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Understanding ADHD And Its Impact on Relationships

Harold Robert Meyer haroldmeyer@addrc.org

Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply.

What Causes Many People With ADHD to Sabotage Their Relationships?

This article will explore the common challenges that individuals with ADHD face in their relationships, the impact of impulsivity and distractibility, communication difficulties, hyperfocus, coping strategies, tips for partners, and seeking professional help. Note: It is possible to have none, some or all of these issues and have/not have ADHD.

Understanding ADHD and its Impact on Relationships

ADHD is a condition that, among other things, affects the brain’s ability to regulate attention and control impulses. This can significantly impact an individual’s ability to form and maintain relationships. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with forgetfulness, disorganization, and difficulty following through on commitments. They may also have difficulty with emotional regulation, leading to mood swings and outbursts that can strain relationships.

People with ADHD may also struggle with social cues and have difficulty reading the room or picking up on nonverbal cues. This can often lead to misunderstandings and conflict in relationships.

Common relationship challenges for individuals with ADHD

People with ADHD often face a range of challenges in their relationships. Some of the most common challenges include forgetfulness, impulsivity, distractibility, and difficulty with time management. These issues can make maintaining healthy communication challenging and lead to misunderstandings and conflict. People with ADHD may also struggle with emotional regulation, leading to mood swings and outbursts that can strain relationships.

It is not unusual for some to create situations that sabotage a relationship because of the excitement it creates and the brain craves. (Negative attention can often provide more stimulation than positive attention). “Blaming” the other person (the word “blame” should be erased from one’s vocabulary) can provide such stimulation but is always destructive. A person with ADHD might have low self-esteem and could misinterpret what is said to them as criticism when (hopefully) it is not. It can become easy to deflect what is said by placing “blame” on the other person rather than seeing if the “criticism” applied.

How impulsivity and distractibility affect relationships

Impulsivity and distractibility are hallmarks of ADHD and can significantly impact relationships.

These behaviors can lead to conflict in relationships and erode trust. Distractibility can also be a significant challenge, as individuals with ADHD may struggle to stay present in conversations or miss important details. This can lead to misunderstandings and frustration in relationships. Often the other person feels they are not being listened to or that their feelings are being dismissed.

Communication difficulties and their impact on relationships

Communication is a key component of any healthy relationship, but individuals with ADHD may struggle with (both verbal and non-verbal) communication due to their symptoms. People with ADHD may interrupt or talk over others, struggle to stay on topic, or miss important details. This can lead to misunderstandings and frustration in relationships. Additionally, individuals with ADHD may struggle to express their emotions effectively, leading to mood swings and outbursts that can strain relationships. Sometimes, the person may have internalized something believing that it has been communicated when it has not.

Coping strategies for individuals with ADHD in relationships

It is important for individuals with ADHD to communicate openly and honestly with their partners about their symptoms and how they impact their relationships. Holding on to an issue until they are impulsively blurted out sabotages communications and can create situations where the topic switches from the issue to unrelated issues/bringing up history and diluting the message one is trying to convey.

Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply.

Seeking therapy/couples therapy, ADHD coaching, or counseling can also be helpful for developing coping strategies and improving communication skills.

Tips for partners of individuals with ADHD

Partners of individuals with ADHD may also benefit from some tips and coping strategies. These include being patient and understanding, setting clear expectations and boundaries, practicing active listening, and avoiding blame or criticism. (Because the person with ADHD appears not to have listened or switched the topic in the middle of the conversation should not be interpreted as not listening, not caring, or being dismissive.) Some with ADHD may have problems seeing a linear connection with what the other person is saying.

Partners can also work with their loved ones with ADHD to develop coping strategies that work for both parties.

Seeking professional help for ADHD and relationship issues

If ADHD symptoms are impacting a person’s relationships, seeking professional help may be beneficial. Therapy, ADHD Coaching, or counseling can help individuals with ADHD develop coping strategies and improve communication skills. Additionally, medication may be helpful in managing symptoms that are impacting relationships. It is important for individuals with ADHD to work with a healthcare professional to develop a treatment plan that works for them.


ADHD can significantly impact relationships, but there are strategies and coping mechanisms that individuals with ADHD and their partners can use to improve their relationships. By understanding the common challenges faced by individuals with ADHD, such as impulsivity, distractibility, and communication difficulties, partners can work together to develop strategies that work for them. Seeking professional help may also be beneficial in managing symptoms and improving relationships. By taking a proactive approach, individuals with ADHD can maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Harold Robert Meyer

The ADD Resource Center

646.205.8080 | haroldmeyer@addrc.org | http://www.addrc.org/

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