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How To Maintain Connection in Relationships with ADHD

Relationships with ADHD can get interesting, to say the least. ADHD has many symptoms. 

There’s procrastination. Losing things. Forgetting things. Getting distracted when you most want to pay attention. But for some of us, those aren’t the most frustrating symptoms. It is the up and down emotions, frustrations, and constant maintenance that relationships require. The reason why? They’re not as complex as you think. Maintaining a relationship requires attention to detail. You need to be able to actively listen to your partner without getting distracted. We also have to get past the stereotype that says if you WANT to do those things, that you just will. That it is a sign of your caring. 

Bullsh*t. I care about all kinds of things I can’t remember without assistance to save my soul. 

So when it comes to relationships, like many other things, we have to find a new way to approach them. One that takes into account all the things our ADHD brains need and nevermind what standard relationship advice says. You’re not standard, and I hope you’ve gotten used to the idea by now. You can still have an incredible relationship. As you know, I believe ADHD relationships have something special that no other relationship has to offer. 

Feeling disconnected in relationships with ADHD

How do we emotionally disconnect from relationships? When we feel like there is too much friction and fighting in relationships, it is natural to withdraw and look for something to throw ourselves into something else. 

When we withdraw emotionally, this can frustrate our partners and leave them feeling as if we don’t care. Often nothing could be further from the truth. Avoiding the problem in most cases is an attempt to keep from making things worse. 

An emotional disconnect is when we feel less close to our partners. We are out of touch with them. Feeling disconnected can lead to the end of relationships. The good thing? It isn’t impossible to get it back. 

How do I fix an emotional disconnect?

There are a few ways to get your emotional connection back online if you feel like it is off. Start here and see if you don’t feel the bond returning. 

Getting intentional can improve your ADHD relationship

First and foremost, establishing an emotional connection requires some work on our part. Most people think that they put a little effort in and relationships will repair themselves. Not necessarily. In order to get that feeling back, sometimes it takes some intention. Make time for your partner that is just theirs to connect with you. Plan activities or outings that are designed to help restore the bond. This is not magic, it is simply being intentional about getting things back on track. 

Freshening things up can improve a relationship with ADHD

Boredom is kryptonite to the ADHD brain. Many times when it appears we’ve checked out of our relationships, we’ve done no such thing, we’re just off in the corner doing something to amuse ourselves until the relationship seems less trite.

Relationships with ADHD get stale just like any other relationship.

Did you know that instead of retreating, you can lean in towards your partner? Brendan Mahan of ADHD essentials gives some great tips for leaning in instead of retreating in a YouTube video he and I did recently. Don’t miss it!

In the meantime, you have to bring some new conversations, a new way of spending time together, something to that relationship or the boredom will make you continue to withdraw. If you’re withdrawing because the relationship is in a tough spot, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the connection back. 

Modify activities to make them ADHD friendly

I can love you more than life itself. We can have the best relationship the world has ever witnessed, but I’m STILL not going to be able to listen to you talk with no interruptions for longer than 5 minutes. And 5 minutes is generous.

Now if I’m playing Candy Crush or crocheting, that will up your chances of being heard. Giving someone our undivided attention is often seen as a sign of devotion, but a person with ADHD doesn’t HAVE undivided attention. Not for any length of time that would be useful, anyway.

Loosening up the constraints and allowing serious talks to include moving around, or doodling, or playing a stupid video game can make for way more meaningful conversations. And that’s just one example of how we can modify things to make them more ADHD friendly. I’m sure you and your sweetheart will think of more together. 

Reaching back out

Someone has to make the first move when the emotional connection is broken. You could be sitting in the same room doing something together and be in completely separate worlds, maybe even worlds where you wish the other one was there. Many times when we’re in relationships with ADHD and we feel that distance enter the relationship, we don’t reach out to re-establish the connection because that requires vulnerability – rejection sensitive dysphoria, anxiety, fear, and yes, maybe even plain old stubbornness can keep us from connecting. Sometimes you have to be the one to reach back out. You never know, your partner might meet you halfway. 

Don’t be so quick to assume you know your partner entirely

When we have been with our partners for a certain length of time, it is easy to get to the point where we think we know it all. They have no more to discover, the mysteries are all solved. We know them better than anyone else knows them, right? WRONG! There is always something new to discover. One of the ways to ease your boredom when the variety is low is to go on a search. Observe your partner a bit. See what there is that you aren’t picking up on. Find out what mysteries are hiding beneath the mundane routines, endless chores, and never-ending routines that cover up who the person is underneath it all. There’s always more to discover. Happy hunting!

Connection building activities

This a totally non-comprehensive, off the top of my head, just because I want to get your ideas flowing list of connection building activities. They will not all work for every person, but some may. There are so many different ways to connect with the people we love, we just miss them sometimes in the monotony of everyday life. Give these a try and see if it doesn’t get the connection sparking again. 

  1. Board games
  2. Hand holding
  3. Time with other couples
  4. Reading a book or watching a show together
  5. A shared craft or project
  6. Scheduled time together
  7. Sex
  8. Pull a question out a jar of questions
  9. Talk
  10. Volunteer together
  11. Visit family together
  12. Observe from a distance
  13. Spend time with friends
  14. Plan a date together
  15. Go on walks
  16. Sex (it’s important enough that I intentionally listed it twice)
  17. Self-care time
  18. 1 shared hobby – no really
  19. Have the hard conversations
  20. Reserve judgment
  21. Share your fears

Relationships aren’t easy, but they can improve. Keep working at it no matter what. That love can ebb and flow, don’t get discouraged.

2 thoughts on “How To Maintain Connection in Relationships with ADHD

  1. Wow, I will truly use these tips. But I’m even more thankful for the kindness in your words, always so understanding of the struggles and the frustration on top of those struggles. Always knowing how they affect our lives and how we end up making them worse sometimes.
    Thank you for this post, I will use it forever!

    1. I’m really really glad it was helpful to you

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