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Nurturing and Maintaining Relationships with ADHD

Reading time | 4 mins

It’s difficult to pick my least favorite aspect of living with ADHD. How do you choose? From impulsivity that makes me speak when it’s not my turn, to lateness, to forgetting something that I really want to remember, it’s like there’s a never-ending stream of ways that ADHD can embarrass me.

Even more than I hate the way that ADHD affects my own life, I hate that it affects my relationships with my family and friends.

The phrase “no man is an island” is true of all of us. We need relationships to make it through each day. Life is hard, and nobody is exempt from daily challenges.

The thing is, you typically want relationships to be even. You don’t want the people in your life to feel like you’re doing all of the taking, and they aren’t receiving any of the benefits of the relationship.

ADHD has made me a more understanding and sympathetic friend, and I am grateful for that. But ADHD has also made it difficult for me to be understood at times.

Here’s how ADHD may affect your intimate relationships, and what you can do to maintain them.


When you have ADHD, it’s easy to feel overstimulated by your environment. Loud noises, strong smells, lots of people, and colors and lights can make you feel overwhelmed.

If you experience this, it can feel good to detach, whether through spending time hiding out from the party or just by being alone.

This can make your friends and family feel like you don’t care about being around them, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. There have been times I’ve wanted to do nothing but connect with other people, but found myself overstimulated, grouchy, and snappy.

That’s the flip side of overstimulation in my case: irritability.

How do I combat being detached? I had to come clean about this reaction. It used to embarrass me to admit that I got overstimulated. It made me feel like I was weird, or that I couldn’t handle things.

Instead, what I started to do is alert whoever I’m going to be with that day that I might need to step out for a minute. I give myself time to calm myself, and then I go back in!


Part of being a good friend is remembering important things: struggles your friend has, the current events of their lives, and birthdays.

This is a serious problem for someone living with ADHD who often struggles to remember dates and details. Being forgetful can leave your friend feeling like you just don’t care about the way they feel. Over time, this can create resentment in the relationship.

When it comes to forgetfulness, you and your friend need to allow each other some grace. Remind your friend that you may forget something important and need your memory jogged, and hopefully she’ll understand that it’s not something you do on purpose.

As far as remembering dates? You need a calendar system, like yesterday. Keeping a log of important dates will free your mind up to do other things.


A great way to annoy your friends and family is to show up late. I know you’re not doing it on purpose, but the problem here is that they don’t always know. They may think that you have prioritized something, anything, above being there for them, and that hurts.

This is where you’re going to need some assistance. Alarms and reminders are your friends. I know that you want to believe that you’ll remember it, but often, you won’t.

Part of successfully managing your ADHD is understanding that your brain cannot do certain things well. Then, let go of that shame, and move forward knowing that you are going to find external substitutes for what your brain cannot do.

If you want to be on time, there are two things that I recommend. One is to use your calendar to know what you need to do on any given day. This will stop you from committing to too many activities in one day.

The second is to give yourself double the time that you’ll think it’ll take to get somewhere. Nobody is mad when I do this and show up early. In fact, they’re pleasantly surprised.

Allowing double the time lets me goof off a little, get lost, and relax once I get there. Initially, it seems odd and like a waste of time, but I promise that you’ll love it once you get used to it.

The takeaway

Being friends with someone with ADHD is not for the faint of heart. It is a task that means being flexible, offering grace, and being patient. It is critical to find people who are willing to give you the space to be you.

Keep learning to give your friends what they need as well. I know it seems difficult to find balance, but I promise you that it’s possible.