New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Couples With One ADHD Partner

Sex and ADHD

This is a long post, so I will try to get right to the point.  I have been married for 16 years, diagnosed for one year. 

My wife and I have had little in terms of a mutually satisfying sex life for many years.  Intercourse frightens my wife, due to some earlier traumas, some at my hand.  I used to think she was just very picky and did not care for my technique, or maybe used sex, or its lack, as a way to control my often erratic or simply ADD-like behaviors and negative attitudes. 

But, now I see we are really on very different wavelengths when it comes to our sexualities.  She, not ADHD, is very positive about her life and work, and has many outlets for herself socially and sex is not that critical to her happiness.  She looks for the good that we have together and states encouragingly that maybe her sexuality will return, who knows?

I am less positive and get down on myself for not having more friends and a more fulfilling work life.  I get very hyperfocused on the whole sex issue, perhaps to distract myself, almost like trying to put all my eggs in one basket!

This drives me to have regular angry outbursts with her over a variety of issues, not just sex.  But, I feel sex is behind a lot of it.  I think I suffer from Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, as Dr. Dobson explains it on this website. I am even taking a new med he recommended to help with my emotional reactivity. 

The years of trying to cajole or motivate my wife to be more sexually expressive and basically have the desire to have the desire to be sexual, has left me emotionally exhausted, and not such a wonderful and appealing partner, I am sure.  In fact, the love needed to truly accept and be open to the marriage AS IT CURRENTLY IS remains a struggle. 

I know my pride is hurt and look for sexual stimulation as a self-enhancement tool.  When I get down about it, I really feel that sex is just a bridge too far for us anymore.  But, I am getting a little better at not blaming her for our situation. I can see some of our blessings. And that we remain together is very important to me. 

Just needed to vent, but also wanted your input as most of the reading I have done on sites like this describe the partner as wanting more intimacy and the ADD person being too distracted by video games or something to even remember their partner’s sexual needs. 

This is not my case, and I actually wanted to ask anyone who has experienced this sense of bewilderment or rejection how they deal with it.  I think my marriage is unique in that we have gone through so much together and have stuck it out. 

Really I think that I am just coming to terms with the ups and downs of a long marriage, both in the sexual arena as well as in just getting along day to day…

But, rekindling our sex life would be great for me and I would hope, for my wife someday as well. 

Thanks for reading!


Well you are not the only one with difficulty in this area. I am the non- ADHD wife and I can give you a little perspective. For a woman, to really enjoy and want sex she needs to feel totally safe. Read that again, seriously, there is not one thing that is more of an aphrodisiac for a woman than to feel special and safe.  And you need to make her feel both. She needs to feel both emotionally and physically safe. So if there are things happening like throwing blame at her for her lack of desire this is going to take you in the opposite direction you want to go.

Also if she has had traumas around sex anything that is even slightly fearful for her, your temper or raising your voice, even not valuing her will keep
Her stuck in that trauma.

It is not easy to deal with this stuff. You both have to be open and secure and that is not always the case, and it can change from day to day.

May I suggest that you start at wanting her to want sex, instead of wanting sex. That is just toouch pressure and pressure equals stuck where you are. You are going to have to muster up patience tenfold and and keep telling her that you desire her and want to wait for her. Nothing makes a woman feel better than if you want only her. So you need to give her that message with no expectation. It is a little bit like courting.

Best to you. This is always a hard topic.

Posted by YellaRyan on Dec 24, 2013 at 12:11pm

I agree.  I am also a non ADHD spouse of someone who is not on medication.  Feeling cherished is important to me.  When he is leaving stuff around for me to pick up, zoning out when I am talking to him, coming home late after being unreachable because he didn’t charge his phone, and acting more life a child than a partner, it isn’t exactly a turn on for me.  So, when his come ons are purely sexual and not romantic, it just feels like another task I have to do that is more about him than me - especially because I’m exhausted from doing so much!  I recommend you focus on her and her needs and eventually she may feel safe and cherished enough to be sexual again.  It is like I heard Oprah say once, “you want to engage in foreplay?  Empty the dishwasher!”

