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How ADHD Affects Relationships

The film “Indivisible” shares the struggle of Army chaplain Darren Turner and his wife upon Darren’s return from a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. It explores the psychological impact of war on soldiers and their families. The true story looks at the mental, physical, and spiritual stressors Darren and his wife experience, not realizing that they are living with untreated PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Once the chaplain and his wife find the help they need, they’re able to move forward in their lives and support others who are struggling in the same way.

Chronic stress takes a toll

Untreated ADHD can have a similar effect on people. In my work with ADHD, I have clearly seen the impact ADHD can have on close relationships. Living for years with chronic stress takes its toll on both the person suffering and his or her significant other.

If you are the person with ADHD, you might feel criticized, misunderstood, or unduly controlled by your spouse. You may even feel like a failure. If you are the partner without ADHD, you might feel lonely, unappreciated, and tired of bearing the load on your own. At times, you may feel enormously frustrated.

There is a tendency to blame ADHD for all of the problems in a relationship, marriage consultant Melissa Orlov writes in her book, The ADHD Effect onMarriage. In reality, she says, both partners play a role. Orlov goes on to say that couples need not try harder, but to “try differently.”1

The symptoms of ADHD that can cause relationship problems trouble paying attention, forgetfulness, poor organizational skills, impulsivity, and emotional outbursts. Three areas that can make a difference are studying up on ADHD, acknowledging the impact of your behavior on your partner, and separating partners from their symptoms or behaviors.2

​Where can you begin?

  • Get a diagnosis. If you suspect that you may have ADHD, step forward to get a clinical diagnosis. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.” Confirming your suspicions allows you to start exploring what you can do about them.

  • Consider medication. The right medication can go a long way in managing the symptoms of ADHD.

  • Examine where your ADHD shows up. Then, discover strategies to manage your struggles. Having ADHD is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. If you—the person with ADHD—don’t understand it, how will your partner?

  • Learn about ADHD. This helps both you and your partner see you as being separate from the traits and symptoms of ADHD. A person has ADHD; he or she is not ADHD.

  • Connect to the ADHD community. You can explore online options or visit a local support group. Step out of isolation and into community. You will see that you are not alone.

There is hope

Naming ADHD lessens its power over our lives. You can’t fight an enemy that you cannot see. Treat that unseen “guest” in your house. Above all else, stay connected to those you love. Remain undivided!

For support in understanding and managing your ADHD, contact me today for your free consultation.


1. Low, Keath. “ADHD and Its Effect in Marriage: Interview with Melissa Orlov.”, March 19, 2018, Accessed February 14, 2019.

2. Smith, Melinda. “Adult ADHD and Relationships.”, January 2019, Accessed February 14, 2019.

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