Adult ADHD and Infidelity? Getting Past the Affair And Emerging Whole

ADHD and infidelity

Is there an association between Adult ADHD and infidelity?   When there is infidelity, how do you get past it?

The simple answer to the first question is: Maybe.

To the second question (how do you get past it), you’ll find here an excerpt from what I and many couple-therapy experts consider the best book on the topic.

ADHD and Infidelity: A Mixed Picture

My ADHD Partner Survey queried the topic of ADHD and infidelity.

Some quick highlights:

  • Most respondents said that their ADHD partners were very committed to the relationship.
  • A small minority reported their ADHD partners having affairs.
  • A small minority reported that they had affairs. Why? They reported feeling neglected and alone, even living with their ADHD partner.

Below, you’ll find an excerpt on one of the most-respected books moving on from infidelity in a healthy way.   This classic guide is co-written by experts whose research in the couple-therapy field proved key to our new ADHD-Focused Couple Therapy Model.

I had the pleasure of communicating with one of these highly respected authors and researchers, Douglas K. Snyder, Phd. He graciously provided this endorsement of our new book—and then allowed me to share this excerpt.

In Getting Past the Affair, I found the first chapter provided a useful overview of their program. It is so clearly and compassionately written.

Most of all, it takes you by the hand, detailing how and when to move forward, “past the affair.”   The authors explain how to move deliberately, and with reflection at each stage.

Please note: I am not the Gina referenced in the opening paragraph. 😉

Excerpt from Getting Past the Affair:

ADHD infidelitySusan sat motionless in front of the computer. She didn’t know how long she’d been there and just stared at the screen in disbelief.

“I can’t wait to be with you again. Last time was incredible—I still can’t find my bra!”

Someone named Gina had written those words to her husband. She had been searching for a friend’s address when she discovered a series of e-mails to Michael with sexually suggestive subject lines.

Susan could hardly absorb what she’d read. Her brain had turned off and she felt numb. In one brief moment, her life had changed forever.

She felt utterly destroyed.

If you’ve discovered that your partner has had an affair, you probably know how Susan feels. Waves of painful emotion can make it hard to put one foot in front of the other and just go about your daily business.

The barrage of conflicting thoughts about how this could have happened— and the haunting flashbacks and questions about what actually did happen— maybe so distracting that you can’t get anything done.

When you even think about how you’re supposed to react as the woman scorned or the betrayed man, the only solutions that come to mind are the types of soap opera clichés you’ve always laughed at.

So What Are You Supposed To Do?

We wrote this book to walk you through an agonizing time in your life and lead you to the answer that’s best for you. The best answer for you may not prove to be the best answer for your partner—and certainly not for the couple down the street. But each of you has a chance to move on in a healthy way.

  • Moving on in a healthy way means recovering personally from the affair so that you can pursue the future you want.
  • It means knowing enough about what happened and why it happened to make a wise decision about whether to stay together or part.
  • It means protecting yourself from being hurt again without carrying the backbreaking—and heartbreaking—burden of anger and suspicion or guilt and shame for the rest of your life.
  • The key is the adage “Everything in its time.” In this book, you’ll find a chronological process that has helped hundreds of our clients move on from an affair in a healthy way.
  • It’s a methodical but flexible program, and we know it works because it’s based on the only treatment for infidelity that has been scientifically evaluated, a treatment that grew out of more than 50 years of our collective clinical experience and that we’ve taught to other therapists for the past decade. Besides being university professors and researchers, all three of us are clinical psychologists and therapists who specialize in working with couples having relationship difficulties, infidelity being one of our major areas of work.

We’ve also written numerous articles and conducted frequent workshops for therapists in the United States and abroad on helping couples who are struggling to recover from an affair. All of this experience has gone into the program you’ll read about here.


ADHD and infidelity

Why Do This Work? To Emerge Whole

Why should you undertake this work, especially when you’re feeling so beaten down by the trauma of the affair? Because the issues you’re wrestling with right now won’t just go away with time. If you simply try to wait out the pain or tackle problems and issues in the wrong order, you can easily make decisions you’ll regret. You can certainly end up with unresolved hurt and anger.

Right after an affair is revealed, the most important tasks are to find a way to cope with the emotional turmoil and to know how to get through the day with your partner without making things worse or letting the rest of your life fall apart. Then, and only then, should you start to take a close look at your partner, yourself, and your history together. You do this so that you can figure out what made your relationship vulnerable to an affair and how you could change things in the future so that this marriage or a future one is on more solid ground. But this is work you should do, to whatever extent you feel able.

Our experience has shown conclusively that this is the best way to emerge whole after an affair. Following the program in this book will leave you with a new understanding of yourself and your partner. You may emerge with a new view of what it means to be in a committed relationship and what the ideal partner looks like.

And, though you may not believe it right now, if this turns out to be what you want, you very well could end up with a relationship that’s stronger and better than it was before the affair.

Who Can Benefit From This Book?

  • This book is for anyone who has experienced an affair. Currently, about 20% of men and 10% of women engage in sexual infidelity at some point in their lives—and nearly 45% of men and 25% of women when emotional (nonsexual) affairs are included.
  • An affair involves violating the expectations or standards of a relationship by becoming emotionally or physically involved with someone else, no matter what word you use to define it. You may think of this event in your life as an affair, infidelity, betrayal, outside involvement, tryst, one-night stand, or something else, depending on its duration or intensity and whether it was primarily sexual, primarily emotional, or—as is usually the case—both.
  • You stand to gain from this book whether the affair was just revealed or you’ve been struggling with it for some time. The book will help you recover whether you’re the injured partner (the one who did not have the affair) or the participating partner (the one who did).
  • When we say “you,” here and in the rest of this book, most of the time we mean the injured partner. Our work has shown that injured partners are generally more traumatized by an affair than participating partners. Therefore, they’re more likely to seek help. That’s why we address you in particular through most of this book. But at times we’ll also address the person who had the affair (and we’ll make clear when we’re doing so), as well as the two of you as a couple.
  • We need to talk to your partner, too. We know from our work that you stand the best chance of emerging whole and healthy when you both gain a full understanding of what happened.

Getting past the affair: ADHD and infidelity

How Should You Use This Book?

You can benefit from doing the work in this book whether you do it alone or with your partner. If your partner reads it, too, you will be the beneficiary. That’s true even if you work through it separately,

Participants in affairs need to be honest with themselves about whether they’re ready to end all involvement with the outside person. They need to figure out how to express care for their partners once the affair is over, as well as remorse. It’s important that they understand why they ended up getting involved in an affair. If your partner explores these issues, trust and intimacy may grow between you again.

Ideally, both you and your partner will read each chapter and work through the program. You can do much of the suggested work separately. Yet some of it involves having conversations or engaging in activities together that will help you move forward. Still, we know that reality is rarely ideal. You may end up working through this book alone for different reasons.

Maybe your partner is one of those people who really don’t like “self-help” books. Or perhaps your partner refuses to discuss what’s happened. Or possibly you’ve already ended your relationship because of an affair, but you want to explore the experience on your own. That’s a wise move. There’s plenty of research (including our own) that suggests that if traumatic relationship events such as an affair aren’t addressed adequately, their negative impact could affect future relationships.

If you have children with your partner, reading this book may help you resolve lingering resentments that might otherwise spill over into your co-parenting relationship and negatively affect your children.

As A Couple—Or Solo

Whether for these reasons or any others you plan to use this book on your own, your personal insights and increased understanding will put you in a better position to decide what to do about the future of your relationship if you’re still with your partner.

Moreover, once you learn to think about the affair and approach your life differently, you can change your relationship even if your partner isn’t involved in making the same efforts. Although two people working together to make changes are often more effective than one, even one is better than none. So read this book for yourself and for your relationship— current or future. If you’re involved in individual counseling while reading this book, share what you’re reading with your counselor. Together, explore how this material applies to you.

