Every person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is unique, and so the experience of dating them will be too. That said, people with ADHD can have some similar strengths and challenges.
ADHD is a condition that affects a person’s ability to regulate their attention and impulses, which can mean they appear forgetful or distracted.
However, many people anecdotally report that relationships with people with ADHD can be exciting. They can be spontaneous, energetic, and adventurous. The tendency to hyperfocus on specific topics or hobbies can also mean the person has strong passions.
Read on to learn more about dating someone with ADHD.
Every person with ADHD is different, so it is not possible to accurately predict what it will be like to date each individual.
ADHD does not influence a person’s personality, perceptions, values, and attachment styles. These are unique to each person, and their life experiences will also inform how they see the world.
But ADHD can cause symptoms that affect how a person thinks. Someone with this diagnosis may have more difficulty with:
- Attention: People with ADHD may find it hard to focus on some things, which can lead to forgetfulness or being easily distracted. However, they can also focus very intensely on things that interest them. This is known as hyperfocus.
- Impulsivity: People with ADHD can have a high amount of energy, which can result in fidgeting and hyperactivity. They may also find it harder than others to control impulses, such as the urge to buy something.
- Emotional dysregulation: This means a person has intense emotions that they may find harder to regulate than others.
Not everyone has all these symptoms. Doctors generally identify
- predominantly inattentive, which means that inattention is a person’s main symptom
- predominantly hyperactive, which means that restlessness and hyper behavior are the most notable symptoms
- combined type, which blends both groups of symptoms
Additionally, the same symptoms may manifest differently in different people.
Anecdotally, people report that partners with ADHD can:
- be spontaneous
- be sociable and fun to be around
- be warm and loving
- keep relationships interesting
- encourage them to try new things
- enjoy doing hobbies together
A 2023 study also suggests that people with ADHD may be more sexually adventurous than people without ADHD.
People with ADHD can and do have successful relationships. Knowing a person has ADHD does not provide any information about how loving they will be in a relationship.
However, there do appear to be some common challenges among people with ADHD. A
These data reveal little about why people in the studies experienced relationship problems, though. Many factors can influence a relationship.
Red flags are behaviors and characteristics that suggest a person may be harmful in relationships. As such, ADHD is not a red flag.
ADHD describes a set of symptoms. These symptoms do not mean the person will not be caring, kind, loving, or loyal. Describing ADHD as a “red flag” can be ableist. Ableism is discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.
Instead of looking at a person’s diagnosis for signs they may or may not be a good partner, it can help more to look at behavior. For example, it could be a red flag if a person:
- forgetting to reply
- forgetting about information from previous texts
- sending incomplete messages
- sending multiple messages in a short space of time
- impulsive texting, which could involve flirtatious texts, inappropriate questions, or changing topics
- being frustrated by texting if the pace is too slow for them
These behaviors do not necessarily indicate a lack of care or love for another person — they are the result of a person’s symptoms.
Love bombing is when a person gives excessive amounts of love and attention to someone early in their relationship so that they will become dependent on them. It is a tactic people use to create strong feelings of affection quickly so that the person overlooks concerning behavior.
For example, a person might take their partner on a romantic trip together early in the relationship, isolating them from friends and family. They may indulge their partner with expensive gifts and tell them they cannot live without them. They may even ask to move in together or get married much sooner than typical.
This comes from a desire to control a partner. As a result, it is not something that is inherent to people with ADHD. ADHD does not naturally cause people to want to manipulate others.
However, as with any person, someone with ADHD could also be abusive in relationships. Alternatively, they may hyperfocus on a new relationship due to their excitement. This can look similar to love bombing, but the motivation is very different.
People who are hyperfocused on a relationship may:
- want to see the person they are dating frequently
- text or call often
- prioritize their partner over other commitments, friends, or hobbies
People can tell the difference between love bombing and hyperfocus by considering the consequences of saying “no” to these requests.
If the person would get angry, lash out, guilt-trip someone, or deliver an ultimatum, they could be using abusive behavior to try and get their way.
If the only negative consequence is disappointment or mild frustration, this is not a sign of abuse.
People with ADHD may engage in impulsive behavior. This could increase the risk of infidelity in some circumstances.
In an anonymous 2023 online survey, researchers compared data on 541 people with ADHD to 851 people without ADHD. People with ADHD were more likely to report infidelity at some point in their current or past relationships.
The difference was more significant among females with ADHD, 52.8% of whom reported sex not with their partners, compared to 41.2% without ADHD. Among males, rates between people with and without ADHD were similar, at 48.9% and 45.9% respectively.
The reasons participants gave for this included:
- being intoxicated with alcohol
- feeling misunderstood
- sensation-seeking behavior
This does not mean a person with ADHD will inevitably be unfaithful. The rates of infidelity between those with ADHD and those without are fairly similar.
Dating someone with ADHD requires the same communication, compassion, and curiosity that dating any other person would require. It may help to:
- Learn more: People can learn more about ADHD online. It may also help to listen to personal stories of people with ADHD and how it affects their relationships.
- Ask questions: If a person is comfortable with this, ask them about their diagnosis and how it affects them. Do not make assumptions about a person’s personality, needs, or habits based solely on their diagnosis.
- Communicate clearly: It can help any dating experience to clearly explain what a person is looking for from the relationship, as well as their boundaries and expectations.
- Adopt a positive attitude: Neurodiversity is part of humanity. Avoid framing ADHD or its symptoms as a problem that needs to be fixed.
- Remind them: Some people with ADHD can forget things. This does not necessarily mean they do not care, though. It may be necessary to remind them about texting back or to confirm dates and times before meeting them.
People with ADHD are as unique. As a result, the experience of dating a person with ADHD will be different depending on the individual.
ADHD symptoms may affect their memory, communication, and behavior in some ways, but this does not necessarily reflect a lack of care. Many people with ADHD have successful long-term relationships. As with any other relationship, compassion, communication, and clear expectations can help.