Living with ADHD may seem like an individual struggle, but its impact goes well beyond just the person who has ADHD. What we know to be true is that you will experience the impact of your ADHD symptoms on your couple’s relationship. ADHD affects your daily interactions, plans, organizational skills, and communication. If you experience heightened emotion, rejection sensitivity, and perfectionism due to your ADHD, this can make you feel particularly vulnerable in a romantic relationship. It can also create additional labor for your partner. Every relationship comes with unique situations, and many people attend couple’s therapy to learn to negotiate their differences; ADHD is no different.
The day-to-day struggles that accompany your ADHD are going to be a recurring theme. Your ADHD may cause you to miss important events in your relationship, including the dates themselves, and prepare appropriately for them. The people you meet and interact with will have varying understandings of and experiences with ADHD – understanding of it has increased so much recently, thanks to social media and the internet in general. We now know that there are different types of ADHD; it is important for you to know how your ADHD impacts your life so that you can provide personalized information to someone who might be sharing time with you.
What Are Few Signs of ADHD?
1) Poor organizational skills:
Having poor organizational skills is common among people with ADHD, as they may have difficulty completing tasks, especially in a household environment. This poor organization can lead to one partner leaning heavily on the other to keep things running smoothly, leading to burnout, resentment, frustration, and sadness. It can also mean a lot of good intentions but the disappointment of unreliable follow-through.
Although you may be paying attention to your partner, you may forget later on what you promised or talk about. This can cause frustration for your partner as this may translate as you are not paying attention to them or valuing what they are saying to you. You may also do your best to remember significant dates or events, then find that they completely leave your mind when that time comes.
3) Impulse control and inattentiveness:
Impulse control is important in maintaining a predictable environment, which in turn creates a sense of safety. When your partner isn’t able to reasonably predict your responses or rely on you to remain emotionally regulated, they won’t feel as secure with you. If you are too distracted to be attentive, this may isolate and/or hurt your partner.
How can I tell my partner about my ADHD?
There can be some shame around having ADHD and its impact on your life. This can make it challenging to bring up to a partner. You don’t want to feel like you’re “making excuses”; you also don’t want to feel like you’re asking the other person to “take on too much.” There are also situations where the presence of ADHD is known, but its impact on the couple’s relationship is unspoken. Both of these stem from fears of abandonment or tasking the other person with something beyond their ability to handle. But telling a partner about ADHD is as simple as providing that person with the ability to understand you and the tools not to take certain symptoms personally. When you tell a partner you have ADHD, the two of you can look at your life together and make a game plan. This is the same way couples tackle opposite work schedules, having different domestic strengths, etc. Provided you are doing the work, there is no reason why your ADHD should be a deal breaker with anyone.
3 Ways ADHD Affects Your Relationships
1) Difficulty in communication:
Communication is essential in any couple’s relationship and is also a big stumbling block in most pairings. Because ADHD comes with impulsivity and emotional imbalances, it can cause issues around communication. ADHD can cause impulsive responses in situations that are unnecessary. These impulsive responses can elevate tense moments between you and your partner, as your partner may feel disrespected and evoked to fight back. Because impulses happen so quickly, you will most often regret what occurred; you may or may not be willing and/or able to admit to your feelings of guilt right away. In fact, many people become defensive when they experience guilt over something they know they are responsible for.
ADHD can cause you to struggle with managing your emotions properly, leading to emotional outbursts. Losing your temper easily or being unable to discuss issues calmly may make your partner feel like they are walking on eggshells around you to avoid blow-ups during conversations. This kind of environment does not facilitate strong communication.
If you find it difficult to communicate due to your impulsivity or your struggle to regulate your emotions, attending therapy such as our therapy practice in Woodland Hills can give you the tools to improve in that area. Because impulses are so automatic, they require reflection. Look back at recent impulsive comments you made or actions you took; is there a theme? Is there a trigger involved? Are certain people, places, or times more likely to bring out your impulsivity? If they are avoidable, is that a change you’re willing to make? If they’re not, or you don’t want to, how can you center yourself before those scenarios? Can you integrate meditation into your routine (in general and when you know you’re at risk of being triggered)?
How can you support your mental state so that your regulation is easier to access? Look at your daily life. Do you have a regular sleep schedule? Do you remember eating meals, or do you get sidetracked and order a takeaway at nine o’clock at night when you are ravenous? Do you set aside a specific time to communicate with your partner? How do you make sure that that time is optimized for open, safe, honest, and respectful communication?
If you find that you struggle to articulate your emotions, you might want to talk to someone you trust or journal about them. It might help you to talk or write it out sometimes without having to worry about misspeaking in some way. This can be beneficial when trying to be clear and deliberate with your partner about something you’re conflicted about or don’t fully understand for yourself yet. Someone who isn’t biased about the situation can provide a good ear while you consider how you will communicate most effectively with your partner. This doesn’t take the place of openness with your partner but rather supplements it when helpful.
