The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps

Best Psychology Book of 2010 Gold-Medal winner, Foreword Reviews

Find the Joy You've Lost...

Too often, couples who are unaware of the impact of ADHD in their relationship pick exactly the wrong approaches to solving their marital problems - approaches that would make sense for most couples, but not when one or both partners has ADHD.

The ADHD Effect on Marriage helps couples understand why things never seem to get better, no matter how hard they try - and how to change that, not by "trying harder," but by "trying differently" so they can renew their love and joy.  

ADHD Effect on Marriage Book Cover

Buy: the paperback (English) 
E-book or PDF


Two Free Chapters

Paperback in Dutch
Paperback in Chinese
Kindle in Spanish (and some translated blog posts here)

Download Audiobook Purchaser Worksheets here

Included as one of the "15 books all couples should read, according to marriage therapists", by HuffPost


Table of Contents

Foreword by Edward M. Hallowell, MD

Section 1 - Understanding ADHD in Your Marriage

  • The ADHD Effect (p. 3.  Audio 1.  Kindle loc. 175)
  • ADHD and Its Diagnosis - what's behind your differences (p. 9.  Audio 2.  Kindle loc. 277)
  • The Surprising Ways ADHD Symptoms Affect Your Marriage - 12 patterns you must know (p. 30.  Audio 3a&b.  Kindle loc. 619)

Section 2 - Rebuilding Your Relationship in Six Steps

  • Step 1: Cultivating Empathy for Your Spouse - stories from real life and what they mean for you (p. 79.  Audio 4.  Kindle loc. 1403)
  • Step 2:  Addressing Obstacle Emotions - anger, fear, denial and hopelessness (p. 118.  Audio 5.  Kindle loc. 1985)
  • Step 3:  Getting Treatment for You Both - what effective treatment looks like in a relationship (p. 145.  Audio 6.  Kindle loc. 2420)
  • Step 4:  Improving Communication - communication techniques that work when ADHD is present (p. 165. Audio 7.  Kindle loc. 2744)
  • Step 5:  Setting Boundaries and Finding Your Own Voices - using your "best self" to reinvigorate your life (p. 187. Audio 8.  Kindle loc. 3112)
  • Step 6:  Reigniting Romance and Having Some Fun - the science and the fun stuff  (p. 199.  Audio 9.  Kindle loc. 3297)
  • Epilogue:  Don't Try Harder, Try Differently
  • Worksheets and Tools
  • Resources

Book Reviews - ADHD Experts

"We adore this book!  It's a comprehensive guide to dealing with the impact of ADHD on your marriage without making either partner wrong.  Readers will find a wealth of information and support as well as practical tips, exercises, and stories.  Our hats off to Melissa Orlov for writing this much-needed book."

-Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo, co-authors of You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!

"The ADHD Effect is a brilliant compilation of what you can do if you are in a marriage where one or both of you have ADHD.  It is a life-saver of a book that can change lives for the better, and dramatically so.  I daresay Melissa Orlov is one of the foremost authorities on ADHD and relationships in the world today."

-Dr. Edward Hallowell, co-author of Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction and more

"Why wait until your therapist tells you to buy this book?  Buy it now and save yourselves a lot of pain and money.  This book will help you to make your ADHD marriage work better so you can both have a happy, healthy lifetime of love."

-Jonathan Scott Halverstadt, LMFT, author of ADD & Romance

"This book provides an incredibly valuable service to those struggling in a marriage with ADHD.  Written by someone who has been there and knows firsthand how ADHD can disrupt a marriage, it will help couples truly understand ADHD, realize they are not alone, and teach them what specifically can be done to align together as a team to turn things around.  Ms. Orlov has done a wonderful job of providing knowledge, awareness, and hope to those who sorely need it."

-Kevin Murphy, PhD, co-author of ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says

"Millions of adults with ADHD struggle to overcome their inattention, procrastination, impulsivity, and distractibility.  Yet few realize that after they marry, these same symptoms can severely affect their loved ones, often with disastrous results.  Melissa Orlov offers a unique and refreshing approach to helping ADHD couples understand the underlying issues caused by ADHD that can negatively impact their relationship.  Her methods are built upon years of experience and offer couples hope and guidance.  Most importantly, her strategies prepare them to make smart choices to build happier, healthier futures.  This book is long overdue and much needed!"

-Nancy Ratey, EdM, MCC, SCAC, author of The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents

"Orlov's work is a beacon of light and hope, offering strategies that help couples feel happier and more satisfied."

-Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, author of More Attention, Less Deficit

"The ADHD Effect is an exceptional book that addresses the complexity of the relationship between partners whose lives are affected by ADHD while presenting sound family system principles in an easy-to-understand and accessible way.  Through real-life accounts in the words of adults whose marriages have been affected in this way, as well as by revealing her personal journey, Ms. Orlov provides the reader with specific ways to apply these concepts to their own partnerships.  I would highly recommend this book to my clients, their partners, and to couple therapists who want to learn to effectively guide couples in marriages challenged by The ADHD Effect.

Ms. Orlov's book provides what many leave out - empathy for both partners.  She offers a no-blame, nonjudgmental account of the differences and struggles of each partner, with equal amounts of respect, understanding, and empathy for the experience of both.  This is a recipe for success for all partnerships.

