ADHD in Relationships: The Experts Speak Out: Part 5

Health Writer

We are continuing with our series on ADHD in Relationships. As explained in Part 1, I went to the experts and asked how ADHD impacts relationships and what they would offer as suggestions to help. In this, the fifth section, we will hear from four experts:

  • Rudy Rodriguez, ADHD Coach
  • Michele Novotni, Ph.D., ADHD Coach
  • Cathy Jantzen, LSCW, ADHD Coach
  • Ari Tuckman, Ph.D.

To read all of this feature:

From Rudy Rodriguez:

Here Today, Gone A Moment Later
Most will agree that ADHD can present several and assorted challenges to relationships but I find that one of the significant and misunderstood issues is the inconsistency inherent in the ADHD individual. The inconsistent behavior of the ADHD individual frequently raises doubts and distrust on the part of the non-ADHD partner. Maybe you've heard this before. "Why is that he/she can focus on [blank] but can't pay attention when we're trying to have a conversation"? How come he/she can spend hours working on [blank] but can't clean the garage, pay the bills, finish the taxes, etc. You can fill in the blanks but the possibilities are endless.

The truth is that recent research indicates that ADHD does NOT represent a problem with faulty attention. Rather new thinking suggests that ADHD represents a problem of faulty modulation and self regulation. ADHD relationships will benefit greatly from updated and accurate information. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of false and inadequate misinformation available on the internet and from some well meaning individuals so seek evidenced based information.
CoachRudy Rodriguez is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working with ADHD since 1981, a Certified Coach and a diagnosed ADHD adult. CoachRudy is Founder of the ADHD Center for Success and recently opened the ADHD Clinic in Asheville NC.

From Michele Novotni:

One ADHD challenge that many relationships face is that the non ADHD partner often doesn't feel heard or valued due to the fluctuating attention span.

Try a strategy I developed called 3 Questions 3 Deep — When your partner tells you about an event/situation, ask 3 questions about this event/situation with each question following up on what he/she says before changing the topic or focus. Some folks even keep track with their fingers. At the end of the conversation, deepened by your questions, you are usually deemed a great listener.

If your partner blames you for not hearing what they said, try a strategy called The Echo. Repeat what you heard them say to check to see if you got it right. Stops a lot of missed communication glitches in it's track.

Wishing you much social success. Get a free copy of the Novotni Social Skills Checklist at to see how you rate.

Michele Novotni, Ph.D. ADHD Coach, Psychologist, former President of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association and author of What Does Everybody Else Know that I Don't? Social Skills Help for Adults with ADHD.

From Cathy Jantzen:

The biggest relationship challenge of ADHD occurs when both partners have ADHD. Even with treatment, people with ADHD have difficulties with executive functioning skills. Both people look, act and feel like they still need to grow up. They'll have trouble with basics such as:

  • Doing what you're supposed to do, when you're supposed to do it
  • Making thoughtful decisions, not impulsive ones
  • Putting attention on what needs attention, when it's needed

They are the basis for relationship skills that typically begin development in childhood. When both partners have ADHD and haven't developed these executive functioning skills, it's like a marriage between two three-year-old children and no grown up in sight. It might be fun to watch, but you wouldn't want to be there.

Cathy Jantzen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and coach specializing in ADHD in women. She offers workshops, mastermind groups and individual coaching. She's passionate about helping women discover their own personalized ADHD wellness plan and see improvement based on their goals, at their own rate, on their own path. ADHDventures.

From Ari Tuckman:

Put most simply, ADHD interferes with someone's ability to be consistent. As a result, their romantic partner winds up taking up the slack to ensure that all the boring details of life are taken care of. This can imbalance the relationship and create a situation where the partner without ADHD feels resentful and taken advantage of whereas the partner with ADHD feels constantly nagged. The solution is to find a way to work together more productively and civilly. This begins with both partners learning about ADHD and which strategies are most likely to be helpful. It's often helpful to have the non-ADHD partner's input on treatment decisions and making medication adjustments, as well as to do some couples sessions if the ADHD partner is seeing a therapist or coach. If they can learn to work together in a different way, it's easier to feel like they are on the same team which is crucial for any relationship. For the non-ADHD partner, it's always better to ask for help and to give reminders than it is to resentfully do it yourself. The key is to ask nicely and then for the partner with ADHD to take these requests nicely. Each partner has the ability and the responsibility to improve the relationship. Neither one is powerless. If you feel powerless, it just means that your current strategies aren't working and you need to find some new approaches. It may be time to educate yourselves more about ADHD to learn some new strategies. It may also be worth taking a new look at your relationship and being honest with yourself and/or your partner about what is working, what isn't working, and why. Good relationships require honesty and some hard work, but that is what makes them so good at fostering personal development. It's the process of wrestling out issues with our romantic partner that pushes us to become a better person.

Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA is a Clinical Psychologist with a private practice in West Chester, PA. He has written numerous articles on many different aspects of living with ADHD as well as two books, More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD and Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD: A Practical, Easy-to-Use Guide for Clinicians. Dr. Tuckman's latest book, More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD, provides a wealth of information on living with adult ADHD.