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Relationship Advice When Your Partner Has ADD

Improving Your Relationship

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Updated February 11, 2009

Relationship Advice When Your Partner Has ADD

ADHD symptoms can create stress in any relationship. Both partners must work together to make things better.

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How can I cope with my ADHD partner? One of our forum community members posted this question about her ADHD boyfriend with whom she has lived for the past 2 years. Her list of concerns includes the following.

  • Most of the time I feel like his mum.
  • Since he found out about ADHD, he uses it as an excuse to behave worse.
  • It's a battle to get him to take his medicine regularly. And when he does, he tries to make me feel guilty about it.
  • I have read up on ADHD to try and understand, but the reality of day to day life is difficult.
  • I try to take on all the responsibilities, but it's wearing me down.
  • I'm an artist and need time to myself to express this, but that has become a impossible dream. He will literally sit on my sketch book while I’m drawing because I’m not paying him 100% of my attention.
  • He also has an incredibly high sex drive, but sex has become difficult because I can't relax.
  • I feel like his caregiver which sort of takes away from the romance.
  • He doesn't seem to remember to treat me with respect throughout the day. For example, he is constantly talking about sex and grabbing me in places I wish he didn't.
  • I need to be able to share secrets with him and not expect them to be broadcast.

Response:

First, know that you are not alone in your frustrations. While I can’t say for certain that all these behaviors are solely attributed to your partner’s ADHD, many partners of ADHD adults do indeed experience the same problems you describe. Understanding that the hyperactive, impulsive, emotional and erratic responses are ADHD related is good and is the first step to improving the relationship. But using ADHD as an excuse is never helpful. If he continues to do this and casts off all responsibility for his behaviors and refuses to follow through with the treatment plan, things just won’t get any better for you, him, or your relationship.

If however, the two of you can sit down with his doctor and come up with a plan for addressing these behaviors, your relationship can thrive and the closeness you initially felt with him can return. It does take effort on both partners to make things better.

Just like you, many non-ADHD partners end up falling into the mothering role, while their ADHD partner assumes the role of a child who has to be told what to do and have someone to constantly take care of them. You both must try to step out of these roles. It is okay to assume responsibility for tasks your partner just isn’t good at (maybe you are better at paying the bills and he is better at cooking meals), but make sure the jobs around the house are divided evenly so you don’t wear yourself out.

Open communication is key. The two of you must be able to address the problems without blame or accusations. Try to pick a time when you are both feeling relaxed and in a good mood. Then, in a matter-of-fact way make a list of concerns and a list of possible solutions. For example, you both have frustrations about your sexual relationship. You feel tired -- probably pretty angry, too -- and you don’t feel romantic when you are “his mum” and constant caregiver and he is the child so much of the time. I imagine you don’t feel romantic or respected either when you are grabbed or groped at other times. He likely feels rejected that you both have gone so long without sex. Medication may help his impulsive gropes, blurting out of your secrets, and overall hyperactivity. A regular date night may help bring back the romance.

You mention your artwork and your need to express yourself through your craft. Please talk with your boyfriend about the importance of you having this alone time. Without it you will begin to feel resentment (if you don’t already!) towards him for denying you this time. He craves your attention. Address this by setting up regular one-on-one time where you can both focus on each other. Make a daily schedule where you plan in these times and stick to the plan. This way, you get to enjoy your art alone for a portion of the day, and he gets a regular time to receive your undivided attention during another part of the day.

Try to find the humor in things together. Forgive each other, but also move forward with you both making changes for the better in the relationship. Work with the doctor or couples counselor who is experienced and knowledgeable about the ways ADHD can affect relationships.

Additional Reading:
Improving Intimate Relationships
My Partner Doesn't Seem Motivated to Change
Friendships and ADHD
Finding the Right Partner

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