The ADHD Effect manages to be both positive and realistic at the same time.  Ms. Orlov does not underplay the challenges, but also does not pathologize or ignore the gifts and contributions each can make when ADHD is acknowledged, treated, understood, and accepted.  The book balances real-life accounts that don't gloss over or minimize the difficulty of the struggle with the positive and hopeful view that come through understanding, couples can come to an even closer connection.  The book's basic underpinning is the idea that when individuals in a marriage stop wishing for their partners to change in ways that are not possible because of their basic biology, and instead focus on acceptance, sound strategies, and communication, their marriage can be strengthened and their differences can enliven their relationship instead of threaten it."

-Sari Solden, MS, LMFT, author of Journeys Through ADDulthood (


Reviews by Readers Like You

"I'm reading your book now, and it's like you've opened up our brains and jumped in. It's the most amazing, most helpful and hope-giving thing I've found..."

"Finding this book at this time has truly been a gift. My partner has just been diagnosed with ADHD and Melissa's book has helped in so many ways I can't even begin to count. I has helped me so much as I was at my wits end and really feeling hopeless and contemplating leaving. Now I know that there is a reason for my partners actions and we are aware and now are addressing them and I am looking at ways that I can do things that will help me cope differently that will help ease the pain, disappointment and resentment. There are no words to express how valuable this book is and how much it has changed by life."

       - Laurie (review from

"I am so grateful to you for taking the time to write this most important book and then offering this course.  For the first time in 20 years my husband is seeing how his ADHD is affecting our marriage and I just feel like crying with relief. He heard you because you so eloquently and compassionately explained what happens for both people in the relationship, it is so clear and precise that there is no denying that these issues exist."

        - Marlene (email)

"This book explains all of the confusing and confounding problems my wife and I have had, period! Through 28 years of marriage and 9 counselors, no one pegged the real problem of our dysfunction - ADHD/ADD. It is as though Melissa Orlov has been in our living room studying and writing about us. We knew ADHD/ADD was in our relationship, but felt taking meds was the whole solution...not! Fortunately, the author does not leave us with just a clear understanding of the problems and the very predictable patterns of behaviors (of both the ADHD/ADD affected spouse and the non-ADHD/ADD spouse,) but offers practical ways to acknowledge the truths of the effects of ADHD/ADD on our relationship and proven methods to alter the course of our marriage (which was miserable and headed for divorce.) From her personal experiences and her research, she explains how to alter both of our behaviors, resolving conflicts and confusion, rekindling love and trust, and communicating in a whole new way. If this book had come out one month later, we'd be getting divorced. As it is, while still separated, we are working towards reconciliation with an entirely different understanding of each other's behaviors and challenges, and with a clear path towards a future with healing and hope. There is no area of marriage left unaddressed, from the challenges of getting mail from the mail box to where it belongs, to finishing the laundry, to dealing with perceptions and solutions to differences in how we process time, money, feelings, sex, thoughts, etc. This book is a God send, and is bringing us back to the love and compassion and consideration and respect we once had for each other."

       - Paul in Atlanta (review from

"Not quite finished yet, but I highly recommend this book to any couples who have or suspect they might have ADHD affecting the relationship. This book is a must for you. So much of what I read was spot on scary. But after scary, there is hope because she gives several ideas on how to best handle your relationship with an ADHD spouse.   Read it and weep, and laugh."

       - Brett Kovach (review from

"This book, and Melissa's website were an immediate relief to the daily struggles our marriage was experiencing. We put in place some of the exercises mentioned in the book and it has been amazing. I stopped nagging, my spouse found a way to follow through on projects long unfinished. It's been less than a month since we read the book and we feel it's been the best few weeks of our 15 year marriage."

       - LoniRadner (review from

"I bought "The ADHD Effect on Marriage" because my ADHD daughter is about to be married. I didn't have to read much of the book to realize that my children's dad is also ADHD. The problems in my marriage and subsequent divorce wreaked havoc in my life and the lives of my ex-husband and children, who continue to be impacted today in their adult lives. Melissa Orlov has written a very knowledgeable, honest, practical, compassionate, and positive book in which neither the ADHD partner nor the non-ADHD partner is considered flawed or wrong. Her empathetic approach encourages the couple to hear and be heard in a manner that enables them to reconnect and work out their problems together. She also offers specific ideas and techniques for doing so. Furthermore, reading her book is like sitting around the kitchen table, talking with a friend. Ms. Orlov not only knows her subject inside and out, but has lived it and successfully turned her own marriage around. If we had read this book thirty years ago, four lives would have evolved quite differently. I am passing the book to my children so that we can make the most of the present and future even though we can't change the past.

       - Sherry (review from

For more reader reviews, go to with the link above.

To My Readers, from Melissa Orlov

ADHD creates many challenges in a relationship, particularly if the ADHD is untreated or undertreated.  But it's not just ADHD symptoms - the other spouse's response to the those symptoms is equally important in how you get along.  Part of the reason your relationship has gotten worse over the years is because your reactions have become faster and more emotional.  I learned this the hard way and, as I was struggling to figure out what we could possibly do to make things better - just as you are struggling today - I realized that there just wasn't much information available about why my marriage was so hard.

So in 2007 I started this blog and forum with Dr. Hallowell to share what I had learned.  This information is important, marriage-saving information.  Why should you have to figure it out on your own and reinvent the wheel?  This book is my organized way of collecting the most important things that you need to know to not only identify the patterns that ADHD creates in your marriage but what you need to both survive and then thrive the way my husband and I did.

Even if you feel hopeless, let me assure you that there really is hope.  Your past, filled with hurt and pain, does not need to be your future.  Learn how to move away from the symptom-response-response patterns you've been in and create a future filled with love and affection.