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How ADHD Impacts Sex and Marriage

For many people, building a healthy marriage is one of life’s most difficult, worthwhile challenges. For couples touched by ADHD, that challenge may feel more like an impossibility at times. A recent survey of ADDitude readers found that respondents with and without the disorder felt its effects on sex, love, and everything in between — and some feared their union could not endure it all.

18 Comments: How ADHD Impacts Sex and Marriage

  1. I guess maybe it’s more men who have these angry outbursts as I am a woman with ADHD and don’t think that is really a thing for me, but would say it is a thing for my partner (who does not have it). To be honest I think having one partner who struggles to control emotions in some way is fairly common regardless of diagnosis. I do struggle with insecurity and feeling ignored sometimes, or feeling second best to his children from previous marriage. I really struggle with that as it also makes me feel guilty for wanting to be loved strongly and feel like number one! I have worked a lot on myself (I got divorced from previous relationship quite young around 31), and I know that I have a wide range of emotional needs. My previous partner actually didn’t seem to experience many emotions in daily life, I sometimes thought he was a bit shut down or just very introverted. He just seemed so happy with routine and it drove me crazy! I get on better with my current partner who in many ways challenges me by being angry and actually a bit unreasonable about it at times, because he seems to experience emotions in a similar all-consuming way to me. I find it difficult to connect with people if they don’t seem to experience those strong emotions, and I find it gratifying to have a partner who feels strong emotions towards me. I have a high drive for sex and intimacy but his is probably even higher. We have even had arguments about it before because HE felt unwanted which is literally unheard of for me in previous life. I suppose in a lot of ways I have met my match, but it is not without explosive clashes occasionally!

  2. This article made me feel a bit better in that I dont feel quite as alone when dealing with my partner’s adhd. Most of the typical adhd symptoms: messiness, distraction, poor time management, not giving me as much attention as when we first started dating, mismatched sex drive, etc. dont bother me too much. It’s the mood swings that are really affecting me. If he’s frustrated he’ll take it out on me, the smallest things can set him off into angry outbursts, if the smallest thing goes wrong it’ll set him off either making him angry or moody and depressed to the point where he cant function and spends the whole day complaining or laying in bed and then complaining that he laid in bed all day. We’ve had fights that have lasted days where he wouldnt allow me to sleep and has pushed me to the point of considering suicide just to escape it. I’ve put up with a lot of mental abuse from him and yet I still love him because when he’s not behaving like that he’s the complete opposite, an absolutely amazing person.
    When I read comments from others saying the non-ADHD partner needs to be more understanding,
    to take some responsibility for their relationship, to suck it up, or that we’re expecting too much from our adhd partner it’s like a slap in the face. I am extremely understanding of his adhd, I have never nagged him or complained about his symptoms, I go out of my way to try to keep him in a happy mood and not react when he loses control, and I’m extremely easy to live with. Some people need to realize that every relationship is different and every person is different and just because someone has add or adhd doesnt mean they’ll behave the same way or their situations will be the same. There might be similarities but they will not be the same.

  3. This article really made me reflect on what really went wrong in my long-term engagement with my son’s father.
    I was diagnosed last year, at 33. We split in 2012, when I was 27 and at the bottom of my downward spiral. I relocated 5 hours away from my family and friends when our son was almost 1. We had a beautiful place, I got a great job and things were amazing. Those are some of the best (and simultaneously, painful) memories of my life.
    It was the best of times…until it was the worst of times. What I didn’t know then was that I have “moderate-severe” ADHD…and it’s been around since I can remember. The demands of a full time job, a home to take care of, a baby to care for and everything else that goes along with it were way too much. I was often sick and exhausted.
    I was often so wiped out and resentful of my fiance for not helping more that sex felt like the end of day dreaded obligation. It wasn’t always like this…over the course of a few years and purchasing a home together, it all fell apart along with any self worth I had left.
    I wish I knew then that I wasn’t just inadequate, lazy, incompetent, unworthy, and impulsive. I wish I had known it wasn’t completely a lack of willpower or just being “lesser than.” I really wish a doctor would have seen through the intense anxiety and depression to see what was underneath.
    Most of all, I wonder if things would have worked. My son, now 10, struggles with going back and forth and the guilt I feel is tremendous. There have been times when I felt he would be better off without me, as his father and stepmother are successful neurotypical people. The people I watch and envy. The people that aren’t cluttered and late, always fresh and looking great and smiling and living in a mansion that looks like a pottery barn puked inside.
    I’m working on my self worth but it’s tough and I truly wonder if I will ever find someone who will be accepting of who I am. Thanks for reading this far if you have 🙂 Season’s Greetings.

  4. I’m the ADHD partner. Things were already unbalanced as far as sex drive goes (being criticized all the time isn’t actually arousing). However, the final straw on the camels back was menopause. It completely destroyed my sex drive.

    I just thought that this aspect should be included in the conversation. Thanks.

  5. I’m quite saddened to read this article. It wasn’t so long ago that there was an article on how ADHD sexual relationships can be some of the best? Now I’m reading articles about non ADHD spouses get “turned off” by their ADHD partners when they experience rage or start an argument? As a non ADHD partner, it’s our job to understand why they have these angry outbursts? Not hold it against them when it comes to the intimate side of the relationship? For my ADHD partner, reading forums about women whinging about being turned off by their ADHD partners is neither productive nor constructive or helpful to their daily state of mind… I used to like reading these forums, but what’s so blatantly obvious reading them these days is the total lack of understanding from these non ADHD spouses of their partners condition. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll never totally understand my boyfriends behavior, but that’s what keeps our 5 year strong relationship alive! Come on ladies, don’t run them down… learn to love their quirky ways… you might find the bedroom antics improve if you just allow yourself to understand your partner better.

    1. You may find your boyfriend of five years exciting. Acceptable. That’s lovely. Good for you. It’s not fair to tell people “to suck it up” essentially. That’s not constructive or positive. YOU may not find his ADHD an obstacle at five years in. Maybe he manages it better. Who knows. It’s irresponsible to think anyone should or could be as cool as you and just handle it. Fast forward a few years and a few kids and my money is that your tune changes. Have a clue.

      1. Deeanna1 – have a clue? This post is 5 months old – so I’ve now been with my boyfriend now 5.5 years… he has just had a change in meds – have a clue? I can promise you, with the behaviour our relationship has experienced, I do – have a clue! All I was meaning was, although I’m understanding and maybe a little more forgiving than most of my partners condition – these forums are meant to be constructive and helpful to people living with adhd. I had seen posts, forum posts from women, moaning about their partners sexual habits, which my adhd partner read – he in turn asked me if I felt how all these other women felt – I don’t – just FYI. But I saw how soul destroying reading those were to him – and that’s not good. It’s hard enough to find support for people living with adhd as it is, without logging onto a forum to read women moaning about their partners. I think you misunderstood my post – I most definitely – have a clue!

      2. Oh and Deanna1 – we already have three kids between us, two divorces, we’re not inexperienced in the relationship field – and most definitely “have a clue”

    2. Temper tantrums are so sexy i cant immagine why any women wouldnt be turned on by this sexy 4 yr old behavior. And behavior that seems to forget you exist until the lights go off has to be a real turn on. Just like the habit in public of not being able to shut up or at curtail the conversation about our most recent pacadillos….ooooo. Sexxxy.
      least a poll of my 3 ex wives confirms. They are NOT.

      1. It’s nothing to do with the “temper tantrums” though, what’s really important to remember is: what happens in that moment when my partner experiences rage, anger, anxiety, “temper tantrums” as you call them, that’s then… that’s that moment, and yes it may carry on for ten minutes it may carry on for a few hours, but that’s THEN and was never a conscious “I’m going to hurt someone” decision and I know for a fact that later on my partner will punish himself for what he’s said or done, so what is the point in me chastising him too? He’s not a child, he knows what he’s done, he beats himself up over it, I’m not going to be the one to hold it against him, not when he punishes himself so much already…!! No, having a tantrum is not “sexy” but nor is punishing the person you love for a condition that they find so hard to control.

      2. Whether or not the person can “help it” or not isn’t the point.
        If my current boyfriend were to fly off the handle and rage at me and be blame me for all of his problems, that would definitely be a turn off.
        My ex husband was prone to fits of rage, blamed me for everything that went wrong in his life. He was also verbally and emotionally abusive. He did not have ADHD and he knew damn well what he was doing.
        I refuse to put up with angry outbursts. It is a boundary that I won’t give up.