We’ve presented the chapters in the order that has been most helpful to the couples we’ve counseled. The chapters generally build on each other. If certain questions, however, seem particularly important to you, go ahead and read in whatever order you wish.

What Will You Gain?

From all the couples we’ve ushered through this process, we know that your first challenge is to deal with the initial devastation by avoiding further damage and managing essential tasks in the home.

Part I: Coping With The Immediate Trauma

Part I is about coping with the immediate trauma. It will help you:

  • Deal with intense feelings—your own and your partner’s.
  • Communicate about extremely difficult topics.
  • Decide how to go on with your daily routine, from managing chores and finances to parenting.
  • Figure out how to keep living together while you regroup (should you sleep together? have sex?)—and under what limited circumstances an immediate separation makes sense.
  • Establish boundaries with the outside affair person (i.e., the one with whom the participating partner had the affair)—who may not want to end the affair.
  • Determine how much, if anything, to share with others about the affair—including your children, family members, or close friends.
  • Take care of yourself even when it seems like your lowest priority, including getting help from friends and seeing your doctor when you need to. Once you and your partner have restored some equilibrium to your relationship,

Part II: Examining The Factors

Part II will help you examine all the factors that might have made your relationship vulnerable to an affair. It will help you:

  • Look clearly at your relationship over the years—whether it’s fulfilled your dreams, how it’s changed, whether its foundations were shaken, and by what.
  • Understand the characteristics and events that led one of you to have an affair.
  • Understand what “infidelity” really means—and how boundaries can get crossed without any intention of hurting one’s partner.
  • Recognize how your environment, events, and other people helped set the stage.
  • Understand how the injured partner can unwittingly contribute to a relationship’s vulnerability—without being responsible for the participating partner’s decision to have an affair.
  • Avoid the temptation to be content with incomplete or partly accurate explanations just to avoid delving deeply into difficult topics.
  • Arrive at a coherent picture or “narrative” of the affair that makes sense.

Part III: Moving Forward

Part III guides you in making good decisions about moving forward— either separately or together. It will help you:

  • Consider what it means to “move on” and how to get past disabling hurt feelings.
  • Anticipate and deal with setbacks, whether together or apart.
  • Continue strengthening your relationship and minimizing future risks if you’ve decided to stay together.

We don’t presume to know what decisions you’ll make down the road. Yet, we’re confident that working through this book will lead you through a healthy process as you make the journey. We hope it will help ease the pain and uncertainty along the way. Right now, just understanding what’s happened, figuring out how to get through the day, and hurting less are important goals. So let’s get started.

End Excerpt

Have You Experienced Adult ADHD and Infidelity? 

How do you suspect ADHD—probably unrecognized or poorly managed—might have played a role?

If you and your partner worked past it, how did you do it?

Please share in a comment.

—Gina Pera

8 thoughts on “Adult ADHD and Infidelity? Getting Past the Affair And Emerging Whole”

  1. I cheated on my partner of nearly 6 years. This was approximately 18 months ago. At the time I was going through a lot of turmoil. It was like negative worrying thoughts were going round my mind 24/7. I didn’t know what to do or how to approach this with my partner and my lack of communication with her, I’m sure, made things worse. I finally decided to come clean a few days ago. Despite being terrified of losing her, fortunately, she is open to giving me another chance and we had our first therapy session today. I’m 31 years old and today was the day I was diagnosed with ADHD. Things from my past finally started to make sense. I wish I knew this sooner and I can’t help but think I’d never have done what I did if I’d of had help earlier. I know I made a huge mistake and ADHD doesn’t excuse what I did. I’m just glad I’m aware now and I hope things get better.

    1. Dear David,

      I wish you and your partner all the best.

      No, ADHD is “not an excuse”. But when left poorly managed, ADHD can definitely impair our judgment, our impulses, and our ability to make good decisions and create an outsized need for constant stimulation.

      Congratulations on finally getting a diagnosis. I hope that you and your partner self-educate with good sources (much of what passes for “ADHD relationship advice” online is a recipe for disaster).

