ADHD and Infidelity — Getting Past the Affair

Is there an association between Adult ADHD and infidelity? That is, are ADHD Partners more likely to cheat on a romantic partner?   Or, as one reader asked,  “Can a man with ADHD be faithful?”

Finally, when there is infidelity, how do you get past it?

The simple answer to the first question is: Maybe there is an association between AFHD and infidelity. You’ll find a brief summary below.

To the second question (how do you get past an affair), that’s the main topic of this post.  You’ll find an excerpt from perhaps the best book on infidelity. Getting Past the Affair is written by luminaries in the field of couple therapy: Donald K. Snyder, PhD, Donald Baucom, PhD, and Kristina Coop Gordon. PhD.

ADHD and Infidelity: Research A Mixed Picture

When it comes to research, we find very little. Studies on college students with ADHD might find greater rates of sexual promiscuity but how does that relate to adults, including adults in committed relationships? We don’t know.

One genetic study focused on a certain dopamine transporter allele and found associated higher sexual activity.  You can read the 2010 paper published in Plos One here: Associations between Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene Variation with Both Infidelity and Sexual Promiscuity

While some research has linked that particular genetic variation to ADHD, it’s not so simple.  It’s found in the general population, too, perhaps with counter-vailing genes that exert moderation or forethought.

ADHD Partner Survey Findings — ADHD and Infidelity

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.

Adult ADHD and Infidelity - What To Do When Infidelity has happened

When Infidelity Has Happened — ADHD-Related or Not

Below, you’ll find an excerpt on one of the most-respected books on healing from infidelity.   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 infidelity - Getting Past the Affair book by Douglas K. Snyder, PhD, Donald Baucom, PhD, and Kristin Coop Gordon, PhDSusan 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.

ADHD and Infidelity - What are you supposed to do now?

What Are You Supposed To Do Now?

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.ADHD and infidelity - the most important task is get through the day with your partner without making things worse or letting the rest of your life fall apart

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 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.

ADHD and infidelity - who can benefit from Getting Past the Affair?

Who Can Benefit From Getting Past the Affair?

  • 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 - you can benefit from doing the work in this book whether you do it alone or with your partner

How Should You Use Getting Past the Affair?

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.

ADHD and infidelity - what will you gain from Getting Past the Affair?

What Will You Gain from Getting Past the Affair?

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.

ADHD and infidelity - Part I: Coping With The Immediate Trauma

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,

ADHD and infidelity - Part II: Examining The Factors That Made Your Relationship Vulnerable

Part II: Examining The Factors That Made Your Relationship Vulnerable

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.

ADHD and infidelity - moving forward past the affair

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

MORE FROM GINA

27 thoughts on “ADHD and Infidelity — Getting Past the Affair”

    1. Hi there, you can post it as you did this question, where you are identified only as “Anonymous”.

      If you’re that concerned, maybe change some identifying details?

      If you’d like to write directly to me, use the contact form at the top of the page.

      Best,
      Gina

  1. Thanks Gina
    Absolutely agree
    I wasn’t managing my adhd and I spiralled at the time – lack of sleep, high stress, no meds or counselling. That resulted in me searching for my Dopamine fix, binge eating, drinking and online til all hours and porn addiction.

    I certainly can be over focused and also impulsive so these were the enablers. As I said I slept twice and that was it but I did maintain sporadic contact but the discussions were robotic – these were all via messenger and indeed the affair partner and I have never talked before or after and she has never had my phone number even or any details of where I lived etc

    The decompartmentalised part is in regards that I have blocked out memories of this taking place and had family witness when I have been shown text to confirm that I really thought there was no truth to it. My wife also made a good point on a different matter that my memory can be good but only if I have been totally focused on what was taking place.

    It was stupid and I don’t understand fully why I continued communication other than it was protective mechanism and also fear as I have always been empathetic and feeling I have to be there and also need be liked – adhd and adoption abandonment at play there.

    I accept responsibility for my actions as I did them but agree with you my poor mgmt of my adhd was a catalyst

    Her and my daughters pain and knowing I am responsible is heart breaking and I know that I would never deliberately do that and certainly didn’t before and don’t want anything to do with the AP again and still struggle to understand how she got on contact even.

    I do also feel somewhat manipulated as she knew and I regularly wrote to her how much I loved my wife and feel she used my guilt.

    There is no doubt a key part too was feeling so isolated and insecure and that worsened as I was overwhelmed and feeling lost gaining weight and not being able to fully participate with my boy due to immobility and that worsened my mood

    Only after that have I called for help and begged to come home but I haven’t communicated all that I was going through to my wife in regards this and should have sort help but underlying shame and not wanting to appear too needy and burden and lose her and male machismo have all factored in.

    I was better when home but not fully by any means and my adhd impacted our relationship during next months and I had agreed to see my psychiatrist and get back on meds and therapy but then my actions led to suspicion and then bang.

    It’s been 2 years since and we co parent well but there is no trust and she still sees me as a lier and really doesn’t want to talk about it and doesn’t believe and that it’s an excuse only.

    I have in past tried to hard to get her to and that had caused greater friction and pushed her away more

    Proud to say I have continued my education and therapy and been vigilant on medication. I have also learned so much and participated in groups to understand how betrayed are impacted.

    Recently I have had some life challenges and resulted in burn out and discovery of time blindness being a real thing – and even currently homeless with bad rental market

    My finances are crap as I can be overgenerous and manipulated but I am working on these too

    I have recently changed my medication to slow release as I found dex had uo and downs and my time blindness resulted in missing it late taking through day.

    I am having adhd coaching for my time blindness and educating myself on this and also have entered admission to help me with my anxiety, depression and burnout

    Since I have found that my anxiety and depression meds had long past there effectiveness use by date a few years ago so had to ween of Pristiq during my stay and start new treatments.

    I now wonder if this also played it part in my actions and mourn this somewhat but grateful that it has been identified and feeling better already

    Though alone and separated still with my wife saying no chance and even seeing someone, I am still dedicated to my boys and her.

    I have made mistakes since but even with burnout and working too long, I have not allowed myself to descend into the hell and addictions of before. There are times I do social media too much but I don’t ever go porn and no consideration for other women. Am looking out for me and my wife had said she is grateful I am taking this time to look after myself.

    I hope one day she may be able to forgive me and I forgive myself. I know in my heart she is my true love and I wish I had managed my adhd better then and not thought I was ok to stop meds etc.

    I am very wary and have massive walls up unfortunately now. Family and friends see the change in me though can still be super shy and awkward at first.

    One thing I hope to conquer is how tongue tied and nervous I get any time I talk to and near my wife. She gets frustrated about it and that makes it worse but I do only want the best and I really struggle missing out on the Everyday part of the family and boys growing up

    I regret moving into the job where I was bullied 7 years ago and to be fair I haven’t dealt with that trauma properly until now in my stay.

    It certainly however did diagnose my adhd as it unravelled but it has played huge impact on our lives.

    Adhd is not something you can fix and leave but a constant to manage and I didn’t and I know I hurt and miss my wife and family constantly.

    Hopefully she will one day see me for who I believe I really am and that the things I do are not from guilt but because I care

    ADHD can sometimes be mistaken for Narcism through some characteristics but the key difference is the empathy and it’s not about selfishness.

    I sometimes feel when down everyone would be better off without me but I also see how my relationship with my stepson for instance is better than ever and in my eyes there is not step and he knows how much I love him

    1. Dear Ash,

      It just all feels so painful.

      Perhaps I place more responsibility than you do on your care providers.

      I suspected you were being prescribed either Adderall or Dex. While helpful to some with ADHD, the immediate-release amphetamines can cause more harm than good.

      You should have been given a trial of at least two methylphenidate medications. And if you were going to stay with amphetamines, a smoother, sustained release choice might have worked much better.

      It is not your fault that you were operating blind, including with perhaps some unskilled prescribing.

      I’m not suggesting that you can blame all these bad decisions on ADHD, but I do suggest ADHD can potentially explain a lot of it. And what it can’t explain, poor prescribing can.

      If this is the case, it’s important to take steps now to get better medication on board — and to regulate sleep patterns.

      Maybe your wife will never accept your explanations. For some, marital infidelity is a deal-breaker.

