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I'm afraid we might need to separate

Community Member

Hey guys, my partner has ADHD and we just found out after 7 years together. I'm so committed to finding out how to help and how to minimise its effect on our relationship.

I have anxiety issues although eventually took it upon myself to talk to someone about it. My partner wasn't very tolerant of it, but maybe that's the ADHD.

Anyway, we were talking about ADHD and relationships last night, and long story short, i opened an old wound around the holidays where we were hanging out with her friends and family, but she wouldn't come spend a few hours with my friends who happened to be holidaying in the same area. I tend to lose her to the (her) group so to speak, any time we hang out with all of them, but if it's the other way around, i try to put her first and look after her needs and participate as a couple.

In conclusion, she reflected on it last night, said she didn't enjoy hanging out with my friends as much, and when i mentioned the countless times I've compromised to visit with her family and friends and she won't do the same for me, she said "that's your choice" kind of thing. So long term, she's basically saying we either hang out together with her 'group' or we do separate things...

And i just don't think that's okay with me, or sustainable. I feel it's a deal-breaker but I'm so far in I'm worried about ending the relationship. Most other things are fine ...

14 Replies 14

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p.s. I've suggested going to a couple's counsellor before so we can get a neutral view on these things, subtle as they may be, but she's not interested, said "you can go" ... Sounds like a theme - it is, and that's my issue 😞

Hey there,

I can see you're going through a really rough time right now, and your partner is making you feel like that it's your fault for having an issue.. I can imagine that you may be feeling really dismissed by your partner. Being upset about the fact that your partner won't spend time with you and your friends despite the fact that you compromise for her is more than reasonable. I wonder if there are any other reasons why your partner isn't willing to hang out with them.

From what you've written, it really sounds like you want to make things work - and you've even suggested counselling. It must feel hurtful that her response was to "do it yourself".. Also that she didn't like that you went and spoke to someone about your anxiety issues..

I don't know the whole picture, but as you've mentioned, most other things are fine.. How would you feel if you told your partner that the things you've mentioned are a deal breaker for you?

You're more than valid for the concerns you have.. I would feel the same way, so I hope she doesn't get under your skin by making you think it's your fault for not being happy about these things - you're more than entitled to be upset about this.

I can see you're very empathetic to the fact that she has ADHD which can create it's own problems in relationships. I had a long term relationship with someone with severe ADHD and we did have some communication issues, and I did feel dismissed, misunderstood and not listened to at times.. He would get quite defensive at times and not receptive to being confronted about things that would make me upset.

I think the main thing that helped us was the fact we could come back and talk things out. He was aware of where his ADHD got in the way, and he was willing to be empathetic of that and make things work, and it was important for me to identify when his ADHD was causing issues and be empathetic in return.

I think it's fair to say that both of us shared a sort of responsibility in being self aware and communicating well, which is important in relationships where one/or both people are neurodivergent or with mental health issues. I guess I'm trying to say while you're being empathetic and understanding of ADHD, it can be easy to bare the responsibility to almost let things slide.. But she definitely has a big role to play in making both of you work here.

I hope you're taking care of yourself right now. I'm here for a chat whenever you feel upto it. I'm glad you reached out on here 🙂

Sorry, i should've started more clearly, my partner supported me seeing someone about anxiety /because/ she didn't want to deal with me having it, and how it was affecting our relationship etc. So, supportive but also not.

In terms of us both talking to someone about our 'together' issues, she generally has the attitude that she doesn't have any issues, only i do etc. And doesn't take an interest if it means compromising her social circle etc.

I think some of the above is more about her shyness and discomfort outside of her regular 'group', but, at least by proxy, she becomes closer to her sister's school friend's bf more than she has with my friends... You get good at what you practise i suppose. Lots of social occasions are geared around her family and friends because i think they all have a similar don't like to leave their comfort zone, so they host things but there's a lot of responsibility to the group and FOMO that goes on, hence why also it was difficult for her to take an afternoon out of the holiday even though the holiday was multiple nights - we stayed, around 15 of us in total, near the beach but never went. My partner wouldn't even go there with me for a walk for an hour, get a coffee or whatever as we have to do 'what everyone else is doing'...

Hey thanks so much Isabella. Your reply was so spot on and i feel really stuck. You've provided more insight than several sessions with a psychologist and i really appreciate that you've been able to hear my plight as it were.

I would love and really value to chat further if you have the time 🙂

Hey there,

Of course, I'm free for a chat 🙂 I'm glad to hear that I've helped in some way. I don't have necessarily the right answers, or know your relationship, you.. But hopefully I can give you some things to think about. Ultimately you know what's best and your own judgement.

I understand what you mean now.. Your partner didn't tolerate your issues with anxiety. Sorry for misunderstanding. I'm gathering from what you've written that she seems to take the "it's your issue" approach to more than one problem, and you've mentioned that there's definitely a pattern.. That must be rough. Especially so when it seems that she expects you to accept the fact that she has her own shyness and anxiety when meeting friends and family.. But seems to not accept your own anxiety.

I'm curious.. How do you think she would react if the roles were switched, and you took the approach that she did of "it's your issue", or you "do it yourself"? She mentioned that you're the one with the issues.. But if she came to you with the same problems, do you think you would cop the blame? You don't have to answer.. But maybe these questions are worth thinking about.

Do you feel to some degree that you're more compassionate of her ADHD, shyness, and other issues that she brings up with you? Is there an imbalance of empathy?

I think I can relate to your partner in the sense that I have my own social anxiety and fear of meeting my partners friends and family.. But it's central to so many relationships to sort of mix into social circles. Of course you want your partner to get along with your friends, go on holidays together, have her by your side when you're with them. Compromise is important.. If she can see that it's something important for you, then she should at least consider it.

