I feel like my ADHD is destroying my ... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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I feel like my ADHD is destroying my relationship.

bumblebeebetch profile image

I was recently RE - diagnosed with ADHD. With that being said, I have gone years without actively working towards myself and have been unmedicated. I've always struggled with low self esteem and am finding out that that is a common theme with ADHD. I'm really trying to be aware and work on myself. I believe that I'm struggling with regulating my emotions. (My boyfriend has told me this many times.) I'm aware that a lot of my relationship issues stem from my lack of esteem. With all this being said, I would like to give some examples and am hoping to get advice on how to handle and or cope with these situations.

- I express that I need more affection. (Due to lack of self esteem) My partner believes that he is doing more but I am just not seeing it. What are some good tips to comfort myself when I feel like I am needing more affection?

- We discuss the same issues multiple times. To him it feels like I am constantly criticizing him, while in my mind I am trying to bring up things that we need to work on to make us work. It doesn't help that they are repeated arguments but I don't feel like the issues get resolved or worked towards, resulting in me bringing it up yet again. How do I go about bringing up the problem and finding a conclusion without making my partner feel attacked?

- This isn't a result of ADHD necessarily but I am hyper fixating on this issue. My partners ex is in his same friend group so with that itself I have to accept that she will be around. All though, a recent conversation we had has left me feeling like I will never be enough. He expressed that he occasionally compares the two relationships and was happier in the previous one because our repeated conversations are weighing down on him. Previously I have felt like he places more concern into her feelings than mine. To add to this, last month while on a trip with his family he called me by his exes name and his ex and him are best friends on snapchat.. I am trying to tell myself that if he didn't want to be, he wouldn't be with me. Can anybody offer me advise with this? Honestly, anything.. Am I overreacting, am I being childish, am I hyper fixating, how can I get over this, etc. Please please help.

26 Replies

I have no advice to give you. I also have problems with my boyfriend for discussing the same problems over and over again. Besides that I get angry and jealous very easily. He is a super sociable person and he has like 5 group of friends. I can barely keep two friends. Lately I have been having a hard time socializing when we go out with his friends and I think he is no longer liking that I cannot socialize with anyone. Honestly, I no longer feel comfortable and I don't know what to do.

I think I didn't have to post this as a comment but I felt a bit supported knowing that I'm not the only one that ADHD is causing problems in a relationship.


this was very reassuring. my boyfriend is also very sociable and it’s very difficult for me to socialize so i 100% get that, i’m so sorry. i really appreciate your time, your response, and you! 💖

Hansch68 profile image
Hansch68 in reply to Chiara09

I’ve never known what a normal relationship was. Never had one. I’ve lived with ADHD since I was 6 years old, and I’m 52 now. I know I’m way too impulsive for most women, and I don’t function well unless I have a stimulant medical treatment. Trouble is, I got strung out on meth and now doctors won’t let me have the only treatment that’s ever been successful for new. So now I can’t hold a relationship or even a job. Ugh! And they wonder why so many of us give up the fight.

I suspect that you need regular cognitive therapy with some EMDR.

EMDR is a protocol that when used along with therapy can de-energize traumas.

ADD is difficult in relationships, partners can become resentful and confused by ADD behaviors misreading intentions, the ADD partner can feel attacked and misunderstood, it can be a very lonely place to be. ADHD presents uniquely in each case, which should not be surprising being that we are speaking of the human brain. Focus on learning and sensitizing yourself to your behaviors, identify their impacts.

It's great that you were able to post. Your priority should be working with a therapist specializing in the treatment of ADD.

Thank you so much for your advise! I have really been looking into CBT therapy and am very interested in learning some more about EMDR, I believe that could be very beneficial to me. Thank you again, I really appreciate you taking your time to help me!

I second what desertal said. The best thing you can do for yourself is get help with your adhd. Then you can better differentiate what's a symptom and what is relational. One thing that I struggle with still but is helpful is understanding what you want and what your standards are for happiness. With this you can be more objective with judging if you are meeting your expectations in you relationship and anywhere else. One point of note from John Gottman, 70% of all arguments in relationship will never be "solved". People in 70 year marriages have been arguing about the same things the entire time, the question is the importance of that thing, is it a core value or more surface level. I hope this helps.

I love the "understanding what you want and what your standards are for happiness" I think that could help ease a lot of my people pleasing tendencies! The point from John Gottman was very comforting. I am very anxious and tend to not be able to sit with that feeling so I tell myself that I have to solve the issue asap! Your advice will really help me take a step back, calm down, and refocus. Thank you for taking the time to help me, it is beyond appreciated!

