Do you know when it's time to give up?

Like so many of the posters on here I am the sad, frustrated, resentful spouse of a husband with ADD. We are currently seeing a marriage counselor at my suggestion because I found myself reacting to my husband with less and less patience and fantasizing about getting out of my marriage. It just seems like life can be complicated enough without the added daily stress of job loss, money, unfinished projects, depression, mood swings, etc. My husband and I got married relatively young (25) and we have been married for almost four years. Before we got married I guess I knew that he had ADD but it didn't seem like a big deal. He had a decent job and an apartment and money in the bank. He paid his bills and shopped for groceries and cooked his own food. But after we got married he started to go downhill. Though he is a talented writer he has struggled at every job he's had. Basically he can't keep up with the workoad and stick to deadlines. This has led to him being fired twice. Now he's doing freelance work out of our home office, which has been pretty much a complete disaster. He has no self control or ability to make himself work. Especially when I'm not hovering nearby to make sure he's working. I guess my big problem is that he never seems to try to make any real changes. He says he tries but that his brain is broken. I understand that it's a LOT harder for him than the average person but in my opinion he hasn't yet given it his all. He stopped taking his depression meds because they were making him groggy (didn't discuss this with his dr.), rarely takes his Adderall because sometimes it doesn't work (I don't get this!). At my suggestion about a year ago he started seeing a psychologist who specializes in ADD. He went to her a few times but then got let go from his job so he figured there was no point in continuing to go. I have encouraged him to see her again to see if she can help him come up with some coping strategies and brainstorm about employment options but he hasn't picked up the phone. I should also add that our marriage counselor has encouraged him to see his dr. and the therapist and to think about meds as part of his overall treatment plan. He agrees while we are with the marriage counselor but hasn't followed up in any way. We've had serious conversations where I have told him how unhappy I am being the one who is bearing the weight of everything. Budgeting, paying bills, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and being the primary breadwinner. I can't even imagine if we had kids like many of the others on this forum. I would love to have kids but I refuse to bring them into this world until/unless our relationship improves. I feel like I have begged, pleaded, cried, yelled to get his attention but it never works . . . or never works for long. If I get mad, I'm the bad guy because I'm not supportive, if I get sad it makes him feel worse about himself. Basically I feel like there is nothing more I can do. I've tried so hard to help him: finding therapists for him, buying him books (both Driven To and Delivered From Distraction), printing out articles about tips, coping strategies, etc. for dealing with ADD, checking in to make sure he's doing his projects (he never is), encouraging him to exercise with me, take his meds, etc. Honestly, he should've been doing many of these things for himself, but he didn't, so I did. It's pretty much the way our relationship works - he doesn't do what he is supposed to do so I swoop in and try to keep things from falling apart. I'm sick of it. I want an equal (ok, halfway equal?) partner. At some point I have to cut my losses and move on if he isn't capable of making any changes. I'm not asking for a perfect husband . . . just an improvement. I feel like I've given so much and tried so hard to help him and it hasn't made any difference at all. This relationship has taken so much out of me and the return just does not seem worth it some days.


Time to Give UP?

Not yet.

But I would add that you are doing way too many things for him.  For example, you say "If I get mad, I'm the bad guy because I'm not supportive, if I get sad it makes him feel worse about himself."  Yes, and shouldn't he feel worse about himself if he is adding to your sadness to this degree?  Why should YOU feel worse about yourself instead?  Let him feel some of the may inspire him to start taking responsibility for his life.

You need to back WAY UP, work with your counselor on this, and start doing more things for you.  Make it clear that you don't want him to read the materials for him, but for you.  Tell him you don't care HOW he starts to get himself together, only that he do so.  He's had enough exposure to all of this, he knows what's out there.  Either he will or he won't.  But I'll guarantee you that by going after him this aggressively (you've essentially tried EVERYTHING) you are shutting him down.  This is a very common pattern - pursuer and the pursued.  One person pushes their case about somethng, the other one retreats.  This frustrates the first person, so they push harder.  The other person retreats further.  And so it goes to complete dysfunction.  This is generally due to a huge desire to avoid conflict...and lots of men do this because they just don't want to fight with their wives (and would tell you they don't want to fight with their wives because they love them too much and it hurts to fight).  Of course, by retreating, they virtually guarantee that they will fight with their wife, but life isn't logical...that's just how it works.

You seem to be a strong person.  You need to step out of this pattern and give your husband both a break and some credit for more positive feelings than you are giving him.  He doesn't need your help - he needs your RESPECT.  And I know that's hard to give him when he seems like a mess, but a good place to start is to respect that he is an individual separate from you, and that he will solve his problems in ways that may be quite different from yours.  Or he may choose not to solve them and suffer the consequences of that.  But no matter what, you can't force him to do anything.  He is a unique individual.  Forget that at your peril.

