ADHD and Successful Relationships: 5 Helpful Tips
ADHD and successful relationships are two things that don’t go together easily. The effects of ADHD, such as impulsivity, disorganization, intensity, irritability, and lack of focus, can cause misunderstandings and create tension. It’s common for each partner, the one with ADHD and the one without, to misinterpret the other. With misunderstanding comes thoughts and feelings of being unloved.
Problem-solving can be difficult enough when ADHD is involved, and when partners feel unheard and uncared for, relationships can end. Just because you or your partner has ADHD, however, doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. It is absolutely possible for ADHD and successful relationships to occur together. These five tips can help you create and maintain a great relationship.
5 Helpful ADHD Relationship Tips
All healthy relationships involve certain crucial elements, and successful couples don’t lose sight of them even when times are stressful. These five tips are particularly helpful for successful relationships when ADHD is part of the mix.
- Separate the person from the ADHD. Knowing that your partner isn’t purposely trying to be insensitive can help keep your thoughts and emotions level. ADHD can cause someone to seem rude, angry, or inattentive. Being on the receiving end of this cause the person to react in a similar manner. Neither partner is purposely trying to be a jerk. There is a disorder that is interfering in your relationship, but it’s not personal to either of you. Keeping this in mind can help you both address the symptoms of ADHD rather than attacking each other’s personal qualities.
- Think value-added. According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), The National Resource on ADHD, a useful question to have in mind for a successful relationship is, “What can I bring to this relationship? What value can I add?” With ADHD, it’s very easy for both people to get stuck in negativity. That feeling of being unloved or unheard can lead to anger, resentment, and more. It becomes easy to pick at each other. Instead of getting mired in the problems, think in terms of what positive things you can do or say in this moment, on this day, every single day. This doesn’t erase the effects of ADHD, but it redirects your thinking and the tone of your relationship.
- Have structure and schedules. Relationships are complex. They require a lot of work: talking, listening, airing frustrations, making plans, coordinating schedules, spending quality time together, and myriad other tasks. Schedules and structure are imperative in ADHD relationships, and creating them is like having a treatment plan for your relationship (Hallowell & Ratey, 2010). Important components of your treatment plan include:
- Establishing regular, consistent times for talking to each other about important issues
- Creating a conversation structure that works for you both; it’s helpful for each person to have an allotted amount of time, say 10 or 15 minutes, to speak without interruption and then have a process for letting each other ask questions and respond
- Using notebooks to write things down, such as positives and negatives, goals, and plans. Use the notebooks to keep you focused during scheduled conversations as well as to help you follow through with decisions you made together (ADHD and Procrastination: How to Get Stuff Done)
- Intentionally scheduling time to spend together enjoying each other’s company; this helps ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and distractibility from interfering in time spent together
- Choose your words wisely. Good communication is vital to a successful relationship, but it can be really difficult when one partner has ADHD. Frustrations often flare, and the rudeness and irritability that can be part of ADHD lead to arguments and adult ADHD meltdowns. To counter this, be intentional about what you say, how you say it, and when you say it. Openly acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and accept them. Pick your battles; if an issue is important to you, don’t ignore it, but recognize that in the big picture of your relationship, not everything is worth fighting over. Also, communicate warmth and compassion to each other, making praise and encouragement a daily habit.
- Let there be light. Levity is one of the most important tips for ADHD and successful relationships. Life can be heavy, and symptoms and effects of ADHD can dominate a relationship if they’re not checked. A sense of humor is crucial for creating good times and surviving bad ones. Make light-hearted fun a habit and a regular part of your relationship. You might need to schedule it, and that’s quite all right. You can even make a joke out of scheduling fun.
The point of a relationship is to share your lives and spend quality time together despite the ups and the downs and the ADHD. Successful relationships are possible when you follow these ADHD relationship tips.
Last Updated: 01 November 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD