How does ADHD affect relationships and marriage?

Supporting Partners Drop in Session over Zoom

Having a partner with ADHD can make them an exciting and exuberant person to be with, however their ADHD might also cause some problems in a long term relationship/marriage. We hope that this page will serve as a resource to help gain awareness of some of the issues adult ADHD can bring. All the information that follows has been developed through listening to the stories and experiences of members from our Supporting Partners group session.

How adult ADHD can affect relationships:

  • Anger, frustrations and walking on eggshells. – Many people with ADHD can be very quick to anger and/or show their frustration. As their partner you may find yourself trying to preempt their angry reaction which might be very draining, or finding that communications can unexpectedly turn into an argument..
  • Jumping into things too fast – Some ADHD people start relationships in a whirlwind, only to find that they suddenly lose interest or struggle to find ways to maintain relationships.
  • Hyperfocusing – are you there? Some people with ADHD might use their hyperfocus to escape into work or special interests as a way of coping with stress. You might feel like you are being ignored, but it might help to not take it too personally if they seem distant. Some people with ADHD are so overfocused that they find multi-tasking difficult. Some are capable of thinking about a number of things at once.
  • Impulsive behaviour – People with ADHD worry that they might forget things if they don’t say them straight away. This might come across as talking too much and too quickly. Other impulsive behaviours can include risk-taking behaviour; impulsive purchases; and addictive tendencies, like self medicating and substance misuse.
  • Disorganisation and untidiness. – Living with someone who is chronically untidy and disorganised can be very hard work. People with ADHD often seem to live on another planet when it comes to putting things away! A coping strategy for people with ADHD might be to have important things on their horizon or they might forget about them, but this can seem very untidy and disorganized. 
  • Sleep patterns and lack of sleep – are you ever coming to bed? People with ADHD often struggle with their sleep and can get out of sync with their partner’s sleep and intimacy feels like it can become impossible. Some people are up all night and tired in the day and get into ‘jet lag’. Sometimes it’s possible to work together to regulate sleep using routine, exercise and natural remedies.
  • Forgetting – related to both disorganisation and procrastination, people with ADHD can be prone to forget and put off things that seem overwhelming and difficult. But obviously they don’t want to feel incapable, stupid or parented by their partner. So coping strategies and ways to communicate are key here.
  • Not feeling valued (hypersensitivity to criticism)  – very many people with ADHD have been made to feel bad and been criticized throughout their childhoods, through misunderstanding, lack of a diagnosis or simply ‘not fitting in.’ So any criticism can feel massive even if it’s just ‘why did you not do that thing?’. Validation and feeling heard is very important to your partner with ADHD. All people with ADHD struggle with these things, so as you learn and understand more about your loved one with ADHD  the penny drops and you realise it’s not personal.  
  • Time keeping – Does your partner ever forget to meet you or do things on time? It can be really hard to not take it personally, if your partner is late it is not because they do not care about you.

These are just some of the lived experience of those who have spoken and shared at our sessions. If you recognise or have been affected by any of the issues on this page, or any others of your own, you might find it helpful to talk about them in a safe space with others. You are very welcome to come along to our ‘Supporting Partners’ meeting.

This is a unique meeting that is just for partners that takes place on the third Wednesday of every month at 7pm over Zoom.  The meeting is a safe and confidential space for partners to share experiences and tips for improving your relationship or marriage. 

References and Further Reading

Orlov, M. (2010). The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps. United States: Specialty Press, Incorporated.