2) Misinterpreting symptoms:
ADHD symptoms are disruptive by nature. They leave you scrambling to stay on track for yourself and can even cause you to neglect your own needs. The same is true for your partner, who is experiencing your ADHD from the outside. For example, your behavior of being distracted and not being able to give your full attention to your partner may come off as rude or dismissive. You may be frustrated by being distracted as well; the other person feels like you aren’t caring for them, and you are annoyed at yourself for creating this issue.
Misinterpreting symptoms may result in your partner misinterpreting your motives and behavior due to a lack of understanding. You can do both of you a favor by being direct with your partner about what your symptoms are, which are most common when they’re most likely to be exacerbated, and how they manifest. Be sure to explain to the other person that you are providing this information as an explanation and a resource, not as an excuse to mistreat them.
If you aren’t sure how your symptoms always manifest, you might want to recruit those closest to you to let you in on some of your patterns. This is about being aware, not about being bullied. When you have this information, you may want to talk them over with a therapist to develop a game plan and a backup plan. Attending therapy for ADHD not only gives you a resource for taking on this kind of work but a qualified sounding board who can validate and work with your experiences with ADHD. Feeling understood has immense benefits in all scenarios, especially when it comes to frequently-stereotyped circumstances like ADHD.
The truth is that your symptoms will cause you to miss important dates and deadlines, forget to grab something from the store, or lose track of time and run late. This is a given. Dispelling any notion that these symptoms are actually neglect requires you to take responsibility for your actions, inactions, and their repercussions. When a mistake happens, own up to it: “I know I was late to our dinner date, and I apologize. I got hyper-focused at work, and I thought I had set the alarm, but I hadn’t. I will do my best not to let it happen again because you are important to me, and I value our quality time.”
The more you are able to take note of and responsibility for the way your symptoms impact your partner, the more seen your partner will feel. This isn’t about giving up on making useful changes as long as you are able to apologize. It’s about nurturing your relationship while you are doing the work to not alienate your partner by working to manage your symptoms. When your partner brings up how a symptom makes them feel, acknowledge their words. You may have an explanation, but when someone feels hurt and vulnerable, all an explanation sounds like is an excuse.
3) Difficulty in decision-making:
At times, procrastination and indecisions are part of ADHD that can make it hard for the couple to make small and big decisions in their lives. It can be challenging enough to combine your schedule, plans, and goals with another person, and negotiating these decisions can put a strain on even the most collaborative of couples. If the other person waits for you to decide, their resentment may begin to grow. They may also find that they are tasked with making more decisions and feel the mental load of that is unfair or overwhelming.
To do your part, it is wise to investigate your procrastination and learn how to manage it. This doesn’t mean that your urge to procrastinate will suddenly disappear; procrastination in ADHD comes from a need for adrenaline to elevate the urgency in mundane scenarios. If you are trying to decide where to go for lunch and you genuinely don’t care (especially if you aren’t hungry yet), it will feel almost impossible to pick a place. How will you address this symptom? How can you create a system that helps you make decisions in a timely manner; which methods will make you most likely to succeed? Can you utilize lists? Break projects down into smaller pieces. Set aside quiet time in which to make impending decisions. How often do you set an imaginary deadline; how often is that timeline realistic? How can you up the ante if the decision doesn’t “feel” high-stakes enough for you to make it? Can you create stakes so that your urgency to decide aligns with your values?
Having an awareness of your environment can aid you in your ability to make decisions. If you are overstimulated, you may be too distracted to focus. Do you have a quiet place with no distractions in which to consider the decision you have to make? If you aren’t stimulated enough, the same struggle can occur. Do you do your best thinking walking around? Many people find that moving their bodies helps their thoughts to move, too.
Set aside time to thank your partner for making decisions when you cannot; the emotional labor of that mental load is much easier to manage when you feel appreciated for it. You might want to set reminders in your calendar to do this occasionally or make it part of your daily checklist.
You are probably used to living with your ADHD and are aware of its impact on your life. In the past, your symptoms may have created problems in your couple’s relationships. This might be a sore spot for you, and you might feel overwhelmed at even the thought of trying to include someone in your process and make the relationship work. What is important to bear in mind is that all relationships are about putting in work, understanding one another, and compromising when appropriate. Your ADHD impacts how you move through the world, but it is not the only thing about you. You are a whole person who has attractive attributes as well as difficulties, just like everyone else. If you are willing to do the work to show up for your partner, and your partner is willing to do the work to understand the challenges you face with ADHD, there is no reason why you cannot be happy and thriving together.
ADHD Treatment at Embracing You Therapy
There are many ways signs and symptoms of ADHD can show up in your life, from personal to professional relationships, on the weekdays and weekends, while running errands and engaging in hobbies. Here at Embracing You Therapy practice, when we work with you on ADHD Treatment, our goal is better to understand your ADHD brain, identify the challenges and strengths, and create a road map where you feel like your life is thriving, fulfilling, and overall joyful.
Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.
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