As promised, here is a little article that I dug up from my files about Valentine’s Day and keeping intimacy alive in your relationship. Although it was originally written with AD/HD in mind, in this world of screens and hyper-busyness it’s ever more relevant.
Psychotherapist Jonathan Scott Halverstadt, M.S., is the author of the book A.D.D. & Romance: Finding Fulfillment in Love, Sex & Relationships (Taylor, 1998). On staff for several years at the Amen Clinic in Fairfield, CA, he now practices privately in Fresno, CA.
I spoke to Halverstadt by phone in 2010. Diagnosed with ADHD himself in 1991, he was humorous, frank, and thoughtful about treating couples with ADHD and relationship problems. As for how ADHD affects people in the U.S., it’s everywhere. Halverstadt suspects that in the general population, around 8-15 percent have ADHD, and the vast majority are still undiagnosed and untreated.
I asked Halverstadt if it’s more common for people with ADHD to flake out on Valentine’s Day.
“To me, it’s not about whether it’s the day or not,” Halverstadt says, “it’s about where they are in the stimulation process. If the relationship has become commonplace or normalized for them, it’s just part of their standard day.”
Halverstadt adds that for people with ADHD to shine on Valentine’s Day they’re going to have to work at it—to work from their own intense impulsivity, spontaneity, and creativity.
“You know, I’m an old guy,” he says, laughing, “and Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I’m very much in love with my partner. And we will go to dinner and we’ll do something special but it’s not like in the first throes of romantic love, where it’s like “Oh, wow, we can do this or we can do that!” It’s more like, “Hmm, I gotta remember to get her some flowers.”
But isn’t that typical of everyone? I ask.
“I think it’s very much typical of people across the board,” he answers. “Where it becomes difficult for ADHD people is that if it’s not stimulating, they’re not going to focus there.
“So I try to teach people, ‘You know how to be romantic. In the hyperfocus days, you did incredible stuff.’ It’s about remembering what you did back then. And making certain that you do it now because that is then truly a gift of love, because now it’s not that you’re being driven by your biochemistry, you’re being driven by your commitment, caring, and compassion.
“One of the misnomers across the board, whatever gender or preference you are,” he continues, “is this erroneous belief that if my partner really loves me then they’re going to do this incredible thing and I won’t have to say anything. I tell them, that would be cool, but that’s not the way it usually works. If there’s something you really want, that works for you, that’s romantic and wonderful, ask for it. If you ask for it and they give it, it’s truly a gift of love. That, to me, shows way more commitment.
Finally, Halverstadt stresses: “When life with your partner becomes commonplace, you need to do something about that if you want it to be a satisfying relationship! It’s so easy for that to happen because we all lead such busy lifestyles. We stop listening, we stop being vulnerable and being honest about who we are.”
The real satisfaction in life, he says, comes from having healthy, loving, supportive relationships where we can give love and be loved. “If that seems as if it’s missing, don’t go too long without getting a tune-up. Get that taken care of. Because life is really short. Having a good, healthy relationship or friendships, that’s really where ultimately we’re going to feel wonderful.”