Hi bumblebeebetch,

- I express that I need more affection. (Due to lack of self esteem) My partner believes that he is doing more but I am just not seeing it. What are some good tips to comfort myself when I feel like I am needing more affection?

I highly recommend you read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It would also be very valuable for your boyfriend to read it as well, but if you can't convince him, you can have an open conversation about the concept of the 5 love languages with him. Affection is a feeling similar to love, and if you're not at the "love" stage yet, then affection is a milder version of love so the concept still applies. The need to feel loved is not because of a lack of self-esteem, it's because you're human - in fact we all NEED to feel loved (or feel affection). You've expressed your need for affection to your bf which is a great first step. The next step is communicating to your boyfriend so that he understands what you mean by affection and that he's able to try to meet you closer to where your needs are (i.e. telling him which love language do you need to receive). It sounds like he may not be great at expressing his affection in the language you need to receive, so he doesn't "speak" that language and that means he will need to learn how to understand and use it, just like learning a new vocabulary. If he's not able to meet you there but you're okay with where he IS able to meet you, then you may need receive that love language from someone else. For example if your main love language is physical touch, family members who will hug you regularly, a friend who will hold your hand while you're having a heart to heart, or from a pet who is cuddly (before you rush out to get one, make sure you know that individual is cuddly before you get it!) etc. Apply that example to the other 4 languages as they may apply. Most people appreciate receiving more than one type of love language so hopefully you can get to a point where what you receive from your boyfriend combined with other sources keeps your "love tank" filled.

On the flip side, you will have to understand what his love languages are. You will need to understand what type of love he needs to receive - it's probably one of the other 4 languages. You will also have to do the hard work of expressing your love in a language other than the one that you use, and possibly in a way that you're not as familiar or comfortable with.

Hope that helps with that question!

I addressed that question as a stand-alone as it's really not related to ADHD or your self-esteem. I read your other questions after providing that response.

I would agree that in this case some talk therapy is likely to be really beneficial for you, as it was for me. I don't think the questions that you have are a result of your ADHD; they sound like fairly normal relationship problems. However, having a good understanding of how your ADHD manifests might help you identify which concerns are being elevated by your ADHD, if any, and which are neurotypical concerns. If any are being elevated by ADHD, that might help you come to terms with your approach and backdrop to that concern.

Otherwise talk therapy can also help you have a sounding board from an impartial observer about your concerns, and get some advice on how to frame your conversations so that each time you have them you end up with more meaningful resolutions rather than just "arguing" and not reaching any conclusions.

Hope that helps.... best of luck!

You are incredible. Thank you so much for putting so much time and thought into your responses. They were both very helpful, validating, and comforting. It felt like a big warm blanket wrap around me when I read, "The need to feel loved is not because of a lack of self-esteem, it's because you're human - in fact we all NEED to feel loved (or feel affection)." I am excited to go out and snag that book myself! I 100% believe that understanding my ADHD and how it manifests would help me a lot. I am currently on the hunt for a therapist that specializes in CBT so I can start working on the core and get to understanding! Again, thank you so much. Your help means the world!

"He expressed that he occasionally compares the two relationships and was happier in the previous one because our repeated conversations are weighing down on him."--Did he say this unprompted, or was this in response to a direct question from you about this? Because if unprompted, that's kind of crappy thing to say in my opinion. (If you directly asked about this, then I'd say don't ask questions you don't really want to hear the answers to.) I've only heard your side of the story, of course, but based on that, it doesn't sound he's making much of an effort to acknowledge and meet your needs, and overall validate you as a person. You asked for tips to comfort yourself when he fails to demonstrate any real effort towards meeting your need for more affection. You ask if you are overreacting or being childish when he ignores your feelings, and even negatively compared you to his ex. Therefore, I humbly submit the following question to you: Are you sure that you are the problem here???

Thank you so much. I did ask him about it because I was communicating how their friendship makes me feel insecure and (this is a common recurrence) I have to ask questions in order to get anything more than "I don't know" out of him at times and that's why I asked.. I agree with you and will definitely be learning from my mistakes not to ask questions I know will hurt me! I think that is the main cause of my confusion, I do see my needs not being met and I have felt very invalidated. On the other end, I am a very emotionally in touch person (as him and I say) and he is most definitely not. So I do tend to have to take a step back and think about, is he trying with his best ability and if so am I just asking for more than he is comfortable with when I feel like I am not being heard. "Are you sure that you are the problem here???" I believe we are both the problem. I need to work towards communicating better in a way that suits his needs better and vice versa. We both really need to start digging inward and hopefully learn to grow together! Your response has brought me a lot of clarity and I really appreciate it.

