing up.  They have both been on meds since they were three and four; this is after we had already had four children without it. I didn't know what the he-l had hit me when my first son with ADHD became two years old.  By then I had already given birth to our last son who would prove later to have the same issue.  This combination of a non-diagnosed husband who we now know has ADHD and two small boys with medicated ADHD and four other children; they have ALL seen it ALL!  

The last thing they want is to screw up this marriage thing.  They each will have a copy of Melissa's book and they know, pretty much, exactly what to look for and what not to.  They know how likely it is that they too, will have at least one child who has it.  Even at the best, they will struggle.  It will be me who looks at their wives and worry if they will be able to deal with the rejection and constant, fly by the seat of your pants, chaos! My husband's first wife didn't make it.  She has OCD.  That was a disastrous combination!

Nonetheless, it is their choice.  At least they will not be able to say they didn't know how destructive this issue often is to a relationship.  I have lived the past thirty years trying to support all of them, the rest of our children, active in our church, and failing badly most of the time.  I doubt they want to see that same look on the wives they love...

Attributes best suited to an ADHD partner

I agree with all that's been suggested so far but I would definitely add a sense of humour and fun. Humour and fun have got my husband and I through many's the difficult time,as they can often break the tension. As he comes at life from 'left of centre' the majority of the time with his ADHD attributes we might as well enjoy them. The alternative would be to book oneself into an asylum I suppose! (Mind you I'm saying all this after nearly 15 years together. There were quite a few years,particularly after the initial 'meeting' and marriage time, that were extraordinarily difficult,painful and challenging during which we really got to know each other,once we phoenix'd back out of the ashes that is! As we got to understand ADHD better and once we read Melissa Orlov's book and I began to feel so much less alone,via both the book and these ADHD and Marriage blogs, we began to find a new way of approaching each other. With more patience,empathy,understanding and flexibility (which has had to be wrung out of me I have to say!) and DEFINITELY with great big dollops of humour. Its a blessing that we both have a heightened sense of fun so now there is always a lot of laughter,which is much more pleasant than the anger that it replaced I can tell you. I'd also add that a willingness to look at oneself as the non ADHD partner and take responsibility for one's own trouble making bits and pieces is another imperative. Its not ALL the fault of the ADHD symptoms (easy though it is to point the finger in that direction!)  And finally I'd add the need for commitment on the part of both parties. I say to my husband that if he died I'd never do it again (its been such hard work!) but I have absolutely NO regrets about us. He's a one-off maverick human being for sure but I wouldn't be without him now for all the tea in china as they say. He has the biggest kindest most generous heart of anyone I know and as a result of this charm he gets away with murder,over and over and over. I have learned an awful lot from him and been challenged to go where I have needed to go but wouldn't have gone voluntarily. I have grown into a much bigger version of myself than I would have without him. And I have to say so has he! The last two years we've been through an unrelenting time of health challenges and deaths for both ourselves,close friends and family. All the hard work we have put in together is now experienced as appreciation for each other's presence,support and warm love of each other. And towering above it all is humour,black or otherwise and so still lots of laughter. We are truly blessed. Best to all, Marych O'Sullivan-Sanford.

Resigned2B's picture

Characteristics needed to deal with an ADHD spouse.

To expound on Melissa's character traits of a good match for an ADHD personality type I would have to say how right she is about having a good self-image! Without a strong sense of who you are and your value to this world you are likely to get caught in the downward spiral of depression and anger at yourself.  

You may find yourself asking questions like, what am I doing wrong, why doesn't he want to be with me, Am I really asking too much, Am I selfish, does he need even MORE time to recreate, why is hunting, work associates, hobbies, more important than ANYTHING else we have going on? I'm not patient enough - THAT's why we're into year two of a two month remodel - it's ME!  He's angry with me and this is his way to pay me back for something I must I done wrong! If I were different, HE'D be better! I MUST BE THE ONE WHO'S WRONG - I MUST BE CRAZY - I'M NOT WORTH HIS TIME - IT'S NOT HIM -- IT MUST BE ME!

Hence: The fatal trap has been set...

Okay, sounds like I'm the

Okay, sounds like I'm the last person who my husband should have married.  I have none of those characteristics - hence my deep resentment, poor communication within the marriage and unhappiness.  Now what?  I feel like there is no hope, especially since I'm the opposite of what he needs.  He tries so hard, but he can't meet my needs in a way that's meaningful to me.  He certainly doesn't seem as unhappy as I am.  My personality is definitely less positive than his (which he does complain about quite frequently).  I didn't think I was such a negative person at the start of our relationship.  I've developed into a person I hate- insecure, angry, resentful, hopeless.  I take responsibility for some of that. He takes responsibility for NONE of that.  He just can't understand why I can't be happy with such a great guy like him.  Yes, he's great in many ways.  But the other parts of him DRIVE ME INSANE!

Resigned2B's picture


Just a couple of things.

Of COURSE he is more optimistic that you are! He's off in a completely different world that has NO comprehension of REALITY!!! He can AFFORD to be optimistic! He can't SEE that HE'S the freaking problem or really even ANY problems! Life looks great with those rose colored glasses on! GIVE ME A PAIR!

You, on the other hand, sink deeper and deeper into despair knowing you will NEVER be able to change your reality with HIM! Your life's responsibility is compensating for EVERYTHING that he doesn't/can't bring to the table. HELLO? Who in the WORLD wouldn't be depressed over THAT nightmare??? Then realizing you are in it for LIFE!!! You have 'learned' from his behavior that there's little to be positive about. Just start digging your grave now! Am I right??? :{

My husband, who has lied and spent 100's of thousands without me knowing leaving us with NO retirement at age 60, wanted to divorce me last night -- AGAIN...

WHY? Because even though he has a MASTERS in accounting, is a CPA and a CEO, simply can NOT add and subtract and be honest with me about money. Late last night, I caught him in yet another financial lie after he has promised for MONTHS that he would stop. This will cost us thousands that we don't even have anymore. The kicker??? He acted as though HE was the insured party! Would NOT apologize or show ANY kind of remorse - yet AGAIN! 

I'm in it 30 years and six adult kids, and grandkids, later. I have no money or savings or retirement or job skill. I am stuck hoping (showing faith) that he can somehow he can get us out of this mess. ALL my dreams of a secure future are gone with little hope that we won't be living our 'golden years' under a viaduct.

I don't know where you are in life. It you have children? If you have the power to leave? I can just share my story of what 30 years of this has done for me. ADHD is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Being their spouse??? Is NOT!!!