Unique Challenges in the Romance Department
Dating and forming intimate, lasting relationships are an important part of everyone’s life through adolescence to adulthood, and the challenges associated with ADHD can really complicate things. There is nothing more important than getting an early proper diagnosis for ADHD to help address problems in relationships from the start. Even in early childhood, children with ADHD usually show intense signs of having difficulty with relationships. From not picking up on social cues to being abrupt and inattentive or having difficulty following rules and sharing to having poor impulse control and communication skills, ADHD can be rough on developing and sustaining relationships.
As youths with ADHD age with a combination of active parenting along with behavioral therapy and medication management, many learn skills to overcome relationship barriers to forge healthy friendships and romantic partnerships. Perhaps the most important among these might be honesty and openness. Talking to the people who are becoming important in your life about some of the things that you struggle with will help them to not misinterpret your attention problems. They can begin to understand from the start that your behaviors are not a personal affront. For instance, a person with ADHD may be prone to losing focus during an intimate conversation or may forget important appointments or to complete important tasks. It’s easy for a loved one to begin to feel unloved or neglected when these behaviors continue. However, if the loved one understands that this is more of a problem with misfiring neurons than a problem with feelings and neglect it can do a lot to swing into problem-solving while avoiding hurt feelings and fear that a relationship may be falling apart.
Communication: As people with ADHD date it is critical that they communicate openly and honestly with their partners along the way to let them know why certain behaviors may happen and to ask for help if something they say or do offends or hurts others. Of course, not all the time is a negative behavior a part of the attention deficit, but when it is, it’s important to make sure everyone understands what’s going on to help address it in a productive way.
Priorities: Prioritization can be very confusing to individuals with ADHD. While they may intellectually understand that certain tasks, appointments, commitments, etc. are more important than others, accurately linking that with appropriate time management and action steps can be extremely difficult. It is important for individuals with ADHD to work with their partners on not only assigning levels of priority to events and tasks in a relationship but to have help in understanding how to act out the prioritizing—how important is the work deadline compared to the dinner date? How important is the conversation at hand compared to the game on television? How important is being punctual to meet friends compared to keeping up with social networking activities? Understanding that difficulties with priorities are not personal and asking for help from your partner in working through these dilemmas can make a huge difference.
Therapy: If the romantic relationship is serious, it could be beneficial for both partners to participate in ADHD and couples therapy together. One of the reasons this is so advantageous is that often a partner may identify difficulties that the individual with ADHD may not even notice just as a natural consequence of the ADHD symptoms themselves. Plus, the partner can work with the treatment plan and help with follow-through and consistency. Everyone will benefit, because the needs of the partner can also be openly addressed as well to help facilitate any issues within the relationship. After all, if a problem exists in a relationship, it usually isn’t only one person who needs to make adjustments and compromises to nurture a supportive, loving partnership.