Building and maintaining a strong relationship is a challenge for anyone. However, having ADHD can pose different sets of challenges. This neurological disorder can make partners think of them as:

  • poor listeners
  • distracted partners or parents
  • forgetful

Sadly, due to such difficulties, sometimes even the most loving partnership can falter. Understanding the effects of adult ADHD on relationships can help prevent broken relationships. In fact, there are even ways to ensure a completely happy relationship.

Understanding ADHD

Many people have heard of ADHD, which is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), though this is considered an outdated term. A large percentage of people may recognize the term, but don’t know what it entails or even what it means. ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. This means that your partner may display symptoms of attention difficulties as well as hyper behaviors. This neurological disorder is chronic, which this means that people have it for life.

Most people experience difficulties with the following:

  • concentration
  • misplaced motivation
  • organizational difficulties
  • self-discipline
  • time management

Relationships may be characterized by angry or inappropriate outbursts by the partner with ADHD. Sometimes, ugly scenes erupt that can traumatize partners and children. Although these fits of anger may pass as quickly as they appear, cruel words uttered on impulse may increase tension in the home environment.

ADHD and Relationship Difficulties

Although every partner brings their own sets of baggage into a relationship, a partner with ADHD often arrives heavily laden with the following issues:

  • negative self-image
  • lack of self-confidence
  • shame from past “failures”

These issues may at first be masked by their ability to shower their beloved with romance and attentiveness, a quality of ADHD hyperfocus.

However, the focus of that hyperfocus inevitably shifts. When it does, a person with ADHD may seem to barely notice their partner at all. This may make the ignored partner wonder if they are really loved. This dynamic can strain a relationship. The partner with ADHD might constantly question their partner’s love or commitment, which maybe perceived as a lack of trust. This can drive the couple even further apart.

ADHD and Marriage

ADHD can create even more strain in a marriage. As time passes, the spouse unaffected by ADHD finds that they have to carry most of:

  • parenting
  • financial responsibility
  • home management
  • resolving family problems
  • household chores

This division of responsibilities can make the partner with ADHD seem like a child, rather than a mate. If the marriage transforms into a parent-child relationship, the sexual dynamic suffers. The non-ADHD spouse may interpret their partner’s behavior as a sign of lost love. This type of situation can lead to divorce.

If your spouse has ADHD, it’s important to practice empathy. When times get tough, take a deep breath and remember the reasons why you fell in love. Such small reminders can carry you through some of the most chaotic days. If you feel like you can’t take the situation any longer, it may be time to consider marriage counseling.

Why Breakups Happen

Sometimes, the breakup comes as a complete shock to the partner with ADHD, who was too distracted to notice that the relationship was failing. In an effort to escape feeling overwhelmed by housework or demanding children, the partner with ADHD may have mentally and emotionally withdrawn, leaving the other partner feeling abandoned and resentful.

This dynamic is worse if the partner with ADHD is undiagnosed and not in treatment. Still, treatment may not even be enough to curb anger and resentment. The longer that problems are left to continue in a relationship, the higher the likelihood of a breakup.

Considering Couples Therapy

If a couple coping with ADHD wants to revive their marriage, they must recognize that ADHD is the problem, not the person with the condition. Blaming one another for the side effects of ADHD will only widen the gap between them. These side effects can include:

  • diminished sex life
  • messy house
  • financial struggles

At a minimum, the ADHD partner must get treatment through medication and counseling. Couples therapy with a professional who specializes in ADHD can provide additional support for both partners, and help the couple navigate their way back to productive, honest communication. Managing the disorder as a couple can help partners rebuild their bonds and adopt healthy roles in their relationship.


ADHD can negatively affect relationships, but this does not have to be the case. Mutual acceptance of imperfections can go a long way in terms of creating empathy for each other, and learning to slow down.

Compassion and teamwork top the list of qualities that make a relationship with an ADHD partner work. At the same time, you should encourage your partner to get help if you think treatment could help minimize some extreme symptoms. Counseling can also create more of the team atmosphere you both need.

A relationship involving someone with ADHD is never easy, but by no means is it doomed to failure. The following treatment can help keep your relationship both strong and healthy:

  • medication
  • therapy
  • efforts to strengthen communication
  • mutual consideration for each other
  • commitment to a fair division of responsibilities