      You’re both going to need the time and space to process your reactions to the diagnosis. And it might not be great to “vent” all those feelings to each other. Better with peers, at least now and to a certain degree.

      good luck!

  2. My husband of 21 year (together 30 yrs) left me and filed for Divorce. I had an affair, and cheated on multiple occasions. I struggled to understand why. I didn’t know I suffered from ADD. I was 42 years old when I was diagnosed (4 years ago) and when I started to research it, I found answers I had questions to for years!! Things finally made sense, but it was too late to save my marriage. I tried and gave my husband articles and he just wasn’t having it. I always felt that something was wrong with me, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t know about ADHD growing up. I am now on medication and feel like a different person. I also feel like a horrible person for what I did. They’re just so much to this from all the years we were together. I wish I had been diagnosed as a kid. I pray that one day, his heart will soften and he educates himself. I plan on purchasing the book and getting him a copy to give me added insight. Thank you.

    1. Dear Olivia,

      Forty two years is a long time to live without benefit of diagnosis or at least an “instruction manual”.

      I’m sorry your marriage ended, but glad to know that you are finding benefit from medication and are experiencing important insights.

      I wish you all happiness when you find love again.

      Take care,

    2. Thank you for sharing. I am struggling with similar experiences. I’ve had a very difficult year, which involved me leaving my partner of nearly 3 years and causing a lot of trauma in the process. I had feelings for someone else and started seeing them shortly after we split, which understandably devestated my partner. A month later, I had a major setback professionally which led to my ADHD diagnosis. Now I’m on meds and it’s like my brain has switched on. I can see everything so much clearer. I wish everyday I had my diagnosis before I left him. He won’t talk to me now and I’m struggling to come to terms with everything. It’s guilt, shame, grief. I don’t even want to go back to how things were… It’s like I now know what could be and I want that for both of us but I just can’t see a way toward it yet. Thank you for sharing though. It’s comforting to know we are not alone in this experience. Best of luck <3

    3. Hi Anonymous,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I’m glad that’s how you had to learn that you had ADHD, after so much struggle and loss.

      I hope that your future relationships will now start on a stronger footing. And, who knows, with time, increased ADHD knowledge and treatment, maybe your former partner will come around.

      take care,

    4. Hi Olivia . My name is Mariana. My parents my whole life hidden that I had ADHD, I just found out today when I asked them about it. This was after I went to the doctor and psychiatrist, that I was diagnosed with ADHD. About a year ago I cheated on him on the guy still loved and hid the affair for 6 months. I wanted to tell him but I didn’t know how , I was afraid that he would leave me. Unfortunately the guy I was with told him and all his and my friends. I lost him and all my friends. I still love this man and he doesn’t want anything to do with me. I had no idea that I had this disorder and I always knew I was different because my relationships and friendships would never last . Everything I did or everything I’d say would be an issue. I got bullied a lot and harassed. I can’t believe my parents hid this from me. I had such strange impulses that my parents would threat to take me to a mental hospital and once they took me from my school. I was absolutely humiliated…
      I’m just so sad I had no idea….
      so if you have any word of advice for me, I’ll gladly take it.

    5. Dear Mariana,

      I wish every parent who refused to follow up on their child’s ADHD diagnosis (or even to pursue the evaluation) would read your comment.

      Parents often think they are doing the right thing, avoiding a “label” for their child. And maybe that’s best in the end, for some.

      But for many others, it can lead to nothing but heartache, disappointment, an unnecessarily poor self-image, inability to achieve important goals, and instability.

      From what you’ve written…that your parents would “threaten” to take you to a mental hospital….it seems they were not worried so much about a “mental-health label” but about the legitimacy of ADHD and its treatments.

      You don’t mention your age, but it seems you might be in your 20s?

      It probably won’t be a comfort to know that at least you know now, you’ve taken action, and you are in control of your life now….while MANY people don’t learn until much older, viewing decades of damage behind them.

      I hope you can rise above this disappointment and go on to find a wonderful boyfriend and group of friends.

      take care,

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