Creating Healthy Relationships With ADHD

by Liberty Stembridge, Relationships Columnist

Published in Relationships on 17th December, 2018

ADHD can be tough to manage, especially when you're dealing with pressures such as family commitments and employment. Oftentimes people with ADHD worry about getting into relationships, either because they fear that they will mess it up, or because of past relationships that have been affected by symptoms of ADHD.

It's common to worry that ADHD will "put people off" or somehow present you in a negative light. These are normal worries, but they don't have to be. It's perfectly possible to create healthy relationships with ADHD.

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Manage Your Symptoms Together

Whether you're in a completely new relationship or you've been married for years, it's always beneficial to evaluate how well you and your partner are working to manage any negative symptoms from ADHD.

If you've only recently been diagnosed, you may be completely new to treating ADHD symptoms, and this can be overwhelming, but try to see it as a chance for both yourself and your partner to learn.

It's key that both of you are on the same page and involved in managing your symptoms. If your partner is left out, it can leave them feeling confused and rejected, and possibly misunderstanding the situation. Involving your partner means that they can have a better understanding of what's going on with you, and can help you when you're struggling.

Develop Your Relationship Skills

Contrary to popular belief, most relationships take work. Some things don't come naturally to all of us such as good listening skills, supportive language, good communication, and conflict resolution. In particular, people with ADHD who are in a relationship may struggle to pay attention to their partner or communicate their needs fully, which may result in the other person feeling ignored or unclear on what's going on.

Nearly every single couple will at some point find that they are lacking in some way and need to work on certain skills, so the fact that ADHD might be causing problems within your relationship is nothing to be ashamed of. The key is to focus on developing and strengthening the areas where you are lacking, whatever they may be.

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If you're struggling with that, seeking the help of a counselor can go a long way towards making sure that you are both on the same page and know what to work on. Chances are your partner has just as much to work on as you do.

Focus On The Positive

Focusing on what divides you will only serve to create distance and resentment within a relationship. Reframing your differences as strengths, however, can help you to create a more positive and healthy relationship you can both thrive in.

Every character trait has a flip side to it. Someone who is flighty and inattentive is probably also fun and spontaneous. Every time you get down about a certain characteristic in your partner, try to flip it and remind yourself how it contributes to what you love about them.

Practice Good Communication

Communication is a crucial element of any good relationship, but it can easily break down especially when one or both partners have ADHD. Without communication, a behaviour that is common but ultimately harmless such as forgetting important dates or showing up late for dinner can easily turn into a larger issue than it really is such as the other partner feeling unappreciated.

Couples where only one person has ADHD often fall into the trap of one partner being the "responsible one" while the other is not. This leaves the person with ADHD feeling infantilized, while their partner is left feeling resentful from the weight of responsibility.

They may start to become overcontrolling or easily irritable, while the ADHD partner is left feeling demoralized. None of this bodes well for any relationship and will often lead to one or both partners feeling unhappy.

Good communication takes work, especially if it isn't something that comes naturally to you. By making sure you're both on the same page and committed to improving your communication, you automatically get off to a good start. There are many resources online that can help you to develop better communication, or look to an older wiser role model such as a parent or sibling and ask them for advice (provided they are good at communicating with their partner).

Seek Out The Help Of A Professional

We all want our marriages and relationships to last if we're serious about them. Many couples avoid seeking professional help when they're struggling, seeing it as a sign of defeat or acknowledgment of failure. In fact, it is the opposite.

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Seeking help is a proactive step to help you deal with any problems that arise and prepare for potential future conflict. Although not always essential, couples therapy can help you to get a better understanding of each other and how to best work with and support one another.

Practice Self Care

Self-care is important in all aspects of your life, especially your relationships. How are you supposed to help and support another person if you can't help and support yourself? Self-care isn't just for when you're sick, it should be a daily practice of looking after yourself to make sure that you can live your best life and keep your relationships healthy.

Partners with ADHD are often susceptible to forgetting key self-care practices, which is why it's all the more important to incorporate them into your life.

Of course, self-care looks different for everyone and depends on your personal preferences and situation, however, there are a few self-care tips that you may find useful, especially if one or more of you have ADHD. Exercise, for example, is an especially important part of many people's self-care routines, as it de-stresses, and can help to mitigate some of the frantic energy that ADHD can cause.

Many couples also find that meditating together can be an incredibly beneficial experience, helping to reduce stress, manage ADHD and create a stronger relationship.

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