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Dating with ADHD: tips you’ll actually remember

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Dec 04, 2023

Dating with ADHD: tips you’ll actually remember

When I started to suspect that I had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in early 2020 – like many others stuck at home scrolling endlessly on TikTok – little did I know that I was going to embark on a stark adventure with the rest of the world, or that I would fall madly in love with another woman. Later on, when I got my diagnosis, I had a whole new world to explore: dating with ADHD as a woman. 

I’m now several years into a healthy relationship and both managing and leveraging my ADHD in my love life. I learned a lot along the way, and I’m here to share it with you!

Dating someone with ADHD and dating as a woman with ADHD  are two different scenarios but they have a lot in common. First of all, ADHD is in the picture: duh! 

If either scenario is applicable to you, you probably have some burning questions about what it’s like and how to best accommodate it. You might even want to know how to best support your partner or yourself as you move forward through the relationship.

Thankfully for you, there’s been so much research on ADHD in the field of psychology, with leading psychologists like Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. Russel Barkley sharing research and insights that can make it easier to approach the topic. 

But, we wouldn’t be HER if we didn’t put a queer spin on dating with ADHD, right? That’s what we’re here for after all, so let’s get into it.

A lesbian couple with ADHD hold hands on a sidewalk.

Is dating harder with people with ADHD? Not necessarily

Despite the stigma around it – when it comes to dating – attention deficit disorder is neither a “good” thing nor a “bad” thing. ADHD just is, and you can’t just ignore it. 

Whether or not it’s difficult can also be subjective. This isn’t to say that there won’t be challenges, but the key to any disability is accommodation. You can’t force a wheelchair user up stairs – they are entitled to an accessibility ramp! 

It helps some people to think of their ADHD as a superpower, but it definitely doesn’t help when you beat yourself up over the way you are. There’s so much power in accommodating your circumstance rather than forcing yourself to be something you’re not. Don’t shove your ADHD in the closet – see what I did there? – especially when there’s research and resources for you out there.

This goes for you as an individual with ADHD or you in a partnership where ADHD is involved. Dr. Edward Hallowell, a leading psychologist specialized in ADHD, says the following about how ADHD affects relationships: 

“In couples where one or both partners have ADHD, one of the biggest challenges is developing mutual empathy and understanding. Without that, couples slip into the blame game. “

Dr. Edward Hallowell

So, how do we develop mutual empathy and understanding and avoid the blame game? It starts with opening your mind to start thinking about working with ADHD instead of against it. It all starts with knowledge, so the next step is to research what ADHD is.

Research ADHD to understand how it can affect your dating life

Let’s start with some resources. Dr.  Edward Hallowell – who has ADHD himself – and Dr. John Ratey co-wrote the book ADHD 2.0: New Science and Essential Strategies for Thriving with Distraction–from Childhood through Adulthood. The book gives actionable treatment options for distressing ADHD symptoms like forgetfulness even inability to keep up attention during sex. 

This book changed the whole way I looked at my ADHD. While my non-ADHD partner isn’t much of a reader, I tore through the book and gave her the highlights. She would sit patiently with me as I yammered on and on about ADHD facts, and she took it all in like we were in a particularly entertaining class..

There are many other books for you to look into, but I’d say to start with ADHD 2.0 if you want a great overview of what it’s like to live with it.

Don’t just stop at one or two books on ADHD,  though. It’s worth looking into research on ADHD in women in particular, because ADHD symptoms can sometimes show up differently in women. We tend to be better at masking – hiding our symptoms – because of the way women are socialized. 

Start with books like Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life by Sari Solden and The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus, and Get More Done by Terry Matlen – or with a simple Google or YouTube search!


Number 4 is AWKWARD 😅 and has gotten me into some difficult conversations! 🙈 Has anyone else come across some hurdles when dating with ADHD? There’s probably a lot for a part 2 as well but I’d love your thoughts! #adhdtiktok #adhdfemale #datingwithadhd #datingadhd #adhddating #adhddatingfails #adhdtips #adultfemaleadhd #adhdrelationshipadvice #datingadvice #neurodivergentdating

♬ Lo-Fi analog beat – Gloveity

During your research, you might end up with the ADHD-Tok, which can be as fun as it is informative. But at the same time, it can spread misinformation and myths about ADHD. Be wary, with the rise of TikTok, a lot of people have been self-diagnosing themselves with ADHD, which sometimes can be more harmful than helpful. 

