Did Your ADHD Partner’s Attractive Traits … Remain?

ADHD partner's attractive traits remain


In this post, we delve into the write-in responses to this ADHD Partner Survey question: As your relationship continued, did your ADHD partner’s positive traits continue—or continue to be attractive? Predictably, the answers run the gamut.

Some ADHD Partner Survey respondents report being initially drawn to their ADHD partner’s spontaneity or go-with-the-flow attitude. With time, however, they discovered  that their partner had no choice but to be spontaneous. Planning was impossible!

Yet, in other cases, the ADHD partner’s ability to make their mate laugh has held them together during the rough times—from that first date through to their 25th anniversary, or longer.

My mantra? There is nothing “cookie cutter” about adults with ADHD, their partners (some of whom also have ADHD!), or their relationships. But there are some predictable patterns when ADHD goes unrecognized or misunderstood until well into the relationship. The better we understand these patterns, the better folks can prevent unnecessary heartache.

A Brief Review:

Previous posts from the ADHD Partner Survey include:

1.  What Traits Attracted You To Each Other? —I first compared the traits that attracted ADHD Partner Survey respondents to their mates, and vice versa.

2. Where’s That Person You Fell in Love With?—Next, I examined the degree to which those positive traits continued into the relationship (or continued to be viewed as positive traits). For review, here is the chart from that post. As you can see, about half the partners said, “Yes, those traits stayed the same.” The other half said, “Nope.”  The rest were unsure or the relationship was still young. (See chart below.)

3. In this post, we review the respondents’ write-in text responses. I’ve loosely grouped the comments into sub-headings.

(Remember: Most respondents didn’t know about Adult ADHD, and their partners were not diagnosed, until years into the relationship.)

ADHD Partner Traits

Attraction Still Going Strong

  • My husband is “quirky” and very witty. A lot of fun to be around. He is not afraid to try anything. I have always admired that in him.
  • My partner is one of the most brilliant and creative people I have ever known. He is also one of the most compassionate people with a world perspective which is refreshing and gives hope.
  • He’s a great guy. After moving in with him, though, I realized something was seriously wrong. There were hints during our long-distance relationship. He’d space out on things, forget things, etc. But, he was so in love with me that he concentrated on “getting me” and, for the most part, he is still the man of my dreams. That doesn’t mean his ADHD traits aren’t a severe challenge. They are.
  • He is still the kindest, most generous, sweetest, most affectionate person I know—very gentle and loving.
  • I love how optimistic and positive he is. He is always full of energy, which has not changed.
  • We fortunately have grown together for the most part.
  • My husband still is funny, spontaneous and very good looking. I tell him that his sense of humor has saved his bacon any number of times.

It Wasn’t Spontaneity! It Was An Inability to Plan!

  • I still love his creativity and spontaneity. But it seems to go hand in hand with irresponsibility or inability to see past today. He has incredible musical ability but has no discipline to do anything with it so he’s stuck in dead-end jobs going nowhere and he’s taking me with him.
  • What I found “spontaneous” and “fun” in the early stages became “irresponsible” and “escapist.” The creative side of him was attractive, but the enormous ego that came with it, along with his need to voice how much more valuable his contributions are (dreamers vs. “bean counters”) left me cold after awhile.
  • His spontaneity became wearisome. We’d make plans to do something, for instance, go to a party, and he’d decide to take a nap. What is a desirable trait in a date, isn’t necessarily desirable in a partner, especially with children. I crave someone reliable, who keeps his promises, and for whom I do not have to act as a walking calendar.
  • I liked my partner’s spontaneity initially, but over time this turned more to being reckless and often aggressive. As for the positive aspects of being spontaneous (e.g. “Let’s go out or get away for the weekend”), those got to be few and far between.
  • “Spontaneous” became “impulsive.” “Different” and “interesting” behavior became “risk-taking behavior.” “Imaginative” became “getting involved in yet another unfinished project.”
  • The “fun to be around” ended up being a constant thing to the exclusion of all else (that is, work, chores, etc.).
  • The spontaneity became a problem as children came along. The need to be present and scheduled is a constant struggle.

ADHD Partner Traits

Generous—To A Fault

One ADHD Partner Survey respondent wrote:

Many of the traits that attracted me to my husband became problems in our marriage.

For example, buying me expensive flowers or gifts for no special occasion while we were dating was ok, but when we had to share a household budget we fought about his loose spending habits. Always buying drinks for his friends, etc.