      3. Whether or not the person can “help it” or not isn’t the point.
        If my current boyfriend were to fly off the handle and rage at me and be blaming me for all of his problems, that would definitely be a turn off.
        My ex husband was prone to fits if rage, blamed me for everything that went wrong in his life. It was all so verbally and emotionally abusive. He did not have ADHD and he knew damn well what he was doing.
        I refuse to put up with angry outbursts. It is a boundary that I won’t give up.

      4. To Elizabeth-Heather68-

        I liked your positive approach. And, although it takes two people to make a healthy marriage, it sounds like your husband is blessed to have you for a compassionate partner.
        I find that when I stay positive and give my spouse room to be ‘imperfect’ it comes back around to me when I fall short. ie-He gives me a lot of grace, too.
        ADHD should never be an ‘excuse’ for bad or selfish behavior, and Abuse is Never okay, but periodic “slip-ups” when one is really trying and aware of the need for improvement- is just part of being in a marriage of any kind.
        Thanks for sharing your experience.

        Donsense- Premarital counseling really helped us a lot! We knew the pitfalls and possibilities before we tied the knot (Husb has ADHD, I have ADD). We went into marriage with our eyes-wide-open(for the most part). And although I am not a huge supporter of “pre-nups”, it may be helpful in your situation. You can always drop it after 10,15 years if things are working out and trust has been built.
        God Bless, I hope you have had a full recovery from your cancer.

      5. Your prenup advice is good, and would have worked if i had known in 1964 what we now know….. that i had ADHD and if i had not been so impulsive and married at 19. By the time I was 22 i owned a house had one child and another on the way. By 34 i was VP of a large world wide Actuarial and Benefit consulting Division of AON . Impulsive to the end by 38 I was the manging and founding partner in another Consulting firm and at age 50 my own consulting company ….retired at 60.
        Thank you for your good wishes The oral cancer has reappeared occasionally but the Mayo Clinic surgery in 1993 was by and large successful. Recurrences have been limited to surface skin cancer SQ.C no more lymph and salivary glands.

  6. Now if only I knew about that and my ADHD i could have avoided those two other divorces. In truth the last two courted me and the first one left when she thought my consulting practice (6 figure income) was in jeopardy, a few years wfter i survived the second round of Cancer, and the third one left when I did run out of savings..having annuitized my last 10 years pension savings. Both had recently divorced and in all honesty were looking for security. An AdHd disaster did not figure in their plans

  7. I believe i may overly contribute to that sample . 3 x divorced the first time after 30 years of marriage. The first time was after our marriage counsellor and Psychologist M.D. suggested that it would be a good idea as I had managed to control the rage at home to once every One or two years. Inside me however was a krakatoa type volcano. After 28 years of splitting the home chores my ex wife had decided her 3 day a week 5 hours a day job prevented her from doing any and was the basis for my last eruption. I was too busy doing the laundry, making lunch, and replacing the enranceway chandelier to be ready for the football party we were going to. My job was relatively easy Not. I was the managing partner in a consulting operation that also required me to carry a full consulting load. And I am the ADHDer although we didnt know it at the time. So I left when my youngest graduated. Thats when our tendency to want to be liked by everyone took hold and She ended up keeping the house, and i voluntarily paid her more monthly than what i live on now in retirement. I renegotiated the mortgage to a much lower payment a few hundred dollars as it was almost paid off. Eventually i agreed that she recd the house a car, all of my retirement savings.and a lump sum I had to borrow from family as the bank said no.
    While I was rushing to Mayo clinic with my Daughter for a 12 hour major Cancer Surgery she secretly married the VP of my bank and didnt tell her kids or invite them to the wedding.

    Normies arent so hot either.

    1. I can identify with that. It was up to me to work 40+ hours a week, take care of our toddler son 90% of the time, take care of the house, the bills, the yard…pretty much everything.

      He was in school for several years and working, so it was my job. And, according to him (and myself really), I should be able to “keep it together.”
      And I failed, again and again, to meet his high expectations and be the perfect worker, maid, cook, mom, and lover.

      Ironically, I was the one to leave because I couldn’t realistically see things improving. He very quickly met a young woman who made a lot of money as a corporate robot. Seriously, she doesn’t seem to be human but that’s another story. They were engaged, married and had a child in less than 2 years. They live in a ridiculously huge home, which I would really consider a mansion. He stayed home to complete his graduate degree while not having to work. I get zero child support and now live at home where I have my son every other week.

      I guess the joke is on me

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