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ADHD and Intimacy

ADHD and Intimacy2014-08-06T12:19:13+00:00

The Forums Forums For The Non-ADD Relationships ADHD and Intimacy

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  • #125731

    Post count: 12

    Sexlexia is a very sexy learning disability” – Zapp Brannigan

    So, this is awkward for me to be posting this simply because I do not know if it relates directly to ADHD or if it’s a welcome subject but I suspect there might be some good insight here.

    I am 30 years old; my wife just turned 30. We’ve been married for almost seven years now. When our relationship started, we were very intimate. As the years went on, our intimacy has reduced drastically, as many Cosmo’s may point out. My wife and I will go months without being physically intimate; although we both agree it is a huge problem. Apparently I am not very romantic and when I AM, I don’t pick up on any subtle cues and “miss the boat” as it were. I want to be intimate. I will say this, we have not tried the “schedule a time for sex whether or not you are being romantic”, it has been discussed, but I know my wife is upset because I do not initiate anything – this probably relates to low self worth, feeling embarrassed, etc… and my wife suffers from depression and low self worth, but she’ s also very fiery – and I know this upsets her a lot.

    Long story short: I want to. I really want to. But I don’t. I can’t, I screw it up somehow, I over think it, the impulsive moments never sync up with her and I feel irreversibly damaged. It feels like it may be a habit, a pattern that I can’t break down. Does anyone here have similar issues and is it possibly traced to ADHD symptoms? I picked up a book actually… thankfully I can’t go two pages without getting agitated and wandering off to do something else…

    Last night I sat awake crying to myself because I do not remember the last time we had sex. I can narrow it down to within the last year – simply because we bought a condo last August and I know we’ve… you know. But maybe it was only once. Or twice. And I think it was in May.


    Patte Rosebank
    Post count: 1517

    @Vevolis, I can really feel your pain…

    What you’re describing sounds like it probably does involve your ADHD. After all, ADHD means that we experience the world differently, so we react & respond to the world differently from people who don’t have ADHD.

    We ADDers tend to have a lot of trouble with social interaction, especially when we feel a lot of pressure to do things right. We miss subtle cues, which makes us more stressed, because we’re afraid we’ll miss them…or because we’re apologizing for missing them. It’s not that we *won’t* pick up on these things; it’s that we *can’t* pick up on them. Our brains work differently.

    So, what can we do?

    We and our partners can learn as much as we can about how our ADHD affects our relationships, how to recognize it when it happens, and how to work through it. Our ADHD has the potential to add many good things to a relationship: humour, empathy, imagination, enthusiasm… But it does take work and understanding.

    Maybe you and your wife could watch this archived webinar about “Thriving in the ADHD Relationship” here: http://totallyadd.com/webinar-archives/ . It explains this better than I can.

    After that, you may want to read Melissa Orlov’s book about “The ADHD Effect on Marriage”. It really explains things in depth, and has some great ideas of how to work through the ups & downs.

    I’d also suggest perhaps consulting an ADHD Coach who specializes in relationships. It’s crucial that the Coach (or counsellor, if you choose to go that route) has experience with ADHD. Otherwise, it will be an exercise in frustration, because the needs and motivations of ADDers are very different from those of non-ADDers. And what works for non-ADDers is usually completely wrong for ADDers.

    And remember, “intimacy” doesn’t have to mean “intercourse”. What if you just plan a little cuddle-time on the sofa, and see where it leads? Or you could just have a really deep conversation together. Sometimes, those conversations lead to incredible intimacy, which can then lead to…



    Post count: 30

    I feel you. I really do, even if my experience is different.
    I’m 33 and have been married for 6 years.
    Having 3 kids of course reduced by default the moments my wife and I have to be intimate.
    But what’s really missing is complicity.
    We are like two instruments playing in two very different keys. More than lamenting the lack of cuddles or “us time” (horrible definition that reminds me of Orwell’s “newspeak”) she is frustrated by not feeling understood. She pointed out time and again that she cannot have a conversation with me, that we don’t “get” each other.

    And while for me having sex may be a way to rekindle our intimacy, to her it’s exactly the opposite: she needs to feel intimate already in order to have sex.

    I really have no advice. I may actually need some. But just as I write I realize that even just talking about this with her as I’m doing here may be a start.
    Sometimes that is difficult too: my wife feels uncomfortable with “let’s talk” routines, she feels they are forced, but at least it puts things out there. Most of the uneasiness comes from not knowing what’s going through each other’s minds.
    And as often recommended on the site, try to not lose your sense of humor.
    Romantic relationships, marriage and sex have been a source for comedy material since ancient times. You may as well try to poke fun at yourself or at the situation. It helps making the problems less scary to talk about.

    I hope I do not come across too unrespectful.


    Post count: 12

    Thank you both for your insight and your personal experience, I watched the ADHD webinar on relationships and it did help a lot. It goes a long way to know that you’re not alone and it’s still very hard for me to acknowledge that some of my behavior may stem from ADHD… it’s still arbitrary, it’s still an acronym – I still don’t feel like it’s a part of me, like a flu, or even depression. I have much to learn.

    I think talking about it here and not simply laying blame on my wife and expressing my frustration with ‘her’ instead of ‘our problem’ was an important step up from my younger, more naive self.

