When ADHD Adult Symptoms Get in the Way: Relationship Problems and Solutions

ADHD marriage expert Melissa Orlov explains the 9 ways symptoms can cause marriage or dating issues -- and offers advice on how couples can cope with adult ADD symptoms and treatments.

9 Ways ADD/ADHD Affects Relationships (Cont.)

Areas for the Non-ADD/ADHD Partner to Work On

4. Misinterpreting Symptoms. You and your partner probably misinterpret each other’s motives and actions because you think you understand each other. For example, a partner with undiagnosed ADD/ADHD may be distracted, paying little attention to those he loves. This can be interpreted as “he doesn’t care” rather than “he’s distracted.” The response to the former is to feel hurt. The response to the latter is “to make time for each other.” Getting to know your differences, in the context of ADD/ADHD, can clear up misinterpretations.

5. Chore Wars. Having a partner with untreated ADD/ADHD often results in a non-ADHD partner taking on more housework. If workload imbalances aren’t addressed, the non-ADHD partner will feel resentment. Trying harder isn’t the answer. ADD/ADHD partners must try “differently,” if they are going to succeed -- and the non-ADHD partners must accept their partner’s unorthodox approaches. Leaving clean clothes in the dryer, so they can be easily found the next morning, may seem odd, but it may work for the ADD/ADHD partner. Both partners benefit when the non-ADHD partner admits that his way of doing things doesn’t work for his partner.

6. Impulsive Responses. ADD/ADHD symptoms alone aren’t destructive to a relationship; a partner’s response to the symptoms, and the reaction that it evokes, is. You can respond to a partner’s habit of impulsively blurting out things by feeling disrespected and fighting back. This will cause your ADD/ADHD partner to take up the fight. Or you can respond by changing your conversational patterns to make it easier for the ADD/ADHD partner to participate. Some ways to do this include speaking in shorter sentences and having your partner take notes to “hold” an idea for later. Couples who are aware of this pattern can choose productive responses.

7. Nag Now, Pay Later. If you have an ADD/ADHD partner, you probably nag your partner. The best reason not to do it is that it doesn’t work. Since the problem is the ADD/ADHD partner’s distractibility and untreated symptoms, not his motivation, nagging won’t help him get things done. It causes the ADD/ADHD partner to retreat, increasing feelings of loneliness and separation, and reinforces the shame that he feels after years of not meeting people’s expectations. Having a partner treat the ADD/ADHD symptoms, and stopping when you find yourself nagging, will break this pattern.

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