Melissa Orlov is a marriage consultant, specializing in helping ADHD-affected couples rebalance their relationships. She is a cum laude graduate of Harvard College and the author of the award-winning books: The ADHD Effect on Marriage and The Couple's Guide to Thriving with ADHD. She blogs for adhdmarriage.com and Psychology Today and has been interviewed by The New York Times, CNN, Today, US News and World Report, and CBS, among many others.
What do I do best?
My most interesting and useful skill is as an ‘emotions distiller’ – I seem to have a natural ability to find the kernel of significance in complex webs of emotions and actions, then move to the ramifications embedded in that finding to develop strategies to address them. ‘Knowing’ what’s going on is a start – creating new ways to address the issues is where the rubber hits the road. I specialize in working with couples impacted by adult ADHD, who often struggle a great deal but also can have a high success rate with the right approach and information. In books, seminars and marriage consulting I’ve been able to use my distillation skills to provide groundbreaking insight, hope, and immediately useful strategies for making these couples’ lives together happier and healthier.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I am an optimist with a love of exploration – ideas, places, people’s experiences, music, life. Generally, my approach is ‘why not try?’ and I expect things to work out, or at least go in an interesting direction. And, if I try and fail…that’s okay, too. You always learn something. In fact, when we were raising our kids our mantra was “you don’t have to succeed, but you do have to try!” Fear of ‘trying and failing’ is one of the worst disabilities out there. Try…and who knows what will happen?! I’m also constantly seeking to be better – which to me means ‘happily balanced,’ NOT perfect. (‘Perfect’ is a uniquely poor goal!)
What are my aspirations?
Personal aspirations: 1.) Live each day with a sense of adventure and connection. Life is short, so get out there and live it! 2.) Take care not to hurt others. There is always a way to get your ideas across without inflicting undue pain.
Business: 1.) Help couples find the love they thought they had lost. 2.) Spread knowledge to therapists about how ADHD impacts relationships so those in dire need can get the help they deserve, no matter where they are.
My Biggest Success?
Because of how I work, my life is something of an open book, so it’s not news that my husband and I really struggled. In fact, I like to say that we were ‘completely and totally average’ – that is, we had ALL of the problems that couples impacted by ‘the ADHD Effect’ face. In spite of that, I think I was a great mom to my kids – I’m really proud of that. Concurrently, I also helped bring the issues of adult ADHD and relationships into the public eye in a way that had never been done before. It’s been humbling and a great honor to be able to do this work.
My Most Challenging Moment?
My life changed dramatically when I started my work with couples. But that work came out of an intense amount of pain and ugliness – years of struggle to figure out why my own marriage, which should have been an easy one, was so hard…and why everything one normally does to heal the rifts wasn’t working. I did not intend to become an advocate for couples impacted by ADHD - there was no grand plan, just an organic growing into this role and a willingness to respond to what was happening to me and to others. It’s incredibly fulfilling work – I get the honor of helping couples learn to love again and keep their families intact.
Looking back on it, there was a single decision that led to this direction. After my husband and I finally linked ADHD to our struggles, and experimented until we could work out how to address the issues (there was no information to help us do this), I remember thinking ‘there must be others out there who could benefit from our experiences!’ Through a previous job I already had considerable expertise in ADHD, which shows just how little was known about this topic then – certainly I should have been aware of its impact if anyone was! So in 2007 I made that life-changing decision – to start a blog and forum to shed some light on this specific topic. It wasn’t to create a business. I just thought I might perhaps help a few people and I happened to be between jobs. But the site took off. It got so big I figured no one could easily learn what they needed, so I wrote a book to organize it. The book took off… and it’s still going in this organic way. Now I train therapists so more people can get help, and I speak around the world, give seminars and more. Without that one moment, I wonder if there would be any noticeable conversation about ADHD’s impact on adult relationships even now.
‘There is no such thing as ‘do over’ in a marriage…there is only ‘do better.’’ I’ve had this at the end of my emails for a long, long time.
We should all check in with ourselves regularly and ask ourselves “Is this who I wish to be? Am I doing what I want to be doing?” Most of life is about making choices – and owning those choices. If you don’t like where you are, choose to go somewhere else. Even if life sends you awful stuff (as it always will), you still have choices to make about how you will respond. Dare to try – take the chances that will help you ‘do better’ and ‘be better.’
My Favorite People/Role Models?
First and foremost, all of the couples with whom I work who overcome their fear, make themselves vulnerable, and search for the love and empathy they didn’t think they would find again. After years of calcifying struggle and way too much anger, it takes courage to step into the unknown…or to put aside what they thought they knew and find a new path.
My father, who has been an incredible role model; Edward Hallowell, MD, who inspires millions to take a strengths-based approach to ADHD, and who generously mentored me as I was getting into the ADHD world.
My kids and my husband. ‘Nuf said there!
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Anywhere that my husband and I can road bike together! In 2016 the two of us did an 800-mile road bike trip across France. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done…hope to do more like that! Also – where my friends are; London; Chautauqua, NY. Oh yes… my bed is a favorite destination. I love getting into bed at the end of the day to take a deep breath, spend a few moments of silent gratitude, read a few pages in a good book, and have a good snuggle.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My road bikes; Terry bike shorts; the really bright flashing light that I hope will keep me from getting run over by a careless driver; my Galaxy phone (great pictures; easy for even a technical moron to use); my cello. My N’Espresso latte maker and coffee grinder. Making lattes in the morning has become a ritual of affection between my husband and me. :)
My Current Passions?
My husband patiently worked for years to get me interested in road biking – now I’m bugging him to find time to explore the world by bike. It’s a great adventure - you see the world at a fast enough pace to get somewhere without just driving by stuff in a flash. I particularly enjoy those times when I’ve been riding hard for a few months and am in better shape – very satisfying! I also started playing the cello a few years ago because it is something I had always wanted to try. Yoyo Ma I’m not, but it’s fun to work on it.
I love summers in Chautauqua, NY – an incredible, rejuvenating experience that combines many of my passions: exploration (through lectures, music, art); excellent bike riding; friends; family; summer warmth; water.