Book Review: The ADHD Effect on Marriage

One of the last books I read in 2018 was The ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov. I picked this one up on a wander through the non-fiction section at my library, and I chose it because I had recently learned that my husband has ADHD.

That’s a bit of a surprise, huh? We’ve been married 3+ years and, voila, major diagnosis! In the weeks following that discovery, we relied a lot on Internet resources about ADHD*, but I’m a reader, so I will always come back to book-learning about things.

[*Sidebar on the Internet conversation re: ADHD: I found How to ADHD super helpful, as well as Erynn Brook’s threads about ADHD.]

About the Book

Melissa is writing from personal experience–her husband has ADHD, and their marriage very nearly fell apart. That personal touch is invaluable for this topic, I think. There can be hard feelings on all sides, and she conveys the truth compassionately.

Topics the book covers:

  • Understanding ADHD diagnosis + symptoms
  • Common phenomena in ADHD marriages
  • How to repair/improve an ADHD marriage

[Sidebar: Marriages vs. relationships: this book says “marriage” and I am married, so I’m going to continue using that, but I’m sure much of this can apply to long-term relationships where one partner has ADHD.]

So there’s a common state in marriages that include an ADHD partner. It goes something like this: ADHD partner consistently forgets details/doesn’t fulfill responsibilities/doesn’t show for things –> non-ADHD partner picks up said responsibilities/tries to remind partner of details, responsibilities, etc./becomes increasingly frustrated –> ADHD partner feels belittled/complains that non-ADHD partner is too angry/withdraws –> non-ADHD partner eventually feels like the only adult in an increasingly imbalanced relationship where they receive little support, appreciation, or romance.

Um…that sounds bad. Really bad. And it is. There’s a reason Melissa’s marriage almost fell apart, and why many, many ADHD marriages do dissolve. Basically, the ADHD partner is lacking the know-how, medical support, or systems to manage their ADHD, which leads to their being undependable and/or bad at maintaining a good relationship. The non-ADHD partner, feeling unappreciated, overburdened, and often hopeless, becomes angry and hurtful. The ADHD partner, wounded and ashamed, may refuse to acknowledge or manage their ADHD.

That’s where this book comes in. In a hopeless, broken cycle of hurting each other, there are answers and hope to be found. By both acknowledging the damage done and learning better ways to communicate and cope, the couple can rebuild their relationship.


Thankfully, my marriage was nowhere close to the horror-show of my description above. I found the book mostly useful in theory. Orlov described the same patterns I’ve seen play out on a small scale, and I’m very thankful to have the chance to prevent them in the long-term. My husband also read it, and we were able to discuss insights and some communication tools we could use.

But I have observed marriage dynamics that play out very like the worst-case scenario the book describes. It’s not pretty. And that’s part of why I think this should be a must-read if any of this sounds remotely familiar to you.

Feel like your partner is flaky? Lost interest in you after an intense courtship? Must be treated like a child? Always makes you angry? You might need to read this book.

Feel like your partner is always angry with you? Do you forget to do things that are actually important to you? Lose hours focused on something? Have trouble understanding why your partner is upset? Feel like they treat you like a child? You might need to read this book.

It might save your marriage.

[Bonus! You can read an excerpt from the book here.]

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