Neurodiversity in Couples

Working with neurodiverse people within the context of a relationship

Neurodiversity in Couples

Neurodiversity is a term that refers to a range of neurological conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and personality disorders. If any of these conditions are present in a relationship, then they will have an impact on communication between the couple. Couple counselling will provide a safe space to start to explore and understand how these conditions may affect the relationship so that both people can identify when this is happening and work together to help overcome these challenges.

At Nightingale, the neurodiverse couple will work with Ailsa, to gain an understanding of how neurodivergence affects communication, sensory issues, dopamine levels and pleasure.  Ailsa is a psychologist with a huge amount of experience with neurodiversion, and she’s also a trained couple counsellor. This unique combination of skills makes Ailsa ideally suited to identify and address issues that arise in the relationship and offer you help on how to relate in a different way.

Neurodiversity and Communication Styles

In relationships where one of the people is neurodiverse, the communication styles can differ greatly. A neurodiverse person may process information in a different way to their partner. They may express themselves in a different way, and they may have difficulty with some social situations or social cues. For example, the person may take a literal meaning from a conversation rather than pick up on things such as sarcasm or an implied meaning. This may lead to misunderstandings between the couple often resulting in confusion, anger, and animosity. A person with ADHD may have an issue with attention and memory. This may give the false impression that the person is disinterested or bored.

Emotions and the appropriate response

Being able to manage their emotions is another thing that may prove to be a problem for a neurodiverse person. They can experience some emotions stronger than others which may mean they struggle to respond in an appropriate manner. This can lead to one person feeling overwhelmed whilst the other person struggles to find a suitable response to the situation. For example, someone with dyslexia may feel overwhelmed by tasks that require them to read something. It can be difficult for the other person to fully understand how their partner is feeling.

A neurodiverse person may require things to be a certain way which can often have an impact on their daily living. Sensory issues, which are common in people with autism and hyperactive and inattentive ADHD may mean they struggle in certain environments or situations such as going to the cinema, attending a concert, doing some household chores, or even intimate moments with their partner. This can often lead to frustration, and in some cases, resentment, between both people.

The role of couple counselling in a neurodiverse relationship

Couple counselling can play a major role in helping neurodiverse couples start to learn to overcome these issues. A professionally trained therapist who understands neurodiversity can work with the couple to create tailored strategies to tackle these issues. They may work on communication between both people to help reduce misunderstandings. They can also work on accepting each other’s differences and set expectations for the couple as their relationship develops.


Counselling can also give the couple the tools they need for the emotional challenges ahead. They can work on techniques for reducing stress and anxiety, as well as identifying emotional triggers and their responses to them. They can also work with the person who isn’t neurodiverse so they have a better understanding of what their neurodiverse partner is going through and why they respond to certain things the way they do. By doing this, the therapist is aiming to build understanding and empathy between both people.

Neurodiversity and daily living

Through counselling, the couple and therapist may decide that they want to work on the things that impact their daily lives. This may mean creating routines that both people can stick to or a list of daily tasks the neurodiverse person will be able to complete without being overwhelmed. As part of this work, the therapist may introduce organisational systems that the couple have never used before. Through this work, the therapist is trying to introduce a way of living that suits both people in the relationship.

A safe space for neurodiverse couples

Couple Counselling provides both people with a safe space to explore their differences, talk about the issues that affect them, but also talk about the things they appreciate and love about the other person. It encourages frank conversations that aim to promote mutual understanding between both people and provide them with the tools they will need as they build a strong, loving relationship. By addressing the issues, both people are trying to strike a balance between their needs and wants with the needs and wants of their partner. With hard work and commitment, a couple can make their relationship stronger and more resilient as they look to the future together.

Get in touch with us

If you would like more information about neurodiversity, especially within the context of a relationship, please call us on 0141 353 9353 or fill out the contact form on our Contact page.

A neurodiverse person may process information in a different way to their partner which can create misunderstanding and conflict. They may express themselves in a different way, and they may have difficulty with some social situations or social cues.

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