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ADHD made it impossible for me to date — until I found someone else with the same condition

Insider
Insider
 2021-11-29
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  • I was diagnosed with ADHD in my late 20s.
  • My condition affected my dating life as I found it hard to stay focused in conversations.
  • Dating someone with the same condition has made our relationship so easy.

While watching " Love on the Spectrum ," a Netflix show that follows young autistic people in their search for love, a touching moment brought a sense of self-reflection. Before a date, Jimmy becomes increasingly unnerved about not wearing navy blue socks. His partner, Sharnae, doesn't scold him. Instead, they buy the socks before going on their date.

It's the kind of genuine understanding that I've only experienced since being in a relationship with someone who has the same neurological condition that I do.

I have ADHD, and symptoms such as being easily distracted and forgetful can cause frustration between partners. It can be easy to mistake these symptoms as not being fully present in the relationship, which can lead to unnecessary arguments.

It took decades for me to get diagnosed with ADHD

The symptoms of invisible disabilities can be difficult to handle. My mind feels like a web browser with too many tabs open — not exactly perfect partner material.

Growing up, I lost my keys so often that my stepdad had to build a key safe by the front door. I once used the microwave as an oven timer and set the house on fire.

I was constantly disappointing my parents with my inattentiveness. But I maintained good grades and developed coping mechanisms, so I wasn't diagnosed until I was in my late 20s. ADHD diagnosis criteria are based on males, so a disproportionate number of females go undiagnosed, which may lead to problems such as depression and anxiety. For three decades, I wondered what was wrong with me.

Dating with ADHD

On dates, I struggled to feign interest and would zone out mid-conversation. I dismissed anyone who was kind to me because I didn't think I deserved it. Instead, I spent most of my 20s in roller-coaster relationships with exciting people who kept my attention but didn't respect or particularly love me.

After getting diagnosed, my dating life changed . I no longer searched for someone who could keep my attention. I matched with a man named Tom on a dating app. We'd both previously lived in the same ski town in Switzerland and had mutual friends. He has messy dark blond hair, blue eyes, and an infectious smile.

On our first date — a walk on the beach — I watched as he fidgeted around looking for the cigarettes that he'd hidden in the depths of his pockets. I suddenly recognized our shared magic.

"Have you got ADHD?" I blurted out tactlessly.

"Wow, is it that obvious?" He laughed. "Yeah, I'm textbook."

"Me too," I beamed.

Dating Tom is different. Understanding the symptoms of our condition relieves us of having to apologize for the things we can't control. Neither of us has to explain why we drift between 14 different topics of conversation in two minutes or get stressed out because there's a dog barking nearby, and one can't focus on what the other is saying.

We have a foundation of love, respect, and understanding — and that's something I haven't been able to find with partners who didn't understand my diagnosis.

ADHD isn't just a disability. It's a superpower. It's a driving force that can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. But as with any powerful force, you have to understand your condition to be able to make the most of it.

It's taken me 30 years to finally say that I can accept who I am, and my life has changed for the better. In dating someone with the same neurological disorder, I've found peace in a place where for so long there was chaos.

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