New Relationship, I might be toxic... Help!


So, ADHD definitely has an impact on emotions and my sensitivity to changes in life patterns. I have recently started a new relationship and have begun a new semester as an undergraduate in biology. I have been in this relationship for a few months and my partner was a good friend before becoming more involved with me. They first had confidence in us and felt they understood me well enough to know how to support me but then came the panic attacks and my inability to take criticism without grace. My insecurities eating me and eating me more without excessive reaffirmation. My highs and lows leading my partner into feeling we are secure in one moment and then to then find me melting in tears and frustration and having them wondering what on earth went wrong. My partner is human and insecure as well. Often when I am overwhelmed by turbulent emotion my perspectives on myself and then us becomes very negative. I critique unfairly and flail about unsure about my ability to be a student and much less a supportive partner.
I have become this person that is tipped toed around to avoid long conversations and tears. I feel impossible to please and struggle to understand what it is I really need and want from my partner. I have advocated that they read “When the adult you love has ADHD” by Dr. Berkly. They have started reading it but they are also a full-time student working part-time and trying to take care of family members and other things at the same time, so progress through the book is slow. I am so worried that I can not work on my student role and partner role at the same time without hitting ultimate shut down.
I really don’t want to lose this person and I am at a loss in how to support them without overwhelming and dismissing them. I don’t really know how to direct them in reacting to my different ADHD quirks like poor emotional regulation, struggle in listening and conversational queue skills, all over the place task routines, rejection sensitivity, repetitive and excessive words, among other things.
I am just wondering how you guys have figured out boundaries and ways to give and receive support even with ADHD in the mix? What resources are great for a new brain partner? Does having your partner read books on ADHD and such actually help? Have you dated a lot, what are musts in a partner for someone with ADHD? How much do you filter your self especially when emotionally charged? Do ADHD people require more attention and patience in a relationship? What routines and patterns are a vital base?
How do I take responsibility for my actions and apologize when I will have things happen again? I have been patiently trying to work with myself my whole life and it’s extremely frustrating to have two people frustrated and impacted by my actions when I have no quick fixes or guarantees that it won’t happen many more times. How do I stand by my worth without collapsing into the impossibles I can never just be. Feelings so easily overrun my logic, and I fail over and over again to be the person I want to be in this relationship and I don’t know how to advocate for and empower my self in this deeply interpersonal connection. I can hardly forgive my self for the energy I suck from my partner.


Hey, I am certainly no relationship guru and I’m fairly certain all brains have all struggled with relationships, including me. I have been happily married for 8 years now so from that perspective, let me share:

Relationships are hard enough for neurotypical brains as it is, but we have additional challenges added to the mix. You may have heard that communication is key, and it is. Both in making time to talk and listen to each other but also speaking the same language. Effort aside in actually listening to each other, what helped me personally in understanding and being understood (what a positive reward that is) was the book and concept of “The 5 Love Languages”. Everyone has a primary and secondary love language they “speak” and “hear” and discovering what yours and your partners is is vital to communicating with them. Sometimes you have to change the language you are speaking to be heard! Check it out and I hope it helps at least on that front.


Literally trial and error. Trial and error lets us learn where our limits are, thus allowing you to find where the boundary should be if you don’t already have an idea. How you give and receive support depends on you and your partner. It depends on what you view as support, and tell your partner. Your partner can’t support you in the way best for your brain if you don’t tell them!

I wouldn’t say… a lot. I’ve had two partners in seven years… one lasted 2 years the other I’m still currently in a relationship with. Really the ‘musts’ for a partner for someone with ADHD are very much the same ‘musts’ a neurotypical should have. Someone who is open to communicating. Someone who respect your feelings and listens. Someone who is patient. Due to ADHD being just as different as personalities, it makes it hard to say what your “musts” are. Though I do like what @Velvet_Winter said! My parents read the 5 Love Languages and it helped their turbulent marriage IMMENSELY (note: my Mom is a Saint, my Dad has undiagnosed but very obvious ADHD)… I’ve also been told to read it and figure out my love languages. I’ve heard great things about it - so I would give that a try as well!

OH BOY. I try to be very actively aware of what I’m about to say. It doesn’t always work… sometimes I know I shouldn’t say something but still do… but with some practice and application you should be able to eventually control some of what comes out of your mouth. It’s hard… it’s not a quick process… but it’s kind of essential to life so it’s a good thing to practice anyway.

Depends on you. Depends on your ADHD. My boyfriend needs more attention. I need less. We both require patience and understanding… and even though we both have ADHD… our ADHD is still very different so we have to be patient with the differences the other has. So I definitely think there is more patience that needs to be had with not just ADHD but anyone with any mental health disorder.

This is a little too vague to answer :sweat_smile:What kind of routines and patterns are you referring to?

Apologize. And remind them that you are working on it… you’re trying… it’s hard but you’re trying. I often have to do this to my boyfriend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to apologize for the SAME damn thing. For. Literal. Years. “I’m sorry - I struggle with emotional dysregulation and I know I overreacted… and I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I am trying to get better at controlling it… it will never be perfect but I do want to get better at it.” something like that.



Actually now that I’ve gone through all this… has your partner looked at the How to ADHD videos? They are great for brains to help us figuring out coping strategies that helps us but it’s also super informative for brains and hearts a like! Plus the videos are… far quicker than a book. :sweat_smile:


Hi Beula!

I really hope this post can help you. Althought we can never fully know how someone else feels, reading your text, I emphatize a lot. I used to be exactly as you described there. The information I’ll give here however is not in the same mindset. In my case the breakup did happen. Not for the lack of trying; we were together 14 years. But we never identified the problems correctly.

After the break up I spent a lot of time working on myself and analyzing what happened; to become better to everyone around me and for an eventual new relationship. So my suggestions come from there; what I learned that I really wished we would have understood before.

So first, I think it’s great that you realize how ADHD can influence your couple and that he’s willing to learn. I think the videos might be a good start. I don’t know how big is that book but it can be daunting, especially if the situation is tense right now.

Now althought ADHD makes this harder and him better understanding it can help, I think you will have a lot of work to do on your side too. And if you are a bit like I was, reading this might makemyou go a bit like " ERRRGH NO I WANT TO FIX MY COUPLE PROBLEMS FIRST BECAUSE ITS SO IMPORTANT TO ME."

Now , I’m sorry to be a bit alarmist but I think (not an expert ^^) that if you want this to last and to be a healthy relationship, you will need a lot of work and a new approach to be taken. You have indeed to look at how to make it works between you two. But you are two differents people with each of you having your own issues and thoses will influence your relationship. They are literally the foundations of it.

Insecurities for example, can make an explosive mix with ADHD. They can be linked to ADHD. But they are still a separate thing and they can be worked on. Insecurites, lack of self- love and self-esteem can be veeeerry bad for a couple. Sadly also lots of stuff we Brains tend to have right? This, with work can actually be slowly changed. But having direction for it help a lot, which is why would honestly encourage you to seek professional help. You can learn to be less afraid, to trust more and therapists can guide you on how to properly react to your emotions issues.

Now if you really dont want to or cannot, there is some channels on Youtube that deal with stuff useful for this; self growth, self confidence, GOOD communication ( everyone says it’s what important in a couple… but we are never thought how to communicate properly. And most people don’t), relationships. I can link some tomorrow if you want me too.

Now some important pointd
-A very important thing that my therapist kept telling me is that you cannot change other peoples. They can be influenced by you, positively (influencing them negatively will leave them with a sour aftertaste inside). So in any situation, what you can works the most on is on yourself. You can ask your partner to help and do their part, but it is up to them and their right to do it or not to do it. It’s sad but it’s the truth ( but hey if they do YAAAY, they’re even more awesome).

  • Tip my therapist give me and my ex for insecurities. Before breaking up, we went to see her together once in couple therapy. She gave us that good tip, sadly it was too late for us XD

So I don’t know exactly what are you insecurities but I’ll take a common example ; your partner is seeing a person a lot and you are getting jealous or worried even if you know you shouldn’t. Now worse case scenario, this could be a very long scene . But after all that, what could they do to help, to REASSURE you? So the tip is to try to skip directly to there. Before the argument, before being overlly emotional, ideally, but if it’s not possible then maybe use the techniques showed in Jessica’s video to simmer down without talking to your partner.

So calmly explain to your partner what you are afraid of. Your partner can also try to cut the argument shorter if it start by asking what you are afraid of. And you ask your partner to reassure you.

Now your partner have the right to refuse… the reasons can be multiples but could just be " they’re too tired" and nothing horrible, but of course when you need reassurance, this can be scary. If you want to keep the conversation healthy however, you cannot force them so the best is to go maybe talk to a friend or change your mind. And if this goes on and on, well see my last point.
But they will probably more often agree ^^
You can then try to work on a solution so you can feel better and reassured. Sometimes, nothing more can be done then your partner sincerelly reaffirming their feelings. But going directly there without the emotional hurt to both of you make this valuable.

  • Couplw therapt trick to help with letting the other talk and actually listening too:
    To help agaisnt interruptions, have an object that represent whose turn is it to talk, a bit like an imaginary mic. It can be a pencil. But if you both agree to this when you are calm, when the person talking is being interrupted, they can just say in a calm / playfull/ nice way ( come on having a mic is a bit funny) " heeey, it’ s my turn to have a mic". Something like that. If you are afraid to forget what you were about to say, write it down.

When it’s somebody’s turn to talk, they should always start by reformulating what the other just said. It shows they were listening. If they lost some part, they can get it then. And then they make sure there is not misunderstanding by saying what they understood, not what their partner said word for word

  • Other therapist stuff : Its important that everyone voice their needs and feelings. Nobody is never in the obligation to accept or comply to them however. But if conflict happen, its another way to bring stuff down to earth. " I feel overwhelmed by the cleaning we need to do and I would need you to help me" or" It deeply hurt me when you yell at me, I need you to stop"

  • It’s also important to avoid using insults and accusations words. I have a list of words to avoid when trying to solve issues in relations and words to help express your feelings but it’s in French… maybe its available online in English? My therapist told me many couples put the sheet on their fridge and when an argument is about to start or someone start to get pumped up, they go to the sheet. Just reading throught the flow chart to find the right word describing your feelings can actually help to cool down!

  • A good way I think to formulate your stuff in a nice way too, is to take 5 min to write down how you want to say it, specially if you are the one who is like " ok I really need to talk about this issue". You can make sure to start that in a healthy way. You can rework it a bit to make sure it follow the good communication guidelines. It may seem a bit weird but it really can help with arguments and it will gradually come more naturally.

-More therapist stuff: two others mortals ennemies of good communication. They sadly are good friends and also like insecurities. Thry are " Giving intentions to people and " projecting". Giving intentions is a bit like making little movies in your head of the bad stuff the other must be thinking about you or might be doing. Taking my earlier example. If you say to your partner " you keep seeing that person! You’ re starting to like that person more than me". That’s giving your partner intentions. That’s putting words in their head they might have never thought. And you would think that because that’s what you’re afraid off. It’s way better to say that “you’re afraid they will replace you”. No accusations. You then show vulnerability. The person on the receving end have way more cjance to be touched by your stating you fear that by earing accusations that could be wrongly interpreted. Giving intentions can also be just in your head, like just thinking " ah that person surely think I’m stupid"…
That giving intentions to that person. Its a fake little movie. Reality is that you are afraid its the case. It’s even harder to stop it in your head. There are tips online to try to dissipate intrusive thoughts , specially for people with anxiety. Giving intentions to people is bad for self-esteem and self-love too since you might end up being convince those fake movies are reality instead of looking at at your real fear.
Now an example of projecting. Let’s say some dude who didnt finish his high school and is now working is going out with a girl going to university. The girl might be well articulate and the dude is sweet but have a simpler way of speaking. With time, the guy could feel he’s not intelligent enough for the girl and in a argument could say " Oh I know you’re gonna leave me anyway, I know you think I’m just a big stupid guy"
Well this is also giving intentions; the girl never said that, it’s just an horrible movie in the guy’s head. But its also the guy who is projecting what HE thinks in the actions of his girlfriend. This can be dangerous as we can reinterpret everything the other do under that light.

  • Another thing she told me was how important it is to learn to read your own emotions and feelings. It might seems super easy, but I’ll give you my example and see if you can relate.

I would be bothered by thing X that person Y kept doing. I would nicely tell that person and they agree to be careful.1 week later, X happen again. I roll my eyes and remind Y they told me they would be careful. They say sorry and back to merry normal life with studies, work, cats, foods, tv shows and whatever. Loooads of stuff that are more interesting than Y. One week pass, Y happen, but you know I have that big school homework so I dont really notice. A week after, cinema with friends and I go back home and see X did Y again. But its late , they’re sleeping, I’ll remind them tomorrow. Day after I say nothing because OH CRAP I’M LATE FOR SCHOOL and then two weeks go by. AND Y HAPPEN AGAIN. And maybe its all the culmulation, maybe I was just grumpy but now that’s too much and I’m 100% done with X not keeping their promises even if all the previous times, I didn’t seem to mind that much. And then I explode :/. My therapist did no directly made the link for that. But from what I got, the problem is that frustration have been building up but since I did not pay attention to analyzing exactly what made me feels how, I didn’t see it coming. ADHD just make it harder because we have many other things to think about. But realizing that its important is a step. What helped with me was journaling. By talking about what happen in your day you can extrapolate and find those kinds of things. You can do bullet points if a full-out text seem tedious.