Okay, that's good that you do see him making an effort to meet you halfway, as I wasn't getting that impression from your initial message. And I do think that as ADHDers, our self-esteem issues coupled with issues of inattention and distractibility can make it all-too-easy for us to assume we're wrong and/or to blame in any situation where a doubt or disagreement exists. And I hate to see one of us take on additional pain voluntarily when we've done nothing wrong, yet are made to feel like we've done something wrong just by living our lives with the brain the universe has provided us with. But if you're both trying your best to meet each other halfway to the best of your individual abilities, that's a totally different story. 🙂

I agree with a lot of the replies so far. What you are describing sounds a lot like typical relationship issues. My wife and I often find ourselves in the same arguments. Our most productive discussions are ones where we can pull ourselves out and approach the problem as an issue to be solved. Both proposing ideas and both poking holes in the other ideas. Sometimes we need to take a couple days off, agreeing to revisit it when we can both get a chance to research and bring new information to the table.

It is way too easy to fall into the trap of trying to 'win' an argument. You aren't really listening to the other person. You are only listening for the flaws, and then spend your time composing a response. So both of you end up talking "at" the other person, but not really listening.

I was taught a formal dialogue years ago, where you take turns each saying 1-2 sentences "I think... I feel... I believe..." (the feel one is important). After Person A says their statement, person B says it back, rephrasing slightly to make sure the get the point, rather than parroting the words. Person A has a chance to correct them, B tries again. Once B has it right, then B makes a statement.

It really slows down conversations, but it puts the focus on listening and understanding. It allows both of you to feel heard, which is something that is often missing in these things. Once you both feel heard and truly understand where the other is coming from, then you can try to brainstorm solutions.

bumblebeebetch profile image
bumblebeebetch in reply to BTV65

Oh thank you so so much! This was so helpful! I have felt like I've talked "at" him rather than "with" him, your response helped me realize this! I tend to fly off topic when bringing up things that upset me so I am beyond excited to attempt communicating with the formal dialogue and see how the response is to this as opposed to my scatter brained thoughts! Thank you again, I truly am going to be applying this advice most likely into my every day life!

BTV65 profile image
BTV65 in reply to bumblebeebetch

The 1-2 sentence approach really helps with ADHD. If you blast me with 1/2 dozen items, I can't possibly respond in a thoughtful way to them all. Just focusing on 1 topic at a time makes it so much easier to understand and respond in a meaningful way. Needing to rephrase their statement also puts the focus on listening and understanding.

"You never do the dishes" is very different than "I feel you hardly ever do the dishes". The first is an accusation which will automatically put the other one on the defensive. The second makes it clear in the message that this is a feeling, rather than a fact.

If your attempts to talk sound like you are attacking, other people either get defensive (attacking back) or shut down and stop listening. Once someone is mad, the whole thing goes down hill and it's a complete waste of time. You just end up hurting each other's feelings and it doesn't accomplish anything.

Scroll to almost the bottom of the linked page to find a link to practitioners.


I have posted a link to EMDR certified practitioners. EMDR is a protocol used with CBT.

There are CBTs that specialize in ADHD and utilize EMDR. EMDR supports the processing of traumas. I think I am pretty safe saying that the ADHDs personal impacts experienced over a lifetime can lead to a lot of self shaming and by others, thus causing the derivative impacts of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and self-isolation.

I believe that at the root of all the derivatives impacts of ADHD is SHAME. Shame is insidious and hides under its self built foundation. Shame protects us but not by supporting extroversion, instead shame trains us to retreat to ways of behaving that provide comfort and security. When we attempt to protect our selves invariably we are further shamed.

Shame can be de-energized and place into a nondestructive mental context which allows for relief from the destructive emotions.

The link for EMDR practitioners is:

A past therapist of mine was pivotal in the blossoming of the use of EMDR, as well my present CBT is a member of this organization.



Many here told you to get help, the same sentiment that your boyfriend throws at you. Could it be that he is the problem!?!

A good man will listen, discuss and if he cares show it. You have issues in the relationship, don’t assume that it is because you have ADHD. Your BF is not listening nor attempting to solve an issue, that’s not loving. Handling ones relationship is worth the work, IF you are in the right relationship.

You are a beautiful young lady, I’m a Grandpa with a Granddaughter and raised two daughters. I can tell you with some level of certainty that you will meet other guys that may be a better fit. Most relationships that don’t make it, have two great people, but are not a good match.

BTW if he shows more positive emotion to his EX, he is not putting you first. Never be someone’s second choice. You are worth so much more.

