When ADHD Threatens Your Relationship: 4 Fix-It Strategies

Attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD)Couple annoyed with each other among children and teens, and the conflicts with parents that often result, are focused on often. When children and teens with ADHD grow up, though, many of these individuals experience issues in romantic relationships because of how their symptoms impact them and their interactions with significant others.

Common issues that adults with ADHD experience in romantic relationships include difficulty being on time; trouble following through on tasks (paying bills, taking out the trash, etc.); struggling to keep the living space neat (leaving dishes around the house, piles of papers on the desk, etc.); difficulty disconnecting from technology (cell phone, computer, television, etc.); failure to take initiative to plan date nights and activities; and inconsistent follow-through in enforcing consequences for children, among other difficulties related to parenting.

If you struggle with these or other relationship issues because of ADHD symptoms, here are some strategies for making changes to improve your relationship with your significant other:

  1. Identify what specific issues you have (difficulty getting places on time, following through on completing tasks, etc.). Make a list.
  2. Set aside time to talk with your significant other about the issues you are having and let him or her express any concerns/frustrations about how these issues are affecting your relationship.
  3. Determine if there are things you can do to address things, as well as ways your significant other can assist you in a manner that is comfortable for both of you. Examples may include having your significant other take care of paying bills (and you doing different household tasks that are easier for you to remember); putting a whiteboard in the kitchen with tasks that each person needs to complete; or setting reminders in a calendar or task list on a smartphone.
  4. For issues related to consistent parenting, make sure methods for handling issues are decided upon ahead of time when possible (for example: if your child hits a younger sibling, a specific consequence is enforced). Make a list of the issues and consequences and keep it handy, perhaps in a notes app on your phone. In addition, make sure you keep enforcement of consequences as simple as possible, with as few steps as possible. This will help make it easier to follow through with consistency while parenting.

Mental health professionals can assist you in addressing the above-mentioned issues. An ADHD coach/therapist can work you, and possibly include your partner as appropriate, to address ADHD-related concerns in your relationship. Couples therapy, specifically, can address issues in the relationship in general, with a strong focus on the role of ADHD symptoms.

Alternatively, perhaps as a supplement to therapy, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help address symptoms related to focusing and restlessness. However, if the executive functioning skills needed to get to places on time, plan ahead, complete tasks, etc., are not already developed, medication will not fully address these issues. It may help improve them, but learning behavioral techniques to better develop these skills is essential.

ADHD in adulthood, if the symptoms are not effectively treated, can have a significant impact on occupational functioning, social functioning, and the quality of romantic and interpersonal relationships. Seek help if you need it. If you are struggling with ADHD symptoms, it is important to take action to make the necessary changes in your life so that you can enjoy life to the fullest and thrive.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey Heller, PsyD, ADHD: Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Locke

    March 19th, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    This sounds to me like it would be a pretty good strategy for facing any problems that your relationship could be encountering. I think that there are so many times when we try to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it isn’t happening, but this gives you some ways that you could go about having the conversation with your partner but in a way that is non threatening and will give both of you a chance to talk about how it is impacting you.

  • presley

    March 19th, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    I know that my biggest problem has always been shutting others out.
    This is something that I want to be able to handle on my own, even though I know that I need help with it.
    I think that I would find much more stability in my life if I would actually allow the people who want to be there for me actually do just that.
    Until then I know that I am going to struggle but it is hard to tear down those walls around myself that I have been building for so long now.

  • Derek D

    March 20th, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    Kids are very intuitive so if they see this as a way that they can divide the two of you, then they are going to be kids and use this against you. It is not a matter of them being vindictive, but we all remember what it as like and knowing just which parent to ask certain things of. This is no different.

  • bailey

    March 20th, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    You think that this is something that people will outgrow but the truth is that if they never learn to gain some control over it when they are young then it is something that can cause real stress in your life as you are an adult. This is especially true if you meet someone who seems so perfect for you except that they just can’t understand why this is not something that you have any control over. Best to teach people coping mechanisms when they are younger so that it is not so much an imposition on them as they become adults.

  • Rowe

    March 21st, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    And medication!

  • Beth

    March 23rd, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    But Rowe- without the underlying skills that are needed to manage the problems, then medication is only going to be a band aid.

    It can’t fully fix anything.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    March 30th, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    Thank you for taking the time to read this article and share your thoughts.

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