10 Guiding Principles for ADHD Relationships

The rules of engagement may differ for people with ADHD, but they can still forge healthy relationships and social lives. From mindful listening to reminder alarms, check out what ADHD-specific tips work best for ADDitude readers.

Close-up of happy young females standing outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images
Close-up of young women laughing while standing against red wall. Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

If Betty Crocker wrote a recipe for a healthy relationship touched by ADHD, what would it include? A dash of empathy? Two tablespoons of patience? Four cups of forgiveness?

Of course, sustaining and strengthening a relationship when you (and/or your loved ones) have ADHD can’t be reduced to recipe steps. Still, ADDitude readers have landed on a few key ingredients — self-awareness, openness, and boundaries, to name a few — that benefit their ADHD relationships. Try one (or all), and share your insights in the Comments section below.

“I do three things: 1. I use Boomerang for Gmail to send pre-written emails to people on their special days like birthdays and anniversaries. 2. I call friends and family while doing household chores. Keeping my body moving allows me to remain more present for conversations. 3. Due to impulse control problems, I deleted my social media accounts. My tendency to dash off a reply — often one I wrongly assumed was funny — harmed a lot of my relationships.”

“Be mindful that you can be a lot sometimes. Give people permission to slow you down or hurry you up — and don’t be snippy about it. Above all, do not apologize for yourself. You are doing your very best.”

“I made a rule to reply to every text message I get, even if it’s just one emoji. No exceptions. I also never stress about gift ideas because I immediately buy a gift when I see a good one and store it for a later time.”

[Download This Free Resource: Manage ADHD’s Impact on Your Relationship]

“I’m open and honest about my specific struggles. I say, ‘no’ to many requests and ask for downtime.”

“I remind myself that I am not on a stage. So, I allow people to talk without interrupting and listen carefully to what they’re saying before formulating a response.”

“I set a reminder alarm to call someone, anyone, one night a week. This gives me 52 chances to reach out in a year.”

“When possible, I limit my socializing to one-on-one. I don’t usually hang out in a group setting unless it’s for a birthday or other special occasion.”

[Read This: Is Your ADHD Ruining Your Happily Ever After?]

“I keep a journal. Writing down how I feel helps me consider why someone else might be feeling or reacting the way they are. I also become more self-aware and notice patterns of behavior that I might want to change.”

“I am honest and open about my ADHD. By educating others about the challenges of ADHD, we can feel less of a stigma and more empowered.”

“I was diagnosed two months ago. I recognize that I’m actually not a bad friend or partner, my brain just behaves differently. Learning the magic words ‘emotional dysregulation’ has been life-changing. Now I have the vocabulary to recognize and question if something deeper is going on, or if I’m just feeling more deeply.”

Healthy Relationships with ADHD: Next Steps

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.