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Did you know that ADHD can negatively affect relationships?

 

As you may already know ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a wide spectrum of traits which, can affect individuals in different ways. Some people find it really hard to be still for long and are quite impulsive, (ADHD Hyperactive type), others find it really hard to concentrate on things they don’t find interesting (ADHD Inattentive Type) and some have all of those traits, though their brain may be hyperactive rather than their body (ADHD Combined Type).


ADHD can impact relationships in many ways without the reason being obvious, the following are a few common difficulties that couples can find themselves trying to navigate.

 

A different view point.


Every person is somewhere on a scale of being able to see something from another’s viewpoint. From being great at this to being the opposite. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. Some ADHDer’s can fall towards the 'not great' end of the spectrum. This can be so confusing because they can be loving, helpful, thoughtful and warm which, are all amazing attributes in a relationship but they may still not be able to see some things from another’s point of view. This means that they can struggle to take on board something that they see as ‘not a problem’, even though this is a problem to the other. and not alter their behaviour. The consequence is that the problem is not resolved.

 

Easily distracted.


You may find that the ADHDer when going to the shop for something particular forgets the important item and comes home with something not on the list. They may have had a list but forgotten to look at it while in the shop!


The ADHDer may be cooking and become distracted, forgetting the pan is on the hob. They may find timekeeping really difficult and turn up late or just forget to turn up. This can happen for things like doctor’s appointments and similar. They may multi-task where they start doing one task see another that needs doing, remember the first task then become distracted by another task on their way back to the first. Most of the tasks get done but not always!

 

Impulsivity / difficulty planning.


Many ADHDer’s have difficulty managing their finances, this can be because of many things, they may have trouble planning, they may have difficulty thinking into the future and seeing consequences for actions taken or not taken today, they may have so much optimism that they will be bailed out if they get into trouble because that is what happens every time they get into difficulty. They may not keep track of how much they have and so they spend more than they have or they may get great satisfaction from the dopamine hit of buying something, even if they don’t actually need it. In short planning and impulsivity is difficult for many ADHDer’s. Of course, problems can also occur from forgetting to pay a bill on time.

 

Difficulty with tasks that are not interesting.


Managing things in the house such as laundry, dishes, cleaning and food preparation to an ADHDer can be overwhelming or they may simply not see the mess. This can be immensely frustrating to a partner who is tidy and finds it quite straightforward to just tidy or clean as they go. Some ADHDer’s just do not see the mess, they just move through it and do not mind that their dishes need to be washed first to prepare the food. It is functional for them and it works. For their partner and friends this can seem madness and create many arguments and disagreements.


Some ADHDer’s become overwhelmed at the scale of the task and see the whole picture in one go, they may not be able to break the tasks down into smaller ones which could be achieved bit by bit, such as, how to tidy the living room. Other ADHDer’s may have this sorted and it is not a problem for them while others look as though this is not a problem but so much effort and thought is going into keeping their home tidy that other parts of their life are suffering.

 

It can feel to the partner without ADHD that they are going mad, they can feel confused and wonder why their partner can’t see what they see, why they ‘won’t change’ or why their partner ‘refuses’ to take some responsibility for their life together.

 

To the ADHDer they might feel ‘got at’, confused and not good enough.

 

What can be done to improve the relationship?


First, recognising that ADHD is a possible issue and doing some research. Self diagnosis is perfectly acceptable to many employers and agencies but you may find that you would feel more validated, or would just prefer a formal diagnosis.

 

As a couple, whether you decide to go for a formal assessment or self-diagnosis putting a list together of all of the strengths and weaknesses is invaluable. This helps by identifying where the struggles are so that you can both think of possible ways to solve your problems. You might find that one of you does not mind doing the dishes but hates the laundry but the other partner does not mind the laundry, maybe you can make a rule to accommodate this and so on.


It is pointless to say that ADHD does not have an impact on relationships, it just does but this does not mean that the relationships can not work. It can work well for both partners especially, when challenges are understood and strategies put in place.


 If you get stuck then reaching out to a professional can be a great step and can save partnerships.


I specialise in ADHD and other neurodiversities and how they impact relationships. I am also an ADHDer so I have a fair understanding of the very real struggles.

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