Is It Possible that Adult ADHD Contributed to an Affair?

ADHD Contributed to an Affair

Why you should ask if adult ADHD may be the elephant in the room.

By Melissa Orlov

When your partner has an affair, one of your first instincts is to try to figure out what happened.  What led you both to this place?  One possible factor that neither partners, nor therapists, commonly consider is that one partner in the couple has adult ADHD.  While that doesn’t excuse the choice to have an affair, it can explain a whole lot about how you got where you did and, much more importantly, how to repair your relationship.

About 5% of adults in the U.S. have ADHD, and a much larger figure than that are what’s called ‘sub-clinical,’ which means they have many of the characteristics of ADHD without enough of them for a full diagnosis.  But what’s important to know about adult ADHD is that close to 90% of adults with ADHD don’t know they have it.  Which means the symptoms are all there, making a mess of your relationship, but neither of you is aware of what’s going on…and don’t know the ways to deal with them.

This is a big deal.  Because ADHD symptoms – and the responses partners have to those symptoms – wreak havoc on relationships more often than not.  One research study suggested that close to 60% of relationships in which one or both adults has ADHD are ‘maladjusted.’  Read:  really, really hard. And it’s not just the ADHD partner who struggles.  They both do.  The good news is that couples who learn about ADHD, and learn about what I call ‘the ADHD Effect’ on their relationship, can turn things around – often finding a relationship better than the one they started with because they’ve weathered the storm.  Even if there has been an affair.

Join Us LIVE on  Tuesday, April 11 @ 6PM EDT As We Explore Adult ADHD and Affairs

We will be talking with author and expert, Melissa Orlov

Click Here to Reserve Your Spot


What does ADHD have to do with affairs? 

Plenty, as it turns out – and not just for the partner who has ADHD.  Research done by Ari Tuckman, Ph.D., with over 3,000 adults who are in relationships in which one partner has ADHD and one does not, suggests that both ADHD and non-ADHD partners have high rates of affairs.  To give you an idea – 39% of men with ADHD in this study had at least one physical affair and 43% an emotional affair at some point in their life.  Women with ADHD ‘scored’ 40% and 49% in the same categories.  But the troubles aren’t one-sided.  Non-ADHD partners also have high rates of affairs in these difficult relationships.  22% of non-ADHD women, for example, had had physical affairs and 36% had emotional affairs during their adult lives.

These are high numbers.  What’s going on?

On the ADHD side, ADHD can be marked by impulsivity and a lack of sense about consequences.  But more often, what I see in my practice is that the relationship fell apart and one or both partners simply needed positive attention.  Which can be hard to get in relationships that tend to be marked by chronic inattention that is the hallmark of ADHD and the chronic criticism, anger and frustration that is the hallmark of non-ADHD partners of both genders.

Here is the sad part about this.  Much of the time, it could have been avoided.  But you have to know what impact ADHD has on both partners in order to be able to structure your lives in a way that ADHD doesn’t get to run the show.  I know.  I’ve lived this (with affairs on both sides or our relationship), and I specialize in working with couples impacted by adult ADHD.  Every day I get to see couples who thought it was all over bring their relationships back to life, all because they learned about that elephant in the room – adult ADHD (and responses to ADHD) – and what to do about it.

Having had an affair in your relationship does not predict whether or not ADHD is present.  But if you or your spouse has qualities such as difficulty following through even when you intend to, having trouble remembering, always being late, poor memory, easy distraction…ADHD may be present.   And if that’s so, there’s not only hope…there’s a specific path out of your misery.

I will be talking more about this topic on April 11, and hope you’ll join in the conversation by sending in your questions.  If you want more information about whether ADHD might have been impacting your relationship in the meantime, you may wish to read my blog post, Six Signs that ADHD May Be Part of Your Marriage.

 Melissa Orlov is a marriage consultant who specializes in helping adults impacted by ADHD learn to thrive.  She has written two award-winning books on the topic, The ADHD Effect on Marriage and The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD.  Melissa gives a popular and effective 8-week tele-seminar for couples impacted by ADHD and also teaches therapists how to work with couples impacted by ADHD.  You can find her at






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14 Responses to Is It Possible that Adult ADHD Contributed to an Affair?

  1. TheFirstWife April 4, 2017 at 9:21 am #

    I live in a house with 2 sons with ADD and my H says he has it too.

    The disorganization and lack of focus is challenging to say the least.

  2. Melissa Orlov April 4, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    If your sons have it, it is likely your husband does as well as it’s heritable. It make sense to look into treatment, which could significantly help diminish disorganization in the household. I have a free e-book about optimizing treatment for adult ADHD at my website (, in the online treatment guide.

    • TheFirstWife April 4, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

      You should not pair a guy with ADD and a wife who is super organized together.

      Can be challenging at times. I feel like all I do is remind people of things. Even my friends will call me to ask me things like what time does this event start or where do I get tickets for this or that?

      I keep track of waaay too many things for everyone. Lol

  3. DONNA April 4, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    I’m trying to register for the free April 11 webinar

  4. lauri April 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm #

    oh I have been struggling for 30 years with man I love. I read the intro of your book and started crying. This is exactly how I feel. Where I am now id trying to decide if I keep going. I have given up so much of me….it hurts so deeply and I just want to be happy.

  5. Melissa April 11, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    My Husband (diagnosed of ADD from childhood) and I are married for 17 years, he is having an emotional affair with female coworker but not accepting and not ready to change, this is impacting our relationship very much. He is texting non-stop. starts with good morning texts, leaves early to work to excercise with this female, calls/facetimes with her during the morning commute, works during the day/eats lunch, calls her during the evening commute, continues with the texts till midnight. shares all the activities that is occuring in his day to day life, sends pictures of the activities he does, both asking for pictures of each other and activities happening. this continues over the weekends too.. explained about the impact its having to me and the life, he is not ready to change and keeps telling that there isnt anything going on, I should give him personal space and I should change. Dont know what to do, dont want to end this marriage. I have registered for this webinar, shoudl both of us attend? would it help understand what he is doing and the impact its causing? would this help him with any strategies to help him improve.. need help.. please help.

    • Doug April 11, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

      Hi Melissa, Thank you for your comment. I do believe that there will be some information during the webinar that would be helpful for your husband. Getting him to listen might be a challenge though, given his current state of denial. Has your husband been diagnosed with ADHD?

      • Doug April 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

        Sorry, I obviously overlooked where you said he was diagnosed in childhood! Dementia is setting in for me!

      • Melissa April 11, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

        Yes, he is diagnosed with ADHD

    • TheFirstWife April 11, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

      Melissa. So sorry for you.

      Unfortunately many cheaters believe if there is no sex there is nothing wrong.

      It sounds as though your husband is in complete denial about this relationship. No amount of talking or trying to explain is likely to have an impact.

      I have lived with that same situation and it is terrible that you cannot make someone see the error of their ways

      I wish I had a better answer for you.

      The only thing that worked for me was getting my power back and realizing I did not have to put up with my husband’s affairs.

      once I gain control, he very quickly realized I was no longer going to tolerate his behavior. This was his second affair and the last one almost ended in divorce.

      My husband was asking for the divorce during his affair. I was asking for the separation after DDay2. he knew I was no longer tolerating anything else from him.

      I believe the request to have him leave our house was the bucket of cold water that he needed. It sobered him right up.

      • Melissa April 13, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

        Yes, he is in complete denial about this fact. Talking to him doesn’t help at all.. we listened to the Webinar a couple of days ago…after listening to that…he still thinks there is nothing wrong in what he is doing but because he has ADD it’s all blamed against him…now he is telling me to set a date and if nothing changes..leave him…is that a solution?

        • TheFirstWife April 14, 2017 at 4:07 am #

          Melissa. I had the same experience. My H told me he would let me know at the end of the summer what he was going to do. Stay or leave.

          I confronted him one day and demanded an answer.

          I always felt my H wanted me to end it so he could absolve himself of any guilt. So he could tell himself that I ended the marriage and it was me!! As if his cheating was not a factor.

          When I finally told him to leave after another six months of his cheating (unbeknownst to me) I saw an instantaneous change. He knew I wasn’t tolerating his crap any longer.

          He then had to work his butt off to keep our marriage together and to stop me from leaving him.

          I just was so fed up I really didn’t care.

          Your H sounds like a coward. He wants you to make the decision to end it. Just like my H was behaving – unacceptable!

          I Dont know if you have children still living at home. I do so I had to consider them – but at some point it became unbearable so I told him to go. He snapped out of it and the affair fog lifted instantly but I no longer cared. I was done!

          And that is when I got my power back and restored my self esteem. I was now in control of the relationship.

          We are still together. Not the same marriage. He now gets it and he has no more chances. He knows I can leave him at any time.

          I was afraid for many months if he left hecwould go running to her. I found out months later he was planning on it. He asked for a divorce a number of times but then would chsnge his mind.

          But I was done being kind and supportive and loving. I was done being a doormat.

          I suggest you get a plan B in place. Get counseling for you alone to deal with him and his issues. Get $ and a financial plan together. Get $ in your own name. Start separating assets if you can.

          This way if you must pull the trigger and leave him or throw him out – you are protected.

          And when my CH begged for another chance (and this was not his first affair) I made him sign a post nup. Anything in my name ($, assets etc) he is not entitled to if we divorce. Signed and notarized. I am protected.

  6. JoanJ July 21, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    I had no clue when I met my Husband 28 years ago, that he had ADHD? He was 23 years old when we met, and I was the mother of a young son. Looking back in hindsight, all the signs of Adult ADHD were there from the moment I met him. His high sex drive, tiredness, impulsiveness, hyper focus, distracted, mood swings, and he would hyper focus on what ever he was doing, to the point I felt invisible. He couldn’t hear me when I spoke, and having to repeat everything 3 or 4 times got really annoying…
    I noticed about 100 Playboy magazines under his bed when I first met him, but he was a single guy so I didn’t see any issue with that. Now that he had met me, I thought for sure he wouldn’t be needing those magazines any more?..
    Even though all the red flags were there, I married him a year later, and that’s when everything began to change for the worse. Our great sex life made me feel special and beautiful, but after we were married that abruptly came to an end? We only had sex when he wanted it, foreplay for him and the whole experience would be a little rougher than I would’ve liked. All it seemed he cared about was his own pleasure, making me feel like just a sex object when he wanted a real woman.The few times I initiated sex he turned me down because he was to tired. It made me cry, so I never initiated sex again after that.
    Even though I was also working full time and had a son, he began taking me for granted. Putting me in charge of all the cooking, cleaning and household responsibilities. While he constantly watched T.V. and never would notice me. Like a foolish women from the 50’s, I allowed this behavior to continue. My intentions back than were just to be the best wife I could be and make my husband happy. I still cant believe how stupid I was to allow my Husband to take advantage of me like that? It was about 2 years into our marriage when I found the first hidden Playboy magazine. I was actually shocked at first, we were married Catholics, it didn’t understand. But then the hurt, betrayal and anger set in. It all made sense to me why my Husband didn’t want sex from me very often. He was fully satisfied all by himself, leaving me completely unsatisfied. I dont know why I didn’t confront my Husband at the time, but instead I just threw the magazine away hoping that would end the problem. But at the time I wasn’t fully aware how badly it was hurting my self esteem. Eventually I found another magazine in a different hiding spot, again I didn’t say a word to him_
    After five years of marriage I gave birth to our first Son. I really believed our child would bring us closer, so we can have the intimate relationship I always wanted. But that didn’t happen for me. Eventually the Playboy magazines were not enough, so my Husband started going to strip clubs. That’s was the straw that broke the camels back for me. All the rage, all my insecurities and betrayed feelings blew up all at once. But, for some reason my Husband was even angrier than I was? His embarrassment I guess. I made my Husband well aware that his actions have been a big problem for me, and I consider it cheating.
    If only he had listened back than and saved us a lot of future heartache. But he didn’t listen to me, I dont even know if he actually heard me or even cared. He seemed to care more about the way it made him feel getting caught.There were constant disagreements, if I said something was black he would say it was white. He could just never agree, making me feels as though we weren’t even compatible?
    When our Son was two years old, I gave birth to our Daughter. I still loved my Husband, but I didn’t feel very close to him, I didn’t even think he change his ways to be the man I needed_
    Than 7 weeks after our Daughter was born, an unbelievable tragedy happened.
    My teenage Son was killed in a car accident!
    But, I’m not on this site to talk about the death of my Son.
    I just really needed the love and support from my Husband during that horrible time.
    Around this same time is when internet porn found it’s way into my house. But my feelings for my Husband were numb and buried at that point, and I stopped caring.
    I divorced my Husband about 7 years later, which was devastating to me and our children.
    Even thou my Husband and I were divorced, we never stopped seeing each other, and we never stopped having sex together. My Husband was around forty years old at the time, and he stated dating a single Mother in her twenties. Six weeks later he told me she was pregnant. I was really shocked because that meant he impulsively had sex, practically on date number one, and impulsively didn’t use a condom. My Husband stopped dating this girl once she announced she was pregnant, and he never cared about the kid that she gave birth to, but we have paid child support. After the child was born, my Husband and I reconciled again.
    But our problems were still there and he never learned to communicate, so nothing ever got worked out…
    We eventually moved to another country with our two surviving children, but our marriage never improved, it just continually got worse. We continued to live together, but eventually I wasn’t able to deal with his selfishness, so I moved into the spare bedroom. My Husband’s internet porn habit had grown bigger and more powerful at that point. Even though we were still living together, his sexual urges pushed him to have an emotional affair online for a few months, and than he went to visit the woman and had sex. My Husband realised after the sex that she wasn’t right for him, and he ended it. I wasn’t aware of the affair at the time it happened. But I was aware something was wrong with my Husband all those years, so I started doing some research. I had no doubt after my research, that he had Adult ADHD. I had a long talk with him about it. I told my Husband if he got some help, I would stay and work on the marriage? But he didn’t even want to discuss it. I left my Husband 2 more times after that just because my female intuition kept telling me to run..
    But four years ago when I was living away from him, something shifted inside of me. I realized I loved my Husband all along, and my love had been buried.
    I called my Husband and told him how I felt, and he told me to come to him right away. It was no secret that my Husband had never stopped loving me, so I really thought we had found each other again, and the nightmare was finally over, but I’ve never been so wrong!
    When we got back together I knew my Husband had been looking at hard core porn for many, many years. I explained to him in full detail why I had divorced him. His outside sexual activities had interfered in our relationship. So he promised me the only reason he was looking at internet porn, was because he didn’t have me, and he was done with it. He convinced me I was all he needed. Our sex life was the best it’s ever been, we actually made love every night for three months. I felt really secure sexually for the first time in so many years. But my Husband had acquired a lot of new bad habits while we were seperated. He was completely hooked on his phone like a teenager. He was on Facebook constantly and playing poker games, and socialising with everyone in the world, but me.. I felt connected to him sexually, but the habits were overwhelming. I didn’t feel like his first priority, I felt like his last.

