What It’s Like Dating Someone With ADHD

Couple holding hands while staring at a lake

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Dating someone with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. 

In the United States, thousands of adults have ADHD, and the rates are rising. A common disorder, ADHD can cause hyperactivity, inattention, disorganization, and other symptoms that affect daily functioning. While treatment, care, and coping strategies are available, it’s important to understand that ADHD is a lifelong condition. 

While there is no cure for the disorder, you can still have a healthy and loving relationship with a partner who has ADHD. As you start dating or getting to know them more closely, you’ll want to learn about their condition and understand how it could affect the relationship.

How ADHD Manifests in a Relationship

ADHD is different for everyone. Your partner may not have a diagnosis but can exhibit clear signs of the condition. They may have a diagnosis but not be in treatment at the moment, or they may be in treatment but still experience symptoms.

While there are different types of ADHD, these are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Impulsiveness
  • Impatience 
  • Disorganization
  • Chaotic lifestyle

In a relationship, these symptoms can become problematic at times. Your partner may struggle to listen to you when they’re mentally focused on something else. Your partner may set a goal for themselves that they fail to accomplish. Your partner may promise to run an errand but forget all about it.

Keep in mind, there are also many positive traits associated with ADHD that can make your relationship stronger, such as adventurousness, self-acceptance, divergent thinking, and sublimation. Learning more about your partner and their ADHD is important to building a relationship that lasts.

How to Improve Your Relationship

“Both partners will likely have an emotional reaction to the way ADHD impacts the relationship, and the strategies developed will either increase or decrease the connection,” says Billy Roberts, LISW-S, therapist at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling

Roberts says it can help to understand both your strengths and weaknesses, which will ultimately help you navigate your life with this partner.

From personal experience, I’ve learned that patience and understanding are key qualities to dating someone with ADHD. Your partner’s diagnosis may be just as difficult for them as it is for you. For years, they may have dealt with criticism or blame for behaviors associated with their condition. When they make a mistake, forget something, or fail to complete a task, do your best to offer them kindness in the moment.  

Here are some tips for fostering a healthy relationship with someone who has ADHD.

Conduct Research

When you discover that your partner has or is exhibiting signs of ADHD, it’s essential to research the condition. While it’s helpful to ask your partner questions about their personal experience, you don’t want to burden your learning on them. There are books, organizations, and guides to understanding ADHD, which offer helpful information on the condition. 

As Roberts explains, “Knowledge is power.” The more you know about the condition and how it affects your partner’s behaviors, the more understanding you can be. ADHD is never an excuse, he says, but it does offer an explanation for actions such as forgetfulness or not listening when being spoken to directly, which can sometimes help to depersonalize what is usually unintentional. 

Amplify Strengths

Rather than fixating on your partner’s weaknesses, pay attention to their strengths. They may not be expert organizers or planners, but they may bring energy, spontaneity, and problem-solving abilities to your relationship. 

Billy Roberts, LISW-S

Adults with ADHD are good with people, creative, flexible, and calm in a crisis, all of which can be beneficial in any relationship.

— Billy Roberts, LISW-S

Adults with ADHD can be very engaged as they can hyperfocus on areas of interest, Roberts explains. “This can make the start of a relationship a whirlwind. However, as in any relationship, it’s important to find ways of connecting with one another that are grounded in true intimacy and connection.”

Hone Your Communication Skills

Roberts suggests using objective language when communicating with your partner, such as “I feel” statements. 

Rather than criticizing your partner for their behavior, it will be more beneficial to explain how that behavior makes you feel. Rather than verbally attacking them for not listening to you, for example, you could explain that when they are on their phone, it feels as though they aren’t fully engaged in what you’re saying. 

Roberts recommends scheduling a time to discuss what’s working and what’s not. It would help if you discussed your daily life, such as systems you’ve established, distribution of labor, and how to communicate issues or concerns as they come up. It may help to schedule check-ins, too. 

Resist Criticism 

It can be easier to blame than offer grace, but the latter is more effective and rewarding.

I’ve learned this from experience. Before my partner was diagnosed with ADHD, he often showed up late to important events or struggled to maintain plans that we had created far in advance. This would frustrate me, but I learned to respond calmly and address the issues when he was willing to listen. Now that he has been diagnosed and treated, he has a better understanding of why he has struggled with timeliness and planning in the past and has since made deliberate efforts to change these behaviors.

If your partner’s actions or behaviors are negatively impacting the relationship or continuously causing you hardship, then you need to have an open and honest conversation about your expectations and how you can work together to resolve these concerns.

Offer Support

Your partner may exhibit clear symptoms of ADHD which are negatively impacting your relationship, but they may not be willing to seek a diagnosis or treatment. Even if you want to, you can’t force them to visit a mental health professional.

Billy Roberts, LISW-S

Self-help needs to be self-motivated.

— Billy Roberts, LISW-S

It can help to destigmatize the condition, Roberts says. Have you seen changes from being in therapy? Do you have a mutual friend with ADHD who has benefited from counseling? Do you know a specialist who could assist with your partner’s concerns? Roberts explains that you can provide your partner with resources or mention the benefits of therapy, but you should avoid ultimatums. 

A Word From Verywell

Relationships can be difficult, and dating someone with ADHD is no different. Even if your partner is in treatment and engaged in coping strategies, they may still battle symptoms. Remember that ADHD is an ongoing condition that requires ongoing support.

As in any relationship, make sure you have shared goals and values, Roberts says. Understand how much you complement one another and consider ways in which you can both be flexible. 

So long as your partner’s behaviors aren’t hurting you or damaging the relationship, it’s possible to work together to foster a healthy, respectful relationship. If, however, your partner’s behaviors are hurting your mental health, it’s essential to set boundaries and prioritize your self-care before allocating time to support your partner’s. 

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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