Also, I enjoyed his humor while we were dating, but after we were married his humor often became embarrassing; he just didn’t know when to give it a rest, and he’d make too many jokes at others’ expense. In truth, I think his “life of the party” persona was a defense: he couldn’t keep up with the various conversations, so he had to monopolize everyone’s attention.

ADHD Partner Traits

Bait and Switch!

For many respondents, the feeling was that their ADHD partner seemed to be one way at first—but soon became the complete opposite.

  • After the wedding ring went on, all the attention, ski trips, sex, and other goodies went right out the window
  • The problem was that the “responsible, mature, reliable” woman who “made a good living” was a mirage…she only appeared that way because of the structure forced on her by the Army. After she left, the truth came out; she was practically helpless and content to let me do everything.
  • I don’t know if things changed or I just woke up, but many of the traits that initially attracted me—maturity, stability, etc—turned out to be illusions. My partner comes off as an easygoing guy with a heart of gold, but living with him is like being on the roller coaster to hell.
  • Those “child-like” qualities that attracted me ended up being really childish behavior. She is incapable of compromise, must always have things her way, cannot have a conversation about things that bother her without letting them build up and explode, cannot accept people for who they are (they are either good or bad, no middle ground), thinks that any slight is a direct affront to her, reacts to her emotions rather than reality.
  • Within the intense structure and accommodations of undergraduate school, she was sheltered from herself and her ADHD. As soon as she started grad school (right after we married), she hyperfocused on that, and I became simply a finished task on her “to do” list. I was alone a lot…with her bills. She’d run up significant credit card debt in college, and so I was stuck with those debts, too.

ADHD Partner Traits

Big Dreams, Big Promises, Big Disappointments

  • The big ideas/big dreams trait, in particular, is now driving me crazy because it is now so unbelievable that it is annoying.
  • I was so drawn in by my partner’s “lust for life.” He liked to take risks (mainly financial). He had all these big dreams, could articulate them so well – what a salesman! — and before I knew that it was all talk, it sounded fun! Now I know better. Ninety percent of the time all his talk is just that. Anything substantial that’s happened, I made it happen.
  • Some of the traits still exist, such as spontaneity, imagination, super confidence, but these are not really attractive anymore, as they lack supporting substance (i.e. the big dreams and promises never happen).

ADHD Partner Traits

Having Children Changed Everything

  • Things changed dramatically with the addition of two small children. He is still reliable and responsible, but the other areas that attracted me to him are hidden or gone and are replaced with the inability to adapt to the chaos of small children and their demands. I know he can’t handle the chaos, but I feel lonely without those other traits of thoughtfulness, nurturing, etc. that he used to give to me.
  • I still love him, and some of what we are experiencing is that our marriage is almost 25 years old and we have a lot of family pressures due to ADHD in our children. Most of the traits that my husband had as a young man are still there. They are just harder to locate sometimes because the world has defeated him on several occasions. He is an artistic soul in a workplace with increasing restrictions. And our grown children both have issues so we can all be kind of dysfunctional at times.
  • We were mostly very happy during the first several years. Things went kablooey when we had children. He couldn’t cope with the added responsibility. I was breastfeeding and running the business and the household. One day, I beeped him on the intercom to change diapers. “You don’t know how disruptive it is for me to have to change the diapers!” sez he. I offered to let him breast-feed, instead.

Unrecognized ADHD Overwhelmed Positive Qualities

  • Partner has worsened over the years (we live together several years before getting married and have been married 23 years). He went from being somewhat fun-loving but unreliable (e.g., always late, not taking direction at work) to being completely unemployed, taking no responsibility, breaking commitments consistently, and being often unpleasant.
  • Those good qualities I fell in love with are still present. I just didn’t know there was another side to her – the poor impulse control, rages, externalizing her problems on me, low tolerance of frustration, etc.
  • His depression from untreated ADHD eventually caused him to be almost non-functional.
  • It’s been many years together. We have changed. He is still all those things but not with me. He is very disconnected from me and has been since we’ve had children and that started 22 years ago. Still has a very compassionate heart, which is what I fell in love with, but not towards me. Just to gaze at me reminds him of all that he “doesn’t live up to” – real or imagined. It’s like I am the focal point for his entire life’s failures. He’ll still give his lunch to a homeless person or buy them a meal. He’s great with strangers and the downtrodden. But once you register on his “punk’d” radar, the grudge is solidified and his heart is stone towards you.

