What Traits Attracted You To Your ADHD Partner?

attracted to ADHD partner

 

Do you remember the traits that attracted you to your ADHD partner — and vice-versa?  That was a question in my ADHD Partner Survey, the most comprehensive research to date on ADHD and relationships. We’ll look at the responses in this post.

First, folklore persists regarding the type of people attracted to adults with ADHD for intimate relationships—and vice versa. Never mind that in the U.S. alone, adults with some degree of ADHD number from  10 to 30 million. In other words, they aren’t clones. Neither are their mates.

Nonetheless, at least two so-called truisms prevail about Adult ADHD and relationships:

  1. Opposites Attract”: People with ADHD are attracted to “organized” and joyless workers bees who can keep the trains running for the both of them and who in turn are drawn to their free-spirited ADHD partner’s spontaneity and sense of fun.
  2. “Like Attracts Like”: People with ADHD are attracted to other people with ADHD because they inherently understand each other more than any “Muggle” could.

These two stereotypes are entirely contradictory. Yet, they echoed with equal certitude through the ADHD community while I was researching my first book—and still today. Sure, couples fitting both stereotypes turned up in my local and online discussion groups. Yet, between those two extremes lay the teeming variety of human individuals and their relationships.

As I like to say, “People with ADHD are just like all other humans, only more so.”  And the same is true for relationships in which one or both partners have ADHD:  They struggle with the same issues that challenge all couples, only more so.

 

ADHD partner traits

Testing Stereotypes

How to test these stereotypes? Constructing a question proved tricky when designing my ADHD Partner Survey. I settled on a rather loose “fishing expedition.”

The main limitation: Survey respondents did not include the ADHD partners, only the partners of adults with ADHD (though some also had ADHD themselves). So,  the respondents guessed or answered based on what they had gleaned from their ADHD partner.

Plus, the traits I listed were rather random. And, respondents weren’t distinguishing between traits that were present and traits that were attractive.

Still, original research must start somewhere.  I settled on two questions, using the same list of traits for each question:

  1. Which of your ADHD Partner’s traits attracted you? (Check ALL that apply and/or add any that aren’t listed.)
  2. Which of your traits do you suspect attracted your ADHD partner to you? (Check ALL that apply and/or add any that aren’t listed.)

Let’s examine the two sets of responses, combined and sorted into two different charts, below.

Comparing the Traits — Yours and Your ADHD Partner’s

Please bear with me. It’s a little tricky to grasp at first. But by comparing the two sets of data side by side, we can see if a picture emerges. That is, are some collective “personality” traits more common to the ADHD partner (the adult with ADHD) or the other partner (the respondent)?

ADHD partner traits

1. Which Traits Attracted You To Your ADHD Partner?

For this first chart, I sorted by this first question, sorted from highest to lowest: “Which of your ADHD Partner’s traits attracted you?”

Red represents the respondent’s ADHD Partner’s traits, the ones that the survey respondent found most attractive.  It looks like the four big draws are:

  1. Spontaneous; fun to be with: this trait is represented almost doubly in ADHD partners as in respondents but still quite present in the respondents
  2. Humorous; cheerful: just a little more represented in ADHD partners
  3. Interesting; imaginative, “different”: about a third more represented in ADHD partners
  4. Attractive; sexy: about equal, with respondents rating themselves just a bit more attractive and sexy than their own ADHD partners (yes, bias could be an issue here…as I said…”fishing expedition”).

On the downside, the three low vote-getters:

  1. Good money manager: huge disparity there between respondents and ADHD partners
  2. Healthy lifestyle: another large disparity
  3. Responsible; mature; responsible; organized: a whopping disparity

Where is the biggest overall disparity? The ADHD Partners were far more likely to attract with “big dreams” and “big promises.”

ADHD Partner Traits

2. Which of Your Traits Attracted Your ADHD Partner?

For this second chart, I sorted by this second question, sorted from highest to lowest: “Which of your traits do you suspect attracted your ADHD partner to you?”

Blue represents the respondent’s self-perceived traits.  The four most-cited traits are:

  1. Loyal; truthful; sincere
  2. Warm; nurturing; unselfish
  3. Thoughtful; considerate
  4. Understanding

Almost all these traits are found in double the prevalence with the respondents as in the ADHD partners.

So, yes, perhaps there is some truth to this mating polarity: the “responsible” types going for the “spontaneous” types.

But how do you account for people ADHD who are socially phobic, dramatically non-spontaneous, not particularly fun and certainly not happy-go-lucky?

And what about the partners of adults with ADHD who are flexible, easy-going, the life of the party, and masters of efficiency?

People are complicated, ADHD or not. That’s why I’m a fan of viewing each person dealing with ADHD as individuals; each experience variable traits of a variable syndrome (not to mention the co-existing conditions, the rest of personality, socioeconomic background, etc.). Same for the partners.

Stereotypes also miss one big factor: the impact that untreated ADHD can have on both people in a relationship over time.

For example, to outside observers, some partners of adults with ADHD do seem rigid and controlling. But if you ask them, most say they didn’t start out that way. Rather, living with their ADHD partner’s untreated symptoms pretty much demanded they have enough control for the both of them! But that’s a topic for a future post.

Then there are the many adults with ADHD who’ve either never been part of a couple or haven’t been for long. This is a point of sadness and regret for many.

I hope you’ve found some food for thought here.

Next in the ADHD Partner Survey Series: 

Did Your ADHD Partner’s Attractive Traits…Remain?

Coming soon: Comprehensive online training—for individuals, couples, and professionals at Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle — For Couples and Individuals

—Gina Pera

Updated May 14, 2018

 

27 thoughts on “What Traits Attracted You To Your ADHD Partner?”

  1. I want to thank you for share these interesting and helpful information.

    My husband, aged 37, was recently diagnosed with ADHD. He is so sweet, considerate, sincere, intellectual/ intelligent.

    I´m celiac and he´s always very careful with my diet and needs. But at the same time, he frequently loses important things, it seems he´s not listening sometimes, he´s untidy, he focuses obsessively in one subject, and he´s not able to do simple things without other person´s guidance.

    Now, because of the diagnosis, we are relieved. Our relationship is more harmonious now. I´m so happy, it is like a miracle to me, because now I have the answer of this big contradictions that worried me a lot. Also, he quickly was able to manage the money much better. and everything is improving day by day.

    By understanding the situation and with CBT´s help. Regards from Argentina. Sorry for my little English. : )

    1. Hi Sofia,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am always delighted to read a “good news” comment. 🙂

      These days, there are some great ADHD resources in Spanish.

      Including the Mexico City-based foundation: https://www.cerebrofeliz.org/

      Keep up the great work, you two!

      g

    1. Hi Amber,

      Diagnosis is only the first step.

      Education and quite often medication form the basis of developing new strategies for communication, cooperation, and more.

      I hope he (and you) can find competent treatment in the UK. I know it is difficult, especially without financial resources.

      best,
      g

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