“My Darling, My Dopamine.”
“Adults with ADHD need the stimulation of dopamine hits because our brains aren’t like other people’s. In relationship terms, this sometimes means we stir up drama to feel. We become addicted to high levels of stimulation in bad relationships, and, in healthy ones, we feel suffocated.”
Before I married, I dated. A lot. I’d fall head over heels, and then, when we settled into a normal relationship, I’d start acting out, stirring drama. I’d try to add excitement to the relationship – in the form of nitpicking so that we’d argue, or by distancing myself so that he’d chase me again.
If he wasn’t fed up with me, I’d detach and feel nothing. Sometimes I wouldn’t even bother breaking up – I’d simply disappear. But if he was fed up with me and wanted out, I’d dissolve into heartbreak. I’d write him letters; I’d sit in the dark and sob. I’d feel an oddly delicious pain that lasted until another guy caught my eye.
After leaving a 16-year marriage, in which I cycled through the same destructive patterns, desperate for something to feed my unnamed needs, I was diagnosed with ADHD.
[Get This Download: Manage ADHD’s Impact on Your Relationship]
The connection didn’t occur to me immediately. After all, I wasn’t hyperactive or overtly adrenaline-seeking. But ADHD is a chemical disorder. We need the stimulation of dopamine hits because our brains aren’t like other people’s. In relationship terms, this sometimes means we stir up drama to feel. We become addicted to high levels of stimulation in bad relationships, and, in healthy ones, we feel suffocated.
With the help of therapy and medication, I began to see a way to have a healthy relationship through radical openness. I met a man with whom I clicked. He was so different from me that he was like a fascinating, new species, yet he understood me. It was terrifying, but I took a flying leap into a new pattern — I was myself.
Over time, the ever-changing dynamic created when we risked being authentic took the place of drama. I wasn’t bored or suffocated. My dopamine receptors loved the genuine excitement of discovering new facets of him and me and the relationship.
I regret the years of pain it took to discover this, but I remind myself it was time, plus experience, plus sheer wonderful luck that put him in my path at the time I was ready. There’s nothing to regret about that.
Healthy Relationship: Next Steps
- Free Download: Rein In Intense ADHD Emotions
- Read: Why We Crave the Drama That Sabotages Relationships
- Read: Married with ADHD — How Real Couples Make It Work
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.