ADHD shouldn't be the center of your relationship ... love should.
Many couples, in which, one or more partner is struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or, ADHD) find their sex lives disintegrating.
This is because the same ADHD behaviors, compulsions, and coping strategies that send a married couple's relationship into rocky terrain can also get their sex life off track, as well.
Distraction and hyperfocus — that is, being distracted by or intensely focused on things other than one's spouse — is one of the main conflicts of ADHD in marriages. The "ADHD" brain is seeking stimulation, and making plans to romance one's all-too-familiar partner can seem like a tedious process, especially when there's so much interesting stuff on television.
Electronic screens are a "romantic-energy" suck for ADHD marriages, because without controls or limits — the laptop, tablet, or smart phone — replaces close-contact activities, which might previously have led to intimate conversations, physical touch, and sex.
One solution to combating the effect of distraction on marital sex is, carving out time for "marriage" activities: Lunch dates, date nights, and weekend getaways are key commitments to make in ADHD marriages. Agree that physical intimacy of some kind, whether it's holding hands or exchanging foot rubs, will happen during these marriage-enriching activities.
If a computer screen is engrossing, add some people having sex on it and a little ADHD, and it becomes so seductive it can easily become a problem. On one end of the spectrum, there's pornography addiction: Porn use can become such a debilitating, compulsive behavior that it can lead to job loss, social isolation, and/or a financial meltdown.
Or, it can become a less serious affliction, simply "problem porn" use — when a partner's use of pornographic materials becomes a sore spot for their chronically neglected spouse.
The solution for porn addiction or compulsion is usually therapy, coaching, or 12-step methods; while, the solution for problem porn use is an open, honest conversation between partners, in which the neglected partner feels understood and the porn-using partner doesn't feel judged. You and your spouse should create boundaries to respect each others' privacy and to tend to each other, sexually and romantically.
Extramarital affairs are extraordinarily common, but when one or both partners has ADHD, they are even more likely. Affairs are often listed along with other typical examples of thrill-seeking behavior, like speeding, sky-diving, or job-hopping. A sexual or emotional affair is of course a deal breaker for many couples. According to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, only 31 percent of marriages survive after an affair.
More than one affair is more than a sign of ADHD; it can also be a sign of sex or love addiction. If it has been a lifelong pattern, one that seems impossible to stop, a 12-step group might help. Treatment for sex or love addiction involves some difficult soul-searching, but it can also be the springboard for greater self-knowledge and a stronger marriage. For more support, consider calling a coach who understands affairs and sex or love addiction.
4. Love-Lust Conflicts
Many people who seek out help for sexual problems seem to have a divide between what "turns them on" and who they "love." For some people, "love" and "lust" generally overlap: They love and lust after the same person, and their sexual experiences have usually been fulfilling and meaningful. For other people, love and lust are completely separate: These people can't seem to get aroused by someone they feel deep affection for. Dr. Jack Morin calls these "Love-Lust Conflicts," or "Love-Lust Splits," and they're a common challenge for people with ADHD.
As children, people with ADHD are often shamed for their self-stimulating behavior, and masturbation is no exception.
When children are, constantly, warned of the evils of masturbation or discouraged from exploring their bodies, the "naughtiness factor" takes hold, and sexual thoughts and feelings become associated with being "bad."
To these shamed children, feelings of love are "good" but feelings of lust are "bad." They then become adults who don't feel aroused unless they're "being bad."
A long-term, monogamous relationship doesn't just have the "naughtiness factor." Exploring this love-lust divide with the help of a coach or therapist can help a person gradually shift their erotic focus.
5. Psychological Damage and Shame
Kids with ADHD are often shamed for not measuring up to "normal" standards of organization, activity level, time management. and focus. The psychological damage caused by decades of harsh criticism by parents, peers, and teachers can corrode self-esteem, which affects sexuality.
Adolescents with ADHD can grow up feeling defective and abnormal, which leads to social anxiety and a reduced likelihood to engage in sexual or romantic experimentation.
These, painfully, shy teenagers don't engage in the flirtatious games of their peers, an important part of growing up known as "sexual rehearsal play." Without sexual rehearsal play, young adults don't develop the complex set of social skills necessary for negotiating romantic relationships.
This can set them up for isolation and avoidance behaviors, such as sexual, social, and emotional anorexia (the compulsive avoidance of sex and intimacy) — or compulsive sexual behaviors like pornography and affairs. Again, the help of a seasoned coach or therapist, combined with the patience and compassion of a committed spouse, can restore healthy eroticism.
The sexual landscape for couples affected by ADHD can, sometimes, be a challenging terrain; however, the right preparation, tools, and knowledge can make all the difference. Find a qualified coach, sex therapist, or ADHD specialist who can read the map and point you in the right direction.