He Never Plans a Date!

ADHD distractibility and planning issues change the rules of dating.

Posted Jun 16, 2014

More non-ADHD women than I can count have resentfully remarked to me something like "My partner never plans a date.  I'm tired of being the one who has to plan all the time."  These women dreamed of being in a relationship in which their man doted on them, and organized special occasions, at least once in a while.  But because of their parnter's ADHD, what they ended up with was someone who has great trouble remembering to pay attention to "details" such as planning dates, buying anniversary gifts or, sometimes, even coming home for dinner!

To these women, their partner's inability to coordinate fun things for them to do together becomes a signal that their partner isn't interested in them.  Yet this is often not at all the case.  The partner is interested...but also has ADHD and is so distracted that he (or she) simply doesn't demonstrate that in some of the ways their partners might expect.  A man with ADHD, for example, might focus intently on getting the technology in the home "just right" because it's an area of interest for him and he thinks it will please everyone in the family, while what his wife really wants is for him to surprise her with a night out dancing and a bouquet of flowers...which is completely off his radar screen.

So should women simply wait for their partners with ADHD to 'figure it out?'  Or perhaps complain in order to get their partner's attention and, therefore, that date they seek?  My experience with ADHD-impacted couples leads me to say no to both–these solutions don't really get at the heart of the issue–that ADHD symptomatic behaviors are interfering.  This isn't a matter of lack of good will or love.  It's an organizational and distractibility issue.

So a better solution is to do two things simultaneously: First, make sure that the ADHD treatment is optimized so that it becomes easier (in the long run) to remember those things that are really important.  Distractibility doesn't have to get in the way of date planning if the ADHD partner has a good reminder system in place, but getting (and keeping) that system in place takes time and considerable effort. Couples, once they have a better feel for all of their priorities and how much effort managing ADHD takes in their relationship, can determine whether the planning of dates is where the ADHD partner's energy is best expended. Second, I tell women to go ahead and plan the dates, at least for the immediate future.  Distraction in ADHD partners doesn't just impact whether or not they plan dates easily–it generally pervades the relationship.  It is better to plan the date and end up going out and having fun (and connecting) than it is to 'wait on principle' for your distracted partner to do so, and end up at home, disappointed you aren't out having fun.  You don't want to miss a chance to remember all the great reasons you are together!

So don't let your expectations that a partner's role is to plan dates get in the way.  Know that lack of attention to planning does not mean that your partner doesn't care.  And while you are learning to accomodate ADHD in your relationship, your best bet is to go ahead and plan anything that will be fun and connect the two of you!  Once ADHD symptoms are better under control you can figure out how to share the planning if that makes sense for you both.