Science says something about it. But what is the most important is what people with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) experience, as everyone's case is different.

Science says

Let's start with romantic relationships because this is the paper I have in front of me right now.

Much research points out that healthy romantic relationships are critical to the quality of life for an adult individual (I am not going to argue with this one, but what on earth means healthy these days...). Okay, basics established. Sadly, that research also suggests that people with ADHD usually have short-lived romantic relationships which are filled with toxic situations caused by miscommunication, impulsivity but particularly by lack of diagnosis. It is easier to deal with issues when the cause is known.

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How does the dating scene look like for people with ADHD? Some studies reported that heterosexual men with ADHD tend to have more lifetime romantic partners than men without the disorder. On the other hand, heterosexual women with ADHD reported having fewer lifetime romantic partners than women without ADHD (here comes default low self-esteem, empowered by media). There is no scientific explanation for this just yet, however, based on current research into issues with ADHD it can be hypothesised that low-self esteem, tendencies to body dysmorphia, rejection sensitivity potentially play a role here. Also, women usually get the worse end of the stick in society, the gender roles and overall image of a female in society are to be considered.

Interestingly, it is non-ADHD male partners that reported negatively on their ADHD female partners (no shit Sherlock, thanks to society again...). This begs a question of whether women are more understanding? Are able to deal with their partner ADHD behaviour? I will leave it up for discussion. But, when non-ADHD heterosexual female college students were blinded to the male behaviour, they perceived ADHD-inattentive to be more negative than ADHD-combined. Overall, students who self-reported an inattentive type shared that they experience less romantic interest than the hyperactive/impulsive or combined type.

Issues with dating and long-term relationships that lead to marriage or cohabiting usually are associated with impulsivity which can lead to violence (not just physical, emotional violence), forgetfulness (house chores, picking up children from school) and sometimes messiness.

It is clear that the research supports the notion that people with ADHD experience a deficit in healthy romantic relationships. It tells us what is wrong with ADHD, but what can be done?

First of all, awareness is key. It is applicable for a person with ADHD and their partner, equally (no excuses humans, no excuses). It is proven that if a person with ADHD, additionally deals with a childhood trauma the symptoms might be worse, this requires a combination of counselling and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Counselling addresses the trauma and helps with accessing emotions, to talk about them and unburying them if necessary. CBT helps with worry management and overall life organisation. When it comes to a non-ADHD partner, what sometimes works for some couples is being present during either counselling or CBT session of their ADHD partner. It can provide the non-ADHD partner with an understanding of the ADHD brain and what their partner is going through.

Additionally, despite it being quite demanding and possibly hard for a person with ADHD, it is crucial to seek help and ask for several opinions from clinical professionals. Equally, it is vital that a non-ADHD partner is supportive and honest about their feelings and struggles.

You can download a visual summary below.

Next: Social Relations

References for this article

Journal of Marital Family Therapy, ADHD and romantic relationships, 2020.
Journal of Attention Disorders, The Impact of Persisting Hyperactivity on Social Relationships: A Community-Based, Controlled 20-Year Follow-Up Study, 2012.