Peace, Tim

oh tim, i can tell that you are a kind and wise man. thank you, thank you. my feelings haven’t felt this validated in a very long time and for that you and your advice are such a blessing! i’m excited moving forward with your words in my thoughts! please keep doing what you’re doing, truly amazing.

You are not overreacting, please listen to what you are asking for - love, attention and affection ( don’t we all want that?). You are not being childish or you probably wouldn’t post here. If you are fixating, it is because you care. You are great just the way you are. Don’t let people tell you or gaslighting you into believing you are not enough. You are perfect for the right guy and when you see your value you will be ready to release this guy and find yourself.

You deserve the best accept nothing short of it.

When I look at your picture you seem loving, curious, fun and a wonderful human. Make sure not to waste your time with someone that doesn’t see and appreciate who you are.

Hi, bumblebeebetch, you didn't mention if you were on medication for ADHD or for depression and anxiety. I had some of the same misgivings others have had about your boyfriend. I come from the perspective of having been in a marriage for 21 years, that started out verbally abusive (after the wedding) and progressed to other types of abuse later. It took getting on adhd medicine and antidepressants for me to clearly see the manipulation he was performing on me. He said the medication made me cold and unfeeling. He hated the doctor who prescribed it, and my counselor. But the problem for him was I could follow his lies and manipulation. I wasn't cold and unfeeling to anyone else! I tried to fix myself for so many years, and change my reaction, but he was the one who had the most to change. Yes, you need to work on your self esteem, and relationship skills, possibly, but there are some subtle things about what your boyfriend says that are raising a red flag, in my mind. Please be kind to yourself! I think medication will help your perspective. Setting boundaries of what you are willing to accept from a relationship is NOT being cold and unfeeling. Also the book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden, or another one my friend on this site told me about that is newer and is by the same author will hopefully help you. Take care!

Thank you so much for taking your time and responding to me! I am on Adderall all though I do believe that I can't clearly see the manipulation due to the fact of growing up in that type of environment! The hard part is that, I see all the red flags as red flags as well! I scheduled a therapy session this morning and I am really looking forward to that because I hope that it will be able to help pull me out and open my eyes more clearly and give me the strength to do what I gotta do! Thank you again, especially for being willing to be so open about your story, you are so strong and I am ecstatic that you are out of that relationship! Thank you for helping me open my eyes a little more and pushing me to treat myself better!

Oh boy there is a lot going on with you. First suggestion, write down your concerns and feelings about hime daily - DO NOT DISCUSS IT WITH HIM DAILY. Schedule time on time a week to have a "meeting" each person gets ten minutes to take and the other person cannot say a word until person one finishes. then person two says what he/she has issues with in the past week. then each one goes again and responds to the other - And preface you communication with I fell or it feels to me- not YOU ARE. And do your best not to discuss issues unless it is urgent between house meetings. Also guys and woman respond very differently to things - so showing more affection on his part he sees it but you don't you are not a guy. Try and book- Men are from Mars and Woman ore from Venus. I know I had issues with my husband when he was alive and I got to see that with other guys in the past 5 years as well . Plus the ADHD brain can fixate on things and we have a tendency to blurt out what cones into our heads without censoring our thoughts which often hurts the other person even though we don't mean to . And get some help from a therapist for yourself and if necessary a couples therapist if you are committed to the relationship

I don't have any insight but I have been married for ten years now and the lack of affection and repitition of conversations that you mentioned resonated with me as I have similar issues with my wife. I am nearly 40 and was only diagnosed with ADHD in January, but I have definitely had it since I was young, and I have also struggled with low self esteem for a long time. My main question to you would be what makes you happy? Then, I would recommend that you go and do it. You are you and you should be happy being you. A key to that is not comparing yourself to others and to a certain extent even if not entirely possible to not care about others (such as your boyfriend s ex). And also perhaps to work on getting a friend group that does not include your boyfriend's ex and maybe doesn't include your boyfriend as well). I have found it is always good to have some friends and activities separate from my significant other Also, I had never heard of rejection sensitive dysphoria, but I very likely have a severe case and it seems like it is common in people with ADHD. The gist is that I am way too sensitive to criticism and my wife gets upset when I get made at her for criticizing me, especially because often she wasnt even trying to criticize me in the first place. And, I ruminate and think about the past way too much. But, that is me. Good luck being happy - it is hard work. Oh, on that note I recently started watching the Taylor Tries juggling videos on youtube and just learned how to juggle 3 bean bags. So much fun and worth a try. I had tried several times in the past and thought it was impossible for me because of my bad coordination, but it turns out having good bean bags (the ones she recommends are $18 bucks on Amazon so not that bad) really helps. And it sounds silly but it is really fun and made me at least a little bit happy today (I have depression issues as well too if it wasn't apparent from above response).

