Here's how to have a long-term relationship that's both familiar and new, ADHD-style!
Dating can be exciting for people with ADHD. It’s a perfect mix of newness, excitement, and (if the person is right) a dopamine rush.
Being with someone long term is a completely different experience. Having ADHD has its own set of challenges once the newness of a relationship is gone.
Here are some of my favorite ways to keep the spark alive, ADHD style!
Find the right person
This is much easier said than done. “Just find your soulmate!” isn’t exactly the most helpful advice. However, knowing the type of person who’s right for you can be very helpful when exploring the wonderful world of dating.
There’s no such thing as a perfect human, but there can be the perfect human for you. I knew I had to find someone who balanced me out but still valued spontaneity. I needed someone with a lot of enthusiasm but a stable personality to keep me grounded.
I dated someone a few years back who also had ADHD. It was a good experience. But we could never finish a story because of our never-ending tangents. And we spent way too much money for it to be sustainable! The scale was tipped way too far to one side.
I’ve also dated people who were extremely structured and loathed surprises. They were completely against spontaneous trips or dates. My desire to randomly break out in dance was met with the phrase, “you’re too much.” Needless to say, we didn’t last long.
Knowing exactly what kind of balance you need is essential to finding a life partner. Maybe you want someone who won’t completely stop you from booking a spontaneous trip overseas, but instead they’ll encourage you to wait 24 hours first.
Create a “spontaneity” budget
Impulse buying can be one of the biggest struggles for people with ADHD. It’s somewhat acceptable if you’re single and financially independent. It’s not if you’re in a long-term relationship. You become financially responsible for another person.
Impulse buys can lead to fights and distrust. That can hurt your relationship in the long run. But you can combat this issue.
Start by having an honest conversation with your partner. I personally recommend doing so before you make that first impulse purchase on your joint credit card. See what is and isn’t acceptable to your partner for your shared finances.
One idea I suggested to my partner was creating a “spontaneity budget.” (A “FUNd,” if you’re into lame puns like I am.)
Each of you agree to put away a certain amount of money from each paycheck into a savings account. It can be used for impromptu adventures like travel, concerts, shows, or anything else you both agree on.
With a FUNd, you can make spontaneous purchases without going into credit card debt. This cushion helps avoid some uncomfortable arguments about finances.
Do something new together
This one’s pretty straightforward! Travel to a new place. Take dance classes for couples. Go to the gym together. Visit a new part of the city. Watch a play. See a comedy show. Go skydiving.
Choose anything that you’ve both always wanted to do and do it!
Don’t be afraid to take some alone time
I love being social and doing things with my partner. I also definitely need alone time often. (Usually to finish the many assignments I’ve been putting off.)
People with ADHD can be wonderful procrastinators. I’ve definitely used “spending time with my partner” as an excuse for not finishing a task on time.
Don’t be afraid to tell your partner you need a few hours to yourself. It can be to work or just to veg out and watch your guilty pleasure TV shows.
Know your limits
This is my least favorite part to talk about. But people with ADHD may be more prone to infidelity.
The impulsive nature of ADHD can lead to excessive drinking and boundary violations. Of course, this certainly isn’t everyone with ADHD. And it doesn’t have to be you!
Know yourself and your limits. Limit your drinking or avoid it altogether if you go out without your partner. Set clear boundaries. Know what your partner is and isn’t OK with.
Nix the distractions
It’s easy to let our distraction-prone ADHD minds wander to our phones once we’re comfortable around someone.
Make sure to be as present as possible when you’re on dates with your partner. Actively listen when they’re telling you about their day.
Take it slow
Perhaps most importantly, be careful not to rush into a relationship. Many people with ADHD seek out novelty. Nothing provides the dopamine hits that many ADHD people seem to seek quite like a new romance.
It’s easy to get carried away. Embrace these emotions and have fun! Just be careful not to rush in too quickly. Someone might end up getting hurt.
Remember: Relationships are a marathon. Not a sprint! Follow these tips and you’ll have a wonderful long-term relationship that’s both familiar and new.
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.
NPS-US-NP-00587 FEBRUARY 2020
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. (2019). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
- Black DW, et al. (2012.) Neuropsychological performance, impulsivity, ADHD symptoms, and novelty seeking in compulsive buying disorder. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.06.003
- Garcia JR, et al. (2010). Associations between dopamine D4 receptor gene variation with both infidelity and sexual promiscuity. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014162
- Li D, et al. (2006). Meta-analysis shows significant association between dopamine system genes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddl152
- Niermann HCM, et al. (2014). The relation between procrastination and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in undergraduate students. DOI: 10.1002/mpr.1440
- Sethi A, et al. (2018). A neurocomputational account of reward and novelty processing and effects of psychostimulants in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awy048
- Takahashi K, et al. (2015). Imaging the passionate stage of romantic love by dopamine dynamics. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00191
- Smith BH, et al. (2002). The Clinically Meaningful Link Between Alcohol Use and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (2002). https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/122-129.pdf