Speaking the Same Language: Learning Your Partner’s Neurodivergent Brain

cartoon couple hugging with rainbow above their heads

Do you ever experience those moments in your relationship when you feel like you and your partner are literally speaking different languages? Well, you are not alone! This is one of the most common complaints I hear from couples, especially those who are neurodivergent. Now, you may be wondering what exactly “neurodivergent” means so to put it simply, it means that there is a divergence of what is considered to be a normal mental function in the brain. I personally dislike the word “normal” so let’s just categorize it as unique ways certain brains work. This term has been widely used in describing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, and many more. However, neurodivergence exists without any type of formal or informal diagnosis. 

In couples counseling, one of the main issues relational therapists work on with their clients is communication. This is already complicated enough without adding extra layers of complications, i.e. neurodivergent brains. So how do we solve this complicated and nuanced issue? We start at the very beginning…learning about your partner in this new, fascinating context. The number one thing I ask of my couples during this process is to STAY CURIOUS! Through counseling, Sally’s annoying habit of forgetting appointments and always being late are now recognized as fixable symptoms of executive dysfunction due to undiagnosed ADHD. Having this knowledge, John can now have more empathy around this problem that has bothered him for years and help find solutions that can help her. Neurodivergence of any kind is frequently fought against with shame and guilt. Many adults are ashamed of these “quirks” that have often been labeled as bad behavior, laziness, rigidity, or selfishness. In these moments, we need our partners to have empathy and understanding.

neurodivergent couple in counseling session sitting on couch looking at each other. Counselor is sitting across from couple

As a neurodivergent individual myself in a relationship with a completely different type of neurodivergent individual, I have struggled in my personal life to truly understand both my brain and his brain. It is not a simple task to do alone, trust me. That is when an experienced neurodivergent-affirming therapist may be necessary to become a trusted third party. Our job as the therapist is to then become the interpreter for the couple so everyone is eventually speaking a new language that all parties can understand, despite neurodivergent differences. The model I use in sessions is as follows:

  1. Assess and determine neurodivergence within the couple.
  2. Foster understanding, empathy, and acceptance of neurodivergent “quirks.”
  3. Treat neurological differences by creating a safe space for brainstorming solutions, build skills/communication, and enhance emotional connection.


TADA! You are now a perfect couple! Just kidding, I wish it was that easy…but the tools and understanding you now have for one another makes solving issues within your relationship a lot easier. If you or your partner suspect that neurodivergence may be impacting your relationship, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for a consultation to see if I may be able to help!

About the Author

Emily Pearce, MA, LMFT Associate

Staff Therapist

Emily’s specialties include ADHD and other neurodivergent issues, couples work, religious abuse and spiritual trauma, LGTBQIA+, life transitions, trauma, grief, and veterans.

Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT-S


Murgado-Willard, K. (2023). Neurodiverse Couple Therapy: A Practical Guide to 

Brain-informed Care. Taylor & Francis.

Smith, R., Netto, J., Gribble, N. C., & Falkmer, M. (2021). ‘At the end of the day, it’s love’: an 

exploration of relationships in neurodiverse couples. Journal of Autism and 

Developmental Disorders, 51, 3311-3321.