ADHD in Relationships: The Experts Speak Out: Part 1

Health Writer

Do the symptoms of ADHD strain your relationship? If you have ADHD, does your partner complain about the lack of attention or your inability to follow through on a task? Have you forgotten important events, creating friction? If so, you aren't alone. Approximately 5 percent of all adults have ADHD and because adult ADHD has only been recently recognized, most have probably gone undiagnosed for much of their life. Even so, the characteristics of ADHD have always been there and create tension in your love life.

To help you find answers, I went to the experts and asked how ADHD impacts relationships and what they would offer as suggestions to help. Our experts include doctors, social workers, ADHD coaches and bloggers. Some, if not most, have adult ADHD and know what problems they have come across in their relationships and offer their ideas on how to make your relationship better. I have received such a tremendous response from my outreach that I have decided to post two answers each day (so as not to overwhelm anyone with and to make sure you have a chance to read all of the responses.) Today I will be sharing responses from Terry Matlen and Digna Dreibelbis.

To read all of this feature:

From Terry Matlen:

Paying attention to the needs of each partner. The partner with ADHD is often distracted by inner and outer turmoil and though the interest and love is there, it can be challenging to stay in the moment when the mind is wandering. For the non-ADD partner, it can be exasperating to feel like they're taking on more than their share and to feel like they aren't being heard, which is often misinterpreted as feeling unloved.

Suggestion: Carve out time each day when distractions are at a minimum to connect with your partner and to really really listen and problem solve before the issues at hand turn into mountains.

Terry Matlen, ACSW is a psychotherapist and consultant specializing in ADHD and the author of "Survival Tips for Women with ADHD." She runs the sites and  She can be reached at

From Digna Dreibelbis:

I think the biggest challenge ADHD can create in a relationship is the act of truly listening to each other and sharing conversation. My husband trying to understand me, or even keeping up with my grandiose ideas and rapidly changing artistic tendencies, can be a comedy at times. Although my husband is used to these ideas coming from me at full speed it has not been without the expense of me feeling ignored or frustrated that he does not understand my point. Another struggle is me trying to keep my mind on what he is telling me even though I have no interest in what he is saying. Yet the ADHD adult, like me, is a master and actor at faking the listening.

Until a few days later my husband comes back to that conversation and I have no clue what he is talking about. Years of being together and a sense of humor has helped us the most.

If couples truly love each other and are willing to stay together, they need to work at it everyday. In a new relationships where ADHD is present, couples need to hang in there and give it time. Time to truly get to know each other, test the waters of their life and relationship together.   Another thing that helps is understanding your partners uniqueness and just accepting them for who they are. Don't try to change them, just make suggestions. This can be a catch 22 because the act of truly listening to someone is like handing them a ticket and allowing them to change you.

My name is Digna and I am a 45 year old wife, mother of 3, dog rescuer and caretaker to my 84 year old mother. I was diagnosed with ADHD late in life, less than 2 years ago. I have carried the depression/anxiety diagnosis since my early 20's. Since my ADHD diagnosis I finally feel I am getting in touch with the real me and slowly learning what I would like to do when I grow up.