Psychologist and therapist Ari Tuckman shares the results of a survey he conducted on sex and relationships in couples where one has ADHD. Surprised by some of the results, Ari delves into some of the most interesting questions and answers brought to light by the nearly 3,000 respondents’ answers and provides sound advice and perspective on the role motivation, scheduling, pornography, and more can play in a relationship.
[Eric his hosting a free webinar on Hi-Tech & Low-Tech Solutions to Supercharge Your Productivity on December 21, 2015 at 1 PM (GMT-6) Central Time (US/Can).]
About Ari Tuckman:
Ari is a clinical psychologist, therapist, speaker, and author.
He has written a number of books including More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD; Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD: A Practical, Easy-To-Use Guide for Clinicians; and Understand Your Brain, Get More Done: The ADHD Executive Functions Workbook.
Ari has been a guest previously, in ADHD reWired Episode 55: ADHD, Sex, and Intimacy with Ari Tuckman.
Despite being in practice for around eighteen years, Ari feels there’s always more to learn: In the interest of learning more about sex, behavior, relationships, and their connections with ADHD, Ari is taking part in a sex therapy certification program.
Back in March, 2015, Ari was conducting a survey of sex and relationships for those with ADHD. It was specifically focused on couples where one had ADHD and the other did not, whether dating, married or otherwise.
Despite containing 72 questions, Ari had almost three thousand people complete the survey.
Focusing more on “clinical significance”, as opposed to statistical significance, Ari sought to find information that would be useful in his therapy practice.
Ari feels this shows just how important sex and sexuality is in one’s life as part of a couple.
The results of the survey will form the basis for a book Ari hopes write about couples with ADHD to help improve their relationship and sex life.
In interpreting the results of the study, Ari used the partners without ADHD as a base to compare those with ADHD against; although it’s not a sound methodology for studies in general, Ari feels it works moderately well for this study given it’s based around applicable relationship information; most couples where one has ADHD will be concerned more with what is relevant to their situation, as opposed to the general population.
The people who took the survey are not necessarily representative of everyone in the US – they’re more representative of the kinds of people who look up and consume information about ADHD online, listen to podcasts, attend seminars, etc.
Surprising to Ari, most people did not find their ADHD stimulant medication helpful with their sexual experiences.
Of those surveyed, 35% responded that stimulant medication was not active during the time that they’re having sex.
Of the 65% who responded saying that they do use stimulant medication during sex, 45% of that group found it to have negligible, neutral results. The remainder of that group’s responses were evenly distributed throughout six other responses.
While the medication may assist in the preparation and planning before sex, it doesn’t seem to meaningfully affect the sex itself.
Variety and Novelty:
When asked whether they preferred participating in a larger or smaller range of sexual activities the responses indicated virtually the same level of preference as found in those without ADHD – also a surprise to both Ari and Eric.
Likewise, the preference for novelty and experimentation with sexual experiences versus staying with what is familiar ended up being the same for those with ADHD as those without.
One potential flaw could in the results being self-reported: people may perceive their normal range of sexual experiences as being more or less varied and diverse than their own idea of normal.
In relationships, self-perception is of primary importance – one can misperceive their partner’s level of effort and interest as well.
Ari: “Couples where one person has ADHD will tend to struggle more than […] where nobody has ADHD.”
When those with ADHD struggle throughout the day, they don’t need one more area in which to struggle.
Having and maintaining a good sexual relationship and personal connection can help to fuel more positive experiences throughout the rest of the time.
Good sex requires good behavior, but good behavior also leads to better sex. So, not only can hoping for sex tonight make people behave better during the preceding day, but having good sex one night hopefully leads to being in a better mood to behave well the following day as well.
The two, sex and behavior, are intimately connected. If you’re struggling already with day-to-day tasks, you stand to benefit that much more from the positive connection that comes from having good sexual, fun, and playful experiences with your partner.
Eric brings up the topic of self-care. Everyone wants to be more productive in their lives, yet what tends to maximize our productivity the most center around self-care – making sure we have enough sleep, are eating well, are exercising, and are engaging in play in one form or another.
In Episode 55, Ari theorized that couples sleeping in separate beds may have less sex as a result.
While a some respondents mentioned that maintaining separate bedrooms could be a barrier, most of them did not – it wasn’t a major barrier.
While Ari maintains that being physically present in bed together is a situation more likely to result in sex, sleeping in separate bedrooms is ultimately a solution and a great example of being flexible.
Eric and Tom Nardone both sleep in separate bedrooms from their spouses. Eric reasons that if sleep is so important for a person’s (and a couple’s) health, that struggling to sleep in the same bed may lead to more irritability and thus less sex overall.
For couples who have a less than ideal experience sleeping together, they need to look at the reality of the situation and choose their options accordingly.
Especially for couples where one has ADHD, the broader lesson here is to not be limited by the obvious or the idea of what “should” be the case. Instead, do what works.
In the survey, participants were asked how often they looked at porn, how they felt about their porn use, and how they felt about their partner’s porn use.
While the number of men viewing porn was much greater than women, there were still some women viewing it.
Eric brings up negative stereotypes of those who view porn – that porn leads to infidelity etc.
There are definitely people who use porn in very problematic and excessive ways. That said, overall, of those surveyed, porn usage didn’t appear to be much of a problem.
Most people felt above neutral about their own porn usage and just slightly negative toward their partner’s porn usage.
Contrary to some stereotypes of those who use porn, Ari found that people who were happy with their sexual relationships viewed the same amount of porn as those who were unhappy.
If you’re happy and comfortable with your relationship, it’s likely easier to look at porn without anyone being upset about it.
For those who are unhappy with their relationship, porn can either be useful or hurtful. If viewing porn and masturbating can take care of that person’s needs and help relieve some pressure for sexual activity with someone who may not be interested at that time, it could be a positive. On the other hand, if masturbating is used as an easy way to avoid engaging with and fixing relationship issues that are otherwise preventing a couple from having a healthy relationship, then it becomes problematic.
If you’re happy with your relationship and sex life, Ari recommends not making looking at porn an issue. Couples can make requests of each other – perhaps in terms of the type or kind of porn the other engages with for personal reasons – but “as long as there’s negotiation and compromise and mutual understanding, then if it ain’t a thing, don’t make it a thing.”
From the survey, the average frequency for couples having sex per week was about 1.2 times.
When asked how many times per week individuals would like to have sex, the average was over three times.
Ari: “Imagine how much happier these couples would be if they all had sex three times more often.” It’s not magic – you have to do the work to be able to make it happen, but it’s a heartening finding.
Reciprocity and ADHD:
People who placed more effort into their relationships also tended to feel that their partners were doing the same. They also tended to have higher relationship and sexual satisfaction.
These people also found their ADHD treatment to be more effective and rated their ADHD as being less of a barrier to having a good sex life.
“Managing ADHD is an aphrodisiac.”
Working hard at management pays off in general life as well as in the bedroom.
Across the board, people rated their own effort substantially higher than their partner’s effort.
Thus, “don’t believe your eyes” – if one doesn’t see their partner making a lot of effort, don’t assume it’s not happening. There are many times where one partner will take actions that the other doesn’t notice or, maybe, they are prioritizing actions they think are more important to the other partner than they actually are.
Eric and his wife have given each other permission to highlight efforts they take that the other may not notice or otherwise mention – such as emptying the dishwasher.
Managing one’s ADHD through daily strategies and efficiencies, and even adding an element of planning or scheduling to the discussion of sex can help toward improving the motivation factor.
Scheduling can be great: a goal or task that is scheduled is that much more likely to happen than one unscheduled.
The anticipation of knowing that time is scheduled and looking forward to it can drive up one’s motivation.
Also, having time to prepare beforehand can lead people to make decisions that could drive up the experience.
“Committed sex is premeditated sex.” — Esther Perel
Even single people will plan ahead and prepare before venturing out for a night on the town.
Marty Klein talks about the myth that sex should be spontaneous and natural in a longer, mature relationships, despite nothing else in the relationship being spontaneous and natural.
Ari: “That happens in college, maybe. […] That doesn’t happen when you’re 40.”
Other General Findings and Feelings:
The couples who were happy tended to be happy in a lot of ways; the couples who were unhappy tended to be unhappy in a lot of ways.
For those who are struggling, while there may be many reasons for the struggles, there are also many options available to make it better.
It can be fine to use sex as a motivator to improve other aspects of one’s relationship as long as it works successfully toward that end. It shouldn’t be too quid-pro-quo, but recognizing a connection between behavior in one space and behavior in another is important.
The three major barriers to sex are anger, business, and tiredness. They’re all usually connected, though – one will be tired and angry because they’re busy, for instance.
A good sex life means a whole lot more than just intercourse, so there are other ways to ensure your partner has a good time even if you’re not as interested.
Products, Services, and Other Links:
Find and Contact Ari Tuckman:
Eric his hosting a free webinar on Hi-Tech & Low-Tech Solutions to Supercharge Your Productivity on December 21, 2015 at 1 PM (GMT-6) Central Time (US/Can).
If you like Eric’s idea of live streaming shows on the service Blab, Tweet at @erictivers and use the hashtag #blabrewired. You can also contact him via facebook.com/eric.tivers or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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