Top iTunes Marriage Podcast

11.5+ Million Downloads

hosted by Dr. Corey Allan

ADHD and Marriage #449

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On the Regular version of today’s show …

I’m joined by Melissa Orlov, of ADHD Marriage and we discuss how ADHD impacts life and relationships. Read more from Melissa on her site here –

On the Xtended version …

Melissa Orlov and I continue the conversation about ADHD and marriage but venture into how it impacts sex.

Enjoy the show!


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Corey Allan: Welcome back to another episode of Sexy Marriage Radio, Dr. Corey Allan, alongside my wife as always, Pam.

Pam Allan: I'm here, loving the new year 2020.

Corey Allan: Let's get it rolling, right?

Pam Allan: I know, let's go.

Corey Allan: Here at Sexy Marriage Radio Nation, we are so glad that everybody takes time out of their day, or their week each time to spend a little bit of it with us, to ask their questions, call in with their topics or their ideas. We want to help frame conversations that help married life, and sex lives, and marriage thrive. Not just ache along with some modicum of functionality, or even exist.

Pam Allan: Who wants to say they're just surviving?

Corey Allan: Sometimes I would say that.

Pam Allan: Okay, duly noted.

Corey Allan: We get seasons where it's like, yeah survival's okay.

Pam Allan: I'm doing okay.

Corey Allan: When we're dealing with [crosstalk 00:01:17] some of the different things.

Pam Allan: My head above water.

Corey Allan: Yep, that's just the way life goes and so wherever-

Pam Allan: [crosstalk 00:01:22] There's moments you're thriving though.

Corey Allan: Yup. Wherever you are in this process, in the seasons, we're so glad that you come and hang out with us. The way you can let us know what's going on in your world, you can give us a call, 214-702-9565 or you can email us at If you like what we got going on, we can invite you to jump on iTunes or Stitcher, or Spotify rate and review the shows, leave a comment, spread the word, sign up your friends, subscribe, unsubscribe, subscribe again. Help us just climb the charts.

Pam Allan: Okay.

Corey Allan: So that more people get to hear what's going on here at Sexy Marriage Radio Nation. Here's a couple of things that have come in lately Pam from iTunes.

Pam Allan: Okay.

Corey Allan: Where there's a couple of really good comments that have just come in. One that says, "This is a great podcast. It absolutely helped our sex life. It's brought my quiet and reserved wife out of her shell. We're connecting on a much deeper level now, and I highly recommend it. "

Pam Allan: Nice, I like hearing that.

Corey Allan: Yeah. That's so great, and then I love the phraseology of this one, or the next two actually. "Love the clean view on the dirty parts of marriage."

Pam Allan: Okay.

Corey Allan: Which is interesting to me to think about sex under the whole category of dirty, when absolutely it's not. We just had that going on at our church Sunday.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: When pastor was talking about fasting, which our church is in a season of fasting.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: He even mentioned for those of couples that are out there, you can look in Corinthians and there's something you can do there. We look at each other go, "Say the word."

Pam Allan: Wouldn't say the word sex.

Corey Allan: Say sex. Come on. It is a blessed sacred thing.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: So let's talk about it. Then the last one just says, "Exceptional podcast. A show based on real life touching all of aspects of marriage."

Pam Allan: Yeah, we appreciate people stepping out and putting those words out there and I love hearing from people that are listening and working on themselves.

Corey Allan: Yes.

Pam Allan: If they're spending time to see how they can just make life better in general and make their marriage better in general. That's what our goal is here.

Corey Allan: So there's a couple of things coming up that are worth noting right now because there's the Sexy Marriage Radio getaway.

Pam Allan: Right, in June.

Corey Allan: Enrollment is now open. You can register, there's people already taking spots. If you're interested in coming, is how you can reserve your space to come join us in June. It's going to be a fabulous four days with some incredible things already lining up to have happen. We really hope you'll come join us. If you've come before, come back. We want to see you again because this is going to be a great four days together.

Corey Allan: Also this week, as of when we're airing this, which is the first full week of January of 2020, there are mastermind groups forming right now. If you are interested, if you're a husband out there that are interested in a man of his word mastermind group, email and let me know you're interested. I'll get you involved in the process of the hoops you got to jump through to join us if you're interested because it's worth starting the year off with a band of brothers in the trenches with ya to make this year better than it ever possibly could be alone.

Corey Allan: Coming up on today's regular free version of Sexy Marriage Radio, we're joined by a guest, Melissa Orlov, who she has a specialty of ADHD and marriage.

Pam Allan: And it's interesting, we get a lot of emails from folks referring to spouses that are ADHD or in that realm.

