Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
April 27, 2024

5 Challenges of Dating Someone With ADHD – and How to Overcome Them

Dating is hard no matter who you are. ADHD symptoms like impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, hyperactivity, and inattention present unique relationship challenges.

Let’s take a look at a few common challenges involved with dating someone with ADHD, and strategies to overcome them. 

Challenges (and Strategies) of Dating Someone With ADHD

Studies have found lower levels of relationship satisfaction in couples with ADHD symptoms in one or both partners. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that ADHDers struggle with many symptoms that make relationships more difficult. That doesn’t mean your relationships are doomed if you or your partner has ADHD. The reality is your relationship may simply need extra communication and compassion around certain topics or issues.

adhd relationships

Here are some common relationship challenges and strategies when it comes to dating someone with ADHD.

  1. Inattention

Difficulty paying attention or focusing is a trademark element of ADHD. And it can have extremely negative impacts on a relationship. If your partner forgets to text you back or tends to zone out when you try to have important conversations, you’re more likely to feel unseen, unheard, resentful, or neglected. This is a recipe for relationship disaster. 

The strategy:

First, it’s helpful to understand that your partner may not always be aware they’re not paying attention. They’re likely not ignoring you on purpose. Instead, they’re simply more distractible. Try to remember it’s not personal, and give both yourself and your partner compassion when it’s challenging. 

When you want to have a conversation, check in to make sure it’s a good time. You may need to plan and set aside time for intentional conversations more often, rather than having them spur-of-the-moment. Try saying something like, “Hey, I have some things to ask you, can you let me know a good time when you can give me your full attention for a bit?”

  1. Interruption

Getting interrupted during a conversation can feel annoying at best and degrading at worst. It can make you feel like the person doing the interrupting isn’t listening or doesn’t care about what you have to say. Unfortunately, people with ADHD are much more likely to interrupt others due to impulsivity and racing thoughts. 

The strategy:

Bringing gentle attention to an interruption when it happens can help your partner recognize and adjust their behavior. Gentle is key.

If they get defensive or upset when you bring it up, or if you find yourself snapping at them out of impatience, try having a conversation when neither of you is upset. Without pointing fingers or blame, tell them why it’s important for you not to be interrupted. Then ask for their support in changing this behavior by agreeing to let them know when they’re interrupting you.

You can even have a plan in place for how to breach the topic in a heated moment, like saying a code word or phrase. This way, you both know what to expect and it’s less likely to feel like an attack. 

  1. Disorganization

Disorganization is a well-known trait of ADHD. It can be tough to date a partner who is constantly disorganized and messy. This can look like constant clutter in your shared space, neglected chores, or imbalanced levels of housework. Frustration and resentment grow quickly if you feel like you’re always picking up after your partner or doing more than your share of the chores. 

The strategy:

Have a conversation with your partner about what’s frustrating for you and ask them to brainstorm some options together. If you do the lion’s share of the housework, ask what they need in order to do their fair share of chores. For example, maybe the two of you can create a chores list and put it somewhere visible (like on the refrigerator.) Split up the chores equitably, put a name next to each, and check them off each day when they’re done. They can set reminders or alarms on their phone to complete the chores so you aren’t taking on the additional labor of ensuring adherence to the plan.

  1. Overwhelm

If you or your partner leans toward hyperactive symptoms, one or both of you may feel persistently overwhelmed. Hyperactive energy can be intense or confusing when you’re not in the mood. For example, if you tend to get easily overstimulated, it can feel intrusive or irritating when your partner starts excitedly talking about all the thoughts running through their head. This dynamic can lead to one or both people feeling unseen, shut down, or bulldozed.

The strategy:

Clear communication is the strategy here yet again. Having a conversation with your partner when neither of you is upset about what situations make you feel overwhelmed and what you need in those situations can help. For example, maybe too much talking and noise overstimulates you. Try asking for “quiet” times with your partner, such as during the transition back home after a busy workday, at night before bed, or in the morning after you first wake up. Having these times in place can help you both get your needs met with less overwhelm.

adhd and relationships cheating
  1. ADHD and Relationships: Cheating

People with ADHD are naturally more impulsive than their neurotypical counterparts. They’re also more likely to chase dopamine when bored or stagnant. For these reasons, a lot of people wonder whether ADHD makes people more prone to cheating.

While this may make sense given ADHDer impulsivity, there’s no real evidence in the scientific literature to suggest neurodivergent people cheat any more than neurotypical people do. So let’s make one thing very clear: Cheating certainly isn’t reserved for people with neurodivergence, and just because someone is neurodivergent certainly doesn’t mean they’ll cheat.

Cheating is a complex behavior that isn’t explained by any one factor. Impulsivity and boredom are two risk factors for cheating, but cheating is a complex behavior that isn’t usually explained by any one factor. Whether or not someone cheats depends on many other personality elements, such as level of self-awareness, relational skills, communication skills, attachment style(s), and available coping mechanisms. 

The strategy:

Honest communication is key in any close romantic relationship, and when trust is breached it’s even more important.

Getting to the bottom of why a partner cheats isn’t easy, but if you both want to work through things, repair damage, and stay together, you’ll need to have frank discussions about what caused the cheating in the first place. Desire, lack of emotional connection, or need for variety or fulfillment outside the main relationship are common reasons why people cheat. Therapy can help bring underlying issues to light and offer a valuable safe space for difficult or emotional discussions.

Therapy and Coaching Support for ADHD and Relationships

Whether you’re dating someone with ADHD or you’re the partner with ADHD, navigating neurodivergence and dating can be tricky. If you want support learning how to manage ADHD symptoms and improve your relationships, I’m here to help. 

Together, we can take a look at your relationship patterns, strengthen your communication skills, and find specific strategies for you and your relationships.

Learn more about my therapy services (including EMDR and talk therapy) if you’re located in Idaho or Iowa. For all other locations, check out my coaching services. My coaching program offers all the same expertise, tools, and guidance as therapy in a more direct and goal-oriented approach that you can benefit from anywhere. 

Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation and see if we’re a good fit. Let’s start building a better future together. 

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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