Marriage

Does Your Lover Have ADHD? Read This.

So, you’ve fallen in love with someone who has ADHD? If so, you already know and appreciate your partner’s wonderful spontaneity, creativity, and loyalty. You may also recognize some ADD-related challenges like unequal responsibilities or emotional outbursts. Like any relationship, yours requires balance. Here, real couples share their best advice for finding that equilibrium with ADHD.

ADHD relationship advice
photo by Tyler Burrus

In strictly rom-com terms, loving someone with ADHD runs the gamut from “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Love Actually” to “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” In this way, a relationship touched by ADD is not different than any other — it’s just more extreme.

Does ADHD Ruin Marriages?

If your partner has a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), on the one hand you’re fortunate to know the likely cause of your partner’s challenges and idiosyncrasies. On the other, you may be shouldering a nagging fear: Can your relationship bear this burden?

For the vast majority of couples, the answer is “Yes.” The key is recognizing how ADHD affects your relationship, and working together with your spouse to identify and confront trouble spots before they cause permanent damage.

[Free Handout: 6 Ways ADHD Sabotages Relationships]

We asked more than 1,200 people — both with and without ADHD — to give their best advice for managing ADHD’s impact on a romantic relationship. From education to self-care, their answers emphasize the need for compassion, humor, and (most importantly) lots of love.

1. Research ADHD — its causes, symptoms & treatments.
Read a lot of books about ADHD — they are mostly enjoyable reading! — or go to seminars or meetings to get an understanding of how to enjoy your partner instead of control them.”

“Educate yourself about attention deficit disorder — it’s important to understand which of the things that drive you crazy are actually symptoms.”

“Take the time to understand not only the medical literature, but really try to understand the person. Everyone is different.”

2. Remember that ADHD behaviors aren’t personal.
“Understand that it’s a diagnosis, not a core personality flaw. That will give you clarity regarding why your partner does what he does, and help you help him — instead of put him down.”

“Understand that your partner isn’t purposely trying to ignore you, forget things, be messy, or be in their own little world. Be sure you can love them anyway — or it’s going to be a long road.”

“Some things your partner does, they can’t help. They are not trying to hurt your feelings.”

[Married with ADHD: How Real Couples Make It Work]

3. Pursue treatment — together when necessary.
“Make sure a fully functioning treatment plan is in place that includes medication, sleep, exercise, diet, therapy, and addiction counseling.”

“Go to couple’s therapy! Join a support group if necessary.”

“Start seeing a counselor sooner rather than later. This has been so helpful to our relationship — to understand what is going on and to learn strategies to help.”

4. Communicate openly and often.
“Find ways to communicate so you’ll be able to say — out of the heat of the moment — the stuff that you find difficult. Agree on ways you can live/work with ADHD challenges.”

“Talk about expectations. Talk about the weaknesses and strengthes of each person. Write them down, and try to find ways for you to cover each other’s weaknesses.”

“You can work through anything, including ADHD, if you COMMUNICATE.”

5. Recognize your partner’s strengths as much as possible.
“Both of you need to look at your differences as strengths — don’t insult one another because one is ‘boring and predictable’ and the other is ‘scattered-brained and spontaneous.’”

“Notice and praise the gifts of ADHD to help keep you from focusing on the negative.”

“It may get harder at times — but your partner loves you blindly and fiercely, and that is a priceless gift.”

6. Practice self-care.
“To share your life with someone, you have to be someone you believe is worth sharing. A workable partnership is about knowing yourself and loving that person just as much as it is about loving your spouse.”

“Give yourself plenty of time to spend with your own interests.”

[Can This Marriage Be Saved?]

“Remember that you are an individual person with your own needs. If you give too much, there won’t be enough left over for you.”

7. Acknowledge that you have flaws, too.
“There is a saying that ‘people marry on the same level of dysfunction.’ It’s important that the non-ADHD person be aware of their own issues. I have so often seen a marriage dynamic where the focus is on the spouse with ADHD — when there are likely issues on both sides.”

“You both have to give and take. No one is perfect — even a person who does not have ADHD.”

“Learn how to rely on each other — you can fill in the blanks for those things that are your weaknesses, and let each other’s strengths shine!”

8. Divide labor fairly.
“Organization and routine in the mundane is essential. A lack of control in things like monetary issues is very stressful, and can be detrimental to the relationship.”

“Have a chart or some other system to organize what everyone is supposed to do. If necessary, have alarms to remind the partner with ADHD what they have to do and when.”

“Discuss the implications of division of labor in the household. For example, asking someone with ADD to do ALL the housecleaning would likely lead to disagreements or resentments. You’ll also need to plan how to manage tasks that the person with ADHD finds boring or hard to focus on.”

9. Practice patience.
“Be prepared to forgive a lot. You’re going to need as much patience as you can muster!”

“Be ready for challenges, but embrace them with patience and love.”

“BOTH spouses in a marriage need to be patient and compassionate with one another.”

10. Be flexible.
“Relax and embrace the uniqueness. Nothing has to be perfect or ‘right on.’”

“Life is about the interruptions. Have goals, but be a team player — especially if children are a part of your family.”

“Prepare yourself for a wild ride of the unexpected!”

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