Adult ADHD and Your Relationships

Does your husband complain that you never listen? Does your wife say they feel like you’re just one more child in the house? Have your friends lost patience with you because you’re late all the time?

ADHD could be to blame. The condition starts in childhood, but it can stay into adulthood. Some people don’t even know they have ADHD until they’re adults. And if you have it, it could be causing relationship problems.

Learn the red flags and what to do about them.

5 Warning Signs

While everyone is different, some common problems seem to affect the relationships of adults with ADHD. Do the following complaints sound familiar to you?

1. ''Do you even hear what I’m saying?''

If you have the condition, your loved ones and friends might have a hard time getting your full attention.

That’s one reason why they might get frustrated with you. On the other hand, you might feel like they're nagging you.

2. ''You never pull your weight around here.''

Mowing the lawn. Washing the dishes. Folding clothes. Household chores can be a challenge when you have adult ADHD.

If the people you live with tell you that you aren’t doing enough, take a step back and consider whether they’re right. When was the last time you took out the trash? Is your clutter taking over the house?

Your family members may be doing more than their fair share of keeping the household running smoothly.

3. ''You never do what you say you’re going to do.''

You meant it when you said you’d get to your son’s basketball game by 4:30 p.m. You really did. But then you got distracted at work, and your cell phone rang, and then you realized you needed to pick up the dry cleaning. And before you knew it, the game was over -- and you were in the dog house.

''People with ADHD very much intend to do something when they say it. It’s not like some problems where people lie or are deceitful,'' says Steven Safren, PhD, director of behavioral medicine in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.


4. ''How could you forget a-g-a-i-n?''

Do you feel like you’re always getting blamed for forgetting things, when you know no one actually told you about them?

Consider this: The condition often causes people to forget things they’re told. And that can lead to major problems in relationships. If people have been telling you for years that you’re forgetful, it might be time to find out if they’re right.

5. ''I can’t believe you bought that -- you know we can’t afford it!''

Fights over finances tend to be another problem. A common ADHD symptom is doing things on impulse, and that includes buying things. Adults with the disorder can have reckless spending habits and trouble saving money.

What to Do

If you think you or someone you care about has adult ADHD, the first thing you should do is learn about the disorder and how it’s diagnosed.

You can start by looking over free online resources from organizations like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and the National Center on ADHD. These sites can help you find local doctors, and support groups where you can meet people facing similar issues. You can also find out how to get tested for the condition.

Your Relationships

If you’re diagnosed with the condition, work with your doctor to deal with the problems you’re having day to day. Adult ADHD is often treated with a combo of medications, skills coaching, and psychotherapy, including couples counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.

If you have a spouse or partner, it’s important for them to be involved. They often can tell which treatments are or aren’t working.

“It’s a good scenario if someone does have a supportive partner, so they can work together in a positive way to address the disorder,” Safren says. And the sooner you both work on repairing your relationship, the better.

Skills training or coaching can help people with adult ADHD come up with and reach relationship goals. This might include building skills that help you manage your time well and get organized.


As for how much improvement you can expect in your relationships, experts say each situation is unique.

But “usually, couples can make their lives better and recapture some of the joy and romance that might have gone out of the relationship,” says psychologist Arthur Robin, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on June 07, 2019



Arthur Robin, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich.; chief of psychology, Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Steven Safren, PhD, associate professor, Harvard Medical School; director of behavioral medicine, department of psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital.

National Resource Center on ADHD: “Marriage and partnerships.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Adult ADHD: Evaluation and Treatment in Family Medicine.”

Eakin L. Journal of Attention Disorders, August 2004.

National Resource Center on ADHD.

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).

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