Being in a relationship is hard, but throw in dealing with ADHD, and it can seem downright impossible. It makes sense — ADHD is a condition that makes it difficult to give anything your full attention, something relationships usually need a ton of to grow and thrive. But despite the difficulties it may present, many adults with ADHD do find themselves in successful partnerships — though not without a few bumps and hurdles along the way.
So how do they do it, and what are some of the challenges they face on the road to love (you know, aside from the everyday challenges they face right along with the rest of us)? We found people who were willing to share their stories. Here’s what they had to say about the ways ADHD affects their relationships — for better or for worse.
1. It starts off great
“Generally in relationships, I’ve found that significant others love me at first. They like what they call my spontaneity. Eventually, the fact that I jump from task to task faster than most people makes my significant others feel lesser. Eventually, I find people get tired of jumping around the way my thoughts do and it turns to resentment and annoyance.” — Shelly I.
2. It makes it easier to get out there
“ADHD has affected my relationships in many positive ways, one being the constant urge to be active, which over the years has encouraged me to socialize more and push myself into the world of unknown possibilities… I often wonder if I have inadvertently pulled people into my life that do not have ADHD in an effort to level me out and reel me in when needed.” — Emily H.
3. There’s a learning curve
“There’s nothing quite like being courted by someone with ADHD, so in the beginning, hyper-focus can be an incredible boost to any new relationship. Over time, however, when the relationship is no longer new and shiny, it can be hard not to take it personally when your partner gets easily distracted or hyper-focused on other things. My husband and I both manage ADHD in our lives, and we’ve learned to navigate that with good communication and (mostly) without taking things too personally. But I have to say, in the early years, before we understood what we were dealing with, it was responsible for a lot of tears and arguments.” — Elaine Taylor-Klaus
4. It can help strike a balance
“My husband and I have had a small business together for over 25 years, and we’re a great team. We’ve come to realize that my having ADHD means that I can change directions at a moment’s notice and that I’m spectacularly good at ‘flying by the seat of my pants.’ He’s a planner, so having to make a change on the spur of the moment drives him crazy. Once we both realized that, it’s made life a lot easier. I try to always remember that deviating from the plan makes him uncomfortable, and he relies on me when we have to make a quick decision. It’s a good combination.” — Ari T.
5. It takes patience
“I have learned that I can’t have romantic relationships with people who are not patient. My past relationships did not go well because my partners were often frustrated with me, and I rarely responded well to their frustrations. This always created conflict and negative outcomes and was a huge contributor to them becoming my exes. You see, with ADHD, sometimes I react slowly and other times I react too quickly or act on emotions too quickly or begin reacting verbally and physically before I have processed what I am reacting to. With my husband, he knew up front I had ADHD, and for the most part is always patient and has loved me and appreciated me for these differences, which has allowed me to feel relaxed and safe… Without his patience, we would not have the amazing marriage that we do.” — Maclain C.
6. Partners may feel neglected
“ADHD affects my ability to focus and stay engaged, which can make my partner feel that I am not interested in areas of his life that are important to him. Often, my lack of focus can also make him feel as though I am not paying attention to important details in his life or that he is simply not a priority.” — Arlene T.
7. It might bring the fun
“I definitely add spontaneity and fun to most relationships, including the one with my husband. I am able to help him think outside the box and push him beyond his comfort zone. At the same time, I have a tendency to leave cabinets and drawers open. I have been told that I have little Amy piles all around the house. I think he does a lot of cleaning up after me, which can be frustrating.” — Amy S.
8. You have to work for it
“I’ve learned to try harder to make relationships work. ADHD often gets in the way, so it takes more effort to stay connected and work through issues.” — Terry M.
9. But the right partner is out there
“He’s usually pretty good at recognizing my stress, giving gentle reminders or even pitching in where I fall short…” — Emily W.
This post is part of a sponsored advertising collaboration. A version of this article was originally published in September 2017.