Part two of a two part review of ADHD After Dark by Ali Tuckman.
Tuckman, A. (2019). ADHD After Dark: Better Sex Life, Better Relationship: Taylor & Francis.
From Part One
The field definitely needs more research and information on how ADHD impacts sexuality, especially in marriage. Thus, when I saw a new book coming out on the subject that was reportedly grounded in research I picked it up right away. ADHD After Dark is based on the author’s work in the field of ADHD and a survey of over 3,000 people in a relationship where one partner has ADHD and the other doesn’t.
In part one of this review I pointed out I was disappointed in the book and it definitely was not a scholarly research report. Yet, there are contributions from the research. This post summarizes them.
The survey instrument (ADHD Relationship Sex Survey) was developed by the author and is available in the book (Appendix A). A quick search online found the research site showing the data was collected with SurveyMonkey.
“The questions covered demographic information (age, duration of relationship, etc.), ADHD treatment effort and effectiveness, relationship satisfaction, and a lot of questions about sexual satisfaction, activities, barriers, etc.” (loc 788)
Being it is a survey, analysis of it as an instrument is not needed. All the questions are face valid.
Findings - High Points
As pointed out in part one of this review, Section I The Lay of the Land: Research Results looks at the findings from the research. The introduction to this section introduces the survey and gives a vague idea of Tuckman’s approach to the data. Beyond stating the data came from “more than 3000 respondents”, the only other real number details are reflected in the graph shown. This reflects the breakdown of ADHD vs non-ADHD respondents “at one point when I downloaded the data”. Tuckman does point out the huge lack of data from husbands whose wives have ADHD.
Tuckman also points out that the results are from heterosexual relaionships as there was not enough data collected from non-heterosexual relationships to have meaningful results.
He also speaks to his approach to significance in data pointing out if you have a large enough sample small changes can be statistically significant.
“So throughout the data analysis, I am focusing on the things that actually matter, the stuff that you can do something with.” (loc 822)
This means, of course, that the author determines significance, not the data. Problematic in science, but not in pop self-help.
Chapter 1 looks at major themes from the qualitative data (5046 comments) provided by respondents. That’s a LOT of qualitative data and a structured analysis of it could be fascinating. A number of the themes Tuckman gave were not unique to ADHD affected couples (i.e., mismatched drives, impact of kids). A few were specifically related to ADHD for Tuckman (again – no data given, just Tuckman’s interpretation):
- Non ADHD women wanted their ADHD spouses to step up, deal with their ADHD and discuss problems without over-reacting. (I don’t see this as specific to ADHD relationships.)
- ADHD women struggled to clear their minds before and during sex. They also reported finding it difficult to stay on task to complete assignments needed to solve sexual problems. (Again. Not sure how significantly different this is for ADHD women and non-ADHD women. Would assume significant difference, but would like to see it.)
- Non ADHD men were aware their ADHD wives were more distracted which affected the husband’s enjoyment.
- ADHD husbands reported awareness of the impact of their ADHD but struggled with being consistent in addressing it.
ADHD Meds and Sex
“Of those who had sex when medication was active, 41% said that medication had no effect on their enjoyment of a sexual encounter. The rest were evenly spread across the various response options ranging from a large negative effect to a large positive effect, with about 3–5% of people endorsing each option—they pretty much cancel each other out, at least on average, so it isn’t a useful sweeping generalization to recommend it to everyone. For most people, ADHD medication doesn’t do much for their sex life, at least while they’re having sex.” (loc 1048)
Tuckman mentions this was a surprise. I also find it interesting. Additional research fleshing out this question would be valuable.
Chapter 2 might be the core of the data findings. Again, no numbers, but the following statements.
- Meds didn’t seem to have much benefit during sex (see the sidebar).
- Most individuals want way more sex than they are having. In fact, 3x as much than they reported having.
- Those with ADHD report higher desire than those without. (Would REALLY like some numbers here.)
- Men looked at much more porn than women, and folks with ADHD looked at more porn than those without.
- Those with ADHD got distracted more during sex – especially women.
- ADHD didn’t seem to have much impact on desired sexual variety.
Chapter 3 looked at the impact of ADHD treatment. Tuckman makes an argument for working on the ADHD. He points out that women tend to take more responsibility for it, whether they or their partner actually has the ADHD (again, no numbers, just impression). Of interest was the following:
“I also asked respondents to rate how much effort their partners put in on managing ADHD. I then looked to see how that perceived effort correlated with the answers to other questions. Some of the interesting, and not at all surprising, results show that those who feel that their partner puts in more effort on managing ADHD:
- Are more comfortable making sexual requests of their partner
- Are more comfortable fulfilling their partner’s sexual requests
- Are more comfortable sharing sexual fantasies and turn-ons with their partner
- Feel their partner makes their sexual pleasure more of a priority
- Are somewhat more willing to make their partner’s sexual pleasure a priority (most people already rate themselves pretty high on this one so there is less of a difference)
- Are more sexually generous when not in the mood
- Feel their partner is more sexually generous when not in the mood
- Feel that their partner reads them better sexually
- Feel more positive or less negative about partner’s porn use. (Loc 1725)
A couple other “Take Away Lessons” Tuckman gave that were directly related to sexuality were that:
Sex is a motivation to working on ADHD.
“Respondents who felt that ADHD added barriers to a more satisfying sex life were somewhat more likely to put in more effort on managing ADHD.” (Loc 1865)
“Those who felt that their partner put in more effort on managing ADHD were more comfortable and generous sexually. Seriously.” (Loc 1865)
Chapter 4. For the final chapter of Section 1, Tuckman identified the “happiest couples” (he didn’t explain the criteria) – those rating highest in “current relationship satisfaction, current sexual satisfaction, and current sexual frequency” (loc 1887) with those rating lowest. He identified several between group differences (he didn’t stipulate methodology for identifying such).
- A collaborative effort on managing ADHD is noticed and appreciated and also makes the treatment more effective, thereby minimizing the effect that ADHD is having on your relationship and sex life. …
- The happiest couples had more sex, but it’s important to ensure that that sex is good for both partners….
- The happiest couples didn’t feel that their own or their partner’s masturbation or porn use were a problem. It was seen as an add-on to partnered activities, not a comment or threat.
The biggest predictors of current relationship and sexual satisfaction were: Partner had put in good effort on managing their or their partner’s ADHD (most people rate their own effort as high, so that doesn’t separate the satisfied from the dissatisfied) Treatment has been effective in managing their or their partner’s ADHD symptoms.
ADHD After Dark: Better Sex Life, Better Relationship
From the Cover:
This pioneering book explores the impact of ADHD on a couple’s sex life and relationship. It explains how a better sex life will benefit your relationship (and vice versa) and why that’s especially important for couples with one partner with ADHD. Grounded in innovative research, ADHD After Dark draws on data from a survey of over 3000 adults in a couple where one partner has ADHD. Written from the author’s unique perspective as both an expert in ADHD and a certified sex therapist, the book describes the many effects of ADHD on couples’ sex lives and happiness, covering areas such as negotiating sexual differences, performance problems, low desire, porn, making time for sex, infidelity, and more. The book outlines key principles for a great sex life for couples with ADHD and offers strategies and treatment interventions where specific issues arise.