Posted by Shantung on Dec 24, 2013 at 5:41pm

Thanks for both of the perspectives from non-ADHD wives on this topic of sex. Your similar experiences and empathic feedback were just what I needed. 
I have a kind of rambling response, but am really still in the woods on this and would appreciate any more thoughts…
I heard that me wanting sex just seems to put more pressure on her and the relationship. 
That sounds very true for us.  The times I think it would be perfect are often very mis-timed for her.  And, I think I need to wait to even approach her on this until she finds that feeling in herself. 
Even taking a step back from sex itself is the issue of safety.  I have heard that from her many times.  I do admit to getting angry and yelling or walking out of conversations with her.  This is just a sense of overwhelm that things could be so far off from where I am.  I then see that she is dealing with my ADD daughter and that is just a load on her that must diminish her feelings of love and trust. 
So, thinking of how she might begin to feel sexual is such a loaded topic at this point.  I can imagine that her feeling would be that my ultimate goal is just for myself and my pleasure.  As you said, feeling respected and responded to appropriately is the key here. 
Then she takes on a lot of the responsibility for our finances, etc., which I could/should pick up more on. 
The Oprah quote is quite real for many women. 
Put dealing with two ADDers on top of what many women face already must be a heavy load to bear.  I need to not add to her burden through anger or self-pity, I hear that clearly from both of you. 
I may have mentioned that I hope to take a medication, which actually diminishes sexual desire.  That, along with its anger reducing properties may be just what I need for a while.  If you think I am off on any of this, just let me know. 
Again, great advice!

Posted by Yamalen on Dec 26, 2013 at 6:51am

1. Maybe sex is your love language. If you’ve’e ever read the 5 love languages, then that intimacy means a lot to you. To her, not so much.

2. I’m going through a similar thing. But I’ve given up on wanting more sex. 4 times a month has been our average for the past 8 years (it is what it is).

3. Not to offend the women that will read this, but to women “The Vagina and the emotions are directly connected.” If she’s not emotionally in the mood, or happy or feeling “adventurous” you don’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell. With that in mind, I’ve learned to work my way into sex. I’ve stopped complaining about the lack of sex, and did things to “earn” sex. I would plan some date, make her laugh, basically do all that I can to put her in a happy mood where my wife will be willing to have sex if I instigated it or if she’s so happy that she instigates it.. As strange as that sounds it doesn’t always work, but it’s increased my chances over the years (yes I know I just said we average 4 times a month I don’t want to mention how much lower it was prior to me learning this).

Posted by not2day on Dec 31, 2013 at 12:18am

Wow!  The more I read, the less I feel alone.  My partner, with untreated ADHD, continues to be oblivious.  I am reading a great book, “Is it you, me or ADHD?”  By Gina Pera.  It is helping.  My need to feel special, and valued is simply not met.  Of course I don’t feel sexy, or loving toward him.  Before, in other relationships, love making was a very big part of the partnership.  Now, in this one, it is a very small part.  Someone else mentioned that her partner initiates using sex instead of intimacy.  Sometimes I wonder if he’s going to leave cash.  Obviously, I am considering whether or not it’s worth staying.  I do love him, but do not feel loved.

Posted by Karen24 on Jan 05, 2014 at 9:17am

I appreciate your comments on this thread I started about dealing with lack of sexual interest and willingness on the part of my spouse. 
In my case, I have ADHD and my wife does not.  We have been married for 16 years and it is hard to admit this, but our sex life was in trouble almost from the beginning.  She early on got an STD from me (Chlamidia) and I think felt very betrayed and even angry with herself for trusting me.  I think that clouded our relationship. Sexual intercourse has been impossible for many, many years, due to her fearing pain from intercourse (with the exception of trying to have a baby). 
So, I appreciate the feedback and do sympathize with those who are struggling in the sexual arena. I think the need to feel special is important for anyone to feel sexual, and even I lack that at present.  In fact, I am at the point of despair of ever regaining her trust. 
For me to have trust, I need my wife to see that we have a common problem in this area.  Instead, she says that sex is just “icing on the cake” for her.  That suggests that she is alright and even happy with how things are. 
But to me icing on the cake is something that a person likes, but is not necessary for their happiness.  Is this really an accurate description of her feeling, because she seems to just avoid sex, perhaps from being afraid of it, or whatever.  So, more like she sees it as tantalizing and overpowering, like a genie in a bottle better left there. 
I heard clearly that focusing less on what I want and am not getting helps her and me to cope.  I try to maintain my equanimity in the face of my lack.  I guess I am weak because I seem to always come back to the why me’s? (In fact, I sometimes question whether I actually want things the way they are so I can feel deprived. Maybe I do not want things to be different?  If I did, maybe I would have done better with patience and with making her want me by doing things she likes and being less angry). 
One evidence of the point I just made is that I have gone against some of your advice and told her I am considering taking a break through a trial separation.  This has not lead to fights and she says she will accept whatever I decide. 
My goal in making this statement to her is to get some sense of control back, where I do not continue to confront my desperation about the situation with her for years to come.  I find that when I am under control about it, she just goes on unresolved and basically ignoring making any changes.
I really do not want to leave and the thought of starting over single and alone is daunting, especially at 51 and with ADHD. 
My reading and meditation are telling me all is not lost and that if I can maintain my stability, she may come around.  But, putting the added question in her mind of if I am going to stick it out may make her unable to move forward.  So while I think I have her attention, I do not have her intention, if you understand my meaning. 
I recognize that these issues are very delicate and if I am not really serious about leaving, maybe I should postpone that kind of talk for another year (I am a teacher who must sign on for another year every April.
I really think she has been through a lot with me and my daughter.  I really do not blame her for taking the stance of “I will only do what feels right for me.” 
Again, this is a long post and I appreciate your support and hope I can take the advice given to me by people who have been there and done that.

Posted by Yamalen on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:03pm

Best wishes to you.  It sounds like that was difficult for you, but at the very least, it might give you a sense of what things would be like if you were on your own.  I hope it gives you greater clarity.  I also hope it doesn’t backfire.  As the spouse of someone with adhd, sometimes having a break (I.e. When I travel for work) can feel really freeing when I only have to think about myself.  However, I think both of you can use the time to figure out what is best. 

I read a saying recently that have me a slightly different perspective with how I approach things “if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, water your grass.”

Posted by Shantung on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:14pm

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

I found out a few months ago that my partner has ADD and since then have read a lot about it in an effort to make sense of things. It’s explained all the stuff that was so confusing, especially his sexual problems, but the more I found out the more I feel my relationship is bound to fail.

We’re still together, essentially because we don’t live together and I can go home. The longest we live together happily is about a week before one of us needs time to ourselves. But I feel terribly sad sometimes. He is such a lovely guy but when he’s spent a certain amount of time with me he switches off and it’s like I’m in the way. It’s all or nothing with no ‘in between’ time attention wise for him

So maybe some space will help you both, I’m almost envious of your wife that you want to make an effort to improve things with her. My partner certainly wouldn’t

Posted by JD1956 on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:36pm

I’ve read all the other comments and couldn’t agree more: men make sex and women make love. And this has nothing to do with ADD or any other condition! That’s just how it works. Just remember the time when you wanted to date your wife - you seduced her, flirted her, made compliments and gave presents. In short, you made her feel special to win her.
I am 34 years old and mother of two and let me tell you an advice: all women, no matter how old she is, want and like to feel special do someone.
Asking for sex or having an argument over this issue is definitely a turn down.

Posted by Mkmk79 on Mar 04, 2014 at 7:46am

Join the New ADDitude Forums

ADDConnect is shutting down on July 31.
To continue sharing and receiving support from the ADDitude community, visit our new discussion forums.

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions