Relationships with ADHD and Nice Guy Syndrome

ADHD and spectrum issues keep coming up in my research. There’s a high search volume for how these issues affect relationships, so they get a special mention in today’s video.

Some of the ADHD communication issues we’ll talk about (I have most of these)

  • Forgetfulness – I can’t hold two thoughts in my head
  • Impulsiveness – I act before i think, especially with annoying issues
  • Anxiety – I don’t any more, but this used to rule my life
  • Emotional outbursts – built up tension and overwhelm
  • Talk too much – more social anxiety than ADHD, comes from fear of losing their interest
  • Can’t pay attention / listen – zoning out, do it all the time
  • Disorganised – particularly bothersome to neat people, which we always end up with
  • Feel lost, ignored, unloved – side effect of comms issues and resentment on both sides

Then we’ll explore what these look like in a relationship when combined with Nice Guy Syndrome issues

  • Covert contracts
  • Alexithymia
  • Pukes
  • Fixing rather than support
  • Unsolicited advice
  • Constant manouvering instead of spontaneous honesty
  • Pretending to be ok and pretending to listen etc.



Learn to master social skills and relationships no matter your challenges, contact Dan today!

>>Click here to apply for a free trial coaching session<<


Full transcript

I’d like to make a special mention about relationships for people who have ADHD and nice guy syndrome.

Whenever I’m doing my research, I find that ADHD issues in relation to relationships comes up all the time. There’s a lot of people searching for it, they’re trying to answer that question. So I’ll see what I can do about that today.

What I’d say is we’re not really talking about something specific to relationships, we’re actually talking about general ADHD issues, and what happens in the relationship. So it’s not that a relationship triggers some different person to come out of you, just that it’s a place where these issues play out.

Let’s just quickly review some of the common issues that people with ADHD have, and then we’ll also have a look at some of the common symptoms that nice guys have, and we’ll see how the combination can lead to some trouble in relationships.

Common ADHD Issues

Now, I’ve never been formally diagnosed as having ADHD but whenever I read lists about it and life stories about I’m just like, God, that’s me. So I’m not even going to go get a diagnosis. I just know I fucking have it. I don’t care. But I have since looked into and definitely have some of these.

Forgetfulness. That’s one of my favorites. I literally cannot hold two thoughts in my head. If I get up to do something and someone interferes with something else, whatever it was I got up to do is gone forever.

Impulsiveness. Another one that I do. I act before I think, especially with things that annoy me like problems I need to solve, I just go into solving them before planning it out.

Anxiety. I don’t have this so much anymore. I have kind of solved this one you might say, but it used to rule my life. And in my earliest relationships, I just had a constant nauseous buzz in my stomach, constantly worried about getting things right.

Emotional outbursts. Again, I don’t have this too often anymore. But there’s a buildup of tension and overwhelm. With ADHD it’s just such a hard world to navigate that eventually you snap.

Talking too much. This one might not actually be specific to ADHD. It’s more social anxiety than anything else. It comes from a fear of losing their interest. It comes from an inability to be concise with what it is you want to say, this kind of fear of missing out, that I have to include every detail that occurs to me, that speaking means transporting everything in my mind out of my mouth rather than filtering and moderating it.

Struggling to pay attention and listen. I think this one does a lot of damage to relationships. A kind of zoning out that happens against your will. It’s another one that I do all the time. Someone’s talking, and eventually I realize I’m just watching their mouth move and I’ve lost track when I’m less thinking about something else. I don’t mean to. I want to pay attention. Just my brain has too much to think about apparently.

Being disorganized. I think this one’s really only bothersome to relationships when you’re with someone who is organized and likes structure and likes things to go well. And it does seem to be the kind of people we end up with, so we instantly irritate them.

Feeling lost or ignored or unloved or misunderstood. The side effect of what all these problems cause, all these communication issues create resentment on both sides, and then you start to feel lonely.

Common Nice Guy issues

Covert contracts. Expecting things from people without saying it out loud, and just hoping it will happen and resenting them when it doesn’t.

Alexithymia. Being unable to put emotions into words. You end up saying, Yeah, I’m fine with everything, because you literally don’t have the language to explain the physiological sensations you’re having.

