From Love Bombing to Boredom: Is ADHD to Blame for Mercurial Relationship Cycles?
Hyperfocus on a new relationship and partner — showering them with gifts and attention — may be mistaken for love bombing, especially when the heat begins to cool. This cycle is not present in most relationships touched by ADHD, but it does impact a population of ADDitude readers, some of whom share their stories here.
Love bombing looks this this: flower deliveries at work, text messages at all hours, and talk of “soul mates” after just a few dates. But unlike the calculated manipulation that’s part of the gaslighting cycle, when an infatuated adult with ADHD focuses 110 percent of their attention on a new partner, this obsession may be neurological rather than psychological. It may not be intentional “love bombing” at all.
Could this relationship hyperfocus be fueled by the ADHD brain and its affinity for novelty, craving for stimulation, need to satisfy curiosity or rise to a challenge? Could their enthusiasm may be mistaken for love bombing? Could it reflect low self-esteem and approval-seeking tendencies?
The roots of hyperfocus in ADHD relationships are complex, but the end result is often clear: While some partners may feel smothered, many get swept away by the over-the-top adoration. Then, when the obsessive love fades — or, more commonly, ends abruptly — the other partner feels abandoned and keenly bereft. It is an emotionally hurtful problem that impacts some — though certainly not all — adults with ADHD.
Below, adults with and without ADHD share their experiences with this pattern from both sides of the relationship. Read their stories and add yours to the Comments section below.
On Falling Head Over Heels Into Obsessive Love
“Absolutely every relationship I’ve been in has followed this pattern: I fall madly in ‘love’ within seconds, then they in turn fall in love with me because I’m so full of joie de vivre (aka, hyperactivity) and because I am making sure they love me because, otherwise, I’m a failure and a terrible person unworthy of love. Soon enough, maintaining it all becomes too much, I become overwhelmed, and try to bolt. Luckily, my second husband recognized this and worked through it with me.”
“At the five-year mark in my current relationship, I fell head over heels into hyperfocus with someone else. I was so obsessed with analyzing their personality and the way they made me feel that I started an affair. After six months I surfaced, horrified with myself and the deceit involved, and completely disinterested in the person I had found so fascinating. I despise my behavior towards both men and guilt has plagued me ever since. This is the first time I have confessed.”
“I have gotten to the point that I live in guilt and fear that I will break someone’s heart again. When the hyperfocus goes, there’s just no getting back to ‘that feeling’ again. And it’s crushing for the other person. There also have been times when my feverish intensity has made suitors run lightning fast in the opposite direction. When that happens, it triggers extreme rejection sensitive dysphoria for me.”
“I see someone I am interested in and chase after them. I catch them — and then lose interest. For me, I think it’s the thrill of the chase!”
“My relationships always begin with my having a super intense infatuation with the other person. If the relationship ends before my infatuation does, I hold on to the memories for years and obsess over the idea that the person was my soul mate. If the hyperfocus infatuation ends before the relationship, I quickly lose interest and inevitably find a reason to leave.”
“I obsessively think about my new partner, love bomb them, and then wonder what the problem is five years later….”
“I have always struggled in any kind of new friendship. I jump in with both feet, but then start to lose interest and feel obligated, as if the friendship were just another burden. I know I’ve left many friends wondering what they did wrong or confused as to why I just faded away. But if any had asked, I wouldn’t have been able to give them an explanation because I had no idea myself as to why I always withdrew. Now that I’ve been properly diagnosed and treated for ADHD, I am trying to take things slow and find new ways to live with my brain. I have come to see that some people simply require more in a friendship, and I keep my circle very small.”
“Looking back at my high school and college relationships, most of them definitely started and ended because my initial hyperfocus wore off and I got bored. Thankfully, my wife and three kids keep me on my toes now. My wife is the one person I’ve never gotten bored of at some point in the relationship. She’s just different. I suppose that’s one reason our marriage works so well!”
On Losing the Halo of Hyperfocus
“My partner has ADHD and obsessed over me and our relationship when we first got together. The intensity of his attention was challenging, but I loved him instantly, so didn’t fight it. When the novelty wore off, he started obsessing over his hobbies and, regrettably, other people too. Now I feel like I don’t even enter his mind any more, like I’m invisible. I went from all to nothing and never got to enjoy the happy medium comfort zone that neurotypical couples enjoy.”
“My husband was overly attentive to me and our relationship for the first three years. He’d follow me around like a puppy — even when I was vacuuming! — and gave me a rose each month to mark the day we first met. Then the newness wore off. Not only did my husband stop marking birthdays and holidays (not to mention the day we met), but our intimate relationship came to an abrupt stop. Sadly, after years of this, I’ve given up trying and just mark special occasions by doing something for myself.”
“My husband’s hyperfocus on me and us lasted for nearly five years. Then he had an affair, and continues to lie to me. I mourn the loss of my best friend and perfect mate. I miss feeling like he cares about me at all. He has torn our family apart and doesn’t appear to care.”
“It was as if the person I had dated vanished and a light switch was turned off the moment we got home from our honeymoon. This was painfully perplexing to me. We are now in counseling to help us work on intentional connection.”
Love Bombing and ADHD: Next Steps
- Free Download: Manage ADHD’s Impact on Your Relationship
- Married with ADHD: How Real Couples Make It Work
- Read: “What I Love About My ADHD Spouse”
- Read: “An Open Letter to My Husband Without ADHD“
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