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How To Use Your ADHD Love Language To Build A Better Connection

Understanding how people with ADHD express love is key to building a loving, healthy relationship when one or both partners are neurodivergent. Effective communication and patience are essential, as individuals with ADHD may express and experience love differently. Recognizing and adapting to these unique love languages can lead to a more fulfilling and empathetic partnership, ensuring both partners get their needs met.

Published on
2/4/2024
Updated on
2/4/2024
estimated reading time
minutes

Written by

Alice

The mini Adhd coach

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word form our expert

Ever caught yourself wondering if the way people with ADHD give and receive love is different to neurotypicals? 🤔 For many couples navigating ADHD, cracking the code to each other's love languages can be the golden ticket to a deeper bond and understanding.

In this article, we'll discuss:

  • The unique twist on Gary Chapman’s love languages for those with ADHD and their partners. 😍

  • How the five neurodivergent love languages offer a new perspective on connection and care.

  • Strategies for communicating in a way that ensures both the partner with ADHD and the non-ADHD partner feel heard and valued.

  • The role of emotional bids in strengthening ADHD relationships and how to respond to them effectively. 🥰


Ready to decode the language of love? 😉


Let’s dive in!

Understanding Love Languages

In 1992, Gary Chapman wrote 'The 5 Love Languages'. Over his years as a couples therapist, he noticed a frequent pattern - that couples constantly misunderstood each other's needs.

This lightbulb moment led him to identify five unique love languages - the different ways we show and crave love in relationships. 

They include:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Recognizing and understanding these languages can significantly enhance the quality of our relationships, ensuring that we feel loved and appreciated in the ways that matter most to us. 🤗It offers us a 'cheat sheet' on how to love our partners in the way that hits home - and ensures we feel the love coming back our way, too. 

But when we zoom in on folks who are neurodivergent, especially those navigating life with ADHD, the standard playbook of love languages needs a bit of a tweak. 🤏This is because the unique ways people with ADHD think and feel often mean that expressing and experiencing love might not follow the typical script. For someone with ADHD, a deep connection often forms through relationships that align with our unique traits while also soothing the symptoms that challenge us.

This perspective gently nudges us to see that ADHD can influence the language of love in its own unique way. It highlights the need for partners to be open to tweaking and tailoring traditional love languages to suit their neurodivergent partners better, ensuring that love speaks and resonates deeply for both. 💕

A thoughtful image of a character with pink hair looking contemplative with text 'ADHD can impact many social aspects of our lives, including dating...' addressing the broader effects of ADHD on social interactions.

The Five Neurodivergent Love Languages

Loving someone with ADHD - and loving another when you have a diagnosis - often means playing with a unique set of rules and needs. 

However, the five neurodivergent love languages give us a blueprint for connecting for anyone looking at life through an ADHD lens. 😁

Let’s explore them in detail. 👇

Infodumping

For many neurodivergent people, especially those with ADHD, sharing our intense passions or interests goes way beyond mere small talk. 😂

It's a deep-seated love language, a meaningful way to forge a connection. This act, often called 'info dumping,' is a beautiful means to invite someone into our world, sharing what truly captivates our minds in great detail. We know that for some people, it can be quite a lot to take in - but if we start telling you all about our latest hyperfocus at 100 miles an hour, consider yourself special. 🤣

To nurture this kind of emotional communication, partners can embrace this neurodivergent love language by actively listening and asking insightful questions enthusiastically. Someone visibly looking bored when we’re telling them about our latest interest can trigger huge feelings of rejection or like we’re too much. 😞

On the flip side, engaging with your loved one's info dumps is like giving them a bear hug in neurodivergent love, signaling that you genuinely care about the things that light up their life. 🤩

Informative illustration describing reasons why people with ADHD might talk fast, including fear of forgetting what to say, excitement about new ideas, impulsivity, and not noticing the speed of speech.

Parallel Play/Body Doubling

In ADHD relationships, sharing the same space without needing direct conversation can be a powerful love language. This practice, often called parallel play or body doubling, embraces the comfort of a loved one's presence without the necessity for continuous conversation. 

Engaging in activities like reading side by side, diving into personal projects in the same room, or cooking together without constant pressure to chat can nurture a unique sense of intimacy. 🥰

You might even develop a secret code for it - my partner and I call it ‘astronaut time’, where we both do our own thing with our headphones on - like two astronauts in their space suits that can’t hear each other but can see each other, and are still a team. 🫢If one or both of us have a particularly bad ‘ADHD day’, the ability to call for quiet time without offending the other is an absolute life saver. 😂

Support Swapping

The journey through ADHD is one filled with various challenges, making mutual support between partners invaluable. Support swapping involves taking turns in offering assistance, whether it's through reminder systems, helping with tasks, or simply being there for each other. 

A creative representation of an ADHD brain's perspective with a cluttered 'To Do Today' list, surrounded by various thoughts and questions, highlighting the distractibility and multitasking nature of ADHD.

Incorporating tools such as shared calendars or reminder apps can significantly enhance the support between partners. And, if you’re both neurodivergent, it means you can check in with each other and hold each other accountable for staying productive and on top of things.

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Deep Pressure

For many in the neurodivergent community, especially those with ADHD, the sensation of deep pressure brings a sense of comfort and security. This form of affection can be shared through tight hugs, weighted blankets, or even holding hands firmly, offering a calming effect to counter sensory overload or anxiety. 🤗

Introducing deep pressure as an expression of love should always be done with care, respect, and consent, making sure both partners feel at ease and supported. Recognizing and honoring each other's sensory preferences is an essential aspect of emotional communication, playing a crucial role in conveying care and affection in a way that helps those of us with ADHD get our sensory needs met.

At times, honoring each other's sensory preferences could mean preferring not to be touched or asking the other to use headphones during social media scrolling. With open communication and mutual respect for each others autonomy, this approach becomes a powerful way to express love and consideration by acknowledging each other's sensory needs. 

Illustration of a smiling cartoon character with pink hair and the message 'Many people with ADHD are very sensitive to sensory stimuli' and 'When these stimuli are too intense, it can lead to a sensory overload' to explain sensory challenges.

Penguin Pebbling

In the language of neurodivergent love, small, thoughtful acts often speak volumes, like how penguins give pebbles as gifts to show they care. 🐧This adorable habit, known as penguin pebbling, is all about giving gifts that mean something special or are just right for your partner's tastes and needs. 

Whether it's sharing a meme that cracks them up, finding a book about something they love, or picking out a quirky little trinket, these gestures show you're paying attention and value what makes them unique. Getting creative and thoughtful with your gifts can turn even the most straightforward thing into a heartfelt token of love, making every little act a meaningful slice of your bond. 

One of the best gifts my partner ever got me was a t-shirt made out of my favorite soft material. The fact that he knew me well enough to know exactly what kind of shirt feels best on my skin without triggering my sensory overload made me feel so loved and seen. 🥹

Cheerful drawing of a character with pink hair looking excited with stars around, and the text 'People with ADHD often like new things...' signifying the enthusiasm for novelty often experienced by individuals with ADHD.

Strategies to Master The Neurodivergent Love Languages

Regardless of whether one or both partners are neurodiverse, navigating the relationship can be a rewarding adventure full of learning and bonding. 

To make sure you're both on the same page, make sure to:

  • Recognize that we all show love in many ways, from the need for deep pressure like tight hugs to sharing intense interests.

  • Make it a point to openly discuss preferences, feelings, and how you both express love, ensuring a judgment-free space. There is no 'right' way to express love - that's what makes us unique.

  • Adapt and personalize how you show love, whether enjoying activities side by side or diving into each other's hobbies.

  • Remember, it's not fair to expect the other person to automatically know your needs and when they arise - it's up to us to teach them how we wish to be loved. 

The Power of Emotional Bids

Emotional bids are the subtle attempts we make to connect with, gain the attention of, or get support from our partners. These bids can be as direct as asking for help or as subtle as a knowing look across a crowded space. 👀

In relationships where ADHD is a factor, recognizing and responding to these emotional bids is key for building profound connections. The variable nature of ADHD can make these bids more subtle or more often overlooked, so partners need to be especially receptive to each other's emotional cues. 

A sensitive drawing of a character with pink hair expressing sadness, accompanied by the text 'People with ADHD tend to feel ashamed a lot. Years of shame can make you feel unworthy of love and kindness...' to discuss the emotional impact of ADHD.

For neurodivergent people (particularly ADHD), an emotional bid might not always follow conventional patterns. It could manifest in a burst of enthusiasm about a new interest, a need for quiet time, or even in moments of seeking reassurance during times of overwhelm. The key to strengthening relationships lies in trying to notice these bids, and how we respond to them. 

In ADHD relationships, becoming more attuned to these bids involves cultivating an environment of open communication and patience. Partners - whether they have ADHD or not - need to practice explicitly asking about each other's needs and preferences, making recognizing and honoring these bids easier when they occur. By doing so, couples can build a stronger, more empathetic bond where both partners feel seen, heard, and deeply connected. 🙏

Examples of Emotional Bids

Emotional bids from neurodivergent people might look like those from neurotypical people at first glance. However, due to the nuances of ADHD, the buildup, expression, and outcomes of these bids can vary. 

For instance, a bid for attention or connection that goes unnoticed or unacknowledged might feel like a harsh rejection, especially with rejection sensitivity dysphoria being a common aspect of ADHD. 😥That's why it's crucial to be mindful of these emotional bids and communicate openly about the times you might not be able to respond as expected.

Many of us with ADHD might express a bid for connection by:

  • Sharing a new interest or hobby enthusiastically to invite conversation and shared excitement.

  • Seeking quiet time together to find comfort and presence without the need for conversation.

  • Requesting help with organization or reminders, not just as practical support but also as a gesture of trust and partnership.

  • Expressing a desire to be listened to after a long day and looking for empathy rather than solutions.

  • Offering a spontaneous compliment or appreciation to connect and show affection.

  • Initiating small physical contact, like a gentle touch or a hug, to make a non-verbal bid for closeness and reassurance.

  • Asking for reassurance during moments of self-doubt or overwhelm, to get emotional support and understanding.

  • Inviting you to participate in a task or activity to spend quality time together to strengthen your bond.

  • Sharing a meme or video that made them think of you.

  • Expressing feelings of overwhelm or frustration, not just as venting but as a request for support and a calming presence.

Keep in mind; it's not always about responding perfectly to these requests for connection exactly as the other person desires in that moment. What's crucial is recognizing these attempts and explaining why and when we might or might not be able to fulfill them.

For instance, if your partner reaches out for a hug during a stressful moment, but you're feeling overwhelmed and need space, it's important to acknowledge their need. You could say, "I see you're looking for comfort right now, and I really want to be there for you. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed myself at the moment, so can we sit close instead of hugging? I'll be more ready for a hug in a little while." 

This way, you're recognizing their bid for connection and offering an alternative that respects both of your needs. 🥰

Key Takeaways


  • Understanding Love Languages: Gary Chapman's concept highlights the importance of recognizing how we and our partners prefer to give and receive love, including words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

  • Neurodivergent Love Languages: For those with ADHD, expressing and experiencing love may require adjustments to the traditional love languages, emphasizing the need for partners to adapt and understand each other's unique needs.
    • Infodumping: Sharing interests passionately as a form of connection.
    • Parallel Play/Body Doubling: Sharing space without needing direct interaction as a form of intimacy.
    • Support Swapping: Mutual support in managing ADHD challenges.
    • Deep Pressure: The comfort found in physical pressure as a form of affection.
    • Penguin Pebbling: Small, thoughtful acts or gifts as expressions of love.

  • Strategies for Mastering Neurodivergent Love Languages: Open discussion, personalization of love expressions, and education about each partner's unique needs and experiences are vital.

  • The Power of Emotional Bids: Recognizing and responding to emotional bids is crucial in ADHD relationships, as these bids may not always follow conventional patterns and can be influenced by ADHD symptoms like rejection sensitivity dysphoria.

Embracing and adapting to love languages in neurodivergent relationships is more than just finding common ground; it's discovering what makes each connection unique and ensuring everyone feels valued, understood, and loved. 

From exploring new hobbies together and enjoying peaceful moments to sharing a comforting weighted blanket, every gesture is a step closer to a deeper connection and a celebration of your one-of-a-kind relationship. 💖

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is ADHD love bombing?

ADHD love bombing might not fit the traditional definition of 'love bombing' in relationships. Instead, individuals with ADHD may express intense affection and interest due to their passionate nature. This can include grand gestures, deep conversations, and a strong desire to connect. It's a unique aspect of neurodivergent love, reflecting the person's genuine feelings and interest.

How does someone with ADHD show love?

People with ADHD might show love in diverse and creative ways, often tailored to their understanding of neurodivergent love languages. This can range from expressing love through physical touch, like tight or bear hugs, to spending meaningful time together, focusing undivided attention on their loved ones, or engaging in deep-pressure activities like cuddling under a weighted blanket. Unconventional gift-giving and sharing special interests or 'info dumping' is also common, as these gestures signify trust and a desire to share personal worlds.

Are people with ADHD loyal?

Loyalty among people with ADHD can be profound, as their emotional connections to loved ones are intense and heartfelt. Their loyalty often manifests in their own ways, prioritizing emotional communication and support swapping with those they care about. Neurodivergent individuals may require continual conversation and reassurance in relationships, but this also means they deeply value and are committed to their connections.

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