You’ve met someone. You like her (him) a lot. You have been dating and it has been going good. You have ADHD. When and how do you tell her? If you follow your past, at one point you just blurt it out, during an "ADHD moment." This relationship is different and you don’t want your diagnosis to be a focus of the relationship but you also want someone who is willing to accept you - ADHD symptoms and all.
Although I searched, there isn’t any studies, research or even a consensus on when it is best to disclose your ADHD to someone you are dating. However, the following are five points to think about:
If you disclose your ADHD** very early, say the first date, your potential partner might define you based on his or her knowledge of ADHD.** If you are dating someone who is knowledgeable about the condition, that’s okay. However, there are a lot of myths about ADHD and you don’t want to be defined based on inaccurate information. For example, James wanted to get the diagnosis out in the open and on the first date told Andrea he was diagnosed with ADHD. They had a nice evening but Andrea didn’t want a second date. James later found out that she had heard people with ADHD had a hard time holding a job and she didn’t want to date someone who was going to be unemployed on and off.
Understand how your ADHD affects your dating. While everyone with ADHD is different, some of the main ways ADHD creates problems in relationships are:
- A tendency to be late
- Inattentiveness or becoming distracted during conversations leaving the other person with the impression you don’t care
- Forgetting a date or failing to communicate a change of plans
- Blurting out inappropriate comments during conversations
- Feeling restless or becoming distracted by other possible romantic interests
When you understand how your ADHD impacts relationships, you can take steps to correct that particular situation as well as explain to your date that these behaviors don’t reflect your feelings.
Disclosing ADHD after a major blunder will probably sound like an excuse. If you have forgotten an important date or made some other major blunder, the best course of action is to own up to the mistake and apologize. While ADHD might be an explanation for the behavior, it should never be used as an excuse. If you want to explain your actions, wait until the apology has been accepted and things are calm again.
Waiting too long could be a disaster. Relationships tend to move in steps and once you get to the "serious" step, your potential partner has a right to know certain information about you, as you do about her. Long-term, successful relationships are built on honesty and trust. If you wait too long, your partner is going to wonder why you didn’t trust her enough to tell her. If your relationship is to the point that you are talking about an exclusive relationship, it is time or past time to talk about ADHD.
Plan to educate your potential partner about ADHD. If you simply say you have ADHD and then move on, your partner will base her opinions on the limited knowledge she has about ADHD. Explain what it means, how it most impacts you and make sure you share both the positives and negatives of ADHD.
There is no right or wrong answer on when to disclose ADHD to a potential partner. Your relationship and your diagnosis are unique to you.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.