The Hyperfocus Went Elsewhere

  • After 11 years of being together, over 9 years of marriage, my wife revealed to me that the “spark” just wasn’t there and probably never had been. This threw me for a loop. We’d had a very active sex life in the early days and she pursued me quite aggressively. Now she has no memory of ever feeling “in love” with me but admits she might have forgotten such feelings or thoughts.
  • At first, my partner was extremely attentive to me and the relationship. He was thoughtful, a good listener, eager to be part of a couple. He was unlike any other man I’d met before, and I thought I’d “hit pay dirt” with him. But then, over time, as “real life” things came up—money, jobs, day-to-day issues of personal boundaries—he retreated into spending most of his time on the computer.
  • He was very “unusual.” Later that wasn’t such a positive thing, plus all of the “unusual” troubles that he caused over the years—money problems, his temper, and so on—took away from his remaining pleasant qualities. Now that he’s taking medication, he’s better. Not 100% but at least better then he was.

I welcome your comments on this topic!

—Gina Pera


20 thoughts on “Did Your ADHD Partner’s Attractive Traits … Remain?”

  1. Do you have anything for people about the transition after medication? I feel my view of my girlfriend is much different after I got treated than before medications.

    1. Hi again, JD,

      It’s a complex topic (the transition after medication) and it surely needs addressing. I will remember that as I continue to develop the online training at ADHDSuccessTraining.com

      I do have one piece in the works (ADHD as a Good News-Bad News Diagnosis), which might or might not resonate for your situation. Be sure to subscribe so you see it!


  2. It is in a way relieving, that I know that my ex husband had ADHD. It is like finding an answer to the hell I went through. I thought I was done. But along comes a very special friend, starts with his hyperfocus, lovely lovely times. Then it shifted and he told me he had signs of ADHD. He is now nowhere to be seen,distant, and not bothered. Makes dates and never comes….But now I don’t go down that path. However much I like him, the hell looms large

    1. Hi Sunflower,

      I’m glad you learned some important information and averted future misery.

      ADHD should be taught in high school.


  3. Omg, I have been dealing with this for 30 some years, and did not find out until 5 years ago that my husband has ADHD with alcoholism. As of now and threats of me leaving, he stopped drinking but still has the ADHD behavior. I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t quite pinpoint it. He has extreme energy, to the point of driving me crazy. I thought I was losing it. He was put on depression pills and this helps calm him, thank god. I found your site on internet and am eternally grateful to find I am not alone and crazy even though he loses absolutely everything, his items and then he takes my personrl items, because he can’t find his. He has no remorse doing this. Thankyou for you blog and help

    1. Hi Helen,

      I’m glad you found my blog, too! It’s one thing to deal with the behaviors. It’s quite another to do so in isolation.

      I hope that you will continue to learn about ADHD and that your husband will, too.

      The “depression pills” might be helping somewhat but they might also be making worse his ADHD symptoms. At the very least, if he has ADHD, he deserves proper medical treatment for it, and antidepressants will not treat ADHD. Though there is often co-existing depression.

      Good luck. Keep reading!


  4. Hi Gina,

    The four most-cited traits to me, are actually 6 traits…

    Undecietful truth
    Warmly Nurturing
    Thoughtful & considerate

    Loyalty is so basic to any relationship, and
    you can work out any problem,
    When people tell the truth.

    Warmth and nuturing go together.

    Unself-centeredness is huge.

    Impossible to be considerate without being thoughtful.

    Understanding could be many things, but in conversations, if they cant understand you or wont try, its horrible.
    For many years my spouse thought he could read my mind and finished my sentences, assumed he knew what I was thinking.. I finally said, ” You do not understand what I am thinking EVER!
    Do not finish my sentences.”
    This helped so much.

    When his therapist said, “Your reality is not everyone elses reality”
    It took such a huge load of my gaslighted psyche.

    When you give up on the assumption that you are being told the Truth, that your mate is concerned for you, that he is thinking about your future together, and planning for it, or that he understands you on any level. ..

    This is the starting point for recovery for the Non -Adhd spouse.
    This might sound unkind, but its Reality, its telling yourself the Truth, and gave me the tools to decide how to move forward.

    Instead of living in constant disappointment, we work towards small steps of what the concept of Loyalty is, what Truth telling is, what consideration is, what keeping an agreement is.
    I dont trust him to understand or implement these concepts on his own.

    It takes a lot of emotional turmoil out of the situation, and gives us Real movement forward, small steps at a time.
    Love & trust are two seperate things.

    Its hard work, but it does get to the core issues and I need to always keep it clear in my mind
    ..I am Not a princess in a fairy tale, married to a responsible prince charming.

    Everyone has their problems, but recognizing the root problems instead of dancing around it, is so vital.
    Medication does not give anyone
    Good character traits or undo poor character, it helps to straighten out the chaotic thinking so they can move towards these things.

