Published On: July 18, 2022
Reviewed On: July 18, 2022
Updated On: June 13, 2023
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can interfere with communication between different parts of the brain, causing a range of symptoms such as disorganization, forgetfulness, an inability to follow through on tasks, and more. It’s easy to see how the symptoms related to ADHD might have a significant impact on an intimate relationship.
Even though there’s no cure for ADHD, there are effective treatments and coping mechanisms that can help people learn to better-manage their symptoms and maintain a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, there’s also no master list of rules that tells you how to date someone with ADHD, but understanding more about the condition is step one.
Read on to learn more about dating someone with ADHD, and how it’s possible to create that successful relationship you’ve been seeking.
It can be challenging to understand what it’s like dating someone with ADHD, especially if you’re new to the ADHD dating scene. Many people living with adult ADHD have found ways to mask their symptoms, which means it’s possible to underestimate how much it impacts them. If you’re in a romantic relationship with someone who has ADHD, you may see many common behaviors, including the following.
Your partner with ADHD may zone out in the middle of conversations and totally miss what you’re saying. It’s also common for someone with ADHD to agree to do something, only to forget about it later on.
It can be frustrating to feel like a partner doesn’t listen to what you have to say, and it’s understandable if that makes you feel undervalued.
Takeaway: ADHD can make it difficult to pay attention to what’s happening around someone, even when it’s something important. They’re not avoiding paying attention, it’s part of their condition.
Along the same lines, your partner may forget about important tasks or dates, even if they were paying attention. It’s not unusual for someone with ADHD to forget about plans, responsibilities, and important milestones.
Takeaway: ADHD causes significant deficits in working memory, which can make it difficult to retain information. People with ADHD often have to come up with systems that make up for their memory issues.
Adults with ADHD tend to do or say things without thinking. They might blurt out something insensitive, or make a big purchase without looking at their finances or having a discussion with you first. Their impulsive tendencies can often lead to reckless, even destructive actions.
Takeaway: In many cases, someone with adult ADHD won’t be able to explain their behavior. This can take a toll on romantic relationships.
Since ADHD can make it hard to finish tasks, it’s not uncommon for people to have a tough time staying organized or cleaning up after themselves. They may not even notice how unorganized they are until it’s pointed out to them.
Takeaway: If you’re dating someone with ADHD, you might end up taking on some, most, or even all of the household duties. It can be stressful and frustrating to feel like you have to pick up after yourself and someone else — it’s totally understandable. Try to be patient, though, and use the following ways to help you navigate how you can help someone with ADHD (and your relationship).
“Having a partner who is neurodivergent can be challenging at times, but that’s true of all relationships. The key to dating someone with ADHD is to take the time to better-understand how the neurodivergent brain functions. You may need to work with your partner to re-imagine the roles and responsibilities within your relationship in order to decrease the likelihood of confusion, disappointment, and tension.”
There are many challenges associated with ADHD dating, but you can improve the relationship by first providing your partner with love, understanding, and support. It’s also important to recognize that in addition to taking steps to help them, you need to make sure you don’t neglect your own mental health. Self care is an important component of any intimate relationship, particularly if you’re dating someone with ADHD.
Communication is key in any relationship, but it’s especially vital when you’re learning how to date someone with ADHD.
ADHD can exacerbate communication issues, leading to misunderstandings, hurt, and disagreements. Try to communicate clearly with your loved one so they understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from. Instead of letting issues fester, make it a point to talk as soon as possible and practice communication exercises. Bringing problems up right away will help you work through things in a healthy, positive, constructive manner.
While it might feel like your ADHD partner is trying to frustrate you on purpose, it’s unlikely that this is truly the case. ADHD symptoms can be difficult to deal with — for you and your partner. It’s probable that their condition and symptoms are causing them frustration as well.
It’s okay to be annoyed, or even angry at times, with your partner. That said, try not to lash out. Instead, sit down and talk with them so you can get a better idea of how ADHD impacts their life and work on a solution for how to deal with ADHD.
“Re-imagining relationship roles and boundaries is not a hall pass for your neurodivergent partner to dismiss their need for skillful behaviors. Having a conversation with them about what skills they use to help them stay on track can help you better support them and identify creative ways to navigate the relationship.”
It can be easy to fall into a parental role when you’re in a relationship with someone with ADHD. You might find that you’re beginning to feel like you have to do things for them, or you need to teach them how to handle basic tasks.
Not only can this lead you to feeling resentful, but it can also be frustrating for your partner. No adult wants to be treated like a child. Be cognizant of the role you’re taking on in the relationship so you can actively avoid parenting your partner.
By giving your partner compliments and pointing out the things they’re doing well, you can remind them of what they’re capable of. Catching people doing things right is a great way to build trust and strengthen any relationship. Be mindful of how you can encourage your partner and show them that you care.
Remember that a big part of living with ADHD can be difficulty remembering things. The frustration and disappointment this leads to can be crippling in a relationship (for both partners). One way to avoid this is by simply taking the time to write down important information. For example, be diligent about keeping track of important dates on a calendar and make it a system you can both use.
While some people with ADHD aren’t future-oriented, a calendar can serve as a visual reminder of the tasks ahead of them. Having a central hub of important information can make it easier for both of you to keep track of essential information.
While you can support your partner with ADHD in many ways, one of the best things you’ll ever do is encourage them to seek help. Treatments like ADHD medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can significantly reduce ADHD symptoms. With the right treatment plan and support in place, your partner can find coping strategies that will help them manage their condition.
ADHD is woefully under-diagnosed in adults. You might suspect that your partner has ADHD, even if they’ve never been formally diagnosed. Knowing what it’s like dating someone with ADHD can help you if you’re struggling in your relationship. Then, you can talk with your partner about your concerns.
Let them know that you care, and that it’s been hard for you to watch them struggle. Gently encourage them to talk to a professional about their ADHD symptoms. Even though the decision to seek ADHD treatment is ultimately up to them, it’s often easier for someone to take that first step and reach out for help if they know they have support.
Online platforms for therapy, like Talkspace, make getting help easier than ever. Our trained therapists have the tools you need to get your romantic relationship back on track. From knowledge and experience with specialized therapy for ADHD that’s proven effective in how to treat ADHD, to couples therapy and individualized therapy, Talkspace’s online therapy makes things easier, especially if you’re living with or dating someone with ADHD.
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Ashley Ertel, LCSW, is a Nationally Board Certified Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has over a decade of experience specializing in trauma and depression, working primarily with first responders, military personnel, and veterans, and sexual assault survivors.