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How to Avoid Toxic Relationships When You Have ADHD

As ADHD often comes with a hefty dose of impulsivity, it can be tough to protect ourselves from falling into toxic relationships. Agave ADHD Coach Vida Carey shares important tips to keep in mind when your heart takes over with an ADHD brain as the sole restraint.

February 2023, Vida Carey, ADHD Coach @ Agave Health

Navigating relationships as an adult with ADHD is tricky and, at times, exhausting. We have a tendency to succumb to a “love rush” filled with dopamine, not worrying about the problems of tomorrow. Never heard of a love rush? When you first meet someone, the newness and novelty are compounded exponentially for ADHDers into what I call a love rush. It is a bigger dopamine kick than binge-eating a bag full of pixie sticks. Yeah, that is a lot of freaking sugar, and you will temporarily have the power to pull a dump truck uphill; however, the sugar will eventually wear off. And just like a sugar rush, the love rush will wear off too.

During a love rush, green and red flags alike are drenched in dopamine and make you feel like the carnival just showed up in town. You are riding this chemical high so hard that you gloss right over a possible criminal history, the fact they quickly cut you off from your support system or put you down in front of others. When the love rush wears off, at worst, you are already committed to an abusive relationship and constantly reminding yourself of the person they used to be…and at best, you are staring at someone you don’t really like. All of a sudden, that person that lives in their mom’s basement doesn’t have quite the same appeal as you originally thought.

Trying new things is great as long as you are not going against your true nature.

Statistically speaking, the odds of you falling into a love rush and coming out with the love of your life are slim. Fairytales and the media have lied to us. As much as I would love for the world to be one giant Rom-Com movie, it just isn’t our reality. As a fellow impulsive hopeless romantic ADHDer with several toxic relationships under her belt, I developed a way to avoid the reckless, flash-in-the-pan love rush while allowing myself to develop deep, meaningful relationships.

First, you need to know yourself. It sounds really cliche but “this above all to thine own self be true.” Before you can be in a healthy relationship, you need to know what you like and what you don’t like. Being open-minded to trying new things is great as long as you are not going against your true nature.

Next, you need to have well-thought-out boundaries and be able to enforce them with consistency. ADHDers struggle with boundaries in all aspects of their life. We struggle with boundaries with ourselves, and trying to have boundaries with other people can feel exhausting unless you do the work.

Taking your time is paramount to avoiding toxic relationships.

Last, you need to slow down, take your time, and really get to know the person. Where is the fun in that? It may not be as fun as impulsively jumping on the back of a motorcycle with someone you just met and running off to Vegas, but taking your time is paramount to avoiding toxic relationships. We need time and space to process what we are seeing and feeling without the love rush clouding our judgment.

While the solution is not sexy and requires a bit of work on our part, it will save you an infinite amount of pain in the long run. There are tons of support groups, counselors, and ADHD coaches that can help you develop these skills. You don’t have to do this alone.


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