    I was able to speak to my wife and while being mindful of my shortcomings (negative self talk, perception) I was able to realize that she feels that I do not wish to be intimate – which as discussed above couldn’t be further from the truth.

    I always knew she ‘felt’ this way, she has said it before. My pre-ADHD diagnosis self would say “that’s not true, I really love you and want to be intimate with you” and simply stare off into space waiting for everything to get better, caught in an infinite loop of “maybe she just hates me, what’s wrong with me”, I embraced her perspective, we talked about it calmly.

    I think one of my primary ADHD habits is that I make everything about me – even though I do not consider myself selfish; when my wife tells me this, I go nuts, I feel as if I’m listening to the problems, but really I take her concerns and assume it’s MY fault, like she’s mad at ME for MY actions… and that is where my attention gets locked.

    Anyways I don’t believe in miracle cures, and there is certainly a lot of work to be done, but for now it is much, much easier to remember the ‘date’.


    Post count: 12

    And humor – humor is absolutely everything.


    Post count: 30

    thanks a lot for your insightful post, Procrastina-Tron
    I should write down a couple of the things you say and keep them in my wallet.


    Post count: 119


    Wish I could contribute with some great relationship advice however trust me when I say you would be better off getting relationship advice from a monk than from me. Glad there are others here who can be helpful to you.

    I wanted to thank you for this one paragraph you wrote.

    “I think one of my primary ADHD habits is that I make everything about me – even though I do not consider myself selfish; when my wife tells me this, I go nuts, I feel as if I’m listening to the problems, but really I take her concerns and assume it’s MY fault, like she’s mad at ME for MY actions… and that is where my attention gets locked.”

    This really hit home. I think I may have covered this while doing some CBT  work but when you said it, I had this “Ah-Ha” moment. This is so true for me…so so so so true.

    Wishing you the best.

    Thanks again for your post.


    Post count: 430

    With me, it is difficult to tell where the ADD leaves off and the Autism begins. Neither condition makes relationships easy. I have a wife who is VERY understanding and lives for those moments in time where I am “there”. As opposed to being inside myself. I can go weeks or months without saying a word to anyone, perfectly content with my thoughts. Not that she lets that happen.

    I feel much more comfortable inside myself. Perhaps it is the same with ADD. We take chances every time we do something: Is this the time I screw something up? Or is this the time I get it “right”? We understand the importance of people and our relationships to them, but that only means the stakes get higher, if/when we mess up.

    Better to do nothing? Better to not risk anything? Perhaps that is what leads to inaction and “intimacy” issues.


    Post count: 4

    I’m currently working with my BF to discuss how we communicate.  He says he’s “telling me” things and I have to keep clarifying that I need words.  I can’t function on gestures and sighs and meaningful glances.  We’ve tried to have some discussions around what kind of things we like to do to show love and what kinds of things we need in order to feel loved.

    For me, saying “do you want to have sex” is easier than trying to figure anything else out.  I can’t flirt or read body language.  I find it much easier to have a verbal advance rebutted (“Not right now”, “I have other things on my mind”, “I’m not in the mood” etc.).  When I try to be physical and the other person isn’t interested I can’t pick up those cues until they’re really strong and then I feel completely worthless and rejected.

    So yeah, in case that’s helpful, explicit verbal communication is the only thing that works for me.

    Funny story:  With a friend of mine that I used to date, the first time I was over at his house I was interested in starting something but I didn’t know how.  I just started talking a lot about everything and walking around his apartment pointing out neat things and he followed me.  Then when I couldn’t figure it out anymore I said “you look like you want to kiss me” and he did.  The funny thing was that I was really surprised because I actually was just expecting him to answer with words.

    Also though, he found my habit of blurting out strange and funny things when we were in the middle of being intimate both frustrating as it killed the mood for him and hilarious.


    Post count: 5

    People are intimate????

    People marry????

    Well, I may be ADHD, and miss a few signs, well several, but when made obvious I have that “uh ha” moment…But as for real relationships, and marriages…totally clueless.


    Post count: 19

    If marriage was based in mathematics or physics, I could give you so many points. Unfortunately, I’m still working on the, “How to get a date” phase. If I ever get there, I’ll let you know how it turns out.


    Post count: 2

    My problems with intimacy are that I like sex, when it’s intense and fast. This is okay when it’s not ‘relationship’ sex, but just casual, where everyone just wants to get off and then get on with life. Relationship sex is way harder. It takes forever – the idea of foreplay makes me cringe because it’s boring (I’d say maybe we’re doing it wrong, but it’s been that way in every relationship I’ve had and I can’t have dated all duds, right… right?). And if I can tell my husband wants ‘lovey’ long and drawn out sex, I tell him I’m not in the mood. If he’s in for a quickie, I’m usually pretty happy to do that. Since I’ve been on meds it’s been better, but I find that I need to do it earlier in the day when the meds are still going – before bedtime, my mind goes other places and usually successfully ruins my mood. It’s frustrating for both of us, but we work on it. I try to make sure he gets his relationship sex at times when I think I can concentrate on it, and he makes sure I get my quick sex. Not that we have sex all the time, but we make it work.

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