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What Affect Does ADHD Have on Relationships?


Because the effects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can strain relationships in many ways, it is important for the person who has the condition to let important people in their life know about their diagnosis. ADHD affects relationships differently from couple to couple, but here are ten tips that can prove helpful for most relationships:

  • Work together. Because ADHD affects both people in a relationship, both should be involved in the treatment plan. Educate yourselves on the condition and treatment so you know what to expect. In the end, working together makes the entire experience easier on both people.
  • Talk to each other. Communication is an important key to any relationship, but it is essential when dealing with ADHD. Sit down and discuss how ADHD has affected your relationship, both the good and the bad. If you have to, schedule some time to be together and discuss your relationship regularly. Realize that the process will probably take more than one sitting, so keep talking! Talk about how you feel about ADHD and what sorts of things you'd like to change. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses and find ways to accommodate both of you. For example, if one person becomes overwhelmed at having to go grocery shopping, don't make that person do it; he or she might be better off keeping the kids busy or doing the laundry while the other person goes to the store. The next time you talk, go over the changes you were able to make and see if they were successful or not.
  • Help in follow through. People with ADHD often have trouble following through with what they intend to do, including sticking to their treatment plans. The person in the relationship who doesn't have ADHD can do several things to help the other person stick to their plan and honor their agreements. Try to find ways of reminding that are effective, but aren't nagging. There are a lot of suggestions about how to change the environment to help the person.
  • Write things down. When things are written down, they're a lot harder to forget. Make lists of things to do in a day or over the weekend. Leave reminders about putting dishes in the dishwasher or taking the kids to soccer practice.
  • Differentiate between ADHD and the person. Some personality traits are caused by ADHD and others are just personality traits. Don't blame all of your (or your partner's) problems on ADHD, because it doesn't cause all of them. Recognize which traits are ADHD and which are the person, then work towards adapting the right ones.
  • Watch out for signs of a bad relationship. Relationships are always complicated, but ADHD can set up roles that are more difficult on the people involved. Some couples find that the person with ADHD feels that they have to be submissive to the other person's demands and organization. At the same time, the person without ADHD often feels that they are a slave to the ADHD (always cleaning up or being in charge). Get any of these feelings out in the open. It is important to discuss how you feel and ways to make things better.
  • Make time for each other. As in any relationship, it is important to make sure you have time just to be together. Take a weekend away or spend a Saturday afternoon at home or take each other out to dinner during the week to have some time together.
  • Praise each other often. Take the time to point out the good things about each other. Whether you're the person without ADHD or with ADHD, praise your partner when he or she does something well. It may seem silly at first, but it will become easier and more cherished with time.
  • Keep your sense of humor. ADHD can be frustrating, but it also can be a lot of fun. Try to see the humorous side of ADHD as well. When you have the choice between laughing and crying, try laughing. No one and no couple is perfect, the ones that laugh often have an easier time.
  • Get outside help. Many couples need extra help and seeing a therapist can prove extremely worth while.


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