How to Build Better Relationships: Advice for ADHD Adults

The Gifts of ADHD

Impatience, inattention, and fidgeting — all symptoms of ADHD — are not crimes.

With these “deficits” come a lively mind and a life of fun and excitement. You have a lot to offer your spouse and children using your own personal style. If you can articulate -- to yourself and others -- how your ADD is a gift, it won’t rob you of your vitality and life. To build a strong relationship, advocate for your gifts.

You won’t last in a relationship in which your ADD traits are summed up as bad behavior. When someone tells you there’s something wrong with you, it hurts. Your partner calling you a “spaz,” or saying you need to “chill” at every turn, can take a serious toll. Let your partner know that such negativity is harmful. Tell him that it hurts to be told there’s something wrong with who you are. Such an admission can build intimacy between the two of you. If you try to cover up the hurt, it will lead to resentment that will prevent you from connecting with your spouse.

If you believe that you shouldn’t feel hurt -- or, worse, that you deserve your partner’s criticisms -- it is likely you’ll eventually want to end the relationship. Being stuck in reform school is a recipe for resentment.

Because adults with ADD constantly crave new experiences, maintaining a long-term relationship can be a struggle, even without the burden of criticism. If resentment builds, an ADD adult’s need for stimulation is likely to create the impulse to find another partner. But if you educate your partner about your condition -- and its gifts -- he won’t be so critical. Try using these statements to advocate for yourself and to show your loved one what you are doing right:

“It’s true I was having trouble listening, but I was keying in to your emotions.” “You’re right: I can’t sit still with the kids, but I can be lots of fun.” “I can’t be as patient as I would like, but I keep our social life hopping.”

Once your spouse understands ADD and appreciates your strengths, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have problems to solve. Working through them, using the strategies below, will dramatically increase your odds of having a loving relationship.

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