ADHD spouse seems to be floundering; can I do anything?

My husband's main source of income the past three years has been from providing companionship and some caregiving to his ailing elderly parents.  H has somewhat typical ADHD behaviors and symptoms:  difficulty keeping a good job; financial problems; denial of responsibility for his role in problems; difficulties with communication and intimacy; avoidance of certain kinds of responsibilities and tasks; comorbid mental health issues (depression and anxiety).  We have been living apart this fall but he was home this weekend because our daughters had just arrived for the holidays.  Both were out of the country all fall and will be home for no more than 2 weeks.  

This weekend, my husband told me the following:  (1) his father didn't want him to come home to see our daughters; (2) his father often expresses resentment about or resistance to paying my husband; (3) my husband has stopped taking his medications (and hasn't seen his therapist since this summer); (4) my husband doesn't want my help with exploring other long-term care options for his parents because "there are no other options" (his words); (5) my offer to help support my husband financially if he were to quit his current job (as caregiver) is insulting; and (6) my husband considers his situation to be hopeless.

I no longer think our marriage can be preserved or is even worth preserving.  But I'm concerned about my husband.  Can or should I do anything?  Is it him or his illness talking when he says he doesn't want any help from me?  

I'm So Exhausted's picture

Hope - - - - - or hopeless


When the world says, "Give up,"  Hope says, "Try one more time."  

Learning more and more about the ADHD brain, it makes me so reluctant to give up on the possibility the turn of events is right around the corner.

Co-dependant am I?  I just do not know. . . . .  . . . .


Hi Rose,

I know this is such a tough thing. You love a person, you care about him, he is family and the father of your children, but he is barely functioning and is floundering. Totally get that. 

I now like to refer to this as "just can't deal" behavior. Forgive me for comparing, but it think it might apply here. I honestly think that my ex has a tremendous amount of "just can't deal" going on, and he subsequently has lost his family, has ruined his house, and has no job. He is in his mid forties and his parents are keeping him afloat financially. I think some of it is ADHD and some of it is depression or similar. He is completely off medication now and the "just can't deal" is worse. He frequently resists my suggestions or attempts to help him (example, he needed a bed, was sleeping on a couch with a bad back. I felt bad for him, even though he threw out his last bed...long story. I found multiple beds, new mattresses, etc. in local sales and craigslist. I even offered to buy him one finally and take care of the details. "Dealing" with this seems just too much for him. He is stuck. He does not have a bed but there are no "good" options for getting one. Or he just can't deal with the process of getting one or me helping him. I think part of it is making decisions. There is something about even small day to day processes that are too much and he literally just can't deal with them.  

I am wondering if this is your spouse, too? Maybe significant depression, ADHD, something else? Doesn't like his current circumstance but is stuck? Would feel like a "loser" if you were to support him? Resents his parents a bit but depends on them? But just can't act or do almost anything to save his life?

I am just sorry. My answer is that you can make suggestions and offer help and let him know it is there. You can lead that horse to water. But he may never, ever take a drink, and there may be nothing you can do about it. Look at it in a positive way if you can. You are doing your best in the situation you are in. You offered. It is now out of your control. 

And my condolences. My ex spouse finally has a long-awaited appointment with a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD--took four months to get. And he is talking about canceling it because he doesn't think he "needs it." Sigh. If he had diabetes he would be in with an endocrinologist in ten seconds. Why is this so hard? 

My best to you. Live your best life. Be a good person. Love your children. Hang in there. 

Thank you.  I think you hit

Thank you.  I think you hit the nail on the head:

"Maybe significant depression, ADHD, something else? Doesn't like his current circumstance but is stuck? Would feel like a "loser" if you were to support him? Resents his parents a bit but depends on them? But just can't act or do almost anything to save his life?"

I appreciate you coming back to the forum to help me and others!  How are you doing?


Hi Rose, 

Thanks for asking. I am good! We have a workable rhythm going with co-parenting. Honestly, it's much like it always was, with me in "charge" of almost everything regarding our kids, but since I live with just them now, I feel like I can focus on them and myself for the first time in years. I know that in my case, I did the right thing and probably should have done it years earlier than I did, but I am grateful that I have the rest of my life ahead of me. My children are much, much happier, too.  

I am sending my best wishes to you! Let me know how you and your children are doing? 

Can you do anything?

My hat is off to you for asking this question, even as you conclude that your marriage cannot be preserved.  It shows compassion for your husband's situation.  Unfortunately, it's most likely that you cannot do anything for him if he doesn't wish to accept your assistance.  You can suggest he see a doctor, even make the appointment for him...but can't force him to go.  And there are many other things that you can try to 'help' him with that won't go anywhere if he isn't interested.

His response to your offer to support him is particularly interesting - it suggests that he is not thinking in his own best interests, but rather is worried about your dominant position in the relationship (I presume you would have a contract about this financial situation so that you couldn't offer money, then take it away again if you got mad or something.)  This further suggests that any offers of help you might provide will be rejected simply because he wants to remain independent.

There is an old - and appropriate - saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  It doesn't matter much whether it's "him or his illness" speaking...the reality is it's his body, his life and he's not interested in letting you manage or contribute at this time.

Your best bet is to simply remind him that you are there if he needs you, and that you care about him and are worried...but that you also respect his right to live his life the way he sees fit.