When Partners Have Mismatched Libidos: Advice for ADHD Couples

It’s not uncommon for partners to have different sex drives and sexual needs, especially when only one partner has ADHD. Follow a sex therapist’s advice to heighten closeness and connection.

Young couple on bed, they are looking away from each other and look irritated.
Young couple on bed, they are looking away from each other and look irritated.

Q: “My ADHD spouse and I have different needs for sex and intimacy. He wants to have sex constantly, and I don’t. How do we reconcile these differences in our sex drives?”

ADHD is linked to high sex drive1, which may contribute to significant differences in desire between romantic partners — and challenges reconciling those differences. This can turn what is supposed to be fun, positive, and connecting into something that is stressful, disappointing, and disconnecting.

It can also become difficult to talk about this issue in a productive way once it has been contentious. The partner with the lower desire often feels pressured, like it’s their responsibility to make things better. The partner with the higher desire feels disappointed and perceives that the other partner doesn’t care enough about them in this way. You’ve probably had many conversations with your partner about this, and I’m guessing those felt like heated debates, where each person tries to convince the other of their point of view.

[Read: How ADHD Impacts Sex and Marriage]

How to Deal with Different Sex Drives in a Relationship

1. Understand your partner’s perspective. Don’t always try to make your own points first. To begin a more productive conversation that feels less loaded, try something like this: “What is sex like for you? What does it mean to you that we’re not on the same page? What is it like when you feel pressured/disappointed? What do you hope for from our shared sex life? What are solo sexual activities like for you?” You might be surprised by what you learn.

2. Ask yourself: What would it take for you to be more interested in sex? Are there better ways for your partner to approach you? What can your partner do to feel okay when you aren’t interested in sex? Are there better ways for you to take a pass?

3. Discuss with your partner what they can do when they are interested in having sex and you are not. For instance, are you okay with masturbation? What about porn or sex toys? Perhaps you could lend a hand (or even just lie there next to your partner) when you aren’t interested in the full production? This last suggestion is important because it is about giving and receiving generosity (and wisely knowing how to earn some).

What’s most important is that, when you do have sex, it is a positive experience for both of you. This may mean that sometimes you need to stretch yourself to get into the mood, or at least be willing to be convinced, knowing that you always have the right to change your mind. And for your partner, it’s important to accept that less sex is better if it’s really good sex.

Mismatched Libidos: Next Steps for ADHD Couples

Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA, is a certified sex therapist and author of ADHD After Dark: Better Sex Life, Better Relationship.

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View Article Sources

1 Soldati, L., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Schockaert, P., Köhl, J., Bolmont, M., Hasler, R., & Perroud, N. (2020). Sexual function, sexual dysfunctions, and ADHD: A systematic literature review. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 17(9), 1653–1664.