  5. Nadine Girouard

    Why are all the answers about “he”? I am a she and in a marriage that doesn’t seem to be as enchanted as he was in the beginning with me. It’s been ten yrs now and he isn’t the same toward me. Says he still loves me but kisses and hand holding have disappeared. What do I do to fix me so he will be the same again? I’ve also gone through menopause and had some changes in me occur but the ADD hasnt, maybe even a bit worse. I walk in circles most days trying to focus on one thing. My house is a mess and I have big plans that never see their fruition. I need help here. My dr won’t give me meds because of my go fast addiction in the past. Help! Someone.

    1. Hi Nadine,

      The ADHD Partner survey respondents were all partners of adults with ADHD. So, all the responses are about the adult with ADHD (though some of the respondents had ADHD themselves).

      For years, I have led an online discussion group for the partners of adults with ADHD. I conducted the survey among these folks because 1) I wanted to learn about their experience, and 2) I wanted to learn about the various challenges of their ADHD partners, including with finding a psychiatrist to evaluate, therapy, etc.

      It was to be a large survey, and these folks had the follow-through and the motivation to slow through it. 🙂

      As to your other question, I hope that you find another doctor. But what exactly is a “go fast addiction”? Does that mean that you abused speed or some such? Or does the doctor simply not understand ADHD?

      You deserve medical treatment.

      good luck,

    2. Nadine Girouard

      Yes, an addiction, namely cocaine.
      It just seemed as if every answer I read was about “he”. That’s why I asked. Thanks for respinse.

    3. Hi Nadine,

      In my local Adult ADHD discussion group, we were just talking last night about how many people used speed to get through college, not knowing they had ADHD.

      Plenty of recovering alcoholics and people formerly addicted to cocaine and even heroin come through the group, too.

      ADHD can leave you more vulnerable to developing these addictions.

      The treating physician needs to understand this. A past addiction does not mean you don’t deserve a trial of medication. Especially the slow-release medication that avoid the quick highs. For example, I’d discourage you from Adderall but I might suggest that you try the patch, Daytrana. For starters. See how you feel. Then maybe move to Concerta.

      Yes, there were a lot of “he” references, because most of the ADHD partners were men. Over the years, men with female ADHD partners have joined the group. But they are fewer. For a variety of reasons. Also, we have same-sex couples.


  6. My thirty years of marriage to someone who refuses treatment and uses alcohol as his relaxing formula on all his days off is driving me over the edge. I’m also Adhd and so is our son he is 24 him and I are medicated and doing better my husband is not getting better. He’s irritable workaholic he hates being at home because of no structure. He brings too many project to work on at home like a pontoon boat that needs overhauling and a car that was sitting for 4 years in a yard he bought and brought home. Then does big jobs for others and then complains and is crabby that he has no time to do anything. I give up.

    1. Hi Kim,

      I’m sorry to read this. That’s no good. If you can financially swing it, maybe you can consider serving him divorce papers. For some adults who refuse to address their ADHD symptoms, that is a big wake-up call that you mean business. It might be too little too late, but if you’re ready to give up….

      And, you know, life is really too short to live with chronic frustration.

      good luck,

  7. It’s me again! I helped my son to move away from Indpolis in Aug 2009.We got him involved with a new councelor and a new doc. I went with him at first to the new councelor and a friend who is a retired pediatrician went with him to the new doc. This pediatrician had a wife and a son who were ADHD and he was insistant to the new doc that my son had no evidence of Bipolor disorder but definitely was ADHD and the new doc accepted that. Now several months later the new doc is trying to put him on Bipolar meds and the councelor has quit seeing him probably because he has no job or insurance. When will this end–I am afraid my son is again suicidal! At least his exwife is letting him alone but not the mother of his 16 yr old son–he is very upset by the situation and the guardian ad litum who is an attorney has been very unprofessional–she is on the side of the person who has the money! The child’s mom has tried everything to keep my son and me from seeing the child–you’d think the boy was still six instead of 16 and has the mental capacity of a young boy! She wants my son to only have supervised visits–my grandson is as big as his dad and his dad has never done anything inappropriate with his son. My grandson and his mom have both been diagnosed with ADHD and on medication. The boy is also very lacking in social skills.

    1. Susan Collins

      I read your book a few years ago and felt like I was reading my life story. My once wonderful marriage was going up and down (mostly down) and I felt hopeless to do anything about it. It had become progressively worse after having a child, adopting another child, and then became impossible when we started doing foster care.

