• Living — Together — With ADHD

    Living — Together — With ADHD


    Living with a partner who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or living with a partner while having ADHD, can be challenging at times. Compensatory ADHD strategies can work well for both individuals and the relationship. Remember, you’re in this together.


    ADHD is a cluster of behaviors that can include hyperactivity, difficulty maintaining attention and a tendency toward impulsiveness. Since ADHD was first discovered more than 200 years ago, the debate over whether it’s a real disorder has been vigorous. However, imaging studies have identified appreciable differences in the brains of people diagnosed with it. ADHD is real, and it has real consequences for couples when one — or both — is affected. It can make discussing or collaborating on strategies to counter those effects difficult, in part because the nature of the condition itself can interfere with those efforts.


    ADHD isn’t something we can see. Because those affected look like they’re “okay,” the world tends not to see their symptoms as a result of a disorder and may label them as “not caring” or “lazy.”


    People with ADHD may even deny the diagnosis themselves out of fear of rejection or shame, preferring to try to “push through” it, which often doesn’t work well. In addition, they may find it difficult to share their ADHD struggles with their partner, or their partner may have trouble understanding what they’re going through on a day-to-day basis.


    While there are many strategies people can use to compensate for the difficulties ADHD causes in their lives and relationships, it’s important to find the ones that are a good fit for you and your partner. If you’re struggling, ask for help — and that applies to both you and your significant other. Here are examples of what’s worked for some couples:


    • Partner A: “I love organization, but my ADHD hates it.” Partner B: “How can we do a better job organizing?” Partner A: “Help me organize and believe me if I suggest that I know what will — and what will not — work with my ADHD. I want my world to be more organized, but I don’t always know how to start. I do have great ideas and an awareness of my own unique version of attention. If we combine our strengths, we can figure out how to be ‘attuned organizers’”


    • Partner B: “It feels like you’re not listening to me as we do our chores.” Partner A: “When I’m in the middle of a task, please wait until I’m finished before adding another one. If not, I’ll likely shift into something else, not completing what I’m working on. I may even feel overwhelmed and get irritated. I use lists all the time for myself. Perhaps you can write down any new tasks and present them to me after I’m done with what I’m doing.”


    • Partner A: “Remember that something that seems simple for you isn’t necessarily simple for me. Please be patient with me. I’ve experienced many hurts related to ADHD and judgment from others. Likewise, I’ll extend kindness and understanding toward you. I’ll remember that my ADHD takes a toll on you too and sometimes makes it seem like I don’t care, when in fact I do.”


    ADHD is not a single set of symptoms. You and your partner may experience a range of them, and be affected by them in different ways. Work together to explore your own unique coping strategies. If you’ve tried a variety of problem-solving approaches and are still having trouble, I recommend that you see a licensed couples therapist who is informed about ADHD. You can reach me at 407-579-2070 to set up an individual session or schedule an appointment for you and your partner.





    Therapy services available via Telehealth.