Corey Allan: Right. [crosstalk 00:05:22].

Pam Allan: So I'm kind of excited to see how many lives this might touch.

Corey Allan: What I'm excited about with our conversation with Melissa is we've done some shows in the past on marriages where one [inaudible 00:05:33] in the spectrum.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: ADHD is a different beast. It's a different animal.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: She has dedicated a bulk of her professional career on just dealing with this whole aspect and this dynamic. During the free version we're talking about a little bit more of what ADHD is, just trying to educate some people, and how it plays out. Then coming up on the extended version of Sexy Marriage Radio, which is deeper longer, and there's no ads. You can Melissa and I continue the conversation to talk more specifically about how ADHD impacts marriage and what you can do.

Pam Allan: Okay [crosstalk 00:06:11].

Corey Allan: Because I asked her a point blank question at the very beginning of our conversation on how did you get into this? I'm always curious how people wind up with the specialty or the niche that they work in.

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Corey Allan: It's not an aha moment, but it was one, well this is my marriage. I started recognizing some dynamics and thought, you know what? I know I'm not alone in this.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: So how about let's start doing some things too that can help other people too because she has a thriving marriage. In large part because of the work she does.

Pam Allan: Right, that's good to hear.

Corey Allan: All that's coming up on today's show. Well joining me today for Sexy Marriage Radio is Melissa Orlov who is the founder of and also has two award winning books on the subject of ADHD and its impact on relationships. My thought, which this is not necessarily in the brilliant category, but my thought is if we're going to tackle the world of ADHD in marriage, Melissa is the one that needs to be on board to help us do that. So Melissa, thank you for joining us on the show today.

Melissa Orlov: Well I am delighted to join you on the show today. It's fun to talk with you.

Corey Allan: I usually start every conversation with a guest and if they are known for a specific topic, we got a first go into. How did you wind up in this being your wheelhouse as far as the topic that you're addressing?

Melissa Orlov: Well, I wound up there through a combination of both professional and personal experience. Actually, my husband has ADHD, so does my daughter.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Melissa Orlov: I hate to say it, but we were completely and totally average, which means we struggled like crazy because we didn't know about the ADHD. At the time we were struggling about it, nobody really was thinking about adult ADHD and how it impacts relationships. We went through, we got to a place that was a much better place and I said to my husband, "Gee, there are a lot of people out there who would probably like to know about this."

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: Yeah, I started a blog and with somewhat as a surprise, it totally took off. When the website got to be thousands of pages, I said, "Boy, I better write a book so that people can actually sort through this," and I did that. Then that took off and got some awards and was done up in the New York Times. I just said, that's how I got into it. That was back in 2007.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Melissa Orlov: I've been doing it ever since then. Now I teach people, teach therapists about this and I speak all over the world on the topic.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Let's just start with the macro and then we'll go micro. How about that? On just the, what is it first? In the sense of how you work, what you see, what impacts, what's the primary goal of what you do and for who?

Melissa Orlov: Well, so the impact, let me start there first. The vast majority of adults who have ADHD have not officially been diagnosed. There are a lot of couples out there who are like my husband and I were where there's something going on in their relationship. They think, gee, we ought to be able to do better than we're doing.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: We're really struggling. The struggle has to do with this ADHD symptoms that are there, but that have not been identified. I can give you a very simple example to tell you sort of the way that works.

Corey Allan: Yeah, please do.

Melissa Orlov: Distractibility, yeah. So distractibility is the number one symptom of adult ADHD. Whether they have the version that has hyperactivity or not. That's the sort of number one symptom.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Melissa Orlov: If you have a partner who is chronically distracted, then what happens is the other partner feels like their partner doesn't care about them because they're never paying attention to them because they're so distracted.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: That ends up... So you've got this symptom you don't know it's the symptom and you keep thinking, well what may be my partner doesn't love me anymore.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: And your partner says, "Of course I love you." That is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of a very common symptom, but you don't know it's a symptom. So the only way you have to interpret it is my partner doesn't care about me because they're distracted.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: There are all these patterns that show up because of the symptoms of ADHD and it's between 7% of the population officially has ADHD, seven to eight, somewhere in there.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Melissa Orlov: There are all these symptoms that are there because the person has the ADHD, but you don't know how to interpret them.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: If you knew it was ADHD, the way you would respond is, "Hey, I'm feeling kind of lonely. Let's go out on a date and reconnect."

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: And it would be a positive thing.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: But since you don't know that it's ADHD, the way you respond is, "I can't believe you never pay any attention to me. How come you aren't doing all this stuff around the house?" And it goes in a very negative way.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: That's what's happening with these couples. Not just that, but I'll cross a lot of symptoms for ADHD.

Corey Allan: Okay. If what you are describing is resonating with a listener or listeners, because obviously the hope and the goal we've got with Sexy Marriage Radio Nation is that both spouses will listen to Sexy Marriage Radio, but I also know that doesn't always happen. If this is what you're like, you know what Melissa, you're kind of describing a whole lot of what goes on. What's the next step they do?

Melissa Orlov: Well, so they really need to learn about ADHD to sort of look into it. My first book, which is called, "The ADHD Effect on Marriage," lays out what these patterns are. That's a good resource for people. You can either get it at the library, you can buy it online, or at audible or whatever. It lays out, I mean, it's not just about distractibility, it's also about trouble following through.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: Initiating poor memory, a bunch of other things that are symptoms of ADHD. The first thing is to get educated about it and then if you think there might be an issue, talking with your partner and just saying, "Hey, I've been exploring this. Some of these patterns sound familiar. What do you think? Should we look into this?"

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: And go from there. Lots of times a person who has undiagnosed ADHD is very sensitive to it.

Corey Allan: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: They feel like you're criticizing them if you bring up the fact that they repeatedly aren't able to follow through or whatever and lots of times actually it is a criticism because the person is frustrated.

Corey Allan: Yeah, absolutely.

Melissa Orlov: That's fair, but anyway, that's it. Also my website is also a really good resource for people because it's totally focused on this topic.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: So there's a lot of information there too.

Corey Allan: Right, and just to add a little rounding to the conversation because one of the things that to me, and I just want to get your confirmation or your addition to this if we need to edit it some, is when you're talking about anything that's a diagnosable thing that goes on in our life and characteristics of us. There's a difference between characteristics of and the actual thing. There's also the aspect of when you're talking about ADHD, ADD, it's not necessarily just one symptom, you're talking about several qualifiers that help create the distinction of it, right?

Melissa Orlov: Right. Yes. Everybody on the planet gets distracted sometimes.

Corey Allan: Exactly.

Melissa Orlov: Right. That's not the same thing as chronic distractibility. If you have read up about ADHD and you're going, gee, this still sounds like this is potentially relevant, then getting an evaluation.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: With a qualified professional is where you need to go next. Then some people will be what's called subclinical, which is you have a few of the characteristics, but not all of them.

Corey Allan: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: In which case using some of the strategies will still help you.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Melissa Orlov: But you won't be all the way in a diagnosable spot.

Corey Allan: Yeah. And that's-

Melissa Orlov: ADHD. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Corey Allan: No, no. Well I was just going to say that's a great distinction there because you're talking about if you want to hit the arena of yeah, this is totally what I am, or there's characteristics of. There's still frameworks, and path works, and processes that can still benefit you. The whole what you lay out is still a beneficial route. Whether you have the label, quote unquote, or not.

Melissa Orlov: Yes. I have a couple seminar that I give by phone for couples who are interested in this topic and I teach conversational structural. How to have certain kinds of conversations, how to deal with your anger, with your frustration, stuff like that will help you if you're struggling.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Melissa Orlov: Whether or not you've got that diagnosis. The diagnosis will give you a way to think. Well first of all it gives you access to medication if you want to use that, but it also will give you a more concrete way of thinking about why a lot of these things have happened to you in your life. Why people keep saying things like, if you just try harder you could do so much more.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: And then there are a lot of comments that people make and things that have happened that have happened because of undiagnosed ADHD.

Corey Allan: Yeah because the one thing, anytime we're getting into the diagnostic world, as a clinician for me at least, I have a real reluctance to go there quickly because I keep coming across when you're dealing with people that have some real struggles in their relationships and in their life, they look for the quick explanation that maybe isn't the right explanation.

Corey Allan: It's almost akin to the medical student syndrome. Of where you have whatever illness it is that you're studying you've got it because you're just looking out for the markers. You're like, oh yeah, well I've got that now. Oh and now I've got that and it's just kind of a common trait of our brain looks to make sense of something. And if I can't make sense of it, I'll go to the easiest explanation of it.

Melissa Orlov: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. So if five to 7% of the population, the adult population has ADHD. Another 15 to 20 is probably subclinical if you think about it.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: Again, a lot of people have trouble initiating something or remembering something some of the time.

Corey Allan: Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Orlov: It's an issue of chronic.

Corey Allan: Yes.

Melissa Orlov: Like as in all of the time, this is the way my brain always works. That's much more likely to be ADHD.

Corey Allan: All right. After we've kind of nailed down the aspect of, okay, this fits. Either you're part of the seven to 8%, or you're part of the whole even the subclinical including the seven to 8%, or there's just semblances in some elements of this. What's the best practices that really help couples in their marriage for this? Because that's where I want to steer this conversation. Is that's kind of your wheelhouse and specialty, is the relational dynamics. What are the best practices?

Melissa Orlov: Well, so typically you've got one partner who's got these symptomatic type behaviors, diagnosable or not.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: The best practices for partner, both partners have to start thinking about their own input, their own contributions to that relationship rather than focusing on their partner.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: A non ADHD partner who says, "Well, I'm confident that if you fix the ADHD, everything will be fine." Is not taking into account their own issues which have to do with frustration, or anger, or how they might be treating their partner.

Melissa Orlov: One of the biggest issues for non ADHD or other ADHD partners in the relationship is something I call, parent child dynamics. Where because an ADHD partner has been essentially under functioning in the relationship.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: And that sounds critical. I don't mean it to sound that way, but they're having trouble following through.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Melissa Orlov: They make promises. I'd say to my husband, "Could you do X?" And he'd say, "Absolutely no problem," but then he'd get distracted or he'd forget about it or whatever and it wouldn't happen. I would have to remind him and over time I got very frustrated with it and I started telling him what he should be doing rather than requesting it.

Corey Allan: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: That's a parenting behavior and the child part of that, isn't like an actual child, it's an adult who's functioning at a less reliable level. That is very destructive for your relationship, for your sex life, for everything. The non ADHD partner has a role which is to take control of and deal with their own sense of frustration, with anger, with how they're treating that person, being more respectful, making sure that their partner gets the equal status in the relationships that they deserve.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Melissa Orlov: That's on that side of the equation and on the other you've got this reliability issue typically that the ADHD partner needs to deal with. I talk with ADHD partners about sort of three legs of treatment. One is a physiological leg where you work on changing the way the brain functions because I haven't talked about this yet, but ADHD is about neurochemistry.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Melissa Orlov: So things that balance out the neurochemistry. Then there's a behavioral aspect, which is leg two, and then there's interactive. How do you interact around chores? How do you interact around conversations that you have when you're angry? How do you deal with that? There's a whole thing there for couples as well. There's sort of two sides each partner has to take care of their own.

Corey Allan: I love that framework Melissa because you're talking about each side just kind of handling themselves in their role, or culpability, or co creation, or collusion because I think we do all of them, and even the best of relationships. That it's just recognizing what am I doing that perpetuates it? What am I doing that is causing this or allowing it? Or because even the whole concept of the parent child dynamic. I love that because that's the transactional analysis of communication processes that goes on.

Melissa Orlov: Yeah.

Corey Allan: When someone comes at something as a parent, it's met by the child's state of the person they're coming at them with most of the time. It's just recognizing that aspect in and of itself for the non ADHD spouse can be tremendously powerful.

Melissa Orlov: Well, it is really powerful and it's actually interestingly, even though ADHD is a huge issue and in the thing. The place of the first change in these relationships often actually comes from a non ADHD partner because it takes a while for somebody to get that evaluation.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Melissa Orlov: To understand how to treat ADHD. The non ADHD partner can make some pretty rapid changes by acknowledging their role as a parenting type partner, stopping nagging, et cetera, and really calm the relationship relatively quickly, but there's a lot of pain.

Corey Allan: Yup.

Melissa Orlov: Part of the reason that that's going on is that that partner is feeling a ton of pain. Maybe they've been feeling lonely or unattended. They feel like they can't trust their partner. There's all sorts of issues going on there that make that a pretty big deal. I don't want to make it sound easy.

Corey Allan: Right. No, and that's the reality of it. Is when you're dealing with some of these aspects that are qualifiers of this type of a relationship, it's I think what you touched on at the very beginning. Was this idea that once you can have a better framework of the lens in which you're looking at it, you change the way you can do it. Rather than the, why are you always ignoring me? You don't love me, whatever.

Corey Allan: Rather than, okay, hold on. The correlation I've gotten, Melissa's, I'm married to a tax accountant and so it's very easy for me to sit there in April when I'm not operating at my best to go, "Pam's just totally avoiding me." Rather than, oh yeah, she's got this mountain of work that she's trying to get done, but it's so easy for us to make it all about ourselves.

Corey Allan: Rather than hold on, how do I create room for other people and their path, and their view, and their dynamic as well. Just that in of itself can make it start to... Now I can make this a relational thing rather than, it's a character assassination that's going on.

Melissa Orlov: Well, yeah, obviously you don't want to be doing character assassination at any point, but yes that's exactly right. One of the ways that I think about it actually is I think about it in terms of, again, because I'm dealing with ADHD partners. I think of it as symptom, response, response. So you've got a behavior, and you're talking about your wife. Broadly speaking, tax accounting period could be the symptom.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Melissa Orlov: It can go either direction, right?