The red flag in this whole story is your saying that he was doing so well before you got married but went downhill soon after.  It is possible that there is something in the way that you two are interacting that is working on him in a negative way?  From this distance I can't pull that apart, but from what I know of ADD I'm thinking that your taking over so convincingly in all areas of your mutual life probably hasn't helped him.  He needs to feel useful and like a good husband.  You're not giving him a lot of room to do that.

That may sound like criticism - but it's not.  I did EXACTLY the same thing to my husband at one point.  I share these ideas with you because I also saw that once I let my husband be himself he was better able to take on the responsibilities that he should have been taking on.  This didn't happen immediately, but he wouldn't have done it if I hadn't stopped hounding him.  To this day, even though we have a great marriage, if I start to hound him it reminds him of a period which was so painful for him that he almost immediately shuts down.  I can just see him wilt in front of my eyes.

Your husband, like mine, was successful.  Don't assume he can't be again.  Let him find his way, as he did before.  Have some faith in him, even if he stumbles (we ALL stumble sometimes - but it's easier to take when we have the loving support of our spouse).  Your hubby will never do things like you do - he's wired differently.  But that doesn't mean he can't do things, only that they'll look different when he does.  And that your priorities will likely not always be his priorities.  (Accepting this is one of the keys to a successful marriage with a guy with ADD).

So, see if you can dig deep into yourself, pull yourself WAY out of the pursuer/pursued pattern, and ask yourself how you might respect his autonomy better.  It should help.  As a practical matter, do some "triage" on all those items you are doing now.  Separate them into three categories:

  1. Absolutely necessary to do, else we risk injury, illness or financial ruin
  2. Necessary because they are really important to me as a person
  3. Not necessary to make me complete as a person or to keep us safe

Just those three categories (resist adding a category between 2 and 3!)  What you'll find is that not everything that you have taken on is in the first 2 categories.  And some things that you haven't taken on, like HAVING FUN TOGETHER, should be in #2 but is getting ignored.  Compromise on everything in #3 either by splitting them up (who cares if they don't get done for a week?) or getting rid of them if you can.  Protect the stuff in #2 for your own health, but make sure that you let HIM protect his stuff in #2 (not your job).  YOU should take on the stuff in #1, at least for now.  This will protect you from the disappointment many on this site feel when they give their ADD spouse care of the financials, for example, even when they know he is irresponsible with money.

Go to it!


I have done too much for him!

I have done too much for him! I think there is a part of me that knows I need to pull back and let him figure things out. I've begun to do this in the last few months partially just for self preservation. He needs to step up and take responsibility for his treatment and future career course. It's just hard waiting for him to do that. My personality type is that of a "fixer". I see a problem and I figure out what needs to be fixed and how it can be done. I think that's what has been very frustrating for me - I can't fix this. Not even close. And I agree that there is some sort of dynamic in our relationship that has caused him to go downhill. I think it is that he knows that I will keep everything from falling apart. For example, the other night I was very upset about something (not relationship related) and I heard him go to the office and start working on his freelance projects. It's like he knew that I was vulnerable and needed him to step up in some way. Maybe I should cry more often! I think my biggest challenge is being patient and trying not to freak out and worry about finances and what might, or might not, happen in the future (the recession is not helping with this!). I think I've gotten better with this but I do have my bad days. I also know I need to wipe the scorecard clean. I've been keeping sort of a mental tally of all the times I've tried to help him and he hasn't followed up or when I've done one of his assigned chores because he wasn't doing it. It's not fair to him and it certainly doesn't make me feel better. And I know that he needs my respect. This is something that I struggle with b/c he always seems to be failing. Maybe if we do more things together that he is good at the respect will return. I hope so - I want to respect him and be proud of him. I have to! Thanks for your advice, Melissa. I feel like a weight has been lifted from the chest. You're right - it's not time to give up yet.

Too much is way too much...

This is my life to a "T".  The only difference is that we've been together longer than you.  You can only work at something if someone is willing to do the work too.  My husband is just like yours minus the committment to keep up his end of the deal.  I feel like in many ways I have another child. He puts me in the mother role but then resents me for taking it on.  I can't win.  I have three children.  If I could do it all over again and was smarter, I would have rethought having children and most likely even getting married.  Sometimes I think love is just not enough. 

I totally understand

I've had lots of days where I've thought that if I could do it all over I wouldn't marry him. I don't like to admit that but it's true. And as for kids, I'd love to have them but I know it would be a mistake. Honestly I don't know if it will ever be possible and I don't think I'm ok with that. This is an issue we haven't even delved into with our counselor. Did you try the marital therapy route too? We're pretty early in the process (two months) but, unfortunately, I haven't seen any positive changes. A positive change for me would be if he'd even pick up the phone and call his ADD counselor. I wish I could get inside his head and understand how his brain works sometimes. I'm just tired of trying to make him do (in my mind) what he should be doing on his own. I've pulled back to preserve my own sanity and this has helped somewhat but I can still tell from his moods when he's floundering or failing. When the old me would've stepped in and tried to fix things. You must be a strong person to be able to have three kids with an ADD spouse.I'm sorry that your husband resents you for having to take on the mother role. I'm sure you don't want to be in that role you just feel like you have to in order to keep things together. I hated that feeling. I never felt strong enough to do it all. I still don't feel strong enough to do it all nor do I want to. Some days I daydream about asking my husband to leave and seeing if it will make a difference. He lived on his own once before and did ok. Let's see what he does with himself when he doesn't have me as a crutch or a safety net. I know that people in marriages are supposed to be supportive of each other but I don't think my kind of support was helping him. He sometimes makes joking comments about me putting up with him or being the mule or the workhorse but I don't think it's funny anymore. I don't want to have that role in our marriage and I don't think it's healthy. Anyway, we'll see where the counseling takes us. Good luck to you! I hope Melissa's advice for me helps in your situation too!


Meg, start taking care of yourself.  Put yourself first.  Being married is a partnership - each has to give a little.  I think you are being a very supportive wife.  He could be doing more.  We've had two rounds of counselling.  This second attempt was his request because I told him that I was done.  He pleaded with me to work it out.  That was a year ago.  Recently, he has decided that he will not be returning to counseling, even though I basically am doing it for him.  In the course of this year, he has not reevaluated his meds as was suggested by the counselor and has minimally modified his impulsive behaviors.  This is who he is - he is not going to change and that is a hard realization.  I hope that your husband will do the work that it takes to make the marriage right.  You deserve it. 

time to give up?

I have ADHD. I know how hard it can be for the non-ADHD spouse. I am on my second marriage and my currant wife has left me. But I only learned I had ADHD a month ago. I wish I had known long ago I think that knowing would have saved my marriage. I don't think that ADHD should be used as excuse for anything, but at least it is explanation. I think people can work together when they know what the problem is, without knowing there is no hope. The thing is ADHD probably is not the only problem in a marriage. My wiife(s) have problems too. One of the the good things about marriage is that it creates an unique opportunity to work on one's problems. couples without ADHD get divorced all the time. So maybe the problems have little to do with ADHD. That is something you have to figure out for your self. But I really believe in marriage and I would look for creative solutions. Of course if there is physical abuse you have to get out.

I appreciate and respect

I appreciate and respect everyone's comments. My question though and a thing i never understand is why is physical abuse not ok, but mental and verbal abuse seems to be ok. Just because there are no bruises doesn't mean there's no damage.

I really don't know what else to try - how do i know when enough is enough, have i already compromised too much? these are the questions i ask myself on a daily basis. I believe in marriage too - but i don't believe it was meant to be this difficult....


I don't know the answer, but am just about done.  My husband, who I strongly suspect has ADHD, treats me like day-old meat.  He ignore's me, belittles me, and then complains when I'm not around to have sex with him.  When I have asked him to go to counselling with me, he says "no, he doesn't have time".  He blames me for things like "keeping him up at night", and when I say his bed time isn't my responsibility, he begins yelling and cussing at me in a juvenile nya nya nya way.  I have tried on numerous occasions to just talk to him, and it ends up with him either disengaging or him blaming me for whatever we are talking about.  I am going to councelling, and my councellor been helping me....but at this point he is advising me to focus on myself and my daughter and maybe take a break...that I don't deserve to be treated this way!  I am totally financially independent of my husband, so that is not even a consideration here for either of us.  I just want  a companion/lover who will respect me,be nice to me, have intellectual conversations with me, share their day with me, and love me, as I will do for them too.  My current husband is a dud in all derpartments right now!  Regardless of his ADHD issues, there is something else going on and I'm tired of taking it!!!  I'm just about done with it all!

re: time to give up?

As with anything, its easy to loose perspective here. I think somewhere around 60% of all US marriages end in divorce. Those are 'together' people who are able to focus on jobs, tasks, responsibilities and presumably are solid, dependable partners for their spouses. Still, despite that, something(s) go wrong, or were wrong to begin with. So, even if you'd married someone without ADHD, there would still likely be significant issues to deal with. =========================================================Singularity shows something wrong in the mind. - Erica Jong