View Full Version : Relationship with ADHD - figuring out the intentions?

04-30-14, 04:16 PM
Hi all,

I am seeing a wonderful, intelligent woman, 40 YO, myself being 46. I really, really love her, and I accept that our relationship can't and won't be without....complications. We know each other from way back; our romantic relationship is nearly 6 months old.

She was diagnosed only a couple of years ago but there is no mistaking that she really is affected by core ADHD symptoms such as being impulsive, poor execution skills, hyperfocusing and poor memory. What affects me most, though, is her inattentiveness (sorry if this is not a proper word; English is not my first language.)

I can understand from this website and several other internet sources that one of the recurring themes for non-ADHD partners is a feeling of loneliness, being ignored, and so on. I also understand the ADHD-background for this and that we, as non-ADHD'ers, should not (necessarily) think that the ADHD partners doesn't care. So no need to repeat that lesson. I accept the challenge, as I have already stated.

That being said, I find it terribly difficult to deal with the spells of incommunicado, feelings of being abandoned or ignored, the unanswered text messages and so on. I have explained to her that I really need to be encouraged, every now and then, by her taking the initiative to communicate, which prompt a short change followed by same ol', same ol'.

We are both divorcees with part time kids and we don't live together - she has a wonderful son 3 YO and I have a daughter 11 YO (and a grown up son) - I have a flexible but financially nice job while she is struggling with her career (such as it is.) This also means that we often have to spend a week without face-to-face contact, and when we find the time to bring the families together, she is often so tired and worn that I am basically a babysitter and cleaner. Again, this is not a complaint, I accept that I am by far the one with most resources. But the scarcity of our "quality time" (boy, I hate that phrase!) makes it the case that most of the time, I can only hope that she's in the mood to talk on the phone or chat on the internet. While she has the prerogative to call me at more or less any time of the day and night, I can only hope to catch her on a "good time" if I feel like talking.

Anyway, that's ok. What really bugs me is that I am so unsure about her true feelings or intentions. For me - being a reasonably straight guy with a reasonably straight history of relationships to women - the periods where she simply ignores me - or cannot cope with communicating with me? - sets all my warning signals on fire even if I try mentally to take into account her ADHD. She tells me that she wants to give our relationship a chance to develop. I have told her that I love her, am in love with her, and I don't think she has reasons to question my sincerity here, in words or in action. She has had a pretty rough life, partly because of her ADHD, and also in the relationships department, so I don't want to pressure things or rush ahead. She even told me that she doesn't want to rush things herself because I am too precious for her to risk jeopardizing our relationship (this seems to have been the order of the day in her life before: fall madly in love, move in together, break up after half a year or so.) Naturally, I take this as a pretty good sign of her commitment.

Still, I feel at a loss. I don't know if anyone here can help. Is this simply how things are when you are trying to establish a relationship to an ADHD partner?

Any kind of comment, advice, question or whatever is truly welcomed.

Cheers, Morten

04-30-14, 04:35 PM
It sounds similar to the way things are with me. I entered into the relationship with my husband very cautiously, also. And it wasn't because I doubted his sincerity as much as I doubted my ability to recognize healthy vs. non-healthy.

It's a second marriage for both of us. I have a past of very unhealthy relationships and he was with his first wife 15 years. We dated for 5 years before deciding to get married. We've been married for 7 years now. I waited almost a year before I agreed to meet his kids because I didn't want to rush into anything.

04-30-14, 04:45 PM
I think a lot of people have a misconception of healthy and unhealthy relationships

04-30-14, 04:55 PM
Hi Unmanagable,

great to hear that you've worked it out - it makes me happy on your behalf!

Did you give the guy something to work with for those five years? How often did you see each other? Did you do any effort to keep him interested?

I could easily withstand 5 years of not getting married (ok, to be frank, I don't particularly care about marriage per se, it's the "let's stick together for real"-thing I care about - but that's probably a cultural thing).

However, I don't think I am able to keep up my spirits for anywhere that long if it's all the time this "Now you see me, now you don't/now you have me, now you don't"-game (as I perceive it) she will be playing.

I *know* that women are not necessarily that keen on guys that are not a bit cool and detached. Believe me, I try to play the game while being honest. What is difficult for me is to disentangle the game from the ADHD... Surely, I'm not the first one in that situation...

04-30-14, 05:37 PM
We lived really close, so we saw each other quite often. We would (and still do) email, text, or call if we didn't get to have one on one time for whatever reason. I don't recall ever totally shutting him out with no communication at all. But then again, some of the communication can be non-verbal at times, and I think he just learned how to pick up on it.......sometimes even better than me.

