As if navigating the world of romance wasn’t tricky enough, managing relationships when you have ADHD adds an extra layer of complexity. Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
If you’ve caught flak in the past from partners for seeming as though you don’t care enough or being disengaged, you should know first and foremost that you aren’t alone. In fact, these were common problems among the people with ADHD we interviewed for their advice and tips for managing romantic relationships.
You should also know that it’s incredibly brave for anyone to put themselves out there in the dating world, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated by it because of your disorder. It is entirely possible to have a happy, long-term relationship.
In case you need an extra boost of confidence, we reached out to the good people of the internet to glean insight into how to manage romantic relationships when you have ADHD. Here’s their advice.
Be open and honest
“After going through a few bad breakups that my then-boyfriends blamed on my ADHD (even when the issues we were having were totally unrelated to my ADHD), I withdrew and became very private about having it. It took me a long time to open up again, but I’m so glad I did. I’m now in a relationship where my partner wants to learn more about the disorder so that he understands certain behaviors and doesn’t misinterpret them. Being forthcoming up front has made all the difference for me.” — Michelle M.
“When your ADHD kicks in, instead of feeling embarrassed or ashamed, say ‘There goes my ADHD again!’ This isn’t to minimize your struggles, but rather to be a bit more lighthearted about it. Remember, everyone has challenges. You may be struggling with ADHD, but chances are your partner is dealing with his/her own personal issues. Being open with yours allows him/her to do the same.” — Terry Matlen, psychotherapist, writer, consultant and ADHD coach
“Honestly, it’s hard. It gets me in trouble a lot because my thoughts bounce around. We can be in the middle of an important talk via text, and I’ll plug [in] my phone and forget to text her back for hours. Or we can be talking and I walk away, and by the time I’ve come back, I’ve got 59 new things to talk about. The best way I’ve figured [out], though, is to connect [her] in some way to all my surroundings. If I get lost in my thoughts — which often happens — and I look at the grass, I see green, think about [her] eyes being green and I remember to text or call. Or if I’m playing my guitar I think, ‘Oh, [she] likes this song.’ You have to make them a constant in some way, even if you’re creating that constant out of chaos. It’s hard to figure out, but that’s what I’ve found works best for me.” — Sky M.
Play to your strengths
“My husband and I both have ADHD, although we have found mine is worse than my husband’s. The way ADHD has affected our relationship has to do with our differences. For example, I tend to get overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, and that can lead to a messy house. So instead of trying to do it all, I make lists, and go from there. He pitches in more when that happens because he has less trouble focusing on tasks than I do. And while my husband and I aren’t able to build things together because I learn differently than him (my ADHD affects that), we find ways to support each other in the projects we tackle. I think understanding and communication is key.” — Heidi J.
Ask for help
“First, if you need medication for your ADHD, take it! If you find yourself forgetting to take it, set timers or ask your partner for help. Set timers for yourself if you have a tendency to lose yourself in what you are doing and forget to check the time. Use agendas and planners to keep yourself organized and use reminders for important dates (such as anniversaries and birthdays).
“If you are just beginning a new relationship with someone, be sure to talk with them about ADHD, its symptoms and what they can do to help you stay on top of it.
“Learn to forgive and forget. It is easy to blame each other in a relationship when things go wrong. Instead of dwelling on mistakes and harboring resentment toward each other, talk about the issue, how to deal with it in the future and then stop dwelling on it!” — Dr. A.J. Marsden, Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes
“For a very long time, my default reaction when my husband got upset about something in a relationship was to feel defensive. I felt like he was attacking me for things outside of my control, and that led to a lot of resentment sitting just below the surface. It was actually something really pretty simple suggested in marital counseling that probably saved us: Practice empathy. For us, this means sitting down together when one or both of us is upset and giving each other the floor to talk about how they feel. No interruptions, excuses or interjections. Doing this really helped me see things from my husband’s perspective instead of dwelling on my own problems all the time.” — Amy W.
Focus on your ADHD first
“This is a tough one. People with ADHD are often viewed as disengaged or not caring enough by their partners. This is more of a problem with ADHD itself. When you focus on controlling your ADHD first, then your relationships usually become a lot better as a result.” — Stefan Taylor, ADHDBoss
This post is part of a sponsored advertising collaboration. A version of this article was originally published in September 2017.