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Employment and Your Partner with ADHD

I wasn’t terribly surprised this morning when my client with ADHD, whom I’ve been working with on and off since last spring, told me that her job search had lapsed since I last met with her in June. Given the state of the economy and the particular competitive field she is in, it’s not exactly fun and motivating to look for employment right now. She has the best of intentions, but it just hadn’t been happening.

The problem is, she has a family to help support and she’s seeing strains in her relationship with her partner. When I asked what her thoughts were about how her partner might be feeling about her underemployment and lack of drive in searching for a new job, I heard a lot of “should” statements: he thinks she should have a better job, he thinks they should have more in savings, he thinks she should be doing more to contribute.

All of those are legitimate feelings.

But…he also has a partner with ADHD, and employment issues are a tricky subject. Just ask Zoe, one of our resident ADHD experts here on Psych Central, who has written several great posts on work from the perspective of someone with ADHD.

As the non-ADHD partner, what are some reasonable expectations regarding work for your partner with ADHD?

  • Your partner will work to identify both strengths and weaknesses he has in the workplace, and learn to make accommodations. For example, if organization is a problem, your partner will put into place a system that works for him and keeps him organized. On the flip side, recognizing creative strengths and finding ways to integrate that into his work is important as well. Read this article about success strategies for work with ADHD.
  • Your partner will be deliberate about what type of job she takes. These days, it’s tempting to take any job that comes along, but why ask for disaster if, for example, your partner knows sitting in an office all day will be torture and may result in her being fired when she can’t do it anyway? If your partner is floundering in her current job, it may be time to search for one that is a better fit.
  • Your partner will learn to work within his limits. People with ADHD are notorious for taking on too many projects, and saying “yes” when “no” would be the more realistic answer. Self-awareness is key. Your partner needs to recognize when overload is creeping in, and practice saying no. That’s hard for a lot of people–ADHD diagnosis or not–but it’s essential for keeping balance and not letting the symptoms take over.

As the non-ADHD partner, what can you do to help your partner reduce or eliminate work struggles?

  • Come up with a routine and schedule that works for both of you. The more stable and reliable things are at home, the better your partner will be prepared to handle challenges that pop up at work.
  • Consult with your partner about what expectations are realistic regarding balancing work and home responsibilities. As mentioned above, people with ADHD usually have very good intentions, but problems with follow-through because of being overstimulated. For example, it’s probably not in anyone’s best interest to ask your partner to do something important at the end of a workday. Plan accordingly.
  • Encourage your partner to seek treatment. ADHD medications can work wonders for reducing symptoms and helping your partner focus. Career counselors and ADHD coaches can be helpful, too.


Adult ADHD at Work: Tips for Organization and Control

ADHD at Work: Matching Your Employment to Your Skills

NAMI: ADHD and Work

Employment and Your Partner with ADHD

Kate Thieda

Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC, is a patient advocate for Women's and Children's Services at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. She is a licensed professional counselor associate and a National Certified Counselor who specializes in cognitive-behavioral and dialectical behavior therapies. Her book, Loving Someone With Anxiety, will be published by New Harbinger in the spring of 2013.

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APA Reference
Thieda, K. (2019). Employment and Your Partner with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2019, from


Last updated: 26 Jul 2019
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