      But to live your healthiest life, for yourself and your children, you owe it to yourself to try to optimise your medication and sleep. Those two things can make a HUGE difference.

      BTW, I don’t know what is MDs love affair with Pristiq for ADHD. There is no evidence for it. And there is evidence against it, as the withdrawal can be nasty.

      Please know, the dex could have been exacerbating anxiety and depression. On top of the unfortunate life events.

      It’s not easy to self-advocate but I’ve seen it to be the only reliable way in the end.

      take care,
      g

  2. Hi, I found out sunday that my girlfriend, who was in an open relationship dependent on communication and agreement with myself and vice versa, dating for 3 years and mother of our 2 children, cheated on me for about a month and a half. I have adhd and she has depression and anxiety.

    I didn’t realize how much miscommunication we were experiencing and I have felt like I’ve been on a teeter totter with my emotions. When I found out (the other guy, who I’ve been calling the paramour in my head, messaged me after her bff, him and I realized we were all told different things) I simply felt numb, shell-shocked and I was shaking. I called a family member and asked them to pick up and watch my kids. After they were gone I started, not really thinking about it, to pack as much of her clothing, and toiletries.

    As I was packing I became angrier and angrier. The paramour offered to talk and explain his side as i started packing and I told him sure. She initiated the contact, lied about how she felt about him to me from day 1, and slept with him twice. I have seen screenshots of their conversations and of her conversations with her bff.

    When she got home from her job i instantly confronted her, asking why she do it, that i knew, that I’d talked to the paramour. She feigned ignorance until i said the last. I took her to her family’s house with her stuff and dropped her off. I don’t know why, but I felt I couldn’t let her see me cry, so I fought to stay angry until I left her parents. I didn’t make it 3 minutes. I cried on and off the whole drive back, trying to reach out to just about anyone so I wouldn’t be alone with my thoughts.

    Looking back i shouldn’t have driven and should have had her family pick her up. I’ve since talked to her, and honestly, I still don’t know what to do. I don’t like or agree with anything she’s said in regards to the cheating, but the miscommunication and how unhappy she was in the relationship became more obvious and understandable, i thought it was her mental health, go figure it was mine.

    I said I’d like to do couples therapy to either get closure to move on, or to help us move past this. All of monday I was depressed and berating myself “i was being used” but i still thought of bringing her back to talk and work things out. I instead initiated a call and I questioned, she kept apologizing, we argued about how we saw the relationship, how her cheating and my neglect could have been avoided. It was not a productive talk to say the least, but by the end I only really knew she wanted us to have space and agreed to do the couples therapy. Tuesday morning I woke up with cold anger, all i could think about was getting everything of hers out and moving on, following through with the couples therapy and at the least getting closure, obvious the cold anger passed for more depressing thoughts while i drove to work.

    I have never been cheated on, but I’ve had my heart broken, and this was worse. I don’t know what I should do and I don’t know if i want to try moving on. But I keep going around in circles and hoping my fluctuating emotions calm. I’m going to share this website with her, she’ll see this post if she visits the comments, but it’s not anything she doesn’t already know.

    My question is if we read this book, separately or together, will it help? All of the other comments are from people with adhd that cheated, none the other way around like implied in the page further up and it feels odd.

    1. Dear Zac,

      Your pain and hurt is obvious in your words. I’m sorry you are dealing with such a difficult situation.

      What’s also obvious, to me, anyway, is that if ADHD is part of the picture, that’s where to start. Seriously. Learn about how ADHD might be affecting you and your relationships. Then figure out next steps.

      Going to couple therapy when ADHD goes unrecognized and poorly managed typically is a waste of time and money — and it can actually intensify hurt and hard feelings. Not to mention never provide solutions.

      Our culture sometimes gives us the idea that therapy is the answer to every inter-personal challenge. But when that therapy absolutely fails to identify key challenges (i.e. ADHD) — and instead spins people around with any number of alternate theories, it is NOT helpful.

      From what you describe, I don’t think this is the book on getting over an affair is the one for you. At least not right now. It seems there are much bigger, foundational issues to address first.

      The nature of your semi-open relationship covers lots of gray area. That might work for some couples. But for couples where one or both have poorly managed ADHD or other issues that obscure mental clarity and decision-making….that can be an invitation to disaster.

      Some people with poorly managed ADHD believe they need an open relationship, simply because they are unable to meet the demands of monogamy. Emotionally. Logistically. Or in all ways. Their partners believe the same. It’s the wrong solution for a mis-identified problem.

      Maybe your partner has depression/anxiety. Maybe this is a lifelong issue, or maybe it’s come about from her not understanding what she is up against if it’s true that you have ADHD — and that it’s a surprise to you.

      It might even be possible that your partner has ADHD as well. It’s often misdiagnosed as depression and anxiety. In women and in men.

      You say you want “closure”. I’m not sure how you can get closure when you are co-parents of two young children. You two will need to work out new terms in your relationship or figure out how co-parent without being intimate partners.

      Again, the most important factor right now is your potentially having ADHD. That might answer MANY questions. Not just in this relationship but in the rest of life. If you do not investigate now, it might continue to rear its head in surprising, and damaging, ways.

      I encourage both of you to read (or listen to) my first book: Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? https://amzn.to/3yXxtlD

      If you want to fast-track your learning, check out my foundational course. It’s designed to help ADHD-challenged individuals and couples.
      https://ginapera.adhdsuccesstraining.com/solvingyouradultadhdpuzzle

      Good luck, Zac. Take care of yourself.
      g

  3. My undiagnosed husband had an affair. It was a perfect storm of an unexpected overseas military deployment, a worldwide pandemic, parenting an diagnosed ADHD child, and the crumbling of our marriage due to the undiagnosed diagnosis of ADHD that had progressed to him feeling personally berated by me and me feeling unsupported and always being the responsible partner that served as his personal assistance, nanny, and housekeeper.
    I suspect that my husband’s coping mechanism of developing defined rules for what is morally right and wrong went out the window during this “storm” of outside factors that also included the “other” woman who was aware of our family dynamics and offered emotional support and virtual sexual gratification to boost her own esteem due to her dying, unsatisfying, sexless marriage. The infidelity manifested over a year and even though it was limited to texting and talking, it was extremely sexual and packed with emotional commitments and declarations. There has been no contact between my husband and the other woman since the day of discovery. My husband is extremely embarrassed and ashamed. He states that he doesn’t know why it happened other than “she was nice to me”. I read each and every text, and I will agree that while he didn’t initially see her manipulation of his vulnerabilities early in their conversations, after many months of her grooming, he dove in head (pardon the pun) first. He spun into a deep depression after he was caught in our home texting and planning a rendezvous for physical consummations of promises when he returned from his deployment.
    We started couple’s counseling immediately upon discovery of the affair. Three counselors later with each counselor stating that he needed personal counseling before any marriage counseling could begin to work, he finally agreed to go to individual counseling. Our long-term medical family doctor agrees that my husband most likely has ADHD (our doctor had suspected it when our child was diagnosed and even suggested the genetic link when we were discussing the diagnosis and potential treatment options) and set up an referral for diagnosis after the affair was known, but my husband refuses to go because of his military commitment.
    It’s been quite a year. I have had so many emotions—anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, sadness, betrayal. Yet I know that I want to try to heal our relationship. I want a stronger marriage because we weathered this hurricane. I still love my husband. I’m willing to do the hard work. My husband has declared that he loves me and that he does want to stay together. He has asked me for forgiveness, but struggles daily with paranoia and shame that I may have told everyone we know. Yes, there a handful of who know about our troubles, but it’s a very, very limited few who I confided when I needed help and advice to cope. (We went to marriage counseling for several sessions before he revealed his affair.)
    I had strongly suspected that he was having the affair for eight months before I had the opportunity to verify and prove it. Honestly, I have sometimes wondered that the affair may have saved our marriage because we were on an unhappy route of division due to the stress and tension associated with living with ADHD, especially when it is undiagnosed and untreated.
    In the first part of our marriage, we used to laugh about his distractibility, his failure to complete projects, his constant interruption in conversations, his poor driving, his forgetfulness. But after the birth of our child, I could no longer sustain picking up his shortfalls nor could I maintain the lion’s share of household responsibilities while he sought dopamine hits through online video gaming.
    How long do I wait for him to consider to go thru ADHD testing? Recently he stated that he would go thru ADHD testing after he retires from the military, but then he revealed his fear that what if it’s not ADHD, would I leave him?
    Where do I go from here? Why isn’t his personal counselor considering this diagnosis? Why isn’t this diagnosis contemplated more in the medical and mental community?
    I have tried to locate a marriage counselor who knows about ADHD couples in my community, but there is only one and she hasn’t taken new patients for over a year.
    I am desperate to save my marriage, but I cannot find help. I feel abandoned by the medical community.

