Here’s Everything You Need to Know When Dating Someone with ADHD

Dr. Robert Melillo

Understanding ADHD is the first step to acceptance and nonjudgement, which is foundational if any relationship is to survive.

Photo by: Baylee Gramlin

Individuals, especially adults with ADHD, have an unevenness of skills where they are exceptionally bright in certain things but then very underdeveloped in other areas. Because of this, most people with ADHD are very talented and can be very successful in certain areas of their lives. Therefore, this can make them very attractive to others, but because they struggle in many skills, having a relationship with someone with ADHD can be challenging and exciting at the same time. If this is the case with you currently, here is what you need to know to help you navigate this relationship.

First, awareness is the first and most important thing. You must understand what ADHD is and what is actually happening in the ADHD brain so you will be prepared to understand the behaviors. ADHD is a real neurological issue and it is not something made up or just an excuse for bad behavior. What my research and the research of others have shown is that ADHD starts in early childhood and even in the womb, and if not dealt with properly, it will last a lifetime. During childhood, a developmental imbalance in the brain arises and this produces a reduced expression of genes that help promote the growth of the brain especially functional connections in the brain. This will cause a slowing of the growth of the brain and in the womb and in the first 3 years, the right side of the brain is a bit more active in its development. This causes delayed development of the right side of the brain and this then can cause an increased development in networks on the left side of the brain. This is what produces this “unevenness of skills” characteristic of ADHD and other developmental issues. This is especially true in people that are naturally gifted in left hemisphere skills, like math, science, memory, fine motor and verbal skills. The right side is more of the social, emotional, big picture, nonverbal, spatial side of the brain.

By knowing this, it will make things a lot clearer. The left side being sped up in development leads to the overactivity of certain networks which can produce hyperactivity, impulsivity, anger outbursts, and OCD like behaviors. It also produces incredible abilities that can be very successful in the right jobs. The underdevelopment of the right brain means that they may not pick up on nonverbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and they have very poor attention. They may not pick up on social norms or other people’s feelings as well and don’t read people and situations correctly. Of course, like all of these issues, this is a spectrum- meaning each person has varying degrees of these strengths and weaknesses.

People with ADHD may have a slight attachment disorder, too, where they don’t always value a relationship as much as others. They may seem aloof, and sometimes maybe a little cold. When frustrated, this may trigger anger outbursts. But again, they can also be very dynamic, energetic, motivational, intelligent, creative and very exciting. Because of this up and down and imbalanced behavior, it can be very confusing in a romantic relationship, thus why ultimately 80% of marriages with one member having ADHD ends in divorce.

A child with ADHD grows up to be an adult with ADHD and tends to have kids with ADHD. The good news is that despite the misconceptions and misinformation that is out there, ADHD does not have to be a lifelong issue and it can be changed and even completely eliminated at any age. There are no single genetic mutations associated with ADHD and the genes that are not turned on can be changed with treatment. Medication helps manage symptoms, but it is not a long term fix and there are potential side effects.

Now for many who have ADHD, this may be surprising. You may wonder how you have never heard about this fact that ADHD can be improved or corrected. You may be skeptical, but I can assure you that this is where the most cutting edge research is at this time. I am a clinician and researcher with over 30 years experience, and I am also the co-founder of the Brain Balance Achievement Centers which has worked with approximately 30,000 kids of all ages over the past 10 years. I am the author of 5 bestselling books that have been translated into 12 languages and counting. In my private practice, I have helped thousands of adults as well and in my office in New York, I work with all types and levels of disabilities from nonverbal autistic kids to high functioning adults with ADHD, OCD, Dyslexia, etc.

Many people with ADHD just want to be accepted as they are and I absolutely agree. Understanding ADHD is the first step to acceptance and nonjudgement which is foundational if any relationship is to survive. Many people with ADHD don’t believe they can change or be helped, but this is not true. But if they don’t want to seek help, that is their choice and we should accept and understand that they can’t control most of their negative behaviors.

ADHD people can learn to be more open and loving and they can have great relationships but it will take a bit more work. Those with ADHD are so talented with limitless potential to love, so it is so worth the work. But the truth is, there is no easy way to manage ADHD long term; life and relationships will always be a bit harder, medication may help but it still can be difficult. The only good answer is to try to correct the issues by dealing with the root cause- this is possible no matter what anyone says or believes, and it is something that can be done as a couple.

Helpful Tips for Adults with ADHD

  1. ADHD is a real neurological issue and understanding that can lead to acceptance
  2. People with ADHD have an unevenness of skills. They are exceptional at certain things and really struggle with others, once you understand this it will lead to less confusion.
  3. People with ADHD struggle with subtle nonverbal cues and literally don’t see and hear it like others. They are not being rude, they just don’t understand. Be patient and explain in words what you are trying to express. They are very bad at “mind reading” so don’t expect it
  4. Those who have ADHD can be extremely talented, energetic and exciting. The best way to help reduce their OCD like behavior is to avoid the computer, video games, phones, etc., and get them more in touch with nature. It will naturally help balance the brain.
  5. Diet and proper vitamins can help manage symptoms. I have created an Adult Assessment and Elimination Diet package that you can purchase and download right away.
  6. ADHD can be helped and even corrected with the proper intervention. I have created an online program for adults with ADHD and other brain issues, and this can be very helpful to do this as a couple.
  7. Understand there is a reason for the behaviors you see and it is not the person with ADHD’s fault. It is their brain and they can’t help it and they are not deliberately and intentionally trying to upset you. Even if they are incredibly talented in another area they actually really struggle in other areas- especially in relationship skills.