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Why Do Some People with ADHD Unconsciously Sabotage Their Relationships?

Harold Robert Meyer 8/20/2023

‍Understanding ADHD and its impact on relationships

Individuals with ADHD often struggle with inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While these symptoms can present challenges in various aspects of life, they can especially impact relationships.

A partner with ADHD can often leave the other person feeling neglected or unimportant.

Common relationship challenges for individuals with ADHD

For individuals with ADHD, maintaining a healthy relationship can be particularly challenging. The symptoms of ADHD can lead to a range of difficulties that impact the dynamics of a partnership. One of the common challenges is a tendency to become easily overwhelmed by daily tasks and responsibilities. This can result in a partner with ADHD feeling stressed and anxious, which may lead to increased arguments and conflict within the relationship.

It is not uncommon for people with ADHD to perceive an attack even when none exists. As a result of these perceived attacks, the person with ADHD may lash out at the other person without real cause or become argumentative when an argument is not warranted. It is possible that the “excitement” of an argument might provide a needed stimulus to the brain. Often, negative stimulation is more rewarding than positive stimulation. If unaware the “excitement” of the argument and issues of self-esteem can become a learned habit.

Also, a lack of true listening can be problematic. In addition, processing what is heard can be challenging. Harold Meyer points out that both sides in a discussion should listen with the intention of understanding rather than the intention of replying, defending, or attacking.  

Another challenge faced by individuals with ADHD is difficulty with time management and prioritization. The tendency to become easily distracted can make completing tasks or meeting deadlines challenging, leading to frustration and resentment from their partner. This can create a cycle of disappointment and resentment that can strain the relationship over time.

Unconscious sabotage in relationships: The role of impulsivity and distractibility

Impulsivity and distractibility are two key features of ADHD that can contribute to unconscious sabotage in relationships. Individuals with ADHD often act on impulse without fully considering the consequences of their actions. This can lead to impulsive decisions or behaviors that may negatively impact the relationship. Despite being aware of certain negative behaviors, the person with ADHD usually denies them.

Distractibility can also play a role in unconscious sabotage. Individuals with ADHD may struggle to stay focused on conversations or tasks, leading to misunderstandings or missed communication cues. This can create frustration and tension within the relationship, as the partner without ADHD may feel ignored or unimportant.

Emotional dysregulation and its impact on relationship dynamics

Emotional dysregulation is another common feature of ADHD that can impact relationship dynamics. Individuals with ADHD may struggle to regulate their emotions, leading to intense emotional reactions that can be difficult for their partner to understand or navigate. For example, a person with ADHD may become overwhelmed with anger or frustration over a minor disagreement, causing their partner to feel confused and uncertain.

The emotional dysregulation associated with ADHD can also contribute to difficulties in conflict resolution. Individuals with ADHD may struggle to communicate their needs and feelings effectively, leading to misunderstandings and escalating arguments. This can create a cycle of conflict and tension within the relationship, making it challenging to find a resolution and compromise.

Communication breakdowns and misunderstandings in ADHD relationships

Communication breakdowns and misunderstandings are common in relationships where one or both partners have ADHD. The impulsivity and distractibility associated with ADHD can make it difficult to listen actively and fully engage in conversations. This can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of what each partner is trying to communicate.

Additionally, individuals with ADHD may struggle with social cues and nonverbal communication, making it challenging to accurately interpret their partner’s intentions or emotions. This can further contribute to misunderstandings and conflict within the relationship. It is important for both partners to be aware of these challenges and to work on improving communication skills to minimize these issues.

Strategies for improving relationship satisfaction

While relationships with individuals with ADHD can face unique challenges, there are strategies that can help improve relationship satisfaction. One key strategy is to establish clear and consistent communication. Setting aside dedicated time to discuss important matters and actively listening to each other can help minimize misunderstandings and foster a stronger connection.

Creating structure and routine within the relationship can also be beneficial. This can help individuals with ADHD stay organized and manage their time more effectively. Establishing routines for shared activities, such as meal planning or household chores, can help create a sense of stability and reduce stress within the relationship.

Seeking professional help: Therapy for individuals with ADHD and their partners

It can be beneficial to seek professional assistance if relationship challenges become overwhelming. Coaching and/or therapy can provide individuals with ADHD and their partners the tools and strategies they need to navigate their unique challenges. A therapist or coach can help both partners better understand ADHD and its impact on the relationship and provide guidance on improving communication and managing conflict.

Therapy can also offer a safe space for individuals with ADHD to explore their own emotions and develop strategies for managing their symptoms. Additionally, couples therapy can provide a platform for open and honest communication, helping both partners express their needs and concerns in a supportive environment.

The importance of education and empathy in supporting a partner with ADHD

Empathy is crucial in supporting a partner with ADHD. It is important to recognize that the symptoms of ADHD are not intentional or personal attacks. Instead, they are a result of the neurodevelopmental disorder. By practicing empathy and offering support, partners can create a more nurturing and understanding relationship dynamic.

Building a strong foundation: Creating structure and routine in the relationship

Building a strong foundation in a relationship with ADHD requires creating structure and routine. Establishing clear expectations and boundaries can help individuals with ADHD stay organized and manage their symptoms more effectively. This can include setting specific times for important conversations or activities and providing reminders for deadlines or appointments.

Creating a supportive environment is also crucial. Partners can work together to identify strategies that help manage symptoms and reduce stress. This can include implementing organizational tools, such as calendars or to-do lists, and finding ways to minimize distractions within the home environment.

Conclusion: Nurturing healthy and fulfilling relationships with ADHD

Navigating a relationship with ADHD can be challenging, but with understanding, support, and the right strategies, it is possible to nurture a very healthy and very fulfilling partnership. By recognizing the impact of ADHD on relationship dynamics, improving communication skills, and seeking professional help when needed, individuals with ADHD and their partners can build a strong foundation for a successful relationship. With empathy, education, and a commitment to growth, couples can navigate the unique challenges of ADHD and create a fulfilling and loving partnership.


If you or your partner are struggling with ADHD in your relationship, consider seeking support from an ADHD Coach or therapist. They can provide guidance, tools, and strategies to help you navigate the challenges of ADHD and build a strong and fulfilling relationship. Remember, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. Reach out for help and start nurturing a healthier connection today.

Harold Rober Meyer 8/19/2023

————————————————-Harold Robert MeyerThe ADD Resource Center      

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