He seemed to roll with it all fairly well. He enjoys his down time as much as I do, so maybe that's why it didn't become an issue. We didn't live together until after we married. We each have our own space within the home, too.

I'm fortunate enough to have him also understand that I don't function well in certain formal and social environments and haven't been expected to attend them if I'm not up for it, regardless of the event. I put myself through more of an emotional beat down for feeling like I'm letting him down than he has ever inflicted upon me.

I hadn't been diagnosed with adhd when we met. I was struggling with a lot of things and was assumed to have severe depression and anxiety, and was being prescribed a bunch of stuff that didn't help. I can only imagine that he was just being even more of a patient saint than he usually is.

There's times when I simply don't have the energy or capacity to carry on a conversation and I just have to walk away. Being able to recognize that within myself, then being able to translate it into sensible sentences, then trying to explain it in the moment I feel the emotional rushes, all the while remembering every damn time I've tried that before and failed.....can become overwhelming and make it look like something totally different to others.

04-30-14, 05:55 PM
"There's times when I simply don't have the energy or capacity to carry on a conversation and I just have to walk away. Being able to recognize that within myself, then being able to translate it into sensible sentences, then trying to explain it in the moment I feel the emotional rushes, all the while remembering every damn time I've tried that before and failed.....can become overwhelming and make it look like something totally different to others."

- very enlightening, thanks. I gather that many ADHD'ers either share similar sentiments or have to shut them out in order to carry on... I just wish that my particular pet space cadette knew that I can stomach it - and made it clear to me that she knew :)

04-30-14, 06:23 PM

In my past relationships, I have been inconsistent in communicating with people and distant. Did ADHD play a role? Yes, but not in the way of ADHD preventing me from remembering to return calls or set up dates. For me, ADHD had a deeper and more troubling effect. ADHD (and depression and just my family background) disrupted my basic emotional awareness such that I couldn't figure out the basic question of romance. Did I or did I not want to date this person? Dumb as it may seem for years I couldn't distinguish between liking someone and being attracted to someone.

It was only years later that I realized "OMG, I wasn't ever really attracted to this person." I thought I should be attracted to the person. I thought the person was bright and smart and good looking, that she was the type of person I wanted to be involved with … But none of that means I really wanted to date them and spend lots of time with them.

Thank God these women eventually figured out that I was hopelessly confused … and they moved on … Investing any more effort in me or patience with me would have been a waste of their time. So I gotta tell you that when I read your post, I see red flags in her behavior that remind me of my behavior back when.

Chaotic and disorganized as I was and as I am, if I'm really into someone, I can make them a priority. I may run late … I may get detained in my work because I underestimate how long a task will take. But it will be clear that I am into the person. In fact, if I am genuinely into the person, I will try to hang with the person even when I should be doing something else.

So I caution you: saying that "I want to see how our relationship develops" sounds awfully weak and formal in my view. Those words remind me of the words I used with my ex's. I don't mean to be such a downer, but those aren't the words of visceral attraction. Those are the type of words I would use when I wasn't feeling it.

Coming full circle: my most recent ex (a former therapist with no ADHD) talked like your partner talks, like how I talked when I was being distant, when I wasn't feeling it … and ultimately it turned out that as much as she admired me and thought I was a great guy, she was not that attracted to me. I was devastated when she finally admitted this, but her behavior all along fit that pattern. I just missed the pattern because I was so into her. With the benefit of time, I chuckle at how I heard my own distant words come right back at me with my recent ex.

Good luck.


04-30-14, 06:50 PM
Hi ToneTone,

I've got to admit that your post strikes a chord... Which is part of why I am so confused and...well...sad!

On the one hand, she really appreciates my help. She has never ever let me down on a fixed appointment (I believe this is something quite extraordinary when dealing with ADHD'ers, but I might be wrong??) She frequently gives me stuff and small presents. She clearly relies on me for personal advice and coaching regarding her job. She wants us to do things that makes it possible to bring my kid to her place or vice versa. She has all sorts of plans about vacations and projects (e.g., writing a book) together. When I asked why she wanted to hang around with me, she provided a long list of all my virtues as a man and a person. Our sex life is sometimes amazing, and she is keen to explore ...shall we say...further dimensions of that. And she has been *extraordinarily* frank about her past life which is...quite extraordinary, in all imaginable respects. (I am no stranger to the exotique, but I am a prude in comparison.)

On the other, she rarely if ever initiates contact. She is terrible when it comes to giving me that small token of "communicative" esteem (just *one* nice text message, please!) She clearly wants to stay clear of declaring us "a couple". Some months ago she had a 2 week affair with some guy (she dropped that after I made it clear that it really hurt me.)

