Data and Statistics
Cost of ADHD
The Science of ADHD
The Importance of Science
Understanding Research Studies
Levels of Evidence for ADHD Interventions
Treatment of ADHD
Complementary and Other Interventions
Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback)
Fish Oil Supplements and ADHD
Nutrition and ADHD
Questions and Answers
Carrying Your Medication
ADHD, Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Tics and Tourette Syndrome
Professionals Who Diagnose and Treat ADHD
Hospital and University ADHD Centers
Insurance and Public Benefits
The Insurance System
Paying for Medications
Private Health Insurance
Public Health Insurance
Frequently Asked Questions about ADHD
Myths and Misunderstandings
Glossary of Terms
ADHD in the News
Fact Sheets on ADHD
For Parents & Caregivers
Parent Training and Education
Social Skills Interventions
Coexisting Conditions in Children
Pediatric Bipolar Disorder
Substance Abuse and ADHD
Common Coexisting Conditions in Children
Preschoolers and ADHD
Behavioral Therapy for Young Children
ADHD and Childcare
Diagnosing ADHD in Adolescence
Treatment of Teens with ADHD
ADHD Information for Teens
Parenting Teens with ADHD
Questions and Answers
Teens with ADHD and Driving
Teens and Driving
Medication Abuse and Diversion
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Requesting an Evaluation in Public Schools
Tips for Working with the School
Tips for Talking to Teachers about ADHD
Finding the Right College
Disclosing ADHD During the Admissions Process
Succeeding in College with ADHD
Scholarships & Financial Aid
Questions and Answers
Tips for Completing Homework
How to Communicate with your Child’s Teacher
Homework Help for ADHD
Surviving the Holidays with ADHD
Diagnosis of ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
ADHD and the Military
How to Succeed in the Workplace
Laws and Legal Protections
Americans with Disabilities - ADA & ADAAA
Legal Rights in Higher Education and the Workplace
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Finding an Attorney or Legal Advocate
Living with ADHD: A Lifespan Disorder
Women and Girls
ADHD Medication and Pregnancy
ADHD and Driving
Organization and Time Management
Relationships & Social Skills
Marriage and Partnerships
Social Skills in Adults with ADHD
Mastering Social Skills
Time Management: Step-By-Step with a Day Planner
Apps for ADHD
For Healthcare Professionals
Clinical Practice Guidelines
The ADHD Diagnostic Process
Diagnosis in Adults
Diagnosis in Children
Clinical Practice Tools
Evaluation and Assessment Tools
Rating Scales and Checklists
Treatment of Adults
The Role of Medication
Teacher Training on ADHD
Tips for Teachers Video Series
Recursos en español
Tips and Resources
Medical Benefit Program
Start a Group
Current CHADD Volunteers
Volunteer Leader Center
Login to your CHADD email
Edit your website
Other Local Support Resources
Find a Study
Post a Research Study
Young Scientist Awards
CHADD's Amazon Store
P2P On Demand Webinars
CHADD Advocacy Manual
Training & Events
Save the Date - 2018 Conference on ADHD
Call for Papers - 2018 Conference on ADHD
2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD
2017 Conference Web Site
Pre Conference Handouts -Thursday 11/9/17
General Conference Handouts -Friday 11/10/17
General Conference Handouts - Saturday 11/11/17
General Conference Handouts - Sunday 11/12/17
Conference Program Book
Order the 2017 CHADD Conference In-A-Box
ADHD Awareness Month
ADHD Awareness Month Calendar
Ask the Expert
Ask the Expert Educator Edition
Parent to Parent Program
P2P On Demand Sessions
Family Training on ADHD In Your Community
Teacher to Teacher
Teacher to Teacher - School System
Training for Professionals
Health Care Providers
Training for Parents
Transitioning to Adulthood
Find a Chapter
Local Affiliate Resources
Tools and Resources
Start a Group
Recruitment & Retention Tools
Renew My Membership
The ADHD Tool Kit
Membership Types and Benefits
Get Listed in CHADD's Resource Directory
JOIN CHADD - International Membership
JOIN CHADD - US Membership
Attention Magazine Subscriptions
Attention Magazine - Digital Editions
CHADD Discount Advantage Programs
Mission and History
National Resource Center
Boards and Staff
Board of Directors
Professional Advisory Board
Public Policy Committee
CHADD Funding Sources
Advertise with CHADD
2018 Annual Meeting - Exhibitor Information
Jobs at CHADD
Report a Problem
Gifts that Lead
Gifts that Sustain
Gifts that Double
Other Ways to Donate
Corporate Partner Members
Donate Your Vehicle
ADHD Weekly Newsletter
ADHD Complicates Romance
Join the discussion.