    1. Hi there,

      You ask good questions.

      First, don’t wait for him, his doctor, any therapist, etc.. to get the ball rolling. Read this essay based on a chapter in my first book to know why you need to take the lead — IF you want to salvage your relationship and/or help him with his ADHD symptoms:

      https://adhdrollercoaster.org/adhd-and-relationships/chapter-12-solving-adhds-double-whammy/

      Second, read my first book:

      Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? Stopping the Roller Coaster When ……

      Third, my course has been working to bring folks out of “denial” and get on track (the Zoom option means you meet with other individuals and couples…for many, this is much more powerful than therapy):

      https://adhdsuccesstraining.com/solving-your-adult-adhd-puzzle-for-couples-and-individuals/

      It’s online and you can work in your own space, at your own pace.

      You can learn more about my background here: https://adhdrollercoaster.org/about-author-gina-pera/

      take care,
      Gina

    2. Hi Gina
      My ADHD has certainly impacted our marriage and indeed has certainly in part resulted in cheating.
      This is my second marriage and thigh different to first there are similarities.
      I did have affair at end of first marriage – some disputes on details however it so the case and I truly regret this and pain it caused. The marriage in my eyes was over but I should have handled it better.
      My second marriage is to a Wonder Woman who I love very much.
      We have had ups and downs over the years and primarily felt that my anxiousness and fear of rejection due to being adopted was primary cause and influenced my attachment style.
      7 years ago I had a very bad experience at work where I was bullied and my mental health suffered badly and only then did I get diagnosed with ADHD which explained so much but really didn’t delve into as deeply as could have but went on medication and seemed much better
      Got married to love of my life, we had a beautiful boy and things were great and I moved to new job.
      Unfortunately we load a miscarriage and we didn’t support each other well and led to us pushing away.
      I have been a ‘white knight’ type forever and not good at boundary keeping and developed a friendship at work and kept this secret as asked to and yep it led to discovery and fights and separation
      I realised it was wrong keeping secret however I didn’t feel any romantic or attraction but I accept it was wrong.
      Whist separated we began to work through things and they slowly took shape however COVID and isolation happened and even though I saw wife and kids most weekends, the week I was alone and in my industry workload increased and I was working from home and also couldn’t get to see my psych and as we do thought I was fine so when meds ran out I didn’t worry and over time also lost track of when last therapy appt was too (only just learnt about time blindness)
      So began working overtime and not stopping and then needing dopamine hit so over time drank more, binge ate, social media addiction, no sleep, no exercise m, weight gain and porn all came to be automatic in my life with only relief when I stayed at and saw my family as I was embarrassed and kept it a secret.
      The weight gain made my ongoing ankle injury worse and painful and pretty immobile so couldn’t be active with my son and that made me miserable so more dopamine required and impulsiveness to power of x.
      During this time, somehow the affair partner had contacted me, and end of story we slept together – evidence shows as twice.
      Something has really changed and I see that soon after this I have begged to come home after me lease had finished.
      3 months later I am home and thigh still having challenges I am doing better but defensive traits and online stuff creeping in over time.
      Fast forward to 7 months after the betrayal, and my wife is concerned about me being in phone lots and suspicious and checks my old phone and discovers everything and without discussion I am out.

      I am confused also as I have decomparmentalised everything (and I still 2 years later) have no collection only that I read from text.

      I am so devastated that I have caused her and my children so much pain but I can not piece together the events even with professional help.

      Had been in contact on and off with affair partner since it took place until discovered but again it was almost automatic.

      My psychiatrist and therapist have explained to me how I decompartmentalised this also as protective mechanism and I can see in the texts they are very robotic in response over time and the one part I am grateful is that they also show me repeatedly stating my love for my wife which is something.

      My wife thinks I am using ADHD to blame, however I am not and accept my fault however I can see that my ADHD has made me susceptible due to the dopamine rush , addictions and impulsiveness and I hate myself for it.

      I have since ensured that I have regular appointments and medication maintained.
      I have also done everything I can to understand about betrayal and work on me me.

      I know in my heart that I love my wife more than ever and hope one day she can forgive me and we can build a stronger marriage.

      She is certainly also more educated re ADHD as my stepson was diagnosed last year.

      At this stage however she can not, and really have not been able to discuss as in past my desperation to discuss further have scared her and pushed her away more and she is adamant about it being black and white and not ADHD.

      I am currently back in the cycle of working to hard and burn out but proud to say I did not go down my past road and indeed have accepted I needed help and admitted myself to get support I needed and I’m my wife has said she is grateful I am and that I am now looking after me.

      It still hurts missing life events like birthdays, Easter and Christmas mornings being separated however My wife and family are the most important people in my life and always will be

      I just hope one day we can move forward and I know I will never neglect myself again also.

    3. Dear Ash,

      I feel for you, and your wife. The potential complexity of ADHD is so under-rated, by clinicians, the people who have ADHD, and their loved ones.

      For most people with ADHD — when symptoms are significant enough — it really requires a team effort. That is, both partners focused on ADHD-friendly strategies.

      Sometimes the “partners of” bridle at this — “My ADHD partner is an adult! Why should I be involved?”

      The reason: ADHD can be a highly impairing condition. And, it is too often poorly treated, by prescribers and therapists. Especially couple therapists.

      For example, you say your “psychiatrist and therapist have explained to me how I decompartmentalised this also as protective mechanism.”

      Maybe yes. Maybe no. I cannot say. But I can say that ADHD-related dysfunctional behaviors are often misinterpreted by licensed mental-health workers as being psychological in nature rather than ADHD in nature.

      For example, some folks with poorly managed ADHD resort to affairs (virtual or physical) because they need an ego boost. They want someone to think they are great, worthy. Because they are feeling not-so-great in their current life. Of course, this can also be an escape….and a “dopamine chase.”

      In other words, the core problem might not be the affairs — but all the aspects of poorly managed ADHD that led to it.

      It seems that you are back into a dangerous cycle. What can you do to turn that around?

      —Can your medication and sleep be improved? Most likely.
      —Can you AND your wife benefit from a solid education in ADHD (and I don’t mean what we find in most books or the Internet)? Most likely.

      Learning about children with ADHD isn’t the same as learning about late-diagnosis Adult ADHD.

      If your wife believes you are blaming your “escapist” tendencies on ADHD, she might be right. But what are you and she doing to understand the core causes — and jointly work on solutions?

      I encourage you both to check out my online programs. This is what adults with ADHD and their loved ones should be finding from therapists and psychiatrist — but too often do not. As a result, they pay a heavy price. You can take it together or individually.

      Solving Your Adult ADHD Puzzle

      take care of yourself,
      Gina

  4. I am a man who is strongly stimulated and attracted to women.

    If left without a moral compass I would chase every girl I was attracted to. Bearing this is mind I am also a disciplined mind due to developing an ability to manage my ADHD. So when I am in a committed relationship and even more in a marriage I draw distinct lines when I meet women I find attractive.

    I develop realistic and attainable controls. I am kind to them, allow a friendship with them, and may listen to them better than other friends. However, I will not overtly pursue them, I will not tell them I am attracted to them, I will not initiate romantic physical contact with them, I will be wary and suspicious if they overtly pursue me (how can I trust a woman who pursues a married man), and I will refrain from dwelling on them.

    These controls have proven effective at preventing me from cheating. This commitment makes a betrayal even more cutting because I invested so much constraint into my side of the relationship. So what I am discovering is the two edged sword of my ADHD and previous trauma. I am an abandoned son (betrayed by a father), and a twice betrayed husband.

