The Rules of Dating (and Breaking Up) with ADHD

When I was 20 years old, back in the 1980s, romantic relationships ran the gamut from “friends who don’t hold hands” to “married” or darn close to it. Between those bookends, there were six or seven increments (steady dating, promised, engaged). Today’s young adults and teens have the same ends on the relationship continuum, but there are now about 30 gradations in between. This can be difficult for anyone, but I find that our clients with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) struggle the most.

Our culture sells dating as a free-form, romantic, exhilarating experience, buoyed by the idea that we might “fall in love.” That’s a great metaphor, isn’t it? Love as something to fall into. You stroll along, minding your own business. Suddenly, you tumble into love and can’t get out. Unfortunately, the falling model describes how people with ADHD approach love and a lot of other things: leaping before they look.

Three Obstacles to Love for People with ADD

People with ADHD have three challenges with dating:

1. Boredom. The most fundamental aspect of ADHD is an intolerance for routine, predictability, and sameness. Novel things (in this case, people) are interesting. Seeing and doing the same thing over and over again is ADHD torture. It’s also the definition of an exclusive relationship, which is less entertaining than meeting someone new every other night.