How to identify ADHD symptoms in your partner


It’s 6:45. You’re hosting dinner at 7. You earnestly asked your partner to be home at 6, and buy cheese for the salad on their way home. You’ve tried to call them – their phone is off. You’re stuck preparing for your guests all alone and don’t know how someone could be so inconsiderate to leave you in this position. Sound familiar?

The core symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity – can often be mistaken for a disregard of a partner’s emotions, and lead to unnecessary conflict.

Psychiatrist Dr Rykie Liebenberg believes the symptoms of ADHD have a ripple effect on all areas of a relationship. Here's how to spot it and how to handle.

Learning to listen

Partners of individuals with ADHD constantly feel as if they’re not being heard because their requests aren’t fulfilled – whether it’s completing household tasks or meeting their broader emotional needs. They understand this to mean their partner doesn’t care enough and isn’t invested in the relationship. In reality, it’s simply the inattentiveness that often goes hand-in-hand with ADHD.

Temper traps

A quick temper and high levels of aggression can also make individuals with ADHD appear as if they’re disinvested in the relationship. Untreated ADHD can lead to emotional outbursts and irritability – often in traffic or busy areas like shopping malls – which can lead to arguments.

ADHD-related impulsivity can also pose major challenges for a someone living with a partner with ADHD. The partner is mistakenly seen as irresponsible and uncaring because they spend money that should be reserved for household expenses, walk out of jobs without consulting their family or engage in gambling or extra-marital relationships.

Affecting intimacy

The combination of these negative symptoms of ADHD go to the core of a relationship, says Liebenberg, and ultimately affect its basic functioning – right down to intimacy.

If you’re constantly feeling disconnected from your partner because you feel they don’t value your needs – or the needs of your family – you’re unlikely to want to engage with them sexually. It really can start to break down the fibre of a functional relationship – if the ADHD is left untreated.

Liebenberg stresses, however, that if diagnosed and treated effectively, ADHD is a condition that can and should be managed to mitigate the negative effects on a relationship.

“Simply by being diagnosed with ADHD and adopting the correct treatment plant, individuals with ADHD can not only maintain happy, stable relationships, but build even stronger bonds with their better half. It’s about knowing the facts, and actively doing something about it – for the good of the individual and their partner.”

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