      Your book revealed to me what was wrong and what was happening to us. I talked with my husband about ADD and convinced him to see our family doctor. He was placed on medication two years ago. Things have continued on a downward spiral- maybe even worse since that time. He blames me for “trying to fix him” and has withdrawn all physical affection from me. He has become more impulsive, more controlling, extremely egotistical and sometimes even seems hormonal.

      As for me, I can’t seem to see him as a person anymore. All I see are the ADD traits that caused all our problems in the first place. I want things to work out, especially for my children, but I’m at a loss for what to do. There are no good therapists or psychologists in our area and I’m not sure my husband would go even if there were because “there is nothing wrong with him!” Definitely, the traits that once attracted me are now repulsive to me. HELP!!!!!!

    2. Hi Susan,

      It might well be that your family doctor is not qualified to prescribe medication. Especially, as you say, if the situation has gotten worse.

      Please go back and read the chapters on medication in my book. Do NOT trust a prescribing physician until that physician has shown competence.

      Your husband might be as frustrated as you are. He got help, as you requested, and perhaps the help was misguided.

      Good luck,

  8. Caren, your comment made me laugh out loud. My husband jokes that he has “given me” his ADD.

    Gina, I am going to have to go buy your book! Some of the postings above really hit home for me.

    My husband and I have been in counseling for about seven years now, and he began treatment for ADD about five years ago. We’ve been married twelve years, and I have to say that right now is the best it’s ever been. Before treatment for ADD (inattentive type), I was married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The man could be so loving, so passionate, make me feel like the center of his universe. And then were the days (weeks, months?) I would walk on eggshells and never be able to say anything right. I was about ready to walk away when we finally went to counseling.

    Now, after treatment for ADD and a LOT of talking (and no drinking) we are in a much better place. He can actually say to me “I’m having a hard day.” He can hear me when I say that something he did or said was hurtful. We are finding ways new ways to connect. But he still will not let me help him, which drives me insane. Here I am, the organized, reliable (well, not so much anymore), non-ADD spouse, ready, willing and able to help with love and understanding. But basically any system or technique I suggest is a bad idea, or somehow makes him feel like I’m patronizing him. If anyone other than me suggested the same thing, I have a feeling he would listen.

    But back to the point of the posting…I believe treatment for ADD has allowed my husband’s positive qualities (like creativity, passion, energy, the ability to hyperfocus and juggle many tasks) to come to the forefront of our marriage. The negative qualities (lateness, forgetfulness, lack of organization, moodiness) are still there, but they are considerably tempered for both of us by understanding of and compassion for the challenges of living with ADD.

    Then again, ask me again the next time he forgets his cell phone and stays out until 1 a.m.!

  9. My son has gone for counceling, hospitalization, etc for 4 years and they never tried to get help for his ADD–just said he was bipolar. I have learned recently that ADD people can be severly depressed and suicidal which my son has b een. None of the professional people who worked with him seemed to understand ADD. I do not live in the same state that he lives in and had a lot of things going on because of my husbands dementia–the doctors from whom I was begging for help just blew me off–one even told me that we needed marriage counseling! Since my husband’s death in Jan 2009, I have been free to spend more time with my son and realized what was happening–Iwent with him to one of his counceling sessions and again he had a different counselor who did not know what he was there for. No one had seen him for 1 1/2 months. What is wrong with our professional medical and social workers? it may be too late to help my son–he’s 43 and they told us when he was diagnosed as a 3rd grader that he would outgrow it–now I know that they don’t.

  10. Hi Caren,

    Sounds like a case of “ADHD by Osmosis.” 🙂

    It’s so common among the partners of adults with unrecognized/untreated ADHD, I write about it in the book.

    (Sorry, my spam blocker hid your post until now.)

  11. I don’t really know whether he’s changed. It feels like he has, but we’ve been through so much in our 8 years together that it’s hard to draw a line between circumstances changing, his changing, my changing. I do know one thing: I’ve changed.

    Is it possible to be “functionally ADD”? I feel like I am! I’ve always been an extremely organized, logical person. A place for everything and everything in its place. Smooth, efficient routines for all life’s daily chores. An unusual and attractive home that always gave me the chance to relax. A generous, enthusiastic and grounded person. Past tense. Though we moved here 5 years ago, about half our stuff is still packed in boxes. We’ve never moved in. He had other priorities, which had to be mine, too. There’s always a project (or two) in the literal or figurative middle of whatever I’d like to accomplish. Don’t ask me “What did you do today?” because I cannot tell you, but I’m exhausted and I have even more to do tomorrow. This is so not me. Is ADD contagious? 🙂

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