Save the Date! Dating Advice & Strategies for Adults with ADHD
Navigating the dating world can be complicated, challenging, and nerve-wracking, especially for those with ADHD. Regardless of your dating experience, here’s some all-around relationship advice you might just love.
So you’re looking for love. Maybe you’re dating for the first time, or you’re returning to the scene after the end of a long relationship. No matter the stage or circumstance, dating can be complicated, confusing and anxiety-inducing — and maybe more so when you have ADHD.
To help keep your cool as you find the one, here’s some dating advice (the same I give to my clients) for adults with ADHD — from how to avoid red flags like gaslighting, to how bring up your ADHD for the first time.
Dating Tip #1: There Is No “Appropriate” Timeline
If you are recently coming out of a relationship, no matter the reason, know that there is no set time for when it is OK to start dating.
Well-meaning people may tell you that it is too soon or that you should wait a year, but the timeline is up to you. Follow your intuition. See a counselor if you feel that emotions rooted in the separation, like guilt or grief, are preventing you from participating in life activities.
Dating Tip #2: Keep a List
When you meet someone with whom you connect, emotion can overtake reasoning. To remind yourself of what you are looking for in a mate, make a list of your ideal partner’s qualities. Phrase your list in positives, such as “Likes my kids” or “Enjoys the beach.” Instead of “Doesn’t like being late,” write “Likes being punctual.” You might add, “Understands my ADHD,” “Is open and gentle when discussing concerns,” “Sees my medication as a positive that is important to my treatment.”
When you have met someone special, go back to your list and see how many items your potential mate matches. Reviewing your list is a good way to consider someone’s long-term suitability.
Dating Tip #3: Don’t Move Too Fast
Your brain may get jazzed by a whirlwind romance. For many with ADHD, relationships escalate — and burn out — quickly. Knowing that the ADHD brain behaves this way can help you put on the brakes if things start to get out of control.
In addition, people with ADHD are more likely to develop sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so slow down before getting intimate. Be sure you feel connected to this person, rather than trying to be who you think he or she wants you to be.
Dating Tip #4: State the Obvious Up Front
ADHD treatment is important to improve your quality of life. Make sure you are on a treatment regimen that works for you. This probably includes medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
ADHD habits often include interrupting conversations or sometimes running late, so tell your date about that early on. You don’t need to say that you have ADHD. You can say something like, “I have a tendency to interrupt, so I apologize for that up front.” You may actually find that admitting to the habit will lessen its occurrence.
Dating Tip #5: Soften the Blow of Rejection
People with ADHD take rejection harder than do neurotypicals. But other people’s behaviors are rarely intended as attacks on you, even if they feel personal. It may be that your date didn’t feel about you the way you felt about him. It happens. If someone “ghosts” you and you don’t hear from him, remember that, sometimes, no answer is the answer. And when you don’t know the reason why the person doesn’t want to stay in touch, don’t blame it on a personal flaw.
Dating Tip #6: Listen to Your Intuition
When going on a first date, stay safe by meeting in a public place. If something feels “off” about a date, excuse yourself and go home. Some people with ADHD are people pleasers, so they worry about seeming rude if they end a date abruptly. It is better to leave than to get sucked into a potentially dangerous situation.
If you are dating online, beware of people who create a fake profile to lure you in. It is called “catfishing.” If you meet a date who doesn’t look like the profile photo, or if details don’t match up with what you remember about his profile, leave immediately.
Dating Tip #7: Watch Out for Red Flags
You should run away from a date who asks you about your biggest fears or failures in life on a first date — this behavior is different from someone with ADHD saying something inappropriate. Someone who asks you personal questions early on may be gathering information to use against you. Another reason a date may ask intrusive questions is to learn your vulnerabilities and take advantage of them — typical “gaslighting” techniques.
Equally troubling is a date who asks you nothing about you, even a simple question like whether you’ve had a good day. If your date later writes off this behavior as just being “nervous,” watch to see if the pattern repeats itself. If it does, it may be more than being nervous.
Dating Tip #8: How to Bring Up ADHD
Having ADHD is part of your personal medical information. There is no “right” time to disclose it to a person you are dating. If you feel a connection with someone, and have built some emotional intimacy (different from physical intimacy), you might want to share your ADHD diagnosis. Some people find that disclosing ADHD early in the dating process “weeds out” people with whom they probably won’t get along.