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Couples With One ADHD Partner

ADHD Partner with an ADHD Son

I have been dating my partner for over a year now. Before dating I had no experience with ADHD and it has been quite a learning experience. He has 2 children from his previous marriage, a 16yr old daughter and a 14yr old son. The son is diagnosed ADHD. He doesn’t behave like other 14yr old boys I’ve known. He gets bored easily and will want to go home when we’re out doing activities together, such as a bike ride or a baseball game. He also has a habit of talking a lot, and I mean a lot. He just goes and goes and a lot of times what he’s saying isn’t true or doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve had people over for dinner with him and his father present and I’ve been asked by my friends why he acts so oddly.

Now, an important bit of information is that I have made a choice not to have children. I never wanted kids. I like them just fine, but I just never wanted to give up the freedoms I enjoy as an adult without kids.

So that leads me to why I’m here - I feel anxious around his son. We get along fine and we’re good when it’s just the 3 of us at home. But when I want to go do something fun, something I really enjoy, and he wants to bring his son I feel nervous. I worry that the boy will get bored and start complaining and want to leave, or that his father will have to give his son all his attention. It changes the whole experience for me, and it makes me want to avoid doing some things as a threesome.

I’m guessing there are some of you out there with experience around ADHD children - can anyone give me advice or encouraging words about how to handle this situation? I know it’s on me to adjust and to make things work, but I’m just not sure how.


If you expect him to behave any differently then you will continue to feel the stress you describe. He is the way he is because his brain does not work the way other people’s brains work. To treat it as if he has any control over it is to do both of you a disservice.

Posted by YellaRyan on Jul 17, 2014 at 6:07am

I am not expecting him to change, I am acknowledging that I need to adjust to him. But I need help doing that because this is new to me so I’m hoping some of you can offer advice.

Posted by hhnp on Jul 17, 2014 at 12:06pm

Hi hhnp!

The first step is to learn all you can about ADHD and parenting a child with ADHD. There are some overarching priorities in the way you approach a child with ADHD:

There are also ways to inspire better behavior from him, like using praise and rewards more than punishment:

These lessons learned from real parents of ADHD kids offer some great been-there-done-that wisdom too:
There is a long learning curve to raising a child with ADHD. Give yourself time and give your BF’s son the benefit of your patience and understanding.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jul 17, 2014 at 1:46pm

You wrote: “But when I want to go do something fun, something I really enjoy, and he wants to bring his son I feel nervous. I worry that the boy will get bored and start complaining and want to leave, or that his father will have to give his son all his attention.”

I, too, would worry that he may get bored, start complaining, and want to leave if the group outing is one that is something that YOU think is fun & enjoyable (but may not be HIS idea of a good time).  I would worry about that distict possibility whether the child has ADHD or is neurotypical, however. 

A good place to start would be to go on some group outings which are centered around what HE thinks is fun and enjoyable, get more of a feel for how things go during an activity such as that.  Try to establish a good track record of having some successful group outings behind you before moving on to more advanced maneuvers—outings which are mainly based on what you think is fun & enjoyable.  Perhaps, ideally, you’ll be able to come up with some activities that both you & he enjoy?

Posted by BC on Jul 17, 2014 at 4:51pm

Penny, thank you so much for the links and all the information! I will definitely learn as much as I can about ADHD and how I can be positive and patient with him.

BC, you make a good point - I don’t actually know how much of his behavior may be typical of a 14 year old boy. I’m basing my feelings on experiences we’ve had together so far. We once went on a bike ride and not 3 miles into it he was complaining and dragging his feet. We were able to inspire him to keep going but eventually I had to drive ahead and get my car and go back to pick him up because he just wouldn’t ride any further.

It’s a tricky situation because I really love his father and want to build a strong relationship which means building a relationship with his son, too. The father gets upset with me if I don’t express enthusiasm at doing certain things with the two of them. I try to keep our outings to short, close to home things and will even drive separately if I can so that if they have to leave because of the son’s boredom I can stay if I want to. But not every situation is that easy to manage. The father and I spend every other weekend together and he spends the other weekend with his son, so we do get to have one on one time. But sometimes there’s something on his kid weekend I want to do and I’m thinking I’ll do it alone but then he’ll want to bring the boy and join me. So then I have to either say ok to keep the peace and worry how the boy will behave or say no, I’d like to go by myself and worry the father will be hurt and I’ll have to try to explain why I don’t want them to come. I’m hopeful that the more the 3 of us get to know each other, the easier this will become. Especially if I do my part to learn more about ADHD.

Dollhouse Red, I’m very sorry to hear your health is not good! It all sounds very stressful. I hope you have good doctors and good support around you, and I wish you all the best.

Posted by hhnp on Jul 22, 2014 at 12:20pm

I have a new question on this topic.

Per advice I’ve been given I am working on being very patient and understanding with my partner’s ADHD son and things are going very well. But yesterday the 3 of us went to the movies and the son talked in a normal voice almost throughout the whole movie. He was talking to his dad about the movie, saying “I knew that was coming” and stuff like that. Twice his dad put his finger to his lips in the “quiet” symbol, but he did not actually tell his son to stop talking.

I understand focus and sitting still can be difficult for someone with ADHD, but I also think in certain environments he really needs to learn how to manage that. I asked his dad after the movie why he doesn’t talk to his son about not talking out loud in movies and he just said it’s hard for his son to sit still.

What do you think? I think he should tell his son that if they are going to a movie theater he has to learn not to talk out loud. Is it truly impossible for the boy to learn that? He’s 14. I have not said anything more to the father because I am wary of overstepping my bounds in the area of his son, but I am concerned that the son will continue this habit and may some day find himself in a difficult situation if he really irritates other movie goers (which I understand, it irritated me, too).

Any advice/feedback is welcomed. Thank you.

Posted by hhnp on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:39pm

Hi hhnp!

It is appropriate to teach kids with ADHD social norms and expectations, even if their ADHD makes it difficult for them to comply with those expectations. Parents should talk to their kids before events like a movie and set some (social) ground rules. In the case of a movie, tell him it’s okay to whisper to each other a few times, but that quiet is expected by the other moviegoers. Offer him other ways to communicate during a movie. Also let him know when it is ok to make noise, like laughing out loud at the funny parts.

While talking out loud during a movie isn’t the end of the world, it is important not to use ADHD as an excuse for what would normally be considered “unacceptable” behavior.

Many parents with kids with ADHD recognize that they have to prioritize and pick their battles. This may be your partner’s way to picking his battles, as there’s no danger to talking during a movie.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Aug 26, 2014 at 1:01pm

Thank you for your helpful reply, Penny!

I was worried another movie goer would get agitated enough to say something to him. I think your advice about how to talk to him and how to give him outlets is very good.

Posted by hhnp on Aug 26, 2014 at 6:16pm

Glad I could help @hhnp!

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:39pm

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