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Melissa Orlov: But it's a starting behavior, so the symptom and in my world, and then there's a response to that behavior. So if you think back to that distractibility example that I gave you. The symptom is distractibility. The response is why don't you love me anymore? Or if you change that response, it could be, let's go out on a date.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: What you're saying in essence is, knowledge of this allows you to change that cycle of the symptoms, the response, and then the response to that response. If that first response is you don't love me anymore and you become sort of mean or angry about it. Then the other partner, the ADHD partner, responds back to the anger.

Corey Allan: Yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:24:47].

Melissa Orlov: With other anger, it's a really bad cycle. Whereas if their response is, "Let's go on a date." And then the ADHD partners is like, "Yeah, of course, let's do it," and they go and have fun, very different outcome. I like to think of it as symptom, response, response and choosing what your responses are because for any given thing that comes at you, there is always 10 different ways you could respond to it.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Melissa Orlov: The one that you choose is important.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. That fits right into the framework I love is the idea that in marriage, and in life, and in almost every aspect of that I've come up with, we're volunteers. We're not victims. We have power over how we choose to deal with what goes on. We can't control what goes on, but how I interact with it, I can. I do have options and choices and that's kind of what you're framing out.

Melissa Orlov: Yeah, and it's interesting because one of this issues, so this parent child thing, that's a choice. The nagging for example, doesn't feel like a choice if you don't know the ADHD is there.

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: If your partner just doesn't follow through and you can't figure it out. I mean one of the problems, unfortunately, if you go to a therapist who doesn't know about ADHD, you run into the same problem. The therapist is saying, "Well you should just try harder."

Corey Allan: Right.

Melissa Orlov: And the ADHD person is going, "But I can't do that." Of course you can do that.

Corey Allan: Right, right.

Melissa Orlov: And that doesn't work either. Knowing about the ADHD helps you understand that, look, there's a brain chemistry issue here that makes it harder to do certain things. It doesn't mean you can't do them, but it means you have use strategies that work for people who have ADHD. Which are often quite different from the strategies that work for people who don't.

Corey Allan: Correct.

Melissa Orlov: It's really useful lens so that you can choose the right ways to respond.

Corey Allan: Correct. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for the work that you are doing and have done already. For those that are in the Sexy Marriage Radio Nation that want to learn a little bit more about you, how do they find you? This is your chance to just shout across the airwaves. Here's where you find me.

Melissa Orlov: Well where are you find me? My website is at I have a blog there and a lot of resources. I also do a couple seminar. It's an eight week seminar by phone, which is very good. I've been giving it for many years now and I've really honed it, that's there. I give non ADHD support groups. There's lots of different resources and then I have two books. The "ADHD Effect on Marriage" is the first one, and then "The Couple's Guide to Thriving with ADHD" is the second.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Well Melissa, thank you so much. All that information I'll put in the show notes as well. Those of you that are driving and listening to this, don't try to write that down. Focus on what you're doing, but Melissa, thank you so much for the time today.

Melissa Orlov: You are welcome.

Corey Allan: So Pam, I'm curious because as you think of launching into 2020 and you think of I'm going to put it in the show on a down note for you launching into tax season.

Pam Allan: I like what I do, so I can't say that that's a down note except I don't see you guys as much, right?

Corey Allan: There you go. It's definitely a whole lot different stressors. A couple of things that come to my mind is just recognizing the importance of being able to take time out to spend it with the people and the things that are important.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: Right.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: One of the things that I've loved about having you as the cohost helping pilot this whole adventure now on a weekly basis is this is time I get to steal with you.

Pam Allan: That has been a treat, definitely.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Pam Allan: Definitely. I'm glad you feel that way too.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Pam Allan: That's kind of how I've been too.

Corey Allan: If nothing else, I get to pick your brain a little bit, get to see your reactions in real time with some of the things and where we may go.

Pam Allan: Surprises, some and not at others, I'm sure.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. That's married life, I mean 26 years in. There's still surprises around every corner. That's what makes this whole thing such a great adventure together.

Corey Allan: Well, this has been Sexy Marriage Radio. Thanks again for taking some time out of your day to spend it with us. Couple please right at the end, join us on the getaway Or if husbands, if you're interested in a mastermind group, they're forming now. Let us know so that you can be a part of this and have a group of people that will be in this path with you as you head into the new year.

Corey Allan: Wherever you are, whatever you've been doing, thanks for taking a little bit of time out of your day to spend it with us. We'll see you next time.