My Boyfriend is Growing Distant. Is His ADHD to Blame?

My Boyfriend is Growing Distant. Is His ADHD to Blame?


Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Dear Dr. NerdLove:

Hello, I apologize in advance for my lengthy rambling, I tend to overthink, and get nervous typing.

I am quite honestly not certain what to do, lately my boyfriend gets far more distant. He told me straight away that he has a child, and has had ADHD most his life, he is taking doctor prescribed medication to help with the ADHD. I understand that ADHD causes him to struggle immensely with communication. I have been nothing but what I feel is understanding in regards to that. However, I am no longer certain whether his behavior is ADHD, or just a guy who only talks when it’s convenient for him.

My boyfriend and I have been together for eight months. Last year he had to move for his job, and so now we are now in a long-distance distance relationship. We have known each other for going on three years as he was a customer coming into my work. We started talking and he finally asked me for my telephone number. We started texting, then he told me he waited quite a while to ask for my number as he wanted me to know his intentions were serious. We got along pretty well, he was patient from the get go, not making me feel pressured, and he shared about having kid, which I am fairly certain I had already seen, he did not realize that. Then one day I asked him to give me a ride home. He simply took home, and did not try anything at all.

Three months later, he first asked me to be his girlfriend. By the end of the month I fully agreed, and we were official to each other. Or so I thought.

One day last year, after we were official, he was not talking much, and for about a week did not say much to me. The we went about two weeks or more without spending time together, other than my seeing him coming to my work to buy energy drinks. We were in his car one day talking whilst he drove, and he mention he had a second girlfriend. He said I was his number one though, and asked me how I felt about him having a second girlfriend. I was entirely forthright in saying I did not know, as he was my first boyfriend ever. I mentioned that I did not know how I was supposed to feel. Though, I gave what I thought to be clear indication after that I was simply looking to only have one boyfriend, and for me to be his only girlfriend.

Then later a month or so he said he was joking about having a second girlfriend. I thought wow, okay I did not realize that was meant as a joke.

Today one of my regulars who knows me quite well asked about how I was. They asked if me and the guy he saw one day were an item yet. I was honest in telling them he was my boyfriend. Then the customer asked “does he have another girlfriend?” I replied no he has a child whom I have met many times in my work, she is about five. They said when did I last see him when I said two months they said he is most likely got other women.

My boyfriend as always been on the less talkative side as far as short messages of good morning, and not much else.

Though As of late my boyfriend has been growing distant going days without talking, yet active online on Instagram. Rarely ever says good morning anymore, he does not ask how I am, or anything that he used to ask. He will not reply to my Instagram messages; or, well he has never answered my Instagram videos calls. We have only talked on the telephone three times, all three times was when he was coming up to see me. Other than that he never answers my phone calls, rarely answer my cellphone texts anymore. He hasn’t even been actually trying to spend time with me. Last time I saw him for a long period of time was in January we went to the local ball field park to play at the away. Then when he brought me home. We chatted in his car outside for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes. I was double checking his car for my things per his asking “did you get everything babe?”. All of sudden I found an article of clothing that clearly belonged to a woman. Hmm I have been overthinking that for the past four months honestly. Per chance it was something that belonged for his kid, I simply said oh “there is this”, his response was “oh fuck that”. I said okay, and threw it in the back seat. Come two weeks after the time we spent together I sent him an honest message asking “am I an afterthought in your life because your heart lies elsewhere” ? I felt the need to state this because he always waits until after the fact to tell me important things like losing his wallet, a hole in his tire, or being sick.

He went these last two months without seeing me. I have repeatedly told him days I have taken specifically in hopes of spending with him. He rarely responds to my wanting to spend time with him. He no longer seems to ask when can I see you. Last time he did was February, then he went two days without talking. Then third day he randomly showed up at my work one night for maybe fifteen minutes to get gas, and snacks. However, my sister was already outside waiting to give me a ride home seeing as I do not drive. I told my boyfriend I would message after I got a home as I wanted to spend time with him. Thus he could come get me. He never responded to my messages that night.

Last week I asked him about doing something together. Got a sort of response saying heck yeah babe. Though, he never got back to be after I asked when he would be available, and told him my availability.

We have not done anything for two months. I have no clue what to do? Might the customer be right that he has other women. Was he actually being truthful when he told me about another girlfriend. I apologize for quite the lengthy message, it is hard to make sense of what intended to say.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

An Option or a Priority?

Hoo boy.

Ok, AOAP, let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. Yes, sometimes having ADHD can mean that one is bad about returning texts, emails, DMs or phonecalls. It’s a short-term memory thing; the person with ADHD says “oh, ok, I’ll get that in a bit”, but that intention never actually writes to disc and then they realize that they hadn’t responded and it’s been however many hours or days and now it feels awkward to reply so it just gets shuffled into the Pile o Shame, there to just wake that person up at 4 AM when their brain decides to replay every embarrassing or stupid thing they’ve said or done since they first started having object permanence.

