If you have ADHD and you’ve ever dated a neurotypical partner, you know that sometimes the differences in how you operate can cause tension. Unfortunately, sometimes the relationship morphs from lovers to more of a parent/child relationship in which the neurotypical partner ends up handling most of the plans and chores. The ADHD partner may feel nagged, dismissed, and as if all the effort they DO put in goes unnoticed. The neurotypical partner may feel underappreciated, angry, and exhausted by the mental load of being the “responsible” one.
Does this sound familiar? Here are 5 things to keep in mind:
1. Your ADHD is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. You owe it to yourself and your partner to take good care of your health. Get responsible for figuring out and implementing the tools and strategies that work best for you. You don’t have to do this alone! You may want to enlist the support of an ADHD coach or a therapist.
2. Just because you didn't mean to hurt your partner, doesn’t mean you didn’t. Listen, I know how much you care and you didn’t MEAN to forget that important date, but you did. Intent does not equal impact. Accept and allow your partner’s feelings. Offer genuine apologies.
3. Often, one of the biggest challenges ADHD/non-ADHD couples face is communication. Get clear on what you need to most effectively communicate. For example: “If I can’t read your lips, please do not assume I understood what you said,” or “Please don’t remind me of important dates/times verbally. I need a text message or an email for it to stick in my brain.”
4. Remember to laugh! Listen, sometimes ADHD makes us do funny things! Have you ever left your keys in the freezer or spent 15 minutes looking for the glasses that are on your face? Give yourself and your partner permission to giggle at the silly parts. It doesn’t always have to be so serious.
5. If you really feel you’ve reached an impasse, it may be useful to seek out the services of a couples counselor or therapist who has experience with ADHD. There is no shame in asking for professional help.
It is possible to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship with a neurotypical partner. Stay curious about your needs and joint relationship goals, and don’t hesitate to ask for support if you think it may be helpful.