Facing constant conflicts in your personal relationships? Unlocking ADHD writer Tricia Lim discusses how ADHD can affect social and romantic relationships.
Does your relationship with a loved one feel rocky? Wondering why the arguments just can’t seem to stop?
Certain symptoms associated with ADHD can cause misunderstandings, conflicts and frustration in relationships of any kind. Here are some common issues that surface in a relationship with an ADHDer along with tips to overcome them.
Forgetting something is hardly a foreign experience for anyone, but people with ADHD might be particularly familiar with it. A higher tendency for things to slip your mind can negatively impact social and romantic relationships — friends may feel as if you’re distancing yourself when you seemingly bail on yet another meet-up, and partners may feel frustrated that you frequently forget to pick up the things they asked for or fail to remember birthdays and anniversaries.
- Set a reminder (or even multiple reminders!) for each plan you make with others the moment the date is set.
- Post-it notes, checklists, or a dry-erase board are your best friends.
Spontaneity and impulsivity are common parts of the ADHD package. While spontaneity can inject lots of fun in a relationship, impulsive actions can cause discord with others.
In romantic and familial relationships, for example, impulsive spending often becomes a huge issue. Impulsive speech – where your mouth moves faster than your brain – may also unintentionally hurt others, creating a rift in relationships.
- Create a list of what you need before you leave to shop, and keep to the list.
- Build awareness of the things you say each day and notice when you tend to speak before thinking.
- Practise pausing for a brief moment before you respond. Consider how your words may be perceived by others.
A tendency to be easily distracted may also commonly contribute to conflicts. Frequently going off-topic or being distracted in the middle of a conversation can cause partners and friends to feel unheard and unimportant.
- Set aside time to engage in face-to-face conversation and put away potential distractions such as your phone.
- Be present and practise mindfulness — notice when you’re starting to drift off, take mindful breaths and bring yourself back to the present.
- Sometimes, your mind just takes you away elsewhere — in such cases, it’s better to fess up and ask them to repeat what they said than pretend that you heard it all.
Conversely, people with ADHD may have a tendency to go into periods of hyperfocus as well. While this may be beneficial in boosting productivity and completing projects, hyperfocus can also cause you to be unaware of others and unintentionally neglect relationships.
- Avoid activities that could potentially trigger hyperfocus near mealtimes or other times when you should be fully engaging with others.
- If deadlines are approaching and you need to hyperfocus on projects, explain to your loved ones in advance to circumvent potential misunderstandings. This way, they’re also less likely to take it personally.
Along with ADHD often comes problems with organisation or unorthodox ways of arranging and doing things. Unfortunately, this may pose a challenge in familial, social or romantic relationships, particularly when there is cohabitation involved.
- Play to your strengths — perhaps you’re not the best in cleaning up, but you sure are everybody’s favourite cook. Explore the option of swapping out cleaning duties for cooking for everyone more often.
- Limit your clutter to one room or one corner of a room.
- For the non-ADHDer: respect the ADHDer’s need to keep items in certain spots as this may simply be their way of organisation.
Severe mood swings and low frustration tolerance in ADHDers may hurt the other party in a relationship. On the other hand, ADHDers may also get more easily upset by others due to rejection sensitivity, thus sowing seeds for discord.
- When faced with tense emotions and potential conflict, it’s important for both parties to avoid the blame game and communicate calmly and clearly.
- Take deep breaths, and give each other space and time to calm down and sort out your emotions before talking it out to avoid blaming or being defensive.
Above all, learning about ADHD and understanding that these are not character flaws are essential to tiding through the adverse impacts that ADHD may have on a relationship.
Building a relationship with someone who has ADHD may come with its fair share of difficulties, but with patience and, if necessary, external help such as couples therapy, they are definitely manageable. Plus, ADHD doesn’t just bring negatives to a relationship – there are plenty of positive qualities worth appreciating too!