That’s very different from going for weeks or months without talking. If his ADHD is that bad, then I’m a little shocked that he’s able to function and do things like “hold down a job” or “not default on his bills, rent or mortgage payments”. Can ADHD make someone a poor communicator or someone who forgets obligations or plans? Absolutely. But there’s a point where it would require a level of ADHD that makes it next to impossible to function as a grown-ass adult. It’s certainly possible to hit that level or have reached a point where his medication isn’t’ working, he’s on the wrong meds or he’s been hit by the same medication shortage that the rest of us struggle with.

But there’s also a point where he’s just being an asshole.

But maybe it’s not just the ADHD. He had to move for work, and it’s entirely possible that he could be incredibly busy, even to the point of overwhelm. There’re times when even close friends can be so overloaded with work that they just don’t have the bandwidth or spoons to communicate the way they may have before. This can be especially true if they’re also loaded down with other obligations that take a big bite out of what remaining bandwidth they have.

But that doesn’t preclude someone from telling their partner, even a long-distance partner, that they’re fucking overwhelmed. Or to make them a priority, even over people who might be closer to hand.

I don’t like leaping straight to “he’s horrible, dump him” off the bat; I do my best to be charitable in my reads of how people may be behaving and not assume that they’re just assholes. It’s an easy and lazy approach to dating advice, even if it does apply much of the time. So I try to follow Hanlon’s Razor when it comes to seemingly neglectful behavior.

Hanlon’s Razor states that you shouldn’t ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity or ignorance. But the corollary to this is that past a certain point, there’s no material difference between stupidity and malice.

The same applies to ADHD; past a certain point, someone can have ADHD and that makes them a poor communicator and someone who’s careless with their promises and obligations. But someone can have ADHD and just be an asshole.

And I hate to say it but I think you’re dating an asshole.

More to the point, I know you’re dating him, but I kinda wonder if he is dating you. The way he behaves certainly suggests that no, no he isn’t. The absolute lack of communication is part of it, but so are some of the other clues and hints. That whole “Did I tell you I have another girlfriend” thing? That’s what we in the dating advice biz call “a huge fucking red flag”, the kind that’s large and red enough that he needs to avoid rodeos for his own safety.

Brushing it off as “just a joke” doesn’t make it better. In and of itself, that’s not a “joke”, and acting like it is would be an indicator that he doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to know that this was a dumb thing to joke about. That sounds a lot more like a “joking but not really” sort of scenario, where he’s floating a trial balloon to see how you would react. You didn’t respond well and so suddenly it’s just a bit. A goof! A gag! You’re his number one gal! Except, y’know, for the way he ignores you, doesn’t make plans and doesn’t seem to show up except when he needs a Monster or two. And also finding women’s clothing in the car.

Now, do I think he’s cheating? It’s really hard to say. There’s just not enough conclusive evidence in your letter and what is there could have innocent explanations. But if I’m being honest, whether he’s cheating/ is unethically non-monogamous or not doesn’t really matter because that doesn’t change the rest of his behavior. And his behavior suggests that he doesn’t really consider you a girlfriend, nor does he treat you like one.

So this is going to sound like a bit of a digression but stick with me. One of the reasons why a lot of people, women especially, don’t like casual relationships is because people often use that as an excuse to treat people casually. Yes, you aren’t a couple in the traditional sense, you don’t have an expectation of long-term commitment or exclusivity and you may want to avoid behaving as a romantic partner to help avoid catching feels… but that’s different from treating someone poorly. Even a casual partner is someone who deserves respect and consideration, not being treated like just an option.

I bring this up because that’s precisely the way your beau is treating you. You two are theoretically dating. In theory, that should make you a priority to him. But he’s not treating you like a priority. He’s treating you like an option, and not even a particularly favored one. It seems like you’re a matter of convenience – someone who’s there when he wants something, but who can be ignored or disregarded otherwise. That’s not kind, that’s not considerate or respectful to your feelings, to your time or just to you as a person.

This is why I don’t think it matters whether this is down to his ADHD or not or whether he’s cheating or not. Even if it really is his ADHD that makes him act like this (it’s not) and he’s being faithful (signs unclear, ask again later), he’s still treating you like an option, not a priority. He’s treating you badly. And that’s honestly all the reason you should need to exit this relationship at speed.

I think it would do you some good to take a moment and ask yourself: what are you getting from this relationship? Are you actually getting your needs met? Is dating him making you happy, or is his behavior causing you more stress, more irritation, more heartache and/or more pain than pleasure? My guess, based on what you’ve written is “no”. And that, to my mind, is a good reason to recognize that if this relationship isn’t meeting your needs, it’s time to go.

So I suggest giving him the “it’s not me, it’s you” message and he can respond or not as he sees fit. Meanwhile you should go and find a partner who treats you like a priority, not an option… when it’s convenient for him to do so.

Good luck.