When we meet someone new and become infatuated with them (the first step of any romance) something pretty incredible happens in our mind – it become flooded with lots of extra dopamine. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters affiliated with the attention system in the brain.
When a person with ADHD falls in love his or her brain gets lots of extra dopamine just like everyone else and s/he is able to focus intently on his or her prospective partner. This has a name – ‘hyperfocus courtship’ – and it feels great to everyone involved! (I LOVED being courted by my husband. He was incredibly attentive!)
For almost everyone, the extra dopamine wears off between 24 and 28 months into the relationship. At that point, the ADHD partner returns to his or her ‘normal,’ low-dopamine state. (Low levels of dopamine is one of the reasons people have ADHD.) Which means the ADHD symptoms show up again.
This can be confusing – because the person with these ADHD symptoms is not behaving towards you like the person you met during that highly attentive courtship! I know when this happened in our own relationship, I went from feeling like the sun, moon and stars to chopped liver in about the space of a week. Turns out my husband still loved me. His severe distraction just didn’t communicate that.
It’s important to know that this ‘switch’ is not intentional. It doesn’t mean your partner no longer loves you. It isn’t personal. It’s ADHD.
The way to deal with this shift:
• Name it for what it is – a characteristic of ADHD (“low dopamine levels”)
• Internalize that the switch in behavior is not personal
• Get treatment for the ADHD – which often includes rebalancing dopamine levels to achieve better attention (often with medication)
• Set aside scheduled time to attend to each other in a romantic way
• If you’re long past ‘hyperfocus courtship’ see if you can look back and forgive yourself and your partner for misunderstanding it at the time.
Are you struggling through ‘hyperfocus courtship?’
You can find great resources for couples impacted by ADHD at adhdmarriage.com, including free:
- Online treatment overview;
- Downloadable chapters of my books;
- A community forum with other couples facing similar issues;
- A large number of blog posts on various topics;
Is your relationship in trouble? Consider my highly acclaimed couples' course: ADHD Effect In-Depth Couples' Seminar - This 8-session phone seminar has helped many couples thrive in healthier, happier relationships. The Live session starts September 2018.