Ask Dr. Justin Lehmiller

Coral contributor, Kinsey Institute Research Fellow and internationally-recognized sex educator answers your sex questions.

My fiancé frequently watches porn, however he rarely wants to actually have sex even though I try constantly. He always just says that he never has the energy to actually have sex. Anyone else experience this?

You are definitely not alone in this. What you’re describing is a sexual desire discrepancy, which occurs when two partners want differing amounts of sex. It’s quite common, too. In fact, about one in four men and women say they’ve experienced this in the last year alone. 

The fact that your partner regularly watches porn suggests that his libido is still there, but the question is why he doesn’t seem to want much partnered sex. So the starting point is to try and figure out the answer to that question.

Is it really an issue of energy, or is it something else? I say this because, sometimes, people will make excuses for not having sex because they want to avoid having intimate conversations about the subject. For example, if someone doesn’t feel comfortable talking about their desires or doesn’t know how to discuss them, they might find sexual avoidance to be easier than opening up.

So it’s important to have a discussion, either with just the two of you or guided by a therapist, to figure out what’s really going on. If it truly is an energy issue, then you might solve this by switching up the time of day and/or days of the week you have sex to identify times when energy levels are higher. For example, maybe that’s morning sex on the weekends rather than having sex right before bed after a long day of work. Or maybe it’s scheduling sex, and making it a priority, so that both of you can make a conscious effort to be ready and prepared when it happens. 

However, if it’s not really about energy, then the solution might look very different and may involve rethinking how you approach sex more broadly to ensure you’re both getting what you want. The first step, though, is pinpointing the real issue and coming up with some practical solutions to get your intimate life back on track. 

I’ve been married for 14 years. I have ADD and my marriage is suffering. When my husband needs physical attention, he doesn’t want to ask for it; he wants me to just ache for him sexually all the time and I’m struggling to keep that a focus in my day-to-day life with 4 kids and a full-time job. What can I do?

The role of ADHD in adult life, and especially in people’s intimate lives, is something that has been neglected in a lot of the research on this disorder. However, what you’ve described, and what the data show, is that the struggle is real. ADHD can have a significant impact on people’s sex lives and relationships, and we need to find ways to help folks manage this.

The best resource I can recommend is Dr. Ari Tuckman’s book ADHD After Dark, which was specifically written to help couples where one partner has ADHD and the other does not. I recently interviewed Tuckman about this topic for my Sex and Psychology Podcast and, as he describes it, time management is one of the key issues that comes up in these relationships.

For the partner with ADHD, they seem to have more difficulty managing the competing demands of their personal and professional lives. In terms of dealing with this effectively, it starts with appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Tuckman has found that when the partner with ADHD is on medication, their relationships tend to fare better, so if you haven’t yet sought professional help, that’s probably the best first step.

Tuckman also says that self-care is another important piece, which includes prioritizing sleep. Those who put more effort into maintaining a healthy lifestyle tend to get the most out of ADHD treatment.

However, this isn’t just about you making changes. You need to have an equal partner in all of this who is understanding of your needs and challenges and is willing to make changes in his life, too, for the sake of your relationship. It sounds a little like he wants you to be a mind-reader and also to be ready for sex at all times. That doesn’t sound like a very healthy or realistic approach to sex in any relationship. He needs to take some responsibility in all of this, too, and he can’t just leave you in charge of managing sex.

A good starting point might be reading Tuckman’s book together. It will help your partner to get a better understanding of ADHD and also how both of you can navigate your relationship in a way that meets each person’s needs. 

Every time I become intimate with a guy, I can’t get hard or feel aroused. How do you overcome insecurity and fear of intimacy?

What you’ve described is something that a lot of people struggle with. They have all of these thoughts running through their head when they’re in intimate situations that make it difficult for them to maintain arousal and stay in the moment. Rather than being focused on pleasure, they are consumed with fears, worries, or anxieties.

There are a few potential solutions to this that you might consider, but my best suggestion is to think about speaking with a certified sex therapist (to find one near you, here’s a handy directory). This is likely to be especially helpful if the thoughts going through your head revolve personal insecurities (e.g., body image issues) and/or previous sexual or relationship trauma. A therapist can help you to work through these issues in a productive way so that you can feel more comfortable and confident approaching physical intimacy. 

As part of this kind of treatment, many therapists recommend mindfulness training. Mindfulness is about present-moment awareness, being focused on body sensations, and letting go of unwanted mental intrusions. Research has found that mindfulness can help to resolve a wide range of sexual difficulties, including situational erectile dysfunction (which sounds like what you described). A reading suggestion that may be helpful for this is Lori Brotto's Better Sex Through Mindfulness (although primarily written for women, there are things in this book that persons of any gender and orientation can benefit from).

Another part of this treatment might involve temporarily taking an erectile dysfunction medication, such as Viagra. These pills won’t address the underlying psychological issues, which should be addressed with your therapist, but they can help by making it easier to become genitally aroused and maintain erections. 

Think of it this way: if you experience an erection, but a distracting thought pops into your head, the erection will probably go away quickly, which can create additional anxiety about erection loss that makes it even harder to get hard again. What this medication can potentially do is help to blunt the impact of distracting thoughts on sexual performance. So taking a pill is not a solution in and of itself, but it can help if combined with some of the other approaches discussed above. 

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