Thriving With an ADHD Partner: 4 Struggles You Will Need to Navigate
Relationships between a neurotypical individual and one with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may face some unique circumstances that can be daunting to navigate. But there are scientifically proven ways to build a healthy, happy life together.
If you’re romantically involved with a person diagnosed with ADHD, don’t fret. Your struggles may be a bit different, but with proper guidance and a sincere desire to look for solutions, you and your partner will be okay.
This article covers the most common challenges you may need to navigate and some expert advice on how to deal with an ADHD partner for a smooth-sailing relationship.
Feeling Unloved Because of Your Partner’s Distraction
Living with ADHD means having thoughts and ideas constantly buzzing in your mind. It’s like having a mental browser with multiple tabs open all the time, making it nearly impossible to focus on one thing at a time. It may also mean getting distracted by random noises or thoughts, even during a life-changing conversation.
Distraction may cause your partner to leave you hanging or break promises. If you experience this with your partner who has ADHD, you may feel ignored, unheard or even unloved.
But remember: This doesn’t mean your partner does not love you. Instead, they may be too distracted by their surroundings or the uncontrollable thoughts in their mind to show how much you mean to them. It’s not about not caring or not being present.
It’s just the way their brains are wired.
To overcome this, the first thing you need to do is communicate with your partner. Express how you feel. Don’t endure and bottle it all up because, if you do, those feelings could turn into resentment and anger.
If you’re having trouble getting through to your partner, schedule some time to talk.
- Pick a place away from distractions.
- Make sure you’re face-to-face.
- It also helps to touch your partner while you talk.
You can also let them know that you’re always open to repeating what you said in case they’ve zoned out and missed what you said. This will make them feel more comfortable letting you know when they get distracted during your conversation.
Fights Due to Your Partner’s Rejection Sensitivity
Being in a relationship with someone who has ADHD can make you feel the need to become the more mature one. Often, this can turn your relationship dynamics into one that resembles that of a parent and their child.
This is common for neurodiverse couples like yours. After all, it’s only natural to want to help your partner live in a more organized manner and keep up with their tasks because you care for them.
But, like everything else, you need to practice moderation.
You can help your partner become more productive, but do so in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a scolded child. Otherwise, this can lead to dishonesty and avoidance from your partner, triggering a symptom called “rejection sensitivity.”
Rejection sensitivity is the anxiety and emotional responsiveness to or in anticipation of criticism and perceived criticism.
Even if you’re calm in expressing your concern, your partner’s ADHD lens may color your statement as micromanaging or nitpicking. This can cause them to shut down and, in some cases, may put them in a shame cycle and lead to anger or sadness.
To avoid this, treat your partner as an equal rather than someone who needs parenting. Instead of attempting to sweep up after their mistakes, offer encouragement:
- Don’t say: “You didn’t finish what you were doing? Nevermind. I’ll do it.”
- Instead, say: “Great work! You almost finished everything. Why don’t we get up earlier tomorrow to wrap up the remainder together?”
Financial Struggles Caused by Your Partner’s Impulsivity
Couples where one partner has ADHD may also struggle with financial matters. People who live with the condition are more prone to making impulsive decisions, especially when the issue involves money (a topic seen as a general weakness of the ADHD brain).
You see, people with ADHD tend to experience something known as temporal discounting, which is the tendency to prefer immediate rewards over long-term benefits. That, and the time blindness that warps their perception of time, causes them to make hasty – sometimes risky – decisions.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to purchases.
One common scenario among individuals with ADHD includes jumping from one job to another or investing a significant amount of time and money in a hobby or an interest one day, only to switch to another the next.
When this happens, work with your partner to remedy the situation. Help them:
- Create a budget and stick to it.
- Try a no-spend challenge.
- Use cash instead of credit cards.
- Delay spending by shopping with an empty wallet.
- Calculate how much they need to work for the cost of an item.
- Become aware of their shopping habits.
Lovers’ Quarrels Because of Your Partner’s Mood Swings
Your partner may also experience mood swings, which could cause them to lash out and have sudden outbursts that may hurt you. People with ADHD tend to have these episodes when they are anxious or frustrated (or even happy or excited).
When this happens, you must remember that they feel the same things you do but more intensely, so do not overreact. Instead, try to understand and empathize with your partner. Of course, you should still communicate how their outbursts affect you.
If you’re helping your partner head off their mood swings, focus on assisting them to live a healthier lifestyle. Serve them the best foods for ADHD, exercise regularly together, and follow a healthy sleep routine. These can all mitigate your partner’s potential mood swings.
Helpful Tips on How to Deal With an ADHD Partner
You may experience more struggles than what’s listed above when you have a partner living with ADHD.
Here are other strategies you can employ to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner:
- Be a partner, not a parent.
- Maintain your boundaries.
- Focus on their strengths.
- Be patient.
- Focus on finding solutions to specific problems.
- Ensure open and transparent communication.
Acceptance, Patience and Shared Growth
Fostering a healthy relationship with a partner who has ADHD is a journey of acceptance, patience and shared growth. Embrace their unique qualities that come with ADHD, and build a foundation of love and connection using this article as a guide.
If you’re still not sure how to deal with your partner with ADHD, seek help from our experts at Evolve Brain Training. We have a treatment plan for ADHD that can help alleviate your partner’s symptoms and usher in a happier life for both of you.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.