  • Perhaps research a bit on defense mechanisms ( so you can understand to recognize them and avoird them or neutralize them). Everyone have them and some coupled with ADHD dynamics can be really nocive to couples. But if you know it might me your mechanism or your partner mechanism, its easier to recognize the behaviour when it happen and to confront what is hidden beyond.

-The 5 ways of love mention by Velvet Winter: YES .YES. Since I discovered that after my break up, I used the friendship version mostly but it really does help and also help to be more attentive to others.

  • Impulsivity can make us start arguments. Jessica explained in a video that meditation can help us train to think before talking. This could help a lot.

  • You might want to check this. Deep insecurities can often lead to a controlling behavior. I know it was my case, but it might not be for you, hopefully. However if its the case it’s important to start working on that too because this also doesnt give healthy relationships.

  • I would say observing people help a lot to recognize patterns and problems in your own relationships. Observing or remembering how your parental figures reacted to conflict or difficulties. You probably are a lot like one of them or a mix ( of course it can be tamed down or modified a bit). So you can remember what you hated about them when they argued or when your argue or interact with them. Honestly it can be like a giant call out directly in your face of your own problems. You can also try to see it in friends and people around you, movies and shows and etc. And yourself of course. It s best to try to do it while it happen since it could actually solve the situation peacefully. But after is good too. Not by blaming yourself on what you should have done or not, just by analyzing and realizing what are your challenges . Then you can do better next time.

-Ah and by the way this can apply to all of your relationships. Familly and friends too. You might want to observe your behavior with them too; problems that are in a couple are often present in other relationships, but toned down. If you know someone from who you can take honest criticism, you can ask them!

  • Ahh and the last part that I hated for so long. What happen if to make you progress and feel better, you need reassurance but your partner refuse to give it to you? If your partner always do Y and refuse to stop and it drives you crazy? Because yes, they can refuse to stop.

You have two possibilities: 1- Accept it 2- Move on. Yes, as in, break up.

It sound horrible right?
But of course, you can also accept it. But to accept it, you must let it go totally. “I do not need reassurance” or " my partner can do Y then… "You makes the choice that you loves them enough to get over that ( althought honestly a partner who never want to reassure you is a bit… urgh its just an exemple) and you accept them AS THEY ARE.
What people often do and that we musnt do is to tolerate. Like you do not accept them as they are, you just tolerate that thing of them until it change. But you can’t genuinly change someone, thry can only change themselves and IF they want to. So frustration and sadness will accumulate.

So the last choice. Leave. I was sooo opposed to it when my therapist was telling me about that. My ex brokes up and in my head I would just have NEVER ever done something like that. Impossible because , as a couple, we’ suppose to just works on our differences and fix everything.
But she explained to me, this is also why you need to understand your feelings. If your feelings says that you cannot trust someone because they almost cheated on you… its your right. You can leave. If you stay, it need to be geared toward acceptance, not tolerance. If your core values are being torn because of the relationship, it’s ok to leave. And another bad possibility is of one person forcing their core values on the other. The second person then just feel like they are not themsleves.

My ex told me a few months before leaving me a thing that I now agree with. I was always under the idea that acknowledging the possibility of a break up was 100% bad because “come on we are supposed to be together forever right?” He said " but to the contrary, isn’t it even more beautiful to acknowledge that we do not HAVE to stay together. We stay together because each time there is a problem, we make the choice to continue together. "
( Now I KNOW the irony but the message is still good !. And nah he was not exactly blatantly lying to me, his defense mechanism is avoidance. Its more a case of I don’t want to confront the problems so I bury them deep inside and will convince myself there’s isnt any really)

Anyway. That was definitely an horrible wall but I really hope it can help. And yes it might seem a bit overwhelming which is why its good to have professional help… or maybe at least a friend who can help you to go throught it.
I remember thinking it was hard for the first months but I also thought it was really interesting. It can feel like you can suddenly see parts of your own mechanisms and can finally start to do work and ameliorations directly in it.

Good luck :heart::heart: