ADHD, Relationships & Sexual Intimacy

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1 Sex Matters ADHD, Relationships & Sexual Intimacy West Chester, PA You can have a happy relationship without sex but a good sex life adds about 20% to the happiness of a relationship. You can live without it, but it s better to have it. 2 For Some, Sex Matters More Some Definitions Sex can be a source of great connection or terrible conflict. Sex = any erotic activity, solo or accompanied. For couples who already have enough conflict, the benefits of a good sex life are especially important. Too important to neglect. Relationship = any committed arrangement: Married or otherwise Gay or straight 3 4 The ADHD Multiplier The ADHD Myth ADHD doesn t create unique struggles for couples. Addressing the ADHD will lead to a better sex life. But it does increase the frequency and intensity of the same struggles other couples have. ADHD isn t the problem; anger, guilt, and resentment are the problem. 6 1

2 Imbalanced Relationships ADHD & Sex: Individual ADHD relationships can become imbalanced. ADHD partner may feel less worthy of making (sexual) requests. Non-ADHD partner may feel less (sexually) generous. Better sex is just one more reason to strive for balance and complementarity. Everyone sometimes gets distracted during sex, but people with ADHD maybe more so. Or not. Medication may not help if it has worn off or not kicked in when you have sex. People with ADHD may have a higher need for variety and novelty. Comorbid anxiety and depression negatively affect sex drive. 7 8 ADHD & Sex: Couple Treating ADHD Will Help Happy couples tend to have more sex, but ADHD can reduce relationship satisfaction. Neither nagging nor being nagged at is sexy and both kill sexual generosity. Poor time management causes sex to get squeezed out. Constant scrambling drains away energy. Different sleep schedules reduces opportunities. There is much more to a good sex life than ADHD, but getting on top of your or your partner s ADHD is a step in the right direction. It s one fewer barrier to a satisfying relationship and good sex life. Good treatment means that bothpartners take responsibility for their part and strive to improve ADHD is Inconsistent One of the hallmarks of ADHD is that it leads to inconsistent performance. ADHD partner: work hard at being more consistent and reliable in the areas that matter to your partner. Non-ADHD partner: accept that some inconsistency will remain, help as needed, enjoy the successes, and don t take slips personally. The ADHD Secret Addressing the ADHD will open up more time and energy for sex, but then you need to use it well. 11 2

3 Peace Requires War The Peace Myth Early in the relationship, everyone is polite, so there are few fights. And little honesty and disclosure... Happy couples don t fight. It s impossible for two people to always want the same thing at the same time. An enduring peace is created by addressing and resolving the issues that arise. 14 Relationships Drive Growth Happy Couples Fight Better Committed relationships are harder to walk away from, so we are forced to address disagreements. Does this bring out your best or your worst? (Both.) This process of addressing issues and differences makes us into better people. Getting ADHD diagnosed and treated makes a big difference for both partners. They fight respectfully: they avoid low blows by managing their own emotions. Can be more difficult for those with ADHD. They resolve problems productively: they create sustainable solutions. Non-ADHD partner may need to pitch in. They move on afterwards: they leave upset behind and reconnect without grudges. People with ADHD can be very good at this The Peace Secret Porn & Erotica Learning how to fight respectfully and productively is the key to a happy relationship in bed and out. 3

4 Where Does Porn Fit? Path of Least Resistance Porn is quick and easy but not a replacement for partner sex. Porn/masturbation should mostly be a complement or fill-in for when partner sex isn t available. You aren t competing with porn stars unless they are actually in the room with you. Watching the cooking channel is fun but not a replacement for real food. Masturbation/porn can be easier than addressing issues with your partner. So can turning a blind eye to your partner s solo activities or making it the scapegoat. Sometimes this is OK, but chronic avoidance leads to bigger problems. Problems here probably reflect other problems and need to be discussed The Couple Sets the Rules Each individual and couple needs to define what is acceptable use of porn/erotica. How often? What kinds? Free or paid? Together or solo? The Intimacy Myth I will feel good about myself if you tell me I m good. 21 Sex Makes Us Better People Good Sex = Good Intimacy Sex can be hard to go without. This creates a strong incentive to resolve the personal and relationship disagreements that interfere with sexual satisfaction. This can be hard work, but it ultimately makes us better people. Creating a great sex life requires comfort with intimacy. 1. This begins with being comfortable within yourself about your sexual interests. 2. Then you need to feel comfortable sharing that with your partner. 3. Then you need to be comfortable with your partner s sexual interests. 4. Then you need to negotiate the differences

