When I first met my boyfriend, it was a whirlwind romance. I was totally swept off my feet. I thought he was intelligent, sweet, charismatic, funny and incredibly talented. He was a graduate student in a science and I was constantly blown away by his creativity and insights.
The first thing that attracted me to him was his notebook, which seemed like something Leonardo Da Vinci had written. Apparently growing up he was something akin to a child prodigy in science. As a young man he had even briefly attended medical school. But somehow in his adult life he had fallen from grace. I guess the source of his talent was also the source of his downfall, as I’m sure his ADD contributed to his creativity.
At first I didn’t think much of his disorganization, but as time went on I began to see that he had some very profound problems. It seemed he couldn’t cope with life’s ups and downs. He had been married and divorced, and since his divorce his life had slowly been dilapidating due to his un-diagnosed ADD and the absence of the familial support he received in his marriage. Even simple tasks, such as filling out a tax form, collecting his student loans, or even remembering the deadlines for assignments, were a problem for him (I have no idea how he survived his undergrad—maybe his ex-wife did everything for him?). His car and room were a mess, filled with trash in a hoarder-like fashion. He couldn’t find his keys. He lost a one hundred dollar bill. He couldn’t find his wallet. He accidentally punched a hole in the wall. He fell asleep every night with his cloths on with the TV blaring. Anything deadline-related was a goner for him. Forget petitioning the court for visitation rights with his son—using the court system was just too much for him to handle, especially because he could never serve the papers on time. To make matters worse, he was also failing to pay his child support on time, which looks really bad to employers and also looks bad to me.
His financial situation has become dire. He got kicked out of his graduate program due to creating a mess in the lab, incomplete work and an inability to get a long with other members in the lab. After being kicked out, he lost the benefit of a fellowship he was receiving. Student loans added up, there was a hospital bill from a lab-related accident--credit card debt added up too. All the while, he failed to look for a job because looking for a job meant he wasn’t a graduate student anymore. He could not accept that he had been dropped from the program. He wanted to continue behaving as if he was still in grad school. Somehow, he was still enrolled in the university (just not in the science program) so he continued taking classes with the naïve hope that he could reenter the program. He also received financial aid, which enabled him to not have a job for a very long time. He went on this way for nearly three years as an unclassified student. Somehow no one in his department ever submitted the proper paperwork to disenroll him from the university (apparently all scientists have ADD?) so he floated around the university aimlessly--thinking, hoping, wishing, or maybe just pretending. What was worse, he never got over his glory days of being a child prodigy. He thought he was destined for greatness. All he ever wanted to do was practice science, but now there wasn’t a scientist in his program who even wanted to touch him—they treated him like a problem child, like a black sheep.
Despite the fact he was in a situation in which any normal person would be frantically looking for a job, he continued to play the role of the genius, spending up to eight hours a day researching science on the internet in a hyper-focus frenzy, filling up his notebook with ideas, half-ideas, schemes, business plans, and the half-backed beginnings of novels.
It hurts me very much to see him behave in such a way. To see him spend eight hours working on things that will yield no result, while his finical situation gets worse and worse. He should be spending those eight hours job hunting, not screwing around. His internal alarms should be sounding, but instead he ignores the alarm and escapes to the comfort of the internet and his notebook, the notebook I once loved but now want to smash to pieces. The whole thing is a tragedy. I know science is the thing he loves the most, but clearly his devotion to it is standing in the way of his ability to take care of even his most basic needs.
It sounds weird to say, but I think he is addicted to science. It’s easy to blame an addict who is addicted to videogames, gabbling, or alcohol, but when the person you love is addicted to something the world normally considers a “noble pursuit,” the situation becomes complicated. How can I tell him he cannot do the one thing he loves the most, the thing that breathes purpose and energy into his life, the one thing that gives him pleasure in this miserable world?
Now he can’t pay his rent. He might become homeless. I am not sure if I can or should accommodate him. I have little hope that things can change. I’m worried that if I take him in to my VERY tiny studio apartment that I will further enable him to write in his notebook and surf the web while time passes and we are both getting older. I am much younger than he is. I feel I still have a chance at a happy life. I have hopes and dreams of my own and I feel like I am drowning. I feel racked with empathy and guilt—guilt over my own self-centeredness and self-interest. Aren’t we supposed to help the ones we love? What does it say about me if I don’t accommodate him? Where does selflessness and selfishness begin and end? Where is the boundary, what is the proper balance? I can’t stand the thought of him being homeless or sleeping in his car. I just cannot. It breaks my heart. But the thought of further brining his chaos into my life also breaks my heart. I don’t want to give my life away. I don’t want to live in a trash pile. I don’t want to live the way he lives. How can I live out my own dreams when I constantly have to pick up the piece of his broken life? Sometimes I just feel like I need a break from this tragedy.
The question is, should I support him? What if he lives with me and never gets a job? Then we’ll forever be stuck in limbo. There are other problems in our relationship too. There is some fighting and he has a lot of anger. He is very defensive and does not get along with co-workers or roommates. He may fight with the other tenants in my building, and then we’ll both be homeless. I had to leave my last apartment because he got in a fight with my roommate.
That’s all for now.