Relationships can be challenging in the best of circumstances – add ADHD to the relationship and it can become downright difficult. Misunderstandings can lead to frustration and, if unresolved, resentment. ADHD symptoms create significantly more stress for the couple. When you are aware of potential ADHD pitfalls, you can take steps to avoid them.
Successful relationships rely on consistently bringing our focus and attention to our partner. We demonstrate that we care when we interact, listen well, and support our partners. For many people affected by ADHD, key symptoms like inattention, forgetfulness, and disorganization negatively affect their relationships. The partners without ADHD can misinterpret their partners’ intentions, resulting in increased frustration and resentment.
What can you expect when coping with ADHD’s effect on your relationship? It will vary based on your particular circumstances and symptoms, but here are some common issues for couples affected by ADHD.
From hyperfocus on the relationship to inattention
brains are wired
to tune out things that are consistent in our lives. A smell that was initially overwhelming quickly fades from notice. When you sit in a chair, you feel the weight of your body on the seat against your legs, but after a little bit, you don’t notice the sensation. Our brains quickly sift through constant stimuli and ignore what is perceived to be nonthreatening, freeing our minds to focus on the things requiring us to react or respond.
This can create challenges for most people in romantic relationships, as the newness of the relationship diminishes and attention shifts to other concerns. But for a person affected by ADHD, this presents significant challenges. Due to differences in the
, you can shift focus even more quickly, causing you to seem to lose interest in your partner or your relationship suddenly.
During the early stages of a relationship, the partner affected by ADHD can focus intensely on the romance and the new partner. This sends the message that the new partner is the center of the person’s world. It typically generates feelings of connection, love and validation, and the relationship seems to grow quickly. And then, the person’s focus shifts just as quickly and the new partner may be left wondering what has happened.
Many people with ADHD have
. A person may quickly lose sight of how frequently he pays attention to his partner and the things that matters to the partner. In turn, this can cause the new partner to feel uncared for or ignored.
Distractions abound at home
ADHD impacts a person’s ability to focus, or remember commitments. How might that play out in a relationship? Here’s one example:
Partner: “Let’s watch a movie.”
Partner affected by ADHD: “Okay. I’ll make popcorn.”
Walks toward the kitchen to make the popcorn, sees toys and clothes lying on the floor of the den. Picks them up and takes them to her son’s room and puts them away.
While there, she notices a toothbrush lying on the table where her son left it. Annoyed, she takes it into the bathroom and puts it away in the cabinet.
Thinks, “This bathroom has gotten really dirty. Shoot, I forgot to clean it today!”
Gets cleaning supplies and starts cleaning.
Meanwhile, her partner is waiting for popcorn and a movie, which has now been forgotten.
When her partner discovers her cleaning the bathroom, he may think that she didn’t want to watch a movie after all and chose to do something else instead. For her it was not intentional, it was a series of distractions that led her off course, a symptom of adult ADHD. But if this type of outcome occurs frequently enough, it is easy for the partner to believe the partner affected by ADHD has little interest in spending time with him.
Sharing chores in a home
A smooth home life depends on working together to manage and accomplish day-to-day chores. Cleaning, taking out the trash, paying the bills, getting groceries, and preparing meals are a few chores that help life run smoothly. The symptoms associated with ADHD can make accomplishing chores a significant challenge.
