Loving someone with ADD can be very challenging but also totally worth it.
A few months back I had to break up with someone who I loved very much because he was making me unhappy. I have spent a lot of time since then very angry and hurt because I felt like he didn’t even try.
And then this week I was doing some research on ADD for a client and it hit me – my man could very well have ADD! The behaviors that resulted from the condition made staying with him very difficult for me. And I am sure those same behaviors make living life very difficult for him. Maybe it wasn’t that he didn’t try but that he couldn’t try.
I have learned that many people are unaware of the devastating impact ADD can have on relationships. I want to share with you what I have learned.
#1 – They can’t JUST DO IT.
For those of us who don’t have ADD we can usually get something done when we buckle down, determined to do it. People with ADD just can’t do that. They can, and do, try but often a bright shiny object distracts them and the task at hand evaporates.
#2 – They might have an itch to scratch.
People with ADD can be constantly living on the edge, looking for that next thing that will make them feel something. This could mean doing drugs or having lots of sex or jumping out of airplanes. Whatever it takes for them to feel like they are alive and in control.
#3 – Their self-esteem could be at rock bottom.
Because of a lifetime spent struggling to do the most basic tasks, and the derision that often comes from other people when they feel let down, people with ADD struggle from a chronic lack of self-esteem. This lack of self-esteem can cause intense depression and actually lead to increased cognitive deficiencies.
Also, their lack of self-esteem will make it difficult for them to accept your love and support because they just won’t believe they deserve it.
#4 – They might not be able to listen…
…or remember or keep promises and could always interrupt you.
The minds of people with ADD go a mile a minute. Much faster than many of us who don’t struggle with ADD. Because of this, they are easily distracted by the next thing, as opposed to what is in the now. As a result, they might not remember what is said to them. They want to but they can’t.
People with ADD also can forget to read texts, might not check their emails and could immediately forget when you ask them to pick up a loaf of bread on their way home.
People with ADD don’t mean to do this but they do.
#5 – The division of labor might be wildly uneven.
People with ADD struggle to complete even the most basic tasks. As a result the non-ADD person will be left doing a significant portion of things that need to be done. This can lead to frustration and resentment on the part of the non-ADD person and feelings of shame from the person struggling.
Furthermore, what can often develop is a parent/child dynamic in the relationship where the non ADD person becomes like a parent to the ADDer. This is not a good dynamic for two people in a romantic relationship, for many reasons.
#6– They might not be able to make you a priority.
For people with ADD there are two kinds of time. NOW and NOT NOW. Because of this they live completely in the moment. The concept of moments down the road mean nothing to them.
As a result it’s very hard for them to prioritize ANYTHING, much less their partner.
#7 – They could struggle to be successful at work.
Because they have a hard time completing tasks and staying focused, people with ADD could always struggle at work. To be successful at work people with ADD need two things: a boss who understands them and an excellent support staff. Without these things, success will be very hard to attain. Not impossible but very difficult. This will lead to additional self-esteem issues.
#8 – Finances might be a challenge.
People with ADD are often financially challenged for a number of reasons.
The first is that having the focus to keep track of their expenditures will take a tremendous amount of discipline that they might not have.
Secondly, some people with ADD love to spend money. People with ADD are often in search of the next high, the next thing that will scratch their itch. And spending money is an excellent way to achieve that goal.
#9 – Intimacy can be an issue.
People with ADD, particularly men, can struggle with intimacy.
The reasons are varied.
Part of it is that they often just can’t stay focused while making love. They far more enjoy doing something structured and rewarding like working or being on their phones or playing golf.
Another is that the person with ADD has that itch they want to scratch and multiple sex partners is a way to do it. Once they have caught you they could move onto the next person.
Furthermore, people with ADD are time challenged. They don’t know how to fit sex, or other tasks, into their crazy busy, out of control schedules.
And, finally, the aforementioned parent/child dynamic. This, obviously, does not lend itself to a healthy sex life.
#10 – They might struggle with addiction.
People with ADD might struggle with addiction for a number of reasons.
The biggest one is that they spend every day of their lives struggling to keep their heads above water. This is exhausting and overwhelming. And using drugs or alcohol to escape from those feelings is very effective.
Furthermore, stimulants like cocaine, and sugar, are widely abused by people with ADD because they become way more focused when using them. Stimulants bring them to the place they always wanted to be – focused, full of bravado, successful at whatever they try and attractive to the opposite sex. Pretty compelling stuff.
Interestingly, people with ADD can also get addicted to things that are good for them – like exercise. They can over-do something that makes them feel more focused and helps build their self esteem.
Loving someone with ADD can be very challenging. To do so successfully requires a tremendous amount of patience and understanding and the development of life skills by both parties. It’s hard work. It can be done but it’s not for the faint of heart.
And it’s okay if you don’t feel like you can do that hard work or that you might not be able to accept that your mate will never be able to do some of the things that are important to you, like being intimate or hearing you.
The most important thing for someone with ADD is to be in a relationship with someone who loves them and supports them in spite of their challenges. If you can be that person, great. If that’s not you, it’s okay to walk away and let them find someone who can.
If you have made it this far you must really love someone with ADD.
Let me help you learn how to cope, NOW, before the ADD harms your relationship.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.