Not Getting Enough Sex in Your ADHD Marriage?

Have you ever wondered what’s a “normal” sex life?  There is so much buzz around the topic of sex in the forums right now, I think it’s time to write about sex – what might be going on if you’re having too little…and then I’ll write about getting away from porn and sex addiction in another post.

Research suggests that how often you have sex varies, on average, by age – declining as you get older (is there ANYTHING besides heartburn that increases with age???!)  Before you get excited or depressed by the numbers below, make sure to keep reading… 

  • Age 40-49 – average is 69 times a year if married, less if not
  • Age 50-59 – 54 times a year
  • Age 60-69 – 33 times a year

Note, however, that the averages lie because the distribution of sexual encounters is actually quite uneven.  In fact, 15% of adults are having over half of the sexual encounters.  So statistically speaking, it’s very likely you aren’t batting the averages above.

As for not getting enough sex, 15% of couples report that they have had no sex in the last 6-12 months, and about a third report that at least one partner has low sex drive.

Conversations going on in the forum right now suggest that many are struggling with ADHD partners, particularly male ADHD partners, with little interest in sex.  I run into this a lot with my consulting practice, and it is clearly linked to the complex, often negative feelings in these relationships.  There seems a significant correlation between the amount of controlling and critical behavior in a non-ADHD partner (particularly a woman) and the desire of her man to “risk” having sex with her.  The angrier she is, the more likely any sexual advances will be rejected (“too tired,” or “not in the mood” or  even “stay away, you jerk!”).  This has a dampening effect on desire (okay – that’s an understatement!)  After a while, even if he might want sex, he’s unwilling to deal with the possibility of anger.  It’s the really, really negative side of parent/child dynamics.  Put bluntly, if you’re in parent/child dynamics, your sex life is probably dead.  No one wants to have sex with their child…or with their mom.

This is not to “blame” the non-ADHD spouse.  There is anger on the ADHD partner’s side, too, that can even make going to bed stressful (“will he want sex even though I’m exhausted from all of his stuff that I’ve had to do today?” and “he only pays attention to me when he wants sex – that’s not okay!” are common themes.)  The stress is easy enough to read…and ADHD partners tend to simply back off rather than deal with it.

But that’s not the only thing going on.  It takes effort and attention to sustain an interesting sex life over the course of many years.  Scheduling sex may seem like a buzz kill but it’s often necessary for getting the undivided attention of an ADHD partner.  Don’t resent that fact – embrace it!  Having great sex when you schedule it is a whole lot better than not having it (and becoming resentful about that) because you have it in your mind that it should be spontaneous like it used to be.  Not completely in the mood at the time that you scheduled it?  That’s okay – just start playing around – have some fun with it…you’ll be in the mood soon enough.

Medications can also play a role.  Some stimulants decrease sex drive.  And I’ve had a very few people report to me that stimulants impact their arousal.  These aren’t reasons to not take these medications, but if you have a sudden decrease in sexual interest you can’t explain in other ways, test to see if your medication is involved.

Medications aren’t always negative when it comes to sex, by the way.  Many with ADHD find that good treatment helps their sex life over time.  A few also use short acting stimulants before sex to help provide the focus they need to as stay engaged as they would wish.

Menopause also decreases sex drive for many women.  In fact, fully 80% of post-menopausal women report some sort of sexual dysfunction – from decreased libido to dryness, pain and more.  Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing this.

Finally, there’s the issue of sexually explicit materials.  Since it’s so easy to find sex on the internet, many, many couples are dealing with this issue.  Add the tendency for ADHD men to LOVE the computer (all those dopamine squirts that watching quick cuts in video games feel so good!) to the impulsive characteristics of ADHD,  as well as difficulty turning down something interesting today for the long-term benefit of it, and you have many ADHD spouses seeking out porn.

If you and your partner have gotten caught up in that, there are specific steps you can take to deal with it.  This post is getting long…I’ll write on that next.