It seems the more I listen to people in and out of my therapy practice, the more I realize that, for many of us, achieving a healthy love relationship is often fraught with much difficulty. Obviously, there are multitudes of reasons why people may have difficulty forming healthy long term relationships, and I should certainly know, having had my share of “roller-coaster rides”, but having ADHD often adds to the difficulty in very distinct ways. This article explores some of those difficulties as they apply to romance, love and ADHD.
Recently I had a conversation with a client who has a long history of unsuccessful romantic relationships. She’s a beautiful young woman who has had a variety of passionate relationships which, for some reason never “work out”. Over our past few sessions we have explored this pattern, only to discover that the men she most cared for were exciting, handsome, and dreamy, but somehow not very supportive or emotionally available. On the other hand, she had a variety of long term relationships with men who she referred to as her closest friends. She told me that these men have been there for her for many years and were all extremely supportive and solid in her life. In fact, her best friend, is a man she has known for the past 10 years. This man has provided her with a rich friendship that includes trust, shared values, affection, loyalty and great fun. When I asked her why she had never dated him, she said that he was not her type. “So, what exactly is your type?” I asked.
It seems to me that many of us share this same dilemma. Very often, the people we most attract and are attracted to are the ones that provide us the most drama. There’s always that elusive quality or edge that makes the relationship fraught with intrigue. Often there is a lot of arguing, tension, excitement, longing, passion, and pain, but not a lot of trust, respect, safety, and loyalty.
Certainly one does not have to have ADHD to fall into this same pattern, but here’s the part that seems to fit with the ADHD mind set. People with ADHD thrive on stimulation and get bored easily. If someone is rock-solid, trust worthy, safe, affectionate and loyal, without all the drama, this can feel boring to the ADHD mind, which is constantly seeking stimulation and excitement. Being in a committed relationship in which we are sure of our partner’s loyalty and affection can feel boring to someone with ADHD, especially if we are not tuned in to the principles that constitute true love. That’s because true love is not a feeling, so much as it is a decision. Love is what we choose to commit ourselves to. It is an action, a verb, not a noun. Feelings come and go all the time, but true love is about loyalty and commitment. Not all that heady or stimulating, a lot of the time.
In addition to our need for stimulation, it seems that our culture is one in which the virtues of friendship, affection and loyalty are not held up to the same standards as passion, romance and excitement. But in addition to our society’s seeming bias toward passionate romance, if one has ADHD, the inclination of falling into a pattern of seeking titillation at the expense of commitment, can certainly prevent one from ever finding true love. For romance, with all its stimulation has a completely different energy and set of values than love. One can certainly have occasional romance and passion within a loving relationship, however that is not its foundation, nor does one expect or demand that the passion be sustained on a continuous basis, since the ingredients of love are far less “spicy”. And spicy is what our culture sells us.
The next question that my client asks is,”how do I take the chance of risking my friendship with my best friend, while seeking love?” “I guess that really does take courage, now doesn’t it? ” To stretch beyond our comfort zone and consciously choose love over drama, knowing that we may find it dull or boring (at times) is certainly something to consider. How do we transcend those periods of boredom to allow us to embrace a sense of peace, comfort, security, fulfillment and (alas) true love? And what if we open that door to love, only to find that we cannot fully step through it? How do we continue, if we can no longer continue? And have we lost our best friend in the process?
The great Tony Robbins once said, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.” So, here’s my answer. If something in our lives is a pattern that is not working for us, then perhaps we need to try doing it a different way. It takes a lot of courage to open a different door than we normally would. But it’s only through taking risks in our life, that we are provided opportunities to evolve and grow. Love is more than feelings, emotions, and physical attachments. It is also about conscious choices, spiritual growth, and evolution.
Love is everywhere around us, and yet, for many of us, so difficult to access in any meaningful way. It is for each of us to decide when and if, the risk is worth taking for the sake of love. To my client, who struggles with this dilemma, all bets are on her. I believe she will find her way through that door and if and when she does, I hope to celebrate her victory along side her.
Leslie is a holistic therapist working in South Florida. If you would like more information about her work or more help with ADHD, sign up for her free newsletter at www.ADDadults.net.