How ADHD Gets Between You and Your Romantic Partner

Loving couple siting on sofa at home

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All relationships present challenges at some point in time. ADD / ADHD can certainly have a unique impact on relationships. Kate Kelly, founder of ADDed Dimensions Coaching and author of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! and The ADDed Dimension, notes that ADHD impacts every area of life, including intimate relationships.

Kelly identifies four major areas of difficulty. Any of these can get between you and your partner—but once you're aware of the challenges, you can begin to address them. Do any (or all) of these issues sound familiar?

Difficulty Being Present and Staying Present

“Perhaps the biggest problem is the ADHD partner who seems to be here today and gone tomorrow,” explains Kelly. “ADHD symptoms are erratic. The person with ADHD may be extremely distractible in the morning, for example, and relatively focused an hour or two later. This can be very difficult for a partner. Their loved one is loving and connected with them in one moment, and gone ‘somewhere else’ in the next. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the disconnects.”

Touchy Touchability

Kelly notes that many people with ADHD also have problems with sensory integration. “In short, this means that the mechanisms that filter sensory input are faulty. Lights may be too bright, sounds too loud and touch may feel irritating or annoying,” explains Kelly. “As you might imagine, this can create difficulties between partners when the ADHD person resists being touched.”

Forgetting Things

ADHD interferes with memory. Kelly acknowledges that the process of remembering is rather complicated, but identifies the main problem with ADHD and memory—getting the thing to be remembered into the memory banks in the first place. “The first stage of memory is attending to the piece of information to be remembered,” says Kelly. “If your attention is weak, that bit of information may never make it into the brain.”

A Short Fuse

It is not uncommon for those with ADHD to have a quick temper. “Many people with ADHD have a short fuse,” explains Kelly. “Their temper is activated quickly and easily. The partner of the person with ADHD is often bewildered, as the angry outburst seems to come out of nowhere.”

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  • Kate Kelly, MSN, ACT. “Re: Request for Expert Quotes.” Email to Keath Low. 25 Jan. 08.