How a partner's untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects relationships (2023)

Many couples who don't have ADHD experience extreme stress when they live with an adult with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD. Why and what can you do?

It's easy to understand why people are initially attracted to their ADHD partners. Humor. Creativity. You will find these qualities in spades. Originality. Innovation. Those come up often too. keep thinking As long as it doesn't mean living in a box, there is.

Yet over the past three years, my online exchanges with hundreds of couples with people with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD also tell me this: they desperately love their partners, yet they are desperately hurt and confused. You need help. Many of you have recently learned that adult ADHD exists or can pose problems other than occasional forgetfulness. Little did they know it had something to do with anger, compulsive spending, losing a job, losing interest in a partner quickly, and difficulties in parenting. Many live with partners in total denial, refusing to even hear about ADHD. It's not as if partners who don't have ADHD see themselves as role models for mental health. They represent a spectrum of personalities, behaviors, intelligences, and neuroses, just like their ADHD peers. Most of them want to grow, change, expand and meet their ADHD peers halfway or more.

However, when your partner's untreated ADHD causes chaos at every turn and their understanding of ADHD is nil, they often sink into a confused and stressed state that I call "ADD by Osmosis." They remain incapacitated only to react, sometimes to the point of "breaking down". Even the most trusting of them believe their partner that their relationship problems are entirely their fault. After all, her partner was initially so in love with her and so charming and caring that it must be her fault that things have changed so drastically. In addition, there are often financial difficulties, they help their children with ADHD, do most of the housework and often have a full-time job.

Most of the time, it's not the little things about ADHD that wear it down. You can (mostly) live with that if you understand the basics, and you can work together on solutions. Rather, it's the big, loud stuff that makes them look for a support group. Both the female and male members sympathize with the same themes, with some variations. The following list of the most problematic "hot spots", which in turn are mainly found among those who refuse diagnosis and treatment, is not for the faint of heart. Perhaps only the most motivated and frustrated make it into a support group, or perhaps only those who are most certain that there must be a better way.

Financially:They struggle with secret (and not-so-secret) partner debt, impulsive spending, chronic job losses, or underemployment. They are called "Annals" because they insist on filing a tax return with the IRS. They planned a carefree retirement, but instead face mountains of debt. Mention E-bay at your own risk; Her closets are full of her partner's impulsive and expensive online purchases.

(Video) How ADHD Affects Relationships | Dr. Lenne' Hunt

Health:They manifest the effects of ADHD-induced stress and turmoil in disorders such as fibromyalgia, migraines, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel disease. Suddenly, it can seem like they are the burden to their partner and not the other way around, a particularly tricky scenario that many therapists fail to understand. They are becoming increasingly isolated and restricted in their daily activities.

Career:Their careers often suffer, which can mean they stay in jobs they hate because they can never afford to take a risk. Yours is the sole and constant income. They often underperform at work because they are constantly putting out fires started by their partners.

Kinder:A sentence that is often heard is “We feel like single parents”. You make all the decisions. They act as arbiters between their children and their partner, doubly so when both have ADHD. Too often they have to deal with the authorities when their partner loses their temper. They often stay in toxic marriages because they know "joint custody" would be disastrous. If your partner "loses sight" of your toddler now, what happens next? Now, if your partner loses his temper and hits your teen, what happens if you're not there to intervene?

Support:Little bit. Their families often see their partners' charming "social" side and think they're overreacting. Their closest friends sympathize but can't help but say "Out!" Her in-laws are often caught up in their own undiagnosed sagas that have taken decades to work on. Much of the public, including your GP or your therapist, relegates adult ADHD to tooth fairy status: they don't believe it.

Sex:They watched their partners turn off the sex tap the day after the wedding and then found a way to blame them. If they just did this or that, they are told they would become sexually attractive again. You try, but none of it works. Or they find that they are expected to be their partners' sexual stimulant 24/7 without getting in the way of romance or even foreplay. Some of them had a good sex life before their partner's treatment, only to be limited by the side effects of the drugs. Others are less than enthusiastic and maybe even a little incestuous about having sex with someone who acts like their child.

Ride:They fear for their safety and that of their children. They pray for no more costly traffic violations or worse. Your insurance premiums have already gone through the roof.