I find myself in a terrible position. I make all sorts of excuses for her bad behavior - "it's the ADHS, it's her tough life" - and I seek all sorts of good signs when it comes to her nice side - "it's her way of loving me".

And still: I don't know enough about this ADHD thing to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff... and I really, really don't wan't to drop the whole thing if it is really the ADHD disrupting the good things...


04-30-14, 08:58 PM

She sounds a lot like my ex. We too had some great times together… and yes, I helped her a lot and she trusted me and trusted my advice … She actually said to me more than once that I was definitely "the best man" she had ever dated. What she didn't say I was the man she most wanted to be with. And there's a HUGE difference.

Again I see the red flags: 1) she never initiates … and 2) she doesn't give you those tender words you are expecting. These are blaring signs of missing attraction.

Good sex isn't necessarily a sign of romantic attraction. I know men and women who have had fantastic sex with people they wouldn't want to be seen with on the street. A better sign is what would I call simple tenderness. Does she come up to you and rub her hand through your hair? … rub your shoulders? … tell you without prompting how much she enjoys being with you? … tell you about how inexplicably, amazingly wonderful you are when you are least expecting it and when she's just recently done so? … It's actually the transition to sex--making interest known-- that is more indicative of attraction.

If she can't say the words you need to hear, there's a reason, and it ain't because she has ADHD. It ain't because she's forgetting to say them. It's most likely because she's not feeling them.

Let me guess--because you do sound like me with my ex. Your friend has a history of bad or chaotic relationships. She's dated guys who have treated her really poorly. She's made dumb decisions. She's had her heart broken several times by these guys.

She knows she in the past was drawn to the wrong type of guy. She meets you and you're an upright and good guy … It clicks to her that you are the type of guy she needs to start connecting with. Her girlfriends have told her this. Her mother has told her this. So now she's thinking maybe you're who she should be with. The problem here is this is all in her head and not in her heart.

I can guarantee you that she has spoken the words you want to hear and initiated physical intimacy with some of those "bad" guys from her past. Because she was deeply attracted to them! She can very well do what you want her to do. She's just not doing it with you. When I realized that my ex had felt deep passion for so many of the guys she complained about--and not that same passion for me--I admit I was devastated. But only because I was naive.

ADHD has nothing to do with this.

So get off this board and start imagining letting her go … Pull back … quit working so hard to help her and working so hard to be "nice." Being nice cannot create attraction. Being understanding of someone who doesn't show physical affection isn't going to help get more affection. Doesn't work that way. I've tried it and women have tried it on me. It doesn't work.

Good luck.


04-30-14, 09:23 PM
Hi, Morten--

Welcome! I hope you will find these Forums as helpful to you as I have found them. There's lots of wisdom available here.

I have a different response to what you posted. You are treating this primarily as a relationship issue. But you said the woman you are seeing was recently diagnosed. That can be a huge thing to figure out, so maybe the unsettled quality of your relationship is more about that than it is about how she feels about you.

I don't think you said whether or not her ADHD is being treated. I think that makes a huge difference. People make different choices about how to deal with their ADHD, but a newly diagnosed adult with ADHD who isn't doing something in response to the diagnosis is someone it might be hard to have a relationship with. They have a lot to deal with as regards the diagnosis, and untreated ADHD is certainly very hard on many relationships. I don't mean I think everyone should take medication--that's a personal choice, Some people treat their ADHD with meditation, diet, exercise and especially therapy instead of and in addition to medication. But not doing anything can lead to problems.

I get the impression from what you said that your partner isn't doing any of these forms of treatment, and that she also isn't working on things you need, like more frequent communications. That doesn't sound to me as though it's likely to get better unless she is willing to address things in some directed way. If she just needs a little while to process the experiences of getting the diagnosis and starting this romance with you, that's one thing. But if she simply can't engage, it might be a big problem.

wishing you the best of luck--

04-30-14, 10:15 PM
Interesting thread with a lot of good advice. Either way, if you aren't fully satisfied in a relationship the way it is now, you may want to consider moving on, because more than likely, you won't learn to accept it more as time goes by, but will more than likely grow increasingly tired of those things and get more resentful and feel more lonely over time.

05-01-14, 05:14 AM
Hi all,

thanks for all the input. Some of it encourages me to go on while other parts makes me want to flee (but I don't - not yet at least.