It doesn’t hurt to research and relate to certain things, but remember that the only person who can definitively say you have this disorder is a qualified psychologist. In my case, I began to suspect ADHD for myself because of TikTok, and because of that, I ended up getting a professional diagnosis! 

Dating with ADHD is an eternal exercise of patience

ADHD or no ADHD, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to relationships in general. Especially if you’re serious about being long-term and building a life together. Understanding how the other person works is both an exciting part of falling in love, but also may lead to frustration especially if you don’t understand the way other people think.

One of the most reassuring aspects of my relationship with my partner is that, throughout my ADHD journey, she has been incredibly patient with me. She has made peace with the fact that I just will forget details – like the time her classes end, or when her train out of town leaves. I will ask several times over, and she will reply with no hesitation or malice every time. 

This may not be easy for everyone – there is some understandable frustration behind constantly repeating yourself. 

The best way to build resilience around this frustration is to discuss it. Reassure your partner that your forgetfulness has nothing to do with whether or not you care about the situation. Have your partner explain where that frustration comes from – and see if they could come closer to understanding your memory problems and facing them with empathy and love rather than frustration. 

Dating someone with ADHD is like living in a meme

As much as it can be frustrating to pay the “ADHD tax” – forgetting the keys in your front door overnight, or leaving your car unlocked – there are times where it’s nice to just laugh it off! 

For example: I like to talk, a lot. But sometimes, when in casual conversation with my partner, I will begin a sentence and then trail off mid-sentence, and have the rest of the conversation in my head, completely forgetting that I was in conversation with someone. 

One time, I did this and my partner actually caught it on camera. Years later, we still think about it and watch the video just to have a good laugh. Moments like these can bring you and your partner closer by not focusing on the downfalls of ADHD.

An ADHD meme screenshot from The Office with Michael Scott saying “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”

With ADHD, celebrate strengths – don’t overly focus on weaknesses

As much as the “ADHD as a superpower” can come off as cheesy, there is some usefulness to looking at your ADHD and asking – what skills and characteristics do I have that are actually helpful in this situation? 

Dr. Hallowell explores this pretty well in ADHD 2.0, stating that in his years of research, identifying strengths and then leaning into them as a person with ADHD can be a more helpful treatment option because it provides positive feedback! So when your partner with ADHD hyper focuses on cleaning the apartment, or making you a delicious meal, thank them for it and see how they can incorporate these strengths into their life. In my opinion, anyone could benefit from this tip.

Time management with ADHD looks different

Being an adult is hard enough with all the responsibilities we have, but when you have ADHD, and you’re dating? That’s yet another person’s schedule you have to be aware of! This scenario is common, but it’s not something I myself worry about, now with years under my belt having ADHD and being in a relationship, so I don’t think you should either.

With ADHD, it’s not about forcing a time management system to work, but it’s about trying out different types of planning and figuring out what system works best for you! If sticky notes are your go-to, then stick to it. If you prefer a journal, then write it out.

Of course, some of these typical planning tips will make any person with ADHD roll their eyes because they’ve probably tried it in the past, and it hasn’t worked. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something out there for you that could help!

Two women with ADHD are on a date playing games on a couch.

Dating with ADHD as a woman: final thoughts

So, how does ADHD affect dating? It is a matter of accommodation, patience, communication, and welcoming fun. Yes, if some of these skills aren’t your strong suit, then it might prove to be difficult, but whether you’re a queer person or a lesbian dating with ADHD, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. 

If you’re serious about your relationship, you should also consider being serious about supporting your partner’s ADHD diagnosis or your own diagnosis. And if you’re wondering if ADHD is a red flag in a relationship, you should consider rethinking this mentality, or else others will think you’re the red flag! 

The bottom line: it’s completely possible to have fulfilling and healthy relationships with ADHD in the picture. So, happy dating! 

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Rocio Sanchez (any pronouns) is a brand strategist and SEO copywriter who dedicates themself to LGBT+ and POC-led business through digital marketing strategies. Born and raised a Dominican New Yorker, and now based in Amsterdam, they have their own digital marketing agency called Marketing by Rocio. They also host a queer fashion podcast called Transition of Style, based partly on their graduate master’s thesis completed in Paris, where they lived for four years.

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