Bottom line it seems there's a lack of compromise. Empathy for your hurt feelings/concerns shouldn't have to be fought for.. Compromise for things is difficult, but there shouldn't be a consistent imbalance all the time, where you're giving things up and not able to spend quality time with her, because it has to be on her terms to do so.

How do you think your partner would respond to the fact that you're considering separating because of the concerns you've mentioned? Do you think it would put things into perspective for her?

This is really great food for thought.

I have suggested to her before that this inconsistency is potentially a deal-breaker but not real or lasting behaviour change.

I'm sure it's complicated by the fact that similar behaviour is modelled in her extended family... So actually when we spend more and more time with them, it actually reinforces those ideals.

Thanks again so much. I'm really at that tipping point between holding onto all the good aspects of the relationship, or really realising I can't change minds and perspectives, and move on.

I'm not afraid of being single at all, but would be really frustrated at the thought that this is what brought the whole thing down 😞

It's understandable that you would be frustrated if this is what caused the end of your relationship.. I'm glad to hear that you aren't afraid of being single.. It sounds like you've made the distinction between potential co-dependency (which I mean, a 7 year relationship is a long time), and genuinely not wanting to let go of the good parts. I'm sorry to hear that her behaviour hasn't changed when you said it's a potential deal breaker.

I hope you can at some point be content that if this is what ultimately brought things to halt, it isn't your place to take all responsibility for it. From the sounds of things, you've wanted to go to couples counselling, confronted her about things that have upset you and started a dialogue - you've put in genuine effort to make things work. Of course it isn't a matter of blame.. But it's great that you can accept that you can't change people.. Especially as you've mentioned, the behaviour is reinforced by extended family, so there is likely family values that you don't align with.

Be proud of yourself for recognising behaviour for what it is, what you will and won't accept. Give yourself the time to make a decision.. Hopefully an outsiders point of view has helped put things in perspective.

There's no need to thank me. Do you have any thought on what your next move is from here on out?

Hello Stevolica, much has been said in a good conversation, but if this is happening now, what will happen if you decide to remain more than friends and have a baby.

A couple has to share their friendships, it can't survive if it's only one sided, because what's going to happen if she has an argument with her friends/family, then you have nobody except the two of you, and then what's going to happen if she wants her decision about the choice of furniture, the colour of paint or even the program on TV you have to watch.

If it's all about her then a relationship will be very difficult to remain together, it has to be 50/50 or an agreed decision has to be acceptable, otherwise, frustration may occur.


Thank you, Isabella. I know you said no need to thank you, but actually I really appreciate this space, and the people in it, as it's just good to get things out and get other perspectives, so I really appreciate the time and careful consideration 🙂

From here, I don't want to make any moves, when I said 'separate' I meant it in the sense that, that's how I feel every time this stuff resurfaces. Whether it's a behaviour thing or whether it's just different values, I think that's what I came here to get some clarity around. Like, am I compromising myself if I stay, or do people think it's a relatively normal thing that happens. Because, I know I bring things to the table that are probably annoying or intolerable etc.

But yeah, I guess I'm just so confused whether I do call it a potential deal-breaker. You're right that, well, I definitely don't want to head down a co-dependency road, so if staying in a relationship with something like this that makes me so unhappy sometimes, is that already co-dependency?

So those same friends I went to see in the middle of that holiday for a few hours, had suggested we do something together the four of us this NYE as both of our circles are doing various things (which is totally fine with us) and thought it would be nice, but my partner wants to organise something just the two of us. She ended up saying 'I don't like hanging out with ### & ### very much. It goes on for hours and it's just too much' .... but is quite happy to place me amongst her group for days at a time in a similar but reverse situation. Anyway, I thought she did like hanging out with them as sort of 'we're catching up with Steve's friends' kind of deal, at a minimum - but I don't really get that support consistently I suppose.

Anyway, thanks again for your kind and considered responses. They have literally helped calm my emotions to think more rationally. I still don't know what to do long-term but also, after 7 years, I have to stop saying 'well, I'll just see how this thing (holiday period, event, whatever) goes...

:) Steve

Hey Geoff, thanks so much for your thoughts. Spot on!

We're, at this point, not going to have children, but I've used the nuclear family as an example of the kind of relational autonomy I think we should be able to have from the pressures from her family/friends. My mum used to say your family is your partner and your kids (or in our case, animals haha), and everyone else are you relatives (there's still a hierarchy like looking after your parents when you can etc - I'm all for it) ... So definitely not dragging her away from family/friends in fact I encourage her to make more contact. The ADHD sometimes makes her forget to make an effort I suppose, but yeah, if someone makes a demand, you shouldn't meet at the compromise of something else.

Ironically, yes, she tries to make all the decisions about furniture ... about a lot of things. There's been problems before when I suggest we do something, something like camping and I'm prepared to organise a tent etc and whatever we'd need for a night away just for fun sometimes - "no, I'm not interested in that" and then her relative suggests every goes camping, she is all of a sudden keen and ... well, it's me that misinterpreted her. She really 'loves' camping, just not the way I presented it.

There's been a few instances of this sort of thing ... I mean, they're very particular examples but you get the vibe. And that could be ADHD also, like only things demanding one's attention get priority and get it equally, but for bigger values-based stuff, yeah I think it has to be 50/50 the whole way through otherwise it's headed for disaster. So like my response to Isabella_ ... I don't want this to not be the long-term relationship it has wonderful potential to be, but I'm just unsure where to draw the line in the sand and say, this is too much compromise for me.

Again, appreciate all your thoughts 🙂 thanks again and hope you're well!