Relationship Advice When Your Partner Has ADD

Going through a rough patch

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You may find yourself wondering how you can cope with your ADHD partner and wondering how best to communicate and interact with your significant other. Some common concerns include:

  • Feeling like your partner's parent
  • Feeling like your partner is using an ADHD diagnosis as an excuse to behave worse
  • Battling with your partner to take their medication regularly
  • You've read up on ADHD to try to understand, but the reality of day-to-day life is difficult
  • You feel like you're taking on all the responsibilities and it's wearing you down
  • You need time to yourself but your partner is demanding 100% of your attention
  • Your sex drives aren't matching up
  • Feeling like a caregiver is taking away from the romance
  • Your partner doesn't treat you with respect
  • You cannot share secrets without them being 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.

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