“How Can I Get a Date to Accept Me, ADHD and All?”
I’ve debated telling past boyfriends about my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for fear they might see the negatives (impatience, disorganization, and anger issues) and none of the positives (my kind heart and creativity). Here, I share my therapist’s advice.
Throughout my whole adults dating life, I’ve worried about the skeletons in my closet — an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis and accompanying symptoms and a mother who abandoned me and my sister — and debated whether or not to share these challenges with men I’ve encountered, at least the ones who’ve seemed to view me as more than just a passing fancy. This choice has weighed on me like an albatross: If these experiences are a part of me, why should I be ashamed?
And, for the first time, I took the plunge, and finally did an emotional striptease and revealed both with the now ex-Boyfriend in January. And now, six months later, I am left with regrets. (Over having told? Over having told him specifically?)
I took my relationship with the ex-Boyfriend seriously. (To this day, I miss him, not his passive-aggressiveness and his moodiness, but his charm, humor, and presence.) Too seriously, perhaps. For the first six months we were together, most of my time was devoted to him. My life revolved around him and, as a result, my friends say that I disappeared from their lives. I gave of myself in what you might call superficial ways: I had never woken up at 4:30 a.m. to make someone breakfast before dating him. But I also gave in deeply personal ways: I told him, above any other man, the whole truth about myself. He took this all in and, at the time, said that he would not abandon me, and would even see a therapist with me to allow me to see my worth. And now, for the third time, he has walked out on me — this time for good. (With him there are no answers, but sometimes that’s life.)
I wrestle with unanswered questions. If he loved me, wouldn’t he have accepted me? Was it because of the ADD/ADHD that he didn’t, can’t? Because of the my ADHD-related impatience, temper control issues, and disorganization (which, at times, can overshadow the best parts of me — my creativity, kind heart, and sharp intuition)? I think back to when he promised to attend a meeting about ADD/ADHD with me, but we missed that meeting. His work schedule was crazy, he said. And then there was the apology letter he sent that started out, “I love that you have ADHD.” I understood, I thought. But now, if that is (was?) the case then why not stick with me?
I returned to the psychologist, Dr. X, a second time, last week, and, once again, she sat there and asked me what I wanted to talk about. “Relationships…mostly with men,” I said.
I mentioned that I was concerned about having potentially shallow relationships. “Many are short and fleeting, and it seems that the closer a person comes to me the more I back off,” I said. “Maybe I am afraid that I don’t deserve to be with someone else.”
I told her about how the ex-Boyfriend made promises he was unable to deliver on, how I pushed him for follow-up almost to the point of controlling him, wondered why he woudln’t (couldn’t?) deliver on his promises, and confessed how I am unable to understand people who are NATO (No Action, Talk Only).
The shrink offered that the push for follow-through was rooted in my unresolved issues over my mother’s abandonment and broken promises. “You test others, perhaps unconsciously, to see if they will follow through,” she said. “But you need to give others time and trust them. If they don’t once, twice, and then three times, then maybe they aren’t reliable.”
“So, should I have told him about the ADHD?” I asked. “At the start of a relationship, you should just enjoy dating. There’s no need to tell right away. You are yourself and if your date can accept you, fine; if they can’t, then they can move on. But you need to be yourself from the start. Just because you like someone doesn’t mean you drop everything and bend over backwards for them.” Lesson learned, it doesn’t make losing the ex-Boyfriend hurt any less.
For now I know I need to trust others to accept me — all of me.