The partner who doesn’t have ADHD can become frustrated from frequently reminding her partner to chip in at home. The other partner feels nagged, rather than reminded. It is easy to see how this dynamic can generate intense frustration and resentment on both sides.
Melissa Orlov, author of the book
The ADHD Effect on Marriage
, discusses these dynamics with
“Non-ADHD partners often report feeling unloved and lonely, as well as very angry and frustrated,” she says. “It's almost impossible to understand how an adult can promise to do something, then not do it...over and over again...never seeming to ‘learn’ to do better.”
When you are dealing with the symptoms of ADHD, you often find yourself struggling with social skills. Success in social settings requires focus and attention on the people and situations around us, and an ability to read social cues. This is a challenging requirement when coping with the disorder.
In addition, ADHD can decrease your ability to regulate your emotions and reactions toward others. Often, someone can become prone to intense reactions when frustrated, and is likely to lash out at others, especially those
emotionally closest to the person
. Emotional outbursts and inappropriate or harsh comments can lead to hurt feelings.
A sense of empathy is essential for healthy relationships. When we
with others, we imagine how they are feeling. It requires us to let go of our own thoughts and feelings and see things from someone else’s perspective. ADHD can negatively impact a person’s sense of empathy.
examines how dopamine plays a role in empathy. Dopamine production can be low because of ADHD. Several
point to differences in genes that may impair the normal creation of dopamine receptors in brains affected by ADHD, resulting in the inability to absorb dopamine or the inability to metabolize it appropriately.
Creating healthy relationships
There are several factors that can negatively impact relationships. For those with ADHD, the disorder can present more challenges. Understanding what they are likely to be is the first step. Educate yourself about ADHD, and separate the behaviors and symptoms of the disorder from the person. Identify potential, or existing, harmful behaviors and create a plan to change them. Create structure to support communication and interactions. Address issues as they arise, and work with your partner to reinforce each other’s strengths.
Tips to help strengthen your relationship:
Remember your relationship as a partnered couple is the most important.
Go on a date together where you can talk about rebuilding your relationship one step at a time.
Find things to laugh about and celebrate about your relationship.
Be patient with your partner.
Change takes time. Find ways to give positive feedback every day.
Concentrate on your partner's strengths.
Learn to differentiate between “facts” and “feelings,” especially during emotionally charged moments.
Your spouse may have hurt your feelings and made you feel unloved by apparently not listening to you. But the fact is that he or she may not even be aware of how he or she is affecting you.
Work on building better communication.
Agree to certain times during the week when you spend time together without distractions or interruptions. This is a time to clarify what hasn’t been working in the partnership and what is truly important for the relationship. Always be honest with each other. That is the best way for a healthy relationship.
If you feel that you can no longer communicate together, seek professional help such as a mediator or marriage counselor.
When you speak with your partner, try to speak directly face-to-face, with good eye contact. You might want to check in to make sure that your partner understands what you were saying.
Learn to recognize when you or your partner is in an “ADHD-charged moment.”
This may occur when your partner is overwhelmed, frustrated or running on stimulus overload. It can happen anytime, but often it happens in the evening or late at night after a stressful day. This may not be the best time to bring up certain subjects that may lead to a heated discussion.
– Adapted from
Survival Tips for the Spouse Who Doesn’t Have ADHD
by Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG.
Acknowledge the role that ADHD can play in a relationship, and take steps to help you consistently care for and nurture your relationships.
How do you keep the romance alive when ADHD gets in the way?
Even in the best of situations, ADHD symptoms can make romance hard. When one or both partners have ADHD, the rush of emotions can seem chaotic and the hurt feels are not far away. What can you do to keep your relationships strong and healthy?
Keep reading to find out.
This article appeared in
April 27, 2017.
The information provided on this website was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number NU38DD005376 funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.