How to Find Love (and Like!) When You Have ADHD
The first rule of dating with ADHD: Like your partner as much as you love them.
I’ve been working with people who have attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) and are dating age or older for about 35 years now. During that time, I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Sue, for 30 of those years. So I have seen and learned a lot about what happens in the world of romance with people who have ADHD.
I’ve learned about one pattern that has to be identified and avoided if a person wants to form a relationship that lasts. I’ve learned that the search for romantic love is often foolish and fruitless, except for those who happen to find it and make it last. In which case, it is perhaps the greatest reward life offers. I’ve learned that people who search for romantic love usually have ADHD. Most of us with the condition are incurable romantics, and we often pay a big price for being wired that way.
Like Is Sturdier Than Love
Finding the right partner is not so much about love as it is about like. In general, like is sturdier than love. You want to be sure you are deeply in like with a person before you commit to him or her. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I look forward to spending time with her?
- Do we laugh a lot together?
- Do we play together?
- Can we tease each other?
- Given free time, is she the person I’d want to be with?
- When I think of her, do I smile?
- Do my friends like her?
- Can I be myself with her?
- Do I never feel judged, put down, or in any way diminished by her?
- Does my family like her, and does she like my family?
- Are her views on having children the same as mine?
- Can we have a harmonious relationship without religion or politics getting in the way?
You should answer yes to all of these questions if this person is going to be your #1, or you should have a very good reason for accepting a no. Love may be blind, but like is not.
Now let me add some smaller do’s. Use dating apps and the Internet to find someone you like; it saves time. Ask friends for referrals. Expect rejection and disappointment; combat this by commiserating with friends, not by withdrawing into isolation. Perfection in a partner is not the goal, but joy together is.
Don’t Date a Person Who Needs to Be Saved
Don’t fall for a train wreck. People with ADHD are generous and giving, and want to help other people. We are naturally empathic and can sympathize with a person who is a train wreck. We know exactly how to help and save that person. If we fall in love with that person, it will not end well.
How do you avoid falling for train wrecks? Listen to the advice from people who know you well. People with ADHD are notoriously stubborn. Don’t be stubborn on this score. Now for some smaller don’ts:
- Don’t fall for someone who wants to change you. Go for someone who wants you as you are.
- Don’t get seduced by glitter and excitement. Stable does not mean boring.
- Don’t fall into the pattern of loving the chase, then getting bored once you’ve landed the person you’ve been chasing.
The best advice: Be yourself, and don’t put on an act. Let whoever you’re with see who you are. That’s the person who’s going to show up for the next date, and it’s the person you’ll sleep with every night. You might as well get comfortable being that person.
Edward Hallowell, M.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Specialist Panel.