(Video) ADHD Relationships: Hurtful Conversations

Self-esteem:If they are not constantly appreciated or "seen", they slowly become invisible. Even to yourself. You are blamed for the fact that the sky is blue. You identify with Ingrid Bergman in the film "Gaslight". You will be beaten.

Provocation to Anger:you are dr Amen forever grateful for this Healing A.D.D , and they hate it when their partner continues to provoke them. They're sick to the bone from fighting.

Get help:Many trust doctors and psychologists only to find their problems are made worse by their ignorance of ADHD. While their ADHD partners conveniently forget the trauma that occurred or lay it at their feet and therefore sit so happy and carefree in a session, they are so traumatised, confused and depressed that to the untrained eye they often seem to be the cause of be relationship problems.

It often takes them 5 to 30 years to realize that their partner's behavior has a name and hope for a change. Much damage was done then.

Before they can process the anger and pain and help everyone involved, they need to understand the disorder. However, stacks of books about ADHD cannot replace real-life experience, although many members read volumes of books in search of understanding. They can name all the subtypes and behaviors, but it's not until they hear exactly how those behaviors affect others in their shoes that the fog begins to clear.

(Video) ADHD and Toxic Relationships

New members often limp into online support groups, completely besieged and unkempt, or at best, confused. rarely confused. Some run away again without planning time for a group because they live with so many crises, let alone children in great need. Others need time to rant or grapple with the shocking fact that they've wasted years or even decades in needless frustration. All for lack of information. Some come after a divorce and ask, "What was that train wreck that just happened?" Others conclude that they are dealing with "ADD lite," count their blessings, and leave.

Gradually, many of those left behind are finding clarity. They challenge each other to rethink entrenched expectations about gender roles, relationships, and their own core issues. They remind each other to let go of the behavior for a while and to focus on themselves for a while. They encourage each other to help the couple find help. (You cannot expect someone whose disorder inhibits initiation to suddenly take action and find qualified nursing service.)

The change happens. with mutual support,

- Find workable communication techniques and task-sharing agreements.

--You learn to set better boundaries with partners whose purpose in life seems to be to trample on their boundaries.

- They learn to focus more on what makes them happy. They develop their own interests and activities to 'recharge their batteries'.

(Video) Introduction: Adult ADHD & Relationships (Part I)

- They gain the confidence to insist on finding doctors and therapists to work with them, accepting their input not as "controllers" but as complements to the significant gaps their partners often leave out.

- They develop and maintain a vision of what can be because their partners have often lived with what cannot be for so many years. If they're lucky, the partners of these people with ADHD will learn valuable lessons about damaged egos—their own and their partner's—and how to move beyond them. And they find the partner they always knew was there beneath the noise. Your partner's ADHD has pushed both of you to be better people and your life has been richer as a result.

About the author:San Francisco-based author Gina Pera moderates an online support group for couples for people with ADHD and is writing a book based on members' collective experiences and wisdom, Roller Coaster: Loving an Adult with ADHD. He recently started a support group in Palo Alto and became the leader of Silicon Valley's CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). For more informations:

Her work as a special issue producer for USA Weekend magazine has earned her the Best Magazine Editing award from the Association for Women in Communications and a Unity Media Award, which recognizes accurate exposure of issues affecting minorities and people with disabilities.

APA references
Staff, H. (2008, November 29). How a Couple's Untreated Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Affects Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved January 2, 2023 from

(Video) ADHD & Relationships (Part 2): The Effect on the Partners of Adults with ADHD


1. A spouse’s perspective on ADHD
(Progressive Therapy Associates)
2. How Your ADHD Affects Your Relationships
3. ADHD in Adulthood: The Signs You Need to Know
4. ADHD & Love Languages: Awareness & Examples
5. How ADHD Impacts Adult Relationships | ADHD in Relationships
(Smart Course)
6. Finding More Happiness for Both Partners When One Person has ADHD
(Help for ADHD)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Neely Ledner

Last Updated: 14/08/2023

Views: 6025

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Neely Ledner

Birthday: 1998-06-09

Address: 443 Barrows Terrace, New Jodyberg, CO 57462-5329

Phone: +2433516856029

Job: Central Legal Facilitator

Hobby: Backpacking, Jogging, Magic, Driving, Macrame, Embroidery, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Neely Ledner, I am a bright, determined, beautiful, adventurous, adventurous, spotless, calm person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.