    Three months after we got back together, my Husband said he was sick one day and stayed home alone from work. I began to notice after that day, that we stopped having sex? Five days went by and still not even an attempt on his part. I by accident, I found out why.
    I went on my laptop history for something previously I had looked at, when I noticed i bunch of porn sights on my history? My first thought was my 18 year old Son had used my laptop? But when I looked closely at the date and times of the websites, I realised it was my Husband who had viewed everything the day he stayed home from work.
    Because of the many tragedies I’ve suffered in my life, I was already suffering from Anxiety Stress Disorder. But when I realised my Husband had spent a whole day watching porn, and than stopped having sex with me. Something inside of me broke..

    That was 3 years ago, and that break I felt, was my first realisation that I had developed PTSD.
    When I confronted my Husband about his day of porn, of course he denied it until I showed him the history. I dont think he even admitted it then?
    But nothing has been the same between us sexually or emotionally. He killed my self esteem for the second time, I felt like a total fool. I was watching him like a hawk, because the trust was broken. But he never acknowledged anything and we weren’t allowed to talk about it. Our sex life began to get better after a while, and I actually started to trust him. But then things began to change again last year. My Husband started having erectile dysfunction. He didn’t have trouble getting hard, he would always come to me already hard, so who knows how he got there? But than I could feel him struggle before he was finished, he would start to get rough to help himself along, and hold his penis while it was inside of me. But he still wan’t able to ejaculate? This went on for a good 6 months with me crying every time he couldn’t finish off. I begged him to be honest about what was going on. Was he watching porn again or masturbating? He swore to me over and over that he loved me more than anything on earth, and that he would never do anything ever again to hurt me like he has in the past. I believed him with all my heart because my Husband would never lie to me?
    A few weeks later I woke up in the morning to use the bathroom, assuming my Husband had already left for work? As I walked towards the bathroom I could see a half naked woman on the TV from from sex call infomercial. When I looked towards the couch I could see my Husband laying down and I asked him what he was doing? He sat up a little and I could see his pants were down, he answered me and said, “I’m masturbating”…
    Something really bad happened to me in that moment. The floor was gone from under my feet and my whole world went black. A similar reaction to the one I had when I found out my Son was dead. I was already struggling with P.T.S.D., and I literally felt my personality split! I spent the next 5 days in bed from shock. How could my Husband continue hurting me in a way that he knew could possibly destroy me, how could he be that selfish? My husband has ADHD, that’s why. He’s impulsive and never thinks about the consequences of his actions, or how much they hurt me.
    After I caught my Husband on the couch that morning, eventually he admitted he started masturbating again the year earlier. That explained the erectile dysfunction when he tried to have sex with me.
    It’s been six months since I caught my Husband on the couch that morning. He was extremely upset that I caught him, and embarrassed of course. His secret was out in the open, and that some how took away it’s power over my Husband. He finally was able to see how badly I was being hurt by it.
    I almost left my Husband because the betrayal was to deep and the trust was to broken. But I decided to give him one last chance.
    Over the last six months, my Husband has finally coming to terms with his ADHD. He has yet to get any therapy or medication though, which I believe he really needs.
    But he hasn’t looked at porn in 3 years and he stopped masturbating 6 months ago. I wasn’t surprised his ED just miraculously disappeared.
    I wish my Husband got help many years ago, but ADHD makes him selfish and he put is ego first.
    Trust wont be earned from his words, because of all the lies he told. Trust will be earned from his actions, by keeping his word, and his promises_
    If my Husband didn’t have ADHD I wouldn’t still be with him. That would mean everything he did to me was just because he was a jerk.
    I put all the blame on the ADHD, not my Husband_

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