If you are dating someone with ADHD you might already know that life will never be boring. People with ADHD are known for being spontaneous, creative and full of energy. There are many positive traits that come along with ADHD and these might have been what first attracted you to the other person. But adults with ADHD are also known for being forgetful, disorganized and starting but not finishing tasks. Some might have a hard time with emotional regulation, becoming excited, frustrated or angry easily. Their inattention might make you feel unimportant.
Despite the potential problems, many people have found that relationships where one partner has ADHD can be successful and happy. If you are in a relationship with someone with ADHD, you might want to remember the following:
Educating yourself about ADHD is important. Look for books and reputable websites to find out what ADHD is and read about the main symptoms. Learn about common strategies and treatments. The more you understand, the better you will understand your partner’s behaviors.
ADHD symptoms may appear differently in each person. Once you have learned about the overall symptoms of ADHD, you want to know how these symptoms appear in your partner. Ask questions about which symptoms have caused difficulties in the past to help you differentiate “annoying” behaviors from ADHD symptoms.
ADHD is not an excuse for every problem in your relationship. It is easy to blame ADHD, or your partner, for problems that come up. But it is important to remember that all relationships, with and without a partner with ADHD, have disagreements, all-out fights and partners sometimes irritate one another. Don’t quickly blame your partner’s ADHD anytime you face problems.
Inattention can show up in many different ways. One of the main symptoms of ADHD is inattention but this isn’t simply “not paying attention.” It can show up as easily becoming distracting (including having a hard time following a conversation), forgetfulness, losing items and not finishing tasks.
You might find it hard to keep up with their thoughts. The ADHD brain rarely stops, thoughts can fly through at a hundred miles an hour. You might be having a conversation but your partner might have moved on to several other topics during the course of a few minutes.
Emotional regulation is sometimes a problem for adults with ADHD. You might see emotional outbursts or they might impulsively say something they regret later. Mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression are also commonly associated with ADHD.
During times of high emotion your partner might find it more difficult to concentrate or pay attention to a single task. If your partner is upset, worried, or anxious, you might notice that an already low level of focus becomes even less so.
Hyperfocus** is an intense concentration that can last for hours.** During times of hyperfocus people with ADHD often lose track of time and might find it difficult to pull away, even to eat. You might find periods of hyperfocus confusing because it seems to be the opposite of ADHD but many people find when involved in a highly interesting task they become hyperfocused on it.
You shouldn’t take forgetfulness** personally.** The saying, “If it is important enough you will remember it” doesn’t hold true for those with ADHD. Important dates, events and information can disappear within minutes. While it might feel hurtful if your partner forgets a date, your anniversary or something that is important to you, keep in mind, it probably isn’t uncaring or thoughtless behavior.
You want to be supportive without becoming a caretaker. You might find it easy to fall into the role of caregiver, picking up after your partner, helping them stay on track and taking on most of the household chores. This often ends in consistent criticisms and resentment. Instead, help your partner find strategies to manage ADHD symptoms and offer your support and unconditional love.
ADHD symptoms can be managed but not cured. ADHD is a lifelong disorder. Symptoms can sometimes lessen between puberty and adulthood, but don’t go away. However, many people learn to work with their strengths and find strategies to help, such as using reminders, alarms and to-do lists. Always remember to focus on why you were first attracted to your partner and focus on their strengths.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.