If you or your partner have ADHD, following through on plans, staying on-task, and keeping your space organized can be extra challenging. Adult ADHD, long underdiagnosed and undertreated, is only now starting to be taken seriously. Research shows that ADHD can negatively impact relationships, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you have ADHD, your symptoms can create challenges for both you and your partner. Things between you and your partner may become strained as a result of your distractibility, inconsistency, or forgetfulness, even when you’re trying your best to give your partner the attention they deserve. Working on these issues can help both of you, and reduce the strain in your relationship caused by ADHD.
Becoming easily distracted is a hallmark of ADHD. In the context of romantic relationships, this can look like zoning out in conversations, getting diverted while you are trying to do chores, or missing important details your partner mentioned. This can leave the other person feeling ignored or devalued.
Try this: Make an intention to prioritize listening to your partner, even when you notice other things catching your attention. Resist the urge to interrupt or to ask questions while your partner is still speaking. If you do interrupt, apologize and invite them to finish what they were saying.
The ADHD brain requires many reminders. If you don’t already use a daily planner or calendar, now is a good time to start. Make a habit of inputting events, important dates, and appointments in your calendar right away so you don’t forget. (Don’t let the ADHD demon convince you that you’ll remember to do it later — you won’t! Write it down now.)
Try this: Set reminders for tasks that repeat, like paying bills, getting groceries, or taking out the trash, and reinforce your system with a backup system. For example, if trash is collected on Mondays before 8am, compost on Thursday and recycling on Friday, set repeating alarms for Monday, Thursday and Friday on your phone with labels like “Take out the trash!”. When you can get things done without having to be reminded by your partner, you’ll feel more accomplished and competent, and your partner will appreciate not having to remind you so often.
Along with forgetfulness, ADHD disorganization can make it challenging to stay organized in your home. This often looks like piles of clothes in your room, clutter on tables, and lots of unfinished projects. You may feel overwhelmed by the clutter and don’t know where to start, or you may be so used to the clutter that you don’t even notice it anymore. Either way, your partner may start to feel like they’re always cleaning up after you.
Try this: Schedule some time to tidy up daily. It might take a while to get used to, but stick with it and it will become a habit. When you start a big cleaning task, commit to following through with it, even if that means taking a small break and coming back to it.
I hope that you found these ideas useful for identifying and working through some of the challenges that ADHD can bring to your relationship. If you're struggling with managing your ADHD symptoms or with comorbid mental health challenges like addiction or negative self-image, consider reaching out to a therapist that specializes in ADHD for support.
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