5 ADHD Can Hurt Self-Esteem Self-Esteem and Self-Acceptance All those undiagnosed years living with ADHD can lead to too many negative experiences which affect self-esteem. All those undiagnosed years in the relationship can also affect both partners self-esteem. 26 Self-Esteem in the Bedroom The Potential Cost of Comfort Tying sexual self-esteem to your partner s interest is a set up for resentment. If you don t want sex with me, then it means you don t want me. Tying self-esteem to your sexual performance (i.e., your partner s sexual response) makes sex too much work. If you don t orgasm every time, then it means I m not a good lover. Tying sexual comfort to your partner s approval is a set up for resentment. If you don t want the kind of sex that I want, then it means that there is a problem with one of us. Tying sexual comfort to your physical appearance is ultimately a losing battle. If my appearance changes, then you won t be sexually interested in me Sex Drives Personal Acceptance We all have thoughts, feelings, and desires that we don t like or are uncomfortable with. When it comes to sexuality, we get a lot of negative messages. Disclosure: Share Your True Self So we need to find a way to reconcile our sexual desires with how we see ourselves. Remember that thoughts and feelings are different than actions. 29 5

6 ADHD Can Hurt Self-Disclosure The Price of Bad Reactions All the unproductive and disrespectful fighting over the years can make it feel unwise to disclose private (sexual) thoughts and feelings. ADHD distractibility, forgetfulness, and interrupting can also make conversation difficult. Important conversations deserve the right conditions and resiliency. 31 Being judgmental, critical or over-sensitive makes it harder for your partner to be honest with you. Your partner will learn to avoid certain topics or withhold certain opinions. They may also resentfully avoid/withhold other topics, opinions, or activities. Generosity is earned. 32 Honesty & Disclosure Sex Drives Disclosure Honesty and disclosure depend on emotional self-management and respect. If we want our partners to be honest with us, we need to react well. If we want to be honest with our partners, we need to challenge them to react well. To sustainably get more of what we want (in and out of bed) we both need to behave well. We are more likely to share sexual desires with a receptive partner. Staying with the safe makes sex boring. Real growth comes from taking a reasonable chance and respectfully sharing what your partner may not agree with. Involves being able to be OK with yourself even when your partner isn t OK with what you shared. And vice versa Honesty Starts From Within The ADHD partner needs to be more honest. Need to deal with your own negative feelings in order to be honest with someone else. The non-adhd partner needs to be less angry. Need to deal with your own negative feelings in order to have an appropriate response to someone else. You can t expect your partner to behave better than you do. Negotiate the Differences 35 6

7 Sex is about Negotiation Don t Win the Battle... Common interests don t need to be negotiated. Negotiation comes in on the activities that are not mutually or equally desired. Generosity involves doing activities that your partner gets more out of. Without violating your personal integrity. Or extracting an unfair price. If you win the battle disrespectfully, you ll lose the war. E.g., by using guilt, shame, resentful withholding, strong reactions, etc. Partner will retreat from sex: frequency, generosity, disclosure. Sex is too personal to overlook bad behavior. They will also retreat outside of the bedroom Win the War Ultimate Intimacy A sustainably enjoyable sex life requires good behavior from both partners. Make sexual requests/denials with respect for your partner but also with a belief that it s acceptable to ask. Hard truth: the only sustainable solutions are the ones where both people are happy. Especially for something as personal as sex. The best way to be happy in a relationship is to know that you could be happy outside of it. And your partner could, too. This means you both continually make a real choice to stay because life is better together. It gives you both the freedom to address difficult issues honestly Executive Functions Workbook The Intimacy Secret I can feel good about myself and my partner even when we disagree. Dr. Tuckman continues to do an exceptional job of distilling the essence of theory and science about ADHD into a very practical guide for the adult with ADHD. Russell Barkley, Ph.D. 42 7

8 Book for Clinicians Book for Adults it is a real pleasure to read Tuckman's superbly rendered book on ADHD in adults, for it is so well-reasoned, sciencebased, information-rich, to the point, and finally useful! Apart from wishing I had written it, I sincerely wish that you will read it. Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D. Written in a clear and easy-tounderstand style, the book brings together a vast amount of information, ideas, suggestions, and research. All adults with ADHD can benefit from this book, as well as all people who care about them. Superb! Ned Hallowell, M.D episodes, 1,500,000+ downloads Information on all three books Upcoming presentations Recordings of past presentations Cool events Handouts and articles 45 8

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