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How to Cope with a Partner who has ADHD

While having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can cause many problems at work or school, it can become particularly damaging when it comes to having a relationship. If you or your partner have ADHD, issues with emotional regulation, forgetfulness and impulsivity can cause feelings like disconnection, frustration and resentment to arise between you and your partner. Problems with time management, emotion control, organization, getting started on tasks, and self-control are the hallmark symptoms of ADHD.

After learning how these symptoms affect you and influence your relationship, you and your partner can implement different strategies and tools to help develop a healthier relationship.  Here is a list of ways to help create a meaningful and satisfying relationship with a partner who has ADHD.  

  •    Communicate– ADHD symptoms like trouble with regulating emotions can interfere with communication. To prevent emotions from taking over disagreements, allow a period before engaging in conversation after a triggering event. During this period, think about what you are feeling and what the real issue you are upset about is. If you are feeling resentful or frustrated because your partner with ADHD is having a hard time with starting tasks, staying organized or time management you can bring up how you are feeling but also bring up possible plans or suggestions to help them with these symptoms. Stay focused on what the behavior you want to help them work on.
  •    Listen Actively– Part of good communication is being able to focus completely on the speaker and understand their message. When you and your partner have talks about triggering or hot button topics, listen closely to your partner and ask questions so you can understand what the issue means to them. While your partner is talking you should try to maintain eye contact, prevent yourself from interrupting and try to focus on the words your partner is saying. If you have problems with focus, set time aside to practice active listening with your partner.
  •     Research and educate yourself on the symptoms so you don’t personalize– People with ADHD often have problems with time management, emotional regulation, organization, getting started on tasks, and self-control. By educating yourself to these symptoms it is easier to see your partner’s problems as more a symptom of ADHD and not as a reaction to you. By better understanding ADHD, it is easier to see how these symptoms are influencing your interactions as a couple and you can learn better ways to respond.
  •     Work together as a team– As with any relationship each partner brings to the couple different skills and talents. Take some time to identify which tasks you are good at and which are more challenging for you. For example, the non-ADHD partner may be better at handling the bills while the partner with ADHD may be more suited to buying the groceries and cooking. By dividing tasks and sticking to these responsibilities each partner plays an integral part of a team.
  •     Create a structured detailed plan– Having a structured detailed plan is helpful to prevent misunderstandings and the partner with ADHD may benefit from the added organization. Start by talking about the things you fight most about. Then work together to come up with a system to help. For example, if a partner needs help with remembering to take out the trash, perhaps both partners may come up with the idea to implement a recurring online calendar scheduling system that has an alarm to help. Coming up with a structured detailed plan will help prevent misunderstandings because both partners will have an agreed upon and discussed plan and system to help stay on top of that plan.

If you or your partner suffer from ADHD and are having problems in your relationship the counselors at The Relationship Suite are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation to learn how we can help guide you to a fulfilling and healthy relationship.

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