Reply To: Being with an ADD partner and not being intimate anymore

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I can’t and won’t speak for anyone but myself, but maybe you can benefit from my experience so I may as well share it. First off, I identify very strongly with your fianc√© and a lot of the things you have mentioned remind me of my own marriage and the struggles we have had.

I’ll give some background and try to be concise. I have ADHD and have been married for little over three years, and in a relationship for two years prior to getting married. I have always had a tough time with sex, and my history with it has not been a good one. I’m a gay man, so there is a certain degree of pain or disappointment I’ve learned to fear from sexual activity. Outside of those two facts, which may not really apply to your situation, I also find sex to be a burden, and usually would prefer masturbating alone than I would bringing someone else in. My imagination and fantasy tends to be a lot more fun to explore than the actual reality of sex, and as someone raised by relatively conservative parents, I struggle with discussing any sort of sexual fantasy with anyone else out of fear of judgement and ridicule. What this results in is me preferring to take care of it by myself, but also being extremely wary of anyone who attempts to interfere with that.

If the problem is that surface level, the only thing I would recommend is trying to create a safe space and reassure and promise your partner that there will be no judgement from you if he mentions sexual fantasies he thinks he might like (and most importantly, FOLLOW THOUGH with that promise and do not judge). Be patient and don’t pressure him to open up, just allow him space to and let him decide the right time. If stuff comes up, explore it at your leisure to keep the sex life novel to him and have lot of talks about what you like and what you didn’t like.

In the beginning part of our relationship, my husband and I opened the relationship to others so that he can still get the sex he needs instead of putting all the pressure onto me, and I had the space to take my time and get comfortable with sex. This worked alright for a while. I figure that this is as close to “having a long distance relationship where he would fool around frequently with others” as my situation is liable to get, so I’ll leave it to you to see if that resonates at all.

Later, we began to realize that we were using the open relationship for the wrong reasons; using it as a distraction to avoid having a conversation about our needs and feelings. Fights started happening where I would be accused of either cheating, not being interested in him, or not putting in the work to satisfy his sexual desires. I would, in turn, yell at him for being demanding, a sex addict, or accuse him of trying to emotionally manipulate me into having sex. Very bad time in our relationship, and a potential path that yours may take to look out for and try to avoid.

In addition to the ADHD, I also have moderate depression. In some of the things I’ve read, depression is a pretty common partner to ADHD, and depression definitely will affect libido. Finding the right anti-depressants, if you have the means, will help with this. Now this is getting into dangerous territory, because it is ultimately up to your partner and his doctors to determine if this is an option, I mention it here only to bring the subject up. You can’t and shouldn’t attempt to be the arbiter of your partners body or pressure them into taking medication that they are uncomfortable taking. Consider mentioning it to him if you think it might help, but be VERY CAREFUL to approach that conversation as just a potential and not as a judgement. If your partner and his doctor’s agree that he might benefit from anti-depressant medication, be aware that a lot of anti-depressants are known to have “lower libido” as a side effect, so it may take some time to find something that might work and you’ll need to be patient during this period.

We then sought a marriage counselor to help walk through the issues and I have learned some very important things that may help you with understanding your partner:
1. You need to understand what you’re feeling, and communicate it. If you’re feeling insecure about yourself because of the lack of sexual desire he is showing, you need to tell him that. Don’t mention it as an accusation, and don’t let your words be taken out of context if he gets defensive because he thinks you’re blaming him. Simply tell him what you feel and what happened that caused those feelings, then tell him you do not like those feelings and want them to stop.
2. You need to understand why you are feeling it and where the feeling comes from. If you have a need that is being unfilled, it is way more beneficial to discuss that directly than it is to keep having the same talks over and over. If you are sexually unfulfilled in your relationship, he needs to know that (not because you hope it will change his behavior; guilt sex will not help you feel any more secure in your relationship, I promise). And a discussion or several discussions need to happen where you and your partner try and find a workable solution that you can both be happy with.
3. Try and keep an open mind. If your partner doesn’t feel like they can give you the sex you want, you may consider trying other things like toys, role play, erotic messages. There is a huge world of alternate sex experiences that don’t necessarily involve penetration that you both might enjoy. See if your partner will explore those with you to help fill your needs.
4. The hardest one, be willing to walk away if nothing works. Ultimately, filling your needs is your responsibility at the end of the day. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. If you’re unhappy, trying to stick it out in the hopes that something will change is harmful to yourself and to your partner. Sometimes two people just aren’t compatible with each other’s needs, and the best thing to do in that situation is to prioritize your own happiness. Please don’t misunderstand, I think that this should be the final option and you should definitely try a couples councilor if you have the means before taking this step.

All of those steps, you’ll notice, involve having difficult and long conversations with him. There really isn’t any other way that I’ve learned or been told by multiple councilors and psychologists to resolve this. You may get lucky by toughing it out and it was just a temporary hurdle for you both, but just as likely you may only prolong the inevitable and cause major psychological issues to you both along the way. Having those conversations before any of those issues happen is essential.

Final bit of advice (and I said I would try to be concise), just talk with him about his thoughts on sex, what he likes about masturbating alone as opposed to having sex, and keep an eye out for a potential solution that may come up in those talks. Hell, maybe you both decide to watch porn and masturbate together and find it to be a pretty good solution for you both.