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The Mind Blog

Written by Michelle Witte

ADHD’s Impact on Relationships


When I speak to a lot of my clients who have ADHD, I hear a lot about the shame they experience by not “showing up” for their partner. This is something that I have experienced myself, we get so caught up in our own heads that we forget to connect with our partners. We think that we are being present but really, we are worrying about 5 different things, having a brilliant idea about something at work, and finishing the 10th to-do list of the day. When I realize that I am not being present I feel a lot of shame and feel like I must “fix the situation”. So, I start apologizing and asking a lot of questions about their day, I am agreeing to do things or go places that I don’t really want to make my partner happy again. Well, I can’t control anyone else's emotions, I am only in control of my own. I have now realized that my partner knows this about me and uses silence and the retraction of affection to punish me for not being present. This doubles down on my walk of shame, and I start to feed my inner critic with all the stories of where I have failed as a partner. This is not fair to me or to my partner. So, as a person with ADHD, I need to put reminders in my phone, to trigger me to ask my partner how his day has been. I also have to not put up with punishment behaviours from my partner, my inattention to us is not done in malice it is part of my disorder. His punishment behaviour is done to “teach me” a lesson that my brain can not learn. That doesn’t seem fair, so I need to stop people pleasing and stand up for myself. I do have to own my behaviour and do my best to implement strategies to help me do better, but he needs to be mindful that I am trying my best to show up for everyone in our lives. Just because I am the one with ADHD does not mean I am always at fault when things are not going smoothly.

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