As with Chiara09, I unfortunately also have no advice to give you. In fact, I'm a guy who is currently experiencing problems with his neurotypical wife and joined the forum in order to help soothe myself. This post is the first one to pop up and I too feel strangely supported in reading about your situation. Makes me feel less alone. So, thank you for sharing your experience with us because your experience is relatable to a lot of people!

Low self-esteem seems to follow us around like a ghost that can't be appeased. It's been causing me recently to also bring up the same, repetitive issues I have with my wife, causing me to hyper-fixate on the wrong things, and I can tell that it wears on her, like how your boyfriend must feel. My fear is that if it continues, she won't be able to bear it at some point and she'll crack. It's already interfered with our closeness and I have also asked for more and more affection from her to no avail. But, I think I know why we do this.

With lots of research, I think that the constant need for affection stems from our brains' need to have constant dopamine hits. We NEED that high level of stimulation all the time in order to feel normal and navigate our day to day. When we don't have it all the time, we get anxious. So, we impulsively seek out ways to get those hits from a source that's local and always readily available -- our partners. This seeking behavior shows in never-ending bids for affection. And not only that -- it's the need for stimulating conversations (I.E. -- a constant need to bring up issues for a more perfect relationship) in order to have that immediate gratification or connection from our partner. The "argument" itself is something we want in order to feel stimulated with our partner in order to get that dopamine.

I bring this up only because it is happening right now in my own relationship and I've noticed these tendencies within me. These are the things that I do that wear my wife down. So, a few things to consider from a stranger that you are free to take to heart or not:

(1) Our constant bids for affection/conversation/"stimulation" (I.E. Dopamine) CAN weigh down on our neurotypical partners because it never ends. They don't understand our need for the constant flow of dopamine our brains require to function. But, without that flow of dopamine, we always feel anxious. So, we continually approach them for stimulation. They don't understand why we do this, so to them, it feels like a constant nagging or neediness. We can't keep pressuring one person to fill ALL our needs, especially when they don't understand or can't provide what it is we're looking for as they are neurotypical. We have a duty to understand them, too, if we are pursuing this relationship. If not, then we'd be better off finding an ADD partner who does understand these constant needs.

(2) Anyone who is under constant "pressure" from his/her partner with no real resolution taking place (I.E. -- having the same conversation over and over again without any real change taking place) will begin to resent the relationship. This is happening with me. We as ADD people can't keep going down the same path with our partners and beating it to the ground if it's not working. We must act differently. And one way is to acknowledge that we ADD/ADHD people constantly bring up the same arguments not necessarily to discuss the repeat issues at hand -- but to receive stimulation from our partners at those moments in time. To connect with them at their behest for our stimulation, even if the conversations becomes argumentative. But, if we do this over and over again with no end in sight -- it will push our neurotypical partners away. They want to see resolution, but they're not getting it. They wonder why these issues keep coming back when they were already previously discussed. They don't want to argue constantly because it's draining for them and takes away from their personality, whilst it stimulates us.

So, what can we do differently?

(1) Take ADHD medication. I attest that I have less hang-ups with medication and I can focus on real things happening in my life and tasks I need to do instead of wasting time on hyper-fixations I have in my head about myself, my relationship, my life, etc. It fills my brain's need for dopamine. So, instead of pursuing these little behaviors over and over again with my partner, expecting her to fill the gap -- the need for dopamine is already filled by medication. As such, I can engage in my life better and stop relying on my partner so much. I think you'd be surprised at the immense relief your partner may feel and the increasing amount of attention you may get from him once the pressure is taken off. I can't speak for your situation fully, but doing so has helped in my experience.

(2) Routinely engage in these and other like-minded forums. I came here specifically because my hyper-fixations recently caused a rift in my relationship. And I always told my wife (who was the first to suggest, by the way) that I would attempt to find other ADD people online in order to discuss ADD-related issues since she couldn't fill the void for me. But, I didn't do it because of pride. Now, after reading this post as well as other ones and writing this unfortunately/absurdly long reply -- I feel better about myself, less alone, and more connected. She was right.

So, thank YOU and the others on this site for sharing your experiences. I don't know if these ideas or my experiences will help you personally, but your sharing has certainly given me more perspective and made me feel less isolated. It helps fill the dopamine in my brain, no? But, I challenge you to not hate yourself, accept that your brain is different, and that if one method is not working for you and your relationship -- then to have the courage, as I did, to try something different and see where it goes. Even if it is scary or if you might fail. You might even get a boost to that self-esteem!

Anyway, good luck and I hope my two cents helps a little.

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