My... girlfriend of sorts... was diagnosed a little over 1 1/2 years ago. She has been on medication (Ritalin/<cite style="font-style:normal" class="Journal" id="CITEREFSun_Z.2C_Murry_DJ.2C_Sanghani_SP.2C_Davis_W I.2C_Kedishvili_NY.2C_Zou_Q.2C_Hurley_TD.2C_Bosron _WF2004">Methylphenidate) from the beginning.

She is also facing a host of other problems, social and medical, that I won't go into here. Suffice to say that, if I try to imagine what kind of energy I could spend on other people if I were in her situation, then she is actually doing pretty good - at least sometimes, that is.

I might have given the impression that she never takes any form of initiative. That is not true. When we are together, she often invites me to stay a day or two more than what I expected (I have begun not expecting anything, it should be noted.) She has also given me keys for her apartment and made plans for holidays in the summer. This naturally gives me the impression that she is serious about giving this relationship a chance. But maybe I am just a schmuck...

On a final note, I am a bit fragile because I have had two kids with diagnoses (not ADHD related) to take care of in a not-too-warm marriage, so the last 10 years or so I have had to be the grown-up and strong one in all my relations. Maybe this makes me overly sensitive. On the other hand, it might make me too little attentive of my own needs...

05-01-14, 06:48 AM
I'm 5 years into a long distance relationship. In the beginning I was quite nervous because my gf would be incommunicado for weeks at a time and I'm not great at contact. It took a while to get comfortable with the idea that we make our own relationship and don't ust use a generic template and get concerned if we don't fit.

I can fully understand how dealing with a 3yo as a single parent can exhaust... and can sympathise with her just flaking out when there's the opportunity.

If she is wrth it and you can be open about how you each feel and provide the support you both need it's likely that your relationship can grow.... your insecurities are YOUR insecurities....

they are either manifestations of your intuition that this relationship isn't right


insecurities from your past that are contaminating your ability to see the current relationship for what it is.

Only you can work this out.... trying to get her to change to suit your insecurities isn't a good option..... better to face them down and be open that you feel insecure but that you recognise it's your issue for you to deal with.

If the relationship isn't for you.... it will become clear over time... the more work you do on self awareness... the more apparent the suitability of the relationship will become.

VeryTired also makes a good point.... later adult diagnosis is a significant impact on the psyche, there's grief, anger, sadness, elation and a whole bunch inbetween.... there's also a HUGE sense of not knowing who you are.... and a process of rediscovery....

My partner supported me in this process and I am glad that we had a long distance relationship as it allowed me the space and time to go through the process of re-discovery.... which did involve some quite challenging behaviour on my part.... but she understood this as part of a process of self-awareness and not a pleasure-seeking dive into hedonism!

05-01-14, 07:38 AM
Hi Kilted Scotsman,

thanks for this - really got me thinking. You are absolutely right: my insecurities are mine and I should not expect her to "repair" me. And "insecurity" is my middle name.

I like the attitude that one should not try to fit relationships into some form of generic template. In fact, I am quite comfortable with that (but that's another story). But me being an insecure and emotional guy and she being a somewhat histrionic woman with ADHD does perhaps make up for a particularly toxic cocktail...:D

I think I'll follow - partly - the advice given in the above and detach myself a bit from the whole thing and see what happens.

Thanks everyone!

05-01-14, 09:13 AM
We have an expectation detector and run a mile when another wishes / wants things from us... If you choose to adapt, consider a flywheel... it moves at the same pace as the motor...

To some extent, you have to be ok with adopting a flywheel approach to living...

EIther way, as kilted said... narrower focus... and hey... there is nothing saying that your needs are inferior... if, when you get a better grasp on the day to day flow and interrelation... if little or none of your needs are fulfilled... then this is certainly cause for thought...

First though... what makes a great flywheel? ;)

05-01-14, 12:33 PM
Initiation is communication are two things that are impaired in ADHD.

But aside from that, you admit that you're an insecure guy, it is possible that you simply have an expectation or need for more communication and reassurance than she does?

You're only 6 months into the relationship right? Even if you guys spent time together once a week that's ... only 24 times you've been in person together. That's not a lot when you think about it. Maybe you're being an eager beaver?

05-01-14, 02:22 PM
Initiation is communication are two things that are impaired in ADHD.

But aside from that, you admit that you're an insecure guy, it is possible that you simply have an expectation or need for more communication and reassurance than she does?

You're only 6 months into the relationship right? Even if you guys spent time together once a week that's ... only 24 times you've been in person together. That's not a lot when you think about it. Maybe you're being an eager beaver?

I definitely and without any question need more communication and reassurance than *most* people do, ADHD involved or not! When I open up, I really open up, and I have made my feelings very clear to her. This is why it hurts so much to be - or to feel being - ignored.

