ADHD Love Languages

Cracking the Love Code: Neurodivergent Love Languages Revealed

Published on
February 14, 2024

Creating and sustaining meaningful connections is akin to tending a vibrant garden. Just as a garden thrives with a diverse array of flowers, expressing love through various gestures and actions allows our relationships to blossom.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, neurodivergent folks tend to put their own spin on showing affection, which often means their garden goes unnoticed or misunderstood.

In this article, we will explore the five love languages, how they may differ for neurodivergent folks, and how to foster deeper understanding so that every “garden” may be appreciated.

The 5 Love Languages

Just as a gardener carefully selects and plants seeds according to their personal taste and needs, everyone plants different seeds of love in relationships. By diversifying our expressions of love–our love languages–we create a rich foundation for strong and flourishing connections.

In short, the idea behind love languages is that individuals give and receive love in different ways. Recognizing and understanding these differences can improve communication and strengthen relationships.

Traditionally, the five love languages are defined as:

  1. Physical Touch: Cuddling, hugs, holding hands, kissing, sex, etc.
  2. Quality Time: Any meaningful time (aka, without phones or other distractions) spent together. Making eye contact, being present and focusing undivided attention on each other
  3. Words of Affirmation: Compliments, praise, gratitude, and support through words - whether written or spoken (love notes, sweet texts, etc.)
  4. Gifts: For those who like to give and receive gifts as a form of love, it often isn’t about monetary value! What really matters here is that the gift is meaningful; that you spend the time and effort to choose something that shows you pay attention to them, and know what brings them joy.
  5. Acts of Service: Anything you do for the other person to show that you care and appreciate them. Household chores, making sure their gas tank is full, starting the car for them before work on a cold day, etc.

Neurodivergent Love Languages

The following are some of the ways that neurodivergent individuals may express love. You may notice that several of these are actually quite similar to the five traditional love languages; however, there are key differences. Here are the five neurodivergent love languages, and what they actually mean:

Please Crush My Soul Back Into My Body—Physical Touch

‘Please Crush My Soul Back Into My Body’ is often better known as applying deep pressure.  Techniques like deep-pressure hugs can often be incredibly soothing, instilling feelings of security, comfort, and safety in a loved one.

What it means to someone neurodivergent: Although deep pressure is not only for neurospicy folks, they tend to enjoy and need it more than neurotypical people. The deep pressure from a tight hug, a weighted blanket, etc., helps produce feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, and decreases stress hormones like cortisol.

Parallel Play— Quality Time

This is, in essence, spending time together in the same space but doing your own thing. For example, one person reads while the other plays a video game. Many neurodivergent people have very different energy and stimulation needs and therefore tend to need more alone time and personal space to recharge and reduce overstimulation.

What it means to someone neurodivergent: If a neurodivergent person allows you into their space while they are resting, it’s a sign of trust and comfort, as if to say, “I trust that you’ll respect my need to not interact. Being around you doesn’t drain my energy, and is soothing and comforting.”

Info-dumping—Words of Affirmation

Info-dumping is, as the name suggests, the act of sharing about a topic intensely, as if ‘dumping’ information on the recipient. The intensity may be noticeable in the person’s emphatic tone of voice, the speed at which they talk, the amount of time they can spend discussing the topic, and the level of detail they know about the topic.

What it means to someone neurodivergent: Many neurodiverse folks have special interests and topics they tend to ‘info-dump’ about. However, in many spaces, they may feel ashamed to share and talk openly about these interests. Info-dumping is a sign of great trust and comfortability in the listener, who may be more reassuring and affirming in their listening.

“I found this cool rock/button/leaf/etc and thought you would like it”—Gift Giving

This neurospicy twist on gift giving is commonly referred to as Penguin Pebbling, after the behavior of several penguin species that ‘gift’ their mates with pebbles to build their nests.  It’s very similar to the traditional love language of gifting, with the main difference being the type of gift - something small, often of little to no monetary value, that demonstrates an appreciation for the unique relationship and connection.

What it means to someone neurodivergent: Someone who partakes in pebbling is showing the recipient they care about them because they thought about them. For someone who is neurodivergent, pebbling can be a particularly meaningful gesture, demonstrating a unique gesture to show appreciation and connect with a loved one.

Support Swapping—Acts of Service

Certain tasks can be particularly difficult for neurodivergent individuals to complete. While the specific tasks may vary from person to person, the tasks regardless may be much easier to do when doing them for someone else. For example, it may be difficult to do one’s own dishes, but much easier to do a friend’s. Support swapping is, in essence, identifying which tasks each person struggles with most, and ‘swapping’ by performing those tasks for each other.

What it means to someone neurodivergent: Support swapping fosters a mutual support system that not only alleviates individual burdens but also strengthens communal bonds. It can become a powerful tool for enhancing daily functioning and emotional well-being—and a fun love language for all parties!

What’s Your ADHD Love Language?

Just as a well-tended garden brings beauty and joy, nurturing our connections through diverse expressions of love fosters strong and fulfilling relationships. If you have a neurodivergent friend, family member, or partner, it’s important to recognize that they may express their love differently than you do. The more you can speak with the person about each of your preferred love languages - whether the traditional types or their neurodivergent counterparts - the better you’ll both become at communicating your affection and care for the other.

If you have adult ADHD, and are struggling to communicate in your relationship, we hope the explanations above will serve as a resource for you and your loved ones to grow closer. Or, if you need a little extra help, reach out today to speak with a virtual ADHD coach at Shimmer!

Live better, with ADHD
Shimmer is the #1 coaching platform for adults with ADHD. Build a life you love through personalized 1:1 video coaching, handcrafted productivity tools, and science-backed learning modules.