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  • Writer's pictureAvery Quinn-Packard

Adult ADHD Relationships and Hope



ADHD can impact both individuals in a couple, leading to negative patterns that damage the relationship and each other. Treatments and solutions from coping skills to addressing key life areas can help repair these patterns. Effective solutions touch on life areas pharmacological, educational, therapeutic, emotion regulation, stress management, support groups even health and physical fitness. ADHD affects individuals in inappropriate inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity deficits that disrupt our everyday work and life, in approximately 70% of previously diagnosed children, and up to 5%. Issues related to negative coping often appear in childhood or young adults as behavioral problems, substance abuse to risky behaviors and promiscuity even addiction issues. Executive function is greatly impacted and can show up in different life areas such as emotional intelligence or emotional impulsivity adding difficulty to our romantic lives. Adult ADHD deficits are notable, for instance marked increases in impatience, ease to anger, high levels of frustration, emotional overreactions or chronically overstimulated. The impact can be felt in career, emotional stability, health/sexual health to financial wellbeing. Social impairments can lead to poorer relations and greater rates of inappropriate sexual liaisons, separations, and divorce. Struggles with issues of self-esteem, achievement, anxiety, learning disabilities and depression are common. The good news is higher rates of success occur where ADHD and other life area issues are addressed together. Relationships, romantic, sexual, and/or social issues start in our teens, can show up by what age when begin dating, severity of social and romantic rejection, frequency of romantic relationships, negative impact of early sexual activity, greater levels of intercourse, promiscuity and risky sexual behaviors. ADHD is often accompanied by additional issues, or comorbidities and a sensitivity to negative influence. Comorbidities affect around 75% of adults with ADHD, in forms such as learning disabilities, anxiety, personality, sleep and mood disorders or a variety of addictive behavior i.e. substance, sex, gambling and more. Negative influencing factors includes stress, hostile environments, relationships and families with high emotionality or friction/conflict exacerbating ADHD traits and deficits. ADHD partners are likely to have conflict with romantic partners when self-control resources were depleted, or effective coping strategies are insufficient, common for untreated ADHD. Examining and addressing life areas lead to improvements and relationship recovery from the sometimes-caustic effects of ADHD. ADHD symptom management raises functional satisfaction in the individual. Increasing these and areas such as Emotional Intelligence increases relationship satisfaction levels. Romantic relationship improvement and maintenance is aided through positive interaction and open dialogue to address the negative patterns that may have built up. Couples are often depleted, stressed, rife with fear, hopelessness and denial, often chronic. The use of Psychoeducational groups, to educate couples about the effects of ADHD on social, romantic, educational, career, stigma and environmental, aimed at reducing symptomology is highly successful. Successful strategies abound for managing time and attention through tools, processes, and accountability. Physical exercise, sleep and nutrition produce consistent positive impacts. Couples and families including walking or hiking together where conversations are encouraged, taps into neuroscience and brain change, proving highly beneficial. Managing stimuli and attention issues in amounts and types at work, home and socially is important. Managing symptomology through medical (medication or Neurofeedback for instance),, behavior, therapeutic and/or coaching, and strategy interventions are highly effective, recommended for both ADHD and non-ADHD partners to aid change and relationship recovery. Addressing the impact neurological issues in relationships i.e. poor social and communication skills, emotional and/or hypersensitivity, including couples therapy, models like Gottman, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT). Developing stronger listening skills, improved self-control, deeper understanding, and problem-solving strategies. Specific tools added to the ADHD toolbox such as: The Couples Dialogue, Mirrored listening, Validating, Empathizing and many more. Therapeutic works to dispel myths, halt shame/blame cycles, disable triggers and improve relating, boundary setting and maintenance. Addressing these negative relationship patterns, repairing misunderstandings, resentments, and wounds both individually in couples/family sessions brings clarity and hope when all parties engage in change.

Getting control over the worst of symptoms, allows relationship repair to proceed more smoothly, but many years of hurt, loss of trust, cycles of blame and shame will take time to heal. Each partner needs to rebuild their own strengths, address wounds and resentments, so we can give each other the “benefit of doubt” that will be needed to rebuild and build our new relationship!


A Partial Book list:

  1. The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov

  2. Driven to Distraction by Hallowell and Ratey

  3. You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid Or Crazy?! By Kelly and Ramundo And many more very good books are now available

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