That's *probably* not an ADHD-issue. Though, I can't help thinking that if a non-ADHD person treated another person in the way she treats me (sometimes), you would find another label, in the regions of borderline disorder, sociopath, or similar... I don't think she is, though

05-02-14, 07:43 AM
OK, my last comment in the post above sounds really awful now I read it again. Didn't mean that, and certainly didn't mean to imply any similarity connection between ADHD and border line etc. But it is hard for me put into words the confused and sad feelings sometimes produced by our lack of communication.

05-02-14, 01:27 PM
I very rarely come across a thread that I manage to read entirely without losing it, the way you type/express is very clear and it was a good read.

What I have to say about this is that - as a ADHD (that's in a relationship for a year and a half now), diagnosed at age 12 (now adult) I've always had problems showing my feelings/truly letting myself go into romance. The main reason I think is because I have built my own perception of life with ADHD and that I hardly accept other's opinions/way to do things.

I have created mechanisms to help me - being off med for so long - in ways that I have strong obsessions about what should be done, what should be there, how it should be for my brain to work best.. Etc. I know it sounds kinda selfish but I think that's especially why I've had difficulty maintaining a healthy relationship.

With my boyfriend now (not that I've had many heh, he's my second one) I'd say it goes well. He's very understanding and doesn't let himself being brought down by my impulsive "episodes" which can be pretty harsh. We sure had our down moments, and we still do, but we generally find ways to work it out. I also do not want to assume a diagnosis but I think he also might have a lighter form of ADD (without the H).. We just do things that are so similar from times to times.. He loses his stuff all the time, has a hard time in class (he has to study alot), has a pretty creative sense of humor, messed up thoughts.. Well lol, so many things that reminds of a Adder.

6 months is pretty short to assume what she is with her ADHD (...if that makes any sense) she might just have a hard time with her career or a bad phase in general. Concerning her energy, depending on if she is ADHD or just ADD her meds will have a different effect on her;

- For ADHDers it will settle us down and make order in our thoughts, giving us a chance to focus.

- For ADDers it will give them a mental boost for a period of time, but might cause a crash of energy when the effect is done.

source; my doctor.

I think you'll just have to learn to recognize when she needs some 'down time' for herself, give her space and see her progress and you'll see; we are unconditional lovers.

Hope this helps!

05-03-14, 05:52 PM
Sooooo you think a woman not making as much time for you as you'd like is a sign of mental illness? Seriously? She's a single mom with a full time job right? She's BUSY.

This isn't high school where a girl pants at your heels like a dog in heat, hanging off your every word. She's a grown woman with stuff to do, a kid to raise and a life to live. So some times she can't fit you into the schedule. Did you really expect to be made top priority after only 6 months of dating?

Is there more to this or are you really just upset that you're not the center of her universe ... to the point of thinking she acts like a person with borderline personality disorder? If I was dating a guy and he thought that sometimes going a couple of weeks without seeing each other, or waiting a day or two without chatting was indicative of a mental illness or neurological disorder I'd .... grrr!

Okay two things I suggest you look up:



Gas Lighting

You might be the one who needs therapy, not her.

05-04-14, 03:51 AM
To qoute what I wrote in the post above (sorry, but I can't figure out how to edit old posts): "OK, my last comment in the post above sounds really awful now I read it again. Didn't mean that, and certainly didn't mean to imply any similarity connection between ADHD and border line etc. But it is hard for me put into words the confused and sad feelings sometimes produced by our lack of communication."

And sure, I need therapy, and I am seeing a therapist :-)

05-04-14, 06:27 PM
OK, my last comment in the post above sounds really awful now I read it again. Didn't mean that, and certainly didn't mean to imply any similarity connection between ADHD and border line etc. But it is hard for me put into words the confused and sad feelings sometimes produced by our lack of communication.

I for one, get where you are coming from, from experience. And whether the level of communication or attention or re-assurance you need would be too much or not in any other relationship, I don't know. It's okay to realize that about yourself, and to work on that and get an objective point of you and see if your two different types of communication can come together, or if you need to work on yourself more and then find a different type of relationship that works better for you and the other person you are with.

I have found that it has been a struggle for me, as I struggle with self-confidence and tend to take things personally, or read too much into things, to deal with some of the mis-communication between me and my husband with ADHD. There are probably others out there that his comments may just roll off of; however, sometimes as much as I try, they come across very arrogantly and meanly (which we swears is never his intention). There are just some things I'm not sure we will ever see eye to eye on :)