Pukes. Similar to emotional outbursts. So nice guys build up a lot of resentment. He doesn’t mean to. And then he’ll snap and it will all come out. Violence even, occasionally. I’ve got one client, for example, he’s just been a model citizen his whole life. And then one day just struck his wife over some minor argument, and the guilt haunts him on a daily basis. He just couldn’t believe he had that in him. But he didn’t realize that it was actually years and years and years of resentment building up.

Fixing rather than supporting. Like giving unsolicited advice, trying to control your partner’s emotions rather than trying to help them process it to make them convenient.

Machiavellian manipulation instead of honesty. Everything you say has an intent to move someone, a hidden intent. Pretending to be okay, pretending to listen, pretending to care. All these things to keep things nice and smooth when they’re actually fake.


Learn to master social skills and relationships no matter your challenges, contact Dan today!

>>Click here to apply for a free trial coaching session<<



So imagine if you’ve got both ADHD and nice guy syndrome. Your communication and relationships are going to be basically horrible. And if relationships really are based on communication, as we’ve talked about before – that boundary setting is essentially what a relationship is – and boundaries are done with communication and you suck at communication, maybe that’s why the relationship is struggling.

So some things to keep in mind.

These are symptoms, not life sentences. What I see far too often these days is a kind of overcorrection around mental illness stigma. Now people kind of proud of being mentally ill and attached to it. So somebody will say “I have ADHD” as if there’s nothing they can do about that. As if they’ve kind of like saying, I’m paralyzed and I can’t walk. And people with nice guy syndrome do this as well. They say, “I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am”. Rather than, I can do something about it. It wouldn’t compromise my integrity to make some changes here.

So don’t be the victim-hero. Don’t be secretly proud of having communication issues, because there is no syndrome or situation in the world that says you can’t work on being better at communicating. And I have plenty of clients, nearly all of them have nice guy syndrome, a lot of them have ADHD and autism, and all of them have been able to improve how they communicate, to be more concise, to be more direct, to be more honest, to be better at listening, and to learn to work with the things they can’t control.

So for example, being able to tell someone that you’re zoning out as it’s happening is more realistic than trying to stop yourself from zoning out forever. And on that note, most of these problems are solved with the kind of “work with me” partnership. You talk to your partner about these things that you have, not like “You must work with these because there’s nothing I can do,” but more like, “Look, I’m working on them. I’m gonna need some support and some compassion from you. I’m gonna slip. There’s some of these things I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to change. But let’s work together on these.”

One of my ones is that I react really badly to plans being changed last minute, even if these changes are an improvement. I just have this agitation resistance to change all the time. And so my wife, Lucie, knows that I have this thing. And so when she brings something up and she sees me start frowning and stuff, she just asks, “Do you have an actual problem with this or are you just doing that processing thing because I’ve changed things.” And I can just say to her, “Yeah, look, I’m doing my processing thing, give me a minute, I got to be grumpy for a second and then I’ll be able to look at this clearly.” And so we’re able to work with this little reaction thing that I can’t stop from happening.

Just be honest when these things are happening to you. If you had a covert contract, say, “Look, I expected something from you but I didn’t say it out loud. So that’s my bad.” You catch yourself talking too much, just say it, “You know what, I’m putting too much detail into the story, I can feel it, the main point I really want to make is just this…”

You can just catch it and call it out rather than trying to fix it before it happens. And this can actually work to your benefit in the relationship, you can create a kind of yin/yang responsibility arrangement with your partner.

ADHD doesn’t mean you’re totally useless. It just means you have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. Yeah, you might not be able to focus, but you have lots of creative ideas. Yeah, you might be a bit disorganized, but you’re also really brave with your actions.

Quite often what you’ll see is that your partner is like the opposite. At least that’s the case in my marriage. So things like organizing the budget is something that my brain is just not wired to do because I’m just gonna want to change things all the time. So that’s Lucie’s job. But being creative in a way that brings money into the house – that’s something I can do because I just fucking randomly put out ideas all the time. So that’s my job. And so on.

So you’re looking overall to work with it rather than around it or rather than suppressing it. Bring it into your relationship, make it something you actually talk about. And that alone can be bonding. Of course a few more tips on how to work with things like ADHD and nice guy syndrome to make sure you got healthy relationships…

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

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