Relationship Advice When Your Partner Has ADD

Going through a rough patch
ADHD symptoms can create stress in any relationship. Both partners must work together to make things better. PeopleImages/Getty Images

How can I cope with my ADHD partner? You may find yourself asking this question and wondering how best to communicate and interact with your significant other. Here are some concerns people in relationships have expressed:  

  • Most of the time I feel like his mom.
  • Ever since he found out about ADHD, he uses it as an excuse to behave worse.
  • It's a battle to get him to take his medicine regularly. And when he does, he tries to make me feel guilty about it.
  • I have read up on ADHD to try and understand, but the reality of day-to-day life is difficult.
  • I try to take on all the responsibilities, but it's wearing me down.
  • I'm an artist and need time to myself to express this, but that has become an impossible dream. He will literally sit on my sketchbook while I’m drawing because I’m not paying him 100% of my attention.
  • He also has an incredibly high sex drive, but sex has become difficult because I can't relax.
  • I feel like his caregiver which sort of takes away from the romance.
  • He doesn't seem to remember to treat me with respect throughout the day. For example, he is constantly talking about sex and grabbing me in places I wish he didn't.
  • I need to be able to share secrets with him and not expect them to be broadcast.

Alleviating Your Concerns

If these concerns sound similar to yours, know that you are not alone in your frustrations. Many partners of ADHD adults do indeed experience the same problems described here.  Understanding that the hyperactive, impulsive, emotional, and erratic responses are ADHD-related is good; that's the first step to improving the relationship. But using ADHD as an excuse is never helpful. If your partner continues to do this and casts off all responsibility for his or her behaviors and refuses to follow through with a treatment plan, things just won’t get any better for you, your partner or your relationship.

If however, the two of you can sit down with his or her doctor and come up with a plan for addressing these behaviors, your relationship can thrive and the closeness you initially felt can return. It does take effort from both partners to make things better.

Avoiding the Parenting Trap

Many non-ADHD partners end up falling into the mothering role while their ADHD partner assumes the role of a child who has to be told what to do and needs someone to constantly take care of them. You both must try to step out of these roles. It is okay to assume responsibility for tasks your partner just isn’t good at (for instance, maybe you are better at paying the bills and he is better at cooking meals), but make sure the jobs around the house are divided evenly so you don’t wear yourself out.

Communication Is Critical

Open communication is key. The two of you must be able to address the problems without blame or accusations. Try to pick a time when you are both feeling relaxed and in a good mood. Then, in a matter-of-fact way make a list of concerns and a list of possible solutions. For example, you both have frustrations about your sexual relationship. You feel tired -- probably pretty angry, too -- and you don’t feel romantic when you are “his mom” and constant caregiver and he is the child so much of the time. I imagine you don’t feel romantic or respected either when you are grabbed or groped at other times. He likely feels rejected that you both have gone so long without sex. Medication may help his impulsive gropes, blurting out of your secrets, and overall hyperactivity. A regular date night may help bring back the romance.

Carving Out Time for Yourself

Talk with your partner about the importance of you having alone time. Without it, you will begin to feel resentment (if you don’t already!) toward him for denying you this time. He craves your attention. Address this by setting up regular one-on-one time where you can both focus on each other. Make a daily schedule where you plan in these times and stick to the plan. This way, you get to enjoy your alone time for a portion of the day, and he gets a regular time to receive your undivided attention during another part of the day.

Don't Forget to Laugh

Try to find the humor in things together. Forgive each other, but also move forward with you both making changes for the better in the relationship. Work with the doctor or couples counselor who is experienced and knowledgeable about the ways ADHD can affect relationships.