How My Undiagnosed ADHD Ruined So Many Of My Relationships

But strengthened my current one.

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I was almost 40 when my son was diagnosed with ADHD. He clearly had it. The boy ran around and talked incessantly, narrating the whole of his existence regardless of the context.

When I finally got him in to be tested, the doctor sat us both in a room. The doctor pulled out a packet and made small talk with my son as he bounced up and down in his seat.

The doctor then proceeded to ask me a series of yes or no questions about my son and how his ADHD was presenting:


Is he easily distracted?
Does he struggle to follow directions?
Does he have difficulty managing his time?
Does he interrupt others? Have trouble taking turns?

I don’t remember which question it was, but I found myself starting to answer the questions for myself in my head. After answering several questions in a row in the affirmative, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe I had ADHD too.


Ever since being officially diagnosed with ADHD and doing a lot of research, I’ve discovered many things about myself. One of which is that my undiagnosed ADHD negatively impacted many of my previous relationships.

RELATED: 6 Common-But-Often-Overlooked Symptoms Of ADHD In Adults

I often got into relationships and then moved VERY quickly into them. I loved "being in love" and all of the excitement of having a new partner.

But I grew bored quickly once that "in love" feeling wore off. My boredom translated to no longer trying to keep the "romance" alive. I’d sort of check out. Not give them much of my time. Fighting would start inevitably, and while making up after those fights could sometimes give me the dopamine hit I craved, it was always too short-lived.

Even though I was bored and not fully "in" the relationship anymore, I wouldn’t end the thing because, by that point, I felt over-invested and stuck. We had progressed so quickly to a serious commitment that I didn’t quite know how to extricate myself neatly, and I hung onto a stupid hope that eventually the relationship would regain its shiny newness.


Moving so quickly in a relationship also meant that I blatantly ignored any red flags about my partner. I barely knew them sometimes when I chose to be serious with them, which of course set me up to be in many unhealthy relationships. But don’t forget that my behavior made those relationships unhealthy too.

I also developed elaborate conflict-avoidant strategies. My mother and then many of my partners nitpicked criticized and controlled me because I wasn’t managing my hyper fixations and impulses. I learned to walk on eggshells and try to "make" myself do what my partner wanted me to.

I became a people-pleaser. Telling people what I thought they wanted to hear. Doing what I thought would make them happy since my unmanaged ADHD behaviors were causing them to be so unhappy with me.

Pulling away from the relationship because I’d grown bored or developed a new hyperfixation also likely led many of my partners to feel lonely and neglected. In response, they usually wanted to be together all of the time.

RELATED: The Value Of A Formal ADHD Diagnosis (& Why TikTok Can't Give You What You Need)


Most people with ADHD need time and space alone to recharge. Coupling that with the fact that I was undiagnosed and a people-pleaser meant that I would try my damndest to give them all of my time, but eventually, I’d blow up. I needed that time to myself, and without it, I was an overemotional mess, so our fights were often nasty.

I’ve also been accused of "lying" by some people, which has some truth to it. I did very well at projecting that I had everything under control, aka "masking." But when I then "unmasked" with them, they felt duped.

They’d started dating a woman who seemed to have her life together, was low-maintenance, cool, and fun, but all of that was a carefully wrought disguise for the fact that I did NOT have everything together, had some intense, over-the-top emotions at times, and fell apart whenever I was stressed, tired, needing to recharge, etc.

The last nail in the coffin of many of my previous relationships was that I suffered from imposter syndrome. Not only did this affect my work and school life, but it showed up in my relationships. I often idealized my partners and thought they were better than me. I told myself things like, "Why would they ever want to be with me? They’re so____, but I’m____."


This often led me to self-sabotage relationships, rejecting the other person before they could reject me.

RELATED: Ask Yourself These 7 Questions To Determine If You're Sabotaging Your Own Relationship

Despite all of these issues, I do have a successful relationship with my husband today, and we got together years before my official ADHD diagnosis. The major difference, I believe, lies in the work I did prior to this relationship.

After the end of my last relationship, before I met my current husband, I decided that I didn’t want to keep repeating the same mistakes.

I’d done a lot of self-work already, but I had yet to get a handle on my people-pleasing tendencies, and I knew those were a major culprit.


I wanted to learn how to embrace conflict as a necessary part of every relationship instead of something to twist myself into knots to avoid. Working closely with a therapist helped as well as reading books about codependency and setting boundaries.

My now husband was willing to work on himself as much as I was, and we were able to work through many of the issues my then-undiagnosed ADHD brought to the relationship. This work we did together set up a strong foundation for us, and we’ve been happily married for years now.

While my ADHD did negatively impact many of my previous relationships, my diagnosis has helped me come to terms with the why, and I’m grateful that at least it didn’t hurt my current one.


RELATED: 10 Key Things To Know About Being In A Relationship With A Woman With ADHD

Tara Blair Ball is a certified relationship coach and podcast co-host for the show, Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse. She’s also the author of three books: Grateful in Love, A Couple’s Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships.