5 Common ADHD Relationship Hot Spots — and Solutions

Common relationship problems among ADHD couples include misunderstanding symptoms, lingering resentment, a parent-child dynamic, denial, and unproductive arguments. Learn more about each of these challenges and the fixes that put couples on the road to relationship repair.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas via pexels:
1 of 7

Your Most Common ADHD Relationship Problems

The ADHD effect on romantic relationships is substantial. Though often thrilling and fulfilling, ADHD relationships are invariably influenced by the condition's symptoms and traits — from emotional dysregulation to difficulty focusing. When these issues remain unresolved, they may spark conflict and misunderstandings that weigh down partners and strain relationships.

During the ADDitude webinar, "The ADHD Love Languages: How to Communicate Better to Solve Relationship Problems" we asked nearly 1,000 attendees, "Which of the following poses the biggest challenge in your ADHD relationship?" Here are their answers:

  • Communication: 30.78%
  • Emotional dysregulation: 22.33%
  • Rejection sensitivity: 15.33%
  • Listening skills: 10.44%
  • Inequitable parenting/household duties: 7.11%
  • Problems with intimacy: 6.67%
  • Understanding ADHD: 5%
  • Betrayal: 2.33%

Read on to learn more about the most common ADHD relationship problems, along with additional resources handpicked by ADDitude editors to help couples navigate relationship challenges.

Couple problems, couple therapy, relationship and marriage problems, depression and anxiety flat vector illustration design. Sad, unhappy and tired woman and man thinking, feeling confused
2 of 7

ADHD Relationship Challenge: Communication & Apologies

"Do you have any suggestions for an ADHD person who can’t get their words out during an argument and feels frustrated not being able to put words to their thoughts/feelings?"

"I have ADHD. I close up completely during arguments and disagreements, which means nothing gets resolved and, of course, I never bring the topic up again."

"I need some time to calm down before I can apologize sincerely. But my partner gets angry because I cannot apologize immediately. How can I go about this?"

"I am medicated and have been in therapy working on my emotional regulation. What can I do in the meantime to help me communicate? I sometimes get so frustrated or emotional that I leave out words or thoughts and blurt out statements that are not complete sentences."

When Partners Argue: Next Steps

soldier spear defensive defensiveness
Soldier with spear. Defensiveness. Picture by Emilio Sanchez via Pexels.
3 of 7

ADHD Relationship Challenge: RSD & Emotionality

"What is the best way to communicate with my partner about their destructive behavior without them getting so defensive?"

"We're pretty good communicators and have given each other permission to offer well-meant observations that might lead to personal and interpersonal improvement. But rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) makes both of us reject the very observations we intend to welcome from one another."

"My partner and I both have ADHD, and I am very willing to seek workarounds because I've known about mine longer. But she tends to feel so ashamed of her symptoms, so much so that she avoids workarounds or help."

"I was diagnosed with ADHD last summer at the age of 50. I haven't been able to tell my spouse about my diagnosis because I constantly struggle with feeling inadequate in every aspect of my life. My spouse has said things (likely unknowingly) over the last 20 years that increases these feelings of inadequacy. How can I come to a point of feeling safe enough to share my diagnosis and my struggles with my spouse?"

Dealing with Denial and Avoidance: Next Steps

Broken Heartbreak. Photo by Stas Knop via Pexels.
4 of 7

ADHD Relationship Challenge: Lingering Resentment

"My ADHD partner resents me ( I also have ADHD) for not doing certain financial things I should have done 12 years ago. Our arguments quickly revert to this issue, no matter what the actual issue is the moment. She always reverts to this under the guise that our current situation is because of what I didn't do back then. How can we get around this?"

"After YEARS of dealing with my husband's untreated ADHD, I struggle greatly with resentment. How can I heal my own resentment, even though some things have improved, when there seems to be soooo much history?"

"Any suggestions on how the ADHD partner can help the non-ADHD partner deal with their resentment and anger caused by their past negative behaviors?"

Healing Old Wounds: Next Steps

5 of 7

ADHD Relationship Challenge: A Parent-Child Relationship Dynamic

"How can we reverse the parent-child relationship in a marriage with a partner with ADHD once it is baked into a long marriage?"

"As the ADHD spouse, I feel that I am currently not seen as an equal partner by my non-ADHD spouse, and I am thus having trouble maintaining the motivation required to deliver consistent behavior correction."

"So, I'm the ADHD partner (inattentive type). My husband is a really effective person, a doctor himself. We get stuck in the child-parent relationship quite a bit. I find it difficult to be an adult during our interactions and believe that my opinions and thoughts on the situation matter. How can I begin to coach myself to equal the scales in my relationship and preserve my adulthood?"

"I have ADHD and struggle with time management and my husband is somewhat of a drill sergeant. Evenings are stressful with our kids — homework, dinner, bedtime. I want to partner with him, but feel like he's parenting me, too. So we end up arguing. What can we do to be a unit?"

An Unequal Partnership: Next Steps

My ADHD Mind. Photo by Tara Winstead via Pexels
6 of 7

ADHD Relationship Challenge: ADHD Brains vs. Neurotypical Brains

"My non-ADHD partner doesn't understand ADHD and says that I should stop 'blaming' things on it. How do we help our partners understand that it's not so simple?"

"As the ADHD partner, I am often very black and white in my perception of things, and do a poor job of honoring my partner’s viewpoints. Any techniques to better honor her opinion?"

"It’s very hard to get the other partner to understand how ADHD affects me personally and how I’m beating myself up over things I can’t focus on or complete, especially out of fear of doing something wrong."

"How can I explain emotion hyperarousal, RSD, and emotional dysregulation to my neurotypical husband? I need to continue working on managing symptoms, but how can I explain my needs better to him?"

ADHD and Non-ADHD Couples: Next Steps

Flat minimalism art design graphic image of Embrace Heart Shape with hands Logo design template icon on pastel colored pink and blue background, hugging heart, concept of love and care, happy valentine day
7 of 7

Common ADHD Relationship Problems: Next Steps

"Good relationships are really about knowing how to manage your differences."

"Overwhelm is one of the emotions that people with ADHD struggle with, and yet it is invisible to the other partner."

"One of the things that is often happening is that the non-ADHD partner mistakes the [other partner's] lack of action for a lack of regret. And they are not the same things."

"I tell couples, 'Please manage the ADHD to the optimal amount that you are capable of doing and accept all the rest.'"

Get these and other relationship insights from Melissa Orlov, a marriage consultant specializing in helping ADHD-affected couples, in her ADDitude Expert Webinar, "The ADHD Love Languages: How to Communicate Better to Solve Relationship Problems" which was broadcast live on February 7, 2023.

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.