All relationships have difficulties. After all, we’re all human. But, when one or more people in the relationship have a condition like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—also previously known as attention deficit disorder (ADD)—unique challenges can pop up. Sometimes, those problems don’t appear until the relationship is quite serious. The early days are often full of fun and each partner is invested, present, and caring. With time, however, the symptoms of ADHD and the challenges they present can become more evident.
How ADD/ADHD Can Influence Relationships
ADHD in relationships can often manifest as choosing something that provides a quick reward, such as a video game, over chores or necessary tasks. Individuals with the condition can be forgetful and prone to more emotional reactions than some situations warrant. This in turn can lead to some serious arguments and explosive conflicts.
While people often purely associate ADHD with inattentiveness, this is not always the case. Many people with ADHD are capable of intense focus. In the early stages of a relationship, the subject of that focus may even be their partner. Eventually, when interests shift and the attention fades, the partner may feel as if they are no longer loved or respected.
Some individuals wonder whether a significant other with ADHD can be faithful. One popular question on the internet, for example: “Can a man with ADHD be faithful?”
A small amount of evidence supports the idea that all people with ADHD—not just men—are more likely to cheat on their partners. This is usually a result of an impulsive decision resulting from their condition. Additionally, people with ADHD tend to desire sexual activity more often and in more varied ways, which could drive them to seek these things outside of their current relationships. However, those with ADHD can be completely monogamous and never commit any form of adultery.
Often, people with ADHD are not entirely aware of their symptoms, making it difficult for them to see how they come across to other people. When dating someone with ADHD, it can be incredibly frustrating to have a partner who is chronically distracted or forgetful.
Understanding ADD/ADHD: Common Traits and Challenges in Social Dynamics
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder involving inattention, disorganization, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In social situations, those who have ADHD may struggle with appropriate facial expressions, tone of voice, focus, body language, and other behaviors. Interruptions are extremely common, as are similar forms of dominating a conversation. They can jump from topic to topic very quickly or lose focus when certain topics come up.
From the other participants’ perspectives, these behaviors resemble those most people use when bored or disinterested. This could make socializing extremely difficult for individuals with ADHD.
Often, ADHD affects time management skills, either due to forgetfulness or by impacting impulse control. If a person misses activities or plans they had made, others might feel as if the individual views them as less important, taking it as a sign of disrespect.
However, this is not how a person with ADHD thinks. They are not making a conscious decision to interrupt or skip pre-planned events. ADHD is a disorder, not a lifestyle choice or something they can easily change.
Communication Struggles: Addressing Misunderstandings and Impulsivity
Misunderstandings are going to be an issue in any relationship, but they are particularly common when dating someone with ADHD. Each person’s brain operates completely differently.
As the person with ADHD, you may feel as though your partner is constantly nagging you or trying to micromanage you. Though this can be the case in some relationships, often your significant other is simply trying to help keep you on track.
As the person in the relationship without ADHD, you may often feel lonely or ignored. You may even take on more of a caregiver role for someone you feel should be able to take care of themselves.
Both sides can contribute to a destructive cycle of misunderstandings. Communication is key. Discuss your issues openly and discover which are due to ADHD and which are due to typical relationship struggles.
This all begins with researching and understanding ADHD and its various symptoms. If you or your partner don’t know much about the condition, this can be an eye-opening experience. Acknowledge the impact the condition has on everyone in the relationship. Don’t dismiss others’ feelings just because you don’t see things the same way.
Don’t label your partner “lazy” or “irresponsible.” Recognize their issues may be effects of their condition and remember that you can both work to manage these problems.
Strategies for Success: Building Strong Relationships Amidst ADD/ADHD
The best way to manage the problems that typically arise in these relationships is to play to each person’s strengths. Rather than breaking up each task equally, split the responsibilities according to what you each do best. Maybe one partner is always on top of the chores, getting the household tasks done exactly when needed. The other may be far better at managing finances. Find where your skills and abilities lie and then build around them.
You can also find ways to keep each other on the same page and combat forgetfulness. Timers can help remind those with ADHD to eat meals without it feeling like their partner is nagging them about eating. Having a digital calendar with notifications can limit how often people miss social gatherings and other events.
When it comes to the potential for infidelity, both partners must have open and honest discussions about their emotional and physical needs. Couples can often work through differences in sexual desire, but it takes compromise and vulnerability. It’s also not a simple or easy task.
Ultimately, it all comes down to separating a person from their ADHD. For those with the condition, recognizing your partner respects you and isn’t trying to nag is key.
Seeking Support: Professional Help and Relationship Guidance
At the end of the day, relationships are difficult to navigate even without a disorder in the mix. Sometimes, even if everyone involved is on the same page, it can be too hard to manage alone. Bringing in a specialist who understands ADHD and its role in partnerships can help relieve some of the anxiety and weight that you’re dealing with.
What professional intervention looks like will be different for every person and each relationship. For example, your counselor may help you create healthier approaches to common problems at home or develop tools for communicating more effectively. For more information about how a therapist might help you overcome ADHD-related challenges in a relationship, contact us today.