    The combination of the ADHD and multiple betrayals has me fighting against an insurmountable neurological conditioning and disorder that it is no wonder I break down. So far only completely severing myself from my betrayer has given me peace from the PTSD symptoms.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Your self-insights….that “left without a moral compass I would chase every girl I was attracted to” … resulted in the knowledge that you must develop “rules” to create that moral compass. Good for you.

      With ADHD, we talk about supporting Executive Functions with external supports. That is, to compensate for inner difficulties around organization, remembering, etc.. with tools that help us. Calendar systems. Reminder systems, etc..

      I can only imagine how difficult this is for you, given ADHD and the history of betrayals. It seems to me that cutting off all contact with your betrayer is a healthy, positive instinct. Self-care at its best.

      I wish you all the best on your journey.

      Gina

  5. Hi,

    Thank you for this post it was very helpful. My husband did not have an affair but he messaged an escort service. He says it just popped up and he was curious but never intended to actually meet anyone. He told me the next day and has bad anxiety about it. we have talked on and off our whole relationship (almost 7 years) that he may have undiagnosed adhd. Half of me feels like he just made an impulsive decision and he is very sorry. He says nothing is wrong in our relationship and he doesnt know why he did it besides curiosity. We have talked at length about it and agreed that he would go get help for adhd. I still feel confused and betrayed and I want to believe it was just a bad decision but the more I think about it the more I’m worried that it is more than that. Is this an affair or an impulsive bad choice? Thank you

    1. Hi Al,

      I suspect your husband might be 100% right. Impulsive. At least that’s a path worth pursuing.

      But why is “escort service” popping up on his screen? That usually happens when other visited sites store “cookies” that indicate the user is interested in that sort of thing.

      If he is a porn consumer, that might be sort of the “gateway drug” to his impulsivity with clicking on the escort service.

      If ADHD underlies this behavior, at least in part, it’s best to start learning right now. There are many ways in which people with undiagnosed/poorly managed ADHD “self-medicate”. One of them is porn but there are many others.

      To his credit, he is willing to see if ADHD might be afoot.

      But leaving him alone to “get help for ADHD” is a very dicey proposition. Expertise is spotty, and many mental-health workers will take his behavior in an entirely different direction. And not a good one.

      I encourage you two to start your solid education now with my online training. Both of you. Joint education and joint ADHD-management strategies. As an internationally recognized expert on this topic — and author of two highly praised books — I work to give you the most accurate and most helpful information.

      My motto is, “Speed Your Learning Curve — Slow Your ADHD Roller Coaster.” 🙂

      I haven’t announced the launch on my blog yet, but it’s ready now. You can read more here.

      https://adhdsuccesstraining.com/adult-adhd-solving-the-four-essential-puzzle-pieces-consumers/

      take care,
      g

  6. I want to purchase your book but I cannot find it anywhere online. Please send me a link. Thank yoy.

  7. I recently discovered my partner of 2 years has been flirting with women on line. He assures me it went no further and he didn’t hook up with them. But he knew my ex husband had several affairs, all began on social media.
    My part tried to lie about it at first but when I pointed out that his profile info had recent details on it, he owned up. He also wrote that he was a single dad. I have been helping him raise his son for two years. I feel betrayed that I trusted him. I want us to work, how do I trust him again?

    1. Hi there,

      It’s normal to feel betrayed by such a discovery. And hurt.

      I’m not sure what you are asking me, though. Does your partner have ADHD?

      If not, I encourage you to read the book that’s the subject of this post. You’ll not find easy answers online from strangers.

      If your partner does have ADHD — already diagnosed or seeming a good possibility — then the answer is to educate yourselves and maximize ADHD treatment strategies.

      Some people with ADHD might engage in online “flirtations” as a means of getting positive feedback — or just for a bit of excitement.

      Some carry it farther, into physical affairs.

      Either way, it’s typically not a healthy pastime, for the person or their relationships.

      It might be that he is actually looking for a new relationship, though, having grown bored after 2 years.

      No one can tell you this. Only you and he, with some serious study into ADHD, can come up with meaningful answers — and next steps.

      I encourage you to read my first book: https://amzn.to/3yvFo8m

      take care,
      Gina

  8. 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!
      g